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Confidence Is Underrated

Two weeks ago I sat in a WIC class surrounded by approximately ten mothers and one mother-to-be. The leader of the class asked the mothers who were still breastfeeding.

I immediately reminisced about my first visit to that very class when I sat determined to breastfeed for a year and one mother sitting in front of me turned to me and said, “Oh, honey, if you’re like me you won’t make it past two weeks. It hurts too much! Naw, that’s not for me!” 

Honestly, I’m not still breastfeeding my daughter who weaned herself just two months prior to the class. . . but I lied. No other mothers in the room raised their hands when we were asked who was still breastfeeding and I wanted to show the mama-to-be that it is possible to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. I raised my hand and said I was still breastfeeding my 16-month-old daughter. The leader asked what I liked about breastfeeding. The question caught me off-guard and I stammered something about not having to get up in the middle of the night to prepare bottles while my daughter waited, crying. If I’d had more time to prepare, this is what I would have shared with the class.

There was certainly a learning curve, and it wasn’t always comfortable, but breastfeeding has fulfilled the lives of my daughter, me, and my husband more than I could have ever imagined.

The gifts that breastfeeding gave my daughter are obvious. Breastmilk was gentle on her stomach, unlike formula. Breastmilk comforted her when she felt poorly. Breastmilk sustained her and helped her grow. Breastmilk kept her healthy and protected her from the germs I brought home from work.

Breastfeeding gave me sweet, beautiful times to cuddle my daughter and look into her beautiful eyes. It gave me time to slow down, stop, and enjoy her company. It taught me patience and perseverance. It gave me a greater sense of purpose. It gave me something about which I could be passionate. Breastfeeding gave me a sense of accomplishment that I’d never known – after all, not only did I help my beautiful girl grow in my belly, but I also helped her grow once she met the world for the first time.

I would have never guessed that our breastfeeding relationship could have been a gift for my husband as well. After I told him the benefits of it he was on-board. He was able to see my commitment to our daughter. He was able to see a mother nurture her babe in every sense of the word. He was also able to gain his protective, father-bear instincts when it came to defending us and our choice to breastfeed.

Little did I know when I made the decision to breastfeed that it would be the best decision I’ve ever made.

More importantly?  

Breastfeeding helped me learn my body and trust it. . . and gave me confidence in myself.


Truth Box

I have the Truth Box application on my MySpace profile. I believe I'm going to be deleting my MySpace account in a couple of weeks, but first I wanted to memorialize some of the things that were said about me. 

- April Rocks!
- The most beautiful soul I know, I love you:)
- I think you are the most beautiful, amazing woman EVER! Love ya!
- to know you is to love you, to love you is to respect you, to respect you is to be your friend, to be your friend is the greatest privilege i have had in life. SM.
- you will be an amazing mommy :) *hugs*...
- One of the most beautiful people I know, I love her:)
How could I have not saved those? 

***Edited 12/09/10 to include these:

- I adore your smile and your strength as a mother, and one day I hope I can be just as good of a mother as you are to your sweet little one! Your growth is amazing to watch (well on facebook and blogging at least)! You are one of those inspirational women people (like me) like to surround themselves with!
- You are one of the most intelligent, level-headed people I know. You are also caring, beautiful, and a wonderful mother to your adorable daughter. You are genuine and stand up for what you believe in. You are patient and kind-hearted. Definitely one of my favorite people, even if we've never met in person! :o)
- someone I don't know very well and never met in person...I was friends with her hubby years ago. Im glad I made her my friend on here though because she seems to be a really great person and Mom to the cutest little babygirl ever! Shes always got good advice for me too :)
- you are the most open minded and caring person I know. You introduced me to so much, and undoubtedly I would not be the person I am today without you. I love that we can agree to disagree and still respect each other. You are an awesome mommy and wife. You rock! 
- I miss you!!! You are one gorgeous, funny, and amazing mom. And we REALLY need to get together more often! 
- you're a good friend from school seems like u r doing well in life and seem to still be a great and caring person 
- the one that's always outside when there's parties and all the text messagings...nice to know i have a friend even tho we never really hang out!
- I have only met you in person a couple of times. I think you are attractive, and you have a warm positive energy that makes you a pleasure to hang around with. I hope your life gives back to you all the love you put into it.


No, I Have No

No, I have no money 
for you today.
It's all spent.
It's all gone away.
There are doctors bills, groceries,
and rent to pay.
You'll get your funds. . . 
but I'm afraid not today.

No, I have no time
to give you, my friend.
I'm not sure where the day flew - 
we've seen its end.
Yesterday's gone, today's gone, 
tomorrow's spoken for before it begins.
Yes, I will see you, when it becomes convenient for all.
Seems right now not speaking remains the trend.

No, I have no sanity
to retain for myself.
I can't balance this all. 
I need some more help.
But how can I ask for anything
when I can't share the wealth?
I'll exist over here.
Just with them. And myself.


Many Questions

I think we’ve become paranoid.  I hope we’ve become paranoid.

It seems like no matter where we look, there is always another reference to autism.  A boy I used to babysit is high on the autism spectrum.  There are commercials for autism awareness, charities . . . one of our favorite shows, Parenthood, portrays a couple raising a teenage daughter and an autistic son.  I’m resenting so much autism awareness. 

Does that make me terrible? 

