A crash course on life: lesson 2 -7

So I was going to do a week by week update, however, I find that some of these lessons rolled along into other weeks. Hence, I will give a summary of all the lessons learned from week 2 – 7,

a. Your principles can be an affront to many: there is a saying back home in Nigeria, “You’re not jollof rice, so stop trying to please everyone“, Jolof rice is a tasty rice meal that serves as a staple meal for all occasions. Adults and children alike love jollof rice, people have been known to take bowls to parties just to steal large servings of the meal away. However as pleasant as the meal is there are still people who do not like it or there are times when it doesn’t appeal to our taste buds. In like manner, we must accept that our lifestyle choices will always confront or challenge others, sometimes without us saying a word.

b. Do not give people the weapon they need to harm you: I often talk to myself when I am stressed or trying to think things through. Somewhere within this seven-week period, I think my mumbling offended an ‘unintended’ eavesdropper. Rather than talk to me about it, the Chinese whispers chain was set up and a wall was laid. Seeing as people pleasing isn’t a skill I aspire to, (I believe it only equips bullies and manipulators with the license to rob you blind) I found myself in the difficult position of trying my best, but still being ridiculed in a very unkind manner. Thus, note to self always ensure you are alone when consulting with yourself.
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c. Avoid the need to tell tales: this ranges from sharing your problems with people to divulging seemingly irrelevant details of another person’s life to a third party. They say a problem shared is a problem half solved; I say a problem shared with the wrong person is a problem at the very least half-doubled. For example, I said to someone that I still breastfed my eight-month-old and the advise given was to stop breastfeeding as it might stress my work life.

On the surface, this is a fair and seemingly honest/harmless comment, however, legally I am entitled to certain rights in the workplace as a breastfeeding mother and no provision was made for this. I do not hold this against anyone as I never asked for those changes to be made. And I did not do so as I assumed that a.) I would be able to express enough and the baby would be fine. b.) that seven weeks would fly by quickly. Taking that advice would have meant my lactose intolerant baby would not only be deprived of his mum but would have to go through the stress of adapting to meals and changes before he was ready to.

People will advise you from their own experience. Their fears, triumphs, and disappointment. Be careful not to rewrite your story based on their manuscript, sift the principle and move on.

d.) If you don’t drop the crumbs the birds won’t come: leading on from point C if you don’t divulge anything over time people will get bored and move on with their own lives. If you don’t want their input simply don’t tell them stuff. I find it interesting when people ask for an opinion and then get angry at what’s offered. However, to the individual being asked, try to give advice based on principles not based on what you would do or how you would like it. It might be a lonely and somewhat hectic place to be, but at least you can control what circles your life moves in and the words you speak.

e.) Finally, keep your eyes on the prize at all times: do your best to eliminate every distraction, chose your battles wisely, chose your weapons even more carefully. Above everything else identify your weaknesses and try to get over them. Deal with your personal bias as it helps you forgive others their own.

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A crash course in 7 weeks; lesson 1

“Start as you mean to go on.”

Or “Start with the end in sight.”

My little man turned seven months in June, four days before my return to school day. I had hoped to wean him unto solid meals by this time. I wasn’t expecting him to be able to eat three whole meals, but I had hoped for some sort of day time meal routine at the very least. I had high expectations of my breastmilk expression skills reality, however begged to differ. This leads me to my lessons from week one:

Go into every endeavour with positive energy. Contrary to my usual disposition when faced with a new challenge (which is often apprehension masked in negativity), I returned to school  filled with positive energy. I presume this positivity was a result of my past accomplishments in school prior to going on maternity leave. 

Be positive but have a contingency plan. Being able to get back into study as planned increased myself confidence. It felt like I had a firmer grip on my life and the plans ahead. However, I had no contingency plan with respect to how baby would be fed if the milk I expressed wasn’t enough. At first I had a milk stash in the freezer but it was  quickly depleted by the end of week one. Though baby was having pureed fruit, as well, I was still worried. 

