Monday, October 31, 2011

Pregnant pumpkin gives birth, nurses baby

Last year a pregnant pumpkin made a guest appearance on this blog.

I recently ran into her and asked how her labor went.

"Labor was intense but manageable," she told me. "I ignored contractions for as long as possible--I love being in denial! When I felt like I just couldn't take it any more, I got in the birth pool. It felt amazing.

"Soon I felt my body starting to push. It was like throwing up in reverse. There was nothing I could do to stop it. Pushing hurt more than I had expected, and at first I fought it. Of course that just made everything worse! But once I realized that I just had to go along for the ride, the baby moved lower and soon was crowning.

"Boy was that intense! I totally understand why it's called the ring of fire. You feel like you're going to split in half. But of course you don't!

"Right after the baby was born, I picked her up out of the water and pulled her to my chest. We snuggled skin-to-skin, which was indescribably sensual: warm silky baby on my bare chest, that newborn smell....mmmm...

"My baby nursed within the first hour and has been a happly little vampire baby, as we call her, ever since.

"She's now almost eight months old. I can't believe it's gone so quickly. She's already crawling and pulling herself up on furniture. I love nursing her, but I have to say those sharp teeth can hurt!"
Read more ...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

iBirth review & giveaway

At the Lamaze conference last month, I learned about a new app called, appropriately, iBirth. I'm really excited to share more about it and to offer a giveaway for 5 lucky winners.
So what is iBirth? It's an Apple app with four main features (Android version in progress):

1) 26 short videos showing positions for early labor, active labor, back labor, and pushing. Each video is about 1 minute long and has a brief narration with the benefits of that position. I love this part of the app; with a touch of a button, you can see a woman leaning over the back of the bed in early labor, doing a "labor hula" with her hips, and pushing on hands & knees. Three of the videos show mild, moderate, and intense vocalizations, familiarizing women with the normal sounds of labor. These short clips were filmed professionally in a birth center setting that is neutral enough to appeal to women planning both hospital and home births.

You can watch a sample video here:

The creators of iBirth have also made a DVD of these 26 short clips. It's a great resource for childbirth educators, doulas, and midwives. And at only $30, it's a great price!

2. Contraction timer. With a large start/stop button, this timer automatically calculates length and spacing of contractions.

3. Prenatal nutrition guide. This is quite useful when you're meal planning or grocery shopping. It includes important nutrients for pregnancy and lists which foods contain those nutrients. For example, if you were looking to eat more calcium-rich foods, you'd touch "calcium" and find a long list of whole foods and how much of each to eat.

4. Tips & Lists: There are over 140 suggestions and tips to help women through labor. These range from affirmations to tips for long labors or back labor.

The iBirth app is currently on sale for $2.99 (normally $4.99). It's totally worth the money, in my opinion. My favorite part is the video library. For those people who just can't be without their gadgets, even in labor, this one would definitely be helpful!

To purchase the app, visit the iTunes store. The DVD is available at the iBirth website or on Amazon.

Now, for the fun part--a giveaway! I am offering one iBirth DVD ($30 value) and 4 free iBirth downloads ($4.99 value). If you do not have an Apple device, you will receive a free 9-month online registration to iBirth, which includes all of the features except the contraction timer.

How to enter:
  • Look at the iBirth website, then leave a comment about a) your favorite iBirth feature and b) which product you'd like to win (DVD or app). 
  • Be sure to leave your email or website so I can contact you.
  • One extra entry for sharing on your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (new comment please)
  • Giveaway ends Friday, November 4th at 5 pm EST.
  • DVD for US residents only; iBirth app for anyone, anywhere! 
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Caught in the act!

Raiding my tupperware drawer...
not to mention standing up by herself...
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Birth as Art

Last week, I briefly mentioned Brooklyn performance artist Marni Kotak, who was planning to give birth inside an art gallery-turned-birth space. I found a more detailed article about her art installation here at the Mail Online. The article includes several photos of Marni in her gallery, which was fitted out with a shower, birth tub, double bed, and kitchen. I had envisioned this large gallery that could hold hundreds of people, but the space is actually more intimate, with room for about 15 observers plus Marni and her birth team.
image source:

Although giving birth in an art gallery in front of an audience might seem rather disconnected and exposed, Marni has been connecting with her future audience as they visit the gallery and chat with her:
About 20 people a day stop by to talk to Marni or see the free exhibit, which opened on October 8. Visitors can leave contact information if they want to return for the birth.

