Breastfeeding Belligerence

When you’re breastfeeding, you’re rife with hormones. Just overflowing. Your body is not your own, your personal space is not your own, your schedule is not your own, your wardrobe choices are not entirely your own, your bed may not even be your own. Heaven knows your toilet stall is not your own! This and so many scenarios can make a breastfeeding mom a tad… cantankerous.

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You know you are doing the best thing you can for your child. You may be struggling and pumping and supplementing and rubbing tinctures and sipping lactation teas and stirring voodoo milk-making magic, all to feed your child. You may have blebs and bleeding nipples; you may talk to your lactation consultant more than your own mother. You may suffer vasospasms but cry through it because you know it’s worth it. You may be overrun with milk and suffer clogs and mastitis. You may face unsupportive counterparts who dismiss your breastfeeding endeavor. You may be happily in the middle with just the right supply, perfect latch, and cheering support system. You may desperately want to nurse, but through no choice of your own, are forced to wean, supplement, or exclusively pump. No matter your nursing situation, you get crabby. You do. And that’s ok.

When a non-breastfeeding adult is sick, he or she gets extra rest, long showers, and can request extra personal space due to skin aches. When a breastfeeding mom gets sick, she gets none of this. Instead, her nursling may suckle for longer and more often due to supply dips. Of course this is partially priceless because: hellooooo antibodies! You are, in that sickly moment, your child’s best medicine and tailor-made defense against whatever bug plagues you. You are also exhausted, possibly nauseated, and every touch feels like a pummeling, so nourishing a human with your own ill body is a task only a fellow breastfeeder could truly understand. It is a true act of love and self-sacrifice. You shoot death-glares at your non-lactating spouse because… well, because.

It’s hot and humid and all you want is air-conditioning and a cool drink, but guess what your nursling wants? Boob. He wants to press his sweaty, chubby body up against your sweltering self and nurse. You cringe, anticipating the discomfort, but still pull your babe close, offer your breast, and feel the co-mingling sweat pool on your under-boob. You once were hot but now you are a furnace drenched in sweat that is not entirely your own. Visions of sixth grade bacteria slideshows dance in your heat-exhausted head. Still, you know your breastmilk is not just nourishing your little one but it provides better hydration than any sports drink. You are a saturated powerhouse! You’re still irritated though.

It’s quiet and genteel . You are in a conservative setting and your breastfeeding toddler — who will not wean — wants milkies NOW. There’s no time to run to the car or duck into some secluded corner. Your have two choices: nurse your toddler right there in public or face the milk-craving wrath of a boob-addicted tot. Either way you’re facing ridicule. So, might as well feed your child. You grab a seat and breastfeed, bolstering yourself with all of the courage-boosting mantras you can muster. If you are unflappable, if you are confident, haters will be silenced. You are a breastfeeding badass, a lactation warrior. You are standing up to ridiculous social mores for the benefit of your child. It still sucks and inner you feels vulnerable and wishes this wasn’t happening, but screw it! It is what it is. This is motherhood. Milk on milky mama! It’s ok to feel on edge.

You’re at work and need to pump. Someone — who has no children or is unfamiliar with breastfeeding body requirements — requests that you skip your pumping session to meet his or her business needs. If you push this session you know that, 1) you won’t have another pumping opportunity that day or at least not for hours, 2) you will leak and will be painfully engorged which could not just lead to milk duct clogs but mastitis, 3) you may not produce enough milk today to feed your child at daycare the next day, 4) you set a dangerous precedent that your medically necessary pumping sessions are negotiable. Explain that you have a legally-protected medical need to pump but, after you pump to feed your child, you would be happy to meet with him or her. You cringe having your colleague think about your breasts, shudder worrying about career fall-out, and loathe having to stand up for yourself, but you embolden yourself knowing no one would ask a diabetic to delay his or her insulin shot for a meeting, and your medical need should be equally honored. You’re anxious and frustrated, knowing full well that men don’t face such dilemmas.

