Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Possessng Drops of Rain

It is my sweet girl Indra's third birthday today and although Sparreaux's birth is much fresher in my mind, Indra's birth and how she came into our lives is the balance that all my other children's births rests upon.   Indra, the name, means possessing drops of rain or sky god.   Indra is the god that pushes up the sky and releases dawn.   Often mischievous but rarely punished.   The gods tool is called the Vajra (thunderbolt in Sanskrit) it is believed to represent firmness of spirit and spiritual power.   While Indra developed and grew inside of me, my life, my relationship, my job, everything was a mess.   Justin's alcoholism was reaching its apex with a major crisis every week at least.   When I would close my eyes and focus on this little being growing inside of me, I would see her floating in a sea of tears, incubated in sadness.  I came to rely on her strength; as she grew, I grew.   Not only was I preparing for her birth but I was also releasing the trauma of Clara and Ellie's birth.  I had never given birth vaginally before, I had been taught through the delivery of the twins that I could not trust my body and in the words of my OB "had a weak uterus."   I felt like a sapling in a storm.   I required a flexibility and potency never summoned before.   Through visits with my midwife and personal meditation, I was able to create a dialogue with Indra while she grew inside of me.   She whispered to me of her power, she handed me thunderbolts to throw when I was frustrated and scared, she allowed me to crawl inside and cuddle with her when I just couldn't take it anymore.   She created healing rains of tears to cascade through my days and lonely nights when I wasn't sure who I was anymore and questioned my faith in life.   So many times I wished her not there so I could go at it alone.  I felt like I was harming her by being so sad all the time.  That my baby would be born blue.
On the morning of May 16th at 8:20a.m, I pushed Indra into this world on my bed surrounded by Justin, Anne (midwife assistant), Katie (midwife), and Rachel (doula).   Indra would not be pressured into set timeline.  She came in her own way in her own time.   I had group B strep and could not afford to allow labor to go on and on after my water broke for fear of infection.   I felt a lot of pressure to make labor and delivery happen.   With my birth team hanging out on the evening of May 15th, my contractions would pick up and drop off and I was already 10+ hours from when my water broke.  I would get going at a good pace and I would think, "this is it!  This is what labor really feels like!" and then it would go away.  I felt like I was failing and I wasn't sure what to do with those feelings when I already felt so vulnerable.  My sagely midwife let Justin and I know that it was okay and we just needed some time to ourselves.   Everyone left and immediately the atmosphere changed.    A huge settling of energy and expectation took place.   I was able to tune back in to Indra and focus on trusting Justin enough to birth our baby together.   Justin and I took a shower, watched a funny movie and went to sleep for the night.   At about 3 a.m. I woke up with a shock.  I felt like someone had touched my tailbone with a jolt of electricity and I was whisked away to labor-land.   Justin called the birth team back to the house and I was none the wiser.   I fully pulled into my body and worked with the push and pull of the contractions.   I remember saying between contractions, "this is a lot.   This is really a lot."   My midwife agreed.   It was a lot.   
Five pushes and my baby was in my arms.   Those five pushes was the closing scene on years of believing that I was not able to birth a baby without a scalpel and a surgeon involved.  Those five pushes solidified my understanding of myself as a woman and a mother.  Those five pushes allowed me to lay to rest all of the fear and grievance trapped in the twins' birth.   And here she was, my little rain god creating yet another shower of tears, staring up at me with those deep grey eyes of the newly-born letting me know that we made it.   We did it.   Together.

Happy Birthday Indra.   You are a blessing every single day.   I love you and I am so grateful for you in my life.
All dressed up-celebrating three years of awesomeness!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pump Up The Jams-Pump It Up!