Marni said her audience 'won't be total strangers.' She said those who spend time talking to her about motherhood, birth and art and learning about the project will be notified when she goes into labor. If she's home at the time, she will go to the gallery.

'I'm developing an authentic relationship with these people,' she said. 'For me, it's like building a community of people who are really interested in this.'...

Jill McDermid, a curator and co-director of the performance art Grace Exhibition Space in Brooklyn, called Marni's work 'daring, challenging and honest.' She said people shouldn't be shocked.

'The audience is very limited. Marni views them as people she can trust, who are interested in her work and in her,' Ms McDermid said.
And just a few minutes ago, a notice came into my Google Reader: Kotak gave birth yesterday morning in her gallery to a baby boy. She will be adding a video of the birth to her installation.

Although my first reaction to the news of Kotak's performance art made me pause, I've been thinking about how it's not so much different from webcasting births (such as Dr. Nancy Salgueiro's recent livecast) or sharing birth videos on YouTube. I personally prefer to place a temporal break between giving birth and sharing the videos. I'm a really private laborer, but having a camera hasn't intruded on that privacy because I had control over when/if to share the footage.

Your thoughts?
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Home Birth Summit

I just came home from the Home Birth Summit. It was 2 1/2 exhausting but rewarding days of dialogue, discussion, and consensus-building. I was thrilled to be in a room with all of the key stakeholders in home birth and to have honest, open conversations about such a normally divisive issue.

At the end of the Summit, we (meaning all 80 of us delegates) came to consensus on nine key points. We're waiting back for the written report, but in the meantime here are 8 of the 9 main topics. I am totally blanking on the ninth!:
  • Role that liability and (fear of) litigation play in increasing costs, decreasing access, restricting collaboration and narrowing women's childbearing choices
  • Importance of childbearing women's autonomy and shared decision-making
  • Linked data collection and sharing
  • Need for collaboration between providers and a system to enable safe, seamless & respectful transfers of care
  • Involving consumers in physician & midwife organizations 
  • Need to address midwifery licensure in all 50 states, including dialogue on CPM core competencies, working towards licensing DEMs (most likely CPMs, perhaps expanding CM credential) in all 50 states, & eliminating CNM practice barriers
  • Addressing inequalities in maternity care (access, affordability, outcomes, etc.), especially for poor, rural, & minority women
  • Valuing both physiological birth and the timely & appropriate use of evidence-based interventions
The English professor in me was wincing at times; when you're writing these kind of statements by committee, the language tends to get stilted and overly wordy...but I just had to take a few breaths and let that pass.

I was thrilled that we accomplished so much in so little time. What we did at the Summit was huge. For example, we had the president-elect of FIGO and the immediate past president of ACOG hammering things out with the president of MANA and an epidemiology professor and a malpractice insurer and a direct-entry midwife. (Remember, of course, that all stakeholders attended on their own, not as representatives of their organizations.)

And of course, we had some fun along with all of our work. We had a running joke going about the disappearance of pubic hair in obstetrics (one of those "you had to be there" moments). We also met last night to share birth stories. I showed the video of Inga's birth and I was so honored that such a mixed group got to see and talk about it.

One of my favorite activities was when each stakeholder group created a Proud/Sorry list: 3 things they were proud of and 3 things they were sorry for. Jill of The Unnecesarean and I immediately turned to each other and said, "We are sorry for fanning the flames of divisiveness through anti-OB and anti-hospital rhetoric." That became #1 on our Sorry list.

