Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sometimes Families Break Down


The Taboo Carnival
Welcome to the Taboo Carnival. Our topic this Summer is “My Parents Failed Me (A Little or a Lot)” This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Taboo Carnival hosted by Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on the parenting failures of their own parents or in themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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Due to the personal and touchy nature of this carnival topic, I was happy to agree to host an anonymous guest post for today's carnival. While I did not write the post that appears below, I can relate to and empathize with the anonymous author's experience of having estranged family members. While I respect the author's wish for anonymity, part of me wishes I knew who had written this so I could give her a hug and let her know she's not alone. 

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I was looking at pictures from my childhood recently. I could barely recognize my mom. I mean, yeah, she looked like my mom but I have no memory of who this smiling, happy looking woman is. My memory, and even my wedding photos, show an unhappy woman with lips pressed so tightly together that she looks bitter. And she is bitter, angry, sad, unhappy, frustrated, and running away from feelings.

Without being able to, or maybe willing to finally, tackle all those feelings she ends up lashing out. Unfortunately this often meant lashing out at me. As my dad sank deeper into alcoholism and my brother became an addict, I was the easy scapegoat because I was stable enough to take the emotional and verbal abuse.

It took me almost 30 years to realize that something wasn’t right in our family dynamic. I have my husband to thank because once he was around, I started to put the pieces together. After every family interaction he’d get a barrage of questions from me about what I thought/interpreted as happening and what he’d seen, versus what my mother was telling me I’d said or done.

I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t misremembering. In fact, remembering was the only thing I had to hold onto in a sea that was constantly changing, as my mother reinvented what happened to match her emotions.

Just because my mom is an adult and is older than I am doesn’t mean that she has her life together. It doesn’t mean that she behaves like an adult or is wise. I’ve reflected a lot (and been through lots of therapy) and I’ve realized that most of the times when my mom is criticizing me she’s bringing up her own issues. Just because she wants me to “be nicer” doesn’t mean that I wasn’t being nice or need to be nicer, it just means that somehow the situation was a trigger for her.

I’m not mean spirited. I’m not deliberately hurtful. And just because my mother tells me that I am those things doesn’t make it true.

Once I realized that, and with my husband’s support, I was able to begin to detach from the toxic family dynamic. I was able to separate out the things that I and we cared about and the things that she wanted me to do.

If we’ve put thought into and tried to be thoughtful and considerate about a decision. If we’ve considered the things that we care about as well as how it impacts other people. If we are okay with the decision that we’ve made, then that’s all that can be asked of us. And it doesn’t matter if my mother doesn’t like or agree with that decision. I’m an adult and it’s okay for me to do things differently, as long as I’m comfortable with that.

For us, the year that we got married was the year that my family fell apart. My dad went to rehab, my brother went to rehab, my parents split up and then my dad chose to prioritize his relationship with my mother and they got back together. During a period when I should have been celebrating, I was instead the easy scape goat. Putting me down and lashing out at me became a way shift the focus, to build up my brother’s self-esteem, to dump the fear and anxiety.

And when everything went wrong with my family it made me realize something very important. I value myself enough to not be in that situation. For us at this point in time it means we have a boundary which is extremely limited contact with my mother.

It’s safer for me and for my relationship with my son. When we had him we had a long talk about my mother and about me and about what I was capable of dealing with. For us, the most important thing is our son and our relationship with him. When I’m dealing with my mom I’m stressed and tired and crying and it’s always so, so hard. If that energy is going to her then I don’t have it for my son. And when I’m stressed and tired and feel like I’m crazy all the time, I certainly have limited ability to be patient and loving and present. I can admit that about myself.

My mom didn’t like that I made the choice that my son was more important, but I think that’s what happens when your children have children. As the grandparent and as an adult, you have to learn to let go. To let your children be their own people.

My mom still hasn’t met my son. At my father’s prodding, I asked her if she’d like to. After weeks of back and forth she said that she’s too emotionally and physically exhausted to do so. She is, however, well enough to travel around the world almost monthly. It’s hurtful, but I think that she’s running away from her problems rather than facing them. And it makes me sad that she’s in so much pain.

When people hear that I’m estranged from my family, they offer sympathy for or encouragement to work through our problems. Here’s the sad truth. I miss the ideal of family. I miss the support that would make our lives so much easier. I’m sad that my son bears the brunt because he misses out. But just because I miss those things doesn’t mean it would ever happen – an ideal is not the same thing as our truth. Our truth is a mother who couldn’t smile at the camera during our wedding photos because she was so angry and sad and bitter. Our truth is a mother who has told my father that he can’t meet his grandson.

My relationship with my mom has made me do a lot of thinking about myself (and several years of therapy) and who I want to be as a both a person and a parent.

I want to open to growing and changing. I want to challenge myself. I want to be able to deal with the difficult parts of life and be ready to face them emotionally.

I want my son to see me be vulnerable. I want him to see me have the courage to face difficult and scary situations, because I want him to see me grow as a person. I want him to know that I’m not perfect and that I can apologize when I’m wrong. I want to have the strength to encourage and love my son even when he grows up and possibly away from our current little family, because it means that I’ve done my job as a parent.


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Visit Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Taboo Carnival! Enjoy the posts from this month’s Carnival participants!
  • I Am Not My Parents — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a guest post from a mama whose tumultuous childhood witnessing the daily volitility of her parents' dysfunction empowers her to provide her children with the peaceful, respectful, non-voilent childhood she longed for.
  • Am I a Liar? — Jorje of Momma Jorje *really* didn't appreciate being considered a liar as a child. Click to read how this has affected her relationships.
  • Confessions of a "Latch Key Kid"... — Lois at The Myth of the Perfect Baby talks about being left alone after school as a young child and her thoughts on extended breastfeeding at the dinner table.
  • Sometimes Families Break Down — Joella at Fine and Fair shares a guest post about how a mama ended up being estranged from her family and what she hopes to do differently.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Donating Breastmilk: My Decision to Share Milk

Last week, 60 ounces of my breast milk took a trip across the state. It will help feed a baby whose mother wants him to eat only breast milk, but who isn't able to provide it all herself. Since this mama contacted me, I've started adding some extra pumping sessions here and there, in hopes that I can continue to donate on an ongoing basis.

My decision to donate breast milk wasn't something I took lightly. When Delilah was born, we had some minor bumps in the road early in our nursing relationship that, coupled with first-time-mom nerves, had me holding on to every last drop. When Canon was born, I was much more confident and knowledgeable about normal lactation. Before I'd even returned to work, I started to consider looking for a family who was in need of donated breast milk. In talking with others, I decided to wait and see how my milk supply leveled out after I returned to work to make sure that I'd have enough of a surplus that I'd feel comfortable sharing some. I didn't want to bend over backwards doing all sorts of extra pumping just so I could donate, but if I happened to be able to go just a little above and beyond Canon's needs in my regular pumping sessions, I was enamored of the idea of sharing that extra with another baby. I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it again until recently.

Whenever a friend or acquaintance is expecting, I typically try to make myself available as a resource for information on breast feeding, circumcision, baby wearing, cloth diapering, and other parenting practices that I feel confident in my knowledge and experience with. (I have learned that the "I'm here if you have questions approach" tends to be better received than the "OMG YOU MUST THIS AND/OR YOU CANNOT THAT BECAUSE..." approach. ;)

This particular mom is one who was interested in cloth diapers, so when I reached out to offer to answer any questions for her, I also threw in that I'd be happy to offer support or information about breast feeding, if she happened to be nursing. At that time, she didn't respond to that offer, so I assumed that either everything was going well, or that she wasn't nursing, and continued to help her with her cloth diapering inquiries.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and this mama got in touch again. As we started introducing solid foods for Canon and sharing photos, my cousin commented on his, ahem, robustness, with a question about what was in my breast milk, and when I answered that "My breast milk is made up of 100% awesome," she agreed and suggested I might consider donating some. I responded that I had thought about it, and that now that my supply had leveled out and I was still typically pumping more than Canon eats while I'm at work, I might be in a position to do so.



So this mama, having seen this interaction, took a chance and contacted me privately to share her story and ask if I might be willing to donate some milk for her son, who she wasn't able to fully supply with breast milk for medical reasons. The first thing I was struck by when I read her message was how hard she'd been working to make as much of her own milk for her baby as she could, and how hard she was working to find donors to supplement what she couldn't. The second thing was how honored I was that she felt comfortable asking me about what can be an uncomfortable (and for some, even embarrassing) topic.

I added up the bags of milk in my freezer, talked to my husband about it, and together, we decided to go forward with donating to this family. I worked out the details of how to get the milk to her, since she doesn't live in town, and at that point, I added an extra pumping session here and there when I could at work (while working on paperwork and such, so it didn't necessitate extra breaks or increase the length of my work day). Last Friday, it all came together when a family member of hers picked up the donation to take it to her and her baby. I got word that it arrived safe and sound, and my heart is warmed to know that this week, another sweet little baby whose mother is equally as passionate about the normalcy and biological appropriateness of human milk for human babies is sharing in some of the milk that has helped my own baby grow so big and strong.

I'm now convinced that I'm putting all sorts of milky vibes out there, as I've now been contacted by another friend who has a family member who is finding it challenging to keep up with nursing her twins. Since I'm not in a position to make another donation so soon (because I can't help but feel compelled to hoard at least a modest stash for my own), I directed her to Eats on Feets, a network for matching up milk donors with families in need of milk donations, and offered to put her family member in touch with a friend who has successfully breast fed her own twins and who is working toward lactation credentials. (You may know her as The Boob Geek.)

I'm hopeful that I will continue to be able to donate breast milk. I don't share this experience because I'm looking for "good jobs" or pats on the back or crunchy mama points. I share it to help draw attention to the practice of private milk sharing, and to the fact that when supplementation becomes necessary, formula is not the only option, and is in fact not necessarily the best option. There are many parents who wish for their babies to be fed breast milk, but who are unable, for a variety of reasons (medication, breast surgery, adoption, no female parent, etc.) to meet the infant's needs for milk. There are many mothers with freezers full of milk who end up throwing it away when their children wean, because they aren't aware that they could donate it. There are not a whole lot of people talking openly about it. So, I am. Sharing my story of sharing my milk, in hopes that maybe one parent who is struggling to provide breast milk will discover the possibility of donor milk, or one with an abundant supply will discover the possibility of finding a family who will put her liquid gold to good use!

If you are seeking donor milk, or have milk to donate, check out Eats on Feets!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: 34

Yesterday was my 34th Birthday! The celebration included a trip to "Family Farm Night" at Rainbow Ridge Farm!











I also got some very lovely and thoughtful gifts. The most lovely and thoughtful was that my husband finished my belly cast from Canon for me!





And I can't help but share one of the beautiful sunflowers from my mama! 


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Celebrating Simply

Welcome to the July edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - Celebrations cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about keeping things simple with our kids. Read about how others are incorporating simple living and parenthood. We hope you will join us next month when we discuss Money Matters!
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While I don't have a new post for you today, as I celebrate my own birthday simply, I hope you'll enjoy the great posts from the carnival participants below! :)
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  • Parties - sustainablemum explains how and why she keeps her birthday celebrations for her eldest a simple affair at his behest.
  • Simple Birthday Celebrations - Birthdays are kept simple at Living Peacefully with Children. Mandy shares how her family celebrates birthdays without the stress and expense.
  • Countdown to a Simple Christmas - Start now to prepare your house and home for the holidays. Steps to take each month to enjoy a much simpler approach to Christmas.
  • Simply Celebrate - Jorje has tried celebrating kid birthdays BIG and small... which one do you think was more simple? less stressful?
  • That's a Wrap - At Parentwin, Darlena describes her experiences with wrapping gifts and how she has changed her ideals when it comes to gift giving.
  • Simple Celebrations - Laura at Authentic parenting shares how her family keeps celebrations simple.
 

Monday, August 12, 2013

August Simply Living Blog Carnival Call for Submissions

Welcome to the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. We hope that you will join us on the third Tuesday of each month as we share posts about simple living in our lives. Submission deadline will be the second Tuesday of each month.

 Celebrations There are many events in our lives worthy of celebrating, but often times those celebrations get out of control to the point that we no longer enjoy them. Do you plan lovely simple parties? do you have family traditions that are extra special to you? How do you keep the sanity in celebrations?

To submit an article to the blog carnival, please e-mail your submission to mandy{at}livingpeacefullywithchildren{dot}com and delilahfineandfair{at}gmail{dot}com, and fill out the webform by August 13. Please write a new, unpublished piece for the carnival. We will e-mail you with instructions before the carnival date. We ask that you publish your post on August 20.

