Dear Mother, Dear Father..Your Child Was Sexually Abused.

Dear Mother, Dear Father:

There is no easy introduction. There is no careful beginning to help soften the blow. When I was a child, a small child, I was sexually abused. This is a confession a life-time in the making. This is a truth never uttered verbally from my lips. Even staring at those words makes me tremble and my stomach churn.

But how? And who? Where and when?

This is the place of my condemnation, I may never be able to answer these questions. For you, or for myself.

Well, then how do I know? Where does this confession come from if I cannot give you the face and the name and the place? If I cannot give you the who, why, where, when; how can I possibly know?

The answer is easy, because I have always known.

There has never been a day in my memory that I have not known this as a simple fact of my life.

I may not be able to remember the event(events?), but I remember the aftermath which has always been with me.

As far back as kindergarten age, I recall the sickening feeling in my belly. I remember the heavy weight on my shoulders. I most of all cannot forget the deep, enduring sense of shame and disgust at myself for what “I had done”. I was a little girl, and I somehow heard of the word “rape” and had a sense of what it meant. I knew it involved a violation, and a physical act of some private kind. I didn’t know anything about sexual intercourse, neither was I violated in that particular way. Yet, I sat on my bed in my room trying to swallow the panic lodged in my throat while thinking, “I’ve been raped.”

“How can I tell my mother?” I would think through tears. I don’t understand to this day why I never did say something. I know I wanted to. I know I really wanted to. It seemed too big, too grotesque of a truth to say to my mother who knew me only as an innocent girl. What would she of think of me? Will everyone hate me? I must be really, really bad. I bet God hates me too because I’m dirty.

I tried to forget. As I got older, left elementary school and went into middle school. I tried to push it far away. I tried to convince myself that I had to put it behind me. I was worn down by the secrecy. I was worn down by the weight of it all, crushing my chest and making it hard to breathe. I wanted peace. I wanted to be a girl, unmolested. So, I decided I would never remember it again. I was in 6th grade. I told myself it was forbidden to think of. I pushed it way, way down and wrapped up it up in a box and threw away the key. I would not allow myself the knowledge of it anymore. It would be gone, and I would be free.

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I am in 6th grade in this picture. Just a child.

But I was not free. I did forget though. But never the feelings, they stayed stubbornly with me. They insisted on bubbling up to remind me of my uncleanness, of my secret, of my ugliness.

I turned on my body. I took out my rage against this cage of flesh so determined to destroy me. With diets and vomiting and scratches with pins until I bled. I will forget. I will be normal.

Soon, whatever rage and despair I had carried with me was combined with the new traumas I endured. I realized my body was once again a deceiver and a problem, when that 40-year-old man painfully forced his fingers into me at 14. I had tried to move on. I had tried to be new. I had tried to be clean and forgiven. But here I was, laying still on the dark grass while a man taught me the same lesson again; your body does not belong to you. Your body is a temptation and a problem. It must be me. It must be my fault.

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Me at 14. Depressed inside and my outward appearance reflects that here. I wore only black.

You see the body does not allow you to forget its violations. It remembers. When I shudder at the gentle touch of a friend, because I wasn’t expecting their hand on my shoulder. When I still cannot sleep without some sort of light on, I have to know who is coming for me. When I am overwhelmed with anxiety from a doctor’s exam, their hands and tools triggering a flight or fight response. I am not allowed to forget.

I tried to overcome this body-remembrance dilemma by cutting off all feelings of attachments to it. Punishing my body didn’t work, just left scars and fluctuated my weight. So maybe I could become a spirit, totally separate from this fleshy prison. I would leave my body whenever I was abused, now as a teenager and young adult. I could watch myself from outside of my body. I learned how to go through motions and sounds without feeling anything or being present.

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16 years old here

But you know what? The spirit doesn’t forget either. And then, when I tried to make love to a man that I wanted to be with; I realized I had been robbed of the ability to feel. I couldn’t just turn it back on. And, even worse, my problem body would react as if I was being abused even if I wasn’t. I had been trained to associate anything sexual with pain. I was stuck.