Over the years I've been blogging, I've matured a lot in my rhetoric and understanding of birth and breastfeeding. I find myself more willing to embrace other viewpoints, less strident in my advocacy for home birth or natural birth (although I still feel passionately about it), and more eager to engage in true dialogue with those groups typically cast as the enemy. Repeat after me: Doctors are not the enemy. Hospitals are not the enemy. (If anyone or anything is--and I think almost everyone at the Summit would agree--it is our malpractice/litigation system.)

The OB group's Proud/Sorry list--which stretched far beyond three items in both categories--was particularly touching. It's too bad we don't have more opportunities for this kind of sharing and conversation. I think we'd find we have so many common goals and that the stereotypes just don't hold up.

I better stop now before I start singing Kumbaya and getting all touchy-feely on you.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Home Birth Summit!

I'm heading off to the Home Birth Summit early tomorrow morning. I am so excited to participate! There are about 80 delegates attending (click on their names for bios), some of whom I know in person and others I know through reading their books or articles. I can't wait to meet Lauren Plante or Mark Sloan, author of Birth Day.

If you aren't attending but would like to contribute, you can do the following:

1. Share your thoughts here

2. Help cover my registration costs by purchasing a sling or advertising on my blog. I have a current 3-for-1 advertising promotion where you can purchase 3 months for the price of 1, or 1 month at 67% off! The Summit received grant money to cover some travel expenses, but I still have to pay for registration and housing (~$600) on my own. Finances are tight right now and I almost didn't go. But I just couldn't pass up on such an important event.

I might not be able to offer matching ceramic yoni charm bracelets, but I'll definitely give you a virtual home birth hug-fest.
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How low can you go?

I've been playing chicken with my thermostat. Right now our house is a frigid 51 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). I am wearing two layers on my feet and three on my body, plus a hot rice sock around my neck. It's way too cold for me.

Normally I'm not so hard-core with my house temperatures, but we are currently replacing our boiler. Our old one was a behemoth that was operating at 40-50% efficiency at best. Our new boiler--to be finished tomorrow--will run at 95% efficiency. We have a big house, and I wanted the highest possible heat savings.

Only one more cold night. I bet we'll be in the 40s inside before our heat comes on tomorrow. Brrrr....

How low can you go in the winter?
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Birth at 90 mph

A new birth story just showed up in my Google reader, even though it was posted back in February when I was waiting...and waiting...for Inga to be born. It's an amazing story of a baby born on the freeway on the way to the birth center. But unlike most car birth stories, the parents weren't freaking out. Instead, here's what happened:
Davey got me in the car and thank God he had the brains to grab a blanket as we ran out the door. He threw it in the back and we raced towards the freeway. As we flew down the street I started to feel a serious adrenaline rush. And as we merged onto the freeway, I started to feel something even more serious.....the urge to push. We made it about 4 exits until I knew that we weren't going to make it. [The birth center was an hour drive away.] The urge to push turned into the necessity to push and I told Davey, "I have to push!! I'm taking my boots and pants off! Seriously! I need to push now!! Pull over! Pull over!" He started to pull off the freeway and called Lori [the midwife] and told her what was going on. She said not to pull over until we had a head out. So he turned right back around and we were back on the freeway.

Four minutes down the road, on a dark, quiet stretch of freeway, on a rainy night, in the middle of the hills of Lake Elsinore, our baby was born. I reached down and with one, big push felt the babies head moving down towards my hands. And with the next push his head was in my hands and I cupped my hands softly around his neck to make sure there was no cord and also to steady his body as I pushed the rest of him out. He slid out like silk and I turned him toward me and lay him on my belly. He was perfection. Davey was hollering, "YAH!!! WHOOHOO!! You did it baby! You did it!" And the loud, strong cry of our newborn filled the car. He was instantly pink, instantly breathing, and instantly loved and adored. I raised his little leg and exclaimed, "It's a BOY!!!" And Davey and I just smiled and laughed and it was an awesome moment.

Davey pulled over and ran to the back of the car to grab the blanket. He wrapped our son in it and got back in and we quickly proceeded to the birth center. The whole car ride there was like we both were on an emotional high. There was SO much happiness and excitement in that car. I held him tightly in my arms and just gazed at him in amazement and Davey and I couldn't stop rejoicing.
Doesn't that make you want to have a baby all over again?

