Right Now

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Right now my two-year-old has a cough and a cold.

Right now he can’t sleep alone so he calls me in.

Right now I am tired and my muscles ache.

Right now my face is buried in the top of his head, his fine hair bristling my eyes.

Right now he needs me this much.

Tomorrow he will need me less.

Every day after this day he will need me less.

Right now he doesn’t need to nurse, he just needs my body against his.

Right now I smell him.

There is no way to describe it, but it is entirely him.

Right now my older son is asleep in his bed across the room.

I don’t remember how he smelled at two-years-old, but I remember loving his smell, inhaling it.

Right now I realize how deeply I miss it.

Just the two of us, alone together.

Right now the snow is melting and another storm is moving in.

Right now other mothers are lying in the dark with their children.

Or without their children.

Right now I’m trying to consume it all—

This vast, cold night in early March.

These boys.

My tired, tender aches and longings.

The heat creaking.

The way our lives move up and out, stir and become still.

Right now I am listening to sleep rush over us all.

Cloaking us in memory.

Reaching for us in waves.

Salt in our eyes.

Brine in our dreams.

Shine Your Light. Stamp Your Feet. Rock On.

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My two-year-old is entering what some might call a developmental leap or a growth spurt or a wonder week or a . . . whatever. To me, it’s just another week of extreme fatigue and frustration mixed in with oh my god this is all rushing by so suddenly I can’t breathe I love him so much.

How do I know this thing is happening? Well, it started with sleep. Or, ummm, lack of sleep. As in, “it’s 2am and I want to play and watch TV and pull on your lip and pick off the skin.” (I know it’s gross, but that’s really what he did.)

And then came the 4:30am wake-ups, followed by the mornings lying on the floor crying when we said he couldn’t have a lollipop for breakfast. Or lunch. And then when he finally did get one, the lying on the floor crying that he couldn’t have three.

You get the picture.

Now sleep is better, but the growing, the changing, the explosion in his brain and his body—it’s still very much happening. He’s going to be two-and-a-half next month and if I remember correctly from when my first child turned two-and-a-half, this is when the fun stuff begins. And I mean this genuinely, in a way.

Yes, he is testing boundaries. Yes, he is running up the block from me when I tell him he needs to stay. Yes, he is walking onto the snow banks when we are trying to get his brother to school on time. Yes, he is trudging through the snow-filled empty lot next to our house even though it’s 3 degrees and he’s not wearing boots and I just don’t have the energy or the stamina to go fish him out again.

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But the reason why is because his world is expanding. There is a beautiful world out there of snowy freedom and frozen frolicking. Before, he took the narrow walk to school, but now he’s captivated by all this sparkling stuff in the periphery of his vision.

Don’t we all remember those desires for true and utter abandon? When we just wanted and wanted and didn’t give a damn about what anyone else thought? That’s when we fell in love. That’s when we discovered poetry. That’s when we hiked through the mountains alone. That’s when we dove into the lake naked at night at the very end of August.

Oh, he wants and he wants and he wants. He is luster and light and longing. He doesn’t care if we have time for it, if he’ll catch frostbite, if his mother has been surviving on 5 hours of broken sleep for days, and just can’t chase him again. His passion is too high right now.

It will die down. We will find our way to talk about when it is and isn’t appropriate to have candy or snowy adventures. I will be relieved and rested again.

But all of it breaks my heart a bit. I wish I could just let him have everything he desires. Of course I know I can’t. I know it is my job to lovingly show him the boundaries of this world.

I look at him, two years old, with the fire beginning to ignite in his heart. His body pulling and twisting out of my arms. His is the passion we must all remember we have, even as we learn to be measured, cooperative, kind-hearted citizens of the world. He is our reminder never to forget this incredible charge we all have buried somewhere inside.

When I pick him up for naptime, as he drifts off in my arms, he calls out mommy, mommy, even though I am right there, holding him tight. All morning he was unleashed but now he is tethered to me, his hands encircling my head and gripping my ponytail.

Oh the moving away, and then the gathering in that happens on and off throughout childhood. Two steps forward, one step back.

This morning he shouted that I must “go away” as he bounded onto an island of snow on the way back from dropping off his big brother at school. I shot this photo of him, and only noticed later how the morning sun shone a spotlight on him.

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Oh, my daydreamer. My tender, unhinged, bright, fierce soul. Here we are. I am spending my days witnessing this trembling in you. These desires you don’t quite understand yet, and certainly can’t control. I am tired. But I am trying to let you feel it all. I’m trying to let you be as free as I can. I have these few extra minutes to stop on the side of the road. I have these few extra mornings. I have these last shreds of patience.

