Boobies

Five months ago today I nursed C for the last time. I miss it. I miss it almost every day.

For the first while I was careful to not be topless around C. Listen, we are a cool-with-nudity family. It is important to Z and me to teach the boys that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their bodies. That nudity does not always equal sexuality. Not to say we aren’t realistic. We teach boundaries. There was a frightening situation in which the child of an acquaintance was seemingly being groomed for sexual abuse by a childcare provider. Since that time we have quizzed T every month or so, “Who may touch your penis?” we ask. “Me, you guys when you are washing me, Doctor M when she is examining me.” he answers. We remind him that is it. He needs to tell us if anyone else tries, if anyone is making him uncomfortable when they touch his body. It sickens me that we have to have the conversation with him, that people who would prey on children exist, but better face the ugliness in this world than ignore it and not equip him to identify dangerous situations.

More than a month after C was weaned I was stepping into the shower when I heard a great crash, a moment of silence, a wail of pain. I pelted to the sound, dripping water everywhere and found C in a heap on the floor of his room. I swept him into my arms, checking for bumps and blood. He immediately tried to latch on. “No, no, no!” I told him as I laughed and cried and struggled to finish the check to make sure he wasn’t hurt. Dude was scared and looking for comfort and my boobs were right there. Old habits die hard. He was fine, I got him calm and headed back to the shower. That is the last time I remember him trying to nurse.

In the ensuing months my no toplessness rule relaxed. He didn’t have a reaction to seeing my boobs anymore.

Mom left for home early this morning. It is the first day I’m up and about. Still feel like shit, but definitely feel way better than I did just a few days ago. I do not recommend the flu, it really sucks ass.

Z and I were in the basement futzing with a load of laundry. I’d changed pants when I got out of bed, but was still in gross sweaty flu clothes from the waist up so throwing that crap in the wash seemed like a good plan. I grabbed the empty laundry basket and braced my weak legs for the walk from the basement to the second floor. C met me on the staircase coming down from his brother’s room engulfed in a cloud of poop stink. He’s been sneaking off to hide behind the curtain in that room to take a crap these days. I opened with the obvious “Did you poop?” “I pooped!” he crowed. And then he started pointing at my boob. I turned to look at Z. When I turned back his little face was upturned and he was working his mouth, suckling the air. “Mama! Mama!” he cried, pointing at my boobs again. “Baby. There is no more milk in them. No more. All gone.” He was still pointing and on the verge of tears. “Mine!” he shouted in frustration.

I burst out laughing. Had been near tears myself, but seriously? Mine? “Um, no.” I told him. “They are mine” I walked past him and his poop stink (worry not, his Daddo changed him) and got into the shower.

Old habits really do die hard. For both of us. I miss it too, C.

Mom C T

Last Sunday the family went to the Zoo. C ran up to this display and pointed to the skulls shouting, “Mama! Charlie! Thomas!” I get his confusion, those skulls look just like us.

treehouse breastfeeding

Reposting this one. C nursing in our treehouse last summer. When T was tiny Z took photos while I was nursing. I made him delete them. It is such a huge regret. My ideas about nursing and the importance of normalization have evolved so much since then. I regret not documenting that time.

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Under the Influence. Of Anxiety.

T shouting, “Mom! C is eating play doh!” Me shouting right back, “I. Am. Pooping! I cannot do anything about it right now!”

That moment perfectly captures the feel of the last two days.

My hormones are not in a happy place. Could be the first month on a new birth control pill. Could be the weaning. Could be freaking-out-about-my-class anxiety. Or we-are-broke anxiety. Or our-annual-Christmas-trip-to-see-family-is-going-to-involve-just-as-many-miles-in-under-two-weeks anxiety. Or I-have-an-anxiety-disorder anxiety.

My boobs. They still have milk. After some googling this morning I’ve learned that extended nursers can take up to a year to stop producing small amounts of milk. UP TO A YEAR! I’m certainly not engorged. Not in real pain. They just feel a little full, a little achey. Like they have a job to do.

