I have a thing about dates. I am good at remembering birthdays and anniversaries, and the exact date of many of the significant events in my past are etched in my mind. I became a vegetarian on 01/13/2005. I had my first kiss on 07/09/1997. I took a positive pregnancy test on 11/18/2012. And, whenever I see them coming, I like to time the significant events so that they fall on already significant dates, so that I always remember them (this is what happens when you have a Type-A-meets-overly-sentimental personality).
That is why I picked September 16 - my mom's birthday, and the day I met my husband eight years ago - as the day I would breastfeed Amaliya for the last time. It may seem silly, but nursing my daughter has been such an important experience in my life that I did not want it to end anticlimactically. It made me sad to think that this phase of our relationship could end unnoticed, slip away without acknowledgement. There was no celebration, and no one but Amaliya and I knew or likely cared.... but I'll remember for the rest of my life that on 09/16/2013, something wonderful came to an end, and that I savored every minute of it.
I knew I wanted to breastfeed long before I was pregnant, even. I get so tired of this society telling us that our bodies are mere accessories, only as good as they look, and our most natural or primal inclinations are embarrassing, or weird, or should be hidden. It used to make me sad to see women trying to breastfeed in public, hunched over in a corner, struggling with an uncomfortable nursing cover and darting their eyes left and right, terrified that someone would notice. Pop stars half-naked on a stage is prime-time entertainment, fit to be viewed by millions, but the exposed nipple of a breastfeeding mother makes everyone uncomfortable? I told myself, if I had the opportunity, I would do things differently. And I did.
It wasn't all smooth sailing, of course. Those first five weeks were a constant guessing game. Am I feeding her enough? Too much? Is it really supposed to hurt this much? Will my body ever be the same? I cried, I bled, I used the pain-management techniques I learned in childbirth class to get through that week where every latch was like hot knives through my chest (I only wish this were hyperbole). I used a nursing cover twice - once when friends came over and I wasn't sure if I would make them uncomfortable, once at the park when my own insecurities overcame me. But never again. After five weeks, I found my stride and Amaliya perfected her technique. We were a fantastic partnership, and breastfeeding became more than nutrition and necessity for us. It was communication. It was our love language. Why would anyone want me to hide that?
I was not, am not, and will never be a militant advocate for breastfeeding. I am grateful that I had the opportunity, that my body and my baby were up for it, and that I was surrounded by supportive people who never once questioned my choices. I am grateful for a husband who didn't bat an eye when I would breastfeed at the park or a restaurant without a cover, who defended my right to feed my child wherever and whenever I needed to. I also understand that so many women don't have the perfect set up that I do. Or just plain don't feel the way I feel about their bodies, or breastfeeding, or the meaning of it all. Everyone has their own story, circumstances, and knowledge, and every single woman I've had the privilege of calling a friend only has one objective - to take care of their babies, and themselves, to the best of their ability. It makes me equally sad to see a woman out in public, trying to hide the bottle in the diaper bag while she mixes her baby's formula, eyes darting left and right, terrified that someone will notice and judge. I want to hug her and tell her, screw anyone who would throw a stone at you! Be confident in your choices! Because a choice made from a place of love cannot be a bad choice.
(Let the record show, I am not a militant nudist either. I am not at all a modest person and have no embarrassment whatsoever about my body being seen in its natural and vulnerable state. Therefore having to cover up while breastfeeding in public didn't feel like something I had to do for me... it was something I felt pressured to do, because I know that the sight of a bare breast makes some people feel uncomfortable. That didn't feel right or genuine to me - covering up actually made me more embarrassed and self-conscious than breastfeeding openly did, which is why I feel so strongly about it and why I'm proud that I stood by my choice to NOT cover up).
For me, breastfeeding was a choice and a privilege, and after that first few weeks I treasured it. Of course had our share of roadblocks. My body never loved the pump, so I didn't have much in reserve when I went back to work. Pumping at work was stressful and uncomfortable, and as soon as I went back when Amaliya was 4 months old I had trouble keeping up. She dropped to the 10th percentile in weight by her 6 month checkup and I wondered, am I doing something wrong? Am I not cut out for this after all? By 10 months she would refuse feedings now and then, which was stressful for me and made me doubt myself again.
