Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Did You Do Anything Today?

As a matter of fact I did! I washed, dried, and folded 3 loads of laundry. I plan to put them away before bed - we'll see how that goes. I changed the sheets on the bed. Well actually I stripped the sheets and washed them and will return them to the bed, so I guess technically I didn't 'change' them. But then 'technically' I did 4 loads of laundry. I made lasagna. For someone else. Then I made dinner for our family. I cleaned the mudroom. I did two loads of dishes (this was a necessity after making lasagna). I played with my Tater. A lot. He discovered the stairs today. So I went up and down. A lot. I went to the bank, and to Target (love it!) and to Costco (aka the store that always costs me $200). And of course, I spent some time on Facebook.

I feel pretty damn good about what I accomplished today without a nanny or babysitter. I know plenty of people with babies that 'never get anything done'. And that brings us to today's topic...Did you do anything today?

What a silly question to ask someone with children. I feel it is exponentially sillier the younger the child or the more children someone has. I mean seriously. People who ask that either have ZERO clue what staying at home for an entire day with a child entails, or they are implying that while being home with said child one should also accomplish Martha Stewart style housekeeping. Pssh. Martha Stewart was NEVER this far behind.

Being a parent, at least at this stage, is all about chasing. If you're not chasing a toddler up and down stairs, you are chasing yourself, or your idea of acceptable hygiene, or your housework/dishes/laundry, or your normal sleep patterns, or your sanity. Or all of the above. Just having the baby means a 6 week hiatus from your normal life. Then after those 6 weeks the sleep deprivation hits you like a train. And as you start to climb out of your I-have-a-newborn hole and things start to get easier you look around and wonder how you're ever going to get the toilets clean again, or if your trash service is going to charge you extra to haul away the mess. And just when you think you might get back on schedule the baby starts motoring. Now comes the baby proofing. Walking into a different room becomes a two-hand job. Opening cabinets takes an engineering degree and serious concentration, and you can no longer go to the bathroom (if you ever got that far after the first 6 weeks) without careful planning because the toilet paper is stored in the childproof cabinet on the other side of the room! There is ALWAYS a baby underfoot. Unless of course the baby is in the other room in which case the baby is no doubt playing with the ONE ITEM that isn't actually child proof. When was the last time someone asked my husband to write a new piece of software at work while finishing a load of laundry and making lunch all while keeping tabs on his coworker who has a tendency to eat rubber bands? It doesn't happen in "the real world". But it definitely happens at home. A lot.

So today, while perusing the Book of Faces a friend of mine messaged me. She asked how I get 'so much done'. I almost laughed. But then I realized she was asking for advice. I had to stop and think. I guess it started a few years ago before I quit working and before I had a baby. It started with this book. I got into a routine. And my house was Martha Stewart worthy. Well on most days.

Then I got pregnant. Then we moved. Then I had a baby. And now hear we are. Tater is eating dust bunnies from under the kitchen table and I am unsure what's in the Tupperware at the back of the fridge. I've been out of it for months. Because in addition to having a baby I also had PPD. But I feel like the clouds have lifted. Actually I should say honestly that God has been merciful to me and has delivered me from my depression. But I am getting back to my old self. And with that, back to my routine of keeping a clean and organized home. And so, when my friend asked how I get 'so much' done I told her.
  1. I make a to-do list. I keep as many jobs on the list short and sweet. Less than 10 minutes start to finish. **Put a load of laundry in the wash. Unload the dishwasher. Clean the toilet. Then, I start checking them off. If Tater is playing in the living room I do the dishes. If I need to be upstairs I take him (and something else...see below) upstairs with me.  
  2. I don't leave a room empty handed. **Boo does not function this way. He starts cleaning in one corner of the room and doesn't leave until he's finished. I can't do that. Today I was cleaning in the bedroom and needed to put a shoebox away. The problem: the shoes for said box were sitting on the kitchen table. So I start to head down to the kitchen. But before I go I gather up the empty water bottles from our nightstands and the baby bottle that Tater deposited on the floor earlier this morning. No sense making a trip down empty handed.
  3. I don't stress if the to-do list is longer at night than it was in the morning. **Sometimes it's just not possible to do what I intended. Sometimes Tater just wants me to play with him. Sometimes Mom invites me to lunch in the park and I just can't refuse. Sometimes my bed calls my name at 10am when Tater is napping and sometimes I answer. 
There is no magic formula for how to clean house and cook dinner while raising a child. Every house, dinner, and child is different. The combinations are endless. The important thing to remember is that no matter what ELSE you did during the day you mothered a child. You fed, cuddled, chased, tickled, diapered, and loved a baby. Maybe not an infant, but still your baby. So tomorrow when I toss my to-do list into the trash to swing at the park for an extra 15 minutes I won't feel like I got nothing done. And you shouldn't either.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Baby Led Weaning

I run in some circles where Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is very popular.

In a nutshell it is an approach to weaning that skips pureed baby food and spoons and heads straight for biting and chewing. It promotes giving the baby food to feed him/her self instead of a parent feeding a baby. When I first heard of BLW I thought it sounded interesting. BLW is an alternative for parents who don't want to start solids early. It is a way to delay baby's diet a bit, and emphasize longer term (meaning past 6 months) breastfeeding for caloric intake. It is also a fantastic way to dodge questions about rice cereal and why you're STILL breastfeeding at 8 months. :) To me, putting more of the decision making into the Baby's chubby little hands, and letting him show me when he was ready to wean sounded like a great idea. But that was only when I first learned about it...