I want to move on. Like C has moved on. I can actually sit on the nursing rocker with him in my arms and sing him to sleep at nap time. He doesn’t even ask to nurse anymore. As I hold him I’m grateful. One of my biggest fears in weaning him was I wouldn’t be able to cuddle with him because he would want to nurse.

How do I move on when my damn boobs are betraying me? Constantly reminding me that I want to be nursing him.

So I’ve been a crank. No patience for Z or the boys. Anxiety and anger bubbling close to the surface.

Last night Z and I decided that T needed to clean up the legos on the floor of his room before he went to bed. I told him that they should be put away by the time I got his cup of ice water or he’d lose his story. He grumpily got on the floor and started tossing them into the bin. He was still there and still working when I got back upstairs. So I didn’t take away his story. I sat and helped him.

Bedtime proceeded as usual. We got into bed and read a book. He turned off his light, took a sip of water, got into bed. I started singing to him. Halfway through Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer he put his hand over my mouth and said, “No more songs. Just cuddles.”

Ok. Pretty damn rude, but I don’t love the singing portion of events myself. We cuddled.

T, “After tonight I never want you to do my bedtime again. Never. Ever. You are never allowed to do my bedtime. Forever.”

Um, what the fuck?

Here’s the thing. He really hurt my feelings. And it isn’t like I haven’t admitted worse about myself here, but I’m deeply ashamed of how I felt. When someone hurts my feelings my initial impulse is to hurt them worse. I wanted to lash out at T. Make him feel like shit. I wanted him to lie awake after I left for the night, eaten up with guilt for being so nasty.

Dear god, I am an asshole.

Thankfully I was able to stop myself from being cruel to my four year old son. I was able pause and really think about how I wanted to deal with my hurt.

In the pause he told me he was upset that he didn’t get to hide under the bed.

Oh.

You see, when I get his ice water he hides. In his mind his hiding place is a mystery to me. But he always goes under his bed. I pretend to prowl around the room looking for him. And eventually I crouch down and yell, “BOO!” He screams with delight.

He loves it. What I should have known is he depends on it. Because he is as much a creature of habit as I am. Cleaning up the legos fucked with the program and he was furious.

I offered to let him hide. After a couple of minutes I whipped my head under the bed and yelled, “BOO!” On cue, he screamed with delight.

We cuddled again after he crawled back into bed. “T. Listen. When you say things like you never want me to put you to bed you really hurt my feelings. You need to apologize to me. Because I seriously felt terrible when you said that. But no matter what I love you very much. And I will always love you. If you are upset about something you need to explain that to me rather than being mean. Remember what Daddy and I said on our walk today? Just don’t be mean. That is the number one lesson we want you to learn in life. Don’t be mean.”

Sometimes it has been a shitty couple of days. But when it matters you rally and are not a despicable asshole to your young son. Yet another swift kick to the balls, Anxiety. I win.

heartbreaker

My heartbreaker. Kid needs routine. I need to remember that.

nose picker

Digging for treasure.

middle finger

Ah. Yes. This. Well, it is only fair to talk about the real crap jogging days if I’m going to celebrate the awesome days. I’ve broken 10 minutes doing a mile once well over a month ago. Tried to do it again on Thursday and today. Thursday my time was 10:01. Today? 10:00. When you try as hard as you can, when you push yourself and it just isn’t good enough, man, it fucking blows.

The Kid Is Alright

While waiting for the water to heat up so I could hop in the shower this morning I reached for the comb and my arm brushed in front of my chest. Normal for clumsy and busty me. What wasn’t normal was my arm got wet. I looked down. Damned if I wasn’t leaking a little.

It’s been a week since I’ve weaned C.

He’s fine. This experience has been another reminder of what a resilient and self-sufficient little guy he is. When he was evaluated for early intervention the therapists explained that he was self-motivated. He does what he wants when he wants and really doesn’t care about fulfilling the desires and earning the approval of others.

He is so different from T. T cares deeply what those in positions of authority think of him. Yeah, he doesn’t just look like me, he actually is me.

