Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nipples And Boobies - Oh, My!

Why are we still having debates about public breastfeeding?

No, really – why?

You would think that a culture that considers itself as enlightened as ours does would have figured it out by now, but no, the ugly commentary about the 'crazy exhibitionists' continues. I still see people saying that mothers nursing their babies in public is 'vile and disgusting'. I've stayed out of it for as long as possible because I honestly don't think there is anything I can say to change people's minds on the topic, but perhaps I can just provide some insight into why I feel the way I do.

Breastfeeding did not come easily to me. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read the standard literature about it and wondered why there was so much written on the topic. Isn't this something I should just know how to do? I thought. I didn't understand why it was necessary to read about seventeen different nursing positions, how to achieve a proper latch (don't you just stick the baby up there and let him/her do all the work?), and all the other intricate workings of feeding your baby from your breast.

Then when I had my daughter, I found out just how difficult it really could be. It took weeks for us to develop a proper latch, so she and I were both often frustrated to the point of tears. I had an oversupply, and I developed mastitis. She wanted to nurse constantly, and I leaked all the time. I did not want to give up because I knew it was best for her, but it was hard. I realized that all the reading I had done had not even remotely prepared me for how challenging this would be.

It got better as months went on, but I wondered how I would ever be able to do it discretely in public. Although I used a nursing cover, she hated being covered up and would flail wildly whenever I tried to latch her on underneath the cover, and my letdown was so quick that she would often pull away in the middle of it, leaving me squirting milk all over her while I tried to juggle her and the cover and my erupting breast all at once.

It was a mess.

So I can't possibly express how glad I was that I stuck with it and was able to continue nursing her. You would think that after dealing with all of that, I would have no problem nursing her in public even if she did fling the cover off and, God forbid, someone caught a glimpse of a boob slip. But when we were out and about, I almost always ended up in the car, hot and cramped and missing out on things for fear that some judgy stranger would gawk at me.

Now, not everyone struggles the way I did. I first met a good friend of mine right after we each had our second child. She came over to our house, and I was excited to learn that she too was breastfeeding. I wouldn't have to feel so awkward about struggling to latch my son – we could struggle together! So when it came time for my son to eat, I didn't feel too embarrassed as I wrapped the cover around my neck, situated the Boppy pillow, heaved my bowling-ball sized breast out of my tank top, and tried several times to slide my nipple into his mouth just right before I eventually got him latched on.

Not long after, my friend's son was ready to nurse. I watched in awe as she threw a blanket over her shoulder, popped him on, and kept right on talking. That was it. Easy breezy.

Man, I was jealous.

So what it boils down to is not all of our experiences are the same. It isn't as simple as 'just cover up'. I know that seems to be the easy solution, but it isn't that easy for everyone. There isn't a 'right way' to nurse your baby. It isn't about making sure everyone else around you is comfortable; it's about making sure the baby is comfortable and nourished and loved. A nursing baby isn't something to gawk at or feel weird about. I understand that many people are not familiar with breastfeeding and may be a little uncomfortable around it, so I do choose to use a cover to try to prevent awkwardness, but I certainly shouldn't be required to do so. And if the baby gets too hot or sweaty, and I choose to take the cover off, that doesn't make me an exhibitionist. It doesn't make me someone who enjoys people looking at my baby-attached breast. It makes me a good mother who puts her baby's needs first.

Last year I attended a ladies' class at a conference, and there were several young mothers with babies in the room. All of them were breastfeeding with covers. The speaker, who frequently travels on mission trips to India, commented on how much she loved having all the mothers and babies in the room and how it made her feel right at home. “When we have our classes in India,” she said, “there are boobs everywhere.”

And that's how it is in so many other cultures – no one even bats an eye at breastfeeding babies. How amazing would it be if our culture valued motherhood and womanhood in the same way? If instead of mainstream being the normalcy of pornography on the big screen, it was the normalcy of mothers using breasts for their intended function?

I think that modesty is always a good approach to take, but I don't see how it relates to breastfeeding. Not in a culture where we see so many Victoria's Secret billboards. Not in a culture where it's too easy, at the click of a mouse, to watch strangers having sex in the privacy of our own homes. Not in a culture where our children are constantly subjected to not-so-subtle sexual content on cable television.

And you're worried about breastfeeding?

Perhaps one of the most telling examples I can give you of how far off base our culture has become is a thread I recently read on a Babycenter forum. A mother was concerned because she had found out her 14-year-old son had been looking at porn on his computer. I know nothing should surprise me anymore, but I was still appalled to read through the comments and see what the majority of posters were advising. Just open an account for him, they said. He's going to look at it anyway – at least you'll know what he's looking at. Better for him to do that than act out his sexual frustration in other ways.

