Hurricanes, Breastfeeding & The Village

Who knew that one could get such amazing tips and support for natural disaster preparedness at a breastfeeding support group?

I almost didn’t go to the La Leche Meeting today- but so glad I did. The meeting was everything I needed today. Some great tips for storm preparation for the breastfeeding family- like what a WaterBob is, collapsible water storage, solar powered generators that won’t run the AC or fridge- but a little something to charge phones, keep a fan going, make a pot of coffee or heat something up on a George foreman/hot plate. Tips for freezing gallons of water and putting them in freezer to save frozen breastmilk. We discussed hacks like the penny on top of the cup of frozen water to determine if breastmilk is safe.

I’m so glad that I am able to breastfeed Brewer. It’s one less thing I need to worry about. My body will make perfect, clean food he needs no matter what the weather does. I just need to keep both of our babies close.  Nurse him on demand.  Have enough PB&J for EJ 🙂

We also discussed ways that families that combo feed (using formula and breastmilk) and families that exclusively pump can prepare. Having ready made formula, a way to sterilize bottles, etc.

We discussed what to expect in a a shelter if we need to go to one during a hurricane.  I didn’t know there was a nurse at each shelter.  If you’re an over supply momma, or a mom that pumps to increase supply/exclusive pumper- you may want to make sure you are comfortable hand expressing for comfort if needed or have hand held pumps.  Even some out of the box thinking- if you’re a combo feeding mom in a shelter and you run out of formula, should you ask someone else to nurse your baby?  What about informed consent?  Would you nurse another baby?  (Y’all know I would…I’ve lost count of how many other babies I’ve fed…)

So many real life tips.

And then we talked about something else that hit close to home. Redefining what family looks like when you know your kids reality will be different than what you experienced or had planned for them.

I always thought my kids would have an Aunt Ryan, and her children would be their cousins- but my sister passed away. So, our children won’t have cousins. They don’t have a great grandmother. And I’ll spare the details, but we don’t have a relationship with my parents- so they have one set of grandparents on Mary’s side and a great grandfather on mine.

This looks different than what I had planned. But you know what?  My kids are so lucky because we have the most amazing family and support systems- a real village that’s better than I could have ever planned or imagined for them.

  • They have two moms. And a mom that is able to stay home right now while their other mom has a fantastic career that is able to support us and ensure we have everything we need.
  • The have grandparents that live just an hour away.
  • They have an awesome aunt Carey!
  • They have friends that are like family- like their aunt Brandi, aunt Lindsay, aunt Shelby- the list could go on and on.
  • They have amazing great aunts and uncles.
  • They have amazing adopted grandmothers that I’ve met through all of the breastfeeding support meetings- that give me not only fantastic nursing advice- but also advice for mothering and parenting in a emotionally intelligent, healthy and stable way.

So. Our kids don’t have what I had imagined. But that’s just because they were given something better. Growing up- my parents didn’t have strong community ties. They didn’t have a village. When my mother was hospitalized for severe mental illness- there were no meals brought by friends and neighbors. We didn’t have play dates or meet friends at the aquarium. No library story time meet up with friends that are basically like family.

But my kids have a different experience. We have so many village Mommas. Village Mommas that bring meals when a baby is born or our toddler is hospitalized. Village Mommas that pass down gently used clothes and toys- just today EJ got 2 American Girl dolls and she LOVES them. Village Mommas that help us learn from their mistakes. That pass down words of wisdom. That reassure us that we are going to be okay. They tell me I’m a good mom. That we are making good decisions for raising our family. That provide our family with a sense of stability and community that I never experienced as a child.

And so…the village today gave me some good tips to keep our family safe and fed as the hurricane approaches.  If it really does make landfall at a category 4- we won’t be home- we will be visiting my aunt in Virginia most likely.  Who knew that one could get such amazing tips and support for natural disaster preparedness at a breastfeeding support group?

I’m just so thankful I went today.  So thankful for my village.  Parenting is hard, it isn’t meant to be done alone.  And this journey isn’t what I planned- its better because I’m a part of something bigger.

