Breaking Up With the Breast

It’s happening.  This is really happening.  And just when I said self-weaning was bullshit.  Don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a breastfeeding blog, because that’s coming abruptly to an end.  For the second consecutive night, my little guy sheepishly crawled in with a brother and snuggled in.  Without me. Without me.  Without his Mama.

This moment has been on my mind all day.  It was my first thought this morning, consumed my commute to work, filled the spaces in my mind during meetings, brought on an ache in my throat after lunch.  I was distracted as I watched my oldest play lacrosse tonight, at dinner and in the yard.  As I watched that sweet boy run and throw his head back in laughter, rolling in the grass, flashing me that toothy, goofy smile, I knew bedtime was coming.  We brushed teeth, I held my breath.  Climbed the stairs, put jammies on.  Stomach tightening, Are you going to sleep with your brother again tonight?  Yes.

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And all of a sudden, this became a story about a Mama losing her baby.  If reading that doesn’t signal the pierce of a tear, the sting of your nose, or your breath to catch, I can tell you that as a Mama, short of tragedy, there may be no greater loss.  So here is the raw truth: We want our children to grow, learn, become.  But the instances when they start to leave us are both the most heart-breaking and heart-filling moments we may ever experience.  A child turning from what was once the only comfort he knew, while causing undeniable pain, is a Mama’s greatest accomplishment.  We raise our children to leave us.  But the moment it actually happens is nothing we could have fathomed before that point.

This is also the story of a baby growing into a child.  He’s not leaving his Mama, he just needs her a little less.  We need to learn to bond in a different way.  I am beyond thankful that he is choosing this path on his own will.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d wondered if it was time or thought about how we would do this.  He’s taken the guesswork out of the process.  I’m trying not to let this break my heart.  Trying so hard to accept his choice.  I never, in my whole life, thought I’d grow so attached to nursing.  It’s not the act of nursing, it’s the connection we share at the end of the day.  Correction: It’s the connected we shared at the end of the day.

My heart feels heavy and light tonight, if that’s possible.  So much of Mamahood is filled with experiences which are both the best and worst thing all at once.  I’m living in the moment; documenting these moments, pouring my guts out because I need to not feel alone in this.  I know I’m not.  I know there are a many of Mamas nodding their heads right now.  Thank you Mamas.  I know there maybe some who are not Mamas reading too- and hopefully now you get it.  Now you get a peek into this world of being a Mama.  The struggle, the success, the pain, the bliss.  The Love.

Peace Mamas.

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Goodnight Without the Boob

Well that’s exactly what it was.  For the first time.  Ever.  In case you missed my earlier post, I am an extended nurser.  I tend to stay away from saying extended breastfeeder because that seems to freak people out a little more.  Makes it more graphic, I don’t know.  My son will be 30 months old this week  (for those of you who are still dividing by twelve, that’s two and a half years old).  And we still boob (how’s that for graphic?).  Lately, I have been considering, pondering the idea that maybe this should all be over.  It has been a long time.  There is little to no nutrition going on, I’d like my own boobs back (even though they are a train wreck) and he is two and a half…

Today was a wonderful day.  My baby had his first playdate with an adorable little fella and was totally exhausted tonight after trading his nap for a chauffeured tour of his buddy’s driveway in a hot pink Barbie Jeep (it was really quite something).  At bedtime tonight, we got jammies on, brushed teeth and went up to choose books.  Just as the argument began over which book to read, my little guy says Sleep. Here.  And pointed to his brother’s bed.  I asked him again what he said, confused- maybe hoping I’d heard him wrong.  Sleep. Here.  And he pointed again.  Okay, I said, knowing this would never last.  He popped in bed next to his brother and laid down.  You want to sleep in here tonight?  Grin.  Nod.  Okay.  Love you…  And I walked out. Now he’s sleeping up there as cute as can be next to his brother.  Wow.

