Sunday, April 21, 2019

Three years.

Today is Passover. And Easter. And three years since my dad died. I feel compelled to post something on social media because that's how we're supposed to perform our grief these days, to say, in front of everyone we know and don't know, that You, Person I've Loved And Lost, You Are Not Forgotten. I know grief manifests in different ways for different people, but I'll say that for me, this performative grief is tough. It seems there's a specific message that is expected: a broadcast that while I am remembering my dad in sadness and fondness especially today, that ultimately, I am ok. And I am ok. And I am grieving. Check the social media box of remembering the dead, etc etc etc.

My dad died when I was nearly 5 months pregnant. During that time and since, my experience and understanding of time has warped. It's been about getting through moments and hours and weeks and months. Rarely years, until I look backwards and realize how many have passed. It's a peculiar sort of fog, crisp and blurred all at once. How much of that can be attributed to grief versus motherhood versus just the nature of getting older and living a busy life is not for me to say. But today is a singular day, filled with the expected moments of sadness and joy and of life going on as usual, and not. But so is every day, filled with sadness and joy and life going on and not. 

I'm sometimes caught off guard by a sudden wave of intense sadness, because I've thought of something I want to tell or ask my dad. Something he'd get a kick out of, or something that would be much more fun to ask him than to look up online. Some days it happens several times. Some days none. But my dad is never too far from my thoughts, and he often pops in, almost as if to say hi, and I like to think that somehow he's keeping gentle tabs on our life. That he knows about Margie's budding taste in music and that my 2004 Civic is still running strong. That he's proud that we carry his memory on our keychains and in our hearts when we visit the mountains. That he's still a part of us, and all around us, and in our recipe books and backyard BBQs.

So this is my regularly-scheduled sharing of grief. I know too many friends who have lost parents in the three years since I lost my dad, and this is the way it will continue to be. I was looking back on photos from April 2016, and found a little compilation that feels right for this post. Joyful, mostly, but with a small undercurrent of sadness, likely only understood by those who know.

My dad took this picture of me on a very short walk around the neighborhood. I was about 18 weeks pregnant, and he had just had a gigantic tumor removed from inside his torso. We laughed about our mutual shortness of breath and inability to breeze up the slight hill. We talked about the opposing reasons for our shortness of breath, laughing out of the gallows humor we shared.

I captioned this picture "sunshiney" in the pregnancy photo album where I was storing all of the photos of my pregnancy. I hadn't seen it in a long time, until tonight, and I was instantly transported back to that warm afternoon under the pepper trees.

I took my dad out for one of his favorite meals: French Dip from an old school Jewish deli. He didn't have much of an appetite, and only ate about half the sandwich, and he later reported that it did not agree with his stomach, "but it was so worth it." This was the last time we hung out like this, and the way my dad looked at that sandwich and was willing to sacrifice gastrointestinal discomfort for a good sandwich tells me very obviously where I get my love of food.
My dad and me, hiking in Yosemite. I must have been just about one year old on this trip, but I just love how confident and happy my dad looks. Yosemite was one of his favorite places on the planet, and it's mine too.

This one I like just because Margie has recently, out of nowhere, started talking about Dumbo. One of her classmates went to Disneyland, I think, and shared a photo with the class, but she came home one day and started talking about Dumbo the elephant. And then we saw a photo from another friend's trip to Disneyland - it looks pretty similar to this one, actually. But I had forgotten about this picture of me and my dad until tonight - I took a photo of it when I was home for the funeral and looking through old photo albums. Family trips to Disneyland are some of my favorite memories...and even more than the trips themselves, the process of saving our quarters in my dad's desk drawer until we had enough for tickets (only $25 per person at the time).

Monday, October 22, 2018

Some Things About Parenting

Part One
I really like our weeknight dinner routine. Most nights, I get home by 5:30, which gives me about half an hour to get dinner started before Margie and Will get home. Making dinner is grounding - a connection to the person I was before I was a mom. I'm lucky - I have a flexible enough work schedule that I can leave the office by 4:20, check in with work while on the bus home, and finish up a few loose ends after bedtime (or occasionally several hours' worth of loose ends, but not often). Before Margie, we ate most dinners on the floor, at the coffee table, in front of the TV. Since she's been old enough to sit with us, we eat every night around the dining room table that was once my grandparents'. The Marjorie for whom Margie was named would like that, I think.

