Thursday, March 13, 2014

Breastfeeding in the Beginning

Before I started this blog, I had a rarely used tumblr where I documented a bit about pregnancy and the newborn days. I just read through some old posts and decided  to repost this entry about my experience with breastfeeding a newborn.

I am typing this note on my iPhone while nursing a nearly 13-month-old Nina to sleep. Suffice it to say, breastfeeding now doesn't feel like it did then. This shows how much things change in a relatively short amount of time. And it's a window into the rawness and all-consuming physicality of early motherhood. There are some f-bombs and unfettered descriptions of breasts, mostly mine. You've been warned. 

On the morning of February 15, 2013, I gave birth to our daughter, Nina. I plan on sharing my birth story. I love chewing her cheeks, kissing her little lips and nose. She’s adorable. She’s here. But I have to get one thing off my chest (terrible pun intended).

I motherfucking hate breastfeeding with an intense burning passion from deep within.

I can’t even believe I’m typing that. I studied breastfeeding in school. I’ve thought about becoming a lactation consultant. I’ve silently judged formula-feeding parents. I never wanted to give my kids formula (even though I was formula-fed and I’m not an idiotic, drooling mess). I looked forward to cradling my babe in arms while gazing into her eyes. I was set to breastfeed a toddler. Yay, lactivism and all that jazz. 

But I quickly learned that large, pendulous (yuck yuck yuck) breasts dangled in a 6 pound human being’s face is not so easy. I don’t have pert, perky tits that I can just let an infant blissfully attach to. I’m pretty sure one of my breasts weighs more than my daughter. I can’t just cradle her. I have to hold up my giant tit and cram her head onto my breasts and prop her and myself with 500 pillows. She also wails with a ferocious rage if she doesn’t latch on right away. And although the advice is to break suction and relatch if I feel pain, if I get her clamped on after 15 minutes of squirming and screaming, I’m not relatching—I’ll just suffer. So my nipples are missing skin now. The second or third day of breastfeeding was horrific. I cried while the baby cried. It felt like each time she suckled, someone was slicing my nipples with razors. I couldn’t believe I was having such an awful time with something I was so committed to. And I couldn’t believe I had to live though this horror show 12 times per day.

On day 2 or 3, I finger fed my daughter some formula (Similac sent it for free, duh), maybe 1/8 of an ounce. Not a huge amount. And yet I was wracked with guilt and visions of scorning attachment parents (mothers) flooded my head. I was the enemy. When I received the free formula, I was indignant and intended to donate it to a soup kitchen. That was on the other side of motherhood. On this side, I sobbed as I admitted defeat and asked my husband to prepare 2 ounces of formula so I could wet my daughter’s dry, cracked, wailing lips. I was utterly disgusted with myself. I failed. Again. And it was only day 3. 

Then I got angry. I am feeding my kid, keeping her alive, truly the only requirement I have right now as the parent of a newborn. I didn’t fail. I made the best decision in a really difficult, painful, stressful, sleep-deprived situation.

The last month of my pregnancy did not go as planned. My birth did not go as planned. Motherhood has not gone as planned. Notice a theme? Parenthood cannot be planned. It can only be adapted to. I am learning that each time my daughter and I sob while I feed her milk from my body. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Catching Up on the Apple of my Eye

Get it? Actually, I'm going to catch up on how I'm doing as well. But first, let's check up on this nearly 13 MONTH OLD BABE.

Nina is not crazy about fruit. But she LOVES apples. I think what turns her off from a lot of fruit, like bananas and thawed frozen berries (the fresh ones will be coming soon), is that they are all mushy and this girl likes her fruit crisp. She will just go to town on an apple. She doesn't eat much of it, mostly just gnaws on it and then spits chunks out. But she loves it. 

Nina is crawling and butt scooting like a champ but alas, no walking. During her 12-month wellness visit, her pediatrician voiced some mild concern about the fact that Nina is not standing on her own yet. He suggested we get in touch with Childlink, Philly's early intervention service. I've been in touch but, as it goes with city bureaucracies, I've yet to hear from one of their team members about setting up a home visit to see if Nina is truly motor delayed or just on her own timetable. I have a feeling she will be walking by the time we hear from someone. 

