Monday, September 22, 2014

saying goodbye to one season to welcome another

Tonight marks the autumnal equinox.  (Did you hear that, everyone?  Stop complaining that it isn't fall yet.  It wasn't supposed to be fall yet.)  I find myself actually welcoming fall, for the first time I can remember.  Perhaps it is because I am pregnant and don't have air conditioning, but I am eagerly awaiting cooler temperatures.  Maybe living in Oregon for three years has finally converted me.  After all, the PNW is pretty magical in the fall.  (But if you ask me how much I love the PNW in March or April, you're guaranteed an entirely different answer.)

I'm doing well with the changing of the seasons in the weather; not so much with the changing of seasons in life, specifically with my daughter.  She's at such a special age right now.  I love watching her grow and learn and become more of who she was created to be.  She speaks so animatedly, telling me all sorts of things, and I look forward to the day I can actually understand everything she's saying.  And she's so affectionate now - with hugs and kisses and snuggles.  I'm loving it.  But even as I enjoy this stage, I can't help but mourn the loss of the baby stage, just a little bit.

Ellery has weaned herself, and it's sort of breaking my heart.

I know it seems silly that I would be sad about this, especially because she's nearly sixteen months old.  I've nursed her past the point that many moms in our culture nurse their babies.  To be honest, i was even a little hesitant to admit this at all, fearing what people would think of me.  I've heard friends make comments about how weird it is to nurse past one year, or that once the child is old enough to recognize what's happening and ask for it, it's just gross.  I understand our culture has sadly cultivated this idea, and that it makes many mothers who do extended nursing embarrassed by their choice.  But I realized I'm not embarrassed by this choice, and so I'll let people think what they will.  

The funny thing is, nursing was what I was most freaked out about before I became a mom.  I wasn't super scared of labor or delivery or the responsibility the way most pregnant women are.  I was terrified of breast feeding.  It seemed so weird to me, so strange, and almost wrong.  I was raised in that good ol' Baptist way where we're supposed to be ashamed of our bodies.  Where breasts are bad and only mean sex and that's just dirty.  My parents weren't really that way, but I heard plenty of talks on "modesty" and sex growing up, that I equated my female body with wrong and dirty and guilt.  And way too tempting for men.  (Perhaps that's why I've always rebelled a little in the way I my wedding dress, for example.  Not the most modest.)

It felt strange to me that God would create something meant to nourish babies, but that was also sexually tempting for men.  And I wasn't quite sure how to make sense of that as a soon-to-be mother.  Would I even be able to nurse my child?  Would it hurt?  All my mother friends said it was incredibly painful in the beginning, and one even told me it felt like rubbing sand paper on a sunburn.  I was terrified.

Then Ellery was born and latched immediately and nursed like a pro.  From the very beginning, she was a rock star at nursing.  I remember texting one of my friends while still in the hospital, saying that nursing was surprisingly my favorite part of being a mom so far.  It was incredibly bonding, and for me, relaxing.  I almost fell asleep whenever I nursed Ellery in the first few weeks.  One of the lactation nurses said it was because nursing releases oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that help relax the mother.  She said it's particularly helpful in nature, as it helps animals stay still while feeding their young so that they don't run off and leave their hungry babies.  (Isn't that amazing?  Talk about a smart God who designed that.)

I think part of the reason I've been so happy with nursing and so hesitant to give it up is that it's actually something my body can do right when it comes to babies.  The hormones from the placenta in my pregnant body like to stop my insulin from working properly, resulting in diabetes.  My body likes to refuse to go into labor, meaning I have to have my babies cut out of me.  The normal things that most pregnant bodies should be able to do don't happen for me.  It is discouraging, and has made me feel like there's something wrong with me.  I'm incredibly thankful to be able to get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy, but once that pregnancy happens, this body doesn't cooperate super well.  But once the baby is out?  This body does what it needs to do.  And I'm so thankful I've been able to nourish Ellery in this way.  My body has provided plenty of milk.  Even though I got pregnant when Ellery was ten months old, and that usually reduces milk production, I've been able to easily continue to nurse her six months into my pregnancy, with plenty of milk.  Another thing I'm grateful for.

Speaking of which, my doctor wanted me to stop nursing by my third trimester, which, incidentally, is in two weeks.  I thought it might be hard to wean Ellery, but fortunately, she's doing it on her own.  I hated the idea of weaning her before she was ready, but she's the one who's giving me the signs that she's ready, which is a blessing.  My doctor said nursing in the third trimester can cause contractions, which can lead to pre-term labor.  I wanted to laugh when she told me that.  I wanted to assure her that nothing, not even breastfeeding, would make my body go into labor early, if at all.  In fact, it might be better if I continue to breastfeed, as I would have more of a chance of going into labor!

The thing is, I don't actually believe people go into labor.  I know they do, factually, but I have a hard time really believing it.  Your water broke?  No way.  You were having contractions and they got closer together and they made you dilate?  Yeah, right.  Because of my experience with not going into labor, I just can't fathom how it works when people actually do.  I sort of roll my eyes when I hear people say how it's natural and what our bodies were designed to do and that our bodies know what to do.  Um, maybe your body, but not mine.  Mine stays pregnant as long as possible and basically refuses to be forced into labor.  Even after nearly 40 hours of labor-inducing drugs, I dilated approximately zero centimeters.  Spicy food, castor oil, sex, tons of walking - my body laughs at those feeble attempts at labor induction!

