On Kiddlets

***While I am packing up our house like a woman possessed, getting our family ready to move across the continent, several generous readers have volunteered to keep you musing. This first guest post is written by Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy. Jasmine in an Alaskan off-grid homesteader (ironically, I do not know her from Alaska but solely from this virtual space). She also writes at her own blog, Bunchberry Farms.***

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You may think I’m crazy when I say this, but its true.  I have been actively talking myself out of having children for a decade.  How old am I, you ask?  I’m twenty six.

Why have I been dissuading myself from ushering new souls into the world for so long?  Because I want them SO DAMN BAD.

I actually give my younger self a lot of kudos for being so responsible.  As a highschooler, while I personally wasn’t sexually active until late in highschool, I had pro-condom bumperstickers on the back of my truck and in my bedroom.  I talked my friends through the process of getting on birth control.  I was decided that if I should ever need to, I would get an abortion rather than become a teenage mom.  And all the while I desperately desired kids.  I would fight the undertow of the longing.  I would find myself insanely jealous of the young single struggling under-advantaged moms that I worked with at my minimum wage part time waitressing gigs.  And periodically I would have to sit down with myself and have a good long chat about what the reality of kids would mean, about how having an underage mom wouldn’t be doing them any favors, and about how I wanted to be able to choose them at a time their nurturance would be my primary endeavor.

I played gypsy for a year, and then I went to college.  And for five years I indulged in academia and theatre.  I knew I didn’t have the time or energy for kids.  I knew that the time would come for being a mom, that that time was not the (then) present.  But I longed.  Oh, how I longed.  And I dreamed.  Oh, how I dreamed.  The dream of the homestead and the dream of the motherhood came to rival each other in depth and intensity.  They became entwined to the point of identity.  My mantra-goal became “Get the land” because once I had the land, the homestead and the kids could and would come.  I plotted and planned and despaired and hoped and leveraged will power and luck and fate and love to get the homestead.  Meanwhile I would read the parenting magazines at the Laundromat, hide “Fit Pregnancy” (the prenatal yoga issues) and “Natural Parenting” magazines in the wait-station at the restaurant, read the latest “Mothering Magazine” and “Midwifery Today” every time I visited my mom.  I would hide in the magazine section at the grocery store and read “Good Housekeeping” and “Real Simple,” skimming past article with potential relevance to where I was at, and instead focusing on the ones that talked about homework and kids organizational strategies, about family dinner plans and how to pack a school lunch.  I rarely babysat because I was always in rehearsal or on stage or waitressing.  I was engaging in the act of living the life-stage I was in while desperately and nearly obsessively longing for and planning the future.  I have always been the queen of ten year plans.  I am not entirely sure it is the healthiest way to live, expending so much energy and thought and time on a future that you are at the same time ensuring is distant from where you are.

Sometime in college I met my Darlin’ Man.  And as soon as we met, certainly as soon as we became serious, I realized that there was no way I could or would ever get the abortion I had always planned on if we accidentally conceived.  This realization scared the shit out me.  I mean, I thrive on planning the future.  The reality of children was always, always something that I knew I would invite into my life when the time was right.  I wished for them NOW, but I knew this.  When I was maybe 3, maybe 4 years old my little sister was a baby.  I have this vivid memory of sitting in my kid-sized rocking chair (the one that is in the attic space at my mother’s house waiting for the next generation along with boxes and boxes of kids books and toys that I’ve been saving all of my life), in the middle of the afternoon, and singing lullabies to my doll.  For hours.  We had this tape of lullabies, English on one side, French on the other – Lullaby Bersuese – and I distinctly remember one specific afternoon repeating and re-listening to the French side at least two if not three times.  Singing along and rocking my doll straight through from afternoon to dusk.  I wanted to memorize it so that when I was a mom I could sing it to my kids without the tape.  Ever since then, I have known, bone deep, that motherhood was something that belonged in my life, that it was something I would choose for myself.  Accordingly, it became the end-goal of every 10 year plan I ever made.  It was there and real and desperately wanted, but was always placed a decade or so away.  Placed out there in the future with a plan in place to ensure it stayed there.  So when I met my Darlin’ Man and realized that if we conceived I would keep the baby, it scared the shit out of me.  It took the concept of motherhood out this plane of planned activity at the perfect time – a place I had put it, and kept it, so that I would not be prematurely tempted – and (re)created it as a  thing that could happen by chance, something that could happen to me and I would do nothing to stop it.  I mean, no kind of birth control is fail-proof right?  And if the idea is that you manifest in your life that which you focus on, kids are an immanent accidental possibility, right?  And that’s scary stuff.  But even while recognizing the absolute havoc that untimed and unplanned kids would have on my life, on our lives, even while rebelling against the mere concept of the active choice being taken away from me – in my deepest self of selves I rejoiced.  I rejoiced because suddenly, miraculously, my most deeply held desire was a possibility.  Because even a 1 in 10,000 chance is a possibility, right?  And if I hit that one in ten thousand jackpot, well,  I could hardly blame myself for accidentally becoming pregnant with my beloved’s child, right?   It wouldn’t be an ill-considered decision, but fate.

