Yesterday, I had a conversation with a dear friend whose daughter-in-law was having a tough time with breastfeeding. What was the difficulty you may wonder? Not milk supply (supply seems fine). Not her baby's growth (gaining beautifully). Not her baby's hunger level (she seems to be satisfied). The issue: that the lactation consultant told her that she was "too old" to breastfeed. Sent home with the dismal prediction that her baby would be on formula in a matter of weeks, this new mom (age 42) was made to feel she was failing. Now she's not enjoying the process, which in turn is making it uncomfortable, which in turn will become one of the factors that will discourage her from nursing.
I'm beyond frustrated.
I've had 3 babies, and breastfed them all. Is it super-fun at first? No, I wouldn't describe it as a trip to Disneyland. But is it worth it? So much YES!!! I don't judge anyone who doesn't do it. It's hard. But I wish there were more people out there in breastfeeding support roles that could help new moms feel empowered by this miraculous gift to both nourish and bond with their baby.
And to you, Ms. Terrible Lactation Coach: shame on you.
My father was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. Oddly, he very rarely read. Being an avid reader myself, I never fully understood his aversion to the activity. So one day, I asked him.
“Once you have kids, you just don’t have the time,” he responded with a shrug.
I couldn’t wrap my literature-addicted mind around his statement. What would life be like without Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne?
Twenty-five years later, I found out.
Honestly, I don’t even know how it happened. I got married, had kids, and the next thing I knew, I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to get through an Us Weekly. This tidbit came to my attention on a recent library outing with my kids. I looked up from the Curious George book I was reading to my son, and suddenly had a renewed awareness of the stacks of big-people books. On impulse, I grabbed a novel with a captivating cover, and before I knew it, the book was in a pile with Max & Ruby DVDs and a collection of Clifford stories.
That night, excited about reuniting with a beloved pastime, I settled happily into bed to begin my new book. As I perused the first few pages, I smiled contentedly.
Forty-five minutes later, I woke up with my glasses under my chin and the book lying haphazardly next to me. I picked it up and placed it fondly on the nightstand. I realized this reading gig might be a lengthier process than it used to be. But unwilling to part with it again, I decided I would take it one sleepy night at a time.
When you have numerous small children, mornings can be somewhat hectic. As the entire family bustles around trying to eat breakfast, manage morning hair and match socks, I often find myself right in the center of the chaos. The result is often that my morning primp time usually ends up being a prototype of mutli-tasking. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes I’m not.
Unfortunately, this morning was a “not.” I turned on the curling iron, ran downstairs to locate clean laundry, and then ran back up with a bowl of cereal in one hand and a pair of snow boots in the other. I made my way down the hallway, completing a mental checklist along the way, and finally arrived back to the bathroom. I grabbed the curling iron and quickly ran it through my hair in spots strategically chosen to make it appear as if I had really had time to do my hair.
At first, I didn’t notice the stickiness. I didn’t notice that my hair appeared unusually crispy after I curled it. And I didn’t notice the candle that had been sitting next to the curling iron as it had heated. But as I finished the job and ran my hands through my curls, I absolutely did notice something was very, very wrong. My hair looked like something out of Madame Tussauds. As I looked at the iron and then at the candle, I finally put it together. I had just waxed my hair.
A quick look at the clock told me I had a real problem. Desperate, I leaned my head over in the sink and tried to wash out the waxiest parts. Fifteen minutes and one painful combing process later, my hair was still a little stiff—but passable. As I ran downstairs, my oldest son looked at me with furrowed brows.
“Mom, why is your hair so...?”
“Don’t ask,” I muttered.
Then I added “Buy a new curling iron” to my list of things to do.
Last year, my family had a strange holiday season. We all got the flu. Our oven broke on Thanksgiving. We didn’t go Christmas shopping until a few days before the holiday, and then spent late nights trying to pull everything together at the last minute. By January 1, my husband and I were physically and emotionally exhausted, and almost grateful the whole thing was behind us.
As a parent, it was difficult to accept that the time of year that was supposed to be so magical was not, in fact, all that special for our family. My husband and I promised each other that next year would be better.
Then, the year flew by. As November rolled in, memories of last year’s Griswold-esque holidays started to flash through my mind. I am now a woman determined to give my kids the best season yet. In a spurt of activity fueled by a refusal to repeat last year’s mistakes, my husband and I managed to plan for Thanksgiving, complete all the Christmas shopping, and schedule numerous family events by mid-month. We made a list of all the fun activities we can attend in the next six weeks, and just like Santa himself, I’ll be keeping it close and checking it often. I have to admit, I’m pretty excited. I have a feeling all our hard work will pay off, and that this will be a fantastic holiday season.
But just to be on the safe side, I think we’ll cook the turkey the day before Thanksgiving this year…
I glanced outside, and it was snowing. I had to stop and think about what I was looking at; after all, wasn’t it yesterday that I was riding my bike through the neighborhood on a warm summer evening? The time had gone too fast, and I was not ready to face what was quickly approaching: winter.
