Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reflections on breastfeeding

One last post on this subject and then I'll be done.  I just keep thinking about my whole breastfeeding story, and I'm still coming to terms with my decision to wean, and the unexpected impact it has had on me.

If I had known that I would mourn -- not just be sad for about 12 hours, but actually mourn -- I would have done things differently.  It's too late to change things now, but if I had to do it over, I would have dropped one session, then the other.  I thought it would confuse him, but I don't give him enough credit.  Since he still doesn't talk all that well, I make the mistake of assuming he doesn't understand either (honestly, I think that's becoming his secret weapon, acting like he 'doesn't know any better.').  But he's a smart enough kid to understand that he'd have no more milk at naptime, only at bedtime.  Then we could have gone on another few months, and I would have had the still painful, but maybe not as painful, decision to drop that feeding too.

This did not go as I planned.  For one thing, I really thought I didn't make milk anymore and that I was telling him the truth when I said it was all gone.  It came as a blow to realize that the milk was there, and he was just that efficient at getting it all out that I never felt I was making it.  Well, duh, that's breastfeeding 101, you say.  When a baby gets older -- a lot older -- they are more efficient at taking milk, your body is more efficient at making just what you need, and you stop feeling fullness or letdown, or any of the other sensations that helped you in the beginning to know things were going well.  But I really thought I'd dried up by now, and that the few swallows he did were swallowing his own spit.  Besides, he was getting too old, and I did not want to still be nursing him by his third birthday.  The thought of having no milk made it an easy decision.  The next day's realization that I still produced it brought a tidal wave of regret.

But it wasn't THAT much milk, and four days into this my body is getting the message and shutting down production.  Emotionally, I am doing much better too.  I'm starting to get over this.  I'm ready for the next chapter.

My mind keeps wanting to arrange my memories and thoughts and experiences related to breastfeeding into some kind of story with a beginning, middle and end.  I'll attempt to get it all out here.

I remember as a young girl watching my mom with my sister Grace.  I've already mentioned here before that she was Mom's most challenging baby.  I remember Mom sitting on the couch and saying, "I have no more to give this kid.  She's going to suck me dry!"  It sounded pretty miserable and not something I would look forward to, especially in the middle of the night.  That's why it came as a surprise to me that when I told her that I would bottle feed my babies to make sure that I could get the dad to help too (makes perfect sense, right?), I was met with her clear disapproval.  I don't know what I expected her to say -- "good for you"?  She told me something to the effect of nursing is actually a really good thing for both mom and baby, and I might change my mind one day and at least want to try it.  She had fed me formula before she had known better, and she'd been so glad that she'd nursed my siblings.

