Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead


It’s Holy Week…
April 4, 2012, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Easter, Lent | Tags: , , ,

…hence the blogging silence. Until Easter, this will have to suffice, dear folk:

Daniel and our friend Ted butchered a pig on Monday night. Moral of the story: we will be eating ham on Easter Sunday.

My brother will be confirmed in the Catholic Church and receive his first communion on Saturday night. So excited for him!

I found out I’m probably allergic to dairy. Blerg. Almond milk just isn’t the same.

I finished the first of the Hunger Games books. I enjoyed it, but I have mixed feelings about whether I should have enjoyed it. Taking a break from the series until Holy Week is over…

Here’s what we’re listening to this week:

Now it’s time to snuggle this blue-eyed darling:

I hope you have a wonderful Holy Week as we prepare our hearts for Easter!

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Crossroads
March 30, 2012, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Breastfeeding, Motherhood | Tags: , , ,

(Lucy getting a snack before Ellie’s wedding, Photo courtesy of Jade Pierce Photography)

Well, I feel like I’m at a motherhood crossroads with my sweet baby girl. I’ve been following the principles of ecological breastfeeding very thoroughly since her birth. I read Sheila Kippley’s The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood which promote mama and baby togetherness, on-demand nursing, co-sleeping, no pacifiers, no bottles, baby wearing, exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months, and daily naps with baby (what’s not to love?!). Ecological Breastfeeding naturally delays the return of fertility because of super frequent breastfeeding as a way to naturally space out babies.

The natural baby spacing aspect of this method of mothering is what attracted me to it in the first place since I’m terrible at charting. But then I really adored the close relationship with my baby that ecological breastfeeding supports. I guess it’s a good thing that I really enjoyed it because I was surprised and a little bit bummed that my fertility returned after only 5 months. I was seriously really careful to follow all the principles, although occasionally I didn’t take a nap, and was shocked that my fertility returned before I even started solids with Lucy. I had friends tell me that it would be so unlikely for my fertility to return before a year if I was co-sleeping still. Oh, well, not having to even consider NFP was nice while it lasted! And it did delay the return of my fertility a month longer than after I had Benjamin. And the past five months have maybe been the best of my whole life with my precious baby. What a light this sweet girl has brought to my heart!

Anyhow, now I need to decide if I want to continue doing ecological breastfeeding or make some changes. Should we get the crib out of it’s packaging and start moving her toward sleeping in her own space? Should I start pumping so that I can occasionally leave her at home with Daddy?

As for co-sleeping, I’ve slept much better having her in bed with me than during my desperate attempts to try to get Benjamin to sleep by himself during his first six months, but maybe we could move towards sleeping through the night if she had her own room. She’s such a good sleeper already! We got 5 hour stretches for the past three nights which was awesome. We tried cry-it-out when Benjamin was 6 months old because I was so sleep-deprived I thought I would lose my mind. But I don’t want to go that route with Lucy, I just can’t. Whatever we choose to do sleep-wise won’t involve tears.

And as for no bottles, I hate the idea of having to pump (I pumped so much when I was working during Benjamin’s infancy that the idea is just repellant to me) but on the other hand, having a girls night also sounds amazing. But who knows if she will even take a bottle? And washing out bottles….blerg. Hate it.

And what kind of NFP should I use? I was using the sympto-thermal method (kind of) but taking my temperature at the same time each morning after having uninterrupted sleep is just…NEVER going to happen. Uninterrupted sleep? What is this miracle you speak of? So, I want to look into NFP methods that look for other fertility symptoms, not temperature. Got any recommendations? Part of me doesn’t really want to bother…babies rule.

I’d love your thoughts on good methods of NFP and gentle sleep training!

 



Why I Hated Breastfeeding (And How That Changed) Part II
March 25, 2012, 2:41 am
Filed under: Birth, Breastfeeding, Children, Motherhood | Tags: , ,

In Part I, I described my horrible experience breastfeeding my firstborn and how after four months I gave up. I was stressed out. My baby was stressed out. It wasn’t working.

I am so glad to say that round two has been totally different! Part of it must be due to Baby Number Two’s easy temperament, but I think other factors are lower stress, and a shift in my attitude and mothering methods.

By the time I became pregnant with my second baby, so many things were different. I had quit working full-time as an editor and started working part-time as a ballet teacher. We had moved back to our hometown where our amazing parents live. I had drastically improved my health by breaking my addiction to sugar and taking the supplements I needed. So, in general, everything that had made my first pregnancy and post-partum really difficult had changed and I had great hopes that breastfeeding would improve the second time around as well.

When Lucy was born, I was braced for several months of exhaustion and colic after the challenges of Benjamin’s first year. But, my worry was for naught. The moment Lucy arrived in the world, she was calm, happy, and loved to nurse. I’ll never know if it’s simply the way her little soul was formed or if she was relaxed because I was relaxed. Like my firstborn, she spits up constantly (at 5 months it’s improved some) but she isn’t bothered by it the way he was.

