Monday, November 25, 2013

Why I Will Not Shelf an Elf

Let me preface this post by saying, "Relax".  I am not a grinch, I love the holiday season, I can get as enthralled in it as the next person.  And while I have issues with the Elf on a Shelf I would never dream of begrudging someone of their own happiness or judge them for their choice.  If you are a proud Elf Shelfer, if it is part of your holiday tradition and it works for you and it makes you happy, then right on!  Enjoy yourself!  Shelf that elf until the cows come home and have as much fun as you can with it!

That being said, I'm SERIOUSLY tired of people telling me how I HAVE TO get one!  And that I'm somehow denying my children of Christmastime happiness.  If I say something as simple as, "Nah, we're not really that into it, I don't think we'll be getting one" I get greeted with, "What's WRONG with you?!  Are you some kind of grinch?  Do you buy your children Christmas presents?"  No, I'm not kidding...I have gotten all 3 responses to me simply stating that I don't want to partake, or asking that somebody please not buy us one.

And I have to tell you that before K was born and before we had the nursery fully set up for her, Wifey & I played an unspoken game with each other.  We had some old Cabbage Patch dolls that had been put into the crib.  And every day without saying anything to each other, we would take turns re-arranging their positions.  This went on for weeks without talking about it and it was hysterical.  So I can see the appeal in finding ridiculous places/position for the elf, however, these are kids we're dealing with and not twisted adult minds. Being ridiculous with my wife is not the same thing as the Elf on a Shelf, in my opinion. Unless you are childless and you get one - and I have some childless friends who do some sick, twisted things with their Elf on a Shelf.  That is hysterical and I am totally on-board!

So my friends, here are the reasons that I don't want to/won't participate in this elf business.

First of all, people break these things out waaaayyy too early.  In general Christmas in happening earlier and earlier each year.  I am a big believer that nothing should be Christmas-ey until after Thanksgiving.  It can even be ON Thanksgiving that the festivities start, but this day after Halloween thing is BS if you ask me.  Part of the reason the holiday season is so wonderful is because it is for a limited amount of time..extend it and it loses the magic.  It becomes humdrum, everyday.

Do you really want this in your kids' room?
#2.  Have you SEEN these things?!  They are creepy as heck!  I'm pretty sure there were horror movies in the '80's based on this guy!!  And if there aren't, there should be!  Clowns are pretty scary on their own, but you add Killer Clowns From Outer Space and Poltergeist to the mix, and you have scarred your children for life.  Anyone my age can attest to this.  So I also refuse to put any kind of clown in my kids' rooms because of this as well, and I think it's a matter of time before the elf's are the new childhood terror.  Look at that face!  That's the stuff of nightmares right there!  I wouldn't want my kids to wake up in the night seeing this demonic doll staring at them.  Of course it will keep them behaving overnight - it will paralyze them with fear, hereby ruining elf's and thereby Christmas in general for the foreseeable

I think this is where Elf will end up
#3.  I just don't have the time.  Our routine is so crazy to begin with, I barely have time to function normally.  Add another task to the list, moving this thing throughout the house, and there is no way.  I would forget about it after one day and that would ruin the whole magic of it popping up anywhere.

#4.  I have nothing against bribery.  I fully admit to using it myself in times of desperation (haircuts for R, bloodtests for K, etc.).  However, there is a flaw to the bribery with the Elf on a Shelf; Unless you keep it out year-round (please God, NO!) it is only good seasonally.  If you rely on the Elf to help with discipline or other learning moments, how do you function the other 11 months out of the year?  And I'm not of the persuasion that bribing your kids to be good for Christmas so they can get toys and countless other things that they don't need is a good idea.  If you subscribe to the whole Santa part of Christmas I think it's a bad idea in general to make kids think that they might not be "good enough" to have those magical moments.  Let's face it - there is a shelf-life on the Santa believing.  I'd rather my kids enjoy every last second of it that they can.  Sure, I might throw a comment here or there in desperation like, "Don't forget - Santa's watching you.  If you hit your brother again he's not going to be too happy..." but I would never want to lead them to believe that they might not get a visit from Santa, or that the only reason they should not hit each other is so that they can get presents.  It's important to learn the reasoning behind whatever behavior you're trying to deal with and get your child to listen to you, not just appease us for the reward.