With a newborn Delaney, I got to find out firsthand the intricacies of the breastfeeding relationship:  the struggle to get her latched on and feeding in the first place, the pain of being engorged, sore nipples, and of course being on call at all hours of the day or night.  But I was so glad that I pushed through the hard times because once it started to work, it worked beautifully.  My body learned to anticipate her needs and make the right amount.  We started to depend on each other -- she being empty and needing to be full, me being full and needing to be empty.  Sometimes the co-dependency felt like a ball and chain, and I wondered if I'd ever just be "free" again, without needing to come back to her every couple of hours.  But with the exception of those times that I chafed at being bound to her, the days and nights took on a familiar and comforting rhythm.  I enjoyed the quiet and peace of sitting down to feed her every few hours.  Sometimes as we sat in her dim room and I held her in my arms, I thought to myself that I didn't want this ever to end.  This was perfection, and it seemed to me that it was the closest I could get to heaven on earth.  I patted myself on the back a thousand times for hanging in there in the beginning, and I became kind of a breastfeeding zealot.  Poor Tim felt kind of left out with the strong bond that we shared.  But months went by and Delaney started to expand her world beyond me, and I got back some of my freedom.  It happened before I knew it.  Nothing ever stayed the same for long.  One day Tim finally got to see his daughter smile and reach for him.  In the blink of an eye we were leaving her with her grandparents for the weekend.
Nom- nomming on baby cheeks with sleep training book facedown on the coffee table -- a good way to sum up life at that moment.
At 16 months, Delaney weaned with no fuss from either of us.  I was about 12 weeks pregnant with Annie by then.  I welcomed the short break between weaning one and starting again with another.  This second time around I fully embraced the whole experience, and was ready for the hard first few days.  On my first night in the hospital with Delaney, I had handed her to the nurses so they could feed her a bottle and give me four hours of sleep.  This first night with Annie: completely different story.  I kept her in bed with me, not minding at all when she nursed voraciously on one side, then the other all night long.  When the nurses saw my breastfeeding log the next morning where I had scrawled one entry -- 'continuous from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.' -- they were apologetic.  "You should have called us, we'd have been happy to help."  I cheerfully thanked them for their concern, but I knew that things were going exactly as they should.  My milk came in that very afternoon.  I nearly burst with my pride when my nine-pound Annie regained the few ounces she'd lost after birth, before we left the hospital.
Nursing Annie was bliss, but I weaned her without much ado at the age of 14 months.  That was a busy summer with moving and vacations.  My nursing style has always been (after the initial weeks when their hunger is constant) to do it in a quiet, dim room, preferably in a comfortable chair.  In fact I would venture to guess that 98% of breastfeeding for all of them has happened in the same glider rocker.  So with all that traveling it became inconvenient, and with all the distractions around, it was easy to keep missing sessions. By the time she weaned she was only nursing first thing in the morning.  One morning Tim got up with her and I decided that was the time, and I never offered again.  So that was easy.

My nursing relationship with Timmy followed the same pattern. In the beginning he needed me a lot, and I needed him a lot.  By this time I was a busy mom of three and no longer wasting my time worrying about when I would be "free" from the ball and chain that was nursing.  Being an inseparable pair was par for the course.  I understood by now that everything would change so quickly.  We kept evolving over time as his sisters and I had done.  When he was about 8 months old, I laid him down to sleep and didn't hear from him until the next morning.  I had nights off, woo-hoo!  Then he needed me still less.  I'd watch his dad bundle him into the car with his sisters, and wave goodbye and blow kisses, and not see them again until lunch.  These were just tiny incremental changes over many months.  What bound us together tightly in the beginning became looser and looser.  One morning this past spring when I went in to get him, I decided to skip that first feeding of the day and let him go straight to breakfast.  I changed his diaper and as soon as he was on his fat little feet he bounded out the door ready to greet the day.  I smiled.
Four days ago, I decided to make a change that was too much too soon -- for me.  But that little boy snoozing away in his crib?  Didn't even ask for milk before I laid him down.  He's fine.

I already feel so much better after seeing all these words on the screen that have been floating around in my head.  This blog is therapy sometimes.  I think I've been wanting to do a special breastfeeding post for a long time, but could never organize my thoughts enough to do it.  So here it is.

I don't know if I'll get another chance at this, but I'm starting to feel a little glimmer of hope that I will one day yet.  Weaning Timmy definitely had a hand in that.  Right now I'm in no hurry.  The glider rocker sits idly, but I am needed more than ever by my family, for so many things.  This is all just the beginning.  We'll see what God's plan for our future is, but right now my hands are full enough.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Yesterday I texted Tim that I had just put Timmy down for a nap without nursing.  I told him he'd cried for about a minute and I felt bad.  Tim replied, "Timmy will be fine.  It's you I'm worried about."  I thought it was nice of him to be so concerned, but I knew it was time and that it had been time for awhile.  We were ready.

But wow.. I can't believe how hard it actually is to really be done nursing my little buddy.  I didn't expect it to make such a huge difference, going from two nursing sessions a day to none.  He was too old for me to just drop one session and then the other.  It would confuse him.  So I had to tell him the milk was all gone and we were all done, and that was that.  There have been many tears shed between yesterday and today, most of them mine.  There will probably continue to be over the next few days.  

I have so many good memories of nursing Timmy.  I was blessed yet again with an easy time of it from the beginning.  I am so grateful.  To watch a baby grow plump and round and to know that all his nourishment came from me, is an amazing privilege.  And I continued with him for longer than I ever thought I would.  It was easy and effortless for a long, long time.  Then it wasn't.  

