Eli Contemplates the Baby

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When I first became pregnant I didn’t talk too much about the coming baby with Eli. I didn’t want him to begin feeling resentful of his coming sibling for the loss of nursing or the fact that I wasn’t doing much of anything with him anymore. Eli was simply told that Mama was sick. I did explain a couple of times that he couldn’t leap on my stomach when I was laying down because there was a baby in there now, and my husband and I would occasionally discuss the coming baby in his presence but that was about it.

Now however, I’m feeling much better, my belly’s starting to pop, we are nearing the pregnancy halfway point and baby talk has increased exponentially. Eli is becoming quite fascinated and excited about the whole thing. At least a couple of times a day he tries to peer in my belly button to catch a glimpse of the baby.

He also frequently commands “Baby out!” complete with a sweeping hand motion like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I explain to him that we have a long time more to wait and show with my hands that my belly will have to get bigger, and bigger, and BIGGER before the baby inside is big enough to be born. This always produces a round of giggles on his part. He thinks I’m joking… just wait, if this one is anything like he was I’ll be waddling around with what looks like an impossibly large  beach ball strapped to my front before we’re done.

I’m not sure if he’s excited about the baby coming for the sake of having a sibling or because he’s been told that when the baby comes Mama’s milk will come back as well. I don’t know if he will still want to nurse by that point but right now he’s pretty keen on the idea. He’s already designated which side will be for the baby and which side will be his. As he is a polite young man, he did assign the baby’s before his own.

Because for so long I stayed home to rest while he went out to play or run errands with his Daddy now Eli asks a number of times before leaving the house “Mama too?” He loves it when we are all together. Yesterday after the usual “Mama too?” as we were preparing for a fun trip to the Barnes & Noble he asked “Baby too?” I assured him we wouldn’t be leaving the baby behind.

I asked him if he thought the baby would be a boy or a girl and with no hesitation he proclaimed her a girl. When asked what he thought her name should be he answered “Baby.”

Letter to Eli, 29 Months

Dear Eli,

Oh my beautiful boy, what a challenging month this has been! I think it is safe to say that it has been the most difficult month we have experience together from both of our perspectives. And while I would give almost anything to have been able to make it easier for you, still, I’ve got to say that you have astounded me with your resilience.

Your Mama is growing you a sibling that will be born right around the time of your third birthday. Both your Daddy and I are so pleased, as we have wanted you to have a sibling’s life-long companionship from the very beginning, but weren’t completely convinced it would be possible. So many people have commented to me already that you are going to make a terrific big brother, and they are so right! You have  incredible sensitivity and a heart overflowing with love for those around you. I can’t wait to see the shape that will take as you forge a relationship with your new brother or sister over the years to come.

The temporary downside of this pregnancy however is that it has come complete with all the morning sickness Mother Nature can dish out. I’m quite familiar with it as it took up residence in your poor Mama for the first 4 months of her pregnancy with you as well. We are praying it doesn’t feel as inclined to stick around quite as long this time.

This has meant a quick succession of great losses for you. As I am barely able to lift my head from the pillow for the greater part of most days you have lost a playmate. You’ve never been one to like playing by yourself, yet the best I can do now is watch you and comment on what it is you are doing as you do it. It’s just not the same. There have been no art projects or cooking sessions, no going out to visit friends in the neighborhood, few tickle sessions, and much, too much, TV.

I can no longer carry you in your beloved Ergo. Not only do I not have the energy, but as I am also usually light-headed and unsteady on my feet, the last place you should be is strapped to my body. This also means that I’m not carrying you in my arms much at all either. One good side to this though is that you are learning to cuddle. You have always craved physical contact, but unless there was nursing involved, it had to be with the one holding you standing up. Now that you will snuggle in along side me for a good cuddle while reclining it’s become a much more relaxing experience for me!

The biggest change in your life though has been that we were forced into weaning. I had always planned that you would be able to nurse as long as you felt the need. I dreamed that you would grow up with sweet memories of the time you spent feeling safe, secure and so very loved nursing in my arms. I had read up a lot on nursing through pregnancy and then nursing a toddler alongside a newborn. I know it is very possible and a wonderful experience for many that choose to go that route with their family. But for me this morning sickness is too great an obstacle. It is so very difficult for me to eat and I am losing much too much weight. Not only was I unable to take in the extra calories that are required for the pregnancy and the additional calories needed for breastfeeding, but the act of nursing itself made the nausea beyond unbearable, further decreasing my ability to eat and keep down food. Initially, we decided just to night wean as at that point the worst wave of illness generally caught me during the very early morning hours. You and Daddy moved into your room to sleep leaving mama with the “family” bedroom (and master bathroom!) to herself. It took 14 nights for you to accept the idea of sleeping without chi-chi. It broke my heart to hear you cry for me and to be unable to respond to you, but your Daddy was with you, loving and comforting you the whole time. As the morning sickness has become even worse we eventually had to stop even your daytime nursing sessions. This has also been difficult, but not nearly so much as the night weaning. You now have accepted that “chi-chi is broken” and you don’t ask anymore. I am so sorry, Little One, but please know that I sincerely tried my hardest to keep going. I would never have done this this way if I had any other choice.

