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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Burning Out - Extinguishing The Flames

I know that it happens to every mother at some point.

But I am just SO frustrated at myself!

This week has been hard. The tension in my shoulders and really in my entire body has started to build. I am getting strong visceral reactions to R saying "Read this one?" over and over again. I love to read to him. I adore that he loves to be read to. I want to encourage the love of books and stories and imagination as much as I can. It just feels like all I am doing is reading to him: When I sit down for my cup of coffee, I sit down to nurse J, when I finish eating, or start eating, when R finishes eating, when I wake up, before he goes to sleep. His beautiful face and sweet voice and a book greet me with this question "Read?".

Saying "no" doesn't work at all. Meltdowns ensue. Distracting with something else usually doesn't help unless it's his iPod (which I try to use very sparingly). You know I'm tired of reading when I offered to nurse him instead today (the other struggle I'm having: tandem nursing)... he finished nursing and picked the book back up to say: "Read?" *Sigh*

Postponing sometimes works. "Yes, we will read that book as soon as Mommy is done ______ (insert physically necessary thing for mom i.e.: peeing, eating etc)" But the reality over the past few days has been that I don't want to read anymore and that's what he really wants to do. How do we get to a happy place for both of us?

I've realized that I'm burnt out. Too many late nights over the past few weeks combined with J waking more than usual and generally needing more at night (think he's starting on a growth spurt and fighting off a cold). I've taken time for myself but I think it has been more about trying to take the time others expect me to need. I've also started that unhealthy checking out habit while with the kids (reading twitter or Facebook) which makes me that much more irritable when they need me.

I do not want to be a mother who resents her children. I want to enjoy them and enjoy myself as I enjoy them. I recently found a great post by the Leaky Boob about nurturing the nurture. Such a balance beam I need to walk on: meeting my children's needs and not neglecting mine. (so that I can continue to meet theirs) Where I am now: I am running and hiding. I am pushing them away because I'm so terribly tired and frustrated.

My Goals for the next few days: Go to Bikram's Yoga. Have coffee alone with a good book or journal. Shower. Drink more water. Eat. Pee when I need to.

I really don't want to keep slipping into this victim/martyr mentality. I become powerless and a slave to my children/circumstances. I saw my mother live there and it was not a happy place for her. I have choices that I make daily and I need to own them and be more creative about making sure everyone's needs are met. Including/Especially my own.

Right now I'm going to sleep. Because that is something I just don't get enough of...

He really does love his books...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I'm a bit of a control freak.

Nothing has made me see this more than becoming a parent (I should have noticed after marriage but I think I was turning a very blind eye - pretty sure Dan figured it out quickly...).

Take right now; R is eating a sandwich - incorrectly - (GASP!) I am annoyed. I really shouldn't care how he eats a sandwich. But I have been influencing his sandwich eating preferences since I handing him his first PB&J. For a while he would yell when it fell apart. (Because I had spent so much time putting them back together to minimize messes) He would say "NO, NO, NO! Fall 'Part!" "Put 'gether!" Then I got annoyed at his incessant complaining about the frail state of sandwiches. He has now moved past that stage and has adopted his own preferences for eating his PB&J. Sometimes they include pulling them apart and eating all the jelly before putting it back together to eat the rest. Or just eating each slice of bread separately. The Nerve!

Some lessons I learn very slowly.

Sometimes I think it's the frustration of being raised with so few guidelines and direction (we were free range kids to the max and I have some real issues with self-discipline), which causes me to worry about how R learns. I so want him to be given the tools to succeed and to thrive. But for whatever reason; I really must learn to stop imposing every preference of mine onto his little life - we would have a lot less power struggles that way.

The responsibility of nurturing and raising children lays so heavy sometimes. I was talking to Dan about my sandwich issues and his response was "Stop ruining him!" (not helpful). But it's so easy to feel like that's all on me (on us) and despair since I am continually failing to meet my own standards (much less anyone else's). One of my biggest frustrations is my anger at my own failures continually getting in the way of parenting well.

