Sunday 24 January 2016

Sunday bookmark challenge #3: Boob feeding

Finding and writing about an old bookmark on Sunday evening! Mel over at Stirrup Queens started it and you can read more here.  Mel is currently covered in snow and I don't know if she is going to write about bookmarks today. However, I will still give her credit for coming up with the first blogging exercise in months that I can manage to do regularly. (I think the secret is 1) it's on a Sunday and 2) the prompts already exist! i.e. no pressure to come up with new content.)

Today's bookmark is called 25 Historical Images that normalize breastfeeding. I found this on the blog of a fellow IFFer who also went on to become a mom. I read a lot about breastfeeding in the last trimester of pregnancy and in early motherhood. I always knew I wanted to breastfeed and breastfeed exclusively, if possible. The consistent message from my doctors, prenatal classes, and doula was that breastfeeding is the most healthy option for mom and baby. (I also received information about formula feeding.) In addition to that, breastfeeding appeals to my practical nature: it sounded like the most efficient way to feed a baby. The link of course is not giving information; it is showing that historically moms breastfed in all sorts of situations. I planned to do this as well. The pictures have snarky captions that might appeal to anyone who has been shamed or embarrassed for breastfeeding. But you do not have to read the captions to appreciate the pictures.

Breastfeeding is a topic that brings up a lot of strong emotions. I suppose this is inevitable: feeding a child is necessary to ensuring his/her survival, and every parent has strong feelings about the health and survival of their child. Few parental fears are more gutting or guilt-inducing than the fear your child is not eating properly or enough.  And there is good reason why that fear is there, when you think about it. It really is not surprising that we can all be a bit crazy, individually and collectively, about what and how we feed our children. In addition breasts are associated with sexuality in our culture, and blah blah blah - I don't think I need to spell it out for any readers.

The way I see it: Humans are mammals (biological fact) and mammals lactate to feed their young. So there is no logical reason humans shouldn't breastfeed.  However, natural systems have flaws and don't necessarily work the way they are supposed to (doubt that's news to any blog readers). Lucky for humans, unlike other species, we are not necessarily limited by nature: we have ways of feeding our babies, i.e. ensuring their survival, that are not natural. And that is a very good thing. So: no need to apologize if you breastfeed, and no need to apologize if you don't. 

I am lucky to have had positive experiences with breastfeeding. AJ still boob feeds (what we always call it) before bedtime. She could do without at this point, but we both like the cuddles. Breastfeeding is a connection we have had since she was born. I guess I am not quite ready to give that up, although as she grows and develops we find many more ways of connecting, and inevitably, she will leave it behind with her outgrown clothes and toys and other aspects of babyhood.

I like the photos in the link because they don't look posed, they show moms being moms and taking care of their babies every day. In the same spirit, here are four of my favourite boob feeding photos. Clockwise from left:

-First breast feed, within an hour of birth. The photo was taken by our doula, who had the magic touch for getting AJ to latch.
-Several months later, out in nature!
-AJ's first Christmas, picture taken in my parents' living room. I cropped the photo to protect the privacy of other family members, but what it shows is me breastfeeding in the living room while carrying on a conversation with other people in the room.
-Snuggled up on my lap

Wishing good health to everyone and their families, current and future!

Tuesday 19 January 2016

I forgot about my blogoversary

torthúil was three years old on January 15th, 2016.

Three years since an infertility diagnosis changed our lives and expectations.

The number doesn't mean a whole lot, somehow. Although time never stops, it seems to move at a different pace depending on what is happening and how I perceive it. For the first year (2013), time seemed to move awfully slowly, and nothing felt like it would ever change. That was sad when we considered the negative aspect of our lives not changing, i.e. childlessness, but there were also a lot of good aspects that we felt would never change: all our family and friends around us; money, time and leisure to pursue interests and travel and indulge in whatever we wanted. (I shouldn't imply I no longer am able to do these things: it's just that it's more complicated, requires more trade-offs and sacrifices and thought than previously, and I'm more aware of what a privilege it is.)

2014 felt like a year when things would inevitably change: for better (the way we wanted), or for worse (the way we didn't want). With AJ's conception and the resulting pregnancy/birth, that question was definitively answered. Change was coming; time was not standing still. We were blessed that change came in the form of pure joy.

2015....what to say. I recall the first 8 months as a time of  innocence and discovery and a happiness that made me feel weightless. Oh sure, I had my anxieties and doubts occasionally. But most of the time they were quiet, and I lived in a beautiful moment. I really couldn't ask for a better experience of new parenting. But in those quiet months of love and gratitude, the seeds of upheaval were planted: first my mom's cancer diagnosis, then my dad's, which ended his life at the beginning of 2016.

Not to mention going back to work and trying to figure out who I am in this new life, which still isn't totally clear to me.

Last year I went over all the reasons why torthúil still matters to me, and why I'll keep writing as long as I feel relevant. They are all still true. Except each reason weighs a little heavier on me this month. Not that I have entirely forgotten or lost that feeling of weightlessness. I feel it most first thing in the morning, when I pick up AJ and marvel at her size and heft, how different it feels from the tiny newborn. I feel both soaring and grounded.

But well, you know. There's more posts about (in-) (sub-) fertility coming soon. I still have things to work through there. So if you missed the original programming, it's coming back. 

