Monday, December 31, 2012

On Nursing and Weaning

If I had to coin my parenting style, I'd use the word "natural." That's not necessarily "crunchy" or "attachment", but rather that I tend to let my instincts and the needs of my individual child take the lead. For the most part (here's where I state that I completely eschew this theory when it comes to things like modern medicine and vaccination), I really believe that the human species has evolved over millions of years thanks in part to following our natural instincts, and that we should not try to veer too much from the urges which feel so instinctual in our parenting - after all, they tend to be there for a reason. Parenting is a pretty primal activity, and babies especially, with no 21st century modern influences, seem to be such mirror images of their ancient selves. (pause to ask myself, "am I even making sense here?")

So, on to the topic at hand.This tendency I have to veer toward a more ancestral, evolutionary approach to having and raising babies is, I think, one of the reasons I have so loved and latched on (pun intended! ha!) breastfeeding, and committed myself to allowing any nursing relationship I have with a nursling to come to a natural stopping point. It just feels right to me.

I mentioned in one of my last posts how I think Ellie is pretty much weaned now. This is actually less bittersweet for me than I anticipated it would be - I fully expected weaning to be something very emotional for me when the time came, and when it wasn't, it highlighted for me that the relationship had probably come to a point of natural conclusion. Likely this is because I'm pregnant, and I really have no more milk to give. I refuse to feel guilty, or like I'm ending the relationship prematurely, when my body has literally given all it has to give. She's strong and healthy, and has made the transition well, so I've pushed any guilt I could possibly feel aside, and am instead focused on celebrating this transition in our lives.  The other night though, as I was rocking her before bed, she asked to nurse (as she's been doing on occasion since we stopped nursing). I offered, and instead of latching, she simply laid her head against my skin and closed her eyes. It was such a sweet and fulfilling moment for me and it almost felt like everything we had been doing for 19 months was paying off right then and there. In that moment, I could literally feel the strength of the bond which we had built in our hundreds of hours attached in that form. Here she was seeking out physical comfort in the same way she had been nurtured for all these days. Gratifying doesn't really begin to cover it - despite the fact that she is no longer receiving my milk, she is still seeking the physical closeness that she wants and needs in the same way, and I can certainly continue to provide that.

The degree of which I fell in love with breastfeeding kinda surprises me. It was  something that I planned to do without giving it much thought at all. It seems to be the natural way to feed babies, and after reading horror stories of how hard it can be for some women while I was pregnant with Ellie, I just decided to jump in without over-planning it too much. I knew I would be in good hands at the hospital (they've got a great Lactation Consultant support network), and beyond that, I knew there would be resources available if I needed them. Seattle's a great place to build a strong breastfeeding relationship - I never experienced any negativity while nursing in public (no cover) or even talking about our (relatively) extended relationship. Needless to say, she was born, and before I knew it, the nurse was helping us get set up on our first time feeding. (In hindsight, I do wish we hadn't waited so long. I think she was at least an hour old when she first latched, and it looking at the pictures and videos of our first hour, she's obviously exhibiting signs of being ready to latch. I was just clueless and exhausted and had frankly, forgotten about the importance of getting her to the breast ASAP. Next time I hope to do this right away). 

For us, nursing wasn't entirely without difficulty, and the real trials came when I was working and she was demanding more than I could keep up with. It took some serious effort to boost supply during this period of time - I was eating a TON, drinking Mother's Milk Tea, taking Fenugreek (smelling like maple syrup), eating Oatmeal for breakfast, increasing my pumping sessions, drinking a beer at night, drinking gallons of water, etc. Once a month my supply would plummet and I'd worry about the ramifications of this, but we'd pull through (just barely). I'd given away most of my freezer stash by then, so we didn't have a lot of backup, and I'd ask her care providers to ration the bottles and feed extra solids. Thankfully, when I left my job, any supply issues I had seemed to dissipate.

I started thinking about how long we'd continue the relationship, and quickly decided that I couldn't be the one to pull the plug. Just thinking about refusing my baby made me sad, so I decided that I wouldn't, and as long as she'd ask, I'd give. I loved that my body could do something for her long after she was a part of it. When she was sick, not only could I give comfort, but I could give antibodies too, which somehow my body could create specifically to attack the particular illness she was battling. I could hydrate her. Before she'd had any other foods, I would marvel at the fact that all the cells in her body were nurtured and created by mine. 