I keep coming back to Grace

I need to parent with more Grace - both for my children and for my husband and sometimes especially for myself. And I must give up control; this tight jawed, shoulder raised, frowny-faced attitude that causes me so much frustration. Deep Breaths...

A great moment from today: Picnic with my boys

Friday, August 12, 2011

Don't Label Me

I struggle with labels.

It seems once you attach one to yourself you are suddenly defined by that label and constrained by it or feel guilty for not living up to it's standards or trapped within it's limits. I've tried on a few labels in my life. I posed as a hippy for a while in high school and a punk type kid (sans the drugs and stuff). But I never really fit inside those labels or could never fit them inside of me.

I am a bit of a free spirit I guess... though lately I haven't been allowing myself that freedom.

What makes us feel that we need to fit some sort of mold? Mold sucks, it stinks and destroys stuff. I don't desire to be anything other than myself; yet so often I find myself acting in ways that are contrary to my heart. We are social people and we desire to fit somewhere; into a tribe or group. I desire so much to fit somewhere!

And I do: I fit well in my husbands arms. I fit well in my Savior's arms. That's going to have to be enough because I haven't found many other places I fit well without feeling like I'm stuffing back parts of who I am so I don't stick out. It's like having extra limbs you hide under clothing... they'd be so useful if you weren't so ashamed of them!

Here's one label I'm struggling with: Attachment Parenting

Let's start with a definition per wikipedia:

Attachment parenting, a phrase coined by pediatrician William Sears,[1] is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, the child forms a strong emotional bond with caregivers during childhood with lifelong consequences. Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child's socio-emotional development and well being. 

Well, I can fit into that mold by that definition. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty of how practicing AP plays out in my everyday life I start to feel guilty or not quite good enough. What's up with that?

I am not perfect and I don't always like the way I parent, but there are days when I'm surfing other AP's blogs and just start feeling guilty... There can be so much flat out rejection and judgement spewed towards anyone who doesn't parent exactly as they do. So much extreem wording and blanket statements. I don't want to don that label if it means I am going to be measured by your standards.

I am trying, with all my being, to be sensitive and emotionally (and physically) available to my children. But I don't always play by the "rules" and I'm not totally sure wether I agree with all the rules or not or if I wish I did play by them. But I don't need more guilt in my life, no mother does.

I am going to parent with Grace. And I'm going to try and start that cycle by being gracious to myself as a parent (and to be gracious to other parents). I will continue to breastfeed (them both) and co-sleep and baby-wear. I will continue to try and release my unrealistic expectations of my children. But I'm not sure about other issues... methods of discipline for one. I'm still feeling those out. Parenting is an organic activity and I'm allowed to change my mind sometimes. There will still be days that I will say (like today); "no I'm not going to read to you right now, eat a cookie instead" and that's OK.

Here's to guilt free parenting!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

We Are A W.A.H. Family

At least part of the time.

And for the next few months at least.

My husband is a photographer (he's one of the best I know - check it out) and started his own business (our own business really - I do the paperwork mostly) in January of 2010. It was a crazy time to go out on his own; we had an eight month old and not much money. Thankfully he has also been working construction for the past 8 years during the slow season (read: winter) and has an incredibly flexible boss. So he worked two jobs essentially, 12 hour construction days only to come home and edit photos/meet with clients late into the evening. And he managed to be an incredible dad as well and took time to be my husband.

Needless to say last year had it's ups and downs. It's tough to make transitions. So we decided to make some more and have a baby in May this year! So glad to have J in our lives!

But this is the blessing in the "hard" parts of our lives:

Since May, Dan has been home most days. Granted, there are some where we don't see a lot of him; he keeps artist hours and will sometimes work all night or simply descend to the basement and disappear all day to work. But he's here. R loves to run down and interrupt Daddy's day. Dan will wear baby J in the Ergo while J naps and he edits or answers emails. And occasionally we get to grab a few minutes during the day while the boys are napping to be together; talk, shower, etc... you know.