And I rejoiced because I knew that the choice of pregnancy and motherhood was really and truly finally within my grasp.  And that scared the shit out of me.  Because if it was something that I finally could choose for myself, why was I not?   If facing the reality of eminence of the mere possibility of kids brought me such joy and relief, why was I avoiding it?  What was I doing with myself?  If I was defining fulfillment as motherhood, and I was denying myself motherhood, then what sort of messed up mind game was I playing with myself?

So I did two things, I sat down with myself and gave myself the permission to savor this pre-kid life for what it is.  There are many things I love about it that I know I will nostalgically savour when my proverbial style is cramped by the minute to minute reality of littles. This life I’m living now is a step along the way but not merely a means to an end.  (Or so I tell myself when I’m not assuring myself that AS SOON as we get enough student loans paid off, I can then get pregnant.  If that’s not a means to an end, I don’t know what is.)    And I asked myself what motherhood really meant to me.  I found that while the essence of motherhood in my soul stands alone and can be applied to or fit within any life scenario I can imagine, my VISION of my future motherhood was pretty specific.  Once, in the early and turbulent portion of our relationship, my Darlin’Man asked me if I knew what my purpose in life was.  I don’t remember the words I chose – I think nurture was one.  But I remember being very careful of what words I used because I knew the answer as clear as day, and I knew that English lacked a single word for the amalgam of creation and nurturing and tending and supporting and healing and reverence that gardening and mothering and animal husbandry and making art and feeding people and giving them medicine and tending their wounds all have in common.  There is a common element, and it is profound and resides in my soul, but I don’t know that there is a word for it.  I thought about all of this and I realized that my vision of my own experience of motherhood was all entwined in my vision of homesteading.  Raising kids and goats and gardens was all one life action for me.  Which meant I better get the set up in place if I wanted to realize that vision.

So I shifted my future focus onto the homestead (and by this I mean I took all of that near-obsessive planning and applied it to small scale agriculture).  I got married.  My mom moved up here in anticipation of being grandma in the not too distant future.  Last summer we bought the homestead.  It needs a lot of work in creating it as a productive home scale agricultural venture.  It craves digging and building and fencing and lots of compost.  But every time I think about a fence line, or the placement of a coop, I think in terms of little hands on latches, little feet in the grass, buoyant laughter echoing, trees for solace of little hearts.  As I think about where the fruit trees and the barn ought to go in relation to a future barn, and maintaining the direct sun on the solar panels, I’m also thinking of swings and climbing trees.

I’m now on the two year plan for getting pregnant and every time I sit with myself and examine my prospective reality of motherhood, it still scares the shit out of me.  In a deep and challenging way, a way that has within it the distillation of the visions of bliss and golden glowing mama-ness.  A way that encapsulates the dreams and the bone deep blood deep voice that knows about children belonging in my life.  A way that is also aware (as aware as one can be without the experience) of the work and the drudgery and the self abnegation and the frustration.  The responsibility and the giving.

And if the prospective reality scares the shit out of me and I still want it with the intensity of a decade’s longing melting into tender humbleness; that must mean I’m getting closer and closer to actually being ready, right?  Are you ever ready?  Probably not.

And the closer my own motherhood draws, the more I find myself open to following the lead of this land, our (future) kids, this life we’re choosing.  The ten year plan has opened to allow me to glimpse possible vistas of twenty and fifty years down the road – it is less rigid and encompasses much more possibility for change.  Which means I might just make it though, right?

                              –Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy, Bunchberry Farms

By Surprise

Some time back, after shaking the last bit out of a salt canister, I had a brainstorm. I looked at that big cardboard tube and thought, planetarium! We got right to it, poking star holes with the pointy end of a candy thermometer, removing the metal spout to make a peep hole and lastly painting the whole thing night sky blue.

