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As long as my blog is dedicated to health and wellness, I thought I’d give my perspective on the controversial Time Magazine issue that depicts an almost four year old standing on a chair sucking at his hot mom’s perfect banana boob (this is the term my former college roommate and I used to describe this kind of breast).
I am not disturbed that there are four year old’s out there that breastfeed (though I cannot imagine how that kid will feel about this cover shot when he is sixteen). To each their own, and sister, if you have tits like that after breastfeeding, three cheers to you. I was deeply disturbed, however, at the headline, “Are you mom enough?”
I have four children. I breastfed them all. I have friends who struggled with breastfeeding, relatives who deeply wanted to breastfeed, but were unable, friends who have adopted and could not breastfeed, friends with foster children who could not breastfeed, moms who just did not want to breastfeed… and all of those women, in their very own ways, are really good mothers. The social pressure we all feel as moms to “do it right,” to be “perfect,” is so ridiculously insane that I feel infuriated that Time would incense this issue further with such a thoughtless headline that was clearly designed to spark a war.
Two of my son’s were severely premature. I chose to pump milk for both of them. I did not enjoy this, I did not welcome it. I felt awkward pumping at the hospital and awkward breastfeeding in public. I mourned (and still feel bad about) missing out on a full pregnancy with each of them and even though I know it is not logical, their births make me feel like a failure. I am not a failure as a mom, but birth? Screwed it up. Breastfeeding, for me, felt like the one thing I could do right and the one thing I could control while I surrendered the care of my newborn to doctors and nurses. I sat, night after night, pumping away, staring at a baby struggling to live, and I can assure you that the one thing I asked myself over and over again was, “Am I mom enough?” And the guilt almost killed me.
Yesterday, my daughter made a mistake at school. Not a huge deal by any means, but it was one of the first times she experienced guilt. She was afraid to tell me what happened and I could tell that she had the kind of day where all she needed was for someone with loving arms to catch her. I did that. I told her how beautiful and smart she was. I told her how proud I am to be her mom. I told her that she is human and that the mistake she made at school was hardly going to be the last time she makes a mistake. The very best thing I told her was that sometimes when we make mistakes there are consequences and those consequences do not mean we have to get all emotional about them. They are what they are. Move on. No judgement. And then I asked her if she needed a hug. She collapsed into me and sobbed and sobbed and then we went out for Mexican food and called it a day. It was a really good mom moment, a time where I did it right. It was also a moment that was far more of what parenting is really about at its core and it had nothing to do with whether or not I breastfed her for a day, a year, or three years.
There are about a million good reasons to breastfeed your babies. There are reasons why that sometimes cannot happen. There are also mistakes (this wasn’t Time’s first and it won’t be their last). The consequence of this particular mistake is that they have made a topic that serious and private and important, seem silly. They made breastfeeding feel like a bad reality t.v. series and though I am glad that it broke the stigma of the “breastfeeding new age, hippie momma,” stereotype (boy, did it do that), I am saddened to know that what it did, mostly, was make women feel like they are anything less that perfect.
I am Mom enough. I am more than enough. Repeat.
March 25, 2012
“one girl’s journey back to health…”
That is what I promised, right?
So I have not posted anything for a month and I feel that must mean I have suddenly stopped “following the plan” or that I must have “given up,” or that I must suddenly have gained 40lbs. But, no, it’s the same fat me. Same weight, same life, only different.
I have been insanely wrapped up in the MOM life. Once I saw an amazing acupuncturist (and Marcos, Lorn, if you are at ALL finding yourself reading this, I NEED your aunt’s contact information) who told me that I had “mother’s disease.” She meant, I guess, that I am so focused on the demands of motherhood that I completely ignore myself. I don’t know. I don’t know that there is a way around that with four kids ranging from 1 to 16. I like being a mom. I like, I LOVE watching Luke on stage, Lizzie at volleyball, William in his soccer uniform. I like watching Quinn learn to walk and talk and oooh and ahh. The only thing I know for sure about raising great kids is to, one, keep them busy, two, keep them busy with the stuff they love, and three, LOVE them like mad. The rest, eeesh, I dunno. It’s hard.
I have not paid much attention to food (except for FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA ROSSO … so much for my grape allergy) because I really haven’t been eating much at all. Sean says I never eat. I do though. Today I had a jelly donut. A jelly donut and a glass of wine. I am the picture of health.
So, summer hit Wisconsin in March instead of July, which has caused me huge anxiety and has made my self esteem drop lower than porta-potties. I suddenly have to look at my arms in the mirror and envy every girl who can just throw on a great little summery dress. I look like a toad. Remember when Oprah was really fat and she just wore really big earrings to cover it up? It did not work, but I know where she was coming from.
