Archive for the 'Pigpen' Category

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.

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A Man’s World

Yesterday, Pigpen jumped off the bus and came trudging up the steps to the front door. The first thing he said to me, even before our usual hug, was “I got PUNCHED in the NECK today!” You could tell that he had been keeping this bit of information bottled up inside of him all day long and that it was bubbling it’s way up to the surface, furiously pushing it’s way out. I took him inside and asked, “What? By whom? Why? Did you tell on him? Did you say something to him first? Did you hit him back? Did you get in trouble?” After quite the interrogation, he gave me no information except that he didn’t know why the kid hit him, he didn’t do anything to him first, he didn’t tell on him, didn’t retaliate and didn’t get in trouble. Apparently, nobody saw a thing. I told him we’d sort it all out when Daddy got home.

A few hours later, when B arrived, he took Pigpen into the bedroom and closed the door. I stood outside, listening. He asked the same questions again. He got the same answers. And then Pigpen began to cry. After B had reassured him that everything was going to be okay and that he wasn’t in trouble, I heard him speak the words I have been dreading since I found out that my destiny involved three sons.

“Pigpen, listen to me. This is important. If anyone ever hurts you again, you don’t just stand there and do nothing. You hit back. You make sure that people know that they can’t mess with you, that you won’t put up with that. You need to defend yourself.”

And then Pigpen’s little voice saying “But then I’ll get in trouble!”

“Well you won’t get in trouble with me. And if they punish you at school, I will come to school and talk to the teachers and the principal personally. You don’t worry about that part.”

I’ve known this was a conversation that was going to happen eventually. It’s one of the few things that B and I completely disagree on when it comes to parenting. In my opinion, retaliation with fists is the pussy way out. It doesn’t take any talent to get pissed off and hit someone back. It takes self control and integrity to walk away or find another solution. And yet, B can still vividly remember being 7 years old and being beat on by classmates. He remembers not fighting back, hearing his Dad’s voice inside his head, scaring him into submission. He maintains that his weakness and refusal to stand up for himself set an image in stone, and all through his school years, he was never respected.

We debated it again last night. His new argument is that “most boys will fight and be friends afterwards.” He says that “it’s a man’s world out there and sometimes, this is how problems between men get solved.”

I can see where he’s coming from. I don’t want my kid getting hurt. I certainly don’t want some big bully walking up to my sweet little angel on the playground and punching him in the neck for no reason at all. In fact, all I want to do is march out there during recess and grab that little fuck by the collar and shake the fear of God into him. But somewhere deep inside, I know that teaching my children about non-violent communication and problem solving is what is right. It’s something that will set them up for the challenges and fear and pain and hurdles of life. And so, after B’s lecture I stand there and look my boy’s in the eyes and I say, “But if you ask me, a bully isn’t worth your time and energy. Show him how little his actions mean to you by walking away.” They look at me and roll their eyes. At least I’ve said my piece and can go to bed with a clear conscience.

What do the rest of you think? To retaliate in self defense or not?

Birthday party etiquette

Dear Jacob’s Mom,

Today my 6 year old son, Pigpen attended Jacob’s 7th birthday party. Over the years, Pigpen has attended numerous events of this sort, and so we have come to learn proper party-throwing etiquette. Unfortunately, it appears as if no one has informed you of several unspoken rules, so I thought it best to jot down a few pointers for you. No need to thank me.

First of all, when a guest arrives, you should greet them in a friendly manner immediately. You should introduce yourself to the parent, and introduce yourself to the child, using the name you would like to be addressed as. For instance, if you would prefer the child to call you “Mrs L” or “Miss Anne”, you should say so, all the while smiling invitingly so that the child feels secure in your presence. You can now imagine why it was so awkward for us to arrive at the bowling alley and stand near the table marked “Jacob” for close to 20 minutes, searching for the adult in charge. You can imagine how confusing it was for us to make the decision to order bowling shoes, find a ball, and guess at the location where the gifts should be placed. Pigpen pointed out the birthday boy, and I sweetly asked him where his mother was. Your demon spawn of a child refused to even look at me and in the snottiest manner imaginable, said “I dunno.” He then gave me a handful of quarters and asked me if I’d “hold his money for him” while he played video games. This brings me to another helpful tip.

In cases where arcade games and such are in abundance, it is generally good form to give each of your guests a modest amount of quarters or tokens for equal playing time. Instead, your snot nosed kids stood at the games, feeding quarter after quarter while the rest of the boys stood there watching, penniless and longing for their turn.

After a long while, when I finally spotted you (and only because your son had run out of money and was hanging off of you), I approached you with a bright smile and a handshake. You looked at me as if I was a creature from outer space and your limp hand in mine felt clammy and unsure. I introduced myself and my son, and asked when I could come to pick him up. You said “3:30, and write your cell number on that piece of paper over there.” I turned my head to see where you were pointing, and when I looked back, you were gone. Perhaps you were busy (I understand how crazy birthday parties can get) but you came across as incredibly rude, and quite frankly, I was concerned about leaving my child in your charge.