Drugs helped to numb the pain away, and distract me from all this hell. But it also led me to places where I was being hurt on a regular basis. My body became currency, because it was all I had left to give. If I didn’t give it, it would be taken anyway. Once again the same lesson, your body is not yours. I was taught at 16 by the men who dragged me down a hallway kicking and screaming that it is better not to fight. Just give in, fly away, endure it.

I have endured. But now, I want to stop running away.

This is just too big. How can I possibly address every act violence committed against me? I don’t think that I can. It is too much. But I can address the feelings. I can address how I relate to myself, to my body, which is in fact mine. I can ask for help. I can set boundaries and actually stick to them. I can find myself worthy of defending again. I can place blame where it rightfully belongs, not on my fragile bony kindergarten shoulders, not on the broken back of my teenage self, but rather on the broad grown shoulders of the men who choose to hurt me.

And you, my parents, could you try to remember with me? Maybe there is something, anything you can recall about what took place? If not, then just support me. Believe me, and believe in me.

I am starting to believe in myself.

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Flying Handmade Kites- Homeschooling

One of the best decisions I have made after deciding to homeschool our children was to join a local Facebook homeschooling group. We have already had so much fun doing outdoor activities with other families, and really look forward to more cooperative learning. Last week the husband and I took the girls to a near by state park and created kites with other homeschoolers.

First the children played inside, chasing each other and playing hide and seek. Then, we gathered them onto mini carpets in front of our guide while she read aloud to them two books about the wind.20160624_11063220160624_121943

Next, we learned how to determine how strong the wind is (gentle breeze was ours for the day) by watching the leaves of the trees and the clouds. This park is one of the highest points of NJ and the building we were in has large windows to see far across the sky. Our guide told us that she often sees storms coming in before they reach the area.

After this, we all came together and cut, taped, colored, and tied our handmade kites. My oldest daughter and another little girl her age took coloring their kites very seriously!

Then, the main event; kite flying!

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It was such a joy to see my girls flying their own kites. They would run and when it lifted up into the air they were just jubilant! I took turns with my husband helping our littlest one (2 years old) fly her kite, and that was also really sweet.

I have to say, when you decide to homeschool it can feel like a very scary task. How can I manage it? Will I be good enough for my children? Luckily, we are spending this summer getting our feet wet and it feels like a perfect fit for family. My husband recently said, “we aren’t trying to homeschool, we ARE homeschooling already!” And he is absolutely right.

Yes, we haven’t started full courses of phonics and math yet; but we are reading tons of library books and playing phonics games. And you know what? Making and flying a kite is learning too. They are always learning! We have always been their teachers, and this will only be a continuation of what has already been true.

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I look forward to many homeschool adventures to come!

Shalom friends!

“Me Generation” Rebel- Children as a Blessing

Millennials, roughly defined as those born between year 1980-2000, have been described as the “me generation”. I was born in 1988, so I fall squarely within the millennial range, yet I have chosen something that many women in my cohort are eschewing; young marriage and motherhood.

Now if I had been born during my grandmothers’ era, or even my parents, my marriage at age 21 and first baby at age 22 would not be at all unusual. Both of my grandmothers had six living children, and this was not uncommon. My maternal grandmother had a medically necessary full hysterectomy at age 28 but she already had six children! In today’s America, this would be met with raised eyebrows.

Although some of the “me generation” accusations seem heavy-handed and a bit unfair, it has become clear that many women my age simply do not want marriage or children. News articles and magazines proudly declare the decision of my generations women to say “no” to putting off their careers and sacrificing their independence in order to have children.

Tonight I put my children to sleep and it took some time because my oldest daughter (five years old) was sacred. I stroked her hand and rubbed her back. I soothed her with my words of safety and security. My presence was what she needed. I kissed the top of my three-year-old daughters head, and the chubby cheek of my 21 month old before closing their bedroom door. All the while my womb was filled with the kicking of our fourth child, and first son.

