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The 52 Project- 2016 – 1/52

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: Always in character, usually in costume. Pure gold.

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Isis: So close to your first birthday I can hardly believe it. Such a big personality for such a small body.

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I told myself that this year I would post every week as the weeks went by. Well, that obviously didn’t happen. I could blame not having a laptop but really it’s more because I have two kids mostly at home, I have my own micro business that I do from home and editing photos just isn’t high on my list of priorities when the day nears its end and I finally have an hour to myself. So they’ll be late, but they’ll be here eventually. Without titles most of time this year because it’s just easier not to. Happy new 52 year!

52/52 – The End

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: And then you were 4. I swear you only just turned 3. Your favourite things these days are eating ice cream, dressing up, listening to Star Wars, reading Star Wars books, playing Fireman Sam and bossing people around.

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Isis: In a short month you will turn 1. I sometimes wish we could go back, that we could do parts of this year over again. But I’d always want you to stay the same. You are perfect.

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That’s a wrap for this year! I will most likely do another round of the 52 project next year but this time I won’t start until we hit January. (Which is tomorrow come to think of it!) Happy New Year from all of us!

xx Dida

51/52- Delights

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: On the cusp of 4 you are a force to be reckoned with. A big, bright personality with the most vivid imagination. You rarely stay quiet for anything other than reading, the occasional tv watching and sleeping. You’re a fantastic storyteller and you love people. Your passion shines through in everything you do. You run from morning until night. You love big and hard, you fight big and hard. You challenge me more than anything ever has. You are an amazing little person and I am forever grateful for the privilege to be your mother.

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Isis: My baby Isis Indigo. How you’ve swept us all off our feet this year. I can hardly remember what life was like before knowing you. You complete us. What a delightful bundle of joy you are. (Please learn to sleep soon.)

50/52 -Memories

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: Hanging out with your best friend on a warm, sunny day. Running around naked, eating sausages, fighting, laughing, rolling in the grass. This is what great childhood memories are made of.

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Isis: Keeping an eye on me as I work. Look at you, growing at lighting speed. It’s such a cliché to say you’re growing up too fast but you are.

49/52 – Dressed up

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: You’d make a great woodland pixie. Fierce, beautiful and adventurous. (Gorgeous pixie bonnet handmade by Abbotsford Knits.)

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Isis: This is probably one of my favourite photos of you from this series. From that small sliver of time you’d let me prop things on your head without question.

48/52 – Sunday

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: Helping out in the kitchen making Sunday pancakes.

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Isis: Enjoy a bit of nudie time before dinner.

The Milk Wars

I wrote this post months ago, back in June to be exact. It’s been sitting here waiting. (I’ve edited it to reflect her age now.) I excused it with needing photos or a final edit. Or a better opening or ending. In the end I realised I was just making excuses because the words, the story they tell, still hits me a place where it hurts. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little. But it’s still a story I need to tell so here it is.

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Art history is riddled with them, serene images of mothers breastfeeding their babies. It looks like the most natural, effortless thing ever. After all boobs and babies are meant to go together right? Right…

I breastfed my son for almost 2,5 years. It didn’t come naturally to us, we struggled to get there but we got there, sort of. In hindsight I’m not sure we ever really did it ‘right’, he was always a poor latcher but I made milk and he was fed and happy so it can’t have been all wrong. So when my daughter was born I thought surely this time things would be easier.

Yesterday my daughter turned 11 months old. And that marked 11 months of battling to breastfeed her.

She was in a hurry to be born, my little Isis. Once she was we took our time to just soak each other up. We spent a long time skin to skin feeling each other out and moving closer to that first feed. It didn’t come easy. Once she latched she kept falling off growing tired and frustrated. Every feed was like this. I asked to see a lactation consultant at the hospital before going home but it was the weekend so no one ever came and I was only staying for 12 hours.  I told my midwives about our troubles but nothing happened. My breasts were sore and painful but it was difficult to distinguish between the normal aches and pains of my milk coming in, baby learning to feed and possible other problems. For the first week I had to peel skin off my nipples (so-called blebs) to keep them from becoming blocked. It was just as bad as it sounds. One of my midwives asked how the feeds were progressing and I remember saying that they were marginally better. Marginally, when you’re in a world of pain isn’t good. I told them about leaking milk while feeding, clicking, lack of suction, the pain and how it didn’t feel as if she emptied the breast. But it somehow always got lost in the mix. Most things do with a newborn and they definitely do when you throw another kid and sleep deprivation in to the mix.

