For many women being pregnant with her second child is a wonderful occasion while for others it is a time of inner conflict. Yes, she wants this new baby but how could she possibly love anyone as much as she loves the little person here. Will the first child be abandoned? How will she stretch herself anymore than she already is? How can she create equality within her family?

It is important to realize that the learning curve with the first child is incredibly steep. When you are already in the role of parent bringing a new baby home is not as frightening.

Image

Remember this baby is born into a family unit. We do not mother each child separately. Yes, we have different relationships with each child but we can never divide ourselves equally. There are times when one child requires more time and focus. Yes, they will fight for attention. The mothers I have spoken with who feel that they do not abandon one child for the sake of another seemed to have similar attitudes: “We are a family, a unit.” One mom who refers to her family as “The 12th Street Gang.” I love this.

You know the Sister Sledge song “We are Family?” “I got all my sisters and me”

My mother loved The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. I picked it up recently and it made me realize how much his words spoke to her.

Image

On children he wrote:

Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life’s

longing for itself.

They come through you but not from

You,

And though they are with you yet they

Belong not to you.

 

Children are individuals but they do not exist alone. We are here to guide and love them. They will model what they see. Let them play well with others and work through natural conflicts?

My freshman year of college I had an acting teacher who asked me which of my siblings I loved best. Without missing a beat my reply was, “I love them equally but differently.” That was my Mama’s work! She created that.

Image

(My siblings and me)

It is helpful to have strategies to be able to mother more than one child at a time.

Here are some ideas that can help:

~ wear the baby – get a sling, wrap or other carrier to keep the baby close and keep your hands free

Image

~ include the older child in caring for his sibling, do not force it, rather give him the opportunity to help, keep diapers and baby’s clothes within reach of him so he can get these things

Image

~ do not overindulge either of the children

~ ask open ended questions and really listen to him

~ acknowledge his feelings

~ let go of things – dust, material objects

~ ask for help with the house and food – when people ask what you need tell them you need food and a clean house

You can never create true equality! Ask anyone with siblings – they will tell you stories. Go easy on yourself.

By keeping your family together the older child sees how he was cared for. By separating the two you teach them that you cannot love them together – that each child is just one unit, creating more competition. By including the new baby you are modeling love, acceptance and patience.

There are many things that can make or break the transition into breastfeeding. Breastfeeding in the beginning is time consuming and that is good. It is good because it creates the opportunity for mom to rest and heal from birth. It is also a time to study your baby.  It is time to get to know each other.

With this in mind there are a few things you can plan.

Create nursing stations in your home.

While still pregnant, notice where you like to spend time in your home. Many new parents build a beautiful nursery but you do not have to stay there for every feeding.

Image

Your baby does not care what the room looks like. Your baby expects to be close to mom and to have her milk available.

Image

Your nursing station can include:

~water for you to drink

~snacks for you

~a cloth diaper for spit ups

~diapers and wipes

~phone

~book

~TV remote control

Image

Nursing stations can be in:

~living room

~bedroom

~nursery

~den

Accept help!

For some of us it is hard to give direction. People want to help. They appreciate the guidance. They cannot read your mind as you sit there thinking “I sure am thirsty, I wish someone would bring me a glass of water” or “I cannot stand to look at that dust bunny another minute, I wish someone would clean it up.” Tell the people what you need and what you want.

When people ask what you need for your new baby tell them you need his food source fed – that is you! Have them make a meal.

Image

Limit your visitors to those who will help you. This is a special time and you want to be able to be yourself and be comfortable. You have a new member of the family and this little pod needs to bond and sort out their new roles as moms, dads, siblings.

 

 Take a breastfeeding class. A good class will give you the basics on what it looks like to nurse, on how to know that your baby is or is not getting enough and when and where to look for help.

Avoid early supplementing, unless medically indicated. If you need to supplement the best food for your baby is your milk. In the first couple of days you have a thick, nutritiously dense milk called colostrum.

Image

This is the perfect food for your baby. You can literally express some onto a spoon in these first days and spoon feed your baby. If it is medically indicated to supplement then you need to use a rental grade pump. Many moms buy pumps but they are not all created equal.

 

Find your community.

These days there are so many resources for new parents. Be sure and find one where you can meet other parents face-to-face.

~You can attend a La Leche League Meeting

~Find your local community center with parenting groups

~Find your local on-line community

Know where to find help.