There is a part of me who would have preferred to go read a book, or write, or crochet. A part of me that comes out on difficult parenting days when I just want to walk out the door and do what I want unhindered. Yet, this is the path I have chosen. I have chosen a path of sacrifice for their sake, and in return they fill my cup to overflowing with love and fulfillment. I cannot imagine losing this, not for a thousand years of independent living.

 

Their dependence is temporary, and it is an honor to be their security and comfort. It is an honor to raise these beautiful little people. When I die, I will feel full of gratitude for the chance to do something as wonderful as this.

What do the scriptures say about children? What does the Word of our Creator say about bringing life into the world? One word seems to fit it all; blessing.

Blessing! To have the fruit of the womb and the fruit of the breasts is blessing. To nurse a child and rock them on your knee, it is a blessing! To work hard by the sweat of your brow, to sacrifice for these little ones, it is a blessing.

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newborn Zipporah, my 3rd child

Yet, the focus of the world is on “me”. Now, I am not condemning everyone who chooses not to marry and have children. Indeed, the scriptures put this forth as a noble and righteous path to be walked as well. However, the reason must be for God, not for self-indulgence. The Apostle Paul says that he is better able to serve Messiah because he is not also focused on a wife and children. I understand that, and it is a choice that can be made. But the reasons given in our society to refusing children are not something aligned with scripture.

Money. We don’t have enough money! Yet women in countries all over the world, women in refugee camps, are welcoming children. For a Biblical example, the Israelites were horribly oppressed under Egyptian rule. Their newborn sons were under threat of death. They were worked hard all day long baking bricks in hot ovens. If there ever was a time to say “not now” to children, surely slavery and the threat of death would be it! But is that what we see?

Americans look at their 3-bedroom home and say “not enough”. Americans look at their bank account and say “not enough”. It may be true in the natural, but that is what faith is about. Faith is trusting that what Yahweh calls a blessing is always a blessing, and when he gives us children he will provide for them because they are His own.

I am not here to condemn anyone, certainly I have fallen short in many places and too often lack trust and faith. But I see the women of my generation refusing such a precious gift, a blessing, and seeking after what the world has to offer them. Yahushua (Jesus) says “I do not give as the world gives”; what he gives us is better in every way.

There is another narrative to follow. We do not have to value what the world values or want what the world wants. Indeed, the world is enmity with God! So, those of us who call ourselves believers, let us open our hearts and our hands and our homes and our bodies to the blessing of children. Let us be amazed at how He provides. Let us value what our Creator values most of all; human life.

As women, we have the incredible ability to create life . We nurture and grow a living and eternal soul within our bodies, and bring them forth. It is an incomparable gift, let it not be wasted! May you be a fruitful vine within your husband’s house. May you praise Yahweh unto your children’s children.

Amen.

Shalom.

*Related Scripture*

Psalm 128:3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Exodus 1:7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

Exodus 1:17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.

Exodus 1:20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Genesis 49:25 because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Homeschooling Nature Walk&Crafts

Today the girls and I (and hubby) went for a walk at a local state park with some other homeschooling families. Our oldest is 5, so we are new to officially homeschooling but I sure like what I see so far!

We decided to homeschool for a lot of reasons, but one of them was the desire to spend more time with our children and give them a flexible personalized education.  I loved watching them run and play outside with other children. I love that they are with children of a range of ages, giving them the ability to play well with children a little older or younger (as well as have conversations with adults). They were able to use their bodies and senses to learn and exercise but all of it was fun for them, so it doesn’t feel like a chore.

The mother who started the event had two creative ideas for the nature walk crafts. The children (and some big kids/adults hehe) made nature bracelets. We wrapped duct tape sticky side up around their wrists and the children added flowers and clovers and leaves to them as they walked the trails. Then, after our hike we came to a picnic area and created big nature collages with the ferns, flowers, leaves, moss, etc that was collected along the way.

I am looking forward to what homeschooling has to offer us as a family, and what kind of relationships my husband and I and our children will develop along the way. Bring it on!

