Sunday, October 20, 2013

Eat

Gummy is eating food. Not just delicious sim.ilac, but real, honest to goodness food. Much to her mama's pride.

We started in the summer, when she was 5 1/2 months old. The WHO tells us to introduce solids at 6 months, but she was ready 2 weeks early. I wasn't going to make her wait, seeing as she opened her mouth every time I took a bite of something and then looked at me quizzically when I failed to put something in her baby bird beak.

I took that gift certificate for a big chain baby store and ordered me a high chair. It arrived. I put it together the same day. And we started.

Well, I should say that Gummy had carefully been given fruits and veggies to lick prior to that. I would hold a piece of apple and let her put it in her mouth, without letting go.

But it was time to let her try things on her own. I decided that baby-led weaning (BLW) was our method of choice. I knew a number of women I admire use this with their babies, much to their delight. I looked into it, and it seemed to fit with what I imagined feeding would be all about.

My main concern was the potential for choking. I had to review the infant cpr techniques we learned last fall when we took the class, and watch some youtube videos to see what the difference was between gagging and choking (well, I didn't see any babies choking, but I saw plenty of gaggers, and could extrapolate what choking might look like). I was reassured to hear from moms who were doing BLW and had seen their babies gag several times, without dire consequences. One of my local mom friends did say she and her husband grabbed the tray of the high chair, ready to take their baby out expeditiously a few times, but never needed to, as it was always just gagging and never choking.

The fear of choking remains. Yesterday was the first time in 2 months where we actually pulled Gummy out of her high chair because her gagging was starting to look like choking. But she gagged and was alright. She continued eating happily thereafter.

There are several things I like about this BLW:

1) The three of us can eat together at the same time. Because neither Mr. A nor I has to spoon feed Gummy, we can all focus on eating and conversing, instead of only one adult and one baby eating, while the other adult plays open-the-tunel-for-the-choo-choo-train with the spoon.

2) The preparation of Gummy's food is minimal. I quarter an apple, and take off some of the skin. I steam some green beans. I slice a watermelon and take out the seeds. Done. We also sometimes feed her exactly what we're having. She had rice pasta the other day, and rice and beans last week. She loved it! In fact, she has tried EVERYTHING we've put on her tray so far (I know this can change).

3) I am not the one deciding what goes in her mouth: she is.

That last point, it turns out, is the most important to me. I want her to grow up trusting her own biology. I want her to know that her body will tell her when she's hungry and tell her when she's had enough. That sometimes she'll miss the mark on that by eating too much or too little, but that it will all even out if she keeps listening to her hunger and satiety cues. I want her to trust that if one day she is craving tons of fruit, that's fine. And if the next day it's fries, that's fine too.

I've been reading this book (recommended by Bunny*) and it is GREAT. The main premise is that there exists a division of responsibility in feeding our children. Parents are responsible for what, where, when their children eat. Kids are responsible for how much and whether they eat. And this is based on the fact that we can trust our biology, starting in infancy.

I think that's the ticket.

I say that as someone whose done academic research in the area of obesity and eating disorders.

I say that as someone who has treated adolescents and adults with eating disorders.

And, of course, I also say that as someone who had an eating disorder and recovered fully.

In other words, I say that I like this philosophy of feeding children based on the fact that I have spent A LOT of time thinking about eating. An obscene amount of time, to be honest. And after all that, the only thing that I'm truly convinced of is that trusting hunger and satiety signals, which are inherent in everyone but can be silenced by loudmouths like 'societal pressures to be thin' and 'your mother who thinks you need to have one more slice of pie', is the way to have a good relationship with food, and to have a healthy body. There are other important things for health, to be sure. Vegetables. Exercise. Etc. I don't disagree with any of those, but it comes down to eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full.

It took me over 30 years to learn that. Closer to 35.  

I guess I knew it at birth, but I unlearned it. My poor 23-year-old mother was overwhelmed and figured out that dipping my soother in honey would shut me up (it was a different time in the early 70s). There is this family story about how I was such an overweight baby that my doctor told my mother to put me on a diet. And then there is my mom's own chronic eating disorder and it's impact on how she fed me. And seventeen thousand more layers on top of that, layers that made those hunger and satiety signals inaudible.

I want my daughter to hear her signals. I fear so much that she would ever go through the hell I went through. Bulimia. Anorexia. Cardiac issues. Suicidality. Psychiatric institution for months. I never want her to become familiar with any of those. I know that I can't stop society's influence on her in terms of body image (although there are things I can do to help mitigate its impact). But I can give her the chance to have a good relationship with food by following her cues. And right now, letting her decide what goes in her mouth feels like the best way to do that.
    


