it’s apparently breastfeeding awareness month, and for the first time, i’m not sad

it's breastfeeding awareness month, and for the first time, I'm not sad

When I nearly died from complications after delivering our twins, I grieved one thing possibly more than any other: the loss of my ability to breastfeed my babies. Breastfeeding was just something I knew that I would do. It was really important to me, and in our first few days in the hospital, I was breastfeeding Etta and pumping to send milk to Claire in the NICU at Children’s Hospital, too. I remember the agony of my possessed hospital pump that would randomly turn itself to high and threaten to rip my poor nipples right off. I remember the ritual of Jon cleaning all the various parts in the hospital room sink so we could get ready to do it all over again all too soon. And I remember the pride I felt in sending those little 2 ounce bottles of “liquid gold” to my girl recovering from surgery to close her myelomeningocele, feeling comfort that if I couldn’t be there holding her, at least she was getting a little bit of me to strengthen and nourish her. It was so important to me, that when I was intubated and unconscious in the ICU myself, my husband had a lactation consultant bring the pump up, because he just knew I’d be very mad if I woke up and discovered they had let my precious milk dry up.

it's breastfeeding awareness month, and for the first time, I'm not sad

it's breastfeeding awareness month, and for the first time, I'm not sad

Unfortunately, when I woke up, they told me that drying up was exactly what I would have to do, because the medicines I needed to help my heart were not safe for nursing moms, and there were no safer alternatives. I had to stop breastfeeding so my heart wouldn’t stop beating.

From where I sit now, with happy, healthy three year olds, this seems like an obvious choice– the clear, right thing for my health. But at the time it felt rather devastating, because I believed I’d be settling for “second best” for my babies. Oh, how I cried. I remember noticing that even my damn formula can said “breast is best” on it and SOBBING. And for a while, I felt sad or defensive every time breastfeeding came up. Sad because I didn’t get to do something that was important to me. Defensive because I felt like so many people essentially wanted to see a doctor’s note to justify our “choice.” “Breast is best” became a trigger for rage– oh yeah? Let me show you how bonded I am to these bottle-fed babies! Let me tell you about immune systems and antibodies when these formula-fed kiddos haven’t had a single ear infection in over 3 years of life!

it's breastfeeding awareness month, and for the first time, I'm not sad

But now, 3 years in, it’s amazing to realize how all of that has just kind of fallen away. My kids eat food now. They drink mostly water, and sometimes whole cow milk. No one really asks if they were breast or bottle fed. No one really questions our bond, or their intelligence, or their health. They’re just happy, healthy kids, and what seemed SO IMPORTANT and SO DEVASTATING to me back in that hospital room, my breasts and my heart aching for what I could no longer give to my babies, well, it seems so far away and so small now.

it's breastfeeding awareness month, and for the first time, I'm not sad

Today, I don’t feel a twinge of pain or sadness or loss when I see my friends nursing their babies. Today, I can stand alongside other parents and say that our culture needs to do a whole lot more to support nursing parents. And today I also feel a whole lot of compassion for those of us who feel a little too aware during breastfeeding awareness month, too aware of what we perceive as our failings or shortcomings, or too aware of what we perceive as judgment from others, or too aware of loss and pain. To you who are still in that place, I am writing this to say: it gets better. Your babies will thrive not because of what they are drinking, but because of your great love. They will be bonded to you not because of your breasts but because of your hearts. They will be healthy because of your care, not because of antibodies in their milk. They will grow, and they will thrive, and this big deal will shrink and shrink and disappear in the rearview. I promise. I’ve finally made it there.

threenager

on having threenagers | the adventures of ernie bufflo

Back when we were first entering the twos, people started warning me: “Don’t believe the Terrible Twos thing. Twos are fine. Threes are terrible.” For the most part, I didn’t mind the twos. Yeah, they developed attitudes and the ability to say NO! But I was mostly too enchanted with their growing verbal skills and emerging personalities and ability to walk and fetch things to be too bothered.

Now that I’m a few months into three, I think people were right. THREE, MAN. THREE SQUARED, ACTUALLY. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. When they are good they are very very good, and when they are bad, they are horrid. Two-year-olds can be defiant, but three-year-olds are committed and they won’t shut up about it. They’ll give you a monologue manifesto about why you wanting them to put on their shoes/eat that thing they asked for and then decided they hate/use the potty/hold a hand/stop stealing toys from their sister/stop WHININGOMG is the most ridiculous thing in the world. And then they’ll put a hand on their hip, give you the stink-eye, and go HUMPH! for emphasis.

on having threenagers | the adventures of ernie bufflo

Claire in particular seems to embody another three-year-old stereotype. She’s a “threenager.” Three going on fourteen, I kid you not. She’s moody and sassy, yes, but she also desperately wants to be older. Here are three things that keep happening again and again.