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Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 3 (Nursing Aversion, Pregnancy)

Baby Liora and I settled into a nursing routine. I knew when she would want to nurse, and she knew exactly how to nurse. My breast was her comfort, her nourishment, her contentment. She would rest her chubby baby hand above my breast and fall asleep dreamily. Often times I would hold her there after she unlatched and gaze at her beautiful face, smiling at something in her sleep that I couldn’t see. What do babies dream about? I wondered.

Soon she was crawling, and she loved to move! This was a much more adventurous baby, I realized, than my oldest. I had to baby proof many things I never had to think about before. But still, we nursed. I was still that safe haven to come home to after exploring and moving her body around.

She began sprouting teeth! Now many moms will say “once they have teeth, it is time to wean” but my baby didn’t seem ready to wean at all. She was nursing often, including at night, and besides one or two episodes of biting after she dozed off at my breast, her teeth were no issue for me.

I loved laying down in bed with her and nursing her to sleep. I adored how peaceful it was. I lovingly stroked her golden hair, which was by now growing longer. I was so enamored with her! It was a joy having this special place together, something we shared only between ourselves. It was an extension of the womb, my body caring for her body, my substance giving her strength.

Perhaps that is why I was caught so completely off guard when it fell apart. I never imagined, on those sweet nights nursing her, that in only a month she would be weaned. But deep inside my womb, another life had quietly buried, and announced their presence by altering our nursing relationship.

My milk began to dry up, totally. I had read that most women lose a lot of milk, some lose all, and some lose none. I was not prepared for how quickly my body took my milk away from Liora. I was hardly pregnant before I noticed that I was waking up each morning totally dry, whereas before I was covered in milk from night nursing.

I decided that even without milk, I would nurse Liora for comfort. She was SO attached to breastfeeding, I knew she was not even close to ready for weaning. But I was caught by surprise, I began to detest nursing her! How can this be? What is wrong with me? Why do I feel this horrible feeling every time she latches on?

Nursing Aversion!

I had never heard of it. I would not learn what it was until well after my 3rd baby was born. I had no idea why all of a sudden, whenever Li started to nurse, I wanted to scream and rip out my hair and tear her off my body. It was the worst sensation. I started begging God to give me pain rather than this creepy-crawly-scream-and-run feeling. It is impossible to explain unless you have felt it. It is not being uncomfortable. It is not painful. It is an unbearable sensation.

Perhaps, if I had been aware of this possibility I could have endured it. I don’t know. Probably not. I have so much respect for any woman who has, because I quickly could not nurse her.

Even when it broke my heart. Even when everything inside of me said “nurse your crying baby! She needs you!” I tried. I tried so many times. But each and every time the sensation was immediate and intolerable.

By 13 months, Li was weaned totally. It took two weeks of her daddy staying up with her all night. She couldn’t be near me because she wanted to nurse. I felt horrible. I was so sad. I thought it was all over, she would never nurse again.

But, I didn’t know there was still a future for us as a nursing couple. This journey was not over yet….

The Birds and The Bees; How I Told My 5 year old, and What I Learned.

Today I had the first of what will be many conversations about sex, with my five-year-old daughter. Yes, the birds and the bees. More specifically, how babies are made. I had been trying so hard to avoid this conversation with her. You see, I am pregnant with her baby brother and she really wanted to know how on earth that happened!

My daughter, Noemi, is a bright little girl. She is a critical thinker. She wants real answers, and she wants to know “how” and “why” for everything; including how babies are made. The first time she asked me the question, “THE Question”, my heart jumped into my throat. She’s just a little preschooler! Surely I must avoid actually explaining this to her! I refuse to lie to my children, so I settled on a vague but essentially true explanation. It went something like this;

*Deep Breath*

“Well, sweetheart…a man has a..a seed. Yes, a seed.
And, well, you see…uhhh…this seed goes into the mommy’s belly and..
Uhhh…it meets the egg from the mommy and…well..a baby is made
And grows inside the mommy’s tummy.”

