Tag Archives: breastfeeding

Taken Aback Looking Back

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Hi.  I’m Charlotte.  

I always joke that I am going to do an interpretive dance when I have to get up and speak in front of people, because that’s where I started out.  Dancing.    

Don’t worry, I won’t really start dancing and make you all uncomfortable, but it’s true; I was a dance and creative writing major in college.  So, you can imagine how highly marketable I was upon graduation.  

I didn’t actually “get the joke” about college being meant for learning some sort of skill with which to support myself.  In fact, while I was in college, I was with a man twice my age.  He was an Afro-Cuban percussionist, and he owned a hippie shop, and I kind of figured I could just ride on his coattails.  So, when we broke up, I was forced to find some way to support myself.  

For a year after college, I worked as a receptionist for a church.  I even led a pilgrimage to Italy at the request of the Bishop, which was a pretty rad thing, me being like, sort of a non-practicing Buddhist, atheist Jew and all.  

I knew that wasn’t the job I wanted to do forever because it was kind of stuffy and conservative, and I just needed to be a bit more, well, you know.  Free?  

So I quit.  

I got a job doing home based therapy with children with autism, and I loved it, but it was not a viable option for the long run because you make peanuts.  

So, I went back to school.  I got my MSW.  I spent a year working in the foster care system and I hated it.  I interviewed here, and I got a job.  That was ten and a half years ago, and I’ve been here ever since.  I started out working in the homes, and eventually after getting my license, I was able to do more office-based therapy.  About two years ago, I was promoted to manager of my department, such as it is.  

I’m excited by my work.  I’m passionate about it.  I believe in it.  

Many of you don’t know this about me, but I was a welfare kid.  My parents divorced when I was three, and for some years, we lived in poverty.  I remember not knowing where our food was coming from.  I remember the humiliation in my mom’s eyes while she stood in the welfare line.  When I was quite small, I had very poor vision and had what we called “welfare glasses.”  They were ugly but they were all we could afford.  

So, I feel like there are parts of me that get where the families we work with are coming from.  

Another huge part of my life is that I’m a mom.  If you had asked me what I wanted to be when I was little, I would have told you I wanted to be a mom.  I’m the oldest in my family, and my first job at 15 was working at a Montessori school.  I had all this experience with kids, so when I had my own I thought, I’ve got this.  This will be easy because I made them and stuff.  

That could not have been farther from the truth.  

Being a mom is the hardest thing I have ever done.  It can be so redonkulously impossible sometimes, so I feel like I connect with my clients on that level too.  Like, I get how challenging kids can be.  

In my spare time, I write.  It keeps me sane.  I’m incredibly passionate about educating, normalizing, and advocating for breastfeeding and in my next life I want to be a La Leche League consultant.  Ummm. . .  I make jewelry?  

Yeah, so anyway, I’m excited to be here.  Thanks.

And I curtsied.

It was an all day managers’ “retreat” that was mandatory for my job.  I hadn’t wanted to go.  My last words to a colleague as I groused out of my office was that I was not going to “share.”

But that was the first thing we had to do.  There were about 25 of us there and we all had to take 5-8 minutes to tell our story, share about our lives and give the narrative of what got us “into the field.”  I waited to go pretty squarely in the middle.  I didn’t want to follow the first lady who spoke about being a former junkie, or the guy who had an amazing story about being in the middle of a civil war.  My story didn’t have that much luster I figured, so I waited until a few less fancy stories.

I was nervous as all hell standing up.  I was shaking, so I stuffed my hands in my pockets.  But I got through it and a couple of my colleagues commented after about things they learned about me.

The rest of the day passed quickly enough, and then I was on my way home.

I thought about the random assortment of factoids I chose to share about myself.

Then I thought about the things I had forgotten.  Or purposely left out.

Like my schizophrenic brother.

Or the four year affair I had with that married guy who was an autism expert and really the only reason I was interested in the field in the first place.

Or the decades of eating disorder that came part and parcel with dancing.

What about the years following hippie jam bands or my time doing yoga on the ashram?

Or my almost compulsive need for order and control which I am sure came as a result of early life anxiety from living the way I did.

Or how I would like to loudly and publicly apologize for anyone who knew me when I was in my twenties because I was such a horrendous train-wreck of a human.

Or that I have an almost unhealthy obsession with James Spader, Himalayan mountain disasters, and Hawaii.

Then of course there is the feeling of being totally ineffective, frustrated, burnt out, and miserable as a social worker.  The feeling of pain and drama everyday when I leave my own children to go and provide solace for someone else’s.