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I’m honestly experiencing a swirl of emotions right now.  I’m so relieved that it could possibly be this easy.  That there really could be no tears.  I’m proud that my littlest babe can find his way to dreamland peacefully- and quite frankly adorably- next to his older brother without Mama.  Without Mama.  And that’s where the warm fuzzies end.  Did he not need me?  Did he not need to press his sweet face against my breast, look into my eyes, and rub his soft fleshy fingers into my warm skin?  Does he no longer require my arms around him, calming and secure, strong and reassuring?  I’m feeling a little lost.  A little hallow.  

I read about women who refer to nursing as a journey and I never quite understood that so clearly as I do tonight- for tonight I am quite honestly fearful that our journey has come to its end.  I remember back to the nights, alone with him, the feeling of elation at the sounds of his swallows in the dark. His warm belly against mine, still swollen from where he was housed just days before.  That feeling, those nights, will never be matched.  It’s been a mutual love affair until this evening and now I have been dumped.  Kicked to the curb like yesterday’s news.  He broke up with me for his brother.  Ouch.

He’s our last child.  There will be no more babies.  No more births, no more first teeth, no more first rolls, steps or even diapers for that matter.  All that is done.  I am aware that there will be many more firsts (day of school lost tooth, bikes, soccer games…) but I’m talking about The Firsts.  Why is it so hard to leave that part behind?  I can almost watch it happening.

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As I write tonight, I am living in the moment- maybe more than I ever have in my life. As I watch our relationship morph, I am aware that it’s not about me.   Our journey has been guided fully by his will and I’m not about to interfere with his method but it doesn’t ease the ache in my chest, the longing in my soul for my children to stay babies forever.  Sappy and stupid, I know- but Real.  Tonight it is so Real.  So what will tomorrow bring…  I’m curious to discover how our bedtime routine will change.  And if this is the end.  Cue throat lump…  Is this over?

Peace Mamas.

Sunday Reset: The Hike

This weekend, the weather in Vermont was amazing!  Gorgeous, warm and bright.  As I eluded to in a previous post, we live in a very old farm house, built in 1870.  When we moved in, as stupid young homeowners, we thought we’d have it looking just the way we envisioned within a matter of months.  Ha.  So six years, three kids, two ER visits, and thousands of dollars later our house is finally the way we envisioned.  Many sacrifices have been made along the way but the compromises I feel most shame about are the missed family moments.  Time we should have spent with the kids was spent hemorrhaging funds our home.  Last weekend, we finished the last project… Which meant this weekend was long-overdue family time.

We decided today was the perfect day for a hike.  Frequently in the warm months, we climb the trail to the top of Mount Philo.  Barely a mountain, it boasts what I believe to be one of the best scenic views in our beautiful state.

Along the way, we took note of our surroundings.  My oldest was excited to record his observations in his journal (which of course I was carrying, along with the snacks, drinks, etc.).

Once at the top, he quickly began working away in his journal.  I spent a great deal of time watching his steady pencil strokes, his even lines and the concentration which spread across his face was inspiring.  This child has so many gifts.

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This hike was significant as it was the first trek my youngest made on his own two legs.  He reveled in the landscape and though it took us a little longer as he needed to inspect holes, roots, rocks and bark, it was he who was more proud than I when we reached the top.  Unfortunately, he quickly had an accident.  And though I had many (many, many) items in the pack on my back, a change of clothes was not among them.  Ugh.  Luckily, his older brother was wearing boxer briefs and had no hesitation about loaning them.  And even luckier still, my youngest was delighted to wear nothing but his brother’s unders for our journey down the mountain.  Crisis averted.

Photo1 (9)Spending this time as a family felt refreshing and filled my heart with love, my veins with patience which will hopefully last through the week.  Being active, in nature, hearing their excitement about new surroundings made me breathe in their curiosity along with the fresh air.  A day I will remember for long time.  My children are outside all the time and I am with them… But so much of the time I watch them.  Observe them.  But to experience the outdoors alongside them was a treat (for both of us) I don’t normally indulge.  I feel that it made a difference for them as well.  There was no whining (really!) and such powerful enthusiasm.  The good moods and possitivity followed us all through the day.  Get out with your kids.  Experience nature together!  Peace Mamas!

