Put a Bib on It


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Pumping Mama

Thoughts on being a working, pumping mamaThis is my second go around being a working, nursing, pumping mom.

My thoughts on that follow:

  1. It’s time consuming. We’re all busy. Home life is busy, work is busy, society in general is busy. Finding time is not easy. If you’re like me, you have found the ability to multitask while pumping: I can often be found writing work reports (or sometimes future blogs—where this one may have come to fruition) while my electric pump and hands-free pumping bra does the majority of the “work”!
  1. You’re tethered by a hose. Enough said.
  1. You may never feel sexy again. If you have ever seen what happens when a woman is attached to a pump, I’m certain you agree!
  1. It’s uncomfortable. For all you men out there reading this: it’s as uncomfortable as it looks.
  1. All you get is a storage room. If you’re like me, there is no designated space for a pumping mother at my work place. So, I get the pleasure of spending time in the storage closet in order to have some privacy. At least they let me keep a chair in there so I don’t always have to drag one in with me!
  1. Cleaning pump parts. You have just spent roughly 15-20 minutes pumping, do you really want to spend another 10 cleaning all the parts? If you’re like me you just throw them all in your cooler to save for cleaning later which, including all the bottles the baby used while you were away from them, leads to plenty of dishes every night.
  1. Your life is dictated by the schedule of your boobs. As if your life being dictated by a tiny human (or many tiny humans) isn’t tough enough. Skip a pump/feeding and the evidence will be there right on the front of your shirt.
  1. Car Pumping. For my job, I often travel around throughout the day. This means pumping must occur in my car. Not easy to do completely discretely. Thank God for hand-less pump bras and nursing covers!
  1. Lugging the pump and parts. EVERYWHERE. As if you don’t have enough to tote around by just having the baby. And what about those days you forget one little piece of the crazy contraption… ugh, guess you won’t pump that day (then you can refer to #7)!
  1. Counting ounces is stressful. Did I squeeze out enough? How much does the baby eat while I’m away? Should I try to pump a little longer? Ugh. The stress. And please tell me you did not spill a drop of that liquid gold!

Keep it up mama.  This too will pass.  And in some twisted way you might even miss it a little bit (like I did after I stopped nursing/pumping for my first—seriously though, now that I am back in the midst of it, what was I thinking?!) .

And even through all those undesirable and unattractive things that go along with pumping and nursing—there are a few positives that for me, outweigh my list above:

  1. Burn extra calories—who doesn’t love to eat an extra piece of candy every once in awhile!
  2. Decreased chances for breast cancer—I want to see the babies of my grandbabies and will do whatever I can to increase the chances of that!
  3. Ideal nutrition for my baby—I can even produce the antibodies my baby needs to fight off colds and give them to him through my milk. Wow—amazing!


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Mommy Again!

mommy & DrewOur newest bundle of joy has arrived. 8 pounds, 20.5 inches and affectionately called Baby Drew.

After a routine c-section and a three-day hospital stay, I landed in my living room responsible for two small children while my husband worked (we own a one man show small business) and my 11-year-old went off to school. I was outnumbered (2 to 1), slow to move (due to the large incision across my abdominal region), super tired (from waking up through the night to feed), and it only took my 2-year-old about 10 minutes to figure that out.

Infant care has presented new complications that I didn’t have to worry about when Bryce was little. Having a hungry baby attached to you while your 2-year-old “plays” can get interesting—balls flying through the air, sensory table beans all over the floor, crying breakdowns because the block house falls over (this is really interesting because usually this is so funny to him), instant dire hunger pains that cannot wait, diapers removed from the clean and orderly diaper basket and spread all over the bedroom, and my personal favorite (sarcasm)—climbing and then jumping off EVERYTHING he can get on top of! On a good note, though, I never cried at the thought of latching Drew—though tears may have been shed a time or two out of frustration for lack of control. I learned rather quickly that I had to have a plan in place for toddler care that can work in harmony with baby care for our newest addition.

Food: As mentioned, dire hunger always sets in as soon as I start to feed Baby Drew “mommy milk” (as it is affectionately referred to in our house). Having Bryce eat while I feed Drew provides a more peaceful environment for everyone. The biggest sacrifice of doing it this way is my comfort. Instead of being able to breastfeed in the comfortable recliner, I end up sitting in a hard kitchen chair—worth it for peaceful eating!

