Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hit and Miss- Reflections of Motherhood so Far...

***This post is dedicated to our little guinea pig.

I am really looking forward to my "second chance" baby. Really I did the best I could with Ben(and yes he is two, all is not lost...) but such as it is with most things, live and learn. I know so much more now than when I was first handed my howling little bundle of joy. I feel like I have found my parenting groove and the confidence to follow my intuition, regardless in some instances of what others around me are saying and doing, which I found caused me initially to second guess myself.

There are a few things that did not prove successful that I resolved to not do again;

Newborn Jeans

-cruel and unusual punishment for both mother and baby. Those tiny legs fight the effort it takes to stretch out to allow the inflexible material (we all know they are only comfortable by day 3...) to fit over mini legs. Cute factor not worth the effort.

More sleepers less outfits

-I will likely move away from the 7 piece ensemble outfits that Ben wore in his first few months to more one piece deals. I think these are more practical, comfortable and will cause me less stress when he spits up on only the bib and the pants but than must require as my type A personality dictates a full change of multi piece outfit because otherwise it wouldn't even almost match. I do have daytime sleepers which are one piece outfits and generally footless- not to be confused with pyjama sleepers...maybe by the third baby I will lower my ideal to whatever is clean and generally fits (I imagine the ink on the size tags will be worn off by then so it is anyone's guess).

No little shoes

-I always put Ben in shoes, from day one. I can't for the life of me remember why I felt this to be important but again, part of the 7 piece ensemble...he had matching shoes for most outfits (also a sign of too much wasted money and misspent energy). He would inevitably kick one off whenever we were out and I always had to have one eye on his shoes. Forget it. Both eyes are accounted for this time. I do have a pet peeve about babies and toddlers outside the month of July who have no footwear on so I will re embrace the magic of the Robeez- the little leatherette slipper with the perfect amount of elastic tension to keep bootie on but not cut off circulation. Genius.

No tummy Time

- What the heck is this? I think it it something for new mothers to busy themselves with since newborns are a little dull at times in terms of interest and activity. You have nothing better to do than schedule this activity into the day between feeding number 4 and poop number 7. It is also an opportunity to practice tough love since NO NEWBORN enjoys this...I have never seen a newborn be placed on his stomach on the floor and not lose his mind while bobbing his little head around screaming to be released from this useless torture. "He enjoyed Tummy time for 17 seconds longer today than yesterday" I could proudly report to Jon. I am sure the only reason he is able to walk upright today is as a result of this early exercise. No. Not even a little bit true. I am absolutely positive now that if newborns are kept swaddled and held securely in a cradled position to enjoy the duration of their newborn hood in natural womblike comfort they will still develop the exact muscle strength of their tummy time superstar counterparts...and they will cry less, which will release less stress hormone which will allow for more opportunity for positive brain growth which means he may even fare better.
I hate "Tummy Time".

Slow down

I was much too concerned with "the next stage" with Ben. When he could roll I wanted him to sit, when he could sit I wanted him to crawl, when he could crawl I wanted him to run, when he learned the alphabet I wanted him to count...and now...I want him to do whatever the heck he wants to. I realized that my pushing had very little to do with the natural progression of his development. In fact by rushing these stages perhaps I was even doing some harm. Infants and toddlers go through generally the same developmental phases all over the world despite huge differences in cultural parenting styles. Some babies (In Moracco...) are kept tightly swaddled until they are ready to crawl and then...ta da! They just do. They didn't crawl because their parents got on all fours each evening in dutiful YUPPIE parent fashion....they did it because it is the natural progression of development, and an important one at that. So baby two get ready to be left to your own devices. I don't care if babycenter.org says "your baby could be starting to roll this month" and I won't lose sleep over the fact that you aren't and blame lack of tummy time on your "delay"...(because in this house, we hate tummy time...did I mention that?)

Baby him more

Protecting children from elements of the adult world that will undoubtably come in due time is being described with the buzz phrase "helicopter parenting" of which there is a proudly beaming picture of yours truly next to the definition.

Yes I hover and I protect and I whirl around like a small helicopter scoping out any potential danger or corruption coming his way. Our culture has a way of systematically breaking down innocence until our children's childhoods are prematurely robbed from them. I don't think encouraging difficult situations or unnecessary hardship during this time are necessary for them to grow into a competent, confident men...I would rather devote energy and experience to helping them gain the tools; emotionally, physically and socially with softer methods that will ready them for these experiences later on. I don't have to throw them into the lions den to do it. I don’t think it makes sense to expect from a baby or toddler the kind of self control or foresight it can be easy to assume they should possess when many adults with fully formed brains do not. It is my job to lesson life’s consequences for them in order to teach them…I will put him off the bed after telling him 3 times to stop jumping on it rather than let him fall off and learn the hard way. A broken collar bone is not really what I had in mind when teaching consequence. If children weren’t given parents to protect them than why are we here?