May time always be a gift to you.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Odds Are: Sunday bookmark challenge #2

Finding and writing about an old bookmark on Sunday evening! Mel over at Stirrup Queens started it and you can read more here.

"Odds Are"

When I was pregnant I didn't care about music much. I'm not sure why. I would read about people playing lullabies or classical music to their fetus and I thought that sounded sort of cool but I never did it.  Besides that I had little desire to listen to music to soothe or energize myself. I had no strong attraction to any piece of music or song. I think pregnancy was so completely different from anything else that had happened in my life that the usual soundtrack didn't fit.

But toward the end, as I was looking forward to labour and birth, one song did stick in my head. I must have heard it on the radio and thought: Yeah, that's about how I feel. I found it in my bookmarks the other week. "Odds Are" by the Barenaked Ladies.

The lyrics list a variety of disasters, followed by a slightly nervous reassurance of how unlikely each one is:

"Struck by lightning, sounds pretty frightening
But you know the chances are so small
Hit by the A-train, crashed in an airplane
Better chance you're gonna bite it at the mall...."

Despite that it's an upbeat song, as the bridge reassures us:

"But somewhere in the world someone is gonna fall in love
By the end of this song
So get up, get up
No it's never gonna let up so you might as well sing along."

It is a fun song to sing along too. And after an uneventful second and third trimester, two labour and birth courses and personalized support from our doula, I felt quite reassured singing along to the chorus:

"The odds are that we will probably be alright
Odds are we're going to be alright, odds are we're going to be alright
The odds are that we will probably be alright
Odds are we're going to be alright, odds are we're going to be alright for another night...."

I kept on with this refrain for a few days or weeks after AJ was born: my most vivid memory is driving her through the snow to her appointment with the community health nurse and it was playing in my mind. And then gradually as things did prove to be alright it faded slowly away.

"Odds Are" also makes me think about how much we rely on "odds" or statistics to try to predict what will happen to us and feel in control of our lives, but how ultimately none of  those odds actually predict what will happen in any individual case. I refer to AJ's conception as our "lightning strike," because every source and doctor agreed that it was an extremely unlikely event for a couple with two severe infertility diagnoses. Then there was my dad's cancer, which happened to him despite the fact he had none of the risk factors (smoking, heavy drinking, bad diet, etc.). Numbers tell us something, but when you are dealing with complex systems, there are few situations where you know anything for sure.

The song also reminds me that sometimes I feel too old, or too something, for the themes of a lot of pop songs. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy listening to them, but I find myself thinking things like: "I would have really identified with this song at age 21" or "Adele has a great voice but I'm looking forward to the songs she writes ten years from now." (I'm more into folk, alternative, traditional and classical music anyway: top 40, with some exceptions, is an afterthought.)

Hope your week brings you some good songs to sing along to.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Mel's Sunday bookmark challenge

So, over at Stirrup Queens Mel has an interesting post about going through her old bookmarks and considering their significance. Bookmarks, you say?


Actually, it refers to websites saved for later. I was under the impression I cleaned my bookmarks out regularly so I was rather surprised how many I had collected and the deja vu that I got from looking at them.

Here's how my bookmarks break down:

Parenting (including breastfeeding, baby products, health, general parenting stuff)  - 26
Politics and current events: 17
Cooking and recipes: 13
teaching related stuff: 6
Music: 2
Government service stuff: 3
And a few other really random sites.

Mel suggested writing about one old bookmark every Sunday. I have no idea if I'll be able to keep it up weekly, but I will give it a try this Sunday.

My bookmark for today is:

Fantastic Orange Loaf Recipe

I bookmarked (and cooked) this recipe in December 2014. It was our first Christmas as a family of 3 and we felt plenty of excitement, at least in so far as we had the energy, being the parents of a newborn. We had a theme for Christmas presents that year: We bought family members small backpacks that we found at a discounted price, and then we filled them with comfort items. I made mini loaves of banana bread and the orange loaf recipe above as part of the comfort items. And they turned out very delicious so I recommend the recipe!

We didn't know it at the time, but 2014 was the last Christmas we would spend with my dad in good health (He was very ill in December and passed away last week.).  My parents were thrilled about their first Christmas as grandparents and invited all the Calgary family and in-laws over for a big dinner. They were not usually keen to throw parties so that gives you an idea how important that Christmas was to them. It makes me very sad to reflect on how different Christmas of 2014 was from 2015. But I am also glad for the time we had and the memories. I'm also glad we can't see the future, at least if there's no hope of changing it.

Tuesday 5 January 2016


My dad passed away this afternoon.

He wanted very much to live but the disease and the pain were too much for his body. It was hard to see him struggling toward the end and I am glad that he does not have to endure that anymore. It also hurts to know that he always made the most of his time and opportunities and that now those are forever lost to him.

I also believe the hardest experiences distill us down to the purest parts of our souls. And what I saw most in my dad in these last weeks was love.  There was a fierceness even in his smiles, as if he willed himself to feel and show love even has his body failed in painful and often degrading ways. It is the most awesome and terrible beauty I have ever seen.  Sometimes I wanted to look away, not because he was sick but because I felt I looked into the sun and burned my eyes. But not for anything would I look away.

Now we abide.