My first pregnancy, it was sausages. Which was not only uncomfortably literal, but kind of gross to a recovering vegetarian like me. But the pregnant lady wants what the pregnant lady wants, so we made regular runs to the local butcher, the nearest Chicago dog place and our favorite German restaurant. But that wasn’t all. I craved milk, especially warm, with honey, as well as sweets of all kinds. Normally, I’m not a sweets person, but suddenly I got twitchy when the house wasn’t stocked in gummy bears and mochi ice cream.
This time around, I’m having a hard time with meat in general, yet the sweets cravings are back full-force. For awhile it was Dilly bars, then snack-sized Salted Nut Rolls, and now, I’m into pastries in general. And I absolutely must end the day with a large bowl of Raisin Bran. It’s just how it is.
While I’m not going to sit here and say that upping my sugar or sausage intake is a good thing, or that it doesn’t make me sometimes feel a tad guilty, I certainly don’t believe that it’s endangering my child. Even those early days, especially in my first pregnancy, when I was so sick that I survived on cereal, Saltines and ginger ale, making it out of the first trimester five pounds lighter than I entered it, I was doing what I could. I always managed to keep my prenatal vitamin down, and continue to do so. I eat lots of fruits and veggies and maintain a pretty well-rounded diet, and I try and listen to what my body needs. Sometimes, it needs cheese enchiladas. Other times, it’s a massive bowl of broccoli. More often than not, it’s pear-ginger streusel and a cup of decaf Earl Grey with plenty of milk.
To me, the study confirms it’s right to eat healthy—which of course you should do before you’re pregnant, while you’re pregnant and after you’re pregnant, right?—not that any non-broccoli indulgence means your child will suffer terribly. That interpretation seems not only alarmist but actually kind of mean. We preggo ladies put enough pressure on ourselves. No need to unnecessarily heap it on. Please, let’s just listen to Suzan Carmichael, an associate professor at Stanford University’s Child Health Research Institute who worked on the study, according to Reuters Health:
“The bottom line for women who are pregnant or may get pregnant, she told Reuters Health, is to “eat a variety of foods, including a lot of fruits and vegetables and grains in your diet, and take a vitamin supplement that contains folic acid.”
I say indulge in those pregnancy cravings. They certainly can be all-consuming, can’t they? So strange, to be going about your day and then suddenly, out of nowhere, the urge for a donut is so strong you literally can’t focus on conversations or emails or, you know, anything that doesn’t involve sprinkles. Just make sure you’re indulging in plenty of healthy foods and that prenatal vitamin as well.
Ok, now I need a handful of peanuts and candy corn. Pregnant or not, I really hope you’ve experienced this magnificent combo. It’s like a DIY free-form Salted Nut Roll. Do it.
One of the many pieces of advice we received as new parents was: “Eat out when he’s new, while you still can.” We didn’t quite understand what this meant, but we enjoy eating out, so we obeyed. I’d slide Roy’s car seat into the booth before me, or prop it up on a chair tableside, and he’d sleep, or stare at the ceiling fan overhead while soaking in the foreign ambiance. Once, we even snuck him out of his crib in the dark of night to accompany us for enchiladas and mariachi music on the patio of a Mexican restaurant. Our bellies full, we carefully slipped him back into his crib. He slept through the entire adventure.
I’m so incredibly glad we did this, because at around 7 months, this window of opportunity slammed shut. Suddenly, dining out with Roy meant going to a restaurant in order to take turns hastily shoving food in to our mouths and comforting, distracting, and, eventually, chasing Roy. It was the opposite of fun. Totally not an experience worth paying for, so we rarely did.
Last month, about a year after this restaurant-unfriendly phase began, we thought we’d give family dining another shot. We selected a casual, kid-tolerant restaurant, talked up the experience and brought plenty of props. It worked. Woo-hoo! The world of eating out, together, in a relatively leisurely fashion has opened once again! We’re so excited we’ve been making it a regular thing.
We consider it our responsibility to not intrude upon others’ dining experiences as well as to teach Roy how to be a good diner outer. A few things we’re doing to those compatible ends:
1) Instilling reverence for restaurant employees. If Roy starts to get screechy, or insists on getting out of his high chair, we tell him in a low, serious voice that that guy who keeps coming to our table? He does not like kids running around the restaurant at all. We need to be nice for him. And to tell him please and thank you. When he’s a little older, we’ll dig into tipping appropriately and not calling the server “sweetie.”
