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A Letter To My Daughter,

Dearest Lil Miss,

We have been on some rocky road lately, you seem to try out everything in your power to make my brain try to escape my skull. You have listened to my direction and done everything but. We have shared screaming matches, anger fits, and heartfelt tears. Yes, it’s been a rough road. Dreadful, actually. It was until yesterday, that we finally connected the way we used too. I want to document this moment to you, so we both don’t forget.

I was on the phone with a friend, we were discussing about the TIME cover and how her, not being a nursing mother, took it as they were mocking us mothers who nurse  an older child. I explained to my friend, while I was actually nursing you, that I loved the picture. To me, every picture tells a story, and I have yet to find a nursing picture that I have not liked. It reminded me of the nursing acrobats that toddlers do. I just try really hard to not look past the picture, because the wording takes a cut to every mother, nursing or not. And how unnatural the poise was, but moving on.

Flashes of memories came back in my mind. So many that brings a smile to my face.  Remembering them again, as you sat contentedly on my lap, soaking in every word – remembering too, as I retell the stories. The way you used to curl your legs around my neck so you upside down, times I woke up in the morning with you nursing the other way. That one priceless time when I was typing up a Daycare recipe and you snuck a chair behind mine, leaned over, pulled up my shirt and latched. All good memories.

After I hung up the phone you said to me, “Momma, I want to be a baby again”. It broke my heart, because now I heard what you meant. I have heard you many times in the past year on how you want to go back to being a baby, and I just thought that you just ‘wanted to go back to being a baby’ to do baby things. I never knew you felt what I was feeling.

With me being so stressed out and drained from life experiences and trying to get me back. I have lost so much of what my goal is with being a mother. I am constantly tied with feeling that I should not be mad at a child I was lucky to have, to teaching this child the basics to becoming better than me in adulthood. I pass through life with so much thought on what not to do, that I forget that you are the only person that just wants me. That in of itself is taxing, but it’s what I signed up for.

I usually replied to your statement with, “Well, babies don’t do this or that”. But yesterday I guess I was on the ball a bit more. I heard that you want us back, just like I do. That you feel lost, and that you miss how we connected and even though I try so hard everyday to give you and teach you that where we were a year ago is not normal, I lost my humor and my affection. I’ve put my attention to all the things you might have seen and heard and trying to undo them, that stopped what I started when you were born. Lil Miss, I heard you last night. And I feel the same way.

We both stared at the TIME cover and smiled as “Are you Mom enough?” glared at me on the side. I answered the question with, no I wasn’t. This time not out of guilt, but out of reality. I have not been Mom enough. By being Mom enough is not being the mom that everyone else thinks you should be, it’s about being enough Mom for your child. And I have not been.

I want you to know that I will always love your baby, toddler and preschooler days, but I will also love your school days too. They are not finished yet and sometimes I am grateful for it. I will reflect on our yesterdays, because back then I have all the answers now, today – not so much. I don’t want to do anything wrong emotionally to you, and I want to keep my promise to you. I will not intentionally make you feel the way I have felt growing up.

Just because I look back and sometimes I wish to rewind time. It’s not because today is a drag and I don’t want to continue, it’s because there are moments I should have lingered longer and I didn’t. Other times those moments also make me understand today and appreciate it more.

We continued to look at this cover, I think and feel the same as I always have. Nursing is the only way we could have bonded and maintained that bond for as long as we do. Nursing always makes us come back, whether it’s the act, memory, or looking at a picture and talking about it. We will always have that to remind us that its us in this world together, and I have your back. Nursing, even when we are not, will be our door to put down any hurt form the day and tie another rope around our hearts, just in case the last rope frayed a little bit.

I went into mothering remembering my first memory – of me and my cowgirl boots at 2. I don’t remember being happy, I just remember it. Nothing of the memory brings any feelings and the rest of my childhood, brings a lot of anxiety and rage. I wanted to give you something more. I knew in the NICU, nursing was the ONLY way to hold you, so it become important to me. When you arrived home nursing became the only thing that would make you stop crying, which became important to me. As you entered toddlerhood, it was a time where we would learn things together, new words or just be – together, so it became important  to me. As you entered preschool it became the only time that you stop your fits, and that became important to me.

