Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve!

There are only a few hours left of 2012. I learned a lot this year, about myself, my family, and how to take tiny steps toward the life we want. So much happened this year and I'm grateful that you let me share some of these moments with you. I hope you are all safe, warm, and enjoying a
moment to prepare for the good things to come in 2013. Happiest of New Years!

My favourite things to do in 2012:

-dance with my kids (I'm on my way to a New Year's Eve dance party in my living in just a few minutes!)
-eat pizza and drink wine with my husband
-bake alone, bake with friends, bake with my children
-read the interne
-celebrate birthdays
-share meals with friends
-breastfeed my youngest daughter
-road trips with my two best girls (most of the photos in this post come from our road trip to Kingston a few days ago)

My favourite things to eat in 2012:

-black and brown rice with mushrooms and balsamic vinegar (inspired by Martha)
-maple and olive oil granola
-my mother's chicken tortilla soup
-Smitten Kitchen's Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies (I have forbidden myself from making them again for at least an entire month)

Songs I listened to incessantly in 2012:

-Anything by Regina Spektor
-Murder in the City by the Avett Brothers
-Gimme Sympathy by Metric (both acoustic and regular versions)
-Whip the Blankets by Neko Case
-The Well and the Lighthouse by Arcade Fire
-Graveyard by Feist
-Happy Birthday, Princess by Cinderella

The places I spent my time in 2012:

-our new apartment in Toronto
-Wakefield, QC, for the wedding of a good friend
-hospital rooms, celebrating the birth of new little ones (three girls, one boy, all delicious) 
-Ontario Science Centre, because the girls need a place to run around and be inspired to love math
-Starbucks, because I needed a place to work that wasn't sitting next to my very loud children

What's going to happen in 2013?

Hard work
Big decisions
Little decisions

All the best for 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

What no on told me about breastfeeding: Part Two

This is part two of a series I've written about weaning my second daughter, Shira. It's been almost two weeks since we stopped breastfeeding (and the picture above was taken the last time she nursed). You can find part one here


6.  You might not find breastfeeding an unbearable burden. A lot of time people talk about breastfeeding as though it ties up mothers in unwanted chains. Yes, breastfeeding is a commitment, and yes you will give some things up, depending on what your breastfeeding relationships look like. In the beginning it can come as quite a shock at how much of your new parenting life is spent breastfeeding, and often this means that you are alone in a room while other people are doing things you'd like to be doing (like showering or going to the bathroom). In those early days when you are figuring things out, you might tend to avoid groups of people because you're still trying to figure out the mechanics of baby to nipple, or you're not yet comfortable nursing in public. To those of you in this place, believe, me it will get better. Know that most people want to support you, want babies to have their milk whenever and wherever they please, and that you can breastfeed your baby pretty much anywhere. Breastfeeding doesn't have to mean isolation.

Depending on your preferences, breastfeeding also doesn't have to mean complete deprivation from the things you enjoy. I have enjoyed wine, coffee, tea, (probably too much) sugar, and pretty much anything that I've wanted while breastfeeding both girls. Sure, I didn't go overboard with the alcohol and caffeine, and I have had to postpone my crack habit, but that's probably for the best. The only thing I have truly missed was cold medicine. Just wait until my next cold and you'll find me drugged to excesses previously unimagined. But dammit, I'll be able to breath through my nose.

And another thing: breastfeeding an infant is a lot different than breastfeeding an older child. In the first year I gave up things like going out for dinner and going away for the night so that I could be close to my nurslings and their constant request for milk. Some mothers prefer little more freedom (or need to return to work) and find constant breastfeeding too much. That's cool, they get to make decisions on behalf of their own breasts. But please don't assume that all breastfeeding is a burden. It never bothered me, and I wish that more people saw this side of breastfeeding. The best part? The longer I breastfed, the more freedom I had. Shira loved nursing so much that she'd wait however long she needed. By the time she was eighteen months I could go out of town for the night and she'd wait patiently for my return. In August I went away for over two days and she didn't miss a beat. I had the best of both worlds.

7. You might wake up in the morning and be excited to breastfeed. Again. Is this getting annoying? Maybe. But I really did look forward to breastfeeding my babies, even after a long day of feeling like I did nothing else but nurse. Do you start to miss your children a few hours after they are in bed, and you feel a bit ridiculous because you just saw them and were very ready for a parenting break? Same thing goes for breastfeeding, at least it did for me. Shira wakes up around five in the morning every single day, and no matter how much I begged her to sleep like a normal human, I still welcomed her in my bed for her morning milk.