I finally stood back with pride while my girl squinted up one eye and gazed into her private galaxy. And then it hit me.

Holy fuck. I am a mom.

I looked at a salt can and saw a galaxy tube. My brain thinks in scissors and paint, my house is littered with toys in every room, the walls are plastered with children’s drawings, I stroller my kids to library story-time every Tuesday morning, and I almost always remember to pack a variety of wholesome snacks.

I wasn’t exactly terrified. It just…. caught me by surprise. It always does.

Back when I was a mere three months pregnant with the first and our kind-hearted neighbors started bringing by boxes of second hand kid stuff, I freaked out. I was not going to be one of Those Parents. Whose house is overrun by kids’ toys, whose lives are overrun by kids’ activities. Babies don’t need stuff, I told myself. This pre-stockpiling is completely absurd.

There was one moment in particular– A woman I vaguely knew had called to see if I wanted a baby bassinet. “What’s a bassinet?” I asked. She explained and said she’s bring it by for me to look at. I must have missed her knock at the door, because two hours later when I opened it to go out for a walk, there was an enormous monstrosity of white lace blocking my exit. I gasped. I felt dizzy. I considered taking it straight to the trash, but I am too pragmatic for that. As quickly as I could I stripped off the white lace, hauled the bassinet upstairs and exiled it to a dark closet. Similarly the four huge boxes of cloth diapers. I think I might have even made the woman who brought them by feel bad for dumping them on me.

Lo and behold, a few months later that bassinet became critical to my every day. I would lay the babe in it in the kitchen while I did the few necessaries (a really few).  And the diapers, jesus what an ingrate. I didn’t realize I was being gifted hundreds of dollars worth of extremely nice cloth diapers.

But, they just…. caught me by surprise. I hadn’t thought about diapers and bassinets yet. I was still coming to grips with the fact that I could hardly breathe enough to walk up the mountain trail by our house.

Things have continued at such a pace. I am perpetually several steps behind in the ‘gracious acceptance’ department, always suffering from the arrogant expectation that I would be ‘different.’ Having a second helped drive the point in. I had been adamantly against strollers, but come 6 months pregnant, carrying an almost 2yo up the hill in the Ergo with 20 pounds of groceries strapped on back, my resolve began to melt.

These days I look more or less like any mom. Like a real mom. Kids in the stroller, diaper bag bulging, unwashed hair flying everywhere. Life more or less completely folded around my littles.

I do sometimes long for those footloose days when I imagined what kind of mama I would be, imagined how I would be ‘different.’ Everything is possible in one’s imagination.

But I am becoming more and more comfortable with my place down here amongst the human people. Being a mom with a diaper bag. Thinking in scissors and paint. Finding delight in an old salt can. Being overrun by kids.

In fact on the days that I manage to surrender to my role, I sometimes find myself blissfully happy about the entirety of my mom-ness. Like some earthy Madonna, I feel full with motherhood. Peace descends from above. And it’s good.

Which above all is what catches me by surprise. I am mom. I am okay.

A Love Letter to New Mamas

Dear you,

I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately.

I’ve been thinking about how crazy our broken up lives are, all separate and sequestered behind our closed doors. I’ve been thinking about my first year as a mama, how isolated and confused I felt. And I’ve been thinking about you out there, alone behind your door.

The world you used to inhabit has fallen into pieces at your feet, like so many mismatched socks. The friends you used to spend days lazing in the sun with, plotting the overthrow of The Man or a hike in the mountains with equal fervor. The friends who now kindly tolerate the drastically downscaled walks, the baby fussing during potlucks, the constantly interrupted conversations. And then go back to their quiet, own homes and self-structured lives.

You try to explain what your life is like now. Why you feel so dragged out. But it always comes out like bitching.

You don’t mean to be bitching. About your tiny, beautiful unfurling flesh of flesh. If it’s difficult to explain how hard this new life has made your own, explaining the surge of devotion for it is all but impossible.

You search for a new friend. A mama. Someone who understands the caged feeling that strangles you daily, the guilt that crushes, the fury that lights in you sometimes like wildfire, and terrifies you no less. Someone who understands as well the spiking joy. The immeasurable sweetness of that tiny new soul birthed from your body, taking shape in the world. The quaking in your heart when she stares wide open into your eyes. The way her body yields to yours, trusts you entire.

Someone who understands the roller coaster that is your life.

