Monday, August 24, 2009

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Wel-come Ba-ack

No, you haven't flashed back 30 years. But I found the theme song appropriate in this case.

After 22 months, PPAF has finally made her appearance.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It's been nice being able to avoid the tampon aisle for as long as I have. I knew, logically, she had to come back sometime. And with Nate sleeping better at night, I knew it was imminent. But it still surprised me to look down today and see the evidence. It does reinforce that the weaning process is indeed working.

Tonight, I'll be pulling out the BBT that has been tucked away in my bedside table drawer for almost two years. We're not preventing. We're just seeing what happens.

I'm not sure if I'm ready for all this again. The charting. The timing. The waiting. The inevitable disappointment.

But when I look at Nate's sweet smile, I get a sense of hope. That, like the first go round, it will all be worth it in the end.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Molars and Monkey Wrenches

I don't know what's wrong with me lately but I'm having some serious writer's block. Nothing stupendous has happened since the big birthday bash so I'm struggling to find something interesting enough in our daily routine to share. I know if I look deep enough, I have so much to say yet the words escape me. I can't write a marginally entertaining post to save my life. But I will at least try to give an update on the minor happenings here so the cricket symphony will fade.

We've been taking advantage of the remaining summer days by swimming and playing. I think Nate has gills hidden somewhere on his body. He's such a little fish. He adores the pool, splashing in the water and kicking his feet like a frog. If we're not at the pool, we're out in the backyard playing in the water table or his new toddler playhouse we scored for $30 from a neighbor. At least for as long as the heat is tolerable. Just keeping busy so I don't get stir crazy indoors all day.

Weaning is going slowly but surely. Today, I was actually able to get Nate to drink 8 oz. of water out of his sippy. That is a small miracle since I could only get him to take several sips for the past month. We've fully eliminated night feedings and are down to 4 nursing sessions a day. Some days, we have even gotten down to 3. It's sad but liberating at the same time. I've happily been a 24-7 buffet for over a year but it does feel strangely good to get a glimpse of what it's like to have my body all back to myself. As conflicted as I am about starting this process, for once, it is starting to feel like the right decision. I'm sure I'll be more devastated as we get closer to the ultimate end. But for now, I'm okay with it.

It seems teeth #9 and #10 will be making their apperance anyday now. I can see the white tips emerging from the gum and they are thisclose to breaking through. These first-year molars are much more of a beast than the previous eight. Nate cut those like a champ. You would hardly notice he was teething at all. In comparison, these suckers are huge and judging from the size of the lumps on his gums, quite painful. He's been drooling and crying and clinging to me much more than usual, begging for me to relieve him of the agony. We've been alternating the Hyland's and Motrin daily and that has helped us to keep the ratio of smiles to tears out of the red.

As a result of the emerging teeth, his already meager diet has dwindled down even more. Today, his diet consisted of a fistful of Cheerios, a handful of Cheez-its, a single green bean, and 4 oz. of banana berry puree. It's so frustrating when I go through the trouble of making meals, including every color of the rainbow, for him to toss it aside without even taking a bite. He'll clench his lips and turn his head so I can't even spoon feed him. I try to be patient but there are days - like today - where it takes its toll on me. The world of toddler nutrition (if such a thing exists) is not so welcoming.

Mealtime has obviously been a hassle but one thing is going smoothly is sleep. Nate has been sleeping 6-8 hour stretches just about every night. Once, there was a 9-hour stretch. And boy oh boy, it feels good! It makes you realize how sleep deprived you really were. There have been a few minor setbacks with the teething but I still have to give credit where credit is due. I *might* even venture to say he is officially "sleeping through the night" these days. And it only took a year! My little guy, the late-blooming insomniac.

And if I can politely shift the focus over to moi, I'm sad to report that I've gained 5 lbs. over the past month. Yes, I'm wearing my pouty face as the scale mocks me. I'm sure it has something to do with all the leftovers from the party as well as the weaning. I've never really had to watch what I ate before but I guess my metabolism had to slow down eventually. No more late night rendezvous with Chips Ahoy or Ben & Jerry. Bummer.

