Archive for the 'motherhood' Category

5 days

I’m not sure how this happened, but instead of my Florida vacation being 6 months away, It’s 5 DAYS away. 5 days until I fly up into the great blue yonder and leave my baby for longer than just a few hours. It’s been 15 months since his birth. It’s flown by so fast, but there have been too many days where it has seemed to drag on forever. Days (and especially nights) where all I could do was sit and rock him while he teethed and screamed and I kept repeating my mantra. “Florida. Florida. Florida.”

I am excited. In fact, excited doesn’t even begin to cover it. I have indescribable feelings about having 8 days to myself to enjoy my best friend and sunshine. I have 8 days to sleep in, to move slowly, to read and reflect and think. To recharge. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than this.

And yet, with motherhood there always has to be the dark, flip side. Today, at 5 days out, I am literally choking back tears at the thought of leaving his graham-cracker-smelling hands for 8 long, miserable, lonely days. I’m feeling panicky and anxious and having second thoughts. I have to push through this. I know that he will be okay. I will be okay. This is what I need to do. I need the time. I need this recharging period. I can do this.

The United States disappoints, yet again

This is pretty much disgusting.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16907584/

I heart co-ops

So. I have nothing of interest to write about today, but I feel that I should write because tomorrow I’ll be busy TURNING TWENTY EIGHT YEARS OLD.

I think I’ll tell you a little story.

Since moving, I’ve been trying my hardest (in between wading through the shitpile of belongings in a teeny tiny house) to meet other parents. I haven’t been very successful. One idea that I came up with was a babysitting co-op. My mom told me that this is something she was involved in when I was little. It’s where a group of parents come together and form a cooperative. You babysit each other’s kids for “points”, which can be also be redeemed for babysitting by a family in the co-op. In a babysitting co-op, everyone wins.

1. You get to make new friends with other people who have kids.

2. You get free babysitting, and by people who you know and trust with your children.

3. Your kids get to socialize with other kids their age.

I couldn’t find an existing co-op on the island, so I decided to get brave and put an ad in the paper as a “call for members.”

The ad ran yesterday and not long after I had scanned it for errors, my phone rang. It a woman inquiring about “the free babysitting.” I explained the idea to her and she seemed interested. (Who wouldn’t be?!) She then asked me where I lived, and I told her, and her response was “DAYUM! YOU LIVE IN BFE, I’M SORRY TO TELL YOU, BUT YOU DO, GIRL!” I gave her a courtesy chuckle and wrote on my pad of paper “snotty”, so that I could remember exactly who she was for later review.

I ask her the ages of her children, and she tells me that she has a 2 year old and a 3 year old. I give her the ages of my children, and she says “Oh yeah, I have a 6, 7, and 8 year old too but they don’t live with me anymore.”

Woah there. Red flags.

She then goes on to tell me that she is so bored at home all day long with the kids that she sometimes keeps telemarketers on the phone for chit chat, and hasn’t seen a restaurant in years where “you don’t order through a clown’s mouth.”

And then, her kid starts screaming. “Hold on,” she tells me while I continue to bang my head on my desk.

She starts hollering. “LIAM YOU’D BETTER SHUT UP OR MISS ESTELLA AINT GONNA WANNA BABYSIT YOU!”

I seriously thought I was going to die right then and there. After quite some time, her call waiting rescued me and we said our goodbyes.

I think I might change my phone number now and forget I ever came up with this brilliant co-op idea.

A quote

I ran across this quote today and it hit home so hard that it brought tears to my eyes.

“When we adults think of children there is a simple truth that we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation. How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize children as partners with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing them as apprentices. How much we could teach each other; we have the experience and they have the freshness. How full both our lives could be.”

John A. Taylor
Notes on an Unhurried Journey

Estella on CIO

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a controversial topic that really gets me HEATED. I frequently run across this issue on the net. An example of what I am referring to is copied below. This is taken from an enormous thread on Babyfit.com, where mothers seek advice on this very subject:

“HELP! my now 6 week old was born just before the christmas guests arrived…and was rocked and held to sleep almost everytime over the holiday season. after having so much success with babywise with my first child (now 18 months) i am determined to get her falling asleep on her own…however, she screams for an hour (sometimes more) and maybe sleeps for 10 minutes here and there, and continues to wake up screaming throughout what is supposed to be sleep time. This continues and eventually 2 1/2 or 3 hours has passed and its time for another feed. I am feeling stressed and guilty and i can’t seem to focus on anything while she is in her room screaming.”

