“Real Clothes” – Dressing The Part

(Many thanks to Jennifer Scott at The Daily Connoisseur for being so articulate about the subject of “looking presentable always.”)

If you work outside the home, dressing well comes naturally because it is socially expected.  If you’re a professional parent, wearing real clothes can get brushed aside because “no one’s going to see me.”

Except your family, y’know, the most important people in your life that you decided to dedicate your career to serving.

Just those people.

dressing the part what you wear matters sahm wardrobe

Why?

It’s a lot more motivating to get up off the couch and get something done if you’re dressed like something important is going on.  Because your tasks are important – homemaking and child-rearing are of utmost importance.  It’s surprising what a mental game our grooming can play.  This is the same reason law firms have business dress requirements, and many schools have uniforms.

I feel that there is another parallel we can draw from the business world – “Dress for the job you want.”  Now, we have chosen to be home, so this is the job we want.  But what do we want FROM our job?  To be taken seriously by our children, spouse, peers, community?  To “have it all together?” To be tidy?  These causes are all helped by DRESSING like someone who commands respect, has it together, is tidy – rather than someone who just roused themselves from slumber to put out proverbial fires.

Dressing presentably always also helps eliminate decision fatigue and the need to change throughout the day. My pajamas are presentable, so it’s okay if my teenager needs something after I’m ready for bed.  My clothes I choose in the morning are nice enough to wear to run errands, to school events, even to dinner out at the last minute.  (It actually occurred a few weeks ago where we were out for a family walk, and a friend drove by in her car and invited us to dinner in half an hour.  Threw a diaper on the youngest, and out we went – no need to “spruce up.”)  I only need to choose one outfit each day, and I don’t have to take anything into account other than the temperature.

How?

Dressing the part becomes much easier if you simplify your wardrobe.  This is where capsule wardrobes come in.  (This topic has been done lots of justice by lots of other bloggers, so I’m not rehashing the entire thing.) But pay attention to what’s in your mom capsule – PAJAMAS ARE NOT CLOTHES.  If you wouldn’t wear them to the office, why are they in your work environment at home?  My mom capsule wardrobe is lots of washable, comfortable fabrics, but consists of dresses or tunics and leggings.  Personal preference – if you’re a pants girl, more power to you!  (BUT REAL PANTS.  NOT YOGA PANTS.)

Check the blogosphere, YouTube, and Pinterest for ideas about mom capsule wardrobes.  Sit and think about what kinds of clothes you like best, and how those might become part of a “real clothes” wardrobe.  (If you love yoga pants best, think about leggings and tunics.  If you love raiding your husband’s closet, think dolman sleeves or trapeze tops and dresses.)

You may need a serious declutter of your closet for any of this to be plausible.  I suggest the Kon Mari method (as found in the book The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo) so that you can purge out all the ratty, sloppy clothes and keep only things that work for you and are lovely.

FAQs

“Don’t you get messy?”  Why yes, yes I do.  Then I wash my clothes.  If you’re talking about serious mess, I do wear aprons while cooking.  If I’m bleaching or painting, I have a coverall (like a mechanic would have) that I put on over my clothes.

“But don’t you want to be comfortable?” Of course.  I don’t buy things I find uncomfortable!  Comfort is about cut and fabric, not item of clothing.

“Why bother?  Nobody sees you all day.” My children (who learn best by example) and my spouse see me.
And let me tell you, random people show up at my door.  Once I was down with a back injury and my mother-in-law offered to come help around the house.  She (surprise!) brought a friend of hers that I had never met in my life.  Thank goodness I was wearing real clothes!  It was embarrassing enough that a woman I’d just met was scrubbing my pots and pans.
Another time my best friend dropped her children off with no notice, because of a medical emergency.  Glad I had gotten dressed that day.
And beyond folks ringing my door bell, I never have to change or think twice about running to the store, the post office, my kid’s school, etc.  Always prepared.  I don’t even usually have to change for social events in the evening.