Now I know what everybody was talking about when they said I would love breastfeeding!

I think sometimes babies are challenging due to health issues like reflux or simply temperament, but I do think there are things mamas can do that help make a good breastfeeding relationship possible. Here’s what I did different the second time around (I was greatly influenced by the mother-baby togetherness ideas in Sheila Kippley’s book The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding):

No more working full-time. Quitting work for baby number 1 wasn’t an option. My husband was two semester’s away from his degree and me working that year was the best choice for us at the time. However, being able to be home with my babies this time around has made the experience so different and wonderful. I haven’t had to pump one time because I’m always with my baby. Now, I know working mamas who have pumped for over a year so that their baby will be exclusively breastfed. It is possible and those mamas are amazing. I’m NOT saying you have to stay home in order to be a good mama, I’m just saying that the breastfeeding experience is much easier for me since I’ve stayed at home.

No pacifiers, no bottles. Just offer baby the breast. Benjamin was given a pacifier when he was one day old and a bottle at 3 weeks. I think that had serious negative consequences for our breastfeeding relationship. So far, Lucy doesn’t know what a bottle is.

Nurse baby to sleep and co-sleep so that nighttime feedings are a breeze. With my firstborn, we only co-slept for the first few weeks and after that I would have to get up out of bed so many times a night to pick him up out of his crib, nurse, rock him back to sleep, and (hopefully) place him back in his crib still sleeping. Most of the time, he woke up the second I set him back in his crib and I would cry because I was just so tired. Lucy is 5 months and we’re still co-sleeping. I nurse her when she starts to rustle around (she doesn’t even have to cry) and after 5-10 minutes we’re both asleep again.

Have support. Living in the same town as family has made a world of difference. An exhausted new mama doesn’t really need somebody to tell her that breastfeeding is great and she should keep doing it. An exhausted new mama needs somebody to cook dinner or watch the kids so she can nap and have the physical and emotional energy to nurse.

Get comfortable nursing in public. I remember when I was pregnant with my firstborn someone asked me, “You’re not going to, like, BREASTFEED everywhere, are you? I saw a woman breastfeeding on a train once! I was so gross. I can’t believe she did that in front of everybody!” I’m not sure exactly what she expected the poor woman to do. Let her hungry child scream? Is that preferable to other passengers? Anyhow, that conversation and others made me ultra-sensitive to making other people uncomfortable by feeding my kid. Long story short: I’m over it. I’ve nursed baby girl in restaurants, concerts, Mass, adoration, work, the park, banquets, parties, the Nutcracker, weddings, you name it. I can take her anywhere.

Don’t wait for your baby to cry. Offer baby the breast often. If your baby is crying for food they will be frantic and nursing will be difficult. Let baby nurse at the first sign of hunger. I usually offer Lucy the breast every two hours or so, that’s what’s working for us.

Try to remove stress from your life. A stressed-out mama means a stressed-out baby. I’m sure this isn’t a universal rule, but it’s true in our household. I was SO STRESSED as a new mama, working full-time, a thousand miles away from family. I think Benjamin would have had challenges no matter how relaxed I was, but I’m sure my stress made all his issues worse.

Nursing a happy and content baby to sleep has to be one of the sweetest experiences of life. I watch her eyelids flutter and finally close, her arms relax, and her feet cease to wiggle as she falls into precious sleep. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I’m so glad I got a second chance.

Photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography. She’s seriously amazing. Jade photographed my beloved friend Eleanor’s wedding a couple of weeks ago and took some shots of me and Lucy. I was in the wedding party and getting wedding photos taken with Jade was a blast and all the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous. So, if you’re in TX and in need of a lifestyle or wedding photographer, look her up!



Lucy Pneumonia Update
February 13, 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Children, Health, Motherhood | Tags: , , ,

Thanks to everyone whose been praying for Lucy! She seems to be fighting the parainfluenza bug and the bronchial pneumonia really well. No fever so far, praise God. And she’s been sleeping upright in her bouncer to help her breathing.

I wasn’t sure if we were going to get any sleep last night since she was sniffly and since she’s used to sleeping in bed right next to me and would have to sleep upright in the bouncer, but she did great. She woke up every 2-3 hours to nurse (which is a good sign!) and slept very peacefully between feedings. We have the humidifier going full blast in the bedroom, too, to keep her breathing easy. Today she’s been taking lots of good, long naps but when she’s wakeful she’s alert, happy, and eating well. We’ve had some trouble getting her to take her antibiotic but for the last dose, I mixed some breastmilk in with it and gave it to her a little bit at a time right in the side of her cheek which helped her swallow it, I think. She’s still snotty and congested, but I would have had no idea that she had pneumonia if the Dr. hadn’t listened to her chest yesterday. I mean, does this look like a baby with pnuemonia?