You want to have adult time. You want to go away with friends, have freedom, feel momentarily human. But you’re breastfeeding. If your little one accepts a bottle, you can navigate this with careful planning. You can pack your pump, a cover, and a cooler. You can enjoy the fun then dip out to pump and rejoin the festivities. It’s not ideal or entirely relaxing, but it’s feasible. If your little one does not accept a bottle and/or your body doesn’t respond to the pump, you either delay such activities until the babe has been weaned, or bring your nursling with you. One option is depressing and one is exhausting. You know breastfeeding is more than worth this temporary inconvenience. You know this is but a blink of a moment in the journey of your life. You know you won’t breastfeed forever and may even miss it one day. But you’re still miffed.

You go shopping and find a few clothing options that wonderfully work with your postpartum physique. But there’s no boob access. You can either buy the items and hold onto them until after you wean — but will they fit you then? And you really wanted the morale boost of a new cute outfit. — or you keep looking. Either option is frustrating. It’s so minute in the grande scheme, and you know it, but it still irks you. It’s a little gut punch to your postpartum paunch.

You want to sleep in after a rough night’s sleep, but your little one just wants to nurse. And nurse and nurse and nurse. You just want to flop down on your stomach and sleep-drool on your pillow. Then you see your spouse, snoring away. Blissfully sleeping with nipples unencumbered. You fill with irrational frustration that seeps out of you in unglamorous, unflattering aggravation throughout the day. You know you’re in the wrong for being grumpy. You know your spouse cannot nurse your child for you. But you just wanted to sleep! It’s not fair. You’re feeling envious and burdened.

All of this is ok. It’s ok to love breastfeeding but hate it sometimes. It’s ok to love your spouse but envy his/her nipple freedom sometimes. It’s ok to feel burdened or frustrated or touched-out. It’s ok to feel like breastfeeding is the longest brief life phase. It’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It doesn’t lessen your efforts.

Sure, you should try to harness your emotions and not lash out at others. Of course hormones aren’t a blanket excuse to act however you please. Yes, you shouldn’t be edgy towards non-breastfeeders because they don’t face your same trials; you know full well that they battle their own struggles.

Still, we’re human. Sometimes we falter. Sometimes our burdens overwhelm us and sully our good intentions. That’s natural. That’s normal. Breastfeeding is still worth it. You can do this. You’re still a good mom. Even if you are grumpy.

 

 

 

It’s All Impermanent

So often we get stuck in the minute trials of life that we forget that it’s all fleeting. We get buried in the deliverables and career paths, tantrums and to-do lists, routines and skirmishes, tantrums and developmental timelines, carpool and never-ending laundry that we lose perspective entirely.

Then, a moment strikes us back into reality. We realize the beauty of the moment — this very moment — and the speed with which time is racing. We pause amidst the surrounding churn and process the impermanence of it all.

Everything is temporary. The pain, the joy, the fun, the challenges, the frustrations, the worries, the celebrations, the sleepless stages, the adorable phases. All of it — good and bad, fretful and consoling — is fleeting.

We must remember that as we go about our days, toiling (simply for money or for personal aspiration) and/or raising our humans and growing ourselves. We must remind ourselves that no matter what pain or sadness, worry or frustration, anger or embarrassment we are feeling, it is not forever. It will end. We must too remember that the joyous, beautiful, precious, balanced times are not permanent. They too will end. So we must savor them. We will experience pain and comfort, mourning and elation, and that is natural. It is good. It is all good.

We must simply survive and savor, honoring the balance and minding the impermanence of life.

Moments It’s All Worth It

Every day contains moments of laughter, frustration, disbelief, relaxation, anxiety, disgust, and happiness. Some days contain more memorably good — or not-so-good — moments than others, but that’s life. Moments like this, though, make it all worth it.

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It’s the quiet, unexpected moments that snatch your breath and make your eyes well. It’s the little things that spur you to press the mental “save” button with frenzied intensity, like an impatient elevator rider battering an elevator call button. As if you think the more you tell yourself, “Remember this! Remember THIS! REMEMBER THIS!” The more likely you will be to ensure the recollection is stored away safely in your mental files. And not have it instantaneously forgotten, like the fellow mom’s name you’ve re-asked too many times already to possibly question again without seeming senile.