Part Two
It's really important to me to be able to spend those 2ish hours together as a family as many nights as possible - if I'm going to miss dinner and bedtime, there better be a damn good reason. I don't do nearly as many speaking engagements as I used to. I don't schedule meetings that end after 4:15pm. I don't hang around the office for a beer, or stick around the city for drinks with friends (though let's be honest, I never really did that before, either). Before Margie, I usually left work by 6pm, even if coworkers were staying later for game night or movie night...I'm just not really a "hang out at work after work" kind of person. I like to be home. But especially since Margie, all I want to do is get home and get the chores out of the way before she gets home so that in those precious few hours between work/school and bedtime, I can be all hers.

Part Three
I am a busy lady, with a Very Important Career and a side hustle that's still a hustle. But I still fight for my family time. I fight for my nights and weekends. I've learned to say no and to be ok with what that means. I may not be as much of a "public figure" in my career as I used to be, whatever that means. I never want to look back at staying late at work as "time I won't get back" with my kid. That's not to say I never go out -- Will and I go on dates occasionally, and I do pick up the rare speaking gig when it's really important to me. I spent three days away from Margie running Camp OrgOrg. But these are the exception for me now; I'm extremely choosy about how I spend these special and few evening family time hours.

Part Four
I realize the immense privilege in what I describe. It's an absolute luxury to be able to have such control over my schedule, my choices. And still, I wish I could work from home more of the time. I wish I could work four day weeks. There are days where I wish I could be a stay at home mom (albeit one with part time childcare so that I'd still get a break and have time to myself). There is no perfect solution, and I operate from a baseline that's already higher than so many parents I know (and many more that I don't, of course). These are the choices that make sense for me, and for my family. They're certainly not for everyone. I'm lucky that my workplace affords people the option to be somewhat flexible in the hours spent in the office, at our desks. Not everyone is so lucky, and moreso, not everyone would choose this balance if it was an option for them. Even amongst my circle, I know people who are quite happy trading off mornings and evenings with their spouse so that they can each work longer hours at jobs they love. I know people who regularly travel for work, and I see how much joy it brings them to be their full non-parent selves in their awesome careers. I also know people who've dropped out of the workforce to care for children full-time.

We all just do our best, I think. I am just now so extremely aware of the choices I make, of the things I fight for and the things I concede. Everything feels intentional; it doesn't feel like I have the option to just let things happen anymore.

And that's all. That's some things about parenting. Some things I think I know and will probably laugh about years form now. The end.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Qualifying Done

It's been almost a year since I published anything here. In the meantime, I've gone through two (2!) acquisitions, seen friends through several weddings, mourned the loss of a family member, traveled to France, and camped in the mountains. Margie started school, and Will and I both started new jobs. Lots of change. It's telling, I think, that my last blog post was a tentative declaration of the end of pumping - after a very busy year with no blogging, I've finally come back to this space to tentatively declare the end of nursing.

It's funny to feel like "done" needs a qualification. I'm constantly finding myself saying that "I think" we're done with nursing, though if I'm honest with myself, I don't intend to nurse Margie again. I've never typed that or said it out loud definitively. It stings a little. It brings tears to my eyes to think that she will never nurse again, but that's the likely truth.

I had always said that when she could ask for it in complete sentences, I would be ready to wean her. And if that hadn't happened yet, I'd revisit our nursing situation around her 2nd birthday (which, ahem, is in 2 days). Even though she's had sentences for a few months, she was still saying "leche mama" or "want milk" when she wanted to nurse...which...technically, not sentences. I told myself we had a little while longer. But a couple of weeks ago, she said "want milk" and I asked if she wanted me to get some milk in a cup. She looked me straight in the eye and said, in perfect deadpan, "want milk from mommy's nipple."

