I am now “that lady”

I may have been 7 or 8 years old the first time I was exposed to breastfeeding.  I was on an airplane with my mom and grandmother and I remember seeing a woman nursing her baby.  I saw a breast, felt my cheeks flush red, and quickly looked away.  I had never seen anyone do THAT before!  What on earth was she doing?  I can’t remember if I asked my mom or grandmother any questions about what I had seen.  I was probably too embarrassed to ask.

Fast forward 25 years…I am now “that lady”.  I have flown many times since my youngest was born.  I always nurse in public while traveling…in the airport and on the plane.  I really have no choice.  When my baby is hungry, I feed him.  It really is as simple as that.  This attitude isn’t limited to our travels…it’s an everyday way of life.  I have been blessed to never have encountered any rudeness or dirty looks as a result of me nursing in public.  I’m discreet, but I will not pile up blankets on top of my baby’s head…I live in Florida where it’s hot!

Sadly, a friend of mine (who does not breastfeed) has encountered negativity–while traveling.  She was on her way home after visiting me and her 9 month old daughter was asleep in her arms in the cradle hold.  A young boy (between 8-10 ish years old) was seated next to her.  The boy’s mother made a big scene and complained to the flight attendant that she didn’t want her son sitting next to that lady while she’s breastfeeding.  My friend got a little angry.  She was obviously not breastfeeding, and lifted her baby away from her body to prove that she wasn’t, which, in turn, caused her baby girl to wake up.

All I can say is that I’m glad it wasn’t me!  I’m pretty sure I would’ve told the woman where she could go and how to get there.  I’m proud to be “that lady who breastfeeds her kid in public”.  I’ve nursed at church, the mall, the beach, various restaurants, public parks, my kids’ school, the doctor’s office…practically everywhere!

Gawk all you want…maybe you’ll learn something!

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A birthday love letter to my daughter

Doting on the newest addition

Karissa, Spring 2010

My dearest Karissa,

I can’t believe it has already been 11 years since you entered this world.  I remember just watching you sleep for hours, too afraid that if I closed my eyes I would wake up and you would only be a dream.  You were such a happy baby, always full of smiles.   I remember sleeping next to you, so that I could keep you close and keep you warm at the same time.  You were my first, so in some ways you were the guinea pig of motherhood for me.  I know I haven’t been perfect over the years, and I do have some regrets.  Unfortunately, in life, there are no “do-overs”.

First day of kindergarten 2005

Six years ago when I stepped out on my own, you were forced to grow up just a little faster.  You became the little mommy to your younger brothers when I wasn’t able to be with you.  I tried my best to make sure you got to still be a kid whenever you were with me, sometimes to your disliking!  You are a good role model for your younger brothers, always enjoying a challenge at school, and such a loving and caring little girl all around.

Always a loving big sister

The day I married your step-dad, you were so pretty in your little white dress.  You were all smiles that day, sharing in my own happiness and joy.  You seemed really excited to be gaining not only a great step-dad, but a fun step-sister that you could look up to as well.

Mommy's wedding day

The following summer, when I moved to Florida, I knew how sad you would be.  I also knew that you would try your best to be a good student at your new school, and make new friends once you got there.  I saw you thrive at your new school, getting straight A’s every report card.  We talked often, and I did my best to come see you as often as I could.  You seemed content, but that little sparkle in your eye wasn’t there anymore.  I feel responsible for that.  I often wish there had been some way I could make staying with you guys work.  Then I remember all the reasons that I had to move, and I know that I made the right choice, for all of us.

I remember how excited you were when you found out you were going to be a big sister again!  Even though your little brothers aggravate you often, you were still excited at the prospect of another baby.  Although I know you were really hoping for a little sister this time around, you took the news that “it” was going to be a “he” really well.  I will never forget your first meeting with your baby brother, at your fall concert.  You were so proud, and you smiled so big again!  I hadn’t seen you smile like that in so long!  You are such a caring little girl, and I’m thrilled that Tristan has you to look up to as well.  It was really fun to watch you “mother” him, so eager to change his diapers and hold him as often as you can.

Proud Sissy!

I love our little talks over the phone, and I really love hearing you get excited about things that are happening in your life.  Whether it be a friend’s birthday party, the talent show at school, or even your upcoming trip to see me over Spring Break, I’m all ears!

So, here it is, eleven years later.   I couldn’t have ever dreamed of having a little girl as smart and pretty and loving as you, but here you are.  I am so blessed.  I look forward to a time when I will be able to see you more often, and I know that time will come as you get a little older.  In the coming years you will be both breaking hearts and getting heartbroken, struggling with social pressures at school, and other things that life brings your way.  I just want you to know that through it all, you can count on me.  I will be there for you in any way that I can.  I love you and I’m so very proud to call you my daughter.

