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Feeding Elijah

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My milk came in just like Elijah, an unannounced whirlwind – this, one of hormones, tears and fullness of milk. I collapsed on the floor of Elijah’s room on Night 3 and cried from sheer exhaustion.

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Elijah latched easily and ate efficiently. I breastfed on demand during those baby months, and demand he did. At the height of things, we were nursing 12+ times a day, every hour in 5 or 10 minute spurts. The kid likes snacks, just like his mama. We had an easy start to our feeding relationship, with minimal pain and no bleeding nipples. I know now how good we had it in those early days as I’ve watched friends fight to keep breastfeeding, but even easy feels hard when it’s new and weird and there’s so much to figure out. Elijah went on a 12-hour nursing strike once that remains one of my most frustrating parenting moments to date. I must have spent hours on KellyMom.com and called my mom a million times.

It didn’t take me long to realize that breastfeeding in public was the only way we were ever going to get anywhere, and I quickly shed the gentle protection of the nursing cover my mom made. A baby blanket sufficed for a while, then that was dropped for the convenience of nothing but common sense and discretion. I’ve become a staunch advocate for normalizing breastfeeding wherever and whenever. I didn’t expect that of myself. So much of parenting is a surprise.

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At Elijah’s 4 month appointment, our beloved pediatrician casually mentioned that we could start infant cereal. My throat tightened and I felt the anxiety fall over me. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have words to express my discomfort, and Chad and I went back and forth back and forth. But as Elijah’s primary caregiver, my No became the default, and we continued to exclusively breastfeed through a rough 4-month sleep regression, and well into the fifth month.

One day when Elijah was 5 ½ months old, with a perfectly ripe avocado in hand, I realized how much I wanted to see his reaction to its creamy summertime goodness. He had been eyeing our food for weeks, and eating without him grabbing a bite had become difficult. My resistance to starting cereal was ultimately trumped by my delighted curiosity in Elijah’s discovery of the world. I was somehow able to let go of my need to be the source of his sole nourishment even though I still couldn’t define it then.

Elijah took quickly to avocado, then sweet potato, then anything he could get in his mouth. With every new food we introduced to his palate, his nursing slowed naturally, until we settled into a new routine around 7 months. 7am, wake and nurse. Then breakfast. Nurse and nap at 9am. Wake up and nurse. Play, then eat lunch. Nurse and nap around 1pm. Wake up and nurse. Play, then nurse around 3pm. Afternoon snack around 4pm. Dinner at 6pm. Nurse before bedtime at 7pm. Occasionally wake up once overnight and nurse. Typing that out is amazing – even when his breastfeeding slowed, we were still nursing 7 or 8 times a day, plus 3 meals and snack. My life revolved around Elijah’s food.

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I knew that I wanted to breastfeed through a year, but really couldn’t see myself nursing a toddler, and I definitely didn’t have a desire to tandem nurse – nursing while pregnant or nursing an infant and toddler. Weaning was inevitable.

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The first feed I dropped was the mid-afternoon. That first day, around 10 months, I mustered all my courage, wore a crewneck sweater and stood up the whole afternoon lest Elijah try to climb into my lap to nurse. He didn’t know what was going on but he knew he didn’t like it. By the time Chad got home, we were both in tears. Day 2 I got smarter, and planned a well-timed trip to the grocery store, armed with Elijah’s favorite little snacks. By Day 4, he was over it, and our afternoon progressed smoothly. A week or two later, I dropped the feed after morning nap, going straight to an earlier lunch. One by one, week by week, we slowly managed to wean until he was just nursing before nap and bedtime.

That was maybe not my smartest move, since I was left breaking the sleep association. Elijah wasn’t nursing to sleep, but it was definitely part of the before-sleep routine. I stalled for a while, then Chad and I figured out that bedtime went fine on nights I wasn’t around. Elijah went down for Chad or a babysitter with a cup of milk or water, no big deal. So for 6 nights in a row, Chad put Elijah to bed like a champ. Night 7 Chad had a meeting, and it was rough for Elijah and for me. He was sad and confused. We both cried. But we got through it. We can do hard things.

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We dropped nursing at afternoon nap pretty easily a few weeks ago, and the morning nap nurse went by the wayside last week. So now we’re just nursing at 5am when he inevitably wakes up. Best case scenario, he nurses a bit and goes back to sleep until 7, but that doesn’t always happen, and sometimes he’s up for the day. Help me Jesus and send coffee. Elijah loves all the foods now and I’m pretty sure nursing is just habit and comfort at this point. For me too, kid.  For me, too.