I felt so strong and resolute about it yesterday.  But today it is so hard.  My eyes won't stop leaking.  If this was a mistake, it's too late to go back.  He seems happy and oblivious, and causing mischief like any other day.  I know I need to accept that he's not a baby anymore.  But I don't like change.  I cuddle and kiss him anytime he'll let me, and I hope I didn't damage our bond.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Birthday Ball

We had our Marine Corps Birthday Ball Friday night.  I know I could just post a few nice pictures and be done with it.  But in the interest of keeping it real I'll tell you all about it -- the good, bad, ugly and ridiculous.  And the boring.

The afternoon before the Ball, I had appointments for hair and makeup at the salon.  Last year, it worked out so well, and I was eager to see how I'd look when I was all done.  I told the hairstylist that I wanted an updo, but a relaxed-looking one.  It was heaven sitting there while she wound pieces of hair around the curling iron and pinned them into place.  I didn't want to be done.  This is what she came up with and I was very impressed and happy.
Next was makeup.  I waited for about 15 minutes, and then finally someone appeared who was different from the person who had done my makeup last year.   I had not specifically asked for Sarai, and had just assumed that whoever I got would either be Sarai or another qualified expert.  I got Jessica.  She asked me what kind of look I was going for, and I described the event and showed her the dress I would be wearing.  I remarked that when Sarai had asked me the same thing last year, I had been stumped then too.  I said, "I just told her, 'You're the magic makeup person.. Um, make me look good?'"  Actually I had mentioned highlighting and contouring to Sarai last year, as I did now.  I hastened to add I know nothing about makeup, and it's only thanks to Pinterest that I've even heard of highlighting and contouring.  (If I knew anything about makeup I wouldn't be sitting in this chair, would I?)  Last year, Sarai did an awesome job of bringing out the best in my features, but I think she would have done that even if I had never brought up highlighting and contouring.  So I made a huge assumption about my salon employing more than one person who knew about makeup.  I honestly think they had forgotten I'd booked makeup, and just grabbed Jessica, who maybe does waxing, before she was ready to leave for the day.  

Jessica went to work and we chatted about all our kids, and a little about Marines and how she used to bartend at Birthday Balls.  And when she was done, I was a little alarmed at my appearance.  There was something not right.  I tried to make it look like good shock, and I said, "I'm not used to seeing myself like this!"  My face was a matte shade of grayish-beige, and I still had bags under my eyes.  My eyebrows were VERY dark and shadowy looking.  The lipstick was many shades too bright.  I looked old.  I tried to tell myself that the harshness of my whole look would probably photograph well.  Maybe it's the kind of makeup that just doesn't look good up close.  But I had no time to even think about it.  I had to be going.  The babysitter was already arriving, and we had to go early to attend Tim's boss's pre-party in his hotel suite in Atlantic Beach.  I snapped a picture, but it really doesn't do justice to how bad I looked.  I think I actually look pretty good in this picture, probably due to the flattering lighting of the salon.  In reality, my face was too pale, and my mouth was too bright.  I felt like a geisha.  She didn't do my eyes any favors either.  But I tipped her 20% and was on my way.
This is not me.
I got home, and the babysitter, Katelyn, was upstairs with the kids, and Tim was putting the finishing touches on their homemade pizza dinner, complete with caprese salad and cups of chocolate milk.  He was stressed out because he hadn't even taken a shower.  I said, "You don't have to be out here anymore.  Katelyn's here.  Pass the baton, hon!"

