Saturday, September 28, 2013

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...

    The two questions I get asked most often about Perrin are "Is he a good baby?" and "How long does he sleep at night?" or some variation of those two.
    The first one is stupid. All babies are good babies. What people really mean is the second- does the baby sleep? Is he/she relatively quiet? And people ask this question like there is a right answer. Some people really think there is. Your baby should sleep the entire night by some arbitrary age. My baby never cried because I did this one thing, and if you do it too, all your problems will be solved. Blah, blah, bullshit.
     I'm not saying that there aren't some people who have amazingly easy, quiet babies. All I'm saying is that those are exceptions, not the rule. In fact, I think many parent's lie or exaggerate how easy their child is because generally the people who ask the above questions ask them like there is a right answer. And if you don't say what they are expecting, it's a reflection on you as a parent. Whether or not that is what the asker intends, I don't know. But I know as a parent that is how it feels and even I sometimes feel the pressure to stretch the truth or at least qualify it for others. So for all of you out there who's two-week old hasn't figured out how to tuck him/herself in for the night yet, here is my reality- the truthful answers to all those fun questions.

Is he a good baby?
    He only fuses when he needs something. This is always my answer. All babies are good babies. They have biologically imperative needs which they are completely dependent on you to meet and they are working with limited communication skills, how cooperative would you be? If a baby is not acting contentedly it is because he/she is not content. There are many types of needs and they are all important for proper growth and development.
    Perrin is actually a half-way easy baby. He is very high needs, but over all he is good natured and generally happy. He rarely cries because we have learned to communicate well and can usually figure what he needs when he is just starting to get fussy. We haven't had to deal with anything like colic or reflux, so it could honestly be a lot worse. Perrin needs to be held. That is what makes him feel secure and allows him to sleep best. I honestly forget that a lot of kids get "put down" for naps. Perrin doesn't. He either sleeps being held in a chair or being worn for all of his naps. His moses basket is basically a changing table (which we don't have, so score!). Perrin also doesn't entertain himself for long periods of time. This is probably because he is only 3 months old and not that entertaining. We play with him in the floor or on our laps. About the longest he will be content by himself is while I get a shower and he is in his bouncy seat in the morning (sometimes about 20-30 minutes at best).
Is he sleeping through the night?
    Hahahaha. No. There are plenty of biological reasons why babies aren't designed to sleep through the night and shouldn't. For the first 8 weeks, Perrin would go a maximum of 2 hours (sometimes only 45 minutes) at a time sleeping at night. However, his sleep cycle (I use this to describe the time in which he exhibits a night time sleep pattern versus his day time pattern, which became differentiated around week 2) has always lasted 10-12 hours.
   I honestly couldn't tell you how often he wakes at night now, because at around 8 weeks he finally got to where he would nurse well in a side-lying position. We cosleep, so now if we wakes up at night all I have to do is latch him on and fall back asleep. I rarely remember exactly how many times he woke up. Sometimes he actually latches and nurses, sometimes he just needs help changing positions. I don't really pay attention because the most he ever requires me to do is roll over. My bladder gives me more sleep trouble than he does.

How often/how much does he eat?
    I have no idea. He is breastfed, so there is no measuring involved. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby. If he seems discontent and I'm not sure the cause, I usually offer the breast as a first recourse. He eats whenever he wants for however long he wants. He often nurses all the way through nap times. When he was younger, he would cluster feed a lot, sometimes for 6 hours at a time. He nurses whenever he wants at night, because like I said we cosleep and side-lie nurse so I barely even wake up. He is gaining weight and healthy and happy. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

How many naps does he take?
   No clue. Usually he takes several and they only last for 30-45 minutes. Sometimes he'll sleep for two hours, sometimes only for fifteen minutes. Some days it seems like he's up all day, some days he sleeps constantly. He sleeps when he is tired. We don't plan around his schedule because he doesn't have one. Sometimes he naps while we are running errands, sometimes he is awake and feeding the whole time.

So there you have it. I can't answer most of the questions because honestly, I don't pay attention. He doesn't sleep through the night, he never sleeps by himself. He needs one on one attention about 23 hours of the day and eats and sleeps whenever he feels like it.

It makes me sad when I hear people tell new moms that there baby should be on some kind of schedule or meeting some kind of deadline or doing this or doing that. Especially because the reason is often for convenience rather than necessity. The whole "don't make a rod for your own back" argument. This at best leads to a lot of stress and at worst can interfere with breastfeeding and cause low supply, poor weight gain, an overly fussy baby, and a very tired parent.

