Tag Archives: dottie lou

Some Thoughts on Breastfeeding

Feeding Dottie

Breastfeeding Dottie: newborn, 6 months, 1 year

I’ve had this photo sitting in a folder on my desktop for a number of days, but I’ve been hesitant to post it. Breastfeeding is a very natural — but very personal — thing. It also can be a sensitive topic: some women choose not to breastfeed; some women cannot breastfeed; some women breastfeed for 1 month or 6 months or 12 months or 36 months. That it every woman’s personal decision and right — and I respect that.

What I’m about to say in no way refers to anyone’s story other than my own. It casts no judgments and makes no assumptions. What I’m about to say is only about me and my experience. It is my breastfeeding story.

And it starts with Penelope Joy.

When I had Penelope Joy and we found out she had even more birth defects and complications than we could have imagined, I was heart broken — for a number of reasons. When we said “hello” and welcomed Penelope Joy into the world, we said “good-bye” to a lot of our ideas about what it meant to have our first child, what it meant to be parents.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was breastfeeding my baby girl. And then … I couldn’t. Due to her condition and to her nonexistent immune system, we were told she would need to receive special formula. Then, we found out she could receive breast milk — as long as my blood tests remained CMV negative every week. It wasn’t the “breastfeeding” I had in mind, but at least I’d be able to provide for her. This is what my first breastfeeding experience looked like:

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At least, that’s what it looked like until she got too sick and couldn’t have my milk anymore. And, let me tell ya, having to pump milk for a baby who couldn’t have it — and then who was dead — was difficult and, honestly, pretty emotionally scarring. I spent a lot of hours crying while I was hooked up to a pump so I could avoid engorgement. Even writing about it right now brings tears to my eyes.

So, to say that it was important for me to breastfeed Dottie would be an understatement. When she was born, she snuggled right up to me and was nursing within the first several minutes.

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But our breastfeeding relationship hasn’t always been as easy as it was on day one. Once it was time for me to think about heading back to work, I started pumping. I didn’t respond super well to the pump, though, and I didn’t start pumping soon enough. When I went back to work, I barely had any stock in the freezer.

Pretty much from that first week back, I was barely keeping up with Dottie’s demand — what I pumped at work on Monday, she ate on Tuesday. Any stock I built up over the weekends she’d eat throughout the following week and I’d be back at square one before Friday rolled around. In addition, I was driving to daycare on my lunch hour to breastfeed.

It was exhausting — I felt like a poorly performing milk machine. There were days I called Mr. B on the way home from work crying because I had no milk for Dottie for the next day. And we could pretty much throw out any ideas of a date night out without Dottie because I had no milk to leave with a babysitter.

I felt like I was doing it wrong because people don’t talk about how hard it can be. We’re constantly told how natural and beautiful and amazing it is to breastfeed. But women seldom talk about how it feels when it’s not going well, when you feel like your body isn’t doing the one thing it’s supposed to be doing. There were a lot of days that I felt like a failure. I cried a lot — morning, noon and night … especially night … and morning.

Once we introduced Dottie to solid foods, things started to get a little more relaxed. But, she still was having bottles throughout the day and I had a hard time keeping up with her needs. I’ve just recently stopped pumping milk for her. (I kept saying “this is my last week pumping” and then continued for another week.) It’s been bittersweet.

Pumping while working full-time is a lot of work, but I’ve felt proud to provide Dottie with her main source of nutrition — even when it’s been hard. In fact, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my whole life. Dottie’s still nursing in the mornings before work, in the evenings, before bed, on the weekends and sometimes through the night. And I’ll continue to breastfeed her as long as she wants — knowing her, she’ll be very clear in telling me she’s ready to stop.

