Category: Family Life

In this section, I write about my life, my family, and insights into relationships, marriage, and parenting.

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every women’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine. You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps.

Review of “You Are: A book of declarations”

Review of “You Are: A book of declarations”

A little while ago I entered a giveaway over at Homemaking for His Glory. I have entered many such giveaways before so I did not expect to win anything. Imagine my surprise when I received an email announcing I was the winner! The prize?

A gorgeous, brand new board board called “You Are: A book of declarations” by Emily Assell over at Generation Claimed.

Yesterday the gift arrived in the mail, beautifully wrapped with a nice little note. I was quite impressed with level of care and thought given to the packaging. How cute is the thank you sticker? I love Generation Claimed’s styled logo and how she used it as a background on the paper itself. It is giving me so many ideas!

The prize I won in a drawing is Emily Assell's new board book You Are.

I was very excited to unwrap the book and flip through it. The book is sturdy and about 6 inches by 6 inches, so a really great size for little hands. The board pages are smooth and feels nice.

Cover of Emily Assell's You Are

Each spread has a powerful declaration and is accompanied by at least one Bible verse on that topic. The verse is carefully selected from various easy-to-understand Bible versions and translations. I love the idea of sharing the Lord’s promises with little ones as early as possible.

The artwork is simple, fun and features mother and baby animals. I know my little Peanut will definitely love pointing out all of the animals, especially since he is getting really good at word recognition. Yesterday morning while playing with his Little People toys, I would ask for a specific animal and he would bring the correct one to me.

All of the art in You Are is adorably precious, but here is my favorite spread:

 

Where to purchase

If you are interested in this gorgeous board book for your child(ren), grandchild(ren), as a gift, or for your classroom, you can purchase your own copy of “You Are: A book of declarations” for $9.99 (plus sales tax and shipping/handling) directly from Generation Claimed.

Buy yours today!

Raising children on the principle of love

Raising children on the principle of love

My husband and I are Christians, meaning we are followers of Christ Jesus and strive to live according to His teachings. We both grew up in Christian households that shared similar foundational principles and, as a result, our beliefs have shaped our worldview, guide our thought processes, and influence our actions on a daily basis.

Before getting married — and long before children entered the picture — my husband and I talked about our overarching ideas and plans for raising any future children we might be blessed with. But, as when many things, parenting styles, goals, and philosophies tend to be more abstract until a little one is actually present.

Then it becomes real.

Since becoming parents to our son, we have had numerous discussions on how to parent. Not just the when and how to discipline conversations, though it is very important for both parents and any additional caregivers (like grandparents) are all on board with the decided methods of discipline. No, we began talking about the far-reaching results — some might even say consequences — of certain parenting styles, attitudes, behaviors, etc. Then we compared our childhoods and our parents’ parenting styles with all of the positives and negatives we could recall.

Every time we had one of these deep, self-evaluating discussions, we found ourselves circling back around to very simple but crucial questions:

  • How do we want to raise our children?
    • What kind of childhood and home environment do we want to provide for them?
    • What character traits do we want to nurture in our children?
    • What kind of people do we want them to grow up to become?
  • What parenting methods would achieve these goals?

In continuing my exploration into the idea of a heavenly home, I will attempt to share some of our answers to the above questions.

First and foremost, the type of childhood we desire for our children is one of joy, love, laughter, and learning in a home environment that is warm and nurturing.

To achieve that goal, we decided that we want to raise our children on the foundation of love. Deep, self-sacrificing, understanding, patient, resilient, courageous, unconditional love as modeled by Christ Jesus.

Out from this foundation of love grows other important character traits, such as respect for oneself and respect for others. We want our children to grow up with an understanding that, in spite of their flaws and mistakes, they are precious, valued, and loved for who they are as uniquely individual human beings.

Their worth and self-esteem is not based on what they do, how well they do it, how much they succeed or achieve, nor based on the opinions of others. That does not mean we will not have expectations for them, but we want to give them realistic expectations that encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

By extension, we want to instill in them a respect for others as precious individuals. We want to demonstrate this love and respect every day in our interactions with each other, with our children, and with those outside our family.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8, ESV

We want to raise our children with the knowledge that God is love. We believe in a loving Creator who originally created this world perfect and intended for humanity to live perfect lives in peaceful harmony with Him, each other, and the nature around them. Because He is love, He did not create us as robots pre-programmed with a specific set of directives that must be followed.

