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A little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of blah blah blah....

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Day I Broke Up With My Lactation Consultant

I just went back to work two days ago and I think I broke up with my lactation consultant. More accurately, I think I got dumped over pumping. I just joined the elite and ever growing group of mommies who turned to their lactation support for, well, support, and felt judged, bullied, insulted, and overall, unsupported. And it totally feels just like a high school break-up, complete with tearful bouts of remembering the good times, the hurt of words that were exchanged in the end, that empty feeling of imagining life without her--only now I have a husband who is sitting up with me in the middle of that first emotional night and encouraging me to remember the good times and focus on the ways in which our relationship was so positive, rather than the ugly ending. Ok, not such a perfect analogy after all! Nonetheless, I find such great comfort in repeating the same mantra today that I so often repeated after those turbulent teenage unrequited love stories: it hurts a lot right now, but that pain will soften over time and it won't hurt forever.

The truth of the matter is that my husband is right. I should focus on the good times. After I gave birth to my son, I felt hugely empowered and supported by this lactation consultant. I really even put her on a pedestal (which always leaves such vast room to fall)--stating excitedly to anyone who would listen that the greatest benefit of laboring and delivering at the hospital I did was that you came home not only with your baby but with access to this amazing lactation consultant for life. The issue that came up is not entirely so important--everyone is human, lactation consultants included. When you are really great at something, it can be hard to imagine anyone else being able to do your job and threatening to believe that someone else is. Inadvertently I may have caused this person to feel that I was double dipping and crossing her authority when from my perspective I, like so many new mothers am just trying to utilize the resources I do have and do what is best for my child. I am not double dipping, I am proverbially just dipping the other end to maximize use of both my chip and my dip. And my chip could have many ends, you know, chips come in all shapes and sizes. This adorable chubby little baby on my lap did not come with an owner's manual. The one key phrase I took such comfort in hearing from my former lactation specialist was that there were a million right ways to feed and care for a baby; the most important thing was that he is loved and he had no shortage of that.

Knowing that there are a million right ways to care for, raise and parent my son is both empowering and intimidating. In that blank canvas kind of way. And when you hear that it takes a village to raise a child, you just want to utilize that whole village to the best of your ability. In the weeks preceding my return to work I had, thank G-d, major success with breastfeeding and also major struggles with pumping enough to supply my son with bottles when I would return to work. I brought up the issue with my lactation consultant and sought the advice and experience of friends. I was assured by the lactation consultant that things would be ok and it would get better, even provided with some suggestions. Some of them were helpful, others not as much. I took comfort in her telling me that although I feared "the worst"--not being able to breastfeed my son anymore--I was miles away from that point. There were a million steps between here and there and we would cross them as they came up. Friends and other mothers offered suggestions of things that worked for them and empathy for the challenge of the situation. Pumping with a newborn baby in the house who wants you right then no matter when right then is, is very hard. When I met with my son's new pediatrician where we moved, I was actually relieved when he and his nurse provided me with information on how to supplement with formula in these first weeks until I could build up a supply. It felt good to know that my situation was a common one and that this solution was not necessarily permanent but was perfectly safe and acceptable.

Now I did not need to worry about my son starving while I was at work and could focus on the multitude of other worries a working mom has when making this transition. The ambivalence is not about whether I want to work or not--I am comfortably settled in my desire to return to teaching part time while being able to devote my afternoons and evenings to my baby boy. I feel supported in my workplace, supported in my family and supported in my community. I don't know how many mothers can say that--whether they are working-out-of-the-house moms or working-at-home moms. My husband and I even sat down with a wonderfully supportive postpartum doula to help iron out and air some of those other myriad worries. I walked to work on my first day with a genuine smile and feeling of confidence. My son was in good hands while I was gone--hands that are entirely focused on caring for him in that time and not also reaching high and low to complete household chores and other tasks. Returning home at the end of the day was a joyous reunion and a relief. Everything really was OK. I just needed to navigate my way through pumping while at work and when it came to those issues, my former lactation support specialist was always the person I called. So it caught me off guard when in talking she got stuck on the fact that I had spoken to my pediatrician about supplementing with formula and also to my postpartum doula about how to arrange a space and environment to pump at work. She seemed uneasy with my decision to use formula at this point (though I'm not sure what other choice I had) and expressed that she was used to working with the pediatricians where we used to live who "deferred to her unless what she said didn't work." She said as nicely as I think she could that having too many people help me would be "confusing" and that when it came to pumping the only advice she could give me was to "just do it."

