Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The "Perfect" Mother

It's been a few months since I've been inspired to write.  What can I say?  I didn't feel like I had anything to say.  But, today is different.  Today, I was reading Natural Living Magazine today and saw an essay entitled "Mindful Mama".  Now, I'm pretty big into the whole mindfulness idea in Buddhism.  I'm not very good at putting it into practice, but I do my best.  So, when I saw the article, I decided to read it (between playing blocks and changing a diaper).

The author, Molly Remer, describes the "Perfect Mama" as such: 

"...she gives birth with joy and ease, preferably at home and possibly unassisted.  She breastfeeds responsively and for as long as her child needs - even through subsequent pregnancies and babies.  She uses cloth diapers or, even better, no diapers at all because she practices elimination communication.  She eats only organic foods and is perhaps vegetarian or vegan.  She is always happy and creative and ready to play.  She homeschools.  She stays at home or she effortlessly balances fulfilling work with a baby on her hip.  She babywears and co-sleeps and grows her own food.  She is "green" in her life and buying habits.  She does not circumcise and she never forgets to boycott Nestle.  Her family does not watch TV.  She uses gentle, patient, loving discipline - no snapping or snarling.  She never yells or gets angry and she never, never feels resentful or irritable."

Hahah!  I laughed so hard when I read this paragraph.  I gave birth at home with ease. I breastfeed (currently with my 15 month old) and plan to keep doing so until he decides otherwise.  I use cloth diapers and sometimes none at all because we DO practice EC!  We are vegan.  We plan to homeschool.  We babywear and co-sleep.  We didn't circumcise and actually... we DO boycott Nestle!

But the point of the article is that the author isn't perfect.  I often find myself stuck between what I see in the supposedly perfect parents that I know.  Deep inside, I know they all screw up like I do.  They probably lose their temper more often than not.  Their houses are messy or dirty.  They have unfinished projects that probably will never reach completion until their children either go to school or leave home.  And I'm betting, one or two of them eat at McDonalds once in a blue moon (not me because that place is nasty!).

I am probably my harshest critic too.  I know what I SHOULD do as a parent.  I probably shouldn't feed my son GMO Cheerios or corn chips.  I probably shouldn't have introduced him to that evil little muppet, Elmo as well as other TV programs.  I probably shouldn't have taken the easy way out by driving around town until he fell asleep tonight.  But I did.

 Today, when I was in Dress Barn trying on new clothes, I probably SHOULDN'T have felt resentful when my son pooped his diaper while I was playing dress-up.  Inside, I was irritated, but outwardly, I calmly changed back into my drabby clothes and brought him to the bathroom.  Then, after cleaning out his CLOTH diaper over the toilet, I started to wash my hands.  I probably SHOULDN'T have gotten angry when my son proceeded to throw the wet/dry bag, the wet wipes, and his clean diaper into the toilet.  But, I did lose my cool at that point.  I yelled.  He cried.  I sighed and comforted him.  I screwed up again.

I guess I'm just not perfect.  I'll just have to keep trying.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Change and Friendships

When we are young, we believe that we will be friends with our playmates for life.  "We'll always be friends," we say.  But, often times, our parents have to move us, or we change schools, or our friends move.  And we are sad for a time, but then we find new friends with which to play.  This happens much of the time in high school when transitioning to college, and again after college when we move into a professional career situation.  So, why do we think anything will be different when we have kids for the first time?

I love my pre-baby friends.  I'd go out drinking with them, watch movies, hang at their house, and do all types of fun stuff.  And then I got pregnant, so drinking stopped.  Nothing much changed until the baby emerged from me and my life became engrossed with diapers, nursing, babywearing and most of all activism.  I didn't have quite the time I used to have to enjoy my social life.  Driving around was a pain because my son would cry every time he got in the carseat.  I expected/hoped that my friends would visit me, and many of them did, and as often as they could.  And others, just dropped off the radar.

I felt isolated after the birth of my son.  With the problems we had with breastfeeding, I needed a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to.  But quite often, I found that the only people I could relate to, were other mothers.  I found La Leche League, playgroups and other mother's groups.  Through these groups, I'm beginning to form new friendships and finding myself with an active social life again.

So why do I cling to the past?  Why do I mourn the loss of friends who I don't really fit in with anymore?

In Buddhism, the Second Noble Truth states that the origin of suffering is attachment.  If we find a way to let go of these lost people or things, we won't cling to what isn't or what could have been and will begin to live our life in the present.  I realized this week that I have been clinging to friendships that I cannot possibly keep.  The only way to stop my own suffering, is to let those friendships go and to form new ones.

Life is change, and change is inevitable.  Just like when we were kids, friendships come and go.  It's the people who stick by you through those changes that are worth clinging to. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One Tired Mama

 Does the exhaustion of parenting ever go away?