I’m resenting autism awareness because now I look at my daughter every day and wonder if she’s showing signs.

We had thought that Tori had said two words around 11 months old, but she hasn’t said them since.  Language regression can be a major red flag.  I think, however, that Josh and I have talked about it and decided that we only thought she was saying those words.  Maybe she was just making sounds but had yet to make the connection.  Regardless, here she is at over 15 months old and she has yet to say anything.  Instead she points and grunts at everything.

To be fair, I didn’t talk until nearly two years old . . . and until I did talk, my means of communication was pointing and grunting.  So . . . maybe that can be explained away.

But she’s also making repetitive movements.  She obsessively rocks and bounces her back against the back of the couch.  I do mean obsessively.  Sometimes her rocking becomes quite intense.  I looked at some videos of autistic children stimming – and in some of them I saw the same movements my beautiful daughter makes.  That makes me more concerned than anything, I suppose. 

Last Thursday Josh and I took Tori to her 15-month appointment.  We were certainly hoping that doc would listen to our concerns and then say, “Oh, you’re fine!  Kids do that.”  Instead he furrowed his brow.  He used the words “red flags”.  He referred us to TEIS – Tennessee Early Intervention System.  We’re supposed to get a call from them sometime this week so that they can do an in-home assessment on Tori. 

For now I’m trying to remind myself that autism, a spectrum disorder, can be really mild.  There are a lot of autistic people on the lower-end that are more than high functioning – they are intelligent, wonderful, delightful people to be around.  I’m trying to remind myself that early intervention is key – that autism, when diagnosed and treated early, can be a bump in the road but nothing more.

I’m also trying to remind myself that I’m likely paranoid from all the images I’m seeing in regards to autism.


When talking to yourself, what language do you use?

I haven’t been feeling so great about myself, folks.  I’m frankly quite disappointed.  Throughout the majority of my pregnancy with Tori, I was “all belly” and hardly gained any weight anywhere else on my body.  By the end of the pregnancy I had convinced myself that within 60-90 days of having my daughter I would be back to my pre-pregnancy size.  We’re now almost 13 months past my daughter’s birth and I weigh almost five pounds more than I did at the end of my pregnancy – that’s after joining a gym three months ago and having little success with my diet and exercise plan.

I am still determined to lose the weight, but as the days stretch on and my progress gets slower I can’t seem to focus on anything but the negative.  My internal voice hasn’t been kind lately, and that’s just self-destructive.  All these thoughts will do is make me more miserable and set me up for failure.  I need to snap out of this and find a new perspective.  I know I’m not the only one.

Let’s find the reasons for wanting to do this and change our language. 

I need to gain more energy so I can play with Tori.  I need to lose weight so that my body is healthier and can deal with the stress under which I put it.  Most importantly, I need to start living a healthier lifestyle so that my daughter has the opportunity to grow up with an example of how to care for herself in today’s hurried and often half-assed culture.

Those are the items on which I need to focus.  Those are the words that will get me to my goal.  Self-destructive language will only slow me down.

So how do you speak to yourself?  Do you tell yourself that you can reach your goals because you'd like to be better to yourself?  Or do you tell yourself that you'll never get what you desire because you're too < insert self-depreciating word here > to do it? 

Let's try to be better for ourselves.  We owe it to our families, our friends, our children . . . but most importantly, we deserve to be treated better. 


What do you want to know?

You see people post "Ask me one question, and I'll answer you honestly" on their Facebook or MySpace statuses. I've never posted that status myself but I've always been curious as to what kinds of questions I would get. I recently saw this put into blog format and I thought it was pretty neat, so . . .

Ask me one question. Any question. It can be a science question, a personal question, or an inquiry about my opinion about whatever topic. (Honestly I could use some more blog fodder.)

You can ask it here in comments, you can email me, or you can post it in the reply section of my Facebook post.

I look forward to receiving your questions!


Un-cut. Un-circumcised. WHOLE.

Here's a controversial one for you.
When I had just become pregnant with our darling daughter, Josh and I started discussing all sorts of parenting-related things (as you can imagine). We were on the same page about a lot of issues, but there was one statement Josh made that really made me furrow my brow.
"If we have a little boy he's not getting circumcised." 

I was confused, curious, and honestly a bit disgusted. I asked him why he said that, and he responded simply: "Because I wasn't asked to have this procedure done. I didn't give my permission. If he grows up and decides he wants to be circumcised, I won't have any problems with it. But I don't think it's fair that I didn't have the choice." 

I could understand that much of his argument but I frankly wondered if that was the best decision to make. After all, I hadn't much experience with uncircumcised penises - but with the experiences I did have, I knew *I* certainly liked them more circumcised. Also, circumcision exists for a reason outside religious beliefs - it helps keep the area cleaner. 

Folks who know me will know that it was time for me to do some research and soul-searching. Through that research I have changed my mind about circumcision and, at this point, whole-heartedly agree with Josh. If we have a little boy, he will absolutely *not* be circumcised (at least until he reaches an age where he can make that decision for himself if he so chooses). Why the change? 

The first analogy I reached hit me like a ton of bricks. The question was posed, "How do you feel about female genital mutilation?" I was instantly enraged. How could you compare female genital mutilation (FGM) with circumcision? FGM has no medical reason to exist. It's the act cutting parts of a baby girl's (and sometimes older girl's) genital area resulting in less physical enjoyment during sexual intercourse, sometimes performed so that the area looks "neater" and cleaner". 

