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Monday, February 16, 2009

Better Safe Than Sorry

I thought this article in the New York Times Magazine was brilliant. Peggy Orenstein, who also wrote Waiting for Daisy about her struggle with infertility and recurrent loss, asks an excellent question: "Better safe than sorry, I say. But safe from what?"

I know it wasn't a piece about parenting after infertility but I couldn't help but read it through that lens. When I went shopping with Lindsay for Baby Fred gear, I felt like the grim reaper, creeping down every aisle chanting the horrific things that can occur with various baby products.

Do you go for glass bottles which can fall off the table and cut your baby to shreds or do you trust that Avent removed all harmful chemicals from their new and improved bottles? Do you go with the organic formula that has only been on the market for a few years or the more popular brand that has been around longer?

Because it's all about what if? What if you choose the wrong brand and expose your child to harmful chemicals? What if you choose the wrong school and they get left behind on a field trip? Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in what ifs and I too will say, "better safe than sorry." But as Orenstein asks, safe from what?

We can't protect our children from everything, but we can drive ourselves (and them) into madness worrying about it.

Read the article--it's short--and tell me what you think. For me, it spoke volumes.


Searching for Serenity said...

I'm 99% sure I grew up in the same Minneapolis suburb as Peggy if I didn't already have enough "What if's?" to worry about.

The fear of the unknown is never-ending. I have a lot of research ahead of me before my little one arrives.

Ellen K. said...

LOL at the last line of the article.

Luckily, I'm married to a guy who is an environmental health & safety expert and excels at differentiating between alarmism and valid data. I try to limit the "what ifs." But I do think parenting after infertility heightens them -- perhaps because I feel that the twins are only here because of IVF, that they belong to a specific place on the space-time continuum, that our family may have never existed otherwise. I don't think that people who conceive easily (and frequently) feel this as much as those who are parenting after infertility or adoption. At least, I've never heard those parents discuss their existentialist crises relating to their kids.

Natalie said...

"existentialist crises relating to their kids" - LOL Yes, that's it exactly! I always wonder, if we had started stims a day sooner or later, or triggered a little differently, or whatever... then would my son still have been conceived? Or grown? And somewhere during the pregnancy something happened that caused the bands that led to his death... so I'm always wondering what little branch of the space-time continuuum led to that.

So now... I'm hyper-sensitive. we start stims a day later than I expect and I have a crisis. What if the baby was only going to come out of a monday start date? Every little decision seems to impact the world.

Normal people just don't think like this, I am pretty sure.

Tigger said...

I have major issues with all the safety crap that goes on in the world these days. The world certainly wasn't so cushy when I was an infant/toddler/child/teen and yet I somehow managed to survive it to the ripe old age of 31 with nothing seriously wrong with me. Today we wrap our children in plastic bubbles (of an environmentally, non-chemical kind) and swaddle them their entire lives. They never get to experience the stupid shit and the repercussions it has like we did, and I fully believe that it's why teens are so unprepared for being adults.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Pardon the disgusted ranting.

Beautiful Mess said...

I agree with Tigger. I'm an over protective parent, but not to the point my children aren't experiencing life. I will do everything I can to make them safe, but sometimes there's only so much I,as their mother, can do. I can't make them safe 100% of the time.

Sarah said...

well we do also have a lot more chemicals and toxins in our daily lives than our parents did 30 years ago. maybe they're fine but we just don't know.

Delenn said...

Ugh. I really am one that feels that to experience life, one needs to not be frightened of it. Yes, there are always dangers. Yes, we should protect ourselves and our children. HOWEVER, there are times when one can go too far. I bought some of those BPA free bottles--hated the heck out of them. I use bottled water and a water filter for tap. I put on sunscreen. But, frankly, I also have the regular plastic bottle, I also have no problems with my son drinking from public fountains, I get my kids vaccinated...

You cannot believe everything, so I choose the moderate path. And in the ten second rule.

Seems to work fine for me...

loribeth said...

I understand the impulse to be a protective parent, especially after said child(ren) were so hard-won. And you need to be cautious about some things, within reason.

Yet at the same time, you absolutely cannot protect your child or yourself against every possible negative outcome. I agree with Tigger. I kind of enjoy telling tales of my carefree smalltown 1960s childhood just to watch the horrified faces of the moms I know. (Yes, I walked six blocks to kindergarten. By myself. Across a highway. And survived, quite nicely, thank you. And I don't think my mother ever gave it a thought.) I sometimes feel sorry for today's kids who don't enjoy anywhere near the level of freedom my sister & I did at the same age.

Jen said...

I'm in the camp that believes that a little dirt is good for the immune system. (Yes, the dog has already licked the baby on the eyeball.) But I also believe in stuff with as little added to it as possible. I use fragrance free and dye free etc when I can. But I'm not afraid of those other products, I just find them to be unnecessary.

Deathstar said...

I don't even know what kind of toy to get my friend's kids anymore - that so called innocent looking fire truck could be full of lead or melamine paint or who knows what?

Aurelia said...

I'm back and forth on this. Trouble is that the safety movement has made it all seem so expensive to fix everything. For example, BPA free bottles like the fancy kind aren't needed. Good old Playtex has always been BPA free, and cheap to boot!

I get a little irritated at the people who say that we all survived without safety things years ago. Actually, lots of kids died. Lots.

We don't need to overreact and stick kids in a bubble, but for example, when I got my house inspection, it included a check of the water pipes for lead and rust and other chemical contamination. We had lead intake pipes, and the City said it was no big deal, but my inspector said it was important to replace, so we did. $2K later, I am relieved now that headlines are all over the Toronto Star freaking about lead levels in the water.

Now do my kids have super fancy clothes and toys? Not for most of their lives...but they had clean water. (And a lot of the endless piles of cheap plastic and metal toys are full of lead, by the way.)

Let your kids play with nice cheap dirt on the other hand---and they are ok.

Anyway, I try to take the middle ground on these things. It's hard. I want to freak out like crazy when my kids are in danger, like when Julius was just sick, but I also know that I have to let some things go.

Fertilized said...

I think i am in agreement with every one of the comments. This is a hard topic for me. Is the blind ear/eye i turn when saving money going to affect my son in the long run? Alot of the choices revolve around money. The alternative is not an exact or cheaper product

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jen. I think that there is a big difference between being a smart consumer and being overprotective; we research the products we buy for Evie and structure her environment to be stimulating and safe, but I could care less if the dog licks her or if she touches the table top at Applebees and then puts her hands in her mouth. My mantra at those moments is: third children survive (mostly). I try to imagine having two older kids to deal with and ask myself...if Evie were my third biological child instead of an adopted first/only child, would I care about this? If the answer is no, I try to relax. I was always so annoyed by first-time parents who wouldn't let me hold their babies (because I might have germs) back when we were first TTC...I don't want to be that kind of mom even though it would be easy to be overprotective of this baby we waited so long for.

'Murgdan' said...

I'm sure I will be (hope I get the chance to be) a completely obsessed and slightly paranoid mother. I'm sure all of this stuff was around when I was growing up...they just didn't have the ability to 'look' for it, and I turned out ok. But you know, ignorance is bliss.

Bea said...

I prefer to sweep it all under the carpet by crying "moderation". Everything turns out to have downsides sooner or later. I aim to do only enough of everything so the downsides don't freak me out too badly when I find out what they are at some distant point in the future. That includes buying organic (which, I'm reliably told, some strains of organic tomatoes express natural pesticide when grown organically, and you DO NOT want to know what this natural pesticide does to mice - although, of course, *biodiverse* organic farming should still take care of that, but I'm illustrating my point, yes?)