Friday, March 29, 2013

Why I Breastfeed

Disclaimer: This story is mine and mine alone.  This post is not at all meant to judge or criticize anyone for their parenting choices.  I simply wanted to get my thoughts down on virtual "paper" about a choice that has been right for me.

When I finally became pregnant, people frequently asked me, "Are you going to breastfeed?"  My response was always a confident, "Yes!"  But what I didn't say was, "Of course!"  I already knew better than to say that, even though that was how I felt, because I knew it wasn't so cut-and-dried for everyone, and didn't want to offend.  For me, the decision to nurse my baby was a no-brainer. I honestly didn't even want to consider the alternative.  

But, not long into my pregnancy, I began modifying my answer to, "Yes, I plan to," or some derivative of that.  It didn't take long for me to start to fret about if I would have the actual physical ability to breastfeed, and I didn't want to "jinx" myself with overconfidence.  I also thought about the many, many women and babies out there who have had issues with nursing, and very much hoped we wouldn't join their ranks.

The strange thing is, I couldn't ever quite put into words during my pregnancy exactly why breastfeeding was so critically important to me.  I was breastfed - I come from a long line of breastfed babies - so maybe it was bred into me. :)  And yes, I could spew off all the research about how healthy is for the baby, what with the (almost) perfectly-formulated and immunity-boosting nutrition, and even the health benefits for the mom, but for me it was more personal than that.  The decision to breastfeed just aligned precisely with my mama instincts, which seemingly were developing as quickly inside of me as my baby was.  

In the beginning, it was somewhat challenging, partly because we had to use a shield (for about 2 months), but mostly because I was rather fanatical about recording the occurrence and duration of every feeding, and stressed when he often wanted to feed more often than what I understood was "normal."  I look back on that time now and laugh at myself for seriously overthinking it, but my intentions were good - obviously I wanted to ensure Cal was getting enough to eat.  I had tried to educate myself about nursing as much as possible, but I tried too hard to conform to some sort of "ideal" schedule, rather than just let it flow (no pun intended) naturally.

It didn't come until a little later, once we got to know each other and settled into a good groove, that I could fully understand breastfeeding's importance to me.  Nursing quickly became an amazing bonding experience for us, and not just a means to a full belly.  I was (and still am) astounded for my body's ability to provide my baby's nourishment, for his innate instinct to latch, and most of all, by the wonderfully deep connection I feel with him when we nurse.  Of course, I feel that for him all the time, but when he nurses, it's somehow even more intense.  Some of my most favorite things about him happen then - how he wraps his fingers around mine, the way he gazes into my eyes (assuming he hasn't fallen asleep, lol) and the adorable little noises he often makes.  This connection, this incredible bond means the world to me, and I am so humbled by it every day.  And I couldn't be more grateful for it.

my healthy, breastfed boy

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Complicated Post-Baby Body

Three-and-a-half months ago, we welcomed Calvin into our world. And although overall I very much enjoyed being pregnant, I was ready to welcome my post-partum body to my life. Since then, I've vacillated between disappointment and acceptance of the way I look. Early on, during my maternity leave, it hardly occurred to me to care, since I was so busy learning to care for my lovely new baby, and it didn't hurt that I didn't have to put on "real" pants if I didn't want to.

Ah, maternity leave...

Then, things changed as I started back to work and got into a nice groove with Cal. Suddenly, after close to a year's hiatus, I had to remember how zippers and buttons worked, and look at least somewhat presentable. And it was not easy trying to find pants that fit. My body was (and still is) changing, and it wasn't easy to see the bigger number on the labels, not to mention the frustration that the same size seems to mean quite different things to different brands. I've quickly discovered that it's an added challenge having a baby right at the beginning of winter, which (obviously) drastically limited my ability to get outside for fresh air and exercise. Not an excuse - just a fact.

