Zero Weeks – This Struggle IS Real

I am so proud of this mama, Regan Long, and this movement!  Paid Family Leave is essential for moms and babies, for families all around. I was “fortunate” enough to get some paid leave after I gave birth, via unplanned c-section no less, to our daughter.  My husband deployed within three weeks after the birth; I went back to work after three months, receiving only a percentage of my full time salary during that time.  He was gone for another 5 months.  It would have been IDEAL for us, if I could have stayed home with our daughter, avoided the incredibly hefty bill for daycare, and not have struggled daily to find a balance between being a new mom, a full-time working mom,  and a solo-parent during those 5 months.  Financially, that was not an option.  Every single day I dropped our daughter off at daycare, I had the urge to run back in and take her right back home with me.

I DID appreciate the break from mommy-duty.  I did LOVE going to back to work and sparking up my intellectual brain all over again (nursery rhymes really didn’t cut it for me).  But, even if I didn’t love and enjoy those perks, I had no choice.  And I know that I gave up a lot in going back to work. But again, we didn’t have the luxury of choice in the matter.

We were fortunate that our daughter attended a loving daycare where, I truly believe, she was loved as much during the day as she was with me at home (no kidding, she sort of still runs the show there!).  That did not make it easier, it just made it less painful to accept as a reality. I cringe to think of those parents who don’t even have access to that.  I cringe even more to learn of the moms who do not get nearly as much time off as I did, those that have to return to work as early as 10-weeks postpartum.

I am thrilled to see this movement gain momentum. I hope it continues to grow and gains the attention of those who are in positions to make changes to this policy.

Check the article out here, if you missed the link above: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/regan-long/the-movement-is-in-motion-paid-family-leave-in-the-united-states_b_8478418.html

Extended Breastfeeding

In every scenario I imagined when I knew I was going to be a mother, none of them included me continuing to nurse our daughter past her first birthday. And yet, we are now on the precipice of her 2nd birthday and we are still breastfeeding.  While we are nursing much, much less often these days — morning, evening and sometimes, on a lucky Saturday, in the afternoon too.  There are times when I really relish these quiet moments.  I can smell her hair and hold her little fingers in my hands, and feel her curled up alongside me, almost matching her breathing to my own.  And then there are times when I have to go to the bathroom, or want to do another load of laundry before bed, or GO to bed, or take a shower and even these small moments of breastfeeding sort of feel like they are “in the way.”

So I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I really feel ready to wean at the 2 year mark, if she doesn’t do it first on her own.  And I know that I will miss so many of these moments even though I will also be a little relieved as well.  That, I feel, is the definition of ‘bittersweet’ to me.

I know that I will miss these moments.  When I read Amanda Metcalf’s piece, “7 Things You Miss About Breastfeeding When Its Over“, I immediately remembered instances for each of the seven.

Tonight mid-nursing session, which is only about 15-20 minutes in length these days, our little one pops off and said emphatically:

“Mama, mama!”

“Yes?” I replied.

“Hi!” And back down she went.

Yeah, I’ll miss these moments alright!

 

 

Honoring Loss

I have no idea how to even begin this post.  I am so overwhelmed with a heavy sadness that I am sure I do not have the eloquence to do the emotions justice, to honor the loss appropriately.  Yesterday I found out a friend I graduated from high school with passed away suddenly.  She was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which went undetected because she was asymptomatic until it was in the very late stages – she died about a week after the diagnosis.  She leaves behind four young children.  Our high school was not large, so her classmates are all heart-heavy right now.  Some of them (including my husband) attended school with her from kindergarten through high school, and even into college.  Sad doesn’t really even begin to describe how her friends, and I’m certain her family, are feeling.  I know it doesn’t capture my emotions right now, and I haven’t seen her in years.

But her smile is one that you simply cannot forget – ever.  And her laugh was one of the most genuine around.  And, I know that people say this all the time, but her’s was a personality that truly lit up every room she walked into.  The world is certainly a less bright place without her in it.

And while it is never easy to lose someone, there is no way to really “prepare” for it, I think this is hitting so hard because frankly there was simply so little time to grapple with the impending loss.