Oh, wait. After discovering that there is no medical reason to circumcise, and that removing the foreskin from the penis results in a lowered number of nerve endings and, therefore, less physical enjoyment during sex, I made the connection myself. 

Take just a moment and let this idea sink into your mind. 

- FGM = done for cosmetic purposes, has no medical advantages, and sometimes done to reduce a woman's enjoyment of sexual activity.
- Circumcision = done for cosmetic purposes, sometimes done for religious purposes, has no medical advantages, and results in reduced enjoyment of sexual activity.

These two issues are the same, yet in our culture we fight *against* FGM and we continue to circumcise our boys. How's that for a double-standard? 

That information alone was enough to make me change my mind about circumcision. I don't want to take a part of my boy's genitals without his permission. I don't want to cause him pain as a tiny infant for aesthetic purposes. I don't want to take part of his body without his permission. I don't want to limit his sexual enjoyment later in life for a ritual within a religion of which I do not subscribe. My mind is made up. 

But now as I learn more and more information about the topic, I'm becoming more passionate about it. Not only is circumcision not necessary and not medically helpful, but it can be dangerous as well. I was a bit skeptical when I found out this information. How can a circumcision, a tiny cut, result in the death of an infant? More so - if it's such a dangerous practice, why haven't we heard about this before?
Why is circumcision potentially dangerous? If just one ounce of blood is lost, a baby will critically hemorrhage and result in hypovolemic shock and death. Once ounce. If 2.3 ounces are lost, death is imminent. 

I know that there are some out there who don't understand how little fluid is one ounce, much less 2.3. Just to give you an example, one fluid ounce is equal to two tablespoons of fluid. That means that after losing roughly four and a half tablespoons of blood, your infant can be gone. Why am I trying to emphasize that so much? Because the penis is an extremely vascular area and one can reach the conclusion that if the knife slips, much bleeding can occur. 

At that point I was becoming less skeptical, but I still wondered why we have yet to hear about this problem if it is such a potential problem. As it stands, hospitals are not required to report deaths caused by circumcision, so a newly-circumcised infant's death is often incorrectly entered as SIDS, heart-failure, or seizure. How *can* we know as a people that circumcisions are harmful if they are subject to such a huge misnomer? 

Here's a bigger shocker: while choking is cited as the number one cause for death in infants, the number of deaths resulting from circumcisions each year is actually higher. Even if that were not the case, do we really want to consider the fact that something unnecessary (circumcision) is causing death in infants *at all*, much less that it's a higher number than something occurring (eating) which is necessary for survival?
What I'm attempting to say here is that I thought it bad enough that circumcision is an invasive procedure that we do to our boys without their permission . . . it's even worse to know that deaths could be prevented by skipping the unnecessary procedure.

I know that we humans tend to be creatures of habit. I realize that for generations the majority of the residents of the USofA have been cut. And I know that there are some parents getting their children circumcised simply because they want their little boy to "look like Daddy".
Would that be the case if we all knew the dangers associated with it? And if we all realized that genital mutilation is genital mutilation - regardless of whether it occurs on female or male genitalia?

***Note: edits made 10/08/10 to strike through previous statement because my source of information was de-bunked. Woohoo!


Here's the Plan, Stan

I started working out at a recommended gym on August 10th. At the same time I started being more conscious about what I was eating and drinking.

The first week I lost two pounds (yippee!).
The second week I lost one pound.
The third week I gained a pound. (Insert discouragement here.)

Luckily, my gym membership came with three personal training sessions, so I decided it was time to sign up. I had my first session this morning at 10:00 am. I found out some interesting things.
  • I’m doing well in eating 4-5 times a day instead of 2-3, but I’m not eating enough at each session to fuel my calorie usage as I exercise
  • Working with weights causes you to burn more calories and keeps your metabolism raised for some time after your workout
  • While weight-loss results will take longer, the energy-boosting benefits of working with weights is almost immediate
  • The personal trainer was really nice to look at
  • Women should not weigh weekly because of the hormonal changes constantly occurring in the female body – it’s more accurate to measure using body mass index and inches lost 
  • Instead of 3 days a week I should aim for 4-5 days a week in order to shock my system into weight loss
I am sure that going to the gym and working on the elliptical or the bike would get old – so it’s nice to be able to go in and actually know how to safely use the other gym equipment. It will certainly spice up my workouts a bit more, and hopefully it will bring me the results I’m seeking. Today the trainer showed me how to work on my abs, back, and thighs. My next appointment is Tuesday at 10:00 and then I hope to focus on my arms then. Who knows what we’ll do during my third appointment.

Wish me luck, folks!


Numbed Aspirations

I love psychology. Love it. Psych classes were always the easiest ones for me to ace in high school and college because all the theories and science behind human behavior just made *sense* to me.

Now I have a new obsession interest. I've become interested in all things lactation-related.

Combine these things with my desire to help people, and I have two great career choices there - either a clinical psychologist or a lactation consultant. So . . . what's the problem?

Both of those fields require medical training. Medical training isn't like the broadcasting classes I took in college. If I walked out of a class and forgot who invented the first radio, who cares? It's not endangering anyone. But with medical training, you have to remember all you learn. All.of.it.

And I have the memory of a gnat.


