Tag Archives: baby

The Big Girl Bed is Coming! The Big Girl Bed is Coming!

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In my head, there is a galloping horseman calling out a new milestone with a breathless desperation:

The big girl bed is coming!  The big girl bed is coming!  

Emily is about to turn four.  And she is finally transitioning from a toddler bed to a real, twin-sized bed.  It’s official.  The bed has been ordered by doting grandparents.  There is a date for it to be delivered in a couple weeks.

Over eight years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, Jack, my husband and I went on a mission to buy a crib.  I had dutifully researched what brands of baby furniture were the best, and we alighted upon a pricey, oak model that was meant to transition from crib to toddler bed, and then from toddler bed to full sized real-bed.  We used it for about four years with Jack before transitioning him into a big-boy bed when we were expecting Emily.

Turns out it is too complicated to actually fashion the thing into a full-sized bed.  So, my hopes and dreams of spending so much money on a product that could be used from birth to age 18 did not come to fruition.

Which is okay.

Really, it is okay.

Because we got over eight years out of this piece of baby furniture, and both the kids got/are getting lovely big-kid beds with storage space, drawers, and book shelves attached.

It does, however, give me pause, as many things in motherhood do.

I remember how my husband set up the crib in preparation for the babies, during both of my pregnancies.  I stretched clean sheets over the little mattress, inhaling the waft of Dreft and patting my belly with a content sigh.  I remember how tiny both of my babies looked in that crib as newborns, barely taking up a couple square feet in it.

Both children thought they were particularly clever (as did their parents) when they figured out how to pull themselves up and stand against the slats of the crib.  I remember listening delightedly to Jack, singing in his crib when he woke in the mornings.  I remember tossing Jack into the crib for time outs when he was a toddler, and how he always wanted a big pile of books in with him at night, so when he woke in the morning, he could read.

While Jack never even attempted to climb out of the crib, Emily figured it out early at about 18 months old.  She would surprise us by climbing out and toddling out with a huge grin on her face.  Because she was such a tenacious monkey, we had to convert the crib to toddler-bed-mode earlier with her, so she wouldn’t hurt herself climbing out of it.

Remembering all these moments is bittersweet.  It is fun to watch my kids grow and learn, but it is also kind of sad.  When Jack got his big-kid bed, the crib didn’t go anywhere because we were setting it back up for Emily.  But now, with Emily getting her new bed, the crib/toddler bed will get dismantled and put away in the basement.

Emily knows she is getting a new bed.  She seems happy and okay about it.  I’m taking my cue from her, and not allowing the poignancy of motherhood to infect her joy and confidence.

Much as we try to slow that galloping harbinger of developmental milestones, he flies on and on.  Most of the time, parenthood is a much faster ride than we are comfortable with, and while we might lose our breath (or have it taken away) momentarily, we have no other choice than to keep up.

What milestones were particularly bittersweet for you?  

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month– You Are Not Alone

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All these posts have been popping up on my Face Book newsfeed about October being the month in which we recognize and become aware of pregnancy and infant loss.

Which is kind of funny.

But not funny hah-hah.  Funny weird and karmic.

Because five years ago, in October, I lost a pregnancy.  It was in between having Jack and getting pregnant with Emily.

I purposely say I lost a pregnancy and not a baby.  Because it was early on–  only 10 weeks–  and I really didn’t think of it as a “baby”.  It was more or less a clump of cells.  And it didn’t grow the right way after it implanted in my uterus.  It was science, really.  But it was also heartbreaking.

I found out there was no heartbeat at the eight week “confirmation” appointment, when a tech stuck a wand up my lady parts after unsuccessfully trying to probe my flabby abdomen.

I’ll never forget her words, “Yeah, there’s nothing in there.”  She went off to find a doctor to confirm what she had already confirmed.  No baby.

It was an awful experience, and my husband had stayed home with Jack so I was all alone in the doctor’s office.  They put me in a chair to wait for a doctor, in a hallway where other pregnant women were wandering through for their own appointments.  I wept openly.  People stared openly.  After it was all said and done, I promptly switched OBGYNs so I would never have to go back to that place.

A flurry of blood tests and ultrasounds ensued over the next few days, to “confirm” that there was indeed no viable fetus in my swollen and nauseous belly.  It was exhausting and sad.  I cried.  Like, a lot.

