A few weeks ago I was told that I need to grow a thicker skin. I was battling a cold, a slow to creep up, sore throat, icky headache cold. I was scheduled to teach a workshop. The workshop was low in registration. I called to cancel the morning of. I was told that I should suck it up. And for a moment, I almost did.
The thing is, I have heard this type of thing my entire life. I have been called “too sensitive” from the time I was a child. I have been teased and ridiculed for my tenderness, laughed at for my lack of “strength”, and isolated because the world does not cater to sensitive people. In many ways, I have been told not to listen to my truest feelings, but instead to wear a mask and pretend to be something I am not, because that’s the only way I would “make it” in life.
I look at my son now, 18 months just around the corner. People already say that he is a “sensitive soul”. It’s true. He is gentle. He is slow to warm up to people. His voice is softer than most, unless he knows his audience well. He clings. He needs reassurance and the comfort of mom in many situations. My son, is a sensitive boy.
I worry for him. It was hard enough to grow up as a highly sensitive person, and be female. Boys… Men are not typically applauded for their sensitivity. They are all to often shamed, bullied, put-down, told to “toughen up”. I don’t want for my son to feel that his beautiful, sensitive heart, is anything to be ashamed of. I don’t want for him to feel the isolation that I felt, and often feel, from a world that does not value quiet, introspective, sensitive people. I do not want for him to learn that he shouldn’t listen to his body, his heart, that he shouldn’t follow what he knows to be best for him, even if it is different from everyone else.
I want for my son to show his strength, by standing up for his sensitivity.
So I stood up for mine. I made a decision that perhaps was “bad” for my business, because it was right for my body, and my heart. I am my son’s model, his teacher. I want him to value himself over any amount of money in the world. I want him to appreciate the gift of his tenderness, his gentle soul.
This world is harsh. This world can be unkind. This world is competitive, fast, demanding, loud, intrusive, and challenging. But who are we, and what are we creating, if we change ourselves to fit the mold the world wants us to fit? Do we not all love and proclaim Gandhi’s words “be the change”? And yet if we can not allow ourselves to be who we are, despite all pressures, what change will there be?
I want to teach my son that he can “be the change”, that he can love, and work, and be however he chooses. Choice. It all comes down to choice. I am choosing kindness, towards myself, towards my family, towards my neighbor. I am choosing to believe that this will make a difference. I am choosing my to stand up for my sensitivity, and his.
A kind and gentle Grandma is the greatest gift on earth. For both mommies and babies. We are extremely lucky because we have two of them. Without their love and support through this entire mothering journey, I would have been lost. All of my love goes out to them, this and everyday.
October is my hubby and I’s anniversary month. I will never forget the brisk, cool day of our wedding. Surrounded by our friends and family, we exchanged traditional vows, in a garden, in a ceremony led by our friend (and minister for a day) Jesse. We danced and partied all night, and woke up the next day to drive to New Hampshire, our favorite fall getaway. Since that night four years ago, we have always celebrated our anniversary in either New Hampshire, or Vermont. Except for last year, everything (especially night-time getaways) halted last year, when our son was born.
But this year we decided a getaway was possible! With a little help from night weaning, and grandma. E had been prepped for several days (see part 1 and part 2), night nursing had pretty much ceased (except for the faithful 5 am wake up), and it has been months since he has needed to nurse during the day (at least when I am not around). He doesn’t take bottles, or drink any other kind of milk, but he does eat lots of solid food. Grandma has been E’s second mother since the day he was born, watching him on days that I work, and even using practices such as babywearing and co-sleeping to help E nap and get to bed. We were totally confident in leaving E with Grandma for the weekend, and she was confident that all would be well.
Grandma usually watches E on Fridays, so the Friday we were leaving she was at our house in the afternoon. When hubby got home from work, we spent some time with E, eating a snack and making sure he had everything he needed for the weekend. Grandma loaded him into her car, and after many hugs and kisses they rode off into the sunset together. Hubby and I packed up our car, and hit the road. We drove about 10 minutes, when I realized I had forgotten one very important thing, my pump. UHHHHG, my pump. Yes, I would definitely need it on a weekend away.
