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.

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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!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Immigrant

I am an immigrant.

My parents were refugees, fleeing a civil war in which my father fought. I was born along the way, on the journey from there to here. From the motherland, the land of origins. A warm country, noble, enduring, steady. To here. An unpredictable place, a cold country built on stolen land by a nation of people who still struggle to acknowledge their place in history as oppressors. Colonizers.

Immigrant. A person living in a foreign land.

Foreign. Not your own.

That is what we are. Never belonging, always searching for a place that fits just right. Looking for a space that is ours.

My children are the first generation born on this soil. What does it mean? For me, as a mother. For them, as black children. Immigration amplifies the generation gap. Will it affect my ability to understand my children? To prepare them sufficiently for what they will face, to overcome life’s challenges. Will they find a place to settle?

Or will they roam, like we do, searching for a place that fits just  right. Looking for a space that is ours.

Seeking a home of our own.

Just another mommy blog

I have been a mother for just over two years now, and a mother of two for almost two months. When my eldest child was born I considered starting a parenting blog, but didn’t because a) I was too overwhelmed with keeping my baby alive! and b) I thought there were many other moms out there writing about the same things that I would. I was on maternity leave for the first 9 months of my child’s life and during this time I read, watched and talked about nothing other than parenting. I have always been an avid reader but I found myself gravitating towards parenting books and blogs and agonized over things such as breastfeeding, infant sleeping habits, birth and post-partum health and something called “attachment parenting”. I joined parenting forums, facebook groups, and support groups. I surrounded myself with other parents (mainly mothers) and spent almost every waking minute with my child.

Then, suddenly, my leave was over and I found myself back in the company of adults again. I was a full-time graduate student, juggling an infant with no full-time child care arrangement. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, I found myself settling quickly into a routine which included doing my academic readings while nursing my baby to sleep. I began to read journal articles and text books, and occasionally found time for pleasure reading as well. When I found out I was pregnant with my second I vowed not to get sucked back into the world of parenting blogs and online groups, and to stay connected with “the outside world”. Instead, a few hours after giving birth to my second child, I found myself turning to my parenting groups for advice and commiseration as we were forced to leave the baby in the NICU. Soon, I was sucked back into the endless conversations about diapers, nursing and parenting and I forgot all about my plans to keep up with my academic readings while on maternity leave. But something was different this time.

Whereas the first time around I had found the parenting forums to be full of knowledge and wisdom, this time I found myself applying the same critical lens that I had grown accustomed to in my academic work. In addition, as a second-time mother I found myself just as likely to be giving advice as to be asking for it. As a result, I soon began to notice that the parenting forums which I had considered to be safe spaces for all parents to ask questions and discuss the challenges of raising children…were not created for all. I began to notice racist, gendered, homophobic and ableist language being used. I started to name these things and to engage in dialogues with others about the problematic assumptions being made. And I soon found that this type of critical discussion was neither welcome nor wanted.

After a number of threads got out of hand with name-calling and personal attacks against myself and other racialized or queer parents I realized that these so-called parenting groups, were in truth meant for white, cis female mothers. I was welcome to participate as long as I stayed in my place, and my attempts to bring awareness to the oppression occuring within the groups resulted only in my being labelled an angry, black woman (literally, repeatedly). I began to have anxiety when I logged into facebook and saw notifications from certain parenting groups, and my inbox was filled with private messages from racialized and queer parents who themselves felt excluded and oppressed. For a while, I simply retreated. I erased my conversations and comments and decided to hide notifications from some groups. There was only one group where I felt safe (eventually two because I found a feminist parenting group). I decided to stay in  one of the local groups solely for the fact that it was a great resource for certain things, but I stopped engaging in conversations that had any potential to become problematic. I stopped naming oppressive language or posts. I began to search for blogs by parents whose experiences more closely resembled mine and I realized that parenting blogs are also more likely to be written by and for white mothers. And as this realization sunk in, I began to think about how much I had depended on these avenues for support with my first child and it saddened me to feel so alone and isolated this time around. It didn’t feel fair, and I wondered if other parents felt the same. So I decided that perhaps it was time to create this blog after all.

Perhaps somewhere out there is a mom (or dad) who is looking for a safe space to discuss their thoughts and challenges with parenting and although I don’t have all the answers, maybe I could help to create a space for them to do so. I hope that this blog will help someone out there, or will help me connect with other parents and feel less alone. And so I have begun this journey, and look forward to seeing where it takes me. Because all parents deserve to find a place to go to share, ask questions or simply complain about the stresses and challenges of raising children. I hope that this space will serve to be that place for some, but at the very least I have found a place to share my own struggles and victories.