So there you have it.  I will not Elf.  Please don't try to make me feel bad about it.  By all means, if you enjoy this tradition, have fun with it.  If it works for you that's great, I would never want to take that away from you.  But don't tell me there's something wrong with me for not embracing it, and PLEASE don't buy my kids one.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What To Expect When You're No Longer Expecting

There are many things in life that we as people just don't talk about.  For some, it's a matter of pride; Others, a matter of tact; And then there are the things we don't speak of because they are just so surprising and horrible that it is too difficult to talk about.  I understand the reluctance to converse about many of these things.  However, in other arenas I think it is important to speak out because it would eliminate that feeling of "alone" in some situations and better prepare people in others.

As most of you know, I recently experienced having a miscarriage for the first time.  As with many things, I was not prepared.  Of course we all know that this is a horrible experience, whether we have gone through them or not.  I don't think anyone is under the assumption that they are a walk in the park.  However, nobody ever really talks about it.  What it's like, what we go through physically & emotionally.  And I get it - it's a touchy subject.  Some women might not want to talk about it because it's too painful, and we don't ask them about it for fear of upsetting them.  I have to say that this is doing a big disservice to women.

I was absolutely dumbfounded by the number of women who reached out to me to let me know that they had been through this, some of them several times.  While I have only exchanged experiences with two of them, I have a feeling that many more have had similar experiences.  And had I known what I was in for it would have helped me immensely. A friend of mine gave me a heads up that things were going to be a bit more intense than I was prepared for, and if it weren't for that I might have thought that I was dying.  And so, I am choosing to share my story with you, in case it can help prepare you in the future.

**If you are currently pregnant, just stop reading here.  I don't want to cause any undue stress to you - this is a very happy time in your life and you should be focusing on happy thoughts and staying away from stories like this.  Feel free to bookmark this and come back later.  Also, if you just don't want gory details, stop reading here.  You have been warned. **

We made our public pregnancy announcement to the world on a Sunday.  We made it to the 12 week mark, and while nothing is a guarantee in pregnancy we felt confident now that we were past that threshold.  This was our third time around, I was already showing and wearing maternity clothes, I couldn't keep it a secret any longer if I wanted to.  And besides, most of the people I saw every day already knew.  So we made our announcement and received tons of well wishes on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday morning I started bleeding.  I had had some spotting on several occasions with this pregnancy, and every doctor assured me that it was common.  My cervix was still closed, many women have spotting, some even have what seems like normal periods and never know they are pregnant.  But Monday's bleeding was different.  I felt different, this looked different, and a part of me knew right then and there.  I spoke with my doctor, even went to the ER, and was assured that everything would probably be OK.  I had an ultrasound scheduled for Thursday anyway so at the very least we'd have more answers then.

Tuesday morning the bleeding was more intense.  I called my doctor and he had me come in for an ultrasound.  I don't know if I will ever stop hearing the tech whisper to me, "I'm sorry, but I can't find a heartbeat".  She said something about speaking with a doctor but in all honesty my ears were ringing and I stopped paying attention to her.  I didn't have to hear it from her.  When we saw the baby on the screen, I could see that she was motionless.  There was no familiar flicker of a heartbeat.  Even at 6 weeks, I could see the flash of a tiny heartbeat inside a little blob that resembled a bean more than a baby.  But on Tuesday, she was still, there was no flicker.

The rush of emotion was immediate and paralyzing.  I was not surprised, yet I was in disbelief.  How could I let this happen?  How did I not know sooner?  How could something stop growing inside of me and I didn't notice it for 4 weeks?!  What am I going to tell K?  All the things that I had to stop ran through my head then as well.  Ridiculous things that I couldn't believe came to me in that moment.  I don't have to put K & R in a room together.  We can stop looking for a minivan.  I can give my maternity clothes back to my sister.  But could I?  Will I fit into normal clothes?  I had been wearing maternity clothes for weeks because my regular clothes did not fit anymore.  How long will it take before I can wear normal clothes?  How long do I have to walk around looking like I'm pregnant?  Will people ask me about my baby?  Can I handle having to tell people that I'm not pregnant?  Oh my God, Thanksgiving.  How am I going to get through Thanksgiving?  My family all knows that I'm pregnant and they're going to be happy and excited and I'll have to tell them all this horrible news.  And if they know ahead of time there will still be this awkward silence that nobody knows how to fill.  I have ruined Thanksgiving.  Maybe next year will be happier.  Can we try again?  Do I want to try again?  What if this happens again?  What did I do differently this time?  What if I can't get pregnant again?  What if R was it?  I'm not ready for R to be it, that was the point of Baby #3.  And now there is no Baby #3.  There is no baby #3. There is no baby...There is no baby...