 

The outfit shots incorporated into the image for this post are authentic.  I never stage an outfit for my OOTD pictures on Instagram, obviously, since I’m wearing slippers in many of them!  That’s what I actually wear, to all the regular events of my life.  (Sometimes I wear something fancier to church, but that’s about it!)

Waiting and Wrestling (Foster/Adopt Reflections)

This may never see the light of day, but I wanted to pour this out somewhere.

This waiting. It’s really something like I’ve never done before.

waiting & wrestling foster care adoption reflections

It’s not just waiting.  It’s that while I’m waiting I am also locked in a complicated battle, emotionally and spiritually.

The waiting gives a person lots of time to do a lot of soul-searching, and actually forces it upon you.

I lie awake late into the night wrestling.

I’m wrestling in prayer for a child I have never met.  For whomever my son or daughter is, right this moment.  For whomever is taking care of my child while I am waiting.  For whomever brought my child into the world, regardless of why they are no longer raising him/her.  For whomever that child is loving, or leaving behind, or afraid of, or living with, or hoping to find.  For the workers who are trying to make the best decisions for all of us without knowing the future.

Those might be obvious.

But the wrestling that goes on with my own self is stranger.

I want this child to walk through my door tomorrow.  But that’s not in anyone’s best interest.

I want to feel pride that I can parent “better” than my child’s birth family.  That’s horrifically unfair and inaccurate.

I want to send 2879234 emails to my adoption worker, checking on the status of our license, checking in on children, badgering her to work faster.  This is not appropriate.

I want to daydream and plan and start setting up a room and making phone calls about appointments and school, to start buying supplies and planning for a family of 5.  But this is getting ahead of myself, assuming that God’s plan is the same as my plan, and could lead to major disappointment.

I want to focus all of my late-night wrestles on a particular child that I’ve fallen in love with.  I want to think of that child as mine to love, mine to raise… I want to be that child’s mother.  But I have no reason to think that I will  be matched with that child.

I want to be more stoic, and chastise myself for allowing my heart and intuition to zone in on a child so quickly in the process, to guard myself from the probable loss of a child I didn’t have the right to miss.  But that’s going against my nature.

 

It’s difficult to realize my human weakness in all of this.  That I have absolutely no control over how my family is going to evolve.  That no matter how badly I might want something, I cannot be certain of anything.

But in actuality, this is exactly the same as every other mountain to climb in life.  Unable to see the other side, no idea if emotion is warranted, no way to predict what comes next.  No certainty of what God has planned.  No clue if my will aligns with His.

And I wonder if I’m ready.  I wonder if I jumped in too fast.  If the Lord is making me wait because I am somehow not yet fit to parent you.

But who’s ever ready?  You weren’t ready.  I’m probably not ready.  And it’s okay.  What’s going to happen is we’re going to be a little bit of a mess, but we’re going to be together.  I’m sure I will disappoint you and break some promises and do and say the wrong things.  But I love you, and it’s going to be okay.

Confessions of an Introvert Wife

confessions of an introvert wife

It’s kind of embarrassing when you watch me doing hobbies.

I know, we’ve lived together all this time, so this seems odd.  But it’s true!  I feel very self-conscious about my writing, whatever face I might make while reading, my sheet masks, my piano playing, my selfies, my thrift shopping.  I’m always assuming you’re going to think what I love is silly.  Even though I know, objectively, that’s probably not true.  I’d rather hide that I’m doing hobbies than risk seeing a facial expression that reads, “how quaint and weird.”

I really hate your work parties.

I know I’m supposed to go be graceful and charming and schmooze all of your coworkers so they love you.  It’s part of my job as your partner, and I know I bring a different set of skills to social functions than you do.  But when I’m in the car on my way to the Christmas party, the back-to-school party, the Halloween party… I really really really want to vomit.  I feel super anxious for days leading up to the dinner party we’re throwing, or the casual BBQ we put on in the summer.  I don’t like these kinds of things, and they really stress me out.

When I want alone time, I mean ALONE time.

I mean I am the only person there.  Not “you are in a different room than me” or “you’re being quiet” or “the kids are outside.”  I mean I want to be completely alone in a space.  This is why I try to beat everybody up in the morning.  Also why I tend to leave and go get coffee by myself.