But What Did You Do Right?

If I had to pinpoint when it started- it would be last Thursday.  I took EJ to dance.  She was excited to go at first.  And we tried a new dance class- a tap and tumble class.

She seemed off…and suddenly stopped participating.  I assumed it was because it was a new class with a new teacher, and with slightly older kids.  I didn’t think much of it.

On Friday, she had cold symptoms- but that’s common- especially with kids in daycare.  It had been raining, so we went to an indoor play area, Fit4Fun to meet with friends.

On Saturday, she seemed lethargic.  Mary took her to the walk in clinic at the doctor’s office.  We were told “something viral and constipation”.  No worries- kids get this all the time.  I put some Miralax in her water, let her rest, kept her hydrated.  We took it easy the rest of the weekend and cancelled plans.

By Monday she still wasn’t better. Nothing serious- just very sleepy, not eating, very low grade fever.  Back to the doctor.  Still a virus, come back if its not better in 2 days.  She wasn’t moving around as much, but probably because she wasn’t eating.  They did some bloodwork, ruled out step and mono.  We mentioned to the doctors that she wasn’t sitting up normally, but shrugged it off- probably weak from a virus…she hasn’t been eating much, so probably a little weak.

By Wednesday she was eating and drinking again.  She was smiling, wanting to play.  So I let her play with some buttons from my craft box.  When it came time for snack, I told her it was time to clean up.  I asked her to put the buttons back in the box.

She looked up at me, “I can’t momma…”

Everyone had told me that as tots approach age 3, they turn into “threenagers”.  Very defiant little tiny dictators.  She had been home with me all week.  Sometimes, when we play EJ likes to pretend to “be a baby”, like her 4 month old brother.  She wants to be swaddled and carried around.  Its kind of sweet when she wants to cuddle, and so we indulge her.  I was told its common for toddler to regress once the honey moon period of a new sibling wears off.

I’ll spare the details- but I grew up in a less than healthy communication/emotionally intelligent home.  So I try really hard to be a good mom.  Mary and I both do.  I read all of the Triple P Positive Parenting Program articles.  I read about gentle parenting.  I have a calming corner in our house with feeling charts.  I’ve been teaching her how to identify her feelings and squeeze a stress ball when she’s upset.

So when she started crying, whining, saying she couldn’t do anything- I assumed this was a threenager, having a tantrum, refusing to do what was asked.

“Emerson, I need you to clean up the buttons before we can have a snack, please…”

“I can’t momma…”. She begins to cry.  She falls back, flailing.

Assuming this was a temper tantrum, I go to her, sit her up and say again, in a stern voice, “Emerson, you know how to clean up your toys.   I can see that you are frustrated, but I need you to get up and clean up these buttons so we can have snack.”

“Noooooooo!!!!  Mumma Nooooooo!!!   I can’t!!!!”  She cries.  Flails.  Rolls on the floor.

By this time, my patience is gone.

“EMERSON!  Get up.  This is unacceptable.  I know sometimes we don’t feel like cleaning up, but I need for you to make a good choice and pick up these buttons.”

She continues to cry.  I go to her, and if I’m being honest- my patience was gone at this point.  I help her pick up the buttons one by one.  She kind of just touches them, slings them, whining and crying the whole time.

“Little shit” I thought to myself.

She’s been eating fine.  Maybe she just needs to go take a nap now.

“Emerson, You seem very frustrated and tired now…lets go upstairs and take a nap, lets go walk up the stairs and go to sleep…”

She doesn’t get up.

Fuck.  We’ve reached the stage where she’s too tired to listen, to eat, to follow directions.

“EJ.  Get up.  We need to go take a nap.”

“I can’t momma…”

“You can’t climb up the stairs?”

“No momma, hold me….hold me momma!!!!”

Uggh.  I thought to myself.  She is too old for this.

“EJ, you can climb up the stairs.  I know you’re tired, but right now your behavior is unacceptable…”

Finally, I pick her up, carry her up the stairs, and lay her down for a nap.   