A few months this summer have been slim. We aren't raking in the dough. But we're paying rent and buying food and clothes and even a nice dinner sometimes. Most importantly, my boys have a Daddy who gets to love on them everyday! I have support and encouragement from the most amazing man I know. We get to sit on the swing outside and enjoy 30 min of cuddles, all four of us. We have been incredibly blessed!

Too often I take for granted that Dan is around. I forget to love on the man who has been the biggest support in my life. I'm going to be shocked again when he starts construction this winter and is away all day and sometimes isn't home for bedtime. But right now I am just grateful for the hardworking husband I have; who prioritizes loving his sons and wife. I am grateful for the blessings we have received.

Today, I really am content.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Tandem Adventure

I wasn't planning on tandem nursing. I carefully reduced nursing sessions with R as my pregnancy progressed... it seemed a confusing process for him. But I was sure I wasn't built to nurse them both, sure it would be too hard. Plus there was the social stigma, the feeling I had about how I would be perceived. People had been asking me for months "isn't it time he stop doing that?" And I was responding to R out of that attitude: being short, feeling frustrated that he wanted to nurse so often etc. But my frustrated response and the reduction of nursing times created urgency in him, he asked even more and was inconsolable at times when I refused.

He had already stopped nursing to sleep at 18 months, I don't know if it was because I encouraged it or if he simply didn't need it anymore (he still has his binky for bed). But the mornings, when he climbed into bed with us, he desperately needed that time of cuddles and nursing. He would often fall back asleep (a wonderful thing for me) or at least lay with me and rest. But it was a long nursing session and I was in the throes of pregnancy induced nursing heebie-jeebies, being irritable and starting to resent his cuddling and nursing times. So I weaned him at 22months.

He didn't melt down or fall completely apart. Dan started getting up with him as soon as he woke up, no more morning snuggles with mommy for a while. I appreciated the extra sleep and starting my mornings alone. But I felt guilty. R seemed confused and hurt, he still asked to nurse; walked up to me and put his little chubby hand on my chest looked in my eyes and said "nurse?" in that beautifully sweet voice of his. It broke my heart sometimes. I felt like I had hardened myself to my sweet boy. Like I had cut this tie of understanding and communication. We were both frustrated.

There was a wonderful up-side to the new arrangement. R got some great bonding time with Dan. I saw his love and devotion to his Daddy grow each day but felt a bit of wistfulness for the loss on my part. Because of Dan's schedule and my overprotectiveness when R was little Dan didn't get the bonding he may have wished for early on. So this new preference for Daddy was a sweetness to Dan and it was a blessing to see R's needs being met so wonderfully. My dear husband developed an understanding and level of communication with R that hadn't been there before.

So I got some space. I made room for our new baby. Took deep breaths and found new ways to cuddle and console my rapidly growing toddler. But he still asked to nurse now and then and I still saw a lack of understanding and a bit of hurt in his eyes when I said no.

J was born on May 12th 2011. I will post about his birth another time. It was amazing and enjoyable (I know, you don't believe me). He nursed before the cord was cut and looked into my eyes the whole time. He continued to nurse over the next four hours. Sleeping some, then waking to nurse, then looking for his thumb. He was beautiful and perfect. I fell in love for the third time.

We brought him home, we slept in our bed the three of us. R had been at his Nanna K's the previous night and wouldn't come home until late that afternoon. I missed him, wanted my big boy to see his new brother and I wanted to hold them both. I didn't feel like I was all taken up with J, I had an empty feeling without R to hold as well. I wasn't expecting to have anything left to give. When R was born he seemed to take up everything. But God gave me more, it wasn't a replacement of babies, it was an addition and with that addition came the grace of more to give. I was surprised.

There were too many people present when R came home. He was shocked and overstimulated. He climbed into my lap to look at J nursing and was interested. But quickly got distracted by the presents Nanna had brought for him so he jumped down. A while latter when the place settled he climbed back up and snuggled with me (which was apparently a call for everyone to come see and take pictures) I had to ask people to give us some space (which offended some I'm sure). R cuddled in and touched baby J's head and hands and laid his head on my chest. I can't remember if he asked to nurse that day or not. But he did in the following weeks.