Then it was time to get dressed.  For my dress this year, I tried something new.  I had heard of Rent the Runway before, but had been leery of giving it a try.  I didn't understand how, if it had taken me HOURS of shopping to find the dresses I currently owned (and then alterations!), that it could ever be as easy as clicking on what I want and having it arrive at my house only two days before my event.  And then try it on and have it fit!  But I got really tired of alternating between the same two black dresses I'd been wearing for years, and I didn't feel like shopping.  So I decided to give RTR a whirl.  First, I searched for dresses I liked, out of hundreds of them, all big designer names.  Then I got to read reviews and see photos of women similar in size to myself, so I would get an idea how it fits and what size to order.  Then I selected a back-up size for free.  I was very happy, especially a few days before when they threw in some nice accessories because the original dresses I'd chosen had been returned to them in good enough shape to be rented again.  The earrings, bracelet and clutch added an extra touch of elegance.  The clutch definitely was nicer than the one I'd been planning to use.  All of this, including UPS shipping to and from, cost me $100.  Not bad at all.

Getting this dress on and adjusted properly took some doing.  There was no support or coverage in the bust area, so a bra was a necessity.  But the opening in the back precluded any bras with straps.  After trying on this dress for the first time only two nights before, I had almost panicked as I rummaged through my entire collection of bras that I hadn't seen in years and didn't even know I still owned.  What I ended up using was a Victoria's Secret push-up bra that had removable straps, probably an impulse buy in my 20s.  (Thank you, Rachael in her 20s.  I will never again throw away a bra you bought that still fits!)  Once the straps were gone, it was shaped in every other way like a normal bra, which was important because of the plunging neckline of this dress.  Even still, I had to use double-sided tape to make it stay put in front and not let the bra peek out.  It was annoying, and I would end up looking down at it at least 500 times throughout the evening, like I had a nervous tic, and surreptitiously trying to adjust it.  Tim, beside me at the linear head table would tell me, "Stop it. You're fine."  And I'd reply with gritted teeth under my breath, "How do you know, you're over there?"

Here I am, dressed and ready to go, except for my nude pumps which I should have buckled before I put the dress on and got the tape in place.  Now Tim would have to do it, lest the tape pop out of place and I have to start all over.  Once I was all put together, I thought I looked pretty smashing.  As I snapped this picture, Tim came in the door and said, "What the heck are you doing?  We've got to get out of here."
I said, "But what about setting up the tripod out front and getting some good photos?"  "Not gonna happen," he said flatly.  Then he yelled upstairs for Delaney, and she snapped the following picture of us.  She was dressed in her cargo vest from her paleontologist Halloween costume that she'd been showing off to Katelyn.  
We got in the car, and as soon as Tim started it he said, "You didn't fill up the tank?"  I said, "Um, no."  "You're got to be kidding me!  You're the one who wanted to take the car."  This is true.  I wanted the butt warmer since it would get chilly at night.  But I hadn't thought my opinion made a difference, and we'd be taking the truck.  Anyway, it only takes a few minutes to stop and fill up the tank.  So I thought.  I snapped the following picture a few minutes after we stopped at a gas station, waited three minutes for a pump to open up, and then said pump would not dispense.  All of this was my fault.  Tim had the truck gassed up and ready to go, but here we were in Havelock still trying to get gas.
Haha, you're stuck with me!
"You still have to buckle my shoe," I told him.  "And my phone's battery is getting really low."  In reply Tim tapped the sunglasses compartment that also contains a phone charger.  "I can't lean forward," I reminded him.  He shook his head and sighed heavily.  I said, "Bringing me to the Ball and bringing a 4-year-old -- no difference."  "Seriously!"

We got to the Doubletree in Atlantic Beach, with plenty of time to drink for free socialize in the CO's crowded suite with all the other officers and their dates.  Tim drove and I drank because he's the best.  I was a little nervous at the crowd of people, many of whom I had not met since we are still rather new to this unit.  But the CO, his wife, and everyone else were so friendly and welcoming that I was soon put at ease.  The glass of Pinot Grigio on my empty stomach didn't hurt either. 

