The Sweetest Good Ship Lollipop

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, Mommy's Musings

Madelyn and I did a Mommy & Me Ballet through our local parks and rec program, and from day one, she loved it. So when my friend opened up her very own studio, it was a no brainer that we’d join and Madelyn absolutely adores going to class.

I started dance lessons when I was about the same age and performed in my first recital at around four years old. Most of my memories are built based on video and photos, but I do remember enjoying dance class and really loving my first teacher (who — yay Facebook! — connected with me in recent years!) So of course I’ve enjoyed every second of dance mom-hood, and couldn’t wait to see Madelyn in her first recital, since that’s what weekly classes build up to.

With my teacher, Traci. I remember copying her and playing "dance teacher" with my dolls in my room. #onlychildproblems

With my teacher, Traci. I remember copying her and playing “dance teacher” with my dolls in my room. #onlychildproblems

My shuffle steps were huge and my shoe laces untied, but gosh darn it, it was 1987 and times were good.

My shuffle steps were huge and my shoe laces untied, but gosh darn it, it was 1987 and times were good.

Post-recital flowers and photos after a job well -- or, probably mediocre --done.

Post-recital flowers and photos after a job well — or, probably mediocre –done.

This past year was a ballet/tumbling class and Madelyn’s first time without me doing dance with her. I loved watching her through the windows and there was a nice group of girls with her. I’m glad we did that Mommy & Me ballet class because it really did give her a foundation for basic ballet steps. With a few hiccups in teacher changes at her studio, she maybe didn’t do as much footwork in class, but she still grew other necessary skills for following directions and working with other classmates.

Back in September, Madelyn began ballet with Miss Kelly, the studio owner. They have a sweet and special bond.

Back in September, Madelyn began ballet with Miss Kelly, the studio owner. They have a sweet and special bond.

The second half of the year, Madelyn's teacher was Miss Sara and she was so much fun!

The second half of the year, Madelyn’s teacher was Miss Sara and she was so much fun!

I was so excited to find out that her class would be dancing to Shirley Temple’s “Good Ship Lollipop.” We are big Shirley fans around here, so she loved learning the dance and singing the song, making little improvements each week.

A few weeks before the recital, Madelyn and her recital-mate took professional photos at the studio. I don’t ever remember doing this as a kid, but apparently I did because … this.

"Mommy, why are you standing on yourself?" Um, because... 1987.

“Mommy, why are you standing on yourself?” Um, because… 1987.

Madelyn’s dance photo shoot was especially great because it gave her a chance to get comfortable in her costume and become smitten with herself. Oy, the eye rolling I did every time I saw her staring at herself in the mirror and putting on poses.

The highlight of the day was lipstick.

The highlight of the day was lipstick.

Madelyn loved practicing steps for the camera.

Madelyn loved practicing steps for the camera.

As it got close to recital time, Madelyn really relied on her teacher to get the hand motions and order of the steps, watching her every move and rarely looking away, and while the kid is a total ham, she tends to freeze up when put on the spot, so I really wasn’t sure how the actual recital would go, despite the fact that she was doing well in class.

Only one other girl was actually about to do the recital, so it was just the two of them up there on the big stage on the day of the show. I was a nervous wreck. How would she do backstage without me? Would she manage her costume and prop ok? Would she obey directions to get on stage or be scared and refuse to go on? It was literally a gamble, and I was betting she’d be a deer in the headlights and told our family who came to see her to brace themselves for maybe just seeing Madelyn stare out into the audience in a panic.

Well, what do you know? Maybe I should never go to Vegas. My bet was way off.

I could not stop smiling watching our girl up on that stage. I had a flashback to my first recital, and I can remember being confused and excited all at once, but Madelyn seemed so at ease up on stage and appeared to really have a good time. All I want for her is to have fun and enjoy dancing and performing.

She danced even better than she ever rehearsed in class, singing the lyrics of the song and executing the timing and rhythm of the steps. I’m just so glad my proud mom squeals didn’t distract her on stage. I totally lost my mind. Smile ear-to-ear, eyes piercing on her every move, and oh the water that sprang forth from my eyes; it was like a tropical storm of happiness.

Her number was pretty much in the middle of the whole show, but we loved watching all the dancers. They were all so great! But I think a crowd favorite is always the littlest class because they can really do no wrong. As much as the Lollipop girls messed up (hey, I never said my kid was perfect), the audience is always so forgiving because there is really nothing more darling in the world than little girls in sailor costumes, singing and dancing.

The whole school gathered for a company bow, and she looked so proud and took the whole thing very seriously. That's how you become a Rockette, people.

The whole school gathered for a company bow, and she looked so proud and took the whole thing very seriously. That’s how you become a Rockette, people.

After the show, I met her backstage and could not stop squeezing her! Madelyn was beaming and was overcome with a burst of pride and excitement that I think she didn’t even realize until she saw me. I guided her back into the house of the theater to see her adoring fans who came to watch her perform. Grandma and Grandpa, Mimi and Poppa, Auntie Alison, Uncle Michael and Cousin Jordan, and Judy and Joa joined Bryan and me in congratulating our star. Arielle even perked up for the occasion after relaxing in my arms throughout the whole show, already a perfect audience member.

Madelyn loved getting flowers. She handled them like a true star. Soon we'll all be having to speak to her through her bodyguard and manager.

Madelyn loved getting flowers. She handled them like a true star. Soon we’ll all be having to speak to her through her bodyguard and manager.

There was almost Cleanup in Aisle 5 because I was going to burst with pride.  The mama emotions were real.

There was almost Cleanup in Aisle 5 because I was going to burst with pride. The mama emotions were real.

Arielle was overrun with excitement over her sister's performance.

Arielle was overrun with excitement over her sister’s performance.

Mimi and Poppa couldn't stop squishing this lollipop girl.

Mimi and Poppa couldn’t stop squishing this lollipop girl.

Grandma and Grandpa cheered loud and clear!

Grandma and Grandpa cheered loud and clear!

Madeyln adores Kelly and we love dancing with her at her school!

Madeyln adores Kelly and we love dancing with her at her school!

Madelyn was thrilled to receive flowers from all of us and the bouquets were even bigger than her. She posed for pictures and told us all about her experience. I think we all had such a fun time and can’t wait for more dance recitals in the future.

