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Embarrassed, Ashamed, and (a little bit) Defensive

I will be the first one to tell you that I am not perfect, Matt and I are not perfect parents, and Noah is certainly not a perfect child.  He’s pretty awesome, but far from perfect.  Currently, as all two year olds do, he is testing his boundaries, exploring his world, and learning how to relate to others and communicate by watching and mimicking the other kids and adults in his life.

With that said, Matt and I have had to learn to be super conscious about our behaviors and our words at all times.  And, while we have failed many, many times, I think we are doing a pretty good job at modeling good behaviors, using our words to communicate emotions and needs, and practicing lots of appropriate behaviors in hopes that Noah will mimic the good stuff.

[At least I thought we were doing a pretty good job.]

This morning, we were running a little late and, when Noah asked for seconds of his breakfast, we just didn’t have time to make that happen.  So, after he was dressed and ready for school, I asked him if he would like a cup of cereal to have in the car.  Here is the gist of the conversation that followed.

Me: “Noah, do you want Cheerios in a cup to eat in the car?”

Noah: “No Mrs. Mommy!  Teddy Grahams!”

Me: “Okay.  Teddy Grahams it is.”

Noah: “TEDDY GRAAAAAAHAMS!!!”

Me: “Okay, okay… here are your Teddy Grahams.  Just be sure not to let the doggies get them.”

Noah immediately and (I am assuming) accidentally drops one on the floor.  Poplar, our voraciously hungry Black Lab, dives in and gobbles it up without even chewing.  And then it happened…

Noah: “Oh Shit!”

Matt: “Did he just say what I think he said?!”

Me: “Yeah I think so.  What do we do??”

Matt: “I think we should ignore it and just hope it doesn’t happen again.  But I think I have heard him say it before.”

Me:  “What!?  We’ve been working so hard at not saying that.”

Matt:  “Apparently not hard enough.”

[But wait… this amazing morning couldn’t possibly get worse or make me feel more like a terrible parent could it???]

I get to Noah’s classroom, give him a big hug and kiss, and wave good-bye as he runs off to grab a toy and play next to his best friend Abigail.

One of his teachers comes up to me and, in a whisper tone, asks me if she can have a word with me.  She informs me that Noah has been saying “shit” quite a bit for the last week or so when he gets frustrated.  She said he will even clinch his fat little fists and stomp around in a circle saying, “shit, shit, shit.”

Seriously!?  My precious little Noah??  He’s the kid that cusses??

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When she tells me this, my emotions go from totally ashamed and embarrassed (How could we have done this to my sweet little baby?  We try so hard to model good behavior and look at what is happening!)…

…To shear concern (What do you do when he does this?  What advice do you have so that we can appropriately address this behavior without making a big deal out of it?)…

…To angry and defensive (How long has this been going on?  Why are you just now telling me about it?  I am sure there is some other kid in here who is teaching him this word?  Are you calling me a bad parent?).

When I leave daycare, I immediately call Matt to let him know that I was just called out by a 21 year-old about what a bad parent I am.  He goes immediately to angry and defensive (skipping emotional levels 1 and 2).

Matt:  “Every day, they all tell me about what a great day Noah has had.  They go on and on about how well he plays, how well he eats, how much he learns and sings.  Now, we are bad parents?!”

Me:  “Well, we did hear him say it this morning.  We know that he is actually doing it.“

Matt:  “I don’t care.  That’s not the point.”

We then went on to make a plan about changing the movies and TV shows he is watching and what disciplinary approach we were going to take to address the foul language in the future.

But man, not feeling too great about modeling good behavior right about now.

Also, if you happen to have a child in Noah’s class and he or she begins to mimic Noah and say not-so-nice words, I’m sorry.  We’re working on it.

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Sanity…

I want to apologize.  I have been silent on my blog for the last couple of weeks.  Not because crazy parenting things haven’t been happening in my house, but because crazy parenting things can be so emotionally draining that the thought of sitting down at my computer and writing sounded about as wonderful as poking myself in the eye with a stick.

Don’t get me wrong- I love writing.  It has always been my solace when life gets crazy.  But, as life gets crazier and crazier with a 2 year old, finding time to write (which I used to try and do every day) has gotten to be more and more difficult.  I no longer have those 2 to 3 hours at night to think about my day, process my experiences, and enjoy the company of my husband.  Now, in those few hours after the baby is in bed and Matt and I can finally “let our guard down,” there is the laundry and the dirty dishes, cleaning and organizing, planning for the next day, and last night, Matt had to go out at 8:30pm and buy pull-ups because daycare sent a note home that Noah needs them to help with potty training at school (seriously- a little more advance notice would be awesome!).

