#WBW My Breastfeeding Journey

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Breastfeeding . . .  13 months and going

This journey has been beautiful (and difficult at times) with both children. Both unique experiences, both I wouldn’t regret. When Tali was born, I didn’t have many friends with children. I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding. I had little support. I wanted to quit. It was awkward. It was lonely at times. I had a hard time getting her to latch. My milk didn’t come in for 5 days. But one mommy was brave, messaged me on FB, told me about the benefits, and told me I can do it! I then committed to a year right then and there. I went back to work when she was 4 weeks old, and I pumped. Pumping was lonely. The stress to keep my supply was sometimes overwhelming. But those moments in the night made it all worth it. Tali was on mostly half formula and half breastmilk for her whole life. Tali weened herself around 6 to 9 months (cause she didn’t want to be held, cuddle, lol). She refused to nurse. So I’d hold a bottle of breastmilk for her to take, while pumping. Her one-year-old birthday was the last time I nursed her (she actually let me that morning.)

With Parker, I was ready for this journey. I knew I wanted to try again. I was armed with a LOT of knowledge, support, and techniques. I know about supply and demand. I knew about all the most recent research and articles that have surfaced about STEM cells, immune support, antibodies, probiotics, and more. For about 9 months I provided fully breastmilk, even after returning to work. And up to 13 months, he’s still mostly breastmilk fed with occasional formula. But, I had weeks where it hurt so bad I cried when he nursed. I had moments I wanted to give up to have more help and freedom. But, it’s been worth it. With Parker’s conditions (kidneys and ears), I’ve provided him to the best of my ability what his body needs to fight off any infections and to grow strong. One year now, and I think I’ll just keep going. ❤

IMG_1861I love snuggling my babies close. I love watching them nurse, watching them study my eyes. I love their little hands on my skin. I love providing for them. I love feeling their chest rise and fall with each breath. I love how I can calm them in seconds at my chest. I’m amazed how the Lord made our bodies – to grow, house, birth, then nurture.

I know this journey isn’t easy for everyone, isn’t beautiful, isn’t encouraging. I know that for some reason or another, mamas have chosen not to. And that’s okay. ❤ Don’t let this post be one to make you question your choices – or make you feel I would. You’re the mama. You know what’s best for you.

And this picture, it’s of a mama feeding her baby. It’s beautiful. There’s nothing here to hide.

Mama’s Simple and Wise Life Lesson

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

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My wise mama taught me an important life lesson, one that as a kid I would roll my eyes and think “well when I’m an adult, I’m not going to have to do this.” Instead, it’s a lesson I now appreciate, cherish, and will teach my own kids.

Mama would always say:

When you leave somewhere, leave it better than when you arrived. When you borrow something, leave it cleaner than when you brought it home.

And she diligently applied this rule to every aspect of our daily life:

860272_1874362465723_1815623652_o.jpgWhen I’d try on clothes, mom would make me hang every single piece back up, button it, straighten it, fold the jeans, etc. and give them back to the attendant. When I’d leave a restaurant, if I made a mess on the floor, she’d have me tidy it up. If I missed the trash bin, she’d make me go pick it back up. I’d often get frustrated and say something along the lines of “But they hire people to do this! This isn’t my job.

She’d make me do it anyway.

Today I walked into the bathroom at my workplace and saw trash thrown near the trash bins and paper towel scraps near the dispenser. It looked pretty bad. Of course the average person probably pulled out the paper towel, grabbed it wrong, let the scrap fall to the ground, didn’t have a second thought, and moved along. The average person also might walk in, see what I am looking at, and think “this looks awful!” and leave with the same thought, taking no action.

This is my second home. It’s where I work, work I take pride in. It’s where my coworkers spend the majority of their waking hours. It’s a place that’s been good to me. I know my coworkers here, their spouses, and their children. I know our mailman. I know our janitors, and know many of their life stories and have shared with them my own.

I stooped over and began picking up all the trash, and tidying the bathroom. It took me about 20 seconds to do.

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When we care for these smaller things, when we take time to notice the impact of one person, we start to understand the world differently. We can suddenly see the impact of 10 people who stopped caring, and realize the impact of an entire culture who, out of habit, thought “someone else will do it.” We start to see how little decisions “pile” up – and these small teachable moments translate to every aspect of our life, our home, our family, our workplace, our lifestyle, our culture, our world.

To the Friend that Only Called When They Needed Something

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I love you.

I’ve heard so many people speak down about your type. The one that’s here for a season for assistance and then gone for a year. The one that only calls to ask a favor, but never calls to say “how are you?”

