Things I still think about, six months later

I wrote this over a year ago, when my babies were only a few months old. I never published it at the time partly because I wasn’t sure how it would be received–I never read  about these kinds of opinions and experiences. And partly because after I wrote this, I realized that I felt a lot better. Getting it all out on virtual paper proved to be truly cathartic, and a year later, yes, I’m still annoyed, but nowhere near as upset and emotional. I decided to publish it now in order to get it out there for anyone else who might be able to relate. I have edited a few details and fleshed out the links at the end, but kept it mostly how I wrote it. Sorry that it’s a little disjointed.

If you talk about or read about birth, chances are you’ll hear about a woman who is devastated about her birth plan going awry and having to endure interventions that she didn’t want. That the birth went completely opposite of how she wanted a beautiful, natural experience. You might also hear about someone who was ‘forced’ or coerced into using formula, or who wasn’t encouraged or supported in breastfeeding.

I had the opposite experience.

I’m still irritated, angry, sad, about breastfeeding. It wasn’t my attempt, it wasn’t something I wanted to happen. For two solid days someone was poking and prodding at me, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t know why it was happening.

I think during the intake questions before the c-section, the nurse asked if I wanted to breastfeed. I think I said, sure, I’ll probably try it. I guess I thought they were asking just for informational purposes or something? But that was it. Nobody laid out what would happen or what that would actually, logistically mean for me and these two new babies.  Nobody asked me anything about it after the babies were actually born. Certainly nobody told me that whatever I had said would result in such a frenzy of unwanted activity.

It literally only occurred to me like 5 months post-partum that I could have said STOP. I had just had two people cut out of my abdomen, and my system was full of various drugs. I felt completely helpless and I was completely out of it, physically and emotionally.  Half the time I wasn’t sure if I was awake or asleep. I had no idea what was happening but this stupid breastfeeding thing CLEARLY wasn’t going to work with no milk. Duh. What the ever-loving fuck did they think was going to happen?!

It never even occurred to me to say no, any more than it would have occurred to me to start tap dancing on the ceiling. I was in the hospital and nurses were taking care of me. They knew what was going on. I didn’t know what I was doing; I had never done any of this before!

I think back to that recovery room. My first minutes with these brand new babies, but I didn’t get to enjoy them–I mostly remember that dumb frazzled nurse trying unsuccessfully to latch two 36-week-old babies to my very dry boobs. Seriously, what did she think would happen? Even I knew it wouldn’t work! Why couldn’t they have just left me alone? Why couldn’t they have ASKED me what I wanted to do? If someone had asked me if I wanted to breastfeed–as in, right then, not as in a hypothetical, sure I’ll try it–I would have said no.

She (and the other nurse she brought in because she couldn’t handle two babies) must have eventually backed off or given up. I so wish that I had a better memory and know why and how. Did I tell them to give it a rest? (No. I so wish I had.) Did they just get tired of trying to force something that wasn’t going to work? What made them finally go away?

It makes me kind of mad, and kind of sad. It’s such a frustrating thing to remember and I really wish I could go back in time and slap that nurse’s hands away from me.

But again, it literally didn’t seem like it was my decision. It’s like my body wasn’t mine.

And I feel like I’m the only one who feels this way about breastfeeding.

The hospital was a great hospital, and I loved the rest of the nurses during my stay there. I felt cared for and cared about. This hospital–and many hospitals–boasts of being ‘baby-friendly.’ The more I learn about what that actually means, I’ve come to think of it as ‘mama unfriendly.’ There’s no nursery to give you a break. One nurse sort of broke a rule and took the babies for two hours one night. And those two hours of blessed silence made a huge difference for us. If we had had that first night to sleep and rest and, I don’t know, start to RECOVER FROM THE MAJOR SURGERY I’d just had, I would have felt so much better and more with-it. I understand that rooming in with your baby gives time to bond and a better chance at breastfeeding. But why didn’t we have an option? A choice? Why weren’t my boobs allowed to be in peace? Why on earth are the baby and the boobs more important than the mama who owns the boobs and who just birthed that baby?

