Tag Archives: nursing a toddler

“M” is for. . .

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"M" is for memories. . .

“M” is for memories. . .

All summer, we have been saying Emily is three and a half.  But the truth hit me the other day that she is really and truly almost four.

My baby will be four-years-old in two months.

Put that in your pipe, and so forth.

It really seems like four years is so much different than three.  Like when a kid turns four, they turn a corner and are no longer Mama’s baby.  Or toddler.  They fall into a totally new category–  “preschooler.”

I’m just not ready for that.

“M” is for “more”.  More time.  

Emily is a beautiful child.  She is wild and vivacious.  She has curly hair that gets all tangled.  She is so proud of how long it is finally growing, and many days she wants to just leave it be.  “I just want it all frowsy,” she will say when I offer braids of pony tails or a little bun for ballet.  She is strong-willed, carrying a big ball of fire in that Hello-Kitty purse with her ballet slippers.

Emily is also sensitive and sweet and she has a huge heart.  She worries about other people and is eager to please.

She is equal parts sweetness and strength.

“M” is for “magnificent”.

Over the summer, she has gone from nursing a solid two times per day, to maybe asking to nurse twice per week.

It is a really big change for us.

She will go an entire week, before noticing she has not had mama-milk, then she’ll ask for it either at bedtime or in the morning.  Sometimes she will simply rest her face in my chest and sniff me, or pat my breasts in a casually fond way, as if to say, Hey there, I remember you.

“M” is for “mama” and “milk”.

For the most part, people including my husband, extended family and friends have been supportive and understanding about my nursing relationship with Emily.  Since we’ve only been nursing in the morning and at night for the past two years, give or take, I have never had occasion to nurse her as an older toddler in public.  I know it would raise some eyebrows.  Part of me wishes I could have this experience as a lactavist.  Another part of me shudders at the judgement I would garner, and knows I would never have the tits for it.

I do not, however, shy away about talking about my full-term breastfeeding.

Recently, I had a physical.  During the triage, the medical assistant asked me where I had my mammogram done.  I told her I’d not yet had one.  Then I mentioned that I was actually lactating and didn’t even know if they do mammograms while a woman is lactating.  She asked me how old my baby was.  I told her Em is three and a half (almost four, almost four…  I know!).

She looked at me in horror as if I had just told her there was a rancid, green discharge seeping out of my navel.  “You’re nursing a three and a half year old?”  She asked in obvious disgust.

There were a number of places I could have gone in that moment, but I chose to smile as sweetly as possible at her and say, “Yes.  We are proponents of full-term nursing in my house.”  She said nothing more.  I did mention to my doc that the assistant had been rather judgey-wudgey, and told her about nursing Emily.  My doc is awesome.  She said her sister had nursed her baby well into the toddler years, and if a family is happy with it than so be it.

So.  Be.  It.

Turns out I still have to have to mammogram, lactating or not, but that is another post for another day.

“M” is for “mammogram”.

We’ve been working on this weaning thing as a team, Emily and I.  I wanted for us both to be ready, and I wanted us both to be comfortable with either nursing or not nursing as the case may be.  But I had firmly decided that at four years of age, I would tell her the milk-center was closed for good.

But like most parenting decisions I’ve made never to do (e.g., pacifiers, co-sleeping, hotdogs), I knew if she wanted to nurse on or after her fourth birthday, I would probably cave, especially if it was important to her.  More than anything, I do not want weaning to be traumatic for either of us.  And so far, for the most part, it has not been.  There have been times where I refused to nurse her because I was too hot or tired, and while she miffed for a moment or two, it was okay.

But it is a loss of sorts, this whole weaning thing.

I’ve really enjoyed my nursing relationship with Emily.  I have so many memories of her plump, round face gazing up at me as she nursed as a baby.  I even enjoyed pumping for her when I went back to work.  It sounds crazy, because pumping–  UGH!  But I did.  I liked it because it made me feel connected to her.  I even kept a two ounce vial of milk I pumped for her in the freezer.  I have it still.  It’s probably three years old, but I can’t bring myself to throw it away…

Last night she asked to nurse for the first time in about a week.  I told her okay, but I didn’t know if there would be a lot of milk there, because she is a bigger girl now and she isn’t needing it as much.  She didn’t care and nestled in.  But after about 15 seconds, she let me know there was only a tiny bit of milk.  She tried the other side.  Same deal.  Only a little bit.

