I don’t comment on the news much, largely because I don’t watch the news too much, but this week there have been two ‘stories’ that have been inescapable and as a result, unavoidable. First, this headline:
More than 40% of schoolgirls aged between 13 and 17 in England say they have been coerced into engaging in sexual activity, a study has found.
and second, well it’s not a headline, but it’s everywhere. From a well known paint brand advertising it’s 50 shades of grey paint, to an insurance company quoting 50 shades of insurance to the madness that is this ‘much anticipated’ movie – apparently cinemas across the country are sold out tonight.
Now look, I don’t care about what other people do in their bedrooms – or everywhere else in the house in the case of co-sleepers. I don’t care what the next person’s proclivities are. It makes no difference to me if you read the books or will watch the movie. I didn’t read the book, simply because I don’t have time to read anything these days, and prioritise those things that are valuable to me. That’s not me being smug or haughty either – I simply didn’t read it. Not because of the subject matter, and not because of any self inflated sense of morality or prudishness – I just didn’t, just as I won’t go and see the movie, since I don’t remember the last movie I saw without children!
But something that bothers me, is the surprise with which people responded to the first headline, when you consider how many of those same people are tonight in the cinema watching the movie in the second!
If you plant a tomato seed, folks, you’re going to harvest tomatoes.
We can’t have an adult world driven, motivated and revolving around sex (and money and power) and be shocked when our children are dragged into that world, even if it is kicking and screaming.
Again, don’t misunderstand me. In your marriage, in your relationship, whatever floats your boat – go for it. If you want to get moralistic and spiritual about it, even the Bible says ‘In the marriage bed, nothing is unclean‘, but don’t act surprised when the child that learned to speak by hearing you speak, who learned to eat by watching you eat, who learned to act as you act is able to coerce or be coerced into ‘sexual acts’ if you – if we – introduce them to them to it vigorously and with enthusiasm and excitement and fan fare.
As adults we have a responsibility to set the standard for our children – and we all know, if not from our own time as parents, then from our time as children, that children are smarter than we give them credit for. They can smell our double standards. They know when we’re living to two sets of rules.
I remember things that happened to me when my parents weren’t around. When we were with ‘trusted’ friends. I know what I got up to when my parents weren’t home. What I watched when they were sleeping, what I read when they thought I was asleep – and that’s in a world before internet, and 24 hour TV, and most definitely in a world where ‘sex sells’ meant a scantily clad model stood next to a new car in advertising.
I’m not trying to ruin your fun, and I’m not saying don’t enjoy the privileges of adulthood, but if you’re going to expose your children, even passively, to matters of sex, then equip them too, and do it proactively, because innocence lost is lost for good. The wolves are out there waiting, we don’t need to truss up our babies.
My most beloved big little girl
It’s the day before your last day at preschool and the world is changing again for you and for me. I watch you sometimes and the mannerisms, words and thoughts that come from you are no longer those of an infant or a toddler. I’m scared to say it as you are still only four but they are often barely those of a child and at times, when you speak, I feel like I’m faced with an adult – a short little grown up.
It’s strange for me, you know. I know this is your whole world and right now you are standing at the furthest reaches, the outposts of the world you know, standing on tip toes and stretching your hands out. Like a counter from which you can smell, but not yet see the chocolates. You think you see the whole world. All of life. And you feel so big, so ready for it.
I can’t imagine how I will feel when you reach the end of school, university, singledom, child-free, or when your little girl heads off to her last day of preschool. But I do know that on that day you will look at me and there’ll be a little understanding, a little sympathy for what my heart feels right now, when I look at you and see the smaller version of the future you.
You may have forgotten, but I rember the moment our eyes met. Hollywood makes movies from moments like that. That moment, that first feel of your skin, the meeting of our souls, it is imprinted on me forever. As I write this I’m sitting on a train and my eyes well up with tears as I remember the moment that cataclysmically ended life as I had known it, bringing in a new dawn, one where I became a mother. At the moment while you are so excited about all the new things that the new school year will bring you I can only see you through that filter, that small baby.
Oh, if I could stop time to do again these last four years with you unaware of the world out there, with me as your world once more, oh my darling, I would, I would.
I remember the first time I got on a bus with you. I paid my fare and asked the driver how much I had to pay for you. He said “children under 5 are free!” I laughed. I felt I had won the lottery! FIVE years!! That was, I thought, practically a lifetime of free travel!
In just a couple of months, you’ll have to get your own ticket and the thought of it startles me. Where did five years go? Sometimes I still feel like that young mama, baby strapped to me, boarding a bus.
