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Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Little Nook

Ready to celebrate Huei Tozoztli down the street.
Moving back to Long Beach has only gotten better.  I've reconnected with old friends, met new families, and finally feel like I've dug my toes into the sand.  Recently, celebrating Huei Tozoztli, the beginning of the veintena, or Mesoamerican 20-day count, has reminded me the importance of extended family.  When you're the unconventional mother for breastfeeding a two-year old, not spanking your kids, or giving birth unassisted, it's nice to reinforce your "crazy" morals through peer validation.

Coming out of my newborn fog, I realize that I can't parent without this network of loving people.  Where have they been the past few months?  Where have I been?  I have to take care of my children, eat, sleep, breastfeed, cook, clean, and have quality time with Sherm, so sometimes socializing is on the back-burner.  Our contact with other families becomes limited to after yoga chit-chat, meetings with my women's health collective, and farmer's market shopping.  When did I become so anti-social?

Nesting, after our first son.

Maybe I'm a bit disheartened that my community didn't change along with me.  My late-night performances, activist work, weekend meetings- even "community events" weren't conducive to breastfeeding, nap time, crying, or other basic needs a little one has.  A fellow midwifery student and single mother, had the idea for us to study together, raise funds for our education, and together, we began a woman's circle.  From there, I reached out to other families, communities, women, and old friends, educated current ones, and asserted my needs as a mother to the world.
Single, female friends happily take turns holding Itzix, so I can enjoy dessert.

Redefining myself as a mother was a slow, laborious project.  Setting boundaries with my husband, and not holding his gender against him was intense.  I was angry that my body was pushed to it's limit, while he was still able to hit the gym every day.  Instead of asking for his support in my recovery, I wanted him to suffer with me- no amount of pain would be enough!  Instead, our relationship suffered, and our first son felt the emotions of his two parents, angry at each other.  Now that we have overcome our growing pains, Sherman and I have clear, realistic expectations of each other as co-parents, and partners.  I appreciate that during study groups, meetings, exercise, and births, he takes care of our son, understanding the value of my work.
Before our children. Photo by Jennifer Ruggiero

Society expects me to view caring for my children as a bump in the road.  In Western culture a "good baby" is one who interferes very little with your life before kids.  But lives change, along with people, and we must express our needs as mothers to our partners, families, and communities.  Taking my children with me to a safe environment, where I can pop out my titty and nurse, poop my baby in the toilet, nurse both of my children at once, and have direct access to healthy foods, is an indication of a healthy, growing culture.  How fortunate we are, to have a choice in where we live, who we socialize with, and what we eat.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

3 Month Update: Tandem Nursing

Keeping two nurslings happy at once, I imagine, is like having to appease two lovers.  It's a little awkward at first, but once you get into the rhythm of things and put your game face on, you can't wait to tell all your friends about it.  My biggest challenge in tandem breastfeeding at three months postpartum, is nursing my newborn while my assertive two and a half year old, also demands to nurse.  Akinyemi's eagerness to continue to nurse on demand makes me doubtful of my parenting:  "Am I not explaining this correctly?";  "Have I not offered him sufficient alternatives?"; "How can I contribute to his self-empowerment and get him to self-soothe?".  
Tandem nursers, two and a half years, and three months old.

Our co-sleeping arrangement has been cut back half the night.  I nurse Akinyemi until my nipples are sore.  Sometimes he falls asleep quickly, but most times I'm not that lucky.  I read him books, tell him stories, sing him songs, or rock him to sleep after a short explanation of why I have to cut the nursing session. All the while, I hope my easily-awoken newborn, Itzix is not scared by his screaming, crying, or my singing.  When he finally falls asleep in his little bed, Itzix usually wakes up to nurse.  I take him with me to bed, think of all the things I'm too tired to do, and we drift off to the place of dreams.  Akinyemi usually wakes up as soon as I fall asleep.  Lately, he's been so tired that he won't cry for chichi.  He just asks for 'brazo, mami, 'brazo! I contort my body for his hug until he falls asleep, still nursing Itzix on the other side.  Trying to slip my arm out without waking him feels like I'm a teenager sneaking out of the house: bad; exciting; and liberating! When Sherm comes to bed, he'll sleep on my thighs, hips, or I'll make space for him to spoon me.  We need a bigger bed.  I wake up with a sore back, stiff hips, and a kink in my neck, but the pain subsides with yoga or a little stretching.
Nursing Itzix at the farmer's market, exhausted Akinyemi asks for "la otra".

