Weaning Early

I didn’t think much about parenting before I became a mom, but when it came to breastfeeding, there was never a question in my mind that we would nurse.

From the moment she latched on, I knew we would be doing this for a long, long time.

And so, on the week of her first birthday, when I found out I needed to have a biopsy for a polyp in my sinuses, I was horrified because the anesthesia would mean we would need to pump and dump my milk for a few hours. Even more alarming was my doctor’s insistence that the medication I would need to help whatever was going on would require me to wean.

On my drive home from that doctor’s visit, all I could think about in the car was having to wean Kaylee. And how that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

When I walked in the door and screamed for my mom, I expected the words out of my mouth to be about weaning Kaylee.

“I may have cancer.” Came crying out as I held my mother tighter than I had before. And I realized that there was much more at stake than nursing.

Two days later, I awoke from surgery and heard the news, suddenly weaning was not in my mind as much as living. And as I watched my daughter open her birthday presents that weekend, I could only hope to see her do the same at Christmas. Just a few short months away.

The next week, I had my first appointment at Sloan Kettering. It was on the 9th floor with the other pediatric patients.

I had Kaylee with me. I had been nursing her frantically. The only time I could maintain any sense of calm was during that beautiful time we shared.

One that I knew was going to end soon.

During the appointment, I was given my options for treatment.

I faced the most difficult decision of my life.

And I chose to give up a year of my life, to save the rest.

But it wasn’t just my life, it was the life of my little girl.

She who would need to go from sleeping by her mothers side and nursing on demand to having a mother who was rarely around.

We had a week to wean before treatment began.

My first thought was to let her nurse as much as possible, even encourage it. Let her enjoy it while it lasted.

But, it just didn’t sit well in my heart. She was only 1. I couldn’t tell her what was happening. It seemed more cruel to go from more than enough to nothing.

I changed tactics. When she came over to nurse, I would offer a hug and a smile. Tell her I love her and act as if that was all I needed as well.

And she was okay with the hugs. She stopped asking to nurse after a day.

Nighttime was a different story.

I didn’t have it in me to try to stop. She was still up every 2 hours and I was not in a place to try to get that to stop with so little time. Sleep was hard enough as it was!

And so, the night weaning was like ripping off a bandaid. Where I was the bandaid, and just like that, I was taken away and it was up to my daughter and her father to get through those first milkless nights.

I was weaning on my own.

Pumped milk is like gold. A precious commodity, you don’t want to lose a drop.

But my pumped milk was poison. With toxicity so great, I felt guilt every time I poured it down the drain.

Unable to fight any infection in my body, I had to be sure to pump milk regularly, because any plugged duct had the capability of endangering my life. At the same time, I had to get my breasts to stop making milk.

And so, it was a delicate balance. A tedious process that was draining physically and mentally.

In time, the milk was gone.

I think back to those first few weeks.

The diagnosis. Leaving home. Being sick.

And out of all the traumas of that year, its this experience.

Of pumping and dumping.

Of being scared to sleep with my child for fear she would start nursing.

Of weaning. Too early and too abruptly. Of having the experience last for weeks with every drop of milk that went down the drain.

And perhaps that is because its just not something anyone spoke about. Everything else seemed so big, weaning was just an aside.

And yet, the pain and heartbreak were tremendous.

Perhaps I will be graced with another child someday. A child that will wean gracefully. A child that will have their mother during their second year of life. A child who has happily married, healthy parents.

And that is a lovely, heartwarming thought. One that brings tears to my eyes.

But thats not what I need. And that life is not any better than Kaylee’s life.

Children don’t need to be protected from experiencing life. They need to be given the tools to help them get through it.

Kaylee is okay.

She is more than okay, she is incredible.

Well spoken, creative and compassionate. She is the walking example that all you need is love.

I wouldn’t take away any of her experiences regardless of how awful they may have been. They are hers to have had.

We spend a lot of time worry about messing up our kids.

Those traumatic experiences they encounter that we could have prevented.

The times we lose our cool and let our anger get the best of us.

We neglect ourselves trying to get it right.

Obsessing about the day to day encounters and experiences.

But its not our job to be perfect. Its not our job to make our children’s lives easy. Nor is it our job to push ourselves beyond healthy limits and boundaries because we are scared.

Its our job to Love. To give compassion. To teach and guide.

To forgive ourselves and others so that our children can too.

Whatever worry you have on your mind. Whatever struggle at the moment. Its going to be okay. Your child is going to be okay. The experiences and traumas we encounter cultivate who we become.

And when we are given love we become love and thats all any of us need.

A Tribute to My Father

My father was a mystery to me.  He had issues of his own that I really never understood until after his death in 2003 when I had the wisdom to see him as a person separate from his role as father.  He grew up during the Great Depression — born October 5, 1929 —  his birthday month ringing in the Crash; his family lost everything. He had to sleep in the enclosed porch of his Southside of Chicago home, as his parents had to have boarders to makes ends meet.