When I pulled myself together we spoke with the doctor about my options.
  • There was a pill that I could take to move everything along quickly.  It would be fast but it would be intense.  That really didn't seem appealing.  
  • I could have a D&E/D&C, a surgical procedure that would take care of everything.  That didn't sound fun either, as I tend to think that surgery is the absolute last course of action for most situations.  
  • I could let things just happen naturally, my body knows what it needs to do and it will do it on its own time.  Okay, that seems like the way to go and the doctor agreed.
I specifically asked how bad things would be.  I've had an image in my head of what a miscarriage would be like, and it's basically hemorrhaging and somewhere along the lines a baby comes out as well.  I was assured it wouldn't be that horrible, that I would have some cramping and what would be compared to a light to heavy period for 1-2 weeks.  Okay, that doesn't sound all that awful.  They offered me a prescription for Motrin and sent me on my way.

The rest of Tuesday and most of Wednesday was exactly as they described.  Crampy & period-like.  Annoying, but completely manageable.  However, Wednesday night things changed.  My cramps turned into mini-contractions.  Anyone who has been through labor knows that early stage where you're just starting to feel an arc to it;  There's a build-up, a peak, and a release.  And when I thought about it, it made sense - my body has to do a very similar function as in labor, so it's not that surprising that the cramps would feel contraction-like.  I caved and took some Motrin and sent myself to bed.

At 4:30 in the morning I was jolted awake by labor pains.  Not labor-like pains.  Labor pains.  My last birth was a natural one, and I was feeling exactly the way I was with that.  The contractions were getting closer and closer together and more and more intense.  I felt a huge pressure inside my uterus and felt the urge to push, so logically I went into the bathroom.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience, and I am thankful that my last birth was a natural one so at least I knew I could make it through transition.  Little did I know there would be 3 equivalents.

The first was right away.  The contractions came back to back with zero let-up.  It was almost unbearable and I was very confused.  It made sense logically, but I did not expect this and the doctor at the ultrasound did not prepare me for it to be like this at all.  The pressure inside me built up and there was an undeniable urge to push so I went with it.  What followed I can only describe as an eruption of fluid, blood, tissue, and God knows what else.  Definitely not a light period!  It felt very similar to that point in childbirth when the baby's body finally slides out of you.  Effortless at that point and you feel a drop as the baby and fluid and blood pass through.  It was squishy and warm and emptying.  I felt immediately lighter, the pressure was gone, and while my cramps were still worthy of contractions they were no longer on top of each other, so I had time to breathe for a while.  However, I was concerned and bound to the toilet because whatever was flowing out of me did not cease.  In fact, it flowed straight for well over an hour, all the while my contractions building again, this time more intensely than the first time.  Of course I was curious as to whether I'd be able to discern a fetus so I did search a little bit but nothing was identifiable.  Anything solid looked more like a can of jellied cranberry sauce and was much too large to be an 8 week old fetus.  And I was not convinced that the baby had passed anyway so I didn't look too intently.

The second transition came while still in the bathroom.  This was more intense than the first one and it was more of the same.  Relentless contractions, one on top of the other with no let-up, pressure followed by the urge to push, followed by an eruption.  Again, the contractions ceased for a bit but did not disappear.  I knew we weren't done yet.  However, whatever was flowing freely out of me before had ceased, at least long enough for me to get myself back into bed.  I wanted to lay down for a bit because I was feeling woozy and my vision was starting to blackout.  It did feel good to be in bed, but I should mention that sometime between the first and second transitions, my son decided to start vomiting in our bed.  So while I was going through all of this, poor Wifey had been tending to him, and when I got back into bed finally, he was vomiting again.