No one had known I was pregnant other than my husband and best friend.  For some reason, I hadn’t wanted to tell anyone I was pregnant.  I’d been terribly sick and the combination of nausea and exhaustion led me to depression.  It was like my body was giving me a message that the pregnancy was not to be, and to be completely honest, I didn’t really bond with it.  Whatever “it” was.

So, I cried, but not because I was losing a baby.

I cried because I was really tired.  I cried because it was unfair that I had been so sick and my boobs had been so sore and it was all for naught.  I cried because I was pissed about having to pay the deductible on my insurance for emergency room visits and an operation because my body couldn’t even miscarry a baby properly, let alone carry one.

And that was the rub.

I felt like a failure.

I was embarrassed and angry with my body’s ineptitude to grow a human.

It sounds ridiculous, I know.  But after living in a certain shell of muscle, fat, water, and bone for 30-something years, I had grown into the assumption that I could expect certain things from my earthen vessel.  And when it failed me, I faltered.

Back then, when I lost this pregnancy, I didn’t want anyone to know.  I had to take a leave of absence from work for three weeks because my body wouldn’t stop bleeding, and my blood count dropped, and I could barely get out of bed.  No one other than my direct supervisor knew what was happening to me.  That was both comforting and isolating.  I thought to lie to people and tell them I had Lyme Disease, or mono, or a psychotic break–  anything would be less humiliating than admitting I’d had a miscarriage.

Furthermore, I did not want to see the look of pity in people’s eyes, and I did not know how I would respond when they offered words of condolence.  I didn’t know how to explain that I was not sad about losing a baby.  I was sad about my body failing.

Looking back on this experience, through the veil of time, I can see it was a very transformative time for me.  I learned some truly humbling lessons about myself, my body, and life.  I also learned about the strength of my family, the adoration of my husband, and the treasure of Jack’s presence in our lives.

I’m not ashamed to talk about my miscarriage anymore.  And even though that pregnancy never took the shape of a baby in my womb or mind, it left an indelible imprint on my heart as both a woman and a mom.

Women have all kinds of feelings about pregnancy losses.  None of those feelings are wrong, or better, or worse, or right.  They are all just feelings.

A friend of mine from work had been pregnant at the same time as me.  She was further along, and had her baby a few weeks after I finally “completed” my miscarriage.  I continued to pat and talk to her pregnant belly, and it felt fine to me, although she had confided in me that she was worried I would feel bad.  It’s a weird survivor’s guilt moms have around other moms.  But I was able to honestly reassure her that I felt nothing but joy for her.

A few weeks after that, she brought her new baby into work to visit.  A tidal wave of despair smacked me off my feet and I couldn’t even look at her baby.  It shocked me.  I ran to my office, locked the door, and bawled.  Fortunately, my friend is one of the most caring and understand people I know.  She got it.  And while she never held it against me, I’ve felt bad about that reaction to this day.

It just goes to show what a charged issue this is.  We sometimes have feelings about it we don’t even know we have, or that we could ever have.  I think part of this is our culture of multitasking and not really being aware at times, or suppressing and repressing intense emotions because we just don’t have time to deal with them.  I think another part of this is just the inherently unpredictable and infinite nature of grief.

I’ve known other women who have lost pregnancies and who have lost actual babies–  babies they have named and held in their arms and loved with their entire hearts.  I would never lump my miscarriage in with their losses.  I know I’ve glimpsed but a shadow of their pain, and yet, I feel a sort of camaraderie or sisterhood with these women.  My loss was real too.  It was different, but it was real.

Lots and lots and lots of women have miscarriages.

We are not alone.

And even after all these years, and all this processing, when I see those posts pop up on Face Book, I still feel some pretty intense feels.

It’s not a bad thing, though, because it lets me know I am not alone.  That I was never alone, and in some way that helps to retroactively repair the self-imposed pain and isolation I felt back then.

You’re not alone either.  If you would like to talk about your loss, please feel free to comment below.  I’d love to hear from you, and to be here for you.  xox.

When Will We Wean?

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It seems like I’ve been writing posts for the past two years about weaning my daughter, Emily.

It seems this way, because I HAVE been writing posts for the past two years about weaning Emily, who will turn four in November.