My milk supply is finally catching up, or letting go as it were, with the decreasing demand for it’s product.

This is a really big change for us.

“M” is for “mourning”.

As a nursing mom, you cultivate and protect your milk supply at all costs in those early days of nursing.  You obsess over it.  Schedule time for extra pumping sessions.  You talk about it non stop.  You compare it with other people.  I can remember feeling actual jealousy over photos of freezer-milk-stashes that some moms would share on Facebook (yeah, it’s a thing nursing moms do online in breastfeeding groups, in case you weren’t aware…  we used to get jealous over someone else’s huge ring or handbag, now we get jealous over how many baggies and ounces of boobie juice are in the freezer…).

While I’ve gotten comfortable with my body’s ability to produce, and haven’t needed to obsess or stress about my milk supply in ages, the realization that my body has recognized it no longer needs to make milk is new territory.  It is a territory in which I am sitting in a quiet discomfort, knowing there is not anything I can do to change it.

Emily will wean.  I can not have any more babies, so this means my breastfeeding journey of this lifetime is coming to an end.

I guess I can’t really explain why this is such a poignant turning point for me.  I struggled to nurse my babies, and it was an important victory.  So there’s that.  It is also the tangible connection to my children, a physical nurturance that I will never again get to give them.

In a way, I can be fine with all of this.  I nursed Jack until he was about to be two, and Emily is nearly four, so that makes a total of six years of my life spent nursing my children.  I’m proud of that, not because it makes me any better than anyone else who did it longer or shorter than me, but because it is just something special to me.  Something I did.  Kind of like going to Toronto by myself when I was in grad school.

Strange as it may sound, breastfeeding is also a really important part of who I am as a person.  It is something in which I believe.  It is something about which I am passionate, and something I seek to promote, normalize, and provide education to those willing to listen or ask.

And I’m sure it will continue to be an interest and a passion of mine.  My goal for my next life (when Emily is in school full day) is to become a La Leche League leader and to eventually get my IBCLC.  I would love to help other women fulfill their nursing goals, whether it is for a day, a month, a year, or four years.

So, “M” is for “metamorphosis”.

Things change and it has to be okay, because there isn’t really anything we can do, other than acknowledge, breathe, and accept.

Here’s the good news:  Emily and I are still as close as ever.  We chat and cuddle and play and drive around listening to princess music.  Even though weaning will alter our relationship, it will not weaken or break it in any way.  Just as I trusted in my body to make milk for my babies, so will I trust in my relationship with Emily and our ability to be close to one another no matter what.

“M” is for “Momaste”.  The mom in me bows to the mom in you.

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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.

When Breastfeeding IS All About Me

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Many of you who have been blogging with me for a while now know I have continued breastfeeding my daughter, Emily, who is now three and a half.

Yes. You heard me right. I’m nursing a toddler who is really now more of a preschooler.

I always thought she would self wean around age two, like her older brother did. But two years came and went and we were still nursing quite a bit. Three years passed and she had gotten down to two nursing sessions per day– once first thing in the morning and then right before bed.

To be honest with you, I don’t mind it. To be really honest with you, I love it.

I love the stillness and connection we share during those times, which is really only a few minutes now, before she is off and running or sound asleep. I love knowing her diet is being supplemented with the best stuff nature can offer. I love that it continues to reduce my risks of feminine cancers. I love that we are continuing to share a biological connection, that I continue to nourish her as I did when she was floating inside me.  I love the way she strokes my face and looks at me with total contentment.

Don’t get me wrong–  I have been talking with her about weaning for the better part of a year, but it has been a laid back conversation between us. For example, one night we had this conversation:

“Someday, Em, you won’t need milk-kee-kees,” I said, using her special code word for booby time. “You can have milk in a cup. And you can have milk from a cow, or milk from a goat, or even milk from a coconut!”

“I sink I will have milk fwom a cow,” she said decisively and then paused to think.  I could see the wheels turning.

“What are you thinking, Emily?”

She started to laugh, “I sinkin’ about a cow dwinkin’ milk fwom a cow in a cup!”  We both cracked up over that one and then she decided she wanted her nighttime nursies so I whipped out the boob.

