October 29, 2009

Going all "Oprah" on you.

Ahhh…alone at last. It’s been at least two weeks since my last mom’s night out ALONE and I need it badly. Since my last freedom night, I’ve weathered two sick kids (and husband), everyday life with small people, a trip to Disneyland and a concert in which I had a major solo and a major sinus infection at once. WHEW.

The result of too much time serving and not enough time in solitude is me - sitting here with a blank mind – and not the kind that comes from the careful practice of a spiritual discipline. I am experiencing the kind of mind numbing blankness that comes from spending all my time wiping runny noses, changing diapers, surviving tantrums and day-long drives with a ten month old. I parent from the time I wake each morning to the time I wake the next day!

A few days ago, I reached my capacity for “giving” without a break. I actually got up in the middle of the night (for me, that’s around 11 PM) to catch some time alone. After laughing through my favorite TV shows (thank God for the internet!), I finally went to bed around 3:30 AM feeling refreshed. It’s a good thing my husband was home the next day to let me sleep in!

Even though I know I need time alone, I keep finding myself challenged to actually take it. Without time alone, I can’t hear myself think. I can’t be the mom I want to be to my girls. I get so stressed I can’t enjoy my life right now – crazy schedule and house and all – and it is flying by so quickly.  I know I can’t be the only mom with small kids who has this problem so I’m going to keep sharing my experience as a reminder to me and friends with the same challenge. To be the best mom I can be, I have to take time to just be ME.

This week -

I WILL remember to take time to be alone. Even if it means I go when the baby's crying (she's with someone who loves her!) and the house is less than perfect, I'll LEAVE it all behind for a few hours.  I'll trade babysitting with a friend or let dad watch the kids alone for a while. It will be good for them!

I WILL NOT wait till life gets less stressful or busy. Chances are, it won't. I want to enjoy every minute I'm given with my family and friends. I'll take a break and come back feeling more equipped to handle it. I only get one pass at this life and I won't let it pass me by because there are dirty dishes in the sink.

October 27, 2009

Oh Horatio...save us!

When I was about six months pregnant with my first daughter (read: hormone-filled and more than a little sleep deprived!), my in-laws asked my husband and me to house sit and watch their dog while they vacationed. We gladly obliged. It was near Christmas. Their house was already decorated for the occasion and presents were under the tree.

The two of us enjoyed a nice dinner together and a few shows on the big screen TV. (That would be any TV bigger than our 13” model). Then, tired, we took the little dogs out one last time and went to bed. After a few hours, we were wakened by voices and the sound of packages being ripped apart in the living room. Our dogs were barking like crazy.

We called 911. The operator told us to stay on the line and in our room. Within two minutes, three police cars squealed up in front of the house “Rockford” style. We looked out the window to see officers approaching the house, guns drawn with their flashlights out – just like on CSI. It was really impressive and totally cool. The police helicopter arrived moments later and beamed a huge light over the area – in case the “perps” tried to escape. Meanwhile, my husband and I moved his parents’ HUGE dresser in front of the bedroom door to prevent the possibility of a hostage situation.

After a few moments, the 911 operator said the house was secure, officers were inside and that we could open our bedroom door to admit them. Of course, we had to ask them to wait a minute while we moved the giant dresser AWAY from the door! It took a lot longer to remove it than it had taken to put it there.

When we opened the door, the officers confirmed that we were safe. We went into the living room with them, where they’d discovered the perpetrator. The source of the voices we’d heard was – the TV we’d forgotten to turn off! And the rustling packages? A mylar balloon that had become tangled in a ceiling fan. The officers also pointed out that a back door was unlocked and that we shouldn’t leave it that way.

Oh. My. Word.

After sheepishly thanking the police for their time, we made a pact NEVER to reveal this humiliating story to anyone! Imagine my surprise a few years later when my father-in-law asked if I’d ever seen the police report from this incident. I tried to play dumb but he knew. We hadn’t counted on the neighbors on his block ratting us out.

I guess I'll never live this down - especially from those of my friends who are officers of the law. But, what’s the point of life if not to find the humor in it – even if it makes you look ridiculous?

Tree of Life

During my last pregnancy, I wanted to get a henna tattoo on my belly to symbolize the special journey I was on toward a different kind of birthing experience. In my mind, I pictured a Tree of Life, strong and grounded yet able to sway without breaking when the wind blew it. I imagined life coursing through its limbs, nourishing each twig and leaf.

Unfortunately, due to the crazy nature of our home environment before I delivered (drawn out construction etc), my plan didn’t come to fruition. But, during that time, when I felt my day careening off course, I closed my eyes, pictured my tree and tried to imagine the strength of those roots grounding me while a soft breeze refreshed me.