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Blessings — in Disguise

Let me preface this with saying that this post has nothing to do with Christmas. Or the holiday spirit. Or the coming new year. In fact, it’s quite poorly timed with anything to do with what’s going on in the world. Really, all it has anything to do with is what’s going on in my head.

my little family

My perfectly imperfect little family

You see, I try to be very grateful for the blessings in my ordinary life — and, trust me, I’ve got quite a few. I mean, I have a cozy and beautiful home that’s filled with the life, light and laughter of my perfectly imperfect little family. I’ve got a career that I enjoy and a job where I get to work with some amazingly creative and inspiring people. I have a big, loud supportive and encouraging family. I have these friends that are pretty much family. Oh, yeah, I also have my health (that, truth be told, I still sometimes take for granted).

And, like the oft-shared, somewhat viral post will tell you:

  • I recognize that dirty dishes mean I have food to eat.
  • I understand that paying bills means I have a source of income — and lights and heat and water and trash pickup.
  • I know that dirty clothes and household chores mean I have clothes on my back and a roof over my head.
  • I totally appreciate that stressful work deadlines mean I have a job.
  • And, most importantly, I know that wakeful nights with a baby who has yet to really sleep through the night mean I have a baby in my arms. Because — oh! — consider the alternative.

But, lately I’ve been seeing this trend where everyone is constantly reminding each other (I’m guilty of it, too!) to “be thankful for what you do have” — I mean, there are others less fortunate, after all — that we forget that sometimes it’s OK to have a bad day (or, even, bad days). It’s OK that sometimes life just feels like … too much. It’s OK to not immediately see the blessing in every setback or challenge or stressor.

Because, I’ll tell ya … life can be hard sometimes. And that’s all it is — nothing more, nothing less: hard. Balancing work and home and volunteering and family and friends and … and … and … ain’t easy.

And when we tell people they don’t have a right to feel overwhelmed now and again, that they should just walk around feeling blessed all the time, we tell them what they’re feeling isn’t real and that it doesn’t matter.

When we lose compassion for other people — when we take away someone’s right to just have a bad day —  we take away the emotion of being human, part of what makes us who we are. After all, we weren’t created to walk around with a smile on our face at all times. We were created with the ability to experience a wide range of emotion and to be affected by the world around us.

So, just because I say “oh, man, I’m so tired … Dottie Lou didn’t sleep again last night — for the 317th night in a row” doesn’t mean I take one single second of it for granted. Because I don’t. Let’s be honest — I know the flipside of that coin. The side where there isn’t a baby home in my arms — where all that’s left of my baby are 38 days worth of memories in a small chest in my bedroom. I cherish every single second of it. But that doesn’t make it all sunshine and rainbows. It doesn’t make it easy.

I feel like when I lost Penelope Joy, I lost my right to ever be sad or stressed or angry or upset about anything. Ever. Because — it could be worse. My baby could be dead. (And there’s really not a lot worse than your baby dying — unless your dad dies a year later, almost to the day … cuz that might make it worse).

And I feel like when I complain or talk about something difficult in my life, it’s just so shallow. “Pull yourself together, Kimi, it’s not the end of the world. You’ve survived your baby dying — having a bad day at work doesn’t even move the needle.”

To be truthful, just after Penelope Joy died, I used to get upset when I’d hear people complaining about their kids. Because what I wouldn’t have given to be them — to be home with a snotty-nosed sick baby, to be fighting with my fit-throwing 2-year-old, to be cleaning up piles of dirty laundry after soccer practice, to be sitting at home watching the same episode of “Paw Patrol” for the umpteenth time instead of out drinking a glass of wine with my friends.

But now I get it. That whole range of loving your kids but wanting to drop them off at Grandpa and Grandma’s house for an hour — or two — is part of what being a parent is. Parenting is hard. Man, is it hard. And it’s so rewarding. I’ve honestly never been a better person … or a stronger person … or a fuller person … than I have been since becoming a mom.

And, yes, being called “Mama” is the biggest blessing I’ve ever been given. But dang it if I haven’t cried in the shower — more times than I’d like to admit — because of how exhausted and stressed and inadequate I am.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, but, golly, does it feel good to be able to talk about it.

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This goofy girl changed my life; she changed me.