While there were several nursing strikes and times where we have skipped sessions, Emily, for the most part, has insisted on having her milkies first thing in the morning, and then right before bed.  I really thought she would wean at two.  Then, when she didn’t, I really thought she would wean at two and a half.  And then three years came and went.

I’ve been talking to her about how she is a bigger girl now, and how it is okay for her to have milk from a cow, or milk from a coconut, or milk from a goat.  She seems intrigued by the idea of all these different milks, but has been fairly insistent on her mama milk.

Since she turned three (and I inwardly thought enough is enough about nursing), I’ve been operating on the “don’t ask/don’t refuse” policy.

Until recently, she always asked.  Until recently, I never refused.

But over this summer, there has been a gentle shift in our breastfeeding relationship.

There were some nights where I was way too hot and sweaty to have her on me, and I gently refused to nurse with her.  During these times she got upset and cried and it was hard for me to tolerate.  Instead, I would offer her a cuddle, or a song, or a story, or to watch “Baby Mine” on Youtube seven times.  She would eventually settle down, and I would maintain my sanity.

The major difference was we were both okay with it.

For me, weaning is an emotional topic.  Emily is my last baby.  I fought so hard to nurse both my children, so the ending of this very special and intimate relationship is a bittersweet for both of us.  To feel I am finally in a place where I am ready, willing, and able to wean Emily completely is a major milestone.

Don’t get me wrong, had Emily been ready to wean at two or three, it would have happened.  I would have felt sad, but would have gone gracefully following her lead.  I’ve certainly never forced Emily to nurse.

I believe a child and mother come full circle with their nursing connection when both are ready.

I know some find nursing a toddler to be crazy or creepy, that I should have set a limit way back when, and that it is just plain weird for a child to be able to ask for what they need/want.

Someone I am “friends” with on Facebook just posted a really judgmental statement about full-term nursing along with an article about a mom nursing her three-year-old.  Out of morbid curiosity, I scrolled down the comments her friends had posted, and was saddened to see so many people who found it to be a negative and icky thing to nurse an older toddler.

I personally cannot fathom why someone would NOT want to nurse a child beyond infancy, but that’s just the point–  I don’t understand it.  It isn’t my brain, or my situation, or my story to tell.  So, I try not to be judgmental about their judgment, or to take it as a personal affront on my beliefs or relationship with my child.  Everyone’s relationship is different.  If you aren’t one of the people in the relationship, then yeah, you’re not going to get it.  But to rush to calling something mean names because you don’t understand it is not nice, IMHO.

What I’m rambling around to A.) is that despite the fact it has lasted longer than I expected, my nursing relationship with Emily feels like it has been right for us.  And now it feels right that I am pushing the weaning a little bit more assertively than I have in the past. And B.) Don’t judge what you don’t know/understand.  Please.  We moms already take enough crap and make enough second guesses for every move we make in this society.

I have let Emily know that it is my body and if I don’t want her to nurse she will have to respect my boundaries.  Because like any other relationship, breastfeeding is a two way street, and boundaries need to be respected and attended to.

Over this summer, there have been other times where Emily forgot to ask for nursing.  And I left it at that.  There have also been a few occasions where Emily slept over at a grandparents’ house and went without nursing and was totally find.

As I write this, it has currently been two and a half days since she last snuggled into me to nurse.

It feels like we are getting there, and I’m so glad we are both okay with it.

I’ve let her know that when she turns four, we will no longer do milkies.  Her three year old brain is processing this information, but it feels like it will be time, and we will both be read, willing, and able.

Garbage Bag of Maternity Clothes

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A tattered, black garbage bag of maternity clothes sat by the stairs.

It had been in the back of my closet, then moved to the basement of our old apartment, where it sat for years.

It must have been moved into the basement of our new house last fall.

It suddenly appeared in the corner of my bedroom, a few weeks ago.

I’m assuming my husband found it in the basement and moved it up to the bedroom so I could sort through it, which I did, after about a week of scorning its slovenly presence in my room.

As I sifted through the XL contents of that bag, which I had to open with a cesarean slit because the knot at the top was too tight, memories came.

There were clothes from my pregnancies with both Jack and Emily.

I found the dress I wore to Valentine dinner with my husband, when I was only a few months along with Jack, and not even showing yet, but yearning to get into the spirit of the endeavor and wear the clothes with almost marsupial space for what would grow beneath.

