Memorable Monday 3

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon sitting in the cancer ward waiting to hear my name called. I have been experiencing some pain in my right breast and felt some places that didn’t seem right to me. So I went to the hospital to see my OBGYN. I waited and waited and was finally seen. The midwife first examined me and I told her of my family history. Since my mother died of breast cancer at the age of 44, she felt that the Dr. should also come in. I explained that I was still breastfeeding and wasn’t sure if it was related to that or not.

The Dr. was very thorough and checked both of my breasts. But then said that he would like to send me over to the oncologist for a better examination. They asked if I had ever had a mammogram and I said that I hadn’t, so they called over to the oncology ward and gave an introduction for me.

I felt pretty confident that it wasn’t cancer but still, having your doctor tell you to go to the cancer ward is a bit disconcerting. I walked down the hall and registered with the oncology department with the help of a very kind nurse. She had no idea whether I had cancer or not but she saw me as a mother with a young child and treated me with the utmost kindness.

I felt my heart beating a little faster than usual and I worried as Violet heard the doctors talking about where I was going. She understands more Japanese than I do. And she heard them telling me that i was going to be checked by a different doctor, she wanted to know exactly where we were going. She knows about cancer because of all the family members we have lost to this disease. I didn’t want to lie to her but also didn’t want to cause her undo worry. So I just told her we were going to get my milky looked at by another doctor who would look at a picture of the inside of it. She was satisfied with that.

We sat there waiting and I couldn’t help but notice how the lights were darker in this ward than in the OBGYN ward. It was quiet and most of the patients that we saw waiting there were hunched over and seemed to be in a certain amount of pain. Some were young and some were obviously in there late 70’s or 80’s. The ones who made eye contact with me gave me sympathetic smiles and I could tell they were wondering how I was and what I was there for. Violet’s smiles and energy definitely seemed to lift their spirits too.

I figured that I was going to get a mammogram but was hoping they would let me have an ultrasound instead as I was concerned about radiating my breast milk. Just in case though. I told Violet that she might not be able to drink milkies after my exam for a bit. She looked worried and said she would like to drink some before we went in. A woman in her mid 70’s walked up and said “おいしそう“, which means, looks delicious. She went on to say how rare it was to see a girl her age drinking breastmilk and how wonderful it was. I felt encouraged and continued to smile down and my sweet girl.

Sitting there, waiting with her in the cancer wing filled me with so many memories. My mother was everything to me. She was my first friend, she was my confidant she was my hero. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wasn’t there. I was away at college and had to hear about it over the phone. How I wish I could’ve been sitting there holding her hand instead.

I was able to sit with her through some of her treatments and drove her to some of her appointments during spring and summer vacations. We would sit there holding hands and trying to make each other smile or laugh. I was scared and she was scared. She was brave, she was selfless and showed me how to endure the impossible. Losing her was the hardest thing I have ever experienced and I pray that Violet is spared from watching me die from a disease that ravishes the body.

We sat and waited, Violet holding me and smiling at everyone around her. Finally my name was called and I had my first exam by an oncologist. I told him I was breastfeeding and he immediately offered to do an ultrasound instead of a mammogram. I didn’t even have to ask. He checked both of my breasts and and looked as thoroughly as possible. I felt very well taken care of and was thrilled to hear him say that there was absolutely nothing to worry about. Violet understood the results at the same time as I did and immediately came over and rubbed my chest and said, “Milkies! You are ok!!!” And then she patted my hand and said, “I knew you would be ok, mama! I love you!”

Today, I am thankful for the excellent health care I have experienced here in Japan. Today, I am thankful for my healthy breasts. Today, I am thankful for today!

This PSA is so powerful and never fails to make me cry. I ask you all to remember to “touch yourself”. For your self, for your husband, for your children, for your friends. Set a date and check yourself every month. It’s easy, it’s free and it’s painless.

 

Memorable Mondays

goishibf 1.0 Some news I haven’t shared with you all…

As of April 1st 2014 I have become a stay-at-home mom again! I couldn’t be more thrilled with my new daily routine. It has been a joy to wake up knowing that I get to spend the whole day with our precious daughter. We have been enjoying taking long walks and having nature scavenger hunts, reading till we can’t read anymore, singing, playing the piano, painting and dancing. It is what I always longed to do.

Having said all that, I have recently gotten out of the swing of writing on my blogs. So in order to get back into the groove I have decided to try a couple of things to get me started again.

On Mondays I am going to try writing about a memory, “Memorable Mondays”

Wednesdays will be “Wordless Wednesdays”, where I will try to post a photo or an inspiring image I have found.