Pumping.   I have a very complex, long history with pumping as I am sure every mother that has ever hooked her breasts up to this loathe device probably does.   It all started when the twins were born about nine years ago now.   I did not anticipate the relationship that I would eventually develop with pumping when I was pregnant with them.   Yes, I knew that I would maybe pump here or there, but not like it ended up.  If you have read any of my other blogs, you know that the twins were born premature (32 weeks) and were in the NICU for a month before coming home.   In my dream world of mothering that I had long established during my turbulent pregnancy, I saw visions of plump babies happily nursing away with no thoughts of low milk supply or poor latching.   Instead, what I had were two 3 pound babes in incubators getting my breastmilk through a tube in their nose.  Going from not breast feeding ever to hooking my nipples up to a hospital grade pump while totally stressed out about the viability of my children really took a toll on me emotionally and physically.   I had huge blisters on both nipples that needed ice packs to make it through to the next pumping session where the said huge blisters on both nipples would pop open and hurt like a motherfucker.   The pump itself was an unfinished metal contraption bolted down to a table not unlike something you would see underneath the hood of a car or in some torture chamber somewhere.   The mother sits in a cracked, vinyl chair and hooks up her own sterile supplies.   The decor is sparse with a vase of dusty, fake flowers and perhaps a print on the wall of a baby in a duck costume.   The NICU staff gives you a polaroid picture of your baby(ies) to stare at while pumping so that you may envision yourself with them, wrapped in their smell and warmth to help let your milk down.   My heart was heavy and yet my breasts were not.
Way more flow than I had.

 I felt like I had failed.   I kept at it with them (the babes and the breasts) and did eventually get a working routine down between visits with the lactation consultants and kangaroo care with my twinlettes.   I felt determined to make breastfeeding work.   I can happily say that once the babes were home, I successfully nursed both until close to 18 months of age.  I was a stay-at-home mom with them so the pump rarely, if ever came into play from there on out.

With Indra, it was never a question.   She was a planned homebirth and a whole lot more chill than a high-risk, twin pregnancy.   I nursed her within moments of her arrival and had a sweet breastfeeding relationship.   Going back to work with the pump in tow sucked, to say the least.   I had no experience leaving a baby at three or four months and supplying their food while away.  I did not know what to expect.   The place I worked at the time was a highly corporate structure of a company with policies and procedures for EVERYTHING except breastfeeding mothers.   I needed to obtain a doctors note to use my pump as a fucking prescription and to make the point that pumping was not a "break time" for me.
Your policies can suck it, k?

  So, they gave me a key to a dank and freezing locker room of sorts and any woman with a key could come in any time.   There was one skinny bench placed perpendicular to the wall on which I would sit, a small sink and mirror, a shower (strange), and a few rows of abandoned lockers.   This was before the days of pumping bras (at least that I knew of) so I would hold the breast shields to both breasts with my forearm and eat my lunch with the other hand while balancing my book on my thigh.   It was so freaking freezing in there that I would need to bring a sweater down to the locker room with me even in the dog-days of summer to wrap around me or else my milk would not let down.  I am sure I looked like some sort of Baba-Yaga apparition sitting there with my machine going "er-er, er-er, er-er."  These pumping sessions would last about twenty minutes from set up to clean up and then I would have my actual break.   I want to put in a bit of a plug here for mothers that feel like "well, my employer lets me pump at work so I don't really feel right asking for another break" and on the flip side the employer seeing dollar signs fly out the window when a mother goes to pump or takes a break; those breaks for me were sanity savers and made me a lot more efficient and happy at my job.  I could sit with my co-workers in the break room and chat, I could go for a walk, I could go get something out of the vending machine.... really that time was for me.   Pumping was not for me.  It is for my baby.   Isolating myself in a freezing cold, barren locker room for twenty minutes was not a thrill, believe me.   I pumped for Indra for about a year until she moved on to eating mostly solid foods.   When done, I sold my pump and its gazillions of attachments plus extra supplies on CL to some super lucky lady for $30.   She got a hell of a deal on me thinking I would never put my breasts in that torture chamber again.   Well, I was wrong.