* Bunny who swore off reading parenting books, so when I saw that she was reading this one, I figured it must be damn worth it. And it is. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thanksgiving

Yours may be 6 weeks away, but today is Canadian thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for. We are spending a quiet weekend just the three of us, and I love it. Mr. A's parents did come over on Saturday, while I conveniently went to lunch with my good friends. We cooked a duck yesterday (which is saying something for someone who was vegetarian for 15 years). And today, we'll go on a little hike to appreciate the fall colours and each other. Life is very good, my friends.

What I'm most thankful for is my daughter. I was looking at her during breakfast this morning and realizing how quiet the house would be without her exuberant joy. I thought about how I would be going to work tomorrow morning, still silently carrying the heavy shroud of my infertility and childlessness, while I continued assessing and treating other people's children. I thought of how if she wasn't here, I would not know how much love my heart can hold. But she's here, and I am blessed beyond measure.

Tragically, my friend Conceptionally Challenged is not counting her blessings, but instead suffering an unimaginable loss. After years of infertility, she got pregnant with twins and lost them both this weekend at 20 weeks gestation. Please, if you have a kind thought to spare, visit her blog and let her know you care.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Both...and.

The responses to my last post reminded me (yet again) why I love this community. I appreciate deeply that I can write what I wrote in a community afflicted by infertility and come out receiving....support and affirmation. Also, I enjoy the conversation. I like that you told me your stories about the ways you struggle/d in your role as a mother. You said things that were good for me to read. Things that were good for you to express. And perhaps things you needed to hear yourselves when you were where I was when I wrote that. Thank you, women. You are full of beauty and strength.

The naming of things that float in the air nameless is useful beyond measure. Like a mom friend of mine who was having marital difficulties said to me last week: "we told each other that things suck in our couple, and since then, it's been a lot better. Sometimes, just calling it helps a lot." I think that's what it was for me. I needed to call it.

Since then, as the previous paragraph would lead you to believe, things have felt easier. Naming the thing was key: I'm not sure I know who I am anymore in this new, all-encompassing role. Receiving such amazing support and knowing I'm not alone was also key. And also,  it helped a lot not to be hated for saying that motherhood is hard after years of infertility. Somehow, I couldn't shake off the ungrateful bitch prototype. I know it is survivor's guilt. My friend and fellow Canadian DE mama N gently reminded me that it wasn't doing anyone any good to lug around my survivor's guild. She said I could just drop it. Point well taken, N.

Another thing that helped was Mr. A suggesting that unless otherwise specified, I should consider Sunday my day off. I can hang out with he and Gummy if I want to, but I can also spend time doing other things. We've implemented that plan for a few Sundays now and it has helped a great deal. I feel refreshed and ready to start the week with Gummy on Monday.

Talking about the struggles also helped me to start appreciating the metaphorical icing, the cake, and the amazing espresso that is served with it. Pleasantville is ridiculously perfect for raising children (and conversely, it is an infertile's worst nightmare, as I can attest to). It has great community programs, lots of parks and walking paths for strollers, an array of activities geared to caregivers and their infants. My weeks are organized around several activities, which are sometimes followed by lunch with lovely women and their cute babies. Like the other Augusta and her sweet girl. And many other amazing mamas and their sweet little bundles.

For the large part, I am enjoying this time immensely. It's been great not to have to drive anywhere out of my community, but instead to inhabit it fully. I walk downtown everyday for various reasons. Gummy and I walk up to the University to have lunch with Sattva. I talk to the neighbours, to the mailman, to shopkeepers downtown (except at the good coffee shop, where most baristas are surly and more ill-tempered if I try to talk to them).

What I love best is my time with Gummy girl. I actually have time to delight in her, and there is much to delight in. She is a barrel of monkeys. Yesterday, she figured out that her favourite little bird makes noise when you shake it. So I saw her on her play mat shaking it close to her ear. So sweet! And this morning, during the baby aquafit (where the babies are in little boats while their mamas do silly exercises in the water), she leaned back on her boat, entirely chilled out, and said with her eyes "come on, mother, swim faster." She holds on tight when I carry her in my arms, and has started to give wet, open-mouthed kisses. She is known as the smiley girl in our circle, but I'm glad I'm the one who gets to see her in all her different moods. She is miraculous, my little Gummy.

Full time motherhood is still hard in some moments. And thankfully, it is mostly wonderful. "Both ...and" descriptions are better than "either...or" when talking about humans and their workings. It seems that for me, trying to only honour one side only (i.e., motherhood is amazing) is incomplete. Motherhood is both amazing and difficult, rewarding and thankless, challenging and boring, mundane and miraculous.