Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy Hour at The Milk Bar

Let’s talk lactation. Just unbutton the topic… and put it all out there. I’ve got to tell you…it is an issue that evokes a squirt or two of passion out of people. I had no idea the kind of rallying both sides of the booby issue were capable of. There are people totally for it and people passionately against. And both sides fiercely latch onto their positions, digging in their high heels to debate this tender topic.

Honestly, until I reached the tender age of twenty-seven, the idea of using my boobs for anything other than attracting adult members of the opposite sex, never really occurred to me. I assumed nipples had no other value than simply being a reliable temperature gauge. I distinctly remember having dinner with a group of college friends at a TGI Friday’s back when everyone I knew, myself included, was young, single and flirtatious. One of the attractive guys casually pointed out an exhausted looking woman nearby, who was obviously wearing a starving five-year-old child underneath a small fabric camping tent. Junior was screaming aloud his intentions of “MILKEEEEEEEEEE” from beneath the wrap, his legs kicking wildly as she fumbled for the trap door on her ginormous bra. The rest of us painfully avoided looking anywhere near that table. I remember the guy saying something like, “Seeing that….just made me lose my appetite.” The whole table laughed in response.

I paid no mind to the lady or to the comment, dismissing it all as something that didn’t really apply to me. If I had a form to fill out…under breastfeeding I would’ve written N/A. Not applicable. Or maybe, no thanks. Or…perhaps, not yet. I smiled at the thought. Yeah. That was me. I didn’t notice and I really didn’t care. If people did it – great. I didn’t have a problem looking away. If not, no big deal. Bottles worked. I was Switzerland. Calling myself neutral. Either way I was content.

Fast forward. I meet a hot sexy guy, steal his heart…and then his last name. Pretty soon it’s inevitable that everyone seems to be begging the question. And they start asking in a shrill, intruding voice, “When you going to have a baby?” Everyone asks. Then I start asking myself. And of course, hot sexy guy who is madly in love with me, is game with whatever. So, we throw caution to the wind…and pretty soon a plus sign appears on the pee stick. Sick thing is I still have it. How’s that for being sentimental? Now I have no idea what I’m in for… so I search my memory for friends and relatives who have born offspring that I have had contact with in the last few years. And a repressed memory faintly appears. Picture an overjoyed, but tired looking mom holding a newborn with an open mouth. Then I see the nightmare nipples…ones that are dark and ominous and frighteningly large. It’s like seeing someone with a purple glass eye or something weird like that. And I am suddenly freaked out that my perky and proportionate breasts will morph into something hideous and grotesque. But then I think about how much I already am in love with this little person who I’ve never met. How I would do anything for this little heaven-sent gift, even if it means losing one of my greatest assets.

So my boobs got bigger. And then even bigger than I could have possibly ever hoped for. I bought a huge bra with trap doors and nursing pads to stick inside. FYI: those little circle pads can double for maxi’s if you line a few up and are seriously in a pinch after getting an unwelcome surprise. Luckily for me, there was no freak-show nipple changing. The belly button thing didn’t happen either. Whew! What a relief. Then… the much anticipated baby pushed its way out into the world to be adored by all. And I decided to give breastfeeding a try. And I will admit that the idea of bottle washing and mixing of formula sounded like too much added work. How’s laziness for a motivating factor? See I had already increased the amount of laundry I was doing- tenfold. So I was in the market for efficiency.

In the hospital, a lactation specialist came by for a visit and a consultation. I tell myself half listening, it can’t be that hard. Plus, I have a very high opinion of my abilities when it comes to overachieving at things. Seriously… boob in mouth, right? Not exactly. Turns out there are special ways to hold the baby. Ways to hold the boob. Ways to get the baby to open its mouth. Ways to tickle the cheek. Ways to massage the milk out. And then there are remedies for getting what I can only describe as “hotboob”, a painful reminder that when it fills up…get that milk out…even when you’re so tired, you forget who you are. They would fill up like water balloons, and as soon as my ears intercepted a cry, I would be leaking like a spigot. It really didn’t matter what kind of cry. It could be a TV commercial, a dog whimper, pretty much any kind of high-pitched cry and I was ready to serve drinks. I wanted the menu to sound impressive, but I only served one beverage, what I named the “milktini”. A drink that was created on the foundation of me eating everything organic and nothing overly spicy. The ultimate, gassy, BF killjoy turned out to be the evil vegetable known in grocery circles as broccoli. And my patron left me the biggest tips imaginable. I knew I had done my job well by the amount of Pampers we were flying thru.

If you think about it, thousands of trees have been utilized in the construction of books on this very subject. Knowledge is power, right? Maybe. In my experience…I got impatient and irritated at the rigid concepts being hurled at me. So I did what I do when I convince myself that stressing out is not the answer. I tossed expert opinions aside along with everything I felt was not working, and just decided to figure it out. Just me…and of course, the most adorable little milksucker I have ever seen. And every three hours we figured it out together. All it took was something I had lots to give. Patience and time. It’s the byproduct of leaving the fast-paced world of impatient strangers to slow down and appreciate what matters most in life. And in that start to parenting, I got to know every dimple, every expression, and every sound that accompanied what had once been “not applicable”. I had become the deliriously in love bartender and waitress that looked forward every day for a year and two months… to happy hour at the milk bar.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Keep Calm and Don't Breathe the Gas

Cool, calm, and collected. I used to be all of those things.
Until the day I had children. Swollen belly enduring two days of labor, middle of the night c-section, and twenty-two hours on an airplane across the world- these pains of mothering have changed me.
The responsibility for their constant well being has consumed me.
I've been overtaken by this lifelong investment, no longer emotionally detached. You could say I've been wrecked by my dive into parenthood- and stuck on the verge of panic ever since.

