The Bliss {and Blisters} of Nursing a Toddler

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My son and I are breaking up.

Our breastfeeding relationship of 21 months is coming to an end.  This is something that seems to have happened gradually and then all of a sudden. Which means I feel both relieved and devastated at the same time.

We’ve been winding down for a couple of months now. I decided when he was about 18 months that we’d move into the “don’t offer/don’t refuse” phase of nursing. We naturally transitioned into an easy rhythm of nursing at bedtime and in the mornings, and occasionally during the day.

We fell into this easy rhythm, and it worked for a while.

And then he stopped asking as much. Or when he did ask to nurse, it would often be fitful and distracted.

Things are getting more and more physically uncomfortable when nursing my toddler. From finding a way to fit his long, energetic body onto my lap and into my arms, to his distracted nursing style.

As difficult as nursing a toddler can sometimes be, there are moments of pure bliss.

At bedtime, I ask him if he wants “num nums”, and a quick smile breaks across his round face. “Num num nums!” he agrees, ambling over to where I sit in the glider rocker. He quickly scrambles up onto my lap along with his soft red and blue blanket and a lovey so putrid and fragrant it has secretly earned the name Stinky Tofu.  He has a specific place for each of these things in our nursing setup: Blankie goes between his knees and up onto his stomach. Stinky Tofu gets draped over his shoulder and is purposefully clutched in one hand. His right arm shoots out between us, searching for the space between the side of my body and the chair. He likes to tuck it there, and it feels like he’s giving me a sweet little side hug.

Finally, we are ready to nurse.

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In the early days, breastfeeding was difficult for us. It had been long enough since my daughter nursed that I felt uncertain about how to hold his not-so-little head and how to help him latch on. His bottom lip seemed to be permanently sucked in under his upper jaw, making a wide open latch near impossible.

We spent what felt like hours working through the learning process together. My shoulders and wrists ached from holding him close for hours on ends. My skin was hot and tight under the pressure of all the new milk. And my poor nipples felt like they were permanently chapped.

But one day, it all clicked. His squirmy little newborn body found its place in my arms, the place where everything just worked. We fit together in only the way we could, filling in each other’s gaps and squishing together in an intimate embrace. His little noises, snuffly breathing and eager, regular swallows and sighs, became the soundtrack to my evenings and nights. It became a time I longed for, even when I was staggeringly tired or hotly frustrated or completely touched out. That moment we found our two selves melding into one and sighing into a familiar rhythm.

We fit together in only the way we could, filling in each other’s gaps and squishing together in an intimate embrace.

Now, as I feel the days of our breastfeeding winding down, and the frequency of those peaceful moments is less frequent, I cherish them all the more. Daily it seems I feel the hot sting of tears coming to my eyes when I watch him nurse. If I close my eyes and let my mind go quiet, it’s almost as if he’s a tiny newborn again.

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Two is still so little – hell, he’s not even really two yet, but I’m rounding up, trying to brace myself for the emotional blow when he does turn two.  He’s still so little in this big world, and yet he’s changing so very quickly.

At 21 months he is an incredibly active, sparkly-eyed little guy. He walks, jumps, runs, and climbs on everything. He is talking up a storm, and seems to be adding new words every single day. He likes to zoom toy trucks, buses, and tractors on any stationary surface. And the boy can eat.

On Halloween he went trick or treating for the first time. He walked up to the doors behind his big sister and confidently thrust his little fist into bowl after bowl of candy, choosing his favorite thing. Even though he didn’t really know what candy is, he quickly got into the routine of walking from house to house, anticipating the swift opening of a new door and the promise of a colorful treat.

In those moments I can see both the little boy he is becoming, and the baby he once was. That night he went to sleep without nursing, the stain of chocolate around his little lips.

I know that he’s doing everything he should be doing at this age, and more! And yet.The end of our nursing relationship signifies the ending of his babyhood. The thought of him not being this small forever makes my heart ache. I know how quickly these moments will pass, and I want to hold on so tightly.

