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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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

 

short stories from a long summer

The Fourwoods are still here! Thank you so much for checking in with us through email, instagram and your comments here while we were away. Taking a couple of days from the internet turned into an unexpected two month hiatus.  The summer has been long and lovely. I’ve been writing elsewhere (unpublished), but have missed sharing our stories on the blog. AND hearing from you!

To break back into blogging I’m sharing a few highlights of the summer. Hope you enjoy.

How is everyone? Drop a line in the comments and/or share a link to your favorite summer story or adventure. I look forward to reading them.

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tantrum

Tantrum, Tears and a Thief

You absolutely adore her, yet that one day, that one particular hour, you wanted nothing more than to escape from the location where our friend chose to meet us, Cake Heaven. What kid wouldn’t want to be at cake heaven?  A pastry cook’s child, apparently. My every attempt to distract you with the dessert display was met with a complete meltdown. Literally, you looked like you were trying to seep right into the hardwood floor. It may be easier to hold water in my bare hands than to cradle you in that state.

One thing did make you smile, taking my hand and walking toward the entrance, waving gleefully to each doting, young waitress as you passed. You thought you’re making a get-away, but the plan was blasted to smithereens by the insufferable mother of yours. The same woman who somehow, with some sort of supernatural mama power, managed your robot legs into the openings of a wooden high chair and strapped you in, all while swiftly sweeping away objects from nearby surfaces.

Thank goodness the waitress had a keen sense of timing. Just as you were about to let out another shrill, a personal coconut custard pie arrived, topped with fresh blackberries and raspberries. You seemed unimpressed, but I knew to shove one bite straight into your trap. You were easily converted. The silence was short, but oh-so sweet.  Our friend appeared un-phased by your previous outburst and was impressed by your ability to pretend to utilize a grown-up size fork. Dessert didn’t last long, as soon as you scooped the final bite into your mouth you demanded the check and the three of us were out the door and meandering through a sad excuse for a park. It looked more like a glorified grassy median between roads, ironically sharing its name with the world’s most famous farmer, the one with his very own sing-along-song.

You were finally in your element, as close to nature as possible. A nature that included a drinking fountain, of which you found life’s greatest enjoyment on that hot summer day. Once you made me sufficiently wet I decided to toss you in the carrier, tie you to my chest and call it an evening. As if we hadn’t had enough drama and excitement already, it was only getting started. Not ten minutes later, we made our way to the eastern edge of the park and, right as we were ready to say our goodbyes, we heard a crash. It sounded just like someone trying to break a bag of ice. At least that’s what I first though, but my brain questioned why anyone would do that in such a tiny park, around so many cars. Ah, the cars, duh! Just a knee-high brick barrier and an arrangement of leafy shrubs separated us from a professional acrobatic thief, who was balancing on a blue BMX-style bicycle, while simultaneously diving into a ring of broken glass to retrieve a prize from the floor of the neighboring silver SUV.

Out of the window came a long, twiggy white man wearing a light gray hoody synched around his face. The thief shoved the prize into the belly pocket of his hoody and shot through the park, zigzagging on his bike, barely avoiding naive pedestrians. For the first time in our entire visit, you were silent, as if you understood the severity of the situation, or like your mama, you were shockingly impressed with the thief’s coordinating skill. It turned out the prize was an iPhone, and to think that the whole time you’d been playing with mine. I would have liked to see the thief try to pry it from your clenched, chubby clam hands.

A delivery man in a bright orange DHL truck was shouting for someone in the park to “get ‘im,” but lost interest as soon as the traffic light changed. A man sitting on a bench, facing the SUV told us he saw nothing. Apparently the three of us were the only willing candidates to report the incident to the fast-talking, chain-smoking men in blue. The owner appeared some time later with a paralyzed expression, all while we answered questions and looked around at the aloof extras still seated at the park. Forever I’ll remember the day as that one time, thanks to you, and your tantrum that forced us to the park, we became bit players in a relatively low-key, real-life episode of Law and Order.

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I have many memories of July 4th; having grown up in the country, most of my recollections include family firework shows orchestrated by my uncle. Us, kids would nestle into the top of a rolled hay bale and applaud the glowing streaks that shrieked to the stars then exploded with a showering boom. Once the extravagant show finished, it would take the bullfrogs and crickets about ten minutes to gather the courage to fill the night with their song. The smell of gunpowder, grilled meat and beer would linger in the air until morning. That to me was what the Fourth of July was all about. That and wearing red, white and blue of course.  

I don’t consider myself a poet in any regard whatsoever, but I felt compelled to write a (sort of) lyrical piece based on my Fourth of July celebration this summer to capture the color and heart-lifting expression. It was as if I understood the holiday in its true meaning for the very first time. 

july4-web

The Color of July Fourth

Chilly night. Let’s go,
it’s alright.

Long strides and strolls
along the blushing horizon,
framed by lilac and indigo.

Patiently wait,
standing still.

Traffic slows.
Along a lonely bridge,
masks fixed for the show.