I found the corduroy pants I wore to the hospital to give birth to Emily.  I found the couple of shirts that I wore almost constantly at the end of my pregnancy with Em because she was ginormous, and I had almost nothing that fit me.

I found memories of stroking my stomach as I waddled along with my precious, golden eggs nested under my ribs.

I put the Valentine dress into a pile with the dress I wore to my baby shower, and the tie back shirts that really screamed, Look at my belly!  I’m carrying a baby under here!  

In another pile I put a stack of pants and tee shirts that really held no meaning for me.

The first pile went into an enormous zip lock bag, and back into the back of my closet.

The second pile was crammed back into the torn garbage bag and plopped back by the stairs.

It sat there for a week.  Or two.

The went into the trunk of my car.

It traveled down the street to the Salvation Army, where I pulled it out and pushed it into the yawning mouth of the bin.

About the Time I Tried To Sell My Newborn On the Internet, Or, Postpartum Depression

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Jack's few-day-old feet

Jack’s few-day-old feet

I’ve ruined my life.

The thought thundered, endless as the tide, in my ears.

I’ve ruined my life.  I don’t know how to do this.  I just want this creature to go away.  

I was a week into my new existence as a new mom.  What was supposed to be the most precious time, full of adoration and cuddling a darling new baby, was turning out to be the darkest time of my life.

Upon birthing a tiny human, everything was suddenly different.  Routines in which I’d been comfortable for decades were altered by the nonstop needs of my son.  I couldn’t find time to brush my teeth or drink a cup of tea.  Being out of work and home alone with a baby felt isolating and scary.  I missed being alone with my husband.  I hadn’t slept in days, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to balance my checkbook.

I sat, at our dining room table, trying to make sense of the numbers in front of me– a chore I’d done hundreds of times in my adult life.  I knew the shapes in front of me were numbers, but there were black holes in my brain where I was supposed to know what to do with them.

In desperation, I looked up as my husband appeared in front of me with Jack in his arms.

“We have to sell the baby!”  I cried.  “I can’t make these numbers make sense.  We’ll never be able to afford life.  Do you think we can sell the baby?”

It is a fortunate thing I married a level-headed individual.  “We don’t have to sell the baby,” he said calmly.

My eyes were bleary from not sleeping as I looked at him.  He swayed with our son in his arms.  Why was Jack so peaceful with him?  I felt clueless when it came to comforting him.

Nursing was excruciating, not at all the tender and nurturing experience I fantasized about while pregnant.

In fact, nothing about motherhood was what I expected.

My pregnancy with Jack had been idyllic.  I had never been happier or more emotionally balanced.  I slept great and was barely uncomfortable, even at full-term.  In all honesty, I could have stayed pregnant with Jack forever, it was so awesome.

But now he was on the outside, and I felt devastated.

His cry sent me into tailspins of panic the likes of which I’d never known.  Somehow, my husband had the patience to rock and coo at our son in ways that calmed him, but instead of reassuring me that it was possible for us to have a content baby, it infuriated me.

It was like the two of them were conspiring to make me see what a failure I was as a mom.

“It must be nice being the fucking father of the year!” I sobbed, enraged that my husband was already a better parent than me.

It is another very fortunate thing I married someone who didn’t take this sleep-deprived insanity personally.

And we were so very sleep-deprived.  We hadn’t slept more than 45 consecutive minutes since my water broke at one a.m. and a 22 hour labor and birth ensued.  I was totally prepared to follow the advice of “sleep while the baby sleeps,” but Jack did not sleep for more than an hour at a time, and it was shocking how much he wanted to nurse.  My nipples were inflamed and raw.  This pain plus sleep-deprivation equaled the revulsion I felt towards this tiny being who never ceased caterwauling.

I felt a despair at being a new mom and it was shameful.  Fury grew as I internalized it.

I never wanted to hurt my baby.  Never.  I did adore him.  I thought he was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen.  But sometimes when I couldn’t get him to stop crying, I just kind of wanted to open up the window and quietly slip him out.

I felt like the shittiest person in the world for feeling these awful feelings, hence my desire of looking into selling Jack on the internet, which at the time seemed like a totally plausible epiphany.

Postpartum depression is a complex combination of factors.  As a social worker, I could give you a bunch of clinical jargon and criteria.  But I’d rather talk to you as a mom who has been the fuck through it.

