Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nurturing Kellen Too

There is a part of this cancer journey that I hold specifically dear and it really has little to do with Ania actually. My dear sweet son Kellen, now 19 months old has been a part of this cancer saga too-soon it will be more than half of his short lifetime's worth of time. He has really only known of life with his sister Ania WITH cancer as he was an infant when she was diagnosed. He has been passed around and "babysat" by so many wonderful people when I've been away with Ania at doctors appointments and hospital stays. Through it all, he has shown himself as a very easy going little boy who goes with the flow and easily charms his watchers :) He is an incredible gift to our family and the fact that he adapts as well as he does to lots of time away from mommy and daddy is such a blessing. Although, I have felt some guilt with all the days and nights I've been away from him, there is one bond that we still hold and am ever greatful for. 

I had some reservations sharing this on this blog as I understand breastfeeding can be somewhat of a hot button topic and this is a blog about Ania's cancer journey, however it has been an important piece to this journey that means a great deal to me personally as his mother. See, at 19 months old, Kellen is still a breastfed child. I know there are also some reservations out there about extended breastfeeding, however it is something that personally works for our family and in no way do I expect all people to share my feelings about it- and that is ok with me.
Sweet Ania nursed until the age of 3 and I fully intended to follow Kellen's lead as well and nurse him as long as he wanted. It's not come without it's challenges, but we've made it work. When Ania was diagnosed last year and he was just 10 months old, at the time I thought, we may wean earlier than planned since I will be away so much- and I was sad about that- for him and for me. I wanted to afford him the same choice and pace I allowed Ania with breastfeeding and I wasn't sure it would happen. 

After her diagnosis, I would pump ( I hate to pump and give huge props to exclusive pumpers!) while I was away to maintain a supply. Right around 11 months Kellen started refusing a bottle so if mama was away, he would just not have any mama milk. I built up a little stash of milk I pumped anyways while I was in the hospital and would freeze it. I ended up with a decent amount by the Spring- enough to actually donate it to another mom with a baby in need of donor milk. I often think of that mother and child and wonder how big that baby is now today and feel happy to have contributed :) 

There have been times where I thought, this must be the end. Sometimes while Ania is in the hospital for a few days I will make a point to come home and just spend some one on one time with Kellen for a few hours. He is always happy to see me of course! In the first few months, he would eagerly nurse right away. Now, he would rather play when I come visit with him. That's pretty normal almost 2 year old behavior I suppose- too busy to eat- it's time to play! I follow his lead and only nurse when he asks now but I must admit I've been sad a few times because when it's time to go back to the hospital and he has just not been interested in "milky" time I just start thinking, "oh well- my little boy is growing up and moving on" and feel proud we'd made it as far as we have. Then when it's time for Ania to return home following those long treatments, it's as if he sees Ania walk in the door and says, "YAY! "Yaya" (as he calls Ania) is home! That means Mommy is home and here to stay too! Give me the milkies!" That's when he won't leave me alone for a few days and I know he's not done yet! Haha! 
He makes his presence known ;) 

Somehow, through all of this, it brings me great peace to sit down with Kellen and be able to provide for him in this manner. It has kept the bond stong between us in the midst of our sometimes chaotic lives. It allows me to sit quietly with him and reflect on how motherhood has made me  into a person I am truly proud of. I am of course honored to be mother to both Ania & Kellen but specifically proud I have been able to nurture my children still as equally as possible right now- even in the midst of cancer. For Ania, at this time in her life it's nurturing her by just being with her while she endures her treatments and encouraging her creative spirit to soar through art and dance. For Kellen, at 19 months old, he is still a not-quite-baby-but-not-quite-big-boy in need of his mothers milk and I'm honored that I've been able to do that for him as long as we have- especially considering the circumstances. I really believe he remains so easy going because he is confident his mommy will return at some point and nurture him in this way that is so special to him right now. 

Besides me, "Mother Nature" nurtures this guy too ;) 

God Bless,


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