Ladies, gentleman, mothers, fathers, parents-to-be and friends of parents or parents-to-be. Everyone. Listen up.

There are basically two different sets of beliefs when it comes to an infant’s sleep habits. In one corner, you’ve got some older folks who believe in letting a baby “cry it out” or CIO. These people will also generally subscribe to scheduled feedings and tend to be hardcore on other issues such as hand smacking, spankings, and religion. This camp is led by none other than Gary Ezzo and his wife. Here, you’ll find a book entitled Babywise where Ezzo will teach you how to schedule your baby’s feedings and his sleep periods. Let it be known that Gary Ezzo has no qualifications besides being a parent himself (and we all know that even the world’s biggest moron can procreate.) Secondly, virtually every health organization in the nation has discredited Ezzo’s methods. Parents were found to be literally starving their children in an attempt to follow Ezzo’s advice on scheduled feedings.

In the opposite corner, we have Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha. Dr. Sears is an acclaimed pediatrician and his wife is a nurse. Their credentials can be found here. They have over 30 years of experience in pediatrics and have raised 8 of their own children. Together, they have written countless books on pregnancy, labor, birth, infant care, and parenting. Dr. Sears does not believe that it is healthy to let an infant “cry it out.”

I’ve recently read a blog where Dr. Sears followers were being poked fun at. The author writes, “If you’re reading this and gloating because you breastfeed your own reiki-loving free range chickens, give birth unassisted in a strawberry patch and spring up moments later to bake a pie, and then you gather wool to weave slings for orphans in Tibet and to clothe your 14 unschooled, indigo children well, then good for you. Maybe Dr. Sears will come join your drum circle and help you tarpaper your outhouse and can beets.Probably you’re a better mother than I am, but I’m just crazy enough not to care anymore.”

I admit that I laughed at this. It’s funny. But seriously–who do you trust? Gary Ezzo, Babywise, and your grandmother who was knocked out cold during birth, who took a shot to dry up her breasts because she thought that infant formula was superior to breastmilk? Or are you going to have a little faith in the professionals who can provide you with cold, hard evidence? Because here’s what the professionals say:

-An infant’s cry is specifically designed for its own survival. Because an infant is unable to verbalize what it wants, it uses its cry as a signal to it’s mother that it has a need. Perhaps the baby is hungry, or wet and needs to be fed or changed. Or perhaps the baby is lonely and needs to be held and comforted. Just like you, a baby has emotional needs too. The baby who is picked up and held when they are upset will not grow to be a spoiled brat. He will grow into a child that trusts his caregivers and is confident and secure with himself and the world around him.

-The infant’s cry is also used to develop its mother’s parenting skills. When a mother hears her baby cry, the blood flow to her breasts increases, and her body physically urges her to go to her child and nurse, or comfort her baby. What happens when a mother purposefully ignores her baby’s cries? She goes against her very nature, casting off her instincts and ultimately losing touch with her ability to nurture and care for her own child.

-A young infant does not have the ability to maniupulate it’s parent. As Dr. Sears writes, “Baby does not ponder in his little mind, “It’s 3:00 a.m. and I think I’ll wake up mommy for a little snack.” No! That faulty reasoning is placing an adult interpretation on a tiny infant. Also, babies do not have the mental acuity to figure out why a parent would respond to their cries at three in the afternoon, but not at three in the morning. The newborn who cries is saying: “I need something; something is not right here. Please make it right.”

So what happens when a baby is left in his crib because “it’s 7PM and it’s time for bed”. What happens to that baby who is alone, frightened, who craves to be comforted and held or rocked, who wants the warmth of his mother’s arms? What happens to the baby whose cries are ignored so that “mommy can get some rest”, or so that “baby gets on a schedule and doesn’t become spoiled”?

At first, that baby will cry harder. He will cry his little body ragged, waiting for Mama to come help, to fix his problem. He will eventually succumb to exhaustion and will fitfully sleep, small gasps escaping from his lips every few seconds. The next night, the same. But eventually, that baby will learn that no matter how loudly he cries, no one will come. His parents will brag to others, they will say “our baby is so good, he sleeps through the night and doesn’t even cry when we put him down for bed anymore.” They will beam and smile and believe that they are capable parents, that they have done the right thing by their child. And yet, their baby would tell us a different story. He would tell us that he doesn’t trust his parents, that he is discouraged because no one listens. He has lost his ability to communicate, to make his needs be known. He will have learned that even though he hurts, he cannot ever let anyone know about it.

