Calgon, Take Me Away

I finally downloaded WordPress onto my phone. I’m much better at using my phone while nursing than a laptop. I lack coordination. Hopefully this will lead to more blogging.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Jack was hospitalized with a blood infection. The baby and I got sick. And then I got a case of mastitis.

Jack is out of the hospital and doing fine, but he’s been on a rigorous antibiotic regimen that involves mixing medication and running an IV several times a day. The worse one is the dose in the middle of the night, but the afternoon dose hasn’t been a picnic, either – usually I’m mixing the IV drugs while using my foot to bounce Dez in the bouncer. I’d run away to join the circus but I’m already there!

This case of mastitis is a bitch. After several days of trying to unclear a plugged duct in my armpit and dealing with horrid shakes and chills and dizzy spells, I called and got some antibiotics. Unfortunately Dez was not tolerating them well at all! So I did what you’re totally not supposed to do – I quit taking them a few days in. Dez is doing much better but I’m not. I now have a mass in my right breast and it hurts like hell! I assume if I keep nursing non-stop on that side it will eventually work itself out (or the breast will fall off?). In the mean time, I want to stay in bed and cry and sleep.

But! Jack has follow-up appointments. And Dez needs shots. And I return to work in a few weeks so I need to find a daycare that takes infants.

Ain’t no rest for the weary…

Cancer Does Not Discriminate

We did everything ‘right’ with Jack.

While pregnant, I avoided the foods I was supposed to avoid, I didn’t take any medications, I did take my vitamins and folic acid, and I exercised (despite hating exercise like crazy). I didn’t have an epidural during Jack’s birth. I breastfed him immediately after birth. We went with oral Vitamin K rather than the larger dose shot they usually give babies. Jack was cloth diapered. He wasn’t circumcised. We went as natural and intervention-free as possible.

I breastfed exclusively for over six months, and continued to breastfeed Jack until a few months after he turned two. The foods he did eat were overwhelmingly organic, whole foods mashed up and not canned baby food. He ate mostly vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and always chose water or milk over juice. Even his first birthday cake – the first time he had sweets – was vegan! He was healthy and hearty and never had any nutritional deficiencies. He never had bad reactions to vaccines, and fevers were extremely rare for him – they still are. He occasionally had (dye-free!) pain reliever when he was teething, but other than that medications were used scarcely and as a last resort.

Most of these things weren’t done specifically to prevent cancer. Cancer didn’t cross our minds! It just felt right for our child and our family.

And yet, Jack still got Leukemia. It wasn’t because of anything he ate or didn’t eat. It wasn’t because of exposure to anything. His chromosomes are perfectly normal (they were checked) and he had no risk factors (other than being alive and having blood in his body). He wasn’t a sickly kid and there is nothing that happened to him or his body to point to as the cause of his cancer. Leukemia hasn’t occurred on either side of the family before this. There isn’t anything we could have done to be MORE proactive about preventing this type of cancer.

One day Jack’s body produced a couple of cancer cells – like everyone’s body does – and in some fluke of his immune system response, those cells didn’t get flushed from his system and instead multiplied. It happened rapidly and out of nowhere and in spite of his strong immune system. The cancer was in his blood cells, so it threatened his entire body. It impacted everything.

I do not write this to scare anyone or cause worry that it might happen to you. I write it because of ridiculous cancer hoaxes being passed around the internet – information that is very misleading and, frankly, can be dangerous. If Jack hadn’t received treatment immediately – chemotherapy treatment – he would have died. There was no option to try to change his diet – and what would we have changed it to anyway?

Hopefully this post helps to alleviate any guilt other parents out there might be feeling, and any worries that somehow you might be responsible for your child’s cancer. Maybe you think you could have done MORE to prevent it – but even if you do everything ‘right,’ this can still happen. It happened to us.

Don’t forget: you did everything right for YOUR family.

The problem is not with you – it’s with cancer. Cancer does not discriminate.

Like his mama

I’ve known for a while that Jack is a LOT like me.  And one of the things about me is that I’m damned stubborn.  There are certain things in life that I just don’t do until I’m pushed and prodded.  Jack is turning out to be the same but I didn’t realize that until we started to wean.

For months I’ve been trying various tactics to sway Jack from nursing.  Delays, distractions, and even outright refusals on my part.  Still it didn’t look like he was going to give up nursing any time soon.  Fortunately the custody arrangement Joe and I have has done a lot to help out in this process.  My once crazy oversupply settled down considerably as we skipped so many nighttime nursing sessions when Jack was with his dad.  One hurdle tackled!  I didn’t know where to go from there, though.  No matter how persistent I was with weaning tactics, he was stubbornly holding on to breastfeeding.

