8/15/15

5 years. That’s how long this blog has existed, in one form or another. That’s also how long I’ve been a mother, how long Leo has been alive. It’s hard to fathom. The twists and turns and loops we have traveled in those years boggle the mind. (Yes, my mind IS easily boggled, thank you smartass in the back, sit down and shuddup. I have a point, let me get to it.) Somewhere along the way, I got overwhelmed and stopped posting here. I never stopped writing, my “drafts” folder is overflowing with partially finished, half edited entries, like my own personal pseudo – blog. Or diary. Or trash can…I just stopped hitting the “publish” button. I stopped because of time, because of embarrassment and depression and worry about what “they” thought, and because I thought what I had to say was too trite and lame to inflict on the hapless  internet at large. But then today something happened. I realized, as I watched my 5 year old run through the grass and splash into the lake with absolutely no fear, when a year ago he wouldn’t even go more than ankle deep into ANY body of water (including a bathtub), that even through my dysfunction and mess and staggering failed attempts at adulthood, I’ve gotten somewhere. I’ve managed to help a tiny human grow for 5 years – as of two years ago, not one, but TWO tiny humans have grown with my help, as a matter of fact! I like where I’m going, and I’m ready to talk about “it”. I’m ready to be me, over here in my little messy corner, in all my weird, crazy glory. So here’s to a new year, and (another) fresh start.

Hello, my name is Skye. 5 years ago today, my life changed forever, and it was the scariest, most amazing and harrowing experience of my life. And I’d do it all over again. Stick around and I’ll fill in the gaps my most recent disappearing act left in this rambling mess of blog. Or not. because you know, that’s how I roll on here.

Peace and Love ❤ Skye

Lets Make a Demanding Job Even Harder.

Let’s all keep pointing our fingers at each other and judging. Because, really, raising a healthy, happy, sane human being from a tiny fetus in Mommy’s belly all the way to adulthood isn’t NEAR difficult enough. Let’s deny each other support and kinship, let’s judge based on skin deep choices, and let’s teach our kids that there REALLY ARE two “sides”. THEM, and US. And THEY are always, always wrong. Not just different, WRONG. And they’re probably going to hell, too. Let’s teach our kids that it is not okay to see things from a different perspective, and that all we really need to be is RIGHT. Because that strikes me as a sane, healthy message to pass along to the next generation. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that we have to swallow OUR beliefs, or deny our confidence in our choices. I’m just saying that it’s possible, whether we agree with the choices other parents make or not, to love the person. To support the journey, without expectations. Without the “I’m your friend, now you must be just like me” clique weirdness. And to just – stop taking it all so seriously. I’ve had some CRAPTACULAR Mom moments here lately. Leo has turned 2. The times are upon us, and they are hard. I’m working now and I have less time to “keep up appearances”. But you know what? I am a DAMN good Mama. Warts and quirks and all. I love my child more than life itself, and every. single. exhausting. stressful. day  – I am doing my absolute best. And I don’t need to be worried, on top of everything that really IS worth worrying over, that should I post a picture of my beautiful boy doing something cute while wearing a disposable diaper, I’ll then be judged as “not crunchy enough”.  We still use cloth part time. Not that it should matter. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I don’t need to feel ashamed either when Leo falls down and needs some “ninny” to soothe the owies. In public. Around here, he’s been “too old” to be breastfed on demand for a year and a half. Suddenly I am TOO weird and “crunchy”.  There is no end to the things we as parents, and especially we as Mamas – will judge each other on. I, for one, am ready for it to stop. I’m ready to go back to just being me, and Leo being Leo, and if he’s heard (loudly) as well as seen – well, he’s a toddler, and I’m his Mama and we’re trying. And I’m ready to STOP with the judging other Mamas, too. It makes me feel icky. And I do it. It’s not enough to put ourselves out there and say “accept me as I am!” It’s pointless to demand that others stop judging us if we (as those in the RIGHT, of course) continue to judge. No matter WHAT side we’re on – vaxing or non-vaxing, cloth diapering, stay at home or working, breastfeeding or formula feeding – we WILL screw up. Badly. And we will need support. We will need each other. Deal with it.