In public, Akinyemi only asks to nurse when he's really tired or uncomfortable.  If there's someone to keep Itzix occupied, and my nipples aren't sore, I'll nurse him, but it's been happening less.  Sherman and I are bumping heads on alternatives to nursing.  Pizza crust is not a healthy snack, taking cheese off of pizza doesn't make it vegan, and chicken with every meal is setting our son up to be a little obese American with diabetes at age 4 (yes, we have unresolved issues regarding diet).  I let Akinyemi nurse when he wakes up, to detox.  I know he has too much leche de mama to drink when his bowels are really loose (breastmilk is a natural laxative).

It's still a nightmare to recall those first couple of months postpartum, when Akinyemi was so disregulated that he'd cry, scream "Mami, help!", and beat his father for trying to soothe him.  Akinyemi is nursing only when he really needs it, or when I feel comfortable enough.  He loves nursing when Itzix nurses, and sometimes it's beautiful to watch the two of them- wide-eyed, feasting, and grabbing each others' hands.  Akinyemi thinks it's hilarious that his baby brother can touch and feel him.  He looks up at me, smiling with my nipple in his mouth to make sure I'm watching and enjoying the moment along with them.  I am, baby, I am.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back to Yoga

Itzix, experiencing yoga outside of the womb.  He loves mantras.
I never thought a synthetic material- probably toxic to the environment, could feel so sacred.  As I sat on my yoga mat after two months of rest, I inhaled all of the cherished moments that I had previously spent with my son in my womb.  Not having him inside of me as I sat there cross legged bestowed a curious grief upon me.  But knowing he was healthy and remembering that ecstatic moment, when the power of the universe converged in me, helped silence my mind and allowed me to succumb to calmness and breath.

 As with many new things, I was skeptical about yoga.  I preferred daily trips to the gym, cardio, lifting weights, and meditating during ceremonies.  I tried "gym yoga" with my first pregnancy.  Being unable to understand the teacher's accent, and annoyed by the Madonna head mic that echoed through the entire gym, didn't stop me from trying yoga again.  During my second pregnancy, a fellow preggo invited me along with her, "I used to think that, too, but this one is cool, I'm telling you, it depends on the teacher."  Lupe says, in a matter-of-fact way.

We wobble in late, trying to be discreet, breathing hard, with our big panzas, and Dharma welcomes us with her warm smile. "Forget about labels, degrees, status...forget all the drama, good and bad..." Dharma calmly announces to the crowded class.  I met Dharma and her family at our favorite Vegan spot some time before, but these words won me over, and I melt into whatever else it was that she was uttering.  Every week after that, I packed my old mat, stuffed my face, woke up my husband, packed snacks, got our son dressed and fed- then we were off to "Oh-Ga", as my two year old calls it.

A whole week has passed since I've been back, and slowly, my new life is unfolding. It's tough getting the timing right- especially when nursing two little ones with different schedules.  Getting my husband to help is another challenge, since he works late. But washing away the week's stresses with yogic breaths is priceless.  Dharma welcomed me to bring Itzix, my nursing newborn, any time.  This is the warm, fuzzy atmosphere I want to include in our family outings.  Returning to my husband and kids rejuvenated, awake, energetic, and appreciative is inspiration to continue.

Everything a parent does affects her family.  I'm fortunate to have a family-friendly outfit available in my community, as motherhood outside of the dominant paradigm can be isolating. Trilogy Yoga, a donation-based studio in Long Beach, has become our little family spot.  I get dropped off, the boys go out for some snacks and juice, and I get picked up.  Sherman gets harassed by my yoga friends, If he sees some husbands, or other males, they chat for a bit, and if Akinyemi is still awake, he gets to hang out with Dharma's sons. 
My son, Dharma's son marauding the studio. Fun!