That about froze me in my tracks. No question about it; this girl knew how to ask for exactly what she wanted. Nothing like the phrase "milk from mommy's nipple" (which she then used several more times over a few days) to make you question just how free spirited (or something) you are -- I'm not sure what it was about that phrase specifically, but for me, that moment was the confirmation I needed that it was time for us to stop.

But I was scared. Nursing was so hard at first, and it had become such a special way for us to bond, something no one else could do for her. I've been afraid that if I choose to wean her, I'm giving up my one superpower or something. There was also the timing (a convenient cover for my emotional reasons not to wean). I knew that while we're not trying to get pregnant right now, I didn't want to nurse while pregnant, and I didn't want trying to get pregnant to be the reason I stop nursing. I didn't want to wean her before our vacations, or immediately before starting school -- but now that we're a few weeks into school and back from all our travels, the timing felt right. So I waited until it seemed like Margie was ready...which...when she's asking so directly, I felt she was. And I was, too (mostly). We have other ways to bond now, and I'm less worried about my baby not connecting with me (or whatever those complicated feelings belie).

I was really nervous about instigating it myself; I'd hoped she would just gradually lose interest. But she didn't -- not on on her own, anyway. Nursing first thing in the morning and right before bed was our routine, and I think we were both attached to it. Luckily, it only took a small change in our routine (literally, I asked her if she wanted a "story with mommy before stories with daddy" instead of "milk with mommy before stories with daddy" and she happily obliged), but we only had one hard meltdown with hysterical sobs for "milk from mommy's nipple", which happened in the middle of the night when I wouldn't have nursed her anyway (I held back tears while I told her we weren't going to have milk, but that I would rock her). I feel extremely lucky that she's taken to weaning so well. It's been pretty easy for us, as far as routines and navigating changes go. We still have lovely snuggles when we read before bed, and in the morning while "daddy's in da shower! washin' da hair! washin' da tummy! washin' da tushie hahahahahahahaha". She's still super mommy-obsessed, to the point where there are times when I hide in the other room (if she's happily playing and hasn't seen me yet) or plan things where she'll have daddy time without me. It's still great. She's a big kid, but she's still my baby.

It's been pretty rough on my hormones, as expected. It's been about a week since we last nursed, or maybe a little more. Strangely, I can't remember exactly when we last nursed. I think it was before work, on Monday or Tuesday of last week. I guess I'm kind of glad to not know. I didn't want a big dramatic "this is the last time!" nursing session. That would have been too hard for me. I probably would have sobbed through the whole thing and after. It's better this way, probably for both of us. But it's still a little weird. I guess I can have that breastmilk "pearl" necklace made now, as a way to mark the passage of time. I think I care less about it than I did, but I have the frozen milk and I've already paid for it, so I may as well.

Oh yeah, the hormones. The ups and downs have been intense the last few days. Which makes sense, since the body takes a few days to adjust to changes in the nursing routine. My chest sometimes feels tight and heavy, and I can't tell if that's milk trying to letdown and then not letting down, or if it's just hormones raging through my veins, just under the surface, ready to make me cry or dance at the drop of a hat. I notice that I get really, really sad whenever my supply changes (like previous times when Margie would drop a nursing session) - several days of tiny nothing comments sending me into an intense need for solitude and tears. It passes, and I assume this will pass as well. I've heard the end of nursing can wreak havoc on your system; as bad as postpartum depression and PMS and pregnancy mood swings all rolled into one. I'm steeling myself, a bit. Bracing myself for some low lows.

I'm looking forward to the hormones to settle down, and maybe I'll buy myself some new bras in a few weeks (months?) when my breasts return to whatever size they're going to be. And for now I'll just ride the waves as best I can. I don't know that I'll ever be jumping with glee, congratulating myself for being done with nursing (why is it that everyone's response to weaning news is "CONGRATULATIONS!!!" like that's the only/obvious way to feel about it?), but I guess I can be happy for the experience we had, and find ways to be not just comfortable, but glad to be moving on to the next parenting milestones.

Would love to hear other stories of weaning, and life post-nursing, from anyone who wants to share.

Friday, October 13, 2017

And here we are

It's been almost two weeks since my last post, when I was determining whether The End Of Pumping was upon me. I haven't pumped in two weeks. I'm done. I think I can safely bring the pump home from work, do a final sterilization of all the parts, and put it in storage until a potential future someday where I'll need it again.

