Change and Magic

June 26, 2014

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Yesterday was my birthday. Today was the last day of school for NYC Public School children. This weekend all three of my children will begin their summer at camp in the Berkshires and Rob and I will be alone for four weeks.

My oldest child has one year of college under her belt. My second child will be researching high schools in the fall. My youngest will begin fourth grade.

This summer many friends are leaving New York. They are going to Portugal, Massachusetts, Portland (both East and West) Israel, and Phoenix. The list goes on.

Change is hard. I have trouble with change. I have a hard time packing. I am challenged to move things around like furniture and art on my walls. I am a creature of habit.

But I also have change envy. I am envious of all those friends starting out on new adventures. I feel a little left behind.

Working with breastfeeding moms and babies I get to relive those early challenges of motherhood, the dramatic changes in the body and the heart. As someone who advises about weaning I get to relive the emotions of that milestone.

I was talking to Finn on the way to school this morning and he told me he wishes he could perform magic. The first thing I imagined I would do if I was magic would be to bring back my mother. This year in October it will be ten years since she died.

If I was magic . . .

Oh, the possibilities.

For now, I will remain in New York. I will continue to mother my children through all of the changes they experience. I will nurture my relationship with Rob. And I shall seek change that is positive. I will embrace each day, each challenge, each wrinkle and gray hair.

You see, this is about getting older. Yesterday was my 49th birthday and I am thinking deeply about 50. It is such a milestone. When I was a kid I used to imagine a grownup being 35 years old. I am past that quite a bit. I have to consider what this means.

I walk down the street and I look at other women. I try to figure out how old they are. I try to analyze their state of mind. I try to figure out if they are happy and healthy.

I will take in this final year of my forties. I am happy and I am healthy. And I know deep down I do possess some magic!

I often play a game with myself to protect my children from potential angry outbursts from their mother – these outbursts are not unprovoked – no one can push your buttons like your offspring but it is my responsibility, my job, to model appropriate behavior. However, I am only human so I must enable strategies to guide my babies into functioning adults.

The game is that I pretend that I am the subject of a documentary or television show and I am supposed to demonstrate good parenting. Maybe this comes from being a Southerner who gives a damn what others think – though this aspect of my psyche is fading with my youth – but this idea had to spring from somewhere.

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My children are growing (and so is my body) so I am finding less of a need to “act” like a decent mother. Or perhaps I acted like it so much that as a Method actor I became the Decent Mother!

 

 

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I have had a new epiphany. You see, I noticed back at Thanksgiving that I was bursting out of my clothes as I gobbled up turkey and gravy and pecan pie and this wine and that cocktail and this cheese and that Pernil.

 

 

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Something had to give besides my seams. So, I joined Weight Watchers in early December.

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It is now June and I am within five pounds of my starting weight. I could celebrate a pound a month but at this rate I may be retired before I hit goal. In December my membership was truly a preemptive act to avoid more weight gain – let me hold steady through the holidays then come January I will slim down. Ha!

I know how to do this as I am a Lifetime Weight Watchers Member but the last time I lost any weight on the program I was nursing a baby into toddlerhood and let him suck the calories right out of me. I don’t know how large the wet nurse market is and I do not need another baby!

 

 

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So, today I decided that I would use my parenting strategies in my weight loss journey. I will pretend that Weight Watchers has a film crew following me around and I am the epitome of the model Weight Watchers Member. I will make smart choices. I will choose smaller portions, more nutrient dense, high fiber foods. I will eschew my beloved gluten free brownies. When I make my children buttery eggs in a hole I will eat a boiled egg and a half a grapefruit. I will leave morsels behind on my plate. I will choose mangos over cookies.Image

 

I will be the envy of those humans bursting at their seams as I begin to swim in my clothes.

Weight Watchers will make me their new spokes person and I will be voted Mother of the Year!

 

 

Boxes

April 7, 2014

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Computers are boxes that hold information. They are solid, finite. Computers rely on an algorithm of complete ideas. Computers categorize our lives, our files, our ideas.

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Humans are not boxes. We are fluid forms, soft, curvy. Our ideas are amorphous and infinite. I worry that the coming generations are going to be trapped in these boxes, these categories.

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I am a woman. I am in my forties. I am married. I am a mother. I am college educated.

These are categories in which I fit but this is not all of me.

I think of the challenges of checking off answers. The other day I called the United States Post Office. I needed to find out where a package was that my oldest daughter accidentally had shipped to our home address instead of her dorm. I needed to know if I could pick up her package even though it was not in my name.