Two things about that argument, while we are on the subject: 1) That is not anthropogically accurate. Babies have needs that should be met and their little bodies and brains do not conform well to our adult schedules. They are designed to be needy and to have immediate and appropriate responses to those needs.
2) Our way is easier. I don't stress about watching clocks or recording feedings or this or that. We can just go with the flow. And those same people who tell me that Perrin will be 16 and still nursing and sleeping in my bed are generally the same people trying to convince their toddler to give up a pacifier or running out to buy a lovey because the other one got lost or dirty and the little one just can't get along with out. Or who's kids fall apart if the daily schedule has to be changed. All kids need things in their lives to make them feel secure. Sometimes it is a relationship, sometimes it is an object, sometimes it's a combination of both. But don't tell me that an attached and biologically appropriate relationship with a child is any more of a crutch than dependence on a schedule or inanimate object.

So for parent's who feel uncertain because their child isn't doing everything the way they "should"'s normal. You are normal. If there is one thing that talking with tons of moms has taught me, it's that everything is normal. If baby is happy and healthy and you are at least partially sane, you are doing it right. Don't sweat it. And don't listen to those naysayers who are telling you that you will ruin your child by meeting his or her needs. You can't spoil a baby.They will be grown and independent soon enough. Giving them the time and attention now will give them a firm foundation to stand on.

Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Boobs

   This morning, Joey shared a dream with me that he had last night. He maintains it was just a weird, random dream, but I felt the need to read a little more into it. That, and it reminded me of some things I wanted to write up for a post. So here's the dream...

   Joey, his family, and I are driving in a car in Memphis when all of a sudden they say we need to go by Hooters to pick up Joey. Joey is of course confused because he's right there. So they clarify- no, baby Joey. So we go to Hooters and pick up this baby named Joey who is apparently hungry. I keep offering to feed him, but everyone keeps saying to just give him a bottle.

  So there. That's it. You might agree with Joey that it is just some random conglomeration of firing neurons. I, being me, read a little more into it. I saw an amazingly symbolic representation of Joey's infantalized self being rescued from rampant hypersexualization of breasts. Then, in an attempt to reestablish breasts with their natural purpose, he is constrained by the cultural beliefs in regards to socially acceptable infant feeding.

  Regardless of how you see it, it brings up something that I often think about and discuss with Joey- how his view of breasts has changed since having Perrin. Honestly, I think I had more of a transition in seeing my breast sexually to seeing them in a more utilitarian way. Joey maintained from the beginning that it was my body and I could use my breasts (or not use them) however I wanted. That being said, I still expected there to be a bit of a transition for him.

   I asked him once if he felt like he lost part of his youthful sexuality after Perrin. He said it didn't feel like that at all, though he admits that he doesn't really see breasts as sexual anymore. And he has seen lots of breasts. We are usually surrounded by nursing moms, so even without oggling, you see your fair share.

   What's even more interesting is that when he does catch a glimpse, he is actually being fairly productive. He studies latch technique! Because I was struggling with feeding so much in the beginning, Joey basically became a lactation consultant. He read everything he could get his hands on and talked to everyone he could find. He knows all the lingo and can trouble shoot a latch or weight gain problem with the best of them. It's pretty impressive.

  And even when it was hard for him to watch me cry and writhe in pain with every feeding, he was nothing but supportive. He never suggested I just give him a bottle. The one time I was "going to the store to buy formula" he very gently asked if that was what I really wanted to do. Of course it wasn't. He has also never claimed that not feeding Perrin interrupted their bonding. He actually isn't a big fan of giving him a bottle; it's kind of a pain. Instead he takes Perrin for walks, bathes with him, and changes his diapers. They play in the floor and we all snuggle together in bed. He gets plenty of bonding time.

 I always read stories of other women who had less than supportive partners because apparently breastfeeding was sexually threatening and traumatizing for men. Apparently it prevented them from loving their babies. Maybe it is more of an individual phenomena, but that is definitely not the case for us, which would suggest that it doesn't have to be the case for anyone. Appreciating breasts for their ability to feed babies does not have to be some huge thought-altering life transition. So maybe that is why the dream lacked meaning for Joey. Maybe the huge event that I saw it representing wasn't an "event" for Joey at all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If you're a teenage girl in about 13 years...

  In case  you missed it, this post has been floating around the interwebs:
 I think it sucks. So here is my version.

    I have some information that is probably of no interest to you, because you are busy living your own life. But just in case you are unusually bored today and have nothing better to do, I will continue.  My son is only 12 weeks old and not really that in to social media at this point in time, but let’s pretend he is almost grown and really into Facebook, or whatever you youngsters are into nowadays.

