Why I chose to formula feed

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I recently read a story about a mother who lost her battle with postpartum depression. In the article her husband mentions the intense pressure she felt to breastfeed. My reaction to this was a mix of sadness and anger. This should be a wake up call to all of us about the amount of pressure placed on new mothers. We need to do better.

During my pregnancy with my daughter, I experienced crippling prenatal depression and anxiety. This was not out of the blue considering I have dealt with depression and anxiety in waves throughout my life. I decided to go off all medication before getting pregnant to avoid exposing my baby. I THOUGHT I had everything under control; and then the hormones came in full force. I spent nine months feeling claustrophobic in my own skin.

Throughout my pregnancy, my doctors, husband, and family all agreed that it was important for me to be proactive when it came to postpartum depression. Instead of a birth plan, I created an “after birth” plan. One of the biggest decisions I made was to forego breast feeding. This was a difficult decision for me. Like every pregnant woman in today’s society I read dozens of books, articles, and blogs about parenting. Although I knew formula feeding was the best option for my family, I was worried about not bonding with my daughter and denying her the nutritional benefits of breast milk. What if I regretted my decision? What if the hospital staff pressured me to breast feed? What if people judged me on this decision?

This is where the disconnect lies for mothers and maternal mental health. While dealing with severe depression I was stressing over how I would justify my feeding choice to those around me. At the time of my daughter’s birth our hospital was working to become “baby friendly”. I was warned by well-meaning friends that the hospital staff would pressure me; that they would send in a lactation consultant even if I declined their services. The problem with the baby friendly initiative is that it leaves out a crucial part of the baby’s wellbeing; maternal mental health. I truly believe that a healthy, happy mother is one of the most important factors for infant health.

For many women my feelings and viewpoints may be difficult to understand. AND THAT IS OKAY. We can have differing opinions and still respect one another. Although I have not had the experience of breastfeeding, I have tried to educate myself so that I can support my friends that do choose to breastfeed. I do my best to cheer them on and celebrate their successes with them. I do this because if it is important to them, it is important to me. In addition, I also have friends who chose to formula feed simply because they did not want to breastfeed. ALL mothers deserve support. It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to support a mother.

I do want to state that the benefits of breastfeeding cannot be denied. However, there are many other factors that contribute to a child’s emotional and physical wellbeing. A mother making a decision for the health and wellbeing of their family should not be judged or shamed. I would also like to add that while I have been vocal about my journey with mental health, many women are not. It is a good reminder to us all to treat everyone with kindness; we don’t know what battles they may be facing.

**Although I chose to forego medication while pregnant with my daughter, that is not the answer for everyone. If you are dealing with depression during pregnancy it is important to be honest with your medical provider. And always remember, you are not alone.

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The Last First

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In a little over a week it will be one year since the sudden death of my father. Halloween marked the last of the major “firsts” without my dad. Somehow we’ve made it through a year of holidays, birthdays, vacations, family traditions, and milestones without him. Things that seemed impossible to even comprehend just 365 days ago. When we first lost him I almost wanted to fast forward my life to this point. I didn’t want to have to go through all the “firsts”. It was just too painful to even think about. My father was a man of deep tradition and nearly everything we do is somehow rooted in him. Mix-tapes of summer songs for vacations down the shore, an elaborate train display at Christmas, the Beatles, the Mummers parade- my Dad is everywhere.

As we began to creep closer to the one year anniversary of his death, I expected to feel some sort of relief that the “firsts” were over. Unfortunately I have found it to be quite the opposite. One thing that is more painful than experiencing these holidays and traditions without a loved one is the knowledge that we are now forming memories without them. The painful truth that my father will not be a part of future milestones and events in my life.

I am now in a place where grief undergoes a transformation. Instead of a sharp, take-your-breath-away pain, it becomes a dull ache. It is not as gaping and obvious but the ache is always there. It flares up when you least expect it. It could be a song, a dream, a smell, a memory and it all comes rushing back.

My life will forever be defined as before losing my dad and after losing my dad. I’ve learned that this is okay. Significant deaths force us to find a new “normal”. It takes time and it hurts but it’s also necessary. Grief is an indefinite journey; one that does not have a destination. Sometimes we travel alone and sometimes we meet up with others along the way. We fall down and we rely on others to help us back up. At times we will gather with new travelers to share with them our love and light; and help them in their first leg of this lifelong excursion.

In the grand scheme this is all relatively new to me and I’m learning more about the grief process everyday. I have learned one important lesson; the only thing that matters on this journey is that we keep going.