And then the next morning at 5:00am, the alarm goes off and we start again (gym, daycare, work, daycare, 2nd job, bedtime routine, housework, bed…).  I never understood the “living for the weekend” mentality… until now.

Usually, it is not that bad (or at least it doesn’t seem like it).  I guess we still haven’t fully recovered from our crazy summer.  We haven’t been able to have any kind of down-time to collect our sanity.  And now, what seems to be adding to the exhaustion is that we have discovered the true meaning of “the terrible twos.”

[Man!  Does that kid know how to throw a tantrum!?! I mean, is it built into their genetic coding to throw themselves on the ground and writhe in such a way that it is absolutely impossible to pick them up?  Is there a toddler class that I don’t know about that teaches them how to go completely limp as soon as they hear the word no?]

1045032_10101376087586268_366568104_nFortunately, I have an amazing husband who does way more than his fair share of the work around the house.  He will be the first to tell you that I cannot clean worth a damn.  I don’t pre-rinse the dishes before they go in the dishwasher, I don’t measure the laundry detergent or separate colors from whites, and I only vacuum in the event of an emergency.  Oh and I am terrible at cleaning up actual messes (be it dog- or baby-created mess).

In fact, the other night, I opened a container of yogurt for Noah’s supper.  Somehow, the container slipped out of my hand and strawberry Greek yogurt went flying.  I mean, there was yogurt splattered all over the floor, the kitchen cabinets, Noah’s toys, and me.

What I should have done:  Get out the mop and cleaning stuff, gotten down on my hands and knees and cleaned up the spill (which is what Matt would have done).

What I actually did: Called the dogs in, let them lick everything, and yelled to Matt, “Don’t worry!  I handled it!”

Needless to say, Matt does all of the cleaning.  He even re-cleans everything that I tried to clean the first time.  I do all of the cooking and grocery shopping.  Pre-baby, I handled all of the financial decisions and banking stuff.  Post-baby, we split this task.  And we have reimagined our previously very defined and rigid roles within our relationship because, well, we had to.  Parenting not only shifts your worldview and the way that you experience your environment, it creates new challenges and opportunities that force you to reimagine everything.

I am not a perfect parent… I am so far from being a perfect anything that the word perfect doesn’t even sound like a real word anymore.  In a previous post, I talked about striving for adequacy.  And I think Matt and I are succeeding.  We just need to be reminded of this bigger goal every now and then.

I need to remember that it is okay to force my child to wear pants to school even though it takes 10 minutes to put them on his chunky little writhing and squirming legs.  I need to remember that being late to drop him off sometimes is just a fact of life now.  And, even though Matt would disagree, it is okay to let the dogs lick up the mess in the kitchen rather than clean it the proper way.

Oh, and remember to write more.  For my sanity!

Stressed Out Summer

August is a really tough month for my family. My husband works in student housing and he has a very short time frame to get all of the apartments ready for the incoming students. What that means for me and Noah is that we are on our own for about a month (mid-July to mid-August).

In previous years, this hasn’t been a huge deal. Three years ago, I was a poor grad student so I spent that summer waiting tables at a fancy restaurant. It was a good way to make a little extra money and to stave off boredom. Two years ago, I was big, fat and pregnant for most of this busy period. And then, wouldn’t you know it, I gave birth to Noah during the craziest time of year for Matt. But, while he was able to take a few days off while I was in the hospital and for our first days home, he had to go right back to work. It wasn’t too bad though because I had family at home to help out. Last year during this time, I was still a stay-at-home mom and Noah had just started walking and was still easy to catch. And, while it definitely got lonely at times, being a temporary “single mom” wasn’t so bad.

This year, however, I am going CRAZY!!! Matt has been leaving for work at the time that I get up in the morning. He hasn’t been getting home until well after 6pm (weekends included). And, on the nights that I see clients, I don’t get home until after 8pm. We have had to have family come in to town to help on our overlapping nights. And, as if things weren’t busy enough, Noah’s birthday falls smack dab in the middle of everything.