Go my girl. Go into this big wide little world in front of you. Explore beyond the bug box, beyond the sensory rice, beyond the mock snow, dig deeper than the sand pit, deeper than the treasures I’ve hidden for you.
Make friends with people I haven’t introduced you to. Learn about things that I haven’t taught you. Go where your imagination takes you but always know where your home is, and where my heart is beating anxiously to hear about your day, your adventures, your experiences.
Yes, you are only nearly five, not eigteen, but if I don’t say it today, the next 12 years may soar by and I’ll be saying it again but with less time to hold on to you.
The world is out there my beautiful, strong-willed, golden-locked girl. The chocolate is yours for the taking. But be kind to your mama whose arms still carry the imprint of the first time they held you. Once in a while, nuzzle into my chest so I can still breathe you, once in a while look back and know that you are still in the centre of my world.
Well, I should say, “How the Pre-School Run Drove Me To Planning For Home Education” because that’s where we are right now, on that cusp between the final term of preschool and the first term of home schooling, home educating in the UK, our four and a half year old Ameli.
Ameli’s been going to pre-school – a play group in a church – for over a two years now, on and off. She goes three times a week, for three hours. It’s not so short that I can’t do anything with that time and not so long that I can do a lot. It’s just enough time for her to have a fabulous time playing and learning and being part of a group. It’s been a time for us to see her through someone else’s eyes, and a time for her to enjoy – she’s been independent since the day she was born holding her own head up to look around – some of that independence all of the Western world seems to want our infants to have.
When we had to look around at schools and make the decision on where we were going to send her in September, I made two lists. On the one I wrote down the pros and cons for her. On the other I wrote down the pros and cons for me.
My pros were easy: me-time, time with Aviya, time to pursue some of my own interests again. The cons were even easier: SCHOOL RUN. Yip, just the one.*
I hate the (pre-school) run. The mad dash to get ready in the morning. Getting to the school ‘gate’ with my hair unbrushed packed into a tight bun so no one will know. My fingers still sticky from the jam on Ameli’s breakfast toast. The evidence that I’m just not as organised as everyone else looks.
Their kids don’t have pen marks from DIY tattoos. Their hair is in perfect ponytails, not pulled out 6.3 seconds after they were tied up. No one else ever forgets the (empty, because I have no idea what to put it in it now that she doesn’t need a spare change of clothes for ‘in case’, and since she gets a snack and drink from school) backpacks. It really seems to be just me.
But that all I could live with if I could stay in the car and wave her off into the school building. But no. Come rain or shine, I have to stand in line with a bunch of other mothers and fathers, and make small talk.
Folks. I missed that class in school. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to talk about the weather, and I don’t watch X-Factor or Big Brother. And I don’t want to start, just so I can talk to the parents in the school line.
To be fair, my life is unchanged by their presence in it. I’ve become friends with one or two but for the rest, they have no impact on my existence, but I know this isn’t fair to Ameli. She comes home and talks about her ‘best friends’, these people who are so formative to her future in these relationships that form the basis of every other relationship in her life to come. I feel I owe her to at least try.
So I do. But I wear my heart on my sleeve. I think I look and sound like a fool. I look and sound like I’m pretending.
Sorry parents on the school run. My husband normally takes and fetches Ameli, because standing in that line with you feels like there’s a spotlight on me. My husband says you all think I’m really rude and stuck up, because I don’t talk to you much. I just nod and smile. Which he says is “sooooo unlike you!”
He’s right. But whether it’s because I spent my first six months of school run over two years ago now not talking because I was afraid I was going to throw up on you, or if it’s because I can’t bare to stand and talk about nothing, I apologise. It’s not you, it’s me. And I’m so very glad that we have chosen to home educate, at least in the beginning, so that I don’t have to do it every.single.day.
Also, I have no idea how I spawned such a confident and outgoing child, but I’m sure glad for her that I did.
*my decision to home educate came down to a lot more than just hating the school run. This post is about hating the school run. This was not what made our decision.
My dear beautiful Squidgeling,
Here we are, staring down the barrel of your second birthday, and I feel a little bit shocked. A few days ago I looked up at you with your hair in pigtails and twirling around in a fairy dress, and for a moment, I wondered where my baby was. It was just a split second, but it took me by surprise, to see this little girl looking back at me.
I realised that your first almost two years have passed in one almighty blur. I feel somewhat bad, because I haven’t written to you as often as I would have liked to, and I haven’t kept as detailed a record of all the little things that you do and have done, but I want you to know without doubt that I have loved being your mama. I have loved watching you develop and grow. I have loved traversing the journey of mama of one to mama of two with you, and I have loved the lessons being your mama have taught me.