As Baby got older I started experimenting with BLW. At 6 months I gave Baby a slice of avocado big enough for him to hold in his hand. See how much he 'eats' on his own. It was hilarious. He looked more like the hulk by the end of the meal and had gotten 0 into his mouth. But he LOVED the activity. So we started down the BLW road. As we traveled along I learned a few more things about the BLW community. They have a little saying "Food before 1 is just for fun" to remind you that the majority of baby's calories should be coming from breastmilk. It's catchy don't you think? I thought so. It became my mantra. And Baby and I continued with our wonderful breastfeeding relationship well past 6 months.

Feeding him became a game, more than anything. I didn't really make an effort outside of dinner time. It was just easier to continue in the way we had been doing things without stopping to worry about bibs and high chairs throughout the day. At dinner Boo and I would give him some food to 'eat' so he would be entertained. It was great. He was in love with food. Would work and work for every bite, and when he got one into his mouth he would just beam. It was adorable. Eating seemed to be his favorite activity.

Around 8 months Baby started having some problems. Nothing major. And nothing outside of the ordinary. No poop for 3 days. Waking up several times a night to eat. Wanting to be held ALL the time. My generally happy independent Baby had become this sort of semi-detached limb on my body. He fussed constantly. We nursed and he seemed fine. He would eat at dinner and he would seem fine. I figured he was just teething. Teething can cause all of those symptoms. And the chewing and drooling had ramped up too. Teething seemed a good culprit.

Just before his 9 month 'birthday' Baby refused the breast. I was trying to nurse before meeting a friend for coffee, and he just showed no interest. Whatever, I was in a hurry to get going. Boo put him to bed with a bottle while I was out and all seemed well. The next morning we had our typical morning nursing gymnastics session. But throughout the day he seemed distracted and sort of disinterested in nursing. He would grab a quick snack, but no long lazy sessions like we usually had. And a lot of biting. Eh, he's busy exploring the world I thought. He doesn't want to sit still that long. Day 3 and there's zero nursing to be had. He will take a bottle of pumped milk just fine but not interested in nursing at all.

I kept my cool. A friend of mine had just dealt with a 6-day nursing strike. We can get through this. "He's not weaning. Babies don't wean before 12 months" my nursing friends told me. Do this. Try that. "If you nurse him in his sleep it will work." "Give him a sippy cup instead of a bottle." "Scale back on solids." "He is just distracted and will be back in a few days." So I leaned on them for support while I tried a million and a half things to get my Baby back to nursing. We couldn't be done yet, I was ready to nurse for as long as he needed. I pumped religiously every 3 hours. I was determined that when he was ready to come back there would be plenty of milk. Meanwhile he was getting all of his milk from a cup or bottle. Pooping became a once a week activity, and sleep became something we got in 2-3 hour naps around the clock. Waking up SCREAMING. Those damn teeth! Wouldn't they just break through already, they were ruining everything!!

After two weeks of no nursing I was desperate. Sleep deprivation and the loss of our breastfeeding connection had left me a puddle of depressed nothingness. I couldn't seem to comfort my crying baby at all. He had lost 1 1/2 pounds and cried all the time. I knew he just needed to nurse. We both just needed him to nurse. It would solve so many of our problems. "He's not weaning. Babies don't wean before 12 months."

By the end of the third week I was so depressed I could barely do anything. I cried all the time. I had completely failed. I couldn't manage to get baby back to breast. I couldn't calm him. I couldn't soothe him. Everything felt like a judgement. Everything felt wrong. And on top of it my nipples were so sore and inflamed from the pump that keeping up with the baby was looking more and more impossible. I couldn't even give him breastmilk for a full 12 months. But I didn't want to give up. On Monday of the fourth week I went to my chiropractor and wellness doctor. He suggested that maybe the baby was just done. BLASPHEMY! When I said "but he still wants the bottle" he suggested this: "So take the bottle away. Give him food, and if he still needs nutrition from you he will get it from you. If he doesn't, he will just be done." For the rest of the day Monday I discussed this approach with the few people left that I thought were supportive. A plan was made.

Beginning on Tuesday morning Baby starting getting 3 square meals and a snack every day. Before each feeding I would offer to nurse. If Baby refused I would feed him food. Tuesday morning we started. After breakfast he was already so much happier! For his morning nap I offered to nurse, but he refused. I gave him a small bottle to soothe him to sleep, and he slept 2 hours. Up for lunch. By the afternoon he was back to his normal, happy self. He took ANOTHER 2 hour nap. That night he slept 8 hours. By Thursday he was pooping multiple times a day. Although still chewing on everything there was no more fussiness. No more screaming.

After about 15 more minutes of moping (the realization that I had been making the baby go around hungry for like 3 weeks hit pretty hard) I finally let go of all of the feelings and thoughts of having failed. This whole parenting journey isn't about doing what you planned, it's about doing what the baby needs. My Baby needed to wean. Forget the rules. Forget about 'other' babies. Forget all the plans I had for nursing past 12 months. Forget it all. The whole point of baby led weaning is letting the BABY lead!

I didn't fail. I listened to my baby even when he told me something I didn't want to hear...something that didn't even seem to make sense. And the two of us found our way through together. I'm sorry it wasn't to the place I envisioned, but it was a beautiful, bittersweet dance. 

I am so thankful for the experience. And for the realization that failure truly comes in pressing my own wishes and desires onto my son despite his needs. There is no failure in finding the right thing. There is only failure in not accepting. I desperately wanted things to go back to the way they were. But there is no growth in going back. I will always treasure the beauty of breastfeeding my son for 9 months. And I will be proud of breastfeeding him for as long as he wanted. I will cherish the baby he was but I will not hold him back from becoming the wonderful little person he's growing into. 

Looking back I am sorry it took me so long to hear what he was telling me. But with this experience behind me and looking forward...I feel like Super Mom.