Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The 15 things I love about breastfeeding

Reposted with Permission

Originally blogged at "The Young Johnsons" by Jill Johnson

This post was written by my cousin's wife Jill. Although Kyle, Jill and baby Jack live in the States, Jack is still half Aruban and merits a special spot on this site. Take it away, Jill...

15 Things I Love About Breastfeeding

  1. Poopy diapers aren't so scary
  2. Being everything my son needs to live. Wow.
  3. Burning calories while sitting on my big post-pregnancy butt
  4. Motivates me to continue to eat nutritiously & drink tons of water
  5. The glorious delayed return of Aunt Flow
  6. I can text, talk, read, eat, type all while feeding him
  7. Rockin' nutritional value for him
  8. It gives me a chance to give Jack his mani/pedi
  9. Makes me feel empowered that we overcame the "beginner's difficulties"
  10. Saving money is always fun
  11. Getting the chance to play with his chubby thighs, hands, arms, and tiny feet at least 6 times a day
  12. 9 out of 10 times he will pass out in my arms after nursing
  13. The way he looks up at me while eating is intoxicating
  14. Food needs no preparation...which is nice when I'm barely awake
  15. I get to keep Jack close

Recap of the month of March [MARCH MADNESS!]

Ok, so I know I've been pretty quiet this month, but it's only because I am crazy busy up and down like a mad woman. A lot of cool stuff has happened [ and yet to happen this month] and I'm eager to finally sit down and share it with you all.

Official Seminar from Pro Lechi Mama Foundation : "The New legislation on breastfeeding - a win win for both employer and employee"
Stefan Kleintjes
This seminar will take place May 5th and is going to be huge-mongous. It is geared toward all the major employers on Aruba, and the little ones too. Mostly towards the ones who employ a great deal of women. We found it imperative that this seminar take place because of all the negative feedback there's been in connection with the law. Employers are confused and thus [sometimes unwittingly] hesitate to cooperate, some female employees see the law as a ticket for 9 months of fun and long breaks [not the point] and there is general confusion as to the interpretation and implementation of this life-sustaining law. We've decided to go all out on the venue and the evening. It is a short seminar, but jam packed with the latest information on laws, clarifications of such and ramifications for those who set themselves against it. On the program there will be 3 speakers, one from Holland, namely Stefan Kleintjes, a children's dietician and breastfeeding guru. Monica Kock, a local lawyer and former parliamentarian who also endorsed this law to make it a reality. And a member of Pro Lechi Mama, namely, yours truly.

Yes. You read correct. Me. I am going to give a discourse [the first and opening one to be exact] and I am to the point of fright. I've been on symposiums on stages, sang in front of crowds, given lectures and classes..but I don't know about this gig. This is a SEMINAR. With a lot of respected business men and women. People are going to be watching me, listening to me, examining me and my every word and while this thought scares the daylights out of me, it's also empowering. How many women, how many young women, receive the opportunity to say something that may potentially impact someones view, especially someone's view on something so important to our society in so many aspects, our mentality on breastfeeding. I am deeply privileged and honored [to say the least!] to be granted a chance to speak on the foundation's behalf about the plight that working mothers face. The difficulty and hardships they go through when their employer refuses to cooperate with the law. What an honor to be able to speak directly to these people, to their minds and hearts [because breastfeeding stems from the heart really, whether it is loved or hated] and possibly challenge them to change a mistaken view to be able to improve the lives of our babies and our mothers. I am deeply humbled.

Oh, and freakin' terrified too!

Besides all the terror with having to make a powerpoint [I'm so procrastinating] I've also had to spearhead the whole thing because [DUH] I keep forgetting, I am now President Elect of the Foundation. We've set up a petite committee to handle the majority of the decisions and tasks and like little ants that spotted crumbs on the floor, we're rushing and squirming around trying to get things done.