I look back through the pages of our two years together, through the medium of this blog, and I know that it looks like so much time and attention has been focused on Ameli, rather than you, but I hope that you will realise that pictures and journals only show us the bit we’ve recorded and that there are hundreds, thousands of moments between you and I that could never be captured on paper, on film or on screen.
You’re coming up for two now, and you’ll be having surgery in a few weeks because of your teeth – you were born without enamel on the first four, a fun throwback to my Hyperemesis days – and that’s caused you problems in your eating, but on the up side, for you, it’s turned you from indifferent to breastfeeding, to a definite lover of mama-milk. I am grateful that you’ve had that as an option, and that I persevered through the early days with you, where it was quite difficult and we battled thrush for months.
I am grateful that despite the dentists saying it’s breastfeeding that’s done this to your teeth, I had the wherewithall and the brains to find out the real reasons, and to stick to my guns. I’m glad that when they tell me to stop nursing you, but can’t tell me what I’m then supposed to feed you, I’ve been brave and strong enough to stand up for you, and for us. I am proud of me for that, and grateful to you for trusting me.
As we go into this surgery, I know you’re going to have fears. You’ll be asleep, and you’ll wake up in a bit of pain, and you won’ t know why, and you’ll look at me and have questions, and doubts and fears, but I hope you know I’ll be there, every step of the way. I hope you know I’ll be there, holding you and looking after you and caring for you. I hope you’ll trust me that this really is the best option for you.
You show such personality these days. You love singing and dancing and twirling and being a little girl. You love making up your own little songs, and you love copying the things your sister says and does. You love playing with her, and following her around. You love running squealing and hiding in your tent when it’s time to change your nappy. That one is less fun for us.
You’ve always been a little book worm, and you’d sit paging through all the books you could find your hands on, but recently you are a little Kindle and Netflix obsessed, so we’re trying to wean you off it – largely by hiding it away or letting the battery run flat. I really miss the days you’d sit looking through books while I worked. Hopefully we can get those back. It would definitely be better for you.
You’re also somewhat more prone to tantrums than I’ve been accustomed to from still one year olds and I’m trying to remember all the positive parenting techniques I learned and pretty rarely needed to use for Ameli. We’ll get through this, I’m sure. I’m trying to view it as you making us more empathetic to other parents. And to standing your ground and not being a trodden-over second child. Good for you.
You seem to have been deeply touched especially by your Oupa’s visit here, and refer to him often. Like saying you want him to help you put your shoes on. Not me, him. And when I point out that he’s not here, you want daddy to do it. Little Miss Independent.
You are deeply sweet, and kind. You are gentle and you are laid back. And then you are angry and shouty and passionate and a minute later you’re chilled out again. I think you may have a bit of my temperament there. Long may it keep us happy.
You are my beloved baby girl. I can’t imagine a life before you, can’t remember a time I didn’t love you.
I hope that as this next phase of our story unfolds, that you will feel my love every day, and that even though I don’t always have the time to write to you, you will know, in your heart, deep in your soul, in the most inner part of you, where foundation is laid that I have loved you, every day, and that I will do so into forever.
With all the love in my heart,
happy almost birthday,
Do you ever feel like life is laughing at you? That’s me today. This week. This month. This indeterminate time in space. There’s a long story here, one that I am currently too tired to go into but suffice to say that it culminates in now, here, gone 3am sitting in my children’s bedroom next to a hospital bed on which my mother is half sleeping, half morphine-induced stupor – finally. She spent the last four hours throwing up.
As she has the last two weeks really but yes, “steady decline” is what I say when people ask how she is.
My dad, sister, brother and I all take turns sitting awake with her 24 hours of the day. Her care is now constant. When we control the pain and discomfort successfully she can’t help herself when she vomits – so we sit vigil, 24 hours a day. No one wants to die choking on their own vomit.
In November she had the all clear for travel – her incurable cancer was regressing. She was told to have a wonderful time and check back in when she returned to Perth. Three weeks later she was found to have a 21cm tumour on her liver and many more masses on her lungs and kidneys, I think. So aggressive we can see visible growth in her abdomen day to day. The treatment for the original cancer spread cancer cells around her abdomen. We didn’t see that coming. Good one, life.
She can’t even fly home. Now we just get to watch her fade and die, the most inhumane thing I’ve ever witnessed. Torture for both the sufferer and everyone who sits by them. Bizarrely legal. Even cancerous animals are spared this horror.
It’s strangely obscene that someone who spent her working life caring for sick people now lives out her days with such high need of care, gladly given and with love in our hearts and our thoughts and interactions.
