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

 

yours truly : a typical morning

 

Dear R-

It’s cliché to say that having a child has completely changed my life, but not an exaggeration in the least. It’s hard explaining this to my former people, the carefree and child free. Take this morning for instance. Not three minutes into the breakfast Rivers began choking. For a kid who inhales food without actually utilizing his teeth most days, choking isn’t unusual. My heart has skipped enough beats that I no longer panic. Almost every meal we have to remind him to “gobble, gobble, nibble, nibble, munch, much, scrunch (like a dinosaur),” a reference from his storybook.

We gave him a minute, then because he was still struggling, Jonathan took Rivers over his knee and firmly patted his back. The culprit came back up, along with a spatter of breast milk, oatmeal and un-chewed apricot chunks. Without skipping a beat, Rivers jumped down from his father and attempted to devour the mess all over again.

When I was fourteen years old and expecting my youngest brother, a neighbor allowed me to hold his newborn son as practice and asked if I would be ready for the baby. I said, “Of course, I’ve raised puppies. How much different could it be?” Our neighbor looked perplexed and took his son back. Clearly I was not on his babysitter list from day one, but another fourteen years later I stand firmly by my word. Babies are like puppies, they need plenty of food, love and exercise, a little guidance when it comes to the potty and a good parent who will step in and keep them from eating the most disgusting things off the ground!

Back to my morning- in no time at all the mess was mopped. Rivers finished the remainder of his fresh oatmeal more carefully without any hiccups and went off to play. Jonathan left the room to find a yoga video on YouTube, so that we could stretch together before I needed to leave for work. I began cleaning the kitchen when I realized that I could only hear Jonathan. Maybe the only thing worse than a child making too much noise is one who makes too little. Ha! He was quiet because, after vomiting most of breakfast, he was still hungry so decided to open a container of cat food snacks and help himself. Are babies really that different from puppies?

Trying to explain that the cat food was strictly for the cats somehow got lost in translation. Judging by his reaction, he may have thought I was saying something about the existence of life  coming to a complete halt right then and there. Maybe true happiness is locked in cat food and I’m just missing out. I don’t know. What I do know is that he looked me square in the eyes and let out the most horrifying scream. I felt like I was in a wind tunnel, my hair flowed straight behind me and I needed to squint my eyes.

“EXCUUUUse me?” I was firm, but not angry. That’s when his tears started flowing and he started grabbing himself. It was potty time, not time for mama to be upset over losing part of her hearing or even to turn the moment into a lesson. We raced to the mini toilet with minimal mess. When he finished, we looked back toward his spot to see that a bit of pee had not deterred one of our cats at all. The fur ball was munching on a couple of wet pieces of cat food left on the floor. In the crazy cycle of events, it finally clicked for Rivers. Translation complete.

Jonathan and I were able to finish our morning, the whole fifteen minutes of it, with a baby free yoga routine. Rivers was too busy feeding the cats by hand. The routine Jonathan chose was short but intense. Emotions from the morning-worry, confusion, frustration-came flowing out, but not without some difficulty. When the video finished and I sat in child’s pose, on my knees with my face and chest to the ground. Rivers bounced over, stretched his belly and chest along my back and wrapped his arms firmly across my shoulders in a hug. Then moved to face me, picked up my head with his chubby hands and kissed me.

I’m coming to realize that, while some individuals instantly feel immersed in the sorority (and fraternity) of the insane (aka the parent club), others accept their membership over time. I’m one of those. I loved being child free and I sometimes envy the majority of my companions who still are. I’ve tried to talk about my life beyond my son, but it is becoming more difficult each day. How can I possible explain my morning without including him? And how can I possible explain it to a child free individual without initiating a look of terror and sympathy? I can only laugh at the thought. I’m glad to share this story with you. My hope is that it will bring a smile to your face, make you nod in agreement or even laugh.

Yours truly-

kissface

 

a homemade wedding present

wedding-1Our beautiful friends tied the knot last week. The wedding was delicious, both in a visual and edible way. I could go on for an hour just talking about the food, and I didn’t even get to taste the second half of the multi-course dinner. Instead, my date and I learned a very valuable and hard lesson–

kids do not belong at weddings.

Okay, maybe some kids, but certainly not our ambitious toddler. Not now.

Another couple, also new parents, albeit newer than us, arrived without their bubbly seven month old. Intially we thought it was a bummer that they would leave her at home, but by the end of the night we figured they deserved an award them for being wiser parents.

There is a time and a place for adults only. A wedding with long white tablecloths, glass wear, a  crowded room with guests in short skirts and killer heels is definitely adult only atmosphere. Needless to say we did have a wonderful time and took home some priceless, dark, blurry photos of Rivers chowing down on a loaf of challah the size of his head.

