Thursday, September 27, 2012

Zen: 37 Weeks and Counting

Dearest Baby,

I would love to say that I have been this "zen" throughout the months you have been growing in my belly. I wish I could tell you that I only thought happy thoughts - that I meditated and did yoga every day, and ate only organic fruits and vegetables.

Alas, I have not been this good.

I have leaned over the toilet bowl more times than I care to remember.

I have eaten boxes of macaroni and cheese, bacon sandwiches and fruit sprayed with pesticides.

I have stumbled into the house after a day's work, only to head to bed with a blinding, debilitating migraine.

I have cried into my pillow, wishing that I could just have my body and my energy back.

I have burst into tears over silly things, slammed doors and yelled at your big sister (and your poor Daddy).

I melted in the summer heat, and found short walks to be the only exercise I could tolerate.

BUT....yes, my sweet baby girl, there is a "but."

I have put my hand on my belly in awe of your kicks and tumbles. I have rolled and bounced on the exercise ball. I have gone to yoga classes, and reconnected with you on a spiritual level. I have already imagined what your tiny hands and feet will look like. I have held other newborns, and excitedly pictured myself holding you. I have shared my love for you with your big sister, and together we sing songs to you before bed each night.

No, the pregnancy has not been bliss. It has not been zen. But it has been special in more ways than I could have ever imagined, and I am cherishing this - the last time I will grow a baby - with all my might.

I spent 28 years becoming "me" - growing from a child to a woman, falling in and out of love, and meeting and marrying my life partner, your Daddy. For the past 4 years, I have conceived and raised your big sister. By the time I am 37 years old, both you and your sister will be in school - needing me less, and releasing me from these "early years." Around the age of 50, I will have another 35 (if I'm lucky) years as an empty-nester, where I will rediscover the "me" without my children around.

These early years of childbearing and child rearing are just a teeny, weeny slice in the pie of life. On many days they feel as though they will never end, but I think I'm smart enough to recognize they will end. And that I will miss them.

And so we wait for you in joy and anticipation, and on rare occasions - in the dead of the night when I am pacing the floors, or in the morning when I feel you wake, or during the day when you kick and roll - I can say that I almost....almost...feel zen about it all.

Love Mommy

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

There's Onwy Two Fings I Yike

This is what my daughter says to me now at every bedtime:

"There's only two things I like" (or see the cuter version of this above in the title).

She holds up two stubby little fingers, and says,

"Mama's milk. And suckie."

When I ask her if those are the only two things she likes in the whole world, she thinks for a little while and then says,

"There's onwy five fings I yike. Mama's milk, suckie, water, flashlights and stuffed animals."

Apparently, there are quite a few things a 3 year-old needs to fall asleep!

And yes, you heard right. My 3 year-old continues to breastfeed AND still has a pacifier. Move over Jamie Grumet. I'm the next in line to be on the cover of Time!! Imagine it - my daughter standing on a chair, breastfeeding, with my 9 month pregnant belly hanging out for all to see. AND, the floor could be littered with pacifiers. They might hire a famous dentist to tell the world about how my child's teeth will be forever damaged by my "mom enough" parenting techniques.

Here's the thing....I really don't feel extreme. And I think any other Mom who is doing extended breastfeeding would tell you the same thing. When I first started breastfeeding, I really, really hated it. In fact, I hated it so much that I was only going to continue utnil 6 months and then quit (I almost quit several times along the way, but had a lot of supportive people backing me up). All of a sudden though, when I got to 6 months of age, breastfeeding became easy. I actually liked it, and not in some weird, perverse kind of way that some men (and some women) seem to imagine. I liked it because it was convenient, it helped me to bond with my daughter (who had screamed and cried for the first 6 months of her life), and it was the only thing that calmed her down when she was experiencing symptoms of reflux.

Somehow time flew by, and we got to 2 years of age. And I thought, wow, I'm really unique. Hardly anyone I know breastfeeds their 2 year old. And because I like being unique and "different," I was quite proud of this fact. Now, I'm just in a whole new category of unique. Even the majority of my parenting friends who identify with an attachment parenting philosophy are no longer breastfeeding at 3 years (to be clear, this has to do with the fact that many children wean themselves before age three - not that AP parents are somehow failing if they don't do extended breastfeeding. And of course, you can still be an AP parent and give up breastfeeding at some point because of various reasons!!)