I have a lot of big feelings that I push down for the good of the family.

It is wildly unproductive to sit quietly and feel feelings.  Thoughts and daydreams and processing doesn’t get the laundry/dishes/dusting done.  When something exciting or frightening or stressful or hard or sad happens, I want nothing more than to be alone and work through it… but I usually don’t get to do that until much later.  I might be very distracted or “off” while I’m waiting for my processing time.  I feel guilty about that, but I can’t change my personality!

I’m not completely convinced you understand or value the way I think.

You’re a great man, and very kind and understanding on a whole.  But I sometimes doubt if you truly comprehend my social anxiety, and how absolutely necessary it is for me to have “me time.”  If you actually believe me when I tell you my short temper could be fixed by weekly coffee shop trips.  If you really honestly think it’s possible for me to feel nauseous walking into public events.  I have played the extroverted game for years as a survival mechanism, and sometimes I think I’ve even fooled you a little in regards to just how inward I really am.

I need warnings if you want to spend quality time.

Spending time with you is one of my very favorite things in the world!  But it’s very possible that I’ve been looking forward all day to reading in bed, and I can’t help but be a little disappointed when you suggest watching a movie instead.  Maybe I had an indulgent weekend of writing or yoga planned, and you spring up Saturday morning with an itch to disc golf.  I would be FAR more enthusiastic about joining you if I didn’t have prior engagements (yes, time with myself counts as an appointment!)

My quietness does not reflect on you.

When we met, I seemed loud and vivacious and excited about everything.  That’s because I was 15.  Just because I have grown quieter over time does not mean I find you less amazing, or our life less wonderful, or that I’m talking to someone else or thinking about anything else.  It is simply a reflection of having grown into my own skin, and being more present with my self.  The fact that you’re the only person I reliably open up to means you’ll always be my #1. Don’t worry.

 

What would you like to confess, as an introverted spouse?  You can do it here!

 

 

To Work or Not To Work – Another Story

Deb posted the story of her working motherhood in this post recently, and I wanted to share mine, as well.

It’s quite opposite!  All mommas and all families are so very different.  And these two stories, which have unfolded in an intertwined way (we are besties in real life, if you didn’t know) puts me in awe of how our plans are not God’s plans.  I would never have pegged us for the kinds of moms we are today, had you asked me before we had children!

working mom or sahm

(Why a pie?  That’s a little later in the story!)

I never, ever, intended to be a stay-at-home mom.

In my early adulthood, I wasn’t even certain I wanted to have children at all!  But once I settled on a career path (education) I definitely decided that I was never “quitting my job” to “stay home and clean.”

Straight out of college (that would be 1 1/2 years into marriage) I got a teaching job.  I – surprise!- was pregnant with our first child during my second year of teaching.

I love teaching.  Teaching while pregnant wasn’t that difficult (I even directed a musical that first nauseating trimester!) and I had every intention of returning to work.  I took a 6 week maternity leave during which my (also a teacher) husband substitute taught for me, but I was itching to get back in that classroom.  My husband stayed home with our son, and off I went (breastpump in hand – what a drag!)  I had a student teacher in my classroom that year, and she’d play with the baby sometimes while I worked after school.  I found myself nursing a baby while meeting with colleagues in my classroom.  We played baby shuffle (husband dropped off baby after school, rushed to a job running a teen center after school hours, I returned baby in the evenings to direct music in church, attend extracurricular practices, etc.)

I was a working momma for two years.  I occasionally had to cancel a practice or bow out of an activity for a sick child, but it was definitely manageable.  I always scooted home for dinner and bedtime, often returning to my classroom after my son was sleeping to finish grading papers, preparing centers, writing up progress reports, or rearranging desks.  My students and colleagues loved my son and he enjoyed hanging around school.

Then the climate of my school shifted – administration changed, faculty began to turn over, some difficult families came through my classroom.  I began to feel burned out, like I was giving 120% to my job and getting little but Mom Guilt in return.

