A Letter to My Girls 

  
Dear Darling Daughters,

Words can’t begin to express the joy that fills my heart when I watch you play.  There’s a closeness you have that I pray you will keep forever!  Once I worried about adding another baby to our family, and I find myself in that place of contentment and happiness again.  How could life ever become better, sweeter, than it is now?

This morning I snuck downstairs to start making breakfast while you snoozed happily away.  I don’t worry as much about leaving now that you have each other to keep company.  I cooked, cleaned the kitchen, mopped, and then you, my sweet big girl, appeared.  “I was sleeping,” you said, laughing, “and then Josie woke me up!”  Together we went to get our smiling happy baby ready for our day.

Tonight we sat together looking at photos as I prepared Josie’s paperwork for her American documents.  We exclaimed together over photos of our first baby learning to “read.”  We watched videos of you crawling, eating spaghetti, laughing… And, in a matter of minutes, we watched you grow all over again!  Time passed before our eyes, and while you were busy, your daddy and I talked.  We talked about life before you–how young and skinny we were. We talked about the stories behind the photos. We talked about today:  “Mama, I love you,” you said.  “I love you too, honey,” I replied.  “That’s music to my ears!” you fired back with a sweet smile.  We talked about you playing with your friends and trying out your Spanish for a while.  We talked about you being “too busy to play caballito with Josie.”  

Ahhh… My heart is so full! My cup runneth over!   

Sweet babies, I look forward to what tomorrow might bring: your sweet giggles, the cuddles and kisses, and the memories being made.  I know that tomorrow there will also be a point where my frustration will rise as my patience slowly fades.  I hope that isn’t the moment that you or I remember.  Even as I write this, I remember a moment last week. While grumpy, I managed to keep an even voice as I corrected you.  “Okay, mama,” you said, “I can do that.  Thank you for talking nice to me.” 

You, my girls, are growing before my eyes, and I want to remember every touch of your hand–holding onto mine as you nurse, grabbing my face as you kiss me goodbye…again…and again…  I want to remember the twinkle in your eye when you ask for pancakes.  I want to remember the grunt you let out as you demand attention, and the fullness of your smile when you receive it–pushing up onto your hands, ready to crawl. I want to remember the way you talk to yourself as you play.  And those moments of you together, when you ask me for the millionth time what your sister said with each coo she emits. 

You, my dear, sweet girls, are the sun in our day.  Shine on us.  Let us revolve around you a bit and collect your warmth.  You help our family grow.  You give us light and life.  Shine on, sweet girls.

Until tomorrow, sleep tight in my arms.
Love,
Mama
   

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Mommy Sandwich Every Night

  
This week my kid had her first ham sandwich.  I don’t typically buy sandwich meat from the deli counter, and if I ever do–it is turkey.  But my first day back to work called for a sandwich, and after a bite, Ale was a ham lover.  She seems to sense when a sandwich has been made, and after a bite or two, she slides over to snatch it from my hands.

Today she asked for a sandwich, and I told her we were out.  She said, with more than a little exasperation in her voice and eyes slightly buggy, “Do we have peanut butter?  Do we have jelly?  Put it together, and that’s a sandwich!

Now it is the finish of a long day, and I am lying in bed with my sweeties on both sides.  I can’t help thinking that this is the only sandwich I want: a mommy sandwich.  I can hear both of them breathing, and every once in a while, a little snore.  Ale is cuddled in her “big girl bed,” which is flush against our bed.  She has her Barbie (with wet hair after her bath) and her baby lying beside her.  (Baby had to come to bed with us tonight, because she wanted chichi.)

My chichi monster is on the other side of me.  She’s propped up on my boppy with her arms thrown up in the air.  Her binky is lodged between her ear and the pillow, where it fell when her suckling stopped.  She’s already kicked her blanket down below her feet, but soon she will be recovered to ensure her warmth in our air conditioned bedroom.  Her breathing is a bit erratic and is interrupted by little grunts.