Three Little Birds - Bob Marley

This is my favorite song to sing to Tori while she's falling asleep. Check out the lyrics:

"Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou:"

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don't worry!"
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing" - I won't worry!
"'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right" - I won't worry!
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, oh no!
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!


Happy happy birthday, baby!

It's hard to believe that this time last year my little one had only been on the planet for 14 hours.

This morning when we woke up I smiled at my sweet baby girl and sang her "Happy birthday." I was able to take a little bit of an extended lunch so I could spend some extra time with her today. When I get home tonight we'll play with one of her new toys; then I'll tell her birthday story when we go to sleep tonight. It won't be long before she'll come to expect these things and more on her birthday. I can't wait until next year when I can start taking off work to spend her special day with her!


The No-Cry Sleep Solution

So what is the solution to sleep issues?

Since I'm not going the direction of the Cry It Out method, I had to do some research and find a better way to help Tori sleep away from Mama.

In all honesty, if it was just up to me, Tori and I would co-sleep until she was ready to find her own big-girl bed and sleep in it. (Yes, I understand that kids sometimes continue finding their ways back into their parents' bed well after 7 and 8 years old . . . but that's a side-effect I'd happily subscribe to. Unfortunately, I can't continue co-sleeping with Tori simply because it isn't the safest option any more. Since Tori gained mobility, I'm worried she's going to crawl (or walk!) her way off our bed. Regretfully, it is time to get Tori to sleep in her crib.

One book has been highly recommended to me time and time again. It is the "No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley. The author lists gentle ways of parenting your children to get them to fit into a better (or better for you) way of sleeping. I spent some time on her website and found extremely helpful FAQs. I didn't see the answer I was looking for in particular, so I emailed a suggestion for a question on the website. Within a couple of days, lo and behold, the author actually emailed me back to answer my question. Moreover, she included excerpts from the latest version (read: unpublished) of her books that would help me with our situation.

Seriously. That has to be the best customer service I've ever received from an author - and you'd better bet that her willingness to assist me with my issue, even when I had yet to buy her book, is going to ensure that I purchase her books to help raise Tori in a loving, gentle way.

Here's a great big thank you to Elizabeth Pantley - please visit her site. I'm sure that you'll likely find some information there that will help you with your little one, as well.


We're Not about to Cry It Out!

You’ll have to pardon my lackadaisical ways. If I were a better reporter I would have gathered all my sources, cited them, maybe even added little footnotes to the end of my blog. Unfortunately for you, you’ll just have to trust that I did a lot of research and reading before making this decision.

My arguments are these:
• When one leaves their little one to cry alone their bodies are quickly filled with hormones (stress hormone, cortisol, and with adrenaline). When these hormones continually fill the baby’s under-developed brain tissue, nerves inside the baby’s brain will not form their usual connections with other nerves and will deteriorate instead. What that translates to is permanent structural and functional change in regions of the brain.
• Children left to cry were found ten times more likely to have ADHD, show poor school performance, and display antisocial behavior.
• Infants that cried for long periods of time in the first three months of their lives showed IQ scores nine points lower than their peers at 5 years of age. Their fine motor development was also not as good as their peers who had not experienced prolonged crying. Prolonged crying in infants also resulted in increased blood pressure in the brain and decreased brain oxygenation.
• Extended periods of crying can lead to a child vomiting and, without an adult nearby to help the child, may lead to that child dying of suffocation.

To be fair, I must note here that it is unclear whether such damage is caused by allowing your child to cry it out for sleep training or if the damage is only caused by extensive crying caused by abuse and neglect.

What *is* clear is that the way a parent responds to his or her child shapes the child’s brain, particularly the areas that control the child’s emotional well-being and ability for attachment. A parent is a child’s safe haven from the world while he or she is learning his or her way around that world.

That was the scientific part of my argument. The next part of my argument stems purely from the emotional (and sometimes irrational) part of me.

I can’t help but think of this scenario: if I was two feet tall, depended entirely on another human being for every.single.need I have from feeding myself to cleaning myself, and my only form of communication is crying, I would likely want attention at night when I’m suddenly left alone. What if something happened? What if I needed something? I would probably be crying for someone to come see me as well.

Now take this a step further . . . At two feet tall I would just barely be grasping the concept of object permanence. And – if I do understand object permanence and I know my mom will be back to get me, exactly why has she not come to get me yet? If I’m crying because I’m alone and scared and just want company and no one comes to get me I’m going to feel abandoned. It wouldn’t be long before I would distrust my mother because I would stop expecting her to come to me when I needed her. My mom may think my reasons for wanting her with me are silly, but I sure don’t – I take those emotions seriously. And yes – I may eventually stop crying, but it won’t be because I’ve been able to reason that everything is ok. I will eventually stop crying because I give up and realize that no matter how much I cry, Mama’s not coming back.

The thought of Tori stopping her crying, in exhaustion, because she’s realized her mother won’t always be there for her makes my heart drop. I can’t do that to her. I want her to understand that as long as I can be, I will always be there for her, no matter what she needs.

Crying it out does not teach my daughter the lesson I want her to learn.

Besides, she’ll only be a little girl for a little while. This is a time I want to cherish.


Let me tell you why I adore my daughter.

At ten-and-a-half months old Miss Tori amazes me every day.