Being relaxed and having breakfast helps with milk production. I have not made the previous statement based on any scientific authority. However, drawing from my personal experience, I found having a good breakfast anytime before 11am not only helped increase my milk production but also the thickness of the expressed milk. I also found having a nap or just some rest or warm bath helped increase milk production. 

Be positive, but be observant; watch your words. It often very tempting to ‘over share’ or to stretch ourselves beyond limit, or to overtly identify with everyone when we come into a new environment. While in certain cases nothing negative comes of this experience, under different circumstances an unhealthy working trend might be established. Often times it comes back to bite us in the butt. Be on your best behaviour, but ensure to be you. (will throw more light on this in week four)

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From 10-20minutes of pumping on a good day for us.

Woman to woman

Informed choices not sponsored choices

celebrating strengths, supporting weaknesses

Nurture and nature, fostering the bonds from womb to world

There are no divides save the ones we refuse to own.

Woman to woman, mother to mother

A vibrant story of many lines, a common theme of ‘baby and mother first’ at it’s core

Things fall apart when the core starts to unravel.

I hold you close, you hold me dear,

We uphold the facts for all to see.

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Happy breastfeeding week

Armed with information.

“There’s no room for vacuum in life,

the minute it’s created, something regardless of how minute or ill fitting gravitates to occupy it.”

On the 15th of May 2018, the following question was discussed on the Wright Stuff; ‘Should breastfeeding be taught in schools’. According to the programme, the Royal college of Paediatrics has advocated for this line of action in response to the United Kingdoms low breastfeeding rates. My first reaction was to give this topic  a wide berth, however, certain events led to a rethink.

 One, I looked back at my first breastfeeding journey; to the reactions, advice and support I received from both family and friends. I remember my mother’s advice to feed  baby L1 some ‘pap’, a local pudding similar to custard. I recall her enthusiasm to support my desire to exclusively breastfeed for six months. I do not believe my mother breastfed any of her children for six months. However, she witnessed my sister and sister-in-law go through the process (EBF) and decided it was the best for babies. I also remember the text and Facebook  messages from BAMBIS in those first crucial six weeks post delivery. These varied inputs inoculated my senses against the need to abruptly switch to alternate baby foods. They formed the foundation for my second breastfeeding journey to thrive, which unlike my first has proved slightly challenging.

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Secondly, I recall a chat with a friend who just had a baby, and as we talked I realised the growing possibility of breastfeeding rates slipping down the slope in Nigeria. Should this occur it would partly be attributed to these factors:

  1. An increase in the number of working mothers especially first time mothers.
  2. A poor/ non-existent maternity leave policy.
  3. An influence from African/Nigerian women living abroad.
  4. A changing climate from a previous existing community lifestyle, where mothers often had an overflow of relatives at hand to help, to isolated lifestyles, where every helping hand is paid for and often not very reliable.
  5. A lack of information to help the modern day woman understand her body and baby in the changing social and economic climate.

The final push came by way of comments made in response to the question: ‘should breastfeeding be taught in schools?’. Many people were of the opinion that teaching breastfeeding at school would/could lead to the following: 

  • Deeply embarrassing moments for students.
  • Information overload.
  • Oversexualization of the students.
  • Pressurising of students to choose one method of feeding over another.

Under certain circumstances these opinions might be valid, however, I find them lacking authenticity based on the following:

  • Children are said to learn through play; every child  including those living in third world countries plays with a doll and feeding bottle at some point during  their childhood. This is slowly assimilated. Most children grow up without seeing anyone breastfeed, if they’re fortunate they would only ever encounter the topic for 10- 15 minutes at an antenatal class. At this point, the idea of the breast as an asexual organ with biologic function seems antiquated, like dinosaurs, a reminder of past barbaric practices. 
  • According to the government children will be taught safe and healthy relationship from the age of four. At this point I imagine it would be safe to let children know that as higher mammals we are also equipped to feed our young ones just like whales, dolphins and other animals do. From the age of 11, students will be taught sex and relationship education; which covers sexuality, sexual health and reproduction. The breasts I believe would be mentioned in these classes, I see no reason why one of it’s functions should not be discussed. 
  • We live in the era of patient centred care. A major aspect of PCC is arming patients with adequate information. Thus, teaching students about breastfeeding, making it an open discussion, should be considered an advantage and not pressure.

