Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nursing

Interesting note: I nurse. My children do not nurse. I can breastfeed, and my children can also breastfeed. So, the proper usage of to nurse (in this regard) only works for the mother to do, but the verb to breastfeed works for the mother and baby to both do.

Anyway, it should be pretty apparent what has been on my mind recently.

I have spent a lot of the last four years of my life nursing. Jill weaned around fifteen months old. Danny weaned around eighteen months old. Alice, obviously, has not weaned yet. But of the past 48 months, 35 of them have been spent nursing. (And the remaining 13 were spent pregnant—and some months were spent pregnant and nursing!  My poor body needs a break.) So, I'll state the obvious and say I've been nursing a lot.

Having an exclusively breastfed baby requires some creativity when it comes to nursing. (Jill would take a bottle—Danny refused to take a bottle until he weaned. Alice, so far, doesn't like it anymore. She took two bottles in her first week of life, and now she shuns them.) So, I've nursed in a lot of places: cars, bathrooms, libraries, baseball games, Walmarts, restaurants, park benches, camp grounds, malls, balconies, mothers' lounges, etc. When your baby is hungry, you really can't be picky.

When nursing in public, you witness various reactions from those who notice what you are doing.

For Jill's birthday, we went to the National Zoo. Alice got hungry during the middle of our trip and naturally wanted to eat. Jeff took Jill and Danny to go see more animals, and I got to breastfeed Alice. The zoo was very crowded that day (it probably is every day), and the sun was really beating down, so I wanted to nurse in the shade. We went in the women's restroom, and there was an empty bench that seemed pretty ideal. (Anything is better than sitting on a toilet seat to nurse. Standing up to nurse isn't very much fun either. Your arms get tired.)

The location of the bench, though, ensured that every single woman going to the bathroom would walk past me, because it was in between all of the stalls and the sinks. So you couldn't wash your hands without seeing me. Some women averted their eyes. Some women never noticed me. Some looked very uncomfortable. The teenaged and young adult women looked the most awkward.

Some of the responses were pretty cool though. They would smile at me or give me a thumbs up or just not look awkward. Their reactions helped me remember that I was simply doing something as wonderful and natural as keeping my baby alive with the milk my body magnificently produces—not picking my nose or pulling down my pants to pluck a wedgie or something.

The looks I don't like are the ones that remind me of a character I read in a book a few months ago.
"In the ten years since the Garretts moved next door, Mom hardly ever looked out the side windows of our house without huffing an impatient breath. Too many kids on the trampoline. Bikes abandoned on the lawn. Another pink of blue balloon tied to the mailbox, waving haphazardly in the breeze. Loud basketball games. Music blaring while Alice and her friends tanned. The bigger boys washing cars and spraying each other with hoses. If not those, it was Mrs. Garrett, calmly breast-feeding on the front steps, or sitting there on Mr. Garrett's lap, for all the world to see. 
'It's indecent,' Mom would say, watching.
'It's legal,' Tracy, future lawyer, always countered, flipping back her platinum hair. She'd station herself next to Mom, inspecting the Garretts out the big side window of the kitchen. 'The courts have made it absolutely legal to breast-feed wherever you want. Her own front steps are definitely fair game.' 
'But why? Why do it at all when there are bottles and formula? And if you must, why not inside?'
'She's watching her other kids, Mom. It's what she's supposed to do,' I'd sometimes point out, making my stand next to Tracy.
Mom would sigh [and] shake her head . . ." —My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
I don't like thinking about opinions like that.

As I was saying, I was sitting in the bathroom, watching the various reactions, feeling hot and sticky (because it was hot and humid), feeling impatient with how long she was nursing, and wishing that I was with Jeff and my kids enjoying the zoo, when a woman came right up to me, and said, "Way to go, Mom! My kids are in their thirties now, and time spent nursing is still among my most treasured memories with them."

Then she walked away.

Her comment really pulled me out of my pity party of nursing-makes-me-hot-and-sweaty and nursing-makes-me-miss-out-on-fun-stuff and nursing-takes-too-long and nursing-makes-me-expose-myself-in public, and it helped me remember how awesome nursing really is. My body can keep a baby alive! I can make milk! I can create life and then sustain it. Isn't that amazing? My baby will only be a baby for such a short time, and right now I can meet all of her demands, and help her grow healthy and strong, and have these special times where I really am her whole world, when she's latched on to me with her bright blue eyes looking deep into mine as she occasionally smiles and coos.

It's really quite wonderful.

What a blessing to be able to nurse!

Some beautiful nursing mamas.
(I am the only one actually nursing during this photo, but my sister and sisters-in-law did all nurse their sweet babies.)

And then . . . there are also moments like today. For some reason, I forgot to include a vital element in my outfit before leaving for church. So . . . when my milk let down at church today, I ended up with two delightful large circles of wetness on my cute dress. Sigh. That's about as awkward as I've felt in a long time. I held Alice in front of me so no one could see the wetness, but then she got fussy and Jeff took her from me in a gallant effort to be helpful and give me a break. Then I quickly grabbed a blanket and hugged it to my chest for about half an hour.

I had extra nursing pads in my diaper bag, so I was able to put them on to prevent further leaking, but my bra was still soaking wet. The spots finally dried though, but then I got Alice back from Jeff. Holding her pushed my dress up against my wet bra, which gave me new damp spots on the exterior of my dress. Delightful.

