Tag Archives: No1

This Moment

17 Jan

As I stepped gently up the stairs to tell my rambunctious, challenging five year old she could come down while her baby sister continued to nap, I wondered to myself why she was so quiet.  I prepared myself for battle: the daily argument over picking up her room, and the barrage of requests that would accompany her back down to the living room.  And then I was greeted by this.  I sat down on the edge of her empty mattress and stared at her.

Impromptu Nap

She had fallen asleep on her floor, decorating a tinsel Christmas tree with hair barrettes during her “rest time.”  Her ever-faithful “Light-Up Turtle” companion by her head and her soulmate “Cuddle Monkey” tucked under an arm, she snored beneath a pile of blankets.  And in an instant, the stern-mommy-of-a-preschooler in me melted into the mom I remember being to her.

You see, though I love her fiercely, she and I are like oil and water – if oil and water were practically identical, that is.  Everything is an exercise in diplomacy with her, and most days I can no longer see the baby she used to be – I see the child she is and the young lady she is becoming: headstrong, opinionated, analytical, difficult.  And though I know the armor I unwittingly don puts space between us, I struggle with letting my guard down, burned by so many other bad moments, bad days, bad weeks.  The softness that I gave to her as a baby and toddler, the same softness that comes so easily with her younger sister, is buried under my frustrations and my anxieties and my fears.

I miss the toddler she used to be.  At times it’s as if this new, older daughter has replaced her, calling muffins by their correct name instead of “mondays,” and asking for privacy with a roll of her eyes instead of revolving her entire world around me.  Even her body has lost its toddlerness, the chub and rolls stretching out into a lean childhood figure.  She seems so big now, especially since her sister joined us two years ago, and I know I look at her and forget how big the world must seem to her, how many things she still has yet to understand, and how much wonder surrounds her.  I forget she is that same little baby that made me a mother.  How can you miss someone who is standing right in front of you?

It’s bittersweet, this process of letting go that we call motherhood… falling in love with a tiny being only to have them leave you day after day, metamorphosing into a new version of themselves.  I know the practical answer is to enjoy her for who she is at each stage of her childhood – to soak in this five-year-old Emily so that I may miss her when she too has gone, but I struggle with my sadness at what has been lost and with finding a balance between being better for her and allowing myself grace.

The words of Kahlil Gibran* have never rung so true:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of to-morrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

And so, I let her sleep, conscious of the fact that I will have to eventually wake her and break the spell, holding this moment in my heart, determined not to forget its warmth and softness once it has passed.

*Poem excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, 1923

Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance and Living Dairy-Free

8 Jan

I had never heard of milk intolerance before becoming a mom.  Lactose intolerance, sure.  But milk protein intolerance is completely different.  Not really an allergy, MSPI (milk-soy protein intolerance) is when the body is unable to safely process the large protein molecules found in cow’s milk.  As a result, the stomach may overproduce acid and the intestines become irritated, leading to mucus and sometimes blood.  Both my babies were born with an MSPI.  And, being a first-time parent, my first baby suffered for 3 months because I just didn’t know enough to ask more questions of the pediatrician or to advocate for myself.  But as it turns out, all my knowledge and experience still left me unprepared for my second baby’s MSPI as well.

Bean was 8 weeks old when I finally called “uncle” and went to a lactation consultant for help with my screamy baby who was clearly hungry but fussed every time I attempted to nurse her.  She had gone from the 35th percentile to the 10th but the pediatrician didn’t have any ideas for me other than to try formula.  Every feed was a nightmare and getting her to eat required a combination of baby wearing and bouncing on a big exercise ball in the bathroom with the fan running.  It was exactly the kind of horrible breastfeeding experience that prevents new moms from nursing long-term. But I never suspected a milk intolerance because her symptoms weren’t as severe as her big sister’s.

My oldest would projectile vomit after feeds, her diapers were filled with mucus, and the pediatrician found signs of blood in her stool.  But with the littlest, the only symptoms were her fussiness and her trouble breastfeeding.  I spent 8 weeks convinced it must be something else before the LC suggested I visit a pediatric gastroenterologist who diagnosed her right away.  Grudgingly, I went on a dairy fast, giving up any food with soy or milk protein.

Within a week, I had a whole new baby.  She was sleeping better, screaming less, and after two weeks, had jumped back into the 30th percentile.  It was, quite frankly, a miracle.  I had seen similar results with Doodlebug, but giving up the dairy was so hard on me emotionally, that we ended up using hypoallergenic formula with her.  I remember rocking her in the big reclining rocker at my parents’ house sobbing “I’m sorry” over and over as I filled her up with formula.  Looking back, it was absolutely the best thing for both of us.  She thrived on the formula and it immediately alleviated much of the anxiety I was suffering from.  With Bean, giving up the dairy didn’t seem as daunting, perhaps because I had already had some practice.  Also?  My overwhelming PPD and OCD the first time around made breastfeeding torturous, let alone an elimination diet.  With Bean, I was mentally healthy enough to take on the added challenge.  And is is a challenge.

It’s been 2 years, and though we keep attempting to introduce dairy into her diet, every week spent with milk results in sleepless nights and a cranky toddler.  I’ve been able to reintroduce cheese into my own diet (I could hear angels singing, folks), but for the first 18 months, I was completely dairy-free.  I wouldn’t wish such a difficult diet on anyone, but it is possible, and for some mom-baby pairs, may make life much easier overall.

So let’s be honest.  Dinners weren’t so hard to modify.  After all, spaghetti and meatballs is dairy free, as is most grilled meats, fresh fruits and veggies, and many breads.  But how did I live without cheese (and ice cream, and milk, and cookies, and chocolate)?  While there are really no good soy and milk-free cheese substitutes (I really did give them a fair shot), I found that hummus often worked in place of cheese in fajitas and even sandwiches.  Whole Foods sells a cheese-free pizza with roasted veggies that is pretty yummy for those days when you Just. Want. Pizza.  And So Delicious makes coconut milk yogurt, ice cream and my favorite, coffee creamer.  I actually prefer the coconut coffee creamer now.  Coconut milk is great for baking, as is Earth Balance soy-free margarine, and to my surprise, cocoa butter isn’t actually butter and contains no dairy!  So as long as your chocolate doesn’t list casein, milk, or whey as an ingredient, you can eat it!  Lindt makes a dark chocolate that we really love here, but my favorite trick is to buy a huge 1 pound block of 65% chocolate from Whole Foods.  We chop it up and snack on it for a month!  The key for me was finding substitutes for my favorite foods so I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself of the comfort foods I loved.

Here are some of my favorite MSPI and Dairy-free resources:

MSPI Mama – tons of recipes and resources, including a QUICK START recipe list for the first few weeks of MSPI eating when everything is so overwhelming.

MSPI Mama links to restaurant allergen information HERE

More facts about MSPI

The differences between allergies and intolerances from PIC (Protein Intolerant Children)

Tasty Eats at Home – my friend Alta writes about her food journey and has many recipes and resources for eating dairy and gluten-free

The best advice I can give you is to be realistic with yourself about how the MSPI diet is affecting your happiness.  If it makes you miserable, it may not be worth continuing to breastfeed your MSPI baby.  But it DOES get easier with time.  After about 6 months I stopped missing cheese, and these days, I don’t even mourn the ice cream any longer.  Truly.  It also had the added benefit that watching my diet carefully taught me to be aware of my food.  I eat a much healthier diet now, just because I learned to read ingredients and to cook more food from scratch. But each mom has to decide what’s best for her family. Hopefully you have enough support no matter how you decide to address your baby’s MSPI.

Lost For Words

6 Jan

We were trapped in the car when the questions started.

Hey, Mommy?

If somebody dies in their house, and the mailman brings them their mail but they’re dead, how does the mailman get them their mail?

Um, what?!

The mailman would come to their door but they’d be dead.

Um….

So what would happen to the mail?

I think the mail would pile up and the mailman would eventually take it back to the post office.

Then new people would live the in house?

Yes, then new people would get their mail delivered to the house.

What about if all the mommies and daddies were dead and there were no more mommies or daddies.  Who would make more mommies?  Would robots make more mommies and daddies?

Um, Daddy?  Want to take this one?

No1 asks deep, serious questions, and we’re committed to answering her as honestly as possible.  But sometimes, her left-field questions just make us giggle and we stumble over our words, searching for what to say.  These moments are my favorite with my four-year-old.  Her innocence, her curiosity, her direct nature.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What’s the strangest, funniest, or most awkward question your child has asked you?