After she changed out of her adorable costume, we gathered for some pizza and celebrated our girl one more time. It was such a special day, and I think it’s safe to say that Madelyn has been bit by the performing bug and the only cure is more dance classes and shows!

Madelyn greeted her public one more time outside the theater before heading to her pizza party with the family.

Madelyn greeted her public one more time outside the theater before heading to her pizza party with the family.

Local kiddos — come dance at Protege Performing Arts! We love the studio and can’t wait to see how it grows.

Disneyland Party of 4: New & Improved and Now With Pro Tips!

I never thought we’d be those crazy people to bring a new baby to Disneyland, but we joined that club. It was a perfect storm that made it almost impossible not to. It was my birthday. We hadn’t been in months due to that whole pregnancy thing. And our annual passes are set to expire in August and it’s unknown if/when we will renew (the answer, I’m sure, is yes). So we just kinda … had to go.

Disneyland with Madelyn was a routine that we finessed in the past two years. I’d even done a few trips with Madelyn just by myself with no help. So when it comes to taking a toddler to see The Mouse, it’s a no brainer. But with an almost three-month-old in the mix? We were nervous. We had considered leaving Arielle at home, but with the boob thing and imposing on others to watch her, that was almost impossible. So, we went into it with low to no expectations and figured it would just be a difficult day.

Well. I’m glad to say we were wrong! The beautiful thing about taking a new baby to Disneyland is that the baby just sleeps the day away. She had no idea — nor any care! — about where she was, and frankly, that was OK with us. Madelyn still got to enjoy all her usual favorites and we had the bonus of extra storage in the double stroller! Score! (I will mourn the day my kids are out of strollers and we will have to utilize Disney lockers again!)

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Having Arielle with us just meant that if she was sleeping or couldn’t go on a ride due to size requirements, Bryan and I would split up and one would stay with the baby and one would go with the big kid. We took turns doing just that, and I didn’t even mind the breaks with the baby because sitting and people-watching at Disneyland is almost as fun and entertaining as the attractions.

Our favorite ride is Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure and we were so excited that Madelyn was finally tall enough to go! Thank goodness for a couple wisps of hair because she just baaaaaarely made the 40-inch minimum. She went on with Bryan first while I waited with a snoozing Arielle and all I could think about was that Madelyn would lose her mind over going up in the glider — and not in a good way. She doesn’t even love the swings at the park, so motion and a big movie with a total sensory experience seemed like a bad idea, but hey, I was outside relaxing with a baby while watching a family in all matching t-shirts figure out how a Fast Pass works. A Madelyn Meltdown was Bryan’s problem. So, color me wrong when 20 minutes later, a proud Bryan walked behind a galloping Madelyn with the greatest smile on her face. “MOMMY!! WE WENT OVER THE OCEAN AND I SMELLED TREES AND IT WAS LIKE A PLANE WITH NO WINDOWS!!!!!!!!” She loved it.

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So then I got to take a turn with my girl! It was so much fun to see her reaction a second time around. And I loved it more than I ever had before.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #1:
Rider switch is so great!! When you get to the cast member at the front, tell him or her that you have a baby that is staying with one parent. That way, when the other parent wants a turn to go on the ride, the other parent doesn’t have to re-wait in line again and they move on to the “on deck” portion of the line (basically, the second parent avoids the zig-zags). This is called Rider Switch or Child Switch — they’ll know what you mean. Since we had Fast Passes for Soarin’ Over California, we really waited no time at all, maybe ten minutes each time.

We decided to take advantage of a baby who continued to sleep and eat lunch. As all parents know, the moment you get hot food in front of you, that’s when babies decide to wake up and be needy. Thankfully, Arielle cooperated while we enjoyed lunch right next door to Soarin’. Having an extra adult IS helpful since while Bryan ordered for us, Madelyn and I snagged a table that also accommodated the bus. I mean, double stroller. While we waited, Maddie and I talked about all the things we wanted to do the rest of the day. She’s such a little Disney expert. ‘

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Our first ride that included Arielle was The Little Mermaid ride, Madelyn’s all-time favorite. While Arielle stared out into the acid trip that is music, colors, and movement by cartoony mannequins, Madelyn danced and sang along with each part of the ride, narrating to her rookie little sister what was happening. Arielle could not care less. Another day in babyland.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #2:

When it comes to rides that babies can go on, have one parent handle the big kid and the diaper bag and another parent handle just the baby. On some rides, babies can be worn in a carrier, but I didn’t even whip out my carrier because it was just too hot to wear the baby and she was totally fine laying down in the stroller. It was less stressful to assign this combination between us parents because getting on and off rides can sometimes resemble a gymnastics event, and only having to think about the baby (instead of the baby and the bag and the big kid) was less stressful.

We meandered through California Adventure for a few more hours with no agenda whatsoever. It was easy to avoid the area that caters toward older kids and instead, we just found ourself moseying around and enjoying whatever we stumbled upon.

Like Vintage Minnie! Madelyn is still a big time Minnie fan, so she was super excited to meet her in this great outfit. Minnie signed Madelyn’s autograph book and then spent some time with Arielle. She played with her toes and gave her lots of kisses. Arielle stared blankly at her, not even fazed by this gigantic mouse with eyelashes in her face. Oh, babies.

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Then Minnie used her amazing Mouse Sign Language to ask what her name was and when Maddie told her “Arielle,” Minnie, ever so original, proceeded to hold her nose and dive down, as if she were a mermaid swimming in the water. “Oh Minnie,” I told her. “It’s Arielle, not Ariel!” and then she silently giggled and wrote in the air with her gloved hands “R,” “E,” “L” and then I high fived her. Madelyn loved all the attention both she and her sister received from Mrs. Mouse.

Maybe it was having her little sis with her for the first time, or maybe she is just growing up, but Madelyn was suddenly eager to go on rides that she used to be afraid of. The sounds and darkness of the Monsters, Inc. ride always frightened Madelyn so I’ve been conditioned to walking right by it. But this time, she saw the big pink door that belongs to Boo and asked to go on. I was shocked. But happy! I love that little ride and it’s one that we can all go on together, so that was a nice bonus.