My period of hibernation is over, my newborn is three months old, and Daddy and Akinyemi are new BFFs.  Motherhood has it's pressures, surprises, losses, troubles, and heartaches.  I'm thankful to be slowly transitioning into my modified routine and returning back to Yoga.  What an awesome inauguration. 

Owner, Trilogy Yoga Studio, carrying Itzix.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Indigenous Free Birth

Born naturally myself, I have never thought of birth in any other way but natural.  My mother described her birth of me as the worst pain she had ever felt in her life.  At the tender age of 17, without any scientific information or facts, she understood that natural is safer for her birthing baby.  That didn't save her from a traumatic hospital birth experience from which she still has not recovered.

I could not trust the world from a very young age.  Looking back, I wonder if being pulled, suctioned, and handled roughly at birth is partly to blame.  Every day has been a struggle to become emotionally intelligent, empathetic, and to regain the strength of my natural human instincts and intuition.

Choosing Indigenous free birth became a mesh between my success as a human being and Indigenous woman.  In one event I was able to see the support beams I had built over a strong base I have created over many years.

Indigenous Free Birth is not only birthing unassisted, or without a trained professional in attendance.  For Indigenous families, the added element of colonization has interrupted us from knowing and practicing who we are.  After over 500 years of being occupied in the "United States", Mexico, and "Central America", it helps reclaim an independence that has been stripped from us since 1492.  Punished if we practiced our own medicine or religion, we have become dependent on European, or Western medicine.  Traditional midwives were swept away with the invasion, and consequently, so was a tradition of birthing in our native popular culture. 

Making the decision to birth at home requires that you look inward and discuss your health history, feelings, and intuition with your partner.  Taking our health into our own hands is a catalyst for change, whether or not we decide Free Birth is suitable for us.

In the Mexica tradition, birth was perceived as a ceremony of battle: the birthing mother, the warrior.  Reasserting who we are in the birth setting, is to re-appropriate this battle and give it contemporary meaning.

During my research of Unassisted Childbirth, I found very little on Indigenous motherhood. Nevertheless, with my fellow women of color in mind, I compiled a list of resources.  Below are some websites and books that helped me along my journey through pregnancy and childbirth.  It is a work in progress, so, please, if you find any more information, please message me.  I am especially interested in native-focused resources, we need them.

Unassisted/Unattended Pregnancy & Childbirth Reference List








Unassisted Childbirth, Laura Shanley

Emergency Childbirth:  A Manual, Gregory B White

Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Chilbearing Year, Susan Weed

Heart in Hands, Elizabeth Davis

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin

Hygeia, Jeanine Parvatti

Unasisted Homebirth: an Act of Love, Lynne M Griesemer

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Second Time Around: Pottying from Birth

After his first meconium passed, my little Itzix was all mine to observe and potty.  His fat little body was so warm, and he slept so much that it was a little difficult to predict when he'd eliminate.  I kept him naked, with a cloth diaper inside of his swaddler, just in case he unloaded.  My postpartum doula and mother kept telling me to put a shirt on the poor little guy, but I knew that as long as he was in my arms, he'd have all the warmth he could ever need.

The first three days we had a huge pile of swaddlers, blankets, cloth diapers, and clothing (mine included!) to wash.  My husband complained that he couldn't keep up if I kept it going, but after the first few days, Itzix and I improved our relationship.  It came naturally for me to potty Itzix as soon as he woke up and before he fell asleep.  His calm, intense presence would sometimes change from flailing arms and kicking, to a moan, or other noisy announcement.  Unlike my first son, he was very vocal about having to eliminate, often making angry faces as he talked to me about it.

Our rhythm the first few weeks was like this: He'd wake up, I'd offer the potty right away.  Sometimes he'd go within the first few seconds.  Otherwise, he'd ask to nurse.  If we had a long nursing session, he would sometimes release while nursing, so if he slept for a long stretch of time, or was extra hungry, I'd nurse over the sink.  It was surprisingly easy the second time around.  If Itzix was awake and fussing, I'd go over my mental list: Is he hungry?  Is he sleepy? When did he last eliminate? Is he overstimulated or stressed? How do I feel? Pottying became another way to embrace my son and sensitively attune myself to his needs.

