It hasn’t been a bad year

So… have you at any point shot a worn-out look at a friend and uttered something along the lines of “Seriously, what’s up with 2016?”

I sure have. I’ve waded through the never ending shit-storm of a brutal separation. I’ve watched loved ones endure loss and hardship. I’ve questioned humanity and my place in it while alternately binge reading and hiding from news of Aleppo, Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, Brexit, and the enormous wank of a US President-elect (not to mention Jian fucking Ghomeshi).

I’ve been bewildered at how absurdity, tragedy and gross injustice can continue to pile up without reprieve, and felt happy to soon be saying good riddance to a shit year. Surely there’s some planet junk going on and 2017 will be better. The cosmic scales owe us an enormous solid, has been my general read.

This is where my head was at until last week, when I learned that Jackson has a tumour in his left clavicle. When I stopped in my tracks, on my way to dinner with colleagues on the other side of the world, to hear words like “CT scan” “biopsy” and “chemo” come through my cell phone. When I turned around in the blink of an eye to throw my things back into a suitcase and travel 30 straight hours from Johannesburg to Halifax, where my little boy was already being seen by oncologists at the IWK.

I don’t know what to expect yet. Tomorrow morning at 7:30 we will sign consent forms and send him in to be sedated for an MRI, tissue biopsy, and a bone marrow biopsy to find out if I’m to face my worst fears. I’ll meet his dad there and we will try to let our shared love for the sweetest 5-year-old boy subdue our boundless fury.

I understand now that this hasn’t been a bad year. I’m in my mid-thirties, and I’m having to come to terms with what life is. Life is a disaster. It’s a hot mess of pain and suffering, disappointment and wtaf..?

I do realize I’m several thousands of years late to the party on this one, but I’m finding there is peace in this place of acceptance. Please don’t misread – I don’t for one second encourage or condone acceptance of a status quo that is wrong and needs challenging. But I am experiencing some lightness and freedom in knowing there’s no better year coming. 2017 is going to blow too, and we’re going to fight when we need to fight and rejoice when we have the opportunity to rejoice.

I’m scared, and I may not sleep tonight, and I know this post will knock the breath from some of the people who love me. I promise to do a follow up post when I’ve had time to process the results. But for now my larger lesson is not to sideline myself in the mind’s waiting room hoping for the storm to break, when there is fleeting beauty that needs attention.

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Photos by someone I’m very, very thankful for.

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Fuck you, Jian

It’s Day 3 of the Jian Ghomeshi trial, the first witness has been discredited already and we’ve now moved right along on to number 2.

During the time the story broke that he was being fired from the CBC as sexual assault accusations came to light, every woman I spoke to about it was deeply disturbed. Deeply disturbed. Every woman. No matter her age, level of Q fandom, political leanings and/or lifestyle, this story, of all news stories, had knocked the wind out of her. She couldn’t get it out of her head. Couldn’t stop thinking. Things were coming back to her. Feelings, and questions, about interactions she’d buried in the subterranean sludge of her mind for years. Interactions that were flooding her now. She couldn’t breathe.

I’ve been degraded, I’ve been humiliated, I’ve been coerced, I’ve been pressured, I’ve been guilt-tripped, I’ve been taken advantage of, I’ve had my humanity neglected, I’ve been made to feel worthless, and vulnerable. I’ve had this happen a lot. As in, more often than not. We all have. #YES #ALL #WOMEN.

And the most shocking part, that I think is what absolutely gutted so many of us with a painful visceral blow as the Ghomeshi scandal broke, is that we accept it as normal. We don’t want to offend. We don’t want to hurt feelings. We’re probably overthinking it. We’re definitely too repressed. We’re just not enough fun. Are we being crazy? We’re not sure what’s going on here. We should be enjoying this. He seems to be enjoying it. Let’s be honest – it really doesn’t matter if we’re enjoying this, so just get it over with so we can get out of there. But don’t upset him on your way out. Does he like me?

The woman, discredited witness #1, wrote him flirty emails a year later, attaching a shot of her in a red bikini. Does that mean Jian Ghomeshi didn’t assault her?… Nope. It means we live in a society where women are so devalued that the deeply engrained desire for male approval supersedes our own intuition constantly. We don’t even know how to recognize our intuition, let alone respect and heed it, because we grow up speaking less, being listened to less and being recognized as complex and intelligent, worthwhile individuals much less. We are raised on sexualized imagery of subservient females in every space at all times. Any natural authourity over our bodies we might assume is corroded into a smear of fine toxic dust by the highly paternalistic family, school, medical and legal structures that govern women’s bodies and self expression everywhere, always, from birth until the day we die.