I stopped wearing nursing bras a month ago, and I love having my old undergarments back in place. The days of engorgement are long gone, and no one tells you (no one told me!) how weird it feels to have (almost) non-nursing breasts again. They’re not pre-pregnancy breasts, for sure. The girls will never be the same again. Womp womp.

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A friend asked for weaning advice a few weeks back, and I knew I wanted to document it all. This took a lot of words but I don’t want to forget the strange richness of being the primary source of food for my son for so many months. Sure, I’ll pass on the cluster feeding and season of biting and leaking at night and clogged ducts and your battle with the bottle, but really, Little One, I’ll take it all again, and I wish I had taken more pictures. There’s so much shame and guilt around breastfeeding or not. Breast is best except really a fed baby is best, and we’re all just doing the best we can. I’m so glad this was our story.

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Edited to add: I started pumping when Elijah was about 8 weeks old. I produced plenty and easily pumped 5-8 oz at a time.  I begrudgingly pumped once a day for a few months and built up a stash. Good supply or no, pumping is a hassle.  Bless all you EP mamas, and those that pump at work to send milk to daycare etc. Chad bottle broke Elijah while I went to a movie, and Elijah took a bottle from a babysitter without issue until 4 months. While I was getting ready to be a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding, during a long night in a hotel when I was battling a UTI, Elijah decided to strike against the bottle, and refused one for the next three months. After he was eating solids confidently, he took up bottle drinking again, until 9 or 10 months, when he refused again. I donated my freezer stash, sanitized my pump and said a grateful goodbye.

Wayne Wastell

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Wayne Wastell, Chad’s paternal grandfather, died on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, of the effects of advanced aging.  He was 100 years, 5 months and 10 days old.  He had 3 children, 9 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, and 17 great-great-grandchildren, with #18 on the way. He was buried in Beresford, SD, this weekend. Following are the remarks Chad shared at his memorial service.

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I am the youngest grandchild of the oldest person I know.  There’s a 67 year age difference between us.  Everyone has their own perspective on Grandpa – their own facet or lens.  There is only one person who really knew the whole person of Wayne Wastell.  My goal today is just to share my facet, my lens.

I always wanted a closer relationship with my grandfather, but in reflection of our relationship, I learned a lot from my grandfather.

Lesson One.

Not everything needs to be said.  And the corollary – if you wait long enough, someone will say it.

Wayne Wastell was a man of few words, and I learned that wisdom doesn’t have to be verbose.  There is humor and wisdom in one liners.  And, watching and listening is how you learn the truth of a thing, not from talking.  Grandpa never sat me down and said “here’s something you should learn” but rather, these lessons came from observation, and pondering his few words.

Lesson Two.

Grandpa was an avid Pitch player.  Through watching him play Pitch, I learned that you don’t have to have all the pieces – or really any at all – to be pretty sure it will all work out.  Grandpa was famous for saying “7 on nothing” before he was even dealt his hand.  I learned that taking risks is often a more successful strategy than sitting back and being timid or waiting for absolutely everything to line up.

Lesson Three.

Stubbornness gets you more time.  God has lessons for us all, and He has more patience than we have stubbornness.  Time softens most things – even Wayne Wastell.

Lesson Four.

You can play the odds, but they’re not guaranteed.  If you have a good hand it doesn’t mean you will win, and if you have a poor hand it does not mean you will lose. Grandpa did everything medically unadvised, and he lived 100 years 5 months, and 10 days.

Lesson Five.

You always need other people to help.  Grandpa couldn’t care for himself those last few years, but he’s the only person I know that managed to have tobacco inside a tobacco free facility.

Not everything about my Grandpa was perfect, and I don’t want to embellish his life after his death.  Grandpa never embellished his words; he always told it as he saw it.  As I said before, only one person, God, knew the whole person of Wayne Wastell.  So we each have our piece.  And it’s our responsibility and honor – as his fifty descendants, friends and other relatives – to carry on his legacy in our own way.

In the words of Wayne Wastell, “Let’s all play!”

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Wastell Men

Four generations of Wastell men: Wayne, Marvin, Blaine, Tristen, Chad, Elijah. Photo taken on Wayne’s 100th birthday – June 7, 2015.

It’s been a year 

It’s been a year, love. It’s been quite a year.

This winter was hard and long and we wondered what would be next. The miles on the road flew by out the car window and the days and pain of my pregnancy passed slowly on the calendar while we cried and talked and worked to heal some broken pieces.

Spring broke fresh and clean with new disappointments and we said goodbye to some old dreams and goals.  Elijah Graham arrived and now we are a 3-family.  And then the lay off, and again we wondered what would be next.