So I'm not pumping anymore. My body seems to have adjusted. It feels sort of anticlimactic, to be honest, but I'm glad to have the time back in my day, and I don't feel as sad as I thought I would about the fact that I'm not producing milk for Margie while I'm at work.

She's nursing a bit less now, we're down to 3 times (morning, a usually-short session after work, and bedtime) as well as whatever happens overnight. Which...has been 1 or nothing lately. We've had an interesting week with sleep, so I'll just share.

  • Sunday night (first night back home after a few nights away, where sleep was a little wonky): about 45 min of on and off crying (Will went in for one check)
  • Monday night: about an hour of on and off crying, 1-2am (my going in for a check made it worse, Will going in made it better)
  • Tuesday night: SHE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT. 8:15pm-7:20am. Without waking up. If you're keeping track, that's three nights in a row with no nursing overnight.
  • Wednesday night: One wakeup at 4am; I nursed her, though we probably could have done cry-it-out.
  • Thursday night: Nursed at 2:30am, Will rocked her back down at 5:45 after what we think was a nightmare. The air quality is really bad right now because of huge fires, and our throats and noses are dry, so we're trying to be a little more responsive to resolving her upsets.

But sleep is about a million times better than it was. Bedtime is a breeze of delightful reading and cuddles. There will always be something that comes in to mess with sleep, be it smoky air or emerging teeth or a handful of new words. But I feel like the default has improved; the baseline has risen. Things are getting better. And even though most nights are still a little wakeful, I got 8 hours of sleep in a row for the first time in over a year and a half. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

First Day?

Here I am in Week 3 of Weaning From The Pump. And I think...I am not pumping today? Am I done now? Like, forever?

Last week, I pumped once a day, for 30 minutes. Monday and Tuesday, I was all full and tingly feeling by 1pm (aka pump o'clock). Wednesday and Friday (I'm home on Thursdays and don't pump) I didn't get tingly by 1pm, but I pumped at that time anyway. I got between 3-4oz in that 30min session all four days. Great. Enough for a bottle, and it looks like my body has adjusted to the new schedule (it takes 2-3 days for the milk production to adjust to a change in schedule), despite nursing more than usual overnight last week.

And now it's today. I was going to pump for 15 minutes Mon-Wed this week (we're traveling Thurs-Fri) and then consider myself done. Taper the end out slowly and gently. But things have been getting busy at work today, and I hadn't been getting the "full and tinglies" so I just haven't done it. But now it's 3pm, and I'm starting to feel the tingles...and yet I think I'm going to try to hold out another 2.5 hours and just nurse at home. I don't want to go through the hassle of setting up and tearing down the pump situation if I don't have to. It's time for Margie to learn to drink non-breastmilk anyway, so if I don't come home with a bottle she'll either have thawed milk from the freezer or soy milk tomorrow.

It's really strange to not pump. You spend so much time thinking and worrying and calculating how much time you're pumping and ounces you're producing -- for months, I've been obsessed with these numbers. And now, I'm just choosing not to pump. Because even though I know that I could go into the pumping room and crank out a 3-4oz bottle (hi, full breasts!), that's not the goal. My goal is not to pump enough for tomorrow's bottle. My goal is to not pump at all. For her to have a bottle or cup of soy milk and for my boobs to stop producing milk between the hours of 8:30am-5:30pm. I keep telling myself this, because it feels somehow wasteful to not bring home a bottle when I could - the milk is just sitting there, filling up, waiting to be emptied and I'm just letting it sit, teaching my body to stop making it.

Even on weekends, recently, it seems that Margie is less interested in nursing during those "business" hours. Maybe we're somehow telepathically syncing up. She's not super interested in nursing - there's too much to see and do - and my body is adapting. Timed well with the pumping-weaning, maybe it's a coincidence, or maybe it's Just Time.

I'm trying to ride the wave and let this happen as it happens and not get too emotional about it. But between the "is this the right thing? what should I do?" and the "my baaaaaby is a toddddler and she doesn't neeeed meeeee the same waaaaaay" feelings...there's a lot going on.