Not For Weak Stomachs

10 Dec

It’s been a hard month or so here.

Six weeks ago I tripped over the preschooler and tweaked my back while keeping myself from falling or dropping the baby.  The following day, I walked into my bedroom after bathing the kids and collapsed on the floor in agony.  My L4 disc blew.  Again.  For the third time in 2 years.  My screams terrified the baby while I begged my husband to call my mother and then an ambulance, in that order.  Within three minutes, the room filled with firemen and a medic was pressing his knee into my back to ease the tremors that the shock were causing.  They rolled me onto a frigid metal board and carried me down a flight of stairs and the stone steps leading from my front door before loading me and my exposed nursing bra into the ambulance.  I refused any pain medication on the ride, not knowing what was compatible with breastfeeding.  The medic called me “one tough cookie” upon our arrival at the ER.  One IV of morphine later, the pain subsided and I was both high as a kite and severely nauseous.  I spent a week in a haze of codeine and bed rest, only to suffer a seven-day regimen of oral steroids that brought on a severe (but temporary) depression.

Four weeks ago, I contracted what I can only describe as officially the world’s worst cold.  Not quite the flu.  More than a cold.  Body aches, fever, congestion, fire throat, zombie brain, and finally a hacking cough.  It’s still not completely gone.

Eight days ago, I woke up at 1am with my heart racing, almost jumping out of my chest.  My first thought was a random panic attack and I wondered where my Ativan was.  Then the vomiting began.  And continued every ten minutes for three straight hours.  The heart palpitations only increased and between my fatigue and signs of dehydration, I graced the ER with my presence once again.  The male nurse who placed my IV tossed each vial of blood he took for tests onto the bed as if it was the bane of his existence.  I have never had such a painful needle stick.  And yet I could kiss him for bringing me the Zofran.  And though the nausea ended early in the morning, the following day’s fever, body aches, and fatigue had no magic cure.  It took until Saturday – seven days – before I felt like myself again.

Six days ago, my mother took the preschooler overnight so DH and I could focus on my recuperation.  DH took some Tums in an attempt to cure his indigestion and I prepared for the worst.  At 10:01pm, I watched on the video monitor as the baby threw up over the side of her crib.  There is nothing worse than the sound of a baby attempting to cry in-between dry heaves.  I started nursing her in-between bouts of nausea just so she wouldn’t have an empty stomach.  We snuggled in the guest bed until morning, when her nausea subsided and her body relaxed into a deep sleep.

Three days ago, we packed everyone up and drove 40 minutes north to my parents’ home.  It’s not easy for me to ask for help, but DH was still on the mend, the baby needed my constant attention, and the television is incapable of providing my preschooler with any babysitting care other than distraction.  They were, as they always are, amazingly helpful and I started to think we were out of the woods.

Two days ago, No1 woke up at 5am and was sick every 30 minutes for six hours.  After the first hour, she began fighting the illness, insisting she was fine and wrestling with anyone who tried to help her.  She seemed to bounce back the quickest and yet this evening brought a relapse, complete with fever and nausea.

Yesterday, we left my parents sitting on the couch with saltine crackers.

And today, my preschooler threw up in the parking lot of my psychiatrist’s office on my $300 Clarks riding boots.  The fear in her eyes brought me to my knees beside the car and I held her through all three fits of coughing.

But when my psychiatrist asked me how I’ve been the last three months, I was honestly able to answer, “normal.”  I’ve been overwhelmed.  Stressed.  Short-tempered.  Exhausted.  And in desperate need of some intensive self-care.  But I think my reactions in every situation were typical.  And though not ideal, typical is a pretty great place to be if you struggle with mental illness.

I’d like to think it can only get better from here.  Knock on some wood with me, will ya?

Four

15 Oct

 

I’m linking up with with  Tracy,  Galit , and Alison for Memories Captured today.  They’ve asked us to honor our children – to take a moment and celebrate who they are and to be respectful of them when we write.  I use this blog to share my own feeling about motherhood and my experience living with a mental illness, so I am always mindful of what my children might think when they read it many years from now.  I want it to reflect how much I cherish them, but also how challenging it has been for me to become a parent and to balance my life with the life of this family.  I hope they will take all the imperfections I share here and see their mother as more than just “mom,” instead a whole person with hopes, dreams, struggles, and bad days.