Some people don’t like sleeping with others.  They say they sleep better alone.  Babies sleep in cribs with monitors allowing the parents mothers to listen from afar.  It is true that I will wake up half a dozen times tonight.  Josie will nurse at least twice.  But sleeping with Mama means that her stretches of sleep are around five hours.  Ale might have a nightmare; that has been happening lately.  Mami can soothe her right away with a little pat or a song.  Victor will come to bed in another hour or so, and that will wake me up too.  Someone may need a diaper change or a drink of water.  We can’t all sleep like a baby husband, so I will be awake at the slightest change in breathing.

I don’t mind.

Being the middle part of a mama sandwich is the best job around.  In fact, you might say that despite the love we have been showing sandwiches these days, a mama sandwich is still the most popular sandwich on the menu.

A Letter to Our New Baby

Dear Sweet Baby,

I am lying in bed in the middle of the day with you at my side.  You are starting to drift off to sleep, and your eyes keep fluttering shut.    Sissy is busy, and Daddy walked to the store, so we have a few minutes of just you and me. 

   

I can’t believe how much you’ve grown in nearly eight weeks!!  You have started to fill out, and your cheeks are so chubby!  I love watching your dimples when you flash a big smile at me when I talk to you.  

Tomorrow I leave you and Daddy for the first of many days where I have to go to work.  I don’t want to leave you, precious baby.  I don’t want to think about you growing without me, but I’ve been through this before:  Your first laugh will probably be at your silly daddy.  You will roll over with him as a witness.  You will reach out and grab his nose in wonder.  You will push up on all fours with Daddy watching you.  You will walk with Daddy, talk with your daddy, and play with Daddy at the park.  One day soon, I will come home and hear how big you are because of something new that you’ve done, and my heart will burst.  I will have to fake happiness, while secretly hiding my jealously.

For the next year, you and your daddy are going to be best friends. You will reach for him when you need something.  He will be the one to dry your little eyes and comfort you when you fall down.  Daddy will be your hero, and that’s okay.  He’s my favorite too.

Mama will steal moments with you at night while everyone else is asleep.  You and I will put your sister and daddy to bed; when they are fast asleep, we will get up and sneak out of the room.  We will cuddle together on the couch, and I will nurse you until the sandman visits you with dreams too. 

  
You’re asleep now, my love, and I hope you’re dreaming of me, because you are what MY dreams are made of.  

Love,

Your mama (on the eve of her return to work)

A Birth Story, Part Four (The Birth)

When I booked the reservation at the hotel, something told me that my little girl would cut our visit short.  I completely relaxed during that final day, and perhaps that is what coaxed my littlest love to arrive: a mommy’s body doesn’t cooperate well when it is in a stressful situation.

(*See footnote for explanation of “Ding Dang Baby.”)

My contractions began at around 11pm, and I just continued to read while relaxing in bed.  They seemed pretty steady though, and I mentioned them to Victor about an hour later.  He asked if I wanted to go home.  I didn’t really see the need of abandoning our hotel room until we knew for sure this was it.  I also wasn’t in a hurry: Ale took forever to be born, so I thought we had plenty of time ahead of us.

Ale was asleep, so I just continued to monitor the situation without waking her.  Finally, I decided I would use the app on my phone.  It helped me to realize that maybe we were further along than expected.  Around 2:30am we started the process of cleaning up and packing up the hotel.  Ale awoke and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t go swimming.  She had started the day wearing her swimsuit and tutu, and at this point was dancing around the hotel room wired.  I had been telling her for a month that her sister was “coming soon,” so she was pretty unphased.  That is until the contractions were strong enough for me to need to stop and breath.  “Mama, stop!  Stop doing that!” she said more than once.

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This was our last family photo before Josie was born.  Victor was a little irritated that I wanted a photo during my labor–so there was no time for a retake!

