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until next time

And so my final post for who knows how long is coming later than promised. I suppose that’s only to be expected as a hiatus draws near, as the gears of this blog slowly stop turning and finally grind to an indefinite halt.

Next week FJ will be eight months old. This has been the most difficult and most joyous eight months of my life. I wouldn’t change it for anything that could ever be offered to me in heaven or on earth, but motherhood is nothing like I expected it might be.

I don’t know what I expected, exactly. Easy was never a word that came to mind, and yet there was no way for me to fully grasp what it is like to take care of a human 24/7–how simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating it truly is.

I have always loved children. I was *the* babysitter from 13 to 18 and it was my only job–a job I adored. I thought I had an inkling of what was in store. But this is nothing like babysitting. For one: the job. Never. Ends.

It changes though; it has changed already. A once completely immobile, dependent (but don’t get me wrong–incredible) newborn is now crawling and full of life. She is our sassy little firework, making every day new and exciting. In many ways those changes have made life easier.

And babysitting certainly didn’t hold the pure and encompassing joy of being a mother. It’s the joy of seeing her hold a flower for the first time, press her palms into dewy grass, breathe in the smells from a coffee bag or a spice jar. It’s the smile that erupts from the simplest things, like pressing the buttons on our elevator or seeing her dad come home from work. It’s in giggles and tickles, in the way she looks while she naps, snuggled up nursing as the soft light in our bedroom kisses her round cheeks and long lashes. The way she pants when she is excited. Her round legs. The sweet, milky smell of her breath. What joy.

Being FJ’s mom is truly an honor and a privilege. I only hope I can do half as good of a job raising her as I want to. I wish a life of happiness and love for my sweet girl, a life of adventure and believing in herself and in the beauty in the world and in others.

And in truth I will miss these days dearly. I can already feel it, her babyness slipping away into the body and mind of a toddler. But that’s my job, isn’t it? To help her grow up, not to keep her young forever. I’m raising a future woman, not a forever baby. And though I will miss these sweet days, thank goodness for that.

FJ, I promise to unconditionally love and accept you for as long as I live. If I ever forget that along the way, please point me to these words. You deserve nothing less.

Until next time, dear friends.

seven months

FJ at 6 months
FJ at 6 months

As you can probably tell things seem to be winding down over here at Spirit and Seed, for now at least.   My free time waned with the birth of my daughter, and the time I do have I am spending on other pursuits — reading, working on my childbirth educator certification, and contributing to the mom’s group some friends and I started a few months back. I want to give my few readers some forewarning that my already few and far between posts are coming to a definite (reality-wise), indefinite (time-wise) stop soon. I have just been feeling some guilt about not posting on the blog, but not wanting to post on the blog, and I think I’ll feel better when I take an offical hiatus. I do plan to continue posting little things over on Facebook as the mood strikes me, so feel free to follow me there, and I will leave this blog live and probably return to it someday, so if you have enjoyed it, I’d love for you to keep it in your Google Reader or whatever you use to read blogs so that one day you may wake up to the surprise of a new post. :)

That being said, I don’t want this to be the last post I leave you with for quite some time…I plan to write a new parenting retrospective in the next week or so and will say “until next time” then.

 

five months

five months

This photo was taken around July 12 — I know, I know — will you forgive me for just posting now?

The month leading up to this photo was a good month for us. It was a big turning point for FJ in terms of how “difficult” I felt she was, although I feel like I really have to say that I don’t feel it has ever gotten easy. In fact, I think she meets all the characteristics Dr. Sears lays out for the high needs baby.  Without this list I wasn’t quite sure how to describe her…she’s sensitive, yes…but how do you describe how a baby is sensitive? It’s hard to put into words. She’s such a smiley, happy baby, so sometimes I think it’s hard for others to see. I see it though. And I know I may be going out on a bit of a limb here, but I think she feels things very deeply and her highs are sublime but her lows are intensely felt as well. As Hubby likes to say, she’s our “sensitive buddy” and may have a bit of melodrama in her, a la her mother.