Nate and I can agree on one thing. Getting older is rough.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Can We Do It? Yes, We Can!

Thank you all for your supportive comments on my last post. Even though I've been at this parenting thing for over a year now, there are times when you feel like an expert and others where you feel like a novice. After that appointment, I certainly fell into the latter category. But as you all suggested, I have been following my instincts and have been better off physically and mentally as a result.

After a spontaneous trip to VA to spend some quality time with my sister-in-law and the niece and nephews, I feel refreshed. We will get through this somehow, someway. Call me a linebacker 'cause I'm ready to tackle anything that lies ahead.

We're still introducing more table foods to Nate. He is a carb maniac so we struggle getting the proper amounts of fruits and veggies into his diet. Meats are hit or miss as well. I realize Atkins is so five years ago but can we have a resurgence, pretty please? I am continuing to offer him colorful meals to ensure a variety of vitamins, with the hopes that at least some of it will be ingested. We're still at 4 nursing sessions per day but for now, I am content with that. It's progress from the 5-6 sessions we had just a month ago. I'm gently phasing out the "baby food" although I still have some in reserve, just in case we have a particularly bad day. I can always count on my 'ole friend S.P. (Sweet Potato) to bail me out of a jam.

On the sippy front, DING DING DING! I *think* we may have found a winner. The Munchkin Mighty Grip cup has been working quite well the past few days. Perhaps it's because there are no handles or the spout is especially soft but Nate will voluntarily drink out of this one. He has some trouble tipping it but that is to be expected. It's a skill to be acquired in time.

And how could I forget...we've hit a MAJOR milestone this past week. For the past FOUR nights, Nate has slept through the night. Hear that?! It's the angels in heaven exclaiming Hallelujah! But its the truth. He's slept consistently from 9pm to 6am. If not more. Without waking. It started during our trip when he slept all night in his Pack 'n Play with nary a peep. Surely, this was a freak accident, I thought. The kids just wore him out since he's not used to that much rowdiness. The next night, the same thing. Again, I figured it was just sheer exhaustion. But it happened the next two nights at home sans kiddos. Please tell me its true. That there will be more divine sleep in my future. I had forgotten how good it feels to wake up somewhat energized. I am so proud of my little man. Despite all the changes we are implementing (i.e., torture we are performing on him), he is still sweet enough to give mama a much-needed break. ____________________________________________

I just remembered that I am long overdue on Nate's 12-month "can do" post. So without further ado, my not-so-little man can:

Run! Walking is old news. Of course, he has a Y chromosome. If you can go faster, why go slower?! We're having a bit of trouble transitioning to hard soled shoes, as they are much heavier, but after a bit more practice, I think he'll get the hang of it.

Walk down stairs assisted. It's the sweetest thing to hold one of his hands as he places his other hand on the wall and hesitantly steps down. He looks like such a big boy.

Imitate others' actions. If he sees me scoop a piece of food with a spoon, he will attempt to do the same. If he sees me bang a drum, he will bang on it too. And if I bounce a ball, he also tries to dribble it.

Throw a ball for a dog. Well, more like drop it. But he knows how to get my parents' dogs to play fetch. He'll also feed them from the table but that's another story.

Remember the steps to get things to operate. He knows to dunk his bath toy underwater and lift it up for the water to flow from the bottom. He knows to press his Elmo's tummy to get him to talk. And he knows just what buttons to press to turn on his radio. Ah, he's so smart.

Babble regularly. He is laughing and shrieking more and more each day. As a matter of fact, he's become quite the ham in front of the camera. I guess all those months of mamarazzi paid off.

Wave hi/goodbye much more consistently. He'll even do it without us prompting him now. That element of surprise makes it even more adorable.

Understands simple commands and tones of voice. All I have to give is a look or a grunt and he knows exactly what I'm saying. Not that he always obeys but he at least stops to take notice.

Be wary of strangers. I would call it "acquaintance anxiety". He draws into me and studies people that approach him intently. Sometimes, he plays bashful and buries his head in my neck. Sometimes, he smirks and flirts, playfully looking away. But if we spend enough time, he will eventually warm up to said person and interact more with them.