Sparreaux.   I did not even think about getting a pump prior to Sparreaux's delivery.   I knew I had about three months maternity leave and I did not really see why I would need a pump right away.   Well, long story short- the day following her birth, my breasts were fucking boulders.   Absolutely bulging with milk that my newborn baby was not up to the task of taking down.   By the time I realized by dilemma, the medical supply store was fifteen minutes away from closing for the weekend.   I called them in tears begging them to wait for Justin who was flying up there, the valiant breastfeeding advocate he is to procure a pump for me.   I tearfully tried to hand express any milk I could but seriously, my breasts were so full that my nipples were virtually flat!   Argh!
I probably would have killed to use this.   Looks almost steam punk.

  So, when the pump came I was never so glad to see that machine in my whole life.   I hooked up to it with a bliss never before experienced in my life.  Just to round out this tale of desperation: I did get about 6 ounces out of each breast.  Damn!   With Sparreaux, I never had a concern about low supply.  My boobs were on hyper-mode.   I was pumping and nursing her every day while stock piling breastmilk in the freezer.   By the time my maternity leave was up, I probably had close to 240 ounces of liquid gold to spare.

Returning to work was much better this time.   I was at a new job in a small office with a boss who is very family-focused and friendly to breastfeeding moms and our needs.   However, I did mention we are a small office so therefore there really is not a place to pump so it was in the bathroom with me.   Given the change in circumstances and how supported I felt in helping my babe get the best food, I did not mind.   It was super gross to go in there if someone had just taken a dump or something but other than that, it was not a bad deal.   We have a little bench in there to hang out on and we ran a cord under the door to plug in my pump.   Thanks to a co-workers absolute dismay that I did not know what a pumping bra was and demanded that I get one like right fucking now, I was able to pump hands-free.
Before the pumping bra.   See the thrill on my face?  No?  Oh yeah, it's not there!
Me, after the pumping bra.   See how all of my stretch marks disappeared too?  That is how amazing this thing is!       *Disclaimer: this is not really me.

  My job is a busy one and I have a ton of responsibilities and I felt like I was really not utilizing my time very well by being shut up in a bathroom so I had the genius idea of putting up a curtain at my desk so I could pump and work at the same time.
With a pumping bra anything is possible.   I would totally NOT rake with a pump.

You can even stand around drinking alcohol and looking disinterested in a brick-walled studio apartment.

  I know, I know what you are thinking!   Wait!  Didn't I just say that it is important for a woman to take a break for herself and pump?!  Yup, I did say that and I still stand by it.   What I like about the set up I have now is if I have something time-sensitive to attend to, I can work at it and not stress out about it but I do not necessarily need to.  My job is not structure-ridden.  I can take a break whenever I want and take care of whatever needs I may have at any time but the work still needs to get done.   It is a sort of "just make sure it's done by the end of the day" sort of deal.   In my previous job where even taking a two-minute bathroom break was monitored and counted against your "stats", I needed that me time otherwise I probably would have either killed someone or had a serious mental-health break down.  So, yes, in my tiny office all of my co-workers get to sit and listen to the "er-er, er-er, er-er" sound of my breast pump from behind my sage green curtain and they couldn't care less.   I have a pretty progressive little company I work for and I am uber grateful for their support and lighthearted approach to my parenting needs.
My job is pro-breastfeeding!!
  Sparreaux is now nine months old so I am sure the pumping will begin to wane soon and truth be told, I am actually a little remiss to let it go.   Pumping is certainly not like a party for your boobs or anything and I do not look forward to it but in doing this routine everyday, I know I am making a contribution to my baby's health and well-being.   Even when she is away from me, we are connected through my milk.   I know so many ladies who ditch their breastfeeding efforts once going back to work comes into play and I must say, I can understand, it is not the most ideal thing to be exposing your breasts in a public place and drawing milk out of them with a machine that does not even get the concept of discreet.  But really ladies, it is worth it.   So, I will continue to pump up the jams from behind my curtain while my co-workers crack jokes about what it sounds like my pump is saying to them (and that listening to Florence + The Machine is going to make my milk curdle) and relish in the fact that I am almost done and all that I have done in the name of breastfeeding.

