Attachment Parenting, Babywearing, Birth, Health

Why Hello, Mama Tiger

Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!
Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!

Yesterday I got angry. I’m not sure how I reacted on the outside, but inside I was a ferocious beast. I left E in a supervised care area at a business that shall go unnamed and let’s just say she was less than supervised. I came back to her crying as popcorn was pulled from her mouth. Another child had fed her. There were only three children total in the space. She does not have molars and could have choked.

This should not have happened.

In retrospect, everything was fine. She lived. I lived. All good. But the experience got me thinking about the times parents lost their cool with me as a teacher, as well as the times they didn’t. I once had a kid electrocute himself without anyone getting angry, (granted he was in fourth grade and old enough to know better than to stick a paperclip in a socket). I also gave the Heimlich maneuver twice, (again, these kids had the appropriate teeth), but still those parents remained calm.

Maybe it comes with more practice.

Then again, there were all the parents who didn’t keep their cool about everything from grades to having to sit criss-cross-applesauce at the carpet. Oddly, I kind of get it. I used to take it personally, but now I realize they felt their children were in some way threatened. Our basic instinct is to respond emotionally when it comes to protecting our children. If I ever return to the classroom, I will be more understanding.

Speaking of which, teachers really do deserve more credit. They have to keep 30ish kids safe all day while also teaching each child at his or her individual level. That’s a HUGE job. Add in the scrutiny of rightfully-protective parents and WHOA. Talk about pressure. Makes me want to give all the teachers I know a hug, (and a raise).

So, this afternoon, I’m thankful for a lot of things. E is fine. I met my inner Mama Tiger and have a better understanding of both what it means to be a parent and to take care of other people’s kids. Turns out both jobs can be pretty intense. Thank goodness they are also rewarding.

Attachment Parenting, Birth, Breastfeeding, Health

“When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

This picture is a throwback to when she was tiny and I was comfortable nursing in public... It's already starting to feel weird, which doesn't seem right to me.
This picture is a throwback to when I was comfortable nursing in public… It’s already starting to feel weird, which doesn’t seem right to me.

Parenting is filled with a lot of pesky questions. If you assume positive intent, most inquiries are well-meaning attempts at conversation. Still, when you start to get the same question over and over, it can begin to feel like societal pressure.

Like the ludicrous question everyone starts asking before your first baby is even crawling, “When are you going to have a second kid?”

Or, my current favorite, “When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

This question seems to skyrocket around the one-year mark. And, I get it. Before I had E, my goal was to nurse for a year. However, with 12 months already gone, I am not ready to stop and neither is she. Accordingly, I started doing a little research to support my desire to continue and as it turns out, there are plenty of good reasons to keep nursing:

  • Breast milk passes immunities from mother to child, in many cases shortening the duration of illnesses. Likewise, breast milk is easier for sick kids to keep down than solids or cow’s milk.
  • Breast milk supplements the nutrition received from a toddler’s diet with good fats and vitamins, contributing to better overall health and higher intelligence levels.
  • Breastfeeding supports a special bond between mother and child, creating quiet time for both and helping to ease emotional challenges, such as tantrums. For me, the need to be still for 10-15 minutes a few times a day is like being forced to meditate. Sometimes I fight it, but the end result is centering in a world that rarely stops moving.
  • Premature weaning can be confusing and even traumatic for emotional toddlers who have depended on nursing for comfort, leading to more challenging behaviors as they struggle to establish other soothing methods, (although this obviously varies greatly by child).
  • Extended breastfeeding has been shown to decrease multiple long-term health risks for mom, including breast cancer.

I know there are additional arguments, but this list was reassuring enough for me. What I really don’t understand, is why nursing beyond one year is referred to as “extended” breastfeeding when the worldwide average is somewhere between two and four years with some cultures continuing even longer. The fact that this conversation continues to happen in the media and comment streams are filled with “disgusted” bystanders just goes to show how uncomfortable we still are as a society with such a basic, natural act.

On the same token, however, I also get why breastfeeding past one (or even to one) is not for all moms. When I started to ask around in my mom groups, I found moms breastfeeding well into toddlerhood who still pump regularly at work. While I am impressed by their dedication, I am not sure I would be as eager to continue if regular pumping were part of my equation. Likewise, I have talked to moms whose babies self-weaned earlier than one year or who faced physical challenges in sustaining the relationship.

Thankfully, many moms also shared positive stories of nursing well into the second and sometimes even the third year. By talking about it, I hope to be one more voice in normalizing breastfeeding past 12 months. I used to think “extended” breastfeeding would be uncomfortable, (in a non-judgmental-but-weird-for-me kind of way). Now that I have my own little person, it does not feel strange at all, excluding perhaps the vibe I sometimes get from others around me.

So, next time I am asked, I will smile and answer, “We’ll stop nursing when it stops working for one or both of us.”

For now, it works and I feel lucky.


Side note: While doing my homework, I enjoyed this interview on extended breastfeeding with Dr. Mayim Bialik, (oh to be so poised in the face of hostility!).

Attachment Parenting, Babywearing, Birth, Hopes, Pregnancy

Oh What a Year…

Hard to believe her first birthday party has already come and gone!
Hard to believe her first birthday party has already come and gone!

I am sitting in the carnage of a first birthday party. The living room is strewn with presents and bits of wrapping paper. Cards are scattered across the floor, each animal picture carefully kissed and then thrown to the carpet. Somehow the scary stuffed dog that talked to me in the darkness found her way back home.

It reminds me a bit of Christmas and how my dad likes to leave the mess in the front room for days. I get it now. Some messes slow down time.

Two more days until E is officially one. A year ago I prepared for battle. With leaking fluid and a ticking clock, I knew it was just a matter of time before she arrived. I dragged my feet in hopes I could avoid induction. I napped and ate pizza and timed contractions. I cried when the rhythm slowed each time I got into the shower. I cried again when they told me Pitocin was in the cards.

We ate the same pizza at her birthday party yesterday. I had wanted to throw a small celebration at home, but it grew bigger than our little house, so we headed to the park instead. The weather gods were on our side, a glorious spring day outdoors, trees blooming and sun shining bright. I handed her over to her adoring fans despite my desire to hold her close and never let go.

I also walked her home for a few more sweet, sleepy moments on our own.
I also walked her home for a few more sweet, sleepy moments on our own.

It hit me yesterday, as I strolled her to her party (another attempt to slow down time); I have no choice but to share her with the world. With each coming year, she will be more independent. She is not mine to keep forever. I sobbed a deep and unexpected sob as I typed those last words.

This year has been so precious. Ours and (mostly) ours alone. Hours of cuddles and milk, kisses and books, walks and doggies, giggles and sweet time spent curled up together in bed. When I think of all the letting go my parents have had to do with me and my siblings, I begin to wonder if they love(d) us with that same intensity. I know they must and then my heart aches for them and for me and for all parents and all people who deeply love the children in their lives.

Sometimes I worry myself to tears over what would happen if I died without leaving E a lasting impression of what she means to me. Luckily she will always have my words. I print these posts and put them in her baby book just in case the internet disappears but somehow her baby book survives (turns out moms worry about every eventuality).

I am just beginning to grasp the enormity of it all. This past year has ripped me inside out. Gratitude and awe does not even begin to describe it.

One year.

365 days of wild emotion.

I think I will leave the party mess a little longer.

Balance, Birth

Month Eleven: Almost One.

One more month...
One more month…

Each month is faster. I thought maybe it was the holidays, but even January with two and a half weeks of sickness disappeared too quickly. I always imagined a year at home to be enough. Now I am holding on to every extra moment even as I contemplate what comes next.

E is changing every day. She is cautious in her cruising but not in her climbing. In addition to the stairs, she has mastered the side tables and can often be found about to knock the lamps from their perches.

Her language acquisition is also accelerating. You can tell by the expressions on her face she is beginning to understand what we say. And sometimes, it almost sounds like she answers back.

“Are you having fun?”

“Yesh!” Arms high in the sky.

So far she will only take steps when she thinks we're not looking... So close!
So far she will only take steps when she thinks we’re not looking… So close!

One is around the corner. We are planning her first birthday party, a small but happy celebration, just like her. Then these monthly updates will be over. I will still blog, but already trying to find a theme for each month feels like a stretch. We have sunk into a rhythm, sometimes messy, sometimes smooth. Our lives have adapted to a new normal.

When I think back a year, to all the waiting and preparation, it is incredible to realize how much our lives have changed. I was so nervous. All I wanted was a healthy baby in my arms. Now she is practically out of my arms already. As I held her screeching at a party this weekend, I talked to an expectant mom and could not put into words how much her life was about to change or how much it would all be worth it, even on afternoons when the baby skips a nap and won’t allow you to finish an adult conversation.

11 months, almost one year. Laughter, words, and even a few small steps. My favorites, though, are all the loves and kisses.

Attachment Parenting, Balance, Work

Month Ten: (Beautiful) Incoherence.

Her sweet smiles, laughter, and wonder for everything around her make the hard parts more than worth it.
Her sweet smiles, laughter, and wonder for everything around her make the hard parts worthwhile. Thankfully.

Up until now, each month has had a theme, some coherent thread to tie my post together. Month ten is the opposite. The only theme I could come up with is incoherence. Maybe it is the sleep deprivation talking.

Before the holidays we made real progress. We read a couple books, committed to a routine, and suddenly E was asleep by 7 or 8 in her own room, leaving me 4+ hours to burn in the evenings before forcing myself to go to bed. I was like a little kid. I did not want to sleep because it was more fun to stay awake.

Hey, I guess I was kind of like E is now.

Then the holidays and travel hit and suddenly E was working on four (maybe more) new teeth and our routine vanished. Add in a dose of toddler-like determination to practice her new standing skills in the middle of the night and it is now impossible to put her to sleep before midnight.

I’m serious about this toddler thing, too. I’m pretty sure E thinks she’s two years old already. Just putting a shirt over her head requires the patience and will power of a highly evolved being. Sometimes I’m there, sometimes I have to take a little break and let her shriek before regaining enough calm to maneuver her flailing arms through the holes. Forget those moments when she remembers how to take the shirt right back off.

I try to remind myself she has her own spirit and should be honored for her individual desires, but on a chilly winter’s night wearing a long-sleeved shirt to bed is non-negotiable. Going to sleep at a decent hour should be too, but I am at a loss on how to make that happen.

In my desperation for sleep I have returned the Pack N Play next to my side of the bed, made it up with comfy baby-safe bedding, and plopped E in there a couple times just so I can momentarily let my tired eyes shut without fear of being stomped over on the way to her next adventure, (believe it or not the stomping is actually starting to hurt!).

While fussing it out might be alright, she is instantaneously transformed into a screaming, gagging, nearly-vomitous wreck when left alone in the playpen. I just can’t do it. Last night Alex rescued her from my eyes-half-open watch and allowed me to slip into a shallow sleep as they headed downstairs to wait out her need to stand up repeatedly until a little past midnight.

The good news, she woke less during the night last night, is napping right now, and is still pleasant company as long as you don’t try to change her diaper, put a shirt on her, or wash her face. More than one person told me it would really get crazy when she started to move, but I had no idea. Suddenly my house is a mess as I chase her every which way. She is up the stairs in 20 seconds flat, (yes, a gate is on the way). The water bowl for the dogs is her favorite play space. She. Is. Everywhere. And, fast.

Month ten has been wild. The pace of our lives has picked back up to full speed. Where once I worried staying home would eventually drag out to the point of boredom, we now leave the house almost daily and cannot keep up with the list of things to accomplish. I have also settled into a content gratitude in all the disorder. Such a blessing to experience this beautiful incoherence from home.