I started looking into tandem nursing but didn't feel convinced it was the right path for us. Yet I wasn't feeling great about how I interacted with R. He was struggling with the transition, we all were really. I was tired and trying to learn J's cues and re-learn how to care for a newborn so I kept expecting too much of my 2 year old toddler. Dan took a much more active roll this time. I had more confidence in him and didn't try and control everything (as much). I tried to give R lots of snuggle time. J nursed like a newborn (read: all the time) so nursing time became story time. We had bought a large leather rocking recliner just before J was born and I lived there. Seriously.

It wasn't horrible. R wasn't being neglected and I don't think he felt unloved. But he still asked. He would come up to me when J was nursing (and sometimes when he wasn't) and say "my nurse too?" or "Ryan nurse?" and the longing in his eyes kinda broke my heart. The more I said "no" the more I wondered why? What was it that I was saying "no" to really? And why did I feel like I had to say it? Because there were times when it was my deep desire to give R that connection and comfort he was asking for. I couldn't come up with a good answer.

Dan and I talked about it a lot. We were concerned about being inconsistent and confusing him more by saying yes after saying no for so long. I was concerned I would start nursing him again and then realize I really didn't want to and I was afraid of feeling trapped, stuck (which in reality are some of my worst fears besides the fear of abandonment). Dan was supportive of whatever decision I made. But was clear that the decision was up to me (they were my breasts after all).

I researched breastfeeding toddlers and the benefits. Learned a lot. I joined the Facebook page The Leaky B@@b and found a bunch of support and encouragement there. I got up the nerve to ask post the question there, asking for experience and thoughts on the subject of re-introducing nursing to a weaned toddler. Most people stated that their toddlers who asked to nurse after a sibling was born only tried it once and then stopped asking. I got hopeful that perhaps that would be the case. So I nursed R before his nap when he asked.

He kept asking

I was a bit disappointed and a bit excited. I realized I had just made the decision for myself; as long as he was asking and I was willing there was no logical reason not to nurse him. The only thing holding me back was fear of peoples' opinions of me. So I took a deep breath and said "yes" again. R was 25 months and J 5weeks. I think the fact that J and I had established our nursing relationship, my oversupply issues had settled and we had all gotten used to being a family of 4 helped.

Fast forward two months:
We are here. R is asking as much if not more when he is home. But he leaves overnight at least once a week and will go a few days without nursing. At first he only nursed once a day and I thought he was done when he went a four day stretch without asking. But he got sick with a high fever and I was so happy I could give him the comfort and antibodies he needed to get better quickly. He bounced back in a day or so but since he had nursed so often while sick it seemed to have set a new pattern. He asks more often then I say "yes" and I'm still struggling with how to move forward; how to balance his needs and desires with mine. How to give cheerfully and when to respect my limits. I've been given much grace and I strive to pass it on to my sons.

But I am confident in this: we made the right decision. R is a toddler and will act like one regardless if he is nursing or not. But I feel the bond between us has healed some; he listens better, trust me more. The decision to tandem nurse is a daily, even hourly, one. I am grateful for the support and encouragement I get from my dear husband. I am grateful for posts like this where real people share their real struggles with breastfeeding and parenting.

I don't know if we'll be tandem nursing tomorrow or next week or next month or perhaps next year. But I do know that it will be because I think we're both ready to stop and not because of some cultural expectation when we do wean.

So I'm content in the unknowing and the process. I learn more about myself and my sons every day. This is an adventure, this is my life and I will enjoy it. I anticipate R weaning sometime this year (either because of his own desire or mine) but I will continually be reevaluating our nursing relationship. I read a quote the other day about nursing being circular not linear. I don't expect J to follow the same pattern as R. For one; I'm not the same mother. I'm growing, I'm changing and I'm hoping it's all for the better.

This was longer than I expected. And I still have more to say. But we'll save it for another day!