But nursing?  My body gets that.  It doesn't refuse to cooperate in that way.  I may not be able to grow the healthiest baby without sending too much sugar to my child, and I may not be able to deliver naturally, but I can nourish my baby with the healthiest food once he's born.  

So I'll say goodbye to this season with Ellery with gratefulness at how special it has been.  And I can be glad to soon be welcoming another child into our home.  I'm trying to choose to be happy about each phase, without being sad about leaving one phase or trying to rush too soon into the next.  I want to live each day fully present and in the moment.  If anyone has figured out how to do that, please tell me how.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

oh boy

so...we are having a boy.

i'm still trying to wrap my mind around the concept.  it is so completely foreign to me because i only know what it's like to have a daughter.  also, i must admit that i would've been perfectly happy and content having only girls.  i've never needed or hoped for a boy the way i know some people do.  in fact, i was really excited about the possibility of ellery having a little sister so close in age, and didn't realize how much i was counting on that until our twenty-week ultrasound.  the technician was super friendly and fun, and quickly found the baby's undercarriage at the onset of the ultrasound so that we could know immediately.  i easily saw something there that wasn't there in ellery's ultrasound, and was in a bit of denial.  i kept thinking, what's that doing there?  girls aren't supposed to have those.  i can't be having a boy.  i'm having a boy?

i know some of you (my husband), think this is terrible, to hope for one gender over another.  but for centuries, and in many cultures, baby boys were (and maybe still are, in some places) considered far more valuable than baby girls, and girls were often unwanted and resented.  so this is just my little way of making up for all of that unfairness, saying that girls are just as valuable and amazing and fun and wonderful as boys!  (look at me being a little feminist.)

i'm sure that if we did lots of studies and analysis, we'd figure out why some people hope for one sex over another when it comes to their children.  certainly in ages past, people hoped for boys because women had far fewer rights and were considered lesser human beings.  now that we aren't quite so ignorant, it's interesting that we still have preferences.  i think mine comes down to the fact that i fear what i do not understand.  and i do not understand boys.  i'm married to one, and i am still frequently confused by the way he thinks and does things and communicates.  i know lots of girls are tomboys, or have mostly male friends.  i've always preferred dresses and dancing to sports, the thought of hunting or fishing makes me feel nauseated, and i've always had a plethora of wonderful girlfriends.  i totally get girls.  and i think being mama to a little girl is just about the best thing there is.  i just don't get boys.  and because of that, i really doubt my abilities in mothering a son.

what will i do with him if he decides to play football?  what if he has no interest in music?  i have a hard time with the thought of allowing any of my children to kill animals for sport, but if sam wants to take our son hunting, there will be little i can do to stop him.  of course, all of these are gender assumptions and stereotypes that may or may not be true of our little guy.  sam and i have joked that ellery will be the athletic one, and perhaps our son will be more interested in music and literature, like me.  my hope is that he'll be like his dad, a renaissance man of sorts, who is a skilled athlete in addition to being a talented musician.

but obviously God knows what i can handle, and apparently believes i can handle a boy.  either that or God wants me to depend on Him a bit more, and knows that by giving me a son i'll be constantly in prayer.  that seems like the more likely scenario to me.  ha ha.

i know once this little guy arrives, i'll be completely smitten and wonder what i was so worried about.  but for now, these are my thoughts, the things keeping me up at night.

it will also help once we have a name for this little dude.  seriously, picking a boy name is so much harder than picking a girl name.  it doesn't help that i have lots of quirky things that make me not want certain names.  i love names that end in "s", but they sound like they run together with swenson a little too much.  or names that end in "n" such as tyson.  tyson swenson just sounds like too much "n" to me.  and there are lots of cute boy names that end in that sound!  i'm also really particular about the name having a great meaning.  ellery's name means "bringer of joy" and i truly believe that accurately represents her.  i think a person's name can be so important, and whatever we name this little guy is the first thing we will be speaking over him about himself.  (i know this sounds crazy to some people, but i'm just big on the meanings of names.)

some people assume that because we named our daughter ellery, we want a unique name, but that doesn't matter to me.  we just picked ellery because we loved it.  i would have no problem naming our son something classic, but i just don't want him to be one of four people in his class with the same name.  i was the registrar for a camp, and saw hundreds of children's names come in on registrations.  and let me tell you, there were a lot of girls born in the early 2000s with "M" names.  i can't tell you how many mackenzies, madisons, and makaylas there were in 4th-6th grade in 2010.  i actually love hearing about other girls named ellery, because it just means her parents have great taste, but i hope she never has to go by "ellery S." because there are multiple people named ellery in her class.  don't ask me why this matters to me, it just does!  so as you can see, all my ridiculous name hang-ups make it rather difficult to find a name sam and i can agree on.

any name ideas, people?  send them over!

also, i'd better add a disclaimer...i am beyond thrilled to be having another baby, and feel so blessed to be carrying a healthy baby boy.  i hope i don't come across as complaining, because i realize some people may think that's what i'm doing.  i'm really just trying to be honest because i've been feeling guilty that i wasn't more excited about a boy.  and i can't be the only one who has ever hoped for one sex and gotten another, right?  i guess i just wanted to write about it so that if there are others out there, you know i've been there too.  and i can't wait to write a post after this little guy is born about how much i love having a little boy, because i have very little doubt that he will woo me with his sweetness and cuddles.  i'm so happy that i'll have the experience of having a daughter and a son!