But when they read this post, (Hi, Doodlebug!  Hi, Bean!) all I want them to see is how proud I am to be their mother.  Because I am.  Even on the hardest days and the longest nights, I am.

No1 turned four this past week.  During her party, all the kids climbed into the giant-cardboard-box-turned-convertible and pretended to drive to Story Land.  They all played so nicely together the whole party and No1 was in the middle of it all, being celebrated and lavished with the affection her bright personality brings to all of us.  I love this picture.  I love how she’s surrounded by her friends.  I love the look of belonging I can see in her eyes.  I hope that this is one birthday she will actually remember years from now, because it was incredible.  She is incredible.

 

 

 

 

When Birthdays Aren’t So Happy

14 Oct

No1 turned 4 this week.  Among the bittersweet celebration of her newest number floated tiny flashbacks.  Bit and pieces of the horror kept snapping me out of my happiness.  The 37-week induction for no reason, the 12 hours she spent in ICU because of fluid in her lungs, the second-degree cervical laceration, and the feeling of complete disconnect with my new baby girl.  One of my most vivid memories of the day she was born is being wheeled into the ICU and realizing I had absolutely no idea which baby was mine.

Four years ago, early in October, I lost who I knew myself to be.  It may be the anniversary of my baby’s birth, but it’s also the anniversary of the onset of my PPD.

Past birthdays haven’t been so hard.  But my birth experience with No2 was so beautiful and peaceful and my bond so deep and immediate, that the anger over how bad round one was has resurfaced.  It’s almost as if comparing experiences has highlighted how horrid the first one was.  I realize it’s water under the bridge. . . that I have an amazing little girl who knows that she is loved and feels it ever day with me.  Maybe it shouldn’t matter how I gave birth to her, but it does.  Those early days were filled with emotional and physical trauma, both of which I suppose I’m still healing from.

Today, we celebrated with a party.  A house full of preschool friends, yellow “happy car convertible” decorations, a Matchbox car race, crafts, and treats.  It was joyful and a celebration of everything No1 is in this moment.  She had an incredible time.  Incredible.  I’m choosing to focus on that.  Choosing to live in the present.

But in these quiet moments when my heart reaches back to the past and aches for what might have been, or regrets all the time lost to denial and naiveté , I am trying to be kind to myself.  I’m staying up late to play video games with my husband, imagining Velma’s face on each villain and alien creature.  I’m taking long showers, freshening up the pink in my hair, and wearing my favorite makeup.  I’m sleeping in on the weekends and going to bed early to listen to podcasts I know will send me off to dreamland.  I’m sipping my coffee slowly and microwaving it as many times as it takes to finish the whole cup hot.  I’m soaking in each “I love you,” from my now-four-year-old.

It’s okay to celebrate her four astounding years on this earth and grieve for the joyful birth and postpartum experiences I was deprived of.  And spooning chocolate frosting straight from the can into my face?  Sure has helped with both.

Almost Wordless Wednesday – Birthday Party Sneak Peek

10 Oct

I’m knee-deep in stress of my own creation. The house is covered in projects and the floor is spattered with paint. The preschooler turns four tomorrow and I have a sneaky suspicion I’m keeping myself busy so as to not think about how big she’s gotten or how her smallest days are fading away.

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Wordless Wednesday – 9 Months Then and Now

19 Sep

No1 at 9 months old.

No2 at almost 9 months.

A Moment Alone

11 Sep

I so rarely get any time alone with No1.  Her sister is always just a moment away from needing me and I have one ear her direction at all times.  It’s taken its toll on us both.  But this morning, my husband took the baby with him on an errand and it felt like old times in the house.  Just me and No1.  She was her old self this morning.  No competing for attention, no baby talk, no attitude.  We ate lunch together and both enjoyed the lack of interruptions.  We searched for bugs in the house and had a lady bug funeral.  And she did my hair.

Oh, how I miss this kind of time with her.

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I’m linking up with Memories Captured this week!

My Life is Literally a Blur

5 Sep

 

This is pretty much what my days look like.

If I turn my back for a moment,

the baby has already reached the door,

and the preschooler is a blur.

I know I will miss these days,

so I’m trying not to wish them away.

But oh,

I am so very tired.

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