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Posts tagged ‘reflection’

Dr. Booblove Or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love Nursing (in my own time)

Before I had K, even though I had decided to nurse, I wasn’t sure I bought into all the hype about the magic of breastfeeding. “It’s so much bonding,” they said. “Your baby will make eye contact with you and all will be right with the world,” they said. “The heavens will open up, angels will sing, and you will be forever grateful that you have this moment with your child,” they said. Okay, maybe they didn’t literally say all of that, but it was close enough and despite the fact that I witnessed the wonderful nursing bond between my friend and her child, I was not completely convinced that it was going to be that good.

And the first days – hell, the first weeks – proved me right. K had a decent latch and was an eager enough eater but this was. not. fun. And it certainly didn’t feel like bonding.  It felt like a breast attack that I was faciliating by carefully lining up mouth to nipple, “making a cheeseburger,” and helping my baby go at it. And for every battle won through successfully feeding my child, there was another melee on the cusp of commencement. I would get “a break” and what seemed like minutes later C would be saying, “I think she’s hungry.” And while I would like to believe that I always responded sweetly, “Of course, my darling, let me provide my precious child with the best nourishment I can,”  I may have sometimes said “are you sure?” or sighed or – on rare and stressed occasion – made a mooing sound as I trudged to the baby, prepared for whatever might come. And sometimes what came was simple and delightful but during the first weeks it was more often challenging and disheartening as the baby and I struggled to get it right.

“If you’re doing it right, it won’t hurt,” they said.  But even with a lactation consultant and doula approved latch, even with changing positions or putting my feet up or nursing more or less frequently, even though my baby was sleeping and gaining weight and clearly thriving, it hurt.  Sometimes (often) to the point of tears, through which I would gently talk to K, who might also be crying, and give us both a pep talk.  “We’re learning,” I said, “We’re both just learning. It’s okay.”  And I tried to make myself believe it.
And over time, it was okay.  Not great, just okay.  After the third or fourth week, the pain pretty much went away.  Not long after, K became more adept at finding my breast and I became much better at figuring out the positioning that worked for us both, recognizing a good latch, and responding more quickly to her needs.  Without the frantic pace of newborn feeding and the confusion about how to make it happen, I was able to experiment to see what worked best for us.  She gained weight like a champion, which made me feel good about my ability to provide.  And as I headed back to work after 12 weeks, I felt the loss of those daytime bonding moments, particularly as they were replaced with the cold sterility of the pump.
With the busyness of work and long days and long nights, I soon entered a period of ambivalence about nursing.  On one hand, I liked my connection to my child and the uniqueness of our relationship, particularly in a two-mom household in which we don’t naturally fall into socially defined neat and tidy special roles.  This was something for me and the baby.  On the other hand, I wished that C could partake once in a while, particularly at bedtime and in the middle of the night, particularly on nights where sleeping didn’t come so easily to her, particularly after nights when I was up several times and C rolled over in the morning and asked, “Did the baby wake up last night?”  The ambivalence only increased when we taught K the sign for milk and I felt more acutely both my strong and wonderful ability to provide for her and her desperate desire for something only I could provide.
“It was really hard for me to give up,” they said.  And while I had occasionally seen glimpses of how that could be, I mostly didn’t believe it would hold true for me in any significant way.  That is, until the past month or so.  Whether it’s because we are nursing less or because we are nursing better or because she is communicating more or because I miss her so when I’m at work or because it’s just so obvious how quickly her babyhood is flying past, something shifted and I find myself loving our time together.  I love the way she looks for me.  How she snuggles close to me.  How her little hands open and close enthusiastically when I say the word milk.  I love the way, in the middle of the night, she becomes a newborn again right before my eyes, her eyes closed as she finds her way to the breast, her body calm and still.  The way in this stage of head bumps and falls and those sharp silences before equally sharp cries, I can comfort her when nothing else will.  I love that my fiercely independent, determined baby is still, ultimately, my baby, and even as I celebrate her movement toward toddlerhood, I cling to the moments of pure baby, recognizing just how brief they are.
Is nursing still a pain sometimes?  Yes, now and then.  Do I sometimes want a break?  Occasionally, but not nearly as often.  Will I be happy to get to a place in nursing where we still have the bond without the need for the pump?  Definitely.
And were they right?  Not entirely, for many reasons, but close enough.  I am grateful for this time, I will miss it, and I will remember fondly the fleeting moments when my baby fit so snugly in arms… and then when she fit less – and more – all at the same time.
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7 months