We waiting so long and went through so much to have our kids. At this point we know there will not be any more babies. This is one of the reasons I want to hold on to these last nursing moments as long as possible.

Like so many moments in motherhood, this one is filled with complex and contradictory emotions.

At the end of a busy day, the nursing ritual is a touchstone for us. It’s a moment that all is still and quiet in the world, and we connect in such an intimate way. As this part of our journey winds down, I find myself knowing that we’ll find new touchstones and moments to connect. And I’m not going to lie: I am more than a little excited to have my boobs back.  Yet the idea of being finished breastfeeding is also a difficult one to wrap my head around.

How did your breastfeeding journey wrap up?  Any suggestions for new evening routines?


 

Look Who’s Here!

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We welcomed Calvin Cedar into our family on February 6th, 2015.  The build up to his birth was long and somewhat stressful, but once he decided he was ready things went quickly. Calvin was born at home in what was one of the most beautiful, empowering experiences of my life.  Our midwives are my new heroes; I have so much respect for their knowledge, experience, and compassionate care.

We have been tucked safely in the new baby bubble for almost 2 weeks now and are so in love. Sleep deprived and desperately in need of a shower, but very happy indeed.

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Big Sister Georgia is also doing well. She didn’t want to get too close too fast to this new alien baby in our home, and we didn’t push her.  She would cautiously approach him, ask a question or comment on his smell, and be gone.  We’d read a story or share a snack in bed with the sleeping baby, and she’d steal looks here and there.  After a week she was ready to hold him, and hasn’t wanted to stop since!

I’m thrilled that you’re here in our arms, Calvin. Welcome to the family.

Dapper Baby Vest

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One more baby project leapt on and off the needles recently.  After finishing a relatively big project, I like to do something small and quick.  A palate cleansing project, if you will.

I had this beautiful, bulky yarn and pattern in the back of my mind for nearly my whole pregnancy, and just had to cast on.

This was a simple and fast knit, and is so full of charm I can hardly stand it!  The only snag came when I decided to not do a gauge swatch and just cast on.  I had more yarn than the pattern called for!  It’s a baby knit!  I figured I’d take my chances. Heh.

Pro tip: if you’re going to skip doing a gauge swatch, at least stop and check your gauge a couple of inches into the project.

Had I done that, I would have realized how off my gauge was and wouldn’t have had a problem ripping it out.  As it was, I didn’t notice anything was off until I had knit the body and fronts.  Something looked off.  The armholes were not tall enough in proportion to the length and width of the body.  I checked the schematic against my actual measurements and yes.  Things were way off.

Did I mention I was also out of yarn?

I debated ripping the whole thing out at this point.  This is always hard for me, even though it was a small, fast project.  Then I remembered why I had this yarn in the first place: I had knit a cowl with it last year!

After unpicking the seam and unraveling a couple of inches from the cowl, I kept knitting the vest. I was able to make the armholes deeper to match the proportions of the rest of the vest.

In the end, this probably won’t fit my guy for a year or so.  But that’s okay. It will be waiting for him when the time is right.

Pattern: Harold Vest by Courtney Kelley (Ravelry notes here)

Yarn: Tundra by The Fibre Company in Red Fox

Button: reclaimed wood handmade by Wooly Moss Roots

One big year, one little word

It’s New Year’s Day, 2015.  Naturally, I’m feeling reflective of the past year and looking out toward the vast unknown of the year to come.  It’s a time of self-reflection, one that brings up deeply complicated dichotomies.

I made mistakes last year and I had some big wins.  I gave up on things, I chose to let things go.  I picked fights and made up and let relationships slip and made deep connections. I created a lot of wonderful things and still feel like I should have done more.  I failed and succeeded and won and lost and loved and hurt.

This is the richness of life.