But everyone else seems to be doing fine. The other moms have their shit together. They play with their kids, clean the house, make dinner, all with a smile. Don’t they? Or are you just recalling movie moms? I myself look back and try to count the moms I’ve actually known in my life, on a personal level.

Two.

Did they have babies when I knew them?

No.

You feel the rug ripping from under you, and wonder suddenly how you can be 30 years old and have no idea what babies or their mamas are like.

In your loneliness you look to the Wide World. You nurse your baby to sleep in your lap while staring into that glowing screen of possibility.

If real life is peopled by mamas who appear to be surviving so much better than you, the cyberworld is full of super-heroines. Blog after blog, written by cool, green mamas. They wake in the morning perky and fresh. They craft colorful happy things out of wool before the children wake up. They prepare healthful homemade breakfasts. They take their kids on walks in natural landscapes, which they photograph in macro. They sew their own cloth diapers. Make their own whole grain breads. That they never scream at their kids is a given. Never fight with their man about money. Never swear. Never forget their reusable cloth grocery bags.

These super-mamas are a curse and a blessing. You’re addicted to the fantasy they peddle. But, this is your first baby, you don’t know yet that it’s a fantasy. You think it’s just you that’s failing. Just you who screams at the baby at 2 AM to go the fuck to sleep. Just you who bread dough won’t rise for. Just you who can never for the life of you remember to bring the goddamned grocery bags.

I have three very important things to tell you, dear new mama.

1. It is fantasy. It’s a tale we blogstresses spin, for ourselves as much as anyone else. In the cyberworld you can choose your character. You can construct just the person you always wanted to be, and carefully photograph your proof. Anyone would want to show their best self to the world. To focus on the positive, turn toward their sweetness.
But the outcome of our selective presentation is that we all look to one another and see nothing like the tangled ball of dark threads inside our own secret heart. And the rift grows.
I call our bluffs! All of them! I speak brazenly for all bloggers, who carry closets full of everything. We are you. We try and fail daily, hourly. We are doing what we can with what we have.

2. The insanity eases. Motherhood is a slow stretching– of what you know to be true, of what you think yourself capable– and the beginning can be the most painful. No matter how much you think you might be drowning, you’ll be okay. You’ll make it. Babies grow. It will get easier.

3. Cut yourself some slack. A lot of slack. However much slack you need. If you are just now awakening to the green, DIY revolution in homemaking that I champion herein, cut yourself several extra fathoms. If you lived a passionately self-made life full of responsible action before, understand that you will slip– possibly all the way back down– for awhile. That’s okay. There’ll be time later to build or re-build. Babies need you so completely at first. Surrender yourself for now.

And in the meantime. Read all the inspiring, edited stories of mamas who kick ass. Enjoy them for what they are– a celebration of the good parts. Know that in private they fall short, several times a day. Just like you. They are discouraged and disillusioned and ravaged by guilt sometimes. They soar on the ecstasy of motherhood sometimes. They do it all with a smile. They say fuck the world from under the covers and order out pizza for dinner.

Their life is a roller coaster.

Our lives are a roller coaster.

Here’s your ticket.

The Glory Days

I hesitate to say my life is easy lately. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. I know there are some readers out there without kids and, no offense, but our standards are just different. I’m quite sure that if you spent the day with us, you would not consider it easy. But to you mamas out there, especially those with two little ones, I can safely say without fear of miscommunication that my life has gotten just a little bit easy lately.

Oh, there’s still screaming, daily. And plenty of long, drawn out nap fighting, and way too much night-sleep interrupting. And squabbling and pushing. Not to mention dinner to cook, diapers to wash, and my now endless list of things to clean.

But in between the squawks and squabbles, there are many moments of two little kids playing, happily. Sometimes they play for almost an hour, with practically no intervention. Giving me actual time to tackle that list. It’s glorious.

I mean, it’s great because I get time to get shit done, right? But what I really want to say is that it’s great because it’s great. I can work at my own project and every few minutes look over and watch them working at their projects. I can hardly get enough of seeing their little selves unfold. The ideas they get, the things they learn, the gears of their brains whirring. I get to be their mama! Here with them all day, every day, to witness this unfolding. I think often lately, “Oh, this is how it’s supposed to be!” The stuff of dreams.

For some strange and unfortunate reason, it’s much easier for me to write of hard times than good times. The gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair always sounds genuine. Everyone can relate. But it’s hard to write about joy and happiness without sounding cliche. Or maybe it just lacks a plot. No problem to solve? Boring.