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Instead of being scared, Madelyn protected her sister with, “Don’t worry, Arielle! They’re monsters, but they’re not really mean!” Arielle breathed a deep sigh of relief. Or passed gas. Who knows.

Around the corner from Monsters, Inc. was the new-ish “Frozen” pavilion that we hadn’t seen. It opened up just around the time I stopped going to Disneyland a few months before Arielle’s arrival. We walked over to see a super short line to meet Olaf. Madelyn is not a typical Frozen Fanatic like a lot of other girls her age. She likes it and all, but doesn’t aspire to be Elsa or Anna, so I even though she didn’t go totally gaga over the friendly snowman, we all figured we would enjoy some warm hugs on a hot day because it was new.

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And conveniently, the “Frozen” sing along show was next door so we decided to give that a whirl in the name of trying new things. It replaced the Muppet 3D show which I adored because Muppets. I was looking forward to seeing this new “Frozen” show because I assumed it would be stellar and entertaining. Oh, and there was air conditioning. As we waited to go in the actual theater, Arielle fell asleep but then as soon as it was time to go in and get seats, she got hungry.

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DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #3:

Shows make great places to feed babies since you can multitask; family fun isn’t interrupted and the baby gets to eat. Everyone wins. Bonus points for breastfeeders: dark theaters give you a little privacy and everyone is so focused on the entertainment that nobody is looking at your boobs. Usually, shows are dark and there’s lots of ambient noise, so the baby can go to town without too many distractions and you can also look at something while you’re feeding.

The “Frozen” show started and I was quickly underwhelmed. Five minutes in and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It was a really super loose script that narrated the chunks of the movie during which the screen played the song parts of the film with words to sing along with. The live narrators were fine even though their material was horrible, but the live “Frozen” characters that sporadically came out totally phoned it in. I expected a lot more from Disney on this attraction. It was tossed together and quality was sacrificed, but oh well because “Frozen” lovers will love it anyway. Even Madelyn seemed bored and I thought the best part of the whole show was the indoor air conditioning and the rest that my feet got.

We crossed over to Disneyland for some old fashioned Disney fun, and went straight to It’s A Small World. I was curious to see if Arielle would react because the famous Sherman Brothers song is one that always works to get her calm when she’s crying, but as usual, she just looked around and had no idea what all the fuss was about.

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Our only “Oops” of the day happened as we were exiting the boat. Bryan’s long, lean legs got a little excited and too close to Madelyn’s face, so as he stepped out, his foot made contact with her cheekbone. I saw a bruise already forming so through her screams — oy! the guilt! — we rushed over to the first aid center to get some ice. The deed was done, though, and she endured some swelling and black-and-blue there. The nurses could clearly see the anguish in the poor dad’s face, so they wrote up a coupon for a free ice cream to redeem anywhere in the park by the end of the day. Madelyn cheered up — which was a relief to Bryan — and we were on our way, beat up but not beat down.

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You know what makes little girls feel better after getting kicked in the head? Princesses. We caught up with the girls at Madelyn’s favorite stop in all of Disneyland. As usual, the line was about 45 minutes, so Bryan stood in line while Madelyn and I walked around with Arielle in the stroller.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #4:

Want your baby to sleep in the stroller? Both my kids have successfully napped at Disneyland without having to go back to a hotel all thanks to the magical Disney cobblestone. There’s sleep dust in that groundwork. As long as the stroller is moving and going over cobblestone or wooden paths or anything with a bumpety-bump, my kids sleep. I imagine kids who cry in the car won’t have success with this, but kids who go to sleep with motion (mine! yay!) will also conk out in the stroller as long as they’re moving over ground with texture. This is how we got Arielle to sleep the day away and make things easy for us!

We stood in front of the castle and I snapped pics of Madelyn with the diamond anniversary decor. We also killed time by walking over to Snow White’s wishing well and we listened to her sing. Finally, we browsed some shops and Madelyn made friends with mannequins as she does when we shop anywhere. Time passed quickly, and then we were ready to see the princesses.

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When we went in, we knew we’d see Snow White and Cinderella, but there was also a surprise princess. For the first time, Madelyn met Jasmine and she was a little timid as she took her in. By the end of their meet up, though, they were good friends. That must’ve been some magic carpet they were standing on. Ba-dum ch!

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As dinner time drew close, we were getting hungry. We were unsuccessful landing reservations at our favorite restaurants the day before when I looked online for slots, but we tried to get in on standby at the Thunder Ranch BBQ and we were seated shortly after. This is the best meal and deal at Disneyland! The food is delicious and plentiful! It’s all-you-can-eat BBQ and it’s REALLY yummy! The service is great and there’s usually a little show that the kids enjoy during dinner.

For what you get and the quality of food, it’s reasonably priced too (for Disneyland at least) so I highly recommend it, especially to big groups. They also accommodate diet limitations, and since I’m ditching dairy and soy in exchange for a happy breastfed baby (OMG Arielle was a nightmare until I did this), the chef came out to talk to me and shared how I would be accommodated and still enjoy my meal. I was and I did!

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #5:
Since the restaurant is right next door to the Big Thunder Ranch petting farm, while we waited for our table, I took Madelyn to see her goat friends. They’re so cute and well behaved. So many people don’t know about this little petting area. Sometimes Clarabelle the cow and a horse are there, but the goats are almost always out. It’s a great way to let little ones run around in a contained area, especially if another parent and the baby are waiting in line somewhere else and the older kid doesn’t have patience to wait. Keep in touch with the cell phones and voila! Happy children and happy parents! Also, hand washing stations there for the win! Sometimes I go there just to wash hands when I want to avoid crowded, stuffy bathrooms, assuming I don’t have to actually use the potty.

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It was almost parade time and I heard that the new parade was not to be missed; that it was like the Electrical Parade on crack. So while Bryan and Madelyn set up camp and got a spot on Main Street to wait for the parade, I fed Arielle in the Baby Care Center just off of Main Street.

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I’d always heard what a haven this place was, and it really was. While I am OK with nursing in public, it was kind of nice to also have a mostly private area and legit chair to sit in and feed the baby.


DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #6:

There are outlets in the Baby Care Center. That may mean pumping area to some, or phone charging stations to others. So yes, I fed my baby and fed my phone. It was truly a win-win. Also, a serving of air conditioning.