Read the rest of the story here
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Friday, October 14, 2011

News and updates

Clearing out my bookmarks (a.k.a. procrastinating grading my freshman composition papers):

CDC to support Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
This just out: the CDC has dedicated $6 million to help more hospitals adopt the Baby-Friendly initiative! Dr. William H. Dietz, MD, Ph.D. and director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, commented: “We know that breastfeeding rates are higher in Baby-Friendly hospitals, yet only 5 percent of babies in this country are born in these facilities. We need to help hospitals improve their maternity care to better support breastfeeding. This project takes steps to do that, and it offers real solutions to improve the health of mothers and babies.”

Birth as Performance Art?
Brooklyn performance artist Marni Kotak plans to give birth in her art gallery, and the public is invited. From an interview with The Village Voice:
My performance at Microscope will begin as I install the show, setting up my own home-birth center in the space, and will span the entire duration of the exhibition. Part of giving birth is the mental and physical preparation for the event. A lot elements go into a traditional home-birth, and I received a whole list of necessary supplies from my midwife. I will be installing an inflatable birthing pool and a shower in the gallery, along with my deceased grandmother's bed, the rocking chair that my mother rocked me on when I was a baby, shag carpeting, a surround video projection of ocean waves crashing on the shores of my favorite Cape Cod beach, artwork made by my husband and the child's father, Jason Robert Bell, and a small kitchen area for food and drinks.

All of these elements are incorporated to make the labor process as smooth and as comfortable as possible. As this will take place in front of an audience, rather than in the privacy of my home, I am doing extra mental preparation at the advice of my doula (who along with my midwife will be present at the birth) to let go of my mind and totally go into my body. She told me that once I really enter active labor the body just takes over and I won't care at all what is going on around me. My focus will be on having my baby. I know it will be challenging, but I think if people give birth in the completely inhospitable environment of hospitals, hooked up to IVs and monitors and strapped with stirrups into a bed, I can give birth in an art gallery. And in giving birth in front of the audience, I am showing them, as in my previous performances, that real life is the best performance art, and that, if our eyes can be opened to it, all of the meaning that we seek is right there in our everyday lives.
Read the rest here.

Live home birth
Another woman, Canadian chiropractor Nancy Salgueiro, will be live-casting her birth. She's currently 41 weeks pregnant, so it should happen any day now. If you want to watch, you can register here.

Two VBAC stories
Accidental unassisted birth (caution: will probably make you laugh) and a hospital VBAC with a midwife & OB teaming up.

Birthing in Zion
If you're an LDS birth worker, there's a new online directory called Birthing in Zion organized by WAVE (Women Advocating for Voice & Equality).

Baby Style
My friend Desiree just wrote about baby style. I agree 100%. No rhinestones or tutus or butt pants on my little girls! My own style--if I can call it that, since 99.99% of my kids' clothes are second-hand--leans towards the slightly feminine but not girly. Some of my favorite girl's outfits are jeans and a peasant blouse. Of course, my kids wear a lot of mixed-gender clothes too! Zari's summer sandals are used boy's sandals with footballs and baseballs, and Dio's sandals are pink leather hand-me-downs.
Read more ...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Who is the biggest loser?

My freshman composition class just wrapped up a unit of readings about food. We read a wide variety of articles and essays: classic Michael Pollan fare ("Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."), arguments for vegetarianism as the most environmentally friendly way to eat, advocates of conventional industrial agriculture, articles about America's obesity crisis, and arguments for genetically modified plants as the future of sustainable agriculture. We also watched Food, Inc. and had a local organic farmer visit our class as a guest speaker.

Our readings on food discussed several perspectives on obesity. Some encouraged better individual eating choices as the solution to unhealthy bodies. Others pointed fingers at US food policy that subsidizes overproduction of corn and thus floods the market with cheap corn-derived foods. Some noted that while cheap, unhealthy food isn't good for our bodies, it is deeply enmeshed in the American economy and thus will be hard to change.  