Not to imply our life is problem free, by any stretch. It’s still really damn hard. So much to do, never any time with My Man, still tapping the bottom of my resevoir every single day. But not exceeding, that’s the difference. Having two littles has stretched me to previously unimagined dimensions. And I do feel like I’m still using all of that extra me. But now it feels like enough, life feels possible. I don’t feel like I’m mid-jump off a cliff with no parachute.

I think I’ve finally found the distance perspective, a hard-won and absolutely pivotal mothering tool. I can see how they’ve grown, how they’re going to keep growing. When you’re mid-jump like that, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you it’ll get easier soon enough. You listen and say, ‘mm-hmm’ and might believe it with your brain. But in your heart you know it will always be like this. Forever and ever, amen. Till the end of time, you will never get to sleep again, never get to crap all alone with the door shut, never get to cook dinner with both arms and all your legs, never be more than 15 feet from a poopy diaper, never get to wake up in the morning and ask yourself, ‘What would I like to do today?’

It’s not that I didn’t feel the impending loss of milky soft baby-hood. Somehow, even though I felt the hard times were here to stay, I was always acutely aware of how I would (if all goes as planned) never get to hold my very own, sweet flesh of flesh, tiny perfection of spirit again. This was the last time and I’d better goddamned enjoy every minute of it. Or else.

A few days ago I realized this is my blessed overlap. My glory days. I can see how they will grow and in a few years they won’t need me to do much more than feed them. But for now, they’re still babies really. There’s still time. I finally feel like I have the space and sliver of peace I need to step back, breath, watch, smile, and be the joyful and grateful mama I always wanted to be.

 

I Am Animal, So Are You

Shannon Hayes wrote an article for Yes! recently called The Kid Question. A brave woman. Not only brave enough to endorse having kids, but brave enough to give us the real reason she did it. Because she wanted to.

A few years back a friend of mine came to the conclusion that we rarely think through the factors and make an informed decision in life. Most of us just function on instinct or desire, and then gather evidence to support our decision. I think she’s right on. That is what Shannon Hayes basically admitted in her article, which I found amazingly courageous.

But then again, why shouldn’t we follow our instinct? Why do we value an “informed” decision made by our brains over an instinctual decision informed by our pure animal selves?

About three years ago, when I was pregnant with my first, I was out walking with one of my oldest friends who also happens to be my ex-lover. We were together for 6 years, at the very budding of our Selves, and so we understand each other in ways no one else can, for better of for worse.

She asked me, point blank (I’m not paraphrasing), how I could justify having kids when the world is so fucked up.

Ouch. For so many reasons I can’t even explain here.

But, knowing her as well as I do, under my initial offense I understood the genuineness of her question. And so I thought for several minutes trying to formulate a genuine answer.

We are animals. As much as we try to pretend otherwise, here we are. Animals, every one. You can search high and low for the meaning of life, but I’ll tell you a secret. It’s no secret. Every living thing lives for one purpose. To make more living things.

There is a reason men think about sex 24 hours a day. There is a reason childless women hitting their 40s often have sudden and overwhelming panic attacks. And it’s simple. Like every other living thing, with legs or leaves, we are designed with a drive which cannot be conquered. Make babies.

Although I understand every inch of reasoning, I find it not a little ironic that back-to-the-Earth types would end up being in the No Kids camp. How can you spend your life respecting the Earth and trying to be more like the (other) animals, but deny your most basic animal instinct? How better to bow to Mother Earth than to give in to (and even be honored by!) the fundamental drive she has designed in you.

Now, bear in mind that I could as well argue the other side. How can we bring more souls into the world, to consume more and more resources, to oppress more and more of the Earth and her creatures, to live through a time I cannot rejoice and a future I have no hope for?

It’s true. I don’t have much hope for our species. In the passion of youth I used to be sometimes consumed by a debilitating depression imagining the future wreckage of the Earth. But at some point a few years back, I realized that I was looking through just human eyes. So maybe we’ll kill ourselves off. Maybe we’ll drag several thousand species down with us, leaving a wasteland of toxic sludge. But some Life will survive. The cockroaches, the molds, the swimming sea of bacteria. Why do I value these creatures less? When I step back and squint my eyes, I can have hope once more, even faith. The Earth will survive whatever we dish out. Who do we think we are that we could actually destroy her?