Yeah, I left that shit out of that edition of my life story.  They, of course, were some rather key details, but I’m certain there were similar details committed all over the room, or maybe stuff we forgot due to nerves and apprehension.

It feels I’ve lived a dozen different lives in my forty years on the planet.

My life doesn’t have a linear narrative, which is likely the case for most, but sometimes it makes me especially uncomfortable.

The many chunks of my story run counter to my need for order and symmetry.  There is a raw vulnerability when I take them out and spread them before me like a collection of glass and pebbles picked up on a beach walk.

My solution to this discomfort is to try to stay focused on the present moment, be mindfully nonjudgmental of what is happening, be here now, yadda, yadda.  I don’t think too much (or at least try not to) about what exactly got me to this space in time, so when I do, it sometimes takes me aback.

Someone once described me as a cobb salad–  a mixture of all this stuff, and you’re never quite sure what you are going to get in one bite, but it all blends together into something good and tasty.  I didn’t really understand it at the time, but thinking on it now, it is a pretty apt description of me.

Mindfulness has helped me mind my anxiety and depression.  It has helped me be more aware and accepting of myself, but it has also made me more aware and accepting of others, and has heightened my awareness of how others might perceive me.  Sometimes this has the adverse effect of increasing my anxiety because it is like all my channels of reception are open, and I can feel flooded.  It is a constant cycle of feeling and acceptance.

At the end of the day, I could not go back and revise, edit, add, or delete any of the stuff I shared at that retreat, any more than I could reroute a cosmic GPS for the journey that got me there.  And that’s fine, but it gave me pause.

Then I opened up the little, velvet pouch of memory, put all the bits and pieces back inside, and pulled the strings around it.

When Words Fail Me– Happy Birthday, Daughter

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The day Emily was born was without a doubt the best day of my life, and the day I would chose to relive, if given a chance.

After an uncomfortable pregnancy, birthing her was the most invigorating experience, and the closest I have ever felt to euphoria.  I had gone into the hospital to be induced, but Emily surprised us all by deciding to make her grand entrance before the induction even started!

She arrived in a gush of fluid, after 45 minutes of excruciating labor, and three pushes.

I’ll never forget the moment she was placed in my arms. It was such a surprise she was out of me, and I was looking at her loveliness.  She was so placid, peeking around with huge, round eyes.  She had a face as luminous as the moon, but she was pink as a little piggy.

That was my first impression of my daughter, as I nuzzled her warm body against my chest-she was a delightful, pink piglet.

 

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Because her birth was so fast, there had been no time for any pain medication, let alone an epidural. The rush of endorphins, adrenaline, and oxytocin left me feeling like I summited Mount Everest and made it safely back to base camp.

This hormonal high was also a surprise to me.  My induction with my son had been protracted and so painful and I’d sworn I would never be induced again.  However the epidural I had while birthing him allowed for a peaceful and lovely birth.  I’d fully expected that an epidural was in my birth plan with Emily due to the fact I was being induced again (something I would never wish on my worst enemy, but opted for in this case for a variety of reasons).

It was an amazing gift that she came so fast, and with no need for pain meds.  Don’t get me wrong; had I labored for longer, I am sure I would have begged for medication.  Contractions are no joke, especially during transition when they are so fast and hard.  I tip my cap to women who labor for hours and hours al naturale.  The fact that my body allowed me to have this experience is one of the greatest of my life.  My head was completely clear after Emily’s birth.  I was able to get right up and walk around, bathe, and tend to Emily.  I also believe that not having pain meds or epidural helped me initiate breastfeeding more successfully, and kept the postpartum depression at bay.  So, while it is true there is no official “award” for having a natural birth, there was definitely a huge reward in it for me, and one I never expected.

Another surprise was Emily’s healthy weight of nine and a half pounds.  I had thought the ease of her birth meant she was a tiny peanut, so I was shocked when she weighed in as such a little pork chop.  I always tell women who are afraid of birthing, or afraid they have been “cursed with a big  baby,” that giving birth to a larger than “average” baby in no sweat.    Birth is what our bodies are meant for, and Emily’s birth gave me a whole new admiration for and confidence in my own body.  

Emily is turning three.  At 5:58 in the morning, she will have completed yet another cosmic revolution around the sun.

We have spent over a thousand days and nights together now, yet she continues to surprise me as much as she did on that day she was born.  I look at her, awed by her fierce determination, vivid spirit, and wild humor.  I watch the light get tangled up in her amber curls and words fail me.

Words for how much I love my children have not yet been invented.  I could say it over and over again, and it still would not accurately capture what it really is.  So, for now, just happy birthday to my little girl.  My daughter.

How’s that for a sentence?

Life gave me a daughter.  And she is turning three.