There. I said it. I stared into her big brown eyes and hoped my explanation would satisfy her. My mother gave me basically the same story around her age and I remember being really confused. A seed? I imagined that when a boy reached a certain age, his father would solemnly hand the boy a box, and inside that box laid the baby seed. The boy would give the seed to his wife, who would of course swallow it because that’s how anything gets into your tummy, and a baby would grow. This is obviously wildly incorrect, and hilarious, yet I chose the same story for my own child. I am my mother now. That’s another story.

Anyway..

Noemi was not satisfied with this crazy answer. She wanted to know “but how does the seed get into the mommy?” At that point I realized I was totally unprepared for these questions and so I deflected them. I told her “well, you know…lets buy a book and discuss another time. Ok sweetheart?”

Except, I didn’t buy the book. I did research some, but I never purchased any, and I hoped deep inside that she would forget and never ask me again until sometime close to her wedding day.

As my belly swelled, and the presence of this baby brother became more pronounced, the questions from my daughter continued. She did not forget. She was not satisfied with my “men and women fit together like a puzzle and that’s how we make a baby” explanation. Which is too bad because I thought it was pretty clever.

Then, tonight she asked me questions about her baby brother and she wanted to know if he had a seed, like daddy, to make a baby one day. I told her that no, he didn’t yet, but one day when he was older his body would make a seed to create his own baby. This lead into “THE Questions” again. But this time, I knew I could no longer ignore her.

She asked me with sincerity, with genuine curiosity, and she really wanted to understand. I came to realize that I was making this an issue. I would cause her to feel that this was some mystery that she dare not discover, or even worse, something to be scared of or ashamed to hear about. I decided on the spot that today I would not distract her. I would not lie. I would give her the answers to her questions the best I could.

So, I began with where we started. The seed. The puzzle. Her questions continued, direct questions I could no longer avoid. She is only five years old! I felt that somehow this was a point of no return that I wasn’t ready to cross yet. I didn’t want her to know. But why? If she was old enough to have the question, then I ought to answer it. So, I did.

I allowed her to lead the questions, offering no more information than she herself requested to know. I clarified which body parts exactly-a penis and a vagina- were involved. I told her that yes, they fit together, and that is how the seed enters the mothers body. She thought the penis would detach, and I had to stifle a big laugh, until I explained that the penis stays on the man’s body. She said some other funny things, but other than her eyes widening in surprise for a moment (at which we both laughed at how “crazy” this sounds!) she was not greatly affected.

She didn’t fall apart from the most basic knowledge of sexual intercourse and procreation. She did not morph into a teenager before my eyes. She is still innocent. She is still my baby girl. But now, I hope with everything in me, she will trust me to answer her questions about her body and sex and babies. I realized tonight that this was not the end of our conversation, it was only the very beginning. I am grateful to have gotten over my own hang-ups and insecurities and fears, in order to offer to what she deserves; honest answers to her questions.

I am sure her idea of what sex looks like is still pretty far off from what it actually is. That’s OK. She is finally satisfied, for now. As she gets older, it is my prayer that she will come to me with more questions. It is my prayer that she will trust me not to shrink away from the truth. It is my prayer that she will come to see her sexuality as a gift from her Creator, to be used within the parameters he has given to us in the Scriptures. There is nothing perverted or dirty or bad about sex and making new life. I hope she honors and respects this great gift. I pray that one day, long from now, she will come into her marriage bed feeling open and beautiful and free. I pray she has the knowledge necessary and the confidence to begin her sexual life in a healthy (physically, emotionally, spiritually) way; and that I can feel blessed to have been a part of that learning.

May we ALL be granted the wisdom to speak with our children about their bodies and sex in a godly and truthful manner. May we ALL see it from our Creator’s point of view, and not shame our children for asking sincere questions. May we show them the gift this is, and explain the importance of respecting it and ourselves.

May it be so. Amen.

Shalom.

Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 2

Baby Liora was about 1.5 weeks old. I threw out the rest of those tiny bottles of formula. I didn’t want them tempting me and taunting me as I tried to nurse my baby. I began to feel as if I was never wearing a shirt. I was always topless and putting her to the breast. As difficult as that was, I started to feel as if we were making progress. My nipples never hurt or bled like they did with my oldest, her latch was perfect again!