A few good resources:

http://www.llli.org/

http://kellymom.com/

http://www.breastfeedingmadesimple.com/

http://www.isisonline.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

How Finn Saved Me

July 25, 2013

I had a dream last night where it I was holding onto a colorful umbrella and it was incredibly windy. I was about to be lifted into the sky and taken a way. Just as my feet were leaving the ground my eight-year-old son, Finn, grabbed my hand and said, “kiss me.” I saw his little pursed lips and that kiss saved me. His kiss kept me from being lost forever.

Image

This is not the first time Finn has saved me.

I believe he saved me nearly nine years ago. Finn was conceived the week my mother died. Mama and I were very close. Her death was a tragedy. She died of lung cancer less than five months after her diagnosis. The last time I saw her I should have known it would be the last but Mama was never good at good-byes. It was October and she said she would see me for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I should have known when she had me return a sweater to J. Jill that was just her style. I should have known when she gave me a floppy disc with her writing on it – she never shared her writing until she was ready. I should have known when her face looked gray and ashen as she slept on Daddy’s recliner. But we both pretended we would see each other again soon.

When Daddy called to tell me Mama had died I screamed and fell to the floor. I felt a huge hole in my chest. It was a physical pain as much as it was an emotional pain. That pain lingered for months and sometimes echoes through my body at trigger moments.

Image

A few weeks after her death I discovered I was pregnant. It was bittersweet. How could I have another baby without my Mama and after two miscarriages? How could I take another loss so soon?

Image

Not everyone loves being pregnant but I sure do. I am not one to get morning sickness. I love growing a little human inside of me. I always dream about my babies. Growing Finn gave me a focus away from my grief. Sometimes my joy and grief intertwined and I did not know I how I felt.

When Finn was born I noticed his blue eyes right away. Mama had blue eyes. Neither Rob, nor our daughters nor I have blue eyes. I wondered if they would stay blue. They have.

Image

Along the way Finn has guided me in many ways. He was terrible at nursing in the beginning so I learned the reasons why so many women want to stop nursing. I learned how to latch better. I learned about pumping and hand expressing. I learned to be a better Lactation Consultant.

He has informed my mothering. One morning when he was about two and I tried against all odds to get the children out the door to school on time I lost my temper and yelled at he kids. Finn stopped and with big alligator tears he told me, “You have to be patient.”

Image

I don’t know what happens when we die but Finn used to talk about where he was before he came into my belly. I like to pretend that Finn is Mama all over again. Finn loves me unconditionally the way Mama did. He tells me the truth and keeps me in line the way Mama did. Finn does not replace Mama but he fills a gap and has eased that pain in my chest.

Life and death are full of mysteries. These days many mysteries can be proven or disproven by science. There are some aspects of life I like to keep mysterious: love, dreams, the afterlife.

I will keep trying to listen, be patient and not fly away to soon.

Image

This morning I woke early after a fitful sleep. I readied myself to drive Phoebe, my firstborn baby to orientation at SUNY-New Paltz, where she will be a freshman in a few weeks. I was a bit angry with her for some immature behavior the night before and gave her a speech about it. Then we talked about what was going on at the camp where she is a counselor for the summer, we talked about her various friends and we listened to music.

Image

This is an exciting time of life, a big transition. People ask me how do I deal with this? It is like dealing with Phoebe’s first birthday, her first day of school, her first dance. You grow into these things. They are bittersweet. Each of those events left me feeling a mix of pride and a bit of melancholy.

Today was not the day for me to be emotional. I am planning that for next month when we drive her to school to begin freshman year. When Mama and Daddy dropped me off at UNC-Greensboro in August of 1983 I sat in my half empty dorm room and cried for two hours. Mama cried all the way home from Greensboro to Fayetteville.

Image

When Phoebe and I pulled into the parking lot she spied her friend Dylan with her mom and one of her sisters. I smiled. I was happy Phoebe had a buddy there. We parked and went to greet the family and I could barely speak. I muttered, “ I feel emotional.”

We got Phoebe settled with her orientation leader, we walked around the campus for a few minutes in the oppressive heat and we talked. I started to tear up again. Phoebe can tell. I can’t get words out. She tickled me. I think it was her way of not getting herself worked up.

It was time for me to leave as she had some orienting to get to. I got into the car and I called Rob. “All is well,” I told him, “I am going to fill the car with gas and be home in a couple of hours.”

“Can you stop at the grocery store while you have the car and get a couple of things?” he asked me. “Sure.”