How about this?

This is her Lucy Skywalker outfit:

I love this sweet little lady so much and just hate hate HATE that she has pneumonia. Please keep praying for our girl to get better!

I am feeling so much better today. I used some of your natural remedy recommendations and didn’t need to get any antibiotics. Hopefully, I’ll be all better tomorrow so I can take care of Lucy and Benjamin (my sweet mama took care of him today so I could sleep and rest with Lucy).



Tomorrow You’re THREE!
February 7, 2012, 4:31 pm
Filed under: Birth, Children, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , ,

Oh, Benjamin, my little paleontologist,

Tomorrow you will wake up and you will have turned the venerable age of THREE. The twos that I have loved so much will be over.  I loved the day when you turned two.

And I loved your First Birthday, too.

So many gifts of grace you have brought to our lives. The Blessed John Paul II wrote that the enemy of true love is selfishness. Being your mother has made me (a little) less selfish and therefore more able to love. I love your daddy more, your grandparents more, your uncles and aunt more since you were born and taught me what true love is. Every morning when your precious arms clasp my neck and every night when you demand one more snuggle, a drink of water, a song, a prayer, and an extra kiss you are vessel of God’s grace to me.

Just look how precious you were that first week you were born!  On the night you were born I began to learn, and am still learning, that to die to myself everyday for love of you, your sister, your father, that is freedom. Freedom to love without limit or bounds. Such a gift. And when I held you, dearest, on that first night after waiting so long and through the pains of labor to meet you, love for you was overwhelming. So precious, so sweet that it hurt. And it hit me like a blow as I looked down at you, that Our Lord loves us like that. Like a mother loves her newborn. Even more than that.

My soul, I loved your babyhood.

And I’ve loved the twos as well. Oh how I’ve loved the twos! You have been such a lovable, clever, amazing chatterbox! From the moment you wake to the moment you crash you are talking up a storm: stories, jokes, and QUESTIONS. SO MANY QUESTIONS. Sometimes, I’ll admit, after a bazillion questions, you mama will be about to lose it. And I have to remind myself how amazing you and your “why”s and “how”s are. “Why can’t a real owl sleep in my bed?” “Why does that tree have white bark?” “How do robot arms work?” You never stop. And that is just how it should be.

This year you had to learn to share the spotlight with your baby sister. And you have done it brilliantly. You love her SO MUCH. The gentle and loving way you have with her makes Daddy and I so proud. You are so caring and sweet and seeing you two together makes me love you even more.

Little bear, I have loved every day so far with you. But as I was baking your birthday cake for your party the other night, I told Daddy, “I love now. I love now the best.” I love now, dearest. And I will love your now no matter what birthday you’re celebrating. Happy Birthday, big three-year-old guy.

(Birthday party post to come!)



Our Bright Star
January 15, 2012, 1:22 am
Filed under: Children | Tags: , , , , ,

Our Lucy. Her name means light, pure, bright. And we named her after St. Lucy, a courageous virgin martyr. One virtue that I am perpetually lacking is courage and I pray that my precious one will be brave for Our Lord like St. Lucy.

We were on the fence about her middle name for a long while after we were dead set on “Lucy” as her first name. Then, while reading Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time, Daniel came upon a name we have both loved for a long time: Elanor.

(Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton have just had their first daughter and Frodo is advising Sam that a flower name would be appropriate.)

“But if it’s to be a flower-name, then I don’t trouble about the length: it must be a beautiful flower, because, you see, I think she is very beautiful, and is going to be beautifuller still.’
……Frodo thought for a moment. ‘Well, Sam, what about elanor, the sun-star, you remember the little golden flower in the grass of Lothlórien?’
……’You’re right again, Mr. Frodo!’ said Sam delighted. ‘That’s what I wanted.'”

We knew we would think that our baby girl was beautiful and would be “beautifuller still.” And I love the idea of the sun-star, that she would be our little golden flower. Oh, and did I mention that we’re huge nerds about LOTR? And that.

So, our beautiful bright star: Lucy Elanor.

A sweeter baby there never was! She is ALWAYS happy, our little smiley one. And she sleeps! How this girl can sleep! Last night she was asleep from 5:30pm to 8am (waking only to nurse 3 times). What?! We were lucky if Benjamin slept 6 hours and nursed 4 times. Whew.

Her precious baby coos melt my heart and snuggling her to sleep is so dear.

I had so much difficulty nursing Benjamin due to his reflux, my stress, working full-time, pumping full-time, etc. But Lucy is a dream. I love nursing her and realize how special and wonderful the nursing relationship can be.

Try as I might, I cannot capture one of her amazing grins on film. I take picture after picture but I can’t catch her sweetness.