Sunday, March 29, 2009

Asleep at the plate

Our child never just randomly fell asleep places. Never. Well, not unless he was nursing and in a sling and under a year old. He never fell asleep sitting in a car seat unless he was in a moving car. Not. Once.

About six months ago, he started to tank occasionally during dinner if he hadn't napped. We felt like we'd finally arrived as parents, with a kid not needing a ton of hand-holding to release his hold on hyper-aware living. We also liked getting him to bed early, especially after a day with no break. Now, with longer daylight due to the crazy early daylight savings time this year, I've felt like the days drag on forever. "It's not nighttime yet," he remarks when I close the shades against a sunny sky at 5:30 p.m.

But I guess I found a recipe for getting your newly 3-yr-old to fall asleep during dinner at a restaurant:
Make sure he doesn't nap for a least two weeks. Then take him outside to ride a tricycle in the morning and then in the afternoon on the Metro to meet cousins and watch kites fly in the non-windy humid air. Then spend about two hours in the most crowded museum on earth (National Museum of Natural History on a rainy day at the beginning of Cherry Blossom Festival) with five other children (ages 4-11). Wend your way through entire museum to get to bathroom 45 min. before closing time. Then work your way out again to exit, walk to Metro station, call husband at home to tell him to meet you at a neighborhood restaurant since you have nothing to eat and you and the boy are both ravenous and exhausted. Watch child inhale food at first, then space out and finally put his head on his arm and start snoring. Put sack of potatoes into car, change at home into pull-up and pj pants and call it a day.

At least he went quietly!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rocking and not nursing

Tonight was the first time I did bedtime duty since we've stopped nursing. Yes, he asked. Actually, he didn't ask and hasn't been asking, but he has said, "I want to nurse." My reply? "I know," and "I understand." And then try something else -- interlocking hands, sometimes asking for a hug, tonight singing ("You Are My Sunshine").

Tonight he was one tired kid who'd been kept up way too late but his parents who both tried to go jogging after 5 p.m. (me with him to the grocery store, his dad solo, starting about the time we were leaving the store). Even though someone from Craigslist with a loud voice came over just then to buy a old DVR from my husband, the boy's breathing started to get deep, and I just kept singing until the door had shut and the snoring was strong. In fact, he sort of squirmed in his new sleep as if to say, "Get me in bed where I can stretch out."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weaning Chronicles winding down

I can't believe it's already almost time to pick up my son from his new Spanish preschool and I'm still in my pajamas.

I need to get down before something changes that it is Tuesday at 11:30 and I haven't nursed him since Saturday at 7:30. I was rushing and he happily jumped down after a turn on each side because I said I needed to go do errands as a surprise for his birthday, which is TODAY! (I bought a Curious George balloon and ordered Helium ones to pick up Monday morning before his playdate party).

Then Sunday was a very busy day with lots of outside activity, and he fell asleep on the way home from another bday party. It was a little weird for me to not even offer to nurse him -- just washed him off and put him in his jammies. And then the next day was busy with friends. He asked once in the afternoon, and I said we could after dinner. But then he didn't pick up on on the hints that I was leaving to tutor, so my husband put him to bed again without having nursed at all.


Fastforward over twelve hours (to Tuesday night). I didn't get to finish that post. I was going to try to capture all my feelings about weaning, but now I think I'm on the other side.

After two days of no nursing, it seemed clear that my son was ready to be done. He had a blast the last two days, and today too. So after we went to dinner, opened the last round of presents (just a few from us), we made motions to get ready for bed and he said, "I want you to put me to bed." I assured him I would.

In the rocking chair, I showed him the album of my pregnancy and the early days of his babyhood. I talked about how much he needed help back then and how much he can do on his own now. I said, "You didn't nurse all day yesterday or all day the day before, so I know you're ready."
I videotaped myself telling him, as he snuggled next to me, looking out at the camera:
"It has been an honor and a privilege to nurse you for these past three years. It's helped us to be close in a really special way. But now you're three, and we talked about you stopping nursing when you were three, right? It's your birthday, right?"
"And now we can do other things that will help us feel close."
"Are you ready to go to bed now."
"Yeah. I want to see" and then tried to look at the video.
We watched the snippet I took of the violinist at the restaurant and then just looked at each other for a few moments, both smiling, me crying, too. I explained again that this would be our last time nursing, and he just said, "Last time." I asked him to give me a hug, and he did it with enthusiasm. Somehow he shifted from his head on my left side to my right, and he asked, "This side?" I said sure and turned off the light.

His latch already seemed different. I was distracted at first wondering if I shouldn't have taped that (I'm already glad I did for me) and feeling like watching the violin was out of character...

Fastforward now 24 hrs (to Wednesday night). He woke up last night crying as I was typing the above entry. He was asleep next to his dad in our bed by the time I went up. He did ask this morning, "Can we nurse downstairs?" I said no, we were all done. I can't remember if he whined a little or not b/c now I'm thinking about tonight. He was sad that I was going to leave to tutor and not nurse him. LJ said, "This is hard for Mommy too. Give her a hug. It's a change, but you're both ready to be done." I reiterated that he was grown up and I loved him so much and always would. He started getting sad after I did interlocking hands and sang "You Are My Sunshine." That's when he climbed into my arms and wanted to nurse. LJ's words helped me to focusl; I got E to calm down by telling him I understood. "Remember last night, how I videotaped that it was going to be our last time?" He nodded. I think I said something like I would miss it, too and asked for a BIG hug!

I said I'd see him in the morning and we'd go to school together. "Will we have rolls?" he asked. LJ and I explained that we'd have cake because it was his birthday this week and that he'd get to wear the special crown. A minute later, LJ said from the bedroom, "10 Minutes to Bed," the name of a book a friend got for us, and E started toddling down to the hall to hear the story. He smiled and said to me, "See you in the morning." We blew kisses and each told each other, "I love you very much!" I'm told he fell asleep pretty quickly, and certainly without fuss. I'm so glad he had his sad time with me while I was hear so that we could acknowledge that a transition was happening.

Then at 11, about 3+ hrs after he'd gone to bed, he woke crying. Not sure how long he'd been awake-- didn't have the monitor on and LJ was playing guitar downstairs. When I went up, he was sitting up in his bed. I asked if he needed to go potty. He replied, "I just want to nurse" in a way that said, no, you can't fix it because I can't have what I want and I know it. He wasn't asking; just telling me how he felt. I said sympathetically, "I understand" and laid him back down in his bed. I tucked him in and laid my arm over his body while I half-laid down next to him. He wanted to try to feel my skin on my belly but didn't get grabby, and he fell back asleep quickly. I wish I'd remembered to start Walnut flower essence for transition and Red Chestnut for connection to loved one before his birthday!


So back to last night -- the last night of nursing. After initially questioning my use of technology, I decided just to be in the moment -- to remember the experience I was having right then instead of worrying I'd documented its prelude wrong! Honestly, JC! Still, in the darkness, I also thought about all the time we'd spent with him in my arms at my breast. I wept but felt very much like this was just a poignant passageway. I knew it was the right time for us, and I know that not having this particular kind of connection will free us up to make new connections that are right for us right now. It had been such a lovely three days without nursing as part of our dynamic. It was clear to me he wanted permission to let it go, to not have that need anymore and to not be fulfilling a need of mine, either. I know I was invested in this relationship at so many levels.

When I came downstairs, LJ held me and I sobbed. Everything about the whole three years was right there, especially the exact three years earlier. At 8:50 we would have been prepping to go into the OR, and by 9:40 we were singing to our son, starting this journey that has been so intense and powerful. I keep telling him how lucky I am to have him in my life. LJ said E was lucky to have me. I really don't believe in luck; I have to trust that we all chose each other. I believe that about everything, but most things it's not immediately clear why things happen a certain way. With mothering my son, it feels so abundantly clear. Even the moments, days, weeks of frustration and doubt; there is such a strong sense for me that this is an inevitable unfolding that someone wiser than me or my more enlightened soul in the pre-life planned out. I know this is getting pretty woo-woo, but this has been a powerful time for me.

As I move to finally publish this post, I'm realizing that I have a new identity. I'm no longer a breastfeeding mom. Now I need to add the label "weaning" (I guess it should have been there before - maybe I'll go back and do that to help me see the progression). I need to find the rest of my real bras or, novel idea, actually buy some. After this birthday week of gorging on cake (gluten-free, dairy-free and low-sugar only goes so far if you keep adding chocolate chips with every bite), I'm going to get serious about a cleanse, and this time I can really do it up because no one else will be getting anything I might detox.

Wow. I nursed my son for three years. And now I'm done. And he's going to be just fine.