I think that’s a key factor–all these well-meaning lactivist folks are thinking about the baby. I guarantee you that the baby has no idea what’s going on. The mama is the one you need to worry about. There need to be guidelines, sure. But why can’t there be very clear questions, options, or statements given before and after the birth happens?

They need to re-name “baby-friendly” to “breastfeeding friendly” because, really, that’s all they’re trying to do.  Apparently that’s all that matters–not what mamas may actually want or need. All the things they do are done solely to encourage breastfeeding. (That’s not hyperbole, either–go look at the policies.) If the goal were to encourage bonding, they would give mothers the OPTION to get some goddamned rest. Our hospital apparently no longer had a regular baby nursery, so we were forced to be woken up every ten minutes by our two newborns. I can tell you that both my husband and I would have been exponentially more sane had we had at least one night of good, solid sleep in the hospital. And I promise, our bonding with our new babies would not have suffered one bit. It might have even been better, if we hadn’t been so desperately exhausted.

Here are two semi-relevant articles that really spoke to me:

America’s Post-Partum Practices

We were in the hospital for four nights, and I would have happily stayed a lot longer (well, if they would have stopped waking me up every two hours, that is). It was a relief and a blessing to have knowledgeable people coming in to help and advise us all day long. To not feel alone.

“The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one.” I actually did–but didn’t always have the luxury of acting like it, with two babies to care for.

“Perhaps if we started talking about the time and energy it actually takes to recuperate from childbirth, women wouldn’t feel the need to return as quickly as possible to “normal.””

And a Jezebel piece about that same article: Stop Acting like Bouncing Back from Labor is Even Possible

THIS: “What’s really cool is that, on top of all this you’re-on-your-own-sucker bullshit, the conversations a new mom will likely encounter are along the lines of: “Do you love it?! Is it everything you dreamed?!””

I have no doubt that many women have a blissful, zen-like post-partum experience. I was not one of them.

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Seventeen Months Old

My dear sweet babies,

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You are seventeen months old! Almost one and a half–farther and farther away from being babies.

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But it continues to be fascinating and adorable to see you develop and grow in so many ways. Here are some of the fun and interesting things you did as 16 month olds.

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First, with the nicer weather and longer days, we’ve been going on walks before and after dinner. It’s a lovely way to pass time while letting you explore our street. You both like going up and down curbs of various heights, and you especially love exploring the driveways of our neighbors. Even better if it’s a hilly one.

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Developmental growth:

Oh my goodness, you began outgrowing 18 month clothes! Especially Malcolm. But only in onesies (which we still keep you in for ease) and jammies. So we began expanding your wardrobe a little bit–we figured we had a few more months at least!

Malcolm, it’s official. Your first word is “uh oh” (video) You love to repeat it, and you have this funny accent in the final ‘o’ sound.

You also love saying “hi” and waving. Emmett, you also wave and smile in greeting, but don’t say hi yet.

If we say, “where are your shoes?” or “where is your pacifier?” or something, you’ll hold up their hands in the “I don’t know, where is it?” gesture. Hilarious when little toddlers do grown-up gestures!  Happily, we can also say, “Go get me your shoes” and you will!

You can also identify some body parts–you’ll point to nose, mouth/tongue, ears, head/hair, tummy, and toes!

You now go down the playground slides sitting up, instead of on your tummies, and you’re a lot better and smoother at climbing up/walking up the stairs.

Any ball is your new favorite thing. I found this nubbly ball at Target and that intrigued you. Later we found some bigger bouncy balls and you love those too. Emmett, you are a little obsessed with soccer and soccer balls.

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Emmett, you will randomly come up to us and hug our legs. Often when we’re doing something in the kitchen or changing brother. It is the cutest thing and melts my heart! Malcolm, you like to kind of run at me and fall in for a big hug with a smile. It is also the cutest thing and melts my heart!

