I’m not breastfeeding… back off.

Sometime’s, when I see breastfeeding moms, a feeling of sadness washes over me. It almost feels a bit like a loss. I had a terrible time trying to breastfeed. In fact I look back on the whole ordeal and realize how traumatic it really was for both me and my tiny guy.
When Little was born, he was put on my breast like any other newborn, and struggled, like any other newborn. In the three days I was at the hospital, I would say about ten different nurses and lactation consultants tried to get him to latch on, each with their own methods. Three different breast pumps and a lot of hand expression. By the end of the third day, my nipples were so sore that I couldn’t wear even the softest shirt without flinching. Nipple pads, ice, and creams were a joke, they did nothing. Sadly, Little became jaundiced, and had some issues with breathing, so he was immediately taken to the NICU, just as I was being released. Thankfully, he was there for only three days, and we had to supplement with formula (which he ate like a champ), but once he was introduced to that free-flowing bottle, it was almost impossible to get him back on the breast again. We had two lactation consultants come to our home, in the hopes that we could make it work. We tried all kinds of positions, a little tube with breast milk taped to the breast, any kind of method possible, we tried it. It somewhat worked while the lactation consultant was with us, but as soon as she was gone, we were left feeling hopeless again. I continuously used my breast pump, but I was in so much pain that every time I had to pump, and put all the parts together, I would get really depressed. But that was the only way I could get breast milk to him, so I pushed forward.

The times where I attempted to breastfeed, it literally felt as though he was chewing on my breast. I’d cover my face with a pillow, because I didn’t want him to see the pain, and tears streaming down my face. And he would be screaming and crying because he wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding. Having Fibromyalgia didn’t help my case either. It hadn’t occurred to me that chronic muscle pain and skin sensitivity would be an issue in breastfeeding. I had regarded it as the most natural thing in the world. It would be a cinch. 

But hey, It was not natural for me. It was awful. And after much deliberation, when Little turned a month old, I decided I would stop. I remember putting away the nursing cover that I never used, and all the other breastfeeding ‘tools’ that I no longer needed, and I couldn’t help feeling like a failure. Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe I was doing something wrong. Maybe I was doing everything wrong. The worst part of it, was that I was actually producing the milk, I just couldn’t get it to my baby. 

And it surprises me how judgmental some are on the topic. People would say things like, ‘Oh, you’re stopping after a month!? Wow, are you sure you should do that?’

‘Oh, you’re not breastfeeding anymore? Because you’re in pain? Oh, well my amazing, wonderful, magnificent daughter was in awful pain too, but she breastfed for two years! Isn’t she amazing?’

‘What!? You know breastmilk is like liquid gold, right?’

And my personal favorite, ‘shame on you.’ 

Listen friends, I get that people are very passionate on this subject… on a lot of subjects actually. And I get that breastfeeding mamas are very proud of their ability to nourish their kids the way they do. And that’s awesome that they can do that. But be sensitive. You have no idea what personal experience that non-breastfeeding mama went through, and the continual challenges she faces. Don’t assume. It’s hard enough recovering from the crazy emotional and physical changes of childbirth, let alone people expressing disappointment in you with something that’s beyond your control. Some may not understand this, but breastfeeding is made to be a big deal. It was a huge deal to me. I was lucky to have my hubby and family’s support, and constant reminders that I was a good mom, and doing the best that I could. But like I said, it feels like a loss. And it took me a long time to be ok with the decision I made. 

To my struggling breast feeding mamas…it will be ok. Whatever you decide, everything will be quite alright. Doing the best you can, is all you can do. What’s better, to be screaming and crying with your infant while you’re getting super depressed because it’s not working out for you, or finding an alternative method that puts both you and your baby at peace and helps you enjoy each other? For the judgmental haters, it’s none of their business. And there’s nothing wrong with reminding them of that.