Seeing the people you love most love one another is unlike anything else. It’s one of the biggest rewards of having multiple kids.

For that moment all of the tantrums and boundary-pushing, the intentionally soiled clothing and mealtime drama is forgotten. For that breath in time everything is blissful and magical. Parenthood is the most rewarding endeavor ever undertaken. You are the best parent on earth blessed with the most angelic cherubs ever dreamt.

Then someone wipes a booger on you, and you’re back to reality.

Savor those moments. During the rough times, remember they’re there… those glimmering mementos of beauty, those cherubs you see shine through the crusted snot and marker-streaked faces. Those moments of joy, they’ll carry you through. Treasure them. You earned it.

Surviving the “F’ing 4s”

“I love my middle son but he’s driving me NUTS!” I recently vented to a dear mom friend. “F’ing 4s,” my friend said, “that’s what we call them.” So aptly named!

Between dropping his nap — I know, we had a great run so I can’t complain –, finally ditching sleep time pacifiers, and turning 4-years old all in the same day, the last couple months have been rough with my middle son. I love him, he’s a sweet kid, but O…M…G! There are some moments in the day when I understand why animals eat their young. (I kid… sort of.)

Not listening, pushing boundaries, acting out, (poorly) lying, acting hyper then crashing into tiredness… each afternoon is a whirlwind of frustration. Fortunately, I survived my daughter’s 4s, so I can handle this.

“Their body is ready to stop napping but their brain isn’t there yet,” a friend once advised me when I asked how to safely pull my daughter and myself through the nasty nap-dropping phase and my friend responded, “Once their brain catches up, things get easier.” I asked how long that’d take, expecting the standard two-week phase timeline.”One month,” my friend replied as I choked on my own mortality, “but more like six months until you’re really out of the woods.” I think I blacked out for a bit there. Six freaking months??? Of demonic tantrums and mood swings, swirling energy plummeting into raging exhaustion. The stuff they don’t — but really should — detail in sex-ed. Forget VD and UTIs, talk real deal potty-training and the “F’ing 4s”, that’ll tame the teen libido.

My middle son doesn’t have the stamina or ferocity to maintain a meltdown anywhere close to my first child’s, but he is still checking that “F’ing 4s” box with a heavy-handed tick mark in his own slightly less mind-melting way.

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How can you tell how bad the day has been? Simply look up on top of the armoire in our entryway. If there’s a rainbow wig up there: it’s been dicey. If there’s a rainbow wig and a dress-up crown: there was major suckage. If there’s a rainbow wig, a dress-up crown, and a mermaid doll up there: buy me wine and run.

And so we survive this unglamorous, wholly exhausting phase trying to savor the scattered good bits amidst the mayhem. We’ll come out stronger for the struggle, but right now we’re just trudging through.

We’re imperfectly parenting our imperfect children because we’re human, and that’s what we do. Surviving and savoring parenthood one day at a time.

Memorial Day Appreciation

Today, Memorial Day, we honor the fallen, their memory, their death. We pay our respects. We bow to those who gave their lives so that we can, now, enjoy freedom and relative safety. We can celebrate life because others gave theirs.

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The children scampering in red, white, and blue; the grills blazing amidst laughter and filling bellies; the families and friends joining together in joyous camaraderie; the stores teaming with customers seeking one-day deals; the parades featuring music and celebration. It is all possible, in great part, because of others’ sacrifice. Their blood, their survivors’ tears afforded us our present freedom.

You are not forgotten. You did not die in vain.

 

Saying “F Off” to the Mommy Groups

Social media mom groups. Useful, right? Of course. Until they’re not.

Open groups, closed groups, secret groups… there is an assortment of mom groups available on Facebook. Everyone from crunchy homesteaders to tattooed moms have their dedicated social cluster on Facebook. These groups are support systems and connection points for moms who are often isolated by motherhood. They enable mothers to come together across state and country lines. They provide a place where moms can ask about baby-lead weaning, funky rashes, weird poop colors, postpartum healing, breastmilk storage, formula recommendations, in-law dilemmas, annoying phases, nursing-friendly swimsuits, and pregnancy test results. Perfect, right? Such a sanctuary. Or maybe not.