We live in a society that tells our sons it's okay to objectify women, but it's gross to see them mothering their children. A society that robs our children of their innocence and then wonders why they can't have functioning relationships. A society that tells them everything under the sun is okay as long as it makes them feel good, unless it's pure or moral or loving.

And you're worried about breastfeeding.

So that's where I'm at – I find myself in a place of such disbelief that my kids are more likely to encounter immorality online than nurturing in public. Why? Because too many people think breastfeeding is weird? And you're only supposed to do your 'weird' stuff when no one's looking?

By creating a problem where one doesn't exist, we're ignoring the real problem.

Considering all the unfortunate aspects of life my kids could be exposed to, I can only hope that they will get to see lots of breastfeeding, that they will know what nurturing is. I hope I will have plenty of opportunities to show them examples of wholesome love and tell them, “This is life. This is how you live.” God knows those examples are hard to find.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Keep The Authority Where It Belongs: The Case For Parental Rights

You may have heard about the Stanley family by now, as their story continues to gain more publicity. What is being reported is that the authorities investigated their home after an anonymous caller told them that the children were running in the snow barefoot. The children were then taken into custody upon the discovery of a 'dangerous' mineral supplement in the home, one that the father claimed he used as a water purifier.

I do not know this family personally. I've never met them and know very little about them, only what has been written about this incident. I also don't know if there is more to this story than what we have read, and there very well could be. I feel it's important for me to mention that because it's frustrating when people jump all over a news story and make decisions about it based on the very little information that the media supplies. Tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, so to speak.

That being said, I also know this is not the first time I have heard of a family being ripped apart based on someone else's poor judgment. This story comes on the heels of yet another story about parents who are under investigation for allowing their two children to walk HALF A BLOCK alone to a playground. And these two stories come on the heels of numerous other incidents of parents being accused of neglect because they left their kids alone in a car for two minutes while they ran into a gas station or had the audacity to disagree with their pediatrician. Considering over 3 million children are 'checked up on' by CPS annually, it's no wonder these stories are so common. DHS and CPS appear to wield an awful lot of power. All it takes is a phone call from a nosy neighbor. Maybe one day the authorities will show up on your doorstep.

Is there anything in your parenting someone else might disagree with? Have you ever done, said, or allowed anything that would be deemed questionable by the cranky lady down the street, or even your own friends? I don't doubt the way I run my household is a little different from the way you run yours, but I bet you love your kids. I bet they love you. Chances are we're both doing what we feel is best for our individual families.

But when it comes to these types of investigations, where the lines are drawn appear to be so discretionary, based on the whims of whomever is involved in the case. Who do you think deserves to be investigated? Or even deserves to have their practices outlawed? Deserves to have their children taken away?

Families in a polygamist community? A family who practices alternative medicine? A family whose parents spank their children?

There have been plenty of times when I have felt sorry for other kids and the way they were being raised, but I also recognized that they weren't my children. When it comes to issues of personal liberty and parental rights, you are not the authority on my family, just as I am not the authority on yours. At least, that's the way it should be. But as the state receives more and more power and more and more funding to place itself in the middle of our daily lives, it can't come as any surprise that this continues to happen. And it won't stop, not as long as we continue to wage war on each other's ideologies.

Ours has become a culture of self-righteous finger wagging. All I have to do to see that is read through a few threads on a parenting website. How dare you mutilate your child with circumcision! Breastfeeding your 3-year-old is abuse! You should never feed your child McDonald's! Spanking is the same as hitting!

That's precisely where this gets uncomfortable. Should your standards be applied to all people? Of all backgrounds and religions and cultures? Which perceptions should we allow to dominate as we apply arbitrary rules to how people live their lives?

Because that's what human beings do best – decide they're right, and then decide that everyone else should live accordingly. That's why we're now under the thumb of so many laws and why children are getting ripped away from loving homes. But I'm here to say that your parenting choices should remain precisely that – your choices.

It's horrifying to hear of tragic cases of abuse and neglect. There are some cases of severe harm, sexual trauma, and death that I've heard about that stick out in my mind and sicken me to my core. But one has to wonder if these cases would be fewer if less time and money were spent on investigating ordinary people just trying to live their lives and more attention was given to real problems.

So to the nosy neighbors who like to make reports, I'd like to ask you to consider these things: Consider striking up a conversation with the family instead of reaching for the phone. Consider that you are about to step on the constitutional rights of those parents AND CHILDREN in that household. Consider that the strange family next door just might be good people who simply do things a little differently than you do.

Consider that you're taking away help from a child who actually needs it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Taking The Leap: Third Baby Fears

It feels kind of weird announcing this on here since I announced it on social media so long ago and am only just now getting around to blogging it, but that's what happens when you've got a sweet little thing inside of you that's been making you feel a little icky. Yes, that's right - it's official. I am pregnant with our third child.