Victor called his mom to let her know I was in labor, and I called the midwife as we were leaving the hotel.  I also notified my mom and sister, as promised.  Clearly it was the middle of the night, as both of them asked me if I was going to go home…  Umm, no, I thought I would I would just use the bathtub here.  

This chat spans a couple of hours.

I not-so-patiently checked out of the hotel.  Contractions were pretty strong, and I had to stop to breath through them several times during the process.   I would feel one beginning, and tell the middle-aged man behind the counter, “Excuse me.”  Then I would turn my back on him, walk to the wall, hold on, and breath for a minute.  When the contraction subsided, I walked back, smiled, and apologized.

The taxi arrived and I joined my family outside.  (My husband must have been a little nervous.  He let my toddler pee in front of the hotel before getting in he taxi.  No time for a bathroom break! No sir!)  The ride home was pretty quick.  I sat in the front seat just to continue making middle-aged Mexican men uncomfortable.

We arrived home and began getting the room ready.  Remember when I said I thought we had plenty of time?  Well, we didn’t prepare the room before leaving for the hotel… So there we were, 3:30 in the morning getting everything in order.  I went through the baby basket and cleaned off the table in our room.  (By “cleaned off the table,” I actually mean I swept everything into a bag and stashed it in the closet.)  I am pretty sure Victor swept and mopped.  Finally, I took a permanent break from getting the room ready to concentrate on getting my body ready.

 My contractions were strong.  I know this next part sounds crazy, so don’t judge me: As a contraction would start, I would imagine a tall skinny man.  That’s what it felt like.  The contraction was like a long line that went down my back.  With my hands braced against the wall, I would start at his head and breath my way down his body.  Weird, I know.  It helped though, a coping mechanism of sorts.  I also nodded my head as I breathed, so I am pretty sure I looked nuts too.

The bathroom was nice because it was dark and private, but at this point it felt good to stand up.  I didn’t want to bend over, lay against the sink/wall, squat on the toilet, etc.  It felt good to stand straight pushing out to my sides with both hands against the doorframe.  My midwife arrived and did a quick check on the baby.

She, her crew, and Victor worked in the bedroom to get the pool set up and filled.  I literally didn’t see my husband again until the baby was born.  My labor was requiring all my concentration, and I didn’t have a break or all the time in the world to chit-chat like I did with Ale.  Finally I asked if the tub was ready, and continued my labor there.

I have sweet memories of Ale during this time.  She would check on me during contractions.  A couple times I remember her getting right down in my face and smiling a big, fake, slightly terrified looking smile.  I was aware that she was there and needed some reassurance.  I would smile back (I think, although it was probably more of a grimace.), tell her I was fine, and let her know baby sister would be there soon.  She joined me, bathing suit and all, in the birthing tub.  My midwife showed her how to pour water on my back during the contractions.  At some point, she got out and fell asleep in the next room.  Later I found out that she refused to remove her bathing suit before sleeping.

In the pool my contractions changed.  They weren’t a tall, skinny man anymore.  They morphed into a short, fat man.  Instead of long pain, it was horizontal and stretched across my back.  The short, fat man wasn’t nearly as nice as the tall guy. The coolest thing is that depending on my pain, my midwife knew where the baby was.  She didn’t make me get out of the water to check the progress, because she could tell the labor was progressing.  She also didn’t check to see that I was dilated, so I have no idea how far along I was.

It seemed like I was in the birthing tub for hours.  Later, Tirsa (the midwife) told me it was only about an hour.  I laid down a while, like one might in a bathtub.  Then Tirsa said it could help to change my position and move my hips.  I would ask questions like, “Why is there no break?” “Why does it only hurt on one side?”  She would just answer, and we would rest until the next contraction.  She applied counter pressure to by lower back and hips during the contractions, as well as pouring the warm water over my back.  I was on my knees while lying against the side of the tub.  I remember somehow working my way from one side of the tub to the other.

