Me and Charlie

Charlie has been in my life since I was three.

For many years he slept with me at night, and kept watch over my room during the day. He did spend some time in a box, but right now is living on a shelf in my closet.

Last night, as I walked past him, I stopped and looked into that face. I picked him up and smelled him, and said “Hi” for the first time in a long time. I thought about all the years we’ve shared together, all the secrets of mine that he knows and will never tell…and how much we’ve both changed since that day so many years ago when he came into my life.

I had just had my tonsils out. I’m pretty sure the whole experience was traumatic because I still have vivid snippets of memories from that time. My dad came to the hospital, bringing with him a stuffed raccoon. He was not too big or small, his face looked so aware and interested in what I had to say, and his tail was long and striped. I don’t know how I picked his name, but it was the perfect name for him.

The nurses made him a bracelet for his tail that said “Charlie, Kimberly’s friend.” He is still wearing it. Well, most of it. There was an unfortunate incident with a Chihuahua about 17 years ago…… and the paper inside of the plastic band was eaten.

Before I met Charlie, I was not a kid that was attached to any particular object. I didn’t carry about a blankie, I didn’t have any special toy or stuffed animal that I loved. Maybe it was because he came at a very vulnerable time for me, whatever the case Charlie became my best friend.

I’ve spent time over the years holding him, playing with him, crying into his fur, telling him how much I HATE my parents (sorry guys…), and how nobody understands me. He slept with me for many, many years. He became a fixture.

I got older, got married, had kids. I moved here and there. Charlie spent time on shelves, then in boxes, back on shelves. He wasn’t thought about for a long time, but he wasn’t truly forgotten.

It wasn’t so long ago that I brought him back into my room, to keep watch over the closet for me. I’m protecting him from the kids, there is no way they are going to hurt my Charlie. He’s gotten so much older, his seams are showing, and fur is a dull gray-no more stripes on his tail. His name bracelet from the hospital is yellow with age, and the paper is gone but I can’t bear to take it off.

I love him. I really do. He is so much more than a stuffed animal to me, because of all he has shared with me over the years. I grew up with him! I expect he will stick with me for as long as I will have him around.

I think he reminds me of my youth, and how fast it’s going too. Whose kidding….it’s gone!

Sometimes I feel guilty for keeping him in a closet, but I’m pretty sure if he survived the children attempting to play with him, that my husband would not appreciate those glassy eyes staring at him while he slept.

Seriously though, how could he resist that face?

charlie

Nursing Secrets and “Live Boobs”

pumping is fun!

pumping is fun!

I never was the mom who was able to nurse her baby exclusively for that first 6 months. I wasn’t the mom who was able to continue nursing for the first whole year, or even beyond. I didn’t even nurse ALL of my children!!

I tried nursing my firstborn, for like 1 day.

I gave up before even starting to nurse my 2nd, partly because I was freaked out by the lactation specialist touching my naked boobs.

Third time around, I dug my heels in and decided I WAS going to nurse. Dammit. My husband was extremely supportive (2nd husband, this was his first baby), and the baby latched on like a champ the first time I held him.

Too bad I HATED IT!!!!  I did, I’m sorry, but I did. I still did it, but struggled with myself the whole time, hating it, but not knowing exactly why I hated it. I know that my PPD had a role in my thoughts. We went 2 months with me as his sole source of food. During that time I learned to pump. Hated it too….at first. Ended up being GREAT at milking myself….and froze a million bags of milk. Out of milk by 4 months.

Last baby, I’d set a precedent, of course I was going to nurse….. and she sucked at sucking. Ended up giving up breast feeding after a couple weeks and exclusively pumped and fed her my milk from bottles. I really, really liked that. I think it worked better for my OCD. I could see how much I was pumping, how much she was eating, I could work on some sort of schedule….. all necessary things for happiness in my very structured brain. Baby Jenna got the benefit of mommy milk for a good 5 months.

So I know I wasn’t perfect at it. I’m jealous of my Bestie who did nothing when her babies were infants except sit around and nurse them. All day long. Switching them from side to side. over and over and over. And she felt a loss when her kids self weaned, she still misses it. She is all that I am not.