And so am I.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sushi kid

Last night our son had for dinner half an orange and almost half a can of lentil vegetable soup (Amy's, I think) because we had nothing prepared after getting home from an outing. We knew he wouldn't last long, so we stuffed whatever we could into him as fast as we could. I think there was some coconut milk and coconut milk yogurt with blueberries and nuts after that.

He didn't seem bothered that we weren't eating as a family. We ordered from a Japanese and Thai restaurant for delivery after the kid would be in bed. While my husband was on the phone, E asked what he was talking about, and we said he was getting food for tomorrow. I spelled out for him c-u-k-e r-o-l-l and said it might help us out the following day. E heard LJ say to the restaurant "cucumber roll" and asked, "Do they have sushi there?" Nothing gets by this kid.

So today, when he was looking in the fridge for the umpteenth time, he discovered last night's delivery treat and announced, "Oh! The sushi came!"

Better than Santa!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Eleven hours of sleep

My son woke up in his own bed today at 7:00 a.m. He went to bed at 8:00 last night. This is unheard of! Eleven hours solid, and solo.

I'd woke up before 6:00 and had already come downstairs and done a few things -- also a rarity, though a goal I've been wanting to work toward for a while. I went up when he called for me since my husband was still resting. We chatted, me sitting on the glider rocker, him sitting up in bed. I opened his blinds and turned on his little moon light from Ikea. Then we read a few books. I'm trying to make it seem like it was extra fun to spend time in his room in the morning. I don't mind snuggles in bed, but if this is one more step toward independence and feeling secure in his own skin, I'm all for it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Toward weaning

I had a good talk today with the teacher of our parent-child class at the Waldorf school. The point was mostly to talk about my son's readiness for the extended day (12-3) next fall, which I'd like to have him in after the 8:30-12:00 three-day kindergarten. I explained how frustrating our afternoons can be when we leave the PC program or another thing on another day that ends before lunch. He always wants to go outside or to a park or something else when his body needs to just eat and rest. We have not had consistent naps for six months now, but lately he's even added, "I don't want to have rest time." Then later, after we've spent 90 minutes or more of just quiet down time -- some time reading books, sometimes a little nursing time (while I read or work on the computer), some time with him playing quietly on his own while I put away laundry or sit at the laptop -- he'll occasionally say, "Oh! We forgot to have rest time!" I think he'd benefit from a consistent ritual that had him separate from me, but I haven't had any luck creating that here in the house. About a half-dozen times over the past several months, I've taken him to a sitter's all day, and he's napped there, going to sleep on his own on her bed or couch. Not so with me!

It seemed adequate to have just some quiet lull in the day when I could get him in bed by 7:30 at the latest (sometimes even an hour earlier than that), but now with daylight savings and longer days, I feel like he's just going to get worn out if he doesn't rest. And so will I! Yesterday I tried to tell him we could go back out in the car to a further-away park later if he would spend some time in his room alone -- even just reading or playing. He resisted even the mention of it, so I didn't fight it.

Anyway, when I mentioned the issue of nursing and my conflicting thoughts on weaning, the teacher, though she was respectful and said it was up to us, of course, made the point that some of our push-pull issues might dissipate once we wean. When she said back in Sept. or Oct., "Well, he's outgrown his need for [nursing]," I firmly disagreed. But my husband and I are both feeling like she might be right now -- that this intense, intimate connection to me is interfering with his developing sense of self as an individual.

The way he talks about my body and nursing has lately gotten beyond just a little weird toward downright embarrassing and inappropriate (I'm saving some of those quotes for another day, maybe for a piece I'll try to send out). He's started to say at least once a day the past few days, "I'm going to stop nursing when it's my birthday," and yesterday he asked, "Is this the last day we're going to nurse?" Today and two days ago, we nursed only before bed. He asked to nurse in bed in the morning (he's coming into bed at some point in the morning and going back to sleep), but we never did nurse when we came downstairs and we didn't in the afternoon, either. (Yesterday I went to an attachment parenting meeting and actually nursed him there -- first time in public in a long while; I think he got the AP vibe!)

I'd suggested a month or so ago that we might stop nursing after he turns three, but I wasn't sure how hard and fast I wanted to be about it. The Waldorf teacher says, "He's looking to you to set boundaries. The decision needs to come from you, and you need to be comfortable to stand by it." I still don't know if I want to do a weaning party after his bday or to have his bday be the last day since he's saying that. Another friend and former LLL leader suggested that it's easier to wean when it's warm out, and of course it's gotten chilly again here, so that seems far off (even if the crocuses and daffodils are blooming, and the magnolias and pear trees are budding).