There was a recording asking me various questions including the tracking number. This number was illegible as I imagine author of said numbers was in the habit of checking off boxes and not actually used to writing. The tracking number option was not an option. In fact, none of the boxes the recorded voice wanted me to choose was of any help to my situation so I said “Operator.”

She responded in confusion. So I said “customer service.”

She still wanted me to choose: send a package or repeat previous options.

I then said “Human.”

Her reply: I am sorry, I do not understand, do you want me . . .”

“FUCKING HUMAN!!” I screamed in to my phone. She didn’t flinch. I hung up.

Another recent situation with computer options was a package ordered form Target. My eight-year-old son has a new position: General of the Spy Club in his third grade class. For this position he needs to wear a jacket and tie. My husband ordered a crisp white shirt and sharp navy jacket. It was supposed to be delivered on Wednesday the 26th. On Thursday the 27th I tracked the package from an email with all of the ordering details. I tracked the package through UPS. They handed it off the USPS. On Friday March 28 I called and checked and tracked. According to USPS it was on time for delivery on Wednesday the 26th – remember I am calling on Friday the 28th. I placed several calls. The only human I talked with was from Target and every word uttered was from a script which I imagine had little check marks for each situation.

“I am sorry you feel this way. Your package is scheduled for delivery on Wednesday the 26th.”

“Do you know what today is? It is the 28th.”

There was not a way for anyone to help me because computers do not have arms, eyes or hearts. They cannot call and speak to UPS or the USPS and ask where my son’s General suit is.

My worst box checking experience was when I was sitting in the pre-op for a D & C at St. Vincent’s Hospital. I had been 17 weeks pregnant and a Doppler could not pick up my baby’s heartbeat so I went for a sonogram. The baby inside me had died. My body still felt pregnant and I did not physically miscarry. We decided on a D & C.

The Physicians Assistant asked me a series of questions before the procedure. Then this one:

“Are you pregnant?”

“Do you know why I am here?”

“I just need to know if you are pregnant.”

“I don’t know,” my eyes filled with tears for the thirtieth time that day. I didn’t think I could produce another drop.

“I need to check off a box.”

“How about: yes, I am pregnant, with a dead baby? Do you have a box for that?”

When people are trained to check off boxes they should get sensitivity training. There should always be an “other” box with a line for explanation. And that line should be endless.

I worry about so many new mothers these days. It must be so hard to be instinctive. They are encouraged to follow a set of rules that they can track. They have apps for everything: feeding, diapers, pee and poo.

When I had my babies and I was nursing them in the early days I was trying to keep my breasts balanced. When it was time to nurse I would gently squeeze my breasts to see which felt fuller so I could start with that breast. Ask many moms today and she may say, “hold on, let me look, I have it on an app.”

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Technology has a its place but not at the price of humanity. We are culturing the instincts out of ourselves. New mothers are following all these concepts:

Are you any of the following?

  • Attachment Parenting
  • Co-sleeping
  • Ferber
  • Sleep training
  • Home birth
  • Planned Caesarean
  • Home school
  • Public school
  • Private school
  • Breastfeed
  • Bottle feed
  • Homemade food
  • Prepackaged food
  • Baby led weaning
  • Blonde
  • Brunette
  • Bald
  • Young
  • Old
  • Friendly
  • Shy
  • Silly
  • Frustrated

It is my hope that we can learn to live in harmony with computers, that we not let them do our thinking.

Step outside of the box. Look into someone’s eyes. Think for yourself.

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The Myth of the Perfect Mom

December 30, 2013

We moms sure are sold a load of crap! All the images of mothers are glorified and sterilized and glamorized.Image

I am not talking about Giselle. We know she is glamorous and we also know she has a team that makes her look that way.

What about the rest of us, those of us in the trenches of motherhood? Why do we think we have to achieve some unattainable goal as high priestess of motherhood?

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Once in a while I may get what many would call a compliment – and frankly, I let my ego suck it all in for a while and I may hear, “Oh, Leigh Anne, you are an amazing mom!” or “You are a perfect mom!” If this comes from one of my children I will take it and toll around in it for days, even years because I know that it will be followed by some balancing statement like “I hate you, you are the worst mother ever!” And that will be followed by a hug or a request for mommy time. It is all in the job description.

Please, please, please do not throw that horrible label of PERFECT on me. I am imperfect and I embrace that.

But look at advertising for new parents and you see styled and glamorized images.

