Monday, August 30, 2010

A Tandem Tale Part I: Maddie

"It’s the lucky baby, I feel, who continues to nurse until he’s two."

-Dr. Antonia C. Novello, during her tenure as United States Surgeon General, Parade Magazine, Nov. 11, 1990.

As many of you know, I am in love with breastfeeding. All of it. The emotions, the bonding, the nutritional value, the health benefits, the science behind it...all of it. However, nursing my babies has been one of the biggest challenges I have even faced. In fact, I gave up on it three times. Consequently, those are the three biggest (and really only) regrets I have. I am still working on forgiving myself for allowing myself to fail at breastfeeding and giving the boys formula. At the time, I thought I had given it my best shot. I was convinced I couldn't breastfeed, and I wasn't alone. My midwives thought I couldn't breastfeed either. Madeline proved all of us wrong. When I unexpectedly became pregnant with my first baby girl, I decided once and for all I was going to breastfeed. I felt like I had been given another chance at motherhood, and I was going to take advantage of it. My daughter, come hell or high water, was going to get the best stuff on earth. Liquid gold. There was, however, one little problem. I was afraid of my right breast. Terrified really. When I miserably attempted to nurse Cole, I was infected with the worst case of mastitis I could possibly imagine. This led me, and other medical professionals, to believe that my right side was broken. So, with the help of the most amazing lactation consultant ever, I proceeded to feed Maddie on only my left side. I had visions of lovingly cradling my new daughter in my arms, holding her to my breast, and gazing into her eyes. In my fantasy there was no pain, no breast pump, no nipple shield, and definitely no formula. Unfortunately, these things became my reality. In order to nurse pain-free, I needed to use a nipple shield. After practically starving my baby, we realized this was causing my milk supply to drop. Enter the pump. Even though I religiously pumped after marathon feedings (we are talking hour long sessions), my supply continued to go down. Enter formula. Luckily, there was no nipple confusion. I weighed her almost every other day to make sure she was getting enough to eat and to make sure I was giving her the right amount of formula. I never had to give her more than 8 ounces a day. Just enough to keep her satisfied and keep her gaining. I hated nursing. It was nothing like I had imagined, and it was nothing that I ever wanted. I had to set mini goals for myself in order to make it through the day. I would say to myself, "if I can just make it through the next ten minutes...if I can just make it through the next nursing session...if I can just make it through today." I told myself I would be successful if I lasted until she was eight weeks old. I told myself anything I could to force myself to keep going.

Then, at seven weeks, my world changed. I bravely attempted nursing with no shield. It was still painful, but by no means unbearable. Slowly, I started to add more and more feedings without the nipple shield. By eight weeks, about the time I returned to work, I was nipple shield free. Success! Shortly after, she was no longer requiring supplemental feedings. I was producing enough milk for my daughter out of one, lone breast! Even more success! My beautiful baby girl was now exclusive breastfed. She quickly became quite the picky little thing too. On her own she decided to reverse cycle and started taking all of her meals when I was home at night. Very early on she gave up the bottle completely.

At first, my goal was to nurse her until she was 6 months old. Once nursing started going well, I quickly upped it to 12 months. As 12 months approached, I said sometime after she turned one. Then it was definitely by age 2. At some point I realized I had no real intention of stopping. It worked for us. At no point did I think Maddie was ready to be nursed, and I certainly wasn't going to take it away from her. She took such joy and such comfort in it.

When she was about 20 months old I became pregnant with Eleanor. Nursing became quite painful pretty early on. For me, but mostly for her, it was worth the pain. She still needed it so much. Not so much for the milk, there hadn't been any for was purely for comfort at this point. Near the end it was almost unbearable, and she was nursing probably only once or twice a day for only about a minute. I was open to, and almost excited about, tandem nursing, but it seemed we could be on the path to weaning.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lessons from the stove

I know it has only been 4 days, but it has been an eventful four days. I have cooked in the last few days more than I have cooked in the last 12 weeks. I have already learned new recipes, fed my family food from scratch, and spent a small fortune on ingredients I didn't even have (we are talking basics here people- flour, sugar, baking soda, vanilla extract). Important lessons have already been learned in the kitchen; the focal point of our journey.