I think I have found the balance in this now and if I could rewind I would have babied Ben more in his infancy rather than worry about creating bad habits and spoiling him. In helicopter parenting fashion then, I will hover over baby two and pick him up at the first sign of distress, rock him and hold him while he sleeps...until he won't let me anymore. Ben is evidence that in creating a solid foundation of trust and support he has found confidence to test his abilities without being a Wussy Pussy Mommy Suck. Thank you very much.

Don’t be too preoccupied about the post baby bod...or lack of.

Shortly after I gave birth to Ben I was ready to get up and have a shower and put some real clothes on (the size 8 jeans of my pre pregnancy body tucked naively into my hospital bag). Jon looked at me, trying to disguise the slight horror in his expression.
"where are you going?"
"I'm going to have a shower..."
"uuummmm maybe you want to wait?"
The concern was for the large mirror I would have to pass on my way to the shower...I would have to see myself in all my post delivery, burst capillaries, back rashed, swollen IV fluid face, saggy stretch marked stomach and elephant ankled glory...not to mention the rat's nest of hair on my head. Oh and I was fat. Really fat. There was no baby bump to disguise this fact or make it glowing in any respect. I stuffed my face for 42 weeks, and now I was 90 pounds heavier. I skipped the shower and begrudgingly reached for my now ill fitting maternity pants I walked in with...the size 8 jeans would stay in that bag for the next 10 months.

I vowed this time that I would not find myself in this situation again.

Whoops. Turns out I am fat again. Not quite AS fat (so there is something...) but I am under no delusions this time. My goal is to be out of elastic waist bottoms by spring. Additionally I am not obsessing or crying over the state of my body this time. I wasted too much time and emotional energy caring about the scale after Ben was born and it did no good. For six weeks I will concentrate on nothing but the baby and breastfeeding this time, eating whatever I can get on the table while I get the hang of two young children and only two arms. And then...watch out...size 8's I am coming for you...maybe...dare I say...size 4?! Hey a girl (currently the size of a beached killer whale) can dream can't she?! In all seriousness though I am much more aware and appreciative this time of what my body has just accomplished. I am proud of it, grateful for it and loving every little (or not so little) dimpled part of it at the moment. This is not the time to attack it...I am embracing it...really I am!

Sleep training

Ohhhh the controversy... Is it the key to a happy mommy/baby relationship as advocates report? or does the attachment parenting perspective of Dr. Sears that it can cause irreversible brain damage and create insecure attachment in babies hold the truth?
I think it is a bit of both. Young babies do not have the emotional maturity to calm themselves down out of panicked and terrified hysterics. When a newborn screams for hours without being comforted I do agree with Dr. Sears that he does not learn tools for emotional control when he stops. He has simply given up hope that his mother will come. If there is anything I want my children to know it is that I will never ever leave them when they need me. This practice in its extremity is not conducive to that message. We tried this extreme method with Ben at 4 months at the promoting of many people who swore by it's success. twenty LONG minutes later I felt as though my chest was on fire, every nerve in my body stripped raw and an anxiety building that would not allow my conscious mind to keep me from rescuing my sobbing baby for one more second. It took him a long time to overcome the shaking hiccupping sobs that literally broke a piece of my heart clear off that night. It seemed that was the most unnatural answer to teaching sleep I could imagine. We will never subject another child to that. To get over my guilt I have to believe that first borns arrive with an extra dose of resiliency and I don't think I caused permanent damage.
When Ben was 9 months old however he had still rarely slept for more than an hour on his own...24 hours a day. The issue arose again because his mother was now risking permanent brain damage...we had to try something. The happy medium that we found was putting (the five month older) Ben down and going in every 5-10 minutes to pat his back and offer assurance that we were still there. He never reached hysterics, only yelled out his annoyance occasionally until he finally fell asleep. A week later he was sleeping 12 hours a night and 4 hours in the afternoon. A pattern that continues today. Take that Ferber. We will create some sleep boundaries this time...this is one issue I will fight on, because I see that a happier family results BUT I will not shut the door and throw away the key again, the ol ticker can't take it.

Cloth diapers

I really wanted to use cloth diapers with Ben. It didn't work. He had such bad rashes all the time, bleeding horrible can't sit down kind of rashes. I tried different detergents, creams, liners, air drying, sun bleaching. Nothing worked. I will try again with number two but not sweat about it nearly as much if our boys just have sensitive tushies cut out for Huggies.

Then there are general things that first time moms do (yes me...) to try to override their clueless guilt like ironing receiving blankets but I am not even going there...I don't need to prove my parenting competence anymore with co coordinating soother clips and brand name bottles, these things are not making a comeback this time around. The first piece of evidence being we bought a double GRACO stroller. The old me would never have been caught at the playground with my Bob's revolution/bugaboo/philandted's/costs the same amount to feed a small village for three months stroller- worthy baby in a GRACO! this time however practicality, budget and the dissipating need to use my child as social collateral and don't really give a crap anymore with confidence second time around mother stepped up.

