Category Archives: The Experience

(Guest Post) “WTF am I going to do with a daugher?”

This was my facebook status after I found out your gender during an emergency room visit that I took your mother to because she was concerned at your very sudden lack of movement. Needless to say this statement made some of my friends respond in various forms of surprise and incredulity. Partly because they themselves couldn’t believe I was having a daughter (and a third child at that, but that’s a different story), but also because they could not believe that I wouldn’t “know” what to do with one. The responses ranged from sincere advice on how to raise a daughter, to outright scolding me for not knowing that I should “LOVE HER”.

The responses were amusing, especially since my main intent was generally lost on those of my friends. You see, in reality, this was my way of announcing your gender to all of my friends and acquaintances whom were curious about it. I thought everyone knew my sense of humor enough that they wouldn’t take this statement as serious. I was expecting a herd of congratulatory responses and was not expecting to be scolded for making this statement. So your gender announcement turned partially into a very successful troll.

Of course, I was only half joking when I said this. In my mind I really did ask this question of myself, but I had also answered it. You see, before I had children I always thought that I would be a father eventually but my thought process never made it past that point. So the question of gender never really entered my mind until after I had my first child.

At some point after that I realized that I definitely wanted a daughter. This is not to say that I didn’t want my sons- your brothers mean the world to me and I would not give them up for anything. But the thought entered my mind that I would want to “try” for a daughter. Well, it turned out that, whether by trial or chance, your mother and I had succeeded in making you.

And suddenly, even more questions began to pop up. I began thinking about your upbringing, how it would differ from your brothers, the things that I would want to teach you… how to handle your first boyfriend, how to help you understand and deal with your emotions, how to teach you what to look for in a relationship. Many fun thoughts entered my mind then, such as the best way to freak out your first boyfriend when he comes over to “meet the parents” (none of which I will write here- those will be a surprise), but the most important conclusions that I came to was that I needed to lead by example. This made me remember a popular phrase: The best thing a father can do for his daughter is to love her mother.

Well, dear daughter, I can tell you that I am very much, definitely, sincerely, incredibly, regrettably, overwhelmingly in love with your mother. There will be no shortage of love here. We may express our love in very… odd… ways at times, but as you grow up I’m sure you will come to recognize it as such. So with all that in mind remember this: no matter what happens, always know that I’m never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you.

<3 Your Daddy

Old Enough to Ask

Dear Daughter,

As I write this you are “old enough to ask for it”, and have been ever since you were born. You are four weeks old and most definitely “ask”.

According to some, “when they can ask for it, it’s time to wean”. I wonder how many babies those people have spent time around. Most babies I’ve met have clear ways of saying “I’m hungry!”

You are an excellent communicator. You meet my eyes and form your mouth into a circle, pushing your tongue out at me. “Mama, I need to nurse.”

You turn your head towards the breast and bob your head up and down as you search. “Mama, I need to nurse.”

You startle from your sleep in a whining cry and pull your legs up towards your chest. “Mama, I need a diaper change, I just peed.”

You grunt, turn red, and then start to tsk at me as you pull your legs up toward your chest. “Mama, I need a diaper change, I just pooped.”

You fuss and pull your legs up to your chest, kicking unhappily. “Mama, I have gas. Can you lay me down and bicycle my legs?”

You pull off of the breast and bob your head around the nipple whining. “Mama, I am still hungry but I have to burp now.”

You pull off of the breast, fuss, pop back on for a few sucks, fuss, pop back on and then fuss again. “Mama, I finished this side and want the other side now.”

You pop off, look up at me and lay there calm and happy or half asleep. “Mama, I’m full and happy. Thank you.”

There are so many things that you say already, that you have said since birth.

Maybe those people mean that when you learn to ask with an “official language”, then it’s time to wean. I don’t understand this. I see your ability to communicate your needs as a sign that you understand what it is that you need. I do not stop kissing you or hugging you because you become able to ask. If you were older and asking for broccoli or squash, would I decide that signified your readiness to never eat them again?

One day you’ll have children of your own and will hear many things like this. Be careful to always ask yourself the question of “what does one thing have to do with the other?” Speech has little to do with your child’s immune system and digestion.

