Sunday 31 January 2010

The first feminists

As today is the last day of Sanctity of Human Life month, I wanted to share an article by Karen at Mini pro-life history lesson on the 37th anniversary of Roe v Wade.

From the article:
"Some fifty years later when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony began the women’s suffrage movement, which had been born out of the abolition movement, they called upon the writings of Wollstonecraft for inspiration and echoed her call for an end to abortion.

During that time, women were not allowed to vote or own property or inherit anything if they were married. They could not have their own money, testify on their own behalf in court, sit on a jury, keep their children if they divorced, or to assemble or speak freely. A woman who was visibly pregnant was not even allowed to be seen in public! Stanton and Anthony rightly saw abortion for the evil that it is and the scourge it is upon women, noting “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”"

Monday 25 January 2010

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

There was a moment recently when I glanced over at our new little boy, laying on his back happily flailing his arms and legs, and I was overcome with awe at the idea that this amazing human being resulted from the physical union of my husband and I. One day he wasn't...and then, at that moment of conception, he was.

It is the only definable and unarguable line between nothing and life. It is at that moment that a human being is created. All other measures are subjective and unsubstantiated - heartbeat, viability, x number of weeks, stage of development, and so on. Conception is the only solid, objective point that marks that distinction.

And from that single moment grows this incredible human being. We carry that life inside of us for a time and then we nurture it through the years, stopping every so often to marvel over tiny pink toes, sleeping cherub faces, a child's perspective, the thrill of new discoveries, the joy of growth, and the ever-evolving relationship between a mother and child. It is a journey not without hard times, but ultimately filled with unspeakable joy and love, stretching us, shaping us, changing us for the better.

This is what we are robbing women of when we tell them it is acceptable to take the life of a child growing inside of them. We are hurting our own. We leave behind not only the bodies of countless babies, but a lifetime of pain for the women who were lied to, who were told their actions were okay because it "wasn't really a baby" and it was the "best decision given the circumstances", who live with the pain and regret as they realize, too late, that you can never forget the child who would have been.

I have never heard someone say that they regret the choice to carry their child, whether they decide in the end to raise the child themselves or place it with someone who can.

But over and over I hear women say that they do, deeply and daily, regret the choice they made to end that life - and yet, illogically, often continue to support the right of other women to make the same painful and irreversable mistake. Why do we continue to lie to women, telling them it's okay, even after realizing for oneself how horrifyingly untrue that is? We support them and support them and support them in their decision to take the life of an unborn child, and then leave them to pick up the pieces, floundering in the painful aftermath of their tragic decision.

Yesterday was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a day set aside to celebrate the intrinsic value of all human life. January is recognized as Sanctity of Human Life month, with SOHL Sunday held on the Sunday in January that falls closest to the day on which the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. President Ronald Reagan declared the first SOHLS in 1983.

But the sanctity of life doesn't end when a child is born. Life should be valued not only in the unborn child, but in babies, children, adults, and the elderly. This should give us pause to consider not only the travesty of abortion, but that of child abuse, inadequate health care, domestic abuse, elder abuse, and euthanasia. It should be reflected in the way we care for orphans and widows, for our children and our aging parents, for the homeless and victimized. It should affect our buying practices and the use of our money, time, and skills. It should be blind to borders, race, gender, age, religion, health, incomes, and lifestyle.

Our respect for the value of a life should show in the way we treat others, extending love and charity to all.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

~ from Psalm 139

Friday 22 January 2010

The evolution of the nursing relationship

"When my son was only a few days old, it morbidly occurred to me that if I knew my son and I had only a few more minutes together (end of the world, certain death, impending separation, what have you), I would want to spend those few minutes breastfeeding him. It is (during his less distractible sessions) our quiet bonding time. He is happy, content, peaceful. He snuggles in, grabs my breast with both hands, sometimes pats one hand gently against my neck. I love his grin-around-the-breast when I smile down at him. It is our peaceful way of drifting off to sleep at night and before naps.

There is simply nothing else in our day that makes him so content and makes me feel so much like a Mother."

~ Ode to Breasts blog post, Oct 07

My little boy is really and truly weaned now.

I don't know when he nursed for the very last time, which makes me a bit sad, but done he is. This realization has left me reflecting on the past two and a half years and the unique way in which our nursing relationship evolved.

It was a wonderfully precious time for both of us, with all of its physical, emotional, and relational benefits. He latched on as soon as he was placed on my chest, and he never looked back. This child loved his milk.