Ooops. I Forgot To Wean My Child

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The international logo for nursing a toddler. . .

The international logo for nursing a toddler. . .

In the company of an old friend, I happened to mention I am still breastfeeding.  My daughter, Emily, is nearly three years old, and she still enjoys nursing twice a day- first thing in the morning, and right before bed.

It’s just something we do; the cozy and quiet bookends of days which are otherwise noisy, busy, and hectic.

Nursing a toddler is not a matter I give much thought, until it comes up, and then it usually makes others go “hmmmm,” which is what happened in this case.  The subject came up with my childless pal, and she looked at me with wide eyes, her jaw hanging, and gasped, “Why?!”

Nonplussed, I smiled and shrugged.  “I dunno.  She still likes it, I guess.”

“But don’t you have to wean?” my friend asked.  In some circles this sort of response might make me uncomfortable, or even annoyed, but because she never bore or breastfed children, and had no knowledge on the subject, it didn’t really bother me.

“Moms and babies don’t ‘have’ to wean until they are both ready,” I explained.  “At this point, if I just stopped cold-turkey, it would be traumatic for both of us.”

“But your boobs are still enormous!” My friend exclaimed,” Are you saying they are still full of momma-milk?”

I laughed and explained a.) the science behind the supply-and-demand nature of breastfeeding, and b.) that my boobs have always been big, have gotten even bigger with nursing my children, and are likely to stay big beyond weaning.  That’s just my anatomy.

We left it at that.  My friends accept me for being a rather crunchy gal, and I’m sure they chalk my “extended” breastfeeding relationship with Emily up to that.  It isn’t something about which I am ashamed, and I don’t really care if it raises an eyebrow or causes chatter behind my back.  I’m always happy to add a few lines of knowledge to someone’s understanding of breastfeeding, or to normalize it in our society.

While I wasn’t hurt or offended, it did make me question why I was still nursing this toddler.  I nursed my son, Jack, until he was 23 months, and figured Emily would follow suit and wean herself around the same time.  I never really expected to be breastfeeding for this long, yet, here we are.

I sorta’ just forgot to wean her, or more accurately, I just never got around to it.

I’ve written before about nursing a toddler, and usually, somewhere within those posts, I write, “I know our nursing days are numbered. . .”  A few times when Emily didn’t seem interested in nursing, and I thought we were naturally at the end of our nursing relationship.  Well, it has been nearly three years and now I am wondering if our nursing days will ever end.

According to the page about weaning on Kellymom.com, the traditional definition of “weaning” is when your baby begins to eat any food other than breast milk.  In American society, however, “weaning” means packing away the boobs for good and not nursing anymore.  It seems there may be other parts of the world where extended breastfeeding, or nursing beyond one or two years of age, are more accepted.  But it seems like it is generally misunderstood.

Many think breast milk loses its nutritional benefits after a certain point.  This is simply not true.  According to Kellymom.com:  It’s a myth that the benefits of breastmilk stop at a certain point. Instead, they continue and are more significant and longer-lasting for both you and your child the longer breastfeeding continues. In fact, the antibodies in human milk are more concentrated the lesser the frequency of breastfeeding is (say with a toddler or older child). If you nurse on into your child’s toddler years he won’t even need cow’s milk as long as he receives other foods rich in protein, calcium, and fats, and nurses at least a couple of times a day.

In other words, there is still a nutritional benefit to Emily tanking up on mama juice a couple times a day, which may be why she is rarely sick, and why when she does get sick she is usually over it quickly.

It isn’t something we are just doing to be weird, alternative, or because there is a secondary gain of mutual enjoyment from it.

And how about that mutual enjoyment?  I’m not going to lie, I like nursing Emily.  There are times when I feel like maybe I am ready to get my body back, but most of the time I love that my daughter is bonding with me in such a special way, and that she is getting a daily dose of health straight from the tap.  It has not impaired either of us socially.  She is not clingy or dependent on me, in fact, she is a confident youngster with an fiery independent spirit.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer. . . There is no evidence that extended breastfeeding is harmful to mother or child.”  It has been noted that the natural age for weaning among humans is between two and seven years.

Wait, SEVEN years old?!  Ok, I’m not that girl who will nurse a child big enough to take up an entire couch.  I’m confident Emily will wean when she doesn’t feel the need for nursing any more.

I have set boundaries around our nursing relationship.  For example, she does not have an unlimited-around-the-clock-milk-buffet at her disposal.  Toddlers are naturally distractible creatures, and for a while, Emily was wanting to nurse, get up, wander around, play, and then nurse again.  It was driving me crazy.  So, I made a rule that if she gets up, “the milk center is closed.”  It works for us, although there are times I’ve had to be firm about it.