I think the only time I didn’t feel slightly bothered by nursing was in the middle of the night. I do remember those nights still, with my little Sammy. It was only then that I felt no pressure or need to do anything else, I wasn’t “wasting time”, or taking time away from anything else. For those night feedings it was just him and me. He nursed the best at night, and I remember as he got a little bigger we would just stare into each others eyes…sometimes I’d smile, then he’d smile, back and forth like a couple of loons…. I’d have to look away to get him to start nursing again. Yea, I did enjoy that.

Ok. So. Now I’ll tell you all the weird and cool things about nursing that I never knew before. Maybe if you plan to nurse you would like to know these things.

Like at first, when your body is learning how these boob-things work, it is PAINFUL when your milk comes in!  Like a really prickly feeling, similar to that pins and needles feeling when your foot wakes up from being asleep. It would happen within a minute or so of the baby latching on, and sometimes it would just happen for no good reason. Just a bonus. This got better over time, and actually was never as intense with the subsequent baby. I felt like she never did latch as well, it always felt like I was ALMOST going to have that big milk let-down…but it just didn’t happen with her.

Also, it is apparently common for one boob to have a much better flow of milk than the other one. That was my right boob. Sammy would be nursing away, I’d feel that tingly let down….and then almost blast his poor face off with the resulting gush of milk. After I realized I was choking him, I learned to hold a cloth over myself until the spray tapered off.

Your boobs are ALIVE. I can’t even explain it, but as I sit here writing this….my body is not conscious of them at all. I don’t feel them just sitting there on my chest, unless I jump around or grab them. BUT, when you are breast feeding….those suckers are awake, alive, you feel them there…even when you are not nursing. And the longer you go without nursing…..the more you feel them. I would get to a point that I HAD to nurse, or pump just to be able to stand them! They were living entities growing from my chest, natures way of ensuring you keep paying attention to them.

Another secret? Seriously, probably the best sex of my life was during my nursing days. Why? Again, the mystery of live boobs. Your whole body just feels more alive, more sensitive, more responsive. If something felt good, everything felt good….. I don’t think it’s possible to get close to that feeling again. And no, I didn’t douse the room in mothers milk. They do not spray like fire hoses when stimulated….they can be controlled!

By the way. Breast milk tastes good. Is it weird that I know that? Of course I tasted it, I wanted to know what they were tasting. It’s kind of sweet, not disgusting at all. I can’t imagine any baby willingly drinking formula after getting breast milk first, especially if they’ve gotten it for many months.

I was at Target recently with my two little ones, the oldest saw the breast pump aisle. “Hey mom, remember when we got those for your boobs?” He used to want to pump with me, I would have to let him put the pump on his chest for a bit, then switch back to mine. It was adorable. Obviously, it was also memorable for him.

I look back on my experiences with nursing and pumping, how my first time around I was so modest, going to a separate room or keeping my shirt over everything I was doing…..trying to spare my older kids any embarrassment. By the second baby, I think the image of moms boobs was burned in everyone’s memories. I pumped all the time, and didn’t have time to care about privacy. I cut holes in my bra’s to wear the pump and keep my hands free. When nursing, I quickly learned how to do most things with a baby latched on, as long as I had one free hand, I was good to go.

I’m glad I breastfed. I’m sorry I didn’t try harder with my older kids, but I feel they are still ok, even if a few IQ points short of their full potential 🙂   I applaud the moms who are so much better at it than I was, who nurse longer and can actually relax enough to enjoy it. I always wished for ounce markings on my boobs, and worried incessantly that the baby might always be hungry ’cause who knew how much he was really getting??!

It is satisfying to know that you are keeping that baby alive, and thriving all by yourself…..and it is much easier to hold a baby to your chest in the middle of the night than to venture downstairs to heat up a bottle….but ultimately whatever works for you will work for your baby. My God, I thrived drinking formula in a haze of second hand smoke ’cause for some reason no one knew any better back then!

If you do nurse, you’ll see what I mean about the live boobs. Kind of cool, kind of freaky….. and if you choose to bind those suckers as soon as  you are home from the hospital, I won’t judge you.