Our Little Man is hitting two and a half. He’s an active, healthy, happy, well-adjusted, ball of energy…..knock on wood. No attachment issues. No immunity problems. In fact, over the past couple of years, when observing Little’s demeanor, rosy cheeks, and chub chubness, several strangers have commented on how he must be a breast-fed baby. Go figure.
Baby steps, and milk (whatever kind you choose) mustaches,
Roxy

  

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Noa’s Freestyle Friday

I was a classical dancer in a touring company growing up, and appearance meant everything to me and to my strict ballet teachers. I remember never being completely happy with my body and always feeling fat holding the barre and plieing to my teacher’s cynical comments about how we all ‘grew’ during the holidays (talk about building self esteem in young girls!). In order to find balance in my life I’ve experimented with every possible diet out there and noticed how my mood was directly influenced by it. Like the time I was a raw foodist and even though I looked hot on the outside I felt like a moody bitxh on the inside. Since then I’ve learned to accept (and love) my body, food and my curves., and as I grew older I was even more appreciative of my boobs and butt (thank mom!) and learned that femininity comes in all shapes and sizes.

Scientific research and personal experience both demonstrate that what we eat affects how we think and act. Still, most people don’t acknowledge the connecting between their food and mood. If we stop and think for a moment about how we feel throughout the day we can start noticing perhaps, fuzziness and sluggish feeling after lunch? Maybe irritability and anger between meals? or energized by a great meal? Food undoubtedly changes your mood. The most extreme examples are coffee, alcohol and sugar, which changes the state of mind within minutes.

Have you noticed how a kid seems to be ‘climbing off the wall’ after consuming a sugary treat? Not a pretty sight! At my son’s daycare they celebrate the kids birthdays with cake and pizza. The good news is that that’s the only occasion when they feed our kids this shit. The bad news is that well…there are 10 kids, so about once a month I get to ‘enjoy’ watching our son acting ‘under the influence’. For his birthday we got the kids gluten free -dairy free pizza and I slaved in the kitchen for days coming up with a coconut flour sweetened with beet juice Elmo cake, that to the parents surprise the kids loved.(Duh!) and since I hate being a stick in the mud I do step back and let him experience his own food mood connection, and he does! (Hallelujah).

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Elmo cake

The SAD diet (Standard American Diet) high in processed carbs and poor quality animal meat while lacking in veggies and water, leaves many people in bad mood. It’s hard to feel inspired and happy when you’re living on chemical. artificial junk food. Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure and a pioneer in the field of nutritional psychology, refers to this relationship as the law of malnutrition. I don’t even know why people call it junk food. It’s just junk, definitely not food. When your blood sugar goes u, you get the woohoo, good feeling. But as soon as it goes down you feel like crap.

Think about the idea of comfort food. What we really are doing with food is a form of self medicating or seeking balance. We already understand the food and mood connection, we just don’t have a language o discuss these habits with each other.

From a scientific perspective this relationship is maintained by neurotransmitters. Chemical messengers that relay thoughts and actions throughout the brain. Some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, can make us feel relaxed. Others, like dopamine, have a stimulating effect. The food our children and we eat breaks down in our digestive tract enters our blood stream and creates changes in the behavior of these neurotransmitters, meaning impacting our mood. Another experience of this connection is eating too much. Think of your Rosh Hashana or Thanksgiving dinner and how tired you become after indulging. To handle excess food, blood flow is directed to the stomach and away from the brain. The result is feeling of lethargy.

Each person’s food mood sensitivity varies. Only you can determine the right amount of proteins, carbs and fat to keep yourself in balance. One of the best ways to discover how different foods affect your mood is simply record what you eat and notice how you feel afterwards. Try it-you might surprise yourself.

To better mood through better food,

Noa

What The Eff Is This Postpartum?

It always amazed me how little mothers and women talk about their business to one another. I mean, we talk about guys, husbands, dating, periods, but we don’t talk about birth. We don’t talk about that long stretch of nine months that seem so short in comparison to the long life that follows the not so easy labor and birthing of your child.

When I was pregnant one of my biggest concerns other than an episiotomy, was losing my identity once that baby girl was born. My husband and I would go on long walks and I would burn his ear off as he listened to the words rush in about how I am so much more than a mother.  I laugh because for anyone who knows me, I have wanted to be nothing but a mother for all my life. I never was sure about marriage though, I knew I wanted raise kids with someone. There was never one career path that spoke to me, other than caring for others and working with children. Yet, even when I did, there was always a void I was trying to fill. There I was pregnant so worried about losing myself in motherhood.

