Monday, November 28, 2011

I have become a cutter....

I told myself before I became a parent that I didn't want to be one of those women who has a baby and becomes a different person.  I told myself that I was going to be back in the gym ASAP, I wasn't going to have a baby that slept in bed with us, and I would still listen to the same music and have the same friends.  Here's the reality: I haven't been to the gym in months, Punkin usually sleeps with us for some or all of the night (and has since she was born) and the only music that gets played in my car or at home these days is Sunday school songs or some other child friendly CD (I now know all the words to Rubber Duckie and Teddy Bear Picnic).  When is comes to friends after childbirth, I'm discovering that some friends don't fit in my new life.  And you know what? I'm okay with that.

An amazing and funny thing happened when Punkin came into this world... I found myself profoundly humbled and changed. In an instant, my husband and I (two imperfect but decent people) became responsible for this brand new human life.  I take my role as a mother very seriously.  Being a parent is fun but serious business.  It's our job to take Punkin's natural personality traits, abilities and talents and nurture them so Punkin can be her best self. 

I'm not going to be a passive observer when it comes to parenting... just sitting back and seeing how Punkin turns out. I'm going to actively work to create an environment where Punkin can grow and develop in a healthy way. As she gets older, my husband and I are making an even greater effort to make sure Punkin is surrounded by positive people who share our values and beliefs. This includes limiting media influence as well as those we may have considered friends at one time.  Toxic people or those who have conflicting values will probably not have much contact with our child, if we can help it.

Children are only young for such a short amount of time yet, they are absorbing and learning so much. I want to protect her and keep her naive as long as possible. There is no rush to grow up and be weighed down by adult worries or issues.  I know some parents who don't make an effort to shield their children from anything.  These children grow up creating their own value system, possibly one formed from what they see in movies and on on TV or through music and video games. 

This doesn't mean I want Punkin to be locked up at home. I want her to have a wide variety of experiences out in the world and meet a variety of people over the course of her life. I want her to have hands-on experiences, not 2nd hand experience as dictated to her through television or movies. I want her to grow up truly believing she can accomplish anything and knowing her worth is not synonymous with her looks.  It's my responsibility as her parent to keep out those individuals and influences that may damage my daughter's self-esteem or cause her to feel unnecessary fear and anxiety.

Motherhood has changed me and made me realize that I don't have time for negative people and probably didn't have that much in common with them in the first place. If you don't understand that, then you're probably one of the people who's getting cut. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Glad to get this off my chest...

I had been feeling a little ambivalent about breastfeeding Punkin lately. Many times over the past couple weeks I have found myself daydreaming about taking an overnight trip with my husband or simply being able to spend an entire day by myself.... how wonderful would that be?! Today, I feel completely different. I am back on the breastfeeding bandwagon and will be here until Punkin decides she is ready to jump off.  Having a friend and new mom's breastfeeding efforts almost sabotaged by medical professionals was the wake up call I needed to remember that I am doing the absolute right thing for my daughter. Nothing like having a friend go through a traumatic hospital experience to reignite the lactivist fire.

 The one place that a woman wants to believe she is going to be given the most up-to-date and accurate advice when it comes to breastfeeding most often sets the same woman up for failure.  As I mentioned in my breastfeeding story a few weeks ago, Punkin was given formula for "low blood sugar" before I had the chance to nurse her.  I was also sent home with a very thoughtful "gift" from the hospital of free formula even though I was breastfeeding just fine.  Both of these events undermined my decision to breastfeed my daughter. 

Let's face it, the whole "Breast is Best" mantra it purely lip service. This is evident just by looking at how few hospitals in the US are certified "Baby Friendly",  every time a new mother is offered formula for her newborn so she can "get some rest" while still in the hospital or when a mother is advised to supplement with formula or quit breastfeeding completely if her baby develops jaundice or some other common medical condition. A new mother may be led to believe that one bottle won't hurt when in fact, we know quite the opposite is true.  In their effort to not make mothers feel guilty, pediatricians often times fail to advise mothers who may be struggling with breastfeeding to the dangers of formula and the risks they are taking by choosing to introduce that bottle of artificial food. 

