Step Into the Sunshine

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There’s something about a confession that leaves even just the slightest bit of room for a shift. I wrote in my last post, I hate Breastfeeding that the second time around, I am hating the whole breastfeeding process. It felt good to say. And it’s not entirely true, anymore. It was true then. It’s not true today. I’m okay with that.

Maybe it’s the sunshine, or the fact that my nipples are mostly healing, or that it’s week 5 and we’ve settled into a little bit of a routine, but I don’t hate nursing today. I don’t love it. I don’t feel the necessity of it in the way I felt with Potamus. I feel ambiguous about future weaning, but I feel ambiguous about a lot of future events (like him starting daycare at 6 months old). But today I don’t hate breastfeeding, not in the sunshine, in my backyard, with this sweet lil G man.

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I Hate Breastfeeding: 2nd Baby Confession

12496528_10100828356823473_3734553706941214189_oWhen Potamus was born, I struggled for the first 7 weeks to get breastfeeding down. I had overactive letdown, oversupply, and there’s a picture that will never make it to the internet where my areola was bigger than his face. It was a struggle, including one 8 hour sleeping stint leaving him too weak to nurse, even with the nipple shield, where I was sobbing and spoon feeding milk into his mouth while Boof was on the phone with La Leche league. Rough.

And then, when I went back to work, he reverse cycled. And until he self-weaned the night before he turned two, I nursed him all.night.long. It was rough. But I enjoyed it, for the most part. It was what made me a MOM, and I fully recognize that all of my obsession with bonding and attachment were due to my own adoption trauma and while I sometimes resented that I was the only one who could feed him, I was also glad that I was the only one who could feed him. I was mom. Nobody else could take that role.

Now, with Lil G, I’m struggling. It feels very reminiscent of the pregnancy, where, with Potamus it was all glowy and mama goddess, and then with #2 I hated it. Having had mastitis, which left me feeling like shit and ramped up my anxiety to almost agoraphobic levels, paired with nipple trauma, a clipped tongue and lip tie, disorganized suck, on top of parenting a 4 year old who is struggling with the loss of his Universe/Mama to the demands of his new brother, I am thisclose to throwing in the towel on breastfeeding. I had already resigned myself to weaning or partially weaning around 6 months when I go back to work, because I loathe pumping, but part of me feels like the women who allow themselves the option of pain meds during labor and then request them 5 minutes in.

Because, you see, breastfeeding the first go round was for me. I was recently talking to my sister-in-law, who’s exclusively pumping for my niece after a rough start breastfeeding, about how I think that is the hardest route to go. And that if I had to pump I would just use formula, because for me breastfeeding was about the ease and the bonding, not about the nutrition. I nursed for me, not for my baby. Maybe that’s selfish to admit, but it’s true. I needed to feel the bond. I needed to be needed in that way. I needed to nurse to make me a mother the first go round.

But now I am a mother. Now, when Lil Go was born, and I stared into his sweet face, I felt the deep love that I knew nothing could replace. I AM his mom. Nothing will make me anything less than his mom. Nothing will take away my deep love for him. And so I stare at the two free cans of formula on the top of my fridge and think…what if…what if?

It’s only been 4.5 weeks with this little guy, and a struggle, so I don’t want to make a decision out of difficulty. I know I will give it more time, but I also want to enjoy my baby, enjoy time with Potamus, and not dread every feeding. I don’t want to plug my ears when he starts his 5th fussing of the night, pretending for just 5 more minutes that he doesn’t need my barely healing nipples. And the thought of someone else in the future being able to feed him, while I’m a bridesmaid in a wedding, or out at a yoga class, feels so refreshing that I want to skip around in the sunshine. Does that make me a terrible person?

