Today is one of those days where parenting is exceptionally difficult for me. There are those awesome days where I feel like superwoman and I’m proud of how I came up with a new technique for calming a frustrated toddler. Today is not one of those days. I didn’t have any inspiring toddler rearing revelations and I wasn’t blessed with an extra helping of patience this morning either. Today was work. Today IS sacrifice. People who aren’t in the thick of it will never know how much sacrifice is needed to raise children well. It’s a choice to do this job. It’s not the easy choice so many might make it out to be. I would rather be at a paid job right now. I would rather be in an environment where my coworkers and I had an understanding of the definition of mutual respect. I would rather be working where I don’t get hit or spit on or laughed at when I’m being completely serious. I would rather get weekly to monthly appreciation for my job in the form of a check instead of having to wait 20 years for a “thank you”. I would rather shower every day and skip those “I have no time or enough energy to bathe” days. I would rather be able to make it through an entire meal sitting down. I would rather have quiet – sometimes.
Sacrifice is what a mother learns with her first child. When those first children are twins (or more) that sacrifice is in some ways even more traumatic. (How would I know this since I have only experienced twins? I don’t know for sure, but life just seems so much less troublesome when I get out to the store with only one child in tote!)Responsibility and sacrifice come in stages. You grow up knowing little to no responsibilities. Eventually you become more self-aware and start taking responsibility for yourself (although, some adults never really get there). You pay for your way, work toward the life you desire to live and hopefully, find happiness on this path. You (and by you, now I mean me) may find a person you want to share your life with and you start to learn what sacrifice is like by not going to the movie you really wanted to see so that you could agree on something you both want to see. You compromise on what to eat, what activities to do in your spare time and who to hang out with. You may even have to sacrifice some family traditions on days like holidays and start creating new traditions. I’m sure you’ve seen the changes people around you make when they are in a relationship. Hopefully, they are for the better and are sacrifices made to build a better stronger relationship. At this point, the singles in your life are probably only slightly irritated with you – just wait.
Then comes baby or babies. Now your heart has suddenly doubled (or tripled etc) in size and these little hearts are outside of your body. It feels like you MUST shield them from any harm with no regard for yourself. This drive is huge and I’m not sure how ANY mom is physically able to leave their infant for any lengthy period of time. We bought our car a week after the twins were born and I almost cried at the dealership because we were gone for 4 hours. I was panicky by the time we got home. Mind you, we left them with both sets of grandparents and an aunt and uncle – 6 adults who had all raised children. These new little people are now the most important thing in your life. And because of that, you sacrifice. You sacrifice sleep, and may even forget to eat. You sacrifice hobbies, and exchange entertainment reading for parenting books/articles. You sacrifice stylish uncomfortable clothes and shoes for what will fit and not hurt. You sacrifice your body – well most of us do – there are some few miracle breeders out there that have superhuman skin that shows no sign of being stretched to accomodate baby, amniotic fluid, placenta, milk, fat and water.
Must be nice! Lucky you! During this infant stage many of us may have times when we just feel like a cow. Not good for anything other than milk. I’d like to shower now – oh wait! Someone needs my boobs. This time can feel exceptionally isolating. This is where the single friends are REALLY annoyed that you don’t hang out anymore. Uh, sorry, I have babies on my boobs, spit up in my hair, only got 2 hours of sleep in a row and I need a shower. Why don’t YOU come over and visit ME if you would like to maintain our friendship. And this leads to the great mom migration. Moms migrate over to friends with children for the most part because, unless you have a friend with great communication skills and who is super awesome, they don’t “get it” and are upset that you have forgotten about them. Why wouldn’t it seem like this? If you have never had to sacrifice the way you do when you become a parent (and if you aren’t sacrificing I’m pretty sure you’re doing something wrong), then how would you know?
Anyways, so we grow into this total sacrifice. It’s hard to give up. I nearly drown in the sacrifice some days but mostly I swim. I swim in this sacrifice so that my children will be people who grow up to communicate well, say they are sorry and mean it, be polite, not harm others, be happy with their decisions, eat a balanced diet, be good to their earth, use their blinkers, merge politely while driving in traffic, and will always call their mother and father to say “I love you” because they miss us and mean it. In order to do this, I have to make difficult decisions. Today I wanted to take my kids to the zoo. Today I couldn’t take my kids to the zoo because DD was refusing every request I asked of her. She was in a mood. Maybe she is sick…. Sacrifice. I had to let my son down because I knew she wouldn’t tollerate the trip today and needed her nap. That’s hard. It’s hard to say no. It’s hard work to be consistent and not say “Well okay, but just this time!” Because you and I both know that as soon as a child knows they can get away with something once, they can surely do it again. Comforting your child when they are upset can be hard too. It’s easy when they have a scrape or a bump, but when they are angry at you for limit setting it can be very difficult.
So, for today. I’m done making decisions. Someone else decide what to have for dinner. My overflowing cup has emptied my reserve tank. Cheers to all the parents out there. Never underestimate my gratitude for what I have and what I have chosen to do but know that parenting is the hardest job I have ever encountered.