C’s self-direction….Z and I have been frustrated with his behavior lately. He is acting out like a normal two year old. The kind of disciplining that worked with T when he was C’s age isn’t effective with C. Because duh. They are individuals. It is our responsibility to parent by responding to their needs rather than what is easiest for us.

This fall has been full of changes for C. He started school and speech therapy. He gave up his pacifier while sleeping. I weaned him. Last weekend we even switched his car seat from rear to front facing. On top of all that he has been sick pretty much since school started. Right now he is rocking a cough that wakes him multiple times in the night. Who knows what it will be next week? Through it all he has been just fine. He adjusts without angst…unlike some 36 year olds I know.

Parenting T is more intuitive to me because we are so alike. The empathy I feel for him is immediate and intimate. Don’t get me wrong, T frustrates the living shit out of me. I fuck up constantly and lack patience with him. But I also understand him in my bones. I love him completely.

Parenting C makes me feel helpless a lot of the time. It is harder to respond to his needs because I don’t have a frame of reference for them. I want to help him, to teach him, to support him, but I am often at a loss as to how to achieve those goals. He ends up teaching me much of the time. His baseline is pretty much happiness. He can fend for himself. When circumstances change he just deals with it and rapidly adapts to the new normal. I wish I was more like him. I cannot believe my body, which has been consumed by anxiety for so long, grew him. I love him completely.

That’s the thing with two kids. We parent them differently because we are responding to who they are as individuals. But we love them both completely. We screw up. Often. The hope is that the love will see us through our mistakes. The love will motivate us to do better. The love will make them feel safe.

I leaked on myself today. I miss nursing him so much it feels like there is a gaping hole in my chest. A week later and my breasts are still heavy and a bit tender. My body does not want to be done. But C only asks to nurse a few times a day. He is fine with Z putting him to bed at night. Fine with our new morning routine. I find myself looking to him as an example of how to deal with change. This strong and willful and adaptable creature I made with my body. He is going to teach me so much. I am grateful to have him as my son.

photo (28)

C on his first car ride facing forwards. His big reaction was basically a non-reaction. More of a, “Oh? We’re gonna do this now? Cool.” Sure is nice to be able to glance in the rear view mirror and see both of their faces. C has started to give me a shit eating grin with he catches my eye in the mirror. Man, do I adore that kid.

snow hill jog

After my craziness yesterday morning I got myself together and went for a jog. It was 29 degrees and lightly snowing. I really didn’t want to run in the cold. But I went. And I somehow made myself change routes and face some hills. All these selfies I post after jogging are certainly not flattering. And I don’t use any filters in keeping with the honesty thing. But they are real. I am struggling to do this thing. I’m proud of myself. I had a panic attack and I ran in the cold and snow anyway. Flattering isn’t the point. You can actually see the excitement and happiness and surprise on my face. Seriously, people! If I can do this you can do this!

Let Down

Last week was awesome. Last week was terrible. Last week was overwhelming. Last week was normal.

It was probably the busiest week we’ve had as a family of four. A glimpse into our future life when the boys are in elementary school and have activities all the time. The exam for my class happened on Tuesday, the whole weaning C thing, we had a make up speech therapy session for C, so a total of three for the week, Z had work stuff a couple of nights, Friday both Z and I were room/snack parents for C and T’s classes, we had a playdate after school, and a dinner with friends that night. I was piping decorations on cookies before 8am and used C’s naptime to make a key lime pie that day.

Life. Normal life. Stressful, but doable.

I mean, doable in that I did it. Doable in that I will have to do it a million more times during the boys’ childhoods.