 

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It’s a Sibling Thing

Since the very beginning of our relationship, Mr. B and I have agreed — and disagreed — on all sorts of things. One of our biggest points of agreement? We both wanted to have two kids. Not three. Not one. Two. Well … now we find ourselves in an interesting situation. Because we have two kids. But, we also don’t.

So, when we talk about our family and what it will look like in the years to come (or when people ask if we’re going to have more kids), we’re not sure. Frankly, it’s scary — again — to think about being pregnant — again. We both know that in an ideal world, Dottie Lou would have a sibling that she can actually grow up with. But, I can’t say I’ve made up my mind one way or the other.

I do know this: I am one of six kids, and I cannot imagine my life without every single one of them in it. Ask me who my best friends are, and I’ll name each and every one of them. My siblings contributed significantly to the person I am today — and continue to shape me. And each one of them taught me priceless life lessons.

whole family

Clint

Clint

When I was younger, my stoic brother terrified me. But today, he’s the one I call when I need help or advice or just to talk. I still get a little excited when my caller ID shows it’s him — because I know I’m in for either a great story or a good laugh. Clint taught me about responsibility. You don’t quit on your commitments — and you don’t ever, ever quit on your family.

Toni

Toni

Toni is our free spirit. She lives her life with no excuses, and she lives her life with her whole heart. Toni taught me about being true to myself. You do you, and you do it with all your heart.

Charity

Charity

Charity is true to her name — she has a kind, warm heart and she shares it with anyone who needs it. Charity taught me about generosity. I often get surprises in the mail from Charity — just when I need them. She opens her home to anyone who needs it and has a lot of “sons” and “daughters” in addition to her own three sons.

Jeremiah

Jeremiah

Jeremiah is my big, strong brother — who is really a teddy bear (but don’t tell anyone). I can always count on him to give me a bunch of crap and then turn around and give me a big ol’ hug. His hugs are the best — even if he sometimes squeezes just a little too tight. Jeremiah taught me to always take time for fun. Jeremiah works hard — very, very hard. But he also makes sure to take breaks and go on adventures with his family.

JJ

JJ

Oh boy, what can I say about my Rosebud. She is my true soul sister and very best friend. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from JJ. She has taught me how to take things as they come (“it is what it is”), how to laugh with my whole body and, most recently, JJ taught me how to be brave. 

silly siblings

I am who I am because I have these yay-hoos in my corner. They are the loves of my life, and I couldn’t imagine being the person I am without them standing beside me. My siblings are the friends God gave me before I even knew how badly I would need them in my life.

So, when Mr. B and I talk about our family and what it may one day look like, I can’t help but think about my siblings and the true beauty they’ve brought into my world. And, when I get scared about having another baby, I’m reminded that no matter what happens, at least I’ll have these guys in my corner (even if they are giving me crap and poking me in the ribs).

I can’t say for sure whether we will have any more kids. That answer, I believe, is out of my hands. It may already be written in the stars — like so much of our story has been so far. But I can say with certainty that siblings are pretty darn cool. And if Dottie Lou ends up with another one some day, I know he or she will bring all sorts of color and flavor and sparkle into her life.

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Happy Six Months, Dottie Lou!

Today we celebrate Dottie’s sixth monthiversary! As cliché as it sounds, time has flown past. (I suppose it’s cliché for a reason!) I honestly can’t believe my little Smooshy is six months old already. It honestly seems like just last week that we were bringing her home from the hospital and living in our own little bubble of new-parenthood wonder and worry.

Dottie Lou Newborn

She is such a joy and treasure. I know every parent says that — and every parent is right — but I can’t even think of a single “yeah, but” of “if only” to that statement. Watching her explore and discover this world has reminded me about all of the beauty there really is. Beauty that I think we all take for granted. She has reminded me to take some time and appreciate the simple things — like how silly Piper looks when she’s running in circles and how soft Annie Cat’s hair is and how tickly the grass is on my bare feet.

dottie and me

She’s forever changed my relationship with Mr. B, too. In only the best ways. What Penelope Joy taught us about strength and parenthood and love, Dottie Lou enriches and strengthens. She continues to show us how to walk — every day — in love. Even when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, we are able to come home and find respite in each other’s arms and a smile on Dottie Lou’s face. She reminds us what is truly important: each other.