Between today and tomorrow, since there is no 29th of February (as someone with an affinity for numbers and days passed, it’s hard for me to imagine being or having a leap year baby).  It’s also hard right now for me to imagine have a SEVEN MONTH OLD… we’re creeping toward a year so so quickly, it’s mind boggling.

Food

  • Describe what and how your child eats: We have added broccoli, peas, spinach, and applesauce to her repertoire and she has also tried pickles when we have been out to eat.  As long as she isn’t too hungry (which leads her to prefer milk), she loves eating.  She likes being in her high chair, playing with her toys and then eating, and when she wants more food, she bangs the high chair with her right hand (we’ll have to break her of that eventually).  If we go out to eat and there is not food for her, she is constantly trying to get our food (even when there are distracting toys or other things with which she could be playing – she wants the food).  She can feed herself (and is getting better at using her thumb to grasp items) but she often prefers being spoon fed because, as it has all along, it provides her with more food at a faster rate.  We are still only feeding her one meal a day to have fun with solids… they have not become replacements for milk just yet.

Nursing continues to go pretty well.  I have been able to keep up with K’s demands and she seems to have evened out a bit in terms of how much milk she takes each day.  Some weeks, I am able to get a little into the freezer stash (last week was a banner week for that) and others, I’m just getting by.  The weekend after I was sick (and did not pump for three straight days while getting up and hoping not to get sick on the baby while feeding her), I pretty much decimated my meager freezer supply, so I have been pretty diligent about trying to get it back up (though I’m still “lazy” sometimes).  K is adorable while she nurses and if she hears anything, she’s pulling off my breast to look at it, flinging her body backwards so she can look and see and then using all of her momentum to fling herself back at my chest.  Despite two teeth, she is managing well not biting (we’ve had a couple close calls); her bigger issue is that she likes to grab the skin on my breast and on my arm, which can be painful enough and becomes even more so when she has claws for nails.  We’ve been working on the phrase “gentle” to help with that and she seems to be getting that “gentle” at least means unclench your little hands 🙂

Sleep

  • Where and how much does your child sleep? In the crib, though for a solid couple of weeks this month she was very congested and we had her sleep in the rocker, which is inclined and also a little more cozy.  We transitioned her back to the crib recently and she has been doing well.  K does not roll around and will sleep on her back all night, but the other night we went ahead and tried stomach sleeping and, while she is still up once a night, she is so. much. better. at going back to sleep and self-soothing (including kicking one foot up and down on the mattress to get herself back to sleep… we hear a gentle thud. thud. thud. coming from her room).  I am still nursing her right at bedtime, though I am able to put her down semi-awake with a fair amount of success and don’t feel like she requires the breast at bedtime.
  • Does your child have any sleep problems?  We still don’t have a ton of predicitability.  K will generally go down between 9 and 9:30, but is sometimes up again at midnight and sometimes not, sometimes wakes up at 1 or 2 or 3 and sometimes not.  She does sleep in a fair amount (it’s almost 7:40 and she’s still asleep), but not so much when you consider 12 hours would be 9 am.  She does seem to require (or demand) the breast in the middle of the night and if she has been wimpering and C goes to soothe her, she begins to scream angrily.  Fortunately, she goes back to sleep quickly most night with nursing.  She is doing better at her naps at daycare and sleeps in the crib.  She has not used the swing to go to sleep at home and – that I’m aware of – at daycare for a while.