 

My father stopping to smell the roses on my wedding day

 

My father’s father was an alcoholic –a singer and musician who played in Chicago nightclubs. Some nights he was funny and charming, other nights cruel and mean. I think of my father as a little boy and imagine what he may have gone through.

 

There is a story that breaks my heart and a story only told to me by my mother, with direct instructions to never let my father know I knew.  My father, 6’3, black curly hair, green hazel eyes, filled with pride of his first car, eager to share his pride with his own dad. My father must have been 16 or 17.

 

Instead of sharing in this proud moment, my father’s father berated him, cutting him down and assaulting him with insults about his crappy car.  All my father wanted was his father to be proud of him.

 

My mother told me this story once to help me understand my dad.  It made me sad to think my father went through that.

 

My mother also told me this is why he bought me a royal blue 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in mint condition when I was 16 years old.  Man, that car was cool! And I will never forget the pride in my father’s smile when he showed it to me, surprising me by ushering me outside to have a look.

 

Betty and John were special people. Anyone that ever met them knew this. They were storytellers and magicians. They made people feel good. Sure, like everyone, they had their problems, but deep at their core, they were the pot of gold. My magic - my love.

 

My mother didn’t tell me this story until I was in my late twenties. My dad was an alcoholic and quit drinking cold turkey when I was born. I imagine he drank to tame his demons from childhood and from the war.

 

He fought in the Korean War.  He was a member of the Frozen Chosen, the Battle of Inchon, where he saw thousands of men murdered. It was so cold during this time that men’s eyeballs froze — their own tears icicles upon their own eyes.

 

I never was able to look at this as a reason for his own depression and anger.  At times, he was down right frightening, flying off the handle in a rage I did not understand as a child nor a young adult. He did not physically abuse me, but there was mental abuse at times.

 

The thing is, now as a parent, I am able to forgive him and understand him.  I love him and honor all the good about him.  He went to work everyday to support his family and had a boss that berated him and put him down.  He brought me home paper to draw on as a child from the bank where he worked as one of the mobile patrol security guards in downtown Chicago.  He worked the second shift and never missed a day of work.

 

I think of him struggling to drown his depression and sorrow in a bottle, but he never did.  He soldiered on.  I imagine him discussing the horrors of war and his own childhood with his therapist, a very kind man he saw for many years.
My dad during the Korean War on a ship. He was a Marine.

 

I think of my father marching out of Inchon, knowing in his heart there was a family waiting for him on the other side of this awful war he witnessed.  Somehow, he knew in his heart that our family would make him whole even though he had not met us.

 

It would be almost twenty years after Korea that he would meet my mom.  They would go through so much.  The first night my parents met, he told her everything about his past, including the sad story of his father assaulting him with insults the day he showed off his first car.

 

My dad in Korea. He was a member of the Frozen Chosen who fought in Inchon in the Korean War. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dad and his friend from Korea. This man called me shortly after my father died. He told me a story of how my father saved his life and how my father's thick head of black curly hair stuck out of foxholes because he was so tall.

 

Now that I am a mother myself and understand how overwhelming it is to be a parent at times, I have so much respect for my father for not continuing the cycle he saw.  He did the best he could and he was torn up from war, childhood, and a hard life.

My father and I on my wedding day, November 23, 2003. My father has cancer and my husband and I got married in my parents' bedroom so he could give me away.
Photos from my wedding

 

So instead of remembering the bad things and his imperfections, I remember the kindness and courage I saw on a daily basis.  He taught me so much and I just wish I had the opportunity to tell him that I am proud of him.

 

My dad around Christmas time 2002 -- his last Christmas
He died 9 years ago in the middle of the night, technically December 11 at 4 am holding my mother’s hand. December 10, 2003 was the last time I saw him and had to say goodbye to the father I loved for 29 years.

 

Death sucks, but it is a part of life.  But you see I miss him. I miss him, and as grief has numbed the loss – a hole that death leaves, gaping in concave fragments of the heart, a sense of longing has replaced this. This sense of missing him, knowing he is gone.

 

I miss him.

 

I miss seeing the veins on his hands, crossed in a holding pattern on his lap, a cigarette always tucked puffing solo in his lips. I miss his morning silence and two cups of coffee minimum rule: “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.”

 

I miss him.

I miss watching his gait, heavy to the left, limping, shifting the weight in stride to his other leg — the leg I now know had significant damage from frostbite from Korea. I miss his odd sense of humor and his incredible intelligence. I miss how he could talk to anyone. I miss his pride. I miss his pats on the back and how awkward he became when I insisted on hugging him.

My dad smoking his cigarettes thinking. I miss him.

I miss him.

