Sunday, September 29, 2013

Confession: I'm not a stay at home mom

I’m just going to say it. I’m not a stay at home mother. There are already all different levels of me judging myself, so no extra judgment is needed. 

I started graduate school in January, and I am right where I need to be. Juggling has been challenging, but I am confident that mental health counseling is my calling.
We are still breastfeeding. I don’t commonly display that information, so I’m semi-surprised that I’m sharing it in this post, but it flows because I want to tell you about this struggle I’m having.

In a guided imagery exercise in class, I was told to relax, breathe deep, and imagine myself as a seed. The imagery continues, and I end up as a tree. There is much space to paint my interpretation onto the tree. I could see myself as a tree and Iris my sapling. I was torn between contorting myself by hovering over her to watch and protect her every move and calmly standing firm in my roots beside Iris knowing that my natural shade was enough to love, guide, provide for, and protect her. 

This is my struggle as a mother. I play tennis in my mind, going back and forth between giving myself stomachaches from anxiety over whether I’m scarring her for life and just being chill and being the best mom I can be, relaxed and confident in my role. I was explaining this internal struggle to a friend. He asked if behind it all, there was a calm version of me just witnessing all of the chatter. I visualized myself in my vintage cowboy boots that were my mother’s. They fit like a glove, and I found them in my grandmother’s garage. When I wear them, I feel grounded.

See, being a stay at home mom is what I thought I should be. It’s what my mother was, and I thought it was the way to go. It turns out that I’m not cut out to be a stay at home mom.

Also, our schedule is a bit crazy. Iris goes to mothers’ morning out four mornings a week: Mondays and Wednesdays at Baptist and Tuesdays and Thursdays at Methodist. She has babysitters 4 nights a week, so I can go to class and Brantley can study (did I mention that he’s in school and working full-time, too?). I would love for Iris to be at the Child Development Center at Delta State, but we are the only university child development center in the state that does not give children of students priority (insert huge rant here).

 So, I am in grad school full-time, Brantley is working on his Bachelor’s full-time, Brantley works full-time, I have a graduate assistantship (so thankful for it), I coordinate a campus ministry (life-giving, love doing it), and, most importantly, we are parents to Miss Iris. Iris is walking, and her personality is bubbling. This is one of my favorite stages, so far. She is so smart, and her comprehension catches me off guard. She understands what I am saying and is able to communicate her needs to me. Iris loves mothers’ morning out, and she loves her babysitters. She is so well-adjusted, and they brag about how easy going she is. She is not traumatized or maladjusted. She’s having a great time. I, however, am still battling the contortions and mom confusion on whether or not I’m scarring her for life. 

I want to be the relaxed tree, trusting in my maternal instincts and knowing my shade and version of motherhood will be enough, but I’m not quite there. See that’s where the breastfeeding piece comes in. Breastfeeding is something that only I can do for Iris. She may have babysitters at night, and her beloved Mrs. May May ( Iris calls her naynay) during the mornings, but I am the only one that can nurse her. Breastfeeding was one of the first things that I learned how to do as a mother, and neither one of us are ready to stop yet. 

I’m still defining my role as a mother. I’m still navigating being a motherless mother.
There is that. It always goes back to that, but how could it not?
Mom’s space isn’t physically filled. I’m learning ways to transmit her energy and feel her presence. I bake her bread. The smell of it in the oven, the feel of the dough, the soft yet crunchy slices of homemade, buttery goodness.There are few things that bring back her memory more for me.

There are times when I know she is watching me and Iris. I sometimes nod with her in amazement. Her energy surrounds us. In Motherless Mothers, Hope Edelman writes about how when motherless mothers nurture our children, it brings a nurturing mother into the room with us. We are nurtured in the process. 

I am learning how to nurture. I am learning how to be a mom. I am trying to accept the chaos knowing that I am in the right place. I am learning to be a mom without my mom. 

And here are pictures from Iris' first birthday!
We celebrated Iris' birthday on June 2nd, which was actually her due date. Her party was at our church. Brantley pulled her in her new red wagon from Mimi and Jack to the party. I smocked Iris' Birthday Bubble, and I made her cake topper from fabrics used to make her dresses so far. We had so much fun with family and friends. She daintily ate her cake that was made by Elizabeth Melton. She pinched small tastes, and she enjoyed it very much. It was delicious. We also had rosemary cashew cheese straws, Sold My Soul to the Deviled Eggs, and fresh fruit. Iris loved all of her gifts including her wagon from Mimi and Jack and her sandbox from Daddy Jon. We love getting Iris and cousin Liza together. They are 6 months apart. Thanks to Jack Catlette for the pictures.

