Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Day in My Chaotically Content Life

Thirteen days in to this mama of two journey and life continues on as to be expected. There are no days of climbing out of bed whenever I wish, rolling over only to switch breasts for my eager nursling, no days of lounging on the couch with a warm cheek to my chest while netflix loops its way through episodes of shows long forgotten. These days my feet must hit the chilly wood floor before their dads exit the door and the slap of two year old feet come to a pause as she comes knocking on our door, seeking out her mama, but more importantly her baby Odessa.

E has already prepared food for Isadora and put her in fresh pants and if I am lucky he has also left me a glass of smoothie on the counter to give me a jump start on my day, assuring something finds its way into my stomach before lunchtime. I join her at the table, leaving Odessa in our room to sneak in one on one time with the gal who made me a mama and trying to soak in her beautiful toddler essence in those early morning moments before the demands of the day and of her tiny brain sneak their way in. Soon Odessa's chipmunk noises alert me to her needs and we all come together on our bed to change her diaper, complete her post-tie-release stretches and to bring her to breast for comfort after those darn things are complete. Before too long a carrier is plucked from the stash and our littlest is tied to my chest so I can continue on our day, meeting the needs of both girls the best I know how and trying to maintain some semblance of parenting in the ways I desire, something that is hit or miss but that I keep aiming for all the same. These moments with her cheek to chest will replace those on the couch this time around as I scuttle about putting away the many loads of laundry that come with two cloth diapered gals, three animals and two adults - one of which is still in the thick of the days of leaving puddles of milk in her wake. 

We carry on about our days, rotating from activity to activity to keep Isadora entertained - from play doh to button sorting to books and back around again. There are snacks and lunches, diaper changes and milk stops scattered amongst our activities and if I am lucky a few moments of independent play for Isadora while I sit and nurse Odessa, but more often than not she is right there beside us, rubbing on baby sister's ear, stroking her head or jumping around beside us as I breathe deep and tap into my patience. I have had to let some things go while holding on to the hope that we will find our new normal and find a way to keep my toddler more stimulated and less like a wild animal. Some days go well and I high five myself as I climb into bed, others result in a friend walking in the door to find me on the couch nursing Odessa and Isadora on the kitchen counter in nothing but a diaper, covered in stamp pad ink, hair in a rats nest and with hands and counter full of cookies. Some days there may be tears from all parties, some days E comes home to three happy girls and even a meal on the table, but each and every one of these days gives me more than I ever could have imagined I even wanted, more growth than I ever thought was possible and more tricks up my sleeve for the next go round as my feet hit that wood floor the next morning. One can prepare themselves as much as they want before diving into this parenting gig but if I have learned anything it is the simple fact that this journey is as "learn as you go" as they come.

I'm not sure what will happen tomorrow, a week from today or in a years time but by taking each day as it comes I can stay (relatively) sane in the mist of it all, leaving yesterday in yesterday and leaving tomorrow for tomorrow, this time around I have chosen to do nothing more than to focus on the now, to not expect anything from previous days to carry over and to just give each one the best go I can muster while meeting it face to face and with a fresh perspective. Less than two weeks in to this new journey I can tell that approach is serving me well and giving me the grace and self-acceptance I deserve. There may be the thank you cards that still need sending, a financial situation that is just a bit too tight for comfort, piles of laundry and a sixty pound dog trying to steal dinner off the table while his six pound sidekick waits in the wings, but none of the chaos that can creep in day to day should stop me from soaking this all up because for every glass of grape juice spilled on the couch there is also a toddler cooing over her sister while she rubs her gently and tells her how much she loves her, for every snack stolen by a dog there is a warm baby against my chest and for every sigh of frustration there is the contentedness for looking around and knowing this is my life, this is it and I will be best served soaking it all up exactly as it is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Year of Projects: Projects 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59 & 60

This (past) year I aimed to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 53: Two more child-sized cowls for my sister's girls just because.