2) Bringing small, interactive toys. Not books that we have to read to him, or stuffed animals, which only function as good company. Toys that can be fiddled with. Crayons and small trucks with trailers big enough to haul a Cheerio or two are our big hits, as evidenced below at our awesome local Turkish restaurant.
3) Signifying eating time. When the food arrives, the toys go away and our portable plastic place mat takes their place. No Crayons in the mashed potatoes or trucks rolling through the baked beans. Same as home.
So those are a few things working for us, anyway. Feel free to add to the list.
When I left you hanging last week at the end of Part 1, Clint and I had a solid plan for weaning our 18-month-old in place, but I was having cold feet.
Once I realized that it was me, not Roy, who wasn’t ready, I thought about it—really thought about it—and came to this conclusion: Too bad for me. I want my parenting choices to be based on what’s good for my children, not what makes things easier for me. I decided to go ahead and give Roy the opportunity to stop, as planned, and see what happened.
Night one was all Clint. No nursing and no bottle, for the first time in Roy’s entire life. I said good night, leaving Clint armed with a sippy cup of water and a pile of books, then disappeared downstairs, boobs and all, to wait for the screams.
You guys. The screams didn’t come.
About 15 minutes later, Clint ambled downstairs with the baby monitor, broadcasting nothing but the chirping crickets of the sound machine set to “Summer Night.” “That went well,” he said.
I was happy? Yes. Sure. I was happy.
Then came night two. My turn. Usually, it’s nurse then night-night. Tonight, I was not going to offer, yet not going to refuse, before reading a few books to reinforce the new tradition Clint established the night before. Suffice it to say we had an uncharacteristically short breastfeeding session followed by a long book-reading session. Which is good. Right?
Night three with Clint, and therefore no nursing whatsoever, again went bump-free.
On night four with me, Roy began to nurse—out of habit, I suppose—but then stopped, almost immediately. “Moon,” he said. The boy wanted to read “Goodnight Moon.”
“Moon, or milk?” I asked, wanting to make sure he understood the decision he was making.
“Moon,” he repeated.
We haven’t nursed since. Clint and I had prepared for the worst. Had set aside a month for weaning, plus another month for backup in case one wasn’t enough. Instead, the kid was done by the end of week one. Clearly, he was ready.
Truth be told—and again, much to my surprise—I still wasn’t. Not that I was a basket case or anything, it was just hard to see the daily, snugly, mama-baby tradition we’d established from the very moment he was born fall by the wayside; hard to see my first and only not need me as much as he once did. I never realized that parenting could be summed up as the long, slow, heartbreaking process of your child needing you less and less. That’s how it feels some days, anyway. I do know and appreciate, deep down, that my little boy slowly and confidently gaining independence is a very good thing, and for that, I’m proud. Of both of us.
Initially, I was terrified of breastfeeding. Sure I’d read and heard plenty about how it was the healthiest choice for baby. And, let’s face it. The price is right. But even though I knew that it’s the reason they exist, I just couldn’t fathom attaching a human to my boobs at regular intervals throughout the day.
Then a friend who was breastfeeding her newborn came over for a visit, and while she rocked and nursed I asked two questions: How often, and how long? When she told me every couple of hours, for up to 45 minutes at a time, I was speechless. No. Way. That’s almost fifty percent of the day. I knew having a baby would necessitate huge life changes, but I did not anticipate it would require spending literally half of my life with my nipple in its mouth. Whoa.
But my gigundo belly proved I’d already signed up to join the club. And when it comes down to it, who am I to argue with nature? I was committed to giving it a go—for a while. I constantly asked medical professionals, in the doctor’s office or my social circle, how long am I supposed to do it? What’s the recommended minimum? The shortest time frame I got was three weeks. It became my goal. I would do it for three weeks and then give myself permission to stop.
I ended up nursing for a little over 18 months.
Roy was a skinny baby. Even at two weeks late, he weighed in at just over six-and-a-half pounds. So I was truly (and surprisingly) relieved when the little guy latched on well. At first, the pain was excruciating. Who knew that initially, breastfeeding feels like someone lit your nipples on fire?