And that should be the focus. I shouldn’t give the anxiety a voice. But she dogged me all week. She whispered in my ear that I was hurting my son by weaning him. She told me that the 86% I got in the exam was embarrassing and pathetic. That if I can’t get an A in this class that there is no way I will be admitted to grad school. She told me to just give up on school, get out of the way so the real academics can do their work. She told me while I was at it I should give up jogging as well. Because I suck ass. When I realized I bought the wrong kind of juice for the kids’ snack at school (supposed to be 100% juice, the stuff I got was half lemonade half juice) she asked how I could even show my face in the classroom. I had to blink back tears as I explained my mistake to T’s teacher, mortifying myself completely. I was miserable most of the morning I spent there, which is so unfair to T. I hated myself for making the mistake and then for making such a big deal about the mistake. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. Almost bowed out of T’s playdate. Almost didn’t go to the dinner with friends.

None of the shit I had my panties in a twist over was terribly important. It continues to be humiliating to find regular life so hard. But I have an anxiety disorder. Engaging in life will always be a fight. I can either wallow and let it defeat me or acknowledge it and attempt to live anyway.

I do a lot of the former, but I’m trying hard for the latter.

The important thing is I met my obligations. Until I didn’t.

We got a babysitter for Saturday night. Z was part of the band playing a show at a venue in town. He was thrilled to be playing live again. One number was going to be performed by the band on half a dozen canjos he’d made for the occasion. He was debuting a song he wrote for Thomas and playing on two of the beautiful ukuleles he crafted. The plan was for me to help the sitter get the boys to bed and head down for the second set. About an hour after he left my anxiety rose, clawed up from my belly till it had me by the throat. I could barely breathe when the panic was joined by a migraine.

Cancelled the sitter, called Z to let him know. He didn’t act surprised. I’ve let him down so many times over the years he must have been expecting it.

He is the person I am closest to in this world. Which makes him the safest person to disappoint. Yet he is also the most painful person to disappoint. He knows I don’t do it on purpose. The anxiety is real, the migraines are debilitating. But it doesn’t change the fact that I missed the show.

After a week of trying my damndest to engage in life I feel like that bitch anxiety finally won. She always wins. She puts me in my place. She reminds me that I’m unreliable and I hurt those closest to me. She croons in my ear that it is ok to wallow, to give up. She makes it feel impossible to dust myself off and try again. I hate her. I hate her. I hate her.

z preshow

As he was packing up for the show I snapped this. He made the uke he is holding. And the boat chair he is standing next to. He is one hell of an amazing person.

cookies

Cookies for Friday’s get together. Got to figure out how to give Ms. Pac Man eyelashes next time.

grandpa

Happy Veterans Day, Grandpa. He was one of the most dignified and open people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

Bedtime

T and I were still in the bathroom when I heard Z ask C to pick out three books at bedtime last night. That has always been my job. Bedtime with C has been a special routine for C and me ending with me nursing him every night. I was putting lotion on T as I listened to Z and C. I broke down crying. T stretched his arms out wide and collapse into me. “It’s ok! I’m sorry you’re sad!”

Of course I cried harder.

Z and I let ourselves be sad in front of the boys. We want them to think sadness is ok, that it is normal. We hope they are sad much less than they are happy, but we don’t want them to hide their sadness or be ashamed of it.

A couple of minutes later in T’s room I was getting ready to read his story. He hopped down from the bed and grabbed his blue baby and a small scrap of cloth laying on the nightstand. “I almost forgot to wash you!” he said to the baby. He gently swabbed baby’s face with the cloth. “There! Now you are clean. I love you!” And he kissed the baby’s mouth once, twice, three times and set him down.

My heart melted. I was sitting in a puddle of love and sentimentality. My big boy can be loving and gentle and kind.

He reached for the stuffed batman doll that was lounging next to blue baby. T grabbed batman’s arm and pointed it at me, “Pew pew pew pew!”

He was shooting at me.

I burst into laughter. Keeping up with the mood swings of a four year old is impossible. Yes, he is compassionate and tender and loving and happy…and frustrated and disappointed and aggressive and he tests limits. Often all at the same time. He cracks me up. I think I’m going to quite enjoy being a part of his bedtime routine. I’ve missed it.