The feelings of judgment and the blow to my confidence are not really external factors; I know they are just a heightened awareness of my own feelings of ambivalence and insecurity. The sadness that followed isn't really about losing her support; how supportive is it really to have to nurture someone's feelings of authority while trying to nurture your baby? They are also just displaced emotions and guilt about leaving my boy and actually feeling good about it. But that is where the most important point in this whole experience rises so clearly to the surface. It does take a village to raise a child and thank G-d, we have one. Both in our home and family, in our neighborhood, in our community and extended family and beyond. We have a village standing on the front-lines ready to wage battle when necessary, ready to celebrate victory when they can and ready to console and empathize when that is needed, too. The amount of support and love that my son has in his six short weeks of life is immeasurable. We are blessed beyond comparison. And if my abrasive desire to quell my wounded ego leads me to say that this village is also lucky to have rid itself of one idiot, then be it. I will carry with me the pearls of wisdom that were so helpful when I needed them: there are a million right ways to care for my baby and the most important thing is that he is loved. He has no shortage of that!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Morning Confessions From The Mommyhood Underground

During the last month as we've adjusted to life with Baby S in our home, moved that home from a house with three bedrooms, three stories, two and half baths and a five minute commute to my husband's job to a two-bedroom, one and a half bath, townhouse apartment over an hour away from my husband's job, inquiring minds always want to know how my son is. At first I thought, how sweet, everyone wants to know how S's day is going. I'd give the latest update or anecdote, dirty diaper details and all. But after a while, I've come to realize or at least feel that what everyone really wants to know is what my son is like? What type of disposition does he have? Aside from the unique talent it takes to have a diaper blowout, spit up down the back of my shirt and pee on the chandelier all before 8:30am, what is a day in the life of S really like? I would casually respond to everyone--strangers at the grocery store, pediatricians, grandparents and relatives, friends, even my husband in the same way: with a glossed over cheerful depiction of my smooshy snoogly chubby cheeked bundle of joy who couldn't possibly be one of those "difficult" babies you so often hear about...

About two weeks into his life when S started to interrupt hours of smooshy snoogly chubby cheeked adorableness with moments, minutes and then longer stretches of fussiness, I made excuses. He didn't like his carseat. It was too hot. It was too cold. I hadn't paid enough attention to him. He was having a developmental leap and even my iPhone app could show you that, see?? Until one night my husband mused that he hoped S was having a developmental leap and not just developing his personality. I shrugged it off, eyes glazed over with that deer-in-the-headlights look of sleep deprivation only made possible by 40 weeks of pregnancy insomnia followed by a month of newborn induced sleepless nights. But as long as those nights were (or seemingly too short) the days were even longer. For the twelve hours of time between commuting and working that my equally exhausted and patient and optimistic husband is gone, my son would sleep in 20 minute increments. Only while being held, worn, carried, walked or otherwise attached to me. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Whose baby sleeps? I'd like to shake his hand! I'd like his autograph once he gets his fine motor skills under control!!

Thank G-d, my son does sleep while being put down at night for a good 4-6 hour stretch. Only remember those daylight hours of never being put down? Even with the amazing advent of being able to wear your baby and have access to both hands, there is only so much one can get done around the house that is still yet to be entirely unpacked and organized. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Ok, and I'll do laundry when he does laundry. Dishes when he does dishes. Heck, I'll shower and brush my teeth when he showers and brushes his, um, gums...

A quiet voice I so often hushed in my head spoke louder and louder until last night I could finally say it aloud to my husband: you know those "difficult babies" you hear about? We have one. But I can't call him "difficult." He doesn't get to decide what's easy and what's difficult, we do. And in one month how could we fairly expect him to live up to a standard of lifestyle we took 30 or so years to develop? He is a sensitive baby. He is a needy baby. All babies are sensitive and have needs and thank G-d, our son is very efficient and competent in conveying that to us. He doesn't hate life. He doesn't hate us. No, our son just poop!