It’s all well and good to realize your faith in the Earth’s endurance. But how do you balance a hopelessness for your own species with bringing a baby into the impending ruin?

That one I have yet to work my head around. Except that we just have to keep on keeping on, because what the hell else are we gonna do? Ever hear that Dylan song (I know, twice in one paragraph?) “I will not go down under the ground, till somebody tells me that death’s all around. I will not lay myself down to die, when I go to my grave my head will be high. Let me die in my footsteps, before I go down under the ground.”

And I guess I just want to see more footsteps than my own.

Maybe, secretly, I really do have hope for the human race after all.

Nappy-Naps

[I’ve mentioned progress on Weaning From the Cursed Box a few times, but meant to do a more proper post on the subject. This morning I started out with that in mind, but it turned right into a naps post. You’ll see why.]

The horrid realization that my darling toddler’ was wickedly addicted to watching movies came over a month ago. It was a rough time for me. Actually, things had been rough since January (actually things have been rough since last April, this is certainly a tops year for us what with the move, the new babe, etc, etc. But we had hit a bit of a stride in November/December…. which January broke). There were quite a few sleeping issues. Napping the Babe in particular had me totally confounded. I put the Toddler down in front of a movie many a time to get the house quiet enough to put a baby sleep fighter to sleep. I couldn’t figure any other way to do it.

Now that I think about it, was the message I was sending “I’m going to go spend quality time with your brother, here plug yourself into this glowing box”…? Oh god! The mamaguilt! Still and yet, at that time in his development, he would literally not go to sleep or stay asleep if there was ANY kind of noise. So I guess I still don’t know how else I could have done it. Only the parent of a true sleep fighter can understand how incredibly tenuous sleep can be. In the beginning, he would only sleep if I was wearing him. I did my best to keep trying with the laying him down to nap business. Some days I would spend a total of three hours trying to get him down for naps. Rarely would he stay asleep (on the bed) for more than 15 or 20 minutes. I was going insane.

But lo– angels on high sweetly sing, he has learned to nap.  The import of that simple sentence is huge. He still fights sleep, but at least he does eventually go, most times. Even if there is some Toddler noise going on. And once asleep, he naps for usually at least 30 minutes, often an hour and a half, and occasionally as much as two and a half hours! That’s on the bed. In fact, he stopped wanting to be worn for naps. Now if I let him nap in the carrier he just takes a 20 minute cat nap.

Like all parenting, I didn’t teach him to nap. His ability to nap budded and grew from within his own pudgy little self. But it did take a lot of work on my part, continually providing him with the opportunity to practice. Waiting for his Magic Moment.

For any mama’s struggling with the nap issue out there, here’s some things I think helped (though like I said, the change very obviously came from him, I was doing all this stuff before and it didn’t help until he was ready):

1. Perseverance. Topping the list. Just keep chanting, “This will get better, this will get better” It will. Maybe you won’t be so lucky as me, and have it better after just a few months of insanity, but they do grow. They do change. It will get better.

2. Routine. I struggled to find some kind of rhythm to his sleep cycles so that I could encourage him toward sleep at the right moments, and generally get his body used to falling to sleep at certain times of day. It’s not like we have any real kind of schedule, particularly because he doesn’t wake up at the same time every morning. But at least now I know he’ll need a nap sometime around 9:30 or 10:30, then again after lunch-ish, and a late afternoon nap that sometimes turns into an extra early bedtime, unfortunately.

3. On the Bed. With the Toddler, who was also an epic sleep fighter, I walked. I walked and nursed and sang. She wouldn’t even go with the rocking chair. I put on the miles, mostly within the confines of our house. This time, I just didn’t feel like it. I’m tired. I don’t want to walk a bunch of uninteresting house miles. No telling if this would have worked with the Toddler or not, but I just started laying down with him and trying to nurse him to sleep. I had to weather a lot of extra fussing/crying/screaming, sometimes he’ll nurse, cry, nurse, cry for fifteen minutes (seems like much longer of course) before he finally gives up the ghost and gives in to the exhaustion. It’s frustrating because when they scream they get their adrenaline going and then they’re all wired. But honestly, it doesn’t seem to take him longer than it used to take the Toddler. And I get to just lay there. Plus, then all I have to do is get up (as opposed to lay him down), not necessarily easy, but easier. (I know they say the thing about ‘a baby is confused if they wake up somewhere other than where they went to sleep,’ ie: if you put them to sleep in your arms and they wake up in the crib. And that makes perfect sense. But I sure didn’t ever notice this making a difference.)