So, yes, nursing is awesome and miraculous and wonderful. But sometimes . . . it can be a little less-than-wonderful.

And it can be painful. About a week ago, latching on and nursing finally stopped being painful. I remember it took about six weeks with Danny, but with Alice it took eight. Bummer. But we've finally figured it out, and it doesn't hurt anymore! Yay rah!

Note: I do not think formula is evil or poison. I personally enjoy nursing my children, and that is what works best for me. It's fun, and it's always the perfect temperature, and it's easy to transport, and it's a lot cheaper. :) But I recognize it is not what works out for all families.


So, do you have any heart-warming nursing memories?

Or have you done anything to embarrass yourself recently? :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I'll Never Leave You

Danny has been pretty hard to put down for sleeping recently. Well, all day actually. He frequently puts his little arms up in the air, with his fingers stretched out, and sweetly says "Carry Me." This has been going on a few months now. I originally attributed it to how sick he got in December and January, but we're in May now. Perhaps it could have stemmed from that and was then compounded by gaining a baby sister and moving to a new house, but he is super clingy.

Today, we were going on a walk as a family, exploring our new neighborhood. At one point, Danny, Alice, and I stayed at the playground while Jeff and Jill went to go find the other pool. (There are two different ones we can use.) They returned, and after a while I wanted to go see the other pool. Jill came with me, and we started walking away. Once Danny noticed my departure, he started to cry and ran after us, really upset. Jeff started calling Danny "Momma's boy" instead of "Danny."

I had never thought about it before, but perhaps Danny isn't just being clingy. Maybe I have a "momma's boy." I remember when I was pregnant with Danny, one of my friends who has only boys told me I would be surprised by how much boys love their mommies. I wasn't sure what she meant by that, because Jill really loves me, and I didn't see how a son could love me more than my daughter. However, I think I am understanding now what she means. Jill obviously still loves me, but she shows it in a different way than Danny.

It is pretty sweet.

Sometimes frustrating.

But very endearing.

And it has culminated into him being very difficult to fall asleep. For instance, we flew home from Nebraska yesterday, and the poor boy was traveling on only four hours of sleep, because whenever I left his bedroom the night before, he would completely flip out and just cry and scream until I returned, but I needed to get things done like nurse Alice, help her go to sleep, do laundry, take a shower, and pack our suitcase. So it took Danny a really long time to fall asleep.

Last night, I read five books and sang Jill and Danny songs for about half an hour. Then I kissed them good night and walked out. Danny freaked out again. I didn't know what to do, because even being in there didn't help him actually fall asleep, and I didn't want it to take three hours again like the night before. I thought maybe he would just get exhausted and fall asleep (as harsh as that sounds). Jeff ended up going in there though, and whatever he did worked.

I asked Jeff today what his secret was, and Jeff said that all he did was tell Danny that Mommy was not going anywhere and that she would be here when he woke up.

That was it!

So, tonight, Jeff and I read stories, we said prayers, and then I sang songs. Jill actually fell asleep while I was still singing. Danny was restless. He was on top of his blankets, he was upside down (his feet were by his headboard), and he had his pillow on top of him. I thought I was in for another long night of hysterics. I stopped singing and told him it was time to go to bed. He put his pillow back where it went, put his head on it, and covered himself with his blankets. I smothered him with kisses and whispered in his ear. I said, "I will never leave you, and when you wake up in the morning, we are going to have a super fun day."

There were no hysterics. He did mumble to himself a little bit, but he fell asleep without leaving his bed again and without screaming or crying.

So all he seemed to need was the reassurance that I wouldn't disappear while he slept.

I felt really sad about telling him that I would never leave him. I have no intention to ever leave him, but there is so much in this life that is unpredictable, which I cannot prepare for. I can do everything I can to stay alive: take medicine when I'm sick, never jaywalk, never drink and drive, never smoke, keep a fire extinguisher in my kitchen, lock my doors, and never walk alone in dark alleys at night. But there are still so many factors I have no control over. It reminded me of friends who ended up widowed and alone even though their spouses did not engage in risky behaviors.

And it also reminded me that he would grow up and leave me someday. That my reassurance would be completely unnecessary, because he would not need me that way anymore.

So, for the first night in weeks, my kids went to bed really easily without completely exhausting me to the core and testing my patience in every imaginable way, but I still couldn't enjoy it, because I was too busy feeling sad for my friends who have been single parents and for orphans everywhere and for children who grow up and leave home.

I need to get better at being able to enjoy the moment and finding happiness even though this world is full of so many sad things. Feeling sad isn't very useful.

Danny, I promise I will never abandon you, and I will love you forever.


On a side note, while it has been really difficult to get Danny to fall asleep or just stay in his bed recently, there was one really funny incidence when I was staying at my sister's house in Nebraska. One rowdy night, Danny was discovered in bed with his cousin Hanna. He had gone downstairs, grabbed a loaf of bread, crept into her room, and sneaked into her bed. Isn't that funny? What a crazy party!!! BYOB toddler style. Bread. Who knew?

Tonight, just a few minutes before I wrote this post, I was holding Alice as she was sleeping. Twice, she laughed in her sleep. It was so cute and beautiful. I wish I could have recorded that sound to listen to over and over again when she is grown and gone and too big to be cradled in my arms.