As women we should all take offense to this attitude and treatment. When doctors fail to give us all the necessary information they are taking away our right to make an informed decision. We are not frail or stupid; nor do we need to be protected from the facts. We need to be told the truth so we can make the best decisions for our children. When given all the information and necessary support I truly believe that most women would choose breast over formula, hands down.

I don't say this to make women who formula feed feel guilty in any way.  I do believe all of us make the best decision with the information we have at the time.  I care about women and think we all deserve honest and supportive medical care. Formula feeding doesn't reduce a women's risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis the way breastfeeding does. It doesn't help with natural child spacing or reducing the risk of postpartum depression. When it comes to babies, formula doesn't help to prevent allergies, obesity or SIDS the way breastmilk has been shown to do.  My heart hurts for both Mother and Baby when breastfeeding is sabotaged due to inaccurate or outdated medical advice. (Or advice influenced by the perks some doctors may receive from formula companies...) 

Medical professionals need to stop treating women with kid gloves and give it to us straight when it comes to infant feeding. Forget "Breast is Best" and just tell us the truth.  Based on the facts, breast will win every time. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The ever-evolving tantrum....

It started innocently enough... a few weeks ago Punkin Head started doing this little foot stomping thing. We'd be going about our day as usual when I would do some normal type thing like ask her to close a cupboard door or not play with the toilet lid (gross!) and she would stomp her little feet and whine or yell a little bit. When she first did it I thought it was kind of funny and super cute. My daughter was becoming more independent, how exciting!

Over the next few days the foot stomping continued everytime I did something she didn't like... I was caught off guard every time. I really try to be empathetic to her developing independence and feelings. As much as I wanted to laugh, I didn't. I tried to give her an alternative when I wanted her to stop doing something or redirect her when she was doing something she shouldn't be. For the most part the episodes lasted a few seconds, usually ended in some hugs and kisses and Punkin moved on. No biggie. I mean, least it wasn't a full on tantrum, right?

Then it happened... a few days ago Punkin was playing with some accessories to my vacuum. I went over to her and told her I was all done and it was time to put things away. I gently reached out and attempted to take the accessory from her hand (as I had a thousand times before) and the foot stomping began which was then followed by Punkin throwing herself on the floor in the classic tantrum fashion. All this was accompanied by yelling which turned to crying and kicking feet. She then screamed and cried her way over to her couch (we bought her a "Punkin-Sized" couch recently) and threw herself down on it very dramatically.  The whole incident lasted about 30 seconds, but it was a real eye-opener for me.  We had entered the tantrum stage. This is going to be interesting.

The fact is, Punkin Head is showing me she is her own person. She has definite likes and dislikes and she isn't afraid to tell me what she prefers. She is still my baby, but not in the same way.  We are beginning to butt heads a bit, she and I. There are times when she wants to go outside and I need her to stay inside: Tantrum.  Or when she wants to walk in the road and I have to remind her that she needs to stay on the sidewalk: Tantrum.  I try to imagine what it would be like to be in Punkin's shoes: unable to verbalize my wants, randomly having my activities interrupted, literally being picked up and moved according to someone else's whim. Doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun to me; sounds incredibly frustrating, in fact.

With that in mind, I try really hard to respond compassionately to Punkin's tantrums. It seems like oftentimes, while parents may be crabby or tired or simply having a bad day, we are unwilling to acknowledge that our children may have similar feelings/moods. Some parents seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that their children have feelings at all...  Our children are smaller versions of us. I want Punkin to know it's okay to feel frustrated or even angry with me and her daddy (as well as happy and goofy). Those emotions have to go somewhere and be expressed somehow. At this point in her little life all she can do is act out. She doesn't have the vocabulary to articulate her feelings and a girl has to do what a girl has to do in order to get her point across.