But today might be the first day I don't pump. So that's a thing.

Friday, September 22, 2017

1,367 Words About Pumping and Weaning

When I first started pumping, I had an oversupply of milk. For a long time, I was one of those people who had an abundance of milk; the joyful burden of leaking breasts and spraying milk all over the room. It was funny, but it was comforting, knowing I didn't have the supply struggles of so many new moms. It was a luxury I was grateful to have. Over time, as I was pumping more often than I was nursing during the day, I went from often pumping in excess to pumping "just enough" for the next day. In my three pumping sessions per day, I would pump the requisite 16, then 12, then 8 ounces - my body somehow knowing to adjust output based on what my baby needed. It felt something like magical, and I tried to trust my body to make what my baby needed. I felt lucky, and #blessed and all that. And my body has continued to keep up with Margie's needs, even though that means now I'm barely getting 3-4oz per day. "It's ok; that's all she needs," I tell myself, though it's hard to reconcile.

It's not a problem; it's a natural phase. My baby is almost one. Eating solid foods. Not requiring as much breastmilk in her diet. And my body knew this, though my heart didn't want to accept it. My baby is growing up. I would come home from work to find she hadn't finished her second bottle; she'd only consumed 6 ounces while I was away, and now I had to feed her from a bottle instead of from the breast to avoid wasting precious pumped milk. But even though this change was happening, and I could see in front of me what she was drinking, coming home from work with "only" 6 ounces of milk felt like a failure. And over the next few weeks, I started coming home with 5, or 4. Occasionally 7, for reasons I don't really understand, but blame on hormones. I'm grateful that my body has been able to give me this experience, even if I don't fully understand the "magic"-seeming parts of it.

And now that I'm producing just enough for one bottle, and she's old enough to have cow's or non-dairy milk in a bottle, I've decided to start weaning myself off of pumping. She will likely still nurse in the morning and before bed, and she is still waking to nurse at least once overnight, and often more than that. But during the day, she doesn't need the one 4 ounce bottle I've been pumping three times a day to bring home to her. It's time for me to give myself a break, and release myself from the routine of pumping.

I had an epiphany in therapy recently: one of the reasons I've kept up with pumping for so long is that it feels like something I am doing for my daughter, even though I'm away from her all day at work. The milk I bring home is a gift I've made for her each day. While I'm away for 9 hours, I'm still spending 90 minutes thinking of her, working for her, producing for her. It feels like a kindness, a motherliness, something that tugs at the most biologically basic need inside me to provide for her. And I didn't want to sever that connection.

A friend told me that when it's time to stop pumping, "you'll just know." But I couldn't decide when to start weaning off the pump, and I was losing my mind going around in circles about it - clearly I didn't "just know". So I just decided to keep on keeping on, three times a day, until I "knew" I was ready. And last week, I knew.

It's not that simple, of course. It's not easy to just stop cold turkey. I am a person who is apparently quite sensitive to changes in my hormone levels -- when Margie consolidated her afternoon bottle and post-work nursing session into one, I started having hot flashes and hormonal mood swings. I've heard that it's best to be gentle on your body if you can, dropping one pumping session per week until you're down to zero. I had planned on this week being the last of 3x/day, and dropping to 2x/day next week, and so on, but a delayed work meeting schedule meant that I had an accidental 2x/day on Monday, so I just took it as a sign to start now. I wasn't in the office Tuesday or Thursday, so this week hasn't been a full pumping week, but I figured I might as well rip off the emotional bandaid anyway.

It's weird to only pump twice a day. When I clean up after the second session, I have to remind myself to clean all the way up and not just stick things back in the fridge until next time. When I'm pumping for the second time, I have to accept that that's all I'm getting for the day - I won't squeeze another ounce or so out of a third session. I have to remember to get the bottles at the end of the day, since my final session isn't immediately followed by my leaving the office anymore. It's not a big deal, and I recognize the privilege of even being in this position, but it's still taking emotional and mental energy to sort out.

