Category Archives: Breastfeeding

When Is It My Turn?

Starting my family (albeit not exactly on purpose. ahem) at the ripe old age of twenty one, I’ve heard all the popular lamentations of the benefits of young motherhood:

“Oh, you’ll never regret having kids so young,” my co-worker crooned, “Just think of all the fun you’ll have when you’re my age!”

Or, “You have so much more energy in your twenties, it’s the best time to have kids!”

And my personal favorite, “You just couldn’t wait, could you? Well, at least you’re getting it over with early!”

In the midst of a dinner-time meltdown, with the three year old whining because she doesn’t like her food, and the 11-month old crying out of exhaustion because she missed her nap today, my husband and I will exchange looks and smile a secret, distant smile that says “Yes. Someday, this too shall pass. Someday we will be forty and retired, our kids will be grown, and our sanity restored.”

Yup, someday it will be my turn to grow up.  To find out what I want to do with  my life, that doesn’t involve whipping my boob out every two seconds, exploding diapers, and endless rounds of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” (bet you didn’t know he had a zebra! Or a T-rex!)

Someday I will have time to myself.  It’s a goal all mothers, all parents, in some way or form, dream about.

But is it the dream we should be focused on?

Should the  “me time” be so important?

Well, for one, of course, it makes us better mothers.  It’s important to rest and rejuvenate, to understand what our triggers are as moms when we-just-can’t-take-it-another-second and need that break so we don’t scream at a toddler who really doesn’t get it yet.

But sometimes, I worry all my focusing on the “me time” actually reveals a weakness about myself.  A selfishness, a lack of realization about what makes life worth living.

The truth is, life is never free of obligation and demands that sap our time, energy, and mental capacities.  At any minute, we could lose a loved one or get diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  I will more than likely be that mother who, at the age of forty-five, feels she has finally survived raising her family, only to look down at  a positive pregnancy test one last time.  The task of aging parents and health problems is one many of us will eventually have to deal with.

These things are not the anomalies in life; they are life.

My biggest hope is to face my responsibilities in life not with dread, not with the attitude of “when will it all be over?”, but with joy. Real, actual, palpable joy.

Life is so so short.  Why do we focus our energies on complaining about our children and the demands they bring into our lives? Why do I sigh when Ada wakes up in the middle of this posting and interrupts my blissful, early morning coffee and writing time? Why can’t I be happy to see her beautiful, sleepy face and princess-pink pajama arms reaching out for me to hug her?

I definitely don’t want be preachy, or unrealistic about how downright hard it is to be a mom.  We sacrifice everything, we really do.  Our bodies, our time, our mental energies drained into planning the next meal-up, trying to fit in cleaning while entertaining kids, fighting a desire to just have a minute of silence with the constant babbling and bickering of sisters.

I want to realize that those things are the things that make life, life.  The things that are little by little, breaking down a selfish, stony exterior to reveal a more loving, more joyful soul.

I don’t want to live in the attitude of “someday, my life will start….”

I want to live in the here and now.

I want to embrace all of it, whatever that may bring me.

Last night at the hospital, my patient’s daughter tucked her mom in and said good-night.  She pulled me aside in the hallway, explaining “We are really trying to help her learn to get through the night by herself…that’s ok, isn’t it?”

This woman’s family had been by her side almost 24/7.  Happily. Cheerfully. I had never seen anything like it, and I told her that.

She blushed and started stammering, “Well, it’s, you see…”

I realized she thought I was reprimanding her and rushed to explain myself, “No, no, I think that’s wonderful. It’s so nice to see a family taking care of each other.”

She beamed. “Oh, well, yes, I can do it, so why not?”

Why not indeed?

Taking care of our loved ones. Sacrificing.  A constant back-and-forth from caring for ourselves and for others.  It never really ends.

It’s my turn to find the joy in that.

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What Kind of Mother?

I have never rocked my baby to sleep.

Are you shocked? Horrified? Disbelieving?

Join the club.

Since the moment she first laid in my arms, my Mya has resisted any and all of my attempts at snuggling.  I entered the hospital this second time around, dreaming of the sleepy aftermath of birth, when I could hold my sweet baby girl to my chest and breathe in that brand-new baby smell while she slept contentedly.

That didn’t happen.  Instead, she took to barfing.  A lot.  With a first baby who nursed happily through a time in my life when I worked the night shift and survived on gallons of caffeine, I had no experience with colic or a “fussy” eater.  One kind nurse, trying to be helpful, suggested we suction out her little belly, hoping relieving it of mucus would cure the problem.  Against my mom gut intuition, I agreed.  Mya ended up with a gashed throat from the suction tube, which we didn’t discover until her one-week check-up, when we realized, through our sleep-deprived comas, that our baby had not, in fact, been screaming for a week straight just to torment us; she was in pain.

Moms, always trust your gut.  Even in the little things. We just know.

So, she spent the first couple weeks of her life miserable from the sore in her throat. Then, I contributed to the misery with a double whammy of over-dosing on the coffee I had missed out on during my pregnancy while simultaneously eating cartons of fruit in an effort to get a jump-start on losing the baby weight.  She threw up everything she ate, every time she ate. Cringe away, but I will again remind you that my first baby had NO problems with nursing.   The whole watching-what-you-eat thing with breastfeeding was completely foreign to me. The caffeine I was able to figure out pretty quickly, but I can admit that it was news to me that fruit, especially those of the heavily seeded variety, such as raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries, are major gas/colic contributors in babies.  After the “oh, maybe what I’m eating is affecting her” lightbulb went on, I stopped at nothing. I cut out everything–all caffeine, dairy, fruit.   If you’re thinking of going non-dairy, I highly recommend Blue Diamond almond milk, Silk is better for soy.  I especially enjoy chocolate soy milk, and I guarantee you that a two year old doesn’t know the difference…

So my baby had an upset tummy for a while.  She never slept well because she was so miserable.  It was a rough couple of months.  Everyone in my family took their turns in doing laps with Mya on their shoulder. It was the only thing that calmed her.  I think that’s where it all began–somewhere in the ceaseless laps, in the guilt I felt for bringing the pain about to her, she learned that I was not the person to rely on to rock her to sleep.

Oh sure, she’ll go to sleep for me if I nurse her.  But try to hold her or rock her, and she literally stands on end, pushes me away with her chubby little hand, and bellows at the top of her lungs.  It’s utterly heartbreaking.  All I want to do is rock my baby girl.  The true wrench of the knife, however, is the fact that she willingly and happily snuggles and goes to sleep for my husband, my sisters, grandmas.  Basically, everyone but me.

“Oh, you’re just stressed,” my mom said, waving off my complaints, “She can sense that.”

Well, yes, I’m stressed. I can’t do the one thing that moms are supposed to be able to do–comfort my baby.

Right now, at this moment, my husband is putting her to sleep. I tried to nurse her and she didn’t even want that.  I tried to go in her room and hold her, soothe her, rock her.  I’m like a dog; I never stop trying for her affections. She swatted at me, arched her back to get as far away from me as possible, screaming.  Almost every night of her life, my husband has put her to sleep or she has cried herself to sleep.  I feel like a murderer admitting that.  I don’t know what I do wrong.

It breaks my heart. My baby will be in one in a month.  She won’t be a baby for that much longer.  I feel like such a bad mother.  Mothers are supposed to be the nurturers, the ones kids want to come to for comfort and snuggles.  I’m plenty comfy enough for snuggling, I can be sure of that, so what is the problem?

What kind of mother can’t rock her own baby to sleep?