So I haven’t posted in a while. (Honestly, it’s a triumph that I’ve had this blog for 3 and a half years and this is the first time I’ve had to write one of these kinds of posts.)
So what’s been going on that kept me from writing?
In January, my husband started taking classes in the evenings and Saturdays, looking toward a career change. I had to do more child care and housework to pick up the slack just as my pregnancy advanced and I started to get more uncomfortable. As I told myself I’d do, I tried to get help for my aching back. I had weekly appointments with both a physical therapist and a chiropractor, eating further into the ‘me time’ I use to write.
My second child was born on April 3, 10 days past his due date. I spent his first 3 months in ‘survival mode,’ doing the bare minimum of everything and looking no further into the future than the following day, and even then it was only to check if we had enough milk in the fridge. One major reason I felt so bogged down for so long was because we really struggled to establish breastfeeding. When I was in the thick of it, I wrote this equation to explain the situation:
tongue tie + thrush + large, flat, overly sensitive nipples = cracked, bleeding nipples + constant breast pain = a mother who’s afraid to nurse + exclusive pumping + possible nipple confusion + a baby who doesn’t know how to use his tongue = 3 lactation consultants, a pediatrician, a pediatric dentist, a cranial sacral therapist, and a 24 hour breastfeeding hotline + over $1000 out of pocket + All Purpose Nipple Ointment + tongue stretching exercises every 2 hours + 3 rounds of prescription antifungal treatment + sterilizing bottles, pump parts, and bras + oversupply + wardrobe of only T-shirts and sweatpants + toddler tantrumming for attention – regular showers
After all that I am pretty proud that I did finally get breastfeeding to work. Around the three-month mark, my pain subsided and supply and demand were finally pretty well matched. Then we had a couple stressful weeks when the baby was refusing a bottle and my return to work was looming. Our wonderful caregiver was thankfully able to persuade him back to it. My husband is still taking his classes, and he will until the end of the year, but his mother has been taking the toddler off my hands so that I don’t have to care for two boys on my own as often. She’s been a lifesaver.
Now I’m back to work teaching, and I’m pretty exhausted most of the time. This baby is a better sleeper than his brother was, but getting up two or thee times in the middle of the night is still no fun. Often I’m so tired I have to go to bed myself as soon as both boys are sleeping, and then there’s no time to write, read, or hang out with my husband. And the tone of every day is set by whether or not the three-year-old has a tantrum on the way out the door in the morning.
All this is to say, I went into this parent-of-two thing vowing to ask for help when I needed it, and I did, and it still wasn’t enough to spare me this struggle, or give me the time for the reflection and self-care I’ve been longing to do. Maybe that’s to be expected. Maybe the amount of support I would have needed to feel better sooner would have been kind of obscene–like a 24-hour live-in breastfeeding expert who will also cook and clean for me and watch the baby and toddler. At the same time though, that’s something that for most of human history, would have been readily available to all mothers, as they would have lived in much closer community with their own mothers, aunts, sisters and other women in their tribe.
I love a metaphor I found in this blog post: fitting parenting into a full life isn’t about balance, but juggling. First you do one thing, then you do another, and you have to move between all of them very quickly so that none of them is neglected. This year, I added another ball to the ones I was already juggling–I had a baby. And where this blog was concerned, I dropped the ball. I can’t promise it won’t happen again. For now, all I can do is pick it back up, throw it in the air along with everything else, and try to keep it all suspended, with a graceful hand and a light touch.