Here I am completely engulfed in motherhood. I say engulfed and not lost at this point. There was a corner that I had to turn in order for me to become engulfed rather than lost. I am immersed in motherhood, I am not lost. It took me months to fully get to where I am at. This is the part that we don’t talk about. That taboo topic of post-partum depression.

I didn’t realize I had a cloud overhead after my daughter was born until that oh so grey cloud decided to move on and disperse into the air. I had an unmedicated, natural, vaginal birth. It was  the best thing I have ever done and the most challenging. It was difficult physically, but more than anything it was difficult for me mentally, and emotionally. There was a great sense of loss and mourning that flooded me which I never expected, and no one had warned me about. After birth, you are a different person. No matter how much you say you don’t want to lose yourself and you swear up and down that having a child won’t effect you. Get ready toots, it’ll come.

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You grew a human inside of your beautiful body for nine months. You housed a body and a soul. You were the first home that baby ever had. For nine months your body transformed for another being. Then, within hours, for some it will be minutes, that baby goes from being inside of you to outside of you. You will rub your belly in comfort and realize that she is no longer there but in your arms now, or in your partner’s arms. Wrap your mind around that. In, then out.

I missed being pregnant. I still miss being pregnant. I got so used to carrying the weight on the inside, so to speak. The feeling of longing to be pregnant, while so happy my baby girl was in my arms was one of the strangest feelings. I would become sad for no reason. I would obsess about the birth of my daughter. I would be happy one moment then in a daze the next. I couldn’t handle the crying, to the point where I would have to stop myself from just dropping her with all my frustration. There were so many signs. Yet, I would brush them all off. As I am sure we all do. It is a huge adjustment. And maybe we need a new fucking term than post-partum depression. There is such a negative stigma to it. Maybe post-baby-birthing-lack-of-sleep, post-miracle-lack-of-support, post-vaginal-stretching-what-the-fuck-is-my-life, something other than depression. I definitely didn’t have a severe case, but there was something there that I couldn’t uncover.

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Then it all hit me almost exactly three months after birthing my babe. We were in Italy with my family. It was probably the feeling of being “home”, with so much family and love around that allowed me to come to.

There may not be a loss of self during this whole baby-making, baby-having, baby-raising thing, but there is a birth of a mother. There is a transformation that occurs that we don’t celebrate and acknowledge as much as we should. I am still all the things that I was before the birth of my daughter. I am a provider in the household, I am independent, I am still incredibly interested in everything I was, even more so now. I am still all that I was, except that I am a mother now. It has changed my perspective on absolutely everything. I have transformed into all that I was and then some, then a great, big some. I would say that I am Raffaella 2.0.

Those first three months after giving birth are fucking insane, yet so calm. It is deceiving. It takes time to understand what it is exactly that is going on and honestly, you have to be open and ready to really look at what happens when you give birth. It is more than just the physical. You haven’t lost yourself. You’re still very much there, it may just take a little more effort to bring those qualities out. When you’re child is more independent you will be able to return to old plains, or adventure into new ones.

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Shut yourself off from everyone for a little bit when your partner, family, friend, is holding your babe(s), and feel all those bittersweet feelings of being a mom. You’re priorities are different, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost any bit of yourself. The time will pass and the clouds will clear. You’re baby will finally smile back at you after giving her every ounce of your being for the past days, weeks, months. Look in the mirror and say hello to that sexy mother and jump into the freaking beautiful mess of motherhood.

With so much love and support to you bad-ass mamas,

Raffaella

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Traveling with the Littles

When I envision traveling, I think of Lost in Translation…the whole Indie, hipster vibe. Scarlet Johansen’s don’t-talk-to-me-because-I’m-way-cool-and-have-a-monastery-I-need-to-see type character.I love getting ready for flights. Airports always give me an added sense of importance. I must be somewhere. Can’t be late. I’m expected. 

I take my travel tote, fill it with things to keep me happy and busy during the flight. Dress-up, but comfortably, (Dressing up in my world means styling my hair, and wearing some makeup, earrings if I wanna go crazy).