It's not like I got here on purpose. I didn't give birth, and immediately exclaim to the world "I shall breastfeed my daughter until she is a preschooler!!" In fact, I'm embarrassed to admit that I thought people who breastfed toddlers and preschoolers were really, really weird (this was due to my lack of experience and understanding of my child and my body....clearly I'm much more informed and MUCH less inclined to judge any parenting decision now)

But what is important to know about extended breastfeeding is that it really, really works for some families. And you just can't judge something that works, can you? Those of you who know my child know that she is a fully functioning, independent and sunny little girl. She is not strangely attached to me, and I wouldn't consider myself even close to a helicopter parent. I'm just a regular 'ol mama, doing something that helps my daughter get to sleep at night. I will cherish these memories forever.

I thought I would share a few other notes about our experience, just in case you were curious and had some questions:

  • I do not breastfeed my daughter in public. I feel uncomfortable doing it, not because I think that extended breastfeeding is wrong, but because I know others do, and I want to avoid the judgement.
  • She breastfeeds about two times per day - once first thing in the morning, and once right before bed. If she asks for it at other times, it's because she's tired (i.e. just woke up from a nap) or because she's getting sick
  • Yes, it did hurt quite a bit throughout my pregnancy. The worst was from about 3-6 months, when my milk basically dried up. We actually thought she had weaned herself (she started to ask for it every 3-4 days), but suddenly my milk showed up again, and she was back to daily breastfeeding.
  • I do plan on tandem nursing. I believe that it will help my daughter adjust to the new baby, and will probably also be a fantastic tool to use to calm the jealous monster. Tandem nursing doesn't necessarily mean I will have two kids hanging off my boobs - it just means that if my daughter wants "mama's milk" she will be able to get some! She's a little too busy to be sitting in my lap for extended periods of time.
  • When people tell me she doesn't "need" to breastfeed, I feel inclined to ask them whether they "need" to drink that glass of milk with dinner. Perhaps it's time you weaned yourself from the cow's teet. Don't try to pretend the middle man (or machine) who milks the cow makes it any different.
  • I will be honest in saying that husband is not 100% supportive of breastfeeding daughter. He's about 90% supportive - I think part of him wishes I were slightly more "normal" sometimes :) But given that it has absolutely no impact on our relationship, he really doesn't care very much.
  • When will I stop? When will my daughter stop? I don't know - truly, I don't. I feel strongly that breastfeeding is a relationship - I'm not into child-led weaning, because I would certainly encourage her to stop if it was bothering me. But I also wouldn't just quit on her and refuse to do it if I felt that she wasn't ready. I think we will take things month-by-month. I have a feeling that once she knows she has access to "mama's milk" whenever she needs it after the baby is born, she will probably identify it more with what the baby does
Oh, and as for the pacifiers? We know that those DO need to go - we're waiting until the new baby adjustment period is over, and will encourage her to give them up at some point in the new year. Our dentist friends will be proud :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Making Mistakes

When I first started my doula training, I gave no thought to the business side of my work. The extraordinarily wise Susan Martensen (our doula training teacher) warned about some of the challenges of owning your own business, but I never paid heed. I was too caught up in the heady aspects of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. I naively thought I'd be someone's saviour - doula to the rescue!! Little did I know that "business" would take up more than half the time I spend doing my job.

I've already written a bit about my doula journey, but I find as time passes by (I will soon be marking my 35th birth!), I have become that much more reflective.

And the truth is, I keep reflecting on the mistakes I've made. Maybe it's that time of year - the end of summer, the start of school, and the planning for hibernation that comes with Fall. It's a time for self reflection. Or maybe it's because I'm nine months pregnant and slightly emotional.

Whatever the case may be, these mistakes I've made on my business path are niggling away at me. And really, they can't be labelled "business mistakes" - when it comes down to it, I screwed up with a couple of clients I worked for, and I'm feeling guilty about it.

Part of the yucky feelings I have when reflecting on these births have to do with the fact that there are people out in the world who think badly of me. I have a hard time with this. I am a people pleaser - the comments written in school reports by my teachers in Kindergarten straight through to Grade 6 were that I was always smiling, and always eager to please.

