When we first moved into our house we did not have many baby toys. My mother was into buying my daughter dresses and my mother-in-law was into spending time with my daughter. Toys, books and other forms of entertainment were my responsibility. I took my task very seriously.
I spent lots of money on toys. I saw my friends' playrooms on facebook and in real life and decided my daughter was missing out if I didn't buy her toys. When my son was born 2.5 years later I decided he needed lots of trucks, trains and other "boy" toys. I did not hold back - toys for my children were extremely necessary.
When my son turned 6 months and started crawling... I realized less was more.
I spent hours every week organizing and cleaning toys. I purged choking hazard toys and found more everywhere I looked. I was going nuts. My house and the toys inside of the house were making my life worse. Sadie's room was an insane cluster of toys and my living rooms was an insane cluster of toys and my family room was an insane cluster of toys.
THERE WERE TOYS EVERYWHERE.
Okay, confession time: I am a pack rat. I hate throwing anything away. I can't do it.
What did I do?
I bought many, many plastic bins and filled them with toys. By the end I had one very large bin sitting in the middle of the living room for a month waiting for me to fill it with the rest of the random toys I had collected over the years. Finally, realizing there was no way I was going to organize that bin and keep my sanity, I closed the lid shut and had my husband store it outside.
Then I took a look around my house, saw no choking hazards and breathed.
Yesterday I called my husband nearly in tears.
I take my kids to swim class twice a week. Because my youngest is only 9 months, I have to get into the pool with him. I usually wear a bikini with a t-shirt and shorts. Yesterday, I put on my bikini top in front of my daughter.
"Mommy, that top is too skinny"
"That top is too small mommy."
"Oh, well, that's okay."
I have the top on me covering my breasts.
"Mommy, you look fat in that."
I Look Fat In That.
My husband thought this conversation was hilarious and on-point.
When I told him what happened he said to me, "well, honey, where do you think a three year old hears these things? You have a constant monologue of being fat and ugly. This is your result."
In the morning today I looked in the mirror while brushing my teeth, Sadie (my three year old) stood next to me. I remembered the negative words that came out of her mouth. She must have heard every time I complained about looking fat or old or ugly. I have seared into her mind that looks matter - simply by speaking negatively about myself.
This morning I stood there and looked at myself. I saw the same bloodshot eyes, the wrinkles under my eyes, the flaws I see every day and I looked at Sadie and lied to myself - I declared to the mirror, "I look so pretty today."
And yet, when the words came out of my mouth, I felt pretty.
In two seconds the same face went from tired and old to pretty.
From now on I will lie and lie and lie until I believe it, if not for me, for my daughter who I think is absolutely perfect.
May she never look at a mirror and think she is ugly or fat or less than because of her appearance.
When I had my daughter a little over three years ago I knew I was going to nurse her. I was adamant about nursing for several reasons.
1. I remember my aunt going nuts with all the bottles and formula and the cleaning of bottles and the purifying of water and it seemed like a huge ordeal and a constant need to clean something. I *hate* cleaning. Nursing? You clean your boobs sometimes in the shower and that's it. This sealed the deal for me.
2. It's so easy. You can pull out a booby anywhere - and I mean - anywhere, and feed your screaming child. Standing in line paying for groceries? Whip out a boob. Sitting on the pot and working on digestive issues? Whip out a boob. Husband is hungry and impatient for dinner? Whip out a boob. Err... well, you get the point.
3. It's FREE!!!! OMG!!!! Something about babies is FREE!!!! You can't even get the baby for free. Both of my kids cost me nearly $800 just to check them out of the hospital. But for some insane reason my boobs make food for free. It's amazing.
These three reasons convinced me that nursing was the only way to go. I didn't have to clean anything, I could do it anywhere and it was free. I was set. The first time I put Sadie on the boob (okay, Logan put Sadie on the boob and the nurse made sure she latched on correctly) I knew we were going to stick with nursing. It was a done deal.
I did not realize nursing to Sadie meant she was going to be glued on to my breast day and night for 17 months. I soon realized I was going to need a wardrobe in nursing covers if I was ever going to get anything done. I wore my nursing cover everywhere. I went grocery shopping, went to the bathroom, went to parties wearing my nursing cover with Sadie attached underneath.