Some things I got right... This is the pat on the back, toot my own horn section...

Breast feeding

I am proud of the perseverance and determination I put into continuing to breast feed Ben even when it seemed the lactation Gods were totally against our plight. From pain, bad latching, poor milk supply and endless pumping and supplementing it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. There is not very much you can do as a parent really to protect your children. This was something I really wanted to give him, as one of the only things I could. I will do the same again.

Discovering the "Warrior Mother" within

Being the parent of a child who requires special consideration for a condition that not many truly understand the implications and risks of I had to learn to speak up for his safety and rights. This was not always easy. I hurt feelings, offended, rejected invitations, had to engage in uncomfortable conversations with others about how they were putting him in jeopardy and had to sound like a broken record time and time again in doling out reminders. I have dealt with ignorance, a surprising lack of compassion at times and even lost friends over the "inconvenience" being around us (ie his helicopter mother) can entail. I have learned so much from this experience and have found myself grateful for the situation in some respects because it has taught me so much about myself and about others. We were (and are for the most part) flying by the seat of our pants where this is concerned. We have never done this before, we don't know a better way. All we know is that we have to keep Ben safe until he can learn what he needs to be responsible for himself. I accept the judgement that those not in our position can so easily give out and find confidence in the fact that Ben has never been hospitalized or suffered another life threatening reaction since his diagnosis, which is not the norm. We have to do some things DIFFERENTLY but I am proud of the degree of normalcy his young life has had, by no shortage of effort on our part and the dedication we have to keeping him safe. In this I feel we have got one thing right on the mark...


I was truly shocked at the power and intensity of love I felt for Ben from the moment I touched him. This has not dissipated for even a moment. It continues to grow stronger and deeper. I am looking forward to a double dose of this....and finding a way to put it in a bottle...and sell it...


brandenandrobin said...

I enjoyed this post, but I have to say that perhaps I have the only newborn in the world that enjoyed it but Jack ADORED tummy time from day one. It was his favourite time of day. WE pretty much constantly did tummy time when he wasn't being held or cuddled (which he was being most of the time but still) He seriously loved it!

jjandb said...

I knew as soon as I said NO NEWBORN I would get a response:) What I meant is NO NEWBORN OF MINE :)

but I have to solicit comments somehow...so many readers (so they claim) so little comments...Although I do love the emails...beggars can't be chosers...

As well I can't believe you made it through the mega post! It took on a life of its own!

Devry and Chelsey Hymas said...

Great post Jenn! looks like Ben has taught you tons! And I am sure you will continue to learn with each baby! Payton also has ALWAYS hated tummy time, however I have continued to do it. Not every day, but several times a week. I am sure he would and will develop just the same regardless of tummy time or not, but I do know a child that is a year and is wearing a helmet, 24/7 because the back of his head was flat from no tummy time. Now Payton rolls over the second I put him on his tummy, but he is rolling side to side so there isn't so much constant pressure on the back of his head.

Pam said...

You'll be amazed at how the " resolved to not do again " list will grow with each baby.
What a fantastic painter you are with words Jenn, capturing every single detail, action, emotion, gesture with the perfect combination of words to leave us all smiling and relating.
I wish I had captured every single moment with mine as you do..... never ever ' just do life '.... this blog is evidence that you capture every single moment... thank you for sharing them. Happy DUE DAY ~

jjandb said...

I am still lauphing at the helmet head child (in the most compassionate way possible...)! Oh my goodness...I can't imagine trying to explain that one...I am going to go out on a limb here and say maybe he just needed to be picked up more often?! Going from carseat, swing, bouncy chair to pack and play would flatten the head of anyone...poor kid. Hopefully it puffs out before he starts school! I should have specified..the little papoosed macocco babies are rarely put down...thus leaving them with nice little bowling ball heads (do they have bowling in Morocco???) when they are unwrapped. This baby is going to LOVE tummy time after all this...I know it...becuase that is what children are for...to make you eat your words...again and again and again...

Thanks Pam!!! I am so happy to have this "log" to look back on... I have learned a great deal...and it is a good outlet to write and rant of course:) I am glad you are reading (and commenting...)

Jamiesjourney said...

Love this post. And I agree so much. When I found out I was having a girl, I immediately went shopping...picked out several outfits with cutsy shoes...and then put them all back and grabbed a couple adorable sleepers. Really...that's all she'll need for a while. Quin hated tummy time too... And I too hope I can relax more, not rush this one, and savour every moment. GOOD LUCK! Can't wait to meet the newest little man!

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