I go out of my way to avoid conflict in my life, but that usually ends up in me creating or causing conflict, as I'm rarely clear about my personal boundaries and intentions. I tend to say "yes!" all the time, and if I think that I've hurt someone's feelings or haven't followed through on something, I use the avoidance strategy. Juvenile, and not at all particularly helpful, this strategy allows me to avoid confrontation.

To be a successful entrepreneur, one must first recognize that

a) You will have dissatisfied customers. Someone, somewhere down the road, will not be happy with your product or services; and

b) You must have measures in place to recognize mistakes and learn from them

And learn I have! I feel ten times more comfortable as a doula now than I did back when I wrote this post. I recognize that the stress of the job requires me to limit the number of clients I take (no matter how many times I've been contacted by someone who sounds SO interesting and lovely, or have been called to help out at a unique birth...frank breech presentation anyone??). I also recognize the importance of time off, and scheduling in a month or two where I am taking a break from the crazy on-call schedule.

I have learned to be grown-up, and face confrontation. The mistakes that I have made are due to a number of variables, and I realize that much of it can be chalked up to a lack of communication (both on my part and theirs), and basic inexperience. I also recognize that no matter how much I "try" and have my best doula hat on, sometimes I just won't be overly helpful at births. Maybe the mother is amazingly calm and able to handle her labour with little support. Maybe she has too many support people at her birth, which means that I don't have a whole lot to do. Or maybe the birth becomes so medically complicated that my role is overshadowed by a whole lot of doctors, residents and nurses.

Don't get me wrong - I do believe I've been a good doula, and perhaps even a great doula for the majority of my clients. But it doesn't stop the yucky, sad feelings that pop up occasionally when I bump into the one or two clients who are unsatisfied with my services (Ottawa is a tiny place!).

Doula work is messy - it's based in emotions, which can be difficult to navigate at the best of times. Throw in being awake for 24 hours or attending two back-to-back births, and you've sometimes got a problem on your hands!

Despite the challenges, the past year as a doula has brought me so much joy and satisfaction, and the experience I've gained overshadows the earlier mistakes I made. But I think my planned sabbatical is causing me to become reflective and I occasionally wish for a time machine to go back and change some of the things I've done.

I'm curious to hear from my doula friends or fellow entrepreneurs. How do you handle your mistakes?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


What? Whoa, wait a minute. Where did August go?

Life has gotten a little crazy around here! I have about a half dozen unfinished blog posts that I just can't be bothered to complete. I think there's something important that happens in the final stages of pregnancy - women seem to turn inward, and go into their own little third trimester bubble. The things we normally focus on and stress about don't seem important when a 4-5 lb human being is doing soccer practice in our belly.

And so it should be! Birth is an event that requires a lot of inward-ness. I find the last two months are an important time for me to slow down and take care of myself. I try to make time for things like yoga, meditation, pedicures, nights out alone, long baths....

Or at least I did the first time around.

This time, I've been a bit of a busy bee. I attended a record FOUR births in July (keeping in mind I still have a 3 day/week job), and tending to postpartum families has kept me busy. In mid-August, we said goodbye to our beloved childcare provider and began our family vacation.

We kicked off vacation time with a much needed haircut!

Then off to Achray Campground for a week!

Beautiful full moon

A loving the "big rocks"

View over the Barron Canyon (that's my belly there...can you see it?)

And finally, A's big Birthday Bash

There's my belly again! Hiding!

My prego belly is not featured very prominently in any of our pictures this summer. Some of it is that I really don't like many pictures taken of me, and most of it is that my belly is just not that big. People seem to think this is a very good thing, and like to comment on it a lot (oh my god, you're so SMALL!!). But it's all relative, because I certainly don't FEEL small. I feel a bit more like a whale - especially at night. A whale who has gotten stuck on her back, and can't seem to roll over without a lot of maybe one of those big nets, or a crane.

Anyway, that's us for now. I'm sure blogging will pick up again soon, but for now, I'm simply enjoying reading other people's amazing blogs!

I look forward to sharing the professional shots that my friend Sara McConnell will be taking of us in a couple of weeks!