Last class, I did an activity about reducing excess wordiness, which I called "The Biggest Loser." I had never seen the TV show before, so I did some "research" and watched a few episodes. I found myself simultaneously fascinated and cynical. It was incredible to see the physical transformations the contestants undergo. Despite the annoying reality TV genre, I still felt motivated when I heard the contestants' success stories. You can do it! Rah rah rah! At the same time, I felt cynical because only a tiny minority of people struggling with excess weight have access to a team of personal trainers, dietitians, and physicians--not to mention an all-expenses-paid stay at a weight-loss camp. "The Biggest Loser" both inspired me and deepened my skepticism.

Obesity has its own controversies in the world of maternity care. On one hand, maternal obesity is associated with many pregnancy & birth complications. But we don't know how much of this is simply self-fulfilling prophecy and/or care provider bias and how much is due to inherent risk of obesity itself. Should we strive towards fat acceptance and the concept of being healthy at any size? Is there some kind of reasonable BMI benchmark we should encourage women of childbearing age to reach? Will focusing on individual choices make more of a difference than trying to change systemic failures? Or will it just make overweight women feel more guilty?

Links to articles you'd like to share?
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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Wish list...

Some things I'd love to do...maybe in another lifetime

Do an underwater maternity photo shoot
I'd have to get pregnant first, but isn't this underwater photography just about the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? Here's a peek at one of the photos from Kevin Beasley Photography.

Take CrossFit classes
I exercise 3 mornings a week right after I teach. I usually do 10 minutes of rowing, then lift weights, then do an elliptical machine until Eric arrives with the kids. But I'd like to take my fitness to another level. My sister-in-law has been doing CrossFit and swears by it. She's never been so fit in her life, and she has five children now! I don't care about trying to be thin. I just want a strong, capable, athletic body. I definitely don't want to be skinny fat.

Have a dress form made from my actual body
If you've ever wondered why your clothes often fit poorly, look at the body shape used for creating clothes. I've never seen a woman who actually looks like this (size 8 or "medium")...

or this? (a "plus size" dress form)

Yeah, that's why your clothes don't fit!

What is on your wish list?
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Sunday, October 02, 2011

7 months old!

Even though Inga is my third baby, every new milestone is just as exciting. She smiles! She sits up! She gets teeth! Since my last update two months ago, Inga has learned how to sit up by herself, how to push herself up on hands and knees (or hands and feet in a perfect downward facing dog), and how to move herself all over the place. She hasn't technically crawled, but has done everything else short of that.
I can't get enough of her. She is seriously the most easy-going baby ever. She's content to sit and play with toys for long stretches of time. Thanks to this we've been able to get lots of home renovations done.
She puts up with quite a bit of abuse love from her siblings.
I'm holding off solids for as long as possible. Zari was 10 months before she had any foods, while Dio was just over 6 months. (Very typical of his personality--I could not hold him off any longer). Inga has ingested grass, leaves, and the occasional pea scavenged from underneath Zari and Dio's chairs, but otherwise she's on a strict breastmilk diet for as long as possible. I'm all about lazy parenting and nothing is as easy as nursing. Once a baby starts to eat food, you have to deal with feeding and cleaning them, finding something for them to eat, and nasty stinky diapers. Plus I want to hold off my fertility for a while longer. So lazy parenting = good all around.
When I updated two months ago, Inga was waking once, occasionally twice, a night. Now she's back to 3-4 times a night. This has happened with all three kids at around the same time. I have no idea why. If Inga follows her siblings' patterns, I'll have another 6-12 months before she genuinely sleeps through the night. As much as I like that idea, I also like keeping my fertility at bay so I'm fine with the more frequent night nursing.
Today, Eric discovered two little bottom teeth poking out! She hasn't been crabby so the teeth were quite unexpected. (And that dot on her forehead is something on my camera lens.)
I don't know how I'll ever be able to say I'm "done" having kids. I love, love, love the baby stage and the thought of never having another laughing, smiling baby makes me so sad. I think 5 kids sounds about right--probably because I came from a family of 5 siblings--but what if I have 5 and still feel the same way? Hmmmm, probably best to just focus my energy on the ones I have right now and not worry about the future.