And then, there's that look on the face of a milk-drunk baby who has nursed hard for an hour and finally fallen asleep, that's sweeter than anything I've ever seen before. There are those times when she was upset, hysterical, tired, and nothing would quiet her down except to be held and nurse. There were days when I'd leave for work before she woke up, and get home an hour before she'd go to bed again, and breastfeeding was the only thing that made me feel like I was still her mother and that she loved me. Going back to work, knowing that my family members and strangers at daycare were spending more time with her and holding her more than I was, would have been even more devastating for me if not for breastfeeding. I did all the night feedings, I never once pumped a bottle for overnight or stayed in bed while my husband attended to her. It was hell for a while, when she was up 5-6x a night to nurse, but if I could go back I wouldn't do it any differently. Knowing that my bond with her was so special, that I was giving her something that no one else could give, is what kept me going when I felt like all the inevitable obligations in my life were tearing me away from my baby.
09/16/2013. The end of a very significant personal journey, and the beginning (in my mind) of parenting a independent toddler. I can't say it enough - I am grateful. And I am proud of myself, for loving my body enough to let it do what it was designed to do, for hanging in there even when it was painful and the nights were endless, for doing what I knew was best for my daughter and I. I am thankful for my family and friends who understood that spending time with me meant, more often than not, boobs on display, and were not the least bit uncomfortable with it.
And I am so, so happy to be a mom. Every single day.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Friends, life got crazy in back in July, and blogging fell to the bottom of my to-do list. It's unfortuate, I'm not happy about it, but it is what it is. I have missed this space, and am ready to jump back in for a while and write about life as it is today.... but when I logged in just now, I came across this post that I wrote back in August, documenting Amaliya at 1 year old. I've shared all her monthly updates so far, so I have to post this one too.... even though it's way after the fact, and just about everything has changed. Humor me for a moment...
I'm taking advantage of a day off work (due to a sick baby) to finally reflect on my first year of motherhood (and clean, bake sugary things, watch season 4 of House on DVD for the 8th time, etc). It's probably good that I'm writing this almost three weeks after Amaliya's actual birthday. I was a sappy mess on the actual day, the week before, and the week after. Somehow in my mind the first birthday was built up to be this major turning point, a dramatic switch from baby to toddler. Did I think I would wake up on July 30 to find my baby standing up in the crib, speaking in sentences and demanding crepes for breakfast? Maybe. But I realize now that, though it is certainly a milestone, the 365-day marker doesn't really change all that much. My baby is still my baby, and will be for a little while longer at least.
- Walking, with assistance. She grabs your finger and boldly leads you were no baby has gone before... like, into neighbors' apartments and shady looking bushes. But oh! It's so nice to see her display such confidence and curiosity. She absolutely loves being able to move by herself, and every few seconds when she's walking she looks up at you and grins as if to say, "mama, can you believe I'm even doing this right now? Life is SO AWESOME!"
- Food. I mean, seriously you guys, the amount she puts away every day is astounding.
- iPhones, the Nook, the TV... screens, basically. She's actually at that stage where we can turn on cartoons and leave her in front of the TV for 10-15 minutes and she's perfectly content (... not that we'd ever do that.... *looks away*)
- The cat. Yes, we adopted a cat named Makeba (more commonly known as Satan or The Creeper) which is a story unto itself. Amaliya is totally obsessed with her. We chase her from room to room, laugh hysterically every time she twitches, and grin from ear to ear when we get to "pet kitty." Seeing my daughter's joy totally makes the insane kitten antics, lacerations, and clawing-at-the-bedroom-door-at-5am nonsense almost almost worth it.
- Music. She knows the word 'dance,' and if you say it she will stop whatever she's doing and bust a move. She breaks into dance (a cute little head bob and belly twist) when music starts playing. So adorable!
- Her family. She knows us now - my husband, my parents, and my brother. She reacts differently to each of us. Sometimes she want me to hold her, other times it's all about her Nanny. She knows her Uncle Pat is going to be goofy and play with her. It's a lot of fun to see her relate with all of us as individuals now.
- Life. I fully understand why people have kids now, and why all the worries and sleeplessness and upheaval is more than worth it. Witnessing a human being experience everything for the first time, and react with such innocent joy to the most mundane things, really does give life a new meaning.
- Crawling. She can do it, finally (after 11.5 months) but she hates it, complains the entire time, and every few seconds will stop, roll over on her back, put her fingers in her mouth, and look utterly depressed.... before rolling back over and resuming the crawl. We don't force the issue too often. She'd rather walk, and that's okay by me!
- My office. She does very well socially and in crowds, generally speaking, but for some reason when I bring her to work she clings to me like a starfish, won't smile for anyone, refuses to walk... basically has an anxiety attack. Every time. Maybe the cubicles freak her out?
- Avocado and melon. She still eats both, mind you, but only a few bites and she looks less than thrilled the whole time.
