Monday, December 17, 2012

my thoughts, my fears

Everyone is talking about the Newtown shootings, and I feel conspicuously silent on the subject. You all know my political leanings, and it seems strange to me (if no one else) that I'm not posting "Hey! gun control!" or "Hey! More attention for the mentally ill!" The truth is, I just can't deal with what has happened. I can't think about it. I can't.

I drop off my son at daycare every day. I leave him with people I trust to take care of him and protect him, and I usually don't worry about him because I know he's safe. But now a small part of me can't help but think of all of those parents who kissed their kids goodbye, not knowing they were kissing them goodbye for the last time. And I can't function. I can't breathe. I can't.

The truth is, I was disappointed when I heard the shooter had killed himself because, no bullshit, I think that monster deserved to have his still-beating heart ripped out of his chest. And if it were possible, I wish it could have been done to him again and again and again. Twenty-seven times. I don't care if he was mentally ill. I don't care where he got the gun. I want this to never happen again, so I understand how important these debates are, but please: don't try to excuse this man. Don't say "He was mentally ill. He needed more help than he got." Don't say "This was a cry for help." Don't say "He shouldn't have had access to a gun." If it had been my son...I just can't.  It's too painful.

I take a little bit of comfort in the thought that this man's in hell now. Here's hoping its a hell so horrible Dante couldn't even imagine it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Am I Mom Enough?

So I haven't blogged in a long time. I've started posts. And deleted posts. I'm not even sure this post will be posted. But, this is on my mind at the moment, so I figured I'd start writing and see if anything sticks.

Time Magazine's new cover features an attractive, very slender mother nursing a 3 year old child as he stands in a chair and his mother strikes a supermodel pose. The article is about attachment parenting, a style of parenting that encourages...well, attachment. I've gone back and forth about whether or not I should claim this as my parenting style. I breastfeed. I wear my baby. I make his food at home. We don't let him cry it out. All of these things are consistent with the attachment parenting ideology--and I use that word intentionally. It IS an ideology. Hell, these days, it's practically a cult. The reason I don't claim it, however, is that while we do co-sleep in practice, I HATE IT. And I'm supposed to love it if I'm being all attached and stuff. More than I can say, I want Dresden to sleep in his own crib. And I have let him cry it out before, mostly because I was busy crying it out, too. So...I can't live up to all of the attachment parenting ethics, so I feel like I can't claim it at all.

And I'm not sure I want to, anyway. It has become, for better or worse, a THING now. Something to debate. Something to fuss over. And I really, really don't want other people debating how I choose to raise my kid. I'm not always going to be perfect, God knows, and I don't need society telling me when I've stopped being perfect because I always already know, thank you ever so much. I've never lived in any other time (that I know of) and I've never been a mom during any other time (that I know of), but it sure feels to me like there has never been more pressure on mothers to do certain things, say certain things, look a certain way, etc. Imagine having the hardest, most important, most emotionally and physically demanding job in the world and going about your business knowing that the whole world is watching, waiting for you to do something that could stir up some controversy. It makes an exhausting gig even more exhausting. And I don't think I'm being overdramatic, either.

For example, I talk about breastfeeding an awful lot. Why? Because it was important to me. I knew the benefits and possible drawbacks, and I decided that it was something I wanted to do. My husband agreed. So, together, we set out to breastfeed Dresden exclusively for six months. Only thing was hella hard, guys. I mean. I wept bitterly for a long time because Dresden wouldn't latch, my milk took a whole week to come in (which is virtually unheard of), I threw out my back and couldn't give him any of the milk I had to keep pumping, he took five or six months to learn to latch without a nipple shield, and he nursed the whole day. I'd have to sit down with him and nurse him 14 times a day. No exaggeration. FOURTEEN TIMES. When he was four months old, I called his pediatrician, and the nurse refused to put me through, telling me that giving him any kind of supplement would lead to childhood obesity and that I had to tough it out.

O..k..a..y. But I'm a Ph.D. student who is taking classes and teaching and studying, and this just wasn't practical advice for us. So we BROKE THE LAW, y'all. We gave him cereal. And it helped! But man, the furor raised when I mentioned this on an internet forum! I had ruined my kid's entire life. I made a selfish choice. I was b-a-d, BAD. I vacillated between feeling intensely guilt and thoroughly relieved.

And that's exactly how I would describe motherhood. It's ups and downs all day long. One minute, I'll feel like a supermom, balancing my work, my family, and my social life as easily as I breathe. The next minute, I've just slammed my baby's face into an automatic sliding door because I wasn't paying attention and the stupid thing only opened half way. Now he has a bruised dome, and everyone knows I'm the worst mother in the world.