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Little Boys are Murderers

Sweeping the mudroom this morning, I stumbled across a mass grave.  Of ants.  Let me start by saying that it may come as a surprise that although we live in a 143 year old farm house in a small Vermont town, we have never had a problem with insects (mice, of course but no bugs).  Until we updated our kitchen and uncovered some kind of colony of black ants.  For the last couple of months, we have used ant cups, gel cups and spray.  But to no avail.  The little suckers just keep coming back.  Our plan is to hire an exterminator to bomb the creepy bastards once it’s warm enough to open the windows without wearing our snowsuits- which in Vermont is typically June.  In the mean time, I have children to keep the problem somewhat under control.

Their method of extermination consists of picking each ant up and pinching its wriggling body between their fingers.  Most of the legs stop moving before they toss it back down.  Sometimes the legs continue to spasm for a few seconds but by this time, the boys have lost interest in their suffering victim and moved on to the next.  Of course the corpse is left behind (or tossed into the mudroom, thus the mass grave) with zip remorse.  Zip.

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Now all of this is gross, cringe-worthy and there’s nothing sanitary about it.  But what’s most disturbing about is sometimes they smile while doing performing the execution.  Even my two-year-old.  And once I started thinking about this, I was comforted by the realization that all boys are murderers.  This insecticidal ideation seems to be ingrained in their minds from a very young age- or as I believe, at birth- because surely this is not a result from my parenting.  Surely.  Nope.  I even remember my cousins (four boys- bless you Aunt Kay!) seeking out and murdering anything from insect to arachnids to small reptiles- well except for the nature-loving one who wore moccasins, purples Umbros and toted a stuffed kitty around until he was… well never mind.   But the rest were murderous.

Further distressing is that my husband seems to almost encourage this savage behavior.  He at least suggests the carcasses be disposed of outside (most of the time) but he doesn’t tell them to cease this beahvior.  I think I am the only one who cares.  And this is another reason I stand by my claim: This isn’t my fault.  This happens because boys are torturous, head-hunting babarians.  This uncivilized streak seems to be limited to bug-squishing so as long as I can count on table manners, I think I can overlook this.  But for God-sake, can’t they drag the bodies to the side of our property, dig some shallow unmarked graves and dump them there instead of the mudroom?  Having said that, I’m confident I am raising upstanding, contributing members of society.  I think.

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Bathroom Chat

Sometimes important conversations take place in odd places.  Tonight: the restroom at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Child: Mama, you pee out your bum because you don’t have any penises, right?

Mama: Yup.  That’s right.  (Where are we going with this…)

Child: Because only boys have penises.

Mama: Right.  (Whew.)

Child: Well what do you have anyway?

Mama: It’s just a hole for pee to come out.  (Is that what I’m supposed to say?  Cause I can’t bring myself to say more.  Good God, there is someone in the next stall!)

Child: Oh.  Well, when I grow up, I am going to have big penises.

Mama: Really… How do you know?  (Can’t help myself.)

Child: Well, because all grown up boys have big penises.  Even Daddy.

Mama: Oh.  (Dear God, how can I possibly keep a straight face?  Even Daddy!  Can’t wait to tell hubby this one.) Let’s go wash our hands now.

Child: Okay.

