Thursday, April 24, 2014

easter truth

What a glorious Easter weekend we had in Nashville! Easter has always been a favorite time for me, and it's quickly becoming one for the twins as well. Family time, crafts, and being outdoors are some of their favorite things, so Easter is really a perfect fit.

For the most part, Shepherd's first Easter was picture perfect. Gorgeous weather, adorable baskets, perfect outfits. Time with Aunt Rebecca and Nana & Papa. A yard full of eggs and sunshine. Lots of moments that were completely picture-worthy. But as is always true with three kids under three, there were lots of less than perfect times. Barnes lying on the convent floor and screaming. Frances busting her chin stitches open and proceeding to cry endlessly. Barnes freaking out when we prayed before lunch. Shep getting overtired and cranky.

But the joyful news of Easter is that it doesn't matter whether life seems to be going perfectly....the truth of Easter is always true, whether things feel bright and shiny or a little more ragged. Our Lord came. And died. And rose. And this magnificent news isn't dependent upon us or how we feel or what we do. Life can't be good enough to make this more true, nor bad enough to make it untrue. On that first Easter, Jesus defeated death and provided an anchor for our hope in all times, both the pretty and the messy ones.

So Happy Easter, friends. May we find hope and comfort and joy in the mysterious truth this season celebrates.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

on milk

I officially called it on Monday. After wrestling with guilt about not continuing longer, I finally concluded that for our family's sake, it was time for the pumping to end. The physical and emotional drain was beginning to outweigh the benefits, the time it required was harder to find as Shepherd becomes more and more mobile, and the dietary restrictions were making family eating more difficult. So I returned my hospital rental pump and declared breastfeeding journey number 2 to be over. And while the term "journey" may sound a bit dramatic, my time trying to feed Shep really can't be described any other way.

You would think that by now I would realize that life, and especially parenting, rarely goes as planned. Between babies that didn't make it, IVF, preemies, twins and all the other twists along the way, surely I would have learned this lesson, right? Of course not. When I found out Shep was on his way to our family, I immediately assumed that we would have a lovely, intimate, storybook nursing relationship...and I was thrilled. As I've written before, that's not exactly how things went down. After two weeks of consistently losing weight, we realized that Shepherd was not eating from the breast and had to begin feeding him expressed milk. Despite swearing that I would never exclusively pump again, I tied myself to that yellow machine at least four times a day every day for over six months. And I made his milk. I'm proud of myself for that. I don't think it makes me a better mother than feeding him in any other way, but I am proud of the sacrifices of time and comfort (and cheese!) I made to give my son what I thought was the best choice for him at the time.

But that's not the full story of our journey. When breastfeeding didn't work, I grieved. And I don't mean that I was a little sad...I truly grieved the loss of something I had so eagerly anticipated. In those first two weeks when I was nursing my Shep, it was intolerably painful and definitely not going well, but it was also beautiful. Those moments of looking down at my son felt so special and love-filled. When I realized those moments were ending, I was heartbroken. Through time and therapy and reflection and prayer, I now know that the heartbreak tied into so much feelings about my reproductive system and body never doing exactly what it is supposed to do...but at the time it felt like the loss of breastfeeding my son might just bring my world crashing down. I had to remind myself over and over again that when I prayed and longed for a third child, I wanted just that--a child. And I had a healthy much more than I could have ever imagined! So I processed my grief and I  pumped, and I found solace in my ability to feed Shepherd my milk exclusively. It felt like an accomplishment--something that was right--amidst a situation that disappointed me immensely.

But a few months in I found myself doubting my efforts, feeling like I hadn't tried intensely enough, hadn't pushed hard enough. So at two months, I hired a lactation consultant to coach Shepherd back onto the breast. I had so many hesitations. I know myself well...I knew that the first time it failed was gut wrenching, and that a subsequent failure would likely set off the same emotions. But I wanted it so badly. So we tried.  And to say it failed is an understatement. Shep was miserable. I was in pain. Everyone was crying. For five days we spent agonizing hours "breastfeeding," and it was anything but a bonding experience. And I finally accepted that being a good mother to Shepherd meant the same thing being a good mother so often means--putting my own desires aside for the sake of my child. While I so wanted to breastfeed Shep, that desire had become about me. I wanted it. I wanted that closeness and those sweet moments. It wasn't about him anymore, so it was time to stop.