For me, a hormonal roller coaster met my history of anxiety and depression, acute sleep-deprivation, and the result was a sense of epic failure.  Though I have no evidence to back it up, I also believe having pain meds during my labor complicated my recovery and was an impediment to successful initiation of breastfeeding.  The poor breastfeeding relationship fed insecurity, and deepened my sense of failure.

Motherhood seemed a trap in which I had ensnared myself and my husband.

Nothing prepared me for motherhood.  I had worked with children for over 15 years, but nothing prepared me for the exhausting onslaught of new responsibilities.  Jack was what you would call a “high-needs” baby.  He wanted constant holding, needed lots of soothing, and was incredibly alert.  Meeting the needs of this kid while still recovering from birthing him was intense.

I really can’t over-state how fucking miserable sleep-deprivation is.  I’m not talking about pulling an all nighter, staying out partying until 3 a.m., or having an occasional bout of insomnia.  I’m talking about not sleeping for days and nights on end, to the point where your nerves are so frazzled if you actually got a couple hours in which to sleep you would be too anxious to even put your head down.

Sleep-deprivation has been used as a form of torture, and I learned first hand why it is so effective.

It was like I could hear Jack crying, even when he wasn’t, and it would startle me out of my skin, flood me with anxiety.  I’m sure this hyper-nervous state also did nothing to help my milk supply, which in turn frustrated my ever-hungry baby.

Two weeks after Jack was born, my husband had to return to work.  He had really been holding me up through this disaster we were calling- air quote- parenthood, and I dreaded him leaving us, even for a few hours.

I paced around the house and refused to hold Jack.  It pains the deepest core in me to admit this, but I wouldn’t even look at my beautiful, new boy that morning.  I wouldn’t nurse him.  As luck would have it (not) I had burned off half my areola in an unfortunate attempt at using my breast pump, so I had no pumped milk for the critter.  My husband had to mix and give him a bottle of formula.  Jack guzzled it down in breathtaking cooperation, but I sank deeper into the abyss of self-hatred.

I want to note this intense refusal to parent my son lasted a few hours at most, but it was awful.  I still feel guilty when I remember turning away from Jack to lie on the couch, my breasts engorged and soaking the front of my tee shirt.

Jack was never alone, my husband or other family held him, and I know that connection to other humans was really important.  I can’t help but think of other women who don’t have this kind of support network, who suffer without help, and who’s babies claim the unfortunate side effects of maternal depression.

Jack and I were lucky.

Of course my husband could not leave us like that.  Something had to be done, so he basically shoved me into an intensive therapy program where I went, with Jack, every day for two weeks.  It was almost immediately helpful.

There was a poster on the wall that said something like, “It isn’t always about stopping your baby’s crying, but learning to tolerate it.”  Seeing that poster was an “ah-ha!” moment for me.  I slowly learned to stop taking it so personally when Jack was crying, as long as I was attending to his needs and he was safe, warm, fed, and in dry clothes.

I saw a psychiatrist and was started on a very low dose of an SSRI, considered safe and compatible with breastfeeding.  Jack and I were evaluated by a competent lactation consultant who diagnosed a tongue tie in him and mastitis in me.  Once we got these issues treated, we were on track with our nursing, and my self esteem soared each time I put him to my breast without pain.

I participated in group therapy with other women and their newborns and learned I was far from the only woman experiencing this crazy confusion.

I also learned it didn’t make any of us bad mothers.

Medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy went a long way, but another thing that really helped was learning to sleep in shifts with my husband.  We altered our schedules so I would go to bed each night from seven to midnight.  If Jack needed to be fed during this time, my husband would give him a bottle, which allowed me to get at least a five hour chunk of sleep.  Then he would bring Jack to me and I would nurse him whenever he woke for the rest of the night.  This allowed my husband to get a chunk of sleep before he had to get up and go to work the next day.

It was amazing what a few hours of sleep did for all of us.  Within a month of Jack’s birth, we had gotten into a routine that was not altogether convenient, but did work.  I continued to attend weekly therapy, which helped me keep my thoughts in check, and also helped me feel supported and connected.

A couple other things were really helpful for my growth as a new mom.  At the suggestion of my best friend, who’s daughter was three months old at the time, we signed up together for a baby yoga class.  It was a fun way to interact with our babies, and was great for getting us out of the house and among other new moms.