I actually had a second baby in order to quit my job with a clean conscience.

To be fair, we wanted another child and the spacing was ideal, anyway.

That spring, I realized that rather than trying to impart knowledge and life skills to 25 kids I hadn’t parented until the age of 13, I wanted desperately to be home with mine and parent them from the get-go.  I wanted to hang out laundry, and babywear, and make pie, and teach babies German, and read aloud, and go on walks.  I suddenly had a very clear vision of what I imagined my life to be like, and that job in that moment was not it.

So I directed one last musical while severely nauseated, wrapped up one last round of graduations and Algebra placement tests, packed up my classroom, and went home.

 

And it was a learning curve, don’t get me wrong.  I am by no means a born stay-at-home-mom – I’m scatterbrained, and sarcastic, and a night owl, and not patient, and massively disorganized, and prefer the company of adults or solitude.  I spent a few months drowning in my new role and having no idea how to manage homemaking or two small children or how to be a living person and not just a soggy mess.

But I’m also fiercely stubborn.  I was determined to make a success of this stay-at-home-mom gig.  I made schedules.  I made lists.  I planned activities.  I walked every day.  I drank a lot of coffee, and said a lot of prayers, and tried to learn patience and humility and self-denial.  I’m still learning all of those things every day.

But I’ve never regretted going on hiatus from teaching.  I fully intend to go back, when my youngest child is in kindergarten.  I still love the job ( I even substitute and help coach drama at my husband’s school, because I do miss the atmosphere and the big kids!) but I have learned to love being a professional mother.  I’ve learned to see it as a real vocation, with skill to be gained and talents to be applied.

 

I was not born a stay-at-home mom.  I’m not probably a typical one, either.  I don’t homeschool, I don’t iron, I don’t exercise, I don’t sell anything, I don’t manage sports teams, I don’t have “girls’ nights” or “Mommy and Me” mornings. But this is where our family ended up, and we are happy.  My husband is happily teaching full time, and I am working every day to make our home run smoothly and simply, getting my self-fulfillment from lots of coffee and blogging and YouTube, and spending these years with my goofy little boys.

 

And I rarely make pie.  (Pie makes me frustrated!) But I COULD if I wanted to!

working mom or stay-at-home mom

 

 

6 Ways to Save for Back To School!

As a follow-up to last week’s post about honoring your kids’ school supply list , as promised here are some ideas about saving money (without buying off-brand crayons!)

6 ways to save money on school supplies

This tips are carefully considered and respectfully offered.

Background: I grew up in a wonderfully thrifty household.  I was taught that a person’s value does not lie in brand names, but that school is of utmost importance and teachers are to be respected.  I was bullied in school (not oversensitive, legit bullied!) for my clothes, shoes, hair, you  name it.  I am a middle-school teacher on hiatus.  I am now a parent.

With all of that in mind, I can understand parents, children, and teachers involved in this whole back-to-school situation.  I have tried to offer tips that help your budget but are not crazy hard to accomplish.  I’ve kept in mind the reality of kid needing to be remotely “in style.”  All suggestions are made in hopes that this helps you afford the specific supplies your child’s teacher has asked for on The List.

Here we go!

1 – Sort, declutter, and evaluate first!

In June or July, go through the major areas of back-to-school – clothing and school supplies – and see what can be used again next year.

If your child wears hand-me-downs or you thrift/yardsale ahead of sizes, evaluate how many upcoming clothes they actually like and will wear.

Get their fall wardrobe out of storage and check what will still fit them, fold, and count the items against how many they will need.

If your students wear uniforms, check older siblings’ uniforms to see if anything can be passed down.

(A capsule wardrobe for your children will really help keep costs down, as well.  I hope to write a post about this in the future!  Kids need less clothing than we assume (we all need less than we think!) Better to wear and wash and love a few pieces than have a closet stuffed full, a bank account empty, and “nothing to wear.”)