4. The Classics. I gave in to all the traditional babysleep stuff. I swaddle him (not aggressively with the behind the back straight-jacket thing, just wrap him in a blanket so that his arms can’t flail out and wake him up), put pillows on both sides (down around his body, not up by his head) and turn the fan on for white noise. This last bit I only started doing after it warmed up. It seemed wrong to turn a fan on when our house was freezing. He had already started sleeping better when I started the fan bit, but it certainly helps with drowning out the Toddler noise.

Tune in next time for the part about where I figured out a couple of non-electronic ways to keep the Toddler quiet and distracted while I put the Babe to sleep, plus further updates and suggestions on breaking movie addictions!

Morning in Mamaville

I am a morning person. Not the kind of morning person who opens my bright eyes at 6 am and leaps bushy tailed from bed mind you. I am the kind who, if I can pry myself out of bed early enough to have an hour to myself, to wake up with my own thoughts, am so much the better person. There’s nothing I love more than a morning alone with coffee at hand, reading, writing, or otherwise stretching my brain gently to ready it for the day. Like any junkie I’ll do just about anything to get that  hour.

And how does that pan out with motherhood, you might wonder….?

Well, we go in phases. Some glorious, like in early December when the Babe was waking me up at 6:30, and to solve his morning fussiness and consequent need to be (actively) put to sleep, I was taking a walk first thing, with cup of coffee in hand. He only took 8 or 10 blocks, then I’d have another 30 minutes or more at home to think my own thoughts before the Toddler woke up. As perfect as a mama of two could hope for.

That’s long gone.

As his brain matures, he sleeps later, then has a longer wakeful period before getting sleepy again. Eventually, that will mean I can creep out of bed all by my little old self in the mornings. But for now, there’s no creeping. He sleeps light in the morning, if I try to get up earlier it just means we both get up earlier, and that friends is no good. These days he’s waking about 7. His happy period is still short. Long enough for me to half finish making the coffee. Then he starts in on The Sound. My in-laws called it “talky-talk,” to imply that there’s nothing at all wrong with it. And I’m sure they’re right. But it sounds like fussing to me. And makes it impossible to sit and relax with a first Cuppa.

At this point, and I remember this happening with Toddler too, he just wants some stimulation. And who can blame him? He just wants a chance to work his brain a little, like mama. That’s why the walk worked good for both of us. And when he’s done working his little budding brain, he wants to go to sleep. Both my kiddos took work to put to sleep. After two months of age, the days of sitting quietly and nursing to sleep fizzled right out. Then it’s get off your fat ass and put on some miles! With the Toddler I remember thinking I had never walked a tenth so many miles in my own home before.

But our morning walks were getting longer and longer. And don’t forget there’s a Toddler sleeping at home (don’t worry, there’s a Papa there too, who needs his morning sleep ‘cuz he stays up till all hours doing his school work in the only quiet time he can find). She’s been sleeping till 8-ish. So, do the math. What we have is me finally getting the little guy back to sleep just as (literally) the big girl wakes up.

That’s actually not too bad. She’s gotten quite lovely in the mornings, most of the time. I have at least 20 minutes while she eats her granola in a classic groggy wake-up state. Then, quite often, follows some of her best quiet solo play.

But lately, things are starting to overlap. And the wrench has hit the gears with a CLANG!

Perhaps in another week I will look back and realize that this morning was the apex, before a gentle return to things working. Babies change so fast, whatever’s going on you can guarantee won’t be in another couple of weeks.

But for now, let’s just say Mama’s Mornings are not so hot.

Grant Me The Serenity

Nothing in this world takes patience like motherhood, Holy Smokes! Now that I have two, I’m getting quite the test. Each day is a new opportunity to learn….

(That last bit was not through an angelic smile, but more like gritted teeth)

It’s a rollercoaster, for sure. Motherhood has been twice as joyful and rewarding as I ever imagined anything could be, and also twice as hard. We get the full ride every day, sometimes all in one hour.

Today was a typical mother of two day. We went to the store.

Yes, only you mothers out there can understand the portent of that simple sentence.

Leaving the house is probably the worst part. If all goes well, it’s annoying enough just having to think through and gather what three different people will need. If all goes to Hell– which it seems to usually, especially when there’s a little person asserting her budding sense of individuality and free will– leaving the house can take upwards of an hour, and 90% of your energy.