Karissa, Summer 2010

Love,

Mommy

My 6 month “Mommy” report card

It’s been six months since Tristan was born.  I have to admit, I had many ideas prior to his birth about how I was going to do things “right” this time around.  I was viewing him as my second chance at being a good mom, and giving him the family that I couldn’t give my other three kids.  You know, a mom and dad who are happy being together?

Along with that, I also wanted to invest as much time into him as I could.  I had grand ideas that I would only cloth diaper him.  I kind of gave up on the idea of ONLY cloth diapering, when I realized just how messy some of his blowouts could be and realizing that is NOT something I wanted to deal with while traveling, or at the grocery store, or even at my in-law’s while visiting.  So, I gave myself a permission slip to use disposable diapers anytime I leave the house.

Cloth diapers...a great idea I don't use 100% of the time

This worked out great for a while.  Lately, this has come to be more of an obstacle because some days I’m REALLY not feeling the whole wash/rinse routine with the diapers and will make up excuses like, “Well, after he has his big blowout of the day, I’ll put him in a cloth diaper”.  Truth be told, I am definitely not a poster child for cloth diaper advocacy.  I’m just too lazy to do it all the time.  I know there are moms out there that would NEVER put their child in a disposable diaper.  I’m just not one of them.

Another thing I decided I was going to do “right” this time around was nurse exclusively for at least six months, and not let the doctors pressure me into giving him cereal and/or baby food too early.  There is absolutely NO reason to feed your baby cereal or baby food until they are even 8 or 9 months so long as they are nursing well and mom’s diet is sufficient to support baby’s nourishment.  I feel my diet is more than sufficient, and I really think I do a great job of restricting my diet to mostly good clean foods so that Tristan gets the benefit of those nutrients as opposed to sodium and sugar overload.  I was successful in this task, and Tristan has just started to try baby food.  We skipped the cereal altogether, as white rice cereal has no real nutritional value.  The multigrain cereals have a bit more texture to them, so we’ll be waiting for a bit for him to try those.  So far, his favorites are carrots.  He’s working on the green veggies, like spinach, but hasn’t really taken a liking to those just yet.  I still haven’t started him on any juice and don’t plan to.  I think juice is full of sugar and empty calories, so we’ll be sticking to breastmilk for now.

Look at my happy boy

Co-sleeping is another thing I’ve managed to do right.  I can’t imagine having to get up in the middle of the night, every 2-3 hours, to the sound of him crying from across this house.  When he wakes up hungry, all I have to do is roll over to nurse him.  He doesn’t cry when he wakes usually, because I’m so close that I can respond to him waking up quickly.  I think this is what has helped to make him such an agreeable baby.  He’s always happy and smiling (most of the time!).  I will continue to co-sleep with him until he is ready to transition to that beautiful crib we bought him.

Too pretty to sleep in? Nah....Mommy just likes to snuggle him!

All in all, I think I’m doing pretty good.  I’ve had lots of practice at being a mom, and I will say that I am really enjoying having a baby around again.  Since it’s been so long since Jacob was a baby, it’s almost like the first time all over again.

Seriously Sarah? Shut up!

I read something this morning that really disappointed me.

‘”It’s no wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody you better breastfeed your baby-yeah, you better-because the price of milk is so high right now!” Palin allegedly said.’ (http://www.sify.com/news/sarah-palin-s-breastfeeding-joke-backfires-news-international-lctp4cieabg.html)
Ummm….I thought Sarah was supposed to be this crunchy mama bear from Alaska?   Besides, everybody knows that babies under a year wouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk if they weren’t breastfed…they’d be drinking formula!

I certainly think that the recent announcements that nursing supplies and breastpumps will be tax deductible is awesome!  While it doesn’t help me in any way (since your medical deductions have to total at least 7.5% of your income before you can actually deduct them and we don’t participate in an FSA), I know that this might help another mom who is going back to work and will be able to express milk for her baby.   I am certainly pleased with Mrs. Obama’s voice in this arena, speaking out against childhood obesity, and breastfeeding as a means to correct it.  I think that breastfeeding is just the beginning when it comes to combating childhood obesity.  The federal food program for childcare centers, and the school lunch programs need some serious help too.  That’s an entirely other issue that I can’t even begin to discuss because it gets me sooooo angry!  I absolutely HATE that I have no control over what my kids are fed (not because they eat at school, but because of who they live with).  However, I do teach them when they’re with me about proper nutrition.  I tell them what choices are good versus bad.  I totally regret the day I took them to McDonalds for the first time.  I can assure you I will not make that mistake with my youngest!  Like I said…I could go on and on and on, but that’s not what this is supposed to be about.  This is about breastfeeding.  I’m so fortunate that I can do this for my kids, as I know there are women who are unable to.  There are also women who just flat out choose NOT to.  Well, that is their prerogative.  I just cannot fathom spending thousands of dollars to feed my child a synthetic substitute for what God gave me.

