World Breastfeeding Week misses the mark

D506BDB5-7FD2-4AF6-AB52-4B3EF3AC4A4A.png

Happy World Breastfeeding Week to all the moms who have chosen or are choosing breastfeeding for their families.

For just over 20 years, World Breastfeeding Week has been celebrated during the first week of August. For the past 10 years, it has been an opportunity for many breastfeeding moms to share pictures on social media of them nursing with captions exclaiming the special bond they have with their baby, a list of obstacles they’ve overcome to breastfeed, along with a few sentences sprinkled in about how magical and amazing it is that they’ve been able to feed their infant with their breasts. 

Truly, healthy mothers and babies are something to support and celebrate. But, World Breastfeeding Week is missing an opportunity to empower and enable ALL babies and families to be supported and healthy, because breastfeeding isn’t always an option, and it isn’t always the best option for every family.  

As a mother who has both breastfed and formula fed, I’m wondering why a separate week solely for breastfeeding needs to exist? Wouldn’t “infant and child feeding week” equally educate and appropriately celebrate all parents and families?

Why choose a week to focus on what sets us apart and creates division, rather than advocate for a week that provides awareness of all feeding methods as well as supports and recognizes the health and well-being for all families?

First things first.

Breasts aren’t required to bond.

To believe women who breastfeed have a stronger bond with their children than parents who formula feed is both ill-informed and pretentious. Bonds are created in the love and time you give a child, and that love and time 100% does not have to include breasts. 

Moving on. 

All of parenthood is filled with overcoming obstacles and making sacrifices. 

Breastfeeding families work hard and make sacrifices. So do formula feeding families. 

Every time I’ve gotten up to make a bottle in the middle of the night, every evening I hand washed and sterilized bottles from the day, every time I bought and mixed formula with nursery water, made sure bottles were prepared and packed in proper refrigeration for a quick trip out or week-long stay, I was doing so for my babies. Bottle-feeding takes planning and time and effort, just as breastfeeding does. 

And you know what? When I gave my babies a bottle and rocked them to sleep at night, or took pause from a busy afternoon to sit down and feed them, I felt every emotion that every parent feeding  their child feels: love, sacrifice, pride, and joy in the knowledge that my child was eating and growing and thriving.

Next. 

Breastfeeding isn’t magic, it’s biology.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines magic as “a special, exciting quality that makes something or someone different or better than others.”

Now, let’s take a minute to look at another definition. A mammal is defined as:

“A warm-blooded vertebrate animal of a class that is distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for the nourishment of the young, and (typically) the birth of live young.”

There are over 5,000 different species of mammals. All of which have nursed their young since the beginning of time. 

Every day 5,000 different species are feeding their babies with milk secreted from mammary glands. It’s interesting, but it’s also a natural, biological process. 

You know what’s really magical? 

That one species of mammals, humans, have used science to develop and provide an alternate option to nourish their young.

For adoptive parents, for parents using a surrogate, for foster parents, for mothers who have survived a double mastectomy, for mothers of multiples, for mothers who jeopardize their own health in attempting to breastfeed, for mothers who simply know breastfeeding is not the best choice for their family… formula makes it possible for these babies to be nourished and these families to thrive. 

And know what’s amazing? 

Babies. 

Being a mother. 

Parenthood.

To know a love so deep and pure that you choose to put your every need second to that of someone else’s—that’s amazing. 

Three cheers for families who breastfeed. And three cheers for families who formula feed. At the end of the day, we’re stronger as a united front. What if we could support each other in simply doing what’s best for our own families, and understand that looks different for every parent and every child. 

When your child needs ear tube surgery

I am not a medical professional. This information is from our personal experience and a medical professional should be consulted in healthcare decisions. 

When Your child needs ear tube surgery-7

 

Almost one year ago our son had bilateral tympanostomy tube insertion surgery—more commonly known as getting “ear tubes”.

During this procedure a small hole is made in the ear drum and a tiny tube is inserted which allows air to move in and out of the middle ear.

We had always assumed ear tubes were only for kids who had excessive ear infections.

Garrett had his first ear infection at seven-months and he had five more infections over the next 11 months—for a total of 6 ear infections (two of which were doubles) in a year.

At this time we went to a large pediatric practice where we usually saw a different pediatrician each visit. Each doctor would look in his ears, note they were fluid-filled and infected, and write a script for another round of antibiotics.