Remaining light
squelched with applause.

Screens rise in waves
capturing blurry reflections,
of glittering gold, jade
and crimson cheesing for the shot.

Orange faces glow, some
brown, black and pink.
Blue eyes, black eyes, and
eyes only seen behind
a primrose head scarf.

Children guarded
on the roofs of machines,
old in the street.
All transfixed.

Music blasting,
citrine blaze.

Everyone dancing. Moving
like the silver tide below their feet.

Harmony’s tone
lifts our chests.

Echoes of Freedom, a single voice
español العربية português Έλληνες
english 한국어 română हिन्दी

Gaia’s breath is too strong
for the fireworks to sound,
but it vibrates among the crowd.

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Watermelon Seeds

Watermelon Seeds

Maybe watermelon and sand doesn’t mix, but don’t tell the kid. He just thinks we’re loco, for the same reason we don’t eat the durable black seeds embedded in the melon’s porous, sticky flesh. Why would we? They’re not inedible, but certainly more trouble than they’re worth. Spitting them great distances is more amusing, especially when it becomes a contest between friends, or in our case, married people. We can’t explain that to the kid; he doesn’t get it yet, and trying to pick the seeds out of his slice is like taking candy from a baby. Who ever said that was easy, to take candy from a baby, never actually did it. Trying to steal anything from a baby is like trying to rob a bank when the alarm has already been pulled.

Those chubby fingers are working with such intensity to pick out each tiny seed, and cram them into the kid’s chipmunk cheeks. I fear I may lose a finger if I tried to stop the process. What can it hurt to leave the seeds, other than the kid’s intestines, temporarily, because we know he’s not actually chewing them and they’re not breaking down inside. Stomach acid is no match for their impenetrable outer shell. This is the kid who swallows raisins whole, and book covers, and keys, and possibly remote controls. (The search party is still out for the silver one missing since March.) Watermelon seeds are nothing.

We three quiet ourselves with individual slices. The kid periodically dips his into a bucket of salty sea water and then a small mound of sand, like a tortilla chip to salsa and guacamole. With each bite he begins to resemble Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, only with an added sandy beard. I look up and away from the charming, sticky scene to see a fin rise from the tide, not fifty feet from the shore. Two more follow, then the first again. We count seven total, gradually rising and falling with each breath along their swim. Their black silhouettes dance along the horizon with grace, and behind the parade is a rowboat with two seemly exhausted chasers. I only wish I had binoculars to see the exerting effort being made to catch the sea creatures. It’s an older couple, who presumably started out on some nonchalant day-trip along the outer coast, one that turned into a sighting and then a chase for more. It’s a comical, somewhat sad sight. They’re moving at a great speed, but paddling in a row-boat will only do so much. They’ll never catch the casual swimmers without something more aerodynamic.

I look back to the kid, who is at this point helping himself to more watermelon. When did he learn to open Tupperware? I try to distract him by pointing toward the dolphins, but he couldn’t care less. Covered from head to toe in sand is no overstatement. The kid is literally coated in nature’s exfoliating scrub. Doubting whether a suit of sand is armor against UV rays, and considering how many times we’ve already washed and re-coated him with sunscreen, we douse him once more in sea water, leave Joker at the beach and return home with our kid.

 

{food face photography} green goop

foodface-freen5 foodface-green1 foodface-green2 foodface-green3 foodface-green4

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?”

the little space captain

spaceman1

He’s totally outgrown his spaceman phase, so finding these on my computer this evening made my heart melt. No one ever showed him how to do this, just one day he started marching around the house with blurry bag vision. We called it his ‘space helmet.’ No worries, it’s not plastic, but a stiff vinyl, and he was never unsupervised. And now it’s back to holding toys.
spaceman2 spaceman3 spaceman4 spaceman5 spaceman6

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

austin texas t’s {family portrait}

austinfamily1-1

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.

sound the alarm

©fourwoodthinking

My little son definitely has some sort of monitor device attached to me, I just know it. He roars anytime his father attempts to cozy-up to me for alone time or whenever I pull up the blog page to add a post. It’s a miracle that I am able to write at this moment without the usual bells sounding off to rouse the hibernating bear.

Writing during the day is some sort of joke anymore. He’s active. Highly active. Wires, lights and buttons beware!

He doesn’t walk yet, but he climbs like a little monkey on just about everything. How that works, I’m not quite certain. I walked in on him the other day using a toddler-size rocking chair as a ladder to climb up a hutch. One leg dangerously rocking on the seat, the other on the chair’s arm and both hands awkwardly grasping a corner of the tall wooden cabinet. His eyes were glued to a bright orange ball of yarn. Even after I called his name and rushed to spot him they stayed glued to his target. I’d anticipated the ball would be two baby leg warmers now, but this month has been quite busy for us.

I’m strategically  working on a catch-up post, but it will take a couple more days.  Just want to tell you that we’re back online and…Happy Halloween!

This was us one year ago. Twenty-thirteen photos to come!©fourwoodthinking