We all know about dangerous men. We know to be afraid of rape and violence. We know to look out for the “creeps” and how to maximize our chances of getting home safe. But the big secret, that Jian Ghomeshi blew wide open last year, is that there is a sickness in our culture. A sickness that allows nice guys, educated guys, guys with culture and thoughtful analysis – gentle guys – to feel entitled to treat women as less than human. And we accept it as normal, because it’s the air we breathe. And it causes us a great deal of inner pain that we tuck away and continue to shine light through, until one day a beloved radio host is just another regular asshole and we can’t take it anymore because we are really well and truly fucked, and so. damn. angry.

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[Painting by Elizabeth Blaylock: Girl in Red Swimsuit at the Water’s Edge]

The “I love you sweet toddler, but I’m so done” guide to mother-led weaning

So I’ve weaned two babies now, both around the age of 18-20 months. Although I’ll always support moms in breastfeeding as long as they want, I don’t use the terminology “full term” or “extended” breastfeeding, because there is no term. Not term to complete, no term to fail to complete, no term to exceed.

It starts with a newborn who blindly, hungrily, instinctively nurses for survival. For an exclusively breastfeeding mother, this essential nursing carries on for about a year, or until the baby gradually becomes interested in and then well nourished by solid foods. Take advantage of this time, mothers! It is so incredible to be able to go anywhere with your precious cargo and know that you don’t really need anything but the clothes on your back.

baby J

But of course breastfeeding is about more than simple nourishment, it is an act of love and holistic nurturing. Once the baby’s nutritional reliance eases up and their little bodies are supported by real foods, the relationship evolves. What that means is completely unique to each mother-baby duo, but the fundamentals are universal: love, trust, closeness, comfort. There’s absolutely no expiry date on that.

Breastfeeding is also not the only way to offer these things. And there is one other (I believe) universal trait of breastfeeding relationships: convenience. I will never understand why people say that breastfeeding is a difficult path, assuming everything is in working order (which it almost always is, until the allopathic medical system breaks it). I have cracked. I have bled. I’ve cried. I’ve writhed and wailed in agony in the first weeks of both of my babies’ lives. I’ve put in time massaging out clogged ducts in hot showers. But those hurdles have never in any way diminished my wholehearted understanding of the overriding ease and utter convenience of breastfeeding.

It’s this convenience factor that I think leads many of us to struggle to end the breastfeeding relationship long past when we’re actually really ready. I believe it is fully within the mother’s right to end this relationship when she is done. For me, that is ideally after year one, but me and my ideals are really not relevant to another woman with another body, life and child. I do not at all relate to the guilt I so often hear associated with weaning, as many women wrestle with the weight of regret for having actively weaned their (now grown) babies. It’s okay, in my books. It’s right, if it’s what you want. And it’s difficult, because breastfeeding is so bloody convenient for everyone involved!

For me, 18 months is when I’m done. So far, anyway, with my two kids. At 18 months, my babies are thriving, adorable bundles of chaos and mayhem, and breastfeeding becomes something that feels half sweetness, half chore, half crutch (yes I know that’s too many halves). Around this time, I am looking at my babies, and noticing how they’re really not babies anymore. Or at least I’m noticing them hurl themselves with 200% confidence in the general direction of full-blown childhood.

Around this time, I am still enjoying some of those sweet moments nursing provides, but I’m also tired. I’m tired of having my shirt tugged at impatiently in public by a crying toddler. I’m tired of not being able to snuggle or read a book without nursing. I’m physically tired by the demands on my body. I’m tired of being the only one who will “do”, in the middle of the night or during a big upset. I’m starting to sense that my baby-child is ready to move on from relying on this fall-back, and begin to embrace their independence and the variety of new comforts awaiting them.

I am often asked about my approach to weaning, because it can be such a very difficult transition for so many. So here’s my practical guide, all laid out:

Step 1: Never offer, and if they’re asking always try other comforts and distractions first.

Step 2: Wear bulky, high-necked clothing to hide the goods.