Whenever we took Garrett in for follow-up appointments the infection would have cleared but the fluid remained in his ears. Each provider assured us sometimes it takes longer for fluid to clear after an ear infection, but the good news was the infection was gone.

On Garrett’s sixth ear infection the pediatrician spoke with us about tubes and said Garrett was “on the fence” for the number of infections that suggests tube surgery is necessary. This pediatrician said we could wait and see how Garrett does and if he got another ear infection in the next 8 weeks he recommended moving forward with tube surgery.

As we waited to see if Garrett would get another ear infection he started having falls. He fell down the stairs, would fall off a chair while seated, and trip when playing. As most 18-month-olds take tumbles while learning to navigate the world around them, we initially credited this clumsiness to Garrett’s young age.

In addition to the ear infections and balance issues, Garrett was also behind in speech development, saying very few words and most of the words he did say were approximations. My husband was a late-talker and many others assured us that all kids start talking at different ages, so again, we were operating under the “give it time” notion.

But it all just felt off. It wasn’t adding up. There were too many separate flags signaling something wasn’t right.

When Garrett fell down the stairs a second time I made an appointment with the doctor to discuss balance concerns as well as bring up Garrett’s speech development.

The pediatrician we saw this time looked at Garrett’s entire history and completed a full physical exam. Garrett didn’t have an ear infection at this time but he still had fluid in his ears.

This pediatrician explained to us that persistent fluid in the ears can impact the vestibular system—which controls our balance, how we know where we are in space, and how we move our bodies. The presence of fluid in the ears can interfere with how the vestibular system works. She also shared that fluid in the ears can also cause hearing loss and result in a speech delay. And finally, that persistent fluid in the ears creates ideal conditions for infections.

And there it was. She put it all together. The ear infections, the falls and balance issues, the speech delay—it was all related to the fact that Garrett had had persistent fluid in his ears for the past 15 months. The pediatrician said we should schedule tube surgery as soon as possible.

The ENT ordered two hearing tests with an audiologist prior to the surgery—both of which revealed Garrett had a hearing loss.

When we brought Garrett home from surgery he put a small blanket over his head and continued to pull a blanket over his head or cover his ears with his hands for three days. He was fully hearing for the first time in nearly a year and a half and the volume and noise was outright overwhelming.

Within a month after surgery Garrett’s vocabulary took off. Most of his words were still approximations but he was saying new ones and saying them daily. He was no longer falling off chairs and was tripping less often. He stopped getting ear infections.

Tube surgery is one of the best things we’ve done for Garrett and had we known sooner that it addressed more than ear infections, we would have scheduled it earlier. 

My hope is this finds another parent somewhere who is on the fence about tube surgery. Or another parent who is desperately trying to identify perceived silo issues with their child that are actually all connected. As parents, we can research, ask for advice, and take our kids to a dozen different doctors, and still feel like something isn’t adding up. That gut feeling—mother’s or father’s intuition—is one of the best things we can rely on to keep pushing for answers for our kids.

 

 

To New York, With Love

fullsizeoutput_3559

New York has an undeniable pulse to it. Step off the grinding subway to a thundering drum performance and you can physically feel the beat. Every corner turned boasts a different part of life.

Joy, sorrow, love, loss, beauty, disfigurement—it all can be found in New York. Centuries-old stone churches kiss new-construction steel skyscrapers. Every age, gender, race, and class swirl through the streets. You can buy a 99¢ slice of pizza next door to a restaurant where $99 is the standard entrée price. The dichotomies are overwhelming and gorgeous.

This past weekend my husband took an extra day off work and watched our kids while my mom and I drove over to visit my brother in the West Village. (Can I get an Amen for husbands who are equal partners?).

This was my fourth time to New York City but first time staying in the West Village and it offered a side of the city I’d never experienced. The residential feeling I never felt in Midtown and the Upper East Side was found in the West Village.

After this weekend it is easy to see why so many artists are drawn to the city. There is no shying away from life when you’re there. Art, music, theatre, food, people—there is inspiration seeping at the seams.

How cool is it to have a brother who lives someplace this awesome? To say I hit the sibling jackpot with my older brother and younger sister is an understatement. I hope one day my own kids will stop fighting over the Dory plate and like each other. I hope even more so that when they’re adults they’ll like to spend time together. I know I have years of refereeing knockout matches over Cozy Coupes, television shows, and car keys between now and then, but here’s to hoping.

My brother hosted the perfect weekend—great food, jazz, once-in-a-lifetime seats at Hamilton—and it was such a different scene from my day-to-day life. Don’t get me wrong—I’m deliriously happy with my life—but this weekend was a perfect testament as to why it’s good to step outside of our own lives every now and then and travel.

Taking a trip is the ultimate reminder that there is so much more beyond the walls of our homes, streets of our communities, and routines of our lives.

I can’t help but feel this past weekend was a little bit of magic. To be in the city where anything is possible and spend time with some of the people who have known me from the very beginning, who have informed who I am today, is priceless.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Change and Control

fullsizeoutput_344b

I wrote this the other day as part of a passage about growth in stillness and reason in waiting but this idea that there are many things we can change and few we can control has turned and turned in my head.

 

We have all made decisions that have led us to where we are in this exact moment. And while we have made choices to get here, we can’t always control the circumstances.

 

Since November 2017 Levi and I have had a second child, finished old jobs and contracts, listed our house, sold our house, went under contract for one house, bought a different house, moved 3.5 hours away to a brand-new town, our two-year-old and one-year-old both had surgeries, we started new jobs and contracts, and essentially started life over. Finding where the grocery stores are, our way around town, new doctors, new friends, new routines.

 

And it has all just felt like A. LOT.

 

We couldn’t control the kids’ health situations, when houses hit the market, whether or not a seller is willing to remediate black mold, or work projects.

 

Those are all circumstances we had no power over.

 

But we could decide what we could change in each of those situations. We could get the kids the help needed to improve their health, we could walk away from a house and buy a different one, we could say yes to great opportunities and take a leap.

 

And while the past year has been challenging, there has been growth in that too. All of the challenges seem a little more manageable if I can sort out what’s out of my hands and what’s in them. If I recognize I have no control over something, it’s easier to let go of it and ask, what can I change?

There is a lot we can’t control. But there is even more that we can change.

57134015530__21A68D6E-237B-4886-8E7B-ED3A9B620B8B
choosing to embrace the mess and Valentine-making memories.

Sentimental Set

Untitled design-3

I’m not an overly sentimental person. My family describes me as a purger and if something doesn’t serve a purpose or have a designated place it is swiftly and efficiently removed from the house—donated, pitched, passed along.

But there are odd items that seem to have a sentimental hold over me. Objects that anchor the family and act as a touchpoint. Our former kitchen table and chairs was one of these.

After it was gone I tried to find a picture of it, but I couldn’t locate one.

I could find lots of photographs that it appeared in, but none where it was the focus. This piece of furniture that three generations of families had gathered around. The chairs that were reglued, and reglued, and reglued. The sixth chair that was broken during a too-rowdy weekend. The chair that he draped a damp towel over the back of and its telling water marks. This table and chair set that bared nearly fifty years of stains and scars, each carrying with it its own story.

When I was growing up it was our eat-in kitchen table. The formal dining room set was reserved for things like Christmas and Easter, so this table was where we ate our family dinners most nights of the week.

Morning coffee and art projects. Macaroni and cheese and homework.

Place setting over the years ranged from paper plates, to my mom’s everyday Poppies on Blue pattern, to my grandmother’s china.

Candles blown out and prayers said. Weekday spaghetti dinners and grilled chicken on summer Sundays after church.

Just a piece of furniture? Or a constant? Something we could return to. Something that is there for us to gather around to celebrate the good and try to make sense of the bad.

It traveled with Levi and I from Columbus, Ohio, to St. Louis, Missouri, to Brentwood, Missouri, to Springfield, Illinois, to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and back to Ohio again.

Finally, we didn’t believe the chairs could take anymore glue. They wobbled and creaked with a simple slide in and slide out.

We needed a new set. Something sturdy. Something that we can hopefully have around for another three generations.

“Give it to someone who needs it,” my grandma and mom both said.

I did not go with Levi on the farewell drop-off to our local Goodwill. Yes, it is just a piece of furniture. An inanimate object. But it was ours. My grandparents, my parents, and then mine and Levi’s. It is where decades of birthday parties and family meals occurred. Where bewildering math problems and seemingly unsolvable life problems both found solutions. It was just an object, but it was so much more. It was the foundation that nourished generations of life and living.

 

All sisters eat dessert under the kitchen table right?
All sisters eat dessert under the kitchen table, right? Sharing laughs and dessert with my sister under the kitchen table.

 

 

*a version of this post originally appeared on former site, These Paths.