But because I’m stubborn, and had committed to three weeks, there was no way pain would be the thing to stop me. The utilitarian nature of my breasts did freak me out, but in that newborn-baby haze, that was secondary to the monumental development of little thigh creases and the distinct beginnings of a third chin. I did that, I’d marvel. And so an addict was born.
Three weeks came and went. “Why stop right after working through the pain?” I reasoned. At six months, our family doctor’s recommended minimum, I was still going strong. (Though we began supplementing with formula so I did not have to constantly pump. I was never a big producer.)
I jonesed for “our time,” when I would do nothing but soak in Roy’s little feeding grunts, stroke his rabbit-fur hair and feel his baby fingers tickling my forearm. Still, I figured I’d stop at a year. Didn’t happen. We did get down to two sessions a day—first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. By then, baby #2 was on the way. I knew I’d have enough to deal with those first few weeks without adding “sibling breastfights” to the list. It was time to wean.
Roy didn’t seem at all upset when I phased out that first one, just jumping into our day rather than settling into nursing time. But the nighttime feeding—clearly that would be a different story. Each night, as Clint dressed him in his footie pajamas, he sobbed “Mama!” in raw anticipation for our time together.
The plan: Phase nursing out slowly in August, thus giving Roy five full months boob-free before watching his sister take up the habit. A few times a week, I would say goodnight at bathtime, and Clint would put him to bed. When it was my night, I wouldn’t offer to nurse, yet I wouldn’t refuse. We designated September as the backup month in which to truly get the job done, in the event August’s attempt didn’t take.
The night of Clint’s first shift, I almost backed out. He’s not ready, I reasoned. But when I tried to back up my claim, I drew a blank. That’s when I understood the truth. I was the one who wasn’t ready.
From Reluctantly Breastfeeding to Reluctantly Weaning to be continued…
Despite my overly calm reaction to the sitter introducing my son to peanut butter, I’m over-the-top nervous when it comes to my baby and food. OK, maybe I’m just over-the-top nervous when it comes to people and food. After witnessing my husband cough while eating chips on more than one occasion, I’ve asked him to please, pretty-please never eat that particular snack food unsupervised. I am not exactly kidding.
Anyway, Roy is 19 months old, and the thought of giving him a frozen pea makes me want to hyperventilate. When my husband cuts the boy’s food into pieces, it’s all I can do to wait and watch how he handles them before diving in to halve everything again. Roy’s instinctive response to the word “chew” is to do so along with an exaggerated head-nod, as he’s seen me do at nearly every meal beyond purees. Add to my nervousness the fact that my family has a history of shellfish allergies, and no wonder it’s taken me a while to warm to the idea of giving him so much as a scallop.
But Clint and I really love shellfish. Before Roy became old enough to share family meals, we’d typically have shrimp, squid or scallops at least once a week. We’ve been missing it terribly. Clint broke down about a month ago, declaring one Saturday The Day. Roy had a few bites of shrimp at lunch, followed by no adverse reaction. Well, except mine, which involved inspecting his limbs for hives every few minutes and quickly asking,”You OK?” every time he so much as cleared his throat.
I braced for Round Two, which my doctor informed me is when allergies often emerge. We wanted to wait until Roy was in perfect health, so of course I pointed to every runny diaper and case of the sniffles as reason to postpone. Last weekend, Clint apparently decided he’d had enough. On Saturday, that old familiar scent of sauteeing shrimp filled the kitchen. Shrimp and veggie sandwiches for Clint and I. Yum. Shellfish Round Two for Roy. Eek.
Me: Aren’t you nervous?
Me: Not even a little bit?
Clint: Not even a little bit.
Me: Really? Really?
Incidentally, this is the same back-and-forth we have on airplanes during takeoff, though to be completely accurate, imagine my side of the conversation slightly slurred due to the pre-flight martinis.
Roy ate a couple of shrimp. He kept asking/insisting, “Chicken?” so we finally just rolled with it, calling it chicken-shrimp. No wheezing. No shortness of breath. No trip to the ER. Whew.
We’re a shellfish household again! Until baby #2, that is. I think I’ll try and work up the nerve earlier with her. More accurately, I’ll ask Clint to spearhead the process earlier, despite my pleas to the contrary.