Surely, after a nap she’ll feel better.

That night she was still off.  I told Mary she needed to go to school the next day, on Thursday

“Are you sure?”  Asked Mary.  Maybe she doesn’t feel well.

“No, this acting like a baby shit needs to stop!  She needs to go back to school, get back on her schedule.  Its been almost a week.  She’s seeing me take care of the baby all day and she’s getting jealous.  She needs to go back to school and play, spend some time with her friends instead of getting jealous of the baby and everything I need to do for him.”

Mary seemed unsure.  But admittedly, I steam rolled her. “She needs to go back to school, she’s getting bored here all day…surely thats why she’s so whiney…”

The next morning EJ still wasn’t 100%.  But she ate well, smiled, giggled a little.

We took our time getting ready for school and I dropped her off around 9:00.  I told her teachers she was getting over a viral bug, but was on the path to recovery, had no fever- but call me if you need to come get her.

45 minutes later the teacher called.  She fell, and was unable to catch herself.  She has a goose egg on her forehead.  She wasn’t able to climb the stairs to go down the slide.  She fell again and she couldn’t get up.

Fuck. It hit me.  This was’t behavior related to being jealous of the baby. She really couldn’t do these things.  Mary was right.

I picked her up from school right away.  Just thew the baby in the car and drove right to the doctor’s office.  No diaper bag.  No diapers.  No extra clothes, nothing.  Just keys, wallet, phone and the baby.

I used to work at our doctor’s office- so I called them- and thank God one of the best nurses who knew me answered.  Even though sick walk in hours had ended, she said, “Just come in now, just come here right now…”

EJ was limp.  Her regular PA examined her.  Then got another doctor to come look at her.  They recommended being admitted to the hospital.

All the sudden it just starts clicking.  Something serious is going on.  She can’t move normally.  She can’t hold her sippy cup.  She’s walking like a drunk person.  Something neurological is going on.

Your mind goes from, “She’s being a stubborn toddler throwing a tantrum because you said its time to clean up toys…” to thinking she’ll be next bald kid on a St. Jude’s commercial.

Mary broke down.  I broke down.

She wasn’t being bad.  She literally couldn’t.

She’s admitted to the hospital.  They do a neuro consult.  We’ve been there for 2 days- getting bloodwork, an MRI and spinal tap.  The staff, nurses and doctors have been amazing.

And we find out she has viral meningitis with cerebellum ataxia- which is what is causing all of these motor issues.  Her brain was impacted by the virus.  She literally couldn’t pick up the buttons.  Or help get dressed.  Or climb up the stairs.  She wasn’t being stubborn.

I should have listened to my baby.  I should have listened to my wife.  My baby was sick.  How could I, as her mother not know this?  She’s never just not done something we’ve asked.  Usually, if you sit her down and tell her what you need and why she does it.  I should have known something was wrong.  Why on earth did I send my baby to school and let her get hurt?  I lost my patience with her.  I raised my voice at her because she wouldn’t pick up the buttons.  And she couldn’t.  Her brain was sick.

Just by coincidence, a previous coworker of Mary’s, who is also a social worker was on the peds floor with her grand daughter.  I told her all of this and how guilty I felt because this was the first time I ever raised my voice or lost my patience with our daughter.

She looked at me and said, “Okay…but what did you do right?”

And it was the first time that I gave myself a little grace.

I didn’t know.

We kept taking her back to the doctor.

If I hadn’t had let her go to school we may not have known.

We got her admitted straight away.

Once we realized what was going on, we became her advocates.

And now that she’s had all of the testing and can eat- I’m letting her have all of the chocolate cookies, pudding and ice-cream she wants.

I’m still not very forgiving of myself right now.  I feel terrible.

Mary took a break from the hospital to go feed the dogs.  While I was absorbing everything we’ve been through the last 2 days I started crying.  EJ was resting in the hospital bed and poked her head up.  “Mumma, you okay?  You okay mumma?”  I just started bawling and told her that I was okay.  I told her that I was so sorry that I didn’t listen to her, that I shouldn’t have raised my voice, and that next time I promise I will trust her.

