Booby Trap

As a new mother, many of the decisions I had confidently and unequivocally thought I made while pregnant were turned on their heads by LIFE.

Life happened, as it so often does, in such a way that unexpectedly altered the course of my existence, and my mothering journey, forever.

"I Belong With You" by  Katie M. Berggren

"I Belong With You" by Katie M. Berggren

In my previous post, Milk & Cookies, I briefly touched on the fact that one of those self-assured decisions I made during pregnancy was to breastfeed. I wrote that as a self-proclaimed, "post-partum, hormonally-imbalanced, sleep-deprived, and geographically-isolated newborn mother," nursing my two kids was very challenging for me, especially the first time around. What I didn't go into in that post was why.

When my baby girl was born, nursing didn't come as naturally as the naive and enthusiastic pregnant version of me had hoped. After a couple weeks, I was in over my head, completely at the mercy of the most demanding, albeit precious, task master.

My daughter's unrelenting need for mother's milk, and my unrelenting sense of duty to provide it for her, left me feeling (and looking) like the walking dead. Although no one but she was expecting me to keep it up, it was my fervent, almost maniacal, penchant for following through with my intention, coupled with my need to maintain control of as much as possible at the time, that kept me from quitting early, despite my many notions to chuck it all and buy a big tub of baby formula.

Riding the waves of latch problems, breast engorgement, nipple soreness, plugged ducts, and monotonous pumping, I vowed to stick with it, despite the extreme discomfort. Fighting in the trenches, I was winning and losing battles left and right; but committed to the war effort as a whole. My breast pump became both my nemesis and my salvation. I was not going to shirk giving my baby this gift of my abundant milk supply, even though no one would blame me if I did. No one, that is, but me.

I can see how this may sound like a dramatization of the facts, or simply a case of a really negative attitude on my part; especially to those whose nursing journeys were enjoyable or even just moderately challenging. But I assure you it is not, at least not from where I was existing back then.

Living in a very rural coastal area, just feet from the ocean but miles from any conveniences, none of our close neighbors were home during the day nor did any of our family members live nearby to help or relieve us. My husband, who worked all day, five days a week, and an hour drive away, helped me as much as he could. Yet I ended up fending for myself and my baby most days, isolated and alone.

This rough situation was made a thousand times harder by the unexpected and unthinkable tragedy that had occurred just a few months earlier. I was six months pregnant when I got the phone call that my mom had been in a car accident. A couple frantic calls later, the officer on the scene informed me that she had not survived the crash, having been killed instantly on impact.

Being the first in the family to hear the news, I was saddled with the responsibility of breaking the news to her three other children, her mother, her sister, her entire world.

How was I possibly going to do this amidst my own shock and disbelief? After telling my younger sister and older brother, they agreed to disperse the news to the others. Still, those were the two worst phone calls I have ever had to make.

The remaining three months of my pregnancy were somewhat surreal. I grieved, but not much. I consoled others in the face of their overwhelming grief. I spoke at her funeral... composed, resolved, and shedding little to no tears. I was mostly numb. I was so afraid that if I really let myself feel the depth of my sadness, my baby's well being would be compromised; and I just couldn't take that risk. So, I didn't feel it. I wouldn't. I couldn't.

When my daughter was born, I was elated. A sense of happiness and purpose I had never experienced enveloped me. Then quickly, as the days went by and the nursing challenges, exhaustion, and hormonal shifts set it, all bets were off. Finally.

I started to cry. A LOT. And loudly. I got angry. I yelled. I screamed. I couldn't understand why my mom, who was so excited to finally become a grandma, wasn't going to get to be one after all. My grief, juxtaposed with my joy, together created the most imbalanced reality I have ever lived. Grieving the loss of the woman that nurtured me my first months of life, while I nurtured my own daughter through hers, left me jumbled.

I found it difficult to fully embrace and enjoy my new role amidst the sorrow. I was a motherless daughter living in a world I didn't recognize - one with my daughter but without my mother. Their lives never intersected on this Earth, and they never would. This truth was difficult to accept, and the pain of it made that first year both a blur and one I will never forget.