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Dropping the Guilt

Five years ago I dropped the Guilt.  I stopped judging myself.  I stopped criticizing myself.  And others.  I stopped blaming myself for sleepless nights, deviations from a strict feeding schedule and shabby weight gain.  Five years ago, I let go of rigidity, pressure and stress.  I embraced the sleepless nights.  I welcomed the midnight feedings and relished in all day (and night) cuddles.  I gave up trying desperately to be the pre-baby person I used to be.  I began being a Mama.  Which is really kind of ridiculous considering I already had been for nearly three years prior…

I had planned for a natural delivery with my oldest but he apparently had a bad sense of direction and when he refused to point his head north, we ended up with a c-section with 6 days notice.  The first blow to Mama’s self esteem.  His means of entrance into this world was also the birth of Guilt.  Deep, self-loathing, ugly Guilt.  Poor latching issues, coupled with slow weight gain, compounded by a steady stream of well-meaning guests seemed like good places to point blame in the those early months of stress; however, I could only credit them with supporting roles.   I looked at the plastic faces of mothers smiling with their eyes closed as they held half-naked babies on the diaper package.  I kind of hated them.  How could they be so happy with this?  Why don’t I feel like that?

I was kind of a crappy Mama to my sweet first child.  I certainly could have been worse- there was no neglect, no shortage of snuggles, playtime or love.  But I could have been happier.  I could have done it better.  I could have lived in the moment instead of thinking ahead to the next.  And judging myself every step of the way.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

I had missed the boat on happiness and I would be damned if I was going to do it again.  Call it a new outlook, confidence, or chance.  Call it rebounding from a devastating miscarriage.  Call it relief from a stressful, agonizing pregnancy.  Call it what you want but something inside me clicked.  With the birth of my second child, I really became a Mama.  I started to enjoy being a Mama.  I stopped fighting the warmth of cuddling a baby while the whole world happened around.  I threw out the schedules (and the books), let go of the nightly bath routine (seriously, what was my hang-up with that?) and kicked that ugly bitch called Guilt to the curb.  And now, I am a better Mama.

Five years ago, my Mooch was born.  I honestly had never known a greater feeling.  He taught me to be a softer, more patient Mama to my oldest and prepared me for the insanity of my youngest (and holy shit, insanity is a gross understatement).  I am inspired by his love for life and his willingness to welcome changes; his openness to unconditional love.

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His fifth birthday also marks the death of Mama Guilt.  The Guilt still makes plenty of guest appearances, haunting me at the first sign of insecurity; lurking, waiting for weakness.  When Guilt rears up, ready to pounce, I carefully, diligently fold her back up, put the lid on her box and place her back up on the top shelf of the closet and close the door.  I put her away.  In the dark.  Where I never want to be again.

This year, as I wish my sweet Mooch a delightful fifth birthday, I also celebrate the death of Mama Guilt.  Peace Mamas.

Sunday Reset: The Weekend Recap

End of the week again… Time flies when you have three little animals you aren’t allowed to cage.  If Saturday was an indication of the weekend as a whole, I would have been in trouble.

Saturday:

Does it seem that no matter how much you give, it’s not enough?  I know I am not alone on this one.  We Mamas do and do and do all day, everyday and still we come up short.  No matter how much laundry we do, the shirt they want to wear is never clean.  No matter which playground we visit, it’s still boring.  No matter what is served someone isn’t happy, something looks yucky/gross/disgusting/weird.  And another thing about food: how does it happen that regardless the meal, they can take one look at the plate and pick out the one thing they don’t want?!  And complain.  I mean seriously, can’t they ever just say something like I love everything on my plate!  I can’t wait to eat everything without negotiating how many more bites to dessert!  And by the way, I don’t need dessert tonight because I want to brush my own damn teeth tonight and go to bed right after I finish eating this lovely meal!  So I’m on my second glass of wine tonight.  Sue me.

Nothing was enough on Saturday.  And when I have days when nothing is enough, it goes one of two ways: (1) I continue to break my fucking back to achieve unattainable perfection or (2) I quit.  And on Saturday, I quit.  I abandoned (for you mandated reporters out there, not literally abandoned) them and threw myself into a task that could be accomplished, one that I couldn’t be judged for; a task that would help me to feel productive and confident: I caught up on laundry.  Completely caught up.  Like clothes-in-the-drawers-and-no-baskets-caught-up.  Like towels folded in the-bathroom-cabinet-caught-up.  Like sheets-changed-and-beds-made-caught-up.   (Only to have my darling sister- with no children- show up to say, “Wow, haven’t seen the floor in here in years…” Sorry chica, I adore you but it took every ounce of me to not punch you.  Or cry.  But don’t you worry that pretty little head of yours!  You will soon have children, my dear.  And then I will come visit you.)  I’ll admit, there was a fair amount of fights which were refereed from the top of the stairs.  There were some which required no referee at all and there were some which got worked out.  By the largest child.  But when I came down, they seemed a little happier to see me and since I had just placed gold in the Laundry Olympics, I was feeling pretty good.  So they were feeling pretty good.  Tummy bugs aren’t the only thing contagious around these parts, come to find out…