He gave humanity the freedom of choice: free will. Because of free will, we each have the freedom to choose whether to love God and obey Him or not.

It is our hope that our children will come love God as we have but not out of fear or obligation or tradition. We desire for them to have an intelligent faith of their own and love God as a personal response to His love for them.

 “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, ESV
From this love, they will choose to follow His example and apply His teachings in practical ways in their daily lives. All of the teachings of the Bible can be summarized in these two principles:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:36-40, ESV

Next time I will share some of the specific character traits and values we hope to instill in our children.

Join the discussion

What are the principles that guide your parenting style and philosophy? What type of childhood are you aiming to give to your children?

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 24 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 24 Weeks

As you may have noticed from the eleven posts tagged Baby #1, I did not track our first pregnancy weekly or even monthly. Likewise, this time with Baby #2, I’m also not flooding the blog with frequent pregnancy updates. You can call it a desire for privacy, too much busyness, or just plain laziness on my part. After all, I only just announced our second pregnancy last month!

All that aside, I figured it might be worthwhile to do a pregnancy update.

How far along: 24 Weeks

Size of baby: At our most recent ultrasound (last month) , the baby weighed about 13 ounces. At our monthly check in with the doctor last week, my belly/uterus was measuring exactly 23 inches. Various pregnancy sites claim the average 24 week baby is about the length of an ear of corn and the size of a cantaloupe while the uterus is about the size of a soccer ball! Now that I think about it, I do feel like I am carrying around a soccer ball…

So far I have gained 15 pounds since conception, but I actually lost a pound between the ultrasound appointment and the doctor’s appointment.

Gender: Since we have already shared with all of our family and friends, I might as well spread the exciting news. We are having another boy! For now, I think I’ll continue referring to him as Baby #2 until I find a nice pseudonym.

Movement: This little fellow is extremely active… far more so than our Peanut was, and I thought he kicked a lot. Baby #2 is almost always moving around. In fact, as I type this he is kicking me.

Sleep: It can be a challenge to find a comfortable position even with extra pillows, and some nights I toss and turn a lot. I tend to get up about two times a night, but one of those is because Peanut wakes up hungry. When I do get comfortable, I usually sleep fairly well. The last few nights, though, I have barely been able to fall asleep despite being very tired and it is not a deep, restful sleep.

Workouts: I have not been exercising consistently this pregnancy, but I have been trying to do a little more physical activity lately. A few days a week, I climb the four flights of stairs to my office, and this last weekend, we went camping so I did a lot of walking, standing, lifting, etc. It felt really good actually. I should do more pelvic floor exercises, too.

Maternity clothes: I am still comfortably wearing most of my maternity clothes from the first time, though one of my favorite maternity pants I had to put away because the stretchy band put pressure on the underside of my expanding belly at just the right spot while sitting at my desk to cause pain. (That did not happen the first time, so I know my belly size/shape/position is different this time around. It is definitely more protruding.)

Symptoms: I tend to be quite tired in the evenings after a long day at work, and sometimes if I sit too long I have a hard time getting back up. (That is caused by a combination of the pregnancy and an old rollerblading accident to my tailbone.) I do have more muscle pain this time around, especially in the abs and sides. Other than that, though, I seem to be doing pretty ok. I usually can move and walk normally, unless I do something ridiculous like trip on an uneven sidewalk.

Cravings/Aversions: Just like with our first, I have not really had any cravings, per se. Earlier on my sense of smell was heightened and many things that I would not have been able to smell before or did not seem strong before would make me retch. I haven’t noticed that heightened sense of smell in the last week, though.

Missing most: It is a tie between sleeping on my stomach (I’m a stomach sleeper!) and being able to bend over without the pressure of a protruding belly.

Preparing for baby: We are making progress very slowly. We need to move quite a bit out of the “nursery” (aka the boys’ room) and do a complete re-arranging. Peanut is now walking and I want him to be able to start playing in the room without me having to stand there watching over him.

The bassinet is dismantled and under the bed in our master bedroom. It can be easily re-assembled in the week or two before Baby #2 is born. The new baby will be with us in our room for probably the first five months, and then Peanut will transition to a real bed and Baby #2 will get the crib. So we have quite a bit of time to work out all the room details.