At least this is how I’d try to roll before we had our rambunctious ball of energy. Now, my tote has been replaced with an unattractive black back pack (I find the attractive ones to be too small), the contents contain items that keep Little Man happy and busy, and I consider showering as dressing-up. 

We travel quite a bit. And I still love it. We’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to take Little to Europe and fly within the US several times a year for business and to visit family. 

I remember my very first flight alone with Little. We were on our way to Seattle. He was four months old, and I was super nervous. Luckily, the seat next to me was blocked off and empty (some airlines will do that for you when flying with an infant), so I took my car seat with me. I had four things in my hand plus the baby who was not in the car seat. I could barely move through the ridiculously cramped plane aisle. And people behind me were clearly getting irritated, hence the huffs and puffs and loud sighs. One woman who was already seated, got up, grabbed a couple things from my hands and said, ‘I’ve been there too, honey, what else do you need?’ I was so touched, I hugged her.

A wonderful thing about traveling with small kids is that no one wants to sit next you. As soon as we got to our seats, four people in our near vicinity got up and moved to the back of the plane. Score. Whole aisle was mine. I put Little in his car seat, strapped him in, and gave him his bottle during takeoff because that’s what you do to help reduce ear pressure. And much to my disbelief he slept the entire flight. Amazing. I actually watched a whole movie. And ate pretzels. I’d get up and stretch every so often just because I could. 

I look back on that flight with great fondness. Nowadays I’d be lucky to drink water on a plane without spilling on myself. 

Toddlers are busy bodies. Sitting is a ridiculous idea. There’s so much to discover and explore, staying idle in one place is a waste of time to them.

When Little was around one, people gave me all sorts of fun ideas to keep him busy during our flights. Unfortunately he wasn’t interested in about ninety percent of them. He’d much rather jump on the seat in front of us, or open and close the window five hundred times. Obviously super stressful when you get the stares and eye rolls, but when you get kicked in the face and your kid takes that opportunity to swing on the adjacent seats, there’s only so much you can do. 

So I’ve narrowed it down to some ideas that have worked for us over the past couple of years, and hopefully will work for you too!

1. Get to the airport a little early and have the Littles run their hearts out. Some airports have play areas,(I’ve found that half the staff doesn’t know they have one, so check online first). I’m usually there, or running up and down hallways with Little just until we board. Great way to get some energy out before sitting for several hours. 
2. Be last on the plane. I love this one. If hubby is with me, he goes first, gets settled, then I join at the last minute with Little in tow. If I’m by myself, I can still do this. I don’t usually have a carry on, just my ugly backpack, which I need near me anyway. So getting on the plane once everyone’s seated is awesome. No need to sit and wait an extra thirty.
3. Snacks galore. I’m sure you’ve heard this one many times. Little boxed raisins, fishies, cheerios, grapes, dried fruit, granola bars, any favorite snacks they love. The more the better, and as much variety as you can possibly have. I put them in mini-Ziplocs, and rotate about every twenty minutes depending on how fast it’s eaten. The key is getting it to them before they get fussy and cranky. And most importantly, I always have several organic lollipops (organic because they don’t have dyes or food coloring) as backup. 
4. Fun stuff. Books and coloring books are swell, but if you have a curious, active fireball, those items may not fly. Or will fly, because he threw them. 
Some of my favorites:

*Home videos and downloaded cartoons.

*Empty water bottles, and a pouch full of coins. Put in, take out. Repeat a million times.

*Stuffed animal or doll, play doctor. Bandaids, cotton balls, alcohol swabs, qtips. Pretend you’re at the doctors office getting a check-up.

*pre-wrap little toys (Target’s dollar section is marvelous), and bring them out every so often. The unwrapping is an activity within itself.

*Stickers. Big ones. Small ones. Put them all over.

*Play doh. Little loves sculpting, rolling, smashing. Take a couple ‘tools’ too.