Party planning, hosting a house full of company, and (I hadn’t mentioned this part yet) because of a summer full of rain storms and wind damage, we had to have a new roof put on our house (while also dealing with all of the previously discussed stress) is not exactly the greatest way to manage my life while Matt is working 12 hour days, 30 days straight.

But being busy and going a little crazy are actually the smallest annoyances to this hectic speed bump in our lives. What really sucks the most is that I desperately miss my husband. While we do get to “physically” see each other for a couple of hours a day, when I do actually get a chance to sit down with him after we put the baby to bed, he is so tired, frustrated, or he has more work to do to get ready for tomorrow. We are both just exhausted. We have been short with each other, snap at the smallest things, and our patience is at an all-time low.

Noah has really noticed the difference as well. I think he is really confused or maybe even angry with his daddy. And, because he is 2, he has no idea how to express his emotions. He spends the whole day talking about how much he misses daddy and asks about where he is but, as soon as Matt gets home, he distances himself from him and won’t leave my side. He turns into this clingy, crying mess (Noah that is, not Matt).

Our entire world has been flipped upside down and these are things I never anticipated. Matt has been working in student housing since 2006. This isn’t new to us. But we have never done this with a toddler. And let me tell you, this sucks! This situation has given me migraines, made me sick to my stomach on more than a few occasions, and I rarely sleep during the night because I am so worried about the next day’s to-do list.

Matt and I are the couple that talks about everything. We rarely fight and if we do, we generally stop somewhere in the middle of the argument and laugh about what we’re fighting about. [Or, Matt just apologizes and we move on.] We communicate. And we usually do a damn good job at it. I’m a counselor. I teach others stress relief techniques and coping strategies to use during times like these. I should be awesome at this!

So, in these final days before the college kids move in and things get back to normal, I am trying to remind myself often that this is only temporary. Remind myself that he will be back to his typical even-keeled self in a matter of days. And remind myself that I need to start coming up with a much better plan for next summer. Either that, or find Matt a new job.
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Simply Adequate…

When I was pregnant, Matt and I constantly told ourselves and anyone else who would ask that our goal was simply to be adequate parents. We didn’t need to be perfect parents. We weren’t trying to win any competitions. And we knew there was a pretty huge learning curve to this whole new adventure so we tried to remain realistic.

When we would tell people that this was our goal, they would giggle and smile and then we would move on to something else, but it was never a joke to Matt and me. Yes, we would do everything we could to become educated about the drastic changes that were coming. Yes, we would keep him safe and fed. And, yes, we understood that there would be tons of pressure on us about raising the “right” kind of kid.

What I didn’t expect and that I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of pressure that the rest of the world (and especially other mothers) puts on new moms. I remember the day it hit me. I was in Target when Noah was about 6 months old. He was finely sturdy enough to sit in the front of the shopping cart (thank goodness because I hate, loathe, and despise those damn bucket car seats that, somehow, only weigh 3 pounds when the baby isn’t in them but, put a 12 pound baby in it and, suddenly, the stupid thing weighs 60 pounds. It doesn’t make sense!)

It was winter and pretty cold outside. Noah hated wearing socks and as soon as the opportunity arose, he took his socks off and put them in his mouth. We were inside Target, he was happily playing and looking around, and this woman who appeared to be about 40ish came up to me, touched Noah’s feet (not even going to mention how much this bothered me) and, in a high-pitched baby voice said, “Apparently your mommy doesn’t care if your feet are freezing.”

I stood there, mouth open, trying to get past the shock and anger that was raging inside me. A million things were running through my head- including some really not-so-nice words that I shouldn’t say out loud in Target- but I just made some kind of stupid incoherent comment like, “Yeah, he just doesn’t like to wear socks.” And then, before I could get my brain working enough to say something about the pressures on moms and the judgment from others, she was gone. And I was left there to be angry about it and think over and over about all of things I should have said.

The sad thing is, this is not the only time something like this happened. As a stay-at-home mom during the first part of Noah’s life, he went with me everywhere. I dealt with all kinds of comments and stares from all kinds of people about everything- good and bad. I got used to it and, eventually I developed a pretty standard response that was just rude enough to get my point across.

So, back to my original point, there is too much pressure out there on new moms and dads and there is too much comfort in placing judgment with no regards to circumstance or personal choice. With that said, rather than railing on the ignorant people out there who continue to say hurtful and unnecessary comments to unsuspecting and tired new moms in Target, I would like to give a little advice and support to the moms out there (both new and seasoned) to help make dealing with the pressures a little easier.