I also took Jack to an infant massage class, and learned some new ways of bonding with him.  Since it turned out Jack had reflux and was a bit colicky, massage was a great way of comforting him when he was uncomfortable, and proved to me that I could meet the needs of my child.

In this process of childbirth, postpartum depression, treatment and recovery, I learned many women share a similar experience.  My depressed brain drowned me in the belief that I was the only shitty person who had ever thought she’d ruined her life and would never learn how to be a good mom.  The truth is, none of us are shitty, and many of us struggle.  It isn’t an easy world in which to be a mom, what with all the constant judgement, scrutiny, and pressure to balance everything and look sleek and sultry doing it.

And experiencing postpartum depression does not mean we stop loving our babies or love them less for even one second.

The good news is we are getting better at recognizing and treating postpartum depression and anxiety.  The bad news is there are still tons of women who struggle and feel too stigmatized by cultural notions of mental illness or ideas of what makes a “good” mom.

In retrospect, I could be pissed with the nurses who breezed in and out of my hospital room while I sobbed with newborn Jack in my arms as depression stole my soul mere hours after his birth.  Or I could hold a grudge with the crappy lactation consult who gave me about four seconds of her time and didn’t recognize Jack’s tongue tie.

I could berate our shitty system of managed care that has women pop out babies and then tosses them out of the hospital in a remarkably short time span.

And I could rant about how in this country, it is a crime against the human family that women are pushed back into the work force to support their families merely weeks after giving birth, when nursing relationships are barely established.

I could grieve those first few days I “lost” with Jack.

But I’m not going to go there.  Not today.

Instead, I’d like to focus on the small victory of all those who championed me through that dark chapter of my life.  I’d like to celebrate all I learned about myself, motherhood, and the strength of my family at this time, and the fact I birthed another baby and did not have even the slightest twinge of PPD with her.

I’d like to share this story in hopes that it might light someone else’s way.

Finally, I’d like to pat myself on the back for not selling my baby on the internet, tempting as the idea seemed at the time.

There’s hope.  Don’t be ashamed.  Get help.  Know you can and will do it because there is nothing in the universe quite as strong as a mother.  And please don’t sell your baby.

It does get better.  We have not ruined our lives.

I’d love to hear from you. . .  Have you experienced PPD?  How did it affect you and your family?  What did you learn?  What was helpful?  What advice would you give a new mom who is depressed?

If you or someone you love are struggling with emotional issues beyond the “baby blues,” please talk to your doctor today and learn what is available in your area for help and support.  

Breastfeeding is Hard

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IMG_7438My little daughter, Emily, was playing with baby dolls.  She wanted me to play with her.  Handing me a soft, pink baby, she told me baby was hungry.  I pretended to lift the corner of my sweater, pantomimed nursing the doll for three seconds, then burped it.

“No, Mama!” Emily said.  “Dat baby get her milk fwom a cup.”

“Really?” I asked.  “She looks kind of small to be drinking from a cup already.”  As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt a little judgey  of Emily’s parenting of her doll, so I added, “Ok, Em.  Why don’t you get her a cup and show me how you feed baby.”

Emily trotted off to her kitchen play area and came back with a pretend jug of milk.  She lovingly dumped the milk down baby’s mouth and then held baby to burp her, just like I had.

She giggled when she made the pretend “Buuurrrppp!”

A little while later, Emily picked dolly back up, proclaimed baby was hungry again, and started to tug at the collar of her top.  It took me a moment to figure out what she was trying to do.  When I nurse Emily, either in the morning or before bed, I am usually wearing a tank top that I pull down over my breast to allow her access.  Emily was trying to do the same.

Her top had a snug, high neck, so she was unable to do it.  She looked at me pleadingly.

“I don’t know how to get her undah’ deah,” she said.

“Well, Emily, honey,” I said.  “That shirt won’t work to pull down, so why don’t you sit down with baby and try pulling up the corner of your shirt?”

I thought I was being helpful, but Emily got really frustrated.  After another moment of struggling with her shirt, she threw the baby doll down and stomped off, crying.  When I tried to help more, the situation escalated to a full-scale tantrum that lasted 15 minutes and ended with Emily going down for her nap.