It serves as such a reminder and confirmation to me to keep our lives as chemical free as I can. ‘They’ once told us asbestos was safe too.
So, I didn’t finish blogging the Advent Book Crafts series. I guess we try again next year. I didn’t brine a turkey for tomorrow. I didn’t get to putting labels on all the home made gifts. But at least I am here, listening to the wind howling outside and the rain pumelling the conservatory roof, and the gentle snore coming from my awesome dad who does not leave my mother’s side, and the shallow, rapid breaths from her tired, worn, beaten form.
Dear Mommy, Mummy, Mama
Yes, you, Pinterest mom with your amazing photos, your tidy house and your fabulous ideas. You who sees a craft in every story, a game in every chore and an opportunity for gratitude in every unpaid bill. You who goes to the gym, does dancercize and fits into your pre-babies jeans. You, who cooks from scratch, eats clean, and has a raw repertoire. Whose children eat cauliflower pizza base and beetroot coloured icing, and yes, you who works to support your family and still finds the time to remember your girlfriends’ fifth child’s third birthday. All of you, this is a note to say thank you!
Thank you for your wonderful ideas. Thank you for the inspiration you send my way. Thank you for being the foundation I can build ideas for my home and my family on. Thank you for turning this non-crafty mama into a story time machine. Thank you for sharing your inspirations and showing me what you are capable of and therefore what I may be capable of too!
Thank you for the smiles as your naughty elf gets up to mischief or as your kindness elf opens up a channel for conversation. Thank you for the silly pictures of your super cute offspring doing daft things that remind me that my 4 year old needs a giggle after doing her writing ‘work’ and that my one year old isn’t likely to destroy my pots and pans if she uses them for stacking cups.
Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your struggles, your joys, your every day and your once in a blue moon. Thank you for
making me feel bad challenging me to be less lazy, to pick a few things up and to try a new activity. To switch off the TV and hand over the glitter pots.
Thank you for
making me feel bad by doing such amazing activities highlighting those areas that I need to be more proactive and making me feel bad for not creating certain rituals for opening my eyes to things I never even knew existed. Thank you for making me feel bad by working out five days a week helping me prioritise what’s important to me.
Thank you for helping me realise that you doing what you do to the very best of your abilities isn’t an indictment on me. It’s just you celebrating your strengths as I compare, identify and then celebrate mine! And also for showing me that you can’t make me feel anything, and I own my feelings and should take responsibility for them rather than blaming you for being great.
I hope to never steal your achievements from you by calling what you do for your self and your family “showing off”, or a competition. No, dear mama, I celebrate your victories, and hope you celebrate mine because heaven knows we have enough failures without having to break each other down.
You are perfect in your way, in your latest post, that Facebook update, the photo you tweeted, you have showcased the best of you. Thank you for sharing it with me and thank you for providing the inspiration and motivation to showcase the best of me too.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
When you’ve survived Hyperemesis Gravidarum, you hold your baby and thank God that you made it, and that your baby made it, and that you’re both alive. You survived. Then you kind of forget about it, or try to, at least, while you get on with feeding your baby, changing her and learning to be a mother. You kind of assume that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is gone, and you hope that that’s the end of it.
I did, both times.
And for Ameli it was. She’s suffered no ill fate from this ghastly condition. I assumed the same would be true for her sister, born two and a half years later. But things were different. During my pregnancy with her I was already running on depleted supplies, and the sickness was worse, and when I started throwing up blood at 10 weeks, I went on medication because by 12 I couldn’t get out of bed without fainting. That’s not an ideal way to look after an almost two year old.
The medication I was on – Ondansetron, also known as Zofran – wasn’t specifically tested in pregnancy and my doctor wasn’t happy about giving it to me, but I showed him information about it being used for Hyperemesis Gravidarum in the US, and he agreed. He prescribed three tablets a day, but I took one in the morning so that I could eat something at least, which would carry me through the day. Anecdotal evidence mentioned incidence of deformities and I didn’t want to take any chances.
Aviya was born at home in water at 42+5, a perfect baby girl.
At 10 months and 8 days she rolled off a bed, but seemed okay. She was a bit cranky for a few days and cried whenever we tried to pick her up, but on investigation she seemed totally fine. (My mother is a remote areas nurse practitioner, and my brother is a medical student, so they should know.) At 10 months and 10 days she took her first step on Christmas day, but even so… something wan’t right.
I finally took her to Perth’s Children’s Hospital where they said that she had broken something – her clavicle or scapula, I can never remember. We treated it, and went about our business. After all, we were in Perth for my mother, who was dying of cancer. I never thought much of it again, only fearing for Aviya’s health whenever my mother commented on a blue ring around her mouth, saying that I had to get her heart checked out when I got back to England.