I was halfway through a second glass when I remembered to ask Tim, "Has cocktail hour started?"  I wanted to get our professional portrait done downstairs.  We hurried off, and I forgot to leave the wine I had in my hand.  As we crossed the lobby into the ballroom area, Tim blocked the employees' view of me and my unauthorized drink.  Even though no one probably noticed, I was embarrassed.  Then because I'm a spaz (and a bit of a tipsy one at that), I splashed a little bit on my designer gown right before we got in line for pictures.  Now I had a big wet spot on my boob.  I couldn't believe it.  We rushed off to as secluded a place as we could find, around a corner next to the kitchen door, and Tim worked on it furiously with a napkin.  I took this picture of the damage.  
I know, I'm a mess.  It got even worse.  Once the ceremony was over, I, along with everyone else, stampeded for the bathrooms.  When I went to wash my hands, the faucet sprayed in every direction, and my dress got splattered all over.  Between that, and the wine incident, and the bad makeup and the bodice issue with the tape, I just didn't feel like myself.  I kind of want a do-over.  No, not really.  I can chuckle at it now, but it was kind of a nightmare.
See it?
Below, this strangely cropped photo is the only good head-to-toe shot I have of Tim in his mess dress that cost a fortune and he only gets to wear once a year.  I was actually taking test shots of the space because a few minutes later, I took a picture of all the officers.  
We got home around 10, and Katelyn had been there since 4.  Tim flipped through the bills in his wallet and tried to add up how much we owed.  I said, "She's been here 6 hours.. what's 12 x 6?"  Then Tim said, "Ah, $100.  That's what I budgeted."  My overly made-up eyebrows shot up at that but I said nothing.  I was exhausted.  I just hope that she doesn't expect to be paid $18 an hour when she watches the kids for the Christmas party.

Katelyn told us that she had had fun with the kids, and that Timmy had swallowed bites of mozzarella almost whole, and then kept asking for "more cheese, pwease."  That kids lives for Friday nights and mozzarella.  They had watched A Bug's Life, and Delaney had said, "We DO get to watch a movie tonight!"  Friday nights are usually movie nights for the kids, but we hadn't told Katelyn this, and I guess Delaney had assumed she wouldn't be watching a movie. 

And that was our night.  Minus some of the drama and woe.  Edited for brevity.:)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Veteran's Day weekend and Karen's visit

Our Veteran's Day weekend was made extra special by a visit from Tim's sister Karen.  She makes a point of visiting us at least a couple times a year, and for that we are always so grateful.  She left this morning (sniff).

We didn't do too much while she was here, meaning no big outings.  For one thing, we are kind of homebodies anyway.  For another, there isn't a whole lot around here to do, even if we were so inclined.  We would have to drive an hour or more to see any major attractions.  On Tuesday when Tim and Delaney went back to work and school and I had a doctor's appointment that ended up taking the whole morning (due to a wreck that had happened earlier and then swarms of people at the Naval Health Clinic, the likes of which I've never seen before), I ended up apologizing for how boring it was around here.  She made it clear that she does not expect to be entertained when she comes here, particularly on a work/school day.  And now that I think about it, I'm not sure that any of her other visits to us in the past have been all that exciting -- at least not any of the ones that have taken place since we moved here from Quantico.  Why would I start apologizing now for us being boring?