UNPACK THEIR BACKPACK and check for salvageable school supplies (binders, notebooks, pens, highlighters, calculators, locker accessories) throw out what can’t be saved, and check this against the school supply list.  Again, check siblings’ supplies in case there are grade-specific supplies that can be used again (calculators for elementary vs. high school math, certain colors of pen, certain kinds of binders or folders, leftover index cards or wide-ruled paper vs. college-ruled paper.) There is likely at least a few items of clothing or supplies that you can use again!

Evaluate what is truly needed.  Sticking to the list is important, but “extras” are not.  Examples?  Your child may be required to get plastic folders, but there are likely several price options that are all plastic.  Perhaps they need a 5-subject notebook – but it doesn’t have to have a cartoon character on the front!  A separate pair of “dedicated gym shoes” does NOT mean “$300 Nikes.”  If you choose to upgrade a supply or purchase brand names when it isn’t necessary (or buy your student scented markers or Sharpies or locker decorations, for fun) that’s your decision and should be factored into your budget!

2 – Shop second-hand first whenever possible!

Second-hand clothing from yard sales, thrift stores, or children’s consignment stores are a great place to start with savings.  If you are brand-new to second-hand shopping, I suggest starting at a children’s consignment shop like Once Upon a Child or Too Little for Me.  I find that children’s consignment offers great quality and most items are still in style.  You decide whether to take your child along on these shopping trips or not!

If your children wear uniforms, still check for pieces that can be acquired second-hand.  Often uniforms contain polo shirts or button-down shirts that do not need to be brand specific.  Even khaki or navy pants can be found in these stores (if your kids need uniforms, odds are good other kids in your area have also worn the same pieces!)  Additionally, by all means buy used when it comes to your child’s at-home wear and/or gym clothing!

Some school supplies can be purchased second-hand as well!  I have found many binders and folders (even expandable files!) at the thrift store – just open them up and make sure all the rings work.  Thrift stores also usually have loose leaf paper and notebooks (just check the rule of the paper – bring a piece of the right size to check them against if they’re not labeled!)  For big ticket items like Algebra-level calculators, check Craigslist or local buy-sell-trade sites, as well as friends and relatives.  (My family passed around the same big calculator for many kids, and my in-law family did the same!  I believe my husband actually gave his high school calculator to our nephew, even.)

If you are in great need, there are usually free clothing and/or school supply resources in your county through nonprofits, social services, or a local swap group.  Search the Internet, and use those resources!

3 – Sales and Discounts

Of course.  But many school supply sales begin early (like July early!) so be on the lookout and have your declutter and second-hand shopping done so you can walk into those sales prepared!  Something you possibly don’t know is that some states offer tax-free back-to-school shopping weekends where you automatically save your state’s sales tax on everything.

Some things can be stocked up ahead, especially if you have multiple children attending the same school so you have a good guess about what will be needed in the future.  Standards like the 24-pack of Crayola crayons, Ticonderoga #2 pencils, Kleenex, can be purchased in multiples if you catch a great sale!

Use those store coupons and discounts as they come to you (again, have the decluttering and thrifting done early!), even if that means buying one piece at a time.  Stores like JCPenney, Kohls, Macy’s, etc often have $10 off coupons that can be used in-store or online, and offer uniform pieces or regular clothing.

If you have a store credit card or gift cards, now is the time to use them!  I personally only have experience with Kohls as far as store credit goes, but they send a 30% discount every 6 weeks or so.  Along with $10 off $10 coupons.  (Absolutely no affiliation or kick-back.  I wish!)  I do not advise credit if you have difficulty paying it back!  Open and use lines of credit like cash – budget to pay the whole bill every month.

If you rack up customer rewards at non-clothing stores, see if they carry school supplies.  I get Goodwill Reward coupons for $5, and I know Shopko offers rewards coupons after spending money on prescriptions.

4 – Budget ahead of time

This may take a year or two to work the kinks out, but back-to-school happens every year.  For at least 13 years.  This should be part of your yearly budget, not a big surprise in August!  A few hundred dollars should cover clothing, shoes, and supplies if you shop prudently.  This is similar to the price of one new smartphone, 4 rounds of eating out at a restaurant, a couple household gadgets… things that many people purchase without much hesitation, and come from a “fun” budget category.  Supplying kids should be its own category.  We started a “kids” section of our budget before each baby was born, and have used this fund to cover baby supplies, diapers, booster seats, clothing, school tuition, art supplies… you name it!