Oddly enough, I'm not exactly dreading this stage. I'm not looking forward to the public meltdowns that I'm sure are just around the corner, to be sure, but I'm not scared or upset by what this chapter has in store. I'm actually looking forward to helping Punkin Head work through this time in her life and learn how to express her feelings in acceptable/constructive ways. I'm being reminded more and more everyday that her daddy and I are her role models. How we express our own emotions and respond to her feelings is going to play a major role in how this tantrum phase plays out. If we play our cards right, we're going to end up with a considerate, empathetic child that isn't scared to experience her emotions; as well as a child that doesn't have to worry about being punished for feeling a certain way. Over time, Punkin will mature and her tantrums will become a distant memory.

 If anything, I'm relieved that this phase is beginning. Our girl is hitting a normal developmental milestone.  What more could a parent want other than a normal, healthy, happy child? Even if that child happens to throw themselves on the floor scream and cry when she doesn't get her way from time to time, we'll love her just as much. Bring on the tantrums!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inappropriate Laughter??

As a general rule, we keep the TV off while Punkin Head is awake. Occasionally we may watch an episode of House Hunters International on the weekends, but for the most part the TV is off and we have found that we really don't miss it.  When Punkin Head was a baby, she didn't seem to care whether the TV was on or not... now that she's older she is more interested in the big, noisy, colorful box; often dancing to any little tune that is playing for a commercial or getting so distracted by the TV that she stops playing with her toys all together and stares intently at the screen which I find somewhat creepy, especially since we never have kid-type shows on.

That being said, the other day I was watching a dvr'd episode of the Colbert Report (love, love, love the DVR!). Mid way through a segment, Punkin Head woke up from her nap so I paused the show and went up to retrieve my girl. As we sat down for our usual "after-nap cuddle session" I thought I'd just go ahead and watch the last minute or so of this portion of the show.

The Colbert Report was doing a response to Summer's Eve "Hail to the V" commercials (which are totally ridiculous and offensive to women on all levels) with their own commercial of  "Hail to the D." I think you all can figure out what the V and the D stand for....  The "Hail to the D" commercial started and Punkin Head instantly began laughing and pointing at the TV.  She sat in my lap, chuckling and pointing through the whole segment. I laughed right along with her and then promptly turned the TV off, even though I was tempted to finish the whole episode as Punkin Head obviously has a similar sense of humor as her mama.

I admit that I love when Punkin Head laughs at "adult-type" things... she has no idea what is really being said, yet she chuckles right along with her dad and me.  Last night during dinner, her daddy was talking about a project he was working on outside and I was able to respond with a "that's what she said!" Punkin Head laughed right along with us.  Her reaction to adult humor is a reminder that in the not-so-distant future, her daddy and I are going to have to be more mindful of what we say when Punkin Head is present, but for now I'm just going to enjoy her well-timed, yet possibly inappropriate, laughter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My breastfeeding story...

I knew I would breastfeed before I became pregnant. I didn't read any books (I probably should have) or attend any specific breastfeeding classes. I didn't grow up surrounded by women who were actively breastfeeding their babies. I did, however, babysit/nanny for a family where the mother nursed both her children. I clearly remember my very first day at their home when the mother freely nursed her 10 month old daughter as we sat in the living room together. She didn't apologize to me or use any kind of special cover; she just did what was natural, which was to feed her child. This is my first memory of breastfeeding and it left a lasting a impression.

Almost 15 years later I gave birth to Punkin Head. She entered the world earlier than planned and feeling the effects of the epidural and pitocin that had been in my system. I was not allowed to touch her with my bare hands and hardly had a chance to hold her before she was rushed out to the NICU due to "trouble breathing."  She was given formula before I could breastfeed her and she spent her nights in the nursery and brought to me for feedings. Like so many first time moms, I was given my "gift bag" of formula when I left the hospital even though the hospital staff knew I was breastfeeding.  I am working hard to overcome the guilt I feel for how I allowed Punkin Head to enter the world.  If  my husband and I have another child, I guarantee things will be different next time.