one of our (so-far) rare outdoor walks

Along with this frustration comes guilt that I shouldn't feel this way because it suggests that I don't think Calvin was worth it. Of course this couldn't be further from the truth. I love my son so, so very much, and I would have sacrificed anything to bring him into this world. And now that he's been my life for 3 1/2 months (plus 40 weeks and 5 days prior to that if you count my pregnancy), I know without a doubt that having him was the best decision I have ever made.

such a joy

What I've come to realize is that both feelings can co-exist. I can be head-over-heels in love with my child alongside not being too thrilled with the current state of my post-baby body. And it doesn't matter to me what other people think of how I look - it never has - I just want to be content with myself. I know there's a road ahead of me to travel to get back to where I want to be - I just hope it's not too long a road.

he just saw my jean size, haha

For now I'll look forward to the warmer days of spring (whenever those may happen) and many more opportunities to come to get outside and be active with Cal. And I'll focus on the immense pride I have in my body's ability to have created my perfectly healthy, beautiful little boy.

love of my life

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Many Faces of Calvin

Since Calvin was born, so many people have commented on what an expressive face he has.  I must say I definitely agree.  It's very easy to tell what kind of mood he's in with just a quick glance at his face.  

Two weekends ago, on March 2, Calvin played a little expression game with us.  He would first "pout" (different from his actual pout and the first time we'd seen it), then flash a big grin.  He did it several times in a row; we were cracking up!  He's such a smart little ham - I read that this type of behavior typically doesn't start until around 6 months!

For a while now, he's loved watching our faces, and at just 3 1/2 months (on Thursday!), he loves to treat us with all sorts of expressions of his own.  It's been so delightful and fascinating to watch him!  

So, without further ado... from saddest to happiest...

The Many Faces of Calvin

really, really not pleased

grumpy old man

world's cutest pout

Calvin is not impressed.

Say whhaaaaat?


content and curious

silly monkey

fist bump!

super happy baby!

happiest with mama  :)

A Mother's Work

***Sorry for the re-post - I accidentally deleted this one!  Oops!***

Work. Inconvenient yet necessary. Sometimes it's downright torturous to go. Not because I hate my job or my co-workers, my boss or my responsibilities. On the contrary, I rather enjoy it most of the time. But now that Calvin's here, it's not easy to be apart from him, and some days it's especially difficult. 
never easy to leave him

I am the one to take Cal to his daycare in the mornings, and we've cultivated a little ritual just before I get him settled into his car seat and we rush off. I hold him close, rock him and tell him over and over that I love him. He always lets me snuggle him, and often babbles as if saying, I love you too, mama. It's these moments that I wish would last much longer than they do, and the ones that especially make me regret having to leave him.
kicky feet in his car seat

But I take solace in knowing Calvin goes to a great little school during the day while we work hard to support him, and I know how good it is for his development to be around his teachers and the other babies. They adore him and take wonderful care of him.

Still, often during my work day, I think about him (ok, pretty much constantly) and it strikes without much warning that I'll suddenly long for him with a surprising intensity. Usually it's a little thing, like thinking about his coos while nursing, when he holds my finger tight with his little hand, or how he curls his toes when I kiss the soles of his feet. In the early days these thoughts would threaten tears shed, but nowadays I take a moment, a deep breath, and smile at the sweet ache.
chillin in his Bumbo

I don't know if maybe one day in the future I'll have the opportunity not to have to work outside of the home.  If I did, I know myself and I know I'd go stir-crazy if I didn't do something - I'd most likely focus more on my photography, and perhaps volunteer when possible.  For now, I do know how fortunate I am that I have a good job that I can rely on to help support my family, not to mention being able to afford high quality care for my child while I'm at work.

And, I'll continue to daydream about my beautiful little boy, and eagerly await our little reunions every evening.

I love you, Calvin. Always always.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Parent's Rite of Passage? An ER visit

So... We had our first ER visit for Calvin yesterday. :-/

He's been under the weather since Sunday. I called the doctor on Monday and took him in Tuesday afternoon. Doc said it looked like bronchiolitis, to keep an eye on him and call back if it seemed to get worse. Bronchiolitis is a virus that is basically a cold, but it can be nasty in infants.