The amazing part of this story is that when I gave birth to my second daughter, my midwife offered me a look at the placenta. Then she asked, “Do you know there is a picture on it?” Surprised, I looked at what she was holding. There on its side of the placenta was an incredible network of veins which had nourished and sustained my daughter for nine months – in the shape of a Tree of Life.

I don’t think this is necessarily unique to me but it was a profound experience for me to see an image of the thing I had imagined all those months. In that moment, I felt an incredible gratitude and respect for this body I am privileged to inhabit – and its ability to create, nourish and sustain a tiny life within itself. Incredible.

October 26, 2009

The wise women in my life…

When I was in my early twenties, someone introduced me to the idea of learning life lessons from a mentor - a more experienced, wiser (hopefully) person. I didn’t really know how to go about getting a mentor but it sounded like a great idea. So, I asked a woman about ten years my senior if she would be willing to mentor me. She said she’d consider it and let me know. She never got back to me but years later, as a mom of two (she had three small kids), I realize what a sacrifice of time I was asking of her.

Although my friend didn’t respond to my request for wise counsel, my request for guidance didn’t go unheeded. In fact, at that time, I got not one but several wise counselors who made time for me regularly. They just appeared around me in various places – two work friends, a roommate, a colleague’s wife. At the moments I most needed a word of wisdom, it seemed I was surrounded with kindness, wisdom and grace.

These days, I don’t go around seeking wise women. They are all around me. Wise women come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Sometimes I know them for years and sometimes they just make a brief appearance at the time I most need them. Regardless of where I meet them or how long we connect they are integral to my growth as a woman.

While I appreciate and glean wisdom from most of the women I know, I am usually blessed to have a few close friends who I consider my "women's circle". Right now, I have at least three wise women in my life. They are all around the age my mom would have been had she lived and one of them was her dear friend. These are women who keep my confidences and women on whose counsel I depend. I want to honor these women for their friendship, their wisdom and their willingness to share themselves with me. I am deeply grateful.

October 10, 2009

Do I really need Nanny 911?

This “Nanny 911” experience with my daughter really shook my confidence as a mother. Should I hit my child *lovingly, of course* when she disobeyed or acted like a crazy loon? If I did, how could I tell her not to hit others? Could we handle this by ourselves or did we need professional help? A talk with some of the wise women in my life restored my confidence. After the initial shock, I knew that we could figure this out together and that whatever we did would be consistent with our family motto of "training a child in the way she SHOULD go,” not just punishing her for making the wrong choice.

I hunkered down to figure out how to solve the problem. Had something changed lately in our routine/life to cause this shift? I soon realized that this was not an overnight change. Here are some changes that precipitated her preschool craziness!

1.Arrival of a new baby nine months ago. I spent a lot of time saying, “Just a minute,” “Wait till I’m done with the baby”, and “Not now, I have to finish _____ first.” New babies definitely need immediate attention but my oldest was getting the short end of the stick.

2. Inconsistent sleep schedule

3. Not enough time out of the house doing physical activity. I was a full time pumper till just recently and dragging my pump, diaper bag, cold bag, baby car seat and hot little girls around in the super-steamy summer just seemed like too much some days.

4. She turned three. It’s a normal and healthy part of her growth to develop a strong idea of what she wants to do. When her idea doesn’t mesh with what we need to accomplish that day, we need to help her manage those inner urges of anger/frustration, express them in a positive way and move on.

Oops! I know how I feel when I’m exhausted and feeling neglected by my loved ones – SUPER GRUMPY! Why do I expect my daughter to manage her emotions perfectly – when she has fewer coping skills than I? Hmmm…Not sure how we got to this place but I think it might be the whole being “overwhelmed” by moving from one little handful of fun to two bundles of energy.

Next ... what we are changing to help our oldest cope with change better.

October 8, 2009

Unintended wisdom

Something a respected friend of mine said to me lately has not left my thoughts for some time. It was in relation to diaper free training(see earlier post), which she thinks of as a waste of time. Her comment, “I think that just trains the parent.”

At the time she said it, I laughed because it’s true. Diaper free does require discipline on the part of a parent, just like everything else in parenting. Everything we do as parents to keep our children healthy and safe and to train them to engage in healthy social interaction requires - of us - consistency and discipline.

Another friend of mine told me recently that gentle parenting (read: spank-free parenting) is exhausting because it requires so much discipline of a parent. Creating a relationship that goes both ways and helps a kid to internalize right and wrong in a way that makes them WANT to choose the right rather than forcing them to is no small task.

Most of all, parenting requires discipline because our children learn so much more from watching our behavior than from listening to our instruction. I hope that from my spirit and my behavior, my daughters learn about living truthfully, loving others, nurturing their spirits and enjoying every minute of this beautiful life we have the chance to live.