Thursdays will be “Thoughtful Thursdays”. I will try to share an inspirational quote or verse.

So here we go…..

Memorable Monday #1

When I was a teenager, I had an Aunt who was breastfeeding her first daughter. My aunt has always been a very strong, independent woman and she came across to me as a very confident breast-feeder. She would feed my cousin whenever she was hungry. No matter where we were. She was the first of my 8 aunts that I ever saw feeding outside of the back room at my grandmother’s house. She always had on clothing that provided easy access for nursing and she laughed when my little cousin would call out “teta mama teta!”. Her eyes sparkled when she laughed and smiled down at her growing baby.

I remember one particular occasion when the whole family was taken aback by her nursing in public. We were at my oldest cousin’s wedding. My brothers and I were singing at the altar when we looked out at the pews to see my aunt opening up her blouse and exposing her breast so that her baby could drink. My youngest brother gasped and we all tried to hold in our giggles.

After the wedding was over my other relatives and my grandmother lovingly teased her about showing so much of her skin and all wondered how she could dare breastfeed during a wedding and in a church pew for that matter. It became a family inside joke that everyone had seen Aunt ***’s breasts. She never seemed to mind and laughed along with everyone else.

My Aunt also breastfeed her children longer than any of my other aunts. Her oldest nursed until the age of three. Everyone nagged her about weaning and even I joined in on the teasing. Me, a childless teenager, teasing my aunt about breastfeeding. I can’t even imagine doing something like that now. She took it all in stride though. At least that is what I gathered from the outside….

Now here I am still breastfeeding my 4 1/2 year old daughter and the shoe is on the other foot. I get occasional questions from family members about when I am going to wean. But the fact that I live across the ocean and only see my family for about 2 weeks out of a year probably has something to do with that. I think I am the most blatant public nurser in my family. And when I nursed her in the pews of both my grandparents funerals last summer, they all turned a blind eye.

I truly believe that although I didn’t know it at the time, watching my aunt nurse with such confidence helped mold me into the mother I am today. The memories I have of being around her while she breastfed her children gives me courage and strength and help me to feel like what I am doing is normal and natural. So, although I am not going to mention her name, I know she will know this is about her when she reads it and I want to tell her thank you. Thank you, dear aunt, for being brave and fearless. Thank you for being strong and confident and for showing me how beautiful this experience truly is. I love you.

Thank you to all the mothers out there that nourish their children in the company of others. You may not know it, but you are paving the way for so many other mothers. You have the ability to change the way breastfeeding is perceived. You can make a difference in the lives of those around you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

goishibf 2.0

 

 

 

 

Anshin and the Breastfeeding Preschooler

bf4

When Violet was born, I had no idea how long I would breastfeed her. I only knew that I would breastfeed her. By the time she was 1 year old, I knew she wasn’t near being ready to stop and so I decided to just keep going.

I know that I am not the only one practicing full term breastfeeding, but at times, I do feel like the odd ball in the group of nursing mamas. When I attended the Big Latch last year, I was, by far the one with the oldest nursling. Part of me felt slightly concerned with what the other mamas might be thinking, but most of me felt proud and accomplished.

If those of us that do continue to nurse our older babies and preschoolers can’t talk about it with others or always feel we have to do it behind closed doors, we might start to feel strange or even embarrassed. I write this post to share with you all in hopes that it will encourage other full term breastfeeders to do the same. You are not alone and there are others out there like you. I hope that by reading this it will encourage you to not give in to the pressures of friends, family or those around you to wean before it feels right for you and your nursling. I am trusting my heart and my own judgment to know when it is best for my child to wean and I hope that you can trust yourself as well.

According to Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D.,an award winning anthropologist, professor, and mother, the natural age of weaning for modern humans based on our size, development and life span is between 2.5 years and 7 years. Therefore, a child still nursing at 4 years old is normal, natural, and o.k.

I am planning to continue breastfeeding Violet for as long as she would like to continue. I have been practicing baby/child led weaning since Violet was about 2 months old. From the moment she was born, I practiced on demand feeding. If she cried I usually checked her diaper and if it was clean, I put her to my breast. She has always been an active nurser. She went from every hour in the first 2 months to every 2 hours and gradually to where we are today.