I must, I must, I must increase my bust…

That was a line from Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, a book I loved at 13 and which seems to speak to Claire’s soul already at 3. She’s amazed by boobs. She admires them, she asks me about them, and she compliments me when I’m wearing particularly cute boobs, by which she means a sports bra, particularly my neon pink one. And she asks me daily if her boobs are coming in yet. Nope. Probably not for another 10 years, kid, and then, considering your genetics, probably not by much, anyway.

on having threenagers | the adventures of ernie bufflo

Steal my kisses

Claire has also recently developed an affinity for “wip-stick.” Her mama happens to love a bold lip color, and she is always complimenting me on my color choices. And then she demands a kiss, on the lips. How sweet, you might think. But it’s not about showing affection. She’s hoping some of my lipstick will wear off on her lips, so she can wear it too.

on having threenagers | the adventures of ernie bufflo

Learner’s permit

It’s normal for little kids to be interested in cars. We have a lot of toy cars, but to Claire they’re about as satisfying as when she said she wanted a “baby” for Christmas and she had to keep correcting people, “not a doll, a real one.” Claire wants to DRIVE. Every day when we get in the car, she asks me if she is “tall enough” to drive yet. Nope. And you’re not nearly old enough, either, kid. She has to settle for the race car carts at the grocery store. Which she drives like a crazy New Yorker, hollering “BEEP BEEP! OUTTA MY WAY!” to the folks just trying to shop. I blame the book “I Stink!” about a grouchy big city garbage truck for that one.

on having threenagers | the adventures of ernie bufflo

My little threenager isn’t all sass and shenanigans, though. She’s also full of sweetness. She appears to be a natural-born nurturer and has been dubbed the junior babysitter of our playgroup. She’ll gently and expertly hold all the baby siblings, fetch their pacis and diapers for their mamas, and happily hand them toys and blankies to play with. Mostly, she’d rather play with the babies and chat with the mamas than play with her same-aged peers. She also takes excellent care of her own mama. She’s always asking me how I’m feeling, stroking me gently, giving me giant bear hugs, and picking random moments to whisper “I wuv you, Mom,” and totally melt my heart. She pushes me to my limits, confuses the heck out of me, and totally has my heart.

you’re so sebastian

When my sister and I were kids, our parents didn’t allow us to call other people “stupid.” So we did what any smart kids would do: we created a code word that worked just as well. Our code word? “Sebastian.” Ariel’s very own personal crustacean buzzkill was a natural choice for a couple of kids whose first movie in the theater was The Little Mermaid. “You’re so Sebastian,” we would say to each other, and the recipient would TOTALLY know exactly what we meant. It became something of a family joke, and to this day, my Papa, particularly when he is performing a monologue on behalf of the dog in his special dog-voice, will use the word “Sebastian” to call someone a nitwit.

This is why I was surprised when I saw that the name “Sebastian” has now arrived on the top 50 list of boys’ names. Guess all those people just don’t know they’re basically naming their kids “Stupid.”

 

*Note: if you named your kid Sebastian, I am sure that he is not, in fact, stupid. It’s a great name. But it will always first and foremost make me think “Stupid.” And then it will remind me of “The Neverending Story.” And then I’ll want to put a necklace on my head and pretend to be The Childlike Empress. And THEN it will make me think of twee rockers Belle and Sebastian. The end.

 

PS: Have you “liked” my new Facebook Page yet?

so, you just found out you’re having twins…

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Dear couple staring in disbelief at an ultrasound image of TWO babies,

Hi. You might be feeling a lot of feelings right now, and those feelings may be giving you other feelings too. Like, maybe you’re a little bummed out and the difference between how you feel and how excited everyone else seems to be about this twins thing might be making you feel a little guilty on top of the whole feeling bummed thing. I know.

Continue reading

knowing yourself

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“Night night.”

Anyone who’s hung out with Etta knows what those words mean. She is D-O-N-E. When she comes over to me, wherever we are– zoo, story time, splash pad– and says “mama, night night,” I pack it in and we jet. Because apparently, my tiny tot knows herself well, and she lets me know when she’s reached the point of needing to get home and get to bed for a nap ASAP. Continue reading

Screw You, “British Nanny,” I let my kids choose their sippy cups

Society isn't in crisis just because I let this kid choose this Elmo cup (and her outfit).

Society isn’t in crisis just because I let this kid choose this Elmo cup (and her outfit).

At this point, everyone who knows anyone with a kid has likely seen the latest viral parenting piece from a “British Nanny” letting us know 5 Reasons Parenting is in a Crisis. Most of them left me with that record-scratch sound playing in my head.

For one thing, I’m an ACTUAL PARENT, and I’m not here to tell you a bulleted list of how to raise your kids. Because if twins have taught me anything, it’s that every kid is different, and every parent is different, and only you know what is best for your child. We’re all just doing the best we can here, and my biggest takeaway in two years has been that we all need a little more grace and a lot more help.

But for another, what really bothered me the most is that Emma, the aforementioned Nanny, characterizes every interaction between parent and child as a power struggle, one in which parental will must be exerted at all costs, lest children get the idea that they “are in charge here.” Continue reading

pixie dust and sippy cups

tinkerbell cup

I feel like when my kids are supposed to switch from various bottles and cups to the next level is one of those lessons I missed in mom school. Bottles to soft sippies, soft sippies to straws, straws to ?? I don’t even know. I eventually got the vague idea that I needed to get them off of the bottles and onto sippy cups because otherwise their teeth would be jacked up, and so we did that somewhere around age one. Except that after that, Etta would ONLY drink from a very particular Nuk soft sippy cup, and Claire would drink anything out of anything except milk NEEDED to be drunk from a baby bottle. And since milk was such a key part of our bedtime routine, since it worked SO WELL to get them sleepy and since I am so utterly lazy, I decided not to fight it. They won’t go to college drinking out of baby bottles, right?  Continue reading