Project 54: A yellow sweater for Isadora. I had started this months and months ago and set it aside when picking up the sleeves left me flustered, so I finally picked it back up and challenged myself to make it happen, leaving me with my first completed long-sleeved sweater. Pattern is called Tiny Tea Leaves.

Project 55: A big batch of tea infused chamomile lavender lip balms for our family and to add into gift packages for some ladies for Christmas. These were so easy and rewarding to make and something I look forward to making more of in the future with different blends of oils. So simple and rewarding.

Project 56: A red "In Threes" for my girl who specifically requested a red sweater. This one made in the next biggest size so she can wear it next Fall.

Project 57: A tiny orange "In Threes" for our tiniest girl. This will probably fit her best next fall/winter as well and I can't wait to see her in it.

Project 58: A little grove of pine trees I created for Isadora's stocking.

Project 59: A wooden cradle for our baby-loving girl for her Christmas present. Basic plans were found on Ana White and we added sloped sides and a little cut-out on one end for our little moon gazer. Inside I sewed up a simple pad and pillow to cozy it up a bit.

Project 60: An orange "Wyatt" sweater for Isadora. Orange is her current "favorite" color and she had been asking for an orange sweater for awhile so I made this as her second Christmas present and have loved seeing her enjoy it and always smile when she requests to wear it.

And with that my year of projects is complete! I'm really satisfied with how that challenge inspired me to grow and dive in to my creativity and am still enjoying the results of that creative surge as we start this next year. Lots of sewing happening around here and I'm looking forward to sharing. I wasn't planning to challenge myself to a certain number of projects to complete in this coming year, knowing we will have our hands full with our second daughter being born, but I've hit a creative streak of sorts (trying to get in as much as I can before things have to slow down) and am over 20 projects in so only time will tell!


Monday, February 23, 2015

A Year of Projects: Projects 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51 & 52

This (past) year I aimed to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 45: A simple child-sized rolled cowl using a pattern from The Rhythm of Family. Knit up so quickly. I had to learn a loose cast-off to make for a stretchy edge - a nice new skill to add to the mix!

Project 46: I altered the child-sized cowl and through a bit of trial and error worked it up into an adult-sized cowl as well for a mama and me set for us gals. So thick, cozy and warm.

Project 47: Some simple crayon rolls for coloring on the go. One for my gal and two for parts of her best pals Christmas presents.

Project 48: A big pile of cowls! Two mama and me sets for my dearest mama friends and Izzy's dearest pals and another adult sized one for a long-time friend.

Project 49: A trio of purple hats for Christmas presents and such. The largest for my mother-in-law, the medium for a niece whose sister received one for her birthday and a tiny one for their baby sister (our newest niece who was born this January).

Project 50: A felt tic-tac-toe roll I made up to gift to my oldest nephew for Christmas. This was really fun to come up with and put together.

Project 51: A big batch of soy candles - my first ones ever. I used pure soy wax and cotton wicks from Bramble Berry and essential oils to add a bit of scent. I love how these turned out but will increase the amount of oils next time around - there will definitely be a next time. Made in 8 oz jars and finished off with a piece of scrap fabric and a little label affixed to the top to add some charm. These were included in gifts for some mama friends and my own mom, a few are scattered around our home and a few remain in my cabinet for future gifting.

Project 52: A simple "pixie" type hat for Isadora inspired by a friend on Instagram. For this I just measured her head, knit up a rectangle with a bit of garter stitch sides, seamed it up and added some braided ties. She calls it her dino hat because of the shape (and possibly color?).

And that brings me to my goal of 52 projects, but stay tuned for another 8 to be shared in the next few days to wrap up 2014's year of projects!


Friday, February 20, 2015

A Year of Projects: Projects 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 & 44

This (past) year I aimed to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 38: A simple cotton hat for a young friend of a friend facing her next round of chemo. Was happy to add one to the mix.