I was at a doula workshop a few weeks ago and we were practicing relaxation techniques on each other, in hopes that we might help our clients get some rest between contractions. One thing we talked about was taking the time to learn our client's happy place, that mental experience that would help them relax in an otherwise chaotic situation. Most people chose the beach or the mountains. I chose breastfeeding Shira after her afternoon nap. I'd bring my still-sleepy baby under the duvet in our bed, she'd latch on, eyes still closed, and it was perfection. Her warm, rosy, nap cheeks, her little arm wrapped around me, those little nursing noises. Just typing this has made my (almost) non-existent milk let down.

8. You might do things you never dreamed of. Like breastfeed while signing up for a new account at the bank. (We did that.) Or when you're signing the papers for your new car (We did this, too). Or while going through customs at the airport. (And this.) Or sitting outside on a park bench while the snow is falling all around you. (You get the idea.) Or when your baby isn't a baby anymore and and can negotiate with words about how much milk she'd like to have and how often. You might walk in your house after grading papers at the library and have a 2.5 year old collapse against you, declaring, I love milk, Mama! Now I can have milk! Or you might find yourself nursing your baby two years, seven months, and four days after you starting breastfeeding her, thinking that it might actually be time to stop. You never dreamed you would want to stop, and really, you still don't. But you'll do it anyway on account of a few good reasons, reasons that are yours and yours alone. And you'll listen to those mothers you know who tell stories, who promise, of new ways to love and hold your child that come later, after the breast.

9. You might not like breastfeeding. This has not been my experience. Here I am writing breastfeeding a love letter, so I'm pretty sure we're good, the two of us. But there are so many things a mother does and learns as she parents her child, and I'm certain that not every mother loves every single thing about parenthood, breastfeeding included. I know many women who really didn't enjoy breastfeeding. Some of them continued for a year, others stopped after only a few weeks or months. If you need support making breastfeeding a success, I hope you get it (and if you need some suggestions for resources or lactation consultants in your area, let me know and I'm happy to point you in the right direction). But your breastfeeding might not look like mine. That's ok, too.

10. That you might grieve when it's over. I am not exaggerating when I say my heart is broken. I'm often a bit melodramatic, but I'm not performing here. It has been twelve days since I've breastfed Shira and I've never missed anything more. I might write a post about the specifics of how I stopped breastfeeding Shira, but I don't want to do that today. Right now I don't want to think about how she cried two Sunday mornings ago when there wasn't any milk for her, or the plugged ducts I've had that have just served to remind me that I have milk just sitting there in my boobs, all sore and painful, that for some crazy reason I'm not giving to Shira. I made the decision to stop breastfeeding but that doesn't mean I like it right now, that every day since we stopped I haven't almost nursed her.

Many people, especially other mothers who have breastfed or who are still breastfeeding, have offered me kind and supportive words over the past two weeks. Some of congratulated me on a job well done, while others have tried reminding me of all the things I can do now that I'm not nursing. I'm grateful for the encouraging words and I'll save them for later, when my heart feels a bit better. For now I am grieving the loss of one of the most magical relationships I've ever had. I know that there is so much in the future for me and Shira, just as I learned when I weaned Alyce. But none of that changes how I feel today. Grieving is about loss, and no matter what comes next I will still have lost something I'll never get back.

Once my grief has lessened I'll be able to focus on the things coming next for me and Shira. I can already tell it's going to get even better.


Interested in some of my previous posts on breastfeeding? Here they are:

Friday, December 21, 2012

What no one told me about breastfeeding: Part One

Shira breastfeeding sometime last month.
Our first meeting.

This is me and Shira on May 11, 2007 2010*, her first day on the outside. After she was born in the water the midwives helped the two of us out of the tub (without grace I might add, as I had not yet delivered the placenta and we were still very much attached to one another) and into a welcoming queen-size bed. If I remember correctly Shira began nursing about 14 seconds after we settled into bed, and stopped only about six days ago. Two years, seven months, and four days is how long I breastfed my Shira Clementine. And no one told me just how sad I would feel.

I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding since February 2007. To say that my identity, my body, and my heart has been wrapped up in birth and breastfeeding barely touches how I'm feeling. You know how you stare at a mess of yarn or string that is so tangled in knots you don't even know where to begin to untangle it? You turn it around in your hands and try desperately to choose a  place to dig in, hoping to find that end you can begin to maneuver through and around and through again, using one strategy after another hoping to end up with one single, uncomplicated piece. That's a little bit how I feel looking at myself now, trying not just to figure out how to understand my new place in Shira's life, but to understand my own feelings in my own, seemingly new body.

So I give you a list (you know I like lists) of ten things no one tells you about breastfeeding. I'm offering this as a series in two parts, so check back next week for part two.