Placing your baby in a crib as far away from you as possible, so that you don’t hear her cries at night, in order to get some sleep, is what I consider CHILD ABUSE. I’ve admitted before on this blog that I haven’t always been the perfect parent. I smoked cigarettes and marijuana while I was pregnant with my 2nd child. And yes, I now lump these actions into the “child abuse category.”

If you can’t spend one year (give or take) of your life with less than your perfectly uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep each night, then DON’T HAVE A CHILD. If you can bring yourself to put earplugs in while your newborn babe is in the other room screaming and gasping for air, then there is something fundamentally wrong with your psychological makeup and you need to seek professional help. And then get your tubes tied. It’s a fucking outrage that this is happening. It’s even more of an outrage that parents who practice CIO are fiercely defending their actions. It’s disgusting that there are so many children out there with parents who will flat out ignore good, sound advice and refuse their own instincts in exchange for a well behaved baby, and a convenient, silent night.

Lessons

Note: This is my entry for Thordora’s Pulsate Olympics-April 2007. This event is sponsored by GNM Parents.

When she was five years old he taught her how to shoot a gun. It was shiny and heavy in her small hands and she could barely lift it. He stood behind her to steady her body from the impact of the blast. He showed her how to close one eye and look straight down the barrel, how to pull the trigger and pierce the heart of an aluminum can with one clean shot.

When she was seven he taught her to never fear the ocean–to walk directly into the waves without flinching. He carried her into the breakers, her arms and legs flailing in protest. He showed her how to let her body go limp and give in to the power of the sea, the bitter taste of salt on her tongue, and its sting burning in her nostrils.

When she was eleven, he taught her to walk the city streets with her head high, always moving and anticipating possible danger. He showed her how to avert her eyes from beggars and thieves and how to use her voice, her elbows, her fingernails if she were threatened.

He taught her to always ask questions, to expect no easy answers. He told her the story of Christ, the prophecies and the miracles, and death by crucifixion. He read her passages from the Holy Book, and the lump in her throat she could not swallow reminded her of all the commandments she knew she would break.

When she turned fifteen he taught her how to drive, to push the gas and let the clutch out slow. He taught her to drive on ice, testing the brakes and turning towards the skid.

He taught her to say “please” and “thank you” and to address her elders as “sir” and “ma’am”.

He taught her about manipulation, and what a man will do to use a woman. He taught her that love was sacred, and to think more with her head than with her heart.

He taught her to be forgiving and peacful–to turn the other cheek and to be humble and kind.

He showed her a father’s love and promised her that one day she’d understand.

And when she grew into a woman, she refused to touch a gun, for she had learned that something as small as a bullet could blow a grown man to the ground and stop his heart in an instant.

She became terrified of the ocean when she realized how easy it could turn on her.

She learned that beggars and thieves were only people in need, and she pulled dollar bills and cigarettes out of her pockets at every opportunity.

She quickly learned that God had betrayed her, and her faith in Jesus dwindled.

She drove recklessly, discovering that chance and risk were more exciting than caution and care.

She learned that her elders did not always deserve to be addressed with respect, and she studied them carefully before treating them with any regard.

She allowed herself to be used, and in turn, learned the art of manipulation. She was bitter and resentful, and her cheek would never turn.

And when she was lying in a hospital bed, awaiting the arrival of her firstborn son, she thought of all the things she would teach him–all the things her father hadn’t. She would tell him about the horror of war, and guns and hate, and how the mind held enough power to smother the irrationality of violence. She would teach him to live passionately, to be human enough to make foolish mistakes for the sake of love. She would tell him he would not find God in the pages of the Bible, or in a brick building filled with pews and hymnals. He might not even find him at all. Either way, it would be okay.

And when she finally pushed him into the world, she saw his small pink body spitting and gasping for his first breath. She knew then that nothing she could tell him or teach him would ever compare to the love she had to show him. It was bursting inside of her, and she could feel it everywhere, and she promised him that one day he would understand.

-RL, 1998

Pigpen & PPD

Last month, my birth story won Thordora’s Pulsate Olympics.

This month, the topic pertains to the Postpartum Crazy Race. I wasn’t planning on participating. Mainly because I never was treated for postpartum depression, which seems to be the main purpose of Thordora’s topic choice. However, she has recently posted that the entries for this month are few and far between, so I’m going to say something.