We all have seasons.

Some seasons are harder than other seasons. Sometimes, you need attention. Sometimes, you need to know you’ve been heard. Sometimes your current backlog of issues are so overwhelming that hearing about someone else’s may make your anxiety and depression crumble you to pieces. Sometimes you don’t have the confidence that you could help anyone, so you don’t ask. Sometimes you haven’t learned reciprocation. Sometimes, you don’t know how to communicate you care. Sometimes, you’re so extremely busy with work and kids and marriage and school that it’s difficult to fit one more thing in for a friend. Sometimes mental illness only allows you to reach out when it’s really bad. And, perhaps you called me because your closest friends wouldn’t listen, or ran from you when things got bad.

Call me.

You may not ask me “How are you?” although I’d love for you to. But, I’ll be here to listen either way. Because someday, that might be me on the other line — too overwhelmed and distracted by life to realize I never asked you how you were doing before I began crying on your shoulder.

You may not stick around for my season of need.

But I’ve learned a lot from you. I’ve learned how to be a listener. I’ve learned how to calm someone down. I’ve learned to be patient with you. I’ve learned that sometimes it doesn’t have to be about me. I’ve learned to say “No” when I can’t help you more. I’ve learned life from your eyes. I’ve learned that when I give you my time, it doesn’t mean I’m owed anything in return. I’ve learned how to love this moment because it means you trusted me enough to call.

Of course, I hope you stick around. I hope you call me just to ask how I’m doing. I hope that you’ll be there in my time of need, but perhaps that season is for another friend. And, that’s okay.

In the meantime, I’ll love you. In the meantime, I won’t demand anything in return. In the meantime, call me anyway.

No Shave November, Beauty, and The Sterilized Inhuman ‘Womanly’ Appearance 


So back in college, I participated in no shave November. Yep, for real. I did. And, I won the contest for hairiest legs for women. 

I think some women couldn’t believe I did this… and couldn’t believe I appeased the entire men’s basketball team by giving in to their request for a close up during the game where we presented our legs at halftime. It was fabulous. Seriously – wish you were there.

Now listen, leg hair may not be attractive to our culture — but we are also a cultural overly obsessed with a woman’s perfectly sterile appearance: no body hair allowed, must have acne covered by makeup, must lose all body weight gained after a baby, must have perfect hair without fly aways or frizz, must have thigh gap, must never have sweat showing through clothes, nor odor should ever be smelt — it’s ridiculous really, and frankly inhuman. Our culture sees us as “less womanly” with these human features…

Perhaps I thought it was good to go the extreme to show women to be confident in what makes us human. We can’t live up to a magazine standard, and most days we just don’t have the time nor energy to put on makeup or shave our legs. (Perhaps we thought spending that time with our kid was more important!) And guess what? That’s okay. You’re beautiful. Your legs don’t define you. Your makeup doesn’t define you. Your hair doesn’t define you. Your body shape doesn’t define you. Your clothes don’t define you.

And women can be the worst to engage and perpetuate this false identity and markers of worth, degrading a woman for her appearance. Instead, start valuing the heart — and start talking about the heart. Stop complimenting what she’s wearing and compliment her smile, her humanity, her love, her intellect, her dedication. Because that’s what continues to grow beautiful with age. That’s what we need to recognize. Make her hold tight to that, not what time will steal away from her.

Body Image: Your body’s sole purpose isn’t to please a gaze

 

 

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My body wasn’t meant to please your gaze. My body’s purpose is not to sell your brand of clothing, makeup, hair color, shoe brand, etc. Its sole purpose is to not be a over-sexualized symbol to turn the heads of men. Its purpose is not to wear a bikini in the summer. It’s not for other women to have an object to compare their body to. Its purpose is not to retain my 16 year old figure.

My body is meant for many things in fact. And a sexualized, ‘perfectly shaped’ being is not the highlight.

My body is for usefulness: it’s to move, to jump, to run, to breathe, to child rear, to breastfeed, to digest, to hear, to see, to feel, to climb, to make, to read, to create, to go, to write, to play music, to contribute, to renew, to grow, to age . . .