Friday, November 16, 2012

God, Let This Be My Heaven

God, let this be my heaven
Iris goes to bed about 8 P.M. every night. When I go to bed, I do a dream feed. I pick her up and feed her without waking her. Tonight she opened her mouth wide, keeping her eyes closed, and nestled into me. She ate and then fell asleep. She does not sleep on me much anymore. She used to fall asleep at every feeding. I would undress her, tickle her feet, or change her diaper to keep her awake. She does not want to be rocked to sleep anymore. She lays down with her paci and her lovie, sleep sheep lulling her, as she dozes and jabbers herself to sleep. She rubs her lovie on her face, and throws her head back and forth until she finds a comfortable spot. 
Tonight, she ate and stayed asleep in my arms. I could not put her down. I stared at her reflecting on how she used to sleep on me, how small she used to be, how big she is. She cannot fit entirely in my arms anymore. My arms just support her now. I was gazing at her, and the prayer came to mind… God let this be my heaven. If something cuts our lives short, let us never be apart. Let this be my heaven. I could and would spend eternity holding that sweet sleeping child.
I cried thinking of how she was growing and how one day I won't hold her like this at all anymore. I know that this is how this works. It is like my counselor explained that he works himself out of a job. I am kind of working myself out of a job. She will always be part of me, and nothing can separate my love for her, but slowly she will become independent of me.
The other day I was at the flower shop. The owner was asking about Iris and reflecting on her two kids, one of which, a teenage son, was doing his homework at the table. He smiled at a memory his mother had shared, and I told him- you will never know how much your parents love you until you have a child of your own. Now I heard this before I was a parent. I believed it. I consider myself an empathetic person. So empathetic at times that it can derail my thoughts and overwhelm my day. No amount of empathy or imagination can provide the reality of a parent’s love. I'm only almost 6 months into this thing (15 counting pregnancy), and I know I have even more realizations ahead. However, I have loved more deeply, fully, and selflessly than I could have ever dreamed or thought possible. My heart became engorged when I found out I was pregnant, and exploded when Iris was born. And yet, as they all say, I love her more and more every day.
There is nothing in the entire world that can separate me and Iris. There is nothing that can take away my love for her. Just like my parents’ love for me.
I was thinking about my mother, as I held Iris. How she felt holding me when I was 5.5 months. My father and grandmother took over caring for me when I was about this age. So it wasn't every day that she got to cuddle with me and my sweet cheeks. She did not know if she would live to see me grow up, and I wondered if she prayed that I would be her heaven. That my cheeks, my warmth, my gummy smile would be with her forever.
I was thinking of Friends who have lost children to illness and tragedy. I read the news and on facebook of children taken by storm, violence, accident, illness, or terror. My heart aches for my friends and these families. I pray that they will be reunited with their sweet babies and that this too will be their heaven.

Now this love does not only give me a glimpse into what my parents felt. This love makes me realize, even more, how God feels for us. Nothing can separate us from his love. I have an even better picture of that now as I hold that warm body, gaze at those full cheeks, examine every eyelash, gaze into her blue eyes, watch her chest rise and fall, and listen to her sweet sleeping sounds. I am reminded of Romans 8:38-9 that says ”For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As I experience the depth and growth and total consumption of love I have for my child, I am reminded of the immeasurable love God has for us.

How about an update on Miss Iris?
She's a talker! About a month ago she started saying "hey" and "yeah" in context. This past week she said "hey dada." Monday, she woke up practicing her "b's." Brantley left for work and said "bye Iris," and she replied, "bye daddy." Later that day, as I was putting her down for a nap, I heard the sweetest sound... "mama!" That is about all she has said since :)
She will be 6 months the 30th of November, and soon after she will start to try solid foods. I'm so very proud that she has been breastfed the entire time. It was not always easy, but it was so worth it. Of course, "food is fun, until the age of one." She will try different textures and tastes, but her main source of nutrition will be mama's milk.
She rolls and sort of scoots. She can sit unassisted for about a second. She reaches and grabs, puts her hands together, and eats her feet. She laughs at her daddy shaking pillows and mama playing peek-a-boo. She is in 6M clothes, so right on track for size. She chews on everything, and drools buckets. We don't see any teeth yet, but we know they are coming.