I know this is somewhat controversial, and I’m really not sure why it is, but…go ahead and fire away!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Tristan’s Amazing Home Birth Story

This post is soooooo long overdue.  My handsome little man will be 4 months old in just a few hours.  I can’t believe how fast the time has gone!  It all began about 2:30 a.m. on October 8th.  I was fast approaching two weeks past my “due” date, and growing increasingly anxious with each day.  Then something started to happen.  It all began about 2:30 a.m. on October 8th.  I woke up to run to the bathroom in the middle of the night for probably the 9 gazillionth time during this pregnancy.  When I laid back down, I thought I felt a slight twinge of a contraction.  I figured I was probably just imagining things again, so I forced myself to go back to sleep.  When I woke up early the next morning, I was still feeling the same type of twinge…and thinking it might be just a little bit stronger.  Hmmm…Is today going to be the day??  I wondered.
I ate some breakfast and went about my day.  I tried to work, but I remember being VERY easily distracted.  I had some homework that needed to get done, but again…distracted!  So, I decided to run out and do a few errands with my mom who was in town, awaiting Tristan’s arrival with me and Tommy.  I drove us to Kohl’s and we walked around and did some shopping.  I picked up a bunch of stuff for Tommy’s future new home in Afghanistan–sheets, towels, etc.  I found a couple of adorable baby outfits that I just had to have for Tristan.  Mom picked out a couple of tops for herself.  Oh, and I found a great robe that would be awesome for right after the birth.   While we were walking around the store I found myself having to pause to breathe a little bit through the contractions.  At this point I was sure I was having contractions, but I was still thinking that it was going to stop and not progress.

When we got home, I was putting everything away, and Mom had already volunteered to make dinner-beef and broccoli out of the Weight Watchers cookbook.  Tommy had been checking in with me all day via telephone and was home for the day from work.  I went into my office to finish up the last assignments for the week for school, all the while having to stop and breathe through those contractions.  I don’t remember exactly what I was working on, but I DO remember that I felt a lot of pressure to get it done!  I finally finished up the assignment and shut down my laptop for the evening.  Mom finished dinner and I was REALLY interested in eating…until I walked into the kitchen.  All of a sudden I decided it might NOT be such a great idea to chow down at dinner.  So, I retreated to my bedroom and called my midwife instead.

Birth Bed all prepped

Pam was wonderful.  When I called her, she at first told me to call her back when they ( contractions ) got really hard.  She was out running errands herself.  Then she called me back within the hour (I’d say it was around 7 pm by now) to tell me she could come whenever I was ready.  I told her we would call her in a little while.   I started to really time my contractions at this point.  I was feeling very anxious, not really knowing what to expect.  Even though I had three other children, never had I attempted to give birth at home, without an epidural or any other “modern” medical treatments.  Tommy was starting to get really attentive towards me and help me through the contractions.  Then around 9 pm I asked Tommy to call Pam and let her know I needed her.  She was at my house with her daughter and assistant, Muraiha, within 15 minutes.  They brought all their equipment in, with Tommy’s help, and began to set up shop in the bedroom.  I continued to bounce away on my exercise ball, whilst wearing my snuggie.  What a sight I was!

Laboring on the ball with my snuggie

Pam came out and was sitting in the living room, watching me work through the contractions.  I remember her telling me to try to relax during the contraction and not tense up so much.  Boy, that was really tough to do!  I had to put all of my effort and concentration into that task.  Pam decided it would probably be a while, and she had forgotten her book at home, so she asked if I minded if she ran home to get her book.  I was fine with that, and she left Muraiha there to keep an eye on things.

Soon after Pam left, I asked Muraiha to check me.  I was really curious as to how far I had come, and how much further I would have to go.  By now it was around 10 pm.  Muraiha checked me and she said I was around 3-4 cm.  Bummer!  I decided I needed a good soak in the bath to help get me through the contractions.