It's fascinating how different the reactions to the third are from the reactions to the first or second. It is less 'yay' and more 'whaaaaat?!' I can only imagine what the reactions will be like if we ever spring for a fourth. You'd think we were Duggaring it up over here. (Side note: I think the Duggars are lovely, but I don't think we'll go for nineteen.)

I have always loved the idea of having a big family and would love to have even another one day, but you guys, pregnancy is no joke. It has been a rough few months in our household – lots of gagging and wretching on my part, and lots of TV watching and self-entertaining on the kids' part. I'm at 16.5 weeks now, and the morning sickness ('morning' – ha!) is definitely better, but there is certainly some lingering queasiness here and there. I think this baby is plotting. (“YOU SHALL HAVE NO MORE AFTER ME, BWA HA HA!”) Meanwhile, the crazy husband is already planning the fourth...

Going from one child to two felt easier to me than going from zero to one. When you have a first baby, especially when you've had a loss prior, everything is terrifying. From worrisome ailments to inexplicable crying (both child and parent), caring for your very first newborn is quite the trial-and-error phase of life. But with the second you actually feel like you know what you're doing. That was especially true for me since they were so close in age – I never actually left baby mode. It's a little different now that the age difference is slightly larger, and that's just one of the many things I get nervous about. I'm starting over in the baby phase. Yikes!

It would be easy for me to fear all the unknowns about this new endeavor. What's going to be different with three? Am I going to be overwhelmed? Will this baby sleep? What if something goes wrong?

There are so many things in life I could fear, but when I consider all that's taking place in the world, that seems to put it into perspective a bit. Having a baby shouldn't be toward the top of that list of things to be fearful of (although, having recently been in the throes of first trimester woes, I will say that three months of consistent nausea is a totally legit thing to fear). In every new phase of life there is room for fear, but I've got to cast that aside and embrace and enjoy what's in front of me.

Whenever I start to feel apprehensive about adding to our brood, I start reminding myself of the facts. Yes, kids are a lot of work, but they are the kind of work that is worth it! They are fun. And they are family, and who doesn't want more family? I mean, if Tori Spelling can have four, why can't I? Maybe she didn't feel like barfing the whole time though...

Anyway, there is much to celebrate. What I am looking forward to most is watching my two older babies gain a sibling and experience the joy of a new life. I'm excited to meet this new person and learn all about him or her. I'm excited to watch them all grow together and love each other. And that's the key right there - love conquers fear.

Some parents say that going from two to three was huge because they became outnumbered, while others say that it was a natural transition since they were more laid back. I can't be sure of what's to come, but what I can be sure of is that no matter what, we'll always have a lot of love in this house.

Fears about having a third child

Sunday, December 7, 2014

To A Daughter On Her Birthday

Sweet Girl,

On the early morning when you were first placed in my arms, we were both so exhausted, and neither of us knew what was to come. Life in those first newborn days did not get off to an easy start – they were days filled with tears, anxiety, struggles, and certainly not sleep. As it goes for many new mothers, those first few months I spent with you were intensely difficult. But the one thing I want you to know is this: you were worth every bit of it, and I would do every second of it all over again to secure your place in this world.
Letter To My Daughter
For the past five years I have had the great pleasure of getting to know you, and I have already caught glimpses of the woman you will become. You are so loving and kind, and you have already learned the value of having a beautiful heart. I pray you never forget that lesson and become a blessing to everyone you meet.
The Hopes I Have For You
You are tenacious in your pursuits, from planning impromptu backyard parties with your picture lists to showcasing your entrepreneurship with your grand schemes of selling your old toys door to door in the neighborhood (someday you'll understand why that wouldn't have worked out). You are full of creativity and big ideas, and I hope you'll always have the courage to chase your great adventures.

Raising A Child With Courage

I love how bright you are. I love the questions you ask and the answers you give me, the stories you tell and the laughter you bring. You've been speaking in complete sentences since before you were two years old, and you've never run out of things to say since. In many ways, you are how I wish I could have been. Never lose that spirit. I want you to always have that thirst for knowledge, and more importantly, wisdom.

What I Love About My Child

Our time together may not have started out perfectly, but you have been my little buddy for five years now, and I know I could never have imagined a better companion. I often find myself thinking back on these years, each memory rich with pure joy for the simple pleasure of spending it with a child like you, and all I can think about is how they have been the best years of my life. I pray for many, many more just like them, and the hopes I have for you are too many to count.

How To Pray For Your Child

Ever since you were tiny, all I've ever wanted to do is be the best mama I could possibly be for you. There aren't enough words in the world to tell you how much your daddy and I love you. All I can tell you is that you and your brother are the greatest treasures we could ever ask for.

Raising A Sweet Kid

Happy Birthday, Hannah Cabana Kabookie

Love, Mama