Violet wakes up slowly by nursing herself awake. Her body wakes up first and before she has even opened her eyes she reaches for my breast. Since she sleeps right next to me all she has to do is reach up and nuzzle in. She nurses there for anywhere between 5-20 minutes. I usually wake up as she first begins to wiggle and so I am awake while she is nursing. I stroke her hair and kiss the top of her head. If it is still very early I whisper into her ear that she can go back to sleep. If it is close to the time I need to get up, I start whispering good morning and gently massaging her back and legs to wake her up. I sing to her, softly, “Good morning to you” (to the tune of happy birthday” She smiles sweetly as she gradually opens her eyes. Some days she sits right up and says “good morning, mama!” and other days she puts her hand up on my chest as if to say let’s stay in bed a little longer. Eventually she wakes up and stops nursing. And then we get up for our day.

Violet goes to school Monday through Friday from 8-3. On those days she doesn’t usually nurse again until 5 or 6 pm. Sometimes, though, she wants to nurse as soon as we get in the car after picking her up. Since she turned 4, I’ll admit that I have become a little more apprehensive about nursing her in public. I don’t feel like I am doing anything wrong but some days I just don’t feel like enduring the looks or questions. I try to practice “don’t offer/don’t refuse” as much as possible, but sometimes I do tell her we need to wait until we get home. She is capable of understanding the need to wait for something and this is a way we practice having patience and consideration for mama’s feelings. She doesn’t always wait patiently and she sometimes cries and gets angry because I have said no but we try our best to work through it. Thankfully, our drive from her school to our house only takes 5 minutes. I know that she is yearning for that connection for “skinship” as is it called here in Japan, skin to skin contact, and so I understand where her anger is coming from.

When we get home, as soon as we walk in the door, she takes off her shoes and takes me by the hand and says “Mama it’s time for milkies”. We head to the couch and she hops up on my lap. As I get my clothes situated, she smiles up at me and giggles. Then, at last, she dives into my chest and wraps her arms around my chest and pulls me as close as she can. She drinks there and looks up at me with eyes of contentment and relief. I can feel her body relax and I feel mine relax as well.

There is a word in Japanese that describes this feeling that I think we both have during this time, it is あんしん,安心(anshin). Anshin translates to relief or peace of mind, obtaining peace of mind through faith or ascetic practice. It is so much more than that though. To really grasp the meaning one needs to look at the etymology of the word. The characters that make up anshin are these 安,which means relax, quiet, rested, contented, peaceful and 心, which means heart, mind, sprit. I actually feel that my entire being relaxes and her whole being relaxes too. My heart feels peace after a day of adult worries and stresses and her heart releases any worries that have built up in her mind during our day apart. It is a time we can unite and really be present to one another.

After that we play a bit and then I am off to make dinner. She doesn’t usually nurse during dinner anymore (unless she isn’t feeling well) and so we finish our meal and transition into our bedtime routine. She has a bath with daddy, usually, and then we either watch a short program on our computer or we just play and read together as a family. We head up to the bed with our books for the night and situate ourselves in our family bed. She is usually playful and shouts out “I’m gonna get those milkies!” as I try to arrange the blankets. When we finally lay down she settles in once again for her last nursing session of the day. I read to her as she nurses off and on and she sometimes falls right asleep during the 2nd or 3rd book. Other times, we finish the 3rd book and then I turn off the light and sing her lullabies as she nurses herself to sleep.

There have been a handful of nights when she has fallen asleep while snuggled up instead of nursing herself to sleep, but for the most part, she still falls asleep at my breast. She rarely awakens during the night anymore, but if she does, she whispers up to me “mama, may I have some milkies, please?” Then she nurses herself right back to sleep. And then we start our day over again.

Nursing a four year old is not something that I set out to do in the beginning but it is where we are today. I am fully confident that one day she will wean herself. I know that one day she will just not want to or need to do it anymore. And when that day comes, I hope that she will know that I am still here for her when she needs me. My arms will always be wide enough to hold her, my lips will always be ready to talk or offer a comforting kiss, my ears will always be ready to listen, my lap will always have a spot for her to rest on and my heart will never run out of love for her.

She often tells me that when she is all grown up and I am an old lady that has grown small again, she will hold me and rock me and give me her milkies. To her, I believe, this is the ultimate expression of love, to nourish and comfort someone at the breast. I am honored and overwhelmed by love that she imagines doing this for me one day.

So, here we are 4 years and 4 months old and still nursing, still co-sleeping, still living this life the way we feel we should be. Still feeling anshin.

Some great links for full term breastfeeding mama’s and those that love them:

A Natural Age of Weaning by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD

Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives (also by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD

Handling Criticism about breastfeeding on KellyMom.com

Dr. Sears on handling criticism on extended breastfeeding

Are you still breastfeeding an older baby or child?

Have you felt pressured to stop or overly criticized?

