on tandem nursing

I had never thought much about infant feeding until I found myself pregnant with my first child and inundated with information about breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding, on demand versus scheduled feeding, etc. etc. etc. It was overwhelming.

My first kid had a few issues with breastfeeding to start off, mainly due to his tongue tie. It took a few weeks to get into a real rhythm and every few months there was a new challenge. Despite all that thought we continued to breastfeed on demand for the first 21 months of his life. Then we night weaned, mainly because I was having such strong nursing aversions during my pregnancy, but also because I could not imagine night nursing TWO kids. Up until then he was nursing approximately every 2-3 hours when I was around – he was also in full-time daycare so we would sometimes go 6-8 hours without nursing but he would usually make up for this with extra night time feeds. The first night that he was able to sleep next to me without waking for night nursing was incredible!

Then my second kid came along and I thought I was an expert on breastfeeding. I soon realized that I was not at all prepared for the wonders and difficulties of tandem nursing. The first few weeks I felt I had to hide from my toddler to feed the newborn. I tried nursing both at once a few times but always had strong aversions to this. It took a few months before we settled into a new pattern, and by then the infant was changing his schedule and we had to readjust again. I was fortunate that my second child was much more easy-going with breastfeeding, and was sleeping 4-6 hours straight by 4 months old. Quite a difference from his older brother.

I now have a 3 1/2 year old and a (almost) 1 1/2 year old who are still both nursing. My eldest has gone weeks at a time without nursing but there are still days when he asks (such as today, which is what prompted me to write this). When he does nurse he rarely stays latched on longer than a few seconds, but it is definitely still very important to him that he can still have “booba” when he needs/wants to.

I am also pregnant, with another little one expected to join us earthside sometime early in the new year. Unlike the last time around I have already come to peace with the fact that by then my infant’s breastfeeding needs will be quite different from what they are now. I have no intention of trying to wean either kid although I’m still considering night weaning the little one so that the newborn can at least have all of my attention during those first few weeks. This is more for my own mental health than anything else, and I plan to wait until near the end of my pregnancy to do this although I am open to doing it sooner if I find myself having aversions again.

I guess the point of this post is to provide a quick summary of what breastfeeding has been like for us so far, but also to give some background before I begin sharing the journey from here on out. I hope that I will be able to share more about our tandem nursing struggles and successes in real time. While there are many breastfeeding resources out there, I have not been exposed to many women who tandem nurse and/or nurse a pre-schooler, and I only know of one black blogger sharing her experiences with extended breastfeeding. I hope that by sharing my own story I will be able to add to the important dialogues occurring about infant feeding, and to show other parents that not only is tandem nursing possible, but it is actually one way to help siblings form a secure attachment both with one another and with their parents.

On anti-Black racism (Canadian)

When I first thought of starting a blog I wondered whether I truly had anything to add. Are there not already a plethora of parenting blogs? What could I possibly add to the conversation? But then I started to pay attention, like REALLY pay attention, to which voices are represented and which are not.

I’ve always been aware that as a Black woman my image and voice is either underrepresented or misrepresented. But as I began to think about raising my children and searching for resources for the challenges I was facing, I struggled to find anyone who was both Black AND Canadian. For a while I thought this was reflective of a lack of need. Maybe there really is no difference between being Black in Canada and Black in the USA. Maybe it was enough that there were some great Black parenting blogs and it didn’t matter that none were Canadian. Or maybe there really isn’t much racism in Canada, which seems to be the general consensus in the mainstream parenting groups I have come across.

But then….

In 2016, following an investigation by the Toronto Star revealing that Black children are hugely over-represented in care, a ministry-funded review of the Children’s Aid Society recommended changes at every level in order to dismantle the systemic anti-Black racism within the organization.

In November 2016 a school trustee used a racial slur when addressing a Black parent. (After a lot of pressure from community members she eventually resigned.)

In April 2017 a review of a local school board revealed “systemic discrimination” which echoed what parents have been saying for years.

Finally last month, June 2017, an inquest was held into the July 2015 shooting of Andrew Loku by a police officer. The inquest jury put forward a number of recommendations for addressing anti-Black racism within Toronto Police Services. (Although the coroner’s inquest ruled the death a homicide, no charges are being laid.)

And it became clear to me that not only is racism a huge Canadian problem, but anti-Black racism in particular underlies many of the systems which my children and I will rely upon. And I began to interact with other Black and racialized parents who are feeling the same way. My initial instinct had been right, our voices are missing not because we don’t exist but because in a strange Canadian twist, it has been seen as impolite to discuss racism. Our voices had been “swept under the rug”.