5 – Outlet stores

If your children have strong opinions about brands, see where your nearest outlet store is for Nike, UnderArmor, Adidas, etc.  (Personally, I hope my parenting style leads to not having to buy these brands, but I digress.)  I have shopped these stores looking for sneakers for myself, and the pricing seems fair (less than full retail, but things are new and still “in”  so more expensive than thrifting.)

6 – Carry around the school supply list!

After you’ve decluttered and checked off what items can be reused, borrowed or bought second-hand and checked off those items, start carrying that list around in your purse or pocket so any time you are out running errands you can reference it and pick up something if a deal appears.  Perhaps you find you have a little money left on a gift card.  Maybe you get a free item with purchase at an unlikely place like a grocery store.  Maybe you’re out of town and happen to see a sale you don’t get the ads for.  At a rummage sale with a friend and happen to find something your child needs?  No problem!  Your list is with you and can be referenced and checked off immediately.

Forgetting what is already owned and duplicating purchases is a huge budget killer in any area of shopping!

 

Do you have great tips for saving money on back-to-school essentials?  Leave them in the comments (if they don’t involve off-brand crayons or skipping the Kleenex!)

6 ways to save on back to school essentials

To work or not to work? Is that the question? -deb

So your pregnant and are looking to the future. Are you going to stay home with your newborn or are you going to go back to work? It’s a question all new parents must struggle with. In sharing my story I’m hoping to give you some insights into why my family made the decisions we did as pertaining to working with kids.

When I caught baby fever, about a year into our marriage, my husband and I talked about how we wanted to raise our family and when it would work best for us to have our first child. We originally made plans that I would be a stay at home mom and we would adjust our budget to make that possible. This seemed like a perfect plan, my husband was on schedule with his schooling to get a full-time paid internship and then would only have one year of school left. We figured we could make the sacrifices needed to make our plans a reality.

When we found out we were pregnant with our first it seemed like our plans were falling into place.  God had different plans for us though, my husband’s school track changed. With my husband’s school track changing our plans changed and we decided that me working full-time would be the best decision for our family. My husband’s schedule changed to classes twice a week instead of everyday so he was able to be home with our daughter most of the time and when he had class we had been able to find an in home daycare for her to go to. I regretted not being home with her but I told myself that she slept most of the time anyway so I wasn’t missing much. I took advantage of every minute I was home with her though.

When our daughter was a year old I was able to be a stay at home mom. I thought I would rock at this job. This was my dream come true. I had all of my time to dedicate to my daughter and would be able to give her all my attention. I knew getting out would be key to my success, so we went to story time at the library. I had all this time and she was showing signs of readiness so we started potty training. I would had all sorts of time to do anything we wanted. It didn’t take long though till I was crazy and bored.

My daughter wouldn’t take naps when I wanted her to. I was unable to do even my short to do list. My daughter wanted me to sit and watch her play for hours. I couldn’t handle it. My one year old was emotionally draining me everyday and I wasn’t finding any joy in being with her. Although staying home was something I thought I wanted to do I was really struggling with this lifestyle mentally and emotionally.

I went back to work when my daughter was 19 months old. I worked full-time and sent my daughter to daycare. I was again struck by mom guilt with leaving my child under someone else’s care, but I realized I was able to enjoy spending time with her in the evenings and on the weekends instead of dreading the whole day when I woke up and didn’t really know what the day would bring.

I thought that maybe the number of kids affected my ability to stay home, so when we had our second child I again tried to stay home. It wasn’t the crazy boredom this time but the housekeeping that drove me crazy. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations for myself and just can’t let them go. I felt that since I was home all day there really wasn’t a reason why I couldn’t keep my house immaculately clean every day or cross items off my to do list every day.

So when I was offered a position to teach part time which I jumped on it, and here I am now working part time with three kids and for the most part enjoying the craziness that a busy schedule brings.