Where do I start? This is a HUGE topic with lots of feelings and beliefs attached to it. Let me start by saying that I do not judge anyone for their choices, especially when it comes to such a personal decision like breast feeding.
If you are going to be a mom, or already are, you will need to sacrifice to do a good job. If you were able to conceive and carry a baby, you have already started that process. You have decided whether it was worth eating this or that to prevent heartburn. You took the extra time it requires to make all those extra bathroom breaks. You may have undergone procedures to maintain a healthy pregnancy or been on bed rest. This is all the beginning. It teaches you that baby is going to be the priority for a while. What he or she needs comes before most everything else.
What’s the big deal with breast feeding? Well, this is why being a mom is so demanding and so rewarding at the same time. As a breast feeding mom you are your baby’s life source. Daddy can change diapers, help burp, and help put baby to sleep, but there is an around the clock demand to be fed which requires mom to be there at all times. This, paired with the sleep you lose, is where all those “I’m totally overwhelmed” feelings come from. Oh, wait, I forgot all the hormones…. Well you get the point. I’m starting off this way so that you will know it is a challenge. You may think bottle feeding is easier. It isn’t. I have done both. There is a lot of extra time (time that takes away from the time you could be catching up on sleeping) consumed by prepping formula, pumping, warming bottles and washing bottles. If you can get over the learning curve, breastfeeding is much easier…… sometimes.
Baby Center has a great article on the benefits of breast feeding. I know that many of you know how good breast milk is for our babies. Breast milk is unique in that it changes to suit your baby for their age and need. The contents of breast milk even change during a feed! There is a foremilk and a hindmilk. This is why it is so important to empty the breast with each feed. Not to mention that it helps to prevent clogged milk ducts.
Milk is produced on demand. We start this demand by putting baby to the breast when they are born. During the first couple/few days what they get is mostly colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced. Read all about colostrum here. (This great article also talks about why such small feedings are enough for your newborn). When you are breast feeding it is important to make sure that you are taking in enough water and food. That is the only way your body has what it needs to produce milk for baby! Every time I sat down to nurse my twins I brought a pint of water with me. I would drink this while I fed them to make sure I was hydrated. So, the more your baby drinks, the more your breast will produce for the next feed.
Sleep is another key factor in milk production. My milk didn’t come in until the third day at the hospital when my husband and I finally got a 4 hour nap. Then, BAM, more boob than I knew what to do with. Schedule your visitors so that you have time to take a break and sleep during the day. You need it!
I learned to feed the babies in a football hold position and then made the switch to a lying position after getting a spinal headache. Check out this video for the three most commonly used positions. The first couple days I fed the babies one at a time while learning and then got the lactation consultant to show me how to tandem feed them in a football hold. It is crucial for you to see a lactation consultant! She will give you proper instruction on how to latch baby and will make feeding baby much easier.
After going home I kept in touch with my lactation consultant and went to a couple breast feeding support meetings that were led by the hospital lactation consultant. I had several issues personally. I had problems with painful feedings and fussy babies. I tried many changes to my diet to decrease their gassiness but nothing helped much. After 6-8 weeks of painful feeds, I tried wearing nipple shields to help with the pain. I’m not sure how much they helped or if they did. The bummer was that my problem wasn’t with position. I had the lactation consultant inspect both baby’s latching and she complimented what a great job I was doing. Too bad it still hurt.
I made it to 4 months and had a talk with our pediatrician. He reassured me that he understood my desire to continue breastfeeding but also wanted to let me know that if I was miserable while doing it, this would effect the babies as well. At that point I decided to pump and supplement with formula. So, I pumped, and pumped, and pumped. Did I mention I pumped? In order to even attempt to keep your milk supply up to your baby’s demands you need to pump with every feed. So I fed, put them down for nap and somehow ate while I pumped. The pumping was never ending BUT by pumping, I got another 2 months of healthy, antibody infused breast milk into my babies! At six months the decision to stop pumping was partially made FOR me, due to the fact that my migraines were kicking in again and my neurologist wanted me back on a preventive medication. I WISH I could have breast fed for the entire first year.
Try to remember not to judge others for the choices they make. There are all kinds of reasons why moms don’t breast feed. I do believe that all women should breast feed because that is the most nutritious food for baby! I also know that this isn’t realistic. Many of us have to take medication that our babies can’t get. Some women have body image issues which prevent them from ever being comfortable with feeding their baby. Sometimes the body just says NO and dries mom’s milk right up. If any of you are on the fence and don’t have a physical reason why you can’t breast feed, I urge you to breast feed. By breast feeding, you will always know what your baby is eating – and it’s first ingredient won’t be corn syrup! If you breast feed, you will never have to worry about a recall. If you breast feed you will have many hours of precious one on one time (or one on two) with your baby. Even though I had pain with most feedings, I will cherish the hours I fed our babies. I hope you will too!
I had to share this amazing twin breast feeding pillow with this post! This is much like the one I bought but the completely suped up version. I found the add in TWINS magazine. They sale at DoubleBlessings.com for the same price as my plain old one which came in a faux denim, minus the privacy cover. Happy feeding!