Well, if I were going to come out of the woodworks for anything, it should be for World Breastfeeding Week, don’t ya think? Yes, I owe you so much more (including FJ’s five month pic from a few weeks ago), and yes, life has become so much fuller and rich with so many stories to share…but for now, this is what I have to share with you. In just over a week I will make it to a milestone of six months of exclusive breastfeeding for my little FJ. I see no end in sight and would like to nurse her for at least two years and let her wean on her own terms. I have been grateful for the journey we have been on together. We have had no latch or other rough issues, and physically our breastfeeding journey has been a very smooth one. Emotionally, however, has been a bit of a different story.

Latching on at birth

Latching on at birth

Becoming a mother felt to me like jumping into the deep end of an icy cold pool; I wasn’t ready for the shock of it all and it was nothing like I expected. I kept thinking, “someone should have told me it would be like this.” I mourned my former self — the one who could lie on the couch for hours if and when I wanted, read a book with two free hands to flip pages (what a luxury that feels like now), and just not constantly have a little tiny dependent on you for everything — to be kept warm, clean, and fed.

Sometimes during the early months I had to remind myself, “It’s not the breastfeeding that’s exhausting you — it’s parenting a newborn.” And that was true. But still, while I have always been very committed to seeing breastfeeding through, sometimes I saw the allure of having someone else available to help with feedings, especially because I had a baby who fed at least every hour for her first three months of life. I will say that rule didn’t hold true for nighttime, when, although we bedshare, she actually got a 5-6 hour stretch from very early on. (And now here’s where I must include a disclaimer: she has not been doing that stretch lately, but then again poor babe is teething and probably otherwise going through some big developmental changes.)

During the early weeks FJ and I stayed skin to skin for hours at a time. In fact, in the hospital I never had clothes on at all. (I’m pretty sure I shocked a nurse or two with that one.) But it was glorious. I truly think it helped with bonding and they say it helps with your milk production too. While I can’t be sure, we certainly didn’t have any problems there. I’d bundle up in my husband’s thick, soft robe and close it around the two of us, just breathing her in and letting her alternate between sleeping and nursing on me.

The evenings in those early months were the roughest. While she didn’t fit the textbook definition for colic, she cluster fed like a maniac in the evenings. I was almost never without a nursing or fussing babe, from about 5 until 11 or 12 at night. For months hubby brought me water and snacks to the couch as I posted up there for hours, often with tears in my eyes. What made it worst of all is that she would often thrash, flail, and cry while nursing. I knew she wasn’t in pain or having reflux or other issues that needed attention, as she did this rarely during the daytime. I simply knew it was a common occurrence during this evening “witching hour.” (And why do they call it “hour” anyway — it was always at least five!)

I spent weeks poring through my dog-eared copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and googling countless phrases in conjunction with the Kellymom site name, since I found it to be such a great resourc. Kellymom+fussy. Kellymom+cluster feeding. Kellymom+overactive letdown. Kellymom+infant sleep. And on and on and on. I spent lots of time crying. A couple times I even got in the shower with FJ in her bouncer right outside, closing my eyes under the hot stream and wondering, “if she were gone when I opened my eyes, would I even care?”

Sometimes I wondered if maybe I should try to give her a bottle of expressed milk in the evening , as she often seemed so frustrated at my breast then, when letdowns were so few and infrequent (another common factor in the evenings.) Yet I knew from my reading that I simply needed to keep nursing — that what she was doing was telling my breasts to produce more milk, and eventually they would get it. When FJ was around two and a half months one of my best friends told me, “it really starts to get better at three.” I couldn’t imagine much of a difference in two weeks. Yet…it was true. And then other friends told me that four, and five, and six — every month just continues to get better and better. And…it has.

This has been true for breastfeeding as well as for parenting in general for me. While I still have a frequent nurser, she usually nurses every hour or two during the daytime now. It feels like such a luxury I hardly notice. She can also nurse in 5 minutes instead of in 45, which makes a world of difference. And while she still has a hard time falling asleep, her naps and bedtime aren’t prefaced by almost inconsolable screaming anymore. Now there may be a bit of fussing, and certainly lots of nursing, but it’s enjoyable — punctuated by giggles, by a baby who has learned that when she’s not tired if she simply rolls on our bed onto her tummy and pops her head up like a turtle mommy is likely to laugh at her, and she might get some tickles before bed.