Thanks to my friend for making the observation – even if my response wasn’t quite what she intended. I appreciate the reminder.

October 6, 2009

Traveling the path together...

When my daughter first started pitching these incredible three-year-old tantrums, I didn’t know what to do. I alternated between horrified, embarrassed, angered and exhausted by the change. Where did my sweet little friend go? I felt like something special between us had died. I also experienced a good dose of mother’s guilt as I tried to determine what I could have done wrong to “break” my little girl. (My husband never suffers this kind of guilt btw…)

But, I’ve regained my equilibrium and I’m coming clean. My daughter is not, of course, broken but IS still smart, funny, sweet and beautiful. She can also be a little stinker. So, our recent ventures into this new developmental phase reminded us of our parenting goals.

Since before our daughter was born, my husband and I agreed that we wanted to use a different parenting approach than the one we both experienced growing up and the one many of our friends were using, namely – punishment and spanking. While we deeply respect our parents and appreciate the love and wisdom they put into raising us, we feel that telling a child not to hit and then hitting them, no matter how “lovingly” seems inconsistent and confusing.

Our goal is to show our children, by example, the way they should go. We don’t want fear of punishment to be our kids’ motivation to do the right thing. Rather, by listening, quickly responding and showing our daughters the same respect we expect from them, we work to build a connection that will assure them they can always count on us to respond to them with love, no matter what they have done or who they become. As we travel the path of life with them, experiencing its beauty and challenges together, we wish them to internalize the character qualities - integrity, love, discipline, strength and compassion - we value in ourselves.

More to come…

October 5, 2009

Pros of home birth…

Here are some of the things I liked about home birth.

1 My own space & my own germs (not the super-staph and other stuff at the hospital). I felt relaxed, which I believe contributed to a much shorter labor. I also got a lot of cleaning done (both bathrooms) in early labor and it distracted me.

2. The feeling of letting my body do what it was meant to do – create, nurture and give birth to life. While the pain was of the “Holy **** - Why did I think I wanted to do this naturally??” variety, it helped me to know just when to push and push effectively and when to take a break.

3. My midwife did not constantly tell me how far I’d dilated – so I wasn’t in competition with the clock. I progressed in my own time.

4. Being aware and happy that my baby had arrived safely.

5. Going to bed in my own home afterward and actually sleeping rather than having someone wake me every hour to check on me.

6. Getting to see the placenta. The amazing veins running through it are shaped just like a tree of life. It was incredible. What a wonderful picture of its purpose.

7. Being alone with my husband so we could sleep and enjoy together, just us two, a night with the new little miracle that our love created.

8. Midwife attendant who could monitor the baby's heartbeat - and remind me that I could get through the pain to see my little girl.

I am so happy with the way homebirth turned out and if I ever give birth again, I’ll be calling my midwife.

October 4, 2009

Birth choice 2

In my second birth experience, I woke on a Sunday morning (39 weeks) to contractions that felt different from the Braxton Hicks I’d been having for the last six weeks. When my husband came home for lunch I told him he could go back to work but warned him that we’d probably be having a baby in the next day or so. I woke from a nap with my oldest daughter around 5 pm to much stronger contractions. Yet, while they felt different, they didn’t seem strong enough to be “it”.

While the contractions didn’t seem that strong, I couldn’t concentrate long enough to finish anything I started. I called my sister and asked her to come over and make dinner for my daughter. I had no concentration power to do it myself! She told me to call my midwife but I demurred, not sure these were the “real thing”. “They don’t hurt enough to be real labor!” I said. Then I hung up because I was having a contraction. DENIAL!

I realized my sister’s wisdom and called my midwife. She said based on the distance between contractions I should try to get some rest. When I hung up the phone, the doorbell rang and I opened it to find my sister and a friend standing there. They decided I was in labor (I was still unconvinced!) and moved quickly around my house picking up, fixing a dinner for my two year old and whisking her away for the night. They also convinced me to call my husband – so he could be home in time for the delivery.

I called both my husband and midwife to give them an update. When they each arrived around 9 pm, I was DEFINITELY in labor. By this time, I’d cleaned both bathrooms (except the tub) and needed help. My husband cleaned the tub while my midwife checked my cervix. It was still high and back but I could hardly sit still for her to check. Excruciating! I asked if being in the tub at this point would slow things down but she encouraged me to do what seemed comfortable.

I knew I wanted to birth in the tub so I hopped in and tried to relax. I didn’t worry about time. I breathed and moaned low and deep through the contractions, thinking of round, open objects. When my bag of waters finally broke with a POP, I felt a strong, insistent need to push. Afraid of the pain at first, I cringed through the contractions and remember thinking, “I am NEVER doing this again!” (How quickly we change our minds!)