Step 3: Tell your toddler that mommy doesn’t want to breastfeed anymore for whatever reason is important to you. With Ocean, I told her I had “owies” because it was true, she was in the habit of comfort-nursing so much at night that it was getting sore & uncomfortable for me.

Step 4: Change up your routines. So if bedtime is normally nursing to sleep, try giving a cup of warm milk before crawling into bed – or only if they’re crying for your milk. Freely offer yummy (healthy) snacks as a distraction in tough moments (yes I endorse bribery and emotional eating). You have to get creative, and it requires energy – hence the immediate appeal of just surrendering yourself to the prospects of breastfeeding forevermore. Attempt to stay strong, while honouring your child’s needs.

Step 4: Assess. For me, this process takes time. I hear your stories, tales of children who self-weaned at 12 months, or just couldn’t have cared less. This hasn’t been my experience, and with both kids I payed careful attention to how truly upset they seemed. With both, this was a stop-start process over 1-2 months. Nobody knows my babies better than me, and when I listen closely I recognize a distinct difference between the desperate “no, I’m not ready!!” cry, and the “this is different, challenging and uncomfortable!” cry. One state, I won’t leave my babies to languish in. The other is okay. It’s my sign to stay strong and be there for them in new ways as I gently nudge them along.

So there… that’s as scientific as I get when it comes to weaning. There’s no magic formula – just your own trust in your inner voice, and a little bit of creativity and stamina. Listen to yourself, and listen to your baby, and someday soon you’ll be trying to remember for a friend how you weaned your babies.

Bon courage!

XO baby O

On Fear and Transition

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.

Transition in birth… those of you who’ve been through it, close your eyes and bring yourself back. What did it feel like?

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Those of you who’ve read countless birth stories and watched countless videos in preparation for your own upcoming birth, what have you learned to expect?

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I didn’t experience this stage in labour with Jackson’s birth, because of the epidural. I had AROM at 3cm but was disappointing everyone by becoming “stalled” at 6cm. With my baby’s heart rate indicating distress (you and me both, kid), I was being pressured to accept Pitocin, told I was quickly becoming a candidate for c-section, and that I was putting my baby at risk. After protesting as long as I could, I knew I had to start choosing concessions. There was no way I could cope with the Pitocin as I was, confined to the hospital bed by the fetal heart monitoring machine, with no way to cope naturally with the pain – which already felt severe. So, I asked for the epidural first, which I am actually grateful for, all things considered, because this allowed me to relax a little and dilate to 10cm fast enough that I was able to escape surgery. The rest is a bit of a mystery… all I know is that at one point the nurses assured me I was ready to push, and then they assured me that I was pushing, and then a baby came out, with a little help from a vacuum stuck to his head.

(Before anyone critiques the language I use here – yes, I know. It is intentional. I was passive, the fetus eviction-and-extraction process was being performed on me, and no amount of self-empowering language will change that.)

hptl ***

I went into labour and gave birth to my second child at home (you can read Ocean’s birth story here). My husband was home but preoccupied with other matters, including our 2 year old, and I went through the stages of labour solo, moving in between my bedroom and the adjacent bathroom. It was late December and we were in the midst of a power outage. Both of my birthing rooms were dark, lit softly only by a few faintly sweet-smelling beeswax candles. As the sensations washed over me with regularity, I laid in the bed, got up, sat on the toilet, got back up, laid in bed. Alternating like this between the two spaces throughout the night and into the early morning, my body calmly and gradually readied for birth while my mind drifted off to la la land. I was in my primal brain; the only thoughts going through my head were literally “Thank you! I am so grateful and fortunate to have this comfortable space, this roof over my head. Come on baby, you can do it”. No pain, no fear. Compared to my hospital birth, this was a revelation.

Until transition. Everything was fine and dandy until my body entered into this stage of INTENSE bearing down coupled with loud uncontrollable groaning and a hot as hell burning sensation. What in the… oh yes. This must be that transition phase I’ve heard so much about! When things suddenly entered into this phase, I felt an inkling of fear. And discernible just beyond the edges of that fear was panic, and an awareness of the terrifying vast depths of the unknown. I felt the presence of this fear, this panic, and I told myself: “It’s okay. You’re okay.” Repeatedly, out loud. Then I had a baby, and she was perfect 🙂 bed What I can’t believe I never thought of before is how much all major transition in life is like this moment in birth.