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What do we really look like after a new baby.

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This is me after my first baby was about two days old – see the look of bewilderment in my eyes? 

Most new moms are in a bit of shock. I hear repeatedly “No one ever told me . . . .”

We hide babies, we hide our breasts, we keep quiet about the dark side of parenting.

I wonder if the dark side would be so dark if people talked about it.

Did you know that breastfeeding in the beginning is very time consuming?

Did you know that newborn babies are not typically chubby?

Did you know that you can bleed from your vagina for days and weeks?

Did you know that sometimes you will pass a clump of blood?

Did you know that you may feel angry that you have a baby – not all of the time but some of the time?

Did you know that you would be riding an emotional rollercoaster?

Did you know that sometimes you will plan to take a shower in the morning and the next thing you know it is 7:30pm and you still have spit up and baby shit on you and you have only eaten stale leftover cake that wasn’t even home baked in a flavor you don’t even like?

Did you know that in all of that mess you will look into the eyes of your baby and feel a deep, confusing kind of love? A new protective kind of love?

Did you know that your baby doesn’t give a damn about your hair?

Did you know that your baby just wants to get to know you? He knows you from growing inside you but now that the courtship is settling in he wants to really get to know you. And he wants you to know him. Did you know that some moms fall in love immediately while others take time.

I think we all want to put on a good face when we go out with our babies. We feel a sense of accomplishment from just having gotten dressed and out of the house. Maybe we feel like we are failing so we have to put on a show and say all the right things. The problem is that other new moms believe what you say. Then other new moms compare themselves to you. Or maybe you are comparing yourself to the woman who says “childbirth was a breeze, my baby latched right on and has grown beautifully, she sleeps through the night and her poop doesn’t smell, also, my husband is a saint, he cooks every night and bought me this gold chain with my baby’s birthstone and a tiny haiku he wrote inscribed. He waits patiently for me to want to get intimate and my belly just seemed to pop right back into place.”

I play a game with myself. When I am feeling the stress of parenting and I really do not want to yell at my kids again or I do not want to scream at them in public, I pretend I am the subject of a documentary on parenting. I want to be prime example of keeping my cool. I stop and think: “what would be a productive action to take here.” I often fail at this game but sometimes I succeed. When I succeed I am setting an example for my children and possibly for other parents. But, I am not perfect, dammit!

One of the best gifts my mother gave me was the gift of imperfection. She let me see her flaws. I was not blinded by a sense of glamour and always being right. This was great because it made her accessible and it took the pressure off of me to not be a perfect mom. Don’t get me wrong – I do have my moments of genius. Mostly I am ordinary but to my children I am MOM.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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

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~ 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

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~ 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.

 

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Rob is a handy man – not professionally, just actually. He repairs all kinds of things that most people would call a professional handyman for. He has built book shelves from scratch, he built a loft in the kids room and turned a good size bedroom into two rooms and recently he put a new ceiling in our bathroom.

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There are two things that Rob does not like to do at all – they are laundry and painting. He will call a professional painter any day. He can paint prep, he can put blue tape in all the right places he can move furniture and remove light face plates but please do not give this man a paint brush or any laundry detergent.

We have needed to have our bathroom painted for quite some time. The walls are peeling and in an attempt to create a spa like atmosphere and more importantly to cover the peeling paint Rob put in this ceiling with the idea that we, er, someone would paint. The ceiling was done in June. We looked at paint chips in May.

Finally on a trip to Home Depot Rob picked up the paint and primer and all the tools. Today is Sunday and sunny, what Rob would call a beach day. He had me remove all the items from the bathroom so he could scrape and could I please put on the primer. Of course I could, why not paint and get it over with? I pondered.

Well, I really need to go to the beach. So, I, having been carved up pretty nicely in the past eight years with various skin cancers so not needing a day in the sun, offered to do the job myself.

Yes, me, please do not laugh. I am not some much of a DIY girl unless you are talking about watching those DIY shows on cable TV. I love watching those rooms transform. I used to wish the Queer Eye guys would do a special for a straight girl or that Stacy and Clinton would redo my wardrobe or that I could Trade Spaces with someone.

Well, conjuring up Mr. Miyagi, I decided to wax on and wax off. What I didn’t count on was how tight the corners are in a NYC bathroom or how watery paint can be and splash allover the place. It is a good thing we have throw cloth that Rob threw in my direction as he and Finn headed east with shovels, buckets and swim trunks!

