Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Our Bed

It's the first cold day of autumn, and as I woke to a 60 degree house I found myself grateful for (yet another) controversial parenting choice. My warm, snuggly toddler was cozily snoring wrapped in my arms.

The window was partially open last night, and our attic bedroom got chilly. Phoebe's soft purple blanket enveloped the two of us. We woke up to cloudy breath but warm toes. 

Yes, she still sleeps with me. I say me because my husband works nights, and so Phoebe and I, like a mother rabbit and her kit, snuggle up in our big bed and sleep. She sleeps with me touching her, and often I wake with her head on my shoulder, her little body fitted against mine, like she remembers being part of me once.

Phoebe around 18mo, and me.


And now, I write this on my phone while we nap. She naps with me, too, and always has. When I'm at work my husband naps with her. Since she was little I took the advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps" very seriously. And I developed a habit of curling her up in my arms, laying flat on my back, and letting my newborn sleep on my chest. Now as a two year old, she sleeps with my arm as a pillow.

Even her first night out of the womb, she has only slept contentedly with me. And rightfully so... she was never alone before she was born. Why should she be alone in the big dark cold world? She can be with mama.

Cosleeping... the stories of tragic infant deaths are not to be taken lightly. I did all my research and follow all the guidelines. (See them here: https://kellymom.com/parenting/nighttime/cosleeping/) If it doesn't work for you, or you want to sleep alone, or you want to sleep train (I never have and don't think I could, it's too traumatic for me) then you do you!

She has never slept at night in a crib. I tried a bassinet and failed there too. Cody got her to nap a few times in her crib but I never could. When we moved we got rid of her toddler bed- her bed is our bed.

I go to sleep with her every night at 8-9pm, missing those sweet parenting freedom hours that I've only ever heard about and never experienced. Did you catch that new Netflix series...? Rented a RedBox that's R rated and watched it when your kids went to bed? Maybe I will, too, in 5-9 years. Am I sad about it? Nope. I work full time, remember? And need these hours to reconnect with this baby.

My life has slowed significantly, and attachment parenting is not for the faint of heart. But I won't get this time back with her, and I'm hyper conscious of how fast she is growing up. I'm desperate to be part of every moment possible; the times she's deep asleep, dreaming, in the place between sleep and awake, or drowsily welcoming the cold fresh dawn with me by her side. Her bed is our bed.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What it's REALLY like to Breastfeed a Toddler



If you're reading this, you probably have one of two mindsets about the title of this post:

1) Ew what the heck?! She's still breastfeeding?! I'm gonna read this post and see how weird she is.

2) Preach mama, I'm (secretly) right there with you.

This lovely tasteful portrait of us nursing was taken by T.Marie Photography. I chose the black and white version so it's milder for those of who are still SHOCKED that we're still nursing.


 Here is my disclaimer: It is not my choice to breastfeed, it is my daughter's choice. She is a person who is allowed to make decisions, too. I am supportive of my daughter and her positive choice to continue to nurse.

If you'd like to explain to a 21 month-old about how she should wean because it's "weird" and she's "too old," go for it. Expect a wildly flinging tantrum and perhaps a smack in the leg.

Go ahead though, tell her about how it's not "normal," or how she's using her mama as a "pacifier." Try it. See what happens if you tell her she can't nurse. It's literally her favorite thing in the world.

Phoebe nurses 4-10 times a day. She nurses during her nap, she nurses to go to sleep at night and during the night while we share our big bed together, she wakes up  and nurses and goes back to sleep. She nurses before I leave for work. She nurses when I come home from work. She nurses while we watch Frozen (Let it FLOW, let it floooow!) and she nurses at the zoo while I'm wearing her in our Beco carrier.

She has no qualms about it. She asks in her own special way - signing for milk, or this funny little noise "Hoo-hoo? Poo-hoo-hoo?" or just pulls at my shirt until I oblige. I don't mind. Here's why...

 She rarely gets sick. She's had maybe 6 illnesses in her 21 months of life. Yay! Breastmilk morphs to what your child needs. Get ready to have your mind blown: Her saliva tells my milk what germs she's fighting and my milk changes to include antibodies that fight those germs. What...Yeah. Rad.
(And in case you were wondering: no breastfeeding does not cause tooth decay. Sorry haters.)

 She's starting to be a picky eater, and I want to keep those little baby rolls as long as possible. It's a MYTH, folks, that breastmilk has no nutritional value after a year. Does cows milk still have nutritional value regardless of how old a person is? Yeah. No difference. She will nurse before she will eat new foods most of the time. That's cool. Lots of calories (and antibodies, remember?).