Months passed, we found ourselves back in England, trying to find a normal life again. Ameli started back at nursery, Aviya was running around, engaging in the world, doing the things that one year’s olds do. Her first tooth appeared, and then her second tooth appeared and as happens with these things, so did her third and fourth. Our girl was doing great. Until one day I had a piercing pain in my nipple as she tried to nurse!
Her tooth had chipped! No, not chipped broken! It looked like a vampire fang! I felt awful! How could I not have noticed a fall that did that to her tooth! We went to the dentist and had it filed down, a traumatic experience for her, for sure. Not a week later, guess what? Her second tooth did the same. Broken! I was glad her arm had broken in Australia and not England. At least there’s no medical record of it here. I mean, a broken bone and two broken teeth? I know what I’d be thinking.
Well, we took her to the dentist again, and again with the third tooth and again for the fourth. And again, and again. It was only when we discovered two abscesses in her mouth that the dental staff started to take it very seriously. They were going to put her on a waiting list for our area’s special care unit, but an hour later I got a call to say they were going to transfer her to a hospital in London to be seen sooner.
Then the guilt sets in. The dentist said I should stop breastfeeding because that’s what’s causing the tooth decay (but not for the other teeth in her mouth?) Clearly, I’ll not be taking the advice to wean.
We brush her teeth, but probably not long enough.
Maybe I feed her the wrong things.
A bit of reading, and it turn out that – anecdotally of course – HG babies often have weaker enamel on their first four teeth due to malnutrition in the mother (or something like that). She loses these teeth now, but her adult teeth should be fine. With removing them, however, there may be problems with her teeth descending as the ‘tunnel’ for them isn’t there. So she won’t lose her front teeth either. There’ll be nothing for the memory box.
But there’s maybe more.
While reading about all this, I found something else, slightly more alarming: again anecdotally, of course, but there are a number of babies who had Ondansetron/Zofran who also developed heart problems – thinking about my mother’s comments about the blue ring.
Well. Nothing’s proven. But it’s a worry.
So my little girl has her first ever course of antibiotics for the abscesses.
And we wait.
We wait for the GP appointment for the referral for the scan or whatever they do for her heart. Then we wait for the referral for her dental surgery. Then we wait and see what else life throws our way.
And whatever else Hyperemesis Gravidarum takes.
Did you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum? How has it affected your child or your life since having a child?
There’s an advert on television in the UK at the moment for a laundry sanitiser that actually makes me angry every time I see it.
Did you know that germs lurk on your clothes? Your CLOTHES my friend! Like, RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR BODY! Or worse, RIGHT NEXT TO THE BODY OF THE CHILD YOU SAY YOU LOVE!!!! Oh me oh my. Please, use this chemically created product with a long list of ingredients that are unpronounceable and probably have effects on the environment and quite possibly on the skin too*. After all, you do love your family and want the best for them, don’t you?
Apologies for the sarcasm. It’s how I deal with things that make me angry enough to shout at no one in particular.
So if you’re a real believer in business, you’re thinking ‘they wouldn’t sell it if it was bad for you’. Yip. You’re right. Just like nicotine and saturated fats. Oh wait.
So here’s the thing: This particular brand of unnamed Laundry Sanitiser (I’m just a mama. I don’t need no trouble. You can find out who they are on your own.) lists as its ingredients:
5% Non-Ionic Surfactants, Disinfectant, Parfum,Contains Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol and Hexyl Cinnamal ,Per 100g Liquid contains 2.40 g Dialkyl (C8-10) Dimethylammonium Chloride / Benzyl-C 12-18-Alkyldimethyl Chloride
I’m no scientist or chemist, so let’s break it down with a little help from our friend Doctor Google.
5% Non-Ionic Surfactants: To my untrained eye, at least, they don’t specify which chemical group of non-ionic surfactants are used, so here’s a general summary of the environmental effects of non-ionic surfactants from the European Textile Service Association Eco Forum Website:
Formerly this group was widely used for cleaning and laundering. Now it has been replaced to a great extent due to the negative environmental effects.
During the biological degradation, alkyl phenol ethoxylates bare transformed to alkyl phenols, e.g. nonyl phenol ethoxylate (NPEO) degrades to nonyl phenol (NP), which is known to be toxic and have hormone like effects.
P.S. “The impacts of nonylphenol in the environment include feminization of aquatic organisms, decrease in male fertility and the survival of juveniles at concentrations as low as 8.2 microg/l. Due to the harmful effects of the degradation products of nonylphenol ethoxylates in the environment, the use and production of such compounds have been banned in EU countries and strictly monitored in many other countries such as Canada and Japan”.[1. Nonylphenol in the environment: a critical review on occurrence, fate, toxicity and treatment in wastewaters Environ Int. 2008 Oct;34(7):1033-49. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2008.01.004. Epub 2008 Feb 20.]