I didn’t voice these thoughts aloud, but in my head I thought, “Never again.” “I understand why women like drugs,” etc.  When I started getting the urge to push it seemed unreal.  With Ale I would push, then fall asleep in between contractions.  With Josie, there was no time!  I remember telling everyone I felt like I needed to poop.  (A bit embarrassing now…)  Tirsa said, “That’s because your baby is coming!”  Someone got my errant husband, and he held me at the end.  Three contractions back-to-back and Josie arrived!  I was on my knees, so they helped her swim between my legs to the front.  I laid back, and put her on my chest.  Wow.  That feeling.  Even writing about it now makes me tingle inside.

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The hours after her birth were amazing too.

I had watched this really inspiring video about the breast crawl, and I wanted to see if it worked.  We moved to the bed and placed Josie on my chest.  It was totally cool!  Within 30 minutes she latched onto my breast.  I delivered the placenta, but it was just placed into a bag alongside of us.  I don’t remember when we cut the cord, but it was so calm in the room, it wasn’t a big deal!  I moved to rest against the wall, and we continued to work on breastfeeding.  I had (mistakenly) thought that after nursing Ale for 2 years and 4 months, I would be a pro.  Wrong.  Feeding a newborn is no task for the faint-hearted!

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I feel like I should reiterate how calm it was.  Maybe I felt calmer because it was my second baby, but the general atmosphere of the room (and the people present) was peaceful with Josie.  I had a home birth and water birth with Ale, but it wasn’t exactly the calmest environment.  In fact, Josie’s entire labor was MUCH calmer.  When it was over, I almost immediately felt like I could do it again.

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Ale meets her sister, Joselyn Victoria.  (Josie’s name is a combination of my brother, Joseph, and my sister, Jenny Lyn.  Her middle name is in honor of her Papi, Victor.)

I have so enjoyed looking back over the photos.  The following photos are of the hours/days following Joselyn’s arrival:

 

 

 

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Josie is one day old! (Yes, she’s at McDonald’s.  We took her sister there after registering Josie’s birth with the powers that be…)

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Ale’s special Big Sister cake that she helped to make. (Because only BIG girls get to cook with Mami–not babies.)

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Daddy and Josie!

 

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Sister still likes to poke the baby’s cheeks! I blame that on old Mexican women who always grab her cheeks. 😉

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Abuela and Josie; My mother-in-law is something special.  Upon meeting Josie, she THANKED me.  It still makes tears come to my eyes to think about it!

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Los Abuelos! Having them here for Josie’s birth was really special.

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Sweet girl…

* “Ding Dang Baby” is from a Jacqueline Woodson book, Pecan Pie Baby.  I read the book when I was pregnant, and I sat and cried in my office.  It is all about a sister who isn’t overly excited about the birth of her sibling.  She calls him a “Ding Dang Baby.”  I was really worried about Ale being hurt or feeling replaced by Josie.  After reading the book to my mom, we often referred to Josie as the “Ding Dang Baby.”  This is an AMAZING book, by the way.

** I am SO happy I have these text messages with Mama and Jenny.  Not only do they remind me of details, but they provide quite a bit of comic relief!

Sleep is for the Week(end)

When I was younger, I could sleep forever.  No, seriously.  Actually, Victor and I were just talking about how my sleep is very important, so I don’t know if that has changed.  Since the baby has come along, there have definitely been nights where I’ve had to say, “Victor, I am sorry, but you have to take care of her tonight–I’ve got to get to sleep!”  Or even in those early days, I would get up and pump, then he would get up and feed Ale later when she cried.  (A friend just told me the other day that I had a diamond…so true!)

When Ale was young, she slept a lot! I didn’t complain like other new mommies about sleep deprivation all the time (Seriously, people, that can mostly be avoided if your baby sleeps near or with you…)  Now she’s learned that she can fight the sleep–unless we time it just right.  (Most of the time, she just cuddles up next to me and breastfeeds–which makes Bedtime Mommy a lot friendlier.)  In the evening, she will hang out with us, playing and reading, then when she’s tired–she doesn’t fuss–she just attacks me.