Pumping milk for your baby makes you a rad mom!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I want to talk about something that is probably going to ruffle some feathers.   I want to call some mamas out on the carpet.   I guess I kind of want to tug a monster out of hiding and expose it.   Now, before I begin on this mini-rant, I want to be clear that this does not pertain to ALL.   A distressing trend is happening among the hippie, natural, crunchy mamas.   In the ever widening sea of mama blogs, facebook groups and internet forums I see so much hypocrisy that it is starting to make me uncomfortable to be on the team.   From the breastfeeding moms that vilify formula feeding moms to the home-birthers who think going to the hospital and getting an epidural is akin to voting Republican.

You don't make your own baby food?! 

Oh, you're still using a Bjorn?

Disposable diapers?  Are you kidding?   We don't even use cloth diapers.  We practice Elimination Communication.

Poor child is forward-facing at 15 months!  Is his mother trying to kill him?

Yeah, I know those are stereotypes.   But that is what is kind of killing me about this whole crunchy-mama wave.

Crunchy Family In Action

Wooden Teething Toys

Music Appreciation


 I know so much of it (if not all of it) is rooted in love and what is best for the child.   I have been avidly attachment parenting since I first became a mother almost nine years ago and I must admit, I did go through a phase of harsh judgement myself.   I did not understand mothers who relied on the "cry it out" technique and I truly believed that it was abusive.   My twins were not allowed to watch Disney movies because of the inherent misogyny in their story lines.  I never put anything into or onto their bodies that wasn't organic.   Since then, I have learned a lot about myself and mothering.  I have honed my beliefs and attitudes to fully encompass compassionate parenting but it now comes along with a pretty hefty dose of reality and flexibility.   With six kids and two parents that work full-time, we must really focus on what is truly important.  Love.

Reading Together


Now, to my ladies.   My dear network of mothers and fathers that are fully devoted to their craft of raising outstanding little people.   I see a problem.   We are exclusive!   Meaning: we exclude.   I watch these discussion threads on-line and mothers are bashing each other for not being crunchy enough to the point where ladies who really are having trouble breastfeeding are worried to bring it up!   The ever dreaded "supplementing" is seen as a failure.    Here is the real kicker here:  if a mother brought up in an on-line forum that she was having trouble with milk supply and was thinking of supplementing, mothers would pour in advice on how to increase supply and tell her not to worry and give all sorts of love and kindness.   However, I feel that if this woman were in public mixing up a bottle of formula for her infant that some of these very same "supportive" women would cast judgement.   We don't always know the situations of others and this includes the big topic, the mother of all topics that really gets people in a fury- circumcision.   Intactivists drive me up a fucking wall!    I totally agree with the message of the intactivists but they remind me of a cult almost.   I saw a FB post recently asking for thoughts on a pro-breastfeeding billboard.   The comments were the usual garden-variety but one of them said; "I think the billboard is beautiful.  It is natural just like my son's penis.   We are just trying to live life the natural way."   What?!  Just like my son's penis?   How is that relevant?   It would be like saying, "I think hamburgers are kind of gross." and someone replying with, "yeah, it is just sad how they bash the cow's heads in with a huge mallet right before they string them up by their hind legs, cut their throats and dip them into boiling water to shed their fur."   Right. 

So, in short, I just want to remind everyone to play nice and remember that the whole point is love.  Let's not tear each other down and cast judgements.   It is hard enough being a mom without worrying that your kid doesn't have the bento-box style lunch and eats free or reduced lunch at school instead or that your little girls play with barbies and not waldorf dolls.   It is getting increasingly expensive to be a simple, hippie mama these days with the latest babywearing gear, baby legs and soft sole shoes, organic cotton clothing/diapers and the ethos that started the whole trend is really getting lost, I feel.    Every single one of these crunchy-mama trends does come with completely valid points when it comes to your kiddo's well being, however, no one is endangering their kids, no one is stupid or ignorant, no one is mean if they are not toeing the line.   So, keep calm and carry on crunchy mamas. 