And then, the growth spurt!

Now listen, when you say you want to breastfeed your baby the hospital will hand you a packet of information about it. I remember reading and being told that the baby will nurse approximately 10 minutes on each breast every 2-3 hours. My baby wanted to nurse much longer than that, and it was rare she would go 2 hours between feedings! I felt as if she was nursing 24/7.

The packet told me 10 minutes on each breast! And every 2-3 hours! Surely something must be wrong, because all of a sudden at around the same time every evening she latched on and refused to latch off. I sat on the couch, after three hours of nursing, and cried heartily. What’s wrong with me? I can’t do this! I can’t live like this! This is awful!

That is when I stumbled upon a website called kellymom.com, and it quite possibly saved my breastfeeding relationship. Apparently, you should take that handy packet they give you and throw it in your recycle bin or create a bon fire with it. It is useless, and inaccurate.

First of all, newborns love to nurse. They need to nurse! This is how your supply increases. This is also how they are comforted. Remember in my first post I discussed ditching the pacifier, well our breasts are natures real pacifiers! We pacify our babies at the breast, and we keep our supply regular as well.

Second of all, there was no mention of growth spurts! I was caught off guard completely when Li went hours on end nursing. I thought my supply must be gone. I must be starving my baby! Nope. She was just growing. She was just doing what babies do. It can be frustrating, but I promise it does not last forever. It is usually only a few days of extra nursing, and then your back on track.

I was thankful to know that she wasn’t suddenly starving, and also that this would not last forever; because let’s face it, 3 hours of nursing non-stop wasn’t very fun.

One major benefit was nighttime! Now I know often you hear that formula helps a baby sleep, but I really disagree with that. I formula fed my oldest and this is basically how it went….

  • Feed her a bottle before nighttime, rock her sleep and place her next to me in her co-sleeper.
  • Wake up two hours later with her screaming blood murder.
  • Slowly drag myself out of bed, and hold her in one arm as I shhhh shhhh her and make a bottle.
  • Warm the bottle. While she screams.
  • Take screaming newborn to my rocking chair and give her the bottle.
  • Burp her. Get formula puke on my shoulder.
  • Stand up and walk her around the room, patting her back, get her back to sleep.
  • Lay down in bed.
  • Wake up an hour or two later with her screaming bloody murder.
  • Repeat. ALL NIGHT LONG.

Yeah, not very relaxing or conducive for good sleep!

With my Liora, my first breastfed baby, I had her sleep in my bed with me (yes, it absolutely IS safe when done correctly) and this is how our nights went….

  • Nurse baby in my rocking chair before bed.
  • Baby falls asleep at my breast. Awe, so cute!
  • Read a little bit.
  • Go to bed with baby.
  • Baby starts to stir and make little noises.
  • Latch baby to breast while not moving from sleep position, or fully waking up.
  • Go back to sleep while baby feeds herself at my breast.

Guess which situation gave me better sleep?

So here we were, moving right along in our nursing journey.

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Nursing newborn Liora with big sis Noemi next to me

Things were starting to improve a lot. By the time she was 1 month old the days of struggling to latch her were long gone. Now, I had my toddler in the front seat of my grocery cart, and the baby under one arm nursing, while I pushed the cart with the other arm and finished my food shopping! NO joke, I really did this.

I was feeling a pro, finally. But there was still one problem left unresolved. I would keep saying “I am trying to breastfeed”, I still didn’t trust my body. Until one day, I was sitting at the edge of my bed nursing Liora when it dawned on me, “Wait…I AM NURSING!”

It sounds like a simple thing, but in that moment I realized that I had won. My body had not failed me. My baby did not need formula or bottles or pacifiers. All she needed, for the next five months of her life was ME. That’s it. Just me. I was enough. I was feeding her!

Those chubby thighs? My milk did that. Those adorable chubby checks? Yep, my milk again. I looked at my baby contentedly nursing and almost said out-loud to myself “I AM A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER!”

And the journey continued…