When I came to Mexico, I thought I had learned to put work in its proper place.  It didn’t follow me home.  It didn’t sneak into my dreams.  And my weekends were work-free.  Then I got offered a promotion for next year.  I will be the literacy coach for the teachers at our school–and I am oh-so-very-excited.  I am also determined to prove myself.  Here is where the trouble lies.

The monstruo that is inside the heart of every working mom has reared his ugly head.  I have started feeling guilty and resentful for the time I spend at work.  I know it is good time for Ale and Papi, but doesn’t a girl need her mama?  My work can’t help but follow me home.  And when I get home, I really don’t mind cooking.  It actually makes me feel like a better wife and mama–because I know my family is eating healthier than if we go out to eat.  Ale crawls around my feet, and I avoid stepping on her by letting her play in the cabinets.  Then we leave the dirty dishes (most of the time), and we play.  But we play with the conscious effort on my part to put the overflowing in-box of work that is always in my head to the side for later.

This brings us to the present–where I sit typing this blog while drinking coffee at 5:30 in the morning.  This is when I do my work.  It is when Ale and Victor sleep.  This time is productive (usually)–and waking up at 4:00 isn’t nearly as outrageous as it once would have been.  Waking up at four is just what I do to keep Work Mommy and At-Home Mommy from becoming Guilty Mommy.

Sleep?  As my mamaw used to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

A Letter to My Sleepy Baby

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Mama’s precious punkin,
This morning you woke up as I was getting ready to leave. I almost kept walking out the door, but I am so glad that I stopped, cancelled my ride, and held you for five minutes. Five minutes was all it took–I felt my heart lurch as you clenched your little fingers tighter. Your grip on me, metaphorically, is enough to make the world disappear.

Five minutes with you snuggled at my breast. Five minutes of those big chocolate eyes gazing intently as if you were looking into a window to my soul. Five minutes and you pulled away–and only heaven’s glory could be more wonderful than what I saw when that smile broke across your face.

Sweet baby, I’m sorry it was only five minutes, but if that’s all we get, I’ll take it. I’ll take those snatches of time, fractions of an hour, because they are full of so much more than seconds. Smiles, laughs, snuggles, babbling, or even just the touch of your fingers petting my skin as if it were velvet–I crave every moment.

You, my Allie-bug, fill my day with just five minutes.

Love,
Your oh-so-busy mama

A Year In Review

Tonight marks my two year anniversary south of the border!  Wow!  It’s hard to believe that I was once that excited young gringa–jaded by the educational system and failed relationships in the north on her way to adventure in Chiapas!  Two years ago, I packed my bags for six months.  My friend made the comment that I could do anything for six months.  “Even if you hate it,” she said, “You only have to be there six months.”  Shortly before this, her husband had remarked that we would soon know where I belonged.  I remind myself of how broken I was–and how willing I was to be placed where God needed me the most.   That was December 31, 2011

20120108-172130.jpgMy first meeting in Chiapas.  These kids were the nephews and grand daughter of the lady who had the meeting.  A lady that we grew to love so much!

20120110-154202.jpgMy second graders at The American School Foundation of Chiapas spoke little to no english.  In order to teach them procedures, I had to make these signs.  I practiced not speaking at all (super hard for me, but effective).  I came to Mexico with a couple of phrases, but I had to learn fast!

My first year in Mexico proved to be exceptional!  Shortly after arriving, I fell in love… with the country!  It wasn’t long before I met my husband and we decided to tough it out.  (It helps when it isn’t that tough, eh?)  I returned to the United States without him–pregnant and hoping to land a job.  And I did!  It just wasn’t in the United States!  Victor and I moved to the northern state of Coahuila, and I began teaching here.  We struggled some those early months–mostly with money and the lack of support that I initially felt from my employer.  That took us to December 31, 2012.  One year in Mexico!