That's the why of it. It isn't pretty. It isn't sunny. But it's a big part of what makes me, me, today. It shaped me in ways I don't think I would have been otherwise. My mother's death continues to challenge me to this day. When it comes to not living in fear of suddenly losing those I love, or not being afraid of taking risks for fear of something bad happening… I am still a work in progress.

Although not always successful at it, I strive to let go and surrender to what comes - no matter what comes - and to live with joy, hope, positivity and fortitude. I think motherhood is the ultimate teacher of these things; so I guess I am in the right classroom.

 

*POSTSCRIPT: The circumstances surrounding my breastfeeding challenges were unique to me, and as you read above, I have many specific and varied reasons why it proved extremely difficult for me.  I got through it hope and perseverance; but mostly by just plain, day-to-day surviving. 
However, this description of my personal experience does not in any way reflect my opinion about breastfeeding as a choice.  It is important to make this clear because it was such a significant thing for me to accomplish; one of which I am still very proud. Also because, truthfully, I would do it again, hands down, no question, if I had to do it all over again.
Even as hard as it was the first time around with my daughter, I was committed to giving my son the same benefits of my breast milk, no matter the challenges I would possibly face. I am happy to share that it did go much smoother with my son, although I had to contend with a toddler while doing it!
So if asked, my advice to any prospective mom that is considering breastfeeding is to DO IT. Just try it, be patient with it, persist with it, find the joy in it if it is in the cards for you to be a nursing mother. And be sure to enlist the help of as many people as you can to assist you in any way necessary to help you accomplish your breastfeeding goals.  
I believe it is worth it, and that it will be something you will be happy you did. Even with all my issues, I am SO glad I did it! 

For more information and support on breastfeeding, please visit bestforbabes.org.

Milk & Cookies

(My guest post on Veggies Don't Bite)

When you have children, feeding them is one of the most important matters you face from the moment you discover you're pregnant. In utero, what you eat, they eat. And then when they are born, the same responsibility remains, starting with the decision to either nurse or bottle feed them.

I breastfed both my children the first year of their lives, give or take a month for each of them. It was an easy choice for me to make prenatally, even though there was nothing easy about actually doing it once that baby came out and needed to eat. 

Yes, there were those magical, life affirming moments with both of my kids in which I felt intimacy, comfort and satisfaction as I nourished their little bodies with mine; but those moments were rare and fleeting. For me, from the standpoint of the *post-partum, hormonally-imbalanced, sleep-deprived, and geographically-isolated newborn mother that I was, twice, the whole endeavor was mostly just, HARD.

It was exactly like trying to feed my kids real food now. Well, not exactly. Now, it's harder.

Healthily feeding my non-infant children in this world, in this country, in this day, in this age… it's a daunting prospect for me, as I suspect it is for most parents. Since the food supply in the U.S. is riddled with genetically-modified, chemically-processed, hormonally-pumped, and pesticide- & toxin-laden Franken-food (wow, it has more hyphenates than me!), due diligence is required to navigate the sea of potential poison disguised as consumable food in today's grocery stores and restaurants. 

If you have any inclination to provide your kids with a regular diet of clean, nutrient-rich, whole foods, ones free from artificial preservatives, synthetic pesticides, ripening agents, growth hormones, irradiation, etc., then AWESOME! You're already one step in the right direction. Continue on by educating yourself, ignoring what the FDA deems "safe", and accepting that what most advertisers tout as "all natural" really is not at all. (For more on this, watch Only Organic's funny and enlightening video "The Natural Effect")

As a firm advocate of the saying (that I am just making up right now), "What you bring into the home is a reflection of your beliefs", I recognize that my children see how I shop and eat what I buy; and in doing so, they are ultimately learning from me what foods are healthy to eat.

No pressure there.