Everyone keeps telling me that “This won’t be the last time you make a mistake as a parent…”

But it just seems like a really big mistake.

 

Your Deadbeat Father Isn’t a Sperm Donor

Image result for sperm donor

Dear Straight People,

Look.  I know you mean well.  I know that this phrase isn’t frequently said maliciously towards us.  You probably didn’t even realize how/why it would be offensive.  So I’m just going to give you my rationale.  Put yourself in our shoes- actually, more like our kid’s.

Please stop calling dead beat fathers “sperm donors”.

Let me tell you why.

In our family, and many same sex families- sperm and egg donors are highly appreciated.  Our anonymous sperm donor helped us build our family.  He gave us not one, but two kids.  In addition to our children, we also were able to find “diblings” (donor siblings)- which is way cool.  There are two other families out there we know, and our kids have some similar characteristics (like crazy long toes and occasional ear infections).

Our sperm donor gave us healthy children.  Our children motivated us to seek better jobs.  For both of us to go to grad school.  I was able to find my current job working for NC Breastfeeding Coalition BECAUSE our sperm donor gave us these beautiful children, who helped me learn how to breastfeed and bond with other mothers who need help doing it to.

We get to see this world in a whole new way- through the eyes of our toddler.  The way she loves to laugh, color, the way she’s taught us patience.  She made us mothers.  Our sperm donor made us mothers.  He made our daughter a big sister.

And with any luck- hopefully our kids will grow up to be successful adults- contribute to society.  Maybe EJ will be an amazing ballerina dancer (if she has it her way)…or perhaps a world renowned equine veterinarian. Who knows.  She’s going to do great things.  And hopefully can afford to put us in the nice retirement home.

Through motherhood- we’ve made so many friends.  Created our village.  Motherhood support groups, work out groups, play dates, pool parties, birthday parties.  Our children have even brought our extended family closer.

I don’t know what its like to receive an organ donation- or a blood/plasma donation- but its sort of along those lines.  We are immensely blessed that this person donated their DNA so we could have a family.

So, straight people-

When you call your dead beat father a “sperm donor”- its turning something our family (and other infertile and LGBT families) view as such a positive person, into a negative one.  Or something to be ashamed of.  Children are observant.  I’ve heard a 4 year old say something to the effect of “my dad is just my sperm donor…”.  Or a mother say, “Well my first son- his dad was just a sperm donor…”

So imagine you were my daughter.  Sitting next to him in kindergarten.  You hear a little boy say that.

EJ knows she has 2 mommies. She knows that other kids usually have a mommy and a daddy.  She really doesn’t care.  We explain things as she’s ready to learn them.  We will always be very open and transparent.

And we will tell her- about the nice man who helped us make our family.  He isn’t a father, he never planned to be.  He is a donor.  He gave us a gift.

Which is DRASTICALLY different that a man, who had unprotected sex and/or decided not to participate in his child’s life.  Or a father who left the family.

You see, real sperm donors say beforehand that they are making a donation- long before a child is conceived- and voluntarily give up rights to their biological children resulting from their donation.  It is given as a gift to another family.

A man who decides he doesn’t want participate in his child’s life after conception- that’s not a sperm donor.  That’s abandonment.  That’s an unwilling parent.  That’s a piece of shit poor excuse for a human.  Please don’t compare this situation to the generous individuals who help infertile couples build families.  Its ignorant and insulting.

You’ve been warned.