- Falling. She is totally traumatized by falling down. Yes, I'm sure it's shocking and hurts a bit, but seriously kid? You only stand 30ish inches tall and toppled onto a carpeted surface, does that really require a solid 5 minutes of limp crying and finger sucking? My sensitive little girl.
Good. Finally, finally good. I decided a while ago to stop feeding her at night, opting for going in, rocking her in my arms for a few minutes, and putting her back down. There were a few loooong nights where she woke up every 20 minutes for 3 hours in a row, but then, she got it! And has been sleeping through the night ever since. She goes to bed between 7 and 7:30, and will occasionally wake up between 4:30-5:30 for a drink (I do nurse her if she wakes up after 4:30 - I figure, that's over 9 hours without liquid, she's probably legit thirsty!). Most of the time though, she sleeps straight through, and wakes up for the day between 6:30 and 7:30. If not for the Creeper, I would finally be well rested!
Her morning nap is very consistent - she goes down between 9:30 and 10, and sleeps 1.5-2.5 hours. Her afternoon naps is about 3 hours after she wakes up, and varies in length. Generally, she clocks about 3.5 hours of nappage per day. She's much more tolerant of being tired, too. When she was tiny, she would scream hysterically if you kept her awake for more than two hours. Now she's been awake for a record 7 hours in a row, and handled it like a boss.
I know its a normal baby thing, to eat like its their job, but I am still shocked at the quantity she can stuff into that tiny torso. An example from the other day:
- Breakfast - 5-7 strawberries, a bowl of oatmeal (probably 1/2 cup), and half a jar of veggies+pasta.
- Lunch - Happy Baby pouch (super salmon, I think), a bean burrito, and an orange.
- Dinner - The rest of the jar from breakfast scrambled into an egg, and about 6 stalks of asparagus.
This is in addition to breastfeeding twice, 10oz of formula, and whatever snacks they gave her at daycare. She probably would have eaten a peach, too, if I had offered it. She's ravenous!
She has mastered finger foods and can pick up even the tiniest, slipperiest morsel and put it in her mouth. We still use purees because it's faster (and hell, it's a lot easier to just crack open a jar when she's hungry) but we are quickly getting to a point where she will be eating exactly what we eat. I'm pretty excited about that.
I guess the biggest development is that I've cut down breastfeeding to twice a day, morning and bedtime. She hasn't seemed to notice at all! We've also switched to whole milk in the last week, and she seems to be doing well with it. Which means I made it through Amaliya's entire infancy and only purchased two cans of formula! Win for my budget!
How's mom doing?
I'm okay. Good, even. Physically everything is 100% back to normal - by some stroke of luck and not a negligible amount of hard work, I was feeling physically fine and lost the 40lbs I gained during pregnancy by December (when I ran my first half-marathon).
Breastfeeding, and gradually phasing it out, is certainly doing a number on my hormones... or perhaps, my hormones are just going back to their normal, fluctuating pre-baby state. Either way, I'm moody! My stress levels probably aren't helping either - two classes, full time work, and trying desperately to be fully present in my home life so as not to miss a moment of my daughter's infancy is really, really hard. But, what can you do? It's the plight of busy working mamas everywhere. I know I'm doing the best I can and I cut myself a lot of slack, most of the time. Adjusting to parenthood is not for the faint of heart, for sure, but overall I am very happy with where I am today.
Thanks for reading. More current posts coming soon!
Monday, July 8, 2013
This little swinging beast clocked 11 months old. I haven't written my standard lengthy update on her, but I will. Hopefully before her big birthday.
I changed my work schedule so that I start at 8am now. Running season has begun, and realistically, the only time I have to get in quality runs is in the morning. I went out three times last week, once with Amaliya in the stroller, and it felt wonderful (for my mind. Body-wise, I have obviously lost a lot of fitness. Ouch). I'll be running with the Lopers again starting on August 11, and I hope to be ready for the Mission Inn Half Marathon in November. Can I tell you a secret? I'm actually thinking of training for a full marathon in March. Why not dream big, right?
School has started; life has ended. I'm taking two very time-intensive classes, which demand a total of 15 written pages a week plus lots of time reading and calculating. This is the reason I moved my workouts to the morning - I need my evening time for academic work. Here's another secret... I am so, SO very tired of being in school. We are only two weeks into this quarter and I am feeling bummed and burnt out already. I will push through though. With luck and persistence, I might be able to finish my degree sometime in 2014.
In short, I am tired. My days go something like: wake up, run, shower, work, make dinner, study, pass out, wake up 1-3 times at night with Amaliya, do it all over again when the alarm goes off. The weeks pass by in a blur.