It’s hard to admit this. I’ve been going through a separation from my husband, the father of my children, since early December. It is something that has been brewing for three years, simmering for two years, and boiling over everywhere, burning everything and everyone for the past year. It has been a sad, stressful, horrible experience (I know there is someone, somewhere reading this who can relate).

What my friends, and neighbours and family keep saying to me during it all is “You’re doing so well”. And it’s true… I have been, for the most part, dealing with an insane amount of constant stress with absolute focus and calm. This isn’t because I have it figured out, or I’m numb, or I don’t care. This is because I have the acute awareness that panic is just within arm’s reach. It’s something I could easily stumble in to, but if I did, I would be swallowed up and would never make it out in one piece. It is not an option. I must stay strong, stay clear, stay focused, breathe.

This is transition. In life, and in birth, it is a time of being stretched beyond what is known, what is comfortable, and what is “safe”. It is a time when the fires of pain and blind panic may lick at our heels, and if you should have the good fortune to experience it, it is the most powerful you will ever be in your whole entire life. When you find yourself being pulled into the intensity of transition, and you give yourself to it, and you let yourself open up to the very limits of physical, emotional, spiritual possibility… you emerge on the other side with an understanding of your own unsinkability that will help keep you fearless and afloat for the rest of your life.

I don’t know what the outcome is going to be from this part of my life, but I know enough that I can acknowledge the presence of fear without giving in to it. My incredible female body taught me that.

Now here’s a photo of me. Still whole, though slightly worse for wear. me XX

Mommy wars is a lie. Or, why I’m not judging you. Or, let’s all work on owning our feelings.

Alright, so there are now facebook groups with names like “Fed Up With Natural Childbirth” and the term “sanctimommy” gets thrown around a fair bit. It seems that everywhere I turn, there is a woman who is trying her best, and who loves her children more than anyone else ever could, and yet feels judged and less-than. There are women in online unassisted birth communities feeling like failures who must confess if they decide to hire a midwife or obtain an ultrasound. That is very sad. But from where I’m standing, the natural childbirth movement has absolutely nothing to do with judging other women. Let me say it right now: I love you. I respect you. Whoever you are, you are wise, your needs are important, your choices are valid.

The Internet has exploded into a platform for anyone with something to say. Independent online research is now the norm for anyone with a bit of bandwidth, and we are all now exposed constantly not just to the dominant narratives of the mainstream media, but to the musings and opinions of our peers. No doubt, it can get intense, especially when we find ourselves confronted with opposing views from people we trust, or with the latest study showing that everything we’re doing is EXTREMELY FUCKING WRONG. But I want to let it be known ~ right here/right now ~ that from my perspective, participating in and advocating for a natural, non-intrusive and peaceful approach to pregnancy and childbirth is basically about two things: 1. Scientifically, physically – the dangers posed to mother and baby by interfering in the spontaneous physiological process of birth, and 2. Politically – articulating and fiercely protecting every woman’s right to reside over pregnancy and birth. This means instilling a genuine respect for her choices surrounding where, how and with whom she gives birth.

It’s about women owning our bodies, knowing (and truly, being one with) our babies, being the absolute masters of our pregnancies and birth processes, and bucking the notion of any other so-called expert or professional assuming authourity over any of that. If a woman wants to refer to a doctor or midwife during the course of her pregnancy, or if she feels more comfortable giving birth in their presence, sure – wonderful. As long as she is truly supported and empowered to make informed decisions, as opposed to the current standard of belittlement, lies and weighty ommissions.

The voices you hear, that are calling into question the legitimacy of ultrasounds, induction, episiotomies, most c-sections, administering of labour “enhancers” and pain meds, directed pushing, early cord clamping, separation of mother and baby, rigorous rubbing-poking-prodding-hatting of newborn, circumcision, encouragement of “supplementation” via baby formula… These voices are not judging you. You are fine, you are loved. These voices are critiquing a system that has medicalized, problematized, industrialized and attempted to control not just pregnancy and birth, but the female BODY and MIND, to such a degree that a great many women now spend a significant portion of their lives processing the residual trauma, confusion and guilt resulting from interventions that in retrospect seem completely unnecessary, harmful and ultimately degrading.