I was a little worried on the day of her wellness visit but my anxieties have since been assuaged because Nina will stand with some support and shows more interest in trying to stand on her own everyday. Furthermore, I don't want to ascribe too much about Nina's personality based on little quirks given how very young she is but she does seem to err on the side of being a late bloomer. She didn't want to turn from breech to vertex when babies are "supposed to." She didn't really seem interested in being born either. And, well, her parents are reticent late bloomer types, so maybe its genetic. 

Her fine motor skills are totally on point: she feeds herself, picks up books and turns the pages, handles her toys with panache and she's super social and babbling up a storm. She says mama, dada, gaga, gee gee (for Benji) and she's super bright and alert. She'll stand and walks when she wants.

But if you're reading this and have ever experienced or suspected a developmental delay in your child, I'd love to hear how you handled everything. 

On my end, I've got to say, I've been better. Nina's molars are coming in, so nights have been rough again. Even on nights when she's not in pain, she still wants to get up once in the night to nurse. I am finding it brutal to be deeply asleep for an hour or two only to be awoken by her cries. I don't think I'll ever get used to it. 

Additionally, I've shared my experience with postpartum mood disturbance and can definitely say I'm still contending with, I don't know, something. I did not click with the therapist I first visited with last September so I started seeing a new one just a few weeks ago. I've only seen her once but so far, the chemistry between us seems better and I was very explicit about what was unhelpful about my last therapist. 

What's also tough is that I am finding staying at home on the days I don't work boring (and the days at work stressful). I, of course, have to addend that with I LOVE ADORE CHERISH AM BESOTTED with Nina. I have moments of pure joy with her, she is the funniest person I know right now and I feel grateful I get to spend so much time with her. But I've a feeling we're both outgrowing spending so much time together at home, just the two of us. 

It's partially due to this brutal winter that keeps us chained to the house instead of traipsing to the park and sitting in the sun. Nina also is well beyond the nurse/sleep/nurse/sleep routine and requires a lot of attention, which is very mentally taxing. Like, oh, okay, let's pull out all the DVDs for the umpteenth time. I totally feel like cleaning that up again. And, yes, please scream bloody murder because I need to change your soiled diaper. Part of me gets it. This is what one year olds do. Another part of me is like, seriously, Nina? You're going to scream and stomp your foot into your own feces just because you're on the changing table? That's not very reasonable. 

She is not reasonable. She cannot be.

So, I become unreasonable. I can, however, be reasonable. And it's frustrating to slip into unreason so quickly these days.

We're visiting a local day are next week that we're hoping Nina will be able to attend at some point this summer. This is a win-win because she will get to have fun with other kids and get the influence of other adults and I'll get some much needed alone time and we'll save on our babysitting bills. Here's hoping. 

I've also weaned from pumping. This isn't altogether newsworthy but I had some trouble finding online resources for breastfeeding mothers of toddlers who work. The assumption is either you won't be breastfeeding a one-year-old, or, if you do, you are a stay-at-home mother who never pumped to begin with. After weeding through what little I could find online and talking to our pediatrician, here's how I weaned from the pump once Nina turned one:

1) I stopped pumping.

2) Nina gets water, soy milk (full fat and unsweetened, yo), yogurt and lots of food when I'm not home and this totally satisfies her.

3) I breastfeed when I'm around as per usual.

4) The end.

So, now you know.

Do yourself a favor. If you want to weep and feel inspired by a father who gave up his love of music for the love of his family and then hear how his muse became reawakened through parenting, not despite it, please listen to "The Provider's Guide to Quitting" at The Longest Shortest Time. Brian just texted that he felt like weeping listening to this episode and he's not a cryer or a podcast listener.