My third transition came while I was laying in bed.  My son had finally gotten to sleep, but unfortunately I woke up my daughter with "the moan".  Anyone who has ever had a natural birth knows what "the moan" is.  It just happens, it is involuntary, I believe it is your body's way of dealing with the pain.  I did not want to scare her so I tried my hardest to keep it together.  She was confused and concerned for me so I assured her that I was okay and that I just had a really bad belly ache.  She climbed into bed and tried to cuddle with me to make me feel better, but it was impossible since I had started writhing with the pain.  I was struggling to remember anything from the birthing classes I took with my last pregnancy.  I just wasn't in the right state of mind to be dealing with labor; it was unexpected, I was in no way prepared because I never would have imagined that a miscarriage would be labor.  If I had, I would have spent the rest of Tuesday & Wednesday brushing up on getting through the pain.  At the peak of transition I had that urge to push and all I could think was, "Not in the bed!".  I don't know how, but I made my way to the bathroom.  This final eruption was the worst of all of them, and in fact the elimination part here was painful for me, but the contractions & cramping stopped immediately after.  I am convinced that this is when she left me.  I did not have time to look for her because I started to blackout immediately.  I rushed to get into bed but knew I had no time so I laid down on the bathroom floor instead.

I wanted to get her.  I wanted to be able to bury her, to memorialize her, to look at her and know for a fact that it's over.  An ultrasound is one thing, seeing it with my own eyes would be another.  My ears started ringing and my arms & legs were cold and numb.  My vision was still black so I could not get up.  I was truly scared because I had no idea what was going on or what was happening to me or if this was normal.  It took a few minutes but I came back into myself.  When I was ready I stood up again, and I immediately felt like I was going to blackout again.  Something wasn't right.  And K needed to use the bathroom.  I had no choice but to flush.

I wish I could have given you more respect.  I'm sorry I abandoned you, that I just left you there.  I wish that I could have taken care of you or shown you some sort of affection.  I hope you know that you were loved and wanted and that is certainly not how I wanted things to end.  I wanted to say goodbye to you.

I feel it with every part of my being that she is not inside me anymore.  After K was born, I made reference to an empty feeling that my body had.  That was nothing like this.  When K was born, my body felt used, hollow, stretched.  The life that was inside it was now in my arms, and I guess my body was missing that, that it had ghost memories of K moving around inside of it and yearned for her to be back in there.  I still have that from time to time.  But this...there was no life in my arms.  There were no ghost memories.  There was just nothing.  I wasn't used or stretched.  I wasn't searching for the familiar movements.  I was just empty.  I just went through the childbirth experience, unprepared and in my home, and there was no baby.  That is the worst part about this.  That is what nobody told me, nobody prepared me for.  How can you go through that and have nothing to rejoice in afterwards? 

I made it to the bed and called my doctor.  We decided to go to the ER since I was so woozy and even sitting up proved to be difficult.  All of the details are a blur but the gist of it is that there was a piece of tissue stuck that wouldn't eliminate and wouldn't allow my cervix to close.  They tried to remove it in the ER but were unsuccessful so we decided to go for the D&E.  Apparently I had some extra bleeding that needed to be taken care of too - I don't know if this was before or after the procedure.  I am inclined to think before because of my wooziness & the blackouts.  I wanted things to go naturally and was disappointed that after going through all of that I still had to go for the procedure.  However, the procedure is proving to be more humane than a natural miscarriage.  I still have some physical recovery to go through, especially because of the bleeding, but if you take that out of the equation, this is a world easier than just letting things happen.  For some women, they don't realize that they are having a miscarriage until they are going through what I did Wednesday night.  I can't imagine finding out that way, and I can't imagine going through that without having first experienced labor & delivery.

Women need to know that this is what it's like or could be like.  Not to scare them, not to worry about a miscarriage, but to be prepared.  Had I known, I would have done things differently and might have even opted for the procedure from the beginning and avoided all of the pain and mess.  I don't know, maybe not.  But I would have at least known what I was in for.  I hope that this information helps someone, even if it's just to know what could possibly happen.  Every woman is different, every pregnancy is different, every birth is different, so I imagine every miscarriage is different.  But according to the doctors I spoke with after (and there were several), this is actually a fairly common and expected experience.  A miscarriage is exactly like labor and delivery, your body needs to do the exact same thing so you should expect a similar experience.