I hope that you felt encouraged by today’s post.

If you feel like sharing your story, do so in the comments below.

And if you’d like to make a guest post here about your story please email me at violetsmama.wordpress@outlook.com

When you forget to put it away…

When I first started nursing Violet in public I felt a little self conscious. I worried that someone might be watching me and not in a good way…. I worried especially if there were too many men around. I used a cover when out in public and sometimes in my own home when I had guests over. The cover I used had a nice curve at the top and so I could still look into Violet’s eyes.

As I got more used to feeding her and more used to baring my breasts in public, I decided to try without the cover. She never really liked being behind the cover and I often felt like we were playing tug-o-war with the it. I felt like I was showing more using the cover because she would always pull it away and there would be my breast. Whereas, if I just pulled my shirt aside a little, her head alone would hide most of my breast.

The key to nursing in public with confidence for me is starting out by reminding myself that I am not doing anything wrong. Second, I try not to make eye contact with anyone other than my baby. That way if people are looking at me I don’t have to see their smirks or appalled looking eyes. When I feed my daughter the only thing that matters at that moment is her. And if I do happen to let curiosity get to me and take a peek up at the room around me, I make it quick. If I find disapproving eyes, I flash a quick confident smile. If I find smiles of encouragement, I sigh with a contended heart and imagine that maybe that person is recalling their nursing days.

Sometimes nursing in public can be a great source of laughs, if you aren’t the bashful type. Here’s my favorite comical NIP moment.
When my daughter was about 6 months old we were at a park having a picnic under the cherry trees. This called Hanami in Japan. When the blossoms are in full bloom the parks are flooded with people picnicking, singing, sleeping and taking pictures.
My husband and I were enjoying a nice little lunch and Violet decided she wanted some lunch too. So I pulled over the flap to my nursing shirt and let her nurse until she fell asleep. There was a middle aged couple sitting on a blanket across from us and they were smiling at Violet. They wife nodded approvingly at me as I started to nurse. When Violet had drifted off I let her rest on my lap in my arms and continued to eat my lunch. My husband and I were having a nice conversation about the beautiful trees and the fun we were having showing Violet her first cherry blossoms.

Suddenly, in my peripheral vision I noticed the couple across from us no longer looked so cheerful. Their smiles had turned to looks of shock complete with dropped jaws. I looked down at Violet to see if her head was tilted funny and then touched up to my nose (thinking maybe I needed a tissue). Everything seemed fine. The couple quickly began to gather up their things and started to walk away. It was then that a cool breeze began to blow and I felt a chill where I shouldn’t have felt one.

I looked down one more time and that’s when I saw it. My entire right breast was sticking out of my shirt. I don’t know how I didn’t notice it. I really don’t know how my husband didn’t notice it. But there it was for all the park to see. I quickly pulled my shirt up and giggled saying to my husband, oops, I left my boob out again! This was a common occurrence at home. All of you nursing mamas know what it’s like in the beginning when it’s just easier to leave it out than to keep putting them away and pulling them right back out again.

cherry blossomsWe still laugh about that story. And every year when we go for our cherry blossom viewing picnic and Violet wants a little milk , I always double check that both my girls are back inside my shirt after she finishes.

When you nurse in public something, some time, is bound to get exposed. Just try to look for the humor in it and keep going. At least you will have a funny story to share with your spouse and your child one day.

Happy breastfeeding and try to remember NIP is your right as a mother and it is your child’s right to eat in any place he or she is permitted to be.

Thanks for stopping by! Cherry blossoms 2

“If my breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, why don’t you put a blanket over your head”

I am so thankful that I have never had to deal with someone asking me to stop nursing in public. The only times that anyone approached me we in  the waiting room of the pediatric ward at the hospital in my town. (Going to the hospital to see the pediatrician is common practice in Japan.) I was nursing while waiting to see the dr and a nurse approached me and kindly told me that there was a nursing room around the corner and to feel free to use it. That happened twice and both times I smiled and declined. Unfortunately, that is not the case for every breastfeeding mom out there. I have had strange glances as I continue to nurse my soon to be 3 year old anywhere and everywhere, including holding her and nursing as we walk. She still loves it so much and I am trying to maintain a “don’t offer don’t refuse” policy as often as possible. I wanted to write about the first time we nursed in public without a cover.