Disinfectant: not sure what they’re using here. The fact that they don’t tell us what it is worries me. The main one used in the US has been Triclosan for many years, but many studies are showing areas of concern.
Parfum: This is a tricky one. There doesn’t seem to be a specific description of what this is. Parfum is, apparently, industry code for as many as 3,000 chemicals used to make products smell “nice”.[2. David Suzuki Foundation A very interesting blog post on the topic]
The safety of Butylphenyl Methylpropional has been evaluated by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials Expert Panel (REXPAN). Based on this evaluation, an International Fragrance Association (IFRA) Standard has been established. The IFRA Standard restricts the use of Butylphenyl Methylpropional in fragrances because of potential sensitization.[3. http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/butylphenyl-methylpropional Cosmetics Info – The Science And Safety Behind Your Favourite Products]
What does sensitization mean?
Sensitization to chemicals can be defined as changes in the organism, usually the immunochemical system, by exposure to a chemical such that further chemical exposure leads to recognition by the organism. Such recognition will lead to a response that is marked by a greater reaction at lower doses than what would be observed in non-sensitized individuals. This is usually called hypersensitivity (Turner-Warwick, 1978).
Inhulation of the antigen/allergen in an individual previously sensitized leads to an allergic reaction, such as rhinitis or conjunctivitis. If the skin is sensitized, as in allergic contact dermatitis, then contact will cause an oedematous response and/or a rash. Pulmonary (airway) sensitization manifests itself through bronchial constriction or obstruction (Davies and Blainey, 1983; Hetzel and Clark, 1983; Ramsdale et al., 1985). Some chemicals can produce different types of “allergy’. There are various known and hypothesized mechanism for sensitization. There are also host susceptibility factors, including genetic predisposition, which will play a role in sensitization and in disease manifestation (Turner-Warwick, 1978; Gregg, 1983).[4. Key Concepts: Chemical Sensitization Michael D. Lebowitz]
Citronellol: naturally occuring scent ingredient derived from plants such as rose, used to mask other scents. Not considered to be toxic, bioaccumulative or toxic or harmful. Often used in beauty products. Interestingly, it still has a score of 5/10 on the EWG hazard chart.[5. <a href=”http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/701389/CITRONELLOL/“>Citronellol</a> – Environmental Working Group]
Hexyl Cinnamal: naturally occurring and synthetic ingredient, it is associated with allergic reactions. While not believed to be toxic, bioaccululative or harmful, it is a possible human immune system toxicant or allergen and is banned or restricted in the EU.[6. <a href=”http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702841/HEXYL_CINNAMAL/“>Hexyl Cinnamal</a> – Environmental Working Group]
2.40 g Dialkyl (C8-10) Dimethylammonium Chloride:
Didecyldimethylammonium chloride is an antiseptic/disinfectant, which is used in many biocidal applications. They cause disruption of intermolecular interactions and dissociation of lipid bilayers. They are Broad spectrum Bactericidal and Fungicidal. They can be used as Disinfectant Cleaner for Linen recommended for use in hospitals, hotels and industries . It is also used in Gynaecology, Surgery, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, OT, for the sterilization of surgical instruments, endoscopes and surface disinfection. [7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didecyldimethylammonium_chloride>Dimethylommonium Chloride – Wikipedia]
Benzyl-C 12-18-Alkyldimethyl Chloride:
ADBAC is highly toxic to fish , very highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates , moderately toxic to birds and slightly toxic to mammals. Concentrated solutions (10% or more) are toxic to humans, causing corrosivity/irritation to the skin and mucosa under prolonged contact times, and death if taken internally in sufficient volumes
Several studies claim to have identified allergic reactions to benzalkonium chloride, although a clear distinction has not been drawn between irritation and a genuine allergic response involving immune system. Studies have been based on individuals rather than statistically significant groups. It is still widely used in eyewashes, nasal sprays, hand and face washes, mouthwashes, spermicidal creams, and in various other cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants.[8. <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzalkonium_chloride“> Benzalkonium_chloride </a> Wikipedia lists a host of reference articles related to the above. ]
Unless we’re talking about a child with a terrible immune related disease, where there may be justification for over-sanitising, you do not need to fill the waterways and environment with toxins. And even if you do, do some research before hand to be sure that the ingredients in this product aren’t going to make matters worse.