Nursing @ The Splash Pad

I totes have no problem nursing whenever wherever. It’s so much easier with #2 than when I was a first time mom. No one has ever come up to me and said anything. I’ve gotten a few looks but I just stare back at them and they usually go away or look away. Today- I took the kids to the splash pad. After about 45 minutes, as usual, B let’s me know he’d like a refill. So I sit on a folded towel and begin to nurse him while EJ is playing. About that time 3 summer camps come to the splash pad. Some parents don’t like the summer camp kids and they quickly leave- but honestly the camp kids are usually well behaved…And it wasn’t too crowded. EJ was happy so we stayed. A few camp kids saw me nursing the baby. It started with a few standing there looking at me (like literally like 2 feet away ) and grew to like seven 4-8 year olds inspecting me. I didn’t know what to do. I can’t say- “Where’s your parents?” I didn’t want them to think I was doing anything wrong or that I was embarrassed about it…so I didn’t want to ask them to leave. They just all kept standing in a half circle around me…some had heads cocked to the side just trying to figure out what I was doing. No one asked. None of them talked. They just watched. I didn’t know what else to do…so I told one girl I liked her toenail polish and another that his bathing suit with sharks was so cool! 🤷‍♀️They didn’t seem malicious. Or disgusted. I literally think that was the first time they had ever seen breastfeeding.

The Definition of a Working Mom

working-mother-mom-parent-work-life-balance-RF-LF

 

What’s the definition of a working mom? Is it black and white?

When I went back to work after EJ- I was for sure a working mom. I worked out of the home, in a nice office with windows. Traveled. Pumped at my desk. Left her at daycare. I got irritated when people would invite me to playdates at 10AM on Tuesdays.

There were two types of moms in my brain. The working mom. The stay at home mom.

But then I had friends who started teaching classes online. They would go to library story time- and grade papers during naps. Record lectures after the kids when to sleep.
“Those aren’t really working moms…” I thought to myself.

I decided to go down to 10 hours a week with my current organization after Brewer was born. And then I got a part time working from home job with North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition…
This morning, I had a meeting with the management team. Tuesday, I interviewed candidates. Every night, after our kids go to sleep and while Mary does homework for grad school- I respond to emails and clean up data and submit it for review for NCBC. I schedule videoconferences during naptime. I update websites.

This afternoon- I just picked up a little side gig of doing community outreach for small mom owned and operated local business.

My friend is a photographer. Her oldest goes to a childcare provider, and she takes professional photos of homes for real estate agents- with her 11 week old strapped to her in a baby carrier. While I’ve never asked her how much she makes- she is always quite busy and appears to be doing well for herself.

I get paid. I pay taxes on my income. My oldest still goes to preschool 2 days a week…But I still go to story time. The aquarium. I schedule play dates. Am I working mom anymore?

I don’t know.

The line suddenly got blurry for me. For now, I’ve decided to identify as a mom who “works part time from home…”

Yes, I Overshare on Social Media- and here’s why:

Social-media-oversharing

  • Look- my kid is potty training!
  • My baby is getting so big!
  • I’m going on a date with my wife!
  • My dog is so cute!

Yeah- I post all that.

No, its not because I’m self absorbed.

If I’m being honest- its actually quite purposeful.

For many of the people in my “momma village”- I’m often the first and only LGBT parent they know.

They may have a gay cousin.  Work with a lesbian.  Maybe even have a neighbor with a gay kid.

But same sex couples with kids…while numbers are increasing there are still only a few in our city.

And why do I bring all this up?

I hate to get political- but the truth is that same sex marriage really only recently became legal nationwide- I was still pregnant with EJ when it did.

And the fact that the highest court in our country, may soon be shifted very far right- frankly, is terrifying.

And so yes, I overshare.  Because I know our life is actually quite boring.  We aren’t doing anything spectacular here.  We aren’t going on amazing vacations.  We don’t have fancy cars or a gorgeously designed HGTV home.

We live in an average neighborhood.  With average cars.  With average jobs.  And we have two kids.

And I share how normal we are all the time- because its a lot harder to hate something so familiar.  There are still people who think we shouldn’t be married.  That we are doing great damage to our kids by denying them a “normal family” with “a mother AND a father”

But once you get to know someone of a marginalized group- you learn they have more in common with you than not.  That we really aren’t that different.  And that our family, is just as normal as yours- and we still need it protected.

Milky Baby Smells

36388696_959396675801_6105946664449605632_n

 

Some days I’m touched out and can’t wait for the kids to sleep somewhere else besides near me.