1. Do what works. Every baby is different. The baby books are going to tell you one thing. Your mother-in-law is going to tell you something different. Figure out what works for your baby and do that. When we brought Noah home, the only place he would sleep was either on someone’s shoulder or in his bouncy seat. The shoulder was not the greatest option so we set up a card table next to the bed, stuck him in the bouncy seat, and he slept on that until he was 4 months old. Yes, people made fun of us for putting our baby on a card table but, it worked.
2. If your baby is happy and safe, then you are doing a good job. You are going to feel like a terrible parent more than a few times as your baby grows up. The first time you turn your back and he falls and skins his knee, you are going to blame yourself and, unfortunately, others will too. Remember, kids fall down. Kids get hurt. Parents make mistakes. Comfort your child, kiss his skinned knee, and know that you are the best parent he could ever ask for.
3. Trust yourself. You are the expert on your baby. There is a reason there is such a thing called “Mother’s Intuition.” Whether you feel like you know what you are doing or not, you know what is best for your baby and no one knows your kid better than you do. Women are the worst at questioning their own decisions. I am giving you permission to be confident about your choices.
4. Ask for help. Bringing home a baby is tough. Raising a toddler is pretty darn difficult too. And I still don’t know how parents with more than one kid figure it out. Find a good baby-sitter. Let grandparents help as much as they offer. And if they don’t offer, ask them to help! Your kids will benefit from having a mother who is better rested and who has a little extra time to herself. It will make your time with the baby even more special and rewarding for both of you.
5. Practice positive self-talk. Write it down if you have to. You are the best mother that you know how to be. And that is all anyone, especially your baby, can ask for. And remember, if you start positive self-talk now and do it regularly, your child will learn it too. Starting self-esteem building now can only mean great things for both of you in the future.

Yes, society puts a lot of pressure on us but we put even more on ourselves. There is no research that shows that perfect parents have perfect kids. Do your best, set attainable goals, and strive for adequacy.
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To be or not to be…

First off, let me say that no, I am not pregnant.  But lately, Matt and I have begun discussing when and if we want to increase our family size.  I’m a planner (or at least I try very hard to be).  So this is a major decision in our lives and requires a significant amount of conversation.

I did not enjoy being pregnant.  There was nothing terrible about my pregnancy.  I didn’t have a lot of morning sickness- a good bit of random nausea but nothing severe.  I didn’t gain a ton of weight, there were no health concerns, and I like to think that I was rather pleasant to be around.  But I absolutely could not stand being pregnant.

The main reason is that, despite all of my efforts, when you are pregnant you have zero control of your body, zero control of your emotions, and you lose any and all sense of self.  All of a sudden, your body is no longer yours.

Now, for a control freak like myself, this is a nightmare.  And, to make matters even worse, everyone and their brother feels that they have the right to comment on your belly size, your weight, your due date, your restaurant choices, your moodiness, and anything else that apparently is no longer private or personal.  And, on of the hardest parts for me is the fact that strangers feel the right and responsibility to touch you.  People come out of nowhere, people you have never met before, and touch your belly.  I had to actually come up with my own personal mantra to repeat to strangers on a regular basis because I don’t like it when people touch me without permission.

Because I know you are wondering, my mantra was, “Oh, I’d rather you not touch the baby.  My belly is a little sensitive today.”  This created enough awkward discomfort that the person usually skulked off without any further unnecessary conversation.  It was much better than, “I don’t know you and I sure as hell don’t want you to touch me! Go Away!”

In addition to the loss of control, pregnancy symptoms suck- or at least mine did.  I had heartburn non-stop for the last 6 months of pregnancy.  I had to start sleeping sitting up because whenever I laid down flat, the acid reflux made me throw up.  All I wanted in the whole world was a giant leather recliner to sleep in but, because I was a poor pregnant graduate student, it was not possible.

My hair got even curlier than it already is.  And while some women love the fact that your hair stops falling out when you’re pregnant, it was awful for me.  My already fluffy and voluminous hair was twice as big and curly.  And no one tells you that, a few months after you have the baby, all that hair that never fell out suddenly all falls out.  I could pull chunks of hair out for months.  I thought I was sick!  Then, after that finally stopped, all of it started growing back and I had stupid little short hairs sticking out all over my head.  I never read about any of this in the 19 pregnancy books I read.  This is the stuff women need to know!  Plus- imagine a giant pregnant lady, tons of curly, fluffy hair in the middle of summer in 90 degree North Carolina.  Not exactly the most pleasant experience.