Perhaps in 5 months, when I’m truly weaning (currently my goal is to give formula at daycare, and nurse on off hours), I’ll feel nostalgic and sad that I didn’t extend breastfeeding like with Potamus. Or maybe I’ll feel relief. Can I do something completely different with Baby #2 and still be a rockin’ awesome mom? I think so. I love all the moments with this baby…except when he’s attached to my boob…

Rainboot Mindfulness

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In the span of a few months, the only full priced pair of shoes I’ve ever bought Potamus, has failed. True he’s worn them threadbare, with all his tromping and climbing and sliding. But I wasn’t prepared for the rain boot replacement, and then I showed up to school today and the gash in the side of the boot (that I had, perhaps, frugally thought I would repair with a big swatch of duct tape), and a ripped strap, and just general disrepair. And I realized, “dang, it’s time to replace these boots.” As it so happens, we live in Seattle, and it’s January, and it’s…RAINING.

Thank goodness I let my students out early today, so Potamus and I headed down to Fred Meyer by our house to pick out new rain boots. He was thrilled. The whole ride there he sang a little song that went something like “rain boots, rain boots, new rain boots,” and then included things like “mommy, me, scrummy, me, house, rain boots, new rain boots.” The melody is hard to translate, but it was adorable. When we arrived at the brightly lit shelves of the toddler rain boot section, I realized…good thing I only have one kid, because a) DANG THESE ARE EXPENSIVE and b) DANG THIS TAKES FOREVER.

I squatted down, frantically looking for a replacement size 9, which we  bought a size too big four months ago. And only finding one pattern (which he quickly rejected) we opted to try on some size 8’s that actually fit really well, but make me nervous that he’ll grow out of them in 3.4 seconds. He tried on butterfly boots “like aubrey,” and princess ones “like bella’s,” and didn’t want the sharks because they were “like madden’s,” and finally, after digging through all that rubber, he decided on the one pair of dinosaur boots that fit. Phew.

But wait!

The hemming and hawwing began again.

“They’re too big mama,” he said, which I protested because there’s no way they were too big. Too small, maybe, but definitely not too big. So we tried on the shark pair again. And then looked at the butterfly pair. He rejected the ladybug that was sorta ‘like aubrey’s’ but not exactly the same. We looked at plain red, plain yellow, you get the idea.

Oh the toddler indecision.

But after about five minutes into the haggling with my tiny, I was actually enjoying myself. I remember going to get shoes as a kid and feeling so stifled by the choices because a) I was gigantic and had gigantic feet and b) my mom was cheap on a budget, and c) there were 3 of us and we were always in a rush from one thing to another. I know that the luxury of spending 30 minutes hemming and hawwing over the perfect pair of rainboots will not be something I can do forever. But in the world of hurry up, where I’m always hustling him out the door in the darkness to school, or coming home and slamming things down to start dinner/snacks/tv show/cleanup, it felt nice to simply notice all the designs available for him to choose from.

And when he strutted out of the store, and on his own said, “thanks for buying my new rainboots,” I smiled and drank in the sweet moment that passes all too soon.

The Elusive Inclusive Religious Community

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We were more than halfway done with the 7 hour stretch from far eastern Washington back to our hometown. It had been a whirlwind 24 hours moving Boof’s grandma into a more extensive level of assisted living. Two adults, a toddler, and a dog, had made the trip last minute, and now were were sitting in a nostalgic Mexican restaurant in my college town.

It was 3pm and in came several different groups, all dressed up. Skirts, dresses, ties and suits for the men. Even the children were dressed nicely, which made me eyeball Potamus in his dirty Spiderman t-shirt and monster truck rainboots. Sunday. Church. Yeah.

I lived in that small town. My life revolved around Sunday service and Tuesday night college ministry and Wednesday night volunteer for junior high youth group. I led Bible Study on Thursday nights (and sometimes Monday nights), and went to Mass with friends when I could squeeze it in. When I lived in the dorms I did a nightly prayer night with other people in my hall, and I regularly went on weekend retreats and mission trips. It was like brushing my teeth, going to class, or getting something to eat at the dining hall. A rhythm of life.