 It's one of the few times she's calm and collected. She settles down into my lap, gets all comfy, pulls my shirt and unhooks(!) my bra, then she starts nursing and hormones release that calm her, and she's soothed. I have literally nursed bumps and bruises away. Tears fall a lot less when she's able to nurse. Her calm-down hormone is important at this stage, too, and her lack of tantrum throwing is a testament to that.

 I believe that she needs to nurse to reconnect with me because I work full time. I spend 40 hours away from her during the week. To me, her nursing says "Mama, I'm still here, I just wanted to you know. I still need you, even when you're gone all day. Are you still mine, even though you've been away? Prove it, Mama, let me nurse." I love those quiet, still moments with her when I'm off and we both need to relax together. It's priceless and I can't replace it.

So those are the sweet and good things...

But breastfeeding a toddler is lonely and nerve wracking. Think you had it bad when you were a newbie-nurser and you had to go in public with your newborn? Guess what - people are usually much more accepting of newborns. Try being in public with a toddler who's saying "Poo-hoo?" and pulling your shirt down. I try to discreetly nurse her, but I still get some looks.

Plus sometimes she kicks me... but usually by accident.

No one has said anything to me about nursing her - neither positive or negative - in public. Maybe I'm just a master and no one can tell, or maybe people are too surprised to say anything. Regardless, the nerves get me sometimes. And the loneliness is so strong. I don't know another mom with a child my age who is still nursing. I don't know another mom with a child my age who nursed past a year, actually.
(If you're reading this and you're hiding your breastfeeding toddler, come out of the woodwork so we can chat!)

I still have to pump. I get some anxiety about it. Past 18 months, I can't donate to the milk bank anymore. I do have a lovely donor who takes my pumped milk for her little, and that makes me feel really good about being able to pump. But it sucks. Seriously. I hate taking my lunch to do it, I hate the parts and the noise and cleaning and storage. It's gotten old. But if I don't pump, I hurt. And if it don't pump, I lose my supply, and I will not do anything to jeopardize our nursing relationship. I'd love to quit (which is why I'm going to see a lactation specialist next week. Even nursing vets need help!).

Mostly I feel like people who don't say anything but know I'm still nursing Phoebe have a few things in their brains, like...
"How strange." or "That's just too much." or "That child is spoiled."

Y'all... please remember, Phoebe is more baby than she is grown up. She's not even two. She knows a few things are certain and true in her life: Mama and Dada love her, and her Mama will nurse her no matter what. I'd like to think it's establishing a relationship that we will cherish for the remainder of our days.

So what's it REALLY like to breastfeed a toddler? It's wild and weird and unexpected and wonderful. Did I expect to nurse this long? Nope. Do I mind? Nope. Do I love it? Sure - I love her, and she loves to nurse, and those two things go together so I shall embrace it.

Will I wean her? No. I won't. But I'll let you know when she's done, as I'm sure that will be another beautiful story to tell.



Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Liberal Mother's Thoughts on the Next Four Years




The next four years I have work to do. But it won't just be signing petitions or marching or voting. I have a woman to raise. And a strong set of ideas to help me do that.

I heard an 11 year old boy on NPR on Inauguration Day. His mother introduced him and he talked briefly about why he was a fan of Donald Trump. I couldn't help but wonder how that mama told her son about the Access Hollywood tape of Trump belittling and blatantly disrespecting a woman. Did she ignore it? Did she sit him down and say, even though you like this man, what he said is not okay?

I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. We will have many moments like this over the next four years; when our judgement is tested and our children look to us for answers. If the highest ranking person in our country is cruel or rude or nasty, how do we tell them that it is not okay?

Answer: we simply tell them. People are not perfect and neither are our elected officials. My family is preparing to explain tough topics of race, class, and religion to someone who can't even form a sentence yet. But it is vital to explain these things to her young in order to raise a strong proud woman who leans left.

What a privilege to have the vital years of my adolescence spent under a president who represented a large majority of my political ideals. I am grateful to be alive for such a time when I felt secure and happy about the leader of our country.

As I grow and mature, so do my politics. I now realize that each regime change will cause turmoil and I have a 50/50 shot of being confident in our leader or not, and that will not change my entire life. How exhausting.

Under Barack Obama I had four major things happen that personally made my life better: federal student loans allowed me to go to college and Obama's policies allow me to pay those back based on my income; I was able to buy a home with little down payment and tax breaks as a first time home buyer; insurance paid for a breast pump so I could feed my child when I am away from her; and a federal mandate makes it illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers and made it mandatory for me to have breaks to pump at work. A sincere thank you to the administration for those things.