Cannot wait for: Seeing and holding our little bundle of joy! It is amazing watching Peanut grow, and I cannot wait to see how he interacts with his little brother.

Well, that is it for this pregnancy update. I think I’ll aim to do a monthly update from here on out. If you have had multiple children, how did your pregnancies differ from each other?

The idea of a heavenly home

The idea of a heavenly home

The title of this blog is A Heavenly Home, and I chose this name because of the hope and inspiration that it gives. If we are all honest with ourselves, I am certain that each one of us desires to have a warm, loving home that resembles a small piece of heaven on earth.

In our hectic, busy modern world, such an ideal home environment can seem hard — maybe even impossible — to achieve. Sometimes our best laid plans go awry or life circumstances force us to be flexible in ways we had not intended.

Our home is no different.

Is our house always tidy? No.

Do we have more clutter than we should? Yes.

Do we always put away our clean laundry? No.

Do dishes sometimes pile up in the sink? Yes.

Does our home look like a glossy magazine spread or a bright photo op on a fancy home blog? Absolutely not.

At the moment, I work full time outside the home with some freelancing on the side while my husband stays home with our one-year-old son. This was not our original plan, but it is where we find ourselves at this time. My amazing husband keeps our household running by not only caring for our son but also taking on a large share of domestic duties, including but not limited to laundry, vacuuming, tidying, yard work, taking care of the aging dog, etc. I appreciate everything he does so I try to pitch in and ease his burdens when I can.

We had a fairly good system working for us before we discovered I was pregnant with Baby #2 back in May and the first trimester all-day-every-day sickness struck. Around the same time, our little Peanut began to teethe… badly. Everything quickly dissolved into barely manageable chaos. For a little while there, it was a struggle. Then we realized that stage of our life was merely temporary, and it was ok to let the less important things slide for awhile.

Do not misunderstand. I do believe having a clean and tidy home tends to make the home more inviting and is more nurturing for those who live there.

However, the physical house is only part of what makes a home feel like a little bit of heaven on earth. To create a home that is a welcomed retreat from the cares of the outside world, warm and inviting, you need more than simply clean rooms.

A heavenly home is built on love, courtesy towards those who live with you, quality time spent together, and laughter.

My natural tendency at times would be to stare at the three days’ worth of dirty dishes piled up in the sink and feel like a failure for being too exhausted (and sick!) to do them. There were times I had to remind myself: “At this moment, cuddling with my little son who is crying for “Mama” because a new tooth is working its painful way through his gum is far more important than some dirty dishes.”

When times became challenging, we chose to focus on what is most important. For our little family it was spending time together as a couple, spending time with our son, and doing what was best for our health. For me that also meant extra sleep!

Since then, things have begun to even out again. (Praise the Lord!) I am no longer feeling sick, and my energy has returned to normal. We are now in a place where we have a handle on the weekly housekeeping duties again and can also re-start some of the projects we had to put on hold for those couple of months, such as what I like to call “the big purge”. (More on this later.)

A clean house is important for physical health and a tidy house is good for mental health, but never forget that what truly transforms a house into a home is the people who live there and the atmosphere you cultivate.

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 2:3-4, ESV

Our home and family is built on the love of Christ. If we keep Christ as our focus and His love in our hearts, everything else falls into its proper place. Our home becomes a warm, inviting, nurturing place full of the most important riches: love, selfless service, and grace. We know what is most important and are able to be flexible when circumstances change.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore a little bit more into the idea of a heavenly home and share some of our plans for improvement.

Join the discussion

What does your home look like? What does a heavenly home mean to you? In what areas do you need improvement?

Peanut is getting a promotion…

Peanut is getting a promotion…

About two weeks ago, our little Peanut celebrated his 1st birthday. He is not really a little Peanut anymore. He is such a big boy now in many ways. He wants to feed himself, he is playing with toys more intentionally, he will find his favorite books for us read, and he loves to talk! (Sometimes it is words we can recognize!) He even took his first steps last week all on his own!

We actually had to postpone his 1st birthday party because he came down with his very first cold, which caused an ear infection. Poor little guy! In the end, he unintentionally gave his cold to me, both of his grandmothers, and even one grandfather and his dad had a few days where they were a little under the weather (though not nearly as sick as his grandmas and I were!).

Around the same time we were celebrating Peanut’s birthday, we also began sharing the news that he is getting a promotion to big brother!