I feel so strongly about this new Time story because I feel like it promotes this kind of cycle. "Are You Mom Enough?" it asks. And the answer is always, always, always no. I'm not. I'm trying. God knows I am trying. But at the end of the day, I know I could have been more patient. I could have smiled at him more. I could have encouraged him to play with more educational, developmental toys instead of whatever he wanted. I could have made a point to show him what a loving, secure relationship his father and I have, even if I had to force it sometimes. I could have been better. These things are important to me, but they're frequently the things that I fail to do and the very things I wish I had done. I go to bed each night, asking myself if I've done enough for my son to grow up healthy, happy, and confident. I don't need Time Magazine asking me those same questions.

I've read a good bit about social attitudes towards mothers, and I've talked to my friends about their attitudes regarding breastfeeding, and the feeling I get from all of these sources is that it's all far too public. Women feel pressured to breastfeed, like they're somehow less of a mom if they don't. It makes me nervous to hear my friends say this because I wonder if I'm somehow complicit. I hope that I'm a positive role model should they decide to breastfeed, but I also hope that I'm not a nagging voice telling them they're mothering wrong if they don't. For me, it was the right choice. I had conviction that breastfeeding was the best thing I could do for my son, and I stuck it out even though it was difficult, and for that I am proud of myself. Staying true to your convictions in the face of adversity is something to be proud of, and I will not shy away from that or disclaim it one bit. That said, I would hope that I learned from hearing people say it wasn't enough and that I should have exclusively breastfed for at least six months. I hope that I've learned enough to be supportive of my friends, however they choose to parent. Being told that something you're proud of simply isn't up to muster is downright damaging, and that is exactly where a lot of the discourse surrounding motherhood is today. It's not enough for you to breastfeed. You have to exclusively breastfeed, on demand, for six months, preferably a year. It's not enough for you to share a room with a child, you have to share your bed. It's not enough for you to make his food yourself, it has to be organic and locally grown. The list goes on and on.

"Are You Mom Enough?" Bite me, Time Magazine. You are part of the problem.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My ode to breastfeeding.

The strangest thing happened this week. Dresden has been sick, in and out of the doctor's office every single day for the last 11 days, and we're all just run ragged and haggard and raw. My poor little guy was so congested that he couldn't even eat. I tried and tried to get him to nurse. I did everything. He just couldn't breathe. I didn't get him to nurse at all for almost 24 hours. And you know what? I cried the whole day.

It wasn't just that I was worried about him, although I know that was part of it. It was more than that. It was my father saying, "Give him a bottle already. He's done with breasts. They're his crutch." It was Dallas saying, "Maybe he's ready to wean." It was my mother telling me that I spontaneously stopped nursing at 4 months. It was realizing that someday, some not so distant day, I really will stop breastfeeding.

Now, I do still plan on breastfeeding until Dresden is ready to wean himself--or until he can walk up to me, pull my shirt down, and attach himself. I know that a healthy baby who has been breastfeeding successfully normally won't wean until around a year. I know. But the realization that this is it--that I have maybe six more months of breastfeeding--stung. And not like when small fry bites me. (Although, really, ow.)

Why? Because breastfeeding feels right to me. I have to make a thousand and one choices all day long: is he ready to be up for the day? does he need to be changed? does his poop look normal? should he have avocado? or does he need the extra calcium in yogurt? what's the weather like? what should he wear? why is his spit-up neon? can I get the stain out? who will watch him while I grade papers? is he sleepy or do his eyes itch? is he allergic to something? where do I put him while I pee? why is he crying? is he hungry? sleepy? wet? do his teeth hurt? does he have gas? AND YOU KNOW WHAT? It's exhausting, but the time I spend breastfeeding him is blissfully simple. I don't have to second guess myself at all. If he's nursing, I am doing everything right, and all of that noise just stops.

A few people have suggested that my decision to breastfeed is restrictive or that I'm accepting old-fashioned gender roles, like I'm betraying the feminist cause. Intellectually, I do understand that line of reasoning, but...are you kidding me? Being a mother is the most empowering thing I've ever done. My body is amazing! It made a baby. It birthed a baby. It is nurturing a baby. What can men do? Pee standing up? LAME! Men are lame!

(Except Dresden. He's impressive and great.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We're still here!

First, here's a countdown of the last five months in pictures. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

Five Months

Four Months

Three Months

Two Months

One Month

I can't believe I have a five month old. I can't believe I haven't posted since July. So much was going on during the semester, I rarely had a moment to reflect. Mostly, I use every spare minute I have to clean and sleep. Even now, I'm wondering if writing this is such a great idea since it means losing twenty minutes of sleep. Also, I feel like I can never REALLY write what is going on or how I feel because I'm not sure that blogspot is super secure. I've thought about starting a private, password protected blog or something, but then I would feel like a jerk for thinking people wanted to know about my problems SO MUCH that they were willing to jump through hoops. Whatever. All is well, and all manner of things shall be well. That's Julian of Norwich speak for Hakuna Matata.