So today is Friday. My last day of pumping twice a day. Next week it'll just be one session, midday, assuming my breasts can handle that (I assume they can, since I very rarely even have full-feeling breasts, much less engorgement, anymore). I've barely taking home 3-4 oz per day so far, and I'm guessing that next week will be even less. And that's ok - that's kind of the point. When we run out of 4oz bottles in the fridge, we'll move on to the 3oz bottles. There are some 3oz bags in the freezer. We can supplement with cow's milk or soy milk, or nothing, says her pediatrician, as long as she's still eating dairy (and this girl loves cheese in all forms, so no problem there). After next week, when we run out of milk in the freezer, we'll be done with breastmilk in bottles.

I'm feeling an odd combination of relief and freedom and sadness. I don't even want to imagine how it will feel to be done with breastfeeding altogether, but I'm not ready for that yet, and thankfully, neither is Margie as far as I can tell. I'll be glad to be done with the "brain weasels" of counting ounces and timing how long bottles have been out or thawed or frozen or not. It will be nice not to have my work day broken up by my dates with the machine. I'll miss catching up on Netflix or just looking at baby pictures.

When I enter the pumping room (which is great; it's lovely; I designed it - I'm very lucky), I sigh at the effort of getting myself set up. Locking the door. Closing the blinds. Taking off my shirt. Putting on the strapless pumping bra. Attaching the pump parts. Etc etc etc. repeat in reverse at the end. I'm definitely ready to be done. But when the letdown starts, and I'm watching videos of my baby while watching little drops fall into the bottles, I think it's not that bad (thanks, oxytocin) and feel twinges of sadness about this part of my life ending. I've been doing it for almost 10 months now. That's a lot. It feels like a lot. And yet, I can't believe it's almost over.

But it's time. I suppose I'll report back when I'm officially done pumping. It feels like I should have some sort of ceremony or celebration on my last day, or at least tell my officemates that the pumping room is no longer being used. But I feel a little too melancholy and not quite celebratory enough for that. Guess I'll blame the hormones.

I'd love to hear your pumping and weaning stories below, if you want to share them!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Glamorous Life of a (This) Working Mom

I don't know what happened last night. There's a lot running through my head this morning, and rather than send a flood of eleventyfive tweets, I figured I'd write a blog post. It's been a while, anyway.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm Having it All. I'm crushing it at work, my side hustle is churning along smoothly, the baby is sleeping in regular, 4-hour chunks throughout the night, and my jeans fit comfortably.

Most of the time, I look at Having it All Me, and I don't even believe that those things have ever happened independently, much less all at once. I feel barely coherent at work, I go days without responding to side hustle emails (much less working on projects), Margie's awake every hour needing to be nursed or held and rocked back to sleep, and my jeans are too tight. I think you can guess what kind of time it is today. I'm two cups of coffee and a green tea in, and it's only 2:30, and I don't know how I'm going to make it through the rest of the afternoon and evening.

This was *hilarious* to me at 8:45 this morning.
Sleep has eluded us for a few nights now, but the whole sleep training thing is sort of out the window because of The Trifecta: Teething (#4 is large and in charge and right under the gum), Developmental Changes (crawling and pulling herself to standing), and Probable Illness (Will and I both have sore throats). Last night was epically rough, returning to the world of The Thunderdome (aka having a newborn), where she would only sleep if being held. I think there may have been one stretch of 2-3 hours of sleep in a row, but honestly, I can't remember. I barely stumbled to work and stayed awake all day, and now it's almost 4:30 and I'm finally finishing this blog post while pumping.

I made it through the work day, and somehow I'll make it through tonight, because that's what has to happen, and that's how this works. But man. I have two more long work days ahead of me, and we're going camping this weekend, and I am praying to St. Swaddlesnooze that Margie starts sleeping again.

I'm always full of questions and research and trying to Figure Things Out -- trying to find a reason for the behavior change because understanding why might help us turn things around. But lately, I'm trying to lean into the chaos. To throw my arms in the air and just ride the wave, because what else can I do? Babies are gonna baby. And there might be different or better ways to do things, but all I can do is take it one day at a time and hope that I don't look back in years and think I was an idiot. Or even I do, I hope I can be kind to my sleep-deprived past self and realize that I was just doing my best to survive Thunderdome.