However, in spite of how the odds seemed stacked against us, Punkin Head and I forged a strong breastfeeding relationship. She came into the world ready to breastfeed; we were made to fit together like all mothers and babies. I had no doubts about my milk supply; I worked through what seemed to be never-ending trouble with engorgement and months of plugged ducts. I exclusively breastfed for over 6 months; through Punkin Head's colic and having a pediatrician who advised me to only nurse my 8 week old baby every 3 hours as a way to help lessen plugged ducts, which, I now know, is horrible advice. I stuck with breastfeeding and Punkin Head thrived. We have maintained this relationship for 14 months...still going strong.

Was I successful at breastfeeding because I was confident I would be successful? Or was I lucky enough to have a baby who was a "natural" which allowed me to feel confident? I'm guessing it's a combination of the two. I honestly think the major factor that kept me from ever feeling discouraged was: Support. Not one person in my life told me I should "just give the baby a bottle." My husband was always there to hold Punkin Head while I took 45 minute showers and tried to massage out painful lumps. My mom always had words of encouragement and reinforced that what I was going through was normal and things would get better. My in-laws never questioned our decision to breastfeed. Formula was never seen as a solution to any of Punkin Head's problems, be it colic, gas or sleeplessness.

When my family or close friends didn't have answers to my questions I called lactation consultants and La Leche League leaders. I attended new mom support groups, if only to talk to the nurses there and googled my heart out, where I found websites like and helpful blogs like The Leaky Boob. I made a point of seeking out women of older toddlers and children who had breastfed and asked them questions about their experiences and I found out I wasn't alone in my struggles. Sure enough, over time, things got much, much better. I have learned that just because something is natural doesn't mean it's easy.

Over the past year I have come to realize how much I was set up for breastfeeding failure and it makes my heart ache. It's not just for myself that my heart aches heart hurts for women who wanted to breastfeed but didn't have the necessary support. Society undermines breastfeeding on all fronts. You can't trust that your doctor or baby's pediatrician is going to really support your decision to breastfeed even though to do so is undeniably the best thing you can do for your baby and yourself.  There will be setbacks and obstacles while learning the art of breastfeeding and a woman needs her family and friends behind her...reminding her that she is doing the right thing, that there are solutions to any problems she might be experiencing and helping her to find those solutions when she is feeling too tired or discouraged to find them on her own. So, to any friend or family member of a new breastfeeding mom, before discounting a woman's ability to feed her child and offering a bottle of fomula, why not offer to do her dishes or make her a snack? That way she can focus on what's really important: gaining confidence as a mother and feeding her baby the way nature intended.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I finally got what I wanted... and I'm a little sad about it...

This morning I was out getting dirty with Punkin Head. I was transplanting a couple house plants while she pushed her wagon around the driveway and played in the dirt a bit. Punkin Head was 6 weeks old, this time last year.  It seemed like all I did was breastfeed around the clock! I couldn't wait until Punkin slept through the night so I could have some downtime and get some much needed sleep. Now here we are a year later: Mother and daughter enjoying the sunshine together, both happy, healthy and well rested!

Punkin just started sleeping somewhat consistently through the night (as in, 6-9 hours straight) in the last three weeks or so. Prior to this point, if she only woke up twice a night to nurse I considered it a good night. (We made one attempt to let her "cry it out" several months ago and it made my heart hurt so much that her daddy and I agreed to never do anything like that again.) Being able to sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time is what I've been waiting for and yet, I'm a little morose about it. Just when my husband and I seriously start talking about night weaning our girl, she pretty much goes and does it herself! I don't think I was ready! I mean, I was just in the "talking about it" phase. I really did not intend on taking serious action until we were closer to the 18 month mark. But like so many things when it comes to parenting, my baby didn't care if I was ready or not...Punkin Head was ready and that's all that matters.

