On my first, technical, Mother’s Day, I was about 36 weeks pregnant with my daughter. I remember feeling torn between celebrating and not, mostly because I was pretty anxious with my first pregnancy and didn’t want anything to jinx it. My all-knowing husband was aware of my feelings and when I made a passing comment to him as to why he didn’t get me a card he echoed my sentiments to the effect of “I figured you wouldn’t want to celebrate just yet.” To be fair, there was enough celebrating the pending arrival of the first grandchild.
Last month we flew to San Diego for my cousin’s wedding. We made it a quick trip – in Friday night and out Sunday morning. Traveling with two to a hotel is enough for another post, so I’ll spend this one on the souvenir I brought home with me – Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.
Technically we had it before we got there. The Tuesday prior my daughter had a fever. Friday on the flight my son had a fever. My son had a rash that Saturday and one small mouth sore. My daughter and son were blessed with about 10 “blisters” a piece, so I got the brunt of the virus.
I’m writing this because while I was suffering through this I found solace in personal posts about people’s experiences. While the medical websites helped, they didn’t give me a specific idea of what might happen day in and day out. Hopefully this will help you if you’re searching for some answers.
When my daughter was born, we quickly and relatively easily began a long and enjoyable breastfeeding relationship.
When my son was born, I expected it to be the same way.
Turns out it’s true what everyone has told me – no two babies are the same.
While my son latched decently at the start, it quickly turned into a fight to get him to latch and stay latched. I was pumping like mad right when he was born because I wanted to be able to store my excess milk to donate, but it turned out that milk went directly to my son since breastfeeeing was a struggle.
I was keeping up relatively well with his hunger level (which was very high in my opinion), though sometimes I was only one bag of milk away from not having anything either in my breasts or in the fridge. I knew formula was an option, but since I never used formula with my daughter I was trying not to use it with my son. I kept some on hand though just in case (and did the same with my daughter until we were almost done breastfeeding).
One night, a few weeks in, he was screaming bloody murder and would not latch. I had no more pumped milk. I had to give him formula.
I knew it was ok to do so, but it still upset me. Moreso that I wasn’t able to provide him breastmilk, but I still had a prejudice against formula. As much as I had told myself and others that “Fed Is Best!” I didn’t fully believe it.
After that night we supplemented with formula for a month or so while he got a better hang of breastfeeding. Now I pump about once a day and if he needs additional food he’ll get that. And since I still can’t guarantee he will latch when he needs to eat, I always bring formula powder and water when we go out.
I no longer have the stigma I used to have about formula because I’m simply grateful I can feed my baby whenever he needs to be fed. I know some mothers can’t do that. I saw a video of a child in Aleppo and the mother said she could only give her child milk every week or so. I can’t fathom their situation, and know I am blessed to have access to a surplus of food.
It turns out that first night I gave him formula he was screaming because he needed to suck something to soothe himself, not because he needed more food. As soon as he had a few sips he was asleep. But it broke down my barrier on using formula and allowed me to fully believe the mantra of Fed Is Best, regardless of formula or breast.
I can’t believe the year is almost over. That means my daughter is two and a half years old. 2.5 years since this little (now much bigger) child entered our lives. It’s even more of a striking difference between her starting size and her current size now that we have a newborn in the house, too. My daughter seems enormous!
What else is enormous is her choice in this quarter’s books. Most of these books are age appropriate, but some are big. And long. And I have to find a way to read them FAST because I can’t handle yet another repetition of a 30 page child-novel.
I will say, however, that reading her these enormous books must be helping her vocabulary and sentence structure because this little girl of mine speaks so darn well and clearly for her age. It helps me, as well, to speak more clearly and properly after I read these books aloud. It’s almost as if I can still learn a thing or two…
All right. Onto the books.
I had an epiphany this afternoon as I was thinking about hand-me-down baby clothes from my daughter to my son. My train of thought went a little something like this:
It’s too bad we have these adorable girl clothes that my son won’t be wearing.
Well who cares if he wears “girl clothes?”
What do I care if someone in a store calls him a girl?
I just have to correct them.
But why do people feel the need to determine a baby’s sex based on their clothes?
Why does boy=blue and girl=pink? (I know the answer to that but for the sake of this personal discussion I had with myself let’s move on.)
So if my son wears clothes that are mainly pink, someone will say “Oh she’s so cute!” (This happened to my daughter numerous times when she was in blue (and even sometimes while in pink so who knows…).)
And what does it matter to them to say she or he?
And that’s when the lightbulb went off.
In this world where we are trying to promote more understanding and tolerance for those who may fit into a different “category” than we do, it is important for people to know the proper gender pronoun to use when referring to someone so they can be sure they are respecting that other person in one of the most base ways you can. Obviously the best thing you can do is respectfully ask what pronoun(s) they prefer you use, however you can’t really do that with babies, can you?
Even I, as a cisgender female who receives the proper pronoun 100% of the time, find it important for me to understand what someone else wants to be called. I have never been in that situation where I have been uncomfortable with someone calling me by the incorrect pronoun, but I try to make an effort to be as understanding as I can in any given situation. And this is no different.
So why, then, do I get upset when someone wants to refer to my child with a proper gender pronoun based on one of the only obvious visual clues they have – clothing? Because let’s face it – even if we think our daughter is the most beautiful little girl we’ve ever seen, to someone who isn’t familiar with babies they may not be able to tell if she is a she or if she is perhaps a he. So they look to the clothing to help them.
Maybe instead of being annoyed I can simply look at it as a learning experience for both sides – I’m learning patience and understanding and the other person (if incorrect) is learning that perhaps you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Before my daughter was born, we were gifted a lot of hand-me-down clothing from a local friend. I was ecstatic. Tons of great clothes in tons of different brands that we didn’t have to buy, all ready for the wearing.
I organized based on tag size because, I assumed, children’s clothing was like most adult clothing in which the size was pretty standard across the board. I washed and folded onesies and pants and tee shirts and was quite happy with my setup – all organized how I like it.
Then she was born. And then she started to wear these clothes. And that’s when the problem started.
Five and a half years ago, I was in the throes of wedding planning. I am a planner and organizer at heart, plus a crafter and doer and an “I can do it all myself-er.” That makes for a bit of a stressful time when putting everything together for your big day.
In one of the hundreds of blogs I visited during those planning days, I came across a bit of advice I have not yet forgotten. It’s changed my perspective and the way I handle new situations. It’s short, simple, easy to remember, and something I keep in my back pocket as a mantra that I’ve used handfuls of times since I first read it.
“You are not the first person to ______.”