I originally joined these groups as a source of fellowship and information, as well as to help other moms, especially first-time-moms. As my littlest grew beyond babyhood, I found myself simply there to answer questions. I felt compelled to help these worried moms.

Friends kindly suggested groups so that I could help spread milk-sharing awareness and aid others with pumping and/or breastfeeding queries. I loved it. I got involved and felt rewarded when I helped a formerly unknown mom navigate a troublesome parenting patch. Then things turned.

There were already heated topics that you knew to either avoid entirely or sit back and watch the explosion. Circumcision, infant ear piercing, vaccinations, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, nursing in public, sleep training, introduction of solid foods, etc. They were time bombs.

Then there was the hoot-and-holler component. “I can’t believe my MIL…”, “I couldn’t believe this parent at the playground…”, “Ugh, my daycare provider…”, “How could anyone…”, “I can’t stand moms who…” If you ever saw a post begin with, “Am I right to be upset about this?” You knew the comments would be rife with hyperbolic reaction. “That’d set me off!” “How dare she!” “I’d throw down if that happened to me!” “You should’ve made a scene!” Based on the comments, you’d think every playdate was like an episode of the Maury Povich Show.

Who were these people? These were  my fellow moms???

The venting. The misinformation. The more often than not overly emotional reactions to trivial matters that became commonplace. All of this garbage was clogging my Facebook feed with melodrama instead of my friends’ vacation photos and kid stories.

Eventually, almost every time I opened social media — my window to the outside world during the emotionally isolated stay-at-home-mom days and my source of entertainment while nursing or pumping — I would get a rush of frustration. The same dilemmas, the same complaints, the same drama. Every time. I began to feel isolated and taxed by the very outlet that was supposed to free me from those sensations.

Social media is supposed to be fun… frivolous. I should enjoy logging on and scrolling past posts and photos, memes and videos. Instead, I got agitated. I’d log off more unhappy than I’d felt prior to logging on.

So, I decided to say “F off” to all of the mom groups. I left every mom group in my feed. I immediately felt better, lighter, relieved.

I could’ve simply “unfollowed” them, but why? I didn’t want to be associated with the negativity anymore. I wanted a positive, fun space to dip my mind into occasionally throughout the day. I wanted connection, not agitation.

I took the transition a step further and created the group “Positive Charge.” A tranquil, uplifting group where we share positivity, happiness, and inspiration. From beautiful photos to funny memes, happy experiences to inspirational quotes, we provide positive energy for one another. Or, at least that’s the goal.

It may grow, it may not. It may succeed, it may not. Who knows? All that matters to me is that I took a step to solve the problem, to plug and replenish the social media energy drain.

I’m happy.

 

Scared for My Supergirl Boy

I’m scared. I meditate and it hums in my mind. I sleep and it arises in my dreams. I do yoga and feel the tension festering in my hamstrings, the anxiety sizzling in my chest. I am terrified for my son.

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Supergirl and Batgirl

Recently, I read about a local transgender high school girl being stalked and attacked because her trans identity had been discovered. My brain has rattled and my heart has shuttered since then.

Two days later, still shaken from the story, I read a response in a mommy group claiming that “gender bending” was categorically wrong, that everything from toys to hygiene products should be entirely gender-specific. The mom said anything less than complete adherence to strict gender norms was wrong and that she taught her children to never accept anything different, because skewing gender stereotypes was immoral. I read that and imagined how her children would respond to my gender-bending middle child. I feared for my son’s safety and well-being.

Then, on Mother’s Day, we had yet another playground incident. My middle son was dressed in a red cape and a blue shirt with the iconic read “S” on the front. “I’m Supergirl!” He proclaimed. (Superman and Supergirl wear the same emblem, so this and my son’s outward appearance leads to some understandable confusion.) Most incidents fizzle quickly and everyone goes about scaling playground equipment. No harm, no foul.