Itzix is almost three months old now.  Our biggest challenge is managing Natural Infant Hygeine, or Infant Pottying, with our every day life.  When Sherman cares for Itzix, it's always, "Why doesn't he have a diaper on?"  that he asks.   He understands the value of elimination communication, and has seen it work with our first son, but I don't expect my husband to potty our newborn until Itzix could speak the very clear, assertive words "Dada, potty. Now".  Sometimes I wonder whether his genuine lack of attunement is because I am so awesome, or because he is a man.

At any rate, Akinyemi, my first born, plays an important role in pottying our newborn.  His recent profound obsession with nursing often prevents me from taking Itzix to the potty in time.  He nurses until his last breath, when he sees his 'mito project a 'naky' pipi or fuchi poo-poo into oblivion. Despite my many warnings, he is startled, and mildly afraid of coming into contact with his brother's urine or feces.  Slowly, Akinyemi is also becoming interested in his brother's movements, and very often, we will take a trip to the bathroom, and both boys will 'go'.

Waking up in the morning, next to a "booty baby" (he sleeps bottomless), who's dry, alert, and ready to take on the world with his family, helps keep me sane throughout my hectic days and sleepless nights.  My heart overflows with joy as I squat him over of the bathroom sink, the two of us smiling at each other through the mirror, cooing and agoo-ing, knowing that this moment, we avoided a diaper change.  Life is swell.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vagina Dinner

My father was the parent who nurtured me with stories, baths, brushing my hair, outings and jokes.  Naturally, in adolescence, I gravitated toward male friends, who often talked about sexual encounters with women whom they didn't care for.  Although I never wanted to be in a story like theirs, during High School, I attempted to fit in with the "girly girls".  After realizing that they were mostly a group of hurt, spiteful, and insecure women, I rejected the ideal of the traditional female.  Cloaking my wiry body in layers of over-sized clothing and headwraps was my way of disconnecting myself from that mainstream woman. I didn't comb my hair, shave, or wear make-up.  I cussed, drank, smoked weed, wrestled boys, and openly mocked girls who were "feminine".  I was a female machista, believing "they" (females) couldn't be trusted, only cared about material objects, appearances and impressing men.  I was as wounded as the females I despised.

My long-time circle of female friends, fellow musicians I met in 2005, have stuck by me during my lengthy transformation through womanhood and into motherhood.  Although I had "cleaned up" a bit by the time we met, I often insulted, ignored, or neglected them.  I was distant, emotionally unavailable and lacked empathy.  As all wounds heal, motherhood has helped me realize that stable, enduring, and healthy relationships must be maintained.  Although a few of us quit our band and got jobs some years ago, we developed a series of meetings to stay in one another's lives. 

Since men aren't allowed, we coined them, Vag Dinners.  The location is always rotated, usually someone's house, or occasionally, a restaurant.  It can be potluck-style, or the host will provide the main dish.  In Indigenous tradition, we always come with something in our hands to offer.  After I had my first son, we had a vag dinner at my house- everything brought to me, and my house was left cleaner than when they had arrived.  Yes, only women can be so meticulous! If you don't have female friends, find some!  Today, I live for women, and have depended on female support during the most difficult times in my life.

Despite it's bad reputation, chismeando can be healing.   We laugh a whole lot, eat all evening, and somehow, one starts the chain effect of crying.  Every vag dinner is a personal triumph and group bonding experience.  As Indigenous women, we have lived collectively, in group settings for nearly all of our history.  Today, with individualism, industrialization, and other affects of colonization, we are isolated from one another.  Our human needs for touch, socializing, and bonding are limited to our daily jobs, the little time we spend with family, and the internet (keep reading my blog, though!).  Vag dinners, and our relationships with one another, have helped some of us heal from loneliness, depression, abusive relationships, past traumas, and low self-worth. 

I look forward to tomorrow, when I get to drop off my son, rebozo my baby, and refill my plate to my heart's content.  I am fortunate to have such intelligent, enduring, and caring women in my life.  Thanks, ladies, for being sisters in struggle, and accepting me for who I am, every step of the way.

 Intelligent, sweet and beautiful.  Vag dinner 2009.