Climb and leap. He uses his ride-on toys as stepstools now and wants to jump or roll from them onto the floor. You can understand why my panic disorder is on overdrive right now. He also wants to climb onto the couch and leap off into my arms. That's my fearless daredevil. Not afraid of a thing.

Read books. He is now showing interest in his board books and will turn them page by page, examining the pictures and words. He turns them in different directions, analyzing the pages from all angles. Before confusing the corners as teething snacks. *sigh*

Give kisses. Not consistently but I do believe he knows what we are asking for when we prompt him. He's just a stinker and does it on his terms only. Typical macho man - not one for the PDA.

I could go on and on with the bragging rights but it's getting late so I'll put the brakes on tonight. Twelve months ago, his biggest skill was gripping my finger. I remember looking at him and wondering if I could ever love him more than that very moment. And to my surprise, yes. I could. And I do.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weaning Worries

I owe you all an apology for being so behind on my posting. Actually, my ISP should apologize since we've had some Internet connection issues but they appear to be resolved now. Back in business.

Nate had his 1-year appointment with his new pediatrician on Friday. He now weighs 21 lbs, 4 oz. and is 30.5 inches long. 25th and 75th percentiles respectively. Tall and thin. Male model-to-be, perhaps?

She examined him and issued him a clean bill of health. She asked about his verbal and physical capabilities and seemed satisfied with my answers. Everything was going perfectly.

Until I innocently inquired about weaning.

I explained to the doctor that Nate was still breastfeeding around 5x/day (every 2-3 hours) and I would like to begin the weaning process soon but I wasn't sure how to go about it. I described his picky choosy eating habits and illustrated my concern over eliminating this nourishment when it is currently filling the nutritional and caloric gaps. Also, since he hasn't fully adopted the sippy cup, how could I successfully replace breastmilk with whole milk? I explained that he is not consistently STTN and usually wakes to nurse once or twice a night – could this mean that he is not getting enough calories during the day? I wanted to nip all of these issues in the bud but didn't have a clue where to start. I was beyond overwhelmed.

Her advice: cut out breastfeeding entirely. Give him no other option and he'll have no choice but to eat solids and drink from a sippy. And whatever I do, don't give in. Children at this age have the “power to manipulate” and if I breastfeed him after a meal, he is just going to fight me at the next feed until he gets the breast. She told me I could start weaning as soon as I felt ready but the longer I waited, the harder it would be. Soon, breastmilk won't be enough nutritionally so she suggested I think about that when making my decision. Regarding night weaning, she said he is not STTN because I am instilling poor sleep habits. Not because he is not eating enough during the day. A 1-year old is fully capable of STTN for 10 hours or more without food. I should use the CIO method so that he learns to self-soothe and can put himself back to sleep when he wakes. I also shouldn't nurse and rock him to sleep initially or else I'll be doing it to a preschooler. I should put him down fully awake and let him cry if necessary.

I was aghast. Was she serious? I was hoping to wean gradually. Over time. Not change everything all at once without warning. That hardly seems like a healthy approach for Nate or for myself. More physically and emotionally traumatic than anything. Not to mention the backhanded irony of "do it when you're ready but it better be soon or else".

Does she think my son is a robot – a machine that should fall into place on the assembly line of social acceptability? It couldn't possibly be in his best interest to starve him until he succumbs to self-feeding. Okay, maybe he wouldn't starve per se, but it still seemed like cruel and unusual punishment to me. I wouldn't want to be treated in such a way. How could I do something like that to my own flesh and blood?

I nodded in disbelief as she made her way out the door. Nate shed pools of tears from his three vaccinations and I wanted to cry right alongside him. It seemed like I was doomed to fail before I even began. Why does everything have to be so black and white? Is there no gray area here? When it comes to breastfeeding, is it truly all or nothing?