These interventions (or—excuse me, assaults) can occur without consent, definitely without true “informed consent”, and often even in spite of the mother’s expressed request to abstain. I say request, because very often in our culture a mother timidly and excitedly following her pre-natal care routine must ask permission or plead her case should she not be in favour. They can include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Membrane sweeps (an extremely invasive and painful procedure touted as ‘quick and natural’, whereby the cervix is forcibly stretched – hey, we’re dilating! – and the amniotic sac is ripped from its walls. Can cause bleeding, intense cramping, and premature labour)
  • Scheduled induction – conveniently booked “just in case” during your 39 week check-up (now being systematically pushed on many women at the 41 week mark. This is a terrible lie since a) many do not know their true conception date, especially considering the fact that sperm can live inside a woman for up to 5 days, b) different bodies and babies require different periods of gestation to reach “term” c) it is dangerous to the baby and significantly increases mom’s likelihood of ending up in emergency surgery, and d) much of this is being done to women because it is convenient for doctors and it gives the hospitals total control over the baby’s birth – which has now become a medical procedure – and thus, management of liability)
  • Planned cesareans (for a variety of reasons, the vast majority of which are scientifically unfounded. There are rare instances when a cesarean section is truly a lifesaving emergency measure. The epidemic of the “unnecessarean” diminishes a woman’s trust in, and I would argue love for, her body and prevents her from knowing its true power to finish what it started when it moves her baby into the world at just the right time, in just the right way. This experience is an integral part of the transition from growing the fetus to mothering the child, enormous for a first-time mom. And for the baby, from life inside the womb to life in the world.)

Even deep in the most primal throes of the childbirth process, most women must dig deep and find the additional strength and focus to argue with the professionals present in order to avoid some level of intervention – and this applies to many homebirth midwives (medwives inextricably linked to the same rigid, paternalistic system of birth management) as well as the more obvious hospital scenario. All of these commonplace interferences in modern day childbirth have short and long term effects which we are only just starting to comprehend, and scientific journals are pointing to the potentially far-reaching negative impacts of ultrasound on the cells of a developing fetus, and of cesarean section on a baby’s intestinal flora (which we now know is hugely important to a strong immune system).

For many, it’s about opting out of a system that has eroded women’s power throughout this process (a time when she is naturally at her peak in terms of intuitiveness and strength) to the degree that it is no longer tolerable to participate. It’s about calling out a systematic degradation of femininity and motherhood, and making an effort to make available important evidence weighing against the contemporary conveyor-belt approach to pregnancy, birth and beyond. It is not about targeting, shaming or judging any woman for her experiences or choices. You are wise, your needs are important, your choices are valid.

I do not actually care what kind of birth you have, whether you elect for a c-section because of personal fears, or you orgasmically eject a baby from your glorious henna’ed yoni in an Appalachian stream with a ceremonial llama in attendance. I don’t really care if you cut your baby’s cord immediately post-birth, or salt it and carry it around in a red hand-stitched velvet sac for four days in the spirit of lotus birth. I don’t care if you and your baby are injected with Rhogam, DTap, Hep B, Vit K, Pitocin, Oxytocin and whatever else is on the menu, or if you never see the inside of a hospital during your entire pregnancy. I don’t care if you have 5 ultrasounds or choose to connect with your baby simply by listening and visualizing. Whether you beg for induction at 40 weeks or remain cool as a cucumber (but secretly want to kill yourself) at 43 weeks+2, and if you give up on breastfeeding on day one or nurse your child through elementary school, these personal choices don’t shape your intelligence, your worth or my opinion of you, because that is what they are –personal choices.

Now… does this mean I withhold all judgment from any and all practices? C’mon, we all know that that would be a big ol’ “HELL NO”. I do judge the pharmaceutical companies who invent solutions to problems that must then be invented afterwards. I do not believe formula to be equivalent to breastmilk, and I judge Nestle and Similac, and the doctors who encourage new mothers to supplement with formula, when they know damn well (or should) that this will completely undermine her breastfeeding efforts and ultimately set her and her babe up for failure. I judge our culture’s appropriation of the female breasts as sex objects for male enjoyment, and the false notion that breastfeeding ‘isn’t for everyone’ (and yes, I do acknowledge and have empathy for the women who are not able to breastfeed. Still, this condition is overrepresented in public discourse when what is actually happening most of the time is a lack of knowledgeable support). I judge our cultural acceptance of routine infant circumcision and firmly believe this is wrong, and a huge transgression on the rights of baby boys who cannot defend themselves, and that we need to unlearn the misunderstandings behind this grotesque practice so that it can be eradicated from our society. I judge a system in which women are led to fear-based, emergency-trained medical professionals for what should literally be the most natural thing in the world, and I judge the system that routinely makes us feel inadequate, unprepared, and in crises when nothing could be farther from the truth.

