Il est là !

Squidgy number 2 (not an official title) arrived at 40 weeks 1 day after a good deal of wondering on my part when he would show up. He wasn’t late by any means—American due dates are counted at 40 weeks and French at 41, but since Littlest arrived at 38 weeks 6 days, I hadn’t that experience of an extra week of anticipation before. It was a strange time, full of acid reflux and bad sleep, but also sort of wanting to hold off a little longer on throwing our whole life up in the air.

Labor with this squidgy was almost identical to labor with Littlest, though there were absolutely no signs he was coming this time right up until my water broke—nothing even to interpret in retrospect. Good covert work on the baby’s part. My water broke just after midnight (with Littlest it was 2:30 am), we threw the final things in our suitcases, woke Littlest, and dropped him off at his grandparents who live five minutes from the clinic. Contractions started as soon as we got in the car, and they were, like with Littlest, only in my back.

The maternity unit seemed a little overworked that night and though we arrived at 1 am, by the time we waited in the entry way (25 lovely minutes), got an ultrasound and booked in (another 20 minutes at least), suffered through the “monitoring” where you have to stay lying down (25 more minutes), and got freed up for active labor, it was 2:30 am.

We got everything we hoped for from our birth plan though: salle “bien-être” with its bathtub, no epidural*, J got to deliver the baby (just the feet), and skin to skin for an hour after birth. Things went, just as with Littlest, fast after the first hour which is part of why I was impatient for all the hooha to get done with and to be able to get laboring the way I wanted. At 1:30 am I was at 2 cm ; at 3:45 am after a twenty-minute FABULOUS bath, I had to get out of the bathtub because he was coming: I was at 9 cm. The salle bien-être is not actually a delivery room, but they didn’t have time to move me. The final twenty minutes seemed a little frantic, but even so, I kept wanting to tell the midwife to stop running around doing other things (important medical things of course) because HE WAS ABOUT TO COME OUT. (And in fact I only pushed once.)

At 4:09 am J did the last pull and little brother was laid on my tummy where he stayed for an hour before J and the infant nurse took him away to weigh him and test him. They came back and put him back on me and he nursed like a champion (UNLIKE Littlest though to be fair there was no skin to skin so he was at a disadvantage).

*To be honest the no epidural plan was purely because I don’t think I labor in a way that gives anyone time to give me one. Delivery teams seem to have a certain timing in mind that makes way for an epidural around 4 cm and that whole step just seems to be something I skip.

As for the next part, J stayed at the hospital with me, which was nice, and the whole stay went better than our first one, maybe because I was so clear in my birth plan that I wanted to breastfeed and wanted to hear nothing about formula unless medically necessary. Little brother is a champion feeder though and has been since the beginning which, along with a higher birth weight, has been so much less stressful.

We got our “sortie précoce” which means we left after 48 hours instead of 72, and Littlest even got to come meet his brother at the hospital! We were allowed two visitors per day during restricted hours so he came twice with his Mamie. He was so excited the first time he saw the baby and then proud to hold him.

For now this squidgy is totally chill—he even slept 6 hours straight last night. He only cries to nurse, though he does cluster feed, especially in the evening (but I attribute the 6 hours of sleep to that so no complaining). He looks a lot like Littlest as a baby, to me, but is for now 5 times easier. Fingers crossed that lasts.

Now to find an official nickname…

My Weaned Toddler

A dearly loved cheetah

Weaning Littlest, though the best decision for us, has caused some interesting changes in his behavior.

His cheetah lovey (crocheted by my mom) has become a true lovey. He needs to take it almost everywhere, though we often manage to leave it in the car. When he’s upset, he asks for it. When he goes in time-out or we put him in his old crib to calm down, his cheetah has to be with him. Before weaning he just slept with it and played with it but since then it’s become a real transition object. He always put his fingers in the stitches while falling asleep but now he seems to have very vigorously created a comfort hole on the cheetah’s side. I don’t know how this creature is going to survive the intense love he’s giving it. I’m glad he’s found a new way of coping with his feelings but it does seem to me that it’s clearly a replacement for breastfeeding.

On the other hand, a friend of ours warned us that even post-weaning, the breast can provide roundabout ways of comfort for weaned toddlers, and this is true. He often leans his head against my chest very deliberately when we’re reading before bed or sitting together on the couch.

He’s also been compensating by asking for his favorite lullaby when he’s sad or wakes up in the night.

It’s all very sweet but also makes it clearer to me the emotional stability that breastfeeding gave him all those months so I’m glad I kept up with it as long as I could.

Breastfeeding, the End: Weaning

As promised, my post about weaning Littlest for anyone who’s interested (informational link at the end of this post).