So shine on, dear soul. Stamp your feet. Shout it. Rock on. I’m here watching the show. It’s a good one.

Meditation: Child Sleeping

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If you lie there
after the boy has fallen asleep
and listen to the hiss
of the radiator
and the blizzard
slowly slashing
against the window
if you lie there
your hands
your arms
empty of children
teeth clenched from a day
of nursing
picking up toys
making oatmeal
cleaning up oatmeal
brushing teeth
wiping butts
holding hands
letting go
if you lie there
long enough
and breathe
just breathe
you will hear
the long
deep
slow
guttural
sigh
of the boy
falling deeper
into dearest
darkest
sweetest
succulent
tangled
broken
ancient
sleep

 

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The First Week of Breastfeeding: What to Expect

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Breastfeeding is normal, natural, and instinctual, but it’s also a learned process for both moms and babies. It’s to be expected that new moms will have questions, and need information as breastfeeding unfolds after birth. Along with some loving care and guidance, and a good dose of trust in the process and your body, it’s vital to have good information about what to expect in the first few days of breastfeeding, especially since so much changes that first week—from birth to colostrum to “milk in”! So here’s a breakdown of the first week—what’s normal, and what to do if something goes wrong.

The First Few Hours After Birth

Unless you or your baby have a medical condition that requires immediate attention, it’s important to spend a good few hours with your baby skin-to-skin directly after birth. Even babies born via c-section can be placed in a mother’s arms after birth. Most babies (especially ones born to mothers who didn’t have pain medication) will crawl up to the breast and latch on themselves. Numerous studies have shown the importance of these first few hours (here’s one). Babies are most alert and primed to nurse in these post-birth hours. After the first few hours, babies often fall into a deep sleep and are less able to nurse well. There is also evidence that nursing in the first few hours leads to long nursing duration in the long-term. Babies are learning as soon as they are born, so give them the chance to learn to nurse. If you aren’t able to, or if something goes wrong, don’t worry—with help, almost all babies can learn to latch later.

Days 1-3

For the first few days after birth, expect your baby to nurse very frequently. There is absolutely no schedule yet. If you are in a hospital, have your baby room-in with you. Keep your baby skin-to-skin with you for most of the day. This way, anytime your baby looks for the breast, it will be right there! Rooting, head bobbing, fist sucking, mouth fluttering—these are all signs your baby is ready to nurse. You can’t nurse too often. Ask that the hospital give your baby no artificial nipples—no bottles or pacifiers. You are all the food and comfort your baby needs.

During the first three days, you are producing a kind of milk called colostrum. It’s small in amount, but rich in vitamins, proteins, antibodies, and anti-viral agents. It’s your baby’s first inoculation. It also acts as a laxative, and helps your baby clear out his first poop (meconium).

It is normal for breastfed babies to lose a bit of weight in the first three days of life. 5-7% is in the normal range. Part of this is the passage of the first poop, and other fluids from birth. You don’t need to supplement your baby. In fact, your baby’s stomach is about the size of a marble right now, so feeding a few ounces in a bottle will most likely make your baby spit up. The colostrum your body produces is small in amount for a reason—it’s just the right amount for your baby’s stomach to hold.

What if your baby is not latching? While rare, it does happen that some babies have trouble latching in the first few days. If this is the case, get some help from a lactation consultant, or trusted helper right away. In the meantime, keep your baby skin-to-skin, hand express your colostrum (pumps don’t work as well in these first few days before your milk “comes in”) and feed your baby the colostrum with a small spoon or a medicine dropper.

Days 3-5

Sometime between the third and fifth day after birth, your milk will become more abundant. It can often happen suddenly, but is sometimes more gradual. Some women just feel fuller, and might notice their baby swallowing more milk (not everyone can hear a baby swallow, and that doesn’t mean the baby isn’t getting milk!). Other women become quite engorged when their milk comes in, which can be a challenge in itself. The key is to make sure your baby is deeply latched on, and to nurse frequently to empty your breasts and prevent them from overfilling. If your breasts are so full that your nipples become flattened, your baby may have trouble latching on. Hand expressing a little milk to soften the nipple, or trying a technique called Reverse Pressure Softening can make the nipple more pliable and make latching easier. Get some help with these techniques if necessary. If you are so engorged that your milk isn’t flowing, gentle massage can help. Cold packs or chilled cabbage between feedings can also be helpful.