 

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Going into 2105, I’m thinking a lot about my one little word for the year.  I’m searching for a word that I can aspire to, explore, settle in to.

For the past 2 years I’ve had phrases for the year that were chosen to help guide my intentions and focus for that year.  2013 was Going Pro and focused primarily on building my business in a way that was big and risky and professional.  2014’s phrase was Positive Ease.  This phrase served to remind me to look for more ease and positivity in my life.  I’ll think I’ll bring this one along with me, it’s a work in progress.

As I stare down 2015, I know this will be a year of great growth and change for me personally and my family as a whole.  Welcoming a new child into the mix will be a different kind of transition than it was the first time around.  We already know way more than we did as newbie parents, and that gives me peace of mind.  But what I don’t know how to do is parent two children.  And I definitely don’t know how to do it while still taking care of myself and my relationships.  I also don’t know what it’s going  to be like to own and run a business with a newborn.

Bottom line: I don’t know what this journey is going to ask of me, and that leaves me feeling vulnerable.

I know this coming year is going to offer up a lot of opportunities for me to feel challenged and overwhelmed by these things, and I’m going do my best to face them and not let them bring me down.  This is a year I’m going to grow a lot as a mama and a person.  I want to stay flexible and let the little things go.  I want to remain open to all this new love and bravely face the challenges that come along with it.

To help figure this all out, I’ve chosen Grow as my word for 2015.

I like this word as it encapsulates the ideas of flexibility, of stretching outside my comfort zone, extending beyond what I already know and reaching into new areas.  I want to grow, expand, flourish, and become the best of myself in 2015 while facing unknown challenges and joys with grace.

Do you like to choose a word or phrase to help guide you each year?  I’d love to hear more about it!

One More Sweater

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There’s something about knitting for babies.  The small scale, the sweet details, the softest of the soft yarn.  And the hope.  The dreams and happy thoughts that you knit into each stitch for the baby as you work.  It’s a very special thing.

With that in mind, I hoped to knit one more sweater for our babe before the holidays, birthdays, and dues dates swept us away in a sea of “where did the time go?”.

I chose this yarn because of the colors, pure and simple.  It is also incredibly, unbelievably soft, perfect for baby.  Each stripe was a pleasure to knit as the soft tealy blues eased from light to dark.  In some light, two adjacent colors looked identical.  Then I’d work on the sweater somewhere else, and the line would be so crisp I’d wonder how I ever thought they were the same.  Hmmm.

This wee sweater knit up pretty fast, and now it waits, in the freshly painted and arranged baby room, for its owner to arrive.  A few weeks to go yet, which means there will most likely be more baby knitting.  Oh yes, I think there just might be more baby knitting.

Yarn: Frabjuous Fibers Cheshire Cat gradient set in Down the Rabbit Hole

Pattern: Sock Yarn Sweater (Child’s Version) by Hannah Fettig (my Ravelry notes here)

Yarn Along :: Kid Reads

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I’m still working away faithfully on my blue Cassis cardigan.  I’m pleased to say that I am now on the second sleeve so, with a couple more good knitting sessions, it should be off the needles this week!

That sweater is big and heavy now, so I cast on a little pixie cap for a friend having a baby this winter.  It’s much more portable and I’ve been able to knit it up quickly rows at a time. All that’s left is knitting the strap and choosing a charming button. Nothing like an instant gratification project when you’re slogging away on a bigger project!

Much like the big blue sweater, I am still working my way through Tell the Wolves I’m Home.  It’s such a great story told from the perspective of a young teen girl, although it’s definitely not YA material.  I’m enjoying the challenging questions and complicated relationships within the story as well.

G and I have been reading chapter books for about a year now.  Reading out loud together while snuggled up in bed has become a favorite part of my day.  We’ve worked our way through some childhood favorites, and have now found our way to Little House in the Big Woods.  She thinks it’s hilarious, what with the inflated pig bladder as a ball and the corncob wrapped in cloth for a doll.  I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about gratitude and being thankful for all that we have (including indoor plumbing and refrigerators).  I skip over the many parts where there’s an animal being butchered or hunted. We’re just not there yet.