But because of all of this you are learning to sleep! Most nights now you are only up once begging to eat. Other nights you sleep all the way through. Getting you down without nursing still remains a challenge. Naps only happen if Daddy takes you out in the car in the afternoon. You go down and sleep through the transfer into a stroller and your father gets a couple of hours to work on his laptop or do some reading in the air-conditioned Barnes And Noble Cafe before you wake up. At night,  initially you would just go an go and go until eventually you’d crash wherever you happened to be, which was often on the bathroom floor.

Now you will occasionally go down lying in bed next to one of us, or with a story in bed with Daddy, but that is still rare. Most often it still takes Daddy holding you and dancing slowly as he sings to you. You are very specific that this has to take place in a certain spot in the living room. Sometimes it feels like baby steps, but considering you were still often up six times a night just a few months back, you really have made a lot of progress. Eventually you will learn how to negotiate that release that takes you to the Land of Nod independently.

In many areas you have been becoming increasingly independent. Probably the most often heard phrases in our home these days are “Eye-yai (Eli) do!” and “My turn!” And oh the tragedy if your father or I should accidentally preform a task that you think should be yours… even if it is something you’ve never shown interest in doing before! While not always convenient this drive of yours towards independence is helping you to grow rapidly in all sorts of skill areas.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been letting you play with the iPad far too much to keep you entertained while I am unable to engage with you the way I always have before. You really love using YouTube. Your favorites are TuTiTu videos, episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (you don’t seem to care what language it’s in so we are hearing a lot of Eastern European cartoon voices lately), and most of all videos by Dan Zanes and Friends, especially All Around The Kitchen and House Party. You can’t watch the music without strapping on your guitar and playing along. You also now will switch between an acoustic guitar and the electric guitar as appropriate (even when playing along with music on the stereo). You think all guitars should be plugged in now so you’ve rigged up ways to attach the vacuum cleaner cord or the cord to an old Skype headset to your guitars before you begin to play.

As I am writing this to you a bit late it’s getting difficult to remember where one month ended and the next began in terms of what you’ve been doing lately. Especially since we are lacking photos this time around I think I’ll stop here. I’ll be writing to you again really soon.

Thank you for all of your patience, help and understanding this past month. I know it has been difficult but you have done a marvelous job of adjusting. I am so, so proud of you!

As always, I love you very, very, very much!

Mama

In Honor of World Milk-sharing Week 2011

When I was pregnant with Eli I thought that breastfeeding would be easy. I read a lot of breastfeeding guides and they all stressed how much simpler it is compared to the inconvenience and expense of using formula. Just lift your shirt, right?

While I am an ardent proponent of breastfeeding, in my experience it was anything but easy to get started. In addition to the nipple pain that is so common during the first few weeks, aggravated by Eli’s pitt bull latch, I never experienced my milk “coming in”. I produced milk, but only in small quantities. Hearing your child cry in hunger and not being able to meet their need produces an anxiety unlike any I had experienced before. It wasn’t long before I was giving formula to the child I had sworn would be breastfed only. In hindsight, I so wish we hadn’t as he quickly developed a cow’s milk allergy that to date hasn’t yet been outgrown. We tried the so-called hypoallergenic formula, but he still developed a body rash and it brought on a painful relfux condition that lasted for months. At this point we were just speculating about the problem being an allergy to cow’s milk. I didn’t know what to do. I felt horrible giving my baby formula that made him sick, but when I didn’t he was so hungry and miserable, even with me pumping every 2 hours around the clock, going in for acupuncture and taking many herbal supplements to increase my production. We didn’t want to use soy and at $3 an ounce couldn’t afford to use the local milk bank.

Thankfully, my friend Blanca gave birth just 6 weeks after Eli was born. When her milk came in she had much more than her son could drink and rather than pump and dump she passed that milk on to us. It was a God-send. We could easily compare how Eli was when supplemented with breastmilk to his reaction the days he received formula.I knew about Blanca’s lifestyle and knew she’d had all of the various tests that I had had during pregnancy. I had absolutely no reservations about giving her milk to my son.  As her supply adjusted to meet the needs of her child she no longer had extra to pass on, but by then we had figured out that we could supplement with a homemade goat’s milk formula and my own supply was slowly (oh so slowly!) increasing.

Once Eli started eating solid foods at 6 months the pressure to produce, produce, produce was off and I was able to finally just enjoy the nursing experience. I do wish I produced a bit more so that I could turn around and share with other families that are in need as we were. Now that I know about such informal milk-sharing groups as Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies perhaps if we have another child I will be in a position to be a donor. Or if I have trouble once again I now know of these sources of help.

In some Middle Eastern cultures if a woman nurses another mother’s baby the two are considered to be related as though they were blood relatives. Her other children are henceforth that child’s siblings. I told Blanca about this and she seemed pleased. I know there will always be a very special place in my heart for this woman who quite literally gave of herself to help us out when we were at wit’s end.