Poor kid.  It’s hard to be three.

But seriously, I’ve been there with breastfeeding.

I remember struggling with my babies to get them to latch comfortably under my shirt.  It was so awkward, exhausting, and painful in the beginning.  I remember the frustration of not to be able to feed my babies quickly, easily, and painlessly.  Ugh.  Not just frustrating, but demoralizing.

I spent hours crying about it during those early weeks of motherhood.  My nursing relationship with my newborn son was initially so awful it contributed to postpartum depression and anxiety.

While I never wanted to throw my babies, I did feel urges to put them down, quietly go make a bottle, and be done with breastfeeding once and for all.

I’m glad I didn’t quit, but perseverance was hard.

With both babies, we developed a nursing relationship that worked for us (after some close monitoring, assistance, and support from a skilled lactation consultant, the pediatrician, and my doctor).  With both children, the first step was addressing tongue ties and nipple infections.

With my son, severe sleep deprivation was contributing to my depression, so I had to come to peace with letting my husband supplement with bottles while I got a few extra hours of sleep.  Because I had trouble responding to a breast pump, we used formula.  In the long run, coming to terms with mix-feeding likely saved any semblance of a nursing relationship with Jack.  He weaned completely just before he turned two.

Emily also needed supplementation due to my experience with crazy nipple trauma, and supply issues when I returned to work.  She was a picky eater, however, and never really took to her bottles the way Jack did.  She ended up nursing all night long to make up for what she didn’t eat during the day, and I was fine with this because it meant she was almost exclusively breastfed.  There were times when I couldn’t pump enough for her and she was offered formula at daycare, especially after she started solids at six months and my supply dipped.

With both kids, I remember feeling really angry at how difficult it was to breastfeed.  I had figured it would be the easiest and most natural thing in the world, as I think many women who plan to nurse their babies figure.  Latch on.  Latch off.

It was shocking to me to find how uncomfortable, time consuming, and confusing it was.  Shocking!

I’m not sure why breastfeeding is hard for other women, but I think in my case, as a very independent, modern woman in a fast paced society, it was a challenge to have to really struggle at something and have this tiny human glued to an organ that in 30-something years had never really been put to the test before.  I was not prepared for the discomfort, supply issues, or sense of being totally touched out.

That, and for all our society advocates for moms to breastfeed, it really isn’t supportive of it in the larger scheme of things.

  • Formula companies lie in wait to prey on new moms who are vulnerable from sleep-deprivation and anxiety of wanting to do everything correctly for their darling new babe, with glossy ads that promise their product is just as good as their own milk (spoiler alert:  it isn’t).
  • In the US, there are no paid maternity leaves, and so just as a mom and baby are establishing their nursing relationship, mom may have to return to the workforce, thereby disrupting lactation.
  • Women often have to fight for their right to pump for their babies in a clean and private space at work, although they shouldn’t.
  • The breast is still viewed as a device of female sexuality, rather than a food-delivery-system for babies.
  • People are all kinds of judgemental and uneducated about when, what, where, how, and for how long women should nurse.  God forbid you nurse a baby past a year, or into toddlerhood, as I did with Emily.
  • Speaking of education, even highly educated people (such as myself) have a general lack of understanding about how lactation works, why it is important, and how to troubleshoot common issues.
  • And don’t even get me started on the controversy about nursing in public.  I mean WHY is that still even an issue?  There continues to be societal stigma around breastfeeding which keeps it from becoming the norm.

The last reason is why, when Emily gives me a doll to feed, I always pretend to nurse it.  I want my children to see breastfeeding as something that is normal, natural, and totally worthwhile even if, as Emily discovered today, it is not always simple.

Did you struggle to breastfeed?  Were you tempted to quit?  How did you make your nursing relationship work for you and your child?    

To Do List

Standard

In addition to my daughter’s Christmas gifts, I bought a tiny Minnie Mouse necklace.  It was on sale, and I knew she would love having a piece of real, “big girl” jewelry.

I set it aside from her other gifts.  Instead of putting it under the tree, I had plans to use it as an incentive to motivate her to work on some tasks.

There is this list in my head of stuff I want her to do.

1.  Poop in the big toilet instead of the little potty.  Somehow, my delicate three year old creates these man-sized poos that are a pain to clean out of her froggy potty.