And then, one magical day, I hung out with a fellow nursing mom (I didn't really know any for the first six months of Sadie's life) who pulled up her shirt, whipped out her boob and stuffed it into her son's mouth RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. My jaw dropped and I am not saying this metaphoircally. I was shocked. I was bamboobzed. I went home and with outrage told my husband what happened.
She pulled out her boob and nursed the baby in front of me. I saw her boob. I saw her nipple. Where was the fucking nursing cover?
I have grown up a lot since then. It takes a lot more than a boob to shock me now.
With my first child, I still covered myself a lot while nursing. I felt uncomfortable feeding her in public without a cover. My second child changed the game for me. No longer was it easy to find the nursing cover, put it on, deal with my first child and nurse. I decided to stop using the nursing cover as often. I started pulling my shirt up and putting him on the boob in public. I blame a good friend of mine for forcing me to realize that nursing was normal and not something that needed to be hidden.
After I gave birth to my second child my good friend came over to visit. She was there with her children and was nursing her youngest. She asked if she could nurse without a cover and I immediately gave her my approval. As she nursed her child coverless I pulled out my nursing cover and began to nurse my baby. My nursing cover made her feel insecure about her choice and she pulled out her cover and continued to nurse. In that moment I realized how fucked up society is to force women to cover up while nursing their children.
I started to nurse in public without a cover to normalize nursing.
Now I want to share some breastfeeding artistic photos I have taken to continue the idea that breastfeeding is normal and breastfeeding is beautiful. Feel free to send me any of your nursing photos, I would be happy to post them on the blog.
My Jewish birthday begins at sundown tonight. I have very mixed feelings about my Jewish birthday. I was born on the 4th of Av. Essentially, I was born during one of the biggest weeks of mourning in the Jewish calendar. It sucks. As a kid my non-Jewish birthday (August 2nd) was somehow mixed in during The Three Weeks of Mourning. Yes, three weeks of no music and a time of quiet reflection on why we lost the temple, not once but twice. It is rare when I can throw a birthday party on my birthday. Like I said, it sucks. This year the three weeks of mourning are over next Monday and they do not coincide at all with my non-Jewish birthday. I have even heard rumors that the first night of Chanukah is on Thanksgiving, it seems all of the Jewish events are earlier than usual... but I digress.
My Jewish birthday is bittersweet. On one hand, it's my birthday. On the other hand, it's a time of great sadness in my peoples' history. It's nine days of avoiding dangerous activities because historically this is a time bad things happen to people. I am spiritually sensitive to the three weeks. Every year I begin to carry a sadness deep within and I look at the calendar and realize the three weeks of mourning have begun again. I can't help but hold my breath and wait until the nine days are over and we can go back to living our lives normally.
Today my best friend told me she learned something very interested in seminary (a Jewish school for female adults). The Rabbi told her it was important to bless people by saying, "may hashem (God) bless you." Instead of saying, "I bless you with ...." you are acknowledging blessings come from God and you are asking God to grant the blessing. I like that. On your Jewish birthday, it is customary to bless people. Your birthday is a renewal of you. It is a celebration of your birth, of your existence.
As the sun falls and the sky darkens, I am ready to embrace the energy that repeats every year on my day of birth. The heavens opened and my soul was flung into my body this day. My mother cried, suffered and pushed me out of her womb. I took my first breath today. I cried my first cry today. The universe echoes with my existence, the 4th of Av remembers me.
I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my children and my husband and my family. I am grateful for the opportunity to exist.
To you, dear friend, I ask that Hashem blesses you.
May he bless you.
May you be blessed.
There is a certain intimacy in death.
Death creates familiarity. It allows, at minimum, two people to acknowledge each other as two souls passing in the clouds sharing a similar destiny. When someone dies, it is a stark reminder you will die too. There is no escaping that fate.
I first became familiar with death when I was 15, a few months shy of my 16th birthday. I was about to move to San Diego and embark on a new adventure. A few days before I was going to leave, my friend and next door neighbor passed away. I don't weep the way I used to whenever I remember her death, but there is a raw spot in my heart for her. My friend's death shocked me. I still remember a phone call, a request to sit down, my inability to sit since our house had no furniture and then hearing those ever so painful words, "Rebecca died." I didn't and I still don't understand the pointless death of a teenager. She deserved to live a long life and bear children. Her parents deserve that satisfaction. No parent should bury their child. I cried for hours that night. I took a shower and then cried on the bathroom floor. I didn't know how to process the pain. I spent the days before moving to San Diego either taking finals or sitting at her parents' house during shiva. The image of her room during the shiva is burned into my memory. I can still envision it, still remember the bed and the closet and floor and her desk. All of it. I saw her parents' grief and it killed me. No parent should mourn the way they did. It is a total travesty for a child to die.