Breastfeeding and Babywearing class hosted by Prana

March 21st, this past Monday, I gave my quarterly class and the audience was the biggest it ever was [25 people in total!]. The class compromised of many people including a midwife, a couple expecting triplets and a parliamentarian and his significant other. I was nervous as I saw so many people rolling in, but, after setting up, I hurried to the back room, took some deep breaths, told myself I was ready and walked back in. The beginning of the class is always the toughest because there's so many people and it's difficult to command the attention of the room. I speak with conviction but the reality of the matter is that I dread if someone has to vehemently oppose something I say and cast doubt on my credibility. Confrontation scares me. Haha. But, in essence, everything went smoothly. After the first ten minutes of almost silence [except for me talking] the class became more involved. Throwing in a joke here and there is my way of keeping the mood light and from it getting too lecture-ish. I revise my powerpoint each time and in the babywearing part, I did a part especially dedicated to the claim that carrying your baby in a carriers that keeps their legs open and spread apart is detrimental to the proper development of the hips and legs. This part kept them awake, and I had fun observing the class come to life when we went into that direction. God, I love this job.

The best part of the class? The set-up. When I was setting up, there were already some couples there. Once I was nearly finished, 3/4 of the class were in place and as I pulled out the pink watersling to put on the mannequin, everyone who had been chattering and chit-chatting all of a sudden became silent. It was as if a silence had dropped over the classroom and I could swear I heard a tiny gasp of awe at the stunning hot pink ringsling. I smiled to myself and carried on as if nothing was different. AWESOME.

Bella Sophia's glamorous babywearing photoshoots
This was the most time consuming but also most rewarding. It's not easy doing shoots with babies and carriers, so I appreciate all the models glamming up and getting their diva on for these shots. There were some at the beach, others at other stunning locations that will be revealed soon in a grand fashion.

Local maternity boutique, Mommies & Bellies by Noraima and Tamara to be first Official Retailer of Bella Sophia Carriers
Holy moly. Did you see this coming? I sure didn't. I mean, well, I dreamed about it, but did I expect it to materialize so quickly and so passionately, NEVER! The owners of Mommies and Bellies were beyond thrilled at the thought of selling something so unique, so cool and natural but also locally made. Bella Sophia is taking off and I'm holding on tight because it's gonna be a wild ride this year! Craving more info on Bella Sophia? Visit our sister site here! 

Bella Sophia, although still in its infancy, is proving to be a formidable brand in the market of carriers sold here on Aruba. Whether imported from abroad or made locally as well, Bella Sophia stands out in a league of its own known for its stylishness, workmanship, safety, and the sheer diversity and selection of carriers. Despite the negativity surrounding the beginning of Bella Sophia from the nay-sayers, it's taken off and shook things up by offering yet another choice for the modern day natural parent. You don't have to believe me, take a look for yourself!

Once monthly sling stand at Prana's postnatal class

My most recent invitation came from my dear friend Shanti, a certified prenatal yoga instructor teaching at Prana prenatal and postnatal health centrum. We've already been doing the classes together for a year and now she's invited me to set up a sling stand in her postnatal class for the moms who may have found renewed interest in babywearing, or who may have bought a carrier but are still unsure about their abilities. Since the launching of Bella Sophia, it was very convenient for her to have the same person giving babywearing classes, to also set up a sling stand in the class there after, so it was only natural that we combine forces again. I must admit, I am very excited for Monday's first stand, March 28th, at 12 noon. I'm still working on making/finding a rack to display the slings on, but so far I'm still missing a stand-type thing to hang/attach the rack to. Have any ideas for me?

Many times, the pictures are awed and gawked at, but often time the photographer gets left in the background. So I want to take this opportunity to thank Bella Sophia's personal photographer, Angelo Flanegin, for always being available, even at the last minute, to capture the true beauty of the slings with your stunning Nikon D200 and D300 and amazing Sigma Lens. Thank you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Breastfeeding Beauties

Today's breastfeeding beauty is a repeat (different shot). It was taken during our glamorous babywearing photoshoot for Bella Sophia Carriers and at the end, Eva decided it was time for a snack

Andrea & Eva 25 months

Friday, March 11, 2011

Felt Cookies and Cupcakes ~ My new found love

Felt - a substance I had only dealt with in my early school years. A material I dreaded as I never found arts and crafts to be enjoyable. Odd eh? And now, at 22 years of age, it's as if my creative and girly side has kicked in and I want to sew everything in sight.