Worst. Day. Ever. (Or at least, in a really, really long time)

My son (who is usually known to you as Leo)  slammed my face in the microwave an hour ago. And that officially put the finishing touches on what can only be classified as a colossally monstrous day. At the risk of indulging in that oversharing thing I’ve been told I tend to do, allow me to mention that – *ahem* – my Aunt Flo is visiting. I am a hormonal mess. Last night was my fourth consecutive night dealing with a double ear infection suffering, angry in the extreme, toddler.  To add insult to injury, my left boob has decided that NOW, as the aforementioned toddler suddenly attempts to nurse like a newborn (ie: CONSTANTLY) is the PERFECT time to develop what I have since learned is referred to as a “bleb”. (Seriously, that’s what it’s called. Google it if you don’t believe me.) I’ll spare you details. Suffice it to say that it hurts and it makes an all night nurse session all the more difficult to tolerate. All of these things, on their own, make for a rough day, or at least a grumble or two. Together, I think I am safe in my categorization of the day as the WORST.DAY.EVER. And that, my friends was BEFORE my son, who also experimented today with multi-hour tantrums AND smacking Mama as an acceptable form of self-expression (It’s just a phase it’s just a phase it’s just a phase…) decided that slamming the microwave door – despite my face being in the way as I took his warmed carrots out of the microwave – would be an EXCELLENT way to have fun. A split lip – and crying session in my shoe closet – later, and peace is somewhat restored. Thanks to my excellent online breastfeeding support group (newly christened the “Ninny Ninjas”) I now know what is wrong with my misbehavin’ nip. I have a treatment plan, and I am no longer convinced that a 10 inch needle and lots of pain is in my immediate future. I have made peace with Leo, and am less inclined to do violence to harmless (and defenseless) inanimate objects… Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes (or busted lips – other than the one I already have, of course) in it. The only wisdom I can leave you with is this: Motherhood is NOT for the faint of heart. Be strong Mama’s, and cuddle on.

Mommy War BS

A while back, TIME had a very controversial cover. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know the one I’m talking about. The photo of a 3 year old nursing standing on a stool, while certainly a bit shocking to some, wasn’t really that big of a deal, in my opinion. The big deal is the words they chose to caption the picture. “Are You Mom Enough?” The outpouring of bloggers and posters lauding, decrying, and just basically ranting was so enormous that I chose to keep my mouth shut (and my fingers away from my keyboard) and stay out of it. I was angry, I was appalled, but TIME had all the attention they needed and I didn’t intend to help them out any. Until now that is,  since it seems that in the aftermath, EVERYTHING I say or do as a Mom, especially online, is being seen and viewed in the context of that horrible “Are you Mom enough?” caption. Those are TIME’s words, not “ours” collectively as Attachment Parents and CERTAINLY not mine. As women, as Moms, we HAVE to stop taking those words on by hearing them in our heads every time anyone talks about or posts about doing things differently than we do. Yes – I’ve made some “different” choices. They’re right for me. They’re right for Leo. I DON’T THINK I’M ANY BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE BECAUSE OF THEM, and I’m not making those choices – or talking about those choices –  to try to make other Moms look “bad”. I’m sharing. It’s what I do. I’m a sharer. This isn’t a competition. Most days, not only do I NOT feel “Mom enough” – I’m just trying to survive and do my best. Showing other parents up isn’t something that even enters my reality. So – lay off. This is MY reality, and I’m doing my best. I’m sure you are too. I don’t expect my reality to look anything like yours. That’s the fun of it all, isn’t it? Being different and learning from each other? Instead of worrying about how our choices are being seen – let’s all be HUMAN enough to rise above this media driven “Mommy Wars” BS and stop attacking each other – or feeling attacked. There’s no need. You ARE Mom enough, and so am I.

Extended?!

The term “Extended Breastfeeding” pisses me off. Before I get into why, let me start at the beginning. Sort of…