   It has come to my attention that some families sit around the dinner table passing around their I Phone (version 20s, I suppose). This seems fairly odd to me, but I suppose this may be a normal occurrence once I have an adolescent boy. Whatever. But let’s say we were doing this and for whatever reason decided to internet stalk young girls…

  We noticed you weren’t wearing a bra. Don’t you love that feeling of freedom? My favorite thing to do at the end of the day is to take off my bra.  Or sometimes not because I was never wearing one to begin with. It just depends. My son may or may not have noticed. He probably wouldn’t feel the need to comment on it anyway because, crazy story, he has nipples too! And he knows what breasts are. He spent the first few years of his life attached to mine. He knows what they are for and that they do amazing things to feed young people. He knows they are part of the body and the body is beautiful in its myriad of shapes and forms. He also knows that people, him included, can wear whatever the hell they want and it says nothing about them other than that is what they felt like wearing that day.

  We also noticed that you were posing a certain way. Far be it from me to assume your intentions, and it really is none of my business. But if for some reason you were trying to be sexy, I want you to know that it is okay and perfectly normal. You are entering a time in your life when you are exploring your new-found sexuality. I hope you have had mentors in your life that have taught you how to do this in a healthy and age appropriate way and I hope you enjoy this new aspect of your life. I hope this for my son, too.

  So, please understand that we don’t intend to make a habit of stalking you on Facebook, because let’s face it- that’s kind of creepy. Unless of course you decide to friend  me or something, which would make me feel hip and kind of cool again. And know that whatever interaction you have with my son in private will remain private unless he decides to share them with me. Because he is his own person and I trust him and  the fact that he has a Facebook demonstrates that I think he is mature enough to handle it.

  You posts reflect the part of you that you want to share with people and all of those facets of yourself wonderful. They do not retract at all from any other aspect of yourself- intelligence, beauty, and kindness.

  But here is the bummer- some people may judge you. They may tell you that you don’t have the right to be yourself. That there is something shameful about your body or that you are somehow responsible for how their children react you. They may even have the audacity to post a picture of their half-naked son in the same post as they are telling you to put some clothes on.  I just want you to know that it’s bullshit. They are hypocritical, judgmental, and misogynist. You are only responsible for you.

  So wear whatever you want and do whatever you want. My son will decide if he would like to be friends with you based on your character, not your profile picture. And if he does treat you like an object, please let me know because I raised him better.

  This may sound odd, but you see- in our family we respect each other as unique individuals who have control over their own bodies. If my son decides to linger over your picture, that is his choice and if I for some reason have a problem with that, I will hold him accountable, not you.

  I spend time thinking about who my boy will love, and I don’t assume that person will have a vagina. I only hope that the person will love him and encourage him in life, and that my son will love this person for their heart and not how they choose to dress themselves. In the meantime, I hope he also gets the chance to explore his own sexuality and grow as a person and not feel wrong or dirty or dishonorable for acknowledging his real emotions.

   If you decide to dress differently or act differently- don’t be afraid to try new things. Just make sure you are doing it for yourself and not to fit into any predetermined labels seeking to ascertain your worth. You can’t control other people’s imaginations.

  There are plenty of people out there who love you for exactly who you are.

   Just be yourself.



The Breastest Post

   *I had big plans for this post. It was supposed to be chock full of links and outside information. I was working on those links for two days...then the site crashed and I lost it all. I just don't have the energy to do it again. So if you have any questions or want more info, either message me or, you know, Google. Typing with one hand is a bitch.

Ugh use a cover, whore!

  I have limited time when I have two hands free, so I'm going to have to condense three different posts into one. Luckily, all three are about boobs. Or breasts. Tits. Jugs. Cans. Hooters. Knockers. Fun Bags. Chesticles.  Whatever you like to call them.