I, meanwhile, was slathering on the Lansinoh. It was an uncomfortable beginning for me. I was happy to do it, grateful to be able to provide this nourishment and comfort to my child, but that didn't make the cracks, blisters, and "toughening up" period any less painful. Add to that the pins-and-needles letdown, and I pretty much gritted my teeth through the first several sucks each time he latched on.

As the days went on, the bleeding stopped, the blisters disappeared, and the wonderfully soothing Lansinoh eased any lingering rawness. Soon, rather than grimacing as I sat down to feed my son, I looked forward to our quiet time of nursing and bonding. Days turned into weeks; weeks turned into months. I loved his eager expectation and the way he came to excitedly sign "milk" - much improved over his previous method of jamming his head into my chest or trying to lift up my shirt!

As with any relationship, there were ups and downs. One moment I would be melting at a silly mid-session grin, while the next I'd be plunking him down on the floor after being bit. One morning I would laugh at his frantic rooting as I prepared to feed him, while the next I would sigh over yet another shirt change as spit up ran down my side or milk leaked down my front. Some days I would delight in his sweet looks and gentle pats as he nursed; some nights I would swear I couldn't handle being woken up even one more time to nurse a hungry baby.

I had some particularly difficult moments when he reached his first birthday. I couldn't even begin to imagine weaning him at that point. He was still my baby, and there were still all of those physical, emotional, and relational benefits to consider. None of that changed just because he turned one year old, nor did I want to wean him. What I did want, though, was a little brother or sister for my sweet boy, and thanks to breastfeeding, that wasn't happening for me.

At one year, his diet was mainly breastmilk. We had introduced solids at six months, but those first several months of solid food were more for play and experimentation than anything else. Believing in a baby-led-solids approach, he was offered food that he could self-feed. Just as feeding on cue had, this allowed him to follow his natural appetite in choosing when and how much to eat. It wasn't until he was about 15 months old that he was eating significant amounts of solid food.

When he was 18 months old and no longer relying on breastmilk as his main source of nutrition, I began to cut back on the number of his nursing sessions. Still infertile at this point, I was beginning to resent breastfeeding and knew that it was time to make that change before our nursing relationship was adversely affected. I gradually cut back on our daytime nursing sessions until he was nursing only three times a day - morning, before his afternoon nap, and at bedtime. It was a slow and gentle process with little upset, but it was a difficult decision to make nonetheless. Even in hindsight, I am not convinced that it was the right choice to make, but neither am I convinced it was the wrong one. It simply is what it is.

I was positively giddy when, 21 months after my son was born, my period finally returned. I began to truly enjoy nursing my toddler in a way that, until then, had been clouded by frustration over its corresponding lack of fertility. I had love the warm snuggliness of nursing a newborn, the sweet silliness of nursing a happy baby, and the precious bonding of nursing a yearling, but this business of nursing a toddler was something entirely different. There were the breastfed dinosaurs and cars. The sly requests for milk when he knew the answer would be no, and the laughing attempts to latch on anyway. The sleepy cuddles while nursing in the morning. The relief of being able to nurse a sick child who would eat and drink nothing else.

When we found that we were joyfully expecting our second child, I was grateful for each week that my milk supply remained unaffected. I temporarily returned to work full time, and while I was sad to leave my son, it was a good four months of bonding between him and his dad. Because I left before he woke up, he no longer nursed in the morning. For a while he would nurse when I came home for lunch - and then one day he didn't. As my sensitivity to nursing grew along with my stomach, I nightweaned him, which he accepted with relative ease. In this way, he went from three nursing sessions a day plus nightwakings, to only one nursing session at bedtime. He was a little over two years old at this point.

Then my milk supply disappeared, and the pain while nursing increased. I began to shorten the length of time for which I would nurse him at bedtime, replacing that nighttime routine with other methods of comfort. By the time he was two and a half, he nursed for only a minute or less at bedtime. Then it was mere seconds. Then it was less than a second - not even a real latch on. I joked to my husband that he was just "kissing them goodnight" by that point. One night, instead of wanting milk, he asked to lay on them, leaning against my bare chest for a short while before climbing in bed. Then...nothing.

Not that he ignored them. Not at all! He just seemed to transfer their possession to his yet-to-be-born little brother. He had been aware for a long time that he would have to share mommy's milk with the new baby. Now that he was done nursing, he was content to hand them over entirely. Any mention of them was done in conjunction with the baby. He no longer asked to nurse, but he would occasionally state that when the milk came back after the baby was born, he could have mommy's milk again.