Do I think all parents should work? No. Do I think all families should have one parent at home with their kids? No, that has to be left up to each family to decide. I want people to realize that there is more to consider in the decision making process then can we afford this option or that option. Leave yourself open to both options if at all possible. Be aware that what you always saw for yourself as a parent may not be what works best for you in the trenches of parenthood.

Are you a stay at home mom or a working mom? Do you have any pointers on how you made the decision to work or not to work? Leave a comment below.

World Breastfeeding Week: My Nursing Journey

When I first became a mother, I had no idea I would be so passionate about breastfeeding.  I intended to do it, personally, but didn’t think much more about it until after I was in the thick of nursing my first baby…

World Breastfeeding Week My Nursing Journey

Pregnant with my first baby, I had every intention of breastfeeding.  It seemed obvious, natural, convenient, and inexpensive.

It turned out to be none of those!

Let me be frank – breastfeeding my first baby was the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken as a mother.

On Day 2 of life, he was a very sleepy little man.  I didn’t know any better, and let him sleep instead of waking him to feed.

By Day 5 of life, he wasn’t gaining and my milk hadn’t come in.

By Day 14 of life, nurses were using the term “Failure to Thrive.” Still wasn’t gaining.  Still not a good milk supply.  I started pumping, and taking herbs, and drinking dark beer, and overhydrating, and pumping and pumping and pumping.

Day 16: Nipple shields, and a SNS (Supplemental Nursing System – essentially a tube supplying formula at the breast.)

Day 18: Supplementing with formula

Day 20: Nipple confusion.  Refusing the breast unless half asleep.  Commence exclusive pumping.

After exclusively pumping (but baby still needing half his intake in formula) I finally got him back on the breast at four months.

I was also working full time as a teacher in a small school.  I had no legally mandated breaks.  I power pumped every night (for hours!!!) and never did have a good supply.

But we soldiered on.  Finally, for my sanity, we switched to all formula during the day and I put away my pump.  I nursed in the wee hours of the morning and as he fell asleep at night, and treasured my ability to do at least that.  We kept it up until two weeks shy of his first birthday, when he suddenly and completely weaned himself.

 

So, it isn’t necessarily easy, or natural, or convenient.  What an eye opener!

 

When I had my second baby, I made some changes.  Most dramatically, I put my teaching career on hold and became a full-time, professional mother.

Secondly, also extremely importantly, I had a wonderful midwife and birth center during my pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.  She guided me in exactly the natural methods I was hoping for, and encouraged my nursing in a much less clinical fashion.

I undertook the theory that I would nurse no matter what.  Any time this baby fussed, I let him nurse.  I ignored the clock completely, and offered the breast any time he cried or rooted, even if he had just stopped nursing five minutes before.

We nursed round the clock.  I didn’t sleep train, I didn’t offer a bottle.  Ever. (As it turns out, it’s not all roses – he never did take a bottle, ever, and he was up constantly until almost a year.  Exhausting!)

But we succeeded.  By his two week checkup, he had not only regained his birth weight (the goal), he had GAINED a POUND AND A HALF.  What?!  He was almost 20 pounds by six months.  A hulking, happy baby.  Suddenly, nursing was convenient and easy and natural and wonderful.

 

I’ve had a complicated journey.  I’ve experience personal failure, and success.  I had a skinny baby who had a hard time nursing, and a fat baby who was obsessed with nursing.  I have nothing but empathy for anyone trying to feed their baby in any way.  Through it all, I’ve enjoyed public nursing (yes, enjoyed!) sometimes covered and sometimes not.  I have an arsenal of wonderful breastfeeding memories that I will share in another post.  I’m invested in helping other mommas be successful in nursing, if that’s their desire, and hope someday that our culture can get fully behind normalized breastfeeding.

But not every pro-breastfeeding hippie crunchy momma has had a sunshine-and-rainbows experience!  It’s a rollercoaster sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade any of those precious nutritional snuggles despite the struggles.

Share your journey below, or link to your own story!  I love to hear from other nursing mommas!