¡En Solidaridad!  Vag dinner 2008.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Itzix: an Unassisted Birth Story

Reading birth stories helped prepare me for my births.  As touching as they were, I longed for a compilation of birth stories by those who shared similar social and cultural experiences, values, and history.  This is a call out to mothers of color: Please share your birth stories with one another.  Narratives help us heal, teach empathy, and serve as education.  If you are a mom of color, please take the time to share your experiences in giving birth by posting, even if only a link, a word, picture, or a brief comment.  Soon we will have our book.  This is the first part of two in birthing our second child.  
Parte uno
Part one

February 19, 2011 
Chicome Itzcuintli
         I wake up next to my husband around 8:30am. My two year old son had spent another night with my mom. I'm having slight contractions, so i jot it down in my birth journal, knowing that this would be the day that, you, my precious stone of jade, would come into this world. My contractions are 3 or 4 minutes apart, and i feel uterine cramping in my lower pelvic area. The quiet room is still. I hold my breath, and thrust my arms in joy, allowing my nesting instinct to take over. I tidy up the house and make myself a breakfast fit for a fat queen. Since my husband is asleep from a long night, i video tape bits and pieces in between contractions. The more i squat down to clean and bend over, the stronger the contraction. I welcome the contractions, knowing that you are one sensation closer to being in my arms.

          I lay down beside my husband. Mother nature gives me a break while i lay down and we nap side by side. After a couple of hours, I wake up with INTENSE downward pressure. My hemorrhoids burn and are causing more discomfort than my actual labor pains. SHOOT... I never picked up that witch hazel!

"Sherm, you need to wake up... I'm in labor."

For the next four hours, I wait for him to "situate" the birth pool. I hop in the shower to alleviate some burning and I hear my son's voice.

"Sherm, Sherm, Who's there?" I shout from inside the shower.
He tells me my mom is dropping off Akinyemi.

"Well tell her to take him back! I'm in labor." I walk out of the shower to find my son in his high chair, and a new box of toy cars.
Overbearing Grandma comes in handy I think, as i gobble down a large plate of spaghetti... Akinyemi is glad to leave with grandma, but one of the perks of being a community organizer, is having a busy home.
I sit by the kitchen window massacring my food, when i see Edgar's stupid Che Guevara hat and glasses peer into my window. I'm pretty pissed, but I don't want labor to stall like last night when Sherman and I argued over making tea too slowly.

"What do you want, fool? I'm in labor!"  I shout through the window.
"Oh, what the fuck, fool, I thought you'd already be pushing and shit" He imitates a woman screaming and cursing Sherman.
"Sherm! Edgar's here! Sherm!"
He comes in from hooking up the hoses in the garage and assures me the pool is almost ready.
Laying down in my bed, I side-lie and breath, feeling my bottom stretch open.

In the birth pool, an hour before giving birth.
Stepping into the birth pool is ecstasy.  Sherm shows off his two pressure hoses.  I'm slightly disappointed the "midwives' epidural" doesn't alleviate all of my pain.  Night falls on the city of Compton and my doula arrives.  Martha is my close friend and new doula, but she is calm, hands-off, and has keen instincts.  I try not to critique her doula approach.  Stay focused.  Forget her burrito breath, we all get hungry.  She sticks to my birth plan and gives me my special teas, drinks and juices.  My husband is in the garage, catching up with her husband.  I get tired of laboring without him and send for him.  Right away my contractions kick in.  Whew!

"That tea WORKED, huh Martha?" I surprisingly remarked.
"Yeah...fast.  Where do you feel the contractions?" She decides to time a few again.

I grunt and feel like I should stand.  Daddy keeps telling me it's too hot in the house with the heater and pool, complaining that he's uncomfortable.

"DON'T COMPLAIN" Sherman knows I mean it and doesn't reply.

He helps me get out of our Eco Birth Pool in a Box into my large, luxurious bath towel.  We lay in bed for a little bit listening to native tunes.  We cuddle, kiss and have an intense erotic moment before falling asleep.  I switch sides and call for Martha to massage me with some lavender essential oil and shea butter.

"You're opening up" Martha says in her usual nonchalant voice.

"No shit, that's why it hurts", I think to myself.