I met some nice moms in there and it became a breastfeeding support group. Disneyland is magical that way. It was kind of funny that we all agreed we were comfortable nursing our babies throughout Disneyland, but that we came solely for the cooling off. Really, though, this place is great and I recommend it since they also have a large baby changing area, tiny potties for older tots, and a kitchenette with a microwave and high chairs.

The new parade was awesome, despite being very loud. I would recommend bringing ear plugs or covering a baby’s ears. You can’t really avoid the speakers — they’re everywhere! It’s a super cool parade to watch, but I have major concerns about the damage that the sound is doing to kids’ ears. Other Disney pros told us to stay on Main Street for the new fireworks show that would happen shortly after the parade. But, it was not to be. About 3.75 raindrops fell from the sky and a leaf fluttered once or twice on a nearby tree and it was Storm Watch 2015. The fireworks show was canceled and we were so sad! Madelyn cried. Actually, lots of kids cried. And then we were stuck in a waterfall of angry people who wanted to get out of the park.

Once we got out of the crowd, we continued walking around the different lands. Bryan and Madelyn went on Pirates of the Caribbean while a sleeping Arielle and I watched nighttime happen around the park — romantic couples, kids with light up toys, teenagers on the prowl.

We explored a few more areas and then at 11 p.m., we redeemed that ice cream voucher at Gibson Girl that we received from the nurses at first aid.


DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #7:

If you want a treat before you leave the park — we always do! Holding onto Disney magic in our hearts… and on our thighs — go to the Gibson Girl for fancy ice cream desserts DURING “Fantasmic!” because once it’s over, the rest of the park makes a mad dash to leave and they have the same idea about one last taste of Disney deliciousness. This is good when you have sleepy kids and you just want to get home after your final treat.

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Madelyn was so, so tired, but she soldiered on to enjoy her strawberry sundae with her Daddy. I scowled at them in my no-dairy bubble and Arielle slept through the whole thing.

So, the outcome of taking an almost four-year-old and a three-month-old to Disneyland? Piece of cake. Really. It might be harder later on when Arielle wants to move around more or has opinions to express, but as a blob of a baby — let’s face it, that’s what they are for the first few months — it ended up being a very successful and rewarding day.

And yet, I’m excited for this sleepy little baby to wake up a little bit, too, because she will absolutely love Disneyland once she’s old enough to truly enjoy it. Some of Madelyn’s happiest memories in her short little life have been made there. Mine too.

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Such Devoted Sisters

Almost every day, someone asks me how the sisters are doing together and how Madelyn is feeling since having Arielle home. I am proud — and relieved — to say that it’s been 14 weeks of Arielle-ness, and not once, even for a nanosecond, has Madelyn ever acted out, felt jealous, or wished her sister away.

Just today, Arielle was crying because… who knows… and Madelyn and I looked at each other with exasperated eyes and I said with some sarcasm, “Ok! That’s it. She’s going back in!” and Madelyn put her hand on my tummy and said, “Noooo, Mommy! You can’t put my sister back in! She has to be out of your tummy so I can always be with her.”

And that was just one instance of Big Sis showing her Lil Sis some love.

A few weeks ago, I was in my bathroom doing my makeup before taking the girls out for the day. Of course I only had about five minutes left of putting on my face, but that’s when Arielle decided to do a ping pong match with her pacifier where she’d spit it back out after I put it back in. This exercise continued and I decided that I just needed to finish the mascara and I’d be able to then pick her up and we’d be on the move.

So just as predicted, the first coat was going on Lefty, and Arielle began her wail. I told myself to stay strong, that I’d be ready to pick her up in a few minutes, and then I heard Madelyn barreling down the hall: “I got it! I GOT IT! I GOT ITTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!” and in a blink of my newly spidery eyes, the baby stopped crying, Madelyn was rocking her, and singing, quite appropriately, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Arielle was silent. And then she began to coo at Madelyn who started to talk to her gently in her baby voice: “It’s Ok, Baby Sister. I’m here. I’m Maddie. I’m your big sister. I will always make sure you’re happy. I can’t wait to teach you things.” And then she proceeded to list all of the things she wants to teach her and do with her, which included reading, playing with Princeton, and going potty.

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And then my stupid mascara dripping was all over my cheeks. Must’ve been allergies. Or some onion chopping… invisibly taking place… in my bathroom. Yeah.

Every week, when I take Arielle’s photo to document her age, Madelyn always wants to jump in and be in the photo with her. At first I thought maybe this was the jealousy and it was finally showing up, but then Madelyn would declare, “I just want to be in the photo with Arielle so she can always remember us together.” I mean. What? Really?

So now each week, I have record of both girls growing together.

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Even in the hospital, Madelyn was curious and never cautious. She owned Arielle from the moment she arrived. She knew right away to speak to her in a sweet voice and was always quiet and calm around her, despite her genuine excitement. She proudly wore her Big Sister couture, never felt left out even when I was in bed with the baby so we could get to know each other.

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Before Arielle was born, friends advised me to have a basket of special toys for Madelyn to play with while I nursed the baby since those first few weeks typically require us to be attached to each other. The theory is that the basket of unique toys would distract the big sister from the fact that Mom is giving a lot of attention to the baby sister. Well, I never got my act together and no such basket ever came to fruition.

Instead, Madelyn gave US a gift. If she wasn’t off playing happily and independently while we tended to all of Arielle’s needs, she was right by our side, helping out and assisting as a second or third set of hands. And those long hours of nursing Arielle in her room presented us with a greater gift than any basket of presents we could’ve given to Madelyn: She would sing and dance, dress up in costumes, and perform shows for us. Not only did this keep me entertained while nursing — which, admittedly, can be kind of boring and exhausting — but it made Arielle more and more familiar with her future idol. As the weeks went on and the baby became more aware of her surroundings, she began to fixate on Madelyn right away, and I really think it’s because she heard her voice and felt her presence so often.

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Now, Arielle lights up when Madelyn enters the room. This past week at Gymboree, we were discussing who our babies’ favorite people are besides Mom (read: food), and without a doubt, I was able to list Madelyn. When she’s around, Arielle quits crying, and she doles out smiles for free to her big sis, which makes Madelyn reciprocate with excited squeals.