And now, you’re going to school. You are five. You can tell me stories of different times we nursed and where. You remember us sitting together on a park bench, counting the birds that flew by. You would see babies being nursed at the mall and smile. You will happily tell the nursing mom that you are nursed and you remember. You remembering being nursed, has always been important to me. You will be more “Mom Enough” than I would because you will remember nursing as you are nursing your own. The cycle will be fully complete than. The way that nature intended. And you will come to days and moments where you want to pull out your hair, then see something on a cover to ask you if you are “Mom enough” and you will get mad, because silently you will answer no.

But except for being alone, like me, you will have me to tell you that only you can define what is enough. You just have to be that, and if it’s guilt you feel, find out why and change what you can. What you can’t change in your life, support someone else who comes after you. Most importantly, always raise your children to be better than you ever were. Because that is the only feeling of ‘enough’ we will ever have.

And never forget, you are the best at everything you do, because only you can do it the way you do. Underneath all my worries and deep dark fears, I hope you will see I had and will always have the best of intentions.

The Dance Agianst The Grain

Wood surface, showing several features

Image via Wikipedia

This weekend was one busy weekend. It did not feel like a weekend either, running from one place to another. I was actually glad that Monday came along. Not because it was a bad weekend, but because I am actually resting and getting back into routine.

Sunday was K2’s best friend’s birthday party. The turn out was very nice and welcoming. K2 loved playing around the children’s indoor play ground and caught the eye of an older woman. As the children were called into the party room for their dinner, they all sat that their tables and their parents helped them put straws in their drinks and open the wrappings of their food. K2 sat and did it all herself.

At the corner of my eye I saw the older woman giggle out loud. I looked over to her, smiled, and jokingly shrugged my shoulders. I even giggled with her. I don’t know why, but I knew what she was giggling about. Eventually after the children were done with the meal, they went back to playing and I fixed up my tea. As I walked up to the garbage to throw my tea bag away, K2 ran up to me. I bent down to see what she needed. She came to say “Mommy, I am going to play, but I will miss you when I am gone, and I really love you too”. Well, doesn’t that just melt your heart?

The older woman, who by this time was standing by the garbage, heard every word K2 said. She striked up a conversation, and it was one of great joy. She told me that K2 is very independent, and she loved watching the interaction between the two of us. It was like a dance, and we both knew what the other was going to do. I gave out a laugh which ended in a giggle.

I thanked her for the compliment, and said that every second is a work in progress. What really made me giggle, was that it’s noticed that K2 is independent. I went on to tell her, we dance against the grain. That we did not do anything in those traditional parenting books. That throughout K2’s continued raising DH and I have picked her up when she wanted, I breastfed on demand, I tended to her cries, and she still sleeps with us. Both DH and I sometimes let K2 lead the way, because most times we really don’t know what we are doing. We both feel that children naturally know what they need, but they need guidance with their wants. I have carried K2 in the Moby Wrap until the age of 2.5 and only do it now when she asks, or if she needs to be carried and my arms gives way.

We have done everything wrong according to those ‘Baby Whisper’ and “Ferber” books. I read what “Today’s Parent” suggested and did the total opposite. I did what felt right, because feelings are never wrong. My motto, which can be heard from my parenting circle is, you can never spoil a child with love – when the child asks for it. So if the child is crying, picking them up is not going to cause an issue, because it was a need at the time.

I told her that in the short 3.5 years I have been a physical mother, I have been condemned with what I do. Even the first few years, DH thought I was a quack job. The In-laws told DH that my breastfeeding was harming our daughter, and I am obsessed with our newly born child. That I smother her and will make her always dependant on me and my approval.

For a stranger to be taking us in and stealing moments that I often take for granted was nice. It was nice that she commented on how K2 interacted well with her grandchild. It was just nice, to know that a different generation actually took notice of the bond that I continue to mend every moment of every day. It’s hard to know that I am far from perfect, but instead of leaving that as a crutch I push myself to be more and to give more. Do something else different, because what was done in earlier generations just.is.not.working.

After our brief, yet long to write, conversation. I felt a peace with my choice to try the Baby B’s. What I regret and would love to take back is those moments in my day where I fall off Attachment Parenting’s wagon. I have always got back up, brushed the dirt from my pants and ran to catch up. Like I have said, I am far away from perfection, there is so much I need to learn and need to do. There are things that I am still clueless about, and seek advice from mothers who came before. But I will always come back to the dance against the grain.

A ‘Pat’ On The Head

We went to my cousin’s house last night. DH and my cousin is trying to open their own reptile business. We arrive there in time for dinner, and as I was making the caesar and toss salads. I am talking with my cousin then I hear DH yelling my name from outside.