Physical Development and Health

  • What is your child’s current size/weight:  She was 24 inches long and almost 17 lbs at her 6 month check-up in the beginning of February.  It seems to us that she’s lengthened since then, but who knows.
  • What about pee and poop? With more solids, we’ve gotten more solid poop, which has been fantastic because it means less diaper spraying and more just dumping into the toilet.  The most fascinating poop so far was after she ate spinach – it came out looking a lot like clumps of spinach.  We are working now on finding a good cloth naptime diaper as she seems to leak every day with longer naps.
  • How many teeth?  TWO!  The first came in in the beginning of February and the second was right behind it.  They are coming in more by the day and are super adorable!
  • What, if any, health issues are apparent: Ongoing congestion which she kicks for a while and then has again.

Activity and Motor Development

  • Describe your child’s gross and fine motor skills (how she moves around, grabs things, etc.): Still sitting and sitting well enough to be able to lean over and grab things and get back to a sitting position.  She also will lean over enough to get onto her tummy and seems to be doing that more purposefully (rather than just falling into that position).  She can maneuver herself backwards and around in a circle but has not done a whole lot of forward motion (though she has done a lot of forward reaching).  If there were rings tied to the ground that she could grab and use to pull herself forward, I’m sure she would do that (and would be great at it).  She rolls from front to back when she finishes with time on her tummy but does not often roll from back to front.  She can feed herself much of the time (and tries to use the spoon to do it as well) and is getting better at using her thumb to grasp items.  She has learned the sign for “milk” (responding enthusiastically when I make it and/or say milk) and has started to make attempts to sign it herself (opening and closing her little hands) when she wants some.  She can grasp your hands and pull herself to a standing position and she will put all of her weight on her feet.
  • What can your child do for himself? Feed herself, grab items that she wants, manuever herself to get items, bend over and sit back up.

Language and Communication

  • Describe your child’s language abilities: New this month: sign language!  She knows the sign for milk (as mentioned above) and has started signing it to us in a more simplistic manner.  She has also made the sound “mi-” when she is wanting milk but it’s hard to tell if that’s intentional or my wishful thinking. She says occasional consonant/vowel sounds but has also very determinedly been trying to blow raspberries when you blow them at her, making a bvvvbvbvvv sound after scrunching up her face and putting her lips together.  Super adorable.  I am trying to translate that to MMMMAAAAAAA but no luck yet 😉  K does continue to sing in the car from time to time.

Social Development and Environment

  • Can your child follow simple directions? No, but she does respond to her name.  And to the word “milk” 🙂
  • How does your child react to family outings and visitors? She still likes everyone and she smiles super big at anyone at the store who gives her attention.  That being said, she also often looks to C or I for affirmation before engaging with many people.  She will be held by anyone still with little problem (though she has more preference for C or me)
  • Does your child play with other children?  Yes, with the other children at daycare.
  • In what ways, if any, does your child behave aggressively toward you, his siblings, his playmates, or others?  Not applicable (yet)
  • Does your child have a strong preference for one parent? She prefers me in the middle of the night, hands down, and will scream angrily if C tries to take care of her.  She also prefers me anytime she wants milk (obviously).  And maybe other times, too, as tonight, when she showed clear preference for C, there was a lot of exictement (from C)

Toys and Play

  • List your child’s favorite toys and describe how she plays with them: She likes her shape sorter – picking up the shapes and shoving them in her mouth, putting them in the sorter (without the sorter part), putting them in the sorter (with the sorter part) with support.  She likes tags and strings on sweatshirts.  She likes the metal bowl that she and I “play drums” on.  She also likes her ocean friends toy (which signs some truly obnoxious songs), her books, and the little penguin that we often sit on her high chair.  She enjoys the top ring of her ring stacker still, as well and the spice jar that I have in a box I made for her.
  • What are your child’s favorite games? Peek-a-boo and “Where is Thumbkin” are two favorites (she begins looking for Thumbkin as soon as you start singing the song).  She likes any kind of “parents repeat after me” games, like squealing and us squealing back or banging and us banging back.  She likes hitting her hand on her high chair tray.
  • Does your child have a lovey? Not a particular one, though she does have a stuffed monkey that she really likes to play with.