Here's where I become one of those parents who discusses in far too much detail the difficulties and dilemmas of diapers and digestion. Feel free to scroll down to the bottom, I'll probably attach a smooshy snoogly chubby cheeked photo at the end of this post for all to see and love. But if you're willing to brave the Monday Morning Confessions from the Mommyhood Underground on this lovely day, here goes. Thanks for coming along for the ride! We have ourselves a Gassy Gus. He cries when he farts. He farts a lot. Who cries when they fart?? Most boys and even some middle aged men think farting is hilarious! Not S. It upsets him to the point of even crying through nursing sessions. That, to me, is the worst. The one thing I can do to comfort and help my son is no longer soothing for him. And his sobs and screams are the saddest ones I've ever heard. S is, thank G-d, a healthy baby boy who eats well and is growing and developing day by day, and like so many of his itty bitty peers, he has an immature digestive system. It's all brand spanking new, freshly minted, just out of the shop! It will get better, I am told. These days, these hours, and minutes and lifelong moments of exhaustion and frustration will be replaced by a time when my son makes jokes about going to the bathroom that will inevitably drive me so crazy I was wish he could find the subject to be more upsetting again! And they will also be filled with smooshy snoogly chubby cheeked cuddles that don't allow me to finish all the tasks I'd like to complete in a day but do allow me to be close to and bond with my baby boy.

And in the meantime, I will tell it like it is. Grin, and bear it. Laugh about it, gripe about it, occasionally possibly in the middle of the night cry just a tiny bit about it because how different am I really from this tiny little guy who is tired and frustrated and afraid and wants to be comforted? And my husband and I will have our senses of humor as always. A couple of weeks ago he played a YouTube video (which, I am sorry, but you'll have to look up for yourself if you're that curious) of actor Morgan Freeman reading the popular children's book, Everyone Poops. My son was not impressed. He fussed through most of it while I bicycled his legs and wriggled his hips and massaged his belly until he could finish filling his diaper. I, however, now hear the soothing sounds of Morgan Freeman's voice every time I enter the bathroom...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

To The World's Okayest Moms...

The love you feel for your own child is one so complete 
and all consuming 
that it can at once ground you and weigh you down, 
fill you up to spilling over,
bend you to the point at which you are positive that surely you will break. 

But there is nothing more whole and more perfectly imperfect than the love one feels for her child. 
It is lofty and heavy and knows no bounds or limits. It tells you simultaneously that as a mother you are everything and also you are no one. 
That you know best. 
That you know nothing at all. 
That you can have it all and do it all but never all at the same time. 

And in the end the three dishes you manage to wash and the single load of laundry you get in the dryer but never turned on in between twenty four hours of nursing, changing diapers, rocking, repeating....

nursing, changing diapers, rocking, repeating....

nursing, changing diapers, rocking, repeating....

nursing, changing diapers, rocking, repeating....

... is somehow both a monumental success and not good enough. 
Not ever good enough. 

But be still. 
Be easy. 
You can't measure up because this love is too big and too great. 
A love so colossal is in and of itself immeasurable and there is little room left for quantifying other, lesser things, like dirty dishes or spit up stained laundry. 
Because this love is blind enough to see it all. 
Ignorant enough to know it all. 
Numb enough to feel it all both moving through you and washing over you. 
It knows from exhaustion and thirst and hunger. 
It knows from deciding in the twenty minutes a day during which you have access to both your hands whether it's more important to shower or use the bathroom or finally turn on the dryer . 
It grows so heavy at times it can feel like a burden. 
How on earth did you go from being this watermelon-bellied princess who was concurrently the center of her world and the center of gravity to being consumed by a force that defies gravity altogether? 

But then he smiles and gazes in your eyes. 
And this time it's not a reflex. 
It is intentional. 
It is silent and it speaks volumes. 

You are mine, it says. 
You are my world, it says. 
You are trying and failing and trying again, 
it says 
and then...
in a wave of weightless flight as you are lifted up by this inconceivable energy to keep going, 
to do it all over again and again and again,
it whispers gently and softly and kindly: that is good enough. 
You are good enough.