Until Violet was around 1 month old, I used a nursing cover all the time when we nursed in public. I used a great one that had a hoop at the top so that we could still look at each other. I continued to use it when I felt that other people in the room might be uncomfortable seeing my exposed breast. It was somewhat surprising to me that most of the time I found myself using it around extended family. The first time I remember being in public and ripping of the cover was when Violet was just over a month old. We had to travel to Tokyo to get Violet’s passport because we were planning a trip home for Christmas. We were so nervous about traveling on the bullet train and local subway trains in Tokyo with our newborn baby but had no other choice. We had established a great nursing relationship but she still fussed when we she had to nurse on the left side. The weather was starting to get cooler and the heater on the trains had been turned on. She did fine on the bullet train ride, which was around 3 hours. In fact, I think she slept through the majority of it. When we had to change trains and get on the local subway our calm baby turned into a grumpy, hungry and hot baby. We were trying to get to our hotel and it was evening by that time. The train was full of business men going home. Violet was tired of the cover and she was hot and uncomfortable. She also wanted me to stand and bounce her while she nursed. (She still loves this). I was quite used to doing this at home but not really used to doing it on a moving subway train. But she would have it no other way. She started crying, loudly. I might add here that public transportation vehicles in Japan are very quiet. People don’t talk or laugh to loudly and pretty much keep to themselves. Violet’s cries were echoing through our quiet train. I was trying anything I could to quiet her and make her more comfortable. Most moms and dads knows that stress of the parent passes to the baby. She could sense that I was worried about the other people on the train watching us. She could feel that I was starting to feel frantic. So she in turn joined me by crying louder and louder. She refused to nurse under the cover. Finally, I looked at my husband and said, “I’m just gonna do it.” So I tore off the cover opened my shirt and nursed our baby. I also stood up and started bouncing her because I knew that was what she really wanted. In no time at all she was calm and relaxed and quiet. At first, my husband seemed nervous about all the other men looking at me. He stood up and tried to become a human shield to offer some privacy. But with all the bouncing I was doing and the rocking that the train was doing, it really wasn’t doing much good. So he sat down and kept a watch out instead. We got some surprised looks but mostly, people just looked relieved that she wasn’t crying anymore. We were relieved too. That trip I nursed her all over Tokyo. We nurse at the US Embassy, in the hotel lobby, in a taxi, at Starbucks and on the subway. We were on our way to becoming a fearless NIP (nursing in public) couple.
Now that Violet is almost 3 I have found that most people in my family are used to seeing me pull out my breast at any given moment. Whether they agree with my extended nursing or not, no one pressures me to stop. I do try to be cautious when possible because I don’t want to make my family feel uncomfortable. One of the most wonderful things that we experienced as a NIP couple this summer were the questions that my sister (almost 10 years old) and my niece (9 years old) asked. They were both breastfed. And both are very intelligent little girls. First was my sister. I was nursing Violet in her room as we all played together. She has watched me nurse Violet in all kinds of places and situations (even though we only see each other during summer vacation). She was lovingly looking on and stroking Violet’s face and asked about my necklace. I was wearing a silver disc that said Lactavist on it. She said, “What is a lactavist?” I preceded to tell her that a lactavist is someone who promotes breastfeeding, loves bresatfeeding and tries to encourage others to do it too. She smiled and said, “oh, you are definitely one of those.” But what do you have to promote breastfeeding? Do some mothers not do it?” she asked. I told her that yes, some mothers don’t do it. Some have a medical issue that keeps them from doing it, some feel uncomfortable doing it and some just don’t want to.” “Why would anyone not want to do it?” she asked in a shocked voice. I told her that I wasn’t really sure because I can’t imagine not doing it. She smiled and we continued to talk about how she thought it was good to breastfeed your baby and we talked about the benefits of it as well. Then she said this, “you know what is strange? Someone can drink breastmilk for a long time as a baby and when they are older they can’t remember what it taste like. Isn’t that strange. I can’t remember what it taste like anymore.” I smiled and said “yes, that is strange isn’t it.” And we both smiled.

My niece has also seen me nurse everywhere. In fact all the kids have. This summer they would often tell me when they thought Violet wanted to nurse. And they all learned about the word “Lactavist”.
My niece (who was breastfed until she self-weaned at almost a year old) and I were sitting on the couch this summer together when Violet decided to nurse. My niece smiled and said, “She sure likes her milkies doesn’t she?” “She sure does!” I said. “You know, I know I was breastfed but I can’t really remember what it taste like. Isn’t that wierd?” “It is strange that we can forget something we love so much when we’re babies so quickly.”

I really hope and pray that these two girls remember their lactavist sister/aunt when they have babies of their own one day. I hope and pray that they remember how normal and wonderful it is to nourish a baby in this way and that they never feel ashamed to do it in public.