The only pressure an informed individual faces, is the courage to standby their choice.

To acknowledge the possibility that their options might not be the next persons ideal.

In my opinion, the drive to increase breastfeeding rates across the world, isn’t a drive to shame certain mothers, neither is it a drive to run businesses to a halt. It’s a drive to sustain our planet. We hope to reduce waste production, energy depletion etc, as a popular slogan says, ‘every little helps’, breastfeeding is one of such ‘little’ that would help achieve those goals in the long run. Arm yourself with the right information long before baby comes, seek help and support, drown out the noise and keep your babies health at the centre of all your choices.

 

Start at the alphabets

Care to join me on a little stroll? Take a look at my garden, feast your eyes on my tree, what pray ye lays siege to your mind?

Birth,

Toddler, Teenager, 

Self-image, Self-awareness, Self-acceptance

Love, Hope, Faith, Relationships, Career, Religion, Family

Marriage, Parenting, Motherhood, Fatherhood, Breastfeeding,  Social class,

Formula feeding, Mortgage, Rent, Passion, Hobbies, Diet, Health

Conventional, Death, After-life, Assets, Liability

Unorthodox, Friendship, Community,

Intellect,

Fashion,

Beauty,

Alp ha bets ma keup wo rds, ne ver for get y our ro ots; they are valuable, the y are par tof whoy ou are, no matter how bitter.

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Take another step my darling, sit by me, let’s take a look at some other words:

  • Construe:

to understand the meaning, especially of other people’s actions and statements, in a particular way.

to understand the meaning of something in a particular way.

  • Abrupt:

sudden and unexpected, and often unpleasant.

using too few words when talking, in a way that seems rude and unfriendly.

  • Grandiloquent:

A grandiloquent style or way of using language is complicated in order to attract admiration and attention, especially in order to make someone or something seem important.

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Now pick a word from the tree, a word that makes you  either very comfortable or very uncomfortable. Why does the word make you feel that way? When you see people acting out that word, how do you feel? Does your interpretation of the word affect how you perceive another’s behaviour?

When you engage in a discussion about the word does it end abruptly, do you find your self acting abrupt? Or is the reverse the case? Do you feel the need to bedazzle or confuse your audience by using highfaluting words?

Life is simple, we complicate it when we refuse to pull away the layers over an issue. For example, motherhood, this is one word with multiple offspring, often individuals tend to judge the entire topic by looking at one of her offspring. While it is possible for several issues to serve as an indication of the overall picture, it is still better to stick to one topic/issue/offspring at a time and then taking an average estimate.

If it cannot be simplified then perhaps it is not a basic need for living a content life. Even quadratic equations can be simplified, and when it seems impossible, it is often due to a faulty premise.

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Finally turn left and exit the garden: 

Don’t forget where we started, at the alphabets. Everyone has an opinion and like the slabs on the footpath through the garden, we must learn to see those opinions as man made boundaries hedging off wandering roots. Keeping tentacle plants from over growing the garden. For whilst the plants might be beautiful in themselves, but when left unmanaged have a way of looking less appealing with every struggle to walk though them.

It’s important to remember that if we do not like the path created by the slabs we can always push them aside by growing strong roots. Don’t forget even bitter roots can still be beneficial.

Stick to one issue at every given time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twice beaten, twice shy.

As a mom, there are moments that take your breathe away, moments that leave you feeling vulnerable, moments when you dread the steps you have to take. Last Saturday I faced one of those ‘moments’, there wasn’t anything exceptional about my circumstances, however, it was:

  1. My first major outing with the little people without my husband to entertain the toddler.
  2. First time out and about on the bus since the baby.
  3. Our first feed in public without the car for privacy.
  4. My first time shouldering a sleeping toddler while feeding a baby in public.