She's all over the place. Since she learned to crawl about a month ago she's been unstoppable. The baby gates hold her in place, but just barely. She powers through any form of baracade that her daddy and I try to make. Stack of pillows? Ha! She's through it. Using her Jeep as a baracade? Ha! She crawls under it. Even the two-parent-human-style-baracade fails sometimes. Since this little one got mobile, she's realizes she has places to go.

She also knows she has plenty to say. Her range of vocalizations and noises is all over the place. This little girl makes me smile more than I ever have simply by discovering a new sound or jarble of words she can make. When she gets wound up she doesn't stop jabbering! What's adorable is that we think she might be saying "Mamamamamamamama" at this point, but I think I'm more impressed that yesterday she started rhyming words with "duck". I'm not sure if she fully intended to say duck, either - it's hard for me to tell at this stage if she's just making noises or if she's starting to try and say something. If she is, "Dada" won't be far behind.

Her little laugh is incredibly sweet. Her daddy and I love to make her laugh and giggle. Lately she's been squealing a little higher and quite a bit louder - and we love it. She loves being chased while she's crawling around - she'll turn around, see us behind her, giggle and squeak, and then take off again.

She's started nuzzling us. From our lap or from her arms, she'll just bow her head toward ours or toward our chests and lean it against us. Each time she does Josh and I melt. I think it's as close as she can get to hugging us right now. Like Josh said, it's awesome that she's got some way to show us affection at this point.

She tries new foods like a champ and we haven't seen her turn down anything to eat yet! I love it when Tori shares my sandwich with me while I'm home on lunch.
It's fantastic to be able to get that time with her in the middle of the day. Tori is always finding new ways of being too cute for her own good, and spending my lunch with her allows me to recharge my batteries in the middle of my lunch day.

This afternoon when I came home she was napping. By the time I'd made my sandwich she had woken up. I took her from Josh and brought her to my lap. She looked up at me, smiled sweetly, and then laid her head on my chest. Adorable! We gave her a teething biscuit and she started a game she's picked up in the last week or so. She'll take a bite, then give it to Daddy. He'll thank her for it, give it back to her, and then she'll hold it to my mouth to take a bite - so I pretend to munch on it until she takes it back and takes a bite. She continues to share her biscuit with us until she's bored with it.

I could already tell as a baby she is going to be a sweet girl - now as the days continue she's just proving that more and more.
I couldn't be more proud of this sweet, smart, and beautiful wonder!


Favorite Breastfeeding Moment

Every part of breastfeeding has endeared me to my daughter. (Yes, even the torture of sore, cracked, bleeding nipples at the beginning brought me closer to her and enforced my desire to breastfeed.) My favorite nursing memory, however, comes at the end of a very trying 3.5 month-long nursing strike.

I was almost at the end of my rope. Every time I held my sweet six-month-old daughter at my breast, she screamed like I was trying to hold her up-side down by her toenails. It seemed the very thought of getting near the breast upset her. I didn't know what to do. I was exhausted from working a 40-hour week and keeping up a killer pumping schedule.

One night with a heavy heart and heavy eyelids I brought my beautiful daughter upstairs to call it a night. I put her on the bed and undressed (always sleeping topless so that she had an all-access pass to the breast). When I finished I picked her up and hugged her. I told her "I don't understand why you don't want Mama anymore, Puddin'" (it's near impossible to not take a nursing strike personally), "but I'm right here if you want to cuddle and nurse." As we laid down together on the bed, something great happened. Before I could even position myself on the mattress, my little girl reached out to my breast with both hands. I laid down beside her and she smiled, took it hungrily, and nursed herself softly to sleep. I thought my heart would burst!

At this point my little girl will only nurse through the night and I'm still pumping like crazy during the day to meet her needs, but that one evening was enough to lift my spirits and let me know that my little girl loves me - she just loves her independence as well.



On May 9th, Mother's Day, I got the call I'd been dreading. Aunt Judie had let go of her pain, her illness, her cancer - and finally was able to rest. I hated that I wasn't able to see her one last time before she took her journey, but that's not the way I wanted to remember her.

Last Labor Day, when Tori was a mere six weeks old, we took the long journey together to Mobile, Alabama. When I was pregnant with Tori I'd learned that Aunt Judie had cancer - that's when I learned she had anywhere from two months to six dependent on what treatment options she chose. I wanted to go visit her as soon as possible before the cancer took her and made her unable to meet her great-niece. Mama, Tori, and I all piled in the car one afternoon and went to go visit her. Just as soon as she saw my little one, Aunt Judie took her from my arms and held her for the longest time. She surprised Mama and I at how long she held my little baby, just sitting there playing with her little fingers and toes. She told me Tori was absolutely precious. We got to visit for a little while, but not too long - chemo was taking its toll and Aunt Judie was tired. As we left I gave Aunt Judie a long, tight hug. I knew that was the last time I would be able to see her. I knew with a brand new baby and mounting bills that I wouldn't be able to make that journey again any time soon. I knew that I was saying goodbye and that my sweet girl would never have the chance to remember meeting her Great Aunt Judie.

I had forgotten to bring the camera with us so that we could take a picture of them together. I could kick myself for that now. I would have loved to have shown that to Tori when she got a little older, so that she could know she was held by one of the greatest women I know.