Although we tried the recommendations of baby Vicks, a humidifier and steam from a shower, his congestion just wouldn't clear up. He didn't have the best day Thursday, and then Friday morning it did seem worse. He was so stuffy, had a strong cough and his breathing was a bit labored. So I called and took him back in.

They gave him an albuterol breathing treatment, which he was not a fan of, that unfortunately didn't help much. His doctor was concerned with his oxygen level (which may not have been all that accurate, as it turns out - not easy to get a reading on tiny 3-month-old toes or fingers), so the doc sent us off to Children's Hospital ER.  I  have to admit at that moment, after she left the room, that I started to tear up, but Calvin was looking at me, and he's already paying attention to and feeding off of our expressions, so I smiled and tried to look as brave and calm as he was.
still content even when he's sick

His doc called ahead, and because of the oxygen level concern, we were taken back right away. They took his weight and temp (rectal, uh oh) and then the rest of his vitals, including his oxygen level, which came back great. They suctioned out his nose a couple of times - man, I need one of those at home - and after thorough exams by several different doctors, they all agreed it was ok for him to go home. We were sent with an at-home nebulizer treatment for him. They said he should be feeling better within a few days.
You're gonna stick that thing WHERE, exactly?

It was definitely an alarming experience, and tiring for all, but I'm so thankful to his doctor, and the hospital staff who took wonderful care of him. And I'm glad I listened to my instinct and decided to stay home from work to take care of him. It's difficult to feel so helpless when he doesn't feel well, but I feel good about the medical attention he received.
exhausted after his ordeal

And Cal was such a champ through it all - only a minor amount of fuss. For the most part, he was his normal happy self, with plenty of comforting cuddles from mama and daddy. He rolled over twice on the hospital bed like it was nothing, wow! And he frequently flashed his gorgeous smile, flirting with every woman who helped care for him - every single one a woman. ;-)
my little flirt

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Tiny Bit Wistful

In the early days of my life with Calvin, just days after his birth, I could be quoted as mentioning, as I held my tiny swaddled burrito baby, and being a fan of hyperbole, that I wished he could stay this little forever.  Of course, as his mother, I am joyful seeing him grow big and strong - it's perhaps the most primal sign of success as a parent.
yeah, he's pretty happy

But I'm already experiencing the desire to slow down time, to 'freeze' the very best moments, to really give myself the chance to soak in and cherish all the wondrous things about my baby and being a mom.  He is changing so fast, and I know most everyone feels this way, because I've had so many people tell me to enjoy it while I can, because the next thing I know, he'll be a teenager (or some variant of that).  
These feet are going to get so. much. bigger.

A recent evening, I was sorting through Calvin's clothes and packing away most all of the newborn-size outfits that he's grown out of.  Especially when I put away the adorable duckie outfit he wore when we brought him home from the hospital, I felt just a tad melancholy - how could these clothes already not fit??
bringing my tiny guy home

Brian likes to play a certain Taylor Swift (yes, he is a fan) song, called Never Grow Up, to try and make me cry - for the most part, I'm all Princess Bride Westley-as-the-Man-in-Black on him, "You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work."
All hail the gorgeousness that is Cary Elwes circa 1987

But there are some lyrics from the song that are particularly poignant to me these days:

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And it's so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter cause you're dreaming
So I tuck you in, turn on your favorite night light

To you everything's funny
You've got nothing to regret
I'd give all I have honey
If you could stay like that

Oh darling don't you ever grow up
Don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don't you ever grow up
Don't you ever grow up
It could stay this simple
It's my turn to cry, Taylor

But, all that being said, it's been such a joy watching Calvin grow that, while I do wish perhaps that time could slow down just a little, every new day brings a new, ever-so-slightly enhanced version of Cal, and that current version becomes my new favorite.  So I'll just do my best to be in the moment with him as much as possible, cherish our time together and eagerly anticipate all his changes and "upgrades" to come.  :)