lessons in trust: a breastfeeding story

Two months ago, one ordinary morning Rivers decided to wean himself. For the last few weeks we’d been down to one breastfeeding cuddle a day. The fact that it was only once daily made it quite painful for me physically. My body was regressing back to its former sensitivity, the pre-suckling baby sensitivity. He was 22 months at this point, so when he decided to skip his “bop bop” breakfast, I really didn’t mind. Maybe I was a bit relieved even.

The next morning he skipped again, instead following Daddy straight into the kitchen for oatmeal. He never requested our time together later in the day, and I never insisted. This went on for a couple weeks, then suddenly it was as if he remembered I was there, or really that my “bop bops” were there. But by then my breasts had shrunk. I was dry and my breasts far too sensitive to oblige. I could only hold him close, a winter sweater between the space that once held his head to my chest. Our relationship had evolved and we could not reverse time. We both cried a little, because change is tough.

My journey as a mother would not be complete without my breastfeeding experience and it’s absolutely not because of the actual act. The act itself did not complete me. In actuality I never felt the bursts of bliss that some mothers express. The experience for me was a lesson in trust. I had to trust the tiny person who knew more about breastfeeding than his new mother. I had to give him time to find his way, allow him to be fussy (to do the on again, off again dance), to hang on me All. Day. Long. during teething periods or growth spurts, and eventually allow him to do gymnastics on my face when he still requested breastmilk even after he was on a steady diet of solids. I had to trust my body. I had to trust that I was giving “enough,” because the moment I became anxious about it, my flow would begin to diminish. I never gave extra, but I trusted myself and I always had just enough for my single baby bird.

Before his arrival I had set a flexible goal of breastfeeding for one year, but by the time the first month passed I was in such pain that I had to exclusively pump for two days while Jonathan bottle fed. The first time I bottle fed Rivers, I wept terribly because he was so fussy, determined to wiggle his head into my fuzzy robe and get at the real thing. I kept thinking, if I make it to month three and this is still painful, I’ll quit. Month three was fine, but the pain crept back by month four, then disappeared again for good until recently when our days slowly dwindled. I had to trust that, like any physical exercise, my body would adjust and my nipples would toughen. They did.

As we neared a year, and Rivers became more physically active, he seemed to nurse less and less. I almost thought our days were over, but my instincts told me otherwise. If he refused me, I pumped. Nothing worth keeping ever came out of the sessions, but I kept up the activity to keep the milk glands active just in case. I trusted my instincts and sure enough he was back to nursing like clockwork.

Sometime after Rivers’ first year, a female farmer at the greenmarket unabashedly asked if I was still breastfeeding. It turned out that she had practiced extended breastfeeding with her son through his early toddler years and swore he never went through the terrible twos because of the practice. Her produce partner teased, “Oh yeah, did he skip the terrible threes? What about the terrible fours, or terrible fives? Are you just going to breastfeed him till he goes through puberty?”  Though he seemed to be doing this in a friendly manner I couldn’t help but remember a time when I reacted similarly (internally, thank goodness) when a coworker told me she’d been breastfed until the age of three and even had memories of it. When my mother in-law first told me she’d breastfed both her children at least two years my eyes bulged a little. My mother breastfed, but extended breastfeeding was definitely a new term for me. I learned much more about it when I realized our journey was not over on Rivers’ first birthday. I talked to and read stories from other mothers and trusted that they were not crazy or smothering, but simply balancing the needs and wants of their child with their own instincts and boundaries.

After the first year of breastfeeding, the second came easily. We were practiced at the dance, and quite a dance it could be with a toddler! I could envy the farmer who took care of her son’s “terrible twos” by shaking her breasts. I wouldn’t mind doing the same as Rivers enters that stage of his life, but if I hadn’t learned to trust that we would both know when our time was truly over, then I wouldn’t have learned anything at all.

06.13

 

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{food face photography} green goop

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I’m really enjoying this little series of Food Face Photography with Rivers. He is a bit pickier during mealtime, showing me exactly what he doesn’t want by swatting it to the floor in the most serene, carefree manner. I can’t even get upset, because he looks up at me in such a matter-of-fact way, as if to say, “I’m sorry, was that wrong?”

This is when I cook his absolute favorite, sweet potato, and any additions that usually hit the hardwood. I blend them so that they can’t be separated.

He takes a bite.

From his expression I can tell that he recognizes the flavor of the sweet potato, his reliable friend. But wait, there is something more to it. I haven’t tricked him. I tell him the truth. Though in his eyes, my matter-of-fact blah blah blah must sound something like, “I’m sorry, was that wrong?”

food face photography: first pb & j

PBJ-1 PBJ-2 PBJ-3 PBJ-4 PBJ-5 PBJ-6 PBJ-7PBJ-8

“Hey go.”