Some days I want to cuddle more and just want to sniff the sweet baby milky smells. Gah his head and breath smell delicious.

Laying here in bed watching My 600 Pound life and realize that exactly 12 weeks ago I was watching this show when I was in labor. He will be 12 weeks tomorrow. We’ve made it through the 4th trimester!

We’ve found a happy place with an over supply and made it through mastitis. He’s my little side kick and so patient while I feel like I constantly tend to his big sister/our tiny dictator.

One day at a time….but tonight I’ll just cuddle and sniff the milky baby smells.

Image may contain: one or more people

Low Expectations

Last night was pretty magical. He slept 8-11, nursed, then 11:30-5. Tonight he fell asleep in our bed then I transferred to a pack n play and he’s been sleeping in there for almost an hour 😳. But I won’t be fooled this time. I know better. The 4 month sleep regression is right around the corner. I can enjoy these moments of peace for now. But. Never. Expect. Them.
The key to happiness is low expectations
Expectations are just future disappointments.

These evenings being allowed to fold laundry alone or taking a bath are nice. But I know this time that my days are numbered.

 

Image may contain: one or more people, people sleeping, baby and closeup

No automatic alt text available.

Hot Mess Mornings

35973310_958262773151_1672107343304720384_n

I’m a hot mess in the mornings trying to leave the house- even without kids. Back at peer counseling tomorrow and I’m one of those people who has to pack their (pump) bag before bed because they always oversleep and always forget something if they don’t. Snacks. “Good” Pens. Chapstick. APNO. Name tag. All the essentials.

Yesterday, while at an NCBC meeting I was given a little “NCBC Milk Fairy” pin for the advocacy I do in the community. It meant so much to me. Peer counseling and PCBP work is volunteer- but still a passion. I love serving moms in the community and helping them find their village and support.

But as of this morning- I accepted a very very part time / work from home position (just a couple hours a week) as secretary for the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition. Which means- I’m officially getting PAID to do something related to breastfeeding. 😳

I’m still helping out with my previous job at Coastal Horizons in a consultant capacity- which is also meaningful.

What I’ve learned the last few weeks is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There is a gray area available if you can think outside the box. EJ still gets to go to school 2 days a week to see the friends she’s had since she was 12 weeks old. I still get to stay home. I work after they go to sleep and during naps. I can use my brain and experience to fulfill my personal desire to keep my “toes in the workforce”- while still taking the kids to story time at the library, trips to the aquarium, play dates at the park or children’s meuseum.

New territory for our family. But my heart is so full. Being with our children more. Being able to do more around the house while Mary kicks ass at grad school. Being a part of breastfeeding advocacy at the state level. And helping the underserved get healthcare here at home.

 

Thankful for Midwives

I just have to brag about the midwives. I remember right after we got pregnant with EJ I told Mary I wanted to switch from Wilmington Health to the midwives. She was slightly worried about it being too “crunchy”. I assured here these were qualified professionals. “Like nurse practitioners for baby catching…”

People seem to think that if you see a nurse midwife you are seeing some sort of witch doctor or something. But these licensed medical professional have bachelor degrees, master degrees, have to take boards, and can prescribe, diagnose- and yes they are supportive of epidurals (everyone thinks they can’t “do that” 🤷‍♀️)

They offer such personalized care. This weekend I got a particularly rough bout of mastitis and yeast. The midwife on call called me back right away and prescribed medication to a 24 hour pharmacy. Avoiding an ER visit. When that antibiotic didn’t work- they saw me right away Monday morning.

Y’all. The midwife. One of the first things she said to me was … “I stopped by to see Heather Renye… (a well known IBCLC at the hospital) on the way here.”

How many medical professionals do you know check with an IBCLC before changing the treatment plan? Seriously?!?! All I hear from moms frequently is that their providers don’t consider their breastfeeding goals before deciding how to treat an issue. I hit the jackpot.

33965214_953252284211_1332465220777410560_n