I miss the way he could pack a car, no matter how large with flea market finds. I miss his Cuban wedding shirts. I miss his scarves which he always called mufflers and reminded me to bundle up on cold Wyoming winter nights before I left the house. I miss his anger, sometimes dark and black. I miss his garden and the flower pots he filled them with — stacked in neat rows around the brick wall around our house on Maxwell. I miss seeing him peaceful with dirt in his hands.

I miss him.

I miss the way he wrapped his shoelaces around his ankles, tying them pragmatically in double knots as an old man. I miss his grey hair comb over. I miss his kindness and Irish pride. I miss smelling Corn Beef and Cabbage every St. Patrick’s Day. I miss the strong scent of coffee in the kitchen of our home. I miss having a hell of a hard time trying to buy him the perfect Christmas gift.

I miss him.

I miss his voice and his ability to speak only when necessary in a conversation. I miss his knowledge and the statistics he could whip out on any baseball team in this century or the last. I miss that he could give the biggest compliment to me through a third person like when he told my best friend Heidi that she had to make sure I write because it is in my blood — “Make sure Megan writes; she is a writer — a journalist a poet. She is related to Percy Bysshe Shelley, you know? Make sure she writes — it is in her blood.” I miss his smile, sometimes rare and sometimes wild.

I miss him.

I miss watching him read thick books and biographies. I miss startling him if I walked up on him unexpectedly, giving me a sense he knew fear in the strongest sense of the word and I miss the sense of relief he had when he knew it was me. I miss his car — a long maroon Lincoln Continental plastered with proud Semper Fi bumper stickers.

I miss him: John Shelley Miller, my dad — the first man I ever loved.

Photo Title: "Fence" -- I send messages to my father through the birds. Cardinals deliver same day mail. My father loved cardinals and I can't help but think he sends me messages back when they whistle by me. My yard in North Carolina is filled with cardinals. I see one weekly -- at least.

 

 
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and community of Newtown. There are no words, only grief.

Are You Afraid to Admit the Challenges You Face As a Parent?

I often look into the eyes of my friends, or strangers in Target with toddlers and babies in their carts and ask, “How’s it going? Most of the time I get the big smile and the cheerful voice telling me, “Great!” I stare a little deeper and I ask again in case I might be the one person they want to tell the truth to. If I still don’t get the answer I’m looking for, I’ll ask again, “Do you ever find that it’s hard?” “Do you ever have really rough days?”

I have found that I desperately want to connect and relate with others in the reality of parenthood. I feel the magic, Love, gratitude and magnitude in each moment. This love overwhelms me in the most powerful ways. I am truly thankful for being given the greatest role of my lifetime. The gift of being the mother to my two sons. This said, I find that many people don’t want to admit how crazy hard it can be sometimes. Even when I am standing there giving them the space, or at least that’s what I’m attempting to do, to speak the truth. To let it out. To relate. To understand that you are not alone. I want you to help me realize I’m not alone just as badly.

I am a very positive person and I have so much love inside and so much love to give. I am an extremely patient person as well. Patience may be one of those things that comes easily for me or a choice I make in each moment, yet sometimes, even that doesn’t make certain situations any easier. Yesterday, I broke down a few times in tears and felt completely helpless. I knew why it was rough but that didn’t make the hours go by any quicker and it didn’t resolve the stress and sadness I felt.

I believe we all do our best to know ourselves. Know our limitations, our bodies when we are sick, and our instincts when something doesn’t feel right. I also believe we do our best to know and understand our children. For example, I have learned recently how important a solid twelve hour night sleep is for my boys. They wake up cheerful, enthusiastic and playful the following day. It’s so simple and yet, so true.

Well, my boys have had stuffy noses the past few days and this hasn’t allowed for much restful sleep. That is my excuse and justification for why the past 24 hours have been absolutely and beyond…challenging. I now understand the need to lock yourself in a closet for just a minute to cry and regroup. It is just necessary sometimes. The crankiness, the crying, the attitudes, the not listening to anything I say, the getting hit in the ear with a wooden plank (accidentally)…all of it. I am laughing now as I write this because the visual seems amusing in this moment, but trust me, there was nothing funny about my day yesterday.

At times like those, even with the excuse I tell myself about the lack of sleep, I look at myself and wonder what I am doing wrong. I wonder where I can improve. I wonder if anyone in the world experiences days like these. I just want to cry. I want to go to sleep and let a new day begin.

I got the boys to bed early last night and they slept a full and tranquil twelve hours. Like a scene out of the Sound of Music, a new day began this morning. Big smiles and hugs from everyone, birds chirping, a shower WITH my hair washed, a lovely and peaceful breakfast, boys playing together, a dentist appointment with no crying, and smiles, love, and fun this entire day. I am thankful, recharged and happy. We skipped and laughed and hugged and as I was walking through my day, I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

I believe we are all grateful for those enjoyable moments spent with our children. We are grateful when we get through a store or a day without any ‘episodes’. I just had to express to you how hard it can truly be sometimes. I am not afraid to tell you that. I would love to ask you to express the same when you need to. If it isn’t me you want to vent to, please tell someone. I see so many people in our society working so hard to pretend their lives are perfect. Facebook, a platform I adore for many reasons, is one of those places especially, where I witness the ‘My life is perfect’ syndrome. There is comfort in hiding behind the protection of a computer screen, and fabricating the life you want to present to the world. It is really comfortable though?

