Ways we Write: The Charles Project

Dedicated to my Aunt Sharon. 

Evolve. Grow. Nurture.

Writing that lives within us and sprouts words on the page do all of those things. It fails to linger long, especially as we – as writers and people – change. I believe the same applies for any artist. Art is like my five-year-old son. It won’t sit still too long.

I write for more reasons than I can list in one post, which is why I called my blog A Word or More; not Rebecca Writes or something specific to writing. I have written about my children, short pieces from my memoir, the writing craft, family, education, and breastfeeding to name a few.

Authors enjoy writing so much that we will write about writing because its world is so vast and enchanting. You don’t want to leave Alice in Wonderland. You want stay with her.

I have written since I could put stories together or tell them. I drew pictures. My Aunt Sharon deserves a lot of credit for encouraging my stories. While she has not always liked being a source in some of my writings, she encouraged me to write at the young age of 8. She gave me the extra print out paper with sides you had to rip off. (We’re talking early nineteen nineties.) She would even make them into little books for me so I could draw my pictures and write the words I knew. She may never know just how much I appreciate her for doing this.

Recently, I found a new purpose in writing, but the stories are not mine. You see, just as my aunt provided me the paper to tell my stories, I am finding ways to give my son the same opportunity. The difference between my son and I is that he dislikes writing with a pencil or crayon. His verbal vocabulary and imagination come together to tell interesting and sometimes very good stories.

What am I doing?

He tells me his story. I type the story exactly as he says it, and print it out. He picks out the color in which he wants the words to show. We started doing this as a helpful reading comprehension method to match the pattern of a story, but it has also turned into a new way of expressing himself.

A few years ago, I began writing down moments in time about Charles because I wanted to remember everything. I didn’t want to lose a single moment because motherhood and teaching children offered something I loved more than writing. I did not complete it, but what I call the Charles Project is probably the most exciting moments in my writing life even after publishing thirteen stories.

Rebecca T. Dickinson

 

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I Might Have Given Up If …

Fireworks and sparklers will burst in the 4th of July sky tomorrow night. The holiday celebrates what many Americans value, resilience.

When you read my recent posts, a word keeps popping up: advocacy. Granted, my professors and books have beaten the word into my head for educational purposes. But, it is significant in building up our lives full of purpose with resilience.

I have advocated for several issues, including breastfeeding.

I might have given up on breastfeeding my daughter were it not for these 5 reasons:

1. Better Health

… is not just a myth with breastfeeding. (I completely support moms who choose formula because it is their choice.) Since I stopped breastfeeding my son – now five – at two months, it has haunted me with every ear infection and fever spike. I might have given up breastfeeding my daughter because I wanted my body back sooner had I not remembered my son’s health.

I lived with the guilt that I had not breastfed my son long enough since we stopped. As I write my short memoir, Breastfed, I continue to work through those issues. When my daughter was born, I believed I could give her a better start than my son.

No mother wants to hear her child has stopped breathing. When the doctor told me Corrie stopped breathing for more than 15 seconds at one week and a half old, my heart dropped. We rushed to the hospital on the week of Christmas. The pediatrician diagnosed her with pneumonia and a right ear infection, which is uncommon in most breastfed babies, so I thought I had failed.

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The nurses encouraged me to keep nursing her. Each day, she got better.

I might have given up if I forgot the image of Corrie with tubes attached as her body fought an illness.

2. Open Eyes to Adversity

I might have given up on breastfeeding if I gave into the adversities I – and many other mothers – faced. A mother’s health is not taken lightly. I battled through two infections of Mastitis. It is an infection of the breast that causes flu-like symptoms, including chills and fever.

That wasn’t the end.

Six weeks after birth, my energy still suffered as I had experienced with my son. Only after I stopped breastfeeding him did I get better, but I was determined to keep going with Corrie. I found a wonderful doctor who discovered my Vitamin D deficiency.

I kept the fact I had depression from my doctor, and had been off antidepressants since 2007 and only gone to counseling when I thought I needed it. I dropped my pride and told my doctor. She informed me postpartum depression also causes severe exhaustion.

Since returning to counseling and a low dosage antidepressant, I have done much better.

3. Resilience in the Face of Those you Love Most

Sometimes the lack of support doesn’t come from strangers, but your family or friends. My family members know I love them with my entire heart, but they are coming to terms with or ignoring my outspokenness about breastfeeding. One member close to me pays homage to the fact you breastfed around us and it’s okay, “but you talk about it all the time.”

I have written before about one source, who had breastfed, getting angry and leaving the house.

That is all okay because you can’t force people to educate themselves about an important issue like breastfeeding. One member rolls his/ her eyes every time I mention “my obsession.”

My husband has struggled with breastfeeding from the health issues to the apparent toll it takes on husbands. He has stood up to others, but also had heated discussions with me. It is not easy, but he supports me now without arguing.

I say the results are in the health of our daughter.

I might have given up if I listened to my family members and cared what they thought. I might have given up if I didn’t hear about other women going through the same experiences.

But it drove me to open my mouth and advocate.

4. Source of Support

I might have given up if it weren’t for the kindness of strangers, those I work for, and my friends. When I returned to classes and work, I was provided a place to pump. My professors supported me when I went out to pump even telling me about their experiences with their children.

I am 100 percent one of the loudest voices for my college, Winthrop University, because every classmate and professor has supported my endeavors. Some of the younger classmates last semester asked me about breastfeeding, and it gave me an opportunity to open up.

I might have given up if it weren’t for the kindness of strangers at Baptist church. For most of my life, Methodists – my denomination – and Baptists bantered back and forth. I had looked at the Southern Baptist church as a place of intolerance, but one Sunday when we went a Memorial Day Service with my husband’s family, a woman in the nursery warmly welcomed me. She presented a chair.

“I understand,” she said. “My daughter breastfeeds, too.”

Later I met that mother, who showed me an even more private room and talked to me about how to increase milk supply. This experience warmed my heart so much I wanted to sing on top of a mountain.

When I cried in front of a lactation specialist at a breastfeeding support group as I told her about my experiences with my family she said, “Remember what you are doing. Remember all 16 pounds and 12 ounces of the baby is because of you.”

I might have given up if my good friend from Saudi Arabia didn’t help me as I breastfed in a park for the first time. I told her I hope that I didn’t offend her, and Lila told me what I was doing was natural and beautiful.

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One of the first times I breastfed my daughter in the park. 

Yes, I might have given up if my best friend of 20 years didn’t take the time to listen when I thought no one else would understand. Jessica, who breastfed her son for two years and who works as the best nurse ever, saw what I faced at home. All she had to say is “Keep going.”

I might have given up if my children’s pediatrician didn’t smile big when I said I was going for one year.

I might have given up if my sister-in-law didn’t smile and help me find a place to sit each time I feed Corrie when four years ago she was resistant to any bond.

5. You Know I’m All About that Face

I might have given up if my daughter’s night sky blue eyes and long dark eyelashes never looked up at me while she ate. There is a magic in breastfeeding a child, like there was with my son as a baby, that can’t be diminished.

Maybe deep down I feared a challenging relationship between mother and daughter as has occurred, on occasion, with my mom.

Maybe I want the best for her and her brother.

Maybe love of this nature was never meant to be explained or defended. I know the moment she was born I fell in love at first sight. I felt a deeper love for my husband like a sailor realizing the vastness of the sky when the seas are calm. I adored my son even more, and I knew everything would be okay just because I didn’t feed him longer.

 

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