As a mother who firmly believes in Attachment Parenting, I recognize that this is probably normal for me and other mother's who may or may not practice AP.  After all, we are cooking, cleaning, possibly working outside the home, and nursing our babies.  And getting them to sleep is often our job too.

Tonight, as I'm writing this, it's about midnight and my one year old is still awake.  Why?  Because he fell asleep nursing at 8pm tonight while I was watching TV.  When I put him in bed at 9pm, he woke up.  I did my best to nurse him back to sleep, but he wasn't having it.  He'd rather practice the sign for book and have me read to him.  Or pat his sleeping dad on the back.  Or pull things off the bookcase headboard.  Or help me type this blog.

So how DO other moms put their babies to sleep at night?  Quite often, I will hear moms say, "I put little Jane down for her nap".  How does one put their baby down for a nap or down for the night?  This has never happened for me.  My LO always prefered to be nursed to sleep.  And in this house, cry-it-out does not occur mainly due to all the damage it can do to a parent-child relationship as well as other problems it creates.

At times, I get very cranky.  Since I'm not the perfect mother or human being, in those moments, I lose my temper and say things that aren't really nice.  But tonight, instead of the cry-it-out method, we are using the play-it-out method.  (Yes, I just made that up.)  I figure, I'll probably end up going to bed in another hour or so.  But there's no point in getting angry or frustrated.  My son is happy to play, my husband is happy to sleep.  I guess, I'll just resign myself to be happy that everyone is happy.

Here are some of my favorite links relating to nighttime parenting.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Gift of Liquid Love and Low Supply

From the moment we decided to get pregnant, I knew I was going to breastfeed.  I knew I wanted to nurse my baby.  It felt right to want a baby at the breast.  It's what everyone kept telling me was best for a baby.  It's what's normal, right?  Sometimes breastfeeding just doesn't work out the way it's supposed to.   It didn't for me, at first.
My son was born on a Saturday at home at 5 lbs 11 oz.  I assumed breastfeeding would come naturally.  I recieved absolutely no lactation education, had never been to a La Leche League meeting.  I briefly read the breastfeeding books.  My mother didn't know anything about breastfeeding since I had been formula fed.  And I failed to ask my mother-in-law for advice because I had no clue that anything was wrong until four weeks later.  Not to mention my sore nipples were very painful.

L would cry constantly and the cries sounded painful.  The ER doctor said to not worry because it was just colic.  That it would go away after 4 weeks or so.  Everyone said that everything was just fine.  So, I trusted everyone.  Until, that is, my midwife saw L exactly 4 weeks after he was born.  Apparently, L didn't regain his birth weight or gain any weight beyond that.  He was skin and bones.  He was sleeping all the time and it was hard to wake him for feedings.  My midwife took one look at him and said, "We need to get milk into that baby", felt my breast and said, "you aren't making enough milk".   That is when I lost my confidence in my ability to breastfeed.

I was devestated that I couldn't feed my baby the way nature had intended.  I thought for sure I'd have to feed my son formula and I didn't want that feeding method for him.  I knew of the risks of formula feeding vs breastfeeding.  But, before I could express my concern, my midwife asked me if I'd be okay with another mom expressing some milk so I could feed him with a small syringe.  I felt perfectly happy with this and it felt like forever waiting for those first two ounces of donated milk to arrive one floor up.  L drank that milk down so quickly.  I remember seeing relief on his face as he appeared to be filled up from his donated meal.  But where would we get more breast milk from?

The midwife sent us to the medical clinic nearby to pick up a Medela Supplemental Nursing System and some formula and assured me that the formula was just to get us through a rough patch of low supply.  She told me that in a week or two, things would get better.  She set us up with another mother who could donated a few more ounces, but again this wasn't enough to last even a day.  I knew I had to get my hands on more milk.  That night, I went online and found "Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene" and there I found breastfeeding moms that could help me find milk for L.

First, I found a mom on Craiglist who lived only an hour and a half away from me and then soon after, I found another mom who lived close by the first mom.  Both moms together donated to my son about 600 or more ounces.  Our freezer had to be emptied and was filled up with breastmilk.  I was elated that I could put away the can of formula for a good long time.  I also hoped that I wouldn't have to use everything that was donated to me.  After all, this problem was suppsoed to last a week or two, right?

Using the SNS was a pain.  I got red marks from taping the tubes to my breasts.  The tubes wouldn't flow properly sometimes or it would leak.  It was hard to use.  I grew frustrated and even went as far as throwing it across the room.  After a few weeks of using this SNS, I decided to start using a bottle.  It was so much easier.  But, I had no idea that using a bottle after nursing would be detrimental to my already low supply.  Logan became attached to the bottle and began to refuse to nurse.  I knew I had to get him back to the breast and so we stopped bottle feeding and began using the SNS again.  Things immediately got better.