  Let's begin with a recap since some of you probably remember my last mammary-related post. Breastfeeding has gotten so much easier. The clouds have parted and the sun is shining just like everyone said it would. But it wasn't easy. I now completely understand why so many women either don't attempt to breastfeed or don't do so for very long. The odds just aren't in their favor. I did everything *right* before hand. I avoided all the booby traps. Lots of research before hand. Unmedicated labor. Immediate skin to skin. No artificial nipples. No circumcision. Feeding on demand. You name it, I did it. And I still had SO MUCH TROUBLE. We had a bad latch. Perrin is an uncoordinated nurser. My nipples blistered and bled. I was missing a chunk out of one of  them. I had to pump on the bad side and nurse on the good side so the chunk could heal. But the "good side" didn't produce enough to pull double duty, so I had to use an SNS with the pumped milk from the other side. At night I would wake up, heat up the pump milked and set up the SNS, nurse Perrin (which took about an hour at the time because he was the World's Slowest Nurser) then pump the other side, then go to bed and do it all over again in an hour. But then the "good side" was damaged from all the extra abuse, so I switched. Both times I had to pump, I got mastitis. Three days of fever, chills, cold sweats, and pain. He wouldn't cup feed, or finger feed. I wouldn't risk a bottle and nipple confusion. We saw two lactation consultants, a pediatrician, and our midwife. Cranio-sacral and chiropractic treatments.
   Finally, it started to "click" for us. His latch hurt a little less. But I could only get him to latch with me sitting up leaning over him. My back was so sore. Joey and I had to both get up for every feed (which was about every hour and half at night) and arrange the pillows just right. He would comfort nurse a lot, sometimes all day. I would be stuck on the couch for hours on end. It seemed like each  hour lasted a day and half. But you know what? He comfort nurses less now. His feeding sessions have spaced out. He sometimes goes 5 hours at a time at night. We are finally in our groove. I can fix almost any of his problems with nothing but my own body. He can nurse lying down now, which means I barely wake up for night feedings. And because I had to nurse exclusively on one side so many times and he was at the breast so often, I have an amazing supply. Oversupply comes with some of it's own unique issues, but it is not that bad. I pump every morning now. I have a nice stash in our freezer for Perrin and I've also been able to start donating. Which brings me to my next topic...


   There is a hierarchy of feeding for babies. The first and most beneficial method of feeding is to be breastfed by the mother, straight from the tap. The contact of the infant with the mother's nipple provides a unique give and take relationship that creates a customized source of nutrition. The second best method is for the baby to get the mother's expressed milk, i.e. from pumping. Third is for the baby to receive the breastmilk of another woman. And last- formula. There are lots of ways to donate milk, including formal milk banks. I'm glad we have these. They are important for many reasons, including the use by hospitals for babies that don't have access to breast milk otherwise. But I have noticed that many moms don't know about milk banks. Or don't have one near by. Or can't afford to get milk from them. It is for this reason that I chose to donate through informal milk sharing. Basically, I have extra milk and some mom might not have enough, so why wouldn't it make sense for me to give her some of mine? This (in addition to wet nursing) is how babies have been kept alive for millenia even when their mother's couldn't produce enough milk.
  I chose to do this because it's easy to say "breast is best" (thought this statement is problematic for other reasons), but in reality it can be incredibly hard. A woman shouldn't have to result to formula. Let me be clear, I'm not saying there is anything wrong if a woman chooses to give formula to her baby. But that should be an actual choice- not a lack of options. So I want to make breastmilk available for free to women who would like to have it. I don't care why the woman doesn't have breastmilk of her own. Maybe she had breast surgery. Maybe she has insufficient tissue. Maybe she was the victim of booby traps that decimated her supply. Maybe her work doesn't let her pump regularly. Or maybe she just doesn't want to. I don't really care. It's about nutrition for the baby, not the mother's personal choices.

NIP (Nursing in Public)

   The final topic I want to address is nursing in public. This topic seems to get a lot of press. There is always some news story about some celebrity who was spotted breastfeeding, or some store that told a nursing mother to stop, and then everyone wants to give their two cents about why they do or do not approve. Those who don't approve have a litany of reasons why women shouldn't nurse anywhere where others can see them. To those people, all I have to say is...
   I could explain to you that babies need to eat, and sometimes this occurs while their mothers are out doing things.
   I could explain about the importance of breastfeeding on demand.
   I could tell you how difficult it is to pump and lug around milk and bottles and icepacks and what not.
   I could give you information on the importance of normalizing breastfeeding and combating the hypersexualization of the female body.
   I could explain that breastfeeding is not at all like urinating or having sex.
   I could tell you that modesty is incredibly subjective.
   I could point out that you don't have a problem with the countless advertisements and women in revealing outfits who are showing just as much skin as a nursing mother.
   I could point out that I see people doing stuff I don't particularly like all the time in public, but I don't get to tell them to leave whatever place they are in.
  I could also explain that you are capable of turning your head in any direction and no one is forcing you to stare at a breastfeeding mother.

  But I'm not going to waste my breath. Because at the end of the day, I don't really care what you think. I would prefer you not harass mothers feeding their babies because that can be damaging to their overall breastfeeding relationship, but the fact of the matter is your opinion is meaningless. A woman's right to breastfeed in public is protected by law in almost every single state. Your objections are irrelevant.

So there you have it. All of my thoughts on breasts.