We got to our destination in Smuggler’s Notch Vermont, our new favorite autumn getaway spot, late that night. We hadn’t heard from Grandma so we decided everything must be well, and we went to sleep. Correction: I pumped first, and then went to sleep, excited for a full night of rest, and maybe even some sleeping in!
I awoke at 5am. Totally engorged, and in pain. I wandered out of bed into the kitchen, and out came the pump, and I begrudgingly set up the pump next to the bed I was supposed to still be asleep in, sat up and emptied my full breasts, cursing my ever abundant milk supply. (which I am actually quite thankful for because is has allowed me to donate milk to several mamas and babies in need, but at 5am I was not happy)
At 9am I called to check in with Grandma. E had slept well, once she got him to sleep. He took quite a bit of rocking and soothing to settle down. Perhaps because he missed me, or maybe just because he was excited about a sleepover at Grandma’s but didn’t actually want to sleep during it. He woke only once or twice that night, and after a bit of cuddling and some pats on the back, easily drifted back to sleep. Grandma stayed with him, cosleeping in a big full-sized bed, just like we do at home. Relieved, we went about enjoying our vacation. My only complaint was the discomfort of my full breasts, and of my belly after I ate a half loaf of cinnamon raison bread with maple ganache, but in the end it was all worth it.
For night number 2 we decided to go out on the town (small town). We had dinner and even went to a bar for drinks and dancing (oh my!). Upon our arrival home (er… to our condo) I pumped and prayed that the session would last me through the night.
5am, breasts are full. Luckily the pump was set up right next to the bed, ready. I sat up, quickly emptied and then rolled over to keep sleeping. Just like being home, although this time I cuddled up to my sleeping husband, who required no “shhing” or pats on the back to stay asleep.
We didn’t bother checking in with Grandma just yet, figuring no news was good news, and realizing after yesterday’s call that E was doing better not thinking (or hearing from) mommy at all, as opposed to phone check ins. We gathered our belongings and went for a hike, then we started the long drive home, enjoying open road, and glimmering sunshine on the last of fall’s colored leaves. There was even a bit of snow on our hike. White crystals holding tight to deep evergreen branches. It was all quite magical.
Our drive finished, destination Grandma’s house to pick up E. As soon as he saw my he put up both of his little hands, and signed to nurse, with adamant expression. “Must nurse now!” We sat together in a rocker, mama and baby happy to be reunited. He snuggled in satisfied by mama’s milk, and my breasts final felt normal again. Thank goodness.
The second night had been even more of a success than the first. E fell to sleep easily, he stayed asleep all night except for one quick wake up. He did wake early, just after 5:30 am, and was a bit sad to have no nursies to wake up to, but Grandma distracted him quickly with food and Thomas the Train. Night weaning was deemed a success!
It’s been several weeks since this getaway. Several weeks of continued effort in night weaning. Most nights are good. My husband and I are alternating night duties. We take turns waking up, comforting, and cosleeping with E. He still reliably wakes up by 5am, sometimes a few minutes before of after, and at a few other instances (11, 1, 3am) but during these times he is easily comforted with back pats or gentle bouncing. We nurse at the 5am wake up, and generally sleep for a few more hours (until 6:30/7). Sometimes he nurses straight through from 5am-7am, and I have to deal with a toddler climbing all over my chest, kicking me in the side, or face, and clumsily grabbing and pulling my hair. But overall, I’m getting more sleep. My mood has improved. My body feels stronger. Night weaning has made me feel mostly human again.
I knew in my heart at 15 months, we were ready. Ready to move out of the infant phase of waking, nursing, and struggling for sleep. We were ready because we all needed better rest. We were ready physically (E was eating plenty of food, and drinking water) and emotionally (I was a crazy mess, and E was suffering from my lack of rest). But night weaning has left me with the feeling that E is no longer a baby. He is in full on toddlerhood, and growing more independent everyday. He still needs me, yes. I still need him, yes. We are still very much bonded and connected to each other, yes. But someday, nursing (even in the daylight) will be over for us. I’m not sure when that will be. I only think I’m ready some days. But it’s in the back of my mind, that this relationship is changing. E will always be my baby, my son, but he will not always be my nursling. For now, he is my nursling during the day, and at night the nursies are finally getting some sleep.