Yes, that is right. We are having another little one!

The due date is still a little up in the air. We originally thought it was around January 28, 2018, but a recent ultrasound may suggest closer to February 10th. However, Baby #2 was not very cooperative during the scan so the tech was unable to get the full measurements that they like to have. We are going back in a few weeks for another try. I do not mind one way or another, because as I learned with Peanut, babies come when babies are ready to come.

So we could be anywhere between 18 and 20 weeks along, but I am showing much earlier with this pregnancy. (To be honest, this time around I feel and look huge.) Granted, this pregnancy has been extremely different from our first. With Peanut, I had the occasional nausea and some fatigue during the first trimester. This time I was sick all day long, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, for a little over three months! The fatigue and aches and pains have been a bit challenging, as well.

Fortunately, I have been doing much better the last three or so weeks. I have gotten a lot of my energy back and am starting to exercise again. Nothing strenuous, but I need to get into decent shape to prepare for Baby #2’s arrival. I lost some weight during the first trimester when I could barely eat anything, but now I feel like I’m gaining a little too quickly. I’m already at the weight I was when Peanut was born! (To be fair, he was only 4 pounds 11 ounces at birth.)

So I’m gradually increasing the number of times I climb the stairs as work (I’m on the fourth floor), trying to walk more (I want to get back to a mile a day), and standing at my desk more (alternating that with propping my feet up!). I think these small changes will help.

We do know the gender of Baby #2, but I will save that announcement for next time.

If you have had multiple pregnancies, how have your pregnancies differed? What was similar between them?

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Personal note from Jacquelyn: I have written and re-written this post a dozen times over the last few days. It is time to share it. I know this post is imperfect and, in spite of my humble efforts, cannot hope to grasp the entirety of the situation. Many books can and have been written on this topic! However, this is the coherent part of what has been weighing on my heart and mind over the last few days. (I have been a bit sleep deprived due to a teething baby.) My only hope is that it provides comfort and encouragement to those who need it and prick the hearts of others to take time to seriously re-evaluate their opinions and beliefs.

A response to hate

The violent and tragic acts of hate groups in recent days have deeply sadden me. It has taken me time to be able to put my thoughts into words. First, let me start by saying that my heart goes out to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a man filled with hate and evil, and all of those who were injured in the same attack. Heather gave her life standing up for what she believed in: that all people are equal and should be treated with respect. I also pray for the family and friends of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates of the Virginia State Police killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the situation. They gave their lives while serving and protecting their community, fulfilling their duty and serving with honor.

Let me be very clear: anyone who embraces ideology steeped in hatred, intolerance, and violence is NOT patriotic. White supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis… these people are pathetic COWARDS, filled with hate and fear — fear that they displace on others. Their contemptible words and vile actions reveal to the world that they have embraced evil.

We need to stand firm against hatred, fear, and intolerance. We need to stand for justice, equality, and freedom. However, remember that the world, the country, and our children are watching. We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. If we behave as they do and commit our own acts of violence against them, we become no better than the very groups we condemn.

We need to rise above knee-jerk, anger-filled reactions. The emotional response of anger itself is not necessarily wrong, but anger needs to be controlled or it will control us. We need to take the high road. Hard though it will be, we need to show compassion for hatred, peace instead of violence, love and unity in response to fear and division. Let us put aside arrogance and superiority, and start to esteem others as equals. Let us win with our words and actions, through our voices and our votes. Let how we respond lift up those who are downtrodden, encourage the discouraged, seek true justice, and show mercy towards the poor and vulnerable.

Our children are watching.

You CANNOT be a Christian (a proclaimed follower of Christ Jesus) and harbor hatred for others, especially whole groups of people based on arbitrary or imagined differences (skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc.). Let me repeat myself: you cannot be a Christian and a racist.

The Bible is very clear: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)

Christ Jesus Himself said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NKJV)

And He also admonished His followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV)

Our children are watching.

The Declaration of Independence, though written by flawed men, states a truth that is vital to be reminded of, especial at times like these: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And I would like to add that among these unalienable Rights endowed by the Creator is the right of ALL people, especially those who have historically been marginalized and greatly mistreated, to respect and being treated as a valued human being. Native American, African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Arab-American, certain minorities among European-American have all experienced turmoil in our country’s history (including recently), though some groups (such as the Native Americans and African-Americans) have born more atrocities, persecution, degradation, and disenfranchisement than others. Sadly, to this day many communities still struggle with the aftermath of bias government policies and social prejudices.