Tentatively, I left, but when I came to pick up Pigpen, things got worse. I removed his bowling shoes and returned them to the counter, where I was informed that I was to pay $7.50 for the game my son had played during the course of the party. I explained to the manager that my son had been a guest at Jacob’s birthday party, but I came to find out that I was still responsible for payment. What would I have done if I didn’t actually have $7.50? If I would have known that I was going to have to pay for my son to attend such a fancy social affair, I would have only spent $3 on your kid’s present instead of $10. I suggest that in the future, if you insist on being such a fucking cheapskate, you should let your guests know ahead of time, either when you INITIALLY GREET THEM, or better yet–in the written invitation. I do hope that this letter will spare you from further embarassment in the future.

Sincerely,

Estella H.

P.S. Your kid looks like George Michael with his ear pierced like that. I should have expected as much from this party the first time I laid eyes on him. Ah well. You live, you learn.

The Bolo Tie

Oh yeah, one more thing. I forgot to tell you about how one day last week, Pigpen decided to wear a bolo to school. It was one of the more embarassing moments of my motherhood.

The Birds & The Bees

When I became pregnant with Animal, Pigpen was 5 and Einstein was nearly 7. Because I had chosen a homebirth, and my boys had expressed an interest in watching their baby brother be born, I knew that some minor sex education was in order. The first thing I asked the boys was, “Do you know where the baby will come out?” Pigpen eyed me curiously. “Your MOUTH?” he asked, increduously. This further convinced me that a few choice details needed to be revealed. The boys learned that Daddy and I had made a baby and that it was growing inside my belly. They learned that boys had penises, girls had vaginas, and the baby was going to be come out of my vagina. At this point, Einstein said “No WAY” in disbelief. “How is a BABY going to get through a little vagina?” I explained that it would stretch enough for the baby to be born. At that point, that was all they really needed to know.

And so when Animal was born, as promised, he came from my vagina. Einstein didn’t seem too impressed, but Pigpen was quite captivated. My midwife lifted the placenta and carefully showed him where Animal had been living for the past 9 months. Pigpen was fascinated.

Back when I was 9 or 10, my mother had given me the Birds and the Bees talk. She had used a book. I remember being curious, but embarassed. I remember finding the book and hiding it under my bed, to sneak peeks at whenever I was alone and away from my parent’s watchful eye. It wasn’t long before my mother found the book, and it disappeared from our library. I felt like a freak, a pervert.

When I was 16, I lost my virginity. I promptly made an appointment with Planned Parenthood, and summoned the courage to call up my ONE friend (male) who had a car and a driver’s license, so that I could have transportation to the clinic. I was proud of myself, feeling responsible for my body and mature. Not long after, my mother found my birth control prescription. It was not a pretty sight, because of course, good Christian girls save themselves for marriage. I felt dirty and guilty. Perhaps that was her intent. Two years later, I would face an unplanned pregnancy that would change my life forever. I have to wonder if a supportive stance on the birth control issue would have caused an entirely different outcome.

Anyway, today Pigpen is nearly 7 and Einstein is 8. When I was in school, Sex Education was taught in 3rd grade. For Einstein, that’s next year. I have strong feelings about “getting to him first.” Not that I don’t entirely trust the public school system to give him good information, but mostly because I want him to have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss things in an environment where he feels safe and comfortable. I also want to educate him myself before his friends start talking, and boys start “ewwwing” about Sex Ed and stop paying attention during the lesson.

I’m a little concerned that Pigpen isn’t exactly ready for the big Birds & the Bees discussion, but I’m more afraid of giving Einstein “The Talk” and having him spill the beans to Pigpen in a secondhand manner that won’t be appropriate. And so, we embark on a new adventure in parenthood.

I scoured the earth for an informative book that was age appropriate and had information that I agreed with. I also needed something fun and interesting, with great illustrations to keep the kids interested. I found such a book, called “It’s So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families by Robie H. Harris. It really is a fantastic book. The first night I pulled out the book, I told the kids that it was time they learned about their bodies. As expected, the first few chapters were met with “EW’s” and giggles, and completely hilarious comments. In one picture, there is a blackboard, in which pictures have been drawn to illustrate that EGG + SPERM = BABY. And so there is a picture of an egg (a circle), a sperm, and a baby. Pigpen points to the picture and says “Look! Egg plus balloon equals a baby!” While I am explaining that in order to make a baby, a sperm must plant itself inside an egg, Pigpen shouts out “EGGPLANT! EGGPLANT!” Halfway through, Einstein remarks, “This is kind of gross, Mom.” After the allotted reading time was up, I tucked them into bed and practically ran into the bathroom to lock myself in and laugh myself into hysterics.

Tonight, they were begging for the book long before bedtime. They just couldn’t wait for more information, little sponges that they are. They interrupted me after every couple of sentences, excitedly bombarding me with questions and giggling at words like “anus” and “testicles”. They whined and begged for more when I put the book away for the night. I promised to read more tomorrow. I was proud. I want them to be informed. I want them to know their own bodies, inside and out. I want them to never feel ashamed about the way their bodies are changing. Just the same, I want them to understand the female body. I want them to grow up to respect the female form, to know how it works and how to treat it gently. I just have to cross my fingers and hope that I’m doing the right thing, in the right way.

Mmm…meat.

One of my favorite things about being a mom is opening up my pad of paper and finding a picture of a six-legged lion who is dreaming of meat.

-Pigpen, age 6

Who needs a seashell?

Yesterday Pigpen figured out that he could “hear the ocean” with his hands cupped to his ear.

This is the proper hand positioning, in case you were wondering: