our wish for you

DSC09718

I had no clue when I wrote this post a year ago that we were in for the biggest surprise of our lives just a few weeks later. It certainly made 2011 our most memorable year so far.

mmmm, fists

Julian’s three months old now. I’ve been back to work for a month, and though it hasn’t always been easy, we’re adjusting pretty well to our new routine. Our little guy is eating like a champ, growing and thriving, becoming more aware and engaged and just plain fun every day. He’s also drooling up a storm lately, and chewing on anything he can get into his mouth – toys, fists, you name it. I’m thinking teeth aren’t too far off, and once that happens, the real fun of feeding him begins.

As wonderful a year as our 2011 turned out to be, I’m thinking 2012 is going to be even better.

our wish for you

So here’s to life’s changes, both planned and unexpected. May they teach you new things, and fill you with wonder and delight.

What are we doing? Oh, just making pasta and dancing to a little Tony Bennett.

What are we doing? Oh, just making pasta and dancing to a little Tony Bennett.

something to ponder

“Too much food is too much food, whether it’s fast-food or grass-fed” – via @PoorMansFeast on Twitter [link]

regretting all those salt & vinegar chips I ate while pregnant

And, Stein said, studies have also shown that babies are learning about the flavors in Mom’s diet even before birth, in the uterus, as well as afterward through the taste of their mother’s breast milk.

“This very early exposure helps them learn to like those flavors as well,” Stein said.

Giving babies salty food may create a lifelong preference from the LA Times via Eatocracy

the longest day

the longest day

Dear Julian,

Yesterday was pure awful. Mondays are always a bit rough – or at least they have been since my return to work. We’re still working on our transitions from our wonderful weekends spent together as a family, to the weekdays when I leave before the sunrise to head up to Boston, you still asleep in your bassinet and your Daddy hoping to sneak in a shower, a quick breakfast, and some writing before you wake. Daddy takes such wonderful care of you while I’m away, but the days are long and not always easy, and by the time I get home in the evenings you are both ready to welcome Mommy back into the fold.

We have gotten into a bit of a weeknight routine. My train usually brings me in to Providence around 6:15. I catch a bus home, then sit and nurse you while Daddy mixes himself a cocktail and we talk about our day. We have dinner then – something we’ve prepared in advance that just needs to be heated, or something that comes together quickly, like a pasta dish or fish and vegetables. You nurse a lot in the evenings – “cluster feeding“, they call it – which means you spend the better part of the night nestled happily in my lap on the Boppy before going down for a full night’s sleep.

But last night was very different.

I’ve been taking the Amtrak train home for the last week or so. It gets me home around the same time as the commuter train does, but allows me to stay at work a little bit later (which means I can spend a bit more time at home with you in the mornings). The ride was uneventful at first. I sat and caught up on news and email, checking in with Daddy via text along the way, watching the time closely, eager to be home with you.

Then I felt the train hit something, hard. I saw a hail of sparks flying as we bounced and shuddered. Inside the car I was in, it was utterly silent. After what seemed like an eternity, the train came to a stop. People slowly got up from the floor of the train where they had dived in panic. They checked themselves and the people around them, and we sat in the dark and waited to hear what had happened. The sparks outside continued, the only light around us.

I would learn later that we hit a wire or wires that had come down over the tracks, and that as the train hit these live wires, it pulled the connecting wires down on top of us. We were surrounded, wrapped in these wires that still pulsed with electricity, and getting us safely out would be a time-consuming process. “It could be an hour. It could be five hours.” The voice was so matter-of-fact. Didn’t he know I had a baby at home? A baby who had been away from his mommy all day, a baby who needed to be fed? I was fighting tears, and I would continue to fight them until many hours later, when I jumped off the bus that had rolled me to the end of our street, and ran the two blocks home to you.

I sent Daddy a text message to let him know what had happened, that I was safe, but that I would be very late. We were in the middle of nowhere (somewhere around Sharon, Mass, actually), in the dark, and powerless in every sense of the word. In the end men came to cut the power to the wires and move them off the tracks next to us, and a “rescue train” pulled up to carry us the rest of the way to our destination. We stood single file, waiting to cross a rickety metal bridge spanning from our train to another, and a baby not much older than you fussed in the dark. It was heartbreaking. I have never missed you so intensely, or hated my stupid commute so much.

Daddy says you took things in stride, for the most part. You were out of sorts, you knew something was different about last night, and you fussed and fretted and clung to him tightly, but you didn’t scream and cry.

I finally arrived home to you more than five hours after setting out. In tears, I took you from your Daddy’s arms and held you and kissed you over and over, and told you how sorry I was. You wouldn’t look me in the eyes, but I knew you were so, so tired. I held you and nursed you and cried, while your Daddy kissed me and brought me a bowl of chili, which he had cooked on Sunday for Monday night’s dinner. I was so grateful we had planned ahead, even though we could not possibly have known what this Monday would hold for us.

We ate in silence, all three of us, seated in the glow of our Christmas lights, and within twenty minutes your eyelids had fluttered closed and you were asleep. Our longest day ever had come to an end, and I swear to you I will do whatever it takes to make sure we don’t have another day like this again.

Love, Mommy

Helping mommy make baked eggs

Helping mommy make baked eggs

Helping mommy make baked eggs

Going Public

This is a photo of me breastfeeding Julian in public. We had just finished a visit to the local indoor farmers market we frequent, and while the little guy slept the whole time we were shopping, he woke and got fussy soon after we stepped outside to wait for our bus home. He was hungry. Knowing that once we got on our bus, it would be at least another half hour before we arrived home, I decided to step back inside, find a quiet spot, and feed my son.

I also handed Mike my iPhone and asked him to take a photo, because I knew that at some point, I was going to want to talk about the subject of breastfeeding in public, my experiences with it, and the controversy surrounding the issue, here. I also wanted to see what someone might see as they walked by us sitting on this bench for a feeding. Not much, apparently.

This was not the first time I had to feed him in public; in fact, I sometimes joke that I went through a bit of a “breastfeeding boot camp” in our early weeks. We were out and about a lot during Julian’s first weeks of life, and since newborns need to eat so often, I found myself nursing him in public on numerous occasions. It was often not easy or comfortable, especially since Julian and I were both still learning the ropes, but when faced with a hungry baby, I did what I had to do for him. We figured it out, and it got a lot easier. There are still times I need to feed him in public, but it’s not as stressful as it used to be.

I learned how to dress with the expectation that I might need to nurse in public during any given outing – for me this involves a system of layers, nursing bra plus tank plus a shirt with some give to it plus a scarf or cardigan for extra coverage. I learned how to hold and maneuver the baby to get him onto my breast for a feeding and then off again quickly and with a minimum of exposure. I learned how to nurse him while wearing him in both the Moby Wrap and the Baby Bjorn.

I’ve nursed Julian on a bench in a remote hallway of an IKEA store (3 times in one visit!). I’ve nursed him in cars, and on an Amtrak train that was delayed for 2 and a half hours due to mechanical problems. I’ve nursed him on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, and near the cliff walk in Newport. I’ve nursed him while standing in a restaurant bathroom, and while sitting on the front stoop outside of our apartment building, waiting for emergency repairs to be made. None of these experiences were as comfortable or as pleasant for either of us as nursing him in the privacy of our home, but when my son needs to eat, wherever we may be, I will feed him.

It is my legal right to do so.

More importantly, it is his right to be fed when he is hungry.

Reading about Simone dos Santos’s recent experience outside a DC courtroom, and more specifically, reading the comments generated by the article, made me livid. These are a just a few gems from Facebook:

Diane Dizacomo: “No one is saying for you to starve your baby. that excuse is getting mighty old. Gee how did we all live before woman began breast feeding in public?? oh yeah that’s right a thing called BOTTLES!!! there’s this thing called pumps? and feeding your child before you leave the house?, a car? go home??? any of these solutions work. it’s not like you don’t have choices. No one is keeping you from sitting in your car or taking the “starving” child home. Pump your milk and put it in a damn bottle.”

Elizabeth Dunne: “the fact that this is news proves women who breastfeed in public are militant, attention seeking idiots.”

I have lived in Michigan, Massachusetts, New York City, and Rhode Island. I have seen a lot of things that I thought were better suited to a more private venue (clipping your nails on the subway, anyone?), but I have yet to see a breastfeeding woman, anywhere, parading around with her boobs out. I won’t even address those comments that equate nursing a child in public to taking a dump or jerking off in public, or the commenters who live in some magical fairytale land where 70% of public restrooms are clean and nice and have couches where a nursing mother can (and should! they say) sit to feed their child.

It’s shocking and sad to me that the act of feeding a child can generate such vitriol.