But let’s say none of the ingredients in this product put you off, because, let’s say that they’re all in ‘suspected safe’ quantities and concentrations. Let’s say you really like the idea of a product that can help kill germs and protect against flu or feaces on your child’s clothing.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT REALLY?
One study concluded that washing at 60°C (140°F) for 10 minutes is sufficient to decontaminate hospital uniforms and reduce the bacterial load and that items left in the pockets are decontaminated to the same extent and that uniforms become recontaminated with low numbers of principally gram-negative bacteria after laundry but that these are effectively removed by ironing. (MRSA is only removed with added antibacterial liquid though).[9. Effectiveness of Low-Temperature Domestic Laundry on the Decontamination of Healthcare Workers’ Uniforms, N. Lakdawala, MSc; J. Pham, MRes; M. Shah, MSc; J. Holton, PhD, FRCPath Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Vol. 32, No. 11 (November 2011), pp. 1103-1108]
Another study came out with some really interesting information, I’m paraphrasing, but you can read it all for yourself [10. Beyond Semmelweis: Moving Infection Control into the Community J. Todd Weber, MD; and James M. Hughes, MD]
Two groups of families with at least 1 pre-school aged child were given identical cleaning materials, one with antibacterial properties, and one without. They were followed for 48 weeks and checked for a variety of conditions. No significant differences between the 2 groups were found in reports of symptoms, which included rhinorrhea (26.8%), cough (23.2%), fever (11%), sore throat (10.2%), vomiting (2.6%), and diarrhea (2.5%). Fewer than 1% of the households reported any skin symptoms. Within most subgroups, such as young children, children attending day care, and persons working outside the home, no differences were found between the 2 groups. Interestingly, persons with chronic disease or poor health in the antibacterial product group were more likely to have fever, rhinorrhea, and cough.
I’m sorry… can I just repeat that last sentence again?
Persons with chronic disease or poor health given antibacterial cleaners were more likely to have fever, rhinorrhea and cough.
Maybe their lowered immunity wasn’t able to protect them against all the chemicals and toxins in the products?
Still not convinced?
Here’s an excerpt from the CDC Website – That’s the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
“An essential part of preventing the spread of infection in the community and at home is proper hygiene. This includes hand-washing and cleaning shared items and surfaces. Antibacterial-containing products have not been proven to prevent the spread of infection better than products that do not contain antibacterial chemicals. Although a link between antibacterial chemicals used in personal cleaning products and bacterial resistance has been shown in vitro studies (in a controlled environment), no human health consequence has been demonstrated. More studies examining resistance issues related to these products are needed.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee voted unanimously on October 20, 2005 that there was a lack of evidence supporting the benefit of consumer products including handwashes, bodywashes, etc., containing antibacterial additives over similar products not containing antibacterial additives.”
Which leads nicely to another concern that has been raised with excessive use of antibacterial cleaners: the creation of superbugs.
The UK Cleaning Products Industry Association unsurprisingly says no, antibacterial products aren’t to blame – antibiotics are.
“No. Although this possibility is often discussed, the scientific evidence does not suggest this is actually happening, despite many decades of use, nor that’s it’s likely to happen.”[11. Do anti-bacterial and disinfectant products promote the spread of superbugs? ukcpi.org]
A variety of different studies have been done on the link between antibacterial cleaners and the creation of super bugs, most of them by Dr. Stuart Levy, a microbiologist at Tufts University, but in reality it is inconclusive. What we do know for sure though, is that antibacterial cleaners clean the good bacteria along with the bad, causing weakness in the immune system. More research is required to find out for sure – but you can imagine no one’s rushing to fund that research.
Another thing we know for sure is that these products are showing up in waterways, in food and in the umbilical cords of newborn babies, absorbed through the mother. And then we wonder why asthma and allergies among other things are on the rise?
So to sum up:
1) Antibacterial products have not been shown to have any positive effect on consumer health
2) Antibacterial products contain a host of chemicals, many of which have detrimental side effects to health, and more specifically, can cause extra illness in people with an already low immune system.
3) The antibacterial products you wash down the drain end up in the waterways, in our food, and in our environment, killing good bacteria along with the bad, and potentially causing a rise in bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Those you rub on your skin pass through into your unborn baby – you know, the one you’re staying away from cheese, coffee and sushi for.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO?
Considering that there’s no difference in the health benefit of using antibacterial products over just washing with water and non-antibacterial soap, you may as well use something that’s not detrimental to you or the environment – like tea tree oil. EEK! You say. THAT HIPPY STUFF DOESN’T WORK?!