I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this. I'm definitely feeling a bit nostalgic and thankful right now, and so incredibly lucky that we were able to run with this. At the halfway point in this pregnancy, I cannot wait for the moment where (hopefully, god-willing), this baby emerges and is placed on my chest, and we can start the heart-breaking (in a good way), emotional and powerful journey all over again. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Just because

Eleanor's learning how to have friends. Although, I think we still need to teach her a thing or two about boundaries. :) (thanks Kelli for the pics!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

18 weeks

Here we are at 18 weeks, and I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to get fat. Not pregnant fat, but fat fat, because apparently, that's what my body does when it tries to grow babies. Luckily, it has *so far* done it's job with the baby growing, so I really can't complain about the fat (although, I hear that it's a lot harder to lose the second time around. Oh well). Last time I outweighed by 6 foot tall husband by probably 20 lbs by the time delivery came; hopefully I can keep that number down by at least 10 lbs this time around. :)

Other notable things of late: 

-I seem to get all the non-scary (I suppose the word "scary" is debatable) side effects and symptoms. Meaning, nothing that seems to be life threatening to myself or this baby, but certainly pain-in-the-rear symptoms. Including: varicose veins which rival my father's (and by that I mean all up and down my leg and snakelike), extended vomiting (well past that lovely 12 week mark when it's "supposed" to go away... I count it a blessing that it's only a couple times a week now), restless legs, headaches, heartburn, massive amounts of fatigue, stretch marks, etc. 

-I'm not the kind of pregnant lady that dresses cute. I wear my husband's pajama pants, sweatshirts and tshirts around the house, and my outside wardrobe consists of leggings and some top which hopefully a) covers my rear and b) is weather appropriate. I suppose if I was working this might be different, but being home with an active kid coupled with my extreme laziness fatigue, and well, I just don't care.

-I also don't care about things that normal mom's-to-be seem to be focused on. I'm not sure if this speaks to being level-headed, or lazy, or not being "mom enough" but things like: decorating the nursery, following the "rules" when it comes to food/drink, genetic testing, etc just doesn't interest me. I'll prepare for this baby in my own way: wash the onesies and receiving blankets, clean and install the carseat, figure out the diaper situation and prepare for that, and line up a sitter for Ellie for delivery day. In the meantime, I'll eat whatever I want, enjoy a small glass of wine here and there, and eschew blood tests and ultrasounds in lieu of trying to relax. I'm wondering if this kind of nonchalant attitude is a result of being detached from the pregnancy and is indicative of a greater problem, or is just a result of being a second time mom (although - I didn't do a whole lot more than this the first time around). 

-There have been a lot of facebook announcements about new babies lately. While I may feel detached from this pregnancy, I am SO, SO excited for the big day. Can't wait.

-I had my first real emotional breakdown the other day. The tears came and could not be stopped, no matter how hard I tried. For HOURS. While the situation which triggered the tears was real and valid, the ongoing nature of the tears was obviously hormonal in nature. What a trip to experience that kind of emotional outpouring. I'm not sure I've ever had that experience, and I could go a long, long time without experiencing it again. Being completely out of control of my emotions is new to me.

-I'm pretty sure I finally weaned El. She wasn't getting much, if anything, and was only nursing once or twice a day, and I was finally ready. While I didn't meet my ultimate goal of letting her self-wean, I'm completely at peace with how it played out. She's asked to nurse a couple times over the last five days or so, and I let her, but then she's not interested (probably because she isn't getting any milk). It gives me comfort feeling the peace with this decision - my fear was that we'd wean and I'd end up regretting it shortly after, and luckily I've had no regrets yet. 

-I'm huge. HUGE! I'll take a picture this weekend when I'm all dressed up for our annual Christmas party, but man, do I look well into my third trimester.

That's it for the updates. :) Trying to be better about documenting this pregnancy! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Let's Go There Together

I'm an anxious person. I've never done well away from my family (and I don't really mean when we're separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. I mean when we're not all physically together in the same room). It was tough to be a kid of divorced parents. I was always afraid one of them would die while I was at the other's house. That kind of anxiety doesn't ease up when one grows up and the reality of the world sets in. After 9/11 I was always, always looking for the nearest exit. I still do this, almost every time I got,  somewhere. I mentally seek out "safe" places to hide and try to have an exit plan. I've yet to go to a movie after this summer's shooting in Aurora, and I'll be honest - having tickets to The Hobbit for opening weekend this coming Sunday (like I do), stresses me out. My heart will be pounding the whole time I'm in the theater. 

I left work partially because of my anxieties. Being away from my baby, my flesh and blood, was literally paralyzing some of the time. Every single night for the past 19 months, without fail, before I give in to sleep I lay awake thinking about terrible things happening that night and how I could rescue my girl. I imagine bad guys invading the house from different entrances, and figure out where I'd go to escape. I envision earthquakes and mentally calculate how long it would take for me to get to her before a tree falls on her crib. I'm positive I'd beat the force of gravity. I even think about hurricanes or flash floods or nuclear attacks and try to prepare for how I'd handle those things. 

Today in Connecticut, parents are having to live every parent's absolute worst nightmare. People all over the world are watching the news and crying. Normally, I'm glued to the TV in the wake of a tragedy. Today, I simply can't. I'm so heavy hearted with grief and sadness, and I can barely see straight with anger. I'm angry at that shooter, but I'll admit it: I'm irate with the government today, with Congress and with our President who have yet to even discuss gun control in the wake of this horribly violent year. And I'm angry with our citizens, with my neighbors and friends and family, who continually say "now is not the time." The White House has released a statement saying "today is not the day for gun control debate."