I guess you’re wondering why this is even worth mentioning, I will try to explain. Getting myself ready isn’t much of a problem on a good day, but now I have to remember to put breast pads on to avoid a breastmilk map soaking through my outfit. And believe me, I have come close to forgetting them several times. Secondly I have to get my little girl ready, again this is not a huge task. I have to ensure she goes to the bathroom at least five or ten minutes to leaving the door, to avoid a ‘wee’ dance on the bus. Then I have to pack snack and drink options, for the journey back home when she’s bored and exhausted, but fighting sleep or relaxation with a scary determination. This all pales in the light of getting baby ready and convincing myself it’s safe to go out.

Our checklist for him looks something like this;

  • pack baby bag
  • feed and burp baby (this  can take an unimaginable turn at any point)
  • change nappy
  • dress baby
  • set pram up ready to go ‘cos if he starts feeling too warm in there his alarm bells go off … leaving everyone feeling slightly frazzled. This actually happened a week before, he protested so loudly, his sister and I had to abandon our usual weekend stroll. We were both disappointed, thankfully though the day was rescued by a game of bubbles in the garden. It was freezing and the bubbles nestled in the grass l rather than sailing off in the wind. Regardless, we had some outdoor fun during the frigid December weather. Back to the checklist…
  • Finally run out of the house, hoping toddler does not need another visit to the loo.

Yipppeeeee! Out and about we goooooooooo!

Amazingly we had a lovely time in town, baby didn’t cry and toddler L was happy to have a day out on the bus again. I did forget to take drinks and snacks so I had to make it up to her by getting this 

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Now about that dreaded moment; having been out for two hours I knew the baby would need a feed soon. Faced with dropping temperatures and dark clouds, I had two options one, sit in a shop and feed him while my toddler gets bored and night time draws closer. Or two, get on the bus, feed him whenever he wakes up while getting closer to home. I decided to go with the second option, we made it through the first ten minutes before baby L woke up demanding a feed at the top of his lungs. For some unknown reason, I got nervous. 

You would think that having fed my daughter for fourteen months this won’t be an issue. I had fed her on the bus, in the park, in town, on a flight, at playgroups etc All that experience didn’t make any difference in that moment. Having her asleep on my shoulder added to my state of unrest, but it also reassured me that I had made the right choice to get on the bus. More importantly, it served to remind me that my children’s comfort always comes first before anything else. I fed baby, pillowed my daughters head on my shoulder, managed a chat with family friends (who we bumped into on the bus)and a lady on the opposite aisle who dropped her glasses, all the while maintaining my composure.

Yes, this girl can!

I did take a picture, but sadly it wasn’t a good angle. 

I almost didn’t take them out, there were so many excuses; the weather, baby’s age, managing both kids without the car, etc. I did it though and I learned something from it, take a risk, but always weigh the factors. For example, I made sure to pick a day with the best weather outlook, I also set out with an objective(s) no matter how small or simple. I wanted to break the mold, to take the children out even when the conditions weren’t stellar. I also wanted to get back to taking my toodler out and also return items to the store. Sometimes comfort zones prevent us from appreciating our basic strengths and ability to make good judgement calls.

Trust yourself, trust God in 2018.

 

 

Pride of breastfeeding

A certain pride beats beneath my chest,

like a child riding her bike through the fields

I feel a surge of accomplishment.

As the sound of cheering from family/friend or observers spurs the child on, so is the silence of a suckling babe and the swelling of rosy cheeks against my bosom.

It’s not a contentious pride that comes from outsmarting an opponent, nor the sort that comes from defying a bully.

No.

It’s a pride seated in overcoming one’s own fears, of attaining something we desired, but also feared we couldn’t reach.

Like a child playing my keyboard at the school recital, I have no desire to mock others who can’t play, or choose not to play the keyboard, nor those who play a different tune. I am simply lost in the symphony of my artistry.