Feelings and Moods

  • Describe your child’s range of feelings (comfort, discomfort, pleasure, joy, anger, affection, fear, hostility, depression/sadness) and how she expresses them: Lots of joy and excitement (as evidenced by smiles, squeals of laughter, and foot kicking).  She screams when she is upset, moans when she is bored, screams differently if she is hurt or negatively surprised.
  • What is likely to upset your child?  Sometimes when I walk out of the room.  When C tries to soothe her first in the middle of the night.  When she’s hungry and doesn’t get her food right away.
  • Describe how your child copes with discomfort, frustration, or other distress: Crying, moaning, nursing.
  • What makes her feel better? Being picked up, talked to, distracted; nursing

Books

What books does your child enjoy? All of them still!  She has some sing-songy rhyme ones that she seems especially fond of, but mostly whatever we like, she likes.

Highlight of the Month

I love that she is responding to the word milk and trying to sign it herself – communication will open a new world to us (even as it makes our world more complicated).  I love how enthusiastic she is at different times throughout the day and how happy she often is in the morning, hanging out in bed talking to herself and beaming from ear to ear when one us enters the room.  Her fierce determination to get what she wants makes me proud and her snuggling up to me melts my heart.  I like when she bangs on her high chair – the first couple times she did it, she seemed surprised by herself  and now she seems so certain.  I like that she is becoming more of who she is and I love spending each day with her helping her discover just who that might be 🙂

Click

Early on after K’s birth, I wrote about bonding and how, unlike so many of the blogs and stories I’ve read, I was not so immediately head-over-heels-omg-in-love with K the second she was born, or even shortly afterward.  I liked her, loved her, would do anything for her, but very disappointingly and somewhat embarrassingly for me, did not seem to have the ferocity of emotion that so many others describe.

I wrote about how our bonding and my feelings were growing over time.  How in the six weeks or so she had existed at the time of that post, I was feeling more connected than ever.  How I imagined that our bond would just grow stronger and stronger.

And the bond has grown stronger, but sometime in the past week or so something seems to have clicked.  Maybe it was making it through her being a little bit sick.  Maybe it was an amazing few days we had together. Maybe it’s that she is interacting with the world – and with me – with such determination these days, that there is a greater reciprocity in our relationship than there has ever been before.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’m suddenly feeling it in a way that I have not felt before; suddenly the words that others have said about their babies right from the start ring true for me.  It’s a feeling in my chest, a joy and also an anxiety, a lightness and also a weight as I identify more and more as a mother, as K’s mother, as her protector and her champion.

I feel stronger than ever.  And more inadequate than ever as I realize that any inadequacy or defectiveness I felt before is overshadowed by the terrible feeling that no matter what I do, I don’t think I will ever be able to do enough for this little person.

The Memory Keeper

While I revel in my new little person with her ever-budding personality, I am frequently struck by the fact that while I will cherish these times forever, she will have no idea  – except through pictures, videos, momentos, and stories – that these times existed, much like I have no recollection of many of the people, places, and events of my own early childhood.

I am my daughter’s memory keeper, up until and including when she begins to make memories for herself.

It is up to me to record the  most salient moments that will translate to the stories of that first bath or first time out or first time eating.  The out-of-town visitors during her first months of life.  Her adoption day and the close friends and family who came to the courthouse on a workday to celebrate C’s new relationship with her.  The flight to meet her great-grandparents for the first time, the way her great-grandmother, a long-time lover of the written word, made it her mission to get from the car to the back of the bookstore to purchase her a pile of books, the way both great-grandparents cuddled and sang to her.  Her first Christmas, full of love and presents and matching pajama pants.  The way she began to really see Wonderdog and reach for him.  The way she began to really see us and reach for us.

