My Love-Hate Relationship With Extended Breastfeeding

Anyone who has breastfed knows that it is not always quite as easy or tranquil as it is oftentimes portrayed. I had breastfed my older daughter but like everything else 10 years later it felt like starting over. Similar to how we forget about our labor pains when we have our newborns in our arms, my memories of breastfeeding were blurred by time and nostalgia.

I was surprised with how difficult it was to begin the journey with my new daughter.  I mean, ouch! I lived off Lanolin cream and didn’t wear a top for at least 2 weeks! Though feeding an infant on demand was still a lot of work those tender moments passed and things became more comfortable for both of us. We got into a groove and have been doing well ever since.

The thing they forget to mention about exclusively nursing your baby is that it never really seems to slow down until they are eating solid food. As the baby grows and sleeps less they still require more and more milk to fill their expanding tummies. Even when they are gobbling up peas and sweet potatoes the demand can still be grueling.

Then there comes the unsolicited opinions. Around the time my baby girl approached the milestone of her first birthday the pressure from others to wean her was on. I would get comments from people around me like “You’re still nursing her?” , “Wow isn’t she getting a little old for that?”, “All my babies were weaned by 6 weeks!”, “Does she really need that still?”

To answer some of those questions; Yes, breast milk is still beneficial to baby even after they turn a year old. It still has the same magical abilities of supporting their immune systems, and changing  with their nutritional needs. Not to mention the psychological benefits of comfort, trust and love that all children need. My baby is only 20 months and I don’t feel that it is unreasonable to want that type of comfort!

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No, she is not “too old” to breastfeed. She is no less independent for our decision to continue breastfeeding. We never need to nurse in public anymore as she usually only does it before nap and bed time now. She eats table foods with a fork and spoon, she is transitioning to a toddler bed in her own bedroom, she uses sippy cups with whole milk or diluted juice in it, she recognizes and names her letters and is starting to count and she plays independently and with other kids well. In our culture we tend to wean early but the rest of the world in general weans at much older ages.

I wasn’t too strict on weaning until I desired to become pregnant again. After a year I hadn’t yet resumed my cycle and was still nursing quite a bit. I wanted to at least reduce since I didn’t know whether my fertility had returned. Not having your monthly can be a huge benefit. One less inconvenience postpartum. I don’t use contraception and only natural family planning but, be warned- Just because you aren’t menstruating does not mean you aren’t ovulating. I did get pregnant before my cycle returned. What I thought was my period was actually implantation.

While attempting to wean we had some set backs. Each time a new tooth sprouted, when we moved, or if she wasn’t feeling well, she would regress and return to nursing more. At the time I would be frustrated. It felt like losing progress but, she would always go back to nursing less often once things got back to normal.

As you can see, most of my experience with extended breastfeeding has been pretty positive. Where the hate part of it really comes in for me is for myself! Nursing a small, still infant is much different than a heavy, mobile, squirming, pinching, squeezing toddler! And since I’ve gotten pregnant things have become tender and at times caused nursing to become uncomfortable again. As I said in my previous post Pregzilla  pregnancy and breastfeeding can be quite taxing at times.

The truth is the decision to breastfeed your baby or not and when to wean them are personal decisions and though there are many opinions there is no one right answer! You just need to do whats best for you and your baby! It would be great if she were fully weaned before June when the new baby arrives but, if not that’s okay too. I can totally picture myself being a bad-ass tandem nursing mama! I feel lucky to be able to take this journey with her as it comes and I know that one day she will stop completely and the difficulties will be blurred by time and nostalgia again.

What have your breastfeeding experiences been like? Share about your journey in the comments!

❤ Cait

Pregzilla

I have a confession, my “Prayers Over the Kitchen Sink” aren’t always deep and full of gratitude. Sometimes they sound something like, “Just let me get through this day!” and “God help me!” and, “Seriously?..Give me strength!” Sometimes I’m a stomping, growling, ferocious Pregzilla!