For months my mother faithfully took care of her and everything she needed. Mama accompanied her sister to just about every chemo appointment, white blood-cell count, and doctor's appointment while Uncle Eddie worked to keep the medical insurance Aunt Judie needed so badly. Mama cleaned her house, cooked her meals, and talked with her on the phone every day. Mama became closer with her sister in those last several months than I believe they'd ever been - and Mama knew as time grew closer that she wouldn't quite know how to say goodbye.

When I got the call on Mother's Day, I knew I had to make that long journey again even though I hate funerals.

I hate the way death takes everything you knew about a person away. I hate the shell of a body it leaves. Makeup only emphasizes that the person isn't there in that shell anymore. I hate the smell of funeral homes - carnations mixed with embalming fluid and burnt coffee. But it's not about that . . . a funeral is about supporting your family during their loss, even if the only thing you can offer is your presence and a hand to hold.

Aunt Judie didn't look like Aunt Judie, even though everyone swore how lifelike she looked.

The saving grace? Aunt Judie was herself, right down to the funeral arrangements. She said she wanted a short visitation because, as she said in her own words, "I don't want a bunch of motherfuckers gawking at me!" Family visitation was for one-half hour, then friends could come for an hour. A few short words were said at the funeral home, then we joined the procession to the grave site. A few short words were spoken graveside by a friendly priest. I stood behind my Mama as she said her goodbyes to the sister she'd gladly cared for in her last months of life.

Now a few weeks have passed . . . the tears have dried. Yahoo has stopped showing her last status update on my news feed. Predictably, our family has turned into an episode of Jerry Springer. Our trip down to Mobile is a memory. Now Aunt Judie is a memory, too . . . a damn fine one.

Rest in peace, Judith Graham. You are loved. You will be missed.



I believe I'm shaping up to be a sort of non-traditional mom. I always thought I'd be highly authoritarian and quite strict, but now that it's come down to it I'm viewing things differently. I'm breastfeeding (which is traditional but not the norm these days), I've dabbled with cloth diapers, Tori and I co-sleep (how much longer is the question), and I've considered home-schooling my daughter.

Recently I've heard about unschooling. What in the world is unschooling?

Apparently unschooling is an education technique whereby your child leads his or her own learning by his or her interests. You don't go to a school building and read text books and participate in all-day classes with your peers. Instead, you teach lessons using normal, everyday situations - and that is your child's education. Go to the park and learn about the different types of trees there. Go to the grocery store and get a lesson in accounting, math, and organizational skills.

I admit, even as a more non-traditional mom, I'm a little put-off by this method. Why?

I was unschooled. (GASP!) That's right - an 80s child was unschooled. But that was *in addition* to going to school as well!

I believe that all children should be unschooled all the time, but I believe they need structure in their lesson plans as well. At school I learned the more technical skills like advanced math and sciences. At home I learned about life skills. I don't believe that education should stop when a child walks in the door to his home after school. It should continue until he goes to bed, then pick up when he wakes up for school the next day.

The last time I checked it didn't need a special name, either - it was simply known as PARENTING.


Circus Act

I've always considered myself a strong person. I've been proud of how much I have tolerated and still managed to come out on top. (Well, not necessarily on top - but I've been able to keep my head relatively above water and make the most of any situation.) Part of the reason I never wanted to be a mother before I conceived Tori was that I knew I'd be responsible for another little human being and I was sure that would push me past my limit.

When Josh and I conceived Tori, I was petrified. Instantly. Life as I knew it was over. It was time to shed my old skin and re-emerge as someone completely different - as a mom. Sure, I had almost 10 months to prepare, but 10 months is nothing after you've been concerned with sustaining only yourself for 27 years before that.

I read everything I had time to read about motherhood. I took a childbirth class. I took three breastfeeding classes. Did I feel more prepared? Nope. I felt more terrified. I had days when I wondered, "How will I do this?" Some days I thought, "What was I thinking?" On others I simply felt amazed at what was going on within my body. Pregnancy is truly a miraculous experience. Over time I became more and more nervous about labor and delivery.

When the morning of August 2nd came and my water broke, I busied myself with laundry while Josh got his last couple hours of sleep as a non-parent. I spoke nervously to my tummy. "Do I get to meet you today, little one?" I asked as I stood in front of the washing machine and rubbed my bump tentatively. Tori didn't answer me but my heart fluttered. As it turns out, I didn't get to meet her that day but I did the next - August 3rd at 12:07 a.m., after 17 hours and 37 minutes of easy labor. Then life truly changed.

Suddenly I was no longer April - daughter, sister, college graduate, employee, wife. Suddenly I became a circus act - a juggler. I became all the things listed above, plus mom.

Now instead of going to work, paying bills, coming home, spending time with the husband, and going to bed - I'm getting up, taking care of Tori, being "moo-mie" (making milk), going to work, paying bills, making doctors' appointments, being moo-mie again, running errands, paying bills, coming home from work, and then again being moo-mie, taking care of Tori, orchestrating baths and showers, grabbing a quick bite to eat, and then settling to bed with my favorite snuggle-bug.

I sure am busy . . . but life is wonderful.


T's First Easter

It's official - my little girl has celebrated her first Easter. We didn't do a lot this year because, well, let's face it - she won't remember much. We did know she could have a great time with her basket though.

J and I picked out a few stuffed things and a couple chocolate things to put in the basket. I think the final outcome was great!

T took her time to inspect everything carefully.

She soon decided what her favorite things were!