20120121-162216.jpgI always felt like it was rude to take pictures of the indigenous people in San Cristobal.  I didn’t want to be THAT gringa.  This doesn’t even really show a fraction of how wonderful and lively it is there!

20120324-204953.jpgVictor and I met in San Cristobal.  The rest is history…

(Sidenote:  My one year in Mexico is also my husband’s one year in Mexico.  He arrived just a week before me, and we are patiently waiting out his ten-year ban.  It sounds so harsh, huh?)

It’s been strange to read on Facebook status updates how horrible 2013 was for people.  I feel almost displaced from their happiness–but I do understand what it feels like to have several wrong turns on your road to bliss.  How blessed I feel to be in this country with my family!  What a full year this has been!

January 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor and I started 2013 with our civil ceremony.

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February 2012

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Victor and I went to a hotel for my birthday.  Really, it was just so that I could get a good bath.  How nice it was to get in the pool!  I felt weightless (obviously, I wasn’t…)

March 2013

birth.jpgOur little Alexandria swam into the world a couple months later.  Having a water birth was ahhhh-mazing!  Being able to have Ale at home was great too!  I was able to sleep in my own bed!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle’s first visit with the workers who were in town for Special Meeting.  She was one week old here!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpecial Meeting (Ale’s first meeting) with a special visitor who swooped in to save the day!

April 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took Ale’s first trip to Monterrey to get her American birth certificate and passport.  We met some of the sweet friends, and Victor had his first gospel meeting!  He was astonished by all the young people.

May 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor made his choice to serve God known to our little church.  

June 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle traveled to the United States where her best friend tried to eat her upon meeting her.

July 2013

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IMG_0642We’ve been to visit both families–and ALMOST all of Ale’s cousins, aunts, and uncles (short one cousin and one uncle).  This is Ale with her abuelos in Chiapas.

August 2013

IMG_0860We settled into our “new” house, and started a new school year.

September 2013

20130918-172659.jpgWe went to Alexandria’s first convention. 

IMG_0834And she cut her first teeth…

October 2013

IMG_1615Mommy’s first work trip away.  Guess who wasn’t upset at all?

IMG_1653Ale’s first Halloween–dressed as the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

November 2013

20131128-222758.jpgMy first Thanksgiving away from home.  Ale’s first Thanksgiving.  And Victor’s first Thanksgiving in Mexico!

December 2013

Ale_Dec3113.jpgAle has made us squeal with joy, and she just gets better everyday.

Life Away From My Baby

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Night number four without my baby girl curled up beside me, and I find a piece of me is missing. I lay in bed thinking of my littlest love–snuggling me while searching for chi-chi… Tell-tale sighs of adoration and satisfaction escape from her as one hand curls around her food source.

We are like one, she and I, and as I move her body shifts as well. She settles in with kitten-like mews of contentment.

We drift off.

She wiggles and I awake, searching her face for signs of distress or discomfort. I guide my nipple to her open mouth as she blindly nuzzles my arm (still asleep). “Here baby,” I whisper, although she doesn’t hear.

Being a mom is grand.

The first night I left to come to the Tri-Conference in Mexico City, Victor told me how much Ale missed me. I felt a tug in my heart. The next night, she was happy to see me, but mostly just wanted to play with the computer. Today, four days later, I arrive and she gives me a half-smile as if to say, “Eh…just mom.”

My heart was full of love and tenderness, and I carted her off (away from her daddy) to win her over again. It didn’t take long for her to realize that she could rest easy with her heifer back by her side.

Chalk another point up for breastfeeding.