I’m going to tell you about my pregnancy and postpartum period with Pigpen. And I’m not going to put it into nicely flowing paragraphs. I just don’t have time for that, but I will ALWAYS have time to openly and honestly share my experience with others. You all should know that virtually everything during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is a variation of normal.

Ahem.

I became pregnant with Pigpen only a few months after my first abortion. Einstein was only 10 months old. I didn’t want another baby. B didn’t want a baby. I was still living with my parents. Neither of us were working. We weren’t in a position to be having another child. I wasn’t in a position to be caring for the one I had. And yet, my previous abortion loomed over our heads. I knew that someday I would want another child. I was afraid of ruining my chances of a healthy pregnancy with another abortion. I thought about the doctor who had shook his head at the patient before me who had been in for numerous procedures. I didn’t want to be that girl. I buckled down. I would marry B. We would figure it out. I would deal with the pregnancy like a punishment. And I did. For 5 months I hid my pregnancy. I was embarassed. Unmarried and with a small toddler. I couldn’t believe I had fucked up again. It was humiliating. I wasn’t excited for another baby. I already had a baby. What the hell was I going to do with another one? I kept telling myself I would quit smoking. I never did. Every evening I would come home from work and finally have a long awaited cigarette, away from the gawking stares of the public. And then I’d smoke pot. Every night. Every single night I’d smoke, and I’d convince myself and B that it was okay. In the womb, Pigpen was quiet. There were days that he wouldn’t move for 12 hours at a time. B and I moved into our own apartment and we struggled. We fought like crazy. He cheated on me. I sobbed and I hated life, and I found myself looking at adoption ads in the classifieds. In my third trimester, I looked for clinics that would perform late abortions.

Pigpen was born six days after the new millenium. A “Y2K baby.” His birth was easy, medicated, unfeeling. I was wheeled out into the courtyard shortly after for a cigarette. I had no desire to breastfeed him. Less than a week after trying to nurse, I gave in to the bottle. Besides, I couldn’t quit smoking and somehow the thought of breastfeeding and nicotine was even more despicable than smoking through a pregnancy. I had gained an enormous amount of weight, never having lost some of the baby weight from the first pregnancy. I was huge. I felt disgusting. I sat at home with a newborn and a high needs 18 month old. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store. My toddler wouldn’t walk on his own and so I would balance him on my hip and carry the infant seat in my other arm, sweating and cursing all the way to the doctor appointments. Our baby was born with RSV. He made several trips to the ER in his first month of life for breathing difficulties, no doubt tied to my prenatal smoking habits. When I think back on it all, it seems like a flatline. Total apathy. Ambivalence. I just felt…nothing. Pigpen was amazingly calm. He slept through the night from Day 1 onwards. He rarely cried. His cry was so unfamiliar that it would cause us to stare in shock. He slept 18-20 hours per day. We started propping his bottle. He became a fixture, sitting in the bouncy seat or the swing, a bottle propped with a rolled up receiving blanket. Sometimes I would forget that he was even there. B would come home from work and go hours without even glancing at the baby. He didn’t know how to treat an infant. He was only following my lead.

It only took a few months before I started to describe the feeling of “the walls closing in around me.” The apartment literally kept growing smaller and smaller until I felt suffocated. We packed it all up and moved. Little by little, I began to feel better. The space began to open up and everything inside didn’t feel so tight anymore.

It wasn’t until Pigpen was about 18 months old that I spent time with him. Just me and him. I clearly remember pushing him along in a shopping cart, and looking at his smiling face and thinking “Oh my God, I love him. I fucking LOVE him!” The bonding process began. A year and a half late, but fierce. Partly because of the guilt, I spent a great deal of time babying abd favoring him. But also because of his sweet and happy personality. Yesterday he turned seven years old, and his smiling face, quirky demeanor and loving spirit has been a constant source of sunshine in my life.

There will always be regrets about the way I treated my pregnancy and Pigpen’s babyhood. Just like any other bad decision I’ve made, I’ll always wish that I had done things differently. It’s never fun to have regrets about things you have done or said to your children. But just like every other regret in my life, it served its purpose. It taught me, changed me, and molded me into a woman who can empathize and relate to others in a non-threatening manner.

It wasn’t until many years later that I began to suspect that some of the issues I had after Pigpen was born could have been more than just situational depression. I wish that someone else could have had the same suspicions and come to my aid before things had spun out of control. I can only hope that my experience will make it possible for me to notice any red flags in other mamas.