We need to admit that our country is not perfect and has made many mistakes… Some downright and absolutely horrible, such as the removal of native people from their lands, the enslavement of Africans, the internment of American citizens of Japanese heritage, and more. We need to stand firm on the side of Truth and Justice for ALL and move forward together to fix what is broken in our country.

Hatred and violence is learned. So is peace and compassion. Let me repeat: We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. How about we try leaving the world — or even just our small piece of it — a better place?

Our children are watching. What are our words and actions teaching them?

Our children are watching. What are our responses and reactions to times of great upheaval saying about our hearts and our characters?

Our children are watching. What legacy are we leaving for them?

Our children are watching.

Being present in the moment

Being present in the moment

About six months ago, I was working extra hours on a few freelance jobs with the intent of building some income outside of my regular 9-5 job. The ultimate goal would be to eventually transition into working from home so I could spend more time with our son.

After two months of working 8 to 8.5 hours at my regular job and then 2-4 hours at night after the baby went to sleep, I realized that I was wearing myself out. I was not sleeping enough, I was fighting the worst allergies I have ever experienced, I kept getting sick, and despite my husband’s valiant efforts to keep things tidy, our house had quickly fallen into disarray.

However, I pushed through because I really want to be able to stay home with my son.

Then within the span of a week, I observed my mom and mother-in-law interacting with my baby, and I realized that they were present in the moment. I was so sleep deprived that even when I was with my son, I was not there mentally. He may have had half of my attention — changing him, feeding, him, encouraging him to grab a toy or flip through a cloth book — but I was not fully there.

A part of my mind was always focused on other things. “I need to check my email.” “Once he falls asleep, I have to do x, y, and z before going to bed.” “Ugh, the dishes have piled up again.”

One afternoon when my parents dropped my son off after watching him for the day, I quietly watched my mom feed him a bottle and then my dad play with him. I almost burst into tears. In trying to pursue my goal of one day being able to stay home, I was missing the beautiful moments with my son now.

I had to change.

So I declined the next freelance job that came my way.

I put away the laptop. I did not just shut it or turned it off, I put it completely out of sight. I removed the email and Facebook apps from my phone, and began to leave my phone in my purse or on the charger in a different room of the house.

With these changes, I was able to go to sleep earlier so in the mornings, I could shower before our son woke up, greet him with smiles and songs while he was still happy, nurse him and pump, and carry him with me around the house as I got ready for work instead of putting him in a walker or the play pen.

In the evenings, I had the energy to make dinner and clean up the kitchen while my husband played with our son, did laundry or vacuumed. Bedtime was much easier, because I was no longer eagerly waiting for the baby to fall asleep so I can do other things. I wanted to spend that quality time nursing him, rocking him, cuddling with him. After he was tucked into his crib, my husband and I would relax together instead of me being occupied with work on the laptop.

Our house was not only cleaner and tidier, but it was happier and filled with sunshine, music, and laughter.

Six months later, I do not regret this decision one bit.

Do I still long for the day when I can stay home with my son? Absolutely!

As much as we appreciate our parents for helping us watch our son for six months while both my husband and I worked, we still desired to have at least one of us at home. We determined that it is not financially feasible at this time for me to be the one to stay home. My income is what we rely on for rent, bills, every day living expenses, and health insurance.

So at the end of May my husband resigned his job with a local school district to stay home with our son. Being a stay-at-home parent is not an easy job. There are great days when the child is happy and you get a ton accomplished. And then there are terrible days where the house is a disaster and pretty much the only thing that happens is cuddling with a teething child.

Bradley has taken to being a stay-at-home dad, and every day he continues to amaze me. I am so grateful to be blessed with such a wonderful husband. Even after a long day of watching our son, he still cheerfully takes care of our son, me, and even the dog when I am feeling too sick to make dinner or too exhausted to wash the dishes.

Sometimes circumstances happen that do not allow us to live out our ideal dream, but instead of being disappointed, we should be thankful for the blessings we have.