As much as I love dressing up our little dude and treating him like a mini adult, I need to realize that sometimes it may be best to let go, put the kid in comfy pajamas and invite a friend to watch Caillou with him instead of lugging him around like an accessory. Jonathan and I are grown ups. We’ve earned adult-only get togethers. We don’t have to take our kid everywhere just because we’re parents now.

Now onto the wedding present…

gift-4

Our newlywed friends are moving from NYC to LA, and are celebrating their honeymoon along the way. This is so genius…

They shipped all of their belongings, including their adorable dachshunds with their families in California. For the next few weeks they will live on the road as they drive along the country to their final destination.

Knowing they will experience more than they’ll be able to remember, we designed this postcard/journal travel kit so that they can document their trip and send each other some love notes along the way. Postcards are tough to find these days, so we included some old (unused) ones to get them started and tools to make their own, including postage stamps.

The project turned out so cute that I’m determined to make one for us before our next adventure. I’ll have to get their feedback on how well it worked.

gift-6gift-3gift-1gift-5

Jonathan totally sewed the travel bag. I’m giving credit where it’s due. Do not get confused with me! I still can’t sew and definitely need a lesson in zippers before I tackle something nice enough to gift. Anyway, I was quite busy enough with my own simple sewing project for the wedding. Check out this little bow tie. Does the fabric look familiar? It’s extra from his quiltbowtie

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.

and one to grow on

©fourwoodthinking

Everyone warned us  how children “grow up so quickly.” Jonathan swears they were right, that it feels like yesterday when I was laboring our son into the world. For me that is not at all the case, or it hadn’t been until this week. The in-between birthday parties week. The week that started on his actual birthday, back when he was still a baby, before he learned to toddle to our outstretched arms, or throw up his hands and say “ahhhh-done” at the end of a meal.

Uh, what?

What happened to my baby and who is this new kid?

I’m pleased we decided to throw a party the weekend after his birthday.  We went back and forth for the longest time, but in the end we realize our son is a social butterfly. He vies for the attention wherever he can get it, from our friends to strangers on the subway. If only I carried a cup, I’m sure his college would be paid already.  The extra week between celebrations gave him a grace period to learn a few steps to impress his guests. A crowded room full of adults cheering him along as he walked and no camera out to catch the moment. I don’t know which part of that is more impressive. First steps certainly, but twelve smartphones all tucked away is also surprising. Talk about living in the present moment! I was so engaged in conversations, catching up with friends, that I didn’t even think to photograph the cake with the birthday boy before it disappeared! Not that it would have mattered. I think he took one bite from someone’s plate before he darted off to play with (another baby) his buddy.

I’d been looking forward to the first cake smash since day one. Luckily I had a couple test cakes stored in the freezer. I cut the size slightly and frosted it for a photo op the following day. Unlike the snowstorm that dumped all over us during the party, the sun beamed through the kitchen and granted a pleasant glow to the morning. Like it was meant to be.

It’s almost impossible to take photos of this guy nowadays. Everything is a blur unless he’s eating. The one activity where he sits and focuses. Funny though how perplexed and grumpy he appears when he’s focused. ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking

©fourwoodthinkingRecipe coming soon!

 

cheers to a first birthday

bearmountain1-2bearmountain6tassajara-bananabreadbearmountain3 bearmountain2bearmountain7One year olds, they have no concept of birthdays. What do you do? High-five your partner, pop open the champagne and toast your mimosa glasses to a job well done, I guess. We have a party planned next week, so for the actual day we decided to celebrate quietly.

Flurries fell, then rain, then flurries again. Following my cookbook challenge, I baked banana bread in an effort to warm up the kitchen. Just as we retrieved our sweet treat, the sun broke through the pale sky and we high-tailed it outdoors before the weather changed its mind again. The bread was still steaming as I sliced and packed.

About an hour outside of New York City, the mountains are in reach and there isn’t a skyscraper as far as the eye can see. We took a little walk, spied ice blocks moving along the river, crinkled forgotten leaves and breathed the frigid fresh air until our noses turned red, indicating it was time to return indoors.

full circle: happy one year

DragonBellybabydragon

One year ago today I started this blog and wrote about my little Dragon. It was the only pre-baby post. I was feeling huge at nine months, counting down the days, wholly anticipating the introduction to my baby and ready to have my body back. (Though do I really even now, still breastfeeding?)

When we nicknamed our baby Dragon he was developmentally at the stage where he resembled a lizard-like specie, caught between embryo and human. Well, that and we’re Chinese zodiac nerds who figured we could dub our lizard-looking fetus after the current animal. As time moved along he continued to live up to his name.  I blamed my heartburn on his fiery breath and kickboxing moves on the probability that he was practicing his destruction of unsuspecting villages. Maybe most of that “living up to his name” was made up in my head. Maybe it still is.