To give some background, I am a proponent of self-weaning.  I don’t care if other moms do it that way, but that is what I believe in for myself and my child.  With that said, I also believe that nursing is a relationship, one in which both participants should have a say in what happens.   Breastfeeding has always been a huge challenge for me due to touch issues from my messy childhood, but it was worth it to me to ignore those issues if I could in order to give my child the healthiest start possible.  Two years was my goal – I was pretty sure I could hold out that long, and I did.  When we hit two years, my impatience grew exponentially.  Then, a month ago, I reached the end of my rope when it became clear that Jack was no longer being settled at bedtime with nursing.  He nursed, then asked for cow’s milk, then asked for water, then flailed about until he fell asleep.  It was taking over an hour to get him to sleep once we got into bed and I knew this didn’t happen at his dad’s.  It was clear that nursing wasn’t doing the trick it used to, and on top of that Jack started to kick and hit me during our nursing sessions.  The benefits were no longer outweighing the cons for me or for Jack.

Enter David, my boyfriend.  He noticed how frustrated I was getting, so he studied Jack and me in order to figure out when/why Jack was asking to nurse.  He pointed out that Jack usually seemed bored or in need of comfort when he asked to nurse.  Put together with the fact that I had noticed nursing wasn’t working at bedtime, I realized Jack was probably ready to stop nursing and just didn’t know there were other ways to get his needs met.  With that, I decided to attempt a true weaning effort.  I waited until a weekend so that if I was up all night trying to get him to sleep, I wouldn’t have to worry about working the next day.  I explained to Jack that “mama’s milk is broken; there is no more” (and receiving kisses for my “owies”) and reminded him a few times when he forgot.  We spent extra time snuggling and increased the number of books we read to get sleepy.    It actually went very smoothly and Jack slept through the night with no problems.  That was 12 days ago…

So we are done.  Jack’s asked for mama’s milk maybe 2-3 times in the last two weeks and when I reminded him we no longer have mama’s milk, he wasn’t upset at all.  No tantrums, no tears.  Big sigh of relief from me!  Now that I look back I can clearly see all the signs of his readiness for weaning.  All he needed was some prodding!

On the road to weaning

We are somewhat working on weaning.  Well, some say that weaning begins when solids are introduced, but that is not how I think of weaning.  Up until very recently, I have always let Jack call the shots on nursing.  Nursing is an important part of his nutrition as well as his emotional development, and I don’t want to take it away before he is ready.  With that said, I have found breastfeeding to be emotionally difficult for me throughout the duration, and I feel that I am reaching my limit.  I am trying to strike a balance that will work for both Jack and me.

As Jack has shown less interest in nursing and more interest in the world around him, I have begun to test the waters a bit.  I have really made an effort to get on top of solids to ensure that meals are prepared quickly when he gets hungry so that he is less likely to get impatient and decide to nurse instead of eat solids.  Consistency and proactivity about meal and snack times have been key.  Additionally, when he does ask to nurse I try to see if I can offer cow’s milk or water instead, or a hug if it seems that he wants attention.  This has been working really well, with only minimal balking from Jack.

I’ve stepped things up as of late.  Many a morning I have had to leave for work before Jack is up, so we skip our morning nursing session.  Some mornings we run late and although he asks to nurse, I offer him food or water or cow’s milk and he is perfectly content with that (although it surprises me every time!).  I have been attending group therapy directly after work on Thursdays and so we have delayed that post-work nursing session or skipped it in favor of a longer nursing-to-sleep session after I get home.  He has been sleeping so well lately that some days we are down to only one nursing session!

I’m going out of town tonight and I have thought a lot about what will happen while I’m away and when I return.  I know that some kids Jack’s age wean themselves when their mamas travel away for a few days, and I’m prepared for that possibility.  Still, I can’t really see that happening.  It would sure shock the hell out of me.  More likely, the remaining nursing sessions will continue to dwindle away until we cease for good some time in the fall.  That would be just about perfect, in my opinion.

While I’m looking forward to moving on from this stage of our relationship, I know it also signifies that Jack is truly starting to grow up.  That, of course, sends a little pang to my heart.  Nursing or not, Jack will always be my sweet son, my special little guy, my babyman.

I'm sure this is some kind of milestone

Last night, for the first time ever, Jack favored solid food over nursing!  He had only been nursing for about 5 minutes after I got home from work when Joe pulled out the Pirate’s Booty…Jack yanked my shirt down, said bye-bye, and ran to beg for some snacks.  I was shocked!  Cheese puffs favored over breastmilk?  He got a few while I prepared a more wholesome dinner.

Then, this morning, I was running late to catch my bus and Jack woke up before I got out the door.  He decided he wanted to take his sweet time at my breast (even taking the second side!).  “Joe, get the yogurt raisins,” I requested.  As soon as Jack saw the package, he flew off my lap, nursing forgotten.

Not only that, but he drank a significant amount of cow’s milk at daycare yesterday.  This is the first time he has taken milk of any type while away from me in months.  Could an end to breastfeeding be in sight?