I have been feeling okay so far in this pregnancy but last week (week 21) I completely hit a wall. After the initial morning sickness passed I got the color back in my cheeks, felt productive, and enjoyed a period of energy as close to pregnant bliss as someone like me (who doesn’t totally love gestation) can get. As soon as it came it was gone and replaced with fatigue and nausea as heartburn began to rear it’s ugly head.

I felt so drained and crabby that it made the things I normally do each day exceedingly difficult. When my older daughter copped an attitude because she decided she didn’t like ravioli that day instead of offering her a lecture and an alternative dinner I barked, “Then don’t eat it, I don’t care!” When my husband texted asking me to go to the bank while he was working I grumbled and chucked my phone as if the branch was located on the other side of the country instead of the other side of town. I had no patience whatsoever! I found it very taxing to care for my toddler who is at an age where she is clingy yet, mischievous and uncooperative. My little angel felt more like a little thorn!

Naturally, she requires the most attention and in this phase she resists much of the normal day to day care I have no choice but to give her! I end up wrestling her to sleep, forcing her mouth open to brush her teeth, restraining her to cut her nails, struggling to put her hair in a bow (which she just pulls out anyway!), to clean her ears, to change her diaper..she just doesn’t want to stop even for a minute!

It took all I have in me not to completely lose it at things that a toddler mom normally wouldn’t think twice about. She’s crawling all over me, throwing her snacks, climbing on my belly, pulling down my shirt, poking me in the face and pinching my breast while she nurses. (Yes still at 20 months! Read about my Love-Hate Relationship with Extended Breastfeeding here) Not to mention her climbing the furniture and getting into absolutely everything!

 

It grated my nerves and left me with a very hard and sharp edge. One that I would normally soften with several glasses of wine or a super hard workout if I wasn’t expecting but, alas I am! I have been consecutively growing a baby or breastfeeding for about 2 and a half years already with no end in sight as I’m not due till early June and plan to nurse our new bundle as well.

I know that pregnancy is a temporary condition, but knowing that doesn’t always make the tough times easier when I’m living them. Sometimes I want a cocktail, I want some sushi, I want to put on my old jeans, I want to go out with my friends without having to run to the bathroom ’cause I’m getting kicked in the bladder. Of course I love my kiddos but this motherhood thing can be tough!

Just because we appreciate it for the gift it is doesn’t mean it isn’t hard and that we don’t have the right to express our frustrations honestly. I don’t have anything else to tie all of these gripes up in a nice eloquent bow but to say, it’s okay! Whether we have 1 child or 10 these feelings are normal! We all struggle in our own way. We aren’t maternal robots or Stepford wives with no limit or needs of our own.

The only advice I can give is to retract your claws and ask for help! Make dad or the older one sit with the little one for a while so you can take a bath or read your book. Call your BFF to come over or to vent. Say no to the things that aren’t urgent. Let the dishes sit in the sink so you can really sleep when the baby sleeps for once. Leave the kids at home and go out even if it’s just to run errands so you can be alone and clear your head.

Don’t expect so much of yourself that you stretch too thin because eventually you are going to snap! Try not to focus so much on taking care of everyone and everything else that you forget to take care of yourself. Believe me, your family would much rather help than to have to endure the wrath of a nauseated Pregzilla!

Have you had any “Pregzilla” moments? What did you do to pull yourself out of it?

❤ Cait

Choose Your Own Adventure

If you’re an 80’s baby like me you might remember those “choose your own adventure” books. The whole idea is to assume the role of the main character and the book periodically presents you with options. The choices you make determine the story’s ending. The thrill is in the mystery and anticipation; not knowing what will happen next! I being an eager child (& now adult) often decided to skip all of the build-up, and stress by flipping to the back and reading all three endings at once. That way I could choose the ending I liked the best and enjoy reading the story with the comfort of knowing how it ends. Only, once the adventure book lost it’s mystery it also lost its excitement. It ended up on a cluttered bedside table with a tangled up yo-yo and an abandoned braid of gimp. My impatience and need to know rushed the book and took all of the joy out of it!