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This process reminded me of parenting. There were times when I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw myself onto the throw cloth and throw a tantrum but there was no one there to help me or feel sorry for me. I just had to muddle through and do the best I could. That is how you help children sometimes. They have to work it out.Image

 

I got to listen to music really loud. I plugged my iPod into the stereo and just blasted music. I heard, Joan Baez, The Who, Martha Wainright, Simon Townshend, The Strokes, One Direction, Eels, Glen Hansard, The Vaccines, and on and on. I love just listening to music without someone changing the songs or complaining.

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Well, as I sit here covered in Lunar Tide and Irish Moss, I feel a sense of pride in having contributed to the beautification of our home. Now I hope my friend Julia tells me where all the women are meeting for drinks tonight!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Safe

March 18, 2013

The question of co-sleeping comes up often. It can be controversial. There are heated debates about it.

The other day I asked my three children what they remember about co-sleeping and how it made them feel.

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I did not ask them all together. I had three isolated conversations with them. Each was brief.

 I first asked Finn, my youngest.

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He is seven years old.  About 80percent of the time Rob and I wake up with Finn in our bed even though he goes to sleep in his own bed. I asked him why he likes to sleep with us and he told me that he feels warm and cozy and it helps you if you are scared. He told me he feels safe.

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Phoebe is 17 years old. She is a senior in high school. This sophisticated New Yorker travels all over Manhattan and Brooklyn on her own. She went to Ghana with her school for Spring Break. Phoebe flew down to North Carolina on her own to visit family. She is excited to go away to college in the fall. I asked her what she thinks of co-sleeping. She does not particularly remember co-sleeping as a baby and young child but she will climb in bed with me on the rare occasion that Rob is away. She says she feels safer.

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Later I asked Chloe, my 12-year-old what she feels about co-sleeping. Without missing a beat she told me it feels safe. There you have it from the mouth of real life co-sleepers they feel safe.

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The truth of the matter is that when each one of them was a baby I felt safer having them in my bed, close by so I could hear them breathe and I could feed them.

We all kept each other safe.

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To Pump or Not to Pump

March 25, 2012

When I was pregnant with Phoebe is 1995 I took a birthing class and a breastfeeding class. In week six of the birthing class the teacher brought in a guest – a woman who rents breast pumps. The businesswoman made it clear that if a person was to be breastfeeding she would need a good quality pump.

Phoebe and I struggled for a few days but got the hang of nursing and all was well. The pediatricians were impressed with her weight gain and were nearly shocked I was exclusively breastfeeding. Looming in the back of my mind was that little voice of the woman “you need a breast pump, you need a breast pump.”

After about four weeks I found a local pharmacy that rented pumps and plopped down my $212.32 for a two-month rental with all of the supplies. I brought it home and it sat on the kitchen table.  Rob came home that evening and saw the new appliance in the kitchen and said, I see you got the pump.

Day after day, Phoebe and I developed our routine. We both loved nursing and she grew so beautifully. Rob loved watching her nurse and saw how happy she was. When I thought she was nursing too much he is the one who pointed out how happy we both were at these moments.

About two weeks after I rent the contraption I realize I have spent this money and I had better use the thing. Phoebe lay asleep on the bed off the kitchen and as I watched her I set up the machine and began to pump. It was fascinating to watch my milk flow out of my breasts into the bottles. After about ten or fifteen minutes I had collected about three quarters of an ounce. I placed it in the refrigerator so Rob could feed it to her in the next day or so. After all, shouldn’t I let him get involved in this parenting adventure.  Why should I be the only one to bond with our little girl?

That night Rob came through the door beaming as usual to see us at the end of the day. He was followed by a thunderstorm that rattled our little house. The lights flashed off and on and off.  The electricity was out.   My mind went directly to the fridge where my precious liquid gold sat on a wire shelf. Rob, the electricity! My milk! You must feed it to her now before it goes bad! I ran to the kitchen ran the bottle under hot water and handed it to Rob with a hungry wiggly Phoebe in his arms. She started to root on his chest. He placed the bottle in her mouth she looked in his trusted eyes as if to say: What the hell are you doing?  I stared at them and my breasts began to tingle. They struggled, both looking betrayed.

Give me that bottle, I said. I unscrewed the nipple and poured the milk down the drain. Let me hold her. I latched her on and we all melted into the normal little family we knew. Is it okay if I don’t pump? I asked Rob. Of course, I never asked you to. I don’t need to feed her to feel connected. 