I am a HUGE Best For Babies fan and supporter. I think that their mission of encouraging ALL women to breastfeed in their own way, on their own terms, for as long as their circumstances permit – while making honest, scientific  facts and information about breastfeeding available – AND providing young Mothers with famous “celebrity” role models to look up to – is EXACTLY what our culture needs. Their approach is VITAL if we are going to turn the tides of breastfeeding marginalization and prejudice in this culture. The other day, they outdid themselves (at least in my opinion) when they featured a story about Kelly Preston. It seems she is *still* breastfeeding her 16 month old son. And she’s talking about it with the mainstream media. The Best for Babies article lifted my spirits and soothed some of the frustration that I’ve been feeling – since I too am *STILL* nursing a baby. But wait you say – isn’t Leo almost 2? Yes. Yes he is. AND I AM STILL BREASTFEEDING HIM. There. I said it. Some of you may be scratching your heads, wondering why I’m acting like this is some kind of big deal. Some of you may understand.  Let me clarify – I live in the Southern United States. Most new Mothers around here, IF they breastfed at all, switched to formula no later than 6 months. Many didn’t make it to 6 weeks – or out of the hospital. And that is much less of a reflection on THEM individually and more of a reflection on the societal pressure and culture here in my part of the world. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked “When” I’M going to wean Leo (since it’s obviously a sign of a lack of parental discipline on my part to still have a nursing baby – and since I can obviously foretell the future) which started right around his third or fourth month – or felt twinges of embarrassment and even shame when he nursed in public or in front of others, or heard the words “He’s over *insert age here*, so he’s JUST nursing for comfort” – I’d be the world’s richest Mama. The polite and  not so polite  questions and social discomfort didn’t start at his first birthday either – oh no. They started much, much earlier. Before his birth even, on some fronts. Others were fine until he started experimenting with solids, still others began voicing opinions right around the time he hit the 9 month mark. It seemed everyone had/has an opinion on when and where I should nurse – or not nurse, and they all felt that since I was “doing it wrong” it was their place to correct me. And then there’s the biggest taboo of all – nursing in mixed company. This has been an ever-present bane to my existence. It seems that our culture has so inexorably intertwined breasts with sexuality that no man can look upon one – even one with a hungry baby attached – without feeling that he is being “flashed” or given a sexual “come on”. Now, this isn’t true for everywhere I’ve been, nor is it fair to all of the wonderful, supportive Dads out there – (FireDaddy being one of them) but still, because of these pervasive, ingrained messages and cultural awkwardness – nursing in public or around others, even family  – has been a minefield for me from day 1. Please don’t get me wrong – I’ve loved breastfeeding my son. But now, at almost 2 years of breastfeeding, I’m a bit ready for him to wean. Really. Contrary to what some people have made abundantly clear that they think I’m doing – I AM feeding him “real food”. I am not continuing to breastfeed because I’m just “too lazy” to get up and fix food for him. (Yes, I really had that passive aggressively suggested as my reason for continuing past a year)… Leo is fed three balanced meals a day, plus as many snacks as he wants. Nor am I clinging to breastfeeding – or manipulating him into continuing – for some creepy emotional or physical reason of my own. (Another passive aggressive suggestion that, while not openly talked about, seems to be a fairly common belief  – breastfeeding must be pleasurable for the Mother. As in, sexually. *gag*) News flash – breastfeeding, as wonderful and joyous as it is, isn’t always a cakewalk. Breastfeeding a toddler can be rough. Like – wrestling a python tough. Especially when the culture you live in looks at it as marginally abusive if not straight up inappropriate parenting. I’ve been asked, by people with horror in their eyes – “What if he REMEMBERS?!”  As sad as it is, the pressure has gotten to me. I’m tired of being insulted, looked down on and treated like I’m doing something horribly shameful or “wrong”. I’m tired of feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable as I try valiantly to nurse him inconspicuously while around others or “out in town”. And frankly, I’m pretty much done anyways. But Leo’s not. And since there are two people in this relationship –  we’re still breastfeeding. About a month ago, under duress from relatives who shall remain nameless, I attempted a mild “weaning”. I introduced several different “milks” (almond, soy and cow) to Leo, hoping he would take to one. I began spacing his nursing further apart, telling him to”wait” and offering him snacks and  a sippy cup of milk instead. I cuddled him more, wore him in a wrap or his Ergo more, tried to do everything I could to let him know he was still connected, still loved, without nursing. I was encouraged and cheered on by relatives, friends, casual acquaintances. By the end of week one, I wasn’t getting much sleep, as Leo methodically replaced each and every missed daytime nurse with a night nurse. Which made me seriously start questioning the theory that all he’s getting from his nursing is comfort – why would he be replacing the feedings, calorie for calorie, IN HIS SLEEP, even as I increased his solids and other liquids? I don’t doubt that some of the nursing was worry, distress over the change, but I hesitated to attribute all of it to “comfort” nursing because of what happened next. He started LOOSING weight. Not drastically, but certain clothes  fit looser, or not at all.  His allergies spiked, even though he was still being given his allergy medication and even though FireDaddy’s seasonal allergies had eased. A massive double ear infection erupted (Leo had previously been infection free long enough that we were hoping he had finally hit the “growing out of it” stage) that further robbed both of us of what little sleep we were getting. During the day, his anxiety, whining and aggressive behaviors made me wonder if I’d accidentally taken the wrong child home from the playground. And he began refusing ALL sippy cups, whether they contained milk or not. A few were actually lobbed at my head. Now, some will argue that this was all just a “stage” or possibly a result of other things we had going on – my emotional tailspin perhaps, or simply just coincidence. I didn’t think so. And that’s when I scrolled through my Facebook feed to see  Best For Babies’ Kelly Preston article. I read it, re-read it, and cried. And then promptly picked my son up and nursed him. NOT because some celebrity was doing it and had the guts to talk about it in front of the whole world – although that helped, a little. Nope. I did it because the article (written by a Certified Lactation Counselor) explained, in no uncertain terms, what I already suspected. Toddlers who nurse are NOT “just” getting comfort. Here’s an excerpt from the article, with no revisions or alterations from me. Please note the references to actual scientific studies in parentheses.