The experience of sitting next to a table full of small town church goers sparked a long conversation the rest of the two hour drive home. We feel so torn, both of us on how to proceed in the spiritual community. It’s not the first time we’ve had this conversation, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But we’re stuck in this place of not knowing, not deciding, and not knowing what to do about it. Do we go to the church we feel sort of connected to, but the average age is 75? Do we go to the church down the road where Boof grew up and there’s a thriving Sunday school, but fundamentally in a theology that I don’t agree with? Do we find somewhere else? Do we not do anything?

What I came away from the conversation, was an ability to articulate my desire to not send Potamus to a Sunday school that teaches things I don’t agree with. Boof said that his parents chose that church because it had a children’s ministry, even if they didn’t necessarily feel comfortable with it. And my pushback was…WHY? Why am I, as a mom, who makes many other sacrifices, going to sacrifice the next 10/15/20 years going weekly to a religious service with people that I don’t fundamentally feel accepted by or agree with? Do MY needs as a person not matter as much as the theoretical ‘needs’ of my child? AND, do I send my child to a place where he will make friends and form relationships on a principle or set of beliefs that I fundamentally don’t believe in anymore?

It’s food for thought, for sure. Because Boof has less angst, and certainly less of a ‘bad experience’ from growing up religious, he sees that it will be a fun place for him to get to have some stories and make friends. But my argument is that he can have friends and hear stories at our house, or daycare, or a different church, or different club activity, or different religious institution altogether. I don’t think that my needs as woman/wife/mom should be shoved under the rug to fit a 1950’s ideal of an every week Sunday experience.

And yet, I feel torn, because I want to believe in something. I want Potamus to believe in something. I miss the routine and the community and the fitting in I felt when I was in college, when I was apart of that faith routine. I miss believing in something that felt right and good and connected me to others. I read articles and see that there are other people writing about being young parents with children who want a community where questions are valued and their kids can be themselves and they can be themselves, but then I go to church and don’t find that these places actually exist (except, like I mentioned at the beginning, in congregations with quite older members). Why is this such a frustration?!

Biological Motherhood: I get to be different

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I have been in the midst of several conversations lately, with friends, about our own mothers, and all the ways they failed us as children, and are failing us currently. Like my own mom who failed to recognize any symptoms of anxiety in me as a child and failed to connect with me as an adult when she finally learned that I had anxiety. And while my mind understands that I will fail Potamus in so many ways (my heart has yet to catch up to that reality, and oh how it will break when it does), I have been reflecting on the fact that, at the end of the day I get to be a different mother than (both of) my own.

There have been conscious differences, like extended breastfeeding my 20 month old vs. being formula fed or Montessori bed-sharing. But in these conversations, about making all of the conscious choices to be different, my perfectionistic (as in, I’m going to do EVERYTHING differently) brain was rocked a little while driving down the road, because, AUTOMATICALLY there will be differences with me as a mother than my own.

Because I carried and birthed my baby. And he is a firstborn son. I was a firstborn daughter. And I was given away to strangers at 3 days old. I was given to a mother who didn’t carry and birth me from her own body, so these differences have set us on a very different course from the beginning.

In what ways are do you hope you’re not like your own parents? In what ways do you hope you are like them?

Summertime SAHM

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I tried to cheer myself up today by taking a walk around the neighborhood. We got half a mile before it started to sprinkle and we headed back inside. Rather than use the stroller, which Potamus rejects most often (and when he DOES ride in it, he often falls asleep and we’re not wanting that too early!). Instead, we did a little bout of toddler-wearing, which stopped a car with some lovely ladies who wanted to chat and admire my child and a-hole dog. I guess the site of a 6’1 mama carrying a large toddler is more reserved for the pages of National Geographic, but at any rate ,the walk was to get my mind off the day’s activities.

