Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Mother Meets Media

I have decided to launch a new Blog, Mother Meets Media, to reflect a newly found, clearly defined mission for my public writing. "Parenthood is an exciting, confusing, rewarding, infuriating, isolating, and community-building experience. Through writing about my experiences and reactions to parenting-related articles, I aim to foster a sense of inquiry and inclusion rather than to promote any sort of ideal or philosophy. After all, most of us are just flying by the seat of our pants, doing what works and what feels right."  I've copied posts from Spokeschicken that pertain to parenting.  No comments were retained, but since those posts gave me some new wings, it was important to include them in my new blog.  

So please visit Mother Meets Media.  And comment.  

The unintentional "extended breastfeeder"

A friend shared this article "Weaning My Toddler" from the Science of Mom, and it got my mind gestating about how I am now in the class of women technically considered "extended breastfeeders," or women who breastfeed beyond the one-year mark.  The funny thing is that it wasn't a decision at all.  It was a natural progression.  

When Calvin was one year old, it would have felt entirely abrupt to discontinue nursing.  What is more, it would have taken me work.  Sure, I dropped a pumping session and went down to once a day when I'm away from him, which is now more like a relaxing break from school and a chance to watch more "RuPaul's Drag Race" than a burden.  If I had decided to wean, I'd have had to distract him and simultaneously deal with an upset baby and leaky boobs, and I just wasn't up for that.  I'm still not.  It's not right for me.  It feels right to continue to nurse.

If you've been following my blog at all, you might know that Calvin and I had a tumultuous nursing relationship before his lip tie was finally diagnosed and corrected at 6 months, after which point, I was overjoyed that the situation turned around.  Now, we have a wonderful nursing relationship.  Moreover, he is such an active toddler that I treasure those moments where he wants to just lie down and nurse for 15 minutes or so. It's a much-needed, relaxing break for both of us.  Before having his lip tie fixed, I never imagined that I'd be nursing for even 8 months, let alone 14 or more.  But here are the facts: I like it; he likes it; it's good for him; I'm not messing him up by breastfeeding this long; it's no one else's business.  

I have a couple of friends who weaned earlier or are planning to wean soon, and you know what? That's awesome, too! Breastfeeding is the mother's domain, and no one but the mother can determine how long is right for her, her baby, and her family.  And I'm not just saying that: I firmly believe.  I do think this is a feminist issue about women's choice, and we can be our worst enemies when it comes to that arena. So even though I'm technically what would be considered an "extended breastfeeder," please don't take that to mean that I expect any of you to be extended breastfeeders.  Breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, and bottle feeding have become highly politicized, when, at the heart of it, it's part of a family relationship that should not be interfered with by outsiders one way or the other.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Getting over breastfeeding in public

I have been thinking about this recent article in the Huffington Post: If you don't support breastfeeding in public, you don't support breastfeeding, in the context of my recent travels.

My neck of the woods tends to have higher breastfeeding rates than the rest of the country.  I don't know a lot of women my mother's age who didn't breastfeed for a while, and certainly my neighborhood has more breastfeeders than you can shake a stick at.  It was enough to make me feel like a total pariah with my bottles to supplement my little one before we had his lip tie fixed, or as I refer to it, "the before time."  Not everyone, of course, was breastfeeding exclusively, but in the early days when I was having all sorts of problems with it, it sure felt like it to me.  My lack of confidence in my ability to breastfeed my baby coupled with his then-frequent and nursing strikes were powerful barriers to my feeling comfortable about breastfeeding in public in "the before time."

I was in Vegas over the weekend and in several airports along the way, and I was surprised by the number of bottles I saw whenever there was a baby nearby.  Surprised because that's not as common where I live.  It's just not what you see a lot of here.  It was kind of good to have a reality check.

But it had me thinking about breastfeeding in public.  Because my little one is 13 months now, he doesn't nurse very much anymore.... except for when he wants comfort.  And when he's far from home and cranky from jetlag, and overwhelmed by Vegas, let me tell you, he wanted to nurse for comfort.  A lot.  Especially on the plane.  In public.  And it was wonderful to feel perfectly at ease and confident knowing that my baby wanted to nurse.  That's enough for me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More about the female form

Great article:  How to Lose The Baby Weight in Just Three Lightning-Fast Years

My favorite line is:

"It is a strange state, indeed: neither pregnant, nor out of shape, but showing a visible history of pregnancy. In spite of weighing more and looking different, I was never healthier than when I was pregnant and just after, in large part to the dynamic shift in lifestyle toward eating well and moving more. But we don't connect health to physical appeal per se, as any healthy person who isn't thin can tell you. And when a body shows signs of use beyond the sexual or athletic, we don't seem to know how to respond to it."


Can we talk about how tired I am of the tendency to equate weight and shape with health? Obesity has become a verbal shortcut for illness, but what's wrong with using blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar? I guess it's just a little too easy to hate on flesh and a little too hard to make long sentences.  

At any rate, in case you were feeling bad about yourself, here's a new ad from Dove that might make you smile. Granted, most of the women in this video are pretty thin, but the message is sincere.