Continue reading “Choose Your Own Adventure”

Taking Advice

Just look at these precious children! The other day I had a small break down just thinking about bringing another person into existence and all that it entails. It is up to me to teach, guide, and protect them in a world full of danger, heartbreak, and harsh realities.

I just want to do the best that I can for them and although I’ve been a mother for years at times I still struggle with my confidence.

When I had my oldest daughter I was only 18 and I dealt with a lot of judgement because of that. People looked down their noses at me and doubted my ability to parent well due to my age.

I tried my best to turn that negativity into motivation. Even though writing has always been my passion, I felt I needed to pursue a more serious career (in a way to show people that I could be serious) and start making more money for myself ASAP.

I got myself through Medical Assistant school and kept that career until just a couple of years ago when I left work to stay home with my youngest. I enjoyed helping people and had a strong interest in medicine but I put my true passions on hold because of what other people might have thought.

As much as I tried to spin the judgement and shame and use it to my advantage I was still young and insecure and let it get to me. I became so defensive.

I didn’t want to hear the advice of other people and older mothers because I took it as them doubting my abilities. Even if it was coming from a loving place the advice felt hurtful and backhanded. I took it as an insult.

Just because I was young didn’t mean I didn’t love my daughter! It didn’t mean I couldn’t care for her well! She was all I had at a certain point and my world revolved around her. Just like older mothers everything I did was for her and about her and because of her.

When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter I had people giving me advice who didn’t realize that I had a daughter older than their own children.

Honestly it had been 9 years since I had an infant so of course I could have taken some advice from people who went through that stage with their children more recently! But I was still so damaged from all the scrutiny I dealt with in the past. Stubbornly, I didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say.

As I continue to grow into myself over the years I have become much more confident. I started to realize that myself and the people around me know the truth about what kind of mother I am. Knowing that allows me to care a lot less about what other people may think. I don’t need another’s approval to feel validated.

My defenses have completely dropped. I know that just because someone is older or younger it doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse equipped to be a parent.

I’m now able to take advice from others joyfully knowing that no matter how long someone’s been a parent or how many children they have we all can learn something from each other. Someone else’s motherhood doesn’t take away from my own! It only adds another perspective in our shared experience.

As women we should encourage and lift each other up! This womanhood and parenting stuff is really difficult as is so we don’t need to add any more stress by comparing ourselves! We all have something to learn from each other and at the end of the day we can all use more support!

Did you ever take well meaning advice the wrong way? How did you deal with it?

❤ Cait

Boobs Traveler

Last year I got an extraordinary gift! My dad paid for a ticket for my youngest daughter and I to come and visit him at his home in Florida! After a long New England winter I was more than happy to accept! I was excited to go but a bit nervous to leave the other half of the family up north while the little one and I enjoyed the fun and sun. I pushed back the guilt. I deserved a little rest and was determined not to get in my own way.

The day came and we made it to the airport. In the spirit of saving money I attempted to pack light and avoid checking bags. I also decided that the stroller would be too clunky compared to my comfy baby wrap (which she loves) plus, it freed up my hands. We didn’t have long until boarding time but it was a 6 am flight and I desperately needed a coffee. I waited in a long line for a $4 coffee I practically had to make myself and my babe was starting to squirm. “I’ve totally got this”, I thought to myself as I rushed back to the gate.

So there I was stomping through the airport, and what a sight I must have been! I had baby snug in her carrier on my chest, a hiking backpack filled to the brim on my back, a cross body purse on my hip, and an over stuffed diaper bag on my shoulder. She was crying and fussing and the let down feeling let me know what she was in need of. So I stopped for a moment and did what I knew I had to do; I pulled out my breast and let her feed as I continued with all of my gear still in tow to the gate. I had my reservations about feeding in public before. I had hid under blankets and stood in toilet stalls but during this trip all of my hesitation disappeared. My baby’s nutritional needs were much more important than my misplaced shame or other people’s perceptions about what was or was not appropriate.