This run-in was different though. Two pre-K boys arrived to the relatively uninhabited playground. “Why don’t you play with these new friends here?” I prompted my 4-year-old son. “I’m Supergirl!” He said, striking his proudest superhero pose. The smaller of the two boys pointed to the red “S” on my son’s shirt, “You’re SuperMAN.” “No, I’m SuperGIRL.” My son retorted. “Go play!” I tell my son, trying to end the dispute.

No one moved. The taller boy chimed in, “No. You’re a boy. You’re Superman.” My daughter stepped between the boys and her brother, hands on her hips, and a couple of inches taller than her male counterparts, she looked in their eyes and matter-of-factly said, “He says he’s Supergirl. He’s Supergirl.” “Go play!” I tell them, shoo’ing them with my hands.

“No he’s not! He’s a boy. He’s Superman. He’s not a girl.” The boy argued. My son leaned in, defiant: “I. Am. SuperGIRL.” “Are you here to play?” The boys’ caretaker asked her charges, “If you’re here to play, go play. Otherwise, we’re leaving.” No one moves.

Desperate to end the exchange, I turn to my son, “Do you think you can climb up that twisty slide?” He looked at the slide and bolted towards it. “I can!” Exclaimed the two boys. Not the outcome I was intending, but at least they weren’t debating gender-appropriate superhero play.

A few minutes later, I was helping my daughter on the monkey bars as my son waited his turn. One of the boys sidled up to him and said, “You’re Superman.” Then ran off. Later, my son climbed the curved ladder and, as if they were crows attacking a flying hawk over scraps, the boys pecked at him: “You’re a boy.” “You’re SuperMAN.” My son would simply reply, “I’m Supergirl.” And continue on.

Not one scream. No red face. Not a single tear. My son handled the interaction better than I could. I stayed back letting him fend for himself under my watch in the controlled environment. I looked on as he held his own. He did not kowtow, never once physically fought back, and never cried for my involvement. He simply clarified his purpose and kept on.

I am proud of my son. He is who he is without question, without shame, without fear. I am the one who is afraid.

I am afraid of a world that refuses to let him be himself, refuses to accept him for him, refuses to keep him safe. All I can do is love him, support him, and hope against hope that he will remain unscathed… whoever it is he becomes.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! That’s a loaded sentiment, no? The statment implies a hope of celebration for females who parent one or more living children. I’d like to nix that notion.

Instead, I’d like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms, step-moms, moms-to-be, adoptive moms, foster moms, surrogate moms, biological moms, hopeful moms, loss moms, aunts, godmothers, grandmothers, step-grandmothers, cousins, great-aunts, childcare providers and teachers (“weekday moms”), milk moms, female mentors, and any woman who has cherished a child. You needn’t have physically birthed a child to be celebrated today. You simply need to have made a positive impact on a child’s life.

I know this day can be challenging for those who have lost — a mother, a child, a dream — or are trying to conceive (if you’re a returning reader, you know I’ve walked that path), but I hope you find a way to smile, to focus on all you have, the beauty of life, the fond memories, and positive possibilities. All who are hurting today, I wish you more smiles than tears, more warm recollections than pained mantras. I hope you can find the stamina to will yourself to feel comfort, if not happiness, today.

I wish for you to choose joy. I wish for you pleasant moments of a quiet mind and a full heart. I wish you a beautiful day. You deserve it.

“Before and After” Bull: Set Off by Weightloss Schemes

“Drink this to lose weight!” “Eat this to get lean!” “Take this to be bikini ready!” Those taglines are irksome enough for someone who believes in body acceptance, especially postpartum. Then the kicker: “before and after” photos featuring a very recently postpartum mom (or worse yet, pregnant woman) in contrast with a months later svelte version of that same participant. Good for her for finding self-confidence but, I’m sorry, holy unethical advertising!

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I wasn’t a “before”… I was PREGNANT!

I’m all for moms finding career success. I love when moms help one another. I adore that getting fit and strong is a war-cry for some: “I am more than just a uterus!” I appreciate that some of those same fitness-loving moms want to help others find that same empowerment. Yes, do that! Let’s be cautious not to cannibalize one another for the sake of a buck, though.