Project 39: A helper stool for Isadora to use around the kitchen. This stool is used multiple times every day and I am so grateful E could whip it up for her. We don't have the extra safety feet finished and installed yet as it hasn't felt necessary for us (we used oak rather than pine to make for a nicer and heavier stool which I think helps with this...and our girl is pretty mellow on it) but I think we'll still add them on at some point. Plans from Ana White (link to actual plans isn't working right now, but you can search for helper tower and find them if you're looking).

Project 40: Some replacement hats to make up for the ones I went weird on and made a bit short and small. Love seeing these hats keeping all of my favorite kids heads warm.

Project 41: A rainbow hat for my gal using the scrap organic cotton from the large knit blanket I made for her earlier in the year. This was originally going to be for the little girl I made project 38 for but knit up larger than I expected so Isadora was happy to take it on as her own and I should have known that it would suit her perfectly.

Project 42: A matching/memory game for a niece's Christmas present using felt and fabric. Isadora received a similar set handmade by a dear friend for her birthday and I ran with that inspiration in order to make a couple gifts.

Project 43: A knit baby blanket using a honeycomb pattern for our February girl.

Project 44: Another matching/memory set for another sweet niece.

So many fun things to make and gift. I can't believe I'm still playing catch-up in sharing them here, but I made it to a total of 60 so will be sharing the rest in two more batches in the next week or two. I'm already 21 projects in this year...kind of going crafting crazy so I need to get caught up so I can begin sharing those (lots of cute baby things).


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Last Milkies

On January 17, 2015 we took to the woods, and there, bundled in our coats and hand knits, Isadora and I snuggled together for her to have "milkies" for the last time.  This is not how I ever imagined things going, hoping to let her gradually wean whenever that would happen naturally, but as I have learned along this journey of life and of motherhood things do not always (or maybe it's ever) go quite the way you expected. After a rough December of impossibles this was another impossible yet necessary move I had to make for our family and my health, even with the heart-wrenching pain that comes along with it and I think it's important for me to capture that story: 

After birth she gained weight well and I was constantly trying to manage an oversupply, thinking that was what was causing some little issues we were having with her clicking, frequent spit up, near constant nursing after the newborn days were through, and many other things that all pointed to resolving themselves once my supply was more under control. The only problem was that even when I would block feed and have a more manageable supply it would quickly jump right up again due to her constant nursing and as time went on things continued to feel more uncomfortable rather than working themselves out.

Luckily, I eventually found my way to a nursing moms group and over the next few months as things weren't working themselves out I slowly started opening up to others and realizing that this just wasn't how things should be. I shouldn't be uncomfortable and my supply really should have regulated a bit more by then. It was slow going opening up and finding out what was going on as I thought I was just needing to handle it on my own. Others were coming in with newborns who would refuse to latch or were going back to work and unable to pump enough for their sweet babies, how was I supposed to bring up an issue of having too much? Eventually I did turn to the leader one-on-one and open up about what issues we had been facing. She checked inside Isadora's mouth and with that we had our first clue as to what we were facing.

She recommended we go see a chiropractor who specialized in diagnosing tongue and lip ties and providing craniosacral treatments post tie-releasing procedures and we made an appointment right away. We got in right around Isadora's first birthday and she found her to have a pretty severe posterior tongue tie (one that can be easily overlooked but cause large problems for baby and mom) and lip tie as well and recommended us to a local specialist who would be able to officially diagnose them and correct them if needed. We eventually got in to see the doctor and she confirmed the ties and performed the laser release. The procedure itself was rather quick and painless but still hard on all three of us due to her having to be constrained for safety reasons. It took less than two minutes and I stroked her and sang to her all the while, while also feeling guilty for not knowing sooner, for having to do this to her at an older age. They said to be ready to nurse immediately after to provide relief for her and because many moms notice an immediate change, making nursing no longer painful, but that wasn't the case for us and at her age it was really a hit or miss. 