As an only child, it is so super cool to see how the girls treat each other and react to each other. I know that the future holds more of a … variety… of emotions between these two. But their foundation now is strong. I am so thankful that Madelyn embraced her baby sister. And really, I never expected she wouldn’t. I always kind of knew she’d be a terrific big sister and wouldn’t display any negative reactions. For the sake of honesty, I was always worried about how I, the mother, would accept a new child into our home. Things were so established with Madelyn and she’s such a great kid. I kept wondering how I could ever love another little one.

It wasn’t love at first sight either. I was quite happy with Arielle and glad she was here, but I still didn’t know HOW I would fit her into our very tight unit. We took her home, and between the distractions of recovering from surgery and figuring out breastfeeding, I wasn’t quite bonded with her yet — I mean, I thought she was very cute and sweet, but didn’t really know what to DO with this new baby.

And then it hit me. Madelyn was a big sister. She grew into her new role like a pro, like it was always meant to happen for her. And I began to fall in love with Arielle through the eyes of Madelyn.

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At the end of my pregnancy, I had shared my concerns with of our dear friends who is also very wise with two darling daughters of his own. He said that his older daughter made them a family and his younger daughter completed it. Those words definitely ring true for me now and thanks to Madelyn, I had my “Ah ha!” moment of really FALLING in love with Arielle, our sweet little newcomer.

Madelyn allowed me to truly adore and enjoy our baby. The guilt and concerns I felt before she arrived all dissipated once I saw Madelyn as a big sister. I can’t wait to see their relationship grow, and I know that Arielle will always be on the right track with such a wonderful role model in front of her. Time will tell how different they may be, but these two sisters share one big thing: my heart.

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How I’ve Milked Newbornhood

by Alison Friedman in Amazing Arielle, Baby Land, Boobs, Mommy's Musings

Wednesday marks eight weeks of an accomplishment I never thought I’d make.

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Before she was born, I knew I wanted the experience of breastfeeding Arielle, It’s what I’d planned to do with Madelyn, but I had to stop early due to the infection at the C-section site. As she grew, I remained sad about not having the opportunity to breastfeed and harbored a lot of anger toward the doctor who dismissed my suspicion that something was wrong with me. I knew that if we ever had another child, I would attempt breastfeeding again.

I don’t really know why it was so important to me. After all, I am not even against formula or claim in any way that it’s poison. Thank goodness for formula! It’s what nourished and grew my happy and healthy first child who rarely suffers illnesses, accomplished milestones ahead of or on time, eased into developmental transitions, and continues to outsmart us in almost every area of life.

Still, though, I longed for the experience that formula can’t give; the utter (udder?) mammalian connection between mother and biological child.

So when it was time to feed Arielle about an hour into her life in the outside world, I was essentially starting over. The nurse helped us latch, gave me tips about positioning, and explained to me what I should listen and look for. As the days went on and I was able to move better and better, we continued to establish a breastfeeding relationship. It was simple at first, but then became more and more painful. Nurses said our latch looked fine, and I was told I was doing it right, but I should just keep nursing and power through the pain that would leave within the week as my body became used to all the new sensations and activity. So I did. In the bubble of the hospital, I learned how to breastfeed Arielle.

bf1

Milk came in the day before we were discharged so on top of all kinds of lightning-like pain, I suffered some pretty intense engorgement. Our wonderful pediatrician came in one morning to do her routine assessment on Arielle, and we giggled together as I greeted her with pillows of ice across my chest.

I don’t know how I did it, but I just kept telling myself to keep on keeping on.

Our first night home was a disaster. I’m still looking to meet the mom who hasn’t cried on her first night home from the hospital. Are you out there, Miracle Woman? Do you exist? Has anyone ever had a peaceful night without tears the day the baby comes home? Between hormones and the absence of the safety net of the wonderful nurses, I lost it. The pain suddenly increased and I was noticing blood and scabbing. The engorgement seemed out of control, and I swore I was going to float away like the house in “Up” due to the balloons under my shirt. The discomfort and the resulting crying baby left me in a puddle of tears from The Ugly Cry.

Twelve hours later, I had a lactation consultant in my house.

She taught me how to latch differently. She inspected my breasts. She assessed Arielle’s anatomy. Even though my face was still puffy from hours of crying, I began to feel better about having this personal support at my fingertips six days after Arielle’s arrival. She did notice, however, that Arielle’s tongue didn’t seem to wiggle out past her gums. And after additional inspection, she decided that Arielle was tongue tied; that her frenulum (the tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) was tight and preventing the tongue from making the necessary movements to suck and swallow correctly. I learned that this is very common, but usually goes undiagnosed if the baby is not breastfed because it’s the uncomfortable experience that brings attention to the tongue tie. If the baby is not breastfed, later in life, the child or adult might have issues with range of motion, speech, behavior, or ear, nose, and throat channels. I was glad we caught this, not only for my own comfort, but for Arielle’s overall health.

So on her eighth day, Arielle had a tongue bris. The ENT physician was so knowledgeable and supportive of breastfeeding. The procedure was hard for me to watch as I held her hands, but immediately after, I was able to nurse Arielle and I noticed a difference. By releasing the frenulum with a small cut, her movement was more breastfeeding-friendly, and we were able to continue on our journey while I simultaneously healed.

It wasn’t smooth sailing though. I continued to encounter bumps in the road. My pump was uncomfortable. Engorgement took over again. A plugged duct killed an entire day that I was sure would also kill me. Two weeks in, and I was miserable. I had threatened to quit breastfeeding approximately 47 times and every time, I chickened out because I didn’t want to quit breastfeeding. I wanted to like it. And I knew I could get to that point eventually only because so many friends had been in my shoes and told me it passes. This was a test of my strength and stamina.

Milk coma selfie: things have changed since college.

Milk coma selfie: things have changed since college.

I am part of a wonderful Facebook group with local moms who all gave me great advice. Two friends from the group spent hours replying to texts and looking at photos to consult me during those hard times. Late night FaceTime sessions helped talk me off a ledge. Therapeutic phone calls with friends added to my arsenal of information to battle the challenges I experienced (thanks, Gretch, for the APNO recipe!). I began going to a breastfeeding support group on Wednesdays and it has since become my favorite day of the week.