During this entire time, I began using herbs to help with lactation.  I drank Mother's Milk tea, popped Fenugreek capsules, More Milk Plus capsules, Goats Rue and even resorted to domperidone because I still felt my supply wasn't adequate.  I had read so many stories about women who took these herbs and drugs that had overnight started leaking from oversupply.  That didn't happen for me.  I didn't become abundant overnight.  I did pump every hour on the hour for a long time and this helped.

After about three months of herbs, domperidone, and hourly pumping, I stopped needing to use donated milk.  I was producing about five ounces a day plus using five ounces of donated milk.  I realized L was getting more milk from me than I was actually supplementing him with.  This realization made me proud of myself and I began to get excited.  I noticed that quite often, he would spit up if I fed him too much.  So, I began to give him less donated milk and began to only use my own expressed milk.  It took us about a month to completely wean him from the Supplemental Nursing System.  He REALLY liked the quick flow of milk and I had to teach him to work for his meal at the breast.

Believe it or not, our final breastfeeding breakthrough came when all three of us got the stomach flu.  L got sick on a Friday afternoon, I got sick on Saturday, and DH got sick on Sunday.  I had no clue just how sick my son had been until I got sick.  While recieving fluids at the ER, L refused to nurse.  I must have smelled funny from the saline drip.  He went 9 hours with refusing the bottle and the breast.  We tried both many times.  I was deeply concerned about this strike and a lactation consultant came down from the OB floor to talk to me.  When I told her how I had been supplementing, she told me to quit.  She said that this illness was the perfect opportunity to build my supply through his demand nursing.  And, though I didn use a few more supplemented ounces later in the week, I did stop.  And it worked.  We finally were exclusively breastfeeding at four months old!

I kept pumping every hour on the hour.  For about six more months I did this until I just couldn't wake up for the the twice nightly sessions to pump.  I was given a total of about 2000 ounces of donated breastmilk from about four or five moms in two different states.  And now it was my turn to give back.  Not only did I turn around and redonate my unneeded milk, I donated much of my own.  L began to refuse the bottle in favor of breast and it began to pile up in my freezer.  I'm not sure exactly how much I've donated to this day, but I THINK between five mom/baby pairs, I've donated about 2500 ounces.

I am so grateful that so many women encouraged me to keep breastfeeding.  I'm grateful to the mom who yelled at me when I became whiny and made me so mad that I was willing to do anything to prove to her that I could too breastfeed my child.  I'm grateful to the moms who kept my child fed with their liquid love and so generously donated their milk to my baby.  Your milk donations saved my breastfeeding relationship!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Life After Baby

When my son was born, I was on cloud nine.  My life couldn't have been better.  I was so lucky to have had a perfect homebirth with my midwife and her assistants.  My husband was at my side the whole time.  It went completely as planned - although about four weeks earlier than we anticipated.  It was still the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.

And then my midwife went home along with her assistants.  My mom came over and began to help us out.

There we were.  My husband had been a father before, but this was my first (and presumably my last) child.  All of a sudden, I had this new little 5 lb 11 oz baby to nurse, change, and live with.  I guess I was a little naive in thinking that this baby wouldn't change much in our lives.  But in that one instant after he was born, everything changed.

I'm not complaining.  I love my son.  He's everything and more than I ever wanted.  I cherish every smile, frown, poopy diaper, and giggle.  I take pride in knowing that I am able to feed him from my own body (after a very long struggle) and that I'm able to comfort him when he gets hurt or is sad.  It's just, things, as they always do, changed.

The first thing that changed, was I couldn't pick up and go places anymore like my husband and I used to do.  I can't go to his week long speaking tours in other states because we'll run out of cloth diapers (and I refuse to stick my son in plastic ones unless I absolutely have to) and frankly I just feel better being close to my home that has everything I need in it.  I know this will change sooner or later.  But, for now, it stinks.  I look forward to the day when we can both join Daddy on a week long trip of motel stays and speaking engagements!

I'd love to discuss all the ways that my marriage has changed, but for reasons of privacy, I'm going to leave that one alone.  Children have a definite impact on a marriage.  Conversation topics seem to gravitate us more towards our son and his needs rather than politics, religion, and all the fun topics we used to discuss.  I definitely understand why it's so important to have a good marriage before having children, rather than having children to fix a marriage.  Having children can add a type of stress to a marriage that can either destroy it or make it stronger than ever.  It's important to be united when raising a baby.

The last way my life has changed, is that my interests have taken a completely different turn.  It used to be that my interests were in music and my husband's business.  Since the birth of our child, I have become a birth junkie.  I'm obsessed with everything relating to babies:  the birth process, natural birth, breastfeeding, milksharing, elimination communication, cloth diapering, etc.  I've become a postpartum doula because I want to share what I've learned with others and at the same time, enjoy the intense feelings that a new mother has when she has her new baby.

My life has changed.  I love my new life.  I, for the most part, have forgotten what it was like to not have a child attached to me or hanging on my leg.  I don't want to remember what it was like.  I'll remember when he leaves the nest and goes off to college.