Helping: This one is especially useful when diapering Baby Drew. Getting the diaper and wipes or even picking out a new sleeper can make Bryce feel like he is important. I really enjoy encouraging him to talk to Drew as he gets his diaper changed too. I feel like I can already see their brotherly bond forming as he talks to him.

Individual and focused attention: When Baby Drew is sleeping or even playing calmly on the floor, I am always certain to provide Bryce with individual attention—playing with him and talking about things he is doing. When possible, I include Baby Drew in the play.

Multi-task feeding: Often times I end up feeding Drew while playing with or reading to Bryce (and Drew inadvertently as he listens to the words). Keeping Bryce in close proximity makes it easier to get through an entire feeding without having to unlatch and address his behavior. A basket of small toys and books next to where I normally nurse provides a convenient selection of things to do when needed.

When friends have asked me, “Is it easier the second time around?” The best answer I can give them is, “It’s different.” Many things that were challenges the first time are no longer challenging (at least not as challenging anyway), but a new crop of challenges have sprung up.

Being a mommy again is different—not bad different—just different.


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Breastfeeding With an Audience

breastfeeding with an audienceThere is nothing quite like having a conversation about breastfeeding with an 8-year-old.

I’d just picked up Little Sister from her family child care provider. The daughter of one of her neighbors was playing outside and began asking me questions as I walked to my car. What was my name? What was my baby’s name? How old was she?

I was happy to oblige. Little Sister, not so much. While she’ll happily eat Cheerios and pears and peas, she largely refuses to drink milk from a bottle or cup. Consequently, I can’t get her settled for the drive home until she nurses.

As she fussed and tugged at my blouse, I explained to the girl that she was hungry and I needed to feed her.

“So she’s going to suck, like, right there?”

She pulled a sort of silly face and gestured with her hand at her own chest.

“She is,” I replied, trying not to make a big deal of it. If you’re a kid and you’ve never seen somebody nurse a baby before, it can seem pretty strange. I still think it’s odd sometimes, and this is my second baby.

But it was her next question that really made me smile.

“Was she born like that?”

“Yes. All babies can drink milk from their mama’s bodies or from a bottle. Some mamas choose to breastfeed and some choose to use a bottle.”

The nuances of supply and latch and the myriad other complications and considerations in that choice seemed like too much to get into, especially as there was nothing for it but to take a seat in my car and nurse Little Sister with an audience. I don’t typically like to regard her meals as teaching opportunities, but I do feel strongly that normalizing breastfeeding is important. It seems like most depictions of breastfeeding in broader culture are usually for shock value: problematic depictions of extended breastfeeding in Game of Thrones come to mind. It’s become normal for me, but this girl had no idea how it worked and was pretty obviously curious in a way only children can be. Even if I was a bit reluctant and embarrassed, I certainly wasn’t going to show it.

Because feeding my baby is nothing to be embarrassed about.


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All or Nothing Parenting

I'm not an all or nothing parent. And I don't want to be.

They’re both rear-facing. I already feel guilty about having to turn Miss E around eventually, given she’ll probably be seven years old before she weighs 40 pounds.

I recently checked out a book from the library about instituting Montessori practices at home for children from birth to age three. Miss E goes to a Montessori school, and we love it. I thought it might be nice to do some things with the Montessori philosophy for Little Sister, so after a bit of reading online I set up an infant space in our living room and it was actually a lot of fun. I only used materials we already had in our house, and Little Sister loved rolling around next to the mirror straightway. I thought the book would be a way to keep this low-key, child-driven approach going strong.

I was wrong.

The thing about contemporary parenting philosophies or teaching philosophies, at least as I’ve found them, is that everything feels all or nothing. The minute I cracked open this book and read about all of the things I hadn’t done when Little Sister was two and three and four months old, I felt defeated, sure there was no way to correct the irreparable harm I’d unwittingly done to my now-six-month-old baby by letting her mouth plastic toys or take the occasional nap in her car seat. So, why bother?

Friends and I have complained about this in regards to lots of things. It feels like if you can’t buy in completely, you might as well just adopt your child out to a pack of wolves. Because you’ve failed.