I'm determined to love my new body the way it is, and I don't care if you think I'm wrong

I hate to admit this, because it is so trivial, but I have been feeling bad about my physical shape lately. And that pisses me off.  The fact is that I had a baby and my body is going to be different afterwards.  In addition, as the author of the piece I'll link to in a moment states, bodies change throughout a life anyway.  That's NORMAL and healthy.  What's not normal and healthy are all the messages I get from the outside world that tell me I should be trying to get my "body back," meaning that I should, as soon as possible, try to get back to the shape I was in prior to carrying a baby.  Prior to bearing a baby.  Prior to breastfeeding.  Prior to parenthood.  And, for that matter, my pre-pregnancy body probably wasn't up to snuff anyway, according to the advertisements everywhere.

To be honest, I was happiest with my body when I was pregnant.  I felt radiant.  I loved carrying a child in me, and I felt powerful with biology and motherhood.  I felt beyond judgment.  I know that's not everyone's experience, but I'm glad I had those positive feelings.  Thirteen months post-partum, I feel pretty crappy.

The other day, I had a profound experience in yoga.  I put my hand on my belly and hummed into my softer tummy.  As I hummed at a pitch where I could feel my voice in my tummy, I started to cry.  Yes, my tummy was telling me that it feels neglected and unloved by the person from whom it needs love most: me.

So, then and there, I decided to love this new softness.  I've been approaching this post-partum body thing all wrong--intellectually.  Intellectually, I know that the ads are bulls***.  Intellectually, I know how to be cool with where my body is.  But intellect doesn't cut it up against the powerful marketing telling us that we can never be thin enough, the marketing that tells us that we're even supposed to want our old bodies back, the marketing that implies there's something wrong with me if I don't want my old body back.  Eff that, man.  I'm done with that, and I'm setting about to love my softer, motherly belly.

Stop Telling Me I Should Focus on Getting My Old Body Back

A Second Chance at Breastfeeding

I recently read this article on the Huffington Post, which brought me to tears.  I do not know why the author's breastfeeding experience was so difficult, and it sounds like she doesn't either.  Although, if I had to guess, it would have something to do with the tongue tie that she refers to some lactation consultants thinking her son might have had.  I couldn't help but comment in the event that my experience helps anyone at all.  I know that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  I don't want to sound like a one-issue person, but my experience with other women tells me how common and misunderstood ties are.

At any rate, read on.  With sympathy and compassion, please.

The fact is that I don't know what I'll do if future kid #2 turns out to be this difficult to breastfeed.

A Second Chance at Breastfeeding

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A humble request

Somewhat to my surprise, my blog is getting real traffic for the first time in years. This tells me that there are a lot of people out there having a tough time breastfeeding and are looking for leads.

I am making it a mini life mission to spread the word about tongue tie and lip tie because it had such an impact on me and my child.  I don't think that anyone who hasn't attempted to nurse can begin to appreciate the emotional and physical agony that accompany ties for both mom and baby.  The first six months of my baby's life were my hardest, and not just for the usual reasons that infants complicate life.  And all it took to turn it around was a 3 minute laser surgery.  I want my experience to benefit others.

So.  If it turns out your little one has it, and fixing it helps, please tell others about your experience.  For me, it took some time to heal from the emotional roller-coaster before I was ready to spread the word.  I fully appreciate that will be the case for a lot of you.  But please, do it.  Your story just might make someone else's life easier.  Knowledge alone cannot fix everything, but it's a start. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Short Version of How Breastfeeding Improved

This post is long overdue.  For those of you who supported me in the early days of my breastfeeding difficulties, I wanted to share that in September when Calvin was 6 months old, we saw a new lactation consultant who LOOKED IN HIS MOUTH and said, oh yeah, "this isn't you -- he has a lip tie." That explained EVERYTHING.  Lip ties and tongue ties are related to problems in the baby (difficulty latching, failing to establish a good suction and therefore gets a lot of air, causing acid reflux and other indigestion -- eventually leads to malformations in jaw that can narrow the jaw, leading to dental and orthodontic issues) AND problems in the mother (sore breasts, mastitis, under or over supply issues).  Lip ties and tongue ties, I am discovering, are highly undiagnosed.  We had it corrected with a laser, and within two weeks ALL those symptoms in both me and Calvin were GONE, and breastfeeding become so much easier.  So did pumping.  It was like a miracle.  Within three weeks he preferred breast over the bottle.  Who saw that one coming?  Certainly not me.  I feel so fortunate.

Knowledge about Tongue and Lip Tie passed out of the realm of common medical knowledge in the early 30's when formula was considered better than breastmilk and women were encouraged not to breastfeed.  I have scholarly articles from well-respected medical journals if anyone is interested in the research, but for those of you out there who either are having problems breastfeeding, had problems breastfeeding and are curious about a possible cause, or are pregnant and would like some information about something that could affect your infant feeding (whether you plan to bottle- or breast-feed), please check out this link.

How to Diagnose Tongue and Lip Tie

Just to be clear to everyone, I didn't post this hoping to villainize my friends who have opted for formula. I have posted it as a general PSA. The fact is that I have a lip tie, too (it can be heritable) and I still have all the acid reflux, dental, and orthodontic problems that are the later-in-life possible consequences of untreated ties. I would love it if someone had caught it when I was a baby.