1. It's hard work. Ok, most people will tell you that now. In the weeks leading up to giving birth, many women begin to worry about breastfeeding. In the first days after birth, some women enter a state of complete anxiety about it. Is there enough milk? Why does this hurt so badly? Is she always going to nurse this much? Can I drink coffee? (The answers according to me are: usually, a bad latch, probably, and I did.) The moral of this story is that breastfeeding doesn't always happen the way you want it to, where you bring your baby to your breast, baby latches, and then baby drinks happily with the form of a gold medal breastfeeder that leaves your nipples happy and in one piece. Sometimes you have to try a hundred times to get a good latch; other times you try and try and you just can't seem to fill up your baby. But it's ok, I promise. However you figure out breastfeeding, whatever that looks like to you, it will get better. Alyce cried almost every time she tried to latch on for six months. We tried everything, visited lactation consultants, went to La Leche Meetings, cried to friends. Eventually, after some dedication on both our parts, it just worked. We got each other, settled into a rhythm that didn't stop until she was almost two, when I was pregnant with Shira.

Sometimes breastfeeding is just like breathing, and you can do other things while you feed you baby, like take ridiculous pictures of yourself. Or text your husband in the next room and ask him to bring you a glass of water. Done and done.

2. Sometimes it isn't hard work. Then Shira was born. She entered this world with one thing on her brain (milk) and continues each day motivated by the same thing (more milk). Sometimes breastfeeding isn't so complicated. Sometimes you don't need special pillows or pumps or covers for when you're out in public. Breastfeeding Shira was so uncomplicated and I an eternally grateful for her expertise, especially when I spent so much of her first year learning how to be a  mother to two children. I had other things to feel anxious about and Shira let me worry about those just as long as I had the time to lay next to her in bed with an open shirt.

Still nursing, two hours after birth.

3. iPhones were made so you could capture your child breastfeeding in digital forms as many as ten times a day. I didn't have an iPhone with Alyce and as a result I have about six photos of her at the breast, on account of those days I had enough forethought to sit down near an actual camera. But with my iphone always close by I was able to document Shira's most favourite past-time on a daily, if not hourly basis! Very little warms my heart more than a photo of Shira breastfeeding, cheeks rosy, eyes bright (or sleepily closed), relaxed in my arms. I will show Shira these photos throughout her life, and in between eye-rolls she will listen to me tell her that she was loved and held and adored so dearly that I never wanted to put her down.

Like this photo.

And this one.

4. Breastfeeding helps you steal time. I don't know what it's like to bottle feed a baby, and I hope it is clear from my writing on this blog that I care most about supporting parents no matter how they feed their babies, but I will tell you something about breastfeeding that I think is special. Because breastfeeding is often done privately, even for those of us (myself included) who are happy to breastfeed anywhere (synagogue, Target, the subway, in front of my nervous stepfather), you'll often find yourself alone when you breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding requires a certain kind of focus. Since a baby can't look around a room in quite the same way (though they, ahem, try as best they can), breastfeeding an older infant or toddler often means finding a quiet place to nurse. I have stolen the most magical of moments while feeding by daughters, like the time we were driving from Toronto to Delaware, late at night and Matt and Alyce we re grabbing some food inside the service centre. Shira and I sat together in a quiet, darkened car, breastfeeding and looking at the stars. Stolen, just like that.

In the car at Allentown, Pennsylvania.

5. If you plan it right, you can get a lot of reading done. Once Alyce was a year old I could start reading a book while we sat together and breastfeed before nap or bedtime. She was tired enough at those times that her arms didn't wander around too much and grab at my book. But with Shira I learned how to breastfeed her lying in bed from the first day, and this opened up endless reading possibilities. As long as it wasn't a heavy hardcover book I couldn't balance in one hand, I was able to read almost every time I breastfeed Shira for almost eighteen months. In fact, I read the entire Sookie Stackhouse series before she was four months old. Now don't tell Matt, but sometimes I would keep reading a fifteen few minutes after she was done nursing just to keep reading. Glorious development that was.

Sometimes Shira would read, too. That was less comfortable.

Other times she prefers to hold friends. Friends, how can you resist that chubby arm?

Check back next week when I share how breastfeeding didn't make me feel oppressed and how both Shira and I are dealing with weaning. I'll give you a hint on that last one: Shira is fine and I am a mess. No surprises here!