My latest project is felt cookies and cupcakes, obviously because cookies are the easiest to make. I told myself that I am making felt foodies for two primary reasons;

  1. As a hobby, to relax and enjoy myself while I make them
  2. For my 3-year-old daughter to play with in her kitchen

The first time I sat down and made something, I think  I ended up being more stressed out and frustrated at my lack of creativity and dexterity than I had fun with it. For some reason, I did not look up tutorials right away and decided to 'wing it'. Bad idea. The first cookie, donut, and cupcake turned out..well.. interesting. The second night though, I decided to look up what a blanket stitch was and how to make pleats, and general cute cookie & cupcake ideas. Let me say this, if I'm gonna be making this improvement each subsequent time I sit down and make foodies, I will be a felt cookie and cupcake MASTER in no time. I was pretty proud of what I produced yesterday seeing that I am a void of artfulness and workmanship. 

You know what I loved most? 

When I handed my daughter her presents, she was overjoyed. The sheer thrill on her face when she looked at them. It made me feel good that she loved them even though they weren't sewn perfectly, or measured or cut precisely. Maybe I can learn to enjoy gifts more if I stopped looking at anything that's amiss and just love the gift itself.

My next felt creation? Pizza, hopefully some sushi, and a sandwich!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Single Mothers, you CAN succeed!

I've been wallowing in self-pity for a while since my (ahem, divorce) entering single motherhood for the second time around. Despite having other amazing things going on in my life right now like the honor of being elected President of Fundacion Pro Lechi Mama Aruba and my business' new line of baby carriers ~ Bella Sophia (meaning beautiful Sophia, my daughter's second name) I've been feeling down in the dumps where my personal life is concerned. While it is rare that I go into detail about my romantic relationships on my blog unless it will empower other mothers, I decided to write about what makes me feel so crappy and how I could make myself feel better and potentially help other single moms too.

Things I fear about Single Motherhood

  • The dreaded "Who's my real dad, and why don't we all live together?" question. I know this is a part of life and in many instances, a real frequently occurring part of life, but this doesn't translate into it being easy or even pleasurable for me to want to answer it. 
  • The second dreaded "How it is possible that I have a brother that is 2 and a half months older than me?" question. This fits right up there with the first, except, I know it'll take her longer to come to the above mentioned realization to be able to ask this dreaded question. I don't want to be a "Don't-ask-don't-tell" kind of parent, but honestly, how on earth am I supposed to explain this in a neutral and respectful and yet honest manner? 
  • Step-moms/absent biological fathers/step-dads/mother-caught-in-between. Let's be absolutely frank, when a man and a woman have a kid together and then separate, and then [insert whichever option most acceptable to you] re-marry, there will be inevitable tension at some point in time. Step-mothers usurping the authority of birth mothers, step-fathers taking the initiative to raise a fatherless child and then the real father gets upset but he shouldn't because he was the one who was absent to begin with. I can't seem to find my niche in all of this. I've tried and this blended family thing is frustrating for me. The other woman in this story grew up in a blended family herself and told me that these things are common and that I should just let go and embrace it. When she told me this, I didn't know if I should have laughed or cried, all I knew was that I wanted someone to shoot me. 
  • Will I be able to raise a child on my own? I've spent the last 3+ years worrying and fretting about this, and the funny thing is, I've been doing it unwittingly. We humans are tenacious and adaptable and while I worry myself to death (I'm a terrible worrier) my daughter who was once a babe, is now a happy, vivacious, care-free, 3-year-old that is surrounded by more people who love her than she could possibly lack. My parents ended up being co-parents (odd and frustrating at times, but in the long-run worthwhile) and I've learned even more how much I can rely on them. I've heard many other young moms admit that they never felt such a strong attachment and love for their mothers until they were pregnant. It's not that we never loved our moms it's just that epiphany like state that you float in when all of a sudden you feel the love your mother felt when she carried, birthed and raised you. So I did not end up raising her on my own. 
  • Not having a constant co-parent to step in when you need a time-out. This is one of the hardest things about being a single parent. It's the end of the day, you had a pretty lousy day, your child seems to have had the same day and is also in a "mood", you're tired, you've got things to do, chores to take care of, bills to figure out how you're gonna pay and a kid to get ready for bed. Then, your usually sweet and adorable child starts acting out [insert, due to over stimulation, stress, boredom, tiredness] and is defiant about taking a shower and getting ready for bed. This is where it's hardest being a single parent. You have no back-up to call and take over for you to take a breather or a long walk. It's you, yourself, and your short fuse. At these times I usually just break down and cry, and at times it's in front of Dahlia and then I feel worse because she gets so sad and starts consoling me by telling me "Don't worry, I'm here, don't cry mama". I'll just chalk this all up to a real life lesson in empathy and hope my kid takes away from it that even mamas are human and cry. 
  • What others will think of me. It is not a secret that people judge. People judge young mothers. People judge young single mothers.Besides being a terrible worrier, I am also a person who cares just a tad too much about what others say/think about me. My mom once told me that "40 % of people will love you, 40% of people will dislike you and the other 20% will remain undecided." Uh, how is this supposed to help me Ma? It basically means, just make sure you're in the right things, (because a thief can't get angry for people talking bad about the fact that he steals) and forget what everyone else has to say. How are you supposed to live any kind of life if you're constantly worrying about what everyone might be saying about you. 
And my number one thing I dread about single motherhood is...