Emily has always had impeccable nursing manners.  She doesn’t grab at me or beg for boobs when we are out in public.  She doesn’t bite.  Every once in a while she will ask to nurse in the middle of the day, but she is understanding and accepts it when I tell her there is no milk in there at those times.  Her proper nursing etiquette is one reason I’ve been able to tolerate nursing this long.

With my son, who was our first child, I was eager to meet all milestones early.  I couldn’t wait for him to walk, talk, eat solids, use the potty.  He was a quick study, but stubborn.  He taught me that it would all eventually fall into place, but it might not be on my timeline, and that was okay.  As a society, we tend to be very fast paced, to rush things, and to focus on the product or the destination, rather than the process or the journey.

This time around, with Emily, I’ve taken a more relaxed approach to parenting.  In some ways, I am still a huge, stressy mess, but in other ways, I’ve been able to savor a bit more of the journey.  Even when it seems like it is taking forever, when I look behind me, I am always amazed at what a rapid blur it’s all been.

I’ve started talking to her about weaning, letting her know that eventually, she will be a bigger girl who won’t want to nurse.

Her reply:  “No.  I yittle.  I do milk with mama.  It taste yike stwabewee tot take.  It dee best in dee whooole wold.”

Sigh.

It looks like for now we will continue our twice a day pattern, oblivious to the big social clock that is ticking away, and judging us on not doing things quicker.

I know for a fact she will not go to kindergarten wanting to nurse.  I have confidence in this fact in the same way I am confident ALL children learn to use the potty and sleep through the night eventually.  Some kids are swifter than others with their developmental milestones, and others take their sweet time, but they all get there sooner or later.

Are there any milestones you forgot to “do” with your child?  When did you wean?  What factors influenced your decision to wean?  

Late Bloomer

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IMG_6070We took Jack to the pediatrician for his well-child visit.  He just turned seven.  She looked him over from top to toe, asked him about his summer, and about his feelings about starting second grade in the fall.  She showed him where he was plotted on the growth chart, squarely in the 56 percentile.

Peering into his mouth with her bright otoscope, she exclaimed, “Well, Jack!  You haven’t lost a single tooth yet!”  She looked at my husband and me, and we shrugged.  Just that day at lunch, Jack had bemoaned his full mouth of “baby” teeth.  He begged me to tell him when he would lose a tooth.

His pediatrician thought for a moment, then said to Jack, “Maybe you’re a late bloomer.”

I’m sure it was the last thing my big boy wanted to hear, but for me, it was a kind of “Ah-hah!” moment.

In many ways, Jack is intellectually advanced.  He is unreasonably bright, has always had a huge vocabulary, and can converse with adults with poise.  Emotionally, on the other hand, he seems to be lagging about three years behind.  He becomes emotionally dysregulated with an ease and frequency that confounds us, has five-alarm tantrums at least once or twice a week, and can become aggressive and destructive if not handled with finesse.

It exhausts us, but it must also be really hard to be Jack, to feel like people are constantly frustrated and upset with you, to feel like some days you can’t do anything right.

We believe part of his emotional sensitivity is due to anxiety, which the poor guy probably inherited from me.  Some kids get the clingy, whiney variety of anxiety where they cry and look wide-eyed with terror.  Other kids, like our Jack, get the brand of anxiety which manifests as rigidity, irritability, and quickness to anger.  It looks like he is being explosive and disruptive, but he is really just having a terrible time managing transitions and demands.

Jack probably would have been fine if we had allowed him to remain an only child.  He does awesome one on one, craves physical touch and affection, and loves to learn.  We had his sister when he was four and a quarter, and his love of life as an only child had been firmly established.  It’s been almost three years since Emily joined our family, but there are days Jack still seems to be groping for his position in the pecking order.  He is hyper-sensitive to any indication he is being criticized.  Even asking him to wash his hands can trigger an explosion.  Many days, despite all the attention and adoration we give him, he still seems insecure, and the insecurity seems to trigger his anxiety.

The fact that Jack was verbal enough at 18 months to tell us full stories kind of worked against him.  I think we expected way too much from him, emotionally and behaviorally.  Our frustration and intolerance for his antics may have actually exacerbated the situation.

Combine all the anxiety, intelligence, and inflexibility with his uncomfortable allergies and tender tummy and you have a recipe for a very grumpy little Jack.

The doc went on to chat with us about how it must be hard for Jack, what with his August birthday and all, to be among the youngest in his class each year.  I asked her if his allergies and stomach complaints could factor into his emotional lability.  She agreed this might be possible, adding, “He’s also very young.”

