Monday, April 11, 2011

Standing - it's good for you!

This weekend, we walked to a neighborhood park so Alice could play like a real baby. I drive past the park every day but we'd never explored it before. We were pleased to find that it's geared towards the littler kids, with a fenced in playground surrounded by a big, green lawn. The only swings are tiny-tot-sized, the play structure is a nice scale for smaller climbers (and their parents!), and there are plenty of toys for playing in the sand. I was also delighted to see that they have some resident Little Tykes Cozy Coupes!

Alice took her first ride in a proper swing, but was only interested in the bigger girl (probably seven or so?) swinging next to her. Jon also took her down the slide but she only wanted to shyly and quietly watch the other kids play. There wasn't anywhere to sit inside the play area, so we parked ourselves under a tree in the grass on a slight hill overlooking the action. Alice was transfixed. She just wanted to stand and watch the big kids. She even practiced standing without support for a few seconds at a time. That involved a lot of wobbling, over-correcting, and sudden sitting. She was horrified when she fell forward and planted her hands in the grass. She had no problem sitting in the grass though, since she was wearing jeans and shoes, but she was definitely not keen on touching it with any naked skin.

Anyway, while Alice is working on learning to stand, I'm learning to stand at work. No, really, I stand up at work now. All day.

I've been seeing a lot of information on how sitting down all day is very detrimental to one's health, but I didn't think I had any alternative. A lot of computer artists here use adjustable desks that can be raised and lowered to standing or sitting positions throughout the day. I asked if I could also use one, but it wasn't a possibility for my space. After the holidays, when I was finally sure that Alice had outgrown the exercise ball, I brought it to the office and swapped it for my fancy desk chair. I figured that the effort needed to balance on the ball had to be an improvement over just plopping in my chair. I'm not the only one who has an exercise ball in my office but nearly everyone who passed by commented or asked me about it. I told someone that it was my alternative to standing, since I couldn't stand at my desk, and they asked me, "why not?" And I thought, "why not, indeed?" So I decided to just make it happen.

My first great idea was to just add a bunch of feet to the riser I was using for my laptop. When I inquired about getting 20 little feet, our office resources guy raised an eyebrow and put the kibosh on that plan. He reminded me that our office was testing out an arm attachment for desks that raised and lowered a computer keyboard and monitor. Our handy man came to install it and we both agreed that it was huge and cumbersome and totally obtrusive. I took him up on his offer to rig up a podium for my monitor and keyboard, and he made me a beauty out of salvaged shelves that match the desk exactly. So here I am, standing up all day. I still have my ball handy and I sit down for quick phone calls or when people stop by to chat. The office ergonomic department gave me a supportive mat to stand on, but it's not nearly as cushy as the ones the cashiers use at our Trader Joe's. Next time I'm there, I'll have to ask where they get theirs! 

Even though I'm definitely not the only one standing in this building, there are still plenty of questions and comments, I'm thinking of making a little fact sheet I can just post on the wall next to me! From what I can read, there are a lot of benefits to standing up at work, instead of spending all day sitting. Here are some convincing quotes from a couple of the recent articles that swayed me:

"Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.”

"In 2009, Katzmarzyk studied the lifestyle habits of more than 17,000 men and women and found that the people who sat for almost the entire day were 54 percent more likely to end up clutching their chests than those who sat for almost none of the time. That's no surprise, of course, except that it didn't matter how much the sitters weighed or how often they exercised. "The evidence that sitting is associated with heart disease is very strong," says Katzmarzyk. "We see it in people who smoke and people who don't. We see it in people who are regular exercisers and those who aren't. Sitting is an independent risk factor."

"Why your desk job is slowly killing you." by Maria Masters - Men's Health Oct. 2010 

I'm hoping to see calorie-burning results soon, but I already feel like I have more energy and am using more energy day-to-day, my knees and back feel stronger, and I am definitely more productive and efficient. I hear that I may be standing in good company with the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway. Alice will be standing soon, too. I hope she knows I'm doing this for her...