6 months!
Anyway there's lots of happiness chez les Freezes.
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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Natural body products

I wanted to mention several natural body products I have been using. Some were purchased, others were samples provided for me to review, and others were won in a giveaway. So here's what I have been trying out:

1. Kiss My Face products (won in a giveaway): I love the scent of the six products I received. The skin, hair, and lip products are all made with real orange essential oil, so you're smelling the real deal--not a chemical reproduction of "orange flavor."
  • Berry Smart Toothpaste: A sweet berry-flavored kid's toothpaste that comes in fluoride-free or regular versions. It was a bit sweet for my taste, but Dio liked it. 
  • Orange U Smart Whale of a Soaps: I still haven't tried these out yet. I don't use bar soap very often.
  • Obsessively Natural Lip Balms: The lip balm was a bit on the dry side--I had to rub it quite hard on my lips. It has softened more as I've gotten lower down in the tube.
  • Orange U Smart Bubble Wash: Love it! My only complaint is that it seems a bit watery. We go through this way too quickly!
  • Self-Foaming Hand Wash: My kids think foaming hand soap is the best thing ever. No complaints when I ask them to wash up. 
  • Self-Foaming Shampoo and Body Wash (no longer available): It's too bad this isn't available any more, since it's great stuff. It's a multipurpose foaming wash that also works as a baby shampoo. You squeeze the bottle and the wash comes out in big, foamy bubbles.

2. Bionée organic maternity skin care.
Bionée is a new company, started last year by a woman who fell in love with the bounty of the French countryside. It specializes in natural, organic, fair-trade skin care for mother and baby. I received two small samples to review: Silhouette Lotion and Body Caress. The Silhouette Lotion is supposed to tone and lift. Now, I wasn't able to verify if, indeed, the lotion could lift and tone with just a small sample. But I loved the smell and feel of it--super light and fast to absorb. (Could someone please invent a cream that lifts not just skin but also droopy boobs? I'd totally buy it!) Body Caress is a creamier lotion created to soothe and protect a baby's skin. Another lovely product that I like for my own skin as much as for Inga's.

3. Nature's Gate Fragrance-Free Lotion for Sensitive Skin (purchased).
I wanted a light, all-natural lotion with a smell that wouldn't bother me. I was ordering through my United Natural Foods buying club, so I couldn't test the lotion out ahead of time. I opted for the fragrance-free version, which I am very happy with. It's light, non-oily, and leaves no residue. I want to try the Lemongrass and Clary Sage lotion next time I order. I'm really careful about products that I put directly on my skin--lotions in particular--and I am quite satisfied with Nature's Gate. (I'm more lax with things that you rinse off right away, such as shampoos or soaps. I am super cheap, so I have to prioritize where I will spend and where I will economize.)

4.  Green Body Basics Naturally Effective Deodorant (sample provided for review)

I've never used a natural deodorant before. In the past, I've either used conventional antiperspirants (during the summer months) or nothing (during the winter months). Unlike aluminum-based antiperspirants, Green Body Basics deodorants do not block the skin's pores. They are more of a true deodorant than an antiperspirant, although the baking soda absorbs moisture as well as blocks scent. I absolutely love how Green Body Basics "Stamina" smells. Love it. I want to wear it just keep smelling it. It's scented with clary sage essential oil. Somehow, I've never come across this particular scent before and I love it. It's very fresh, not too musky or flowery.

Now for a more theoretical musing about "natural" body products:

As much as I think these products are quite lovely, and that it's good to use body products that are natural, organic, and plant-based, I wonder if focusing on individual consumption will divert time and resources away from system-wide problems. At a certain point, you can't avoid exposure to environmental contaminants. No matter how many organic or "natural" products you buy, a lot of pollutants and toxins come via mechanisms that we can't control or filter out. I'm not saying that we should just put anything and everything into our bodies, but I wonder how much effect purchasing (lovely but often quite expensive) "natural" or organic products will have in limiting our overall chemical exposure. I think a better focus than individual consumption is state- and nationwide regulation of harmful substances.
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