2.  Go the the bathroom and pee in the appropriate urine receptacle of choice–  toilet or froggy potty–  instead of going in the pull up we put on her at night for “just in case.”  Emily has awesome bladder retention and usually stays dry all night, but then insists on peeing in her pull up in the morning, instead of using the bathroom.  Yuck.

3.  Sleep through the night in her own bed.  Until we moved, Emily wanted nothing to do with sleeping in bed with us.  She had her own little crib next to my side of the bed and she stayed in it all night.  This was partially due to the logistics of our two bedroom apartment, and also partially due to my separation anxiety.  When we moved, we did away with the little crib and presented our darling daughter with a pink, Hello Kitty ensconced bedroom of her very own.  She’s been a trooper about falling asleep in her own bed, but in the middle of the night, she is trooping up to our bed.

“I don’t yike being awone in my woom,” she says.  “I too scared and I want da mama.”  I get it.  As someone who has always struggled with the horrible, creepy fear of the dark, I would do almost anything to prevent my little girl from feeling terrified.  Buuutttt. . .  sharing our bed makes things tight and uncomfortable and my husband and I are back to sleep-deprivation-mode, which is really no fun.

4.  Don’t struggle so at nap and bed times.  This one is pretty self-explainatory.  Like any feisty toddler, Emily gives us a run for our money when it comes to getting into bed.

5.  Don’t be sneaky.  With our son, we could have wall papered our house in chocolate and he wouldn’t have ever dreamed of nipping any without permission.  Emily however feels perfectly entitled to helping herself to snacks of her choosing (usually candy first thing in the morning).  She knows it is not pleasing to us, so she will go into her room and hide in her closet to munch.  It is actually kind of funny, and it never makes us particularly angry (unless there are major crumbs involved).  She has the most expressive little face, so we can always tell when she has done something cheeky.

6.  Give up the damn bubby already.  The kid is three.  Enough with the pacifier already.  She mostly only uses it for sleep now, and sometimes in the car, but I hear her smacking away on it and visions of orthodontic bills dance before my eyes.

It crossed my mind to make a chart of some sort and make her earn stickers or smiley faces or stars, and when she filled up the chart for all her good, honest, cooperative, toilet-learning choices, she could have the necklace.

Sometimes I get it into my mommy-head that I need to be fine tuning my children to get ahead in the mommy-game.

I caught myself feeling a bit anxious to get these traits programmed into my toddler as quickly as possible.  Buuuttt. . .  on the other hand, things are flying by so quickly already.  I look at pictures from last Christmas when she had no hair and was still in diapers, and I marvel that the same child is streaking through my house in her Hello Kitty underpants, her curls a tangled halo around her face.

She’s turning into such a cool, little human.  She is tough as nails and not afraid to express her opinions, or speak up for herself, but she also has an amazingly tender heart and shows an aptitude for giving and caring.  The combination of these traits simply make me glow, and suggest I might be doing something right as a mom.

So what if my kid sneaks a chocolate now and then?  In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter much if she stays dry in her pull-up this week, or next week, or six months from now?  If parenthood has taught me one thing, it is that children do stuff sooner or later.  Then it is done, and I wonder why I made such a fuss over it in the first place.

Karma blessed me, anxious-rule-bound-control-freak-that-I-am, with two humans who are fiercely independent and strong-willed, and who complete my mental to-do lists on their own, sweet schedule, usually making a lot of noise, clutter, and chaos in the process.

My relationship with my children teaches me a lot about letting go. . .  of expectations, of rules, of my nearly obsessive needs for organization and predictability.

Emily won’t want to snuggle with me forever.  She won’t always need me to wipe her little tush.  Her worries and fears might not always be so easy to soothe with hugs and kisses alone, and my life will feel cavernous with all the spare time from not tending to a toddler’s every need.

When you become a parent, people tell you to cherish every moment because it goes by in the blink of an eye.  Truer words have never been spoken, however they do little to describe the breakneck pace to which life accelerates after having children.  It is a constant circle of joy and loss and joy and loss and joy.

I put the little necklace up on top of my desk.  I might still use it as an incentive for her.  But I wrote a new to do list.  It only had one item on it:

Catch that squishy, squirmy little imp who smells like honey and speaks with a lisp and hug her up like there is no tomorrow.

Because time waits for no mom.