Mean Mommy and Daddy took the chocolate bunny away from her (as well as the Reese's Eggs, shh!) but we allowed her to keep the eggs to play with. She still loves them!



Unfortunately I don't have new news to report. My production hasn't gone up anymore since that initial jump. Hey - the great news is that it did go up! Little one is still being supplemented with formula, but at least it's not the majority of her diet anymore. It seems my experiment worked.

Now I'm back to taking the Mother's Milk Special Blend liquid to see if it helps bump my production up any more. Here's to hoping!



I had the Mirena removed Thursday. I didn't even know when Doc removed it - it was completely painless. I had a tad bit of cramping afterward, but nothing terrible. Now the true test comes - did that help my production?

Lately Tori has been getting between 15-20 ounces of formula on any given day. At my 9:30 a.m. pump I usually yield only 2.5 ounces of Mama milk. Saturday she only got 2 ounces of formula at at 9:30 I pumped 4 ounces of Mama milk! On Sunday she only got 5 ounces of formula at at 9:30 a.m. I pumped 3.5 ounces of Mama milk. Today I don't know how much formula she's gotten but at 9:30 a.m. I pumped 4.0 ounces of Mama milk again!

This is looking promising folks!


Foreign Entity

When I was pregnant with T, my doctor's office asked me what I had planned to use for birth control after I had her. I hadn't thought that far ahead to be honest. I started talking to a lady at work about her experiences with Mirena - they were all positive, so I brought that up at my next visit.

I let my doctor know how sensitive I am to hormonal forms of birth control. I told him how many different kinds of birth control pills I'd tried, only to have to change the prescription in just a little while. I told him about my horrid experience with the Depo-Provera shot. I asked him what he thought my success rate would be with the Mirena knowing all those things; I was especially concerned since it contains the same hormones as Depo.

Doc told me not to worry. He told me that the hormones in the Mirena were so low that I shouldn't have any problem whatsoever. That rested my mind. I planned to have Mirena inserted.

Fast-forward a couple of months. I had a few breastfeeding classes (yes, a few - I was serious) and I learned that hormonal forms of birth control can mess with milk production. I asked the doctor about that right before he was about to insert the Mirena.

Doc told me not to worry. He told me (again) that the hormones in the Mirena were so low that I shouldn't have any problem whatsoever. Again my mind was rested. I told him to go ahead.

The Mirena was inserted about the time I started working again.

When I started working again I was keeping up with the amount of milk T needed, though it meant I had to pump seven times a day. I had to deliver the milk I'd pumped in the morning when I went home for lunch and that was T's supply for the afternoon. It was difficult - but I was able to ensure T was only drinking Mama milk.

A few weeks later I noticed a little drop in my supply. I went and rented a hospital-grade pump (which had helped increase my volume previously). This time it did not help. On the night T turned three months old she had her first taste of formula. From that point she roughly had one bottle of formula every other day; the rest was Mama milk.

By the time T was four months old, it was commonplace for her to have two bottles of formula a day. By this point I had rented the hospital grade pump (again) to bring up my production with no results. I had started taking fenugreek, an herb that makes you smell like maple syrup, to boost my supply. I made sure I was well-hydrated. I was getting as much rest as I could possibly get. Nothing worked.

When T turned five months old, she was having upwards of three bottles of formula a day. I turned my focus toward her nursing habits. When my production initially decreased she went on a nursing strike and refused the breast all the time with the exception of nighttime. I knew that a baby nursing will increase production better than a pump ever will (because they're such efficient little suckers) so I decided her refusal to nurse *must* be the reason my production continued to drop. With a whole lot of patience and a lot of trial and error I got T to start nursing more often. My production didn't increase. J said, "I thought nursing was supposed to increase your production." I said, "Honey, I did, too." At that point I was praying we could last until she was six months old so that she would fill up a little more on solids and we would have to supplement less with formula.

By T's six-month birthday our initial ratios reversed themselves. By this point T was only having two to three bottles of Mama milk a day and the rest was formula. She had hit her growth spurt and even though she was getting solids for the first time, her reliance on formula didn't decrease. I cried. A lot. My first job as a mother was to nurture this little one inside my body almost 10 months. My second job as a mother is to nurture her and give her the best start I possibly could with my own breast milk . . . and I was failing. I ordered an expensive herb tincture online and tried it for one month. Other moms raved about its effectiveness. I saw no positive result.

T is now seven and a half months old. As of last Monday she was still only getting one bottle of Mama milk a day - two if she was lucky. It had gotten ridiculous. There was no way I could continue pumping for 20 minutes seven times a day to yield one to two bottles. I cried more because I wanted to give up - then I called a certified lactation consultant.

The lactation consultant told me that YES, Mirena can absolutely effect production. She told me that breastfeeding moms who have had their Mirenas removed have seen a rebound in supply. She also cautioned me - that she'd caught moms and had them remove their Mirenas when they've only had them in for upwards of two months. At this point I've had mine for five and a half.

With a heavy heart I explained everything to J. J told me "If it helps your production to remove the Mirena, I'm all for it - but more importantly, you know your body, and if you think it will help you then go do it." I made the appointment. It's today at 2:15. The funny thing is that ever since I had that conversation with J and I made the decision to remove it, my production has rebounded a tad. It's almost like my body is relieved I've made the decision to remove the foreign entity from it and it's thanking me already.