I also believe that many of you, including myself, truly are positive and happy and feel compelled to share wonderful moments or photos publicly. I get it. I also believe that when you are down, putting out positivity or even receiving positivity is helpful in beginning a day with a good attitude…even if you don’t have one in that moment.

I’m not telling you to spill all of your hardships onto the social media masses. All I am saying is, don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t be afraid of what people will think of you. Don’t be afraid when you divulge a certain truth, that people will discover you are not perfect. Guess what. None of us are. We are not. Our children are not. Our lives are not.

Whether we have kids or we don’t, we go through ups and downs. I believe it is our attitude and the way we approach and respond to those downs that will get us through. Dig deep for patience in those moments. I know sometimes it may seem impossible. Go cry in the closet. The moment will pass. The day will pass. A new day will begin with another chance to experience the miracle of being alive.

I also want to acknowledge those with newborns. I always think of you. Hang in there. While you are enjoying first smiles and precious glances, you are also experiencing sleepless nights, fatigue and responsibility for another like you’ve never known. Hold on to each moment. Enjoy it. Find the beauty. Find the patience and the Love. Be present. I promise you this. You WILL sleep again. You will have moments to yourself again and most importantly, I promise you this. It all goes by faster than you know. This is it. This is your chance to be the mother or father you never had or like the mother or father you did have and respect so much. This is your chance to be YOU. This is your chance to be the best Parent you can be. There isn’t a greater role or responsibility on Earth…in my opinion.

Much Love and Support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bili Baby

Teklo bili lights
flickr/Grandellion

“Pack up the bili baby. He’s going across town,” barked the charge nurse to my newborn baby’s nurse.

I raised my eyebrows at her a little.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you the mom? I thought you were one of the students. That top totally hides your postpartum belly…” She continued trying to flatter me. But I couldn’t hear a thing.

Pack up the bili baby. 

She said what she had to say to get a quick message to the nurse. But what I heard was, box him up and throw him in the back of the van.

She struck a nerve. He’s not The Bili Baby. He has a name. He has a family. He’s a little person who just started a brand new life, and he has a mother who is worried about him.

He is not a shipment to be boxed up.

I understand that newborn jaundice is common and treatable, and that his numbers were low enough that we were no longer throwing around scary-talk, like blood transfusions and brain damage and such. I understand that we had to move because he was the biggest and healthiest baby in the unit, and they needed the resources for a little guy who was in really bad shape.

I understand that we were the lucky ones in that situation.

But all of this – the cords, the wires, the beeps and the instruments – the NICU was a foreign land to me. And oh, did I mention I just became a mother? A mother. Which means I now have to protect someone. At minimum, I should make sure the ones I’m trusting with his life see him as, you know, a person.

The ambulance driver arrived and without saying a word, without so much as an introduction or a hello, pulled out the restraints and started strapping my sweet baby’s tiny limbs down. He wouldn’t look at me.

We walked toward the elevator. I was desperately trying to keep up, but I was recovering from birth and trailing behind. They all filed in, and the door almost closed without me. I had to wave the nurse out of a daze before she held the door. I was almost separated from my baby and I would have no idea where to stop to get to him.

We stepped out of the elevator into a cold garage, where the ambulance was waiting for us. The driver walked ahead of me, wheeling the bassinet. He seemed annoyed by the fact that I had to have my hand on the incubator. Irrational? Maybe. It was just my way of letting my baby know I was still there. He wore goggles, so he couldn’t see me, and he certainly couldn’t feel my hand on the glass. I was feeling helpless, and my hand on that incubator made me feel like I was mothering. I hadn’t had a chance to do much of that yet.

No sleep, unstable hormones, worry, and the sterile environment got to me. I broke down a bit.

“Why are you crying? They’re just going to keep him under the lights. It’s like sunbathing,” the NICU nurse said to me in the elevator.

“Oh, I haven’t slept in four days. I’m just really tired,” I lied, since she was telling me that I was wrong for being upset. After all, you sunbathe on vacation so this must feel like a vacation, right? One shouldn’t cry on vacation.

This trickle of a tear down my face, this quivering lip…that wasn’t crying. I wanted to cry. I wanted to bury my face into someone – anyone – and just sob. And be hugged. And be told that this isn’t fair – that I should be at home in my PJs with my new little man, flipping through Netflix and eating freezer casseroles and getting to know every little finger and toe and hair, every coo and whimper. That it’s not fair that I had to worry about him wiggling around with an IV needle in his head, or wonder why the beeps on his monitors were getting faster, or slowing down…

This wasn’t what we talked about at my baby shower, at the tables strewn with the pink and blue lollipops and coordinating napkins. This didn’t fit my image of the smiling, sleepy mom with her days-old baby in her arms, both drifting off into a blissful snuggle.