Customer Service: It’s Important, People

I could have been convinced by United’s introductory video that customer service is important them. I could have been convinced, but then the stewardess on my first flight yelled at an elderly Spanish speaking woman to sit down and wait to board the plane. Of course she didn’t understand, but with childlike puzzlement, she knew that she had done something wrong. She glanced around helplessly, so the stewardess repeated herself…louder. Because, after all, it must be that she didn’t hear–despite the fact that the flight departed from Torreon, Coahuila MEXICO…

I could have been convinced that United cared about their customers, but upon arriving late into Houston on my return flight, I was greeted with, “EVERYONE missed their flight, you should travel with enough money to pay for a hotel in case you have weather problems.” No “I am sorry that you’re stuck in the Houston airport at night with your infant–let me help you find a hotel.” When I asked about other ways to get to Torreon, my “customer service” representative told me that she didn’t have time to wait on the phone to ask about flights. She couldn’t “hold the line” for that. See, doing things like helping seems to be beyond United Customer Service employees. That must be why a twelve year old child was crying while trying to find a hotel for her family. She was the only one who spoke a bit of English, but did the ONE Spanish speaker (the same agent who “helped” me) offer to help? Obviously in distress, other passengers offered food, water, and money to the woman and her two children.

I could have been convinced by the lady who did finally help me get a hotel. It was then apparent at nearly 10:30 that evening that my flight had only been delayed. But due to the misinformation I was given, my baby and I went on a wild goose chase to track down new flights and luggage. She could have convinced me if she didn’t keep looking at the clock while telling me she needed to go home…

I could have been convinced the next day at the Houston airport that employees received training on how to talk to customers. However, the “gentlemen” sitting next to me talking about “having sexual relations” (it wasn’t worded like that) with a girl who “wanted it,” made me think otherwise. When I asked them to save their conversation for their break room, I was questioned, “We’re we talking to you?” Ummm…no, sir, you were apparently not raised to bite your tongue around ladies and children… Actually, the fact that you keep staring at the children you are supposed to be caring for while they wait for their grandfather, intermittently saying, “Sit down!” explains a lot too. Forget the fact that a eight year old and her six year old sister are nervous and excited to be so far from home alone. Forget the fact that their parents paid a lot of money for United to “escort” them to their destination.

While waiting to get on the plane, I thought perhaps I would be able to ask the lady helping board the plane about my seat. After all, breastfeeding on a plane is difficult enough–proper seating with space if allowed makes it much easier to travel with a four month old baby. I could have been convinced that passengers could go to her for questions regarding flights, but after being turned away once because she was busy, waiting until it was time to load, hearing her help another young parent, instead she says to me, “They”ll probably have to move your seat anyway because you have a baby.” Appalled not by her words, but more by the way she said them with heavy agitation dripping in her voice, I asked her name. “Maria ____,” I said, reading her badge. “Really!?” she said loudly and indignantly, “Really? Because there aren’t any window seats?” I was shocked a bit beyond words at the tone of her voice and the challenge I heard there.

Despite the fact that priority seating is not given to parents with small children, another young mother asked, “Why?” politely. “United has their reasons,” she was told. “We give priority to our premium customers.” Perhaps United doesn’t want parents with children to fly with them?

I didn’t have any guitars for United to break. I am not musically inclined enough to write a YouTube hit. But I am equally distressed by United’s customer service. It’s apparent to me that no, customer service isn’t important to United. For every helpful employee there are three more equally hateful. The propaganda video that I watched three times wasn’t enough to convince me. After all, actions speak louder than words, people…

World Breastfeeding Week

Most of the world’s women bare their boobs to their babies because of common sense, but it’s quite the choice in other places.  In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I will continue to embarrass my dad.

You would think that seeing my mom breastfeed five kids would take care of some of that embarrassment.  That didn’t do the trick though, because this summer while sitting in a Thai restaurant in Northern Virginia waiting on our Pho, Daddy said, “Can you do THAT here?”

“Of course,” I replied with a laugh.  Because to me, it is laughable.

Is there anything more natural than a woman giving her child the nourishment that her body makes?  It’s interesting when I teach about mammals.  The fact that the mother produces milk is something that second graders sometimes giggle over–but others take as common knowledge.  I always wonder which of my students were breastfed at this point.