My son has always seemed larger than life to me.  Even when I was pregnant with him, he seemed enormous and legendary.  Sometimes I look at him, really look at him, and I am shocked to remember how little he actually is.

His doctor mentioned the expectations for kids in school are huge, and when you sit a newly seven-year-old boy next to a girl who may be nearly eight, the boy looks almost helplessly immature.  She went on to voice exactly how I feel about homework for kids in the early grades—  that it is a developmentally inappropriate, unrealistic expectation, and that kids should be running and playing outside after school as opposed to sitting still doing homework.

Jack did pretty well overall in first grade.  It was marginally better than the rude transitional year of kindergarten.  But many days, he came home like a ticking time bomb after sitting for six hours with barely a break to eat or wiggle.  He is already stressing about having the mean teacher for second grade, and how hard it will be.  It was reassuring to know we had the support and understanding of our beloved pediatrician.

After his appointment, I thought about the first time we met his doctor, when Jack was still living under my ribs.  She was the first and only doctor we interviewed and I am infinitely glad we stuck with her.  She has been supportive and encouraging through all my breastfeeding traumas, and is part of the reason I was able to persevere on my breastfeeding journey with my babies.  “What a nice doctor we picked for you, Jack,” I said with a smile.

Looking at Jack as a late, little bloomer helped me to put a lot into perspective, and also helped me to remember how little this guy really is.

Several weeks later, Jack woke us up before dawn.  “Guess what!” he exclaimed, entering our bedroom.  “I think I am going to lose a tooth because I have a tooth growing behind a tooth!”

When I was able to focus my bleary eyes, I peeked into his mouth.  Sure enough, there were two little white flecks behind his bottom baby teeth.  I remembered seeing two similar white flecks in his gummy, infant mouth with a similar sense of bewilderment.  I gingerly touched his tooth and was able to wiggle it slightly.

So, it looks like my late bloomer is about to hit another milestone at his own, amazing pace.

 

 

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BRING OUT YER BOOBS!! Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week

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International breast feeding logo

International breast feeding logo

Do you have a favorite memory of breastfeeding?  

I do.  

About seven rotations around the sun ago, I was a new mom to a new baby.  My new little son was beautiful and perfect, but not at all what I expected.  He was a grouchy little fellow, and we had an absolutely wretched time initiating breastfeeding.  

Breastfeeding was a norm in my family, so, when I was pregnant with Jack I thought, “How hard could it be?”  I did buy a book and read it through.  This book (which I would not recommend to my worst enemy) had a mantra that went something like, “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”  I remember actually chuckling (obnoxiously) at someone who shared with me their memories of the toe-curling pain of early nursing days.  Is it possible I actually told them “if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong”?  Ugh.  

The question wasn’t “how hard could it be,” but, “how naive could I have been?”  

Anyhoo, after a consult with a sincere and empathetic lactation consultant (seriously, I will NEVER forget how awesome she was), Jack and I were on the path to success.  He was diagnosed with a tongue tie, which we had snipped, and nursing instantly became pain free and enjoyable.  

Flash forward 14 weeks. . .  

. . .  I took Jack to some nearby outlets to do some shopping.  After a bit, I noticed his hunger cues, so we nipped back to the car for some nipple time.  As I was latching him on to my breast, he looked up at me and laughed.  While my grumpy and colicky little boy had started smiling some weeks prior, this was the first time I’d ever heard him laugh.  

It is one of my favorite memories of breastfeeding.  

Jack weaned shortly before he turned two.  His little sister, Emily, is still nursing at 33 months old.  This week is World Breastfeeding Week.  I realize that next year at this time, I probably won’t be a nursing mom anymore, and since Em is my last baby, this holiday will be seen from a different perspective.  These thoughts make me kind of sad, but also really grateful for all of the family, friends, and professionals who have supported my breastfeeding journey.  

So, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, please share your favorite nursing memory in the comments below.  If you have weaned, what do you miss the most about nursing?  If you had challenges with nursing, what were they, and what advice would you give to new nursing moms who are struggling?  

40 Is The New 40

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20140625-103926-38366869.jpgAmong the decor in my almost 40-year-old crown is this little jem:  If you google “nipple trauma from breastfeeding,” my post entitled Nipple Trauma and Healing is number three in the search results.

Not too shabby for a little mommy-blog, if I do say so myself.

When I was a journal-happy teenager, I imagined growing up to be a famous novelist.  I was going to write the next great Gone With the Wind.  I practiced posing in front of my mirror for photos that would grace the cover of my books.