The next day Phoebe and I drove to the pharmacy and returned the pump and she never had a bottle.

It is important to know that Phoebe and I were rarely separated in the first year of her life. Well, in her case we were rarely separated for the first few years of her life.

Chloe, my second baby also never had a bottle.

Finn, my third baby was born slightly early and had a severe tongue-tie and lost a full pound by his third day of life.  On day six I rented a pump and for 24 hours I pumped my left breast and fed him the milk. In all, he had about three bottles. When he was about nine months old I left him for a few hours and left behind some milk. Rob said he through it across the room and he didn’t really need it.

That is my story about bottles and breast pumps.

Now I want to address the general population.

For many women a pump is an important tool to continue breastfeeding. Just as my story was unique to my situation, so it is for all moms. In 1995 there were not on-line mothers groups. The moms I met were face to face and the conversations about feedings were that – conversations, two- or three-way discussions. These days moms go to their on-line community and read posts. In many ways these forums are great but they can also be scary and mis-informative.

A recent trend I notice is that moms believe if they do not start pumping right away they will not get enough milk. Another trend is that it is important to have a freezer full of milk. All of this work puts so much pressure on new moms and takes away from the time spent face to face with her baby. It also throws off the balance of her milk supply.

Why do you need to pump?

There are different scenarios where a mom really should pump.

If a mom is directed by her doctor to supplement her baby then this mom should use a hospital grade pump to express her milk. This is so that she has a supplement for her baby and it also will help to establish her milk supply.

If a mom and baby are separated it is important for the mom to pump her milk to again establish her milk supply and/or prevent engorgement.

These days many women work outside of the home. In this case pumping her milk assures she has milk to feed her baby while they are apart.  If the mom is one to three days ahead of her supply she can keep her milk in the refrigerator. There really is no need to have a freezer full of milk.  The idea is to nurse your baby when you are with him and to pump when you are separated.

Some moms would like to have a stash of milk so that she can leave her baby in the care of someone else occasionally. In these situations it is truly fine to keep a bottle or two a week in the mix.

For some moms it truly is nearly impossible to pump while at work. Pumping at home after feedings is one way to save milk for this time. Other moms find they use either donor milk or formula as a supplement. If a mom is not 100% breastfeeding it does not mean she is not breastfeeding. There seems to be this idea that breastfeeding is an all or nothing proposition. It is not. When you are with your baby you nurse your baby.

Some moms like to include her partner or other family member with the feedings. Many moms find this helpful while others prefer help with other aspects of her mothering this new baby. A couple of things to keep in mind: be sure it does not complicate the feedings and not feeding a baby does not preclude bonding.

What kinds of pumps are there?

There are many pumps on the market. It seems everyone wants to get in the game. As a new parent it is important to watch out for marketing. New parents are one of the most heavily targeted markets.

Read reviews, real reviews, not just a couple of posts on forums. And watch for paid advertising. Not all pumps are created equal. Just because a pump costs more than others, it does not mean it works better or even as well.

If you need to pump in the early weeks it is important to rent a hospital grade pump.

If you have an established supply and you are working outside of the home on a regular basis you may need a rental pump or a good quality double electric pump.

Look at the size of the motor. Are you paying for technology? Or quality?

If you just need the occasional bottle often a smaller pump or a hand pump can work well. And do not forget your hand. Learning to hand express is a great gift. You do not need to rely on electricity or batteries. Hand expression is something all moms should know how to do.

Here is a quick tutorial:

You take the pads of your thumb and middle finger and place them just on the inner edge of your areola.

You put pressure as though you are going to touch your rib cage.

Then, imagine there is ink on your thumb – you roll your thumb towards your nipple as though you would make a thumbprint – not a smudge.

Repeat.

If you do not have milk flowing you can massage your breast toward the nipple.

You repeat until you have expressed  enough milk for your particular needs of the moment.

The best place to practice is in the shower. Sometimes you will find a “sweet spot” where you get a nice continuous flow.

When should one pump?

If breastfeeding is going well there is no need to pump right away. Allow time for you and your baby master this art. Let your baby and your body flow into a nice equilibrium. You can wait several weeks to introduce a pump and expressed milk.

If there are hiccups in your situation pumping may be indicated.

When to pump varies from person to person. There is no one size fits all prescription.  If you are not sure contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or a La Leche League Leader.

Infant feeding can be complicated or it can be smooth. It is important to find your way. Feel free to share it on your forums but please, please put a disclaimer that this is your unique experience.

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.