A few things are worth clearing up before talking about this at all:

  • Littlest hasn’t needed to nurse to fall asleep for a very, very long time. I think he stopped nursing to sleep several weeks before I went back to work when he was 14 weeks old. Nursing during the night has almost always (=98% of the time) calmed him down but he has always unlatched and fallen asleep on his own in his crib.
  • He’s also been sleeping in his crib in his room pretty much since his fourth night home. During those first weeks he often ended up next to me in the guest room for some part of the night, but essentially he’s been a crib-sleeping baby and he can’t even fall asleep if we are in the same room as him.

So why wean? To be honest I would definitely rather have let Littlest come to the point where he wanted to stop on his own. I’ve wondered about weaning for about the past year, thinking maybe it would be okay to stop, but essentially I decided every time that it made our lives easier than not, and also that most of my questioning was due to cultural expectations that I didn’t find valid.

We essentially started down the path to weaning when we got back from vacation last summer and decided to limit him to two or three nursing sessions per day: wake-up in the morning, wake-up from his nap (or whenever he saw me next), and any night wakings. I had gotten a little tired of the on-demand aspect of nursing— and let’s be honest, the French aren’t particularly well-informed or open-minded about nursing (though there are judgy people everywhere), so I was more and more reluctant to nurse him around anyone other than his dad. But at the time this decision was very difficult for me—I had never said no to him for nursing before and I did shed a few tears over it.

So we cut back and I believe (here’s the biological part) this is what set me to ovulating again, or at least getting my period, in late October/early November. By then I think my milk supply had also decreased since his nursing sessions, especially at night, had climbed up into the 30-minute range. Soon after that nursing became painful. (This is all hormone-related.) We tried night weaning but it was a disaster so we made the decision to wait till Christmas vacation when we’d be able to recover from any bad nights. By the time we made that decision, we had already eliminated another nursing session—if he nursed in the night, he didn’t get to nurse in the morning. In that case J would get him up in the morning rather than me to avoid extra tears.

For the past few weeks I’ve been telling Littlest that “nummies” was going to end soon, not yet, but soon, because it hurt too much for Mama. (I also told him that I had loved “nummies” with him up till now.) The word “hurt” seemed to mean nothing to him but once I said “booboo,” he got it. He occasionally points to my chest and says “booboo” and if he sees me getting undressed he says it too, so I can tell he’s made the connection and also that it’s on his mind.

In practical terms weaning meant that the first week of vacation we just night weaned him. He would wake, ask to nurse, cry, be sad in our bed with us, and typically accept some (sometimes lots of) milk from a cup, before eventually going back to bed. I would tell him I knew it was hard and that I was sorry but it was over and he was going to be okay. It lasted about an hour and a half the first couple nights (though J typically didn’t wake me right away and tried to handle it himself before calling for reinforcement). Given the nights at his Mamie’s (Christmas, plus one other night), it took about a week for it to sink in and he’s sleeping through the night now (fingers crossed).

Then a couple days before ending the last nursing session, I reminded him it was coming and explained to him again about the “booboos” but also that he could have all the extra cuddles he needed. He nursed for the last time after his nap three days ago. So far he’s asked for it a couple times but seems to be more or less distractable. I’ve told him I’m proud of him without saying exactly why in order to avoid bringing up a potentially painful subject for him. He has been a little more watchful of me—not letting me out of his sight sometimes and needing more cuddles than usual. But otherwise he is handling it like a champ considering it was not at all his decision. (And as for me, for now I am pumping just a little before bed to avoid creating any blocked ducts. This shouldn’t have to go on for very long but for now I still have milk.) I feel less torn about it than I expected, but no huge sense of relief either.

One thing is sure though, I never tired of the actual act of nursing him. When it was painful it was obviously not fun but the times when it didn’t hurt, it was still fulfilling for both of us.

If a lot of this is foreign to you and you’d like to know more, here is a good article with some basics about the history of breastfeeding in western and traditional societies, and more relevant, weaning—scroll down to “The Process of Weaning.”

Breastfeeding, Part Who’s Counting?

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Seventeen months in and Littlest and I are still breastfeeding. What was so difficult and stressful those first two months has become a long and happy journey. There have been periods of wondering if we might stop, but I haven’t yet really been motivated and Littlest is still all in. I had at one point imagined a plan of eliminating one session starting at Christmas, then another in February, then another in April, but then the Lactalis salmonella contamination happened, and kept happening, and I had no desire to give him anything other than my own milk. So here we are.

He nurses mostly at home these days, though I have occasionally nursed him in very public places (the middle of the rock-climbing gym, for example) and often I think no one actually notices. Our morning nursing session when I wake him up is particularly sweet and followed by a breakfast of solids. I still nurse him at night whenever he wakes up, and night wakings are irregular though typically once per night.

I am still pumping at work. I lost my fabulous pumping office last week though, and French law only requires employers give you a space up till the baby is one year old. At the nanny’s he only drinks about 40 mLs with his afternoon snack, out of a cup. So I am able to pump once every two days. What with another school trip coming up, I may pump every day in order to leave milk with J. However I had to pack up my double electric pump and bring it home, and am now using my hand-held one in the teachers’ lounge toilets—super glamorous, I know, but it does give me access to hot water to wash it and then the same fridge to put the milk away in.