Listen for the language that your child has since birth. Beware the silly things that people say. Ask yourself always “what does one thing have to do with the other?” Often the answer to that is “nothing at all”.

You have asked to nurse since the moment you were born. It does not matter to me what language you use to make your needs known. It only matters that you are making them known and that it is my job to give you everything you need, and some of what you want.

<3 Mama

I Hate Being Woken Up

Dear Three-Small-Children,

I hate being woken up. Remember this when you have children of your own and desperately need more sleep. Remember this when your own toddler wakes up just as the sun starts to rise, and when your own infant stirs awake in the dark and moans in that way that you know means “I am wet, please change me before I shatter your ear drums, and then play with me. And by the way.. In case you were wondering.. you will never sleep again”.

This is not meant to convey the sentiment of “I wish this upon you so that you will suffer as you have made me suffer.”

Rather, it is an explanation of something you will likely remember.

Mornings are one of those times that I completely light up when I see you and greet you like I haven’t seen you for days. When I say “Hi! Good morning!” in a cheerful voice and my eyes crinkle with happiness at seeing you. The times where I pull you close and give you the biggest sloppiest kiss ever right in the middle of your forehead. When I proclaim that I love you to pieces.

I am NOT a morning person. Mornings should start in the afternoon. Twelve consecutive hours of sleep would be the height of lovely.

This is why I smile, why I examine your face and your eyes and your crazy bed-hair. This is why I laugh, and tackle you to the bed for hugs. Because I dislike mornings SO much that when the first of you was small, I was miserable at being woken. I held a small baby that would not sleep, and I cried. Through my tears I saw dark blue eyes looking up at me and I started apologizing. “I love you SO much, I’m just SO tired.” I whispered. “I’m so sorry.” And I pulled that baby close and buried my tear stained face in his hair so that he would not see me cry.

When you’re so tired that being woken makes you miserable, kiss your child’s head. Breathe deep even if baby hair tickles your nose. Kiss small feet, examine small hands. Look deep into the cross-eyes of your newborn child. Say “I love you”, and feel it with every ounce of your soul.

Love bubbles up, as poignant as letdown. It pushes the sadness, the sleepy, the grouchy, and unhappy away. It crashes through the many reasons that I just want to BE ASLEEP and it lets me surrender to the start of my day with happiness rather than with misery.

Slowly this love smooths out all the roughness of parenthood. It soothes the pain of labor, it eases the worries of day to day life, it brightens the sunny days and it converts the rainy ones into puddle splashing fun. It helps with after-birth contractions and with gritting my teeth through early-baby chompy latching-on. It gives me the grace to handle tantrums with patience. And it reminds me that when you are upset, you are upset not “difficult”.

So when you wake up way too early one day because a small child of your own desperately needs your attention, and you think back to these days and wonder why you didn’t inherit the trait of loving mornings..

Remember. I didn’t love mornings. I loved you.

Make the choice joy.

<3 Mama

Breastfeeding in the Beginning is Different from Breastfeeding at the End.

(from the archives dated May 19 2009)

Sometimes I let myself think about what the other person must be thinking when I say that I still breastfeed my two and a half year old. A two year old looks so big, so independent. And since most people only have experience with babies that nurse as newborns or as 6 month olds, their idea of what “breastfeeding” means is very limited to a certain phase. A time consuming phase. A possibly painful phase. A phase of leaking, of engorgement, of panicking over low supply. Of diaper-counting, elimination diets, and night waking.

Nursing a two year old is very different. The parallel I always think of is that of picking your child up. Picking your child up when the child is an infant often means long periods of holding. You have to support the child’s head when the child is an infant. You have to carry them, hold them, and they want to be held constantly. A newborn does not sit on your hip or support his own weight when held. If someone stopped picking their child up when their child was 3 months old or 9 months old, they might look at someone with a two year old and say “You STILL pick the child up?” thinking about how difficult it must be to hold 36lbs of child. Thinking about how big and independent that two year old looks. Thinking about it through their own experience, where the “picking up” relationship ended very early when the child’s needs were very different. “But the child is strong now. Doesn’t it hurt when he punches you in the face when you pick him up?” they’ll ask, flashing back to the flailing newborn limbs.