We want you to use creativity and to express yourself as you see fit. To that end, you are welcome to post at your discretion with a few guidelines in mind. Please be respectful in your posts. Avoid excessive profanity and poor grammar or spelling. As the co-hosts of the carnival are all advocates of peaceful living and gentle parenting, we ask that you not post about non-gentle practices or violence toward others. While we will not be editing your articles, we do reserve the right to not add your post to the carnival if it is not on topic, is poorly written, or goes against the guidelines which have been set forth.
  Blog carnivals are a great way to generate blog traffic and build a supportive community. Your blog will receive links from many other blogs and you and your readers will have the opportunity to discover other blogs with similar goals in mind. Please join us as we embrace Simply Living through Simple Living! We hope you will consider joining us every month as we discuss ways we simplify our lives.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Today I Nursed in Public

Today, I nursed in public. You are not going to believe what happened. It was quite shocking, really; and it's not the
first time this has happened. In fact, for me, and for most of the nursing women I know, it happens more often than not when we dare engage in the shameful and controversial act of leaving our homes for long enough that our babies might become hungry.

Let me start at the beginning.

My children and I spent the morning out shopping  with my mother, sister, and niece; for school clothes for Delilah, who will be starting preschool in a few weeks (*sniffle* *tear* "MY BABY!" etc.). Canon, my 6 month old son, spent the shopping spree wrapped snugly against my chest, sleeping through most of it. When we had finished our marathon shopping (because a child beginning preschool also requires some new threads for her mother, brother, grandmother, aunt, and cousin, obviously) we were famished.

We headed to what we consider a family friendly restaurant, which, not to name any names, was TGIFridays. The restaurant wasn't totally deserted, nor was it extremely busy. We were seated near a few other families, most of whom also had children with them. After getting the three adults and three children settled at the table, Canon, having been very patient and delightful in the over two hours since he'd last eaten, started to get a little fussy.

For my own comfort level, because I was wearing a tank top I'd have to pull down at the neck to nurse him, and because I have substantial jugs, I fished a cloth diaper out of the diaper bag and placed it over the top part of my chest. Because no, I don't cover my baby's head with a blanket while I nurse, because I guarantee you'll see a whole lot more boob skin and maybe even a nipple flash while he fights to remove the blanket from his head. I don't blame him. Have you ever eaten with a blanket over your head? Me either. Because it probably sucks.

Anyway, the cloth diaper slipped out of place a few times as I was getting him settled in my lap and latched on, but I'm pretty sure we got to business without too much scandalous skin showing. I continued to converse with my mother and sister while my daughter and niece chattered away and played with their crayons. After a few minutes, Canon was satisfied, so I clumsily re-fastened the clasp on the cup of my nursing bra, straightened my top, got rid of the cloth, and put him back in the high chair.

A few minutes later, the waitress came over to take our order. We all ordered our food. A little while later, our food came, and we ate it. We finished eating, got ourselves packed up, paid the bill, and started heading out. When we reached the door, the hostess opened it for us, smiled at us and said...you will not believe this...she said, "Have a nice day!" So we smiled back and thanked her and got into our cars and drove home.

Can you even believe that? Seriously. No one gave me any dirty looks. No one stared. No one asked me to be more discreet or to go feed my child in the bathroom or the car. No one covered their child's eyes to protect them from an obscene sight. No one gave me one of those cute "thank for nursing in public" cards or bought my meal. It was like no one even noticed; or, if they did notice, it was like they didn't even care. You would almost think I was just doing something pretty normal, or something. Like I hadn't just bared my breast to use it for its biologically intended purpose right there for anyone to see.

At this point, you might be scratching your head, wondering why I bothered to share this very boring tale of public breast feeding. I share it because you've probably seen stories of nursing mothers having their rights violated by being asked to stop nursing, or to cover up, or to leave. You've probably seen stories of nursing women being congratulated and celebrated. But maybe you've never seen a story of a nursing mom who just fed her baby, in public, and that was that. I share it so that new or expectant mothers know that they can expect that, most of the time, when they nurse in public, no one is going to yell at them, and no one is going to cheer for them either. More often than not, breast feeding babies in public places isn't a spectacle at all.

So, moms? Feed your babies. Feed them confidently. Know your rights as a breast feeding mother, but don't expect to have to cite them every time you feed your baby outside of the confines of your home. And everybody else? Let most nursing in public stories be as boring as mine. Or, you know, pay for the meal, or give a smile, because that's nice, too!

BabyLinkUp500px
 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Giveaway: Barefoot Books Package - $31.98 ARV {US; 8.17}


 The Girl with a Brave Heart tells the story of Shiraz, a girl from Tehran, as she encounters an unusual neighbor after accidentally dropping a ball of yarn into her garden. Like the Yoga Pretzels deck, the book is clearly well constructed and high quality, and is full of beautiful, colorful illustrations.  