It will be my job to tell her just how enthusiastic her grandma was that she was born and that she lived so close.  How she talked about “missing the baby” even if it had only been a few days without seeing her.  How her grandpa held her so gently and sang to her and got on the floor to play with her even as he made complaints of physical pain in other areas of his life.  How we saw her grandfather more often in her first weeks of life than we had seen him altogether in the several months before and how her nana flew up as soon as she was able.

We take so many pictures and it is likely that some of the people in those pictures won’t be around when she is old enough to ask who they are.  Friends may move (or drift) away, family members may die.  And of course we will tell her about her past, but I am sad to think that she will not be able to recognize these precious times and relationships for what they are, probably any more than I am able to recognize what my relationships were like at that age with the elders who loved and cared for me.

I know that on some level, sad for me but healthy for her, she won’t be overly concerned with these ghosts of relationships.  She will be living dynamically in her own world, having benefited from this time and this love generally but not needing to live in or remember it specifically.  That being said, and honestly perhaps because she cannot keep any of the memories for me and I want them all forever, I am particularly conscious of recording moments that seem significant, moments demonstrating the fascination with and love for K as a baby.  I have videos of C and I talking to her and about her, videos of her grandparents and great-grandparents playing with her, reading to her, talking to her, singing with her.  I have videos trying to capture the essence of who she is at any given moment – “singing” in the car, splashing in the tub, making her determined face as she attempts to complete some push-ups or grab a toy or eat her food.

Because one day she might want to know.

And every day I want to relive.

I didn’t write when the shooting in Connecticut happened because I did not know what to say.

I still do not know what to say.

I do not believe that you must be a parent to have any number of feelings regarding the events that day. But for me personally, I do not believe I would have had quite the same strong reaction… of shock, fear, horror, protectiveness… had this happened before K.  And even if I did at the time, I do not believe I would still be having so many aftershocks of all of those feelings.

The idea of K ever being by herself anywhere without someone I completely trust to keep her almost as safe as I would frightens me more than ever.

I see K, five years old, her favorite shirt, a tiny backpack that we chose together in September, blonde hair in barrettes, the big blue eyes that I fell in love with almost at first sight.  I see myself saying goodbye, sending her to school, proud of her little mind and its potential.

And now I, lover of education that I am, am scared to send her to school.

It’s more than that one day, that one situation that has me nervous.  It’s all the horror of which I’ve ever been made aware.  We were at the movie theater, C and I, and I wondered what would happen if we were killed, how K’s life would be.  I am in bed at night and I consider what the fastest route to my baby would be from work should bombs drop / terrorists attack / life change in an instant with no warning.  I wonder what life would be like if something should happen to C or what C would do if something should happen to me.

As a child, I used to be scared when I would hear news of wars or predictions of future problems on television.  As an adult, I had mostly grown out of those fears but now I find that I am again scared of the future.  Not just of violence but of environmental damage, overpopulation, my baby no-longer-my baby navigating a scary new world where I cannot protect her.  I am scared of the speed of technology, the decline of paper-and-ink books, the loss of imagination outside of a screen.  I fluctuate between wanting to give my child the world I knew – twilight games of hide-and-seek, summer gardens, winter snowman, libraries full of learning – and wanting to prepare her for the world she will know, a world that I fear will be much colder, much more lonely.

I have always been a “let’s make the world a better place” kind of girl.  And I still am.  But I am simultaneously overwhelmed with just how much needs to happen for the world to get better, especially when I read the news, especially when I see the terrible acts humans wage against one another. It’s enough thought stress to want to curl up and hide.  Or just focus on each day as its own unique gift, blocking out the bad stuff that could happen.  And to avoid being paralyzed by fear, focusing on each day individually is important.  But to avoid leaving behind a world in which my daughter faces the harsh realities those fears foretell, focusing on the bigger picture is important, making changes is important.