When is the time? 

When will we not be in the wake of a tragedy? Certainly not yesterday, when we were fresh off a shooting spree in a mall in Portland. Today is too late.

Call me tacky to bring this up on the internet today. But children died today and it's time to address this issue. (Along with others, such as mental health care).

Guns are designed to kill. Yep, tragedies would still happen without such easy access, but isn't it our responsibility to each other to make it more difficult to allow these things to happen? Rocks aren't designed to kill, nor are steak knives, nor are vehicles. Guns are. And almost every mass homicide this year in the United States involved a handgun. The US has twice the murder rate as the rest of the first world. 

More people having access to guns will not lower the violence or these incidents. Remember when four police officers were killed in a coffee shop by a man with a gun? Police officers, men and women trained in shooting and each with multiple guns on their body, and they could not stop the attack or alter the outcome. Yesterday in Michigan a law was passed allowing guns in schools, churches and daycares.  Is this the world we really live in? Where Congress will bring a record number of bills to the table in one year attempting to restrict a woman's control over her own body, but not one SINGLE bill or even attempted discussion on gun control? Where we'll debate the damned fiscal cliff without budging one inch, pointing fingers and acting like children on both sides while almost an entire classroom of actual children is murdered by what is reported to be "at least a hundred rounds" fired by a legal .223 caliber rifle days before Christmas?

I'm not really a gun control advocate. I'm an anti-massacre activist. And I suspect you are too.

Signing off to be with my babies.

Friday, December 7, 2012

slow mornings

Since I've been pregnant, mornings seem to creep by at a snails pace. I'm always too tired and sick to do much of anything, so as a result Ellie watches episode after episode of whatever's on PBS (or, her "D's" as she lovingly refers to her Baby Einstein DVD collection). I'm 16 1/2 weeks along now, and even though I'm still sick, I can finally stomach a couple ounces of coffee in the morning, and it definitely seems to help shake the fogginess (which is only getting worse with the lovely December weather).

So here we are, Ellie snacking on whatever I can pull together for breakfast, me trying to focus my eyes on the morning news updates on the computer, the sound of a D in the background, and it's somehow just perfect. Luckily, she's gotten used to this, so doesn't protest too much. I keep telling myself "this too shall pass" and someday she'll no longer be watching the ungodly amount of television that she's been watching lately, but deep down, I wonder if that's actually true. Let's be real: my parenting life is only going to get more difficult before it gets any easier.

(Just paused to run to the bathroom, heaving. Came back to find Ellie drinking my lukewarm coffee straight out of my mug. Gross for both of us).

We've had a pretty stressful month around here, but I'm finally starting to slowly get into the holiday spirit. I figure this is the last year I can do totally bare bones minimal for El before she wakes up to the fact that Christmas is obviously all about presents, and more = better. For now, she's going to be content getting crayons, sippy cups and big girl training pants from Santa. (speaking of undies, she's totally asking to be potty trained. She's ready and I am so not).

(Pause again when she comes up to me for a snuggle, saying "mama!" as she leans her head into my chest. It would be so sweet (it really is so sweet), if I didn't quickly realize that she's got a massive diaper which needs changing. Coffee apparently works for toddlers too! Change diaper, run back to bathroom, heaving. Gross, again).

This pregnancy is simultaneously creeping and flying by. I'm huge, which makes me feel way further along than I am, but am still pretty functional. Bending over all the time and lifting up a 25 lb toddler seems to be wearing me down a lot faster than my almost 17 weeks of gestating would otherwise, and by the end of the day I am so incredibly sore and exhausted. I'm still quite nauseous and still throwing up, which is lovely (and normal for me), and starving all the time (which is also normal for me. Now I remember why I gained so much weight last time!). The sad thing is, I'm trying desperately to connect with this little fetus and seem to be having a hard time. My mind is otherwise preoccupied a lot of the day, and ultimately, when I think about the reality of having children, I'm pretty terrified. I think about how exhausting it must be, how little sleep I will get, how I will never, ever have even a moment of rest again. It's intimidating, and makes me wish I could stay pregnant forever - despite how much pregnancy and I disagree with each other. Rationally I know that when the day comes and this little one makes his/her appearance, my love for it will blossom out of thin air, and I will love it just as much as I love Ellie, but I cannot fathom how that's possible. It simply isn't, because I could never, ever love anything the way I love this girl next to me. So for now, I trust the words of all the mothers of 2+ who have come before me, and choose to believe that these feelings will come, and they will knock my socks off.

Okay. Gonna try to get this day started. Maybe a little second breakfast, maybe even a shower and then we're off to find compression nylons, which is just as fabulous as it sounds. :)