And watching Mr. B be a dad has made my heart grow two … three … four sizes. His relationship with Dottie Lou is one of such deep, warm love that it’s nothing I could ever describe. (Though, I know it — because I had it with my dad, too.) When I watch him look at her, and her at him, I am overwhelmed with such joy and love and … pride. “These are my people,” I think.

dottie and bobby

It’s a pretty amazing thing, knowing that a little person can have such a big impact on your world. I am so very proud to be Dottie Lou’s mom. When I see that sparkle in her eyes when she sees me come into a room and when she reaches for me when I walk past her and when she grins at me from across the room? It is then that I know that I’m doing just fine — even amid the doubt and guilt that comes with juggling all the things that need to be juggled when you’re a mom. That smile, that sparkle remind me that I am enough.

And, as quick as they were, these past six months have been eye-opening and life-altering. She is a special baby, this rainbow baby of ours.

Dottie Lou Six month

All photo by The People Picture Co. in Grand Rapids. If you’re ever in need of a photographer, I couldn’t recommend them enough.

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Salon and More

I’ve been going to the same hair salon for, I think, about 11 years. And the same stylist for probably seven or so — I’ve lost count exactly. But, it’s a long time. Needless to say, my stylist knows me — and my story — very well.

For the most part — save a couple of years when I was kidding myself — my hair’s been short. I like it short. I feel the most “me” when it’s short. Through single-hood and wedded bliss, weight gain and weight loss (and weight gain), pregnancies and motherhood, loss and success, I’ve always felt the most confident when my hair’s as short as it can go without becoming bald.

So, I’m a regular every-four-weeker for my hair cuts and every 7 to 10 days for my eyebrow wax (I can’t help if I’m furry!). Well, lately, as the salon gets busier and my time gets more precious, it’s been harder and harder to find an appointment time that works with my schedule and on my timeline.

This week, I tried a new stylist at a new salon. It can be scary going to a new stylist:

What if she’s scared to take my hair as short as I like it? (Trust me, it’s happened a lot.)

What if she makes my eyebrows too thin? 

What if she talks too much?

What if … 

What if … 

What if …

Well, let me tell you: it was a wonderful experience! She talked exactly enough. She cut my hair perfectly short. And I am the proud owner of two neatly trimmed — but just right — eyebrows.

And the best part? She didn’t know my whole story. Because I’ve chosen to live my life in a little bit of a public way — at least some bits — and I try to be very honest in my sharing, it’s hard to live my daily routine (that’s pretty, well, routine) without someone knowing at least a bit of my tale. But, not when I went to the new salon. I wasn’t the woman with the tragic story. I was just the woman taking a one-hour break to get her hair done.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I love talking about Penelope Joy and sharing memories about my dad. And everything that’s happened to me is so very important to who I am. That story, tragic as some parts may seem, has brought me to a place in my life where I find myself happy, content and loved. But, for once, it was nice to just be another mom talking about her job, her husband and the silly things her daughter does. It was nice, for one hour, to just be … me. Short hair and all.

Family photo

Photo by The People Picture Co.

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Forgetting to Remember

Mr. B and I went shopping last week. And something happened. Something sorta big, I guess. We — for a split second — forgot to remember about Penelope Joy. About her existence and about her death.

We were shopping with Dottie Lou at one of my favorite places. And Mr. B picked up this super cute mug that he thought would be perfect for his mom. It said “Grandma. Est. 2015.” I agreed, and we started to take it off the shelf. And then, my eyes started welling up seconds later as I realized what we’d done.

You see, Grandma B was not made a grandma in 2015. She was made a grandma in 2013 — when Penelope Joy was born.

The Day She was Born

It’s actually been happening a lot lately. Well, not us forgetting so much. More like life going forward. As time goes on, we get further and further away from Penelope Joy. We’ve done our first “official” family photo shoot without Penelope Joy. And, I certainly felt the hole. I feel it every time I look at the pictures. And I have a feeling I always will — no matter how big our family grows.