There have also been a lot of graphic novels and comic books in our house these past months.  This is more the other mother’s territory, but I have found myself enjoying this Mouse Guard book.  It is beautifully illustrated, with quite the adventure set in a mysterious and often dangerous animal world.  There is some violence, which can be hard to skip over because of the pictures.  But it brings up good questions, and I enjoy talking through these things with the G.

Knitting: Vintage Pixie Cap from the book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies in Acadia by The Fibre Co. (Ravelry notes here)

Reading: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mouse Guard Fall 1152 by David Petersen

What’s on your needles and on your nightstand this week?

Sorting the baby knits

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We were very fortunate to receive a bundle of handmade items for G when she was a baby. Hand-knit sweaters and booties; quilts and crochet blankets; hand-sewn gowns, jammies, and dresses; handmade toys.  Add to that this pile of things I knit while pregnant, and we had a lot of things made with love for our baby. It was a warm reception for a much-anticipated child, and we treasured each piece.  And, 5 years later, I still have them all.

I’ve been sorting through these and other baby items, remembering those sweet and sleepy early days.  I remember bringing her home in that yellow hat. I remember G fitting into this teensy newborn sweater. I remember her curled up in that blanket.   Precious memories, to be sure.

Now that we know we’re having a boy, I’m faced with the somewhat difficult task of sorting through the so-called gender appropriate clothing and making choices. Choices about what to use again, what to save, and what to pass along to another family.  The hand-knits and clothing sewn by Nana are particularly hard to make decisions around!

What do you do with these special things after your babes have outgrown them?

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Sometimes I can hardly believe these big kid feet fit into those wee booties. Sniff sniff.

Yarn Along: 2 books + 2 wips

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Last week was a week of finishing.  I finished two projects. I finished one book.  It felt really good.

It took me a couple of days to find the right book(s) to sink my reading teeth into next.  Good thing I have a book-buying habit; I perpetually have at least half a dozen books waiting for me to pick them up.  At first I started rereading Baby Catcher, a memoir by a modern midwife. I read it when I was pregnant with G and remember really liking its positive approach to birth.  I’m a bit tired of the technical and often fear-based pregnancy and birth books, so I felt ready for some interesting narratives about births.

Then I also had to start some fiction to go along when things got to real for me.  I picked up Tell the Wolves I’m Home on my last book-buying binge at Powell’s, and I’m proud to say I’ve read all the other books I purchased that day! (the receipt was tucked away inside this one; always a fun reminder).  I’m only about 50 pages in, but I can tell you I’m already hooked on the young female protagonist and her journey dealing with the death of her beloved uncle from AIDS.  It’s set in the 80s, so you can imagine the complexity of the situation.

And on the needles, I’m still working on my Cassis by Thea Coleman.  This is one I started back in April, then set aside in favor of morning sickness and lack of knitting mojo.  I’ve been working on it in between other small projects, so it’s seen slow progress.  Over the last few weeks, the body has grown, and I only have a few inches left before that’s done.  Then it’s on to everyone’s favorite: sleeves!

And because I finished two projects and felt like I should have something smaller and more portable than a sweater on the needles, I cast on Henrietta.  This yarn from The Fibre Co. is incredible, and I haven’t been able to stop petting it since it came into the shop.

So, what’s on your needles and on your nightstand this week?

A New Baby Gift

IMG_8436There’s something about knitting for babies.  They embody the very idea of potential, an idea I closely associate with yarn and knitting.  So when I choose a project for a baby, I take great care in selecting materials that suit the family, a color that matches the mood of the season, and a design that’s both fun to knit and easy to wear.  And while I’m knitting it, I try to think all the good thoughts I can and infuse a little extra love into the piece.