As I gazed out the window, my kids ran up and put their little noses and hands against the glass. I looked down at them and saw their eyes light up, eager with anticipation for the coming season. Of course, to them, snow is a good thing. It is a harbinger of Christmas, the beginnings of a new outdoor playground and, on occasion, even a handy way to be able to skip a day of school.
But for me, it’s a totally different animal. The first things that came to my mind were slippery roads, heavy traffic and mandatory shoveling duty.
“Mom, isn’t it beautiful?” my oldest son asked.
I looked over at him, and suddenly, I was seven again. I remembered feeling exactly the way he felt at that moment, and found myself wondering how I had let the magic of snow escape me. Sure, there were some unpleasant duties associated with it. But there was also something quite stunning about a world blanketed in white.
“It sure is,” I responded.
Ten minutes later, the snow stopped and the sun returned for an encore. It had just been a tease of winter, and at that moment, I was grateful that was all it had been. But I couldn’t help but notice that the kid inside of me was actually kind of excited for our first real snow...as long as it doesn’t show up for a few more weeks.
I remember making myself a little promise about 20 years ago. I vowed that I would always be one of those wives who kept some mystery about herself. You know, that woman who always looks “done,” even when she’s…not. I decided that when I got married, I would never let my husband see me unkempt, or know what processes took place behind the scenes.
Fast forward to today. My husband walked in to our bedroom one night, and there I was: hair scrunched up on top of my head, enough products piled on me to pickle myself (hey, I’m at the stage of life where both wrinkles and blemishes need attention), wearing my oldest pair of sweatpants and an equally aged t-shirt. Now, obviously my husband has seen me in good times and bad - I’ve had 3 children with the man and he was with me for every step of the way. But suddenly, the state of my appearance seemed so...wrong. I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed. My husband being the good guys that he is, he didn’t say a word. When he left the room, I felt as if I had let down a veil. Had I somehow become too comfortable? Or was this just the product of being married to someone I proudly call my best friend? I started thinking...how do we keep our husbands from simply being our co-parents?
I woke up yesterday feeling like I might have a little cold. It felt pretty minor, so I wasn’t too concerned. I assumed it would pass and carried on with life.
But this morning - WHAM!!! My head is apparently filled with bricks (no saracsm necessary here), I’m walking around with a roll of toilet paper (of course we’re out of kleenex right now) and my hands are on the verge of cracking from washing them 1,000 times. I’m daydreaming of lying in bed with some kind of spicy soup, watching cheesy movies and dozing in and out of sleep. It feels like one good day of rest would squash this cold and get me back on my feet...
Alas, that’s not how it works in mommyland. You don’t get sick days at this job, and there are little ones who need breakfast/diaper changes/outfits/teeth brushed/play time/lunch/diapers/play time, etc., etc.
So, I’m going to get my hot tea, stuff some toilet paper in my back pocket, and carry on.
And maybe be just a little bit tempted to bump bedtime up an hour tonight...
About this time every year, I find the motivation to challenge myself. Last year, it was carving out time to work out. That one simple change in life has done wonders. Yes, you may still find me with matted hair and in sweatpants 3 hours after my workout (on the days when my kids forbid an immediate shower), but I have found it fruitful anyway. More energy, less stress, and a sense of accomplishment.
So what’s this year’s challenge? Though my heart is sinking a little as I write this, I’ve decided that the sugar has to go.
I have a terrible sweet tooth. And there is something cathartic about a cookie on an especially stressful day. That nice sugar rush seems to make all problems disappear. Or, at least delayed. Or, at least manageable.
But, the common sense in me tells me that sugar just isn’t good. And sometimes you get an instinct about what you need, and what you really don’t. It’s not going to be easy to make this change. But then, what change ever is?
My mind is always going in 1,000 places at once. (“Are the kids hungry?” “Whose diaper needs to be changed?” “When am I going to have time to work?” “How can this house be SO messy again?!”) So, I’ll openly admit that the sometimes (obnoxiously) loud noise my boys can make grates my nerves ever so slightly.
It was just such an afternoon when I began to hear my son beating on my husband’s drum kit. I was in the midst of feeding two babies, talking to someone on the phone about a bill, and trying to unload the dishwasher; I was on overload. And all I could hear was BOOM, BOOM, BA-BOOM, BOOM, CRASH!!
So, long story short, the drums got packed up that night.
The next day, I turned on the TV while folding the laundry (a guilty pleasure I allow myself in order to view the laundry as something other than the bane of my existence) and saw a commercial about a little boy playing drums. He reminded me so much of my son that I was transfixed. As I watched, I saw that the spot was to advertise a special about Justin Bieber (and no, I didn’t know who he was before that), and how he had taught himself to play and had subsequently become something of a phenom.
I stopped folding and sat down. What had I done? Here was my little boy, and he loved those drums. Yes, they were loud. But I had taken something away that might just be a natural born talent. I mean, he might turn out to be an accountant, I don’t know. But I’m not going to be the one who decided it for him because I couldn’t handle some noise.
The drums are coming back out. And in the meantime, I think I’ll look into the electronic sets - with volume controls.