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For the first few weeks I had to get up with my daughter at night to feed her. We co-sleep so it would have been more beneficial (for me, I suppose) to stay in bed but because she was such a terrible latcher I had to see properly to try my best to minimise the discomfort and help her. I’d try flipping her lips out but she’d pull back and curl them back under. At every appointment we had I told nurses and midwives this. No bells rang. One midwife saw her feed once but with breasts bursting with milk and a tiny baby you kind of have to look properly to catch a bad latch, a passing glimpse as you’re doing something else won’t cut it.

So my daughter became a so-called nipple feeder and I put up with it. For a long time. Around 3 months it started getting really bad. The pain was getting excruciating. If you had seen some of the positions I had to be in for her to feed you would have thought I was crazy. My back was killing me but my boobs were worse. For a while I cried every night, sometimes during the day too. Our feeds had become battles. My baby would get frantic because when you aren’t latching properly it takes a long time for any letdown to happen. I had to walk, bounce and sing to keep her calm enough to feed. I became a master in walking while breastfeeding. And me? I was nearing my wit’s end. Every night I’d consider giving up and every night I’d talk myself into hanging on for just one more day.

To make up for not being able to latch properly, and therefore empty the breast, Isis would feed more often. Sometimes hourly, most times every 1,5 -2 hours, night and day.

I can’t remember exactly how old she was when we had another appointment with a maternal health nurse but it must have been around the 4 month mark. I was hanging all my hopes on this appointment, hoping that someone would be able to help me. I had growing suspicions that something was wrong, very wrong, and I suspected my baby might have an upper lip tie at the very least. But I was no expert and I needed help from someone who knew about such things before I went crazy. My mental state was deteriorating fast. I was struggling. Badly.

Before you accuse me of being a masochist or just a plain idiot consider the benefit of breast milk and breastfeeding to a baby and to the mother. And if you still want to call me a masochistic idiot just suck it up and keep it to yourself, ok? I chose to fight this battle because I believe the benefits far outweigh my troubles, and that’s saying something about my stance on breastfeeding.

Anyway, moving on.

Our appointment came and the nurse went through the normal proceedings of checking weight, height etc. We were all good. She asked if there were any troubles and I told her about our feedings to which she replied, aimed at my baby, “you’re just a little pest, aren’t you?” I was baffled. I told her about my suspicions and she continued to refer to my baby as a pest and told me she hoped I could find some help. And that was it. No help whatsoever.

I cried walking home. I had been hanging on by a thread until then and now there was nothing. Just this big pit of pain and hopelessness.

It’s not a long walk back to our house but during those few minutes I decided that if the so-called “professionals” weren’t going to help me I would give it one last go myself. And so I read and googled and started making calls. A dear friend of mine offered to help and together we set out to find people who would know where to go and what to do. She discovered a Facebook group she thought could answer a lot of my questions and I asked to join. I diagnosed my daughters upper lip tie myself but couldn’t be sure that it really was what I thought it was. Within a few hours I had booked a doctor’s appointment for a referral to see a specialist and things were moving forward. Finally.

The doctor had no idea what I was talking about. He blindly wrote a referral to see the dentist I told him I needed her to see. Most doctors, in fact a lot of health personnel, have no clue about ties whatsoever. They’ll even go as far as call it a myth or try to convince you it’s not a real problem. You need a specialist. Believe me.

I don’t know if we were just lucky or if the age of my baby helped us get in fast but within a week we were on our way to see the dentist I had been so highly recommended. I was terrified and convinced it was all in my head. She ticked all the boxes on the check list they sent us but I still couldn’t’ quite believe something was wrong if I was the only one seeing it.  If I was in fact right they would laser the ties on the spot for the price of $600, no refunds available or reclaims through Medicare at all. I know what you’re thinking, $600 is a lot of money. But formula alone would probably cost us more in the long run and tongue and lip ties can, if left untreated, cause problems with teeth, speech and eating.

Once in with the dentist he examined our daughter and diagnosed her with a class 4 upper lip tie and a posterior tongue tie. He told us she also has an incredibly high palate which makes it even more troublesome. His words were ” It’s as bad as it gets.” Her upper lip tie was so tight you couldn’t lift her lip to her nose. Finally I had all my questions and suspicions accounted for. I wasn’t crazy. By this stage Isis was 4 months old. 4 months of poor feeding is a long time. 4 months of fighting to breastfeed is a long time.