We Can Do Better

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My heart is breaking. My heart is breaking for the families of the Dallas officers, for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, for my friends raising black children in these scary times, for the officers that say goodbye to their families not knowing if they will return, for my daughter who will one day lose the innocence of believing that the world is always beautiful and magical. My heart is breaking for the country that I love but is so badly broken. 

I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to work with people of all races, ages, religions, and sexual orientation. Because of this I can tell you that #blacklivesmatter is necessary. Living only surrounded by white privilege (not talking about the type of privilege afforded by wealth) it can be hard to truly understand the meaning of this movement. Yes, of course all lives matter. That is a no-brainer. However there is still an unacceptable amount of disparity and profiling towards black people. I have had the experience of being the only person of my race at events and gatherings. I have felt what it’s like to wonder if someone is making an assumption about me based on my race and not for who I am. I have felt this way a handful of times, however I have black friends and colleagues that have felt this way on a regular basis.  
I have family and friends in law enforcement. I cannot imagine the burden that is on their shoulders day to day. I am so incredibly thankful that there are people willing to put their lives on the line for our safety. I see cops policing the city of Wilmington all the time. The child care providers that I work with in some of the toughest neighborhoods of the city are grateful for the police presence and many of them have wonderful relationships with them. They are working hard to keep the people of this city safe and as someone who works in these neighborhoods I am also grateful.
We do not live in a world that is colorblind; nor should we want to. We need to talk about our differences. We need to have conversations about race. This is the ONLY way we will understand each other. Standing up for our brothers and sisters of color and standing behind the law enforcement that protects and serves us does not have to be mutually exclusive. We can do better…we HAVE to.

A Letter to the Father of Brock Turner

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Mr. Dan A. Turner, While we know very little about you, we all know of your son and the vile crime he committed in January 2015. You may not have been present at the crime scene but, as indicated by your statement in court, you have contributed to your son’s actions. Truthfully I do not how you sleep at night; but there are a few things that I do know.

Women are strong. Your son’s victim will move on from this awful crime. However, your son will not. He will be forever labeled as a cowardly man who refused to take responsibility for his disgusting actions. He has failed his victim once again and you sir have failed your son. As parents it is our job to hold our children accountable. We have to teach them that there are consequences to our actions. You have taught your son that armed with enough money and privilege, you can get away with anything. You have ripped open the wounds of victims of sexual abuse around the world.
Throughout the past few days I have had snapshots in my mind about the things many women have experienced throughout the course of their lives that you could not possibly understand. 
And so Mr. Turner, If you have a daughter… I hope she never has to come to you for support and shelter from domestic violence.
If you have a wife…I hope she never looks to you for advice for how to shatter that glass ceiling that has been holding back so many women from fulfilling their dreams.

If you have a woman employee…I hope she never has to look to you for sympathy while dealing with postpartum depression from having to leave her baby and return to work too soon. 

These are real, unjust issues. The consequences of your son’s actions are just that; they are not harsh and unfair. He has to register as a sex offender because he IS a sex offender. And although you were not on trial, you are guilty as well; guilty of perpetuating the status of rape culture in our society. 
Given the circumstances and your son’s lenient sentence you may think yourself victorious. This could not be farther from the truth. You see Mr. Turner, even with your money, lies, and twisted morals you have not won. You have done the opposite of what you set out to do. You have proven that yes, 20 minutes can define a person’s life. 
Sincerely,

Women 

Parenting Through…

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“Mommy come too?” It’s a phrase I hear many, many times a day.  My 2 year old wants me with her constantly.  And truthfully I love it. I love that I am her “person”.  Nothing in this world makes me happier than being her mother.  But sometimes it can be stressful.  Especially on days when I’m exhausted and burnt out from..well, life. There are times when motherhood is trying.  Sometimes it is a difficult day with the child (wrangling toddlers is not for the faint of heart) but many other times it’s due to outside factors.  Life’s trials and tribulations do not stop when a woman becomes a mother.  Sometimes it may feel like there is a bubble surrounding parenthood.  We tend to lose track of time, current events, and pop culture at times.  But eventually life creeps in.

Tragedy, loss, heartache, and disappointment are part of life.  When a parent finds themselves in one of these dark times it can feel twice as difficult.  Not only are we faced with the trying situation, but we must also consider how to navigate parenting through the darkness.