And yet here the baby is, one month old, and still no mention of him nursing again. While he often watches the baby nurse and comments on the baby having mommy's milk, he has never once asked to have any himself. Now that I know this, now that I know I won't be tandem nursing, I can say it officially - my little boy is weaned.

He's growing up.

I'm not disappointed that he has no interest in resuming nursing, but it is a little bittersweet, nonetheless, to realize that he is really and truly done. It was a precious time. Its comfort has been replaced with other comforts, its bonding has been replaced with other activities, and its nutrition is no longer relied upon. While I still question the limits imposed at 18 months, and wonder how long he would have nursed if not for the pregnancy, it was done, for the most part, on his terms and in his timing.

While I do choose not to actively wean my toddlers, nursing boundaries are definitely put in place along the way. Babies may not “twiddle”, a distracted baby will be given an opportunity to nurse at a later time when s/he is more focused on eating, and a biter will immediately be set on the floor for a few seconds (and possibly be startled by my involuntary gasp or yell). Older babies and toddlers must ask politely rather than tug on Mommy’s shirt for milk, and toddlers no longer get to nurse on demand – sometimes Mommy’s busy, and sometimes she just plain doesn’t wanna nurse you, hon. Because of my body’s sensitivity to nursing as far as fertility goes, I do limit nursing for toddlers slightly more than I perhaps would otherwise – morning, naptime, bedtime, nightwakings (though increasingly discouraged the older they get) and occasionally at one or two other moments during the day, but this is a gradual and gentle process that evolves along with the individual child.

And here I am again, beginning from the start, a sweet little baby to nurse over the next months and years. More darling gazes, more tiny hands patting my side, more lovely milk breath; more spit up, more wet shirts, more laundry; more nourishment, more bonding, more comfort. No pain this time around, though - I'm happy to leave that out!

I look forward to watching the evolution of another nursing relationship, with its myriad of benefits and its own beautifully unique path. What a perfect system God has designed for a mother to nourish her child!

(And to all you sickos out there - here ya go. Another entry with the word "breast" in it, so you can fill my stat counter with hit after hit of "breast" searches leading to my blog. I'm sure you all have highly admirable purposes in mind. Probably searching for articles on breasts. Perhaps digging up information on their use, or their structure, or how the whole milk-making thing works. Yeah. That's probably it.)

Friday 15 January 2010

Pardon my hissy fit

I am tired of being puked all over!

I am tired of cleaning myself up only to be spit up on again five minutes later!

I am tired of generating an entire extra load of laundry every single day!

I am tired of waking up smelling like baby puke!


Now that I've got that out of my system, I can get back to admiring my adorable little baby. I'll take him over dry clean clothes any day. And smelling nice? Overrated.

Thursday 14 January 2010

Vaccines and risks

Today I am sharing some thoughts on vaccines and risks in a guest post at Sheila's place, Not One of the Herd. Her blog has some great posts chronicling her personal journey in "exploring and challenging the 'norms' of society". Come on over!

Tuesday 12 January 2010

This promise is for me

Yesterday I took the two boys (I have two boys!) for a walk in the rain. Luke slept soundly in a nice cozy wrap while Jacob ran ahead to try out his new rainboots in every puddle he could find. For two hours we wandered the green trails of the nearby park, relishing the opportunity to get out of the house despite the rain.

And once again I was reminded of just how much we need to get outside, rain or shine. Why do I always forget? It was wonderful to breath the fresh air, watch Jacob laugh as he jumped in the puddles, snuggle my sleeping baby, and marvel at the beauty of God's creation.

I often forget, too, how much I need the daily bread of God's Word. The three of us went to our weekly Bible study yesterday evening (hubby stayed home to study for his exams). Luke, bless his little heart, slept soundly against me in a sling the entire time, while Jacob played with his much-missed little friend (who turned one over the holidays!). Our group had taken a three week break for Christmas, and I do believe Jacob asked about her every single day. It will be so much fun when Luke is big enough to join them as they play.

Just as my body had found refreshment in the long walk and fresh air that afternoon, my soul now drank in the reading and study of Scripture. I was amazed at what I found there - how could I have missed it? It began with such an innocuous story, Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), something I have read countless times. Last night, though, our group looked at the story from another point of view, that of the eunuch's, studying his character and background in order to get a new perspective on the passage.