Sunday

Coming off my win yesterday, I carried the momentum through to Sunday.  Began my morning by asking (bribing) my husband to feed the boys breakfast so I could go for a run, follow by kitchen clean up (alone time).  And then for the rest of the day, I did nothing other than play with, read to and laugh with these wonderful children.  Dinner came… Waffles and sausage with fruit?  Sure!  Everyone gobbled it down like it was the best shit they’d eaten in years.  Score!  After dinner, they all went out to play, leaving me with kitchen clean up (more alone time) and the most peaceful 42 minutes all week.  Music on, menu planning and a little Facebook time.  Oh and that’s where the vino began…  Ahhh.

School vacation is this week.  Tomorrow is a full day of grocery shopping, hair cuts and errands.  Let the public meltdowns flow but for tonight, my angels are sleeping with smiles on their faces, clothes in their drawers and a content, calm (half-cocked) Mama on the couch.  Peace Mamas.

So It Was a Bad Night…

I’m not sure bad night really captures the essence of disaster that went down this evening.  It. Was. Bad.  And it really began the moment I walked through the door.  Complaints.  Complaints about dinner.  About homework.  About brothers wielding swords, eyes getting poked, arms being scraped.  To walk in the door to negativity greeting you with a kick in the shins kind of sets the mood for the next few hours.

My oldest is my complainer.  Nothing is ever fair.  Ever.  He’s seven and very smart.  But can also be a little negative.  My expectations are higher for him (we put all our faith in the oldest, right?  I am just hoping my other two won’t be playing video games in the basement when they are 30…) and because of this, nothing is fair.  But tonight, it was more about him being in a shitty mood and taking it out on everyone.  He has a bit of a cough so for the first 20 minutes or so, I chalked the attitude up to post nasal drip and fatigue.  And then came the name-calling, talking back and general meanness toward his brothers.  And me.

We barely got through dinner.  His meatball sucked.  His spaghetti was too long.  He didn’t get to share about his day first.  His brother was sitting to close to him.  Buddy, what’s up tonight?  Stop saying that to me!  Why do you always think it’s my fault.  He’s the one looking at me like that.  Really.  Finally got through dinner.  Consequences racked up by meal’s end included: no video game time tonight (or tomorrow, but that was just dumb- who takes away privileges for the next day?  Dumb.), and threats of a cancelled playdate.  But to no avail, the attitude continued.

Homework.  He didn’t want to do it.  Refused to sit at the table.  Threw the pencil.  Crumpled the paper.  That. Was. It.  I yelled.  That’s it!  No outside time.  No homework.  You can do it in the morning.  Straight to bed.  NOW.  He went stomping up the stairs, claiming that I didn’t love him.  That no one loved him.  That if he fell off a the edge of a cliff, no one would care or look for him.  I do love you.  I don’t love your behavior tonight.  You must be feeling really frustrated and angry.  And I’m really disappointed that you made these choices tonight.  (For those of you who don’t know, I am a social worker for my day job so I can empathize, paraphrase and use ‘I statements’ like a pro- yes, I am well aware of how annoying this can be.)  He stomps up the stairs and yells over his shoulder to me: Wimp.  Wimp?  How am I wimp?  I want to tell him that was a ridiculous thing to say but I resist the urge to further infuriate the fuming dragon.  Door slams.