  • When will I have another child? This is the thing that freaks me out the most. Because of the mess I went through with Dahlia's biological father, I swore never to have another child out-of-wedlock. I also swore never to get divorced. And then I got divorced. I'm stuck in this limbo of not knowing what situation will suit me best. Stay single or unmarried for the rest of my life? Take a chance again at marriage? Microsoft Word has an undo button that if you click it enough, it brings you back to a clean white page, right where you started. I have often times wished my life had an "undo" button. But then I think, what if I undid my past with Dahlia's father.. I wouldn't have Dahlia now and I wouldn't be where I am right now, experiencing the happiest of times in my life because of the love of a child. And then I acquiesce and all of a sudden I realize I don't need that button anymore. So back to my concerns. Because of my single motherhood status I wonder when will I have another child. In my plans were about 3-4 more children. Not in my plans was divorce. But I guess even the best laid plans...go awry. I try to comfort myself with my age. I am merely 22 and I don't have my "clock" ticking (YET) so I console myself with affirmations that if I take the time and do it right this time around, I will have my truck-load of kids with a man who wants them and who wants me, even when I'm old and wrinkly and can brush my teeth while I have a full-blown conversation. 

Things I [insert love] learned about single motherhood that made me stronger

  • If it doesn't kill you, or make you commit suicide/end up on anti-depressants, it just might make you stronger. Do you know what is stronger than bone? A broken one. Once a broken bone heals up, it becomes stronger than before making it even harder to fracture a second time around. When I became a single mother for the first time, I was terrified. Terrified about what people would think, terrified about being just another statistic, another stereotype and then, I said something to my child's father that echoes in my head to this day. And I quote " I will walk out of my house with my daughter and no wedding ring on my finger and I will hold my head up high because I was strong enough to leave a bad relationship." And then it was done. I handed it over. All my shame, I gave it back. I had nothing to do with feeling ashamed of being a single mother for making the right choice. 3 Years has since passed and although the darkest moments envelopes you like a black cloud leaving you gasping for air, they are far too few and in between to be able to come near to the best moments of your life that you spend with your child. 
  • It takes two to make a kid, but if only one is left, that one is certainly capable of raising a well-adjusted, integrated and loving human being. Some of the most respectful men come from single-parent homes in which the single parent was the mother. Note that I did not say that all men who come from single mothers are respectful, nor did I purport that men who come from dual-parent families are disrespectful, but often times a young man who sees the struggle and triumph that his mother goes through while raising him (and possibly other siblings) is more likely to be empathetic towards women. More understanding, more in touch with a sensitive and reassuring side. Single mothers, you might not have a father figure in your son's life, but you are more than capable of teaching your son how a real father, and man is supposed to treat a woman, with dignity and respect. 

And the number one thing I learned from being a single mother is

  • Parent as if you had a co-parent, live as if you lacked nothing. A lot of people complain that they are not the happy, patient people they know they are or can be because of their present circumstances and although I completely understand that difficult situations can dampen our moods significantly, at the end of the day we all stand responsible for our own actions. Don't say, 'If only I had a partner to make me feel complete, then my child could actually see a happy mommy'. Your child deserves a happy mother whether you are single or not. Even though to some the pain of singleness feels like birth pangs, I dare you, I challenge you to parent your child as if you did have a partner, treat your child as if you had infinite amounts of patience and love your child as if you lacked absolutely nothing in the world because in fact, your child loves you even if you lack everything else in the world. Is that not worth it all?