Too late to go over birth affirmations. I feel cramping in that same localized pelvic area and my whole pelvis shifts to accommodate you, my precious stone of jade.  Naturally my breathing pattern changes to a faster, more shallow grunt.
A little dizzy and disoriented, I stand on the bed.

"You're leaking"one of them says with concern.

I saw my waters rupture earlier that afternoon and realize I'm not looking at the remaining liquid.  Dark red spots of blood splattered the chux pad.  I didn't want to transfer to a hospital, so Martha calls a midwife friend. Stuck in limbo for a minute, I give myself permission to let go and push once I hear the fateful words:

"It's fine, she says, the baby's coming soon."

I collapse, back first into Marthas arms and grunted. After the intense moment ends, I lean into my husband the same way.  I feel him struggle to keep balanced.  Immense comfort and pleasure overcome me knowing that he is physically exerting himself with me.  My primal grunt is so loud that I don't realize the deep place it is coming from.  Sherm asks me to change position.

"No, hold me!" I demand, feeling another rush about to overcome me.

I submit to the animal in me and we roar, dangling and squatting- fully supported by my rock, my man.  My doula helps instruct Sherman, so that he holds me more comfortably, and after that third push, I feel burning.  I touch my perineum and free myself from my husband's arms.

"What's wrong?", he confusedly asks as I laugh in amazement, mouth and eyes wide open.
"Nothing, she can feel his head!" my doula replied because I wouldn't.
"He is here!" I thought to myself and paused in amazement.

Overcome by peace, I cherished the last moments of you, Itzix Chicome Itzcuintli, in my womb.  I touched your wrinkly head and my thin perineum with my cupped hand and positioned myself slowly into a one-legged half squat.

Sherm laughs and shouts:

"I see his face! Whoa...I see his eyes! hahaha".

While Sherman's amazement of your head creeping out of my vagina sets in, you rotate.
All of the births I've ever seen flash before my eyes in an instant- and I have a vision of you splashing out.  Just then, you squish out with a burst of water into Dada's hands.  You slip, face first into the world, purple and still.  Daddy picks you up and hands him to me while I come back into my head and surroundings.

My husband, usually mellow, warns me anxiously:  "He has the cord wrapped around his neck! He's not breathing!  He's NOT BREATHING!"

I feel disoriented, in the clouds, yet ultra calm.  Doula instincts kicking in, I reassure dad and unwrap your cord.  As I stimulate you to breathe, I notice you have a little bit of meconium in your fresh baby anus. Your breathing is slow, quiet, and calm.  Finally, you give a little cry and I rub into your skin the little vernix you have left on your birth day.

"It's a BOY!" my doula announces, we knew it all along.
"Oh I LOVE you, baby! It's 9:55pm" Martha proclaims.

My brother walks in with bright red hair, looking stressed out.  We cover you up, make sure you're warm and still breathing.  We fall in love. We are calm. tired. ecstatic.  You quickly bob over to my breast and latch all by yourself. You are so wise, my little Itzix.

Seconds after birth, photo by our doula.
Borgia Codex, Tlazolteotl gives birth (I also birthed in this position)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chichis: Our Medicine

During my pregnancy, I tried not to be anxious about tandem nursing my two-year old and new baby.  "It'll all fall into place", I thought when concerned women, asked "HOW are you going to do it?".   Akinyemi was two years old, and only nursed at bedtime and before naps.  I had it made: he was independent, potty trained and self-weaned!  After I gave birth, my newborn self-latched like a pro and my bosoms were explosive.  The first beautiful nights we spent together were so perfect that my husband, Sherman and I blissfully joked about all the things we would do.  "Having a newborn is easy", Dada boasted- as if he was to credit.

My breastmilk was rich and sweet.  Akinyemi loved it.  He demanded, "chi chi, chi chi!" every time I nursed his brother.  Looking forward to tandem nursing, I gave them both all of the milk they wanted.  After a few days, my back hurt, my nipples were sore, I was parched, sleep deprived, and frustrated.  Instead of my newborn's demands keeping us up, it was Akinyemi.  At one point, he nursed more often than our newborn.  "Empathy, Panquetzani, EMPATHY", I reminded myself as he shrieked, waking our newborn.  I held him and explained that I was tired, my nipples hurt, it's difficult to nurse two boys, laying down, etc.  Here we are, two and a half months later, nursing twice as much as he did during my pregnancy, his cheeks fuller and bowel movements looser.