Image

I knew there was a good grocery store on the way to the Thruway. I walked into the Stop & Shop. I only needed to get some juice boxes for Finn’s camp and some salad for tonight’s dinner but I was in a very large grocery store. I pulled out a large shopping cart. I walked the aisles. I felt lost and alone and I thought about my mother. Then I thought about my grumbling belly and my small bladder. I also thought about the fact that whatever I bought I would have to carry from the garage into the house. I found a bathroom and some fresh fruit and some Glutino chocolate covered pretzels and the juice boxes and vegetables.

Image

I drove a bit down the road and filled ‘er up with gas and merged onto the Thruway after cruising under the EZPass sign.

Image

I had my iPhone connected to the sound system and I turned on the music. My music collection is a mix of pop and rock from the 70’s until now.  If anyone knows me well they know I love to sing but I should only sing alone or with people who really love me or who are under the influence of mind-altering substances.

One of my favorite memories of college is driving in my little cream colored VW beatle, that I named Henry, between Greensboro and Fayetteville singing at the tops of my lungs. I had a cassette player and I would sing Lou Reed and Tears for Fears and Stevie Nicks for my ears only. I was so happy. And sometimes I would let an entire album loop through the two-hour drive. I remember trying to rewind to just the right spot to re-sing a song.

Things are different now. With the flick of a finger you can listen to exactly what you want, but being the old-fashioned girl that I am, I like to just listen to my songs on shuffle.

So, I am driving south on the New York Thruway earlier today and the ABBA song Chiquitita comes on and I don’t know why but I start to sing but instead I am balling my eyes out. Every time I try to sing I just cry harder and harder and then she sings: “What’s wrong? How I hate to see you like this. I can see that you are so sad and quiet.” I just sob and sob and make sure my eyes stay as clear as possible so that I can see the road.

Image

And I think of Mama driving back and forth to see me at school. I think about being young and I think about growing older and how fleeting life is and I cry some more.

I don’t feel old. I think it is like the first day of school and I was fretting about how my Phoebe would fare. I think about how hard it was for Mama to let me go. And, I think about how much she wishes she was here. She was so mad that she was dying and was going to miss out on the party here. I think I cried because I couldn’t call her and talk about our shared experiences of letting go of our grown daughters, of mothering.

I will let you know how I do when I really have to let her go next month.

Monday morning was dark and rainy, a hard situation to get yourself out of bed. I had to tickle and cajole Finn.

Finally he slumped into the red chair and ate his English muffin. The large half with mixed berry jam the smaller half with honey. When he finished I told him to go brush his teeth.

I walked back to the bathroom and he was not there. I spied by him in his bed with his cozy blue blanket.

“I have a stomachache,” he said.

 “Come on, you gotta go to school,” I tell him.

I convinced him to get dressed.

“Sometimes the fresh air fixes a stomachache,” I say. “Let’s get dressed and go.”

 Finn reluctantly got ready.  As we stepped outside, we were speckled by raindrops. I popped open my bright pink umbrella.

“My stomach still hurts.”

I keep walking.

“What was your favorite part of the movie yesterday?” I ask.

 “I like the that the creature can smell your fear and when the boy realized he could be fearless the creature could not find him anymore. I also like the part where he was dreaming about his sister.”

 

Image

And all the way down Avenue B Finn and I discussed After Earth.

Image

He happily walked into school to see his friends after the weekend and did not mention his stomach again.

 Image

Formula and Clinique

July 18, 2012

Why are people up in arms about Mayor Bloomberg banning formula “gift” bags in NYC hospitals?

People think he is taking away a woman’s right to choose how to feed her baby. No, this is not the case.

Let’s talk about marketing.  Basically the hospitals are marketing formula and they are not getting paid for this.  In fact, it takes money to manage the storage and distribution of this product. Yes, the product. Formula is a product. The formula industry is a for-profit enterprise.

Image

Let’s take Clinique. I love Clinique Bonus time.

Image

I even subscribe to an e-mail alert system that tells me when and where Clinique is having their next Bonus. I remember in high school going to the Cross creek Mall with Mama and Traci and we would go to Thalhimers or Belk to the make-up counter and inquire about the next Clinique Bonus. Eventually the finely made-up ladies behind the counter saw we were loyal consumers and would clue us in – the Spring Bonus starts next week. Or the Fall Bonus is begins October 3.  I became a customer. Not so much of Thalhimer’s or Belk but of Clinique. You had to spend a minimum amount of money to get the “gift.” This is how is started using Clinique lipstick and mascara. For many years I wore Crystal Violet. I was truly saddened when they discontinued that color – it was what I wore on my wedding day.