1. Leftovers will not kill me. In fact, they actually taste pretty good. Organic, home-cooked food is way too expensive and involves too much hard work to just casually toss out. So, Brandon and I are learning to love leftovers.
2. It is really not that difficult to take out ingredients, measure them, chop vegetables, combine, stir, follow a recipe, etc. It is actually kind of enjoyable knowing that I am cooking real, wholesome food for my family. I can even whip up a mean pico de gallo at a moment's notice...I have done it twice already!
3. Being in the kitchen gives me a new sense of purpose and well-being. Before "change day", I had avoided the kitchen, almost like I didn't belong there. I would dash in, make a meal, get a drink, eat with kids, dash out. Now I feel like I can hang out, do some dishes (shocking, I know), and sit down and do homework with the kids.
4. I can and will do dishes. Many of you know I do not do dishes. It has always been the job of my husband. However, cooking and feeding seven people creates a LOT of dishes. If this is going to work, I am, *sigh*, going to have to break down and help clean the kitchen from time to time.
5. Meal planning and ingredient gathering is going to be my biggest challenge. I, obviously, lack a lot of basic meal preparation "things". A lot of recipes require me to go out and buy not only the ingredients, but the things to make them in and with. For example, I didn't own a cheese grater. I had always bought graded cheese. Everyone should have a cheese grater, but I had become so dependent of processed foods I didn't even feel this was necessary!

This is all I have time to type for now...motherhood calls!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Organic Journey

This is my family. There are seven, yes seven, of us. Our family started ten years ago, first with our marriage in August of 2000, and then with the birth of our first son, Blake, in September of the same year. Our journey, however, started on August 26, 2010. That's right, two days ago...and 10 years later. Prior to Thursday, we had been on a different path, one where I was conflicted between what I knew was best for my family, and what was convenient for me. This conflict had been raging inside of my since I became pregnant with Blake. Sometimes convenience won, sometimes knowledge won, and sometimes I tried my uneducated best to balance the two. Balance did not work, and convenience won out too many times. It was best for nobody...not me, not my children, not my husband, and not society.
Let me back up. When I was pregnant Blake, I knew I did not want a traditional hospital birth, but I didn't know where to turn. Society dictates a hospital birth with a doctor, so I went to the first ob/gyn recommended to me. He seemed nice. He seemed to go along with my "outrageous" requests (no epidural, no iv, no episiotomy, etc). As time went on and my belly got bigger, the man changed his tune. "I usually put i.v.'s in moms...I usually do a routine episiotomy". I panicked. At 37 weeks I up and left his practice in favor of a midwife and a safer, calmer birth center birth. No needles, no drugs, no interventions for me or baby. It was the beginning of a revolution. I discovered Dr. Sears and attachment parenting, I learned that I didn't have to circumcise my perfect newborn son, and I learned that vaccines didn't have to be given as doctors dictated them. At this time, I was the only person I knew who shared these beliefs. I was going into new territory all by myself.
If you've ever gone into uncharted territory in main-stream society by yourself, you know that it is a difficult road to take. I learned what I could, but ultimately followed the "norm" in many ways. Blake was bottle fed, vaccinated on an alternative schedule, and fed conventional food. Enter Cole. Before I was pregnant with him, I knew I wanted a home birth. I was lucky enough to find an amazing midwife who put up with my hormonal craziness. He was lucky enough to be born at home, but not lucky enough to be breastfed either. After a horrible experience, the poor baby was put on formula. I was crushed...defeated. Although he was kept intact as well, that is as far as it went with him. He was vaccinated according to doctors schedules and was on Zyrtec by the time he was 5 months old. My poor, sick, formula-fed baby. Alex was also born at home and was kept intact, but this poor baby also got formula. All of them were raised on fast food, processed food, and conventional food. It was the best I felt I could do at the time.
Enter Maddie. My world started to change with the birth of my first daughter. Again, she was lucky enough to be born at home. What's more, she was and still is lucky enough to be breastfed. Finally I had a nursling! I also became an expert baby-wearer. No strollers for this baby! It was with Maddie that I discovered the benefits of chiropractic care and learned many lessons from Dr. Fred. We cut back on sugar, processed foods, and fast food. We are more organic foods, but I often feel under the spell of cheap, easy, processed foods. Eleanor, born at home and breastfed, strengthened my belief in chiropractic. I should also add that neither daughter has been vaccinated. It was at this chiropractic office that my journey unknowingly changed, and my resolve to do what is best for my family finally cemented.
Cole was angry at me for refusing to feed them fast food for dinner. When he told Dr. FJ why he was angry, Dr. FJ told Cole that the cows the meat comes from stand knee deep in their own poop. This sparked further discussion and inquiry. He recommended Food, Inc to me. The next day, Brandon and I sat down to watch it, prepared for change. I don't think either of us were prepared for how much change. Food, Inc rocked our worlds. I cried. Brandon was angry. We tossed everything in our fridge/freezer and instantly changed the way ate. I resolved to cook, meal plan, and buy organic. He finally agreed with me! It didn't just change the way we eat though...I feel it has also changed the way we live. It will force us to slow down, to eat at the table for all of our meals, to work together as a family in our new, unexplored path. It will make us a stronger unit, and we will earn together. I find I like being in the kitchen cooking for my family. I am frightened of what will happen when I go back to work. My home and my kitchen, I feel, are where I belong. My desire to stay at home has also strengthened, and where there is a will, there is a way. No fast food, no processed food. This is our journey to health, happiness, and a stronger home life.