Unfortunately this is my current reality.  The recent, unexpected death of my father has left me broken, angry, and emotionally exhausted.  There are mornings when getting out of bed seems too daunting, let alone going to work and functioning as a parent.  Grief is heavy and exhausting.  While in the thick of the grieving process, there is little energy left for anything else. So what is a parent to do?

Guys, we have to “parent through”.  Our lives go through so many different seasons and parenting does not come with a pause button (unless I’m missing something, if so, please clue me in).  I have always tried to bring out my fun, energetic side while with my daughter.  I want to teach her about love, kindness, and finding joy in everyday life.  However, I would be doing her a disservice if I did not teach her about the REAL.  So I do my best to function these days. Somedays I feel like myself and other days my sadness gets the best of me.  This is what is real right now.  My daughter has seen me cry more than I would like to admit over these past 2 months but it becomes a teachable moment.  We talk about sadness.  We talk about her Pop-pop and how much we miss him.  And she has learned a great deal about empathy.  When she notices that I am sad she hugs me and rubs my back saying, “I make you feel better Mommy!”.

On the days when I feel like I am failing at everything, I try to remember these inadvertent lessons.  My hope is that as my daughter grows older I can show her strength in adversity but at the same time let her know that it is okay to be sad sometimes.

So when you find yourself journeying through the dark side of life, be kind to yourself.  Recognize that you are doing your best.  And as for your little ones, teach them life. Teach them REAL. Because fortunately and unfortunately, life goes on….and we must parent through.

Grief is..

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I wrote this piece as way to process the recent, sudden death of my father.  To say that this is a difficult time would be an understatement.  However, my family is strong and we are navigating this journey together. My hope is that these words will find their way to someone who needs them.
Grief is powerful.

It can darken the most beautiful days.

Grief can be ugly.

Taking the form of dark circles and bloodshot eyes.

 

Grief is physical.

It HURTS.

Grief is the pounding in your head and the pit in your stomach.

It can make the most mundane task seem impossible.

 

Grief is unpredictable.

It comes in waves throughout the days, weeks, and years.

Grief is a shapeshifter of emotions, masquerading as anger, hopelessness, and denial.

It rears its ugly head in the most unassuming places.
Grief is relentless

It surrounds us.

Grief’s presence can be felt everywhere and at any time.

It steals sleep and replaces it with endless stretches of what could have been.

 

Grief is necessary.

It is a process.

Grief is healing cloaked in sorrow.

It tests our strength and forces us on.

 

But somewhere there is light.

A light that shines on us and through us.

The source of which is our lost loved ones.

And we have to find the light, cling to the light, embrace the light.

 

Take the light.

Share it with others.

Shine it on those wandering in the darkness.

BE the light.

 

Rainy day, stuck-in-the-house activities

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Since most of us on the east coast have spent the weekend indoors due to storms, I thought I would post some ideas to keep the little ones entertained. I am constantly searching for new ways to keep my (almost) 2 year old entertained and attempt to keep Mommy’s sanity somewhat in tact. Most of these activites can be done with materials from around the house or with a quick trip to the dollar store!

Painting
One of my favorite activities do do with my toddler is painting. Most of you are probably thinking I’m crazy but it really is an excellent, developmentally appropriate activity. Yes, it gets messy but mamas need to embrace the mess every now and again! Painting can get a little monotonous if your child paints often so get creative! Painting doesn’t have to be done with brushes, you can paint with just about anything. Here are a few of our favorites.

Cotton swabs or Q-tips

Paper towel rolls

Bath loofas or sponges

Sensory Play 

Another fun activity for toddlers is sensory play! It’s so simple to put together a sensory bin and kids LOVE it. This activity is best done in the kitchen or on an easy-to-clean floor. Here are 2 ideas.

Rice or oats

I added some plastic spoons and cups. I also hid some foam letters and my daughter had to dig through and find them. We started out with the letters in her name.

Cloud Dough

(8 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil or vegetable oil)


This one tends to be a bit messier. As you can see my little one decided to put her feet in!

Fine Motor Activity

This was a life saver while we were getting our taxes done. All you need is some craft sticks (Popsicle sticks) and an empty water bottle.


Sticky Art

All you need is contact paper and anything that will stick to it. Tape the contact paper to the wall sticky side up (I use painter’s tape). Let your child create a picture with tissue paper and other items.


Tape Creations

This activity happened by accident. I was taping her paper down for another activity and she decided she wanted to play with the tape. I ripped the tape into smaller pieces and she went to town!


Enjoy these activities and send me some feedback! Hopefully these will make the rainy days a little less daunting….if not, there’s always wine.

 

Don’t forget to embrace the mess!

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