Please forgive me if I play out of synch or sing a little too loud; I do not mean to cause offense. I am simply excited to have attained my breastfeeding goals.

Happy breastfeeding week!

One placenta – two people.

One bosom – two people.

Initiated by nature – sustained by a triangle (mother, child, and life).

 

 

Children’s stories

Hi people,

Hope everyone’s having an awesome week? It’s been busy, it’s been interesting and it is certain to get a bit more hectic for me. Regardless I hope to always come back to one of my favourite discoveries since I started this blog; writing short stories for little people.

Thankfully I have wonderful people in my life who every now and again remind me of this love, one of them being my friend Akaji who enquired about Harley and Dory a few days ago. I hope she (and you) reads this and finds it as interesting as the first one. Harley’s update will come sometime in the future but it’s in the works. 

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And if this is your first time reading my stories for little one’s please feel free to read others as well. Hope you enjoy them.

A shell for Herby

Harley

Dory the Dolphin

bubbles 6

Failure to launch; independent children

Failure to launch is a funny movie; Matthew McConaughey plays the lead role of a thirty-five-year-old bachelor who still lives at home with his parents and has no plans of moving out. On the surface the story seems rather straightforward, he’s simply grown cold feet to the idea of living by himself. His friends Ace and Demo are no help either as they both live with their parents at home or so it seems on the surface. Present society frowns a lot at such activities, i.e the idea of a grown adult still ‘living off his parents’. It is seen as the movie is aptly titled a ‘failure of the individual to launch’, a failure of his/her parents to nudge them in the right direction. To snip the apron strings.

We are a very independent generation, we want to spread our wings as far as possible, we want to mount the highest peaks without any aid. Parents are coerced to encourage their offspring to stand on their own two feet as soon as possible literally and figuratively. Teachers, health workers, doctors are encouraged to ask children questions that encourage independence, questions which often lead to a certain desired answer. Parents are encouraged to have sleep routines, codes of behavior and learning objectives for each child. It’s no wonder extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping are frowned upon by a lot of people.

Being independent isn’t the absence of weakness or a presence of stable strength.  Being independent is having the ability to shoulder the level of responsibility appropriate for an individual’s mental and physical state per time. Individuals often aren’t aware of what they can handle which is why life steps in to throw challenges at us. For children, parents are often the tools used to point out these milestones, however, learning or surmounting these milestones must be done by the child with or without the assistance of the parent. How does this relate to extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping?

Let’s go back to the movie, Tripp (the character played by Matthew McConaughey) lives at home with his parents as a result of his fiancees’ death.  He sought solace in the one place he knew he would find it, a move born out of a need. Living at home with his parents was not a problem of any sort at first. Going by his mother’s account, his presence pushed the fear of facing an empty nest with her husband into the distance future. However, at some point his presence did become a strain for them not a bad unbearable strain, rather a strain they could do without if it could be managed in a loving way that left everyone feeling happy. Sadly, in real life we have limited options either to let the process run its cause or we rudely interrupt or we intervene in the most gentle manner we can, ready to soothe ruffled feathers through the process.

This is the same with the case of extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, no one except mother and child should decide when the process has run its due cause. It is not about nutrition as breast milk regardless of age maintains its nutritional value. It is not about independence as no child is self-sufficient at the age in question. Taking into consideration the definition of independence given in the previous paragraph one might be tempted to conclude that extended breastfeeding might hinder a child’s growth. This ideology, however, would be considered unfounded by several studies which have associated high levels of independence in children who experience constant loving and appropriate physical contact with their care givers/ parents.

There are no universal rules or manuals about parenting that fits every situation and life divide. Being independent is very important, a vital component for a balanced adult but we must be careful to help our little ones attain that height without feeling smothered or abandoned. As with everything in the life of your child, you only learn what they need or don’t need by paying attention to them and to your intuition. There is no shame in extended breastfeeding or in stopping at any point, there is, however, a sense of betrayal when your needs or your child’s need are buried under society’s acceptance or any other obligation. Don’t aggressively start the nudge for independence (fashion,mental, diet, health) or ignore the cues of independence either.  