I plan to blog more often. I went through a time where I just couldn't sit down to write. I didn't know what to share. I've gotten my balance on this motherhood bicycle, though. I am having so much fun. Iris lights up my life, and I love watching her grow and develop. She is such an amazing creature. For years I have grieved over the seasons changing and the holidays. This year I am looking forward to each of them with this little lady!

And... some recent photos

Monday, July 30, 2012

On lactation

I pumped a bottle for Iris, so that we could introduce a bottle.  After boiling all of the bottle and pump parts, I felt reluctant to give it to her. I was sad. I had anxiety during the first few weeks, because I was the sole food source. I felt so much pressure and had fears of me dying and her starving. Now, not only have I gotten used to feeding her, I love feeding her. I have gotten comfortable leaving her for an hour or so, but never longer because she will get hungry. To be honest, I don’t want to be away from her for longer than an hour. If I pump and bottle feed her, I have to pump, prepare the bottle, clean the pump parts, clean the bottle parts, etc… And when I give her the bottle, I have to pump so my supply doesn’t decrease. It’s much easier to breastfeed her. It’s easier to breastfeed her than it is to use formula. No bottles, nothing to carry with you, no trips to the store, and the supply is endless. The health benefits are endless, and it is the exact nutrition her body needs. We never gave her the bottle.

Here’s the thing, though. If I want to leave the house for more than an hour or so, I have to be prepared to breastfeed in public.  That’s right- breastfeed in public.  At first thought you may be like “oh Jondelyn, it’s okay. There are restrooms everywhere you go. “ Have you ever eaten in a public restroom? Then why should I feed my baby in one?  I have a cover, but when I use it I feel like I’m drawing more attention to myself. It’s like “hey lady what is under that tent?” I feel more comfortable with the nursing tank under a loose shirt .Top up, tank down, baby on breast, can’t see a thing.

Let’s be honest… There are boobs everywhere. Women on TV and in magazine ads show more that I do when I’m feeding my baby. Then, why are people so uncomfortable? I know a handful of people that breastfeed. Most do so in the privacy of their own homes. I’m not uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of people, but I’m worried about making people uncomfortable. If I lived in a bigger city, I don’t think I would care as much. I know someone everywhere I go. When puppies feed, it’s precious. When women breastfeed in public, the idea is that they need to be covered. Continuing to breastfeed your children lands you on the cover of TIME magazine. Seriously? In 2006, there was a law passed in Mississippi stating that breastfeeding is not considered indecent exposure and a mother can breastfeed her child anywhere she is otherwise authorized to be. Thanks Mississippi! From here on out, this baby will eat when she is hungry-wherever that may be.

Continuing on the topic of all things lactation, I am very interested in the state of healthcare in our country, our state, and most importantly our region. This article articulates the current state of health care in the delta- The delta has the highest rates of obesity, hypertension, and type II diabetes. We also have extremely high rates of teen pregnancy. How can we change the next generation? How can I help to change the next generation? My current idea is breastfeeding. Now, I know that breastfeeding may not save the world, but check out the health benefits here- . We’ve got teenage mothers bringing babies into the world that are at high-risk for obesity, hypertension, and type II diabetes. Breastfeeding has been linked to decreasing the risks of these diseases and it’s FREE!  According to the article listed before, “The United States would also save $13 billion per year — medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.” So can I help? Well, I would want to become a IBCLC- that’s an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I would need to take classes online, work a certain amount of hours under an IBCLC, and complete some general Ed classes (already done) before taking the exam.  I decided to research the probability of finding a job. I called my local WIC. I was  told to call the Greenville WIC, then the Cleveland WIC, and then the Greenwood WIC. They do hire lactation consultants when the funds are available and the funds have been dwindling each year. We live in the poorest, fattest, unhealthiest region in the state. There should be lactation consultants in every neighborhood. My plan is to spend some time with my lactation consultant, get a feel for things, and then make my way. Ideas? There has to be a grant out there somewhere.
On to little Miss Iris.
She is 2 months old today! Oh my, she is growing! At the doctor’s office on Thursday, she was 11 lbs. 10 oz. She is cooing and smiling and cackling. She holds her head up when I put her over my shoulder. The pediatrician said she is doing well, and we are doing a great job. She doesn’t like tummy time too much, but loves laying on her back and watching her toy giraffe and dog. She goes to sleep around 11 P.M. She wakes up to eat around 4 and then again around 6:30. She sleeps some mornings until 10:30. Iris is so sweet and loves to cuddle. We successfully made it through church yesterday. I had to get up and calm her down a couple of times, but other than that she did great.  We are having so much fun with her!

After church...

And 2 months old wearing the first outfit we ever bought her.