I am not here to judge mamas who can’t or won’t breastfeed.  That’s really their choice.  But I can’t imagine doing anything different.  When I see Ale’s little doe eyes staring up in me while she reaches to play with my dress, my lips, my hair, I think, “Wow.  I wish I could post a picture of this for everyone to share.”  When she starts to drift off to sleep, the singing often begins.  Coos of contentment and sighs of satisfaction.

My breastfeeding journey has had it’s ups and downs.  I also don’t judge women who quit too harshly, because without the encouragement of good mamas and self-determination to give my baby the best that could have been me.  I thought that latching on would be normal and natural–the way I read it sometimes is.  Ale quickly learned to suck, but it took a while for my nipples to cooperate.  So blisters and bleeding arrived that first week.

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Still determined, I would place a blanket or washcloth in my mouth to bite back the urge to scream from the pain.   I pictured my sister when she and my niece had a bad bout of thrush.  The pain would eventually leave, I told myself.

I looked to internet for advice (bad idea).  Ten days later, I was still expecting the day to come when it wasn’t a horrible experience (feeding my child).  I would nurse her on the good side, and occasionally pump on the other side while worrying about nipple confusion.  I would hope that she would just sleep a little longer so that I could avoid the pain.   Mama would say, “Jania!  Look at her!  She’s happy!” when I would express my concern about supply.

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Alexandria was three weeks old when it stopped hurting.  She was over two months old when laying down and breastfeeding began to work.  She quickly gained weight on my milk alone, and on her four month birthday she weighed over 16 pounds.  Woo hoo!

The discouragement came in the place I least expected it.

Because my suegra (my mother-in-law) had been another source of encouragement the whole time, I assumed her daughters would also be knowledgeable.  We made a summer trip to hot Mexico, and I noticed that the baby couldn’t get enough chi-chi.  I was told that I should give her water, but my husband and I agreed that the water wasn’t something we wanted to share with our little one.  It also made sense to me that she was probably nursing a lot being in a new place, teething, and sweating like mad!  My oldest sister-in-law wouldn’t let it go one day, telling me that I should be giving Ale water and food by now.  She observed the flatness of my boobs, and assumed that I had no milk.  If only her eagle eyes could have spotted the rolls of healthy fat on my daughter’s arms that waved happily around her.  Maybe I should have given her diaper duty, so that she could lift her chubby legs to clean poo from places you’d never imagine it would get stuck.  Instead, I lifted my chin and argued for my daughter’s sake.

I refuse to cover her when she nurses for her sake too.  I am not flashy, exposing large amounts of flesh, but I don’t cover my head when I eat.  Don’t get me wrong, I tried the cover thing when we first started.  One of my newly married friends brought me one to help me out while she and her husband visited us for the first time after the birth.  I think that may have been the last time we did that…

And I don’t know anyone who chooses to eat daily on the toilet.   That’s the one place I have never nursed Ale.  She’s eaten in a plane, a car, an airport,  and a restaurant.  We’ve latched on at a mall, in a taxi, in a bus, at my school, and in church.  I’ve happily given her milk outside under the stars, inside cuddled up next to me, and sitting on the ground surrounded by family.  This little girl isn’t ashamed to demand her milk in Starbucks, in book stores, or at the kitchen table.  And this Mama isn’t about to shuffle into a dirty stall instead.

I am heading back to work this week, and anxiety about supply is trying to resurface.  You know what?  My body was made for this!  No, it wasn’t made for a breast pump, but knowing that my husband can give her the best thing in the world while I am at work makes me one happy camper pumper.  I will not worry about supply.

I will cringe through the engorgment pains, the blocked ducts, the teething, etc.  My boobs aren’t going to be perky, but they never were.  My dad, brothers, and nephews might get embarrassed, but I refuse to.  Breastfeeding is the best thing I can do for my little girl.  And I won’t give her less than the best.