I should have left the office thrilled to have a healthy toddler but instead, I left confused, angry and defeated. I felt strangely guilty – for what I'm not sure. For not starting to research this sooner? For not being more insistent with solid feeding? For allowing myself to become a human pacifier for my son when he needed comfort at night? I just felt ashamed, as if I was solely responsible for the sleep and feeding issues we are having.

Making the decision to wean is inevitable (either baby-led or mommy-led) but it is also an extremely emotional one. I was feeling guilty enough knowing that I would be the one to break the tie that has bonded us so tightly over this past year. I didn't need to be shot down with derision.

I never would have thought I'd say this a year ago but I see nothing wrong with extended breastfeeding. My plan was always to breastfeed for 6 months, possibly a year. But the best laid plans don't always come to fruition. Now that I have bonded with my son and we are in a routine, my plans have changed. My feelings have changed. I want to nurse Nate as long as it remains a positive experience for the both of us. I cherish that time together, especially at night before bed and first thing in the morning. When he looks up and smiles at me with milk running out of the sides of his teeny mouth. But I also want my body back. Is that too selfish? It's been over a year and I have yet to get PPAF. DH and I would like to begin TTC #2 later this year, but without AF, it will be unlikely. We have some time but I wanted to start now because, with Nate being so adverse to change, I know that it will probably take months for us to see progress.

I came home and put Nate down for his morning nap while I did some research online, looking for any tips I could find about weaning. Out of the roughly twenty sites I viewed, NOT ONE suggested a sudden, voluntary cold-turkey approach. Each site recommended a gradual, patient, gentle approach so as to avoid physical and emotional repercussions in the mother (such as plugged ducts, mastitis, depression from hormone fluctuations) as well as the obvious stress for the baby.

In all of my venting and my desperate search for solutions, a friend of mine referred me to a La Leche League coordinator. She lended me her supportive ears and shoulders and sent me some valuable links to help ease the transition. We came to the same conclusion.

This doctor is a QUACK with a capital Q. She certainly has never breastfed and has no business giving advice about such sensitive subject matter. I will possibly be choosing yet another pediatrician due to this experience. That, or I will request that I NEVER see that particular doctor again and will go out of my way to ensure Nate's well visits will be conducted by other pediatricians in the practice. The final verdict has yet to be made.

DH and I had a long talk about how we wanted to implement this change and came up with our own plan of action. We are working on eliminating night feeds as top priority. When Nate wakes during the night, DH is going in to comfort him. We will continue to Ferberize if need be, but so far (knock on wood) we haven't needed to go in more than twice in 20 minutes for him to soothe himself back to sleep. The past four nights, he has only been waking once during the night and goes back down fairly easily, sleeping in his crib until our usual wakeup time of 7am. That's 11-12 hours total. Not too shabby.

I am now offering 3-4 solid meals a day (plus snacks) and am offering a sippy with milk, juice or water with each meal. If he wants to nurse, I offer solids first. Sometimes he is satisfied with the solids and other times he wants to breastfeed afterward. Either way is okay with me. I am just letting him lead the way, as I encourage him to try different flavors and textures. I am confident that with consistency, he will eventually come around and accept these new noshes. I did hit up BRU and practically bought out their sippy cup department so hopefully, soon, we will find one that is up to Mr. Picky's standards.

As he becomes more accustomed to our new routine, I will attempt to remove midday nursing sessions. Last to go will be the first AM and last PM feeds. We'll take it a day at a time until we get there.

He has really surpassed my expectations these past several days. He is eating many more finger foods in addition to his purees. He still fights me sometimes - maybe I time it wrong and he's not really hungry or maybe he's just being obstinate - but as I offer more variety, I can see his interest is peaked. You should have seen his facial expression upon discovering kiwi for the first time. Whoa.

I think I'm still in a bit of denial that our breastfeeding relationship will soon come to an end. I can't imagine not sharing that with him anymore. The thought saddens me deeply. Being able to breastfeed for a year and counting is one of my biggest achievements to date. I am so proud to have been able to give my son this precious gift. But I know all good things must come to an end.

It's just too ironic that all of this happened just in time for World Breastfeeding Week, eh?