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
— Philippians 4:11, NKJV

Life is more than just a checklist of accomplishments. It is about relationships, and it is about spending time with those that mean the most to us. It means treasuring precious yet fleeting once-in-a-lifetime moments. It means letting go of those things out of our control and stop worrying about the future. Give your worries and burdens over to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and decide to be present in the here and now.

I have, and I love it!

Weaning at ten months

Weaning at ten months

Our son is about ten and a half months old, and we have recently weaned. If you are familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced with breastfeeding. I pumped exclusively for the first few months and, even after he was able to nurse, I still pumped most of the time to ensure he was getting enough.

A few months ago, I noticed my supply was slowly decreasing in spite of all of my efforts to keep it going strong.

At the very beginning of this journey, I prayed we would make it to ten months. It was almost exactly at ten months when my milk began to dry up. I know that it is recommended to breastfeed for the first year, but I will not complain.

We made it to ten months!

That is a huge accomplishment in light of all of the difficulties and challenges we had. I praise the Lord we made it.

Now let me say that this weaning was not because our little one no longer wanted to nurse. He still comfort nurses when he is tired. The fact of the matter is my milk has dried up on its own. It happened rather quickly over the last two weeks. After a few days of pumping three times throughout my work day and hardly getting even two ounces, I knew we would have to begin weaning.

So I decided to stop lugging the double electric pump and all its parts to work. Our little one would still nurse right before bed and during the overnight/early morning hours, but it was clear he was not getting enough. The first few days were hard. I did wake up about 3am two mornings to pump just to relieve the pressure, but even then the milk expressed was not significant. After about a week, the hardness and pressure eased.

It is now about two and a half weeks since we started weaning. He still comfort nurses when he is sleepy, but there is no milk at all anymore. Our son is eating more finger foods, baby foods, and mashed up versions of whatever I am eating. He also is getting more soy formula to keep up on his nutrition. Two weeks ago he had a visit with the pediatrician, and he is going great. Since he was born so small, the pediatrician is very please with his growth.

The process of weaning was far easier than I thought it would be. I simply stopped pumping at work but for the first week, I still nursed once in the evening and once in the morning. The first week was probably the hardest for our son, as he wanted to nurse but was not getting any milk.

As my milk dried up, we simply added more formula bottles to our son’s diet to ensure he was getting enough and I cuddled with him as he drank from the bottle to replicate the closeness that happens when nursing. With a little bit of time, he transitioned well.

Did I do the whole weaning thing the “right” way? To be honest, I did not bother to do any research or anything. I just did what felt right for us and our situation. I am learning how to trust my maternal instincts more now.

Breastfeeding challenges are normal

Breastfeeding challenges are normal

This article by NPR is very encouraging for any mother who has struggled with breastfeeding. In Secrets Of Breast-Feeding From Global Moms In The Know, we discover that even in cultures and societies that seem — on the surface — to have great breastfeeding success, mothers experience the same challenges: poor latch, low milk supply, pain, soreness, fear, doubts, etc.

So what is the difference between their apparent success and our struggles? Many of these more traditional societies still provide mothers, especially new mothers, with a lot of support and guidance from grandmothers, sisters, neighbors, etc. There is also little stigma when a mother is struggling or a baby needs supplementing. It is viewed as a normal part of life.

Here is an excerpt:

I think that there’s enormous pressure to succeed with breast-feeding in the U.S. and that you feel like if you can’t do it that this is a huge failing as a mother,” Scelza says. But Himba women didn’t seem to think the problems related to breast-feeding were a big deal.

“When [the baby] had trouble latching, they were just like, ‘Yeah, this is part of what you have to learn if you’re going to breast-feed,” she says. “They didn’t stigmatize the failing.”

Read the full article.

Here in America, perhaps our zeal to claim “breast is best” has unintentionally added even more pressure on mothers, especially new mothers, and so when women do experience difficulties, they feel like a failure when difficulties are actually quite normal.

Even with the support of my husband, my mother, and my older sister, I still felt like a failure when my son could not breastfeed, even though there were physical reasons why he was unable to latch. We should not demonize bottle-feeding, because you never know if what is in the bottle is expressed breastmilk or formula. Nor should the use of formula be looked down upon, because there are many reasons why a mother may need or decide to use formula. You and I looking in from the outside do not know that mother and baby’s circumstances.

So let us encourage one another instead of discourage. Let us share our stories and words of encouragement! If you have not already, you can read all about the challenge that is Our Breasting Journey.