I can't express enough gratitude to everyone who helped us through this.  My cousin HR for taking me to the hospital so Wifey could stay with a sick R, for being the alcohol & donut fairy on Tuesday, and for helping us out so much with everything.  My friend JS for giving me a heads up that things would not be as simple and easy as the ultrasound doctors made it seem, and for her continued support through everything always.  My friend EM-G, for dragging herself and her two kids to my house on Friday to help me through my required complete bedrest part of recovery.  Having to take it easy is hard enough, total bedrest is ridiculous!  My in-laws for coming on Sunday to help out with the kids after Wifey had to leave to run a conference. 

I'm glad that I told people about our good news so that I'm not dealing with the bad news in secrecy, because I don't know how we would have gotten through this otherwise.  And I know that we're not entirely through this yet either.  There's still a long emotional road to conquer, but I know I am not alone.  I think it's important that we speak about this, so feel free to share your story here too if you want to contribute to the dialogue.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why So Excited For "Back to School"?

We are quickly approaching that time of year where summer is winding down and those with appropriately-aged kids prepare to head back to school.  This always saddens me.  Yes, when I was younger I looked forward to starting school again & seeing my friends, some of which I didn't see all summer, but I was always sad to see summer go.

And now as a parent I'm even sadder.  These lazy days of cuddles and sunshine and swimming and grand adventures will come to a close as we start the hustle & bustle of required schedules.  Of course the cuddles & adventures won't go anywhere, but we will have somewhere to be at set times and my daughter will be away from me for several hours of the day.  And while I know it is important for her to function in a world without me on her own, I miss her when she's gone, and I don't like that we can't do whatever the day brings us to.

And we're just in preschool here!  I'm really not looking forward to Kindergarten where she will be away from me the whole day, every day.  I'm actually dreading it.  Yes, I can let go and let them do their own things but I don't like being away from them - I miss them when I'm not around them.

So it is hard for me to understand the parents that get super excited about "Back to School" time.  They celebrate and can't wait until it's here, as though having to spend 3 months with their own children is some kind of torture.  And the commercials are appalling...parents literally jumping around and cheering while their less than enthused offspring roll their eyes or look sad in the background.  I have the same reaction as the kids in those commercials & ads - Disgust.  Sadness.

I understand that children can be exhausting and that sometimes we ALL need a break from them.  And I really hope that is what these parents are meaning - that they just need a break and are a little stressed-out.  Because if anyone is really that excited to be rid of their children then I have to ask why you bothered to have them in the first place?  And some people fare better when on a strict schedule, especially with kids, so I'm hoping that these parents are just happy to get back into a more regular routine.  I am not and will never be one of those people - I loathe schedules, having to be somewhere at a set time, and determining every minute of every day in advance. I like to feel the day out & see where it takes us and have it open so we can choose to do things on a whim. But that's me and not everyone can live like that, so my hope is that these overjoyed parents are just happy to have a routine back.  I hope.

But not only that - I like being around my kids (most of the time)!  I like doing things with them and seeing their little faces and expressions and excitement as they learn and discover and experience new things.  I like being with them when they have these experiences and seeing it myself.  I like being a part of their world.  It is not a burden to have them home with me or to be "forced" to entertain them as other parents feel they are.  There are tons of parents out there who WISH they could be home with their kids all the time but can't because they are forced to work.  I am taking my time home with them as a gift and I am trying to enjoy every last minute of it because I know it's not forever.  If I could wrap this all up in a package and keep them toddlers forever I would.  And as September approaches and I know that school will begin again, I am saddened to think that that means less time with my baby girl.

More to point, the notion that your children are nothing but an inconvenience to you saddens me.  The idea that you are so happy to be rid of them disgusts me.  I don't understand people who desire to get away from their kids so much.  I know a lot is said out of jest and for comic relief - at least I hope it is.  But think of the message you're sending to your children when you say that, even if it is just for laughs  You're literally telling them that you don't want them around and that you'd rather have someone else deal with them.  You're telling them that they have somehow made you dislike them, that have have done something to make you not want to be around them anymore.  That they are so awful that you're actually celebrating their departure.  That might not be what you mean or your true feelings, but that's how they're going to take it.  That is not fair to any child.  None of them should feel like their parent doesn't want them around.  Is any joke worth the kind of damage that could do to them?