I recently read a post from a friend who discussed what she would do given she had a year left.  I went back to her blog to re-read her recent piece on loss because I was trying to wrap my brain around the myriad emotions I was facing.  I found her words in this earlier piece as cathartic as the one I went in search of.  It was capturing my own ruminations: what would I do?  When faced with this question, people often respond with “I can only imagine”.  But truthfully, the reality is, for me at least, that I cannot imagine.  I cannot imagine facing the truth that I had such a short amount of time left with my husband, my family, my friends, with my daughter.

More certainly, I cannot imagine what I would do if I was given only a week.  The lack of closure that exists with that limited time, the thought of that is simply devastating to me.  I have no words that can capture the sadness I feel for her, for her husband, her sisters, her parents and her children.  And yes, I feel a sadness for her.  A bright light has been turned out for her family and friends, there is no question there.  When discussing death, dying, and loss, people often believe that the emotional burden is on those of us that are left behind to feel that loss.  While that is true, in this instance, I have to imagine she acutely felt this loss as well, and so my sadness is for her.  I want to not imagine what she was feeling in those few days, how overwhelmed with joy she must have been at looking at the family and life she had built, and simultaneously overwhelmed with the very real, very heart wrenching sadness that she was not going to see the rest of it. I want to not imagine that. But instead I am sitting here purposely focusing my mind on those feelings, remembering not only our loss of her and the sadness we all are feeling, but honoring her loss as well.

Listen, Posting Breastfeeding Photos Is Not TMI!

I’ve been mostly silent, on most of my social media, on the public breastfeeding debate, save for a few pages and groups about breastfeeding that I am part of.  But, I feel like silence,  from someone who is so #probreastfeeding, is in the midst of #extendedbreastfeeding and often still is #publicbreastfeeding, is no longer an option.  I want to start by saying that I am so proud of this mama.   I was proud of her when the picture of her breastfeeding her son first showed up on my social media pages and I’m even more proud of her today for speaking up and out against what Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb said on their morning talk show.  And now I am speaking up and out publicly as well (to as little a readership as this tiny blog has anyway…).

So, listen up.  I am saying this in no uncertain terms:  Posting Breastfeeding Photos is NOT TMI.  It’s. Just. Not.  It’s feeding a baby!

@TODAYshow and@klgandhoda when you say something is “beautiful” and “natural” but then turn around and say “sharing it on social  media is TMI” you are underscoring the very beauty and naturalness of it.  I hope that you understand that with this one comment you have set back the #normalizebreastfeeding movement countless steps. Instead of championing mothers (many of whom are your loyal viewers, by the way), you have created a space, a place, of judgement and shame against moms who are doing the most natural thing in the world: feeding their children. I can’t speak for other moms. I know every mother does what she can and is comfortable with, and I have tried to reinforce, in my 17 months of motherhood, the end of mama-shaming in all aspects of our lives. But, up to this point I have posted only one picture of myself breastfeeding my daughter on my public Facebook wall and I was terrified to add that one photo.

THAT fear is not natural or beautiful, but it exists because I was so concerned of backlash or criticism or snide remarks – from my family and friends. My family and friends!  From people I know love and support me!  But I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. Or would judge me. And yet, I was so proud.  I have this amazing bond with my daughter, one that words can never, ever express. One that is fleeting, because they don’t actually breastfeed until college, like some people like to joke. One that I thought a photo I had came close to representing the love I was feeling. So posted it.  And I was scared.  I am happy to say that my photo was warmly received.  I’m sure there may have been those who didn’t like it (though you can barely see any skin) but they simply didn’t respond. The comments I did get were thoughtful, and respectful and supportive.  And it quieted, for me, that little voice of insecurity inside of me. Sometimes that insecurity does creep back in when I know that I’m breastfeeding longer than some others, at this point, with my 17-month old. We certainly breastfeed less frequently and most often in our home, but sometimes we are in public and she does need to eat and I admit, I find myself worried when this occurs.  I know our breastfeeding time is coming to a close, but it’s not here yet and I do worry what others will think. Then I remember that I put myself out there in a pretty public way and my family and friends were supportive, and I breathe a little sigh of relief knowing they know that I am doing my best, and what I believe is best for my daughter.