5. Walk up and down the aisle. When they can’t sit still anymore, this is a good one. Little sometimes cant handle this without touching other passengers, so I carry him and count or quietly sing some songs to keep him occupied. 
6. Bring extra clothes. A no-brainier, I know. But usually necessary and appreciated. It includes clothes for you too. Kind of nice to change your top after sitting in it for a long time.
7. Take a tiny suitcase or backpack to put all their toys in. Little loves pushing his around. I usually end up carrying it, but we have fun packing and re-packing it on the plane. 
8. Make sure you bring/buy something for yourself. A goodie, a drink, anything to add some pizzazz to the flight. It’s usually all about the Littles, and making them happy and occupied. But try not to forget about yourself. You can have fun too.
And the most obvious point. Try not to stress. I remind myself this every time, but it’s hard to remember when your Little is having a meltdown in a small space. Take a deep breath. Know that the people around you who’re huffing and puffing, were kids too at one point. Don’t feel like you have to over-apologize for crying and tantruming. As long as they’re not touching or swinging on people’s chairs, a one-time apology is sufficient…if you even want to be that nice. 
Baby steps and yummy pretzels,

Roxy

   
  
 

Noa’s Freestyle Friday

I don’t subscribe to one diet. I just listen to my body, and I definitely don’t follow whatever the new craze is these days (i.e Paleo shmelo). For every one theory you follow you will find, just a click away, another one, just as strong ,conflicting that theory., and after studying more than 100 diets at nutrition school I know that there isn’t one answer. There is NOT one size fits all. There is, however, what fits YOU. I remember looking fondly at my Grandpa, who lived to a healthy 98 years, and laughing at how the billion-dollar diet and fitness industry got us all wrapped around its little finger.

We all have 24-hour access to the world’s most sophisticated lab for testing how food affects our body and our health. Where is this lab? We’re living in it. By learning to listen to it and develop an understanding of what foods it needs and when it needs them, we discover what’s best for us. That doesn’t mean that if you’re craving ice cream you should give yourself the first shitty ice cream that you see, but you can definitely find the best quality non-refined sugar ice cream and feed your body that.

If you doubt this connection to your body, begin by acknowledging that your body is highly intelligent and sophisticated. Your heart never missed a beat and your lungs are always breathing in and out. You can trust your body. It has evolved helpful instincts to keep you alive and well. Animals don’t read nutrition books. Their bodies tell them which plants to eat and which to avoid. They heal themselves when they are sick, usually by resting and eating very little until sickness passes.

We have the same instincts. In fact I watch our 2yr old and how his body reacts to certain foods to see how it makes him feel. Now that he is older and can communicate its even easier since he actually says “Ouch mommy, ach in my tummy” and I know that this thing or that doesn’t feel good in his digestive system. Or even now, in my advanced pregnancy, I keep a vegan diet, as I did with my first one, why? because my body just can’t stand animal protein right now. So I listen and follow.

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Many of us ignore the messages our bodies are sending. Dark circles under the eyes signal exhaustion. Constipation and bloating are signs that something you are eating or the way you’re eating it, is not appropriate. We ignore these massages until they become unbearable and that’s when we go to the doctor for medications.

Give yourself time to explore your body’s lab and you’ll be surprised by its responsiveness, sophistication and intelligence.

With love,

Noa.

Thanks, But No Thanks.

I’m probably going to get some eye rolls for this one.

I have been an athlete all my life. I have been active all my life. My husband and I found out we were pregnant and I continued to be active to the best of my ability. My first trimester was rough and I couldn’t workout as much as I wanted to, but I was still active. I worked out a good amount in my second trimester with help from the ladies at BIRTHFIT. I worked as a manager/waitress throughout my pregnancy until varicose veins showed up and the weight of my babe got to be too heavy to stand for more than thirty minutes at a time. I was most active towards the end of my pregnancy once we hit 36 weeks and we were in the safe zone.

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A little weight overhead keeping mind and body right at Deuce Gym. I was probably around 23 weeks.

 

After the birth of our girl and eight very long weeks of recovery at home, I began to lose muscle. As time went on, I continued to lose muscle. When my babe was eight months I dropped two dress sizes. Diaper ass, saggy pants to the point where wearing a belt was necessary at all times. My leggings didn’t even fit anymore. None of my clothes fit. A couple of weeks ago, I dropped more weight. I dropped more muscle. I currently weigh less than what I weighed in high school. That was about ten years ago.