We survived the first semester of parenthood. Big D did well in school, but he had to take an incomplete in one class, so he's not quite done yet. But he DID get A's in the other classes. I still have my presh 4.0. Huzzah. Little D is the most adorable, wonderful, fantastic little terror ever. His new thing is...wait for it!...laughing! I'm willing to do the most absurd things to make him do it. The most recent is putting his fingers on my lips and blowing raspberries. He thinks it is hysterical. He's still nursing, but we have introduced some solid foods: rice cereal, sweet potatoes, avocados, and bananas. I know that everything says no food until 6 months, but the little guy was nursing CONSTANTLY and I just couldn't keep up. Nursing every two hours ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT is impossible. Period. I tried supplementing with formula, but the more I breastfed, the less interested he was in bottles. I chose to keep breastfeeding as often as possible. He's sitting up by himself (mostly), he can pick things up and put them in his mouth, and he uses a spoon like a professional. Yes, a professional spoon-user.

Tonight is the first night he's sleeping in his crib, and it's not going well so far. I think I laid him down at about 9:15, and I've already had to rock him back to sleep three times. I don't know if the mattress is just that much harder than his pack'n'play or if the change in lighting is bothering him or if he just has gas. It could even be that when he does stir a little, he sees a high contrast black and white floral pattern. (That, for the record, was a terrible idea.) I wish someone had told me how much of parenting is guesswork. He cries, and I have to run down a list of things that might be wrong. Thankfully, it is a pretty short list, and even if it's not really what he wants, latching him on usually works. But then I feel like a bad parent for teaching him how to stress eat.

Let the fact that I'm not proofreading being a monument to my exhaustion.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oh, woe is milk.

Dresden has been a little sick for the last few days--refusing to eat, throwing up, and not having any bowel movements. The doctor thought he may have been reacting to something in my milk, so we tried some formula for a few feedings. The first two went okay, but then--puke. Dallas suggested that we only feed him fresh breast milk for a little while and keep a closer eye on what I'm eating, and that seems to be going well. No vomiting for the last six feedings. (Please don't jinx that.) The only problem? I had to dump all this out.

That's over 35 ounces of breast milk. I know I'll keep making it. I know it's important for me to keep track of what I eat so I know if something makes Dresden sick, and I know there's a big question mark over all of that milk. I know, I know, I know. But don't think for a second I didn't squall as I poured it down the drain.

Le sigh.

It's a good thing I am crazy about this little man. He's hard, exhausting work, but all he has to do is make that little smile and I forget that I've only gotten two hours of sleep. He doesn't even mean to smile. It doesn't matter.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quick update.

My doctor came through in the end. Dallas and I couldn't be happier with how she handled everything. She was there, and she was wonderful.

I did not give birth naturally. Oh no sir, I did not. And the epidural was easy. It did make my blood pressure drop enough that I had to have extra monitoring, but it made my labor bearable. The nurses kept telling me I could push the button to up my dosage if I got too uncomfortable, and Dallas tried to convince me to push it when we got to the pushing stage because it was very nearly gone. I'm pretty sure I could feel everything. It certainly hurt enough to be everything. And I remember most of the process. I remember the first contraction spent pushing, and I remember looking at Dallas and saying, "I'm having a baby. Oh, god." or something very similar to that. Everyone laughed. I was not kidding.

The feeding situation is out of control. I had my heart set on breast feeding as soon as he was born, but that couldn't happen because he needed extra attention. I didn't want him having any artificial nipples, but that couldn't happen because he had low blood sugar. My mom was able to help him latch on to my breast, but everyone who helped me get started after my mom left had no success, so I spent the first day or so using a nipple shield--a little silicone cap that goes over your natural nipple. And then he was so jaundiced we couldn't rouse him, so we started discussing my colostrum supply and I began pumping every two hours to see if I was producing anything. I wasn't. We had to start supplementing with formula in order to get him to go to the bathroom and start clearing the bilirubin. I started bawling with every feeding because I felt like such a failure. These big stupid breasts were completely worthless, and I was pissed off at them. By the time they sent us home, they were unbelievably sore and I was unbelievably angry at them. So I brutalized them. One late night, unproductive pumping session, I gave myself an extra vigorous massage (they told me to at the hospital, but I took this one to a mean level) and voila! The next day, I started making milk. Now I'm producing between 4 and 5 ounces per pumping session. Dresden's jaundice has not gotten any better, so I still have to bottle feed him, and I do hate that. But at least he's getting breast milk, right? I don't even mind the extra 30 minutes pumping adds to our feeding routine. I know it's better for him. It's not ideal, but it's the best I could do. I'm still pretty sensitive about it, but I believe I've done everything I could. I'm thankful for whatever milk I get. Pumping dry breasts was emotionally and physically painful.