FACTS about breastfeeding after 1 year:

  • After 1 year, human milk has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with human milk before 1 year.  Babies’ brains are growing and NEED the extra fat & especially human cholesterol.
  • In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides (Dewey 2001):  29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements,36% of calcium requirements,75% of vitamin A requirements,76% of folate requirements, 94% of vitamin B12 requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements . Note that this is exactly what baby humans need; cow’s milk is designed to grow baby cows which have smaller brains per body mass.
  • Nursing toddlers between the ages of 16 and 30 months have been found to have fewer illnesses and illnesses of shorter duration than their non-nursing peers (Gulick 1986).  In other words, the longer that toddlers are allowed to nurse, the lower their risk of disease.  There is also a proportionate increase in IQ for babies and toddlers who breastfeed longer, i.e. higher IQ for breastfeeding over 1 year vs. 6-12 months.
  • Some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process. (Goldman 1983, Goldman & Goldblum 1983, Institute of Medicine 1991).
  • In cultures where mothers and babies are not pressured to wean prematurely, babies self-wean  naturally between 2.5 and 7 years of age, with most babies self-weaning around age 3 or 4. (Dettwyler)
  • The longer babies are allowed to nurse the better socially adjusted they are. Per the researchers, ‘There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding.’”
  • Breastfeeding toddlers (babies > 1 year), helps them learn to self-soothe and self-regulate, manage frustrations (some parents report avoiding the “terrible twos” altogether) and lessens pain from bumps and bruises (breastmilk contains analgesics, i.e. natural pain-killers).  Nursing toddlers are easier to handle in the doctor’s office, too!
  • Breastfeeding toddlers (babies > 1 year) helps them make a gradual transition to childhood, “Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable.”  Children who achieve independence at their own pace are more secure in that independence then children forced into independence prematurely.
  • The longer mothers breastfeed, the lower their risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.
  • Older babies/toddlers nurse fewer times per day, most people are usually unaware they are nursing.
  • Babies that are old enough to “ask” to nurse are also old enough to say “thank you”, one of the sweetest experiences any mother can experience!

So, truthfully, there is no such thing as “extended” breastfeeding or “still” breastfeeding much as there is no such thing as “extended” walking or “still” walking.   Breastfeeding, like walking, is part of being human and begins and ends when it is evolutionary and developmentally advantageous.  In the case of breastfeeding, that is birth to somewhere between 2.5 and 7, end of story.   Anything other than that is premature weaning–and we all need to accept and acknowledge that.

And there you have  my explanation for disliking the term “extended breastfeeding”. I am NOT extending the breastfeeding of Leo, I am simply breastfeeding. And one last thing – even IF a toddler were “just” nursing for comfort – why would we deny the child we love so dearly the comfort he so obviously needs? Being comforted is JUST as important a need as any other, isn’t it?