I haven’t been able to work out because the energy it takes to do so is given to my babe through  the milk I provide for her. I do not sleep, I barely have time to eat during the day, other than a solid dinner. When I do eat, I can’t just stuff my face with pizza for health reasons, but also because there are better sources of fuel for my girl and I. I’ll stuff my face with a muffin some mornings but that’s about it unless I want to feel like a heroin addict scratching my skin. I know other mothers can relate to the lack of time, maybe not the whole heroin thing but the juggling act, yes.

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A little workout with the man pre-pregnancy at Deuce Gym in Venice.

 

I was active and continued to be active throughout my pregnancy so I didn’t gain much weight other than what was necessary to grow my babe. I took care of myself. I took responsibility for my pregnancy and my actions. I am continuing to do so to the best of my ability, but where that has left me is down forty pounds when I only gained thirty pounds during pregnancy. My weight is brought up all the time.

“You look so good for having a baby.”

“Oh my gosh, you’ve lost so much weight. You look good.”

I appreciate the intended compliment but I am ten months into being a mother and I am still healing. It doesn’t take six weeks. It may not be obvious because according to you, “I look great”. But the truth is, I am not as strong as I once was, I am too skinny and feel uncomfortable in my skin. My clothes don’t fit. I go insane when I don’t workout but can’t get myself to a damn class. My legs don’t rub together when I walk (yes, I take pride in that). I don’t stand up as straight, my back hurts, I don’t squat as heavy, I could go on. You may have just rolled your eyes, but I don’t care. Frankly, fuck your eye roll. This whole thing about being skinny is bullshit. I want to be healthy. My body has changed and I’m learning to be comfortable with the temporary skin I’m in after housing a babe, giving birth, and continuing to provide for her in every way. Don’t get me wrong, I am damn proud of this body. I understand this whole thing is a process.

My point is this, be sensitive to how you speak to new mothers. Just as you wouldn’t say, “Oh my gosh you gained so much weight, I can’t believe you just had a baby.”, please don’t tell me the opposite. I’ve gone through a shit ton of changes and I’m still adjusting. Yes, ten months after giving birth–still adjusting.

Be sensitive to those around you. Be aware of how the words you speak effect others in the room. Not just the mother you are speaking to but think about how that sets up expectations and false realities for other mothers in the community, women in society.

Thank you for your compliment, but can you tell me I’m looking stronger, not thinner?

I invite you to be extra sensitive with your words on this hump day, and hopefully a little more everyday.

Raffi

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Oh crap, baby’s coming! Nesting craziness.

I often think back with fondness on my pregnancy, when Little Man was just a tiny peanut. I was so excited I couldn’t stop making lists. I had five hundred to-do lists. I’d organize and re-organize. Clean and re-clean. I owned nesting. I actually remember using a toothpick to clean my car. If I could see crumbs, I considered it an incomplete task, and I couldn’t check it off my treasured list. And when I say tasks, I mean everything from passport renewal, to ordering blinds. I would hound hubby to do the tasks I couldn’t do, because we had a deadline, and in my mind, if it wasn’t met by the time the baby was born, it would never happen.  
Different people will tell you differently on the subject. Time and time again, when talking about my ‘deadline’ I heard a laugh and a ‘all you really need is a crib and a car seat.’ True for some. Not so true for others. I knew if we didn’t get the important stuff done, we would never get around to it after Little’s arrival and I was right. Many of my to-do items pre-Little, are untouched. And it’s ok. We’re still alive. Not everything can always go as planned. But new lists will definitely be peeping around the corner soon.

So the point is, my list-loving friends, there’s nothing wrong with dealing with things in your own way. If making lists and organizing the heck out of your soon-to-be baby’s room gives you a sense of control and empowerment, do it. If you need to use a toothbrush to clean your fridge… how clever! Good for you! So proud. 

To the people who question your actions, whether small or big, it will probably be the first of the many to come your way in baby land. And as I learned early on, we really don’t need to explain ourselves. To the unwelcome comments and advice, a smile and change of subject will usually suffice. Or flip them off. 

Baby steps, and list-love,

Roxy