The aftercare was brutal, having to do tongue and lip stretches at regular intervals to avoid reattachment and having to be done in the middle of the night, waking her up to do something I could tell made her distressed but that was necessary if we didn't want to go through all of this again. Counting down the days was how I was living at that time, dreading each time the clock came around to another time for stretches. This is another thing that would have been so different had we known as a newborn. Most people I've talked to who have had that experience say the stretches are no big deal, just a swipe of your finger prior to nursing and then carrying on, but with an over one year old the distress and the physical strength exuded each time I had to do the stretches was overwhelming. About a week in we also had an extra uncommon obstacle thrown our way, one her doctor had never seen happen before, when one night she started bleeding from her mouth. We were told a bit of blood could happen during healing, but in this case the blood kept coming and quickly picked up in volume until she was vomiting up blood, covering her white onesie from head to toe and without us being able to tell what was happening. At the same time she was pulling chunks of congealed blood from her mouth and eventually a piece of what we could only think was tissue in the shape of her tongue. We quickly dialed 911 and had a paramedic at our door, but by the time they arrived the bleeding was slowing down and the vomiting had stopped. They talked through things with us and were able to assure us she was swallowing blood (bleeding from above the shoulders can apparently come at large volumes) and the upset to her stomach was causing her to throw it up and that the chunks were congealing as they rested in her mouth, but with a bit of uncertainty on the tongue shaped piece. They stayed for a bit but things having calmed down they recommended we went in to the ER to have it looked at whether we went with them or on our own, so we decided to go on our own. On the way there she slept in her seat, once waking up to pull a piece out and then falling back to sleep and resting peacefully. We sat in the ER parking lot for a long time letting her rest and waiting to see if the bleeding had really stopped and in that time we were able to get in touch with her doctor and talk things through and all together decided to let her continue to rest rather than putting her through more distress since we had now narrowed down where the bleeding had come from and there was nothing more that could be done, making plans to see her at her office first thing in the morning. 

The next morning we went in tongue shaped tissue in hand and it was concluded Isadora had a reaction to the numbing gel used on her ties before lasering (something they don't always use but had for her since her ties were so thick), something they had never had happen before in all of the many cases they had seen. This reaction basically caused a chemical burn to her tongue and as a sunburn would peel after a certain period of time, that's what had happened with her tongue and her scabbing and had caused this whole ordeal. While having an answer was comforting it was also heartbreaking thinking she could have been in any additional discomfort and the mama guilt was strong, even though I know there is no way I could have known about all or any of this, but still wishing I had and that it was all just a dream. We carried on as usual, but with permission to just do the stretches a couple of times a day and to not wake her up for them, which was such a relief. 

The bright spot to all of this is that we noticed a change for Isadora immediately. She was always an unsettled baby and suddenly she seemed happier and less stressed, like a pressure valve was released and she could finally breathe easy. She began tolerating more solid foods when she had previously still been gagging on many. She began making more variety of sounds and vocalizations. So many things changed that we knew that while it was a hard thing to go through that it was worth it to provide her with that relief, to help her release the tension she had no way to control. 

Unfortunately the pain on my end only continued to increase. With children having the procedure at an older age (she was 1) their nursing habits and muscle memory are so fixed from doing things the same way for so long that there is no guarantee, but I stayed hopeful. I brought her for craniosacral adjustments up until the point where they could do no more (due to her fighting/biting of the doctors fingers) and her having really done all she could do without it providing any improvement on my end. I talked to lactation specialists and gathered any tips, but really we were left where we started, with her nursing fairly frequently and my nipples blanched and painful after each time. 

Many may wonder why I would continue despite such pain, but I don't know how I could have stopped. Her milkies were everything to her, still such a huge part of our day and while the pain was not enjoyable it was something I had grown accustomed to and at that point was willing to put up with in order to provide her with that comfort, security and nutrition. At the same time I did eventually begin offering her a snack when she would ask to nurse after it not having been that long and trying to slowly help her along in decreasing the frequency of our sessions. Around 22 months she showed signs of being ready so we night weaned with ease and over the next few months I was able to gently and gradually help her along to only nursing before nap and before bedtime, with an occasional third time in the morning, but rarely. 

