Amy Beth

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Enjoy

Enjoy

The idea of having a word of the year is not a new one, but it has certainly seemed to gain in popularity over the past few years. Many people say that having one word to focus on all year long helps them achieve their goals and order their life around what they feel is really important. The more spiritual among us say that the word comes from God and that he uses that word to reveal himself over the course of the year. It’s all very lovely and nice, but I’ve never really gotten into it myself. Mainly because it seemed like so much pressure. To choose, out of all the words in the English language, a single word that should somehow change your life (or at least improve it in some way). It sounds like a daunting task. So I never really bothered.

But this year, after hearing about the words a few people in my life had chosen, I got to thinking, “What would my word be if I picked one?” Which really is the same as just picking a word, but for some reason it felt like an easier decision to make. And it didn’t take long for me to come up with it.

Enjoy.

I’m very aware of all the blessings in my life. All the things that are amazing and good that I don’t really deserve. But even with all that blessing I find if far too easy to feel like life isn’t going my way. The chores are never ending. I have to provide food for people to eat three times a day. Children get fussy and whiny and willful. And I never seem to have enough time to do the things that I want to do. But really, despite all these things, when it comes down to it I have a pretty amazing life.

Enjoy.

This year I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to stay home with my kids and focus my energy on our family and our home. It’s what I’ve always wanted, and I feel like if I don’t enjoy it I’ll kind of be missing the point. I want to end each day able to say that I enjoyed my kids. That I enjoyed my time at home. That I found a way to enjoy the day even if some parts were frustrating or boring or hard.

Enjoy.

I also want to be a person that others enjoy being around. I want my husband to enjoy his time with me. I want our kids to enjoy having mama around all day. I want my family and friends to enjoy the atmosphere I create in our home. I want you, dear reader, to enjoy the words I write on this blog.

So there you have it. A word for the year that I wasn’t looking for. I like it. It feels good. It feels like the right thing to aim for this year. I also think I could make good use of it as a valediction (that’s the opposite of a salutation — I had to look that up) for emails and blog posts. So that’s handy.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Extended Breastfeeding and Weaning – Pt. 2

My last post on my breastfeeding experience left you with lots of thoughts, but not a lot of helpful information. It’s easy to find posts and articles out there with tips and strategies on how to keep going with breastfeeding. There seem to be a lot less on how to quit. So for those mothers out there that find themselves needing to wean a baby (well, toddler at this point) who would be happy to keep nursing forever, here are a couple of things that helped me.

A few weaning strategies

Don’t ask, don’t refuse

Sometimes a mother can get used to asking her toddler if he wants to nurse, to which he will of course say yes. But if you don’t ask, sometimes the kid will forget about or be distracted enough not to notice that you’re skipping a feeding every now and then. This can be a gentle way to phase it out, but it can move pretty slowly.

So maybe sometimes refuse

Sometimes I knew Charlie was asking for milk simply because he was kind of bored and it sounded like a good way to pass the time. When this happened I started to just say, “Not right now, you can have some milk before bed (or whenever the next routine nursing time was)” and try to direct his attention to something else. This worked to make nursing less of a recreational activity and eventually we were just nursing during those times that it was firmly planted in our daily routine. So for those instances…

Change up the routine

For a long time Charlie nursed every morning. I would bring him back to our bed when he woke up and we would snuggle and nurse for a few minutes before getting up to get ready for the day. So eventually I started to make an effort to up be and moving before he started to stir. Then once he woke up, rather than bringing him back to the bed which he would automatically associate with wanting to nurse, I would or get some toys out for him to play with in the living room or let him hang out with me in the bathroom while I finished getting ready. I found that by changing the regular routine he didn’t seem to notice that he didn’t get to nurse that morning. This worked well for the morning, but I still struggled with how to do away with nursing before naps and bedtime. So that’s when it was helpful to…

REALLY change up the routine

As in, leave town for a while and have somebody make a new routine with him. In my case, I went to visit my sister for five days while Charlie stayed with his dad and grandparents. While the trip wasn’t planned as a way to finish up the weaning process, I kind of suspected before going that it might do the trick. Even if Charlie wanted to continue nursing after I got back I wasn’t sure that I would still have milk to give him. (I didn’t.) So for five days Charlie got in a new routine with his daddy of a cup of milk (not from mama) before bedtime and nap. Once we were reunited I just continued with the new routine. On the few occasions that asked to nurse I just explained that mama didn’t have any more milk but he had his cup of milk that he could drink. Since he had done well with the new routine already he didn’t put up much of a fuss about it and just like that we were done.

The End

Even though Charlie didn’t exactly wean himself, I could tell he was ready and that I was going about weaning in the right way because it felt like a gentle process. I didn’t experience any engorgement or discomfort, which told me that I went about it gradually enough. (All of these strategies put together probably took about 2-3 months.) And Charlie never had any melt-downs or fits at the prospect of no milk for the day. On the occasions that he asked and I refused, he would easily accept the answer and move on to other things. I’m thankful that it wasn’t emotionally difficult for him, because that would have made it much harder.