Instead, we were in a hospital unit that shrugged us off because my baby wasn’t all that sick.

I give the hospital staff credit for trying to reassure me that my baby would be fine. But, there came a point when I didn’t want to hear that this was no big deal. My baby may have been the least sick, but he was still sick and spending his first days in intensive care. Sick babies make mamas worry. Worried mamas get sad, and need comfort. They need empathy.

At the very least, they could do without the comments that make them feel like they’re crazy for being upset.

What About Bob?

I don’t know how Bob got the name.  Something about Bob wanting to break up with Ben, my son. I said it in jest and it just took. During the times I didn’t want to breastfeed, somewhere between a meltdown and bad day, I would say to myself or maybe even out loud, “Ben — Bob wants to break-up with you.”   Some days  I will be honest, I hated breastfeeding.  I wanted to slip out the back Jack, make a new plan, Stan…”  but I continued breastfeeding because I finally got to a place where I trusted my instinct and my choices.  I knew that Ben would decide when it was time to end breastfeeding.  I dropped the worry.  I dropped the internal criticism.  I just followed my heart.

Photo by Megan Oteri

I had a hard time with breastfeeding at first.  It was awful. Nipple scabs. Bloody nipples.  Pain.  PAIN. And more pain. I remember being determined to make it work, but it was awful.  Those first weeks of breastfeeding were some form of torture.  When my son latched on, it was so painful.  I felt like my nipples were rocks with the sensitivity of an ocean full of neurotransmitters right to my breasts and nipples.

We got through it.  I called La Leche League. I called friends. I called my mom.  But I felt like a failure. Nobody had told me it would be this hard.  Nobody mentioned my nipples would have scabs and bleed.  My husband came home with four different bags of candy on a particularly hard day. In his hands, he held two bags of  candy, creams, Soothies (gel like cooling pads you place over your nipples) — and kindness that can not be measured.  He was also draped in some sort of patience suit — he had to have been because I was not at my best those early weeks of breastfeeding.  He hugged me. He kissed me.  He knew this was something he could not empathize with, but he did offer sympathy.  I devoured the bags of candy.  Then I put on the cream and placed the Soothies over my breasts.  I had a sense of relief for about fifteen minutes, until the next time my son wanted to breastfeed.

My son and me.

I did it all wrong.  I had no clue what I was doing.  I had never heard of Attachment Parenting.  The lactation consultant that the hospital sent over to do a check-in at the home made a ten minute stop at my house.  I stumbled to the door and managed to say hello. She gave me a hand held breast pump, quickly explained how to use it and sat with me on the couch for five minutes watching me breastfeed.  I was desperate for information.

“Is this the right position?” I asked impatiently.

“Yes,” she offered.

“Are you sure?”   I was so desperate — so clueless.  So hormonal.  OK — I was crazy.  I hadn’t slept in a week.  As they say in the South, I was a hot mess!

“Is this the easiest way to breastfeed?” I asked, hoping to dig an answer out of her.

“Yes,” she offered again, this time checking something off on her clipboard.

“Can you please show me an easier way to breastfeed? I feel like I am doing it wrong.”

“You’re doing it right.”

She showed me the football hold, telling me this may be easier for me.  As my son fumbled in my arms, I felt foreign in my own body.  I felt clumsy, unsure, and awful.

Why does it feel like I am doing it wrong? Why does it hurt so much? I wanted to ask.

She left my house. I wanted to scream at her, “Get back over here. We’re not done here. In fact we have not even started. Cancel all your appointments — you are mine for the afternoon.”  But I said goodbye and she went on to the next home, the next mom, who was probably just as afraid and insecure as I was.

I called La Leache League immediately after she left and was hysterical, gasping into the phone.  I think I thought they too were the enemy and asked them a slue of questions, ending each one with, “You guys probably think I am doing it wrong.”

For some reason they were the enemy. My own breasts were the enemy. The nipples scabs were the shrapnel wounds.  My own son, the heavy artillery.

My son, Ben

So, what did work? How did we get to a happy healthy breastfeeding relationship?  I worked at it.  I suffered through the pain.  I called my friend, Debra — who nursed all her children until they were three. She sat with me while I nursed.   She watched me.  She assured me I was doing it right.  I finally allowed myself to believe her.  She was very honest. She told me it would hurt until Ben and I got used to each other.  She said it took time.  It was something new for the both of us.  He was learning how to breastfeed, just as much as I was learning to breastfeed.