I’m grateful to be staying home with my babe and to have had the incredible support of my husband through it all. On nights when I was really tired and wasn’t sure I could sit up to nurse her again (when we hadn’t yet worked out side-lying nursing with ease) he encouraged me to keep on going — that it was what I wanted and he would do whatever he could to make sure all our other needs were taken care of. This allowed me to focus on her and on our breastfeeding relationship. Staying home has afforded me the time, energy, and space to nurse her with ease. I truly commend those mommas who are able to return to work for any length of time and nurse their babes — it’s hard work and I don’t believe our system is at all designed with nursing mommas in mind.

Now six months in, breastfeeding my daughter is a true joy and is one of my favorite parts of my day. Just yesterday she and I sat in a chair at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, my feet in the warm waves, her snuggled up against my chest nursing as the breeze blew over us. I closed my eyes and knew finally, without a doubt, that if I were to open them and she were gone, my heart would be broken.

***

celebrate-wbw-npn-450

I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

four months

FJ at four months

FJ will be FIVE months on the 12th…as I type those words I almost can’t believe it. This photo was (believe it or not) actually taken right at her four month birthday, although I have been more than slack in posting it on here. The last month has been full of new discoveries and lots of laughter. Four months has certainly been a turning point for us in terms of getting in a rhythm with each other and also finding my own rhythm with Hubby and during free time for myself each week. I appreciate this little girl every day and love watching her grow.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back with more posts one of these days! ;) In the meantime join me on Facebook where I regularly post articles and other items that may be of interest to you!

FJ’s four month checkup was Tuesday, and it’s official: she’s fat. But not just fat – she’s tall too. She weighs in at a whopping 21 pounds, 3 ounces – the 100th (really more than 100th) percentile, and she’s in the 99th percentile for height and 91st for head circumference.  I haven’t been concerned (and neither was the doc) because she’s clearly a healthy child.  It’s easy to doubt yourself sometimes though, especially when others share their (incorrect) opinions about how this early fat could lead to later obesity (when really breastfeeding is one of her best protections against obesity) and otherwise just really act shocked at her size. Plus while I was pregnant I was under the impression that breastfed babies were often on the small side, so part of me has wondered if she is an anomaly.

So I was happy to find this blurb from The Nursing Mother’s Problem Solver online (on accident) while on a pediatrician’s website that I thought was located in Atlanta (but turns out it just had a similar name to one in my city):

For breastfed babies, standard pediatric growth charts function as a reference rather than an inflexible diagnostic ruler. Standard growth charts are based on formula-fed infants, whose growth patterns differ measurably from breastfed babies.

Generally, breastfed babies tend to be chubbier and longer than formula-fed babies during the first 6 months, as measured by the growth charts. It’s not unusual for a breastfed baby to be in the 90th percentile for weight and/or length during that period. Many parents panic that their babies are growing too fast, worry that the babies are getting fat, and restrict nursing sessions to try to control their weight. (This is a mistake: Your baby will be hungry, and your breasts, reacting to the lower demand, will stop making as much milk as your baby needs.) At 4 months, a healthy breastfed baby may look like an infant Buddha, but the often changes 2 months later.

The cliché about older breastfed babies is that they’re long and lean. Once they reach 6 months, their growth slows down-compared with formula-fed babies’ growth-and levels off or falls to the 50th percentile or lower. A breastfed baby who’s 7 months old may be in the 20th percentile according to the growth charts but still is perfectly healthy and normal. A pediatrician unfamiliar with the growth pattern characteristic of breastfed babies may recommend unnecessary supplements of formula, or even weaning.

Now what I want to know is…why are the standard pediatric growth charts based on formula feeding?? I’m truly not trying to bash formula feeding (that’s not my style nor my agenda), but shouldn’t breastfeeding be considered the norm?  I almost can’t believe that formula feeding guides our growth charts, which has me reflecting on the idea that modern culture has become a bit backwards and upside down in terms of what it considers “normal” when it comes to feeding our babies.  Maybe one day breastfeeding advocacy won’t be needed and nursing wisdom and knowledge will once again be passed across and down generations of women, like it used to be.  Until then there is certainly work to be done, education to be imparted, and changes to be made.

Now back to the regularly scheduled moral of my story: breastfed babies come in all shapes and sizes.  As long as yours is pooping, peeing, gaining weight, and is alert, chances are highly likely you are doing a great job.

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