All is quiet.  I finish picking up the table and decide to go up for a chat.  I knock on his door.  Waiting.  “What.”  Said as more of a statement than question.  Can I please come in?  I’m ready to talk.  Are you?  The door creaks open without an answer but clearly it’s an invite.  Breathe.  We sit down on the bed.  What’s up honey?  Help me to understand why you are having such a tough night.    Nothing.  Is everything okay at school?  Did you have any disagreements with friends?  No.  Were there any parts of your day that made you nervous or sad?  Well, we needed to finish writing our book by today or we have to finish it during free choice tomorrow.  Did you finish?  No.  Everyone else is done and I’m not.  I don’t think I will even be done tomorrow.  I get it.

We connected.  He’d had a really stressful, upsetting day.  He feels insecure.  He carried that like a boulder on his adorably delicate back all day and all evening.  Let it out.  He cried.  Said he had been looking forward to free choice all week and now, the last day before vacation, he’s not going to get to play with his friends.  His tears rolled down his soft innocent cheeks as my eyes filled and I tried to swallow that ache in my throat.  I’m sorry you had such a bad day.  It’s okay, he says and buries his forehead into my chest.  Breathe.  Can you read to me?  He asks.  Sure.

He had a bad day.  He lashed out.  I yelled.  We talked.  I understood.  He forgave me.  It was a tough night.  I’m so glad I took the time to talk it through.  I didn’t give in and he couldn’t go outside after dinner or have his video game time.  He will have to finish his homework in the morning before school.  And he will miss his free choice tomorrow.  But now I have a reason for his angst tonight.  God, I adore this child.  He can be a tough kid sometimes.  But he makes me want to be a better Mama.

Peace Mamas.

Boston: Turn Off the TV

It struck me last night, while watching the news coverage of the Boston Marathon Tragedy that the vast majority of Americans (and earthlings for that matter) were glued to their screens.  To say we are Media Obsessed is an understatement.  I feel as I watch the events play out that what I am seeing is unreal.  Am I just watching another sad reality show on Bravo?  No.  Not even close.  I was appalled and shocked by the shaky footage, displaying white smoke pouring out between bodies running.  Running both toward and away from the screams behind that curtain of smoke.  But these images did not illicit sadness.  I felt numb.

At 9:45 last night, a press release was aired on nearly every news station with a surgeon from an ER in a hospital in Boston.  Media violently threw questions like spears at the shaken physician.  How many did you treat?  What did the ER look like?  What shapes were the shrapnel?  How did staff respond with the masses of injuries presenting?  What was the most extreme injury sustained?  Are you fucking kidding me?  None of these questions personalize the tragedy.  The injury.  Shrapnel.  These are people.  Live humans, who were running, cheering, laughing, playing just minutes before and who suffered pain, horror, devastation which we can’t begin to put words to.  Thankfully, the surgeon declined to answer many of these questions.

This morning, I went to check my email and there on the homepage was a still-shot photo of a smiling 8 year old boy holding a poster which read Peace.  That’s when it hit me.  He’s dead.  A bed stayed made last night.  A school bus stopped but no child got on.  A coat hook in a classroom remained empty.  As did a seat behind a desk and at a lunch table.  There was one less laugh or squeal of playful childhood bliss on the playground.  This is when the tears come, my throat tightens and I lose it.  This was a boy as innocent and life-loving as my own.  He is not a casualty.  He is a brave, smart, beautiful boy; lost forever.

Turn off the TV.  Please stop watching tragedy unfold through the safety of an LCD lens   Hug your children.  Hold your children.  Support those families.  Donate money, blood, clothing, supplies, time.  But don’t just sit on your couch and watch other experience unthinkable disaster.   We are so removed when we turn to the television for facts.  We encouraged the media to dog physicians, to stalk nurses coming off duty, to call families, to depersonalize and sensationalize all that happened.  Turn off the TV and help.  Remember those whose lives have been taken from them and lend a hand, your time and a few of your tears to their families who will only see their loved ones through still-shot photos.  Peace Mamas.