But since you can't monitor every morsel that passes their lips without acting like a crazy person or scarring their psyches for life, I wouldn't recommend even trying. Instead, try to live by the 80/20 rule: feed them organic, non-GMO, clean, whole foods 80% of the time (at home, in markets such as Whole Foods and Erewhon, and at farm-to-table restaurants) and let the chips of the other 20% fall where they may (at birthday parties, during playdates, and at summer BBQ's).

And then relish the small wins… like when my kids consider yummy indulgences to be an organic banana or apple slathered with organic peanut butter (with no added sugar or hydrogenated oils) or a bowl of whole milk plain greek yogurt with local raw honey and Qi'a Superfood on top.  

Shifting our kids' perspectives from the norm of today's flawed social structure is a strategy available to all parents - the key is to find ways to be creative and innovative in your approach. After all, we are the ones they have looked to since infancy for sustenance, nurturing, comfort and guidance. And since all children are susceptible to be equally brainwashed by Disney movies and cartoon character food packaging, it stands to reckon that they can just as easily (and arguably more so) be conditioned by us, their parents, in ways that will positively impact them, their bodies, their minds and overall health, for life.

And if that's not more vital and important than you and your kids being able to belt out all the songs on the Frozen soundtrack, than I don't know what is.

~

Below are two of my most popular sweet ideas for treats that my kids love and ask for often. They are sweetened only by fruit sugar and contain a few simple ingredients, all of which I get organic. 

This first recipe is one I found online a while back, although I don't remember where. There are many variations on it, some less healthy than others that include added sugar, flour and butter. The version I make has no refined sugar, and is also dairy-free and potentially gluten-free, if need be...

Applesauce Cookies

These cookies will be fine left out at room temperature the day you bake them and  maybe  one day after.  If they haven't been gobbled up by then, you best put them in the fridge to maintain freshness… no preservatives!

These cookies will be fine left out at room temperature the day you bake them and maybe one day after.  If they haven't been gobbled up by then, you best put them in the fridge to maintain freshness… no preservatives!

Ingredients:

  • 3 RIPE bananas
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free or not, your choice)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional, but a yummy, sweet addition!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Put three ripe bananas in a bowl. Mash them with a fork until somewhat pureed.
  2. Add the apple sauce, rolled oats, and almond milk to the mashed bananas and mix with a spatula until well blended.
  3. Stir in the raisins, vanilla and cinnamon until combined.
  4. Place tablespoon sized dollops of the mixture on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  5. Shape and flatten cookies to your preference, as they won't move or change form during baking.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen (24) cookies.

~

I experimented and came up with this next treat one night about a year ago when I was searching for something to feed my kids that would satisfy their sweet tooth but not pump their blood streams up with refined white sugar. I was inspired by my memory of years ago, single and kid-less, when I would put Medjool Dates and soaked raw almonds in my food processor to whip up a naturally sweet and healthy puree-type snack for myself to eat with a spoon after a long run or as a late night treat. Slight modifications to that original concoction make these "bites" much more palatable and more fun to eat for kids...

Date Almond Bites

My son and I love them rolled in coconut, but my daughter doesn't; so I split the dough and roll a portion in almond meal and the rest in coconut... everybody's happy.

My son and I love them rolled in coconut, but my daughter doesn't; so I split the dough and roll a portion in almond meal and the rest in coconut... everybody's happy.

Ingredients:

  • 5 dozen (60) small Deglet Noor Dates, or about 20 large Medjool Dates, if preferred
  • 1 cup and 1/4 cup Almond Meal (divided)
  • 1/3 cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place the dates in your food processor (removing the pits if using Medjool).
  2. Pulse until they form a paste.
  3. Gradually add the 1 cup of almond meal until combined. 
  4. Do a taste test. Adjust the date to almond meal ratio to get the consistency you like. The paste should be sticky and not too crumbly.
  5. Form into 1" balls.
  6. Roll the balls in either the remaining 1/4 cup of almond meal or 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, or a combination of both to fit your family's individual tastes.

Makes 4 dozen (48) 1" balls.

*For more on the "new mom" hyphenates I described above, check out my post Booby Prize.