Here's to feeling inspired and being more of who we really are because we love our kids.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pictures Instead of Naps

Well, hello there. It's been a minute, hasn't it? This little chickpea below has turned one and our lives have been full with family time, work time, keeping house time, and, when lucky, sleep time. I'm just popping in to show you how this little one becomes less so everyday. I'm looking forward to a long nap so we can catch up. Until then...

Wooden puzzle was a first birthday gift from cousins. She loves it.
This amazing, Golden Girlsesque top was a gift from a dear friend, who also happens to be the midwife who caught Nina.
Eating seaweed instead of napping.

At The Little Gym in Narberth, PA. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

To Nina, On Your First Birthday

Dearest Nina,

HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY, Little Love!!! Your father and I and your Grandmom and Tata and Papi are all so thrilled to celebrate this milestone birthday with you. But, this isn't just a milestone for you, Nina. It's a milestone for all of us. I am feeling more emotional about your birthday than I've ever felt about any of mine.

I must admit, I've put off writing this letter to you. One, it is very hard to find the time to write between taking care of you, our family and our home and going to work just a few times a week. But, really, I think I have felt at once excited and a little sad about your first birthday. It goes without saying, but I'll say it: this year has gone by really fast. There have also been days and weeks that seemed to take a very long time to end. And, best of all, there have been moments that pass too fast, where I don't even notice the time passing until it is over, where I get lost in our world, transfixed by your emphatic laugh, the way you scrunch up your mouth to show off your eight teeth, mesmerized by your sweatysaltymilky smell, the one I breathe in after you've fallen asleep nursing before I walk across your room in the dark to lay you down to bed for the night. I kiss your damp curls and rub my nose across your plump cheeks and that is all that exists in the world for me. When I think about how much you've changed in such a short period of time and how much you will continue to grow through what I hope will be a long, happy life, I get a little melancholy. I don't want to miss anything. I want to be able to snuggle and smell you and cuddle for as long as is socially appropriate. One day I won't, and I'll just have the memories, and that's the sad part. The exciting part is the joy I feel watching you grow, helping you try new things and getting to know who you are.

This milestone forces me to look at how much has changed in one year. It is astounding. Your father and I looked through many of the pictures we took of you this year and I was blown away by how you changed from a tiny newborn to a plump infant to a slimmer almost-toddler. Your limbs have lengthened, your hair is curling (YAY!) and you are on the move. I turn my head for a minute and you've hightailed it out of your room to crawl on the dirty, slushy entryway floor I always neglect to sweep in this long, cold winter.

Nina, this year has been a joy. Of course, there have been stressful times as I adjust to being a mother and working in a new profession, but I love you so much and that is so amazing. It has been so much fun to watch you do each new thing you learn. In addition to you growing by leaps and bounds this year, so have I, and so has our family. The first few nights and weeks with you, I was full of trepidation and doubt as I learned how to be your mother. So, I also have grown from a rookie new mother to a stronger, more confident one alongside you. All I can promise you is that we will both continue to learn and grow.

On our first night together, I didn't even know how to feed you but I knew that I loved you. You found comfort in my arms after a long, hard day of being born. My birthday wish to you, Nina, is that you know that, no matter what, I will always try to provide comfort to you as I did on our first night together. And I will definitely always love and accept you. I will always cherish your birthday as the most profound day of my life and the start of a wonderful adventure.

Happy First Birthday, Nina. You are loved and adored beyond measure.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Pictures Instead of Naps

She loves dried seaweed from Trader Joe's. 

Dinner: sage and thyme roasted tofu, potatoes and onions with shredded Brussels sprouts with vegan mustard creme sauce (recipe from the Vedge cookbook).

Benji finds a stream of sun to warm himself in after romping in the snow. And there's been a lot of snow this season. 

Nina will be a year old in 11 short days. I'm looking forward to recording her birthday memories in this birthday journal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 

Behind the scenes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

11 Favorite Things at 11 Months

Nina is 11 months old today. This is a milestone day because, in just one short month, Nina will be one year old. A year of her life, a year of parenthood and the official marker of passing from babyhood into toddlerhood. I am going to say what every parent says: I can't believe this has all gone so fast.