Well, that obviously did not come to pass, as time has all but burried me under the thick, dusty, bedraggled mantle of social work.  But at least I have a post on a topic that is important to me (and apparently to many other nursing moms) coming up third in google search results.

Over the past year, I’ve been “taking stock” of my life, as I inched towards the big four oh.  I kept thinking I would write some witty or poingnant post about turning forty, how I’ve met all my goals, or how I’ve never been to Paris in the spring, or how I’m being here now.

I obsessed over it so much I gave myself blogger’s block and didn’t write a word on the topic.

A 72 year old friend asked me why turning 40 is such a big deal to me.

It’s a good question.

I mean, why does this arbitrary number of revolutions around the sun have me feeling like I have to trade in all my funky clothes and sparkly makeup for frumpy sweater sets from Talbots and taupe eyeshadow?

I’m not sure if it has to do with my waning fertility, or the fact that maybe my life is half over, or if I feel like I haven’t done “enough” yet in my time on the planet.  Maybe it is related to societal pressures and ideals.

Whatever the reason, I’ve learned some stuff, and I’ll probably continue learning.  Here is a list of some real life advice from the practically forty-year-old author of the third most popular blog post on nipple trauma:

1.  Wear what you like, even if it sparkles or is leopard print, and especially if it is sparkly leopard print.  You are never too old for sparkles or leopard print; it is timeless and so are you.

2.  Like who you are and don’t obsess about who you wish you were.

3.  Speak your truth, but do it in a way that is kind.

4.  Be kind.

5.  Smoke a cigar, or don’t, they are disgusting, but it’s fun to say you did it.

6.  After becoming a mom, there is no such thing as “me time” unless you are a millionaire and can afford a nanny and daily trips to a spa.  It is better to just accept this fact and try to steal 63 extra seconds in the bathroom with the door locked when you can.

7.  Recycle.  I mean, duh.

8.  Laugh in the face of disaster, and cry for joy at least once.  Preferably in college.

9.  Ask for help and accept help when it is offered.

10.  Accept compliments with a simple “thank you,” and resist the urge to explain how you only wore your hair up like that because it was really greasy and you didn’t have the gumption to wash it that morning.  No one needs to know that.

11.  Live boldly and disobey rules, but know one thing for sure:  Married men never leave their homes.

12.  Love truly what you have rather than lusting after what you do not have.

13.  Motherhood is amazing and well worth the trip.  You will learn what it feels like to be willing to fight wild dogs off of your babies with your bare hands, but you will also learn that a lot of your job description simply involves the much less glamourous task of picking up used band-aides from all over the house.

14.  Marry someone you love because you love them and they love you.  All you need is love.

15.  Write things down because it helps you remember.  Write things down because it gives you something to go back to.  Write things down because you love it and it helps you breathe.

16.  Never clean your closet when you are angry.

17.  Don’t quit breastfeeding on a bad day.

18.  While we are talking about breastfeeding, nurse in public and don’t ever let anyone shame you into weaning your baby early for any reason.

19.  Co-sleeping is great if you all feel comfortable about it and get sleep while doing it.

20.  Buddha said you could look all over the world and never find anyone as worthy of love as yourself.  Or something like that.  True story.

21.  The Dalai Lama said not to let the actions of others affect your inner peace.  This is not always easy, but if you can practice it, it is pretty awesome.

22.  Spending money on music can almost always be justified.

23.  Don’t bother trying to have anything nice while the kids are little.  Kids are messy, loud, chaotic little creatures and they get indelible finger, foot, and butt prints on just about everything.

24.  DO bother getting comfortable with general disarray and confusion.  Embrace it.  It isn’t that bad.  (Actually it is pretty rough, but once the Stockholm Syndrome settles in, you’ll assimilate.  I promise.)

25.  Mister Rogers is God.

26.  Focus on the list of things that make you awesome as opposed to the list of things that make you suck.

27.  It is completely normal for your children to enrage you to the point of despair and then melt your heart with tenderness in the space of four minutes and 37 seconds.  Hang in there.

28.  Do what you love.  Do what fires passion inside of you.  But if you can’t do that, do whatever you have to do to keep health insurance for yourself and your family because kids get lots of colds and flus in the winter and those copays rack up.

29.  Jane Eyre can not be read too many times.

30.  Try to laugh when your kids spill stuff instead of getting cross.  And if they spill water, thank them.  If your house is anything like mine, a spilled bottle or cup of water can only make your floor cleaner.

31.  Make friends with your neurosis.

32.  Get up in the night with your babies whenever they make a peep.  They are little for so short a time.  It won’t spoil them or sabotage their sleep training.  You won’t believe how someday in the relatively near future you will lie in bed awake at night, longing to feel their sleepy, little body and how heavy and content it instantly becomes in your arms.