After moving to San Diego my great-grandparents slowly started to die off. I lost three great-grandparents in several years. They were the end of that generation. I had known them most of my childhood and it was hurtful to realize they were no longer going to be part of my life. Their deaths were surreal - something that happened back in Chicago, my former hometown. Deep down I believed if I took a plane, flew to Chicago, got into a car and drove to their apartment I would see them all again. Their deaths were almost meaningless, a false story easily disproved if I was in Chicago.
Only a year ago did I have to face the pain of death again. My husband's grandfather passed away at 89 years old. On paper that looks like a long life, a happy life, an okay time for someone to die. But I knew that man and his death hurt so much once again. He was strong mentally and physically until the end. A man with a truly kind heart and a stubborn soul. I asked him once what it was like to be 89 and he told me he was surprised whenever he looked in the mirror and saw an old man, in his heart he was still in his 20's.
His funeral was the first I ever attended. They had an open casket and I was terrified to enter the room. I had never seen a dead person in real life before. My husband was in the room and I felt he needed my support. I entered the darkly lit room with trepidation. Grandpa Hal lay there peaceful and seemingly alive. His family stood around, each looking for support in separate ways. Some shared tissues, some stood next to each other, tears flowed freely. I did not know how to handle the grief that I was witness to. My husband's family is not known for sharing emotions. Everyone tends to smile or pretend to smile - awkward comments are met with deflection. I was almost more shocked by the show of emotions versus Grandpa Hal's body laying in the casket.
Six months prior to the funeral I had a verbal altercation with my sister-in-law. Despite several apologies I was unwilling to forgive. That day, when we made eye contact in the viewing room and her eyes met mine we became intimate. It was a moment of two people seeing death and understanding its permanence. Her tear filled eyes were an open portal into her heart and I forgave. Later, when the burial was occurring and my father-in-law stood by the grave grieving, I once again felt the intimacy of death. I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and hugged him. We stood there with my arm around him and his arm around me.
This week I have lost another member of my family. I regret I allowed distance and time to take away from our relationship. My mother's uncle passed away from a short battle with melanoma. When I heard I cried for his death. As an adult I didn't really know him. However, as a child, I remember his smile and his kindness. When he helped my family with a basement remodel he allowed me to work by his side. He only had a kind word for me. He was a good man. I am sorry to say goodbye so soon in his life.
Yesterday, my father-in-law's dog passed away. When Aaron joined the family one of our dogs was hit by a car and died. I found his body but within the hour that Logan came home to pick up the body someone had already taken it away. We never said goodbye to our dog. Sadie spent months asking about him. So, yesterday, when Zoey the dog died, I decided Sadie was going to go to her burial and say goodbye.
I picked up Sadie from school, told her I had something sad to tell her and then let her know Zoey had died. I asked if she wanted to go the funeral. Sadie very much wanted to say goodbye to Zoey. When Sadie first saw Zoey the dog's body lying in the ditch she was curious but seemed emotionally calm. At some point she went with Grandma (my MIL) to see Zoey closer. I stood on the opposite side and watched Sadie, MIL and FIL stand by the grave while FIL spoke kind words about his dog. I saw Sadie take her finger and put it to her mouth. I continued to watch her and she seemed calm but I felt uncomfortable with her standing so close to the grave and seeing so many people crying around the burial site. [The dog was company dog and many people at my FIL's business really loved her so she was heavily grieved upon her passing.]
I walked down the hill and pushed past crying people yelling Sadie's name until she came to me. Immediately she jumped into my arms and demanded to go home. I realized my mistake instantly. I should not have allowed her to go so close to the grave nor stand there while adults weeped around her. It was too intense for a little person. I took her to my husband's office and fed her chocolate and held her for a while. In time she calmed down and we went home.
Thankfully today she seems unfazed by yesterday's burial.
Why is it only in death we allow ourselves to open to the world and to one another? It seems for many people only when we are faced with our mortality do we allow ourselves to cry and open the window of our souls to each other.
Meet the Blogger!
I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
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