*Update: Thanks, Christina, for reminding me that Shira was not born in 2007. That was my other daughter. Weaning=general anxiety and forgetfulness.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


It seems that Instagram is in some trouble for scaring the pants of its users this week (concerns about selling users' photos without payment or consultation), but I'm not frightened. Yet. Like today I want to share some photos and a little about our past week, but it's December and there are birthdays and Hanukkah and Christmas and opening a doula business and I can barely find the time to breathe. I like how Instagram feels like story, and I'm sharing these with you here even though I've already shared them there. Are you on Instagram? Tell me how to find you!

So this is us this week. In between all the crazy we're making a lot of crafts (including that scarf Alyce is sporting above) and beginning to bundle up for winter. Here's to the crazy this month, and here's to all those moments in between, the pre-dawn colouring sessions, the hugs, the walking to school to pick up older sisters, and the naps (oh, how I wish there were more naps). I'll be around here a lot this week, but in the meantime, here's a little of our story.

What's your story this week?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Have you seen my doula blog?

It's here! I am excited to share my newest project with you, my business! I have been working hard for months to complete my birth doula certification (almost done!) and I'm so happy to introduce you to my new blog, Birthright. I am now serving as a birth and postpartum doula in Toronto and my new blog gives me the opportunity to share my experiences as a doula, as well as some of my thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood. I hope you'll join me over there, stop by, and say hello!

Thank you to everyone who has offered kind words, advice, and some extra courage! And thank you to my first clients for such wonderful feedback.

And please, help me spread the word! You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter (@doulabirthright).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Eighth Night

Last night was the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. All week long we made the night sky a little bit brighter while we celebrated together. The world has felt awfully dark since the news on Friday and I was grateful for the little bit of sparkle the candles brought to our home these past two nights. I held my family close this weekend and my thoughts are with the families and communities in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Dear Alyce,

Yesterday you woke up and you were five years old. Do you remember when you were born? I do. You'll learn about this when you're older, but grown-ups are always thinking about the past. We cling to it the way that you leap toward your future. I think about the day you were born because it was magical. You don't ask me too often to tell you the story of your birth, except for the part where we named you (and I love to tell that story). But one day you'll want to know that it was very, very cold outside on the day you were born. I'll tell you how I walked around the house for almost two days, encouraging you to move down, down, down.  How I was frightened of my labour pains but then you were born I wasn't frightened anymore. How when we met I understood that you were mine and I knew how to love you and everything was how it should be. Sometimes I make mistakes but I always know how to love you. I write you love letters all the time, like this one, on your birthday.

Will you read this when you are grown and remember what it was like to be five? Let me help. You still believe in imaginary worlds, even though you pretend not to sometimes. One day at school I watched your librarian read you a story about bats sneaking into a library late at night to read all the books, and then she asked your class if this story could happen in real life. (Of course it could happen, bats love to read, we all know that.) You were the only one to raise your hand. So now I'm watching you learn that other people have already stopped believing in stories, and while it makes me sad to think you might have given up hope, I know better. I still believe in fairies, Alyce, so don't bother with what other people think.

Before you were born I thought children were sweet and delicious. You, my Alyce, are sweet and delicious, but you are also brave, and confident, and stubborn, and curious, and electric. The other day you asked me what would happen if a space rock hit the earth like it did the dinosaurs. Later that day you asked me to explain war. I wish you still asked mostly about unicorns, but you are five now and have one small foot planted firmly in the world. You already know why it is wrong to hurt someone else, that one of our most important tasks in this world is to be kind. You also know that things are complicated and that sometimes it isn't easy to be kind. But the thing is, you try harder than anyone I know, and that is one of the reasons I love you so much.

I struggled writing this letter. I started yesterday, on your birthday, but I kept putting it away. Nothing felt right. Ask anyone else and they'll tell you why: I'm not quite on board with your growing older. Why is this so hard for mothers to do, to get on board with the inevitable, and wonderfully exciting new things you'll experience as you get bigger and bigger, like wearing earrings, going to the mall alone with your friends, or falling in love with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (hands down the greatest heroine ever)? Is it because we worry about the not-so-wonderfully exciting new things you'll also experience? I think it is all true. But there is something else that makes me drag my feet. I have loved so much about you at every year of your life, and at each birthday I just can't imagine that there could be more.

So I'll use this special place, this blog I write mostly to you and your sister, to tell you all the wonderful things I love about you when you are five. I love that you pronounce scissors as zizzors, and say burgerker instead of burger. I love how you spoon me when we sleep together, how you nuzzle your head in the space at the back of my neck. I love how you sing, dance, and leap your way through so much of your life. I love how you never forget your sister. I love that you asked for a fish for your birthday and you named him Periwinkle. I love that you care so deeply.

Yesterday you woke up and you were five years old. I predict that it will be an excellent year.

Your Mama