Summer burned hot and we made plans to pack up our life and move our dreams abroad. Then Germany and Holland fell apart and we worked hard to keep from falling apart ourselves. And again we wondered what would be next.

Autumn fell and a new season started for both of us, and we started dreaming a bit again. We started new jobs, we keep on with our therapy and work and growth, and we keep on chasing Jesus.  And still, we wonder what is next.

We don’t know. But here’s what I do know.

I love you.  I love how you fit me so well. How you’re strong in ways that I’m not. How you challenge me, how you encourage me, how you seek to understand me, how you love me.

I love watching you be a father. I look at Eggs, at our silly Elijah Graham, and see you and me and wonder how he’ll grow and really, it’s all a wonder.  You are a great dad.

I still choose you.  I still choose us.  In small ways, in big ways, in sometimes not quite enough or the right ways, I choose us.

It’ll be another year, and another, and by the everyday unfailing grace of God who loves us most and chooses us best, it’ll be lots more years of you and me.

Elijah Graham, you are

You are 7 months, 1 week and 5 days.  You stood up today, right there in the cart at Walmart.  Your mama’s heart skipped a beat in amazement and fear and wonder and pride. You learn and grow every day and I can’t quite believe that your dad and I get to bear witness to this little life of yours.Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.17.21 PM

 

You are a whirling dervish. You are brave and adventurous and can flip over during a diaper change faster than anything, and it still catches me by surprise, how quick you are, Mr. Eggs.  Even Dr. Davey commented how quick your defenses are. You sure don’t like people messing with your face, but you’ll turn circles in someone’s arms, alternating between twirling and snuggling.  You roll and scoot and crawl and squirm and twist and get where you want to go so very fast. Faster than a chariot, our Elijah Graham.

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You are an eating machine.  You’ve always been a fast and efficient nurser, done and on to the next thing in 10 minutes or less.  You’d snack all day, just like your mama.  And whoever said “Food before one is just for fun” has never met our Elijah Graham and his big kid food.  Your body gets all tense and your little legs go a kickin’ and you open your mouth like a little bird. Your Helper Hands are a little less participatory lately, thankfully, so your turkey and peas don’t get all over your stomach and hair every time anymore. But boy, you can eat, nugget.  If I had to say what was your favorite food right now, it would be all of them.  They’re all your favorites.

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You are Curious George. You’re such a little feeler. You love texture and exploring fabric and faces and paper and upholstery and furniture and hair – others or your own – and even the little Kenmore label on our dishwasher. You want to inspect and feel everything, like Helen Keller meets Inspector Gadget meets Eggs Wastell.  I love watching you discover and learn the world around you.

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You are a snuggly bear.  When you’re not moving, you want to be held, and you’re quick to rest your face on mine or nuzzle your head under your daddy’s arm.  You’re learning about gentle hands and how to share and be a friend.  Nighttime sleeping is still a challenge but you fall asleep in my arms and my heart melts a little.Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.37.28 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.17.01 PM

 

You are my son, and I love you. And you still make the best faces in the west.

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We keep your memories on Instagram, and I unapologetically post a million pictures every day. #raisingelijah

Quick Lit / February 2015

A quick look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

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Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival / Jennifer Chiaverini
At the suggestion of both my mother and grandfather, oddly enough, I tried to find Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, but my library app didn’t have it available, so I settled for this sister story about Washington’s elite.  It was enjoyable enough for historical fiction, although I have no idea how historically accurate it was.

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I Did (But I Wouldn’t Now) / Cara Lockwood
A lighthearted book club pick for February.  Quick, easy reading that may have jumped the shark a time or two, but decent guilty pleasure chick lit none the less.

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The Expectant Father / Brott & Ash
I have no good explanation for why the ONE Prepare for Pregnancy & Parenting book I chose read during this pregnancy was written for fathers, but here we are.  It was relatively helpful and generally approachable. I found it more humorous than I expected, which may been a result of the dad perspective.  #36weeks

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Quick Lit series (formerly Twitterature). Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

Quick Lit / January 2015

A quick look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

best christmas pageant ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever / Barbara Robinson
This is a Must Read for me every holiday season.  I just love the narrator, her perceptions of her mother, all the Christmas, and the whole Herdman gang.  “Hey!  Unto you a child is born!”  I also read a whole host of children’s books over Christmas – Mom dug out all our old favorites while I was at home for the holiday.  Such good memories.

chasing mona lisaChasing Mona Lisa / Tricia Goyer
A unique look at WWII and the art world.  Young love, famous art, and bad guys escaping in old cars…what more does a mystery need?  Definitely an entertaining story, but not amazing writing.

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Quick Lit series (formerly Twitterature). Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.