Both boys went down for bed just fine last night. I was a much bigger wreck than C was. The real challenge will be putting him down for nap time today. This is going to be gut wrenching for a few days. And then it won’t be. Just like the pacifier situation. He don’t look for pacifiers any more, he don’t ask for them. He is a resilient kid who rolls with the punches.

Not to change the subject, but I’ve got a bit of a problem. I currently own one non-nursing bra. One. Last spring Z and I went through our clothes and did a salvation army run. I tried on my bras and only one fit, so I got rid of the others, not that there were many of them to begin with. I don’t have any tanks with the built-in bra other than nursing tanks. Wearing the nursing stuff is just going to make me sad. Also the tanks are falling apart. We are really broke right now, but I need to address this situation. That said I am rocking the real bra today. The proper support feels pretty darn nice I must say. So I guess there is an upside to this weaning business…

c good morning

C was dressed and eating a cereal bar by 6:01am this morning. Between 6 and when he went to school at 9 we kept him busy enough so he only asked to nurse twice. We even gave him his first haircut.

T rough morning

At 6:05am this guy was much less excited about facing the day.

first and second batch

First and second batch of kombucha! My gifted scoby is growing a lovely new scoby. Yesterday I drank a serving. Holy shit. It is amazing, if I do say so myself! Fizzy and vinegary goodness!

Tender

C is napping. And I am sitting here with tears running down my face. I think I just nursed him for the last time.

My relationship with nursing has been deeply personal. Because I fell in love with nursing, because it was an “easy in” to the overwhelming business of becoming a mother for me does not mean that I think breastfeeding equals motherhood. Or that nursing mothers are better mothers. Or that breastfeeding is the only right choice.

Breastfeeding was the right choice for our family.

It was also a privilege. I am a stay at home Mother with a shit-ton of support. I got to see lactation consultants. When I needed to have a troublesome mole removed that was located next to my nipple my Mom bought me a hospital grade pump. I am beyond lucky, it is important to recognize that.

C just turned 26 months old a couple of days ago. I reached my goal of nursing him until he was two. It is time to let go.

But somehow nursing has become a crutch for me. In so many ways I feel like I’ve let C down as his Mother. I feel like if I was a better Mom I would have noticed during the exact moment he should have been learning to speak and done something about it back then. Parenting a two year old who cannot effectively communicate has been so frustrating for all of us. Nursing him feels like the only thing I’m doing right some days. Taking away that safety net, those few moments when I can hold him and do something tangible for him, terrifies me. I do not know how to be his mother without the boob. In the two short years C has been on this planet I have made an infinite number of mistakes with him. How can I give up the one thing I know I’m doing right?

Today marks one of the many days when I let go a little. Let my son grow up a tiny bit. Take a step into uncharted territory.

I know that he is going to be fine.

I still worry I’m not enough for him. I still worry I have no idea what I’m doing. The pain of parenting still takes my breath away. But jesus fucking christ, it is worth it.

photo (27)

My sweet son reached up and held onto my face as we cuddled and watched the tube a few weeks ago.

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He woke from his nap a few minutes ago angry as hell, which is unusual. I held him close. “Mama!” he cried and he poked my chest. Which is how he asks to nurse. I’ve kept him to breastfeeding three time a day for the last month or so, no more nursing on demand. And he hasn’t asked to nurse after his nap in ages. Of course he would today. I started to sob. He sobbed alongside me. I told him no, that we weren’t going to nurse. I told him I loved him. I held him closer. “Help!” he wept as he continued to poke my chest, “Help! Help! Help!”

Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, I can’t make this shit up.

It was unbelievably wrenching. I sat on the stairs with him and we both shook with great wails and held each other. Eventually my wails turned to laughter. Because it was all so ridiculous. And then I asked him if he wanted ham or cheese or raisins or water. He finally took the bait with the water and now he is happily eating raisins while humming the Star Wars theme.

Yes, he has a few words now. Dada, Mama, help, ball, cat, more, arm. The speech therapy is working. In fact, we have a makeup session in a bit.

IMG_1003

C on the day he was born. I can see a glimpse of who he will become in this picture.