But then you, @klgandhoda, went and made that comment.  And you raised the insecurities in me all over again.  And I imagine you did the same for other moms, and soon-to-be-moms. And shame on you for that! Shame on you for shaming us for sharing these amazing and beautiful and natural moments.  Shame on you for suggesting, with your flippant commentary, that feeding our kids, where and when and how they need to be fed, is anything less than normal, and natural, and beautiful AND acceptable!  Shame on you!

And hooray for you moms!  For those of you who nurse in public and private, through year one and year two and beyond – or for any amount of time that you can and are able. With a cover and without a cover. In your carrier while carting your darling through the grocery store, or the zoo, or the DMV, or wherever else you all are when they need to eat – for nourishment or for comfort or any combination of both.  Hooray for breastfeeding moms who are proud enough and strong enough to ignore the ignorant stares and snide remarks and do what they know they need to do, when they need to do it. And HOORAY for those moms who post pictures of that so that they can let the world know they are not doing anything wrong and are sharing an experience they are proud of, one grounded in love and bonding and nurturing.  Hooray for those of us/you trying to #normalizebreastfeeding and not beat moms down with demeaning commentary, snide remarks or ignorant jokes.

Breastfeeding, as a journey, is not an easy one for most mothers.  There is pain – real pain (and I won’t go into detail, but there IS pain).  There are sleepless nights.  There is pumping at work. There are countless ways in which it is the most rewarding and most exhausting, emotionally demanding and physically taxing experience a mother goes through.  But this journey needs to stop being vilified, even when shared publicly.  This. Just. Needs. To. Stop!

And that is all I think I can say.  It’s normal.  It’s natural. And as something that is normal and natural, no mother should be made to feel badly about sharing that experience in whatever way she wants. In solidarity with all you moms and with the message of this post, I now join in the public display of breastfeeding photos.

Please stop reading now, and don’t look, if you don’t want to see pictures of me breastfeeding my daughter.  You have been forewarned.

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Letting Go, or The Day My Toddler Did Not Wear Green

I’m almost writing this post as a vent, but it’s not really something I’m upset about — just thinking about.  It all sort of stems from when I dropped off our daughter at daycare today and also that, before we left the house my husband, who had gotten her ready realized “oh, shoot, I think they wanted them to wear green today.”  Who knew…

“Why?” I asked, as I was gathering up the daughter, the bottles, my work bag, cell phone all while putting my shoes on (#workingmomproblems).

“Oh, it’s Earth Day, I think.”

We simply didn’t have time this morning to change her clothes into something green.  She had coughed up phlegm twice already and I’d changed my clothes once, and we were running late.  So, the cute little top her dad had put in her was going to have to suffice. After all, she looked more stylish than me at this point — the clothes I quickly changed into barely matched and I left the house feeling very “unpolished”. Such is my life these days, with a 16 month old. (#nomysocksdontmatch). Sigh.

I felt fine about this.  Well, I felt frumpy, but I also felt fine with her not being in green.

I noticed on the board at the daycare that this week was Spirit Week (for what end-game, I know not) and I made a mental note that Wednesday was crazy hair day (Charlotte has almost no hair still, but it’s always crazy) and Friday was crazy outfit day.  The hair we could do and I could probably pull together a crazy outfit.  Not that she, or any of the other toddlers in her room will even notice.  Ok, I can do that.  I still was feeling fine with the absence of green in my daughter’s outfit for the day.  I wasn’t putting too much stock in this whole toddler Spirit Week experience. We got there, didn’t we?  That’s a success in my book.

I was feeling fine until I walked back out to my car and noticed another mom getting out of her car. She was looking VERY polished. Her hair was pristine, she had on a cute matching outfit and adorable shoes (I had a pair of shoes break this week…so I’m sensitive to shoes). My frumpy-feeling grew.  So, too, did my guilt and angst about the “green” day when I noticed that she had with her two adorable children, both perfectly dressed – in green.  Her infant daughter had a green bow in her hair and matching green leggings.  Her preppy little son had an adorable and preppy little green polo with a long-sleeve white shirt underneath, the perfect preppy four year old.