Someone at the API meeting suggested Becky Bailey's book I Love You Rituals. I think we need to figure out something that is special between us that is not related to my boobs or my body. I was thinking maybe a massage or a little song or prayer. I just read through the book description at Amazon and am purchasing a used copy in another window. We only have 10 days before he turns three!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Signs of spring - and back to winter

We have had some crazy ups and downs with weather here in the DC area. On Monday of the week the nandina bush photo was taken, it snowed several inches. Great sledding on our slope in our yard, which we otherwise don't love.

By Friday of that week, March 6, we were all melted and looking at new growth. Then on Sunday morning, the first day of daylight savfings time, my son wanted to try out his new helmet, so there we were biking around the neighborhood before 9 a.m., in sandals, in front of crocuses (other people's have been blooming for a few weeks, but our front yard faces north and takes a long time. First come the yellow/orange. In a week I expect the purple). It felt almost steamy later that day! We started a few seedlings to bring inside.

What a shock to the system then today to be were back to mittens and hats after some wicked wind brought a new system. It is still March, after all, I know. And every year is different. When I was pregnant in 2006, the pear trees were already blooming by now (I know because we took photos outside looking up at my huge belly). But I've also seen snow the last week of March, and my husband has run in three very chilly Cherry Blossom 10-Milers. This year the cherry blossoms are expected to be about a week behind the peak of March 29ish as it's been the past three years -- peak bloom is predicted as April 3-9.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PlayDoh saves the (birth)day

Thank you, crazy toy from my neighbor. You might have saved my birthday.
Until we made homemade playdough at my friend's house last weekend, the only playdouh I owned was the great stuff made by A Toy Garden -- pink is has peppermint essential oil, purple has lavender. They are lovely. But I rarely play with them. I leave that to the babysitter when she and my friend's daughter come over for four hours a week.

Yesterday my neighbor -- who has supplied us with one of those little coupe cars, lots of plastic trucks that live in the backyard and a recycling truck (and guy!) that hangs out in the living room brought by a whole bag of PlayDoh and PlayDoh accessories. It was not my favorite moment; I was trying to nurse my son so in a short while we could get out of the house to an appointment with the magic chiropractor/homeopath that, I hoped, would cure me of my March malaise. Actually, I made the appt. in February, already feeling the blahs, the negative cycle that is easy for me to slip into that this time of year.

Anyway, my hubby had left for work with the carseat in his car, so I had to scramble to borrow one. A friend dropped one off while the sitter was here and I was working like a madwoman in the basement. A few hours later, when my son was dying to play with this new bag 'o stuff, I was rushing to get the heck out of here in one piece. It was one of those days where every wrong thing means you should never have been born. The sun was shiny bright, obviously mocking my pain. The strap with the clips was too short. I was sobbing, unable to get the seat in the middle, so I tried it on the side. But, alas, carseats are not my forte. Pretty much anything that involves spatial relations and physics gives me the willies.

I thought I had it reasonably secure, but the first corner we turned, my son said, "Whoa!" I looked back at his tippy seat and knew I could not get on the highway. So I pulled into a parking lot and tried to no avail to fix the tension so his seat would be safe. I called the chiro and in between sobs tried to tell her what was going on, see if she was running late. She wasn't. So generously she suggested I call her back so we could settle the $120 I still owed her for the missed appt. What she lacks in compassion she makes up in skill, but I'd have liked to have had the compassion just then.

I put my boy in the front seat so I could try the seat again and at least get it safe enough to go back home, just a few blocks, but through a busy intersection. You know how they say accidents often happen close to home! Guess what? They do. An 80-year-old man was driving through the parking lot perpendicular to me. I looked straight at him thinking, of course he's going to stop and back up to turn the wheel some more. He did not. Crunch. He hit my rear bumper. It was a light tap, but I was already a madwoman with a birthday and a toddler in the front seat. I started screaming, called the cops, told him to get out his insurance card so we could exchange info as the cops advised (he didn't carry it with him, didn't know he was supposed to, just "got here." "Where? To the United States?" He was clearly no recent arrival!) He was a jerk, asking me deadpan to show him the damage, and "was I going fast?" Does it matter? You HIT the car! Apologize, asshole? Take some responsibility!