I went to a local nursing mothers support group.  We sat in a circle with our newborn babies — staring at each other and our babies.  I broke the ice by saying, “My boobs feel like they are going to explode.”  Then we all exchanged stories, fears, laughter, tears.  A good friend of mine who was in my Lamaze class suggested I switch my nursing pillow. I ditched the one I was using and took her suggestion.

During the first few weeks, I used to set the alarm for every three hours, then take my Moses Basket filled with pillows, blankets,  my safety pin (to remind me where I had nursed last), and the notebook where I wrote down every detail of how long my son nursed for. The basket held my pillows, the Boppy, and the nipple cream; it held my insecurity.  I would slather on the cream, turn on the light to the living room, and arrange my pillows so I could start nursing.  It was three AM might I add. And I insisted on turning on the living room light. I was so rigid.  I was unable to let myself flow in this breastfeeding relationship. It had to be by the book, but I had no book to follow.  I should have read more. I should have practiced.  I should have…I should have…kept ringing in my ears. I had never heard of Attachment Parenting.  I was determined to do it by the book. I even called a friend to ask her about using a pacifier.  “I don’t want him to get nipple confusion.” We had an awkward conversation, filled with frantic questions, but answers seemed so far away.  I felt alone and lost.

My friend, Debra, who came over and supported me with her smiles, tender looks, and approving nods, just said simply, “Why don’t you nurse him in your bed?  Let’s try it. It is much easier lying down.”

I said, “No way, he is NOT coming into our bed. I might roll over him and crush him.”

She just smiled.  I knew she knew something I didn’t.  I was so determined to use the football hold and the across my chest hold.

Organically, Ben found his way into our bed and we co-slept as a family.  I did not roll over him; I did not crush him. In fact, my husband commented on how protective I was of him when we slept, with my arm arching over him like a rainbow.

Photo by Megan Oteri

The truth is, I had to go back to work when my son was four months old; I was exhausted waking up in the middle of the night. I stopped setting my alarm every three hours and learned to trust the fact he would cry when he needed to be fed.  He did.  We figured it out.  Along the way, I learned to trust my own instincts. I became the gardener in our organic garden of mother and son.

Photo by Megan Oteri

We learned together and found our way.

I told my friend, Debra,  that there was no way my son would reference my breast by name. There was no way.

She told me a funny story about her three year old having a temper tantrum over wanting Ninny. Her daughter was eating spaghetti by the handful in her high chair.  Messy red clumps of sauce on the floor, on the chair, on her hair.  Her daughter called out, “Ninny, Ninny, Ninny. I want Ninny.”

Well, now that my son is two and half, he often would ask for the breast by name. In this case, “Bob.”  He would say, “Bob inside.  Can I have milk inside Bob?”  Bob became his comfort,  his nurturer, his friend.  We decided that we would stop breastfeeding when Ben was ready.   Ben has recently stopped.  He sometimes lays his head on my breast, smiling and patting Bob.

 

 

Velcro or Teflon?

The following is a guest post by our own Camille North, API Links Editor. API Links is a monthly e-newsletter to help keep parents, professionals, and others abreast of the latest news and research in Attachment Parenting and updates of API programs.

Anyone can receive API Links! Click here to subscribe.

 

Velcro or Teflon?

by Camille North

As images from Sandy – rescuers saving pets, power strips charging strangers’ phones, and NICU nurses whisking preemies to safety (causing my blood to run cold, realizing that that could have been my own two-pounder) – morph into mental images of Thanksgiving celebrations, visiting relatives, and holiday festivities (which also made my blood run cold when I realized that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away), one thing became clear to me … they all share a common theme.

In line with that theme, I happened to run across an article that talks about stress and how we handle it, and how it affects our health decades down the road. Velcro People, who let stress stick to them, tend to have poorer health than Teflon People, who let stress roll off their backs.

What’s the common theme? No, not stress. Support! Which just so happened to be the topic, and fittingly so, of last month’s AP Month. The thought of facing a catastrophic storm, the inability to communicate with loved ones in harm’s way, or even something as non-life threatening as an extra, ahem, interesting relative at the Thanksgiving dinner table made me realize how much I rely on the people around me to see me through times that pump cortisol into my system.

I’ve been, most of my life, a Velcro Person, and I’m trying really hard now to be a Teflon Person. (Just ask my kids about the “hard” part.) I’m making progress, but I’m not there yet. But I wouldn’t be able to make any progress without support, and that’s what API is all about, whether we celebrate one month out of the year or rely on it all year long.

Before the chaos and craziness of the holidays truly sets in – oh wait, too late – think of API and your Support Group as that little bluebird of happiness (or maybe the bluebird of sanity, or even the bluebird of “pass the bean dip”) whispering in your ear.

