Thursday, 16 May 2013

Why I'm Still Nursing

I'm sitting in the green rocking chair in the baby's room, rocking gently back and forth in the semi-darkness. Watching her eyes slowly close. Hearing her breathing slow and even out. Feeling the intensity of her sucking change from the strong pulls that draw out milk to the staccato sucks that soothe her. She's snuggled close to me, and her fist is clutching my shirt, as though she needs an anchor. I run my fingers through the fine hair on her head, and she sighs, giving in to sleep.

I never thought I would enjoy nursing. Yet 10 months in, here we are.

I hear there are mothers out there for whom nursing comes easily; women whose babies immediately latch on to the breast and suckle contentedly. I am not one of those women.

With my first, a 24-hour labour ending in an unscheduled c-section meant that my milk didn't come in for more than a week. Not surprisingly, she came to prefer the bottle. Every time I put her to the breast, she would scream like she was being tortured.
I was stuck in a vicious cycle of trying to nurse, topping up with formula and then pumping to keep up the milk supply. The routine sucked away most of my time as well as my good spirits. Instead of enjoying my precious newborn, I dreaded each feeding. She would cry; I would cry.

We limped along like this for three months and I pumped for another month before deciding that enough was enough. Stopping nursing was absolutely the right decision—we were both much happier. In retrospect, I should have ignored the "mom guilt" and done it sooner.

With my second, the stars were better aligned. But she was a sleepy newborn, and even though she would nurse for 40 minutes at a time, many times a day, she wasn't gaining weight. Out came the pump again (although we didn't need the formula this time).

Then, just when I thought we were getting a handle on things, she woke up in the middle of the night, feverish and short of breath. We went to the emergency room where, because she was only two weeks old, they admitted her. She and I stayed there for two days while they ran a seemingly endless barrage of tests, only to conclude that it was a virus that would have to run its course. 

Needless to say, it was a setback. I watched, and waited, and pumped milk in case she wanted it.

But when she was better, slowly but surely, we found our groove. As she got stronger, she nursed better, and I eventually stopped pumping. At the three-month-mark, I found myself thinking, "I think we're getting good at this!" By four months, I stopped worrying about whether she was getting enough and relaxed.

I never thought I'd nurse past six months, but it's easy now. Sure, there are parts that I don't like—the leaky boobs, the constant demands that only I can meet—but I've also found a joy in it that I never expected, as we cuddle and she smiles up at me.

Both of my children are strong and healthy and beautiful, but I'm glad I was able to nurse my second. I knew from experience that nursing isn't always easy...what I didn't know is that sometimes, it can be lovely.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Greater Expectations

I’m sitting on the floor with my three-year-old, biting my lip to keep from losing my temper. For what seems like the twelve-thousandth time, I calmly say, “Could you please put on your pants?”

In response, she plays with her toys, picks up books, runs around the room...basically, she does everything BUT put on her pants. Of course, it would be much faster to just dress her myself—but God forbid I try to expedite the process, or a serious fit will ensue.

Finally, I’m out of patience. I grab the pants and attempt to corral her legs into them. Naturally, this provokes a tantrum of epic proportions. My daughter erupts like Vesuvius in a fountain of screaming and tears. “I WANT TO DO IT! I WANT TO DO IT! I WANT TO DO IT!”

More screaming, more tears, until I eventually manage to get her fully dressed, down the stairs and out the door with her father, who will be dropping her off at daycare.

The moment she leaves, I feel guilty about losing my temper. Why is it so easy for her to push my buttons?

I’ve noticed a concerning trend in the way my husband and I parent our firstborn compared to her sister. We’re always asking her to “act like a big girl” in everything she does. We get mad when she yells or sings loudly when her sister's napping. And we expect her to go along with whatever we ask, just "because we said so.”

But hello—she’s a three-year-old. How can we expect her to act like a grown-up when she’s barely out of diapers?

I think there’s a birth order thing here. Even though we don't mean to, we push our firstborn harder to excel and reach new milestones, because we see her as a reflection of our parenting abilities. All of our natural doubts and anxieties about parenting—Am I doing a good job as a mom? Is she going to turn out okay?—we inadvertently pass on to her.

Each stage of her childhood is short, if not always sweet, and we'll never get it back. Why do we want her to grow up so fast?
The next time my three-year-old behaves—well, like a three-year-old, I'm really going to try not to lose it. She drives me crazy sometimes, but she’s just being a kid. Which is what I should expect her to be.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Why I'm Okay with Saying No

I never thought of myself as a negative person...until I became a parent. With a three-year-old and a nine-month-old, my side of the dialogue on a daily basis goes something like this:

"No, you can't watch Angelina Ballerina for the 100th time today."

"No, you can't have candy for breakfast."

"Don't take toys away from your sister."

"Don't push your sister."

"Don't throw toys at your sister."

Honestly, some days I'm bored of listening to myself. And now that the baby is crawling and wanting to explore, I find myself saying "no" even more often.

"No, baby, you can't play with the iron fireplace grate."

"No, baby, don't put your fingers in the hole in the wall." (don't ask)

"No, don't pull your sister's hair." "Don't pull your sister's hair." "Don't pull your sister's hair."

Don't get me wrong, I try the usual tactics. Redirection ("Baby, look at THIS toy instead!"), alternative phrasing ("How about we go outside and play, rather than watching TV?"), et cetera. 

But I want my kids to understand the meaning of the word "no", so that when they find something dangerous to play with, they'll listen to me when I say it. So that when they run out into the street without checking for cars, a firm "No!" will stop them in their tracks.

As their mom, it's my job to keep them healthy and safe, and I'll do whatever I have to do to make that happen. I've come to terms with the fact that I need to be the enforcer.

But I'm also aware that if I say "no" too often, it will lose its power. So I've challenged myself to look more closely at my motives: 

Am I saying "no" because it's something harmful or is it simply inconvenient? In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if the baby smears banana in her hair or the three-year-old wears a baseball cap and a princess dress for three days straight?

The next time my three-year-old asks if she can wear her pajamas to daycare or sandals in the middle of winter, I'll find a way to say yes—and maybe teach her how to compromise in the process.