So while I have already started this blog, I have become more and more aware of the fact that anti-Black racism in Canada is both insidious and systemic. And that there is absolutely a need to both address this racism, and to share resources and experiences amongst ourselves to help navigate this racism. There is something unique about Canadian racism, something that distinguishes it from that in the USA, and which needs to be exposed and discussed. I hope to provide a space here for those of us who are living this racism every day to both unpack what racism looks like here, and to share how we are working towards dismantling it through our parenting.

I look forward to hearing from all of you about the challenges of raising Black/racialized Canadian children and to sharing my own journey!

 

On grief

We all react differently to death.

Shock. I went to the funeral…not many people were there.

Grief. I knew him when he was young…he was the nicest guy I knew.

Sadness. I hadn’t spoken to him in a few years…I don’t know why we drifted apart.

Denial. I don’t believe it…it can’t be true.

 

We mourn in our own ways. But as a community.

We heal past wounds.

Forgive those we had not. Humble ourselves.

Death reminds us how to be human. To need one another.

 

There are some things you just don’t do.

Never tell someone without making sure they are safe. Never at night.

If there’s a memorial, you go. It doesn’t matter how well you knew them. When you last spoke.

We show up for each other.

We don’t have life insurance, we have each other.

 

We mourn as a community.

 

As a community. One less.

We mourn.

 

RIP my friend

on community loss #RIP

My community is what drives everything that I do, and what gives me purpose and guides my academic work. I define and redefine community continuously, as life requires it.

Those we have lost as a community, are the ones that I remember. The ones I carry with me each day, the ones that I think of when I feel like giving up and giving in. There are days when I mourn their loss. But more often there are days when I remember their lives, their smiles, their joy, their beauty, and their unfulfilled dreams. No one is brought to this earth without purpose. And no one leaves without fulfilling it.

So I get through the struggle and keep on keeping on, because I know that their lives meant more than their deaths. I remember them. I honour their memories the only way I am able. I write for them and I know that they are watching over us guiding our community.

Rest in Power. Peace be with you all.

**Please be warned some of these stories are graphic, may be triggering and all of them contain details about their deaths.

Melake Worku and Ahmed Mohamed

Alex “Rambo” Isaac

Nahom Tsehaie Berhane

Tsige

 

Russom Yordanos and child

Amleset Haile

On raising race-conscious kids

There are some things that are just hard to put into words sometimes. This is one of those times. Story here; synopsis: a viral story about a little white boy who is getting a haircut so he can look like his “black buddy” and trick their teacher.

This story does not sit right with me for so many reasons. The more I learn the details the worse I feel. Because I know it’s supposed to be a feel-good story about two little boys who don’t see race, and isn’t the world such a beautiful place, if only we could all be so innocent…

But…….really? Are we all going to sit here and watch a story go globally viral because it “proves that a colour-blind world is possible”? It’s just too much. I see the reasons why so many people find this adorable. But, it’s also really not. The little black boy in this video is in for a rude awakening. In fact, I find it difficult to believe that he hasn’t already been introduced to or noticed that he is black. Especially given that his parents are not (he’s adopted…from Congo…as the video mentions). Not to mention that clearly the only reason this story is getting so much attention, or why it was even shared to begin with is because everyone else sees this boy’s race. So if he hasn’t noticed it yet, he’ll be sure to start asking questions now. This story is basically outing him.

But I honestly find it hard to believe this child has not noticed that his skin is darker than that of both his friend and his parents. My three year-old is aware of race. Sometimes the language fails them, but they notice skin colour just like they notice hair colour and all the other colours around them. Sometimes we talk about race. And my partner and I of course talk about it a lot. And although I might wish I didn’t need to think about these things it comes up in simple decisions like choosing which school to register at for kindergarten.

Being able to ignore race, or even celebrate a child who is “innocent” to race and racism, is a privilege that not all parents have. So for the media to take this story and just keep repeating it without any critical thought or discussion…well. It’s tiring. And I’m not here for it. Racism is a real thing, whether or not some people choose not to “see it”. So let’s teach our children what it is, and work with them to change the system so that they can live in a world where all children are able to hang on to their innocence. Anything else is not good enough.