The hardest part was my own emotional response. While I was ready for him to wean and knew that I wanted there to be some space before the next baby came, it was still a bittersweet change. Some of our sweetest moments together had been while nursing, from his early newborn milk-drunk smiles, to the games we would play where I would nibble on his fingers and send him into a fit of giggles. In many ways it felt like the end of nursing was the end of babyhood for him, not exactly an easy thing for a mother to come to grips with. And on top of all that, I’m pretty sure weaning caused some pretty significant hormonal changes for me. I spent the week or so after Charlie had weaned for good feeling very emotional. Sometimes because I was mourning the end of nursing, but sometimes over a variety of insignificant and unrelated things. Basically, I spent about a week needing a really good cry at the end of each day. My emotions eventually evened out and got back to normal, but I definitely wasn’t expecting that particular emotional roller coaster.

In all, I nursed my first child for 28 months. I’m thankful we stuck out the early challenges and were able to keep it up for as long as we did. But while the nursing relationship is definitely a special thing, it’s the mother-child relationship that has real staying power. Obviously our bond hasn’t diminished at all with the lack of nursing sessions. We’ve found plenty of ways to get our quality time in together. The bedtime nursing routine was quickly replaced with story times and back rubs and night-time lullabies. Morning snuggles under the covers still happen if we’re not in too much of a rush (and sometimes even if we are). And while babyhood may be over, I’m finding toddlerhood to be a pretty fun stage.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Extended Breastfeeding and Weaning – Pt. 1

In the beginning…

Like many expectant mothers, I learned all about the benefits of breastfeeding early in my first pregnancy and quickly decided that’s what I wanted to do. I read the books and the blog posts about what a proper latch looks like. I knew all about how a mother’s body is miraculously equipped to change and adjust to nourish her baby at each age and stage. I learned how it has many emotional and health benefits for the mother as well as the baby. It was the obvious choice for me.

I also learned a lot about what a challenge it can be. How despite being the natural way to do things it does not always come naturally. How a poor latch can make it agonizing and ineffective and it can sometimes only be fixed with the help of a lactation consultant. How some mothers, no matter how dedicated they are, may not be able to produce enough milk to breastfeed exclusively. While I felt committed to the idea of breastfeeding, I knew that I should be prepared to face some challenges.

And face some challenges we did. It took what felt like forever for my milk to come in (all while the doctors were telling me that’s what my baby needed to be cleared of his jaundice). We had some struggles with latch at the beginning. I experienced both thrush and mastitis, neither of which make breastfeed particularly pleasant. And then there was just the fatigue of being constantly on call to feed a baby. During growth spurts it felt like that was all I did all day long, and I don’t care what the experts say about how breastfeeding should be painless when you’re doing it right; when you’re doing it almost constantly, it can hurt.

But my struggles were fairly minor in the grand scheme of things and we eventually figured it out. Nursing breaks became a (mostly) restful time for me to bond with my baby and overall we had a very positive breastfeeding experience. I reached a point where breastfeeding felt easy and natural.

My goal when I started out was to try to make it to a year. Other than my own mother, I didn’t know anyone personally who had made it much past that point, so I figured that would be the best that I could do. And the statistics backed that up. While about 80% of mother’s are breastfeeding when they leave the hospital, only 49% are still breastfeeding at 6 months, and only 26% make it all the way to a year. Among my friends, even those that were able to keep going past the first few months and establish a good breastfeeding routine would often comment that their babies weaned themselves by at least a year old when they started eating solids in earnest. I fully expected to experience something similar.

A year later…

So once Charlie reached his first birthday I quietly celebrated the fact that we had kept up breastfeeding for the first year. In fact, we were still going strong. Charlie still nursed several times a day, and though he was eating solid foods, we practiced baby led weaning and were very relaxed about how much he ate each day. I didn’t stress out about the solids he was eating because he was still nursing so well and I knew he was still getting plenty of nourishment from breastmilk. I knew that his solid food intake would continue to increase and become more varied, and his nursing needs would diminish. At this point it was pretty clear that we would continue nursing well past the one-year mark, but I still expected it to drop pretty drastically over the next year and figured he would be completely weaned well by the time he was two. By this time nursing felt so easy and natural to me that I didn’t feel any need to rush the weaning process or put it on a timeline. We were both happy with how things were going so I just let it be.