The procedure is rather quick but traumatising, for the parents at least. They don’t sedate or use any form of pain killers while lasering. I had to wrap our daughter up, arms down, and my husband had to hold her down while they did it. I waited outside afraid that if I was present it would be too hard for me to feed right after because of the stress of seeing it happen. Her screams made my skin crawl. I have never before or after heard a baby scream like that. It was the worst few minutes I can remember. She stopped quickly once they were done and we were taken to an empty dentist’s office to feed her. My poor husband broke down and we both cried. I can’t really describe it. I never want to relive any of it.

Sores in the mouth heal quite quick so we were instructed to do so-called stretches on the wounds 6 times a day to keep them from reattaching. I won’t spend time describing them to you but it was awful. I saw a lactation consultant 2 days after but poor Isis was too tired to feed properly and still so swollen that it didn’t do much good. I was told it could take up to 10 weeks for feeds to improve because she had to relearn how to use the muscles in her mouth. It’s a lot to do for a little baby and it makes them very tired. And things got far worse when she reached exhaustion. But we persevered. 2 weeks later I went back to see a lactation consultant but at the age Isis was now she was too distracted by everything to feed. She latched enough for the consultant to have a look and tell me I should feel lucky my nipples were partially desensitized. I didn’t feel lucky but I guess it was just her way of telling me it was bad but could be worse had I in fact not had some loss of sensitivity in the nipples from long-term nipple feeding already. Breastfeeding at this stage was only marginally better and we agreed I would start pumping to keep my supply up. She was still putting on weight but the concern was that if she wasn’t draining the breast my milk would dwindle.

Pumping for me is hard. I don’t get a let down and have to effectively ‘dry pump’. It’s tiresome and it takes a lot out of me. But I did it and for a while even started to get a bit of milk. But pumping is a whole other story.

So. Here we are numerous months after the procedure, way past the 10 week mark. Feeds are still not great. They can still be painful. Sometimes awful. Let downs can still take ages and I still rock, sing and whatnot to get there. My baby will always be a nipple feeder, she hates having anything touch her palate and has worked out her own way of feeding. It’s not great but we manage. I take it week by week. Every feed is a small victory. She’s happy and thriving. She sometimes still feeds up to 7 times overnight which is hard as I never get to sleep for longer than 3 hours, if I’m lucky. (And that’s a rare occasion!) My nipple (she has refused one side and will only feed from one breast) is another story. Once it retires from breastfeeding it may never let anyone touch it again, ever, and probably rightfully so.

Since finding out about Isis’ ties I have become very suspicious that Anakin is tied too. His lip isn’t as bad as hers but his tongue is visibly tied which would explain my breastfeeding troubles with him. But he’s lucky. It doesn’t seem to be effecting his speech or his teeth.

Maybe I am a masochist for still breastfeeding my baby and for enduring the pain for so long, I don’t know. But breastfeeding is important to me and to her. My milk is liquid gold and I just can’t deprive her of that when it’s still within my means to keep going. Would I feel better if I stopped? On the one hand, probably, but on the other… no.  I only wish someone had heard me sooner. I wish it was custom to check for ties at  birth and to take any complaint about breastfeeding seriously.

I am full of regrets but also full of pride for fighting for my baby’s, and for my own, right to breastfeed. My new goal is to make it to 12 months. I hope we can go for a lot longer but realistically I eventually have to take my own mental health into consideration and decide whether it will be better for me to wean. The thought of weaning her before she is ready kills me. But that decision is still a while a way.

In the mean time my nipple will keep battling on while the milk still flows.

 

47/52 – Big, Little

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin:My beautiful boy,  I sometimes forget how sensitive you are. How your loud screams and clenched teeth are just a shield you put up to hide behind. I forget how much alike we are until I catch a glimpse of those longing eyes. I see you. I know you. And we’ll find our way.

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Isis: Little explorer. Finally able to sit up. How much bigger and exciting the world just got. 

46/52 – Good faces

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: You were reading a book while standing by the sofa one morning. The light hit you in that magical way and I called your name. You turned and then there was this.

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Isis: Introducing you to our favourite place to pet baby goats. We do love those tiny goats (and the lambs)! You sat quietly taking it all in with a slight smile on your face.

45/52 – Family

A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.

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Anakin: So we tried to take a family photo… Oh the delightful, honest awkwardness.

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Isis: I’ve promised myself (once again) to get in the picture more. I dread the thought of you growing up without images of me with you. I don’t want to be just this mysterious mama hiding behind the camera. After all, these images will tell our story long after I’m gone.

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