And then there is this huge part of me that feels completely guilty for even complaining about pregnancy because there are so many women out there that cannot get pregnant.  I am sure they would kill for all of the hormones, nausea, and weird bodily functions.  And then there is the fear in me that, even though the first pregnancy came relatively easy, what if the second pregnancy is not so easy?  What if we can’t get pregnant again?  Can I be happy with Noah being an only child?  And then, heaven forbid, what if there are complications with the next pregnancy?  Noah had a perfect bill of health when he was born.  What if we aren’t so lucky next time?

So, with all that I know now that I didn’t know then, do I want to be pregnant again?

Yes.

But when?  When is it the “right” time to bring another baby into our almost-perfect family (written with extreme sarcasm)?  How do we know if we are ready to do the newborn thing again?  My friend says that there comes a moment when you only remember how wonderful the good parts were and it makes the bad parts seem not so terrible.  Not sure when that time will come for us… soon (maybe).

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The weight of the world…

This has been a really stressful week for me.  There have been numerous times that I have had to take a step back and look at how much I was letting other people’s behaviors affect me.  Which, I must say, I am very disappointed in myself about.

Since becoming a counselor and a mom, I have never been more reminded of the fact that we can’t control what we can’t control.  Sometimes crap happens; sometimes other people just suck; and sometimes shit piles up.  There is no reason for it, and if there is a reason, we can’t do anything about it.

Now– I say that.  I know that it is true.  And still, this past week I have screamed, I have cried, I have not been able to sleep, and I (with shame and embarrassment) admit that I may have pitched a temper tantrum that could rival my toddler’s  all because we didn’t have any wine in the house.

So yesterday morning, after waking up at 3:30am for the second day in a row with way too many to-do lists running through my head, I went running.  And, let me preface this by saying that I am not a hit the pavement, rain or shine, “I love running” kind of runner.  I am a on the treadmill, air conditioning, listen to Pandora while I read the closed captioning on the news, kind of runner.  I ran and ran.  I just kept watching that mile counter go higher and higher and it felt amazing.  And even as my legs started to get tired and a bit wobbly, I just turned up the volume on my ipod and kept running.

To me, there is nothing better than that moment at the gym when you are completely zoning out to the point that you don’t notice all of the people staring at you because you are singing out loud to the songs on the “Pitch Perfect” soundtrack station.

 [Side note- awesome Pandora station for dorks like me!]

I think at times, and this especially applies to mothers (and maybe even a few dads), that we let the weight of the world pile up on us without even realizing how heavy it is.  As a self-proclaimed control freak, I know exactly what it is like to try and be in charge of everything.  I am guilty of truly believing that nothing will ever be done as well as when I do it.  I take on too much, I struggle to delegate, and I get upset when things don’t go exactly right.

I am trying to change.  I would like to say that I am getting better at letting other people be in charge (even though I have delegated a good bit of planning for Noah’s upcoming 2nd birthday party and it is making me very nervous and a bit panicky).  Matt and I use the “do what works” style of parenting which has helped to take away a lot of pressure on getting it right.  And, even though I have 2 jobs, a toddler, a husband, and a new blog, I am making sure that I take time for me and that Matt and I make time for each other.

I have learned, though not without resistance, that I can’t do it all and, what I do take on doesn’t have to be perfect.  I can’t let the things that I cannot control be in control of me.  I have to say “no” sometimes and I have to recognize when I am in too deep.

This realization hit me square in the face yesterday morning.  This is the moment I realized that I had let someone else make me furious.  I gave someone else the power to determine how I was feeling, how I reacted, and ultimately how my entire day played out.

Thankfully I have the gym, a treadmill, and Pitch Perfect.

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Coping with Tragedy…

A friend of mine lost her baby today.  She was 10 weeks pregnant.  I heard the news and I burst into tears.  Those big, can’t catch my breath, smear my make-up all over my face even though I am at work kind of tears.