Anyway, my hope is that it will get cold again and I can go back to jeans and boots and draped cardigans (Sean says these cardigans scream ART TEACHER). Maybe I have a few weeks to get suddenly skinny. I read today that someone with my autoimmune issues should eat eight small 300 calorie meals throughout the day in order to lose weight. I briefly envisioned setting a timer and stocking my purse with greek yogurts and spinach wraps… lined up like ammunition.
I was interrupted by this fantasy by my newest symptom: ATTACK OF THE AUTOIMMUNE HIVES. Have you read The Hunger Games? Do you know about the tracker jackers? That is me, every other night, swelled up in welt like hives, scratching like someone on acid who has walked through poison ivy. My mom thinks I have lyme disease. Maybe. Add it to the list. See … I told you. This is why my husband calls me Titty Lupus. I have Titty Lupus disease. It’s the only way to describe this host of invaders.
So long story short: My kids are amazing and happy and I suck.
I, do, however, have some very exciting news to share, but I will be waiting until all t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted and it’s “official,” even though it’s official in my head. For now, I will just tell you this: While I have been busy with kids, Angels have been busy with me and that despite my physical SUCKY-NESS, the rest of me is soon to be soaring. My goal, as always, is to have these two parts match, to be a whole me, to rise to the occasion in every way. In the meantime, Titty Lupus has a cool new gig.
My bowl from Lolo broke and maybe it is punishment for not camel keying for two weeks or maybe it was a message of another kind, but when it cracked, my heart burned and I did not care what it meant.
In the last months of lolo’s life we sang (over and over again) Bye, Bye Blackbird. Sometimes, now, I play it on my iPod just to say hello to her, way up, wherever she is.
What have I been up to for two weeks? The usual, I suppose… Taxiing kids, teaching kids, cooking for kids, caring for sick kids (boo double ear infection). I have spent hours sorting through piles of bills and the neatly stacking them back up in a pile, where they remain, unpaid, hugged by a thin rubber band.
We are down to one car (don’t ask) and, as a family, are so filled with worry and doubt and stress that what I eat doesn’t matter so much. It has been two weeks of being resigned to having really fat arms forever.
There will be a moment where I find the momentum to focus solely on my health, solely on my own joy, but for today, I am content just to find twenty minutes to draw.
Though, always, always, in the back I’d my mind, is the nagging wish to have my body back. I can never completely let go of that.
There are some promising things on the horizon, but they are scary and they require big changes, big leaps. When I am not ready to leap, I draw, and it is then I feel like I know who I am and that leaping can maybe wait until Monday.
Coconut La Croix plus 3 drops of essential lemon oil tastes like liquid Skittles. It is my favorite drink as of late, though I have been really sick for the last 48 hours, which means all food rules go out the window. I ate cake for breakfast, white toast with honey for lunch, and leftover birthday mostacholi for dinner. I may have had a donut too, but I cannot remember because I slept all day long, waking only to change Quinn and drive Luke to rehearsal. My cold has nestled in behind my right eye, pulsing like a fish on the dock.
And it’s Sunday night already. I am sitting in my car, in an empty church parking lot at 9:20 pm, drinking Skittles, waiting for Luke, who is inside the church pretending to be a twenty year old man. Lizzie is sitting next to me, seeing ghosts in the shadows.
How did I get here? How much longer before life gets bigger and less complicated at the same time?
I am eating gummy bears and drinking this amazing wine because it’s been a crap week and it’s winter outside. I like candy and wine and bread and I like me, so tonight, dear yeast free, barley free, alcohol free, grape free life, suck my fat one.
January 30 (happy birthday dad), 2012
I have put over 1000 miles on my car in the last week. If I could invent a machine that let me Camel Key while I drove, I’d be so happy. There has been much to say.
I have been eating like crap. Drops, mostly forgotten. I must get back on track. I don’t even mind if I eat sporadically or miss a day of “all rules followed,” but today I skipped breakfast and did not pack a lunch, so I knew it was time to log back on and report out.
Luke was given the lead role of Hal in the play Picnic. I was super excited for him, but I am a nervous eater. In processing his big news, I grabbed handfuls of whatever was in my path: Sweedish fish, almonds, cereal, noodles. I didn’t taste anything. I just chewed.
Luke is not at all a nervous eater. The news made him nauseous. He released all tension by going to a metal concert, where he got a fat, cut lip. Maybe I’ll try that next time. Mosh pit for mom’s. Hmmm …
In the last 72 hours, the kids have had three soccer games, five volleyball games, and a basketball game. Basketball, Bay View. Volleyball, Watertown. Soccer, Mequon. Sean and I drove in triangles, nodding off, swerving the car, switching roles of passenger/driver. I hope to not see another weekend like that for a long, long while. The irony is all the games we got to see were ones in which our kids lost. We missed the ones where they won. As Sean and I leaned against a dirty, brick YMCA wall, we looked at each other and wondered aloud if all of this is worth it. I said, “For the amount of money and time this takes, all six of us could go to Hawaii for a week.”