Because, today was the last day of class. My students did their final presentations and we had some yummy food and handed out certificates. It was lovely and just right, and then, when everyone left, my boss told me that the funding for the summer program isn’t happening, and so I don’t get to teach the 2 days a week that I had been asked to, a few weeks ago.

I’m super bummed.

Teaching two days a week would have been the perfect opportunity to get out of the house, keep working, and have Potamus keep a daycare routine…and one that’s not too out of my way, since I’d already be commuting that distance to work. Not having a job means $5,000 less over the summer and no real need to keep him in daycare, except my desire for him to have routine and for me to not be at home every-single-day with him.

So, my options are to spend the $ and keep him in daycare and spend those 2 days a week doing random non-mom things, or doing housework or whatever. Or send him to daycare and try to get another super part-time job. Or… be a full-time summertime stay-at-home-mom.

What’s hard about this decision, and one I’m not making overnight (because, fingers crossed the funding might get approved and I’d be able to teach the class…or find another on-campus class to teach), is that I had been excited about being a full time summertime stay at home mom (though I did still want him to go to daycare) . And then I was offered the job and realized that that was what I really wanted to do. So to have that taken away from me…I had gotten my hopes up and disappointment isn’t something I really like to deal with. And not just disappointment, but the though to of having to re-identify myself internally during the summer months to embrace a full-time with toddler routine.

Sigh.

The walk was lovely, though. I know it’s not the worst case scenario, but it was still pretty bum-tastic.

 

How do you deal with disappointment? How do you deal with changing roles or identities in parenting?

On being a non-morning person…

I am determined to not let the brilliance of a 3 day weekend, every week, be overshadowed by the ridiculously early morning and commute to work the other 4 days. As I rise, before the sun, I am comforted by the fact that rest of the city is right along with me…blurry eyed, stumbling to put dress socks on and comb our hair into a reasonably professional look, and waiting (im)patiently at the nearest drive-through coffee stand to get caffeine coursing through our veins. I am NOT a morning person, that is, I do not actually like to get up in the mornings (though my body hasn’t let me sleep past 7:30 for at least 3 months). I wake up at 6 am and am out the door by 7 to make it to the college on time.

While I hate getting up, I do actually find that once I am awake and tasked with things to do, I am very productive. In one of my first jobs, I used to come in early, work until about 2 and THEN take a lunch, because after I’ve eaten, the hours tick by s…l….oooooo….w…..l….y. Like stabbing-myself-in-my-eyes slow. In fact, this tendency to want to escape the afternoon slowness had me “yelled at” on day 5 of my job as I was caught “sneaking out” early. I wasn’t sneaking out, I had arrived 30 minutes early and had worked through lunch, but didn’t have permission (didn’t ask, didn’t think I needed to, the last 3 jobs haven’t required that for flex time), which left me almost in tears…but I handled it professionally and have moved on from there.

One of the hardest parts of mornings, though, is leaving sweet Potamus and Boof in bed slumbering, while I creep about eating my peanut butter toast and digging through a dark closet for something reasonable to wear. They look so sweet together, and while I now these days are limited, as Boof will hopefully get a job soon, it does make me twinge ever-so-slightly with jealousy of the thought of them sleeping in indefinitely and lounging about the house. (In reality, though, Potamus is up by 7 and doesn’t nap until mid-day and Boof has to hold him for 3 hours because he won’t ‘go down’ for a nap, and both are covered in Cheerios and yogurt and all the thing that make less jealous of the whole morning arrangement).

My morning class is overwhelmingly the best, engaged and participatory with amazing insight. My afternoon class, when the caffeine and enthusiasm is wearing off, is…less-so. It is smaller, more masculine, and I’m having a difficult time deciding if I should compare them to the morning class or roll with what they give me and go from there. They just seem so…apathetic, and doing a song & dance to convince them to discuss things isn’t really my style. I’m looking at it as a new challenge.