Family Photo

And, as our life gets busier, our days seemingly get shorter. And there is definitely less focusing on the past and more living in the now. Life with Dottie Lou is a whirlwind — there really is no other way to explain it. She’s a lively, joyful, curious child. And she keeps us on our toes every second.

Curious Dottie

Smiley Dottie

She makes my heart leap for joy every morning when I wake up and every time I see her after a long day apart. To be honest, I was not remotely prepared for how much I could love this child. Every day she teaches me about hope and love, wonder and joy. She also teaches me about strength — because momming is so very hard. Being a mother — actually getting to BE a mother — is more than I could have ever imagined.

When I think about that statement, though, it does make me sad. Because I feel like Penelope Joy made me a mother, too. And I don’t ever want to take that for granted. And I don’t ever want to forget — not for a single second — that I am the mom I am today because of Penelope Joy. In so many ways she taught me what “Mom” means — and in ways, I suppose, that Dottie Lou will (hopefully) never make me a mother.

Penelope Joy made me a mom, and she’ll always have a special place in my heart as my first-born. And Dottie Lou? She continues to show me the way. She teaches me about the best parts of myself and, some days, the worst parts of myself. Both of my girls has contributed so much to my story — to what makes me, me.

I’ll probably always get sad when I realize that I’ve forgotten to remember Penelope Joy — even though it’s just for a fleeting second. While she’ll always live in my heart and define so much of who I am and how I live my life, life does move forward. The earth keeps spinning. Because, as Mr. B said, “that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

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A Mother’s Day Sandwich

It’s Wednesday. And we’re sandwiched right in between two special days: International Bereaved Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day. International Bereaved Mother’s Day was started in 2010 and now falls on the first Sunday in May. Mother’s Day, as you (hopefully) know, falls on the second Sunday of May. So … this is the way it will always be — a sandwich week. And, so far this year, it’s been a pretty emotional one. I’ve been feeling the loss of Penelope Joy so much lately. But, at the same time, have been finding so much joy in Dottie Lou. Every time I think I couldn’t love her more or be more in awe of her, I wake up and it’s a new day and there’s a fresh stock of brand-new love and admiration for her.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that this week is sandwiched between two days that are somewhat definitive for me. I’m grieving our loss of Penelope Joy — I’ll always be grieving it. But I’m celebrating — both her life and Dottie Lou’s. And I celebrate both of them for making me a mother — and for teaching me so much about life and what really, truly matters.

Penelope Joy made me a mother.

Penelope Joy made me a mother.

As Dottie Lou continues to hit milestones (she’s rolling over!!) and celebrate special days, I’m reminded of the milestones and celebrations we’ll never get to celebrate with Penelope Joy. While there’s a fleeting moment of sadness (OK, some days it may stick around a little longer than others), I try so hard not to live in the sadness of missed milestones and, instead, live in today’s celebrations. Because to focus on the sadness of the “what ifs” and the “why nots” is to completely miss the gift we have in Dottie Lou.

Dottie Lou teaches me how  to be a better mother — and a better person.

Dottie Lou teaches me how to be a better mother — and a better person.

I’ve said it a dozen times before — had Penelope Joy not lived and died, we would not have Dottie Lou. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Penelope Joy. Because I do, and my heart hurts every time I think about her. It just means that I can’t wish her back and this is our story. And Dottie Lou is here.

So, Mr. B and I celebrate every milestone and rejoice with every new expression Dottie Lou gives us — even her pout pout face. And I share way too many photos. And I talk about Dottie Lou way too much.

Yes, I’ll always be sandwiched between grieving and rejoicing. But I can choose how I live and which one of those I allow to take root and grow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk of sandwiches has me hungry.

While we'll never have a complete family photo with both of our girls, we will always carry them both in our hearts. Always and forever.

While we’ll never have a complete family photo with both of our girls, we will always carry them both in our hearts. Always and forever.

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