So that’s where we are these days. It’s still a mystery to me how long we’ll keep going.

The Past Week

Well I’m on vacation for the next two weeks, but wiped out Thursday night with something head-ache-like that the doctor called “neuralgia”. Ibuprofen seems to have taken care of it but it did keep me from going in on the last day. Littlest will be at the nanny’s this week (except for Wednesdays as usual) so I will be trying to get a lot of work done.

Other than his birthday yesterday, which I’ll write about in its own post, not much is going on here. I did, however, contribute to a crowd-funding campaign for an illustrated breastfeeding manuel. I hope she makes her goal because I would really like to have this book, even though its pertinence is sort of over for us for this round. We’ll mostly be concerned by the weaning chapter (eugh, so many questions and feelings about this).

I also donated to the UNHCR because I can’t emotionally deal with the stories coming out of Myanmar. (I don’t know who to talk to about it because I don’t want to depress anyone else.) I can’t really give much but maybe at some point I’ll be able to make it into a monthly donation.

Here are some other, more lighthearted things:

AIM Was Perfect, and Now It Will Die: From the Atlantic. This writer was a tiny bit after my time, but still, AIM was part of some very formative years for me. I also attribute it with teaching me to type so fast.

Leaving Isn’t Such a Trivial Act, After All From Zhu. This hits home.

Historically, how did a country get a name in another language? From Quora

The Past Week

Gosh I wish I had something interesting to talk about, but it’s really been all work and playing with the baby around here. J is away for work this week, and Littlest’s first night with the babysitter is this Friday when I’ll be playing a gig. I still haven’t gotten around to buying myself a new iPhone (SE), and may possibly do it this weekend.

So here’s a little bit of a link round-up.

Buzzfeed: Here’s What Sorority Recruitment Is Actually Like: I had no idea.

WHY BOJACK HORSEMAN’S EMOTIONAL PUNCHES LAND SO HARD: I loved this season.

How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen: I wish this article had been around when I was a freshman in college.

BBC Three: Every Child Deserves the Right to Play: Video about children’s entertainers in refugee camps.

Best Multicultural Baby Books: I’ll take them all, thanks.

Lettre à la future maman que j’étais il y a deux ans: I actually don’t really mind the extra effort it takes to get out the door, but otherwise, this was pretty spot on.

And a couple of things I read/watched this week that made me feel France has let me down in terms of breastfeeding my baby and that it is just a constant struggle to push back in a bottle-feeding culture (even though we have been really successful in the end):

L’alimentation à la crèche après six mois

Global Health Media: Breastfeeding in the First Hours (Warning: There are babies and boobs.)

Sigh.

The Past Week

Eek! Another Past Week post that is really the past ten days and almost two weeks. Such is the rentrée… what’s more this year the rhume de la rentrée (back to school cold) seems to have hit harder than usual and it has caught all three of us in its grips in different forms and at different times. I am current battling the resulting laryngitis and hoping to not miss another day of work tomorrow since I only teach two hours and have ten million photocopies to make (heure de vie de classe will *hopefully* be run by the students… I mean that is the idea… but we’ll see).

Littlest is in good form though in spite of his runny runny nose and the torture we make him suffer when we try to rinse it or just wipe it. He’s enjoying his friends back at the nanny’s to the point of sometimes not taking his morning nap, but if the nanny can deal with that level of exhaustion, it doesn’t actually make any difference to us since he catches up in the afternoon one.

Enough of nap talk. We have successfully found two babysitters which will hopefully allow us to get out a bit more though we do have to figure out exactly how chèques CESU work (anyone know?).

Otherwise it is solidly the train train quotidien here and should be up until vacation in a few weeks. I have another week before I have to single mom it up again and J managed to get his second week of déplacement reduced by complaining loudly about it in writing.

But I did manage to bookmark a few things these past few days that felt shareworthy.

HERE ARE THE TOP 17 MATERNITY BLOGS EVERY BADASS MOM SHOULD FOLLOW: I have not yet skimmed them all, though my favorite  (Pregnant Chicken) is on the list. I’m saving them for future down time.

Best Birthday Cake Recipe: I hope to make this for Littlest’s first birthday, though if I want to make the frosting I have to get my hands on some corn syrup.

American Girl Dolls Ranked By Betchiness: Good for some lols, I mean, I loved American Girl dolls, and this was pretty funny, though I couldn’t really get into the rest of the site.

A 300-Square Foot Tiny House in California: Not your typical tiny home. This house was all the pretties, though seemed completely impractical anywhere but California.

Hot Milk Magazine: A quarterly magazine (in French) about breastfeeding. I didn’t think I’d be a militant breastfeeder until I realized that in France, anything past 3 months is basically militant breastfeeding. I haven’t yet read through the latest issue of this so not sure if I’ll read it regularly or not.

That’s all. I’ll leave you with Littlest’s new favorite word: “BWAH.”