Tomorrow starts the hard work. I'll be following the rules of re-lactation which means a ton of water, a ton of pumping, nursing whenever possible, being religious about taking the production-enducing meds, and perhaps the purchase of some more of the expensive herb tincture. I'll be exhausted, but if this works I should see an increase within two weeks and I should get the full result within four weeks. If this doesn't work I'll be horribly disappointed - but at least I'll know I've tried everything I can try. If I can continue to nurture my little girl with my breasts as my mother did for me I'll be elated.

Let's see how it goes . . .


Lactivist, continued.

Let me clarify my position here.

Those of you close to me already know that I'm an extra-special version of both an introverted and extroverted personality type. I may put myself out there . . . but I usually have to push myself to do so.

(Surprising considering the ex-profession, yes?)

If a mother doesn't breastfeed I'm not going to bash her head in. I'm not going to scold a mother over choosing formula.

What I will do is this: I'll patiently ask any and all questions about breastfeeding. I'll support a mom in continuing her breastfeeding relationship. I'll talk openly about nursing my daughter. I'll openly carry my pump bag around work with me and answer anyone who asks what it's for. I'll nurse in public (discreetly, of course, and if Tori allows). On a more global format, I'll keep up with breastfeeding in the news. I'll join causes to increase breastfeeding awareness, to enact laws to protect a mom and babe's breastfeeding rights, to stop formula companies from telling mothers (untruthfully) that formula is just as ok as Mama's milk. Oh - and I won't shut up about my own accomplishment - breastfeeding Tori (with some supplementation) for seven and a half months.


I have to wonder if I’m driving some of my Facebook friends crazy with the amount of breastfeeding information I’ve started to post in the last couple weeks. Since some of the lovely ladies I’ve seen on the La Leche League website have joined my Facebook page, I’ve been much more informed about breastfeeding in the news.

I always knew if I had children I would breastfeed. Mind you – I didn’t know I would have children – but I did know that if I had them I would breastfeed. I grew up knowing heartfelt stories my mother shared with me about the time she nursed me. I knew she enjoyed the closeness we shared. I knew she enjoyed the convenience of breastfeeding. I saw the results of being breastfed on my immune system myself. I knew that breastfeeding was the best start a child could have to his or her life.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find that breastfeeding rates are so low, but I am. Most everyone I know quickly opts for the “ease” of formula rather than breastfeeding. While in a WIC breastfeeding class the instructor asked, “How long do each of you want to breastfeed?” When I answered “At least a year,” a woman in front of me said, “Good luck with that – I just barely made it two weeks – I couldn’t stand it.” Fast-forward to what I know now – the national average reflects these same sentiments. 75% of women do start breastfeeding, but it usually only lasts a few weeks before Mom is reaching for a can of formula.

As I learn more and more about the benefits of extended breastfeeding, I find myself more and more committed to my choice to breastfeed. I also find myself in awe at the amount of mothers who think formula-feeding is easier (trust me, it’s not) and the amount of moms more concerned about the condition their breasts are left in than what is best for the little human being they are raising.

I suppose the point of this blog is to state – firmly – that I have found I am a lactivist – a lactation activist. I’m finding it more and more important to spread the news of the importance of breastfeeding. If that means I have to pester my Facebook friends about breastfeeding, I will.

Oh – and ask me for breastfeeding help if you need it.


29 Forever

Here in a couple short weeks I’ll be 29 years old. You know, “29 forever” – the dreaded age women hit when they suddenly lose the will to share their age with anyone ever again. Some ladies would be freaking out right now. “29?! How could I be 29?!” Let me share with you why I’m not scared.

The last nearly-29 years of my life have been full. Rich. Interesting. I took piano lessons between 6 and 12. I competed in a pageant (piano was the talent, of course) when I was 8. I have lost loved ones – due to death, distance, and arguments. I gained my first best friend at 9 years old, my second at 11, and my third at 14. I still speak to each one of those lovely ladies to this day. I’ve fallen off a bike and skinned my knee countless times. I’ve broken hearts. I’ve learned that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I’ve won countless prizes from the radio stations. I’ve lusted after men I couldn’t have. I’ve had surgery five times – six if you count my wisdom teeth. The only true vacation I’ve ever taken was to Panama City Beach, Florida – our senior trip. I graduated from high school and graduated from college four and a half years later. I survived an abusive relationship and left the bastard. I’ve earned every one of my silver-grey hairs. I’ve grown comfortable with my body. I married a man who makes me laugh and stimulates me with intelligent conversation. I have nurtured my little girl with my body while I was pregnant with her and continue to nurture her outside my body as well. I graciously ask advice. I understand the value of a job well done. I’ve grown comfortable with my opinions. I’ve also grown comfortable with the fact that I’m not always right.

There are many things I still have yet to do . . . I’ve never been camping. I’ve never been overseas. I haven’t worked for a radio station. Some of these things I may never do – but the beautiful thing is that I still have plenty of time to do them in. I’m counting my blessings. 29 is good.


Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, Lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek-peek-a-boo).
The shopping is not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there is a hullabaloo.
But I'm playing "Kanga" and this is my "Roo."
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

Ruth Hulburt Hamilton, 1958

Long time, no see

Hello there, blog. Long time no see!

I'll be importing my old blogs from MySpace and Facebook here as well as adding new ones as they come to mind. The next couple days will be busy importing I'm sure.

I can't wait to catch up on blogging!