And a year after that…

Once we hit Charlie’s second birthday I found myself firmly in the camp of those that practiced “extended breastfeeding.” Charlie was still a big fan of mama’s milk and still asked to nurse about three times a day. For the most part I didn’t mind, but I was definitely in unknown territory. I didn’t know anyone personally who had gone for that long and I started to feel a bit self-conscious mentioning it to others. Would people think I was weird? Had I become one of “those” mothers? And even more pressing, would he ever actually wean himself? I realized I had spent so long expecting Charlie to just become disinterested eventually that I knew nothing about how to successfully encourage a child to wean. And honestly, at this point I was a little reluctant to try. Not because I wanted him to be attached to me forever, but because I had found breastfeeding to make so many things easier. It remained my one sure-fire method to get him to relax and get sleepy before bedtime. I knew that if he was hurt or sick that it would comfort him. And it was one of the only times in a day when he would actually be still and let me hold him for a while. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to give that up.

But once we became pregnant with baby number two I started to feel a bit more urgency to move the process along. First of all, although I knew tandem nursing was possible, it wasn’t really something I was interested in doing. But perhaps more persuasive was the fact that pregnancy had made breastfeeding pretty painful again. It was no longer a relaxing bonding time, but rather chore I had to brace myself for each time. I was also pretty sure that by this point I wasn’t producing much milk, either because Charlie didn’t need much anymore or because of the pregnancy, so I figured my body would be able to handle a transition to weaning pretty easily. But the question remained…how to do it?


Talk about a cliff hanger, huh? I found I had way too much to say on this subject so I’ll continue with some strategies that helped me next week. UPDATE: Here’s part two!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hey, Goals

At the beginning of the year I wrote a long list of somewhat unrealistic goals. A big reason I started blogging in the first place was to have a place to document my progress in life and keep me accountable for the different things I try to accomplish. So here’s an update on how I’m doing on some of my goals…

4. Get stuff hung on the walls of our house – I put up a couple of pieces of artwork by my sister. We still have a lot of empty walls though.

7. Plant a garden (vegetable or flower) – Here’s my flower bed. It’s overrun with weeds, but I planted it and the flowers have lived. I’m going to say this goal was accomplished. 

flower-bed

10. Work on rebranding our web design business – YES! We have a new name, new logo, and new website.

11. Develop marketing materials and strategies for our web design business – ALMOST! My sister interned with our business this summer and helped me make a lot of progress on this goal. We wrote up some good copy to explain our services and process and have a rough draft of a brochure to hand out to potential clients. 

14. Organize Charlie’s toys – YES! Accomplished mainly by purging a lot of toys. They stay organized a lot better when they actually fit in the space you have. 

18. Make improvements to church website – a few small adjustments have been made, but I have bigger ideas for down the road.

19. Practice hand lettering in designs – Somewhat.  A few of my blog posts feature hand lettered art. 

20. Read more to Charlie – YES! Story time is now firmly established as part of the bedtime routine and we just got library cards so we (I) won’t get bored of reading the same books over and over. 

28. Cut down on grocery budget – getting pregnant kind of threw this one out the window.

29. Get comfortable using Adobe Illustrator – I’m slowly improving on this one. Photoshop is still my go-to program, but I’m finding more and more opportunities to use Illustrator.

32. Grow readership of blog – taking a 3 month break didn’t help with this one. We’ll see if I can build it back up by the end of the year.

33. Find ways to make a modest income from blogging – While still a nice thought, I think I want to focus more on experimenting with the topics I write about and find what I like best before thinking too much about how to make money from it. 

So there you go. Out of the 30+ goals I set for myself, I’ve accomplished or made progress on nine of them. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be able to cross them ALL off, so it feels pretty good to know that I’ve accomplished at least some. And there’s still a lot of the year left to make progress on even more!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Long Time, No See

Hey!

It’s been a while. I have several excuses. First were a few very busy weeks at work. I didn’t have time to be inspired to blog. Then there was vacation. I tried to unplug for the most part. Then came the complete and utter exhaustion that happens when you start growing a baby in your belly. Yep, that’s right. We’ll be welcoming a new little person into our family sometime near the year’s end. And it makes me tired. So, I pretty much just slept for a while.

I slept instead of blogging. I slept instead of doing dishes. I slept instead of vacuuming the floor, and cleaning out my purse, and hanging up my clothes in the closet. If anything, those weeks made it very clear to me that all the little tasks and chores I fill my life with actually do some good. Because when they don’t get done the whole house just turns into one giant pile of mess. Hooray for validation!

Thankfully I have a husband who finds me food and takes over child duty, a mom who can plow through household chores and still have time to play with her grandson, and a mother-in-law who reminds me that such a thing as paper plates exist (so brilliant!).

I feel like I’m slowly starting to rejoin the world, and hopefully our survival mode status can go on hold at least until this new baby is born. Maybe I’ll start to blog some more again. Maybe I’ll organize my closet to make space for my maternity clothes. At the very least I should probably do some dishes.

See you again soon! (I hope.)

P.S. You may have noticed that I moved to a new domain name and got a new design. This is largely thanks to my super talented husband. Who else can code up a functional custom WordPress theme in an afternoon?