My thoughts began to race.  Images of my pregnancy- my struggles, my joys, my plans for the future, sharing those images with family and friends- it all came back in a rush of emotion.  I immediately reached out to her and I could tell she was trying to stay strong and brave for everyone else.  I was trying to balance all of my personalities: (1) the friend in me who was so sad and heartbroken for a friend who is so kind and full of life and doesn’t deserve anything bad in this word, (2) the mom in me who is so scared and afraid everyday that something might happen to my family, (3) and the counselor in me who just wants to immediately refer her to someone to talk to because I know that the worse is yet to come.

The moment you decide that you want to be a mother, your life changes.  It literally happens immediately.  The second you make the choice to stop taking your birth control or you have that conversation with your gynecologist about pre-natal care, your life changes.  I know, for some, the planning isn’t as big of a deal as it was for me.  For some women, the life changing moment is when that pink line shows up (and then you go right to the pharmacy and buy the expensive digital tests just to make sure that the pink line wasn’t a fluke).

But I never realized- until it happened to me- that wanting and preparing for a child actually changes the way you think, the way you look at life.  You join a club of women who all have one major thing in common- they are scared to death, scared of everything.  All of a sudden, you are living for someone else.  You think about everything you eat, everything you do.  If you’re trying to get pregnant, your sex life changes, you make weird choices about what you eat and drink, and you feel like a failure every time you get your period.  It consumes you.

Then, when all the stars align, you get pregnant.  Emotions run the gamut from happy to scared to anxious to “what the hell were we thinking?”  You immediately begin making plans.  I need to make a doctor’s appointment.  When do we tell our families?  When is the due date?  Childcare, breastfeeding, baby showers, etc., etc., etc…

And, after the baby is born, you discover how wrong you were about everything you ever thought.  But you have a baby- that baby you have known from the moment you decided you wanted to be a mother.  He’s perfect.

But, for my friend and for thousands of other women, a miscarriage stops you in your tracks.  All of those joyous and exciting plans are now painful memories.  Because, even though that baby is no longer living inside you, you knew him.  He was yours.  In your mind, you were already trying to figure out how you were going to cope with his first skinned knee and his first hussy little girlfriend.

I cried when I heard about my friend’s miscarriage because I was reminded of how lucky I am.  I am so thankful that I have never experienced a loss as tragic as hers.  And I cried for her and for the hell that I know she has yet to face.  I have seen my clients struggle as milestones approach.  I have seen them feel enormous guilt when they get pregnant again.  I have seen their marriages dissolve because grief just sucks.  It takes a toll on every relationship and, without help, it can become overwhelming.

I don’t think we talk about miscarriage as much as we should.  It is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.  Pregnant women are afraid to even say the word for fear that it might jinx them.  It affects so many more women and families than you could ever imagine.  People don’t discuss it.  A loss this big is not something that can be carried alone.

And you don’t have to be strong for anyone.  Now is not the time to put on a brave face.  As a southern woman, it is hard for me to say this.  But it has never been more true.

Breastfeeding- My Brutally Honest Truth

Yesterday, I posted a link about the costs of breastfeeding.  It really got me thinking about my experiences breastfeeding Noah.  I was so very lucky to have the support of my husband, family, and friends during what was, I can honestly say, the hardest thing I have ever done.  I was also lucky that my job as a family counselor, allowed me to make my own schedule.  I stayed home with Noah during the day and worked in the evenings after my husband got home from work.  It made it possible to nurse for the first full year of his life.  This was great, because he refused to drink from a bottle after he was 3 months old.  All that liquid gold that I pumped (and man did I hate that horrible pump) went down the drain.  With that aside, it takes loads of support and encouragement to breastfeed, no matter how long you choose to do so.  That first month is so unbelievably hard and you think about quitting a hundred times a day.  I want this Brutally Honest post to provide a little insight into what breastfeeding was really like… for me.  It could be the complete opposite for everyone else.  I just know that, as prepared as I thought I was, I was nowhere near prepared for reality.

A little bit of background on me- I am a Type A personality through and through.  When I was pregnant, I researched everything, read all the books and literature, cover-to-cover.  I read What to Expect about 4 times; I read Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth (with horror and appreciation); if it had a picture of a mother and baby on the cover, I read it.  I also took the classes- Childbirth 101, Breastfeeding Basics (more about this little “gem” later), etc…  And with all of this preparation, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how hard breastfeeding actually was.