And once I finally accepted that Shep was going to be bottle fed, I was able to more fully embrace the beauty of that route. Cuddling him close while he drank. Being more available to the twins while feeding Shep, keeping them from resenting those moments. Seeing the love in Andrew's face as he was able to participate fully in the feeding process. For us, for our family, bottle feeding ended up being the best decision. And that's okay.

By the Numbers:

  • Over 784 pumping "sessions"
  • Over 392 hours pumping (or over 16 full 24-hour days)
  • Over 5,880 ounces of milk pumped= 183 liters= 92 two liter bottles

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

in stitches

Please add the following to my list of "things I hope to never have to do again:" take my 2-year-old to get stitches. Frances took a tumble off her racer yesterday and landed directly on her chin. Of course I was the one pushing her when the incident occurred, so I feel terrible and have officially deemed myself the worst mother ever.

Frances can sometimes be a bit dramatic (no idea where she gets that), so we knew we were in for a rough day. And as expected, it was bad. Hearing her in pain literally broke my heart. I kept thinking of how brave the parents of children who often require medical procedures must be. Despite the difficulty, we made it through. And afterwards we were rewarded by being entertained by our sweet girl on silly medicine. She made funny faces, kept laughing when she held her popsicle upside down, tried to throw away the sweet stuffed dog the ER gave her (and thought that was hilarious). And proving that their bond is oh-so-strong, when the procedure was over and she sat up, the first person she asked for was BB. And she kept asking for her BB until we got her home to him.

So our Monday turned out to be even more Monday-ish than most. And for some reason I believe this might not be our last trip to the ER.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

the anti-wholesome baby

I'm nowhere near a "green" parent. I use disposable diapers, I give my kids plastic toys, and (gasp!) I don't even recycle. But I try where I can. Though my granola-ness is minimal, I truly attempt to be mindful in the areas I feel matter most.  One thing that I have consistently cared about with each of our children is the food that they eat, especially during their first precious year of life.

When B&F were ready to add solids to their milk-only diet, I went a little research crazy. I couldn't find a baby food option with which I was completely pleased, so I made most of their food. Sure, we had containers of gerber for the diaper bag and the days we ran out of the good stuff, but about 70% of their baby food went straight from the produce aisle to the food processor to their tummies. They loved the food, I loved knowing exactly what they were eating, and I honestly enjoyed the food-making process. So I planned to do the same with Shep.

My first tip that Shep's palate was a bit different came when we started transitioning to using formula.  After he turned 6 months old, we began introducing formula into his diet and he LOVED it. And he didn't just love it as much as my milk...he loved it more. He actually began fighting against drinking the pure breast milk bottles.

Then came the solids. He was fine with the purees I made, eating a few bites at a time. One day, though, we were out of fruit and gave him a gerber package. OBSESSED. The kid could not get enough. Since then, my homemade squash and sweet potatoes have been met with coughing, gagging, and the occasional forced vomit, while anything gerber (even the funky varietals) are met with scraping the bottom of the bowl.

Sweet Shep, I have a feeling you may not be a foodie.  But with a face like this, how can I tell you no?

Monday, April 7, 2014

unexpected obligations

In the United States, about 50% of pregnancies are planned and very much wanted. 50% of women who have children enthusiastically volunteer for this whole motherhood thing. For many women, myself included, we didn't just volunteer for it...we fought long and hard to get here. But none of us knew exactly what we were signing up for.

Like all things in life, being a mom comes with a plethora of unexpected obligations. Many of them are humorous. Chasing your child through Disney World after he has removed his shorts. Listening to a recital of who has a penis and who has a vagina. Many of them are quite serious. The mom who prays by the bedside of her baby born many weeks too early. The mom who never imagined helping her children through struggles with addiction. But most of these surprise responsibilities fall somewhere in between...not exactly funny, not exactly life changing, but definitely unanticipated and often quite bizarre.

Today I did something that I never imagined motherhood would force upon me. I had my boob cut open. That's right, my friends. Boob. Cut. Open. What I thought was round 3 of mastitis turned out to be a breast abscess, an uncommon breastfeeding complication. I'm not sure why I was lucky enough to be graced with this rather unusual affliction, but I can tell you that I hope to never experience it again. As I was coming to after the procedure (no they didn't put me to sleep, but I did pass out), the kind nurse who was helping me said, "I guess you didn't know this would be part of being a mom." You can say that again, sister.