This wee sweater is the perfect quick baby knit.  It uses a small amount of yarn and grows quickly.  There are endless opportunities for personalization, from the color of yarn and buttons you choose, to adding stripes, embroidery, appliqué, and more.

For this project, I couldn’t help but choose one of my favorite colors: yellow! This is a sophisticated, autumnal yellow that I hope the recipient’s mama will appreciate.  I added oval wooden buttons to keep the overall look on the rustic side.

I was able to deliver this wee sweater to my mama friend and her new baby last week.  I think they both loved it, and I can’t wait to see him wearing it. : )

Pattern: Puerperium by Kelly Brooker (see my Ravelry notes here)

Yarn: Madelinetosh DK in Candlewick

What are your go-to knits for babies?  I’m always on the lookout!

Some Thoughts on Pregnancy after Infertility and Loss

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When you’ve tried for years to get pregnant and stay pregnant, it’s a thrill get that positive pregnancy test.  Each week that passes feels monumental as the life inside you continues to grow.  You feel thankful and joyous and excited.  It’s a beautiful time, for sure.

But pregnancy isn’t all glowy and angelic.

Any woman who’s carried a baby knows that there are hard parts about it, too.  I spent the first 4 months of this pregnancy nauseous and vomiting in awkward and uncomfortable places.  One time I threw up so violently I broke the capillaries in my neck and cheeks.  I pee a little when I cough.  My underwear cut into my hips and fall down (how these are possible at the same time is beyond me).  If I’m not sitting up perfectly straight when I eat, I can feel the food in my stomach rising.  There are tattoos I can no longer see.  Some days I cry for no reason, and worry that’s I’m getting pre-post-partum depression.  I have cankles and all my closed-toe shoes are too tight.

I could go on, but I don’t want to seem ungrateful.

You see, when you’ve been through infertility and miscarriage, you look forward to being pregnant with such mythical enthusiasm, you build it up to be something beyond wonderful.  It will make everything you’ve gone through worth it, and you can finally move forward.  You tell yourself you would never complain about being pregnant; after all, it’s a gift, a privilege! When you’re trying to conceive, it is physically painful to hear other women complaining about being pregnant.  If they only knew how lucky they are!

But it’s not that simple.

Along with the classic discomforts of pregnancy, a woman who has lost a baby or babies also has to deal with something else. We face the cold reality that being pregnant does not mean the same thing as bringing home a baby.

Those first several weeks after getting a positive pregnancy test are both thrilling and terrifying.  You dare to dream about your family with a new baby and everything that comes after.  And yet you’re deeply worried things won’t work out the way you want them to.  For months, every time I went to the bathroom I checked for blood.  Every twinge, cramp, and ache made me worry that this was the beginning of the end.

That worry doesn’t go away.

This is my fourth pregnancy, and I know that concern will stay with me until I am holding this baby boy in my arms.  It’s just a part of the journey for me.  I’ve learned to manage those fears, and for me they have receded somewhat now that I’m nearing the end of my 2nd trimester.  But they will always be there.

I try not to feel resentful and accept that those experiences have helped shape me, but the truth is I wish they hadn’t happened. I wish we had those babies in our family and that I never had to feel the unbearable ache of my heart actually breaking.  Like anything painful in life, pregnancy loss is something that changes you.  Time can make it hurt less, but it’s always a part of you. It colors your experience of everything having to do with pregnancy, birth, and babies.  It just does.

All of this is to say that I am thrilled to be pregnant. It’s been a long journey for my partner and I to get to this point, and I’m thankful that we get the opportunity to parent another child.  But it’s hasn’t been easy, and we will always feel the loss of the babies that didn’t make it.

And at the same time, it’s okay for me to complain about hemorrhoids and cankles. They suck.

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October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  By writing this, I’m simply trying to share my experiences in the hope that it may help another woman or family.