Sure, I got a few looks but, I realized that most of the hang-ups I had were coming from within myself. Most people didn’t notice, didn’t care or gave me a knowing nod of solidarity or a smile of support. Once we were seated in the plane (me in the middle seat of course! Just my luck!) baby had fallen asleep and I was glad to have some time to exhale. The flight from Boston to Florida is thankfully short just about 3 hours. As we ascended the baby inevitably woke due to cabin pressure affecting her ears. The best way to relieve that was to cause her to swallow by feeding her and I did so without reservation. Hey, it was either see the boob, or hear the babe! If you have ever been on a plane with a crying baby you know that it was an easy choice! No one cared and I didn’t expose any more than the model on the cover of the magazine the woman next to me was reading.

When it was finally time to deplane the man that was sitting to my left helped me to get my carry-on and over stuffed backpack down from the overhead storage. I strapped my baby back to my chest, and he helped me put the backpack on my back while saying, “Wait a minute! You’re going to carry all of this yourself!? Are you sure you can really do that?” and I turned to him with a grateful smile and proudly exclaimed. “Yes, sir! I am a woman! I can do anything!” And we can, sisters! We can put aside our hang-ups to do whats best for our children, we can tenderly feed and comfort our babies and remain strong enough to carry the weight of our baggage. We can be soft and strong and fearless and amazing! Just as we were created to be!

What are your most memorable breastfeeding moments? Share below!

❤ Cait

 

 

The Kitchen Sink

We live in quite a fortunate time in history in terms of modern convenience. Of the many modern conveniences I enjoy each day a dishwasher is not one of them. With a growing family that means visiting the sink often to stay on top of the ever present pile of mugs and plates. Sure, there are times I’d prefer to toss them in the waste basket but soon I found the menial task had become a welcome reprieve.

The windowsill above the sink once held all of the hallmark nick-knacks of a well loved mama; assorted bottles of sand art, heart-shaped rocks, small potted herbs, perfect pine cones and gifts from little hearts and hands. One gift was a small cross that reads “Peace, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10” One day I was on a re-arranging kick and I decided to (finally!) clear and clean the sill. I was moving all my chotchkies into an old shoebox but when I reached for the cross I hesitated, deciding to leave it where it was.

When I went back later on to do the dishes (again!) I read the message over and over. I found myself thinking deeply, staring through the humble kitchen window at the trees in the yard where my pets and children play. Warm water ran over, soothing my busy hands as I thanked God for the opportunity to be still and rest in his peace. By the time the last spoon hit the drying rack I felt my anxieties drain with the suds and dingy water. The little cross which I barely noticed before served as a gentle reminder and the chore became transformed.

Over time I have added other meaningful things to the sill and it has become a sort of altar in my home; a special place I go to pray over my family, water my herbs, offer up the work of my hands, and set my intentions for the day. It just goes to show anything can become meditative, prayerful and intentional even simple tasks. We don’t need only to be in church or on the mountain top to grow in our spirituality. God’s extraordinary presence can enrich even these ordinary parts of our lives and reveal a deeper meaning in the mundane. Now don’t get me wrong, I may not completely enjoy doing the dishes every day (every mom knows the “angry clean” LOL!) but I do know that if I approach this and all things in love, myself and those around me are simply better for it! Let’s let go of our expectations and allow God to reach us exactly where we are.

What do you do to fit in time for quiet contemplation? Comment below!

❤ Cait

 

 

A Letter to my Daughter on Her 10th Birthday (October, 2016)

Dear Autumn,

I can’t believe its been 10 whole years since you entered this world! When you did you brightened the lives of everyone around you. At home it was “The Autumn Show” every day. You were an extraordinarily gorgeous and happy baby. Everything about you was unique and beautiful and we couldn’t wait to see what you’d do next!

You were the sunshine in my days. I worked so hard and fought so hard to be the best mother I could for you. Your Step Father and I have dedicated our lives to providing for you and making you smile. You repay us daily with your love. We are so proud of who you are. You’re funny and sarcastic, sweet and tough, confident but humble, stubborn and kind. You are as colorful and bright as the season for which you are named. You are a daughter, the BEST big sister, an artist, a philanthropist, an author, an athlete, a friend.

And this is only the beginning. I know God has amazing plans for you. In the next 10 years of your life we will watch you grow into a young lady. We will watch as you take wing. But please remember no matter where life’s journey takes you there will always be a place in our hearts and home for you and you can always come back to it.
💗No matter how big you get, you will always fit perfectly in my arms.💗

Love Always,
Mom

The Highs & Lows of Pregnancy

This was written back in February and shared on my personal Facebook page. Our healthy, gorgeous baby girl was born May 31st, 2016.

So I try to keep a brave face but, I know you’ve all heard my complaints…This pregnancy hasn’t been all sunshine and daisy chains for me. My baby and myself are in perfect health but most of the time I have felt sick, exhausted and uncomfortable. Some days I don’t know how I’ll make it through the time I still have left. I never had that feel-good second trimester. Spending so much time in my bed (which I have dubbed my cave) can make me feel frustrated, isolated and lonely. And I don’t think I ever did get that glow! 😕

I get so excited when I can do things that make me feel normal. Even little things like a light walk, a lunch date, or a good hair day resemble my pre-pregnancy life and make all the difference to me! Even now as I look forward to my last trimester I have good and bad days but honestly, most are still pretty rough.

Despite these hurdles, the miracle of the life stirring within is never lost on me even for a moment. How awesome it is to anticipate the love my husband and I share personified in a cherished child. How my heart swells as he talks to her and melts when he says he hopes she looks like me. Seeing the way my daughter touches my belly adoringly and hearing the questions that bubble up in her inquisitive mind is so special. Even my cat purrs happily in my lap against the extra warmth of my body. This baby will be born into so much love and that alone is worth every difficult moment.

Even when it gets hard I remind myself to be present and enjoy this fleeting season of life instead of just wishing it away. I truly believe that pregnancy is designed like this for a reason. It prepares mothers to raise their children by offering experiences of sacrifice, joy, worry, and unconditional love from the moment of conception.

The opportunity to assist God in the creation of a new life and soul is truly humbling and such a gift. Pregnancy and motherhood is an incredible journey and one I feel so blessed to be able to continue. I feel like my dreams keep coming true and I know in my heart that the best is yet to come.

Have you experienced a particularly difficult time in pregnancy? Tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait

A year ago today…

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A year ago today a test confirmed what I already knew in my heart and tender tummy to be true, I was expecting a baby again after 9 years! In that moment so many thoughts and emotions swirled around me. I looked through happy tears at the blurry image of my proud husband’s face and he said, “We’re having a baby! There’s going to be a crib in here soon!” and I thought back to a daydream.

I was driving to pick up my eldest daughter after a particularly long and exhausting work day. At this time I was working full-time, taking classes at community college part-time  and planning my wedding (I tend to be anxious and not very organized sometimes!) and I was just stressed and exhausted with the go-go-go pace I had been keeping up for far too long. As I drove along my heart projected sweet visions on the walls of my mind..

Rocking my husband’s first child in the quiet morning light, breathing in that heady baby aroma, bird serenades carried in on the breeze of an open window, essential coffee smell mixing in from the kitchen. I snapped back to reality and immediately my attention was captured by a rainbow of color in the sky just ahead of me. Tucked among the usual white was a bright iridescent cloud! Rainbows have been significant to me in my spiritual life and it was as if God was reassuring me, reminding me that He knows the desires of my heart. That small passing brilliance, was to me the gentlest reminder to be patient and trust in His perfect timing.

After a wedding and one tough pregnancy the visions of my heart have come to fruition. Our baby daughter has changed our family for the better. Our hearts and arms are fuller because of her. Ten years with my first precious daughter went too quickly! I have learned that time can be hard on a mama’s heart. That knowing reminds me to savor each moment that much more. Even in the mess and stress, my mundane life is made magic in joy inexpressible and love unconditional.

When I mention the age difference between my girls sometimes people take on an exasperated tone and poke fun at me saying, “Wow! Starting all over again, huh?” and I say yes and my soul laughs as the smile in my heart blooms across my face.

Do any of you have a big age difference between your children? If so tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait