Monday, January 27, 2014

It's a Jungle Down There

I hate shaving my legs.  Every time I do it, I wind up with razor burn, and my legs look just as crummy smooth with irritated skin as they look with long, dark, wiry hair.  But I prefer smooth legs, so I cover up my rarely shaven legs, even though shorts would be more comfortable than jeans for about nine months out of the year in Austin.

Since I am not in the shaving habit, in addition to sweating a lot all summer, I've missed out on swimming with my kids now and again.  And the other night while in Pennsylvania visiting family, I was planning to sit on the deck when we all went to the hotel pool with my nieces, who live out East.  We only see them once a year, and when we do, the boys have such a blast with them!

As I sat at a table keeping an eye on the kids while they played with Adam, my 10-year-old niece asked me why I wasn't getting in.  I explained that I hadn't had time to shave.

She said I should get in anyways.

We chatted just a bit more as I realized that, in her youth, she was so much wiser
than me.

Heck yes, I should get in!

For one thing - we were the only people at the pool!  But even if there were others later - what was the big deal?!  I don't need to care if there's a societal expectation that I have hairless legs to swim.  I was letting an incredibly stupid "rule" get in the way of truly enjoying my family - and the hot tub!

But more than any of that, the reason I went up to our room and put on my bathing suit was that I so rarely influence my nieces, and I would be loathe to get it so very wrong with this one chance I had.  I didn't want to be an example of opting out of life because someone might think my legs weren't perfect, or because I might feel embarrassed by my lack of attention to maintaining my physical appearance.  I didn't want to be another example for her of prioritizing looks - little girls get enough of that crap.  I don't imagine donning my suit and climbing into the pool made a huge life-changing impression on her.  But at least I minimized the negative, if subtle, impression I'd have made if I'd spent the evening watching the fun in my jeans.

Days later - still hairy, still picking family fun over vanity.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bedtime Sucks

I am losing my mother f*#%ing mind.  I've been trying to nurse this kid to sleep for an hour.  He keeps looking all drifty, then he grabs for the blanket, or tugs at his pant legs, or wants to switch sides - again.  My stupid Sleep Number bed sucks @$$, and my back is killing me and the pain has radiated into my neck and caused a headache.  My nipples are irritated and every time he unlatches to switch (every twenty seconds) I push down a scream that's building in every cell of my body.  I'm so overstimulated my skin is crawling and I want to push him off of me.  It's too hot in here and my anxiety is mounting and I'm really angry, and I feel guilty for how angry I feel toward this precious, tiny child.  I can't breathe.  I message Adam.  "I can't do this."

Minutes later, a reply "Car?"

But Bellybean has finally stopped flopping from boob to boob.  He's calming down.  I don't want to waste gas driving him to sleep except as an absolute last resort.  I can give it one last pained, ticked-off try.

And then he's asleep.

Just like that.

My back is hot with pain.  My brow won't unfurrow.  My breathing is still off, my chest still full of the pent-up frustration.  But he's asleep.  And beautiful.  Peaceful.  His curls soft and magical.

I lay him down as I kiss his left eyelid, then lay down to stretch my back.  I pull my tank top back up over my poor, worn-out nipples.

I need to get up and do dishes, laundry.  But all I really want to do is scoot over so I'm next to him.  Soaking him up.  Breathing him in.  Sharing his peace.

I love, love, love Elizabeth Pantley's No-Cry Sleep Solution books.  
What works for you to help your little ones sleep?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Keep on Nursing in Public, B!^&$es

In the documentary "Breastmilk" someone says something like, "You have to be almost mean to breastfeed."  I don't know if I remember that quite right, but it was something like that.  I understood that as "You have to be determined."  That's how I felt about natural birth.  I felt like I had to be completely and totally committed to the goal of having a natural birth if I was going to get through without screaming for an epidural.  And I think maybe you do have to be absolutely committed to breastfeeding to keep at it without being derailed by one of the many, many barriers you may encounter. This is NOT to say that not meeting birthing and breastfeeding goals is the result of too little determination, only that success is not the result of a lackadaisical attitude about it.

The other day, I had a different interpretation of that line - a literal one.  I was sitting near my in-laws at a cafe table (in Lititiz, PA!  Get it?) and Bellybean signed, unprompted for the first time ever(!), that he wanted to nurse.  And I thought, *#%^ it, my baby needs to eat."  And so I nursed him.

I don't know who my mean attitude was toward (my in-laws have always supported breastfeeding), but I think it was toward me!

I've been feeling touched out, and reluctant to nurse my toddler in public.  I can't explain why.  Maybe because now that he's bigger it's easier to nurse seated than walking around, and when we're busy out and about I don't want to stop to nurse.  Maybe because after settling down and getting him access to the boob, he often only takes a few sips - surely he can't need to nurse if it's just a few sips!  (This is something that goes through my head but I don't really believe it - nursing is about more than just food.)  Sometimes it's because I'm somewhere that I want to be discreet, like sitting in the crowded cafetorium next to someone's fifth grader at my kid's school choir concert, and I know odds are good that Bellybean will shove my shirt up my boob away from his face, and will scream if I try to re-arrange it to cover any breast flesh.

I realized before our trip that for the first time (I don't remember it ever being an issue with my oldest two), I was nervous about breastfeeding around my extended family over the holidays.  With my older boys, I nursed so discreetly that I never worried anyone would see my boob or care that I was breastfeeding.  But Bellybean is less accommodating, and I don't want to feel awkward or deal with rude comments if I'm showing skin around family - or to feel anxious in anticipation of a bad reaction (that will likely never come).

But that day was like a little breakthrough.  Sort of.  It was like I gave myself a kick in the pants that set my priorities straight.  He's not an infant anymore, and his wants aren't needs in the same way they once were.  But when my 18-month-old asks to nurse, he does need something from me - milk, or connection, or to feel centered.  He needs something that it's likely only I can provide.  And while sometimes he could be distracted by table food or a toy, I think he feels rejected when I don't nurse him.

He needs - and I need for him - to feel loved and valued.  So *#%^ it - as best as I am able, if my little boy wants to nurse, I will nurse him.  Even if I feel awkward or am busy or touched out or it's inconvenient.  I know from experience how fast this time will go.  I can buck up for a few minutes here and there.  I can re-frame my thoughts.  I can do a better job at self-care so I have more to give him.

I can be sure that our breastfeeding relationship is a positive one, and not one that either of us resents.  Even if I have to get a little mean about it.

Do you find it challenging to nurse your toddler?
Have you had to get a little b!^&$y with yourself, or anyone else,
to affect an attitude adjustment?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Adventures in Baby Nursing

I wanted to post to Facebook many times while traveling to see family, but I don't really manage to do social media much away from home.  So here are some breastfeeding-related highlights of our trip that I might have shared if I was better at keeping my phone charged or I wasn't constantly chasing my toddler through un-childproofed places:

  • The Car-Seat-Lean-In is, incredibly, still possible when the car seat is in the outboard position (with three across - thank you, Ford Fusion rental car).  It is particularly difficult to nurse standing up while leaning into a car seat - in the freezing cold - but this is an important fact for me to be aware of.  Because sometimes my kid just will not get into a car seat without a boob "reward."
  • We started our trip by going to see Elephant and Piggie's We Are in a Play, because we are huge fans of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books.  (The play is awesome - see it if you can!  The books are wonderful - get them - get them now!)  I was worried that Bellybean, exhausted from the loss of four hours of sleep thanks to a 6AM flight, would cause a ruckus and make me miss the play.  But I think nursing helped keep him calm and attentive.  And actually, it was while nursing him during the play that I realized he had a fever.  So being able to NIP was a huge comfort to him.
  • My husband's cousin arrived at a party and I was sitting on the floor nursing Bellybean.  He gave me a sideways hug & ruffled Bellybean's hair, either without noticing that he was nursing or without caring.  Either way, a bf win.
Lititz, PA is pretty conservative.  Like, really pretty conservative.
Which added to my NIP nerves at the Donmoyer gatherings there.
  • I got to feeling really shy at the party (a feeling I loathe, but which is an integral part of me - blargh), unable to connect with people much as I supervised Bellybean on the stairs and helped him wash his hands just for funsies - seventeen times.  A couple of times he was very fussy and wanted to nurse but I wanted him to respect some nursing manners boundaries (I like to be in charge of my shirt, thank you very much), and as he got louder I felt awkward, like I was drawing so much attention to us. But I stayed in my little bubble, as oblivious of everyone else as I could be, and focused on my little one.  As loud as Donmoyers are, I probably didn't draw nearly as much attention as I imagined.  And they've never given me any reason to think they wouldn't support me.  In fact some of the Lititz family members have made a point of telling me they do, which means the world to me!
  • I told my SIL I was anxious about nursing Bellybean around family in a way I'd never been before, because he shoves my shirt up over my boob, unlike my older sons, who tolerated a shirt right up to their noses.  She didn't reassure me, but she didn't tell me not to nurse around her girls or my BIL, either.  I'll take it.
  • *Bellybean was super fussy during our Dhistmas (Donmoyer Christmas) celebration, and finally chilled out and nursed, and giggled, while nursing, at something silly I did.  My darling niece looked at him and said, "Now he's a happy baby!"  (*This one's a favorite!)
  • I got to thank Adam's uncle for sending me a breastfeeding-related article awhile back.  I'm sometimes bad about replying to emails.  I was so touched by the support it represented that he thought of me and took the time to share it, and I was glad to finally let him know.
  • I started our trip with what was starting to look like a bad eye infection, but after dumping a little breastmilk into my eyes just a couple of times, it was almost gone!  Now I'm home with a pointless bottle of Visine and two healthy eyes.
  • When we arrived in New Jersey for the second leg of our trip, Adam's grandmother was rushing out of her house because her daughter had just been taken to the emergency room.  We spent hours in the waiting room there.  Any nervous feelings I had about nursing four feet away from people who were facing me in the next row of chairs were stuffed down firmly under my gratitude and relief that I was creating antibodies to feed to my toddler for all of the germs he was being exposed to there.  (Adam's aunt had surgery yesterday to save her life and my MIL is taking care of Grandma for the time being.)
  • My cousin just had a baby, and my aunt told me I'd be happy to know she's breastfeeding!  (This was extra nice to be told because other than my sister, I've had exactly zero support from my side of our family since the incident that made me an advocate.  In fact someone tried to start a conversation with my sister that she knew from the first comment would have been a snarky one if she hadn't shut it down.)
  • I nursed Bellybean to sleep on the first flight home, and nursed him to calm a few tantrums when he was still exhausted on the second flight.  Flying with a calm/sleeping baby rather than a screaming and crying one has to be one of the best pro-NIP arguments ever.

I had a little talk with myself at a coffee shop one morning that set my priorities straight.  He may be 18 months old, but my toddler needs to nurse.  And even if I'm not feeling it, I will do my best to meet his needs.
I nursed Bellybean at the party with loads of Donmoyers, at restaurants and truck stops, at Hershey's Chocolate World, at my sister's, during Dhistmas...  I'm quite certain boob was glimpsed my some family members as well as strangers.  And not one person said anything about it.  All the worrying that someone might was a whole lotta wasted energy.

Oh - and we gave our snowman woman boobs.  Because boobs are awesome.  

Have you breastfed while traveling?