33.  While you are feeling like a lunatic in the middle of the night with a sick/sad/scared/colicky/nursing/needy child remember that they use sleep deprivation as torture.

34.  Sex is free.  Sex is fun.  Don’t forget about sex, even when you feel like a frumpy, frazzled mom.  You know the cure for feeling frumpy?  Sex.

35.  Make time to sit and stare at a tree in all the different seasons of the year.  This is time well spent.  Being busy is way over-rated.

36.  Cheese.  On everything.  Forever.

37.  40 is 40.  It is not then new 30, or the old 50.  It is another day and part of a life to live well.  Sure, if you were a cave person you would have died seven years ago, so in that sense we are doing okay.  But come on.

38.  Be true to yourself.  It is okay to not like the Beatles.

39.  Never stop stretching.  Losing your flexibility sucks.

40.  All is well.  All is well.  All is well.  (Someone told me that once.)

and one more for good luck:

Tomorrow is always another day.

Happy birthday to me.  Thanks to everyone for sticking around with me on the way.

PS.  Coconut oil cures just about anything.

 

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Musings From The Milk-Bar– Nursing While Sick

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This may sound weird, but I’ve particularly liked nursing my daughter when I am sick.  It makes sense that Emily would want to nurse more when she is sick, but what is it about nursing that is soothing to me when I am ill?

Emily is nearing 29 months, and she only nurses two times a day- first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.  She is also pretty fast; never lingering for much more than five minutes on each side.  But those brief nursing sessions are the cozy bookends of our days.

While there are still nutritional benefits to nursing a toddler, I’m sure it is also for comfort.  There is certainly a comfort in it for me, like I said, especially when I am sick.

Maybe it is because after chasing a toddler and six year old around all day, cooking, cleaning, and working full-time, nursing is a chance for me to lie down and snuggle up with Emily, even for a few minutes.  Curling around her like a mother animal has an almost hypnotic effect.  She’s darling and still, during that time.  Her big, hazel eyes peer up at me and her plump fingers play with her pink, fleece blanket.  From time to time she will pat me or hold my hand.

Or maybe it is the release of oxytocin, that wonder-hormone of warm-fuzziness.  Oxytocin is the hormone that stimulates those brutal labor contractions, true, but it is also a hormone that we produce when we are holding, nursing, and bonding with our babies.  Oxytocin triggers the brain to let down the milk in our breasts, and can create a highly relaxing sedation.

Either way, I have a massive head cold at the moment, and I took the chance to notice how nice it felt to nurture my not-so-little-nursling.  The phrase “chicken soup for the soul” comes to mind.

Emily is my last baby and I have loved nursing her.  I’m still dedicated to letting her wean on her own time, in her own way, but I get the sense our days are numbered.  So, even though I feel miserable at the moment, it was sort of special to tune in while nursing her last night and this morning, and to realize this comfort won’t always be here for me.

Is there/was there a special time, place, or situation in which you loved nursing?  

Saturday SHOUT Out– My Friend In France

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Today’s SHOUT out is dedicated to Elea.

Elea introduced herself to me through a comment she left on a post I had published at Offbeat Families regarding my post-pregnancy body.  She told me she was a mom in France, and that she was also a survivor of thyroid cancer.  She shared her pride in being able to breastfeed her baby against all odds after beating thyroid cancer, and perked up my interest when she mentioned some of the cultural ideas about breastfeeding in France.

Since joining the Momaste community, Elea has been a true friend and supporter.  She leaves sweet, uplifting, and sometimes silly comments on almost every post I write.  I am so touched she takes the time and patience to read all of my long posts.  Elea also sends me encouraging emails from across the Atlantic Ocean.

The icing on the cake are the photos she sends me from places I have never been and might never get to in this lifetime.  Today, she has granted me permission to share with you a photo she sent me of the Eiffel Tower that she took from a giant ferris wheel.  Paris!

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A few months ago, Elea wrote a guest post for me on her journey as a mom and breastfeeding in France, which I found absolutely fascinating.  Check it out if you get a chance!

I never had a pen pal, and I always wanted one.  Thanks to Elea, now I have a wonderful pen pal halfway across the world!  Thanks so much for being a part of my life and for all of your support, Elea.  You are wonderful!

 

Saturday SHOUT Out is my way of acknowledging other bloggers and friends who touch my life and make the world a better place.  If you would like to be featured in a Saturday SHOUT Out, please let me know in the comments below.  It is also encouraged (and good etiquette) that you check out the others featured, and be familiar with the format and vibe of Momaste.  Thanks!  