Still, I don’t judge you, or her. Truth be told, I can’t even find it in my heart to judge the professionals much of the time. We have all been brought up differently. We are all living our truths, and we need to make choices that put us most in alignment with who we aspire to be in our heart of hearts. Mommy wars is a lie, because I actually believe that women mostly love each other, and because having different ideas and experiences doesn’t put us in the trenches.

The Internet has made it possible for us to share information and speak out with abandon. This is a good thing, and feeling challenged is the optimal environment for self-reflection, learning and growth. If something has you feeling really triggered, really defensive, that is a perfect opportunity to examine your values and decide whether you want to hold steadfast to them or let in a new way of thinking. I truly believe that if we are confident in our choices the opinions of others, much less others we don’t know, can’t offend. It’s when we’re not sure that it hurts. So may I suggest we all forget about the so-called mommy wars and begin to take accountability for our feelings? In 2015, I would really like to not see the term “sanctimommy” perpetuated. Let’s banish it, and own our shit. It will make us stronger, I promise.

I’d love to hear what you think. And just for reading to the end, here’s a random picture of me & the kids at Peggy’s Cove. You’ll have to let your imagination fill in the scenery. I don’t have a selfie pole 🙂

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The dark side of mothering… the stuff that keeps you up at night.

What will my children remember of me when I am old, or… eventually, gone? Will they look back on their childhoods and remember being loved, cherished, cared for and delighted in? Or will they recall my tired face, my “maybe later”s, my “I Do Not Want to Have to Tell You AGAIN!!!”s

I had a bad morning today. A terrible morning. The kind of morning where I watched myself bulldoze over pretty much every gentle parenting philosophy or boundary I have thoughtfully put into place. The kind of morning that ended with everyone crying, and me knelt down, saying to my 3.5 year old: “You do not deserve to be treated like that. It is not your fault. Mommy is tired, and sick, and sad, and she failed you when you needed her. I’m so, so, so sorry. All I can say is that I’m sorry, and I am going to try to do so much better. It is not your fault.”

Apologies don’t change the fact that we messed up, and that our actions have consequences. When you’re a parent, the weight of these consequences can feel pretty damn huge. Terrifyingly huge. When you mess up as bad as I did today, there is nowhere to go but up. If you ever find yourself looking at your sweet little one through tears of shame and regret, there is nothing to do but slam the breaks on and try to make sure they know that it is not their fault. I know that this is not good enough, but unfortunately sometimes, it is as good as it gets. We are human, some of us have more baggage than others, and parenting is no effing joke. For everyone who has stumbled, and gotten dirty and scraped up on this journey, and who continues to pick themselves up and do the best they can for their children every day, I am here for you.

I want to get into the concept of judgement later on in a separate post. I think many of us project the nagging pull of our own self-doubt onto the world, and I think that if we can reframe that, we can maybe breathe a small collective sigh of relief. But for now, I just want to send out into the universe a special peace offering to my son (who is, incidentally, nowhere near old enough to read…)

I came across this journal entry tonight and was so thankful for the instant, visceral flashback to when my first baby was just 4 months old. Kids: when I’m old, or even when I’m gone, I promise I will remember everything. And I will love you unconditionally in my messy, honest way, forever and ever.

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September 23, 2011

Dear Jackson,

It’s 1:30pm and you’re napping. It’s a warm, humid, cloudy day and you’re feeling sleepy today. This is your third cat-nap since you got up at quarter to eight this morning. Last night you gave me a wonderful treat – you slept soundly from 8pm to 4am (8hours!) then nursed and went back to sleep until around 7:30am. My sweet baby boy…. Thank you. Mommy really needed that.

You turned 4 months old this week and I love watching you grow bigger, stronger, wiser. Your skills and personality are developing and multiplying before my eyes. You love music (Chuck Berry and Guns N Roses are your favourite this week… you are your father’s son. (Chuck I approve of, but GNR?? I just hope you show L. Cohen the same appreciation when you’re old enough to understand lyrics).