We had some warm weather and we set up the water table for you! Fun times!

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Malcolm, you’ve had an ongoing ear infection. Again. We’ve done two rounds of antibiotics and hope that this time it heals you. You’ve been so strong and resilient–often we don’t even know that there’s any infection.

We finally got you some long-overdue haircuts at the end of this month. You both freaked out the entire time, even with one of us holding and snuggling you. Sigh.

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You have many ways that you show your toddler age.

Emmett, you have been a picky and fickle eater for a few months now. We never know if you’ll like something or not–and you’ll basically never want to try anything new. Malcolm, you are still game for trying pretty much anything. We tried giving you turkey chili (Daddy makes it in the crockpot) and by god, you both ate it! So we kept going, and Emmett, you like it! Hallelujah!

Tantrums. Oh yes. Not usually huge ones, but if we have to take something away that you like, or we have to stop doing something that you like, you show your displeasure! Loud, annoyed crying with a yelling edge. Lots of angry stomping in place. You’ll kick and flail if we pick you up during one of these fits, and sometimes we have to try to wrestle you into a carseat like that. That is not fun.

When Daddy takes you to daycare in the mornings, you now like to walk, instead of being carried. (Mama still has to carry both of you out when we leave daycare, because otherwise one of you will just walk away in the parking lot.)

One of our favorite new things is that we see you developing empathy for one another! If you see brother is upset, you’ll get him his pacifier or lovey. Occasionally you will just swap or switch pacifiers, and don’t even seem to mind when brother yanks one out of your mouth. Also, we see you sometimes hug or pat if brother is upset.

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You’ve always enjoyed reading books, but now you really want to read the same book five-plus times in a row. You walk over and turn around to sit down in our laps (CUTEST EVER), and then when the book is over, you either hand it to us again, or try to flip it back to the beginning, or just generally make a big whining noise while flailing a little bit.

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You started sweeping. We got you some baby-sized versions, but no, you like the real thing the most.

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You enjoy climbing up our porch Adirondack chairs, so I finally got you some baby Adirondacks, and you immediately loved them. You back you little selves up and sit in the chair like a big person. So cute! Shortly thereafter we officially retired and sold the boppies.

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Since you love looking out the window, and it was getting really difficult to hold one of you up while the other got upset, we had some DIY Learning Towers made for us by a local guy. You immediately figured out how to crawl up and down, and you love being able to watch for squirrels and birds as long as you want, while we love to not have to physically hold you up.

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You discovered puddles this month. Quite by accident. But oh, what fun.

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We’ve done some neat outings this month to keep us all busy. First, there was the tulips.

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Then we went to a twins party at a jumping bounce house play place. Malcolm, you were a little overwhelmed (it was very crowded and noisy, so we didn’t blame you at all). Emmett, you were very happy to sit in the main bouncy castle!

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Grandma and I stopped by the Barnes and Noble kids area with you and found this awesome train table. You had so much fun playing with all the little trains and toys! We now keep that as an occasional rainy day activity so we can still get out of the house.

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Finally, we taught you about Easter Eggs. We did a bunch of practice egg-hunting with you the day before Easter, figuring you were too young to get it. But you totally did! You both loved looking around and spotting an egg, and then picking it up. It took a bit to understand the putting-in-basket idea, but you got that too.

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We then took you to a group egg hunt event, where there were a million plastic eggs “hiding” in a public park downtown. You totally found and gathered a few! But then…Mama walked away for a minute and Malcolm, you climbed into/fell into one of the little ponds. Poor, poor baby! I scooped you out right away, and you didn’t scream or cry, but you held on to me pretty tight with a very confused and frightened face. Happily you got over it very quickly.

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You guys love playing with things around the house and can entertain yourselves very well with seemingly nothing:  BubblesFoam mat squares  / Curtains

You babies are still pretty much the best. We are loving watching you learn and grow, and we love giving and getting lots of snuggly hugs when you let us. We love you so, so much!

love, mama