With a two year old nursling, they imagine that the teeth bite just as the flailing limbs would hit. They imagine that the child nurses constantly, doesn’t consume food, and is intertwined with you as only a newborn can be.

Because that is what they have experienced.

But it’s not like that. The child nurses or doesn’t nurse. Accepts postponements (usually). Asks politely (usually) instead of wailing. The child seldom nurses for comfort anymore (at least my son), and usually only nurses a few times a day. My newborn son would nurse 8-12 times a day, or sometimes 15 times a day, and for long periods of time. 30 minutes, 40 minutes, and hour.. Two.. Nursing was a full time occupation some months.

A toddler doesn’t nurse that way. Even if he nurses frequently, it’s for shorter amounts of time. You can do other things when a toddler nurses because you’re not supporting all of their weight, you’re not focused on the latch, you’re not leaking and engorged. A nursing session may last 5 minutes, or it may last 3 minutes. But I can’t remember the last time that I nursed for 15 minutes or longer. I can’t remember the last time my son didn’t sleep through the night. I can’t remember the last time I was engorged, the last time I leaked. I can’t remember the last time he bit down while nursing.

Child-led weaning is gradual. Not only for the child, but for the mother. It goes the way all of childhood goes. Like sand through a sieve. Slowly. Feedings space out, disappear, the child separates and becomes independent. Weaning is a milestone that is reached slowly, not a sudden destination.

Nursing a two year old is very different from nursing a newborn. I imagine that nursing a three or four year old is different from nursing a two year old. Maybe I’ll find out what that’s like, or maybe my son will have weaned himself by then.

Whatever it is, I’m in no rush. I enjoyed nursing my infant, and I’m enjoying being here for my two year old. It’s not without its frustrations and embarrassments, but ultimately it’s worth it to witness this beautiful miracle of seeing my son toddle off to independence at his own darned pace.

From a Mother to a Daughter

Dear Daughter,

You are currently 101 days from your due date, squirming around and kicking me as your big brother nurses himself down to sleep on my lap.

You are my third child and first daughter. With my sons I was passionate about giving them the best, and because of my experiences with early breastfeeding I was passionate about helping others past what hurdles I could. I wanted to normalize breastfeeding so that they would understand the breast to be a comforting source of nutrition long before they became aware of the way in which society has sexualized women. I wanted their right to eat in public to be protected and free from harassment. I wanted them to grow to be strong supportive men like their father is so that one day they could reassure and support their wives through those early sleepless days and nights of motherhood.

You, however, have given me an extra goal.

You see, the mothers of my mother’s generation had to relearn breastfeeding from the ground up after their mothers were sabotaged by the “formula era” where women were discouraged, injected with medications to dry up their milk, and lied to about the needs of their babies and the quality of their milk.

They never experienced the cultural flow of breastfeeding from mother to daughter. They remember things dimly from decades ago, and fumble while trying to help us. Often the best they can offer is the reassurance that things seem okay.

For you, daughter, I want you to have a community rich with mothers who have inherited the information they needed from others and who are continuing the tradition of support.  I want breastfeeding to be normalized so that it is no longer looked upon as something to be hidden. I want the infighting and guilt tripping and negativity to fade, and the judgement to wither as women learn to mother each other and be gentle with one another while helping them provide for their baby’s needs.

It is my goal to help other mothers, discuss the controversies surrounding breastfeeding, reduce the attacks, and to encourage moms to help one another.

I want to be a contributor to this particular layer of the foundation of your future support network as a mother.

I love you and your brothers dearly. I, as we all are, am deeply imperfect and am blessed and honored by your existence in my life. You are my life’s most precious moments. While I cannot give you perfection in every area of life, I can give you the best where I can, and when I can I will.

Love always,

Mahmie/Mommy/Nursh/Mom/Mummy and all the various names I have been called thus far.

(Who started this letter last night while nursing your brother and finished it this morning because he ended up biting me and rendering me unable to use my cell phone. 😛 One bit of advice to you: Nursing manners do not always work with teething children. :p)