Toddlerese

Now that I’m feeling a bit better, Leo and I have been having SO much fun. Things have been happening around here too, BIG things. Things that I’m afraid to talk about, because they don’t feel quite real just yet. I’ll have to keep you all in suspense a little while longer – and before you ask, no. I’m not pregnant. Anyway, back to Leo and I and the fun. We’ve planted a raised bed veggie and herb garden, that Leo is (mostly) helping with and not destroying (too badly). We have been painting a good bit (the fun, on canvas kind, not the home decorating kind –  although that needs to happen soon too), we’ve been doing an AWESOMELY fun kids yoga DVD in the morning,  AND – we’ve been talking. Now, Leo and I, we’ve talked non-stop to each other since the day we met. What’s really cool about our conversations here lately, is that we have actually been speaking the same language. I heard the phrase “Toddlerese” the other day, and I loved it. It’s perfect. Leo and I speak Toddlerese to each other, and I have actually caught myself THINKING in this imaginative, inventive language. For example – the other day, Leo picked up one of his Daddy’s duffels, stuck a few of his favorite toys inside, parked himself in front of the door (completely naked) and informed me “buh-bye Daddy Wheeoo GO!” which translates into English as”I want to go see my daddy at the fire station. NOW!” You see how this is fun… The best part is that every day there are more words, and more fun experiences to teach us more fun words. Two days ago the word was “apple”. We now have two fruit varieties in our world – Nanoos (bananas) and Ap-puls. We have two vehicles  – all motorized, wheeled contrivances are either “wheeo’s” or “choo-choo’s”. Don’t even TRY to inform him that our family car isn’t actually a “wheeoo” but is in reality, a “car”. He won’t stand for such nonsense. Our family car is a fire truck, pure and simple. The same applies to colors – ALL colors are “lalo” (yellow). I got him to say “bu” ONCE, after which he giggle, handed me the cobalt  paint and said – “no! LALO!” And that was that. We also have cows, puppies, and beebee’s in our wonderful little world. We really like puppies and beebees. I now have so very many monikers, it’s a wonder I can keep up with them all. “Mi- mi” is used when I am in his good graces, usually when there are snacks involved. “Mama” is for times of sleepiness, despair or “ouchees”. And “Mom-Mom” is used when he is in a big hurry and there is business to attend – or when I have failed to attend to him immediately. Which is currently the name I am having shouted in my ear as his favorite Eric Carle farm animal book is repeatedly shoved into my lap. And that is that. Off I go to “moo” “baa” and bray with the barnyard gang in my wonderful toddler world.

Lessons Learned

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I hope Leo learns from FireDaddy and I.  I’m not talking academically – although I do hope we can teach him a bit on those subjects as well  – but what I’ve really been concerned with are the bone deep, firmly ingrained lessons we all take away from our families, for better or worse, and never, ever, completely forget (or CAN’T forget, no matter how hard we try).  I, for instance, had it impressed upon me that being kind, pleasing others, and being of use to others was of utmost importance – even to the detriment of my own comfort or well being. FireDaddy learned that working very, very hard and providing materially for his family was his primary purpose in life, and to this day, is literally the hardest working human being I have ever met. Both of these lessons have extremely beneficial and extremely detrimental sides to them – and play huge roles in making us who we are. As I watch Leo grow and change, mimic us and then rebel against us in his small, independent way, I’m sometimes completely poleaxed by the fact that somehow, out of my screwed up, often malfunctioning brain, I am supposed to impart a worldview upon my son that will hopefully, somehow, help him to grow into a functional, intelligent, kind and caring human being. And then I have to squelch the urge to hide in my closet with my shoe collection until he goes to college. Usually by reminding myself of all the kisses and cuddles and bedtime snuggles I’d be missing, not to mention the fact that my boys would probably starve to death if I didn’t at least come out once in a while to cook.  So finally, in an effort to avoid this rather exhausting mental journey that I’ve been taking with more and more regularity as Leo becomes more and more an entity unto himself,  and I am forced to face more and more honestly the good and the bad in my own quirky personality – I have started trying to pin down EXACTLY what it is I hope, through changes in myself, our lifestyle and examples on the part of FireDaddy and I, that Leo ends up absorbing from our family.

I hope my son finds his calling, and follows it to the ends of the earth. Whether that be as a forest ranger (as his Daddy fervently hopes) an artist, a missionary, a doctor or a plumber – I hope he works at something that gives him satisfaction and pride. Just like his Daddy has, as a Firefighter, and just as I have, in my own small way, as an Art Gallery assistant and occasional blogger and crafter. To that end, I realize that I need to take more time out to pursue my interests, when the occasion arises, and to not give up so easily in the face of obstacles, disappointment or criticism.

I want my son to be truly kind. Not just to other people, the planet and animals –  I want him to also be kind to himself. To know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that not only does he have intrinsic value as a human being, but that he has the RIGHT to kindness – from others, and from himself. I want him to see the good in others, in himself and in the universe.

I want him to be accepting. Not just of people and ideas that resemble him or are familiar to him – but to those that do not, as well. While some form of judgement is inescapable, I want him to judge people for the RIGHT reasons, instead of simply seeing stereotypes and “boxes”.

Most of all – When the need arises, I hope he has his father’s strength, bravery and determination, and his ability to stand up for himself and his truth.

That is what I want most for my son. Which means, of course, that this is what I now have to learn and practice for myself. It’s not easy, knowing that the patterns he sees in me may very well be patterns he grows up to repeat. It’s not easy to know that I’m going to make mistakes, somehow, somewhere, that he will have to overcome on his own terms as an adult. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do the best I can to give him a healthy example to follow.