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Where In The World Have I Been? My Holiday Recap…

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It has been four whole days since I posted here, and it seems like an eternity.  But I also haven’t really wanted to post anything, so it’s also been a kind of sweet respite.   What have you all been up to?  Do you find it challenging to blog when there is tons of family around and the schedule is in disarray and the kids are home from school and your messy house is sucking your last nerve in the direction of a tantrum?

We did the whole Xmas thang and it was pretty relaxing overall.  Lots of family time (my husband and I both have the divorced/blended fam thing going on…), lots of presents (even though we said we were going to go really small this year because the finances are slight. . .  ), and lots of QT with the little ones.

I got some very thoughtful and fun gifts, including a new winter coat and a tablet from my husband.  I wasn’t expecting or wanting the tablet at all, but if I ever get around to reading again, I think this gadget might be one of the loves of my life.  I got some nice black boots, an ice cream maker, and cool sweaters from parents.  I got to watch the looks of pleasure on my children’s faces as they unwrapped things from others and as others unwrapped things from them.

What was the best gift I gave, I wonder?  Well, I gave my husband a heated back wrap for his perpetually sore lower back, and I also gave him the first season of Game of Thrones (which was mutually beneficial!).  And I had a really fun time this year playing Santa, filling my children and husband’s stockings, and setting up Jack’s karate gear and the high chair for Emily’s baby doll.

There were a few moments on Christmas Day when I thought I was going to take a nutty amongst the complete and total chaos, but I managed.  I went into my room (which is always messy but was untouched by holiday madness) and curled up on the bed until I felt like I could tolerate a few more piles of fake baby paraphernalia and legos.  In the end, I told myself that there will come a day when our children will be big, but will only want things in little parcels, so I should treasure this mess.

Actually, for the most part, I was able to be really mindful of my feelings during gatherings at home and at family, and was aware of those moments when I was tempted to slip back into old patterns, habits, or anxieties that no longer need to be.  I was able to breathe and enjoy myself.  I was even able to crack a couple jokes here and there–  something I used to do all the time but almost never seem to do anymore aside from sarcasm.

I am off work until after the New Year, and it is really good for me to get a break from the social work sweat shop.  I know my limits are really close when I start to fear everything and everyone and have dread thoughts every other moment.  Since I’ve kind of been at that point over the past few weeks, it is a really good time for me to catch a break, spend time being goofy and permissive with my children and husband, and maybe catch a few moments just to be alone.

Maybe I’ll get a meditation session or two in… who knows!?

All in all, I’m feeling pretty fortunate, relaxed, and grateful.  These feelings are such blessings.  I’ve been sleeping well and eating cookies, cake, pie, and chex mix along with my healthy fair.  I’ve been enjoying holiday specials with the children, red wine after the kids are in bed, and the lights on the tree all day every day.

Today I went to the mall and got a few things on sale.  I bought two black dresses in a size smaller than I was wearing last year, and felt kind of awesome about that.  Did I mention I’m into dresses lately?  Yeah, I’ve felt like such a frump over the past six years since having kids, and I don’t know if it is those nutty hormones and impending menopause, but I’m determined to bring sexy back- holla!  I also bought a couple pairs of shoes with a gift card and felt simply decadent.

So that’s basically my recap.  I kind of want to tell you about how a Christian right wing  beloved relative called me radical on Facebook for defending animal rights after I posted about the movie Blackfish (have you seen it??  OMG go watch it on Netflix RIGHT NOW and tell me what you think!!!  I plan to post on it at some point later if I can collect my thoughts.).  I also kind of want to tell you how I almost offered to breast feed a crying newborn in Old Navy today who was clearly ravenous and being completely ignored by her adults.  I also kind of want to wax poetic about the year in review and resolutions for 2014 (wait, what?  I don’t make resolutions!)  But for now, I will just say, it’s good to be back and I missed you.

What was the best gift you gave this year?  How were your holidays?  

Merry Christmas!

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While I am not a “believer” in the traditional sense, I do love images of the Mother Mary and Baby Jesus.  I found this gorgeous portrait at our local art museum of Mary nursing Jesus.  I thought it was the perfect image to share in honor of Christmas on Momaste, since A.) it is Baby Jesus, and B.) breastfeeding is one of my favorite topics to write about!  20131213-150727.jpg

I absolutely love the vibrance of the colors, and the tenderness of Mary holding her baby.  20131213-150757.jpg

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Merry Christmas and Happy Seasonal Holidays to all of my friends out there!

Will you be nursing a baby this holiday season?  How do you feel about nursing in front of family and friends at holiday gatherings- is it awkward or do you feel confident and comfortable?