Believe me, I understand stress.  I understand needing a break.  I understand feeling like you're going crazy and that the kids are making you that way.  I really do.  So take a break.  Get a baby-sitter and go out with the girls/guys.  But don't take it out on your kids, especially not for the sake of a joke.  I for one would be very happy if these ads stopped showing up.  You can still advertise for school supplies without making the kids the butt of the joke.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The End of my Nursing Journey

Mother's Day 2013

Some of you will find this hard to believe, but yesterday, Mother's Day, was probably the last time that I will nurse R.  It is probably the last time I will nurse anyone.  And it is a very emotional time for me right now because I'm having a hard time letting go.

The reality of the situation is that he was probably ready to be done months ago but I didn't want it to end.  My wife & I are in a face-off about whether to have a 3rd child or not, me on the pro side with her on the con.  I guess a part of me was waiting to see if I could convince her to let me have another baby and I knew I wouldn't be able to so I held on to the "baby" that I have.  The "baby" that will be 2 in 21 days.

My nursing journey has been quite the roller-coaster ride and I am sharing it in case it can comfort anyone else out there going through something similar.

It all started with a "we'll see".  It's hard to believe how different I was back in the days before I got pregnant with K.  Becoming a mother really changed me and how I view & interact with my world.  Although you could never have convinced me otherwise, I was not ready to be a parent and I had no idea what I was in for.  I did zero research on breastfeeding but knew that it was recommended.  I remember thinkiing that I'd give it a try & see how it goes and if it didn't work out I would be OK with bottle feeding.  I laugh at at that whole line of thinking now, knowing how hard the first round was for me and knowing how committed to nursing I'd become.

At some point in my pregnancy someone declaired that I'd never make it out of the hospital.  That breastfeeding would be too hard & I'd give up.  Someone else said outright that I just couldn't do it.  Well, that's all it took for me to be 100% committed to this.  Challenge accepted!  Can you believe that?  THAT is what ignited the fire in me?!  I still didn't take a breastfeeding class, didn't even read any pamphlets, thought I'd figure it out.  It's what we're designed to do, right?  My hubris is laughable from where I am standing now.  If I only had known that I would struggle so much maybe I would have read something or checked out a website.  Maybe I would have sought out LLL or HMN before K was born so I could have had built-in support.  But I didn't.

My first day home with K
K is born and the feeling is overwhelming.  Something inside me has been forever changed and now I need to do whatever is best for her.  Breastfeeding it is.  Due to the type of birth I had with her and the lovely side-effects, I opted for even more drugs afterwords which I now know caused many problems for us when it comes to nursing.  She was not very alert so she had a hard time even locating my breast at times.  When she did she had troubles latching.  When she finally did latch it wasn't a good one and she would fall asleep mid-feeding.  It was a mess.  She lost weight, she would wake up every half hour to nurse and fall asleep 10 minutes into it and so I felt like I was ALWAYS nursing her.  I was tired & stressed and we all know that stressed mom = stressed baby = nursing problems.  I didn't even realize that I was making everything harder on us by not knowing what to do.

After 2 weeks, still losing weight
& getting to know each other

With all of K's weight loss, they told us to suppliment with formula.  I was devastated.  Not only did I feel like a failure as a woman and mother (remember, this is what we're designed for!) but I felt like I was letting myself down and most of all K.  I didn't want to do it.  I didn't want to give her some foreign, laboratory-made suppliment when there was no good reason that I couldn't nourish her myself.  Lucky for us (or unlucky because of the additional stress it caused), K wanted nothing to do with the formula and refused to eat it.  When she did she had violent vomitinig reactions (which we now know were because she is allergic to the dairy that is present in formula).