Image

I never thought I would like myself in a frosted lipstick until I got a sample of Heather Moon – my replacement for Crystal Violet. I use Bamboo Pink on those days I don’t wear make-up – like when I go to the beach or gym (yes, I wear lipstick to the gym but that is all – I have very pale lips and well, I am a southern woman.)

I even became a Freelance Fragrance/Make-up Model in the late 80’s when I moved to New York and was a struggling actor. I loved getting the Clinique gig! Twice a year at Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales and Saks.  I learned a thing or two about make-up and I learned a thing or two about the cut-throat Store Modeling industry. But I always got the Bonus!

I don’t use every thing that comes with the Bonus. I used to trade items with Mama and Traci. Then I gave the unused products to varying roommates and friends. Now, I share with my daughters.

I would be sad if Clinique stopped their Bonus. But I don’t think they will. They got me hooked over twenty years ago and there are millions more to hook to keep them in business.

They spend lots of money promoting their product. The lines at the Clinique counters during Bonus time can be more competitive than getting the Select bus at 14th and First at 9:00am (lots of shoving and elbows.) The last Clinique Bonus I got just recently at Lord & Taylor took up a good percentage of the first floor. They will rotate it for the next Lancome or Estee Lauder Bonus.

This is what the hospitals do so freely.  They donate their space for the formula companies to store their product. The companies that make the formula make the hospitals sign a contract to only give their brand. This then makes the parents of new babies believe that the hospital endorses this specific brand. And guess what? By giving away this product the hospital is endorsing the Brand.

Formula companies want your business. The formula industry rakes in billions of dollars annually. And your hospital is helping to promote and pay for the promotion of their product.

And, it has been proven over and over that when formula is promoted breastfeeding is compromised.

If you want to feed your baby formula no one is stopping you.

What Do Boys Get?

May 15, 2011

When I was about ten years old my breasts started to develop. They were tender lumps on my chest. When I told Mama that  I had sore lumps on my chest she marched me right up to Jo Voller’s house.

Jo was the oldest mom on the street. She had five children, four of them girls. She was a breast cancer survivor and she was menopausal. I stood in her kitchen, a kitchen I visited frequently while playing with the two youngest girls, Terri & Debbie; but this time I was alone with Jo and Mama. Jo asked me to lift my shirt and she gently, yet firmly, touched my growing buds and in a quick moment assured Mama that I was developing normally.

As my breasts grew Mama avoided buying me a bra and I avoided asking for one. Terri, who was two years older, had a training bra. I suppose she was training herself to wear one because there was nothing there to support.

I always knew my parents were growing up along side us kids – they were kids themselves when my brother was born.  Mom was straightforward and honest with us, forging new territory in honest discussions of human development. She checked out a book from the library with collaged illustrations for our talk about where babies come from.

When I got my period she gave me a pearl ring – my birthstone is a pearl. When my period came I was so excited and proud. For the  year before, every time  I got a stomachache I wondered if my period was coming. There was no stomachache or cramps, it just showed up in 7th grade following my first teen party and my first slow dance.

As a single woman in New York I worked at a small location scouting agency.  Cece and I forged a close friendship over the years at work sitting next to and across from each other in the small office.  We dissected our lives, compared and contrasted our development, our relationships. Cece and I are both middle children – she has two brothers. I have an older brother and a younger sister.

When Cece’s mom told her about where babies come from she briefly described the unfortunate circumstances that would make appearances monthly and devastate most of her life.  She took it in and asked her mother “What do the boys get? If I have to have this, what do the boys get?” She was distraught.

Several years later, pregnant with my third baby, I am having dinner with my two girls, Phoebe, nearly ten years old and Chloe, 4. Rob is out for a business dinner. It is a girl’s night. Phoebe tells me her breasts are feeling tender and lumpy. I go to the bookshelf and whip out my latest copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. There is a lovely illustration of the different stages of breast development. We discuss the development of girls and women’s bodies. They have watched my belly grow, they have both been nurtured at my breasts.

It is a school night, dinner is over and it is shower time. We go together to the bathroom. I turn on the shower, the girls get undressed and Phoebe looks at her nude body in the mirror and says “It is so cool! We get to feed babies with our breasts. We get to grow babies on our bodies. What do boys get? They don’t get to do that!”

The girls get into the shower and I “Yes!” myself for doing a good job. Then I weep that Mama is no longer around for me to call and tell her what I learned from her.