OF COURSE the weightloss results are going to be most drastic at the markedly transitional postpartum point. That “before” model just created, grew, and expelled a human from her body. She may even be trying to nourish that same human by way of her body. So why imply her — or any other woman’s — primary agenda should be muscle gain and fat loss? Can’t she just be without being a “before”?

How can you truthfully even slightly imply in good conscience that the results experienced by a woman who is days pre- or post-delivery will be accessible to others? She will lose at least 10lb of fluid and blood right off the bat postpartum. That’s a ludicrous comparison to those not at the same life stage. And if a product does do that, steer clear!

Get fit if you’d like, or don’t if it’s not the right time for you. But certainly don’t categorize a pregnant or immediately postpartum woman as a “before”. Doing so reinforces the ridiculous pressure on moms to bounce back immediately postpartum. It feigns that pregnancy and childbirth are easy and glamorous. It indicates we moms are not enough — that we are “befores” to be improved upon — if we are not lean and trim. Don’t get sucked in.

Get healthy. Eat a cupcake. Drink the shake. Do that cleanse. Or don’t. Workout. Take naps. Do yoga. Do CrossFit. Do brunch. Do what works for you.

Don’t let scheming advertisers make you think less of yourself because you didn’t or don’t want to down their secret potion, wrap yourself in their human shrink wrap, or take their mystical pill to make you a leaner version of the already amazing you. Remember: they don’t care about YOU… they care about profits.

You’re worth more than that. You’re gorgeous. Do you.

A World without Joy: Reflecting on Murder

11 years ago today my cousin, Joy, was murdered by her on-again-off-again fiancée (story detailed here.) Today, 11 years older and 1 husband and 3 kids richer, I am the same age she was when she was killed.

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Joy Buttrey, killed May 7, 2006

Fresh out of college, just beginning my career, not yet engaged to my now-husband, I was a very different person then. I was naive, shy, selfish, guarded, self-conscious, anxious, hopeful, lost. I looked at my three close-in-age older cousins as being notably more adult than I was. They were always bigger, more mature, more worldly than I. 34 seemed so far away.

Because of the decade+ age gap — and my own immaturity — between us, it was hard for me to comprehend just how much life my 34-year-old cousin had before her, just how much she would miss, just how young she really was. When I initially mourned her death, I felt the pain of her loss. I knew the act that took her was nonsensical, brutal, and callous. I knew she had been robbed from us — from the hoards of friends, colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances, and family who loved her — but my 23-year-old self didn’t yet compute all that had been robbed from her.

Joy Buttrey

At 34, I have three young children — aged 5, 4, and nearly 2 — who need me deeply every day. I have a loving husband and dear friends. I have close family and cherished dreams. I have hopes for the future decades ahead. I have much left to live.

Knowing how much my cousin loved life, treasured friends, adored family, and aspired to accomplish, I know that she had an array of hopes for her future. She had expended great effort and love to help her fiancée’s young daughter settle into a stable life with the possibility of a positive future. To see her flourish and rise was Joy’s ultimate goal; she wished great things for the young girl. She wished great things for herself, as well. Decades of dreams were shattered by a single bullet.

Today, I feel a coldness within me, the shadowy chill of overdue realization. I am able to empathize with my murdered cousin better than I ever could before. My eyes have finally opened to her loss, not my own.

If I were to have all of my future dashed today, all of my loved ones ripped from my grasp, all of my hopes obliterated, the personal loss would be tragic. I would miss so much!

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Today I mourn not my loss or the world’s, but Joy’s. I mourn her dreamed daughter, Maeve, who will never be. I mourn the experiences, the achievements, the trips, the love, the laughs, the tears, the sunny days and stormy nights, the future friends, and all that could’ve been but will never be.

The world is not the same without her. Her loss is still acutely felt 11 years later. The nature of her death haunts the recesses of my mind. But her laugh still rings true in my heart. Tales of her foibles still echo amidst guffaws at family gatherings, her name is spoken often with a broad smile and glittering eyes, her memory is still strong… alive. Her earthly presence may be 11 years gone but her spirit lives on, in this world without Joy.