If you’re a babywearing mama, you’d better really go for it: soft-structured carriers worn for trips to the zoo or the grocery aren’t cutting it. Invest in a boutique wrap and master a back carry that lets you wear baby all day long. Are you breastfeeding? Nurse on demand, give up coffee and chocolate, never offer a pacifier or a bottle, and resign yourself to co-sleeping. Cloth diapering? Don’t you dare slap a disposable on that baby’s bottom, even during the problematic transition to solids. And if you’re going to buy organic strawberries for your toddler to munch, you’d really better dip into their college fund to buy organic everything.

But here’s the thing. It’s not possible for me to parent this way, no matter what beauteous images of complete parenthood the internet produces. Sometimes Little Sister will have to settle for a squeaky plastic teether rather than a sustainably-harvested and hand-crafted wooden rattle (seriously, she’ll have to settle for this forever, because, no). Sometimes her daddy or  I will stand her up on her legs because of the great big smile she gets when we do, even if she spends the rest of her time on her belly or her back, free to explore. Sometimes Miss E will eat white rice and bread for dinner because I’m too tired to fight with her. Sometimes the television will be on when my children are awake, or I’ll drive them both around in the car for an hour to get them to sleep, or we’ll get to bed too late for stories or bribe with candy or forget to do any of the positive, respectful, empowering things we intended to do with our children.

The reality is that no matter what I choose to do, or how inconsistent my ability to follow through, I believe my girls will benefit from a mother that really thinks about how I can do best by them.

And only sometimes totally screws it up.


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Dear Almost-Mom

Dear Almost-Mom, from a New Mom.Dear almost-mom,

When I was pregnant with my daughter, those nine months felt like the longest months of my life. I spent a lot of time dreaming about what this baby would look like, and wondering if we would have a boy or a girl. I worried about labor and delivery, our first few weeks home, breastfeeding and just generally surviving with a newborn.

Now that we have successfully survived the newborn stage, I found myself thinking back on some of those worries and wishing I had known some things then that I know now. Here is my advice for you, written with love from a new-mom:

  1. You might have a very long, painful labor. But you might not. If you are visibly pregnant, chances are you have heard everyone’s story about how awful their labor and delivery were. Chances are you’ve heard this from strangers at the grocery store, and that your husband’s brother’s wife’s cousin’s aunt has even surfaced to tell you her story. Yes, labor and delivery are a big deal. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it can take a long time. But it also might not. You might be one of the lucky ones who has a 6 hour start-to-finish labor. Those people don’t tell their stories as often, but they are out there. Worrying about something that is really pretty much out of your control isn’t going to make you feel better.
  2. Breastfeeding is hard. Really, really hard. It was really important to me to breastfeed my daughter, and I was committed to it come hell or high water. Which is good – because the first few weeks of breastfeeding easily qualify as the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including giving birth. The best advice I got was that if I could make it to the two week mark, I could make it. And that person was right – two weeks seemed to be a magical corner and it did get easier. It would still be awhile before it got easy, but it at least got easier.
  3. You will have a new understanding of the word exhausted. There is nothing I can think of to compare this to. Imagine being the most tired you’ve ever been, and then multiply it by a billion. You’ll be exhausted. But that’s okay. You’re supposed to be exhausted when you have a newborn. People understand that and you don’t need to apologize. And it’s temporary. I promise.
  4. Don’t listen to people who aren’t helpful. Even if one of those people is your mom. Or your best friend. Things are different from when we were children. You can’t just put a newborn to sleep on their tummy anymore, no matter how much your mom wants you to know that you turned out just fine when she did that. Get advice from people who you feel are helpful and try to ignore everyone else.
  5. You’re not an expert, but you are your baby’s expert. I don’t know everything about being a parent. I have needed a lot of help and advice. But one thing I realized pretty quickly was that I am the expert when it comes to my baby. We spent an awful lot of time together during those first few weeks getting to know each other and it didn’t take long for me to start to anticipate her needs. People will try to tell you what they think your baby needs – if I had a dollar for every time someone said, “She probably has a stomachache,” we could pay for her college right now – but trust your gut. While you won’t always know exactly what to do, you’ll figure it out together.
  6. You’re going to be just fine. You’re going to be great, even. There will be days you aren’t sure how you’re going to survive, but they will be few compared to the days where you don’t know how you ever lived before this little baby was part of your life. The day that baby smiles at you for the first time will be one of the best days of your life. I hear that her first words are going to be that same way, which is why we have been practicing saying “mamamama” for months…

 

Good luck, almost-mom. You’ll be snuggling that sweet baby before you know it. Now go take a nap. You’re going to need it.