Before she came, she sent a box filled with crafts for her to do with the kids, and requested that it not be opened until she got there.  They were so excited about that box that they didn't even let her get her other foot in the door before they begged her to open it.  In that box were all kinds of things to do -- Thanksgiving aprons to be colored, foam stickers galore, pompoms in every color of the rainbow.. All the things that make our girls' eyes light up.  They spent many happy hours at the kitchen table just making stuff.  That's what our kids look forward to most about a visit from Auntie Karen -- just having her undivided attention and making things and doing things together.  They also played games like Memory and Uno.  A couple nights we popped popcorn and put on a movie.  Barbie movies have been the favorites lately.  You know, if I didn't know better, I'd think a Barbie movie must be the most obnoxious thing ever.  But since I've watched a few, I think they're pretty cute.  They have good songs in them and cute little animal characters that always get a good laugh out of the girls.  And last night before bed, we put on an episode of America's Funniest Videos and we all laughed at all the people making fools of themselves.  Tim's been DVRing them ever since our Emerald Isle vacation when we didn't have too many channels and we wanted to let the kids watch something before bed.  I have a whole new appreciation for that show.  It's kind of funny when you're watching it by yourself or with other adults.  But try watching it with a 4- or a 6-year-old and it is hysterical.
Auntie Karen is here -- let the crafting begin!
On Monday we took a tour of Tryon Palace and the North Carolina History Center.  It was nice, but I think all the history was a little much for the kids.  Delaney and Timmy behaved well, except for Timmy trying to duck under velvet ropes in the palace and touch things.  Annie started to unravel as the morning went on, and asked several times if we could go home.  She really didn't like being in the history center.  I think that the dim lighting and closed spaces of the museum freaked her out.  I think the kids' favorite part of the tour was the shuttle ride from the history center to the palace.  It was a golf cart with four rows, and Auntie Karen perched on the rear seat facing backwards.  I would like to come back in the spring when the flowers bloom, because the gardens weren't much to look at this time of year.  The three kids ran joyfully in the wide open space behind Tryon Palace.  Delaney called it the "field of dreams."  Oh, and for anyone who watches Sleepy Hollow, a few episodes were filmed at Tryon Palace recently.  After that we went home and had lunch and naps.  We went out for Mexican food that night, and that's about as much activity in a day as we ever do.  It was fun.

This morning we woke up to a little dusting of snow in the yard.  Eventually I let the girls go out even though I was worried they'd get their shoes -- which happen to be their only shoes at the moment -- wet.  I gave in because how can I really say no when it comes to snow?  I did my best to be a big grump about it, though.  Then I went out and took a couple pictures even though I still disapproved.  (I do get uptight about things like this because right before she needs to go to school is when she would come up to me with sopping wet pants and shoes, and be like, "I'mmmm cooooollllddd."  You moms understand!)
Finally I dragged everybody outside and make them pose for pictures.   I realized I hadn't yet gotten any photos of Karen and the kids from this visit, and it was the last morning.  And it was so pretty outside.  The reason Annie is not wearing shoes is because she had already decided to come in and I'd made her take them off.  When I made her go back out for the pictures, two minutes later we got in the car to take Delaney to school.  So shoes were not necessary for her or Timmy.  It turns out that I hadn't needed to worry so much about their shoes getting wet.  The ground was too cold and there wasn't enough snow.
After I dropped Annie off at preschool and came back here, I suddenly worried that Delaney didn't know that Karen would be leaving while she was at school.  I emailed Tim and the two of us quickly came up with a plan for us to swing by her school on the way to the airport and catch her right before lunch so that they could say goodbye.  I emailed Tim before I talked to Karen because I was worried that if Karen hadn't talked to her either, then she would be upset.  (Also because if he'd said that he'd talked to her, I could just be like, 'Oh, good.')  And I didn't want to make her upset.  I try to be so careful with people's feelings!  But I was relieved when I finally did bring it up that she had had a conversation with Delaney the night before about how she was leaving today.  So somebody had mentioned it to her.  Phew.  Delaney is turning into a sensitive kid, and when she cries I feel terrible.  As an added measure, she left this note.
When both the girls were at school she and Timmy enjoyed some one-on-one time before it was time to go to the airport.  Timmy, of course, changed the most of all the kids between her April visit and now.  I'm glad she got to see the funny little things he says and does firsthand -- for example, the way he lines up his cars just so.  Or how he says "show me" when we tell him that the mozzarella in the caprese salad is all gone.  Or how he asks so nicely to see what's behind the cabinet doors that contain his favorite snacks.  And cutest of all, how he says sorry to the sister he was mean to and gives her a hug and a kiss.  Karen got her own wet smooch from him every night before he went to bed.  Nothing better than a slobbery kiss from a sweet little boy.  Then there's the charming way that he sucks his thumb and picks his nose at the same time, who could forget that?
Delaney just got home from school a little while ago, and I should be supervising her getting started on her homework.  But I just want to mention that she was very sad (but I don't think surprised) when she first got off the bus and Karen wasn't here.  She cried for two minutes and then started to tell me about her day, and how Brian was being bad and got a "yellow" for behavior.  Goodbye never gets easier but life goes on.