The other hardest part, that I am really still coming around to, is the two-at-once phenomenon. When both toddler and baby are having A Moment. In the same moment. Which of course happens often as they tip each other off. Getting out of the store today involved one of those Moments. Me trying to juggle nursing a crying baby under the stupid “privacy blanket” while checking out in the self-check aisle, with Toddler trying to climb up the stroller backwards. Suddenly felt something wet dripping on my foot, and realized my other tit was leaking straight through my shirt in drippy faucet fashion.

But then on the way home we stopped at the local family run bakery for a muffin, and Toddler and I sat outside having an adorable mama/daughter moment. Wild curly locks framing her glowing smile as we talked about the trees across the street and watched the birds beg crumbs. And I felt so good about allowing that little person to exert her Self into the world, even if it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

making faces

Homebirth: The Ultimate DIY

It just occured to me this morning, as I was waking up. On my new DIY housewife blog, hadn’t I better post about homebirth?!?! How much more DIY can you get than creating and giving birth to a new soul in the world?

Nothing on this earth is like birthing a baby. Nothing else is half so hard, or half so beautiful, or a quarter so rewarding. And when a woman is in charge of her own birth, and does the work herself, nothing is so empowering.

Before I get started, I have to insert a defense of hospitals, and women who choose to birth in them. My only beef with the homebirth crowd is that they can sometimes be incredibly judgemental and make women feel guilty for choosing a hospital birth, or make homebirth women feel scared of the possibility of “transfer.” It’s always hard in life to get excited about one option without making the people who choose the other option feel judged. Birth is a personal thing, and no one should make you feel guilty about your choices, not a doctor or a midwife.  And the title of this post is not meant to be limiting, loads of women have DIY births at hospitals. And even if you have a C-section, remember that the making of the baby was still strictly you (and your man). The growing of that baby? All you. Good job!

And if the need for transfer arises in a homebirth setting, then that is precisely the time to praise and appreciate the modern medical field!

(Our midwife here in New Orleans was not like that at all, by the way. She has a great relationship with her back-up doctor, and stays at the hospital with mamas who do transfer)

That said, I think I am a great spokeswoman for homebirth. Both of our babies were born at home, and I myself was a homebirth back in the 70’s when it was a revival. But my births were not easy. The first especially was extremely long (3 1/2 days from first contraction to baby! 14 hours of “active” labor). This time around was way faster, only 5 hours of active labor preceded by about 24 hours of “early labor” contractions. Even shorter as it was, the pain was still truly and profoundly mind-blowing. I guess there are plenty of women who do not experience this extreme level of pain in childbirth, but I am surely not one! To be truthful, part of why I chose a homebirth again was because of the pain, because I remember the first time thinking, ‘if I were at the hospital right now, would I be capable of doing this without drugs?’ I honestly don’t know. There is something to be said for having no choice, for just having to push through the ‘I can’t do it’ barrier because you simply must do it. And then finding out you could do it, after all.

Not having the option of drugs, and therefore the possibility of a domino effect of interventions, is a lot of  ‘why homebirth?’ for me. Being forced (by my own decision) to accomplish something so far beyond the limits of what I think I can do, is unbelievably empowering. A rite of passage that makes me finally truly feel like a Woman (up till giving birth, I always sort of felt like a little girl dressed up in lady clothes…)

But I think the most important part, for me, is less straightforward. Birth is an intimate thing, maybe the most intimate thing we do in our lives. To labor in your own home is good. To bring a tiny new soul, formed from the love between two people out into the world in the intimate setting of Home, is profoundly wonderful. In that elated moment after the baby gushes out, when the midwife hands her into my arms, to be able to lay back on my own bed, in my own home and see for the first time the new little person who’s been kicking and hiccuping in my belly… Home is a warm, wonderful place to be able to spend that moment.

And then the first few hours after birth, when your body pumps you with enough oxytocin to feel so incredibly awake and emotionally energized (after so many hours or days without sleep, doing the hardest work humans ever do!). Your baby’s first few hours in the world, and your first few hours with him– they only happen once, ever. These few hours are the most precious hours of my entire life, any woman’s life I daresay. To be able to spend them in my own bed, with gentle and understanding midwives who quietly check that all is well and safe, then bow out of the room as much as they can has been, for me, a beautiful gift, a small miracle.

If you are considering a homebirth, check out this page on the Citizens For Midwifery site. It answers a lot of the basic, first questions and gives a list of internet directories for midwives.