On really tough nights, I resent that he nurses so often.  His teeth really bother me now, even though he has the same amount as before.  My difficulty with him reminds me of his newborn stage.  Reflecting on my experience as a stressed out, isolated, and confused first-time mom, I realize how my postpartum emotions has affected our current breastfeeding relationship.  It brings back memories of being raised by my teenage mother in Echo Park.  
Mom, 17 and me. Riley High School, Lincoln Heights.

She hated giving me rides, money for school, complained when friends stood over, and a couple of times, plainly called me a burden.  She was 16 when she dropped out of High School, and began    She never had a personal sex talk with her mother, a traditional Catholic who was busy with her job, community work and seven other kids.  She was ashamed to have me in her womb, dreamt of being a 10th grader in High School again and longed to be with my father (he was banned by my grandparents after impregnating my mom).

Raising a child is difficult, and my awesome mother did the best she could.  Nevertheless, her method of raising me always tries to bite me in the ass.   Although it's inconvenient nursing a two and a half year old (who could drink or eat anything else), I know I have made him feel like he's an inconvenience.  It's a horrible feeling knowing your primary caregiver is angry at you for existing and having human needs.  I've had to realize that my anger has more to do with my experiences in utero, as a newborn, and the way I was raised - not my breastfeeding situation.

Now that I am aware of my feelings while nursing Akinyemi, I do my best to hold him when he cries, without judgment or resentment.  I ended this morning's nursing session when it became painful.  He cried and screamed.  I held him, he tried to fight me off, but I continued to hold him, explain my reasoning, and speak to him with empathy.  My husband woke up, asked me to nurse him and end the torture! After a couple of minutes, I let go.  He stopped pushing me away and laid on me with his arms and legs wrapped around me, cheek to cheek like a little monkey.  After a minute of silence, he jumped up and ran around the house, then raided the kitchen for fruit.   I never imagined myself weaning my son, and even though we are just shortening the amount of time during each session, I would still like to try child-led weaning once this newborn stage passes.

Reminding myself to stop, breathe, and deal with the situation appropriately is an every day struggle well worth staying attuned to my sons' needs. If nipples can heal overnight, then given time and the appropriate medicine, so can any other wound.

Two month old and two year old nursing.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Two and a Half Years of Pottying in a Nutshell

Something you don't see every day (unless you're like me).

There's one important difference between conventional potty training and elimination communication: One is linear, the other flexible, with many round-abouts, pauses, and triumphs.  There's no official graduation with infant pottying, you may have 15 misses one day and zero the next.  Everyday provides new insight and opportunities to practice empathy during the gradual transition from diapers to potty.  It took me two and a half years to realize that the goal of pottying your infant, newborn, or toddler isn't to get them out of diapers as soon as possible.  It requires supporting your wise baby's instinct to not soil him/herself throughout their unique developmental stages. 

My first son, Akinyemi, began his potty journey at two months old.  By four months old, I was able to catch all of his pees, and by six months, both numbers one and two.  Then came crawling: he was too mobile to give me any signs of elimination the whole month.  My formerly amazed family became skeptical again.  Hearing that it was a waste of time was demoralizing.  I hadn't read any books about it, or known any one who practiced infant pottying.  Yet, as I witnessed the pattern of regression with each milestone, it began to feel normal and became a part of our rhythm. Teething, walking, and eating more solids all affected our relationship, his bowel movements and our potty dynamic.

During my entire second pregnancy,  he was diaper free at home, overnight, and outside the house.  My family applauded that we'd only have one in diapers.  Little did I know, having a newborn in our lives means another adventure in elimination communication for Akinyemi.  Although he is having a small potty "regression", I am proud that my two year old knows how to pull his undies down, sit on his mica, and continue his day.  Enhancing his self-awareness and knowing he has confidence that his caregivers are assertive to his needs makes me the proudest of all.

Pottying my 11 day old.