Monday, April 4, 2011

i carry your heart with me

paper cut by julene harrison of madebyjulene paper cuts

This is my favorite poem. I recently committed it to memory so I could enjoy it whenever I want, and I recite it to Alice often. I loved all of the pieces on julene harrison's site when I stumbled across it, but this one is a particular favorite and I just wanted to share!

e.e. cummings - i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Friday, April 1, 2011

i miss her sweet milk breath.

image via marvelous kiddo via A CUP OF JO via the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia
Alice decided she was done breastfeeding. She just wasn't interested anymore. We were pretty much down to AM feedings only, right when she woke up, with occasional PM feedings. And then she just stopped. I kept offering, but she was just done.

I knew this was coming, it had been winding down over the last month or two. A few weeks ago, I was agonizing over whether I should just pull the plug or keep dragging it out as long as I possibly could. My supply had fallen off to practically nothing, and it was becoming increasingly tedious to expend so much effort for almost no reward. But I wanted her to get the maximum benefit. I'd hoped to breastfeed her for the recommended year, for maximum benefit to us both. I just wasn't ready to call it quits simply because it was tedious. Frankly, I just wasn't ready to quit.

I was tired of visiting the lactation room four times a day, but I wasn't tired of the special bonding time with Alice. Unfortunately, even those precious moments we shared were getting shorter and shorter and less and less enjoyable for both of us. I was getting ready to end it but just couldn't bring myself to do it. When I asked Jon for his opinion, I accidentally opened the emotional floodgates that I'd been holding back during my own internal debates. I cried and cried and cried, so sad that this phase of her babyhood was coming to an end.

My cryfest helped clear all the emotions that were clouding my ability to make a decision. I let myself mourn the obviously imminent end and decided to follow Alice's lead. I had about a week to come to terms with the inevitability before she ended it. I could have continued pumping as long as I was able, but I just couldn't see the point when I was only getting half an ounce during the work day and Alice wouldn't nurse to help with her end of the supply and demand equation. 

So it's over. This is the first full week that I've been a free woman, I haven't had my body to myself for over 20 months. I'm still getting used to the freedom, I feel a little panicky when I think I've missed a pumping time and then a little choked up when I remember that I don't need to worry about it any more. Though I am sad that this stage has ended, I'm also glad for my physical independence. It means I can eat cheese again (since Alice couldn't tolerate the dairy), or even ice cream, if I feel like it - and I do. It also means I can run during my lunch breaks again instead of hanging out in the exclusive mom lounge. Which is great because I'll really need to run off the extra calories if I'm going to binge on cheese and ice cream. The magical metabolic effects of breastfeeding have ended just as suddenly as the magical mother/child bonding moments. 

I'm also very glad that this happened naturally, and at Alice's direction. I'm grateful that I won't have the heartbreak of withholding that comfort from her. I'm glad, for her sake, that she no longer needed or wanted that comfort. She wasn't asking for it at all in the end and doesn't seem to miss the act or the byproduct whatsoever. She doesn't even notice. At our last visit six or so weeks ago, the doctor said that Alice would be OK without breast milk or formula whenever she was weaned, as long as she was getting plenty of liquid with her solid meals, having plenty of wet diapers, and taking an iron vitamin. It would have been great if we made it a year, but ten months (six months exclusive) is still far better than the national average - only 43% are still breastfeeding at 6 months, and only 13% are exclusively breastfed up to that point. So she's in fine shape, it's just me that is still adjusting.

I remember how much it hurt at first, how hard it was to figure out if we were doing it right, or she was getting enough, when and how often to feed her. Once we got the hang of it, I remember feeling like I was going to spend 40-60 minutes of every 120-180 minutes for the rest of my life trapped, immobilized by a snuffling, hungry animal. I remember falling asleep on the couch in the nursery (more than a few times), waking up with Alice still nursing, hours after we began. I remember feeding her in bed, dozing in the early mornings when we were still fooling ourselves about sleeping in. Those were some of my favorite times. I remember people laughing at the very satisfied moaning she indulged in during meal times. I remember how specifically cute and perfect her little face looked, peeking up at me, and when she learned to smile without losing her grip, which made her look so mischievous, like she was about to say something hilarious. Whenever she slept in my arms, I would always breathe in her sweet, sweet milk breath. 

This isn't the first or last stage of her growing up, growing farther away from me, but breastfeeding was the last physical connection between our bodies. She's her own complete being now. One of the biggest changes? She doesn't have sweet, milk breath any more. And I miss it.