Price Check, Please

September 29, 2011

I have expensive taste. My gift in life is that without looking at a price tag, I am able to point out the most expensive item in a store. How do I do this? I just go to the item that is calling my name. This would be great if, say, I were a contestant on The Price is Right or if I were Bill Gates sole heir. Unfortunately, I am neither.

To avoid the extreme heat we were having a few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take a family walk through a local, air conditioned, shopping center. As we were walking through stores, I would point out the items that caught my eye. Out of habit, I go to the items and check the price tag. I always do that, even if I have no intention of buying it. My curiosity of the cost is too strong to not check it. “Too bad we can’t afford it,” I said to my husband. He looked at me, perplexed and said, “We can afford that.” I shook my head, “No. If you have to look at the tag or ask how much it is, you can’t really afford it. You may be able to buy it, but there is a difference buying and affording.”

It got me thinking. Can you ever really afford the extras you want in life? Unless you have millions to squander, most people will check the price before a purchase. It is the only way to avoid sticker shock.

When I was in college, I had a bit of a spending problem. I would say I am a recovering shopaholic. I remember going into my favorite clothing stores and trying on all the clothes I liked and taking the items that fit me well to the register. Then as I would stand there and watch the register, a pit would form in my stomach. As each item dinged in, that pit grew stronger and heavier. By the time I had my total it would take everything inside of me not to vomit on the poor person behind the register. But, I would look at my new, wonderful treasures and that pit would disappear. At home, I would try them all again, amazed at how good I would feel in my most recent finds. My closet had never looked more beautiful. Everything would be picture perfect until later that month when I got my credit card bill and just like that, that pit was back, bigger and stronger than ever.

It was a deadly cycle. Month after month, my bills would go up. I would pay what I could off, which wasn’t much. When I put the bill away, the pit went away. Out of sight, out of mind. Then, the next day I’d find myself in front of a pair of shoes with my name all over them.

By the time I graduated, at 22, I had over $15,000 in credit card debt alone, not to mention student loans. The pit wasn’t going away. My cards were maxed out and I wasn’t making enough to keep up my spending habits. Unfortunately, the desire to shop didn’t go away. I did the only thing I could think to do. I quit, cold turkey. I boycotted shopping malls. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to resist the temptation.

Fortunately, I had a really nice guy who offered to “take care” of me. With not having to worry about rent, utilities, and food, 100% of my paychecks could go directly to my debt. It took me over three years, but every last penny was paid off, including student loans.

Now, at almost 29, when I’m out shopping I always check the tag. Even if I know I can buy it, I feel that pit return. I figure that is my conscious telling me I can’t afford it and I should walk away, quickly. I don’t know if I will ever think I can afford the items that catch my eye. Now, I am at least comfortable admitting that I probably don’t need them and have the strength to walk away.

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For the Love of Boob

September 27, 2011

Consider this my coming out of the closet post. No need to jump to any conclusions here, people… I’m not a lesbian. I’m coming out of the closet that I know so many women hide in. The extended nursing closet.

You see, breastfeeding a newborn is a beautiful, natural experience which is highly recommended to all new mothers. We are repeatedly told “breast is best” and the attachment formed between mother and her breastfed baby are stronger than you can ever imagine. So much so, in fact, that those who choose to (or must resort to) formula feed a newborn can feel ostracized in our society. But something happens along the way where it all the sudden becomes taboo to breastfeed. When in the nursing relationship does this occur?

When my son was born, my goal was to breastfeed for 3 months. I was told by several people that I would never make it that long, and I believed them. The first 3 months are by far the hardest. It is time consuming, demanding, uncomfortable, and emotionally draining at first. I began to doubt any special attachment was forming. I didn’t feel like I was bonding with my baby any more so than when I would feed him a bottle of pumped milk. I had doubts we would ever make it. As my deadline approached, I noticed that I was getting the hang of it, and so was my baby. My milk supply started to even out and I wasn’t having nearly as much difficulty.

I figured since it was getting easier, I would extend my goal to be 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. The next three months made a world of difference in our nursing relationship. I was pumping less frequently and feeding on demand. This helped my milk supply stabilize so I wasn’t becoming uncomfortably engorged anymore. I stopped obsessively watching the clock to make sure the baby was being fed every 2-3 hours and started listening to my baby’s cues on when to feed. My son was becoming stronger and was able to support his own weight better, so my arms weren’t becoming so tired from holding him up all the time. Overall, it was becoming a much more delightful experience. I only ever received positive feedback from bystanders about breastfeeding.

Then, the 6-month mark hit. People started asking me when I would start weaning. I was constantly given suggestions on how to introduce formula into his diet. If I would just give him some cereal before bed, he wouldn’t wake up so often… It didn’t feel right to me. Our nursing relationship had improved so much, that I felt there was no reason to stop it now. I moved my deadline to breastfeed until at least 12-months-old.

Those 6 months were great. I was starting to feel that special bonding I thought I was missing in the beginning. There is something special about a nursing baby looking into your eyes and seeing the gratitude and appreciation beaming from their tiny little face. If you stop nursing before a baby really develops controlled facial expressions, you never experience that.

As the 12-month mark approached, the weaning “suggestions” became stronger and stronger. Maybe it’s because I know what I used to think before I had my son, that I “heard” these suggestions so strongly. If a child is old enough to drink cow’s milk, he doesn’t need mama’s milk… If a child is old enough to ask for it, he’s too old for it… Your baby will sleep through the night if you stop nursing… Cow’s milk is more nutritious than breast milk… 

None of that is true, by the way, but it is the way our society thinks. My son was not sleeping through the night at 12-months-old, so it was tempting to try weaning just to get him to sleep. Again, I listened to my intuition and kept nursing him when he needed it. (He did start sleeping through the night, all on his own, around 15-months, by the way). He is now 19.5-months-old and still nursing when he needs to. Most of the time it is only before he sleeps (naps and night time) and in the morning. But, from time to time he asks to nurse during the day too. When he does, it is only for a few seconds, but I figure there is something causing him to feel uneasy and nursing just reassures him his mommy is there for him.

I still get comments from time to time about weaning him. But, as my dad said to me the other day, “I’d tell you that it may be time to cut him off from [breast milk], but I know you well enough to know that you are going to do as you damn well please.” Well said, Dad, well said.

I never, in a million years, would have thought that I would be nursing a toddler. In fact, I am pretty sure I would have thought it was gross or sick before. But, as with many things in life, we often shut out the ideas which we do not understand. And extended nursing, my friends, is something you will never be able to understand unless you have made it to that point.

So there I am… out of the closet. Don’t ask me when I am going to wean, because I don’t know. I suppose I will keep nursing him as long as he needs it, or until it becomes uncomfortable for me to continue.

As an ending note: My examples given as to the negative feedback I have heard about extended nursing (as seen above) are simply not true. If a child is old enough to ask for it, he is too old for it… Babies, from day one “ask” to be fed. Just because they become more proficient in communicating their needs does not mean those needs disappear. A child will sleep through the night if you stop breast feeding…  I can’t say for certain, because I didn’t try it, but I have heard from others who did, that weaning their child did not make them sleep through the night, it just eliminated an easy way to get them back to sleep. Cow’s milk is more nutritious than breast milk… not true… Cow’s milk is formulated for baby cows. Breast milk is formulated for baby humans. I trust God knows what he’s doing.

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