As I turn I see he is having a cigarette, but the strangest thing is he is standing with a pigeon on his head! I stop the conversation to say “why is there a bird on your head?” I head my way to the front door, stand outside to see this bird.

This pigeon’s name is Pat, and she is a rescued animal who fell from her nest in the home owner’s backyard. Her mother never came looking for her so the home owner decided to nurse the tiny bird back to health and then give the freedom of the outdoors.

So as Pat sat on my husband’s head, the children came outside to see this funny sight. I do have to say it was the highlight of the year. We’ve had some pretty rocky lows, but this bird, was the one who created a moment of forgetting about our stress, and a deep love of life.

I don’t think Pat knew how welcoming and how needed her visit was. What a different sight to see from city life. What a great and funny memory to share, for the years to come. Pat can come and sit on DH’s head anytime.

The First 10 Minutes

I have read stories and situations from mothers who have been before. Traveling the road that I am on, this very moment. Mothers who have nursed their children until ripen. I have been told I was mislead, and no child fully wean from anything without a little help. I thought back to how it must have been when breastfeeding was the only feeding done.

There is no way we would be made to be ‘addicted’ to mother’s milk. There is no way that a child will not stop, unless you say enough is enough. I see weaning everyday, from wombs to arms, from arms to feet. And now from breast to snuggles.

Two nights ago, K2 for the very first time fell asleep on her own. For 10 minutes I watched her eyes flutter and her breathing become rhythmic. I saw a glimpse of a grin and a sigh, it was 10 minutes of wonder, this is what it would be like, going to sleep without the breast.

3 years, it’s been, and only once before had she fell asleep on her own. But this time I truly consider the first time, it was her though provoking goal. Before she fell asleep watching Baby Signing Time. She had been fighting sleep and was tired, but she would not rest enough to close her eyes.

This time I asked her if she wanted to nurse, and “No, Momma”, was her reply. She grabbed her blanket and smiled at me, as she settled in her spot. She reached for me and cupped her hand on my breast, gave me a loving look and then closed her eyes.

So this is what going to sleep would be like without nursing my perfect child. Just as the thought escaped me I could feel a little tug. Am I ready for this? Did I prepare enough? Is she really done? As I fought to take the moment in. Her snuggled with her baby, her long body over my half of the bed. Her hair spread out on the pillow, and her hand spread out to touch.

I knew I was still needed, just in a different way tonight. She still needed to know I was there, but at that moment she did not need to nurse. She was off in dreamland, chasing bunnies and dreaming of ‘Bobbies’. And I in the still of the night, taking this first moment in.

Of course it did not last very long, she awoken with a bit of thirst. She nudged closer to me, and hiked up my shirt for a bit of a nurse. It felt right to have her close, to suckle and sleep at my breast. I just could not help but think that one day, maybe soon, we will have more moments like our first 10 minutes.

Lactivist or Lactizilla…

I would consider myself a strong breastfeeding supporter. I will go out of my way to help another baby and mother succeed in whatever their goals are. I find this experience to be just as precious as the act of breastfeeding, that I signed up to become apart of my community’s Mother-to-Mother Breastfeeding volunteer group. I have done this work for 2 years now, and I enjoy it tremendously.

Friends and family know how passionate I am with breastfeeding, but mostly my belief of the woman’s body. Even at the young age of seventeen, I found the biological aspects of life fascinating, so much so, that I loved watching the TLC’s older version of Baby Month. Remember the documentaries of mother and baby connection, how the fetus grows and what hormonally develops in the mother?

Growing up I did have an interest in the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child. I found our human parasitical ways from conception to breastfeeding intriguing. I found my first breastfeeding experience (besides my Uncle smacking me for watching) amazing and the first act of love I wanted to have with my future children.

When I started breastfeeding, articles like these, were everywhere. I fully agree to them and support them in every intent. In Peel, my region where I live, we had the Formula No Thanks campaign. Where posters were everywhere, city buses, billboards, medical offices etc. Saying ‘Formula, No Thanks I am watching my waistline; Formula, No Thanks, its flu season’.

It was the first time I, as a breastfeeding mother, felt apart of this community. It was the first time that, publicly, I was proud to be  breastfeeding and I did not have to be shamed into the bathroom or undercover. Even with our local breastfeeding friendly places and stickers advertising that this place is breastfeeding friendly. I have always felt that it was a large oxymoron where everyone promotes it here, but it’s not protected and now finally it was public, no reason to argue.