When those “helpful,” well-intentioned relatives come to visit and tell you, “A little crying it out is good for them! It teaches them how to self-soothe!,” or “If you respond to his every whimper, you’re gonna spoil that baby,” or “A little smack will show ’em who’s boss. Spare the rod and spoil the child, I always say,” or even “Come on, Sis, Mom and Dad spanked us, and we’re fine,” just breathe and picture the face of your Support Group’s Leader. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Whether you want to get away from it all (“Sorry, Aunt Ethel, I simply must attend today’s meeting! We’ll talk about peregoric and colic when I get back.”), get suggestions for zippy retorts, or just vent, we’re here for you. If you don’t have a Support Group, run, do not walk – or at least run as fast as you can, with the double stroller, the dog on the leash, and the sippy cup the baby keeps tossing on the trail – to your closest computer and find one.

Maybe all you need is the little bird whispering in your ear to remind you that your proper response in trying situations might be, “Pass the bean dip.” Or, in this case, “Pass the cranberry sauce.”

Here’s wishing you a Teflon-inspired, stress-free holiday season.

Camille North,
API Links Editor

Four Principles To Use In Raising Children and Creating Peace In Your Family

Love. Patience. Presence. Respect.

Our role as Parent is constant…ever-changing and ever-growing. We each have different parenting styles and we each face challenges differently as well.
As an attachment parent, four of my fundamental principles are Love, Patience, Presence and Respect. There are many others but these four will sum up an important message I’d like to share today.

When we operate from Love, I believe our intentions are for Harmony, for Peace, for Happiness. If we Love kindly and gently, we hope that these things will naturally be results of our Love. I have discovered that Love, combined with Patience, Presence and Respect, will not only guide me in the direction in which to handle situations, but will also carry me through the challenging times when I truly don’t have the answers.

Please imagine yourself, as a child or as an adult, experiencing frustration, sadness, anger, or any other emotion or feeling that makes you uncomfortable. When you imagine yourself feeling that discomfort, what do you believe could take that away or at least make it easier in that moment? I ask you to imagine yourself because many times in life, it is important to put the shoes on your own feet to gain the necessary perspective in dealing with others. I find this to be true and probably most importantly, in the way we treat and listen to our children.

So often, parents decide it is their way or no way. It is this way simply because “I say so.” You are the parent, they are the children, and for many, it is thought to be the hierarchy that sets the tone for discipline and commands. I don’t believe in those methods. I believe our children deserve to be heard. I believe they deserve respect. I believe they deserve an answer and an explanation. I believe they deserve our Love. Our Patience. Our Presence. I believe we all deserve this.

No matter what is going on, crying in the middle of the night from your newborn, a screaming tantrum from your two year old, your angry four year old making a demand out of frustration…these need to be met with tenderness, calmness and composure of mind. I’m not saying this is easy. I’m not saying you won’t be challenged and tested beyond belief, because you will. I’m only sharing what works for me. I’m sharing this because the alternatives are not only damaging to your children, but they are damaging to you as well.

When we don’t take the time to truly be present and listen…when we don’t dig deeper than we think is possible for patience in a trying moment…when your love turns to anger and you lash out or lose control with your children, damage will be done. I can assure you of that. The negative feelings and situations will be prolonged, everyone will feel worse than they did initially, and someone, if not everyone, will walk away feeling misunderstood, unheard and alone.

It is my goal to nurture, love, and create harmony in my household. I believe we all want the same. When that isn’t happening, we must have the awareness of these principles at our disposal so we can easily tap into and operate from them at all times.

Love.

There was an unconditional Love that was born in me that I never knew prior to giving birth. That in itself, is the source that guides me in everything I do.

Patience.

The source of Love will give you the Patience you need most of the time but there will be moments when you think you can’t possibly keep it together for one more second. You must remember in these moments that you are capable of endurance. You are capable of self control. You can do it. Just breathe deeply. Close your eyes if you can…just for a few seconds. Stay calm.
The short term and long term effects of losing your patience and lashing out bitterly will hurt your children and you. During conflict or stressful situations, our children simply want to be heard, understood and accepted. They are trying to communicate something. If we are able to remain calm in these moments, not only will it ease their stress sooner, but it will not let the situation turn into something worse because of the anger and negativity added on top of it. You will then be able to communicate and allow for both of you to learn from the conflict. Your patience will comfort them and your empathy will encourage them to resolve the struggles within themselves in just knowing you hear them.

Presence.

Physical closeness, level headedness and a choice to be present with your children will make a difference. Not only in the quality time spent together, but this will also allow the lines of communication to be clear and open.
Whether it’s reading a book together on the couch, or when your child doesn’t want to leave the park when it’s time to go, your presence is always important. They can accept when they are doing their thing and you are doing yours…most of the time. When you are with them though, choose to be with them. It’s so easy these days with our phones and technology to get distracted. We may physically be next to them but mentally, conjuring up our next facebook status update. When you are present, they feel it. They appreciate it. They cherish it. When they don’t want to leave the park, your presence in that moment will help them understand that it’s ok. Talking on the phone while yelling at them to leave won’t have the same outcome.