“Tea tree oil in a topical formulation might eliminate organisms from carriage sites such as the hairline, axilla, nares, groin and perineum, and incorporation of tea tree oil in hand-washing formulations may reduce the transmission of many multi-resistant organisms associated with nosocomial infections.”[12.<http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/45/5/639.full> Time–kill studies of tea tree oils on clinical isolates</a> ukcpi.org ]
You can find similar information for Lavender too.
If you’d like to swap to more natural, chemical free cleaners, see these posts below for wonderful products you can use at home:
Of course, many of these recipes still include chemicals, but these are no where near as toxic to us, our children or our environment as the anti-bacterial options we’re being led to believe we really need, for the sole purpose of someone else’s financial gain.
Right now, four years ago, I was in the throes of labour. I had been since 4am the day before, but had managed a little sleep, and was ready to do this. I thought at the time, that I was having a baby, and then life would go back to normal. I was so happy, but I really didn’t know what it meant.
The moment our eyes locked, I fell in love with you. I changed forever. That may sound clichéd, but it’s true. Not much about my life, those two seconds apart, has ever really been the same since.
I knew the practicalities: babies grow into toddlers, who grow into children, but I had no real idea of how mothers grew from mothers of babies, to mothers of toddler to mothers of children. I didn’t see that coming.
I didn’t know that those first weeks and months would be all consuming. I didn’t know that I would learn a mountain of new skills, and master them too. I didn’t have the faintest inkling that I would become passionate about birth, or breastfeeding, or baby wearing, or any of the things you led me to, by refusing a pushchair, and flaring up when we used normal baby bath products, or having a bad reaction to Calpol.
I had seen babies smile before, but what I had not seen was how their mothers melted on the inside. I had not known how the curling of lips could wipe away days and nights of tiredness, and the complete upside down-ness of those early months. If someone had told me, I would not have believed it, and if I had believed it, I would not have grasped it. How could I conceive of something I’d never even imagined?
You were always in a hurry. Always trying to get to the next thing. At four months, you were crawling around with the seven and eight month olds in our baby group. At 8 months you were running rings around them. You were always in a hurry. You were speaking in full sentences by 20 months. Always on the go, always chattering, always showing me the world through eyes I never anticipated would captivate me. I see the same world you see, but you show me colours, and stories, and imaginations I would never have seen.
You have taught me the limits of my patience. You have shown me how I can go on, even when I thought I had nothing left in me. You’ve shown me that I do know how to play, that I can actually draw, and that anything can be fixed with a kiss and a cuddle.
You’ve taken me to the limits of the worst of me, then stretched out your arms to bring me back to a place of love. Our place, as mother and daughter. You’ve shown me the best of me. The things I now treasure most about me.
If four years ago you’d told me that all of these things were going to happen, that I was going to change fundamentally and wholly, and that my life was going to become wrapped up in you, I would not have believed it. I would have denied it. Oh, how I laugh at my own foolishness now.
I thought I knew what it was going to be. I had drawn the boundaries, made the plans, laid down the laws.
Then you came.
And you changed everything.
And I will never be able to thank you enough.
I love you baby girl, to the end of all things.
For all time.
Happy fourth birthday.
We’re making the most of summer, as far as we can. We know it won’t be around for too long, so now’s the time, really! Also, this is my 1000’s post on Diary of a First Child. Somehow, that feels like a milestone! Yay me 🙂
198 – Hot hot hot
It’s so warm at the moment, and I am loving it. We’re taking full advantage of the water play table while the going is good. This particular day we filled the watertable with water beads. Have a look at our top suggestions for ways to use water beads. And why not follow us on Facebook, so you can see what we’re up to!
199 – Sprinklers
We don’t have a water tap in our back yard, so I put the hose through the kitchen window into the communal garden. The older folks around our square all came out to say how much fun it looked. They were all very sweet.
200 – An I Need A Drink Day
I don’t drink much at all these days. Maybe once a month, usually at events, but at the end of this particular day, I needed to add a shot of chocolate liqueur into my iced coffee. Everyone has days like that, right?
201 – Polka Dot Party
Another birthday party for us, and the theme was ‘polka dots’. The girls met the theme, all right!
202 – Fresh
We were busy making dinner when I decided to add some fresh herbs. We went to the garden to pick some. I love that Ameli knows and loves herbs. Not bad for a 3 year old.
203 – Make Up
Oh dear. Someone found my make up bag and got into it. When I asked if I could clean her up she said, “but I like my face just the way it is!”
I do too, baby. I do too.
204 – Hobbledown Farm
What an awesome day out. If you live anywhere near Epsom in Surrey, or are passing that way anytime soon, you must go. Read the full post on Hobbledown Farm.
We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!