Being pregnant at this time only meant an increase in the already-present discomfort and pain and I wondered how I was going to establish a new nursing relationship, how I would even be able to know things were going well with our second daughters nursing if my nipples were already so sensitive and uncomfortable, how I would stay sane trying to nurse a newborn all day long through that discomfort and how I would not become resentful over the entire ordeal. At the same time weaning Isadora, taking away her milkies...thinking of doing so felt impossible. Eventually though, it was wearing on me so heavily (physically and psychologically) that I knew it would have to happen for the sake of our entire family, Isadora included. So, now and then I would mention that one day the milkies would be gone and tell her all of the other wonderful things we could do together instead and I would try to put us in situations to cut out the nap time nursing by doing a car nap a few times a week if things would work out that way and there was a day or two where she didn't nurse at all just due to the nature of our day and travels. At that point we were only a little over a month out from my due date with number two and I knew I needed to do it now in order to have time to work through things with her before baby sister was here and nursing around the clock, so I decided on a day that we would share our last milkies. 

That morning we went to the woods, enjoyed time in nature, and eventually when I was as ready as I was ever going to be and had found a nice spot, we sat down and I talked to her. I asked her if she wanted milkies and explained to her that this would be the last time, but that we would always be able to be close and share special time together. We talked for awhile and then she snuggled in and latched on and tears filled my eyes, my chest tightened and I felt like I was doing the impossible in willingly saying goodbye to these moment, but knowing it was what had to be done for us all. I let her see me cry, letting her know I would be okay, but that it made me sad and that I loved her and we sat with her nursing from each side one last time for a long while, holding each other close and taking each other in, gazing into each others eyes in a way that is so unique to the nursing relationship we have shared. When enough time had passed she sat up and I held her close and hugged her tightly and talked to her about how much I loved her and what a special person she was. 

We then traveled to a place called Build a Bear together to have her create a special baby. She chose a dalmatian dog and I recorded a message from me to her onto a small device placed into her paw, letting her know she could always squeeze the hand and hear my voice if I was ever not near and she needed that comfort and that was that. 

The first few days were hard on us both, more me than her as I felt like I was rejecting her and denying her of something so important to her, but we easily worked through those couple of tough times on her part and one night of us crying together seemed to really make an impact in helping her to understand it was hard for me too, that I wasn't happy to be leaving those times behind either. From that point forward she has mentioned milkies from time to time and we will talk through it but in general we are now at a good spot to move forward. There are still times I ache to pull her in, to let her nurse freely and to provide her with that comfort, but we have found our way on to other things and while nothing will ever replace those 2 years and 4 months we shared in our nursing relationship, I know there are so many other beautiful parts of our relationship waiting to bloom and reveal themselves in the days, weeks and years to come. 

I know for some people the end of nursing is not such a big deal or it is something they look forward to, but for me it is hard. Staying strong and continuing through the pain in order to maintain that part of our relationship was not easy, sometimes it felt unbearable, but it was also such a rewarding and meaningful part of our relationship and not one easily left behind. At the same time, I look forward to starting a new journey with our second daughter who is due just three days from today. There is a part of me that has always wondered on this thing I always heard other moms talking about - about the flood of hormones with letdown that would leave them sleepy, elated and in love, something I have never experienced due to our unique circumstances. Maybe I will have that opportunity this time. I will never regret any part of mine and Isadora's journey, but I want to feel that feeling, to have things as they "should" be this time around. 

Meanwhile I will look back on our months together with her at breast with joy and with pride and while it is hard for us both I know our relationship goes much deeper than those moments and that our closeness will remain and continue to thrive in the years to come. I have always done absolutely all I could for my sweetest Dora-Do and I will continue to until my last breathe. She is more than I could have ever imagined, she is incredible.