You love to stand up on your feet. Love it. I’m starting to wonder if you’ll ever bother to crawl, because you have no interest in lying down at all, whatsoever, unless to sleep. You just want to be on your sweet fat feet all the time, smiling and squealing with delight as you hold tight onto my fingertips or your daddy’s.

You drool and chew on your hands incessantly. No sign of teeth yet. I am not looking forward to seeing those little white chompers peeking through. I just know you’re gonna be a biter.

You have beautiful strawberry-blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes. You are long, tall and strong. My boy. I love you so much.

A hug and a kiss,
Your mom
Xo

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A piece of advice to new moms: don’t make breastfeeding goals

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If I could offer just one piece of advice to breastfeeding moms it would be this: don’t have goals. Don’t tell yourself you will nurse your child until 6 months, or 9 months, or a year, or two years. Don’t tell yourself you will nurse in public, maybe with a fancy cover/boob tent until you get brave enough to ‘NIP’ (as the mommy boards like to say) without it.

Instead, assume that your breastmilk will nourish your child with the same unconscious and total confidence with which you assume you will wake up in the morning. Assume you will breastfeed your child in public, because often you will be in public, and often your baby will need to nurse while you are in public, and it is really just a no-brainer. Assume that you and your sweet nursling will have your struggles along the way, and do not hesitate to seek out support for challenges such as nipple pain, poor latch, strong let down, dip in supply, nursing strike, plugged ducts, or mastitis (IBLCs, La Leche League, and peer support groups are all great resources to help get you through any hard times) .

Assume that you will continue on with this essential relationship until your child’s nutritional needs are fully supported by healthy, whole foods, your emotional bond is strong enough to support the transition, and you no longer feel they need you in that way. I’ll let you decide what that means for you; for me, it meant around 18 months with my son, after a couple of attempts to night-wean where it was clear to me that he wasn’t yet ready, and one final attempt where I could simply tell that he was. With my daughter, who knows? maybe we will be done at one year, maybe 18 months, maybe 3 years. I have no goals.

There is a lot of energy out there in support of breastfeeding, and breastfeeding in public, and of course I understand why. It is my belief, however, that this does in some way detract from the more important message, which is that breastfeeding is not only the most normal and natural thing in the world, but a completely necessary and inherently engrained aspect of child-rearing. Human babies survive on breast milk. This milk is produced by a mother’s mammary glands for this purpose (hence “mammals”). Why on earth would you not give this to your baby? What discussion is really necessary? I don’t feel the need to advocate for breastfeeding in any way, or celebrate my own breastfeeding relationships, because I really do think it is a very simple part of life that deserves little to no attention. I do realize that some women have been harassed, but this has never been my experience. I honestly don’t think I would even notice if someone did look at me funny while I nursed my child in public, because other people — and the utterly ridiculous possibility of somehow upsetting them — are not even on my radar during that moment.

My personal stance, then, is that we need to respect mothers, and babies, and the simple act of breastfeeding as the essential building block that it is by just completely getting on with it. There is absolutely no way of knowing what minute percentage of mothers are actually physically unable to breastfeed because this determination is so muddled in misunderstanding. Sadly, far too many women are unnecessarily confused and deterred by the terrible advice and scare tactics of misinformed physicians. Forget the growth charts. Formula doesn’t exist. Of course you will make it to 6 months! Of course you will nurse in public! And one day, when you are in the car with your family on a spontaneous  road trip, or lazily nursing your child in bed, or during a power outage, you may marvel at the simplicity and ease and miracle of it all. But you won’t congratulate yourself, because you never for one second expected anything different.

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(I love this photo of me and my son. I look so confused, bordering on a state of shock, and the milk spot on my shirt, general surrounding mayhem, and perfectly blissed-out & oblivious baby are so illustrative of the fourth trimester for new moms~!)

If I could offer TWO pieces of advice to breastfeeding moms, it would be the above, and also this gem: learn to stop leaks by applying gentle counter-pressure to the entire nipple/areola area during let down. Just cover the baby-free breast with your forearm or the palm of your hand and press down until let down sensation subsides. Voila! Discrete, fool proof, dry. No bra or stupid nursing pads necessary… or receiving blankets shoved down the front of your shirt if, you know, you’re as ‘together’ as me. It took me two children and a combined two years of breastfeeding to figure that one out. Don’t make fun of me.