The weeks went by and the pain began to dwindle. What was once pain throughout an entire nursing session became pain only during the first few minutes. Then those minutes turned into only one. That one became a half. And now, when Arielle latches, I don’t feel pain. I feel pride.

BF2

The nurses said it would take about two to three weeks. Well. No. Biggest lie of my life. Six weeks in, I stopped having anxiety before each feeding. And now, we’re at eight weeks, and the only reason why I find myself sighing before she eats is because the dog needs to go outside, Madelyn needs help putting on her socks, errands still have to be completed, I haven’t showered yet, and it’s 5 o’clock and I need to start preparing dinner. I didn’t need a breastfeeding miracle. I need a clone.

We’ve even figured out how to successfully nurse when we are out of the house. At first I was so nervous to leave home because I wasn’t sure how I would perform the breastfeeding choreography without the comfort of my special chair and positioning. But now, I can nurse while waiting for a table at a restaurant, off to the side at Target, and even standing up while microwaving Madelyn’s dinner. I don’t profess to know everything, but I know what works for me. So far. At this point. I know things will change as she grows and develops, but I now feel equipped to roll with it.

Before we could be seated to eat at the restaurant, Arielle dined at the breastaurant.

Before we could be seated to eat the restaurant, Arielle dined at the breastaurant.

My mom breastfed me during a time when a lot of moms felt that formula was the magical milk that was just as good as breast milk. Maybe it was. It was the 80s after all. But what interested me in breastfeeding and inspired me to try it and work through my obstacles was the experience itself that she shared with me. She told me about the amazing bond she felt, and the closeness of our relationship. She shared with me that it felt good, and how sweet it was. While she didn’t breastfeed me for an extended amount of time due to being a working mom (again, it was the 80s after all), she still felt the depth and benefits of nursing. Needless to say, I was intrigued, and wanted to understand first hand these memories my mom had of nursing me. So every time i swore I was going to quit between gasping, snorting sobs, she encouraged me to keep going and power through.

So many friends who support breastfeeding told me it was OK to quit. That my happiness mattered most and Arielle would be fine. Of course she would. Madelyn is a shining star. My stubbornness was selfish. I didn’t want to quit for me. I knew my baby would get fed regardless; but if I quit, I would never have this experience again. It was now or never. I wanted to reap the benefits of breastfeeding for myself and make the choice to quit for whatever reason after we were established, not during a low moment. I didn’t want to regret it later on because I knew the pain of regret would be greater than the pain at the breast.

But my true rock? My greatest support? My husband. He doesn’t have boobs and he was raised on formula. He’s not a hippie and he hated seeing me in pain. He usually chooses the path of least resistance, but is just as stubborn as I am. He was there for me with a glass of water and a flexi straw every time I was due to nurse. He helped me plan a blueprint of a schedule to get us through a good day. He could have told me to just forget it; that my constant crying was stressful and annoying; that it would just be soooooo much easier to shake up a scoop of powder and water. He was sympathetic and gentle, exactly what I needed to keep going. He continues to be there for every middle-of-the-night feeding, not even because I need help with breastfeeding specifically, but because we are a team and he wants the best for me and the best for our daughter. So while I prepare to nurse Arielle, he changes her diaper and brings her to me. It’s a relay and we work well together. I am so, so thankful to have a supportive partner like him because even though he can’t possibly understand what I’ve gone through, he knew how important it was to me. He wanted me to succeed, so he did everything to empower me. True love.

BF4

My personal opinion is that everyone, if they can, should try to breastfeed. I’ve never felt more female or important. I feel much more bonded with Arielle than I did with Madelyn at this stage of newbornhood. My mental state is completely normal and I feel extremely clearheaded and recovered from surgery and post partum symptoms. My weight loss kicked into gear much sooner than it did last time, and I not only feel connected with Arielle’s body, but with my own, too. I am constantly in awe of the fact that I have the ability and honor of feeding my baby and how miraculous my body is for making it possible.

Breastfeeding is not easy. The fact that it’s the most natural thing a woman’s body can do does not mean that it’s the easiest thing. I don’t know very many women who say it’s not painful in the beginning, or messy, or stressful. It was all those things for me. Between inconvenient leaking that left a trail like I was Hansel AND Gretel to predicting feeding times with opportunities to sleep, I found beginning breastfeeding to be extremely challenging. I did it anyway. Anyone who knows me knows that I usually quit things that are difficult and too much trouble. Except this time.

A woman’s anatomy is truly amazing, and I have nothing but pride to do what it’s been made to do along with all other mammals. Our society has made breasts to be acceptable as only sexual accessories, but nobody is grossed out about the mama dog feeding her puppies or the new baby giraffe nuzzling with its mom for milk. I joke that I’m Arielle’s pantry. The kitchen is always open and I will continue to feed my baby until one or both of us is done. I’ve come so far and have never felt more proud. With the ongoing support of my friends, my mom, and Bryan, I know Arielle will continue to get the best. I love that she and I have a unique relationship that nobody else in her life can duplicate and I have the ability to take her from frantic to calm with cuddling and milk.

On the left: Before Milk. On the right: After Milk

On the left: Before Milk. On the right: After Milk

***

When new moms come to the Wednesday breastfeeding support group filled with anxiety and tears — the usual signs of having a one or two-weeker — I empathetically tell them it will all be OK and it gets better. It wasn’t long ago that I was hearing the same thing, and I am now honored to take my place in the sisterhood and support others from the other side of the fence.

  1. Marissa
    4/30/2015 12:37 AM

    A wonderful post and so spot on! Thanks for writing it. I’m four weeks in and have had a similar experience but I’m so glad I’m doing it. Also – we have the same udder cover!