Soon after your milk comes in, your baby’s poops will transition to a greenish/brownish color, and will take on a mustard yellow color soon after. Wet diapers will become more abundant as well.

Days 5-7

Once you’ve gotten over the hump of the first few days, you might be starting to find a groove with breastfeeding. Your baby will still be nursing very frequently, about 10 times in 24 hours. Some will have a slightly longer stretch (though not always at night!), but most will need to nurse every two hours or so. Once your milk is in, and you know that your baby is gaining weight, you can let some longer stretches happen, but remember to always nurse when your baby shows cues. Even a baby making light sucking motions is a cue to nurse! Some babies will seem to have an erratic eating schedule, wanting to nurse every hour for a few hours, and then being passed out for a few hours after that (i.e., cluster feeding). All of it is normal.

Babies generally have 3-5 poopy diapers per 24 hours. The poops should be at least the size of a quarter, yellow in color and sometimes seedy in texture. Variations in color are normal too. Some babies will poop after every feeding, and some will consolidate the poops more. Pee diapers vary, but 5-6 wet diapers per day is normal.

But diapers only tell half the story of how much milk a baby is getting. The most reliable test of how much your baby is getting is a weight check (no clothes or diaper, and on the same scale each time if possible). It can take up to two weeks for a baby to get back to his birthweight, but by the end of the first week, a baby should be gaining rather than continuing to lose weight. If your baby isn’t gaining weight, get help right away! If you need to supplement, pump your milk and feed it to your baby. Here is a post I wrote about supplementing the breastfed baby, and the importance of doing so early on if your baby is losing too much weight.

Nursing should be pain-free by the end of the first week. Some initial mild tenderness when your baby first latches on is within the spectrum of normal, but pain that is severe, lasts more than a few seconds, lasts between feeds, or that is accompanied by broken or cracked skin is not normal. If this is the case, get help sooner than later because these problems only tend to get worse with time. Often all that you need is a quick adjustment to your latch, or positioning. Some moms and babies need a little more help. Find a lactation consultant or other trusted helper. This type of thing usually requires in-person help.

Beyond The First Week

You just had a baby and your body needs to heal after birth. Your baby will want to nurse a lot and be near you. Now is the time to clear your schedule and let yourself be lazy and snuggly with your baby! Lots of new moms have trouble with this because they are used to getting things done and feeling independent. But this time is brief and you will thank yourself later that you took the time to rest and establish breastfeeding. But don’t do it alone.  Get help! Your partner, your family, your neighbors—accept all offers of help. Let others keep house and feed you so you can rest and nurse.

Do you love breastfeeding? Hate it? Feel overwhelmed? All of these feelings are normal, and it’s normal to feel all of them all at once (here is a good article to help you distinguish these normal feelings from postpartum depression or anxiety). You need to find your tribe. Once you have recovered from birth and breastfeeding is established, join a local breastfeeding support group. Meeting other breastfeeding moms will help you feel normal. Plus, more concerns come up after that first week, and it’s great to have the wisdom and support of other mothers.

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A version of this post first appeared in Natural Child Magazine

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If you are looking for breastfeeding help, you can contact a La Leche League Leader or a Lactation Consultant.  If you are interested in setting up a breastfeeding consultation with me, visit my website , or contact me at wendywisner78@gmail.com.  I do in-person consultations for mothers in Queens or Nassau County, NY, and I also offer phone/Skype/FaceTime consultations for mothers outside of my area. 

 

Our Week of Doing Nothing

This past week was the mid-winter break and we were all home. There were a couple days of snow, temperatures below freezing, and for two days the car was in the shop. We got out to the movies once, and to an indoor play gym, but for most of it, we were stuck at home.

There was probably a bit more TV watching than there should have been.

My sweet TV zombie

My sweet TV zombie

We did a couple of science experiments, all of which involved cornstarch and dish soap.

This was called "Even Better Bubble Dough"

And some brownie-making. And brownie-batter-licking.

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But if you asked what we did all week, I would have said, “ummmm, nothing.”

Can I tell you how much I loved it? This week of nothing was one of my favorite “vacations.” On my Facebook feed were pictures of families in tropical places, enjoying the sun and the outdoors, and although I was definitely envious, I really liked being homebound with my family.

A couple of times I noticed myself feeling critical. I wondered if I should have taken advantage of this rare time of us all together, with few obligations and plans. Should we have taken the kids to a museum in the city, a Broadway show? Should we have done more art projects, played more board games, baked a few more batches of brownies? Should I have tried to exercise more? Should I have written more? What could I do to give this precious time together more meaning?