But then, during William’s last soccer game (I missed this), the coach looked down upon his ten U11 boys and said, “We have to give our goalie a break. I need someone who is confident and athletic to be our goalie,” and with that he chose William. Not one single ball got past Will yesterday and the team played so well together that when all was said and done, their coach cried. I have hated sports my entire life. I’ve never played them, think that our society glorifies them, find them to be generally boring, but watching my kids play? Watching William discover that someone believes in him, that an entire team counted on him … watching him learn that he is capable, watching him learn to be proud of himself … that, I love. It’s worth losing Hawaii. It’s worth triangle driving. It’s worth giving up spinach for a gross processed soft pretzel dipped in disgusting processed cheese, followed by a banana laffy taffy.
For all of you who have to raise children away from extended family, I don’t know how you do it. I rely on my family every single minute. Jenny to take Luke to mosh pits, Shirley to watch Quinn, my parents to do just about everything we need in a pinch. This Sunday they watched Q while the rest of us “gamed,” and when it was all said and done, they made the most perfect potato soup with mushrooms and sherry. A soup that said “love,” “home,” “quiet.”
I need some quiet these days. I have had kind of an emotional and fragile week and I can feel my world shifting, tilting. Each time it shifts, I find my gaze focused on another child . . . suddenly taller or different from the last time my eyes rested on them and I’d just like a moment to let the rest of the world go to hell while I press pause on my own nest. I am unraveling …
So, tomorrow. Grapefruit. Check. Espresso. Check. Spinach for lunch, check. Curried something or other for dinner, check. I am hopeful that this weekend astray has done done too much damage to my momentum. I am still having the side effects from the homeopathic remedies (my palms and feet itch like mad and I imagine all these parasites releasing and that just gives me the creeps) so something must still be working. I can still walk stairs one at a time.
Now if I can just take one deep breath at a time …
I have been having mixed feelings about continuing on with this blog … all the self doubt stuff (who cares? why bother? EEYORE!) but then this morning I was scrolling through a bunch of my old painting files and noticed this detail shot of a painting that I did about my Grandmother’s home. Do you see it? Flying free? A wee little camel key. I decided to continue on.
That said, I am finding it increasingly hard to pay attention to eating as I try to juggle six lives. It always feel like all the balls are in the air and that I am chasing after me, most of all.
I’ve had strange dreams all week long. I dreamed that a ghost of a nine year old boy named Peter lived in my house and I was screaming and screaming for him to leave me alone, but my screams weren’t working, so finally, I asked him what he was doing here and he told me that he was afraid to cross over because he knew he had disappointed his parents by dying young and that he did not want to face them in heaven. I dreamed that the reason I have no feeling below my belly button is not due to the c-section, but is because of a giant tumor that, once removed, will leave a very crooked scar. When I looked in the mirror, the tumor was bulging and in my nostril. I dreamed that I grocery shopped a cart bulging with green food, but when I got to the check out lane, I only had a nickel. Yesterday my mom sent me an image that read, “If your dreams aren’t scaring you, they aren’t big enough.” I guess mine are ginormous.
As are my worries, I suppose, the least of which, is me. I am swimming in debt and have visions of Suzy Orman looking like a floating head, like the Wizard of Oz. I am swimming in awe and grief watching my children grow. Lizzie is almost as tall as me. Luke is learning how to navigate his own opinions and ideals against old friends whose might differ greatly. He is learning how to hide emotional wounds and that just bruises my heart beyond measure. William has known how to do that for years, which is sadder yet. I find relief in Quinn, whose biggest worry is a bump in the head from learning to walk. Quinn, who I can pacify with an animal cracker.
It’s not that I am eating poorly. Here is a recap of the last few days: Grapefruit, of course (several, several grapefruit, buckets of grapefruit), espresso (goes without saying), one Starbucks coffee with a shot of carmel (sounds like camel, anyway), three blond oreos (okay, maybe over the course of a week, it was more than three), ravioli, popcorn, apples, oranges, homemade vegetable soup (first taste of beef in quite sometime), a slice of Shirley’s sour cherry pie (with very little crust, she noted), a veggie stack 1/2 sandwich from City Market, a corn chicken chowder, rice crackers, cheese, chicken with broccoli over brown rice …two bites of a City Market cookie.
It’s hard for me to remember all of the dinners because all of our dining room chairs have finally collapsed into kindle and so we haven’t sat down around the table as a family in two weeks. I eat, standing up, over a cutting board or in the car on the way to beloved Waukesha.
The irony is that while not obsessing over every little bite, I have lost four pounds and am feeling (relatively speaking) a little less achy. I have to imagine that while I am not paying attention, that there is a bird overhead, an angel, I suppose, with a key, watching over me, paying more attention than ever.