I suddenly felt, not-so-fine.

Here’s the thing.  I think this is where the guilt/mom-shaming/”I’m not enough” stems from. It’s things like this. Why have a spirit week for toddlers?  They ALWAYS have spirit.  They are always excited about things.  It doesn’t matter to them if everyone wears green.  BUT it does matter to me that I am not together enough to put my kid into something green.  I’ve spent the morning feeling guilty that my kid isn’t wearing green today.  And, that guilt also makes me feel more frumpy and even less together.

Then an interesting thing happened.  I had a conversation with two other moms, about their kids and their morning and their questions.  For one of the moms, I had no advice.  All I could do – and did do – was listen and understand that I too, would be in a space of craziness like hers some morning in the near future.  For the other mom, I did have advice based on having gone through some things she was up against in the not-to-distant past.  I realized once again, through these two conversations – that we are all in this together.  That totally put-together mom was having a great morning.  I was not.  I should be high-fiving HER instead of feeling badly about myself.

I realized that there will be days for me – and for all moms – where we feel like we’ve got it all together.  There will likely be more days where we feel, like I did today, the exact opposite – frumpy, unpolished, not-at-all-put-together.  Some of this comes with the territory, for me at least, of working full-time outside of our home.  I love that I am able to be a mom and have a career, but I have to cut myself some slack and realize it adds a little more to my plate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 69.9% of mothers, with children under the age of 18, were working outside the home in 2013. I’m one of those and I’m pretty proud that, on most days, I get myself (fully dressed and with matching socks) out of the door, with all the things needed for my day, and get the kiddo off to daycare and myself to work – on time. I can’t imagine that all of these women feel like they have it all together, each and every day.  I can’t imagine why: Sleepless nights. Sick children. Laundry. Dishes.  AND, all the fun stuff too: Swim lessons, play dates, music class, walks to the park, play time.

We have a lot to do.  We can’t be all together all of the time.  We can fake it sometimes.  I think I have to fake it more often — it’s also easy to throw my hands up in despair and say “I have a toddler” as if that declaration makes it OK to stay in my pajama pants all weekend, not brush my hair and eat pizza for three meals a day. It doesn’t.  But it also doesn’t mean that I have to take on some weird shame (#downwithmomshaming) for the days, hours, weeks and minutes when I do not have it all together.

For now I will relish the days I don’t feel frumpy and have it all together and I will silently celebrate the moms around me I see on their own victorious days.

And, tomorrow? Tomorrow, my kid will have crazy hair.  Lucky for me, that’s a daily occurrence.

Toddler Sleep and Toddler Pillows

I just purchased a toddler pillow. Who even knew they made such things AND that there were so many choices. I wouldn’t want to make the wrong choice when it comes to pillows for my precious little nugget’s noggin. Oh no. And organic? I think she probably would want an organic pillow. For sure. Of course. Definitely.

But, frankly, I’m willing to try anything at this point.

My hope is that this will help our darling daughter start sleeping more comfortably at night and not waking up at 12, 1, 2, 3 and…yep, 4. She used to be SO good. Such a good sleeper. She was sleeping through the night. It was magical. Then she hit the 14 month mark AND got sick on top of that so, well…nobody sleeps at night anymore. Nobody. All night. Smh.

She also has learned how to say “water” — which is stinking adorable — but now also calls all things she drinks water, including when she wants to nurse. Including when she wants to nurse in the middle of the night. All night long. It’s both super duper cute and super duper exhausting to wake up to her cute little face saying “wa-wa” and doing the sign for “more” every hour on the hour all night long. Sigh. Hoping the pillow works some sleepy-time magic! 🙂

Interested in your own toddler pillow? I found this website to be useful and had links and discounts codes right there: http://parent.guide/how-to-choose-the-best-toddler-pillow-for-your-child/

Happy Sleeping!