More Babywearing (minus the Housekeeping)

Attachment Parenting=Happy Babes and Mamas

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dreaming Together

Once again we roll around to the age-old complication that attachment parenting and co-sleeping provokes.    When we are stumbling from our bed, bleary-eyed and sex starved for several days on end and our baby is smiling but we are ready to tear each others throats out in either lust or because we are pissed and tired; the question is begged- Where is the balance?   Now, there has been a whole lot of posts in the mama-blogosphere as of late in regards to the safety of co-sleeping and I want to address this briefly before moving on to complain about my life.   Justin and I are co-sleeping professionals but beyond that I really think the whole co-sleeping debate is rather ethnocentric and lacking in logic.   In case you haven't seen the billboards that Michigan has put up in a recent campaign to teach mothers that sleeping with your babies is akin to killing them with a very sharp and menacing looking butcher knife:

Or that your bed is a grave:

 In all of the planet Earth, the instance of children having their own rooms or own places to sleep is less common than a communal sleeping arrangement.   The same talking heads that spout this bullshit are the very same that claim mothers responding to their baby's cry is allowing them to manipulate you or that attachment parenting means you consent to your children controlling you.   We do live in a society and culture that provides for just about everyone to be compartmentalized in their own spaces but this does not necessarily mean it is better or safer.  In fact, mothers sleeping with their infants has proven to be a safeguard against SIDS.   Babies need to rouse themselves continually throughout the night to regulate their delicate breathing cycles and find rhythm and comfort in their mother's breath and heartbeat.

Dr. Sears says it so well:
Nighttime is scary time for little people. When considering where baby should sleep, look at things from a baby's point of view. If you were an infant, would you rather sleep alone in a dark room behind bars or right next to your favorite person in the whole wide world and inches away from you favorite cuisine? The choice is obvious.
I think we say it pretty well, too:
Sparreaux and her mama

Justin is going to kill me but I love it!

Justin and a very little Indra taking an afternoon nap

   So, to all those nagging (but well-intentioned) relatives and friends that say, "Oh, is he/she sleeping through the night yet?"  a better question might be, "Is your baby still waking regularly to nurse throughout the night?"   How good would that make you feel as a mother to get that same praise you would get if your baby were "well trained" to suppress their needs if you were encouraged to sleep next to your little one and be a constant source of support, safety, and growth.  Ok, ok, I know- I am totally rolling you through the crunchy mama, attachment parenting granola but bear with me.

Let's focus our attention back to our situation.   With Indra we had a really hard time transitioning her to her own bed.   In fact, I would say it was downright traumatic on all of us.  Indra still sneaks up to our bed about 2-3 times a week and inserts herself gently between us.   She gets her best rest and you can absolutely tell a difference in her well-being the next day if she has slept next to us.   We, however, needed to kick her out of the nest for the arrival of Sparreaux.   Indra is sort of a kung-fu fighter in her sleep and only Justin with his incredible ability to sleep through anything (including toddler kicks to the face) can rest next to her.   Clearly, kung-fu toddler and an infant don't mix well.  So, fast forward: Sparreaux is now 1/2 a year old and is starting to really insert a noticeable wedge into my personal space and also my relationship.   I can get her down to sleep but she won't stay asleep unless I am right next to her and/or my boob is in her mouth.    It is quite frustrating for the both of us.   I need to lay down with her in order to get any night-time reading done.   Me time?   Non-existent.   So, here lies the problem and the solution is difficult to suss out.  If ever there were a time that I would consider the dreaded "cry-it-out" technique; this would be it.   Justin likes to remind me that it is I that chooses this lifestyle and it is because I love it.   I love even the times that are difficult and present a challenge.   Growing kiddos, I know how very fast it goes and Sparreaux is my last so I resign.....if she wants her mama, well- I want her.  :)

For safe co-sleeping sources, please check out these links:

Dr. Sears
Mothering Magazine
Breastfeeding dot com
Attachment Parenting dot org