He’s so good at sharing food. Should you decline he’ll gobble up the entire piece as quickly as possible to show you what you’re missing, or fling it to the floor without batting an eye. Ah, life with a toddler. There is nothing else like it, except maybe life with a puppy. Because, let’s be real, if I don’t clean up the floor before he gets down, he will. Nom nom.

 

austin texas t’s {family portrait}

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Remember that trip to Austin we took back in October? Remember that awesome friend who wrote this heartfelt poem about our visit? She is reason enough to move to the great city and now we look the part with Austin t-shirts.

What better motive for a family portrait than gift like this? Not that we need an excuse, but taking a family photo requires some planning.  …cuz one of us doesn’t always like to look directly at the camera.

So thank you, Meredith for this challenge.

austinfamily3Hi Dog.austinfamily4See the camera?austinfamily5It’s right there.austinfamily6See?austinfamily7Dog’s back.austinfamily2Oh hey.

food face photography

foodface-huhfoodface-fork foodface-seriousfoodface-hurrayfoodface-angryfoodface-duckfacefoodface-smile1 foodface-smile3 foodface-smile4Eat and socializing. The dinner table is about the only place I can photograph my little one without being barraged for the camera. I can’t sneak a picture of him doing anything else without distracting him and inciting a fight. All the photos turn out fuzzy anyway, as if I were trying to capture Bigfoot on film. Unlike the mysterious Bigfoot, I can entice this little fuzzy creature with food. He’s like his mama.

Check out the “artwork” in the back.

 

 

52 Rivers: a weekly photography project

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After our baby shower, which seems like forever ago now, I was determined to put every gift to good use. Even an overstuffed fuzzy pillow with beady eyes and sad slump that inspired us to deem him “drunk teddy.” Teddy became Rivers’ weekly companion and growth comparison for this 52 weeks photo project.

What began as a whim, developed into unyielding dedication and ended with smiles. We thought we were just charting his growth, little did we know so much of his personality would shine through, until we started comparing the photos week by week. Of course it would! We just didn’t think about that when we started with a limp, confused newborn.

This project reminds us of when he started crawling, when the first teeth arrived (the amber necklace appears) and when the second set of chompers followed (causing the necklace to disappear), when we needed props to keep him still for the two seconds it takes to snap a photo and when Teddy became more like a friend than a cushion.

 

perfectly packed diaper bag is a myth

©fourwoodthinking

Several moons ago I had an experience of being caught completely unprepared in public, as my son decided to upchuck his lunch, covering the two of us and the floor of a department store. A passerby disdainfully asked  if I had a tissue with which to sop up a pint-size amount of milky splurge. A single tissue would have been no match, but worse yet, I had nothing.

I chalked the experience up to my first-time-mom naivety and prepped the backpack properly that evening for future messes. Of course it never stayed that way. As usual we’d forget something, or anticipate a shorter trip. Somehow we always managed without any real hiccups. That’s how it goes until it doesn’t.

Until the day baby has food poisoning, or a sudden virus, or who knows what, and who cares, because the only thing that matters is trying to clean the vomit off his clothes before the winter chill sets in.  Trying not to panic when he won’t, or can’t, stop spewing all over his stroller. Wondering why the hell did manufacturers make the buckles so tough to open. Gently calming him, despite the internal frenzy. “It’s okay. Everything is fine.” Then the odor hits.

Does being a good parent mean you can’t puke in front of your kid, or with him?

 I wonder if parents are ever really prepared for the surprises thrown at them by their children? I doubt it. There is no one perfect way to pack a bag that can prepare us for life. It can help to pack a carrier and a bag of baby wipes though, just in case.

{I started this post almost a week ago, after living through one of my worst nights as a mother. Five hours of cradling a defenseless child who couldn’t keep anything down. As soon as we started seeking out our local urgent care, it was over. Or so we thought. Two days later Jonathan and I were knocked down with the same symptoms. Why does a loving family have to share everything?

Thank goodness we had an awesome friend who came to the rescue and took Rivers on a playdate for a couple of hours while we recovered.

Anyway, we’re all healthy now and the apartment has been scrubbed from top to bottom. But that’s where we’ve been these last weeks, surviving.}

some things never change

©fourwoodthinking

Ten, nine, eight, seven…

We’re counting down the hours before papa’s return. To be more precise I am counting down the hours. Upon informing Rivers that his father would soon be home he replied by shaking his little noggin and humming “Nonononono.”

He provides the same answer when I ask for a kiss. In this entire year I’ve yet to receive one, but I’m quite sure he made kissing noises to my girlfriend, as she left our apartment yesterday afternoon. I’d never seen our child so ecstatic about a visitor. He’s usually quite friendly, but he practically leapt from my arms before she was even through the door. He always loves to see her, so her presence in combination with the last day of our papa-less week made him all the more exuberant.