Respect.

We all want to be respected, valued, recognized, adored, appreciated…
Children deserve this as well as we do as parents. When we experience this respect from others, we are empowered to be our best. We are comforted in expressing our voices. We are strengthened with Love and we are emotionally available. We discover that in times when we don’t feel respected, the walls begin to rise and the willingness to communicate and connect shuts down. This usually then shifts the relationship to “Because I said so” again where the parent believes they are the only one who deserves respect and the child’s feelings are dismissed. This will only leave your child feeling unheard, misunderstood and left without an explanation. Please respect them as human beings and by that respect, it becomes possible for you to earn theirs.

We are all doing our best and I believe these tools will help us do it better. 
Let’s all make more of an effort in dealing with our children and one another lovingly, patiently, respectfully… and let’s all make an effort and the choice to be present as often as possible. It will make a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

Parent Support Support

Thank you Card
flickr/Jon Ashcroft

API, along with its partners, Ask Dr. SearsAttachment Parenting CanadaLamaze InternationalPathways ConnectInfant Massage USAHolistic Moms NetworkMothering MagazineFamilies for Conscious Living, and Family and Home Network, is pleased to bring the theme of “Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate: Renewed with Parenting Support” to AP Month 2012 and we hope you have been enjoying the blog posts, daily calendar tips, research on the topic of support, local events, social media posts, and increased attention on the importance of parenting support..

We celebrate the depth and value of parenting support, urging parents to find or create and appreciate their parenting support system. We particularly show our gratitude to those who make the support happen: volunteer leaders, group volunteers, and the staff teams, advocates, and donors who support them. In 18 years of offering support, API regularly hears firsthand the impact that support has on parents and their children–and it keeps API and our partners going, doing the good work.

What else keeps us going is knowing that, as parenting support organizations, we do not need to provide all the support ourselves. We turn to each other for support and collaboration, such as with this year’s theme. We enjoy a network of approaches that all contribute so much to parenting and provide parents with options that best meet their needs. We can combine our voices and raise awareness and pinpoint focus on an important topic, far exceeding what one organization could do alone. We can share developments, lessons learned, and research and all to better support parents. We think it is good for us to build each other up, to work together, all for the purpose of doing our best for families. The feedback is that you find our collaboration supportive too.

There are a lot of people to thank, including each of the AP Month 2012 partners. We welcome new ones–Pathways Connect, Holistic Moms Network, Family and Home Network, and Families for Conscious Living–for sharing the message, donating to the auction, contributing to the blog, and most of all supporting families. We also thank our long-time partners, now celebrating our 5th AP Month–Ask Dr. Sears, Mothering Magazine, Infant Massage USA, Lamaze International, and AP Canada–for promoting the theme in their communities The theme and logo this year recognize the cycle of support and how it really is a valuable renewable resource we cannot underestimate. We thank Art Yuen, AP Month Coordinator, for our theme and position statement, and bringing together the entire event with support from Kelly Johnson. Thank you to Dawn Washelesky, logo designer, for conceptualizing this year’s theme. Thank you to Angela Adams and Ashlee Gray for their work on the API auction, and to all the donors for their contributions. Thank you to Courtney Sperlazza for organizing the AP Month blog event, and Kelly Bartlett for organizing our social media activities. Thank you to Rita Brhel and her publications team, for our upcoming Attached Family issue of articles on the theme of parent support. Thank you to our featured AP Month support groups and sharing your stories. Thank you to the local API support groups for organizing events and fundraisers in support of their groups and API.

Thank you to Barbara Nicholson and Wendy Goldstein, for bringing us our Papas and Mamas Sing for Healthy Birth 2012 benefit concert. Thank you to all our many volunteers for the silent auction and ticket sales, and to Lamaze International for partnering in this effort. Thank you to our concert sponsors TriStar Health, 12South Yoga, Village Real Estate Services, Delbert McClinton and Wendy Goldstein, Trey and Lisa Calfee, and Phil and Reedy Hickey. For a one-of-a-kind night, thank you to Delbert McClinton and Band, Beth Chapman, Jonnell Mosser, Siobhan Kennedy, and Carmella Ramsey, Kevin and Yates McKendree, The McCrary Sisters, Gary Nicholson, and Doyle and Debbie. Thank you to Third and Lindsley Bar and Grill for hosting the event. Thank you to Dr. William and Martha Sears for presenting the API “Attached at the Heart” 2012 Contributions in Parenting Award to Ina May Gaskin, and recognizing our honorees Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein for their work on the Business of Being Born.

Let’s cap off this year’s celebration by making sure this good work can continue with some support of the AP Month Auction! Make your bids and show your appreciation to our donors and the work of all our volunteers.

Parent support support is a role that all of us can play, helping organizations who are dedicated to equipping and empowering parents through the most important role there is–nurturing our children for healthy lives.

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