  2. Jocelyn Morelli
    4/29/2015 9:35 AM

    Wonderful read. Flash back to the cruise we went on many moons ago. (I was still nursing Joa at 18 months.) I’m not sure you guys were on this shuttle. While exiting it in Croatia, a new mother dropped her container of formula. She immediately started crying. Tears of frustration. She was going to have to return to the ship and miss out on the tour. I distinctly remember her saying she was so sick of schlepping bottles of spring water and formula. I was so grateful to not have to worry about Joa getting nourished, as long as she was with me. I never considered the benefit of being able to provide food for my baby in the event of an emergency. Pretty cool!
    I breast fed until she was 2 1/2. For me it was the easy way. I would have continued to breast feed her longer. The weight flew off. I was eating like a maniac and in single digit sizes for the first time since high school.
    I was hospitalized for 10 days after a brown recluse bit my bottom and had to quit breastfeeding cold turkey.
    Which brings me to another point. I became encouraged immediately in the hospital. I was hooked up to a morphine drip after my surgery. High powered narcotics could not touch the pain I felt. So, I’m just sayin’… You’re a badass for getting to the other side!

The Story of Our Second Baby

by Alison Friedman in All In The Family, Amazing Arielle, Baby Land

After things were settled when Madelyn was born, I wrote up the story of her birth while it was still fresh in my mind. None of her story had been written before she arrived since it was all being created in the moments as the events actually happened. This time, though, the story was mostly blueprinted and predictable, with only the smallest details missing. What a completely different experience to go into a birth with almost all of the events planned ahead.

We woke up Wednesday morning with a jumble of emotions. Madelyn was super excited. Bryan was super excited. I was super… nervous. I tend to shut down and get quiet when big things are about to happen, so I was pretty out of it; numb, even. We took one last glimpse of the baby’s room before it would be filled with an actual baby.

Ready to go out the door and had to take one last photo of Madelyn as the youngest princess of the house. Confession: I cried when I took this picture.

Ready to go out the door and had to take one last photo of Madelyn as the youngest princess of the house. Confession: I cried when I took this picture.

We dropped off Princeton at doggy day camp where I emotionally said goodbye. He’s always my consistent and calming furry pile of love, and I wished more than anything I could smuggle him into the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital, the first thing I saw was this sign at the entrance where the valet station is. I hoped that the quality of surgery was better than the spell checking. I chuckled to myself, which left me in stitches. The stitches before the stitches. Har har.

Valet parking goes with bad spelling like peanut butter and jelly... spaghetti and meatballs... a pregnant teacher and a red pen

Valet parking goes with bad spelling like peanut butter and jelly… spaghetti and meatballs… a pregnant teacher and a red pen

And my last dose of Vitamin D and natural light was with this cutie.

We are holding hands, but you can't see me white knuckling on her hand because nerves.

We are holding hands, but you can’t see me white knuckling on her hand because nerves.

Because I’m overdramatic, I had a lot of moments where I said “This is our last X without a new baby…” From the time we arrived until the time the baby arrived, I made my last self-made, unassisted pee, sent my last text message (shout out to Krissy Winters), felt my last belly kick… Life as we knew it would soon be over and I was marking everything I did as a final milestone before writing our new chapter. It all makes sense in my head, but it’s very possible that this incessant thought pattern requires heavy therapy. I don’t know.

After I was all set up in my pre-op room, we had one last moment of time as a family of three and I. Lost. My. Shit. I stood up to hug Madelyn goodbye and I burst — more like imploded — into tears and it was not my best mom moment because even though it was 100% out of love and a little bit out of fear and guilt, but mostly love, all Madelyn saw were the tears coming out of my eyes and then as if right on cue, she cried too, and then we were both snotty, sobbing messes. Because she was upset from seeing me upset/happy/scared out of my mind/mostly happy, she wouldn’t take a photo with us before I headed to the operating room, so that’s the story of how I single handedly ruined our very last moment as a family of three.

Then I walked down to the operating room and that’s weird because the last time I was in the O.R., I was also a hysterical ball of emotions, but I was wheeled down because I had no feeling despite having allllll the feelings. This time, I still had all the feelings, but could walk… nervously with heart palpitations because I was moments away from being cut open while awake and trusting a man with a long needle to make sure I wouldn’t feel a pinch.

Meanwhile, back in Normal People Land, Bryan suited it up for the big show before leaving the big sister with the grandparents to wait.

Meanwhile, back in Normal People Land, Bryan suited it up for the big show before leaving the big sister with the grandparents to wait.

The O.R. was cold, just as I remembered, and I sat on the table where my new daughter would be born just 45 minutes later, and I was given instructions about what to do to receive my spinal block, but all I heard from the anesthesiologist was Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice: “Wah wah wah waaaaaah wah waaaaaah wah wah wah waaaaaah.” Between the nerves, the chills, and his mask that covered any possible audible sound, I seriously had no idea what was going on and my brain was numb as I just went with the flow of the procedure. I didn’t love it. This particular anesthesiologist was not as quick and smooth as the one who did the job with Madelyn’s birth. I felt lots of pressure and aches and what felt like hammering into my back. Good times. He kept asking me if I could feel things and I thought long and hard about my answers because they determined my fate and comfort. Pinch or pressure — two options I don’t want to have to choose from again.

But then it all went cold and heavy and the connections my brain made to my legs stopped working and the wonderful nurses did all my body manipulation for me. I would say there’s nothing more humbling than other people having to lift your gigantic body a few inches while you lie there helpless and unable to move a molecule, but I’d be wrong because… post partum care.

Then the stars of the show arrived: the doctors. It was a reunion of many kinds because assisting Dr. Replacement was my beloved and long lost Dr. Fiiiine! She had told me that even though she wouldn’t be able to be my obstetrician for this pregnancy since she was no longer doing OB, she could still assist in surgeries, so we worked it out that she could be there. She hadn’t done any deliveries since she stopped OB in December, so the whole O.R. gang was happy to see her back in her old stomping grounds. So was my uterus.

After what felt like decades, Bryan finally came into the room, the music started to play, and things got started. I had no idea what was going on despite requesting a mirror. Oh yes, minor detail: I asked for a mirror so I could see… stuff. People thought I was nuts, but I really don’t know how seeing a baby come out of your incised belly is any different than seeing a baby come out of your war zone vagina, which plenty of non c-section women do. The good news is that the angle of the mirror plus the action of the doctors prevented me from being able to see myself get cut open, so that’s probably a good thing. But minutes later, I heard Dr. Fiiiine say, “Oh, she has lots of hair and she’s a cutie!” and I knew the big moment was about to happen.

