Christine Fadel is Brooklyn based mother, blogger and foodie. Her blog, The C Word is a rare glimpse into the bare bones reality of motherhood. It’s beautiful, inspiring and heartfelt - it’s not written as a joke, but it’s ‘funny because it’s true’.
We chat to Christine about nursing through postpartum depression, pumping, blogging, introducing solids, tasting breastmilk and why ‘don’t be an asshole’ is the core value that covers pretty much everything.
You’re currently nursing your little girl Edie, how is it going?
Currently, it’s going great - much better than I expected considering the first few months.
I feel like we’re just now getting to that stage of nursing where it feels easier and less demanding, allowing me to enjoy it all a little more. We had a rough start (tongue and upper lip tie) and some supply issues due to my IUD (I’m extremely sensitive to synthetic hormones) but we’re still trucking along.
I never set any expectations for us to nurse or breastfeed for a specific amount of time. Unlike with my first daughter, I went into this nursing relationship wanting to do it for as long as we were both happy doing it and putting unnecessary pressure on myself has always proven to be extremely counterproductive.
I’ll be completely honest and say that there are certain days where I love it, and others where I feel like my skin is crawling. It ebbs and flows, just like every other aspect of motherhood.
How does your 3-year-old Marlo feel about you feeding Edie? Does she get involved, or hardly notice?
Truthfully, I expected her to care more. During the entire pregnancy, she was extremely interested in the changes my breasts went through even though she self-weaned almost two years prior. She noticed how much bigger they got and she often pretended to nurse and even attempted to latch on.
Once Edie was born, however, she only seemed to notice if it was an inconvenience for her. Even after six months, she still struggles with Edie needing to be fed before other parts of our day can begin. I suppose that’s normal but it’s still frustrating.
Are you pumping at all? How do you feel about it and how does Edie take to a bottle?
I’m no longer pumping, thank goodness. I HATE pumping.
When Edie was almost four months old, I went on a weekend trip to one of my best friend’s wedding without the girls and I built a huge stash in the freezer for that. I’m talking hundreds of ounces - I was so proud of it! However, nursing exclusively and pumping an extra 15-20 ounces a day completely exhausted me.
Furthermore, pumping has always felt like the most miserable and foreign thing for me. My supply also doesn’t react well to the lack of skin-to-skin, so once I was back from that trip, I no longer pumped and nursed exclusively. Luckily, she has no problem taking a bottle and seems to care very little what source her food comes from.
How was your breastfeeding experience with Marlo?
Being a first time mama, I went into motherhood with very rigid plans about labor, birth, and breastfeeding.
When labor and birth didn’t go as planned, the one thing I clung to was breastfeeding. It was the one situation where I felt like my body wasn’t failing me. So I clung to it as evidence that I was doing something — anything — right.
She has always been extremely independent and self-weaned at almost eleven months. It was the most bizarre thing and I was dumbfounded. She just swatted me away one day and never looked back. Looking back, it’s very indicative of who she is as a person. All or nothing, that one.
What role did nursing play in your experience with postpartum depression and vice versa?
I often felt that nursing Marlo was my emotional life line to her. I rarely felt a connection to her, or anyone, for that matter, unless she was nursing.
It was a heartbreaking period of my life. However, I’m just thankful that I had SOMETHING to give me that connection. I basically blacked out the entire birth in my mind so I had these odd moments where I almost didn’t believe she was mine because I couldn’t, or didn’t want to remember that I did, in fact, birth her.
When I would look down and see her at my breast, I knew she was mine, regardless of whatever experience I went through to get her there. On the flip-side though, weaning made a huge difference to my mood.
I choose to believe that Mo knew best and weaned on her own for that reason.
Edie’s just hit six months, have you started her on solids and how is that going?
We have started solids and it’s going okay. What’s funny is that even though I’m fairly seasoned in the whole mom game, I still made the mistake of assuming that Edie would take to solids the same enthusiastic way that Mo did. And she didn’t. I started her later on solids because I knew she wasn’t ready and she still had zero interest.
Mo took to it immediately and loved meal time fiercely. Edie took a while to really get it but we’re getting there. She has breakfast and dinner every day.
Is there anything you’ll do differently when introducing Edie to food than you did with Marlo?
So, here’s the deal: I love to cook. It’s my love language. But making all that damn baby food just isn’t possible this time around because I don’t have just one tiny human to prepare for.
This time around, I’ll make the effort to get Edie eating what we eat instead of doing a separate meal for her like I did for Mo for over a year and a half. I’ll still make a big batch of something on Sundays for the week for her, like squash or apples or whatever is in season - but those organic pouch things are a busy mama’s best friend.
How did your blog the c-word come to exist, and why is writing about your experiences as a mother important to you?
I started my blog long, long before family life was something appealing to me. At that time, I wrote it for only me and had not a single glimpse into the bigger picture.
When I became a mother, the job wasn’t everything that is portrayed in the media and books.
Motherhood is so damn hard! So many aspects of motherhood don’t, and probably never will, come naturally to me.
It’s important for mothers everywhere to know that it all ebbs and flows. In regards to postpartum depression, when I came out on the other side of it, I became angry that it wasn’t talked about. I wanted anyone else going through it alone and not having any point of reference to know that it DOES GET BETTER.
I was one of the lucky ones who had people to lean on and means of medical help. So I did all that I could and started to share my story. It was therapeutic and healing.
I want to believe that we’re all in it together. I know that people crave honesty and authenticity, especially when they are wrestling with something. Being honest and transparent about where and how I fail or struggle is my way of walking the talk.
Have you or your husband Joe tasted your breastmilk?
Yes. Me out of curiosity and Joe by accident. (wink, wink ;-) )
If you could instil one core value in your kids what would it be and why?
Don’t be an asshole. Crude, I know, but it really does cover everything.
I want my girls to be kind, empathetic, honest and humble. I want them to look at people when they’re speaking and listen before they speak. I want them to be patient and forgiving. I want them to give themselves grace because bad decisions don’t make you a bad person. I want them to know that everyone has worth and a story worth telling.
I also want them to know that they are and always will be incredibly loved by Joe and me.