Love,

New mom


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What’s a big girl to do with a new baby?

How do you help your toddler adjust to a new sibling? Very carefully.A few months ago, the mother of a dear friend – who is a dear friend herself – asked me if I would like some advice on helping my daughter adjust to a new sibling. Her daughters share roughly the same age difference that Miss E and her soon-to-be little brother or sister will, so I was eager for her perspective – and tickled that she’d asked before simply doling it out. I can’t be the only parent that wishes folks did this more often.

Given what she had to say was more useful than anything I’ve been able to Google or Pin or suss out on my own, I feel compelled to share.

Don’t tell Miss E how much she loves the new baby. Tell her how much the new baby already loves HER. Feeding my toddler’s already healthy ego? Perfect.

Keep a basket of books near where you’ll be sitting when you feed the new baby. Make sure the chair is big enough for Miss E to squeeze in for stories while the baby is being fed. I took this one step further and put together a special “nursing basket” of books and small, fiddly toys of a kind that usually keep her busy. I know it won’t keep her completely out of my lap – or running amok – but I’m hoping it will help keep her occupied if we reserve the basket exclusively for when baby is nursing. Especially if her new sibling is as poky of a feeder as she was in the beginning.

If possible, have a few small gifts on hand for Miss E to unwrap when folks bring a gift for the baby. Made possible by the Dollar Spot at Target.

Ask Miss E if she’d like to show visitors her new baby brother or sister. This seems like a natural extension of talking about “our baby,” which we’ve been doing. Hopefully she won’t feel so hateful toward the new addition that she’ll refuse.

Ask visitors (ahead of time) to ask Miss E about the new baby. Another nice way of making her feel connected, and part of a family that has a new member to introduce.

She may revert a bit, think she needs a bottle like the baby. You may want to have something special on hand to divert this behavior. Something only a “big sister” is big enough to use. Like pizza.

I know there will be hurt feelings and a lack of understanding, and I’ve been around pairs of new siblings often enough that I’m already steeling myself for the jealous tears. But feeling even a little bit more prepared – and feeding my nesting instincts preparing some special things for my sweet girl – just feels right.


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Driving cross country with a baby?

How do you plan for a 2,500 mile cross-country road trip with an infant? Very carefully!We’ve just returned home from a 2,500 mile drive across 9 states with a teething infant, and I think it’s safe to say, we survived. But, not without a few challenges, surprises and lessons learned along the way!

When a baby needs to eat, a baby needs to eat. We learned this one pretty quickly. The first time came about 2:00 in the morning and sounded something like a screech owl coming from the back seat of the minivan. This lead to the first of many middle of the night nursing sessions in a gas station parking lot. Although it was not the most ideal location and occasionally led to a baby experimenting with a car horn, it worked for us and allowed us to get back on the road as quickly as possible! It helped that a few choice locations, like the Houston Zoo, offer private areas for nursing mothers.

A well rested baby leads to a happy family. Sometimes we just had to make the choice that our entertainment would have to be sacrificed because Bryce needed to sleep. One problem we ran into was that a busy day meant a tired baby, and a tired baby meant he needed his bed. We struggled with getting Bryce to fall asleep while out sight-seeing or riding in his stroller, because he loved looking around and taking in the sights as much as mom, dad and older brother! This lead to us leaving the beach, the Naval Air Museum and even a putt-putt golf game before we were really “ready” to leave. This was upsetting for everyone, but when thinking about the alternative, we had to make the best, yet difficult, choice for everyone involved.

Preparing for the trip proved to be invaluable in many situations. Although we chose not to make any hotel reservations or specify what day we would be where, we were prepared for challenges on the road. The most valuable preparations proved to be the “new” toys we brought with us. 4C for Children in the Miami Valley offers a wonderful Lending Library – you can look into borrowing items yourself by contacting us – offering parents and child care providers the opportunity to check out different items, and I was able to choose toys that I felt Bryce would enjoy. We introduced them to him on the trip when he woke and seemed frustrated with being buckled into his seat. We also checked out many new books from our local library that helped him pass the time.

We might be home now, but there are still remnants of our trip all throughout our home, including a pile of laundry almost taller than me, various toys that I have found wedged in van crevices I didn’t know existed and four new teeth that have emerged in my son’s mouth. The best remnant is the smile and renewed sense of family we all seem to have since returning from our surprisingly enjoyable and relaxing vacation across the United States.