On being black in Canada

This week in Canadian news to incidents occurred. Two separate completely unrelated events with nothing to do with each other. Or so some people seem to be arguing. Despite the similarities and obvious racism in both incidents (in my experience) some seem to think there is no proof that either was “motivated by racism”.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care about motivation. It doesn’t matter that it’s possible (although unlikely) that neither woman had any realization that they were addressing a person of colour. I don’t care. Because I am not here to centralize the feelings of the offenders. Both of these women were in the wrong. And there is a deep and long history behind the racial stereotypes which they imposed on these young people.

Let’s focus on the what these two must have felt. Fact is, racism exists. All around. All the time. And if you’re not white you experience this racism. All around. All the time. And since I personally have experienced both of these and worse, in Canada, I can tell you that being in a situation where you KNOW you are being racially profiled but the person is being polite, is THE WORST FEELING. Both of these young people were more collected and calm than the offender deserved. Because they have both been here before, and they are exhausted.

I’m exhausted too. It is exhausting to read these stories. It is even more exhausting to read racism deniers try and explain why it’s never racism. I’m not here for it. So please, don’t even bother.

Here are the two incidents:

A black man was physically assaulted by a white woman. And the internet came to her defense. Video and story here.

A black man was racially profiled (by a white woman) and found guilty of “being black while shopping”:

Happy Family Day!

Making time to be completely present with our family, however you define that, is one of the most important things in life. Such a simple, intuitive thing, but it has taken me many years to realize this. I continue to learn, continue to make mistakes and grow from them, continue to define (and redefine) who my family is. Being a mother has helped me rediscover the power and resilience of the feminine. My maternal consciousness has awoken, and with it my understanding of sisterhood, black womanhood and divine energy. As I continue to grow and learn I invite you to follow my journey.

Balance

One of the most common questions I see on parenting forums is ‘how do you balance it all?’. Between parenting, school, extracurricular (volunteer) work and life’s everyday necessities I often find myself struggling to answer the question. Because while it’s true that somehow or another my partner and I have managed to make it through the last 3 years of parenting, if I actually stop to think about it I can’t explain how we balance it all.

Our current situation is a perfect example of how precariously our lives are set up. My partner works 3 1/2 days a week, while I’m home with the kids and then he stays home for 1 1/2 days while I’m in class. Technically we’re both “off” on the weekend, but that’s also the only time I have set aside to study. Since I’m currently taking 3 courses and a teaching assistant for another course, I’m supposed to find 27 hours a week to study and another 5-10 hours a week to grade assignments or plan lessons. Our youngest is still breastfeeding on demand, including throughout the night, and our toddler also needs help falling asleep. This means we both spend 5pm-8pm(ish) every evening doing our usual bedtime routine (dinner, bath, reading and/or nursing). So in reality, the only time left for studying is on the weekends, also the only time left for housework, groceries, laundry, meal prep, cooking etc. So I sneak my school studies in between all of these other things, and work around my infant’s nap schedule (ideally 2 naps a day).

And all of this was working for the first 5 weeks of the semester…until my infant and I both came down with some as-of-yet undetermined illness with symptoms including ear infections (both of us), a fever (baby, not me) and general fatigue. The fact that the baby is also getting molars and in constant pain from that has also meant very little sleep. In fact the baby that has been sleeping 6 hours a night since 4 months old, has been unable to sleep without being propped up on me and one of my nipples in their mouth. Did I mention the high fever? So I’ve felt like I’m in bed with a hot water bottle that bites!

Well, thankfully the worst has passed and we are now recovering. Which means I can turn my attention back to the dozens of emails waiting in my inbox, as well as the THREE assignments that are now due in the next 10 days (one of which is overdue and another which I have to redo because I wrote it while fighting this illness and obviously was not completely coherent at the time). So as I sit here looking at a calendar with not enough hours in the day, completely overwhelmed and a bit bitter (why, oh why, did I CHOOSE to be in school again?!?!) I keep coming back to that question. How do you balance it? How do you balance a full-time job (parenting) with a full-time job (school for me, work for my partner), while also finding time to care for yourself?

The answer seems to be that you don’t. You find a way to set short-term goals and get through one day at a time. You ask for help (in my case from my partner, my family, my classmates even). You forget anything unessential, and redefine the word essential. You focus on the big picture and remind yourself that this is a short-term situation (school will be finished soon, little ones will be independent and won’t need us so much). You try to be grateful for what you have (again, my partner, my family, my classmates). You learn to do without (money, time, energy). And you hope, pray, beg, manifest, envision it all to work out, knowing that there are many, many others going through the same, or more. You remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And most of all you keep going. One day at a time. Because sooner or later, something’s got to give.