I was at a loss.  I had a baby who was losing weight, breastfeeding apparently wasn't enough for her and she refused to drink formula.  What was I going to do?!  Thankfully, our pediatrician is amazing.  She could see how much I wanted to be able to nurse K and she could see how much I didn't want to give her formula so she worked us through it.  It was a lot of pumping, a lot of nursing, a lot of Fenugreek.  Lanolin & cold gel packs were my best friends since bloody, cracked nipples were a daily occurrance.  I quickly learned which nursing pads stuck to scabbed nipples and switched to cloth ones almost instantly.  A friend of mine recommended and ultimately signed me up for HMN.  This saved me in many ways and helped me through the rough patches along the way.

Eventually it got easier; There was less blood, I stopped taking pain medication so K was alert and could focus on what she was doing, I stopped being paranoid about nursing in public and found ways to be discrete.  In the long-run, K was a champion nurser.  She loved her Mommy time and nursing sessions were long and frequent.  She probably would have gone until she was 3 if I had let her, but we stopped when she was about 18 months old because nursing her & being pregnant with R proved to be more than my body could handle.  So weaning her had some difficulties and we had to adapt.  I felt like I was taking something away from her and had guilt about it, even though I knew I was doing what was best for myself & my then unborn baby.

Minutes after R was born
R's nursing journey was different from the first second.  His birth was basically the exact opposite of K's.  There were no drugs, no crazy pain meds, and I was prepared to nurse.  There wasn't a question in my mind if I was going to be able to nurse him, I just knew that I could.  He was a very alert baby and latched on moments after birth without difficulty.  He was a chunky baby and had no issues gaining weight (at least as an infant).  I didn't have any of the pain or blood that I did with K because his latch was great and he was a fast nurser.  Where K would nurse for 30-40 minutes at a time, R was done in 10.  I didn't have to pump with him at all, though I did because the amount of milk I produced was ridiculous!  The second time around I had no jitters about nursing him in public; I knew what the comments were going to be and how to deal with them, and I had already perfected the art of being discrete so if anyone had a problem with it it was their problem.  Nursing him was just natural and easy - it was what it was "supposed to" be like.

Snuggles with R
Staying true to form, where K would have nursed forever R lost interest a while ago.  He did have some weight-gaining issues as a toddler so although he did start to self-wean it was recommended to continue nursing him to keep the extra calories in him.  Truth be told he's been fine for a while now and I was paranoid he's lose weight again if I stopped so I just continued.  I know that for the past few months it has been me offering it to him and not him searching for it.  And while he never spent a long time nursing, these more recent ones have been even faster, only minutes at a time.

So yesterday I decided that he was probably done and that I would stop offering it to him.  But I didn't want it to just end like that.  I wanted to have some kind of final send-off, knowing that it may be the last time I nurse anyone ever again and this is closing a huge chapter in my life.  I thought it was appropriate that it be on  Mother's Day.  So after our guests left, after our deck was painted (yes, we pained our deck on Mother's Day), when my wife was playing a game with our daughter in her room, I sat with R on the couch and nursed him for the last time.  I made sure to pay attention to those last few moments and remember what it was like.  Him reaching up and touching my face gently, smiling up at me as I cradled him in my arms.  Him trying to stick his feet in my mouth as only a nursing toddler does.  I cried a little bit as I stroked his hair and told him that this was the last time.  When he was done, as if he knew I was going through something, he grabbed me and gave me a strong hug, saying, "awww" as he did it.  Then he smiled at me, jumped off the couch, and played with his toys.  Just like that, it is over.

It's crazy how difficult and complex breastfeeding can seem and then also be one of the easiest things to do as a parent.  My body made & fed both of my children.  I was the sole reason they were alive for the first months of their lives.  It is amazing what nature can do if you let it happen & nurture it.  I am so grateful for the stubbornness of my 20's that kept me determined to succeed at breastfeeding.  While I am happy to have full control & ownership of my own body for the first time in almost 5 years, I am sad to have to say goodbye to some of the sweetest moments you can have with your baby.  I am so happy that I got to experience them, and that I knew enough to cherish them

Whether you have one child or six, nursing is definitely a journey.  Sadly, mine has come to an end, just when I thought I had perfected it.  It would be nice to have another child, knowing what I know now and how easy & amazing it can be, but that is just not in the cards.  And so, my 5th Mother's Day as a nusing Mama is also my last day as a nursing Mama.  It is definitely bittersweet.