Now the posters are being taken down, and the pictures are deleted from the Formula, No Thanks site. Articles like The Ten Commandments of Breastfeeding are not being viewed. Why? People are being offended and complaining that these ads and articles are making them feel guilty for not breastfeeding.

Beginning of this year, I ran into blogs and articles explaining a new technique on how to deliver the message to a range of mothers, friends, and families. At first I thought ‘we are on to something, what a wonderful idea’. Welcome and support every mother and still be able to give informed scientifically proven information for them to pass down. Since everyone is in one group and welcomed, breastfeeding is rising above to be publicly excepted.

I accepted this for sometime, and praise organizations like Best for Babes for their efforts in uniting every mother. I still think this organization is on to something, something I think should continue. What I am having issues about is another movement in Lactivism, where it is not correct to ask questions in summary of “Why are you not breastfeeding?” not to say anything unless it’s asked. To sympathize with a non-breastfeeding mother, because the reason she is not breastfeeding is unknown and strictly personal.

A recent example, to clarify what I am mentioning, is an article by PhD in Parenting called I won’t ask you why you didn’t breastfeed. I love Annie, I am impressed on how she thinks outside of the box, her posts are always informative and thought-provoking. She writes in a way I have not seen. However, while reading this post it made me wonder. Most of these things she mentioned she will not do, is what I do or have done in the past.

As I was reading her article I could not help but to think of the friend she was writing about. I pictured me in her friend’s shoes. Most commonly with my volunteer work I hear about mother’s guilt and myths, and things they wish they had known. I thought ‘what if this friend is burning with guilt, what if this friend is drowning with how her body, again failed or didn’t work?’

Isn’t that what Lactivists are trying to do? To help mothers stop feeling this guilt that they did not own to begin with while promoting breastfeeding? What if this friend has another child and is burdened with this belief that she does not work? When if fact she did work, she was not given the chance. Yes, Annie mentions another reason could be as personal as sexual assault. In my eyes, coming from that background, I would be set free if a friend was open to listen or even offer to hear what I can tell. Even if I could not tell the story, and I was honest to say “It’s personal” I would love to hear, “I am here when you are ready”.

Is this not why we are promoting and fighting for support? I know I personalize everything, but it’s the only way I can consider another persons feelings and actions. I always think, if that was me what would I want to know. I know I differ from everyone else, but this thought is behind everything I do and why I am who I am. I think if I can help a friend feel that it was not her fault that she could not reach her goal, than I fulfilled something that was needed.

I just have mixed feelings on this movement. I feel that we are getting some where with the Booby Traps explained by Best for Babes, that part is great and what I have felt to be the overall issue besides society. I feel this direction will help every mother and still be able to get information. However, I don’t think not saying anything in fear of offending and insulting or saying it’s too personal is not the way. Along with insulting and being intentionally cruel. I wonder if we can get to a happy medium?

For now I do, do most of the examples that has been mentioned, and I hope this does not make me, what I call, a Lactizilla. I don’t do this out of cruelty, I do not ask a total stranger at the mall who is giving a bottle to her baby. I do, however, ask a friend to help her talk about her feelings of guilt, and I apologize to her for not knowing enough to be the support she needed. I do ask a mother I support while volunteering when I find out this is her second child and she did not breastfeed her first.

I don’t critically ask “Why did you not breastfeed?” I ask “What do you feel you need from me to better support you, can you tell me what happened with your first child?” Then I move on to placing the blame to where it belongs, and often times, it’s never the mother’s ownership.Yet, the mother is the one paying the ownership price. Then after the correction and the hopeful relief of the mother we move on to myths and education and connecting to her that I am here, just a call away.

I just don’t know about where Lactativism is going and whether I fit that title, maybe I am a Lactizilla. I hope not, but I fear I might be considered one. I have strong feelings about not saying anything is another way of promoting myths and demeaning the mother. I am not for this and never will be. I feel that correcting someone on a myth or a misconception the same way I would if someone states the sky is green, is viable in education.

Personally, if someone, especially a friend takes something I say to be damaging to them and insulting. I would except that friend to tell me about it. I can not mind read and I can not explain in a different way if I don’t know about the insult. I can’t own something if I am not told, I consider this apart of being a friend and the relationship.

I think I am going to need a little help with understanding this new way and how is it suppose to work. I feel that it’s going to be a struggle for me to stay true to myself but also include myself in Lactivism. Wow, I think I have a long way to go.