Noah had to be the hungriest infant ever born.  He breastfed for the first time just 20 minutes after being born, and he latched on instantly.  I would have been so excited because you constantly hear horror stories about how some babies just can’t figure out how to latch, but I couldn’t get past the absolute and unexpected pain that came the minute he started to suck.  And, let me just say, I have an incredibly high pain tolerance.  Completely drug-free, all natural childbirth had just happened moments before.  But this little baby could suck like nobody’s business.

In the Breastfeeding Basics class offered at the Women’s Hospital (just a few floors down from where I was currently suffering), a class full of incredibly pregnant women and scared-to-death dads were told that if you experience any pain while breastfeeding, you are doing it wrong.  LIES!!!  Noah was nursing so often and so effectively that my milk came in in full force in less than 36 hours.  With that incredible efficiency came chapped nipples, cracks and bleeding, aches and pain in my abdomen (breastfeeding stimulates oxytocin which helps your organs and muscles get back to where they need to be), and a big fat lesson in how no amount of research can prepare you for what breastfeeding was really like.

Now, please don’t take this as an attempt to scare you or anyone else out of breastfeeding.  All the pain went away after about 3 weeks and my boobs kind of got numb to it.  And a few months after I stopped breastfeeding, all of the feeling and sensitivity came back.  I just wish, in that stupid Breastfeeding Basics class, they didn’t lie about it.  I actually wish that I could give the class myself.  One of the first things I would do is throw away that silly fake boob they pass around so you can practice how to hold it while your baby latches on.  Seriously- we have our own boobs.  We don’t need a fake one to “practice.”

The class was presented in Power Point format.  Each slide listing a different “Rule” about the best way to breastfeed your baby.  Now, I will admit, I was extra sensitive and emotional and my perceptions may have been a little over-dramatic at the time.  But the class is for pregnant women who are all overly emotional and sensitive.  The “rules” they laid out were about alternating between boobs, making sure the baby is on each boob for no longer than 20 minutes, waking the baby up in the middle of the night to make sure he is eating on a schedule, etc…  And with all of these “rules” came scary and intimidating consequences like, “your baby won’t get enough nutrition,” “your baby won’t figure out how to bond with you,” “your baby will pick a preferred boob and the other boob will quit making milk.”  All of us soon-to-be new mothers were already anxious and scared, and now we were being made to feel like not doing it the way this Power Point says to do it will make us bad mothers.  We have enough pressure from the media and the celebrities to make us feel like bad mothers.  We don’t need a class in our hospital to place judgments on us too.

The truth is, every baby and every mother are different.  Noah nursed every 90 minutes for 45 minutes each time.  I literally had to plan my day in 45 minute increments because I had the “My Breast Friend” pillow strapped to my waist for nearly 12 hours a day (as a side note- the My Breast Friend pillow is the greatest invention EVER!  I used it for the entire year that I breastfed and for a few months after that just to make it easier to rock Noah to sleep on rough nights.  Buy one!  Put it at the top of your registry!  It’s amazing!).

But you develop a routine, you get to catch up on all of your favorite shows, you finally find out what kind of shows come on throughout the night (I watched a lot of HGTV and ABC News), and you get to watch your beautiful baby lay in your arms, fall asleep with a full belly, make the sweetest suckling sounds, and look at you with the warmest and most amazing look of gratitude and love.  It makes me tear up now thinking about how those times are over for me as Noah runs (literally runs- the child went straight from crawling to running) and only lets me hold him and rock him when he is sick.

Breastfeeding is a choice.  It should be made with all of the information possible; it should be made with both parents involved; it should be made with support and without judgment.  I found it helpful to talk about my struggles with anyone who would listen.  I really loved talking to other moms about what I was going through and hearing their stories and their struggles.  You are not alone in this process- even though it feels that way sometimes.

And, while I can laugh about it now, when Noah would wake up during the night to nurse, I would strap on my nursing pillow, climb back into bed, get him all situated and happy, and look at my husband, all fast asleep and comfortable, and think about how bitter I was that he gets to sleep and I have a baby attached to me.  Now, he gets up when Noah has “one of those nights” and refuses to sleep.  It totally makes up for it!

Mothers, remember that you are so much stronger than you think you are.  You are the best mother that you know how to be and that is enough.  Love your baby and love yourself.  You don’t have to be perfect, there will always be critics, and other people’s rules are crap.  Follow your own rules, or don’t.  And, most importantly, find supportive people to talk to.  If you can’t find anyone, email me!

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