In spite of my surprisingly lukewarm feelings about her night weaning, Punkin Head's daddy has embraced this new phase and not for the obvious reason of all of us getting more sleep. Now when Punkin Head wakes up in the middle of the night (which she still often does) he responds to her cries. Once he enters her nursery, I hear nothing; just the sound of contentment. Silence. Now he's the one who gets to see our girl standing in her crib, arms extended, ready for her late night hugs and cuddles. He is the one who rocks her and whispers lullabies, coaxing her back to sleep. And apparently, he is the one Punkin Head wants. The late night hugs and cuddles used to be my job, hence my melancholy. 

I'm not complaining. I have a husband who is more than willing to get up with our baby in the middle of the night, when he has to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and work outside our home 12+ hours a day. I also don't want to complain about the fact that after a full year, I am finally getting the sleep and rest I need which I know make me a better wife and mother.  I am a very luck woman! That being said, after 12 months of being the one Punkin Head screamed for at all hours of the day and night, it's bittersweet to see her grow up in this way and recognize her daddy as the wonderful source of comfort that he is. She knows that his hugs, kisses and cuddles are just as good as mommy's; maybe even better. She has realized that his soft, low voice and overall calmness is just what a baby girl needs when she wakes up scared or has trouble going back to sleep.  This is the quality time you can't schedule, and her daddy is reveling in it.

It may be my imagination, but since all this has transpired, it seems like Punkin Head's eyes light up a bit more and her smile is bigger now when her dad gets home after work. She literally squealed and ran to meet him when he walked through the door yesterday. Now Punkin Head gives me a wave and sends me on my way when I leave to run errands or get some time by myself. She has her daddy and all is well. Seeing all this happen makes me feel so much love for my husband, that it overshadows any bittersweet or melancholy feelings I may have about her night weaning.

The nights leading up to this point sometimes seemed long and never-ending, but this first year with Punkin Head has passed in a flash. My daughter and I have developed a deep and lasting bond over the past year of sleepless nights together. Our night weaning journey happened naturally without tears and anger; she reached this milestone in her own good time, which allows me to sleep soundly. So sadly, my night-shift is coming to an end and it's time for her daddy to have his turn. This mama is ready to begin the next chapter of motherhood with a more well-rested feeling than a year ago and maybe a few bittersweet tears. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where's the hands free setting for nap time?

Since our little Punkin Head was born I have had the mentality of "I don't mind doing ____ because before I know it she'll be grown up and I wont get to cuddle/rock/nurse/bedshare" etc. Lately, this mentality has been applied to nap time the most often. My daughter is 13 months old and I am still holding her for each and every one of her naps. There is no doubt she needs to take at least one nap, sometimes two, every day. We have a pretty nice routine she and I... 3 to 4 hours after she wakes up in the morning she begins to show signs of nap-readiness. In the past the major sign was some whining. Lately her subtle signals for nap time include ear piercing shrieking and crying most often accompanied by a death grip on my legs and the wailing of "MAAAAMMMMAAAA!" as I try to finish just one more household project or get the dishes done.

Don't get me wrong, household projects and dishes are not more important than my daughter's nap... not by a long shot. I will always choose quality time with Punkin Head over household chores. However, once she gives me the signal I have to stop what I'm doing and prep for her nap time... filling up my bottle of water, making a snack, gathering my gadgets (cell phone, Ipad, Nook & TV remote) and using the bathroom. That last item is a biggie because once we get her blanket and sit down in our rocking recliner, I know I'm going to be sitting there for the next couple hours. This has been our routine, one or more times a day, 7 days a week for the 13 months. I really had myself convinced that holding her while she slept was no big deal... all I had to do was ration my water intake in the hours leading up to and during her nap and everything would be fine. I mean, some day she won't want me to rock her to sleep, right?

And everything was fine, until 2 days ago. Due to good kharma I was rewarded with 2 mochas and only had to pay for one! I thought it was my lucky day! I said told myself I would drink one while at the park with Punkin Head and save the other for the next day. What ended up happening is that I drank both before she and I even sat down for her nap. Add in the fact that they were not decaf, as usual, and I drank a huge amount of water at the park because it's been so hot meant I was in a sad state of affairs an hour into nap time.