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, but your children will teach you the skills you need provided you don’t juxtapose your desires over them or interpret their needs subjective to your feelings.

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What matters? Does it really matter?

Breastfeeding Poster V2I had no plans of writing a post about this topic as it is one that really divides the ranks. And even as I write it the tune of a solemn nature echoes in my head as I fear that with my words I might be burying myself in murky waters. Gasping dramatically for air, here goes: so the discuss on discreet and indiscreet breastfeeding in public has become a reoccurring motif through the script of normalizing breastfeeding campaigns.

While everyone chants in unison ‘power to the breastfeeding mum, let’s normalize breastfeeding.’

Silent whispers rumble ‘normalizing breastfeeding doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be discreet.’

Silent whispers rumbles  ‘normalizing breastfeeding means we shouldn’t be discreet.’

Prior to writing this post I would probably have fallen firmly on one side of the divide, now I ask myself, what really matters here?

The underlying debate rises from our personalities as individuals which doesn’t change a whole lot with the advent of breastfeeding. Some mums are extremely private people and some are not, this has nothing to do with confidence and everything to do with their personalities. Some mums prior to baby had no issues with showing some flesh; some found a flash of skin a little off putting, and for some it’s the other way round; breastfeeding and motherhood doesn’t rid us of those traits, if anything it further compounds them. For all I know and can remember mothers have breastfeed their young in different places (on the farm, at the market, on the buses etc.), in different ways (covered with a wrapper, shawl, uncovered, breast out, breast underneath etc.) you get the picture.

So why the chasm and why is it widening?breastfeeding 2016

Social media: thanks to this fascinating tool of modern day life which makes it possible to share my thoughts with you, the same tool has the abilities of exaggerating the acts of everyday living into catastrophic levels. Throw social media into schools and kids start to pull all sorts of pranks including online bullying to get attention, throw it into politics and leaders say one thing to be politically correct and recant it via tweeter, throw it into entertainment and the most ludicrous or horrendous actions become entertaining.

With the advent of social media we have all become extremely socially aware. And that’s the essence of social media; to be social with the media and with others who use the media and to unknowingly empower the media that uses us (Ezinne Ukoha). We can now create our own media stories, sadly the media only celebrates or recognizes extreme issues, no one wants to watch normal life on the media. Sadly no matter how awesome and widespread media is, it will always remain a snippet of reality, and though it seems intrusive we must remind ourselves that some of our own works,pictures etc might also seem intrusive to another person.

Secondly the breastfeeding cause is a cocktail of causes as it is a cocktail of personalities: breastfeeding and motherhood generally is a very empowering process. It makes us fierce as tigers, we not only want to feed our children in the best way possible but we also want to give/leave for them a world with equal rights and privileges for everyone. And it’s on this second note that we start to differ a bit. The picture of what the best world is differs for each of us, not in the all so big details but in the tiny ones that become obvious on closer inspection. It’s like those spot the difference puzzles, the general picture looks the same, some of the differences jump right out at you, others take a while to spot, some matter, and others don’t. More importantly each person takes a different amount of time to solve the puzzle.

What is the point here? We have mums who are activists, feminists, conservative, naturist, and so many other terms which describe people. At the end of the day the common thread between all of them is that they’re breastfeeding mums and that’s all that counts.

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Best way forward:

Stick to the cause that matters to you per time; for this week and beyond its breastfeeding. Strip off all the other labels and find the common ground – we want more breastfeeding mums and there is no single format for reaching out to everyone because there is no single format for being the best mum except putting the well-being of your child first.

We are all making statements on a daily basis with our choices, breastfeeding is no different; discreet/indiscreet you’re telling /showing the world how nature intended for us to feed our babies in way that suits you best. Doing what makes you comfortable, working at your own pace and a healthy baby is all the empowerment you need.

Whatever cocktail you make of your motherhood journey if you can remember where you came from, where you’re and most importantly where next you want to go I say rock on.