A year later he has a new name. Rivers.

Still always on the flow, yearning to touch everything and everyone. He flows with direction with a cool demeanor. His presence is calming. I love my little water dragon so much. He’s the happiest person I’ve ever met and I’m grateful everyday to share my life with him.

Here’s to another year in the blogosphere!

natural teething relief: stage 2

Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
— a riddle by Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

©fourwoodthinking

He may not yet have thirty, but eight teeth have moved in and matured his smile. It’s almost been a month now. And he’s hungrier than ever! Maybe even a little bit of a trouble-maker now as well. He has weapons and he uses them. The phrase of the day, every day, for the past several weeks has been “no bite!”

Previously I posted about his first two toof-ers and combating teething pain with the use of an amber necklace and large frozen carrot slices. Both worked amazingly until the upper teeth appeared. Obviously once the champing began, the necklace had to go. The carrot slices were also held back after an incident in which Rivers shoved an entire slice in his jaw. He peered up at me with an expression of  ‘uh-oh, now what?’ I replied with panic sweats and swiftly swept it from his mouth. Soon I replaced them with something that could melt in case he decided to test the limits again.

On a whim, while racing through the grocery store one day, I purchased ring-pop popsicle molds. They seemed like the perfect size for a little one to practice hand-coordination and enjoy a frozen treat to sooth the gums. Best investment ever! We used them all summer long. Honestly I may have been more excited about them for myself. They are ring pops after all! If and when my friends start having babies, I won’t even bother with the registry. Everyone’s getting a ring-pop popsicle mold. Watching a baby indulge on a tiny popsicle is pure cuteness. There is really nothing else necessary.

Now that weather is frigid there is no use letting the boy cover himself in frozen fruit puree. I reluctantly packed up the popsicles and replaced them with homemade frozen bagels. I’m a fan of the edible teething toys. They disappear, which is perfect for a small apartment. Plus they serve two purposes, function and filler. Belly filler. It’s been quite some time now since my little man has looked up at me to rescue him from a bite bigger than he can chew. I may think his bites are too big, but he’s proving to me more and more each day what he’s capable of. I made bagels as teething toys. I didn’t actually expect he would eat them entirely!

bagels

the heartache of returning to work

©fourwoodthinking

My eyes are red and still slightly damp from tears. My sinus is inflamed from the collision between my nose and a baby’s head that occurred several days prior, but today’s crying doesn’t help. These emotions are a mingle of excitement, confusion and pain. The abrupt bursts are seemingly unending. I’m suffering from a first world problem, which makes me feel worse. Out of the blue, just as I began thinking, just thinking about going back to work, I was offered a job. It’s a good fit, so I accepted. Once I began the victory dance around the kitchen, my son crawled in, grinning ear to ear. Seeing him, my heart grew two sizes and then shattered all over the floor.

Why did I just negotiate to leave him?

The plan was never to be a permanent play-at-home mama. Having a child never dampened my desire to have a career. When he was barely two months old I returned to the pastry kitchen, practically running to get there the first day. It was like having a day off compared to at-home parenthood.  The work seemed less taxing and it was amazing to converse with other adult again, but something was missing. The same joys of accomplishment I’d once received were no longer evident. Jonathan and I juggled parenting and work, but ultimately it was more finically feasible for one parent to stay home consistently. I happily returned.

Certainly no other position has been more strenuous or challenging. The past seven months have drastically widened my appreciation for parents who drop outside careers to raise kids. While friends complained about the muck they dealt with in their jobs, I dealt with literal muck in diapers. My boss was unpredictable and needy just like theirs. The only difference is that I could never honestly vent about him without garnering strange looks. I love my son unconditionally, but only the sweet older lady at the sandwich shop has understood. “I bet some days you feel like you could sell him to the lowest bidder.” Absolutely! But today isn’t one of them.

Today I hold him and cry. And cry. And cry some more. Empathy is lost on the baby. He reacts with hysterical laughter followed by a joyful slap to the face. Perhaps my mood is intense because the change is sudden. Unlike the previous time, I don’t have two months to mentally prepare. I have a week. This time it’s not temporary. Jonathan is transitioning toward a full-time tattoo career.  Since it’s client-based and clients can be unreliable we will be once again share outside jobs and child care.

My partner is an amazing father and our son’s whole face lights up in his presence. I’m a blessed individual who doesn’t have to worry about the competency of my child’s caregiver during my absences, or about applying for a job because apparently they just appear. I’ve been blessed (although sometimes I felt cursed) to have spent such an immense amount of quality time with my little dude. He’s old enough to play independently and request daily doses of alone time. He doesn’t require my particular attention as often. It’s a good time to go back to work. I want to go to work. I know these things to be true, but my heart still aches. Who knew it would be this hard.