I took down his driver's license info and as the jerk continued to act like I was just some crazy woman, lit into him with clear ageism: He said he didn't think he'd hit the car, and I said if he couldn't see that kind of obvious accident waiting to happen maybe he shouldn't be on the road. You HIT the car!

Anyway, a friend happened to call me in my worst hour with a kind offer to help, which I rejected. My son held it together well, and I told him we'd go home and do the PlayDoh. His father heard the fear and anger in my voice and said he'd arrange to come home early. My friend from the phone call stopped by, kids sleeping in her car, and got me out of my head a bit such that by the time LJ got here, I was in a better place. It was sunny. We pushed dough through small places and laughed at what was squeezed out. We made spaghetti hair, something my husband had never done as a kid. My son loved it. We made a mess, and then we all cleaned it up. My other friend called to say that she was on for going with me to Lunafest that night. I had a hunch the short-film festival of movies by and about women was going to salvage my day. I just didn't know to what extent, and I didn't know that PlayDoh was going to be the transition that made it possible.

We ordered take-out at the Indian place. LJ took the boy over to his friend's to drop off the loser carseat, and he was thrilled to see his friend outside. I basked in the quiet, uploaded some photos and finally wrote a blog post on my other blog. They got the food and came home. The boy had a great time with his dad, and we had a good dinner. I knew the rest of the night would be nice and that tomorrow would come. It's sunny again. My eyes are a little puffy, but they are dry.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Time flies when you're not nursing

I realized this week that I am more than complicit in the non-weaning campaign of my son. When he was sick, I did a ton of reading on the couch while we nursed, but since then I've started to use nurse time as type time. He brings me the little pillow, and I get through a few emails or maybe half a blog posting if I'm lucky.

This week was a busy week in my volunteer/work life, so all those spare seconds were quickly used up. But there weren't as many spare seconds! Today and yesterday -- days with Daddy home, I ought to point out -- were days of nursing only upon awaking and going to bed. Finally, back to where we were two months ago! Less groping, but less guilt-free computer time.

Truthfully, though, I have no idea where we'll be tomorrow or, more importantly, where I actually want to be. About two weeks ago I mentioned just a few times to my son that maybe after he turned three, he wouldn't need to nurse anymore. I didn't go into detail but did mention that some other kids didn't nurse anymore and that it just might be time to stop. Then, on a Friday, we went to a farm with another friend and saw brand-new piglets. I actually captured on video a conversation that started talking about the pigs nursing and then turned into my son saying, "I like nursing! And I'm going to stop nursing when it's my birthday!" Yee haw, I thought! He's going to give it up without a fight! I wondered if I'd even need to put together the weaning party I'd been thinking of.

But the next day and for the rest of the weekend and following week, he copped a whiny, "I want to nurse" whenever the slightest thing bothered him. I picked back up Mothering Your Nursing Toddler and How Weaning Happens, both of which made me feel like if I just accepted that he'd naturally want to nurse until four or five, everything would be fine. That's an exaggeration; they are great books, but I forgot how late a lot of the anecdotes take nursing. (The Natural Child Project reminds us that chimps and gorillas generally nurse five or six years! Oh, and the book I probably really need is The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning.)

As I wrote recently on DC Metro Moms, I don't think I have it in me to keep this up forever, especially if we want to have another child and I don't want to spiral into a health or depression crisis. But neither do I feel ready to say my child is weaned, or to lose the connection that I think makes my son so grounded and usually keeps him healthy or gets him through illness without much discomfort and without worry of dehydration.

I have lots of friends (and sisters) who've nursed beyond three, so it's not an issue of feeling judged or anything for still going. And I know lots of folks who've stopped short of three, so I don't expect to be judged for stopping before it's completely child-led, either. It's about my own role and my own investment in feeling needed in a way only I can meet. And yet, I fantasize about taking off for a weekend to go to a yoga retreat or a writing retreat and knowing my son will be just fine (if my husband can handle it!)

The day after tomorrow, on my 36th birthday, I'm seeing one of the practitioners who's previously helped a lot with emotional blockages and ambiguity (a chiropractor, but she is not your average chiropractor). I write a lot on the other blog about this kind of energy work, but I have to say here that I hope in the appointment I can cut through some of the fuzziness around my feelings about my son's dependence on me.