Relaxing in the bath

Tommy was amazing.  He held my hand through the contractions, even through my “death grip”.  He heated the water up when I asked, ran and got the fan for me when I got too warm, kept me covered with a warm towel when I got the chills, and continued to time the contractions for me.  At this point, timing wasn’t really necessary, but it was helping me to stay in a rhythm and pass the time quickly.  Before I knew it, it was 1 am. I had been in that bath for nearly 3 hours!  During that time, Pam had come back and was continuing to check the baby’s heartbeat and check in on Tommy and I to see how we were doing.  I was feeling a lot of pressure, and the jets were starting to really irritate me during the contractions–both the pressure of them and the noise of them.  I decided I was ready to get out!  Tommy helped me out and helped me to get dressed.  I decided I wanted to bounce on the ball, so he rolled up his mechanic’s stool behind me and applied lots of pressure to my hips and lower back, and was constantly massaging my neck and back in between contractions.

Some of the hardest work I've ever done

While he and I were in our bedroom “laboring”, my mom, Pam and Muraiha were out in the living room chatting and hanging out.  It was so peaceful here at home.  There were no intrusions, no loud noises…it was awesome.  I wouldn’t have known they were out there if Pam and Muraiha hadn’t been checking in on me every now and again.

Pam, Muraiha, and Mom (L to R)

I bounced away for quite some time and was getting zero relief between contractions.  I was starting to feel a ton of pressure and told Tommy to tell them that it was time to push.  Pam and Muraiha came back in to check me.  I was at 9 cm finally!  Pushing was just around the corner…I was exhausted, but excited at the same time.  I started out trying to push on my back, just because that is the only way I knew how.

First stages of pushing

This was clearly not going to work.  Gravity was working against me.  I asked Pam if I could change positions.  Muraiha suggested hands and knees, kind of like a squat.  Tommy supported the front side of me, while Pam and Muraiha applied counter pressure warm compresses with a little EVOO to help me out.  That felt AMAZING!  I pushed, and pushed, and pushed.  It didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere except tired, and fast.

I was getting lots of encouragement from Tommy…”you’re doing great babe…come on, push a little harder…you can do it…”  Oh my goodness it was driving me NUTS!  I just shushed him…”SSSHHHHHHHHHHH” I kept repeating.  He was like, “What?”.  I told him to be quiet.  He got the picture.  I was trying to be as nice as possible.  I didn’t want to be the mean, screaming lunatic that is so often portrayed in film and television in birth scenes.  And I CERTAINLY didn’t want to remake the scene from The Backup Plan with Jennifer Lopez.

I continued to push and finally felt like I was getting somewhere.  I dug my grips into Tommy’s shirt (and apparently his bladder, so he told me later) and pushed with everything I had left.  Finally!  Tristan was being born!!  Tristan entered this world at 3:50 am on October 9th, 2010!

The first picture ever taken of Tristan

Tommy was still in front of me, and I got myself turned around so he was sitting behind me, supporting me (as he had been throughout this entire labor…heck the entire pregnancy!).  Apparently he was snapping pictures too…one of the few men I know who can multi-task!

Daddy's first glimpses

What a joyous occasion!  Every ounce of tired left my body.  I was feeling such a rush!  I couldn’t believe at the amazing feat my body has just accomplished!

Looking stunned....definitely not stunning!

Tommy did his daddy duty and cut the cord…what a beautiful moment.

Tommy cutting the cord-so happy to give him this opportunity

I delivered the placenta, and in the meantime was attempting to nurse this beautiful little boy.

Tristan's first nursing session

Afterwards, Muraiha helped me into the shower so I could get cleaned up while Pam, Mom and Tommy got the bedroom cleaned up, bed stripped down and put back together and the laundry started.  When I got out of the shower, my room looked like nothing had ever happened.  All of Pam’s equipment was even packed up, with the exception of the few items they would need for Tristan’s exam.  Muraiha started to do Tristan’s exam once I got myself settled back into my cozy bed.

Tristan's Newborn Exam

The exam wasn’t rushed at all…it was so cool to experience birth from my favorite place…my bedroom.  I was so excited to find out how big my little man was.

Preparing for the weigh in

Oh my goodness…my little guy weighed in at 9 pounds!  I couldn’t believe it!  9 pounds and not a single solitary tear!  Thanks to Pam and Muraiha!!

9 pounds...does that really say 9 pounds??

Once the exam was done, Tommy and I were left to enjoy our new little family, in the peace and comfort of our home.  I honestly can’t compare this experience to anything else I’ve ever done.  This was Tommy’s first ever birth experience and I have to say he is definitely a home birth advocate now.  I would never do this any other way (unless medically necessary, of course) again.  I feel somewhat empowered by the whole experience, and I really feel that it brought Tommy and I even closer than we were before.  He was my rock during the labor, and I was so impressed with how he was there for me.

So in love with our new little guy

Tristan Davis Bowling
Born October 9, 2010 at home
3:50 am
9 lbs, 22 inches

I am special...I was born at home