This is a joint giveaway with Fine and Fair and Natural Parents Network. You may enter at one site only. Please find the section marked "Win it!" for the mandatory entry and optional bonus entries.
  npn-giveaway-disclosure

Barefoot Books is offering our readers a giveaway of The Girl With a Brave Heart book and Yoga Pretzels deck , a value of $31.98. The Girl With a Brave Heart tells the tale of a girl in Tehran who drops a ball of wool into an unusual neighbor’s yard and summons her courage, wisdom, and compassion in order to retrieve it. The Yoga Pretzels deck is a set of 50 yoga activities for all ages, including forward bends, back bends, partner poses, balance poses, and more.

Barefoot Books
 From our reviewer, Joella at Fine and Fair:

Barefoot Books is an independent publisher that offers a variety of high quality products for children and families, including books, games, CDs, puzzles, and gifts. The core values of Barefoot Books are “imagine, explore, create, connect, and give back.” With books and other items that promote creativity, imagination, and respect for cultural, social, and ecological diversity, there is something for every child! As a family-focused business, Barefoot Books also offers home-based or online business opportunities, as well as fundraising events.

 Both the book and yoga deck I received for review were of exceptional quality. They remain in great shape after the rough handling my 3.5 year old shows her books and toys! With bright colors and interesting images on the cover of both the book and the card box, my daughter couldn’t wait to dive into them both.

 The Yoga Pretzels deck includes 50 cards, each showing an illustration of a yoga pose, exercise, game, or activity on one side, and an explanation on the other side complete with a cute story or imagery for each activity. The cards are color-coded by categories: Breathe, Game, Balance, Stand, Forward Bend, Back Bend, Twist & Stretch, Partner, and Time In.

My daughter’s love for these cards goes beyond her love of yoga, she also enjoys sorting the cards by their color/category, naming the various animals illustrated on the cards, and even using them in numerous ways in pretend play. The cards are brightly colored, large for easy handling by small hands, and very durable - they can even be wiped clean. They are not just for kids, my husband and I have enjoyed doing the partner poses; this deck is truly perfect for the whole family.


4The clothing and appearance of the characters in the book offer opportunities for discussing cultural diversity and talking about the differences in daily lives in different cultures.

After reading this with my 3.5 year old, I believe that this book would be better suited to a slightly older child. The amount of text on each page made it difficult for her to maintain interest, and the subject matter, including parental death, remarriage, and poor treatment by a step-parent, was just a little bit more mature than what she’s used to. While the general content was not well-suited for my family, I loved that one of the subtle lessons in the book was about how people sometimes have difficulty asking for what they really want when they are sad. The book certainly has no shortage of opportunities to introduce challenging topics and promote compassion for others.

1The overall quality of both items from Barefoot Books was impeccable. It is clear that Barefoot Books values offering items that not only capture the interest of children, but that are durable enough to withstand some rough handling. The quality, combined with the evident values of Barefoot Books, make them a company I can absolutely recommend.

BUY IT!

You can purchase your own The Girl With a Brave Heart book and Yoga Pretzels deck at Barefoot Books. The Girl With a Brave Heart book is available for $16.99 and the Yoga Pretzels deck for $14.99. Shipping is free on orders over $60.

And just for Natural Parents Network and Fine and Fair readers, Barefoot Books is giving a 20% discount on all orders for a limited time. Enter code TWENTY13 during the ordering process.

WIN IT!

For your own chance to win a The Girl With a Brave Heart book and Yoga Pretzels deck from Barefoot Books, enter by leaving a comment and using our Rafflecopter system below. The winner will receive one copy of The Girl With a Brave Heart book and one Yoga Pretzels card deck. Contest is open to the US Only.
MANDATORY ENTRY: Enter your name and email address in the Rafflecopter entry system.
Leave a valid email address so we can contact you if you win. Email addresses in Rafflecopter are not made publicly visible. This is a joint giveaway with Fine and Fair and Natural Parents Network. You may enter at one site only, and we'll be recording IP addresses to ensure that there are no duplicate entries. That said, please do visit and enjoy both sites! BONUS ENTRIES: See the Rafflecopter entry system for bonus entries to increase your chance of winning after completing the mandatory entry. All bonus entries are entered directly into Rafflecopter. Give it a try, and email or leave a comment if you have any questions!
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