I tried shifting positions and focusing on the 16 and Pregnant episode I was watching, but nothing was helping. Besides watching other pregnant women only makes you think about what it was like when you were pregnant, and one thing I remember is that I had to pee All.The.Time. Not the wisest show choice when I'm already struggling to control my bladder. I managed to delay the inevitable for 30 more minutes before I had to make a decision: attempt to lay Punkin Head down somewhere else and hope she stays asleep or attempt to hold her while I use the bathroom, which I was pretty sure would wake her up anyway. I opted for trying to lay her on the couch.

I managed to smoothly get up out of the chair and gingerly walk across our living room to the couch...she didn't move. I oh-so-slowly bent over to lay her down on the couch and... Punkin Head's eyes open and look up at me and if she had never been asleep. Wide awake. She often wakes up this way. One minute she is sleeping peacefully, with limp limbs and all, and the next second you look down at her and she is staring up at you like she has been awake the whole time; bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

I made a decision that day: changes would need to be made to Punkin's and my nap time routine. After 13 months, there were actually things I would like to do other than sit on my butt for 2+ hours every day and I definitely did not want to come that close to peeing my pants again. The next day, I would not be holding her while she slept.

I decided that I would keep some of our routine as it was: I would still follow her lead for the most part of when she is ready for her nap. We'd get her blankey and I'd gather all my gadgets, but then we'd go to our room where I would nurse her and lay her down in the same spot she usually ends up sleeping at night. I would sit next to her while she slept so she wouldn't roll off the bed and so I'd be able to pat her back to help her get back to sleep if she woke up sooner than usual. It was the perfect plan. Punkin Head would get the much needed sleep that she needs and I wouldn't be shackled to the recliner for hours. BRILLIANT!

Everything went as I had imagined it would...Punkin Head had her blankey, she nursed and fell right to sleep. I placed her down next to me on the bed and she didn't move. I thought to myself, "Why didn't I do this sooner!" I picked up my ipad and began to check-up on Facebook and my email when in less than 20 minutes there was some rustling...much to my horror, Punkin Head was rubbing her eyes! I frantically, but without making a lot of commotion scooched down on the bed so I could rub her back and try to get her back to sleep before she could become fully awake. Sadly, what this lead to is almost 20 minutes of Punkin Head staring at the ceiling (unwilling to shut her eyes, as usual) and then almost 2 hours of her screaming and crying as I tried to comfort her back to sleep. When she first woke up I had told myself that I was not going to leave the bed until Punkin Head took a nap; especially after she started crying and screaming. I was NOT going to let her win.

Yeah... so, she totally won. She can be so stubborn and at a certain point I think a parent has to evaluate if what they are doing is actually working. Punkin Head has always been the type of baby that, after the first couple months, doesn't cry very much, but once she gets started she just gets more and more angry and upset. Her 20 minute power nap had given her just enough rest to feel ready to get up...the fact that I tried to get her to lay down and go back to sleep put her over the edge. I gave up, called my mom to vent, then we had lunch and headed to the park, the whole nasty nap time fight behind us.

By the time we returned home, Punkin was exhausted. She desperately needed to get some quality sleep, so we grabbed blankey and headed to her room where she nursed and we cuddled and she drifted off to sleep peacefully. I then placed her into her crib. Not a peep was heard from Punkin for over an hour! I was able to take a shower (a long lesiurely one, even) and have a kid-free conversation with my hubby. Her daddy finally had to go wake her up so we could go to dinner!

Today is Day 2 of Napping in Crib and we are approaching an hour of sleep for Punkin. I'm prepared for this to be a process and it may be a while before our girl sleeps for 2+ hours at a time like she did when her daddy and I would hold her, but the fact that I have both hands free to type this blog (even if only for a few minutes at a time) is a huge step in the right direction. Timing is everything, and I think Punkin Head and I were both ready for this change.