I realized this week more than another that it’s okay we don’t live close to grandparents. It would be much easier surely. But our NYC family (friends) know when and how to provide support too. I’m so thankful for individuals who dropped by, or allowed us to crash their place for a few hours. Every recess from each other made our time together all the more special.

As Rivers takes his finally nap, before his bearded playmate appears, I’m enjoying a hot cup of jasmine and finishing a little story that seems all too fitting. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa. A short journal of the author’s time with his five-year-old son while his wife and daughters were visiting grandparents. It’s such an honest account and demonstrates the complex and simultaneous feelings of gratefulness and annoyance that come with being a parent. A hundred and sixty-odd years later, some things haven’t changed. Probably they never will. 

 

 

 

 

six more weeks

snowboyThe groundhog saw his shadow, so that means six more weeks of winter. Or did he miss it? I’m never sure which is which, but judging by the storm we received yesterday and the one we’re expecting tomorrow, I’m pretty sure winter is nowhere near over. As long as we’re not into negative temperatures I’m fine with snowy blankets. I’ll take 29 degrees and six inches any day over immediate frostbite.

There are two types of people when it comes to snow, those who hibernate and those who revel in the outdoors. Jonathan usually takes to cozying up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate, while I make it my job to pry everyone out from under afghans and into wool jackets before the sun melts my playland. One upside to my partner being away this week is that there was no steaming cocoa to distract me from my mission. No partner to tell me not to plop the baby in the snow because it may be too cold and wet.

Shhhhh… don’t tell.

I handed Rivers a small snowball, just large enough for him to cup in a mitten-capped hand. He plopped the entire ball into his mouth like a giant jaw-breaker, and judging by his grimace, immediately regretted his decision. Not the least deterred he roamed the landscaped walkway and picked up clumps of snow, either by mouth or mitten. He’s a winter baby by birth and by heart. We may have another reveler in the family.

Hamantaschen

©fourwoodthinkingWhat to do when your best friend has a fever and playdate is cancelled? Stay home and bake cookies with mama, that’s what.

©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking

Jonathan has been out of the house this week on a much-needed trip to visit his parents. Most of his time will be spent in a hospital, which is no place for an antsy baby who considers a floor an all-you-can-eat buffet. Until next Thursday I am a single stay-at-home parent. I would be lying if I said it’s been all sunshine and rainbows thus far. The kid knows senses something is different. Any time I use the word “no” Rivers crawls around the house calling for daddy. The cat is no better, the way he scrambles up and down the stairs and moans uncontrollably at the front door. These two are almost like two peas in a pod.

Instead of a smile, I received a questionable stare the first morning I greeted Rivers. Usually his papa does a morning routine with the potty and diaper change before Rivers is handed off to nurse. On day one he pointed to the empty space in my bed, “Dada?” Since dada hasn’t returned yet Rivers is understandably more protective over me.  Having a bodyguard is wearing me out though. On day two I went to the bedroom for a pair of socks and woke up twenty minutes later to the little guy slapping my face with baby wipes. It troubles me that I have no memory of laying down. I just crashed like a fallen tree.

By day three we were in a rhythm. When he went down for an afternoon nap I decided to forget the chores and do something for myself. Write part of a blog post or start making cookies? I’m nowhere near finished with my Tassajara Bread Book challenge, but this seemed like a good day for familiar comfort sweets.

Hamantuschen are easy to find in NYC. Their triangular shape is basically everywhere, but nothing beats an old family recipe. This is my mom’s recipe, passed down from grandmothers.  Generally hamantaschen (Haman’s Hat) is made for the Jewish holiday of Purim, but we made them for almost every holiday when I was a kid. These require a bit more work than a scoop cookie dough, but I promise the slightly sweet dough is fail-proof. The rest is just fun. The trick to a perfect triangular hat is not to overfill the center and the firmly pinch the corners until they stick.

These are going to be so much fun to make in the future with Mr. Little Hands. Until then he can watch from the sideline and tell me all about the dreams he had while napping.

©fourwoodthinking

Hamantaschen 
Makes about 35, 3-inch cookies

2 eggs
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. fruit preserve, poppy seed paste or nut filling

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly oil baking sheets or prepare with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.

In another large bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir wet ingredients into the dry, until a stiff dough forms.  Gently knead dough, if needed, to fully incorporate ingredients. If dough is too sticky to roll out, refrigerate 10-15 minutes.

On a clean and lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut dough into 3-inch rounds.

Drop 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Shape into a triangle by folding one side at a time or by pinching the three corners.  Bake 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

©fourwoodthinking

If these last two photos look vaguely familiar to some of you, good. My camera battery unexpectedly expired, so I pulled these from my old food blog.