Now to figure out where to begin.

 

Second Post: Goodbye 2012 (22 weeks)

There is SO MUCH TO SAY with so little time to say it.

2012 was a fantastic year for us.  And a challenging year.

We spent just over the first half looking forward to the baby.  The first couple months included ongoing nausea and vomiting for me on an almost daily basis — it boggles my mind to imagine just how long I felt so bad.  We announced the baby to the world in February and all was well until March, when we had a scare that something very serious could be wrong.  Made it through that okay (and just in time for a trip to see family) and spent the next several months in high gear, preparing as much as we could for childbirth and the aftermath, getting the nursery together (building a closet! painting! hanging light fixtures!) as well as enjoying our time as a family of two + Wonderdog.  Despite super hot heat, swollen ankles, and fifty new pounds of weight, I thoroughly enjoyed the last weeks of my pregnancy and spent the day before giving birth on a walk, at a child’s birthday party in a park, and shopping.

The end of July brought the beginning of our new reality.  Labor was fast, intense, and unbelievable (I still marvel at times that that was me, that I was that pregnant, that I had the baby, and that I am a mother — STILL — I sometimes look at pictures in amazement, like it was a time from a different reality, which I suppose it was).  We had a hospital birth and outside of some trouble we all had sleeping, I found the hospital to be just fine and a nice break between the world that was and the world that was becoming.

When we got home on the very last day of July, we started a whole new set of adventures.  We functioned better than ever as a team – I would nurse, C would change diapers (and do so much more those first weeks – like pretty much everything while I got the hang of nursing).  We visited with families and introduced K to her world (and Wonderdog to K).  We made it from the hospital to home, from home to nearby places, from nearby places to distant places.  C went back to work after 6 amazing weeks, my relationship with the baby got deeper, and just before I went back to work, C officially adopted K so there is no doubt in anyone’s (legal) mind where K belongs.  K stared daycare and thrived and I returned to work and made the best of it, enjoying it some days, longing for my baby on others.  I contemplated nursing, working, marriage.

We celebrated the holidays, holding three of the four gatherings that we usually hold from mid-October until today (and we were grateful that we have held these gatherings so many times before that we were able to incorporate K in instead of  trying to create a gathering AND manage the baby).  We took our first set of flights with the baby and agreed that four months old was the perfect flying time.  I took tons and tons and tons of pictures and videos, recording each moment for K so that she can see herself with her family and see their love for her even if relationships change, even if people die.  She celebrated her first Christmas, opening presents if we tore a small piece for her.  I felt simultaneously happy and nostalgic, recognizing that these moments are so precious and so distinct from all the other moments we will have with K in her entire life.

Last night, rather than gathering with friends and preparing a large meal (and cleaning up after it) as we usually do, we ended up at my parent’s house, having an amazing meal, watching television, and just relaxing.  And it really was so relaxing.  When the ball dropped (which has never been such an amazing thing to C and I), K was in the den with her grandparents, asleep in grandma’s arms.  A good beginning to what will hopefully be a great year of growth, development, and discovery for us all.

First Post

If I could take a picture of today with a goal of capturing a wish for 2013, it would be of me, C, K, and Wonderdog taking a long afternoon nap in our bed following a morning of brunch in our home with our parents, games being played, and books being read.

The winter holidays are always a time of looking back and looking ahead, but it strikes me more than ever that each passing day is so different than the one before it with a baby in the home and that each passing year will bring its own joys and challenges.  Next New Year might be delightful, but it will not include the snuggly, pretty helpless baby-hood of my first born nursing herself to sleep as she lays between her mama and me.  I am more grateful than ever for these times, these moments because each one truly is the last of its kind.