I am liberal. And for me the next four years will not be so fun, as I'm sure the past eight weren't so fun for a lot of conservatives. But I'm also a mom to a little girl who will be going into kindergarten at the next election cycle.

And I've realized something.

The president or whichever political party is officially in charge of our country isn't officially in charge of how I live or what I believe.

I am a liberal. And my daughter will be raised with the politics that I believe in, and that means teaching her that while we respect our elected officials, we do not have to agree with them.

I have a duty to her to uphold the principles and beliefs I hold very dear.

It is a parent's job to teach their children the values and morals of either political fence. Our children are individuals who, when the time is right, will decide for themselves what they believe. For now I will raise her with my beliefs and politics. When she gets older, she can decide for herself what she'd like to believe. In our family, we are strong in our convictions.

Here are five things she will know, regardless of who is president, about our world and our family:

1. Every person is valuable. Regardless of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, class, rank, or religion. In our family, everyone is treated with kindness and respect.
2. People love who they love. We are LBGT friendly. Everyone deserves to love who they wish. In our family, people are allowed to be who they are.
3. Women can do whatever they dream to do. Want to be president? Let's make it happen, baby girl. In our family, there are no limits.
4. My religious views and relationship with whatever deity I believe created this universe are my own. We respect the views of everyone because those ideals are sacred. We are too small to determine who is right and who is wrong. In our family, we embrace diversity and ideas because they're important to grow.
5. If we don't like the ideas of a person in power, it's okay to let them know. It's not okay to disrespect anyone for their views, but telling them we disagree is just fine. In our family, it's okay to say, "My opinion is different than yours."

Work over the next four years? Sure. But guess what... my work with this little girl and raising her right are more important. She and I can change the world if we continue this path of liberal unity. I believe we can. In our family, my immediate world is most important.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mothering Time

Freshly asleep in my arms tonight, Phoebe made a little noise between a sigh and a coo and I was immediately taken back to babyhood.

I don't remember the last time she made such a wonderful peep. And it got me thinking about memory and our children.

How much do we really remember? What things last in our minds eye and what moments are forever gone?

I do not think I would remember much if I didn't have our journal.
When Phoebe was almost one month old I found a notebook my aunt gave me to "write down all the firsts... because you'll forget if you don't." I wrote a short sentence and dated it. Then I realized I had no recollection of the first few weeks of her life.

Sure I remembered the big things - bringing her home from the hospital, my family meeting her, our first nights together.

 But I didn't remember her, specifically. What was she like when she was five days old? What did she smell like? What did she wear? What did I do all day with her?


Alas. That day is gone. So is five day old Phoebe and I'll never have her back.
And so every day now I write something, anything, so that maybe when she's 10 or 18 or 42 and I have forgotten what she was like, I can read about it and trigger a memory.


Time is a funny thing. It seems to drag on. And then suddenly another milestone hits and we've never stopped to realize how fast it actually goes.
Time doesn't stop.

The people you love grow old.
The babies your raise grow up.

And her little coo-sigh tonight at 15mo old reminded me again that my journal for her is so important.

What do you remember about your babies?




Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Late Note to Phoebe: One Year Old

When I held you for the very first time, I remember thinking how strange it was to finally meet you and how miraculous it was that just hours ago you were in my womb.

Those emotions. That joy of seeing your squishy little face. It is a memory that will not soon fade, if it ever does.

This year has been a blur; a mess of chaos and love and cuddles and wonder. Mostly wondering how your brain works and wondering how it's possible for you to grow so very fast.

My child I wish for you a joyous life, one similar to your first year:

A life of new friends, family who can't wait to see you no matter the occasion. I wish you a life of quick learning, full of mistakes so you can grow. I wish you a life of commiseration when you're sad or hurt or sick. I wish you a life of love and snuggles and never sleeping alone.


Happy first birthday, beautiful one.











Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done: Our Breastfeeding Journey

In the dusk, in her nursery, in our chair, I hum the song my mother sang to me years ago. We are nursing as we do every night, the curtains pulled tight around the windows that overlook the bed of irises that have just given their last color. She is softly fading into deep, warm baby sleep. Her flutter sucking tells me she is comfortable and content. I brush her soft brown hair and listen to her breathe. What a moment to experience every night with Phoebe.




It wasn't always like this, though, this blissful nursing was not always so.

 Breastfeeding is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Harder than pregnancy. Harder than childbirth.

 If you've ever nursed a baby, you're nodding your head. If you haven't, you're wondering: "How's that possible, when breastfeeding is so natural and normal?"

Have I got a story for you.

When Phoebe was born they placed her on my chest and within minutes she latched on to my right breast and I don't remember what it felt like. All I remember is her chocolate hair and the warmth of her slimy body.

The next morning when the pediatrician came around, the doctor examined Phoebe and stuck her fingers in my baby's mouth.

"We have a slight tongue tie," said the doctor. "Shouldn't be any problem and shouldn't need any attention."

In one ear, out the other. Then the lactation consultant came by. What a remarkable woman she was. She adopted two babies and nursed them both, taking hormones prescribed by a doctor to force her milk in. Total badass. She looked at Phoebe's tongue tie and said, "Mama this is not going to be easy for you. You will be sore. You will bleed. You will curl your toes in pain every time you nurse unless you fix this."

I didn't know who to listen to... The pediatrician who said eh, no big deal, or the badass consultant who took hormones to nurse babies she did not birth...

So I waited to see what would happen. Phoebe and I came home from the hospital and in a few days my milk came in. I remember texting my friend Kelsey who had a baby just 4 months older than Phoebe. I said, Help! I'm engorged! And she said, Oh no! Pump!

So began my pumping journey.

So I pumped. Oh the relief! I started a routine of pumping once in the morning and once at night. But when I was nursing Phoebe, everything was different. I remember helping her latch on and gasping in pain. I remember her screaming at the breast because she couldn't get what she needed.

When I stood in the shower, I remember blood slowly trickling down my body from my damaged breasts. Even though there was pain, I knew I had no options but to suck it up and continue to try.

Phoebe needed me and I was determined to breastfeed her. In my mind there was never any option of quitting. It was painful every day. Every minute, actually. I cried when she latched on. I cried when she unlatched. I got anxious and sick to my stomach every time she'd give me hunger cues. And yet, I still fed her.

I went to the lactation clinic to see if they could help me and relieve my pain. There I met a mother calmly nursing her five month old son. She told me how he had a tongue tie and they waited to see if they could just get through it together or if he needed it clipped to successfully breastfeed.

She said: "I wish I would have done the procedure sooner. He has to relearn how to latch, how to swallow, how make sounds and how to move his tongue."

Oh wow... I thought, as Phoebe's weak tongue attempted to latch and failed again, I should do something.
At every visit to the lactation clinic, they'd weigh Phoebe. 10/15 is the day after her tongue tie was clipped.

Cody and I decided to have her tongue tie clipped on my 28th birthday. What a decision. Our pediatrician had me sit on the exam table holding our two week old baby. He took some Orajel and rubbed it on the membrane connected to her tongue and revealed a pair of small silver scissors.

"Hold her head steady," he said. I felt weak. He reached into her mouth and snipped. Blood ran down my baby's chin onto my hands. I felt VERY weak. She started to wail.

The doctor held gauze on her tongue for a few moments and then told me to breastfeed her. He left the room and I pulled her close to me. I braced myself for the pain I had been accustomed to for every nursing session. But her latch felt different.

The rest of that day was hard. She was sore and in pain and cried a lot. Cody had clinicals so I was alone with her and I cried too, thinking I had hurt my baby. But in hindsight, it was a good decision.

I continued to nurse her on demand and nursed her to sleep. I had oversupply issues and an overactive let down that she learned to control just by nursing constantly until the quick jet of milk from me to her was accepted and anticipated.

At four weeks we introduced a bottle with zero issues. But if I was with her, I never bottle fed her. In fact I did not give her a bottle personally until she was 6mo old. I always let her nurse.

                                                                *****
   
Just when I got the hang of things and I had no more pain while nursing, I went back to work.

The first week back for me was a busy one. I pumped twice a day at work and in the mornings before I left, but I got mastitis anyway.

I had chills, a fever, and a painful red mass on my right breast from not emptying them during my too-quick pumping sessions at work. I visited the doctor and she gave me antibiotics and a clear warning: either pump til I was empty, nurse Phoebe more, or face this again.

Then the busy season with work started and the stress began. I pumped in our small break room, sometimes with up to 5 other people eating their lunch alongside me and my Medela going shee-shee-shee-shee. Could I have weaned and stopped pumping in less than ideal circumstances?

Sure.

But Phoebe needed me, and I was not going to give up. She simply loves to nurse, and if I had to endure awkward situations at work to make her happy why would I stop? Pumping sucks! But I did it for her, gladly, every day.

I even pumped for an overnight business road trip, my supportive co workers not caring that I plugged in my pump in the car and dumped milk at every stop. (Thanks, ladies. I genuinely appreciate you!)

And so I still pump and nurse her, 8 months in.

We are still going strong, and in fact I'm writing this on my phone with her at the breast, flutter sucking and napping. She loves to nurse, simple as that. I won't take away something she loves, even as inconvenient and awkward and hard and obnoxious it can be to be a full time working mother and a breast feeder.

I pump three times a day when I work, on top of nursing her. Every pumping session yields around 5-6oz for a daily total of 15oz. This is more than she needs as the average intake is 1oz per hour away from me, so I've always had excess. I have donated my frozen milk to a set of twins, to a relative who was nervous about her supply, and applied for and was accepted to the Mother's Milk Bank in Denver. I have since donated 4 gallons to them and have around 300oz in my deep freeze that we will not use. That supply grows every day.



Phoebe and I have an incredible nursing relationship. I nurse her in the morning before I leave for work and she usually falls asleep for her first nap of the day. I nurse her when I come home, and then again to go to bed. We go to bed together. I nurse her all night long, usually 3-4 times. I nurse her at 6am when she wakes up too early for me and we snuggle back to sleep for another hour. She knows what I mean when I ask, "Do you want to nurse?" and kicks excitedly or laughs in response.

We have nursed in a Target bathroom, in relative's spare bedrooms and offices and basements. We have nursed in baby yoga class. We have nursed in church. We have nursed in my bridal suite at work during an after-hours party. We have nursed in the backseat of the parked car. We have nursed in the tiger exhibit and the jungle at the zoo.We have nursed outside by the trickling waterfall of our Koi pond. But the best place is in our spot: the glider in her room by the window with the irises outside. The curtain pulled tight, her sound machine playing ocean waves, her little body's weight on mine, her eyes closed, her sweet milky breath when she unlatches.



So why is breastfeeding the hardest thing I've ever done? Because of the pain at first, the struggle with Phoebe's latch, the mastitis, the seemingly never ending pumping, but mostly because of the utter dedication it takes. I have never been more than 4 hours without pumping or breastfeeding her. In the 246 days she's been alive, that means that I have nursed or pumped at least 1500 times. Breastfeeding is all-consuming. But so is Phoebe. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I only get to do this part with her once. I will let her nurse as long as she desires, not caring if she weans at one or at four. She is my miracle, and all I want is to make her supremely happy for the rest of our days. My precious nursling! My Phoebe bird! I just love being her mama.
                                                               

                                                                      *****

Here is my nursing and pumping schedule while I'm at work for inquiring minds. I do not know how often I feed her when I'm off as we feed on demand, I have never counted. I only pump once in the mornings when I have a day off with her.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a lactation consultant! Follow your doctor's advice.

Note: I eat and drink a full glass of water every time I pump!

7am: Wake up, usually just finishing our last dream nurse of the night/breakfast for Phoebe

7:30-7:45am: Pump and eat breakfast

8:30-9am: Nurse Phoebe

12noon: Pump and eat lunch

3pm (or 4, if I get busy and can't make it back to pump): Pump and eat again

6:20pm: Home from work, nurse Phoebe

8pm-9pm: nurse Phoebe to sleep

We bed share, and always have. It makes breastfeeding infinitely easier. Do what is best and safest for your family. I am a very light sleeper!

Throughout the night: Nurse on demand



I can't stress enough how important it is to offer the breast often and not on a schedule. Fussy baby? Offer. Sleepy baby? Offer. Rooting baby? Offer. Phoebe doesn't take a pacifier, is entirely attached to me, and is the healthiest happiest baby. For more info and the best resource I have found, visit http://www.kellymom.com.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Poem for Phoebe at Four Months








For Phoebe, Four Months



Was she ever that small? Was she ever that little?
She was


she had to be

because suddenly 

her clothes don’t fit and she’s squished in her car seat and someone comments on how


Big



she’s gotten.

But to you, Mama, she’s still small.

It doesn’t even occur to you that she’s grown until the onesie
won’t fit over her head.

Then you realize


she’s no different to you because you see her every day. But she has grown.



The memories of her as a soft little newborn are fading.
                (But it’s only been four months.)
Wait…



It’s been four months?
The vivid memory of birth was 120+ days ago?
You’ve been a Mama that long?
No…
Not possible.

But look at THAT newborn baby. Your baby isn’t like that anymore.
She’s grown.


And I suppose it’ll be like this forever, won’t it, Mama?
With that startled look on your face when someone says, She’s grown!



(She seems the same to me every day. Though I suppose it must be true, she’s grown…because these little shoes that once were so big don’t fit on her feet


anymore.)


But truly she’s not growing up. No, she’s still The Baby. 


You have all the time in the world with her as a baby.


Wait…! She’s grown…


And now you see.
Your days are short.


She doesn’t stop growing. 



You just stop remembering how little she once was.