I never planned to be nursing this long, and I keep thinking she will wean any time now, and it will be okay.  I don’t offer her my breast any more, but I don’t refuse it if she asks, either.  She has very nice nursing manners, and she doesn’t bite.  We also had such a hard time nursing in the beginning, that I feel it is our karma to be enjoying a wonderful companionship at the breast now.

It is a nursing relationship that works for us.

For a lot of people, weaning happens naturally at a year or two.  Other women have to wean prematurely due to complications, health issues, or separations from their babies.  Then there are women like me who chose to allow the child to self wean when they are ready.  Whatever the reason, weaning is a personal choice and process that happens between mother and baby.   There should be no judgement or hard and fast rules about how a mom goes about weaning her child.

A lot of people don’t really understand “full-term” nursing.  I think part of this misunderstanding is do to lack of education on breastfeeding in general, and also to lack of exposure.  Many women who do nurse past a year, or gasp! two years, are criticized by friends and family.  I’ve heard moms say even their pediatricians have been critical and negative about nursing an older baby.  So, many women are not open about it when the breastfeed past the times that society thinks is “acceptable.”

Another stumbling block is the overtly sexual connotations breasts have in our highly sexualized culture.  Many find it weird, kinky, or disgusting if a mom choses to nurse past infancy.  This view, IMHO, is totally unfortunate.

Still others believe a child will become clingy, dependent, and socially ostracized if they breastfeed longer than a year.  This is usually not the case.  In fact, there are studies that have shown children who nurse longer are actually more independent, confident, and do just fine socially.  I can tell you for a fact this is the case with my super-strong-willed daughter.

Finally, there is the camp that states it is “all about the mother” when a woman and child nurse into toddlerhood, that it is satisfying some bizarre need the mother has to infantilize their child.  While I can see how this assumption might seem logical, I don’t think it is necessarily the truth.  A child has to be willing to nurse; it isn’t something that can be forced.  Nursing is a relationship.  It takes two to tango.

This doesn’t mean a woman won’t have pangs of mixed emotions when her child weans.  Some women are thrilled to “get their body back.”  Other women feel a sense of loss and sorrow.

For example, I submit the following for your consideration:

Tonight, for the first time ever, Emily responded to my offer to have milk in a cup instead of milk-kee-kees by choosing the cup.  I’ve been offering her this choice for months, and she never once has taken me up on it.  I was surprised when I poured out her milk, but there was a part of me that figured she would still ask for nursing once we got into her room for bedtime.

She didn’t.

And that kind of shocked me.

And it hurt.

I sat down in the rocking chair that I always sit in to nurse her, and then stay in as she falls off to sleep.  She started to climb into her bed and then she came over and hugged me, said goodnight, and covered my face with kisses.

Is this really happening?  I asked myself.  I hugged on her for an extra moment, in a state disbelief, certain she would change her mind and climb up into my lap.

She didn’t.

And then I realized I was feeling a little clingy and uncomfortable, so I let her trot off to her bed.  I knew if I offered, she would climb up on my lap and tuck in, but I also knew if I did that it would be satisfying my own need to be her mom, as opposed to her need to assert herself.

I figured I had to let her go, so as not to give her mixed messages about her ability to wean when she is ready.  Because to give her mixed messages like that would be unfair and confusing for both of us.

None of this means she won’t want to nurse tomorrow first thing in the morning, or be off the boob wagon by tomorrow night, and that’s okay.  But it does kind of make me feel we are a step closer to that weaning stop on our journey.

It took her longer than usual to fall asleep, and I sat there in the rocking chair with my feeling of sadness because three and a half years may seem like a really long time to you, but it has gone by in the blink of an eye, and change is hard.  I feel so blessed that ultimately this has been a wonderful experience, and I have given her a really positive view of breastfeeding that I pray she will carry with her throughout life.

Hopefully, as my daughter and I grow, both as individuals, and together in our relationship, we will find new and wonderful ways to feel connected and safe and special with one another.

What was weaning like for you?  

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?    

End Of The World– Getting Cozy With Dukkha

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The world is ending right now because there are dirty dishes in the sink and a bunch of moldering, half-eaten yogurt cups and tubes strewn throughout the house.

I just got home from the Urgent Care Center.  It is 8 p.m., and any mom who got up as early as I did this morning knows that 8 p.m. is the middle of the fucking night.

My husband is engaged in a power struggle with our seven year old son, Jack, over universe knows what.  My three year old, Emily, is wandering around like a lost lamb because she wants mama milk and cuddles before bed.

But first things first.

Since a huge vat of Purell or rubbing alcohol isn’t available, I hop in the shower.  It serves the dual purpose of warming my chilled, aching body, and cleansing off the filth of the walk in treatment place.  I had anxiety upon anxiety the entire time I was there as people coughed, hacked, wheezed, and made all sorts of moaning cacophony.  In the curtained area next to me, there was a woman chanting, “Germs, germs, germs, germs, germs,” over and over in a haunted whisper.  True story.  I can’t make this shit up.

The chest X-ray confirmed bronchitis and the doctor wrote me a script for antibiotic and a cough medicine, but then changed his mind when I told him I still breast feed twice a day.  He forgot to call the pharmacy and change the prescription, which resulted in an hour-long wait in the parking lot of the pharmacy, where I sat in my car, heat on full blast, shivering and crying.

Wait!  Before you stop reading because you hate me for bitching about First World Problems, please know it was pretty much the worst week of my life, followed by an exhausting weekend of poorly behaved children, and ending in body aches that rate waaaaayyyy at the grumpy and sad end of that smiley to grimace chart.

A client killed himself last week, and it left me reeling in confusion, guilt, panic, and fear.  While I have forced myself to accept there was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy, my heart has not caught up with my head on the matter, and being sick wears down the professional buffer I might have for such matters.

After spending the entire week in the aftermath of suicide, another employee of my program gave me her notice along with a few dozen clients to reassign.  Since my other clinician quit my program before the holidays, I have no one to reassign these clients to.  When I went, shaking and sobbing, to my supervisor for support, I was basically told to figure it out.

I came home looking for some solace, only to find my husband intended to work all weekend.  This is good news, in one way, because we need the money and he is freelance.  But it is bad news in terms of having the children, house duties, etc. ,and so on all to myself for the entire weekend.

So, contracting bronchitis was just the frosting on the crap cake I felt had been baked for me this week.  I feel like a jerk even writing that, while knowing I have access to better medical care and pharmaceuticals than 87% of the world.  (Note:  that is not a real statistic.  I’m making shit up because like I said, the world is fucking ending and who cares anyway.)

Sometimes I just need to vent.  Then I get sick of myself and get on with my life.

Some people have real problems.  I know this.  People like the family who lost their child in the most confounding, shocking, and traumatizing way last week.

After my shower, I hustle to put on PJ’s.  I ignore Jack’s tantrum and go straight to Emily, who is sleepy and sweet. She puts her hand on my heart as she snuggles into my breast, and touches my chin as light as a butterfly.

I’ve been contemplating the Buddhist concept of dukkha lately.  Dukkha roughly translates as “suffering,” and it is an important concept in Buddhism.  There has been ample dukkha in my life over the past few months. . .  the dukkha of motherhood; the dukkha of clinging to things during the process of our move last November; the dukkha of family issues at the holidays; the dukkha of yearning for things to be a certain way at work; the dukkha of physical illness; the dukkha of my anxiety and depression which has been rearing its ugly head over the past few weeks like a powerful and frightening dragon.

The dukkha of wanting to change the unchangeable, and to understand the incomprehensible.

And tonight, the dukkha of dishes left undone at the end of the night when I am sick and tired, and have already done dishes 17 times over the course of the weekend.

Basically, Buddha teaches that life is dukkha—  not that everything sucks, but that by its nature, our existence is flawed, impermanent, and difficult.  We can struggle against it and fight with it as something bad, or we can accept it for what it is and go from there.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.  And at the moment, I don’t really care.

I started writing a post last weekend about trying to sit with the grief and anxiety I felt in the light of my client’s death.  It was hard–  both to sit with and to write about–  because it made me fiercely restless.  I didn’t end up posting it.

Kuan Yin sat with the dragons and made friends with them.  What would it be like to do that?

I guess I could do the dishes.

Or I could not.

Maybe dukkha and I will cuddle up in bed with some Ceftin and Mucinex and try to get to know each other.  And maybe the world will keep ending, and I will lie in bed and hear things screeching and banging and popping outside my window.

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.

Home

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“Home.  Let me come home. Home is wherever I’m with you.  Our home.  Yes, I am home.   Home is when I’m alone with you.”  

—  Edward Sharp and the Electric Zeros

Home doesn’t feel like home.  Yet.  I suppose it will, eventually.

We are mostly out of boxes, although we have yet to hang pictures.  I stuck up all our funky magnets on the fridge, along with the same photos and handcrafted Mother’s Day items that were on the fridge in the old apartment.

None of us are sleeping very well.  Yet.  I suppose we will, eventually.  At least our beds are the same, familiar in their lumps and creaks.

My husband and I are tired, grumpy, and sore from days of endlessly shuttling boxes from one place to another.  And we are not even close to finished.  We still have a basement full of crap at the old apartment.

The old apartment, which is cavernous and quiet in its emptiness.  The old apartment which looks out on the bay.

My husband is proving to be a very capable home owner.  He has always been crafty and good at figuring out and fixing things, and he has settled right into the role of handy man of the house.  I remember when I watched him as a father for the first time, and fell in love watching this man who I had known for so long, but had not known he had such a amazing skill set at nurturing.  I sort of fell in love with him all over again, as I am now, watching him care for our new home with a tender responsibility.

This is supposed to be a positive change for us.  In some ways, I feel it.  I liked making a stir fry in my new kitchen with is about twice as large as what I had in the old apartment.  In some ways, it is nice to have more space, for my husband and me to have our own nooks, for the children to have their own rooms, for the crib to be out from our bedroom.  But in other ways, having this much space around us is foreign and uncomfortable.  We keep reaching out for one another in weird, clingy ways.

Emily keeps saying she is scared.  She is definitely taking it the hardest, her three year old brain not sure what to do with all the change.  It is hard to watch how worried and sulky she seems about every little thing.  She is easily startled by the new noises in the house, and says she feels scared in her room.

I am so proud of how both kids have been going to bed in their own rooms like champs.  But in the middle of the night, Emily creeps up the stairs to our gigantic attic room and climbs into bed between us.

Jack has been handling things pretty well, which is a surprise to us, since he is usually the most sensitive soul in our little pod.  He’s had a few moments when he has gotten rowdy, and he and his sister have been bickering and brawling a bit more, but that has been more Emily instigating with Jack.

While I know their behavior is a part of their right of passage in this huge transition, and a natural reaction the the enormous disruption, it is still hard for me to handle.  Part of me feels sad and sensitive to their plight.  The other side of me just wants them to fricking mind their fricking manners for five fricking minutes so I can make a phone call or unpack one more fricking box.

The first night in our new house, after our big moving day, I cried all night.  Emily was disoriented and got into her own bed without even asking to nurse.  Since I am in the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” stage of weaning her, I didn’t bring it up, but sat silently sobbing in the chair near her bed as she fell asleep.  I missed having her little body sleeping in the crib next to my side of the bed.

My husband hugged me and asked me why I was crying.

“I want to go home,” I cried.

“But I thought this is what you wanted?  To have our own house?”

In my exhaustion, I didn’t really know what I wanted.  I feared I had gotten it all wrong, that all those times I was frustrated and angry about being so cramped and cluttered in our old apartment I should have really been more mindful and tranquil.  Why do I always get everything wrong?

I’ve been comforting myself by telling myself, “Clinging causes suffering.”  It is one of the principals of Buddhist way of thinking.  This move has really brought to light for me what the expression means.  For me, it is another way of saying, “It is okay to let go and see what happens.”

It feels oddly reassuring and liberating.

It was also very helpful when going through the old apartment and thinking what to keep and what to throw away or donate.  I admit, there was a real pinch in my heart when I placed the bassinet on the curb at Goodwill.  It was a place where my babies had slept as newborns, and it held some memories.  But it was just going to take up space, and I didn’t need to keep the basinet to keep my memories of my babies.  The pinch in my heart was the suffering caused by clinging to something.  It felt okay to let it go.

Letting go of the old apartment has not proved so easy.  It was a really safe place for us.  To be honest, I share a lot of Emily’s fears of our new house, but for different reasons.  I’m terribly afraid the mortgage will prove too daunting.  I’m afraid there won’t be enough money to fix things.  I’m afraid the plumbing situation will never get sorted out.  I’m afraid the neighbors won’t accept me.  I’m afraid my kids will not adjust.  The list goes on.

We’ve only been here four nights.  I’m sure it will take some time for us to grow into this place, like the moss that has grown into the cracks in our new driveway.

And then home will feel just like home.