My wise midwife knew what I was doing and encouraged me “When you get serious about pushing, she’ll come.” I stopped hiding from the pain and pushed. It was the turning point and within about twenty minutes, I felt a huge release. My baby’s head was out. The rest of the delivery was easy.

My little daughter arrived about 6 hours from the time I realized I was in labor. As soon as she was born, I held her to my chest and I wondered at how small she seemed – only 8 lbs! My midwife and her apprentice bustled about, checking the baby, bringing me a snack, checking me (I didn’t tear at all this time) and helping to deliver the placenta. Then, they let me take a minute long shower (no joke, my midwife ordered me out!) and helped me downstairs to bed.

The hours following the birth went quickly. My midwife and her apprentice stayed for several hours, keeping tabs on me, cleaning up their supplies and rinsing out my tub. When they finally left, my husband and I remembered that we hadn’t taken any pictures, so we snapped a shot of the three of us with my cell phone and then, happy and content, fell asleep with our new little charge.

October 2, 2009

Birth choices...

After the birth of my first daughter, I knew in future births, I'd want something different from the hospital environment and spent time thinking about how the first time differed from what I’d hoped to experience. I wanted to be in my own space, free to move and make noise if I wanted to and to be un-drugged when my baby arrived. I also wanted the attendance of an experienced midwife who would support me in the moments I didn’t think I could make it and be there to monitor my baby's safety. I am pro homebirth but I was not ready to have an unassisted birth. 

We planned carefully and I took some time to mentally prepare myself for the upcoming birth. We went over the birth plan with our midwife and had a backup plan to transport to a local hospital in case of an emergency. But both my husband and I believe strongly that a woman’s body is specially designed to give birth without interventions. We still did all the normal labs and had an ultrasound to be sure our baby was low risk for a home birth. I also worked through a great book by Pam England called Birthing from Within and highly recommend it.

My wonderful midwife, Pam White, walked me through thirty-nine weeks with wisdom and compassion. By the time of the birth, she was truly a friend and I felt a strong degree of trust in both her experience as a professional midwife and as a mother who had been where I was going. She knew when to encourage me and when be silent. She respected the intimate moment that my second daughter's birth became for us and we connected in a very profound way.
My husband, in particular, preferred the home birth experience to the hospital. Since my midwife and her apprentice were there for the entire labor (for the last few hours), he felt free to run to the kitchen for juice or just be available to support me as I needed him. He felt my midwife was far more attentive than the doctor we had at the hospital.

There are people who give me that “Wow, you’re so brave to birth at home” comment. Some of them mean it and some of them are clearly thinking, “You’re so crazy to birth at home.” That’s ok. This is a big world with room for lots of different ways of doing things. I'm glad chose to invite Pam to be part of this moment in our lives.

Nanny 911

My husband and I just learned the myth of the terrible two’s is a red herring designed to distract parents from the reality that three is SO-MUCH-HARDER! At two, my daughter definitely had different opinions at times regarding her plan vs. ours. When those differences happened, we used diversion, distraction and sometimes the “pick-her-up-and-carry-her method”. Most of the time, my daughter was (and is) funny, verbose and filled with imaginative ideas for play and our methods worked.

But recently, my sweet girl turned (seemingly) overnight into a foot stomping, tantrum throwing, “NO!” slinging little monster. What happened?! A few of these incidents have happened in public and really took me by surprise. I won’t recount full stories. Let’s just say, almost all involve crying (LOUDLY), dramatically throwing herself on the floor and refusing to get up and come with me. The best one was when she screamed, “Don’t take me!! Don’t TAKE ME!!!!” at the top of her lungs and everyone thought I was stealing my own kid. Nice.

I looked like the perfect candidate for that show, Nanny 911.

Suddenly, diversion, distraction and the pick-her-up-and-carry-her method weren’t working. Diversion and distraction no longer work because a three year old is a very focused person and no longer responds to, “Oh look – an airplane!!” when she wants something. Pick-her-up-and-carry-her isn’t effective when you’re pushing a stroller loaded with a diaper bag, pump, bottle bag, other bags, heavy carseat (filled with a baby) and you have to pick up a very strong, squirming, screaming three-year old.

Since this first happened, it seems like moms of three year olds have come out of the wood work to tell me how frustrated they are. In line at Starbucks the other day, another mom (with a three year old) and I struck up a conversation. When I commented on how sweet her daughter was, the first words out of her mouth were, "Three is SO MUCH HARDER THAN TWO!" (Emphasis hers) So, this post will be the first in a series of what we are doing to deal with the new challenge of the torrential threes.

Stay posted!

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