And yet. There are still mornings in the park, long walks in the evenings. Spontaneous breakfasts out at our new favorite place. Friends who keep me connected to the world outside my textbooks. A daughter who's joy is contagious, who is discovering the world bit by bit every day, to whom nothing is mundane or cliched. There is somehow time to try new recipes, watch an occasional movie, update this poor, lonely blog. There are tomatoes ripening on the balcony.
And there is always hope. Maybe the hard work now will pay off one day. Maybe these numerous, endless journies I'm on will take me somewhere. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the little moments, the small pleasures, and trying not to let the rest of it bog me down. The present is rough, no doubt, but the future holds nothing but possibilities.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
To the man who never hestitates to be the only man with a baby at the doctor's office, at the park, or wandering around town wearing a baby carrier.
To the man who's support has never failed us, who has been there and will be there through thick and thin.
To the man, the very patient man, who spends an entire day on his knees while his daughter "walks" him from room to room.
To the man who somehow knows exactly how to handle the chaos that is an overwhelmed, hysterical wife and screaming baby: mouth shut, arms open, dinner in an hour :)
To the man who washes cloth diapers. Enough said.
To the man who comes home from a day of work and a long commute, grabs the baby, and goes out for a long walk so that I can have a few minutes of quiet and preserve what few shreds of my sanity remain. And then comes back with a treat for me.
To the man who puts his girls first. Always.
To the man who made me a mother.
Happy Father's Day.
Monday, June 10, 2013
... on my balcony.
I had two motivations here. First, gardening is something I've always wanted to try. The idea of growing my own food appeals to me, and I thrive on being outdoors as often as possible. But I live in a second floor apartment, with not a spec of earth to call my own. Lately, though, I've gotten tired of putting things off because I'm waiting for the "right" time. Ideally, I would have a house and an expansive backyard fit for a garden. In reality, we are renting 1,000 square feet and I am likely not going anywhere for a while. So why not work with what I have, instead of complaining about what I don't? And so, a container garden was born.
My secondary motivation was the need for some space to call my own. We have one big living/dining/kitchen area that flows together, where we spend all our time - cozy, but lately it hasn't been working for me. I need to escape from the TV and computers and constant sound and endless piles of baby accessories and dirty dishes. I can't sit and focus in that sort of environment, and as a result I end up spending all my free time cleaning things. I wanted a simple space - a chair, a table, and a few quiet living things - where I can sit in the mornings and drink my coffee in peace, or blog in the evenings, or sit with my sketchpad and make pictures. Classes start again in two weeks, and I wanted a place in my own house where I could sit and work instead of always fleeing to the coffee shop.
Now, I have that space, and even I am amazed at how much better I feel about.... everything, really. Sometimes all you need is some peace, solitude, and fresh herbs.
My balcony renovation, from start to finish:
|Sadly, this is the cleaned-up before pic. Imagine a few dirty floor towels hanging over the railings and a fine layer of dirt and leaves. Color me embarrassed.|
|You see the neighbors in the lower left corner here? With the gorgeous patio full of flowers? Yeah, they were my inspiration/competition.|
|I took a day off of work and spent it spraypainting pots,|
|Herbs! Mint, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, basil, sage. Also three pepper plants.|
|Morning Glories, which will hopefully vine up the bars and cover the balcony with beautiful blue and purple blooms.|
|The best part - we sit out here every morning with our coffee, and in the evenings when it cools down.|
|Tomatoes! And a baby ripe for the picking :)|
Sunday, June 2, 2013
I still find it unsettling to come home one day, just like any other day, and find a stranger living in my house. Just when I think I know my kid, understand her habits and preferences and personality, she decides to change. Drastically. Overnight. So goes it with babies, I suppose. Every new wrinkle in their growing brain brings an increased awareness of the world, and of themselves and their potential. I knew this going in, but I never knew that it would happen so spontaneously. They get into their little baby ruts for a month or so, making little advances here and there, and then BAM, one day they wake up and they're different. I'm left floundering, trying to get with the new program, and wondering when I got so old and set in my ways.
- Playing. This has been the biggest change by far. Suddenly she is so very playful! She initiates play with us - she'll fling her head to the side and laugh when she wants to play peekaboo. She will scrunch up her face and giggle when we touch her if she expects to be tickled. Her favorite thing ever is to stand on the couch and fall over (or have us grab her and throw her down on a cushion). I'm pretty sure she could spend all day falling over with laughter watching us pop out from behind the couch.