Initially this took us to Isaiah 53:7-8, and from there a little further on to Isaiah 56:1-8. We were looking particularly at the verses that mentioned the subject of our study (3-5), promising the childless eunuch "a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters".

The rest of the verses in the passage (1-8) reveal an even greater promise, a promise for all who were not born Jewish. Here, and elsewhere in Isaiah, we see a prophetic promise that, through Christ, those who were not part of God's chosen people could still become part of God's family.

"And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to worship him,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant-

these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations

- Isaiah 56:6-7

In all likelihood, I have read this passage of Scripture many times over the years. But while I was, of course, aware that the New Testament spoke of Gentiles being welcomed as children of God, was I also aware that the Old Testament prophesied this? Shamefully, I can't honestly say that I did.

What's more, last night, for perhaps the first time, I myself identified with the foreigner. Even reading, repeatedly, of salvation coming to the Gentiles in the New Testament, knowing this, understanding this, being fully able to explain this to others, I had somehow never placed myself as one of them, as one of those who has been "grafted in".

It is a habit I have long tried to break, this habit of reading something and thinking of it only as it relates to others instead of applying it to myself. How nice for the Gentiles that they could also become children of God... If only so-and-so would read this article... What a great point, I hope so-and-so heard that... How true, I wish so-and-so would realize that. What of myself? Have I nothing left to learn? No weaknesses or blind spots of my own? No need of application to my own life?

But there it was, there and elsewhere, a promise for me. Not just for nameless, faceless Gentiles - for me. I can't even begin to describe the depth of gratitude that overcame me as that realization and application sunk in.

Thank You, God, for this promise, and for the fruition and reality of this promise in Christ. Thank You that I have been grafted into Your family. Praise, glory, and honour be unto You, now and always.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Beautifully unique

Monday was my first day alone with two children. It went well, much better than I had expected, though it was admittingly a pretty low-key day. Jay explored his new house while Kai snuggled in a wrap and I unpacked more boxes. So far Jay has continued to show as much interest in Kai as he had while I was still pregnant. He hasn't been acting out or showing signs of being jealous. He's helpful and enjoys snuggling with his little brother, giving him kisses, and talking to him. It's sweet to watch, and it will be fun to watch their relationship grow.

Jay hasn't asked to nurse, which both surprised and relieved me. I wouldn't likely have weaned him if he hadn't weaned himself over the summer when my milk supply disappeared, but I'm not necessarily disappointed that I won't be tandem nursing. A bit sad, perhaps, that he really is done, but content that he got a little over two years of the health, relationship, and comfort benefits of nursing.

Today was my first time taking both boys out by myself. Again, it went well, much to my relief. Kai had his (almost) three week appt with the midwife. He now weighs 10 lbs, up from 8 lbs 11 oz at birth, and is doing great.

It's still a bit of an odd feeling to think that I have two sons. Wow. But for two boys who look so much alike, Kai is surprisingly different than Jay was as a newborn.

The way they nurse is different. Kai is very much a "get down to business and when we're done, we're done" nurser, whereas Jay would have nursed 24/7 if you let him. When Kai falls asleep, he unlatches himself, whereas Jay stubbornly stayed latched on and woke up and cried as soon as I unlatched him. Jay would not be fooled by a finger in place of a nipple, whereas Kai gets downright angry if milk continues to flow after he's done nursing, and he happily accepts a pinky in place of it.

The way they sleep is different. Kai sleeps for hours at a time, whereas Jay was a catnapper by day (but a solid sleeper at night, for the first three months).

The way they travel is different. Jay was usually content in the carseat, whereas Kai will either sleep or scream, no other options. Today I purchased a soother for Kai, which Jay never had, to be used in the car only. A pinky will settle Kai in the car, but since I can't be both pacifier and driver in the car, we'll give the soother a shot.

But they're not entirely different - they're both absolutely gorgeous, snuggly, sweet little things that smell like Heaven. I love the sweetness of my newborn as much as I love my wild and curious two year old boy. I'm looking forward to watching Kai's personality develop as he grows. Will he always be the "get down to business" guy that he's been so far, with his birth, his nursing, his sleep?

Ah, but the most fascinating thing about this little guy? The way he miraculously produces more than his weight in laundry every. single. day. Surely it defies some law of physics.

It's a good thing he's so cute.