Then I let those thoughts go. And I let the days go. But I sunk myself into them. The baby playing cars on the floor (he’s currently obsessed), the big boy rereading every book in the house (he’s a certified bookworm). All of us laughing and tickling each other on the bed. My husband and I staying up “late,” catching up on Girls and The Mindy Project.

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Seriously, what more is there than this? Being together with the people I love most. That’s all there is in this world, really.

But there is this pressure in our culture right now to do with your kids. To have something to show for your time together. Should we blame Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest? Should we blame the media? The Mommy Wars? Each other? I don’t know. But the pressure is there.

I feel it when my son tells me he doesn’t want to continue with Little League. Or basketball. Or piano lessons. When he says he’d like to come home after school each day and just do nothing, and I wonder if I should make him “do something.” I feel the need to say, “Well, that’s fine, but it would be good for you to have something outside of school. A passion. Something to try.”

Does he really need to add anything to his schedule of school and home? Does this boy, this 8-year-old child—whose passions range from reading to book-writing to video-game-creating to hula-hooping—does he really need to do anything else but be himself?

Let him—let us—have as much goddamn nothing as we want. Let us be ourselves. Let us seek out the other stuff when we want it, when we’re ready. I think we could all use whole lot less doing, and a whole lot more being.

And faith. Faith that life is full enough on its own. And that we have no one to impress. Despite how it feels, no one is watching us as much as we are watching ourselves. No one can tell us what we need or how we should fill our days. Only we can. We have that power. Let’s use it for happiness. For enjoying the most ordinary of our days. Life is shorter than we realize. It makes no sense to live it any other way than with authenticity and in the simple presence of the ones we love.

So, I give you permission to do nothing. As a parent. As a family. As a person. Just be there, with yourself, with each other, and the rest will come together on its own.

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Your Story of Me

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What do you think when you look at me? Now that you’re older, I think about these things. I am no longer just a warm body, a boo-boo kisser, a food provider. Do you see me more as a person? And what kind of person am I to you?

You probably don’t look at me very carefully. You just take me in without thinking. I wash over you. I race past you. Me in my pink sweatshirt, my hair in a messy ponytail, my sleep-wrecked eyes. Will you remember me this way, the way I see myself?

Or will you see me completely differently?

What did you think of me this morning? When I couldn’t back the car out because of the frozen pile of snow in the way? When you shouted that we were going to be late? That you were sure you knew how to maneuver the car just the right way? When I had to rush back into the house to get your brother’s warmer jacket? When you sat in the freezing car waiting for me? When we walked to school, your brother crying about the cold, and you crying about your lateness?

What did you think when I came out of the house, holding his coat, crying? I said, “I’m crying,” and you said nothing. Where do you put your feelings about these things?

I know you take things in. At night, when we turn out the lights, we talk. There are feelings right there, in your throat. Sometimes the light goes out and you cry. There are feelings in your hand clutching my hand as you fall asleep. There are needs. Wishes. Fears.

I want to know what you know. The mystery of you. As the years go by, I feel like I know less of you, and more of you at the same time.

I can see the lines where you’ll become a man, like a shadow hovering above your body. You are bold and complicated and sweet and angry and passionate and kind.

Someday you will write about me. Or tell someone my secrets. Or just see me, as you’re falling asleep, or waiting in line at the grocery store. Your vision of me, the way I really was, as your mother.

You will remember how you trusted me. You will remember how I failed you. You will know how I struggled, what I longed for.

Your story of me, through your eyes. It will be a good one. Authentic. Visceral. I will be beautiful, in all my complexities, contradictions, all-consuming love. I will be tired. I will have tried. I will be utterly myself. Your mother.

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Recent Publications

This January, I made a short list of publications I’d love to have my work featured in, and I am happy to report some success. I am not only thrilled to see my work share a larger audience, but I am humbled to share space with so many amazing writers. I have been just floored lately by the honest, reflective, searing, beautiful writing by other women/mother writers. So here they are my Huffington Post, Mamalode, and Brain, Child Magazine debuts. You have probably heard of Huffington Post — they publish many of the writers I admire! Brain, Child Magazine and Mamalode seem to consistently publish stuff that get right to the heart of parenting. So happy to be in these places! Check them out, and please share if you are so inclined.

Mama, Open Up Your Hand, via Huffington Post

To My Son, Turning 8 via Brain, Child Magazine

In Winter, via Mamalode