Way back before kids- I used to work nights at a Level 1 Trauma Center. Twelve hour shifts caring for people in a very busy emergency room. Nothing unnerved me back then. In the five years I did that job- I stayed even-tempered and thought clearly. Wasn't phased in the least by the insanity of life and death chaos.

Quite the contrast to how I now handle situations of uncertainty pertaining to my five beautiful offspring. I take the challenge of getting these little people safely into adulthood as a pretty big deal. But I'm also constantly reminded to keep the balance of letting them live fully and experience cool stuff without senselessly creating undertones of worry and anxiety.

I should actually be embarrassed to share how I reacted to something like this, but oh well.
This was my morning.

I'm upstairs making my bed. Kids are downstairs in the family room watching the most annoying show ever made by Disney channel.  The song drives me crazy and every kid on the planet has it memorized. Being a smartypants, I've made up alternative lyrics in my head, which I would never share with anyone under 18.

So I'm putting pillows on, wondering if I really want to start laundry next or postpone to another day. I hear a little voice coming up the stairs, beckoning me by my three letter word. First thing I do is decifer the tone. Declarative is quick and means somebody's not sharing and it goes like this- MOM!
But this was different. This tone was questioning and it was warily preceeded by an "um".
Never a good sign.

"Your lamp fell."
I breathe in and decide laundry can wait. Might be time for me to drink caffeine instead. Two lamps on either side of the couch are in constant peril with little ones that can't resist jumping on the love seat when I'm upstairs out of sight. The lamps are like much of the furniture in the room - twice as old as the kids. Waiting for everyone to reach puberty before I splurge on any idea of having new decor.  The lamps have survived tipping over more than I can count. No big deal. I smile as I head down the stairs, until I hear the rest of it.
"Oh, and....the light bulb kinda broke all over the floor."

I freeze for an instant as the words travel from my ears to my mind. I think shots and stitches if they step on glass as worst-case scenario. I race down the rest of the stairs and into the family room.

"Everybody upstairs- QUICKLY! Let's go!" When danger is present, I use my drill-sergeant voice.

They sense the urgency and four sets of feet pound their way towards the second floor. I hear them giggling, pulling out toys to play with, and shutting the bedroom door as I brace to assess the damage. I notice the lampshade knocked off its axis, barely hanging from the edge of the side table. My fear gets validated as I see shards of thin white bulb speckling the carpet like fragments of French manicured fake fingernails. I hope for any indication that it was a rounded silhouette. But no. It was one of those. The dangerous kind.

I grab my phone to google a solution. My mind races to find buzzwords to describe the catastrophe.
Article after article comes up.

"The worst toxin in your home exists in your lamp."
"Toxic mercury gas leaks into air from broken light bulb"
"Liver damage and delay caused by kids mercury exposure"

All the years I've exclusively bought organic milk and washed their hair with non-paraben shampoo to avoid little bodies having contact with toxins have become instantly undone with the shattering of one light bulb. I have no clue how much "poison gas" from this is actually swirling around the room.  I throw open the patio doors and turn on the fan full blast.

I decide to call my only hope for comfort. My husband answers and I express how distraught I am over the fact that deciding to use energy-efficient light bulbs has backfired into a dangerous situation and now our kids have been exposed to poison mercury gas. His response was not nearly as concerned as I had hoped. Sometimes having someone panic with you when you think you failed as a parent is validating.

"Oh, one of those broke in my hand once.  Don't worry honey, it should be fine."

His soothing voice and calmness makes me feel instantly less freaked out. I express my adoration of a man so amazing that I love him like crazy. We hang up and I head back to the trusted source of all knowledge- the internet- to make sure I clean everything up the right way. The Environmental Protection Agency gives tips on how to dispose of broken CFL bulbs and I also found suggestions on how to clear the air.  FYI: keep children away from the area for fifteen minutes, turn on fans, open doors, make sure to pick up the broken pieces with duct tape prior to vacuuming.

So now you know. I panic and freak out when it comes to my precious kids.  It is the reason I cut up grapes and hot dogs into pieces that mice could swallow. The reason I am constantly counting them when we are out and about. I could go on and on. Parenthood is riding a roller coaster every single day. Exhilarating and heart-pounding, filled with dips and turns, ups and downs. Dangerous light bulbs and crazy kids shows. And while being a mom might not always be easy on the nerves- man is it the best thing ever. So take a deep breath and enjoy every second of summer!


Listening to: No Strings by Mayer Hawthorne & Maps by Maroon 5
Reading: Charis: God's Scandalous Grace For Us by Preston Sprinkle

More blog posts coming soon.