You see, with Madelyn’s birth, I felt very disconnected. In a state of confusion, I was horizontal on the table while a baby was excavated from my cavity. I would have felt that way with this one, too, if I didn’t have a mirror because inches in front of my nose was a blue drape that went as high and wide as I could see. My arms were out to my side, my eyes only reached so far peripherally, and all I could hear was white noise of medical equipment instead of play-by-play conversation that I could tell everyone else was having around me. The mirror, though, helped make sense of what was going on in the O.R. and brought me into the inner circle a little bit more, like I was sitting at the cool kids’ table. So when Dr. Fiiiine remarked that she could see the baby, I could feel the official Mother-of-Two moment was near.

TA DA! Dr. Fiiiine holds mah bay-bay in her very own Lion King moment.

TA DA! Dr. Fiiiine holds mah bay-bay in her very own Lion King moment.

At 1:00 on the dot, I saw her emerge and it was the most amazing thing. I saw Dr. Fiiine lift her up with her umbilical cord still dangling and attached to me, and I felt so connected to her arrival, ironically, as they disconnected her from me. I heard — and saw! — her cry, and watched as their hands dashed to prepare her for her next moments. The mirror was taken away, which was acceptable, because I did not need to see the rest of the procedure where they put me back together like Humpty Dumpty, and Bryan and the nurses brought the baby to me and I could see her inches away from my eyes and felt her on my chest where I was able to kiss her on the head.

Bryan literally cuts the cord. He will figuratively do it again when she's 32 and sleeping on our couch.

Bryan literally cuts the cord. He will figuratively do it again when she’s 32 and sleeping on our couch.

Hi. I'm your mommy.

Hi. I’m your mommy.

Cliche c-section awkward first family photo with shower caps and an upside down mother.

Cliche c-section awkward first family photo with shower caps and an upside down mother.

We spent a few moments together before Bryan left with her to go to the nursery. I remember tearing up because the moment felt very defined just as I imagined it would: BOOM. Now I had a second daughter. BOOM. Madelyn was a sister. BOOM. Life changed and I’d never experience pregnancy again and this stage of my life was officially over.

The rest of the surgery was pretty routine and boring. Unlike last time, this c-section had no bouts of nausea and vomiting, and no complications due to bleeding, so I wasn’t preoccupied with discomfort or fear. Instead, I was laying there and wondering what was going on in the nursery with the baby.

I found out later that everything in the nursery went fine and the baby took all her poking and prodding and washing like a champ. The proud grandparents and big sister watched it all through the windows as they got their first glimpses of the new member of our family.

Pride.

Pride.

Someone's excited to be a big sister.

Someone’s excited to be a big sister.

Who doesn't love baby feet?

Who doesn’t love baby feet?

The baby and Bryan met up with me in my recovery room and the three of us bonded and exchanged a lot of “I can’t believe its” and “This is so weirds” and we stared at our new baby and marveled at the fact that everything was different and this was our new chapter to write together.

Madelyn came in the room shortly after to meet her sister and it was an amazing moment. She had seen the baby from afar through the nursery viewing area, but this was their first encounter. We made sure the baby was in her little isolette so that Madelyn could see me with empty hands that were all for her hugs. I was so glad to see my number one girl and I told her I was OK and that I was so glad she was a big sister. Then we officially introduced her to her sister and Madelyn was over the moon. The proud grandparents joined us afterward, and they were all giddy with anticipation to see the baby up close and hear her name. Madelyn had the honors of doing the big reveal and she told them that her baby sister’s name was Arielle Jane Friedman. We told them it was Arielle because we liked it, and Jane was in memory of my Grandpa, Jules, who passed away 23 months ago. Collective “awwww”s rang out, and it felt so good to officially link this baby to our family.

We got settled in our new room that would be our home for four days. I spent the rest of the day nuzzling Arielle, learning her every body part, and connecting to begin breastfeeding together. I dozed on and off while people took turns holding her. The family stayed with us and our magical time in the hospital cocoon that I remembered so tenderly from last time was beginning.

After months of not knowing how I'd welcome a new little love in my life, it felt really good to have her in my arms.

After months of not knowing how I’d welcome a new little love in my life, it felt really good to have her in my arms.

I got sunshine on a cloudy day. I even got the month of May. Talkin' 'bout my girls.

I got sunshine on a cloudy day. I even got the month of May. Talkin’ ’bout my girls.

Baby's first family reunion.

Baby’s first family reunion.

Perhaps one of the greatest moments of Arielle’s birth day was at the end of the evening, before going home with Mimi and Poppa, Madelyn sat on a chair and held her little sister. It was the scene everyone warned me about: the emotional satisfaction of seeing your first born with your new baby, and the bonds beginning to build. As an only child, I have no idea what this experience is like on either end of the birth order, but as a mother, it was extremely satisfying, rewarding, and delightful. I looked at Madelyn and Arielle together and knew that my life’s greatest works were right in front of me. At 31, I peaked.

Alllllll the feels. All of them.

Alllllll the feels. All of them.

At 39 weeks and one day, the day that Arielle arrived was a roller coaster. I went in as ball of nerves and finished as a puddle of mush. I felt guilt and fear and discomfort and happiness. It was a hard day of, literally, doing nothing but experiencing everything. Compared to Madelyn’s birth day, Arielle’s was medically relaxed and predictable and the scheduled, repeat c-section was a breeze considering what it had been for me in 2011. And now, after almost five weeks of Arielle, it’s all slowly becoming a blur so I am rushing to write down my thoughts and experiences from the day she was born. We’ve been busy, learning about life together and Arielle fits in quite nicely with our family.

She’s ours for keeps.

My people forever.

My people forever.

  1. Mimi
    4/7/2015 10:55 PM

    So HAPPY to be a part of that wonderful day! The events of the day could not have gone any smoother. It was perfect. Arielle is perfect!
    I am looking forward to watching my 2 beautiful granddaughters grow up & thrive & just having tons of fun with both of them. LOVE!!
    Welcome to the world, Arielle Jane! R E L 😉
    Mimi LOVES you!!!

  2. Donna Vlassich
    4/7/2015 5:22 PM

    absolutely beautifully written! Congratulations to all of you! You have been blessed with a beautiful family????