My body is made to express: love, art, kindness, compassion, beauty, gentleness, frustration, anger, to serve, to hug, to kiss, to hold, to be held, to assist…

My body is to create: to create peace, to create shelter, to create art, to create music, to create joy, to create new things, to recreate old things, to create a space for community, to create a family, to create beauty…

My body is for my husband: to love, to make love, to serve, to hold, to assist, to laugh, to cry, to grow old with, to behold, to take care of, to admire, to create with…

My body is for my children: that I may bring them into this world with the growth and marks of pregnancy and the pains of labor, that I may pick them up when they are sick and cradle them. That I should chase them when they take off the first time they ride a bike without training wheels. That I should have bags under my eyes because I didn’t sleep because they were awake and lonely. That my hair and nails aren’t done because instead I spent the money to go on a trip with them…

At the end of my life, I want my body to be marked. Marked with smile wrinkles. Marked with scars from adventures. Marked with stretch marks, my tattoos left by my children who forever changed my life. My breasts will hang differently from breastfeeding. My hips will be worn and achey from playing on the ground with children and grandchildren. My skin will be aged from playing in the sun and gardening. My nails will be torn and worn from working hard and serving others. My feet will have callouses from staying active and moving.

And, my life will be full.

Women, allow your body to be marked by life — in the most beautiful of ways. Embrace the shape you are in, the skin you are in, the hair you are in, the type of clothes you can afford, the color of your features, the shape of your legs, your thighs, your marks, your scars. Remember all that your body is and does and has been through — and its endless beauty in these moments — It’s not just some outer covering meant to please some passerby’s eyes. It never has been. It never should be. And it should never be your definition of its worth.

Tattoo for My Daughter

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“When the scar, this scar, formed I was astounded to find that for the first time people looked at me. Not unkindly, and with interest. And they were not the sort of people I had known before. Oh no, these were interesting people, people who were not unmarked by life. And my mark, my scar, made me in some way approachable; this blemish gave me confidence. And it occurred to me then, or very shortly thereafter, that perhaps it might be best to wear lives upon our skin. And so I do.”

– Excerpt from “Marks” within the collection of dramatic monologues “Talking With…” by Jane Martin –

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What is a tattoo? There’s something different about this type of art. It’s the inner reflections of our soul painting the outer shapes our bodies, the willing waiting canvas. We all wear our tattoos, but some are just simply more visible to others. Some are kept written on our hearts while others are cemented in ink. Some people, you see, just choose to make it more permanent, to make the memory physically present when it seems it’s slowly slipping out of their grasp. And unlike an artist who paints on a canvas, who can choose to walk away from their creation, to recreate, to rehang, to store, to sell, this type of art remains with you, a part of you. It goes with you. It matures with you. It tells a story.

As soon as I was pregnant, I started thinking about this permanent design on my body. I knew its form, its shape, and the potential location. I knew it perfectly captured my journey into motherhood, a moment that forever changed my life. To capture even a glimpse of this moment on the canvas of my body would be beautiful, sacred even. Although, I was equally anxious, anxious to have a new mark.

I watched the design take shape for months, my fingers tracing every new line, the artist working delicately with great care to document my journey. I smiled. And, I hesitated. I showed my husband, his own fingers tracing the change to my skin, telling me, reassuring me of its beauty, insisting I be confident if people thought otherwise. He marveled in its design, a physical representation of what was growing not only in my womb, but in our hearts.

Today, my design is still taking shape. It’s still growing with me, changing color, changing form, changing texture. And, I imagine with time, it will continue to. The design is recognized as “stretch marks” by most, those outside of motherhood. To me though, they are my “tiger stripes” or my “mommy marks” or “mommy lines.” Most people would tell me to prevent them. To hide them. To have a body untouched by my journey in life.

No. I will not hide them. I am not ashamed of them. I will not be scared to show my tattoo, life’s mark. You see these lines on my body? These lines mean this body, my body, carried life! Created LIFE! Sustained LIFE. With no practice, no preparation, my body knew what to do to make itself a home. For nine months, my body worked, watched, and waited as her entire being was being formed from a blueprint invisible to the naked eye. It was present as her heart took shape and when the first beat of life sounded.

My body is beautiful, and its journey is beautiful. I display that beauty outwardly with this tattoo. I show you my journey through the lines. The artist? My daughter. Who better to mark my body with her life? With the life we created together as a family.

We all wear our tattoos, but some are just simply more visible to others. Some are written on our hearts while others are cemented in ink, while some are written on the canvas of our skin as the wrinkles in our faces, the dimples in our cheeks, the scars from surviving a fire, and yes, even the lines of childbirth.

Mommies, celebrate your lines. Celebrate your journey. They are not flaws. They are resilient, strong, and beautiful. Wear your tattoo with pride.

Photo subject and credit: Mandi Brock