- Moving. This one, I never saw coming. I was pretty convinced that my kid would never voluntarily roll over, crawl, walk, or show any interest whatsoever in developing her gross motor skills. And then, suddenly.... she moved. She flips over wildly while on the changing pad and loves to roll around on our bed. She wants to stand all day long and, when we hold her hands, will take confident steps in whatever direction calls to her. She intentionally drops things, bends over to pick them up, gives a satisfied sigh and grins at me as if to say, "Did you see what I just did mama? I am SO AWESOME!"
- Bananas. Food in general, really. She'll happily spend an hour or so in her high chair as long as we keep coming up with new things to feed her.
- The iPhone. Thanks, grandma. It blew my mind, though, to see her stare at an app (for babies) with rapt attention, try and touch the screen, and burst into spontaneous giggles over a game. The drawback? My boring, game-less phone used to entertain her for long periods of time - now, if it doesn't immediately light up with funny sounds and colorful characters, she just looks at me and whines. Yikes.
- Her sippy cup. She used to be terrified of it, but in the last week sometime clicked. She's figured out how to grab it and lift it high enough so that she can drink out of it! It makes me sad to watch, honestly, because I can see that her bottle (and baby) days are numbered.
- Being cut off from dinner before she's full (cue instant hysterics and attempts to punch you in the face).
- Avocados. This makes me sad.
- Getting dressed, still.
- Strangers. Separation anxiety is in full swing over here. She clings and buries her face in my neck if we're too close to people she doesn't know. The daycare dropoff is traumatizing every time. It's not my favorite thing, to say the least. Poor sensitive little girl.
Dare I say.... we're doing pretty good? She's still sleeping 11-13 hours per night and waking up once or twice at unpredictable times. She nurses and goes back to sleep quickly most nights, so I don't mind. It seems her newfound playfulness and energy has led to her needing less sleep - she's suddenly able to get by on 2-3 hours of napping a day (as opposed to 4+), and has been comfortably staying awake until 7pm or later in the evenings. It's nice actually - we're able to do more things during the day without rushing home so she can nap every two hours. She's still the easiest baby imaginable when it comes to putting her to sleep - we lay her down in the crip awake, and walk out. She puts herself to sleep without so much as a wimper.
Biggest news? I have stopped pumping at work! Sweet freedom! I will still need to pump on days that I don't come home for lunch, but I am no longer sitting in the storage room twice a day with my shirt off. And I don't miss it. I'll be mixing Amaliya's bottles with half breastmilk from the freezer stash and half formula until my frozen reserve runs out, and then we'll just be giving her formula when I'm away from her. This won't impact our nursing relationship much (I still plan to breastfeed her until college), but it will definitely save my sanity. I'm proud of myself for hanging in there and pumping at work for five long months.
Amaliya still loooooves solid foods. She's tried many new things lately - salmon, eggs, cornbread, asparagus, toast, strawberries, kiwis, tamales, and many more that I don't even remember - and more or less loved them all. We're experimenting with finger foods like cut up beans, green beans and bread, but she's still mostly on purees and soft foods like scrambled eggs and strawberries that we can feed her by spoon.
6:30am - Wake up, breastfeed.
7:30am - Breakfast (oatmeal and a fruit)
10am - Breastfeed, down for nap*
12pm - Up from nap, breastfeed.
1pm - Lunch (Pureed rice and greens with a protein, either beans, meat or a scrambled egg)
3pm - Breastfeed, down for nap*
4pm - Up from nap
5:30pm - Dinner (similar to lunch, but we try to mix up the protein/veggies so she gets a variety)
7pm - Bed
(When I'm working, she gets a bottle between 9-10am and I nurse her at 4pm after her nap, instead of before).
I've loved all her different phases, truly, but I think this current age is my favorite. I'm SO happy that she's started moving more and playing. I feel like I'm really interacting with her now, instead of just taking care of her. She makes me laugh out loud a dozen times a day. Seriously guys, I love her so much, and even though I'm kind of sad that her baby-lump days are behind us, I'm really excited for what the future holds.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Two days out of town.
A drive through downtown Los Angeles. A favorite restaurant. Sneaking out of the hotel room and smuggling in gelato and wine without disturbing a sleeping baby.
Two days without bills, dishes, shower-scrubbing, baby food-making, diaper stuffing, car-breaking-down drama, getting-to-work-on-time angst, and worries worries worries. Two days of freedom.
And tiny adventures.
Two days. It wasn't much, but it was all we could manage. And it was enough. We have allowed ourselves to be bogged down by the menial tasks, the lack of money, the constant striving to be more. We managed to shake that off for a moment and just be us. Strange, quiet, peaceful, quriky, energized, smiling, hand-holding, occasionally goofy us. An "us" that we seemed to have misplaced lately. But we were found.
All we needed was a little time away.