Taking pictures and writing about my relationship to Nina is certainly a futile attempt for me to stop time, to hold onto these fleeting moments with the same success I would have in holding onto an ocean wave in my open palm. As I type this, moments are passing (Nina is napping), ones I'll never get to experience again. This makes me sad when I think about it. Yet there is tremendous joy in looking back, not only in this near-year of Nina's life, but in all the years of my life that made me into Nina's mom, all the events that lined up just so in order for me to be her mother. It's an honor.

My 11 Favorite Things About Nina

1. You seemingly take after your mama in this regard: you love books! You will pick anything from a board book to a catalog fated for the recycling heap over a toy any day. You are currently inconsolably frantic during diaper changes. You flail, scream and cry the millisecond you are laid onto the changing table. And then it dawned on me--give you a book. Instant calm.

I was keeping an eye on her while quickly snapping this picture. I would not let her fall, so no worries. 

2. You love to dance. Your father or I will hold you and bounce you around while we sing or listen to music and you stretch out your arms, smile and bop around to the beat. 

3. Yesterday, you crawled like a textbook baby for the first time. You've been belly crawling for months and you still butt scoot like no one's business but yesterday, you were on your hands and knees and moved forward, just like that. One day you do something, the next day you're doing something else. Just like that.

4. When we go out to run errands, like standing on a post office line for 45 minutes or shopping for work pants for your dad, you are so patient, even though I know you probably want to get out of your stroller and move around. Everyone smiles at you. You are a very pleasant errand partner.

5. One of your many current new skills is tilting your head in the same direction someone else tilts their head. Your father and I are endlessly amused by this parlor trick. You are just the cutest baby to ever walk the earth.

6. When your dad gets home from work, you are so happy. You outstretch your arms and shake your body while screaming, "Daaaaaaaahhhhhh!" This morning, when he was putting on his shoes before leaving for the day, you kept tilting your body towards him and didn't want him to stop holding you. 

7. You have fallen in love with bathtime. You play with your animal bath toys, splash around in your baby tub, babble and sing and, when it's time to get out, you usually scream.

8. When you wake up in the morning, you make the sweetest little coos and sounds. Your father and I still worry when we don't hear you make noise for a while (this never stops, does it?) so hearing your voice in the morning is the sweetest wake-up call. Of course, we appreciate it best at 7 AM as opposed to 5 AM. And middle of the night cries are a whole other matter...

9. You love to pat Benji. You especially love to pet his paws. He is less than thrilled when you aim for his tail so we keep an eye on all of that. 

10. Goodbye, purees! You love your finger foods and this makes clean-up so much easier (well, a little easier). You love peas, steamed broccoli, little tofu cubes, tempeh bacon, toasted sourdough (that's my girl!), sunflower butter right off the spoon, and so on. 

11. My favorite thing about you, Nina, is you. You are perfect, exactly as you should be. It is the joy of my life to get to know you and live with you and help guide you through this life. I always worry I could be a better mother, doing more for you. I feel very tired at the end of the day and wish for long stretches of sleep. Housecleaning is very last on the list and it may be years before I finish reading a book. I doubt myself. But I never doubt my love for you. My love for you is fierce, pure and endless. I am so, so happy I get to be your mom. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pictures Instead of Naps

Happy 2014!

The recent polar vortex meant no walks and that meant tear the room apart.

"Black Dahlia" lip tar by Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. A vegan, cruelty-free makeup line. 

I bought these with an Amazon gift card from my brother-in-law. I am a huge fan of Rachel Macy Stafford's blog, Hands Free Mama and, as far as I'm concerned, Throwing Muses is the only band worth listening to. 

Playing the xylophone and reading at once. 

Blueberry hands.

A nap on a lap after nursing.

Resolutions? Lose weight, gain money. Already failing miserably at both. Really, I resolve to hold my own with the toddler who will reside with us when Nina turns one on February 15th. That's more than enough.