Many commenters bring up breast pumps. Breast pumps are a wonderful thing. They enable nursing moms to supply their baby with breast milk for times when they are not physically present. But they are a supplement to, not a substitute for breastfeeding. They can be difficult to use, especially at first. They are not nearly as effective or efficient at expressing milk as a hungry baby is. And they are expensive – in some cases, buying or renting a pump may be cost-prohibitive. Expecting that every breastfeeding mother has the means to obtain a pump and bottles and all the accompanying paraphernalia is ridiculous.

Forty-five states, plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. ANY public or private location, regardless of how you as an observer might feel about it.

Breastfeeding in public is a legally protected right.

I am not militant, nor am I seeking attention when I nurse my child in a public space. In fact, the last thing I want to do in that instance is to call attention to myself or my boobs. I suspect that the vast majority of nursing moms feel the same. I just want to feed and soothe my kid, to tend to his needs as quickly as possible.

No mother should be called out or shamed for that.

To those people who are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding, I say this: it’s not about you.

It’s not about nudity or “indecency” or sexuality.

It’s about feeding a child.

I will exercise my legally protected right to do so, and I will stand in support of any other woman who does the same, just as you can exercise your right to look away and move on.

Continuing the conversation about crock pots…

I really appreciate your comments and advice in response to my last post – thank you! – but now I’m going to ask for a bit more.

We do own a crock pot – an old cheap number that I bought when I moved to Boston in 2001. It has been on its last legs for a while now, with a broken handle and very inconsistent heat. On top of that, it’s a little tippy, so I have never felt comfortable leaving it on unattended – which kind of defeats the purpose, no? Despite its flaws, we’ve used it for making stocks and confits in addition to the usual soups and chili, so I do think that an upgrade is in order, and that we’d get a lot of use out of a newer model with more features.

I’ve got my eye on this Cuisinart model, but it is a bit spendy, and while I do think that we’d get a lot of use out of it, ultimately justifying the expense, I do want to know if there are similar, less expensive options before jumping on it. A removable crock is probably a necessity. Programmable is a plus. And if it allows you to actually brown or sauté right in the unit before adding liquid so you can do a true braise without dirtying an extra pan, well, that’s even better.

So tell me – what are your recommendations for crock pots?

One Down

Home. Guess he missed me.

I’ve been back to work for a week now, and mostly, we’re doing fine. We got off to a bit of a rocky start, and there have been definite ups and downs in the past week, but I think the three of us are slowly beginning to find our groove. What’s most surprising to me is that the things I was most worried about are the things that have gone the most smoothly. As for the rest, as we’re learning, every day is different, and you just have to be flexible, be patient, and remember to breathe.

After getting almost every meal direct from the breast for the first 10 weeks of his life, Mike and I were both a little worried about how Julian would take to being bottle-fed during the day when I returned to work. We made a last-minute change to the type of bottle we use just days before my return, and that seems to have made a huge difference. Julian has been drinking his milk like a champ throughout the day, and I nurse him whenever I’m home. It has been pretty seamless.

not a Depeche Mode video

As for sourcing that milk, pumping at the office has gone far, far better than I expected. I’ll admit to quite a bit of trepidation on my part that first time I closed my office door, unhooked my bra and pulled the girls out, but once I reminded myself that this is totally not about me, it’s about feeding our son, things have gone swimmingly. I’m pumping three times a day while at work, and bringing home a consistent amount which has been more than enough for Mike to feed to Julian the next day. We’ve barely touched the milk I stashed in the freezer in the weeks before my leave ended, though it’s really nice to know that it’s there should we ever need it.

Pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe. Probably one of my favorite quick dinners.

I think the biggest challenge we’re facing now is making sure that The Mommy and The Daddy are adequately fed throughout the day. I’ve been trying to fix or prep lunch for Mike as well as for myself before I head out the door in the morning – something nutritious and tasty that he can easily eat with one hand, and with a minimum of cleanup – but dinners are proving to be a bit more challenging. We’re both pretty tired by the time evening rolls around (plus I’ve usually got the baby attached to me like a barnacle soon after I walk in the door), and while we’ve done okay so far tag-teaming dinner prep and getting something into our bellies, I think we both feel like we could step up our game a bit going forward.

We have a tiny fridge and freezer in our apartment, so there’s only so much in the way of advance cooking that we can do. We don’t own a microwave (and don’t intend to get one), so that leaves out any heat-and-eat meals that can’t go into the oven. We’ve done pretty well with pasta meals and quick-cooking, roasted or sautéed seafood with vegetables, but we’re both getting a little bored with our old standbys. I’m hoping we get to spend a bit of time this weekend setting up satisfying dinners for the coming week. Suggestions are, of course, welcome.

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