Monday, January 20, 2014

4 Years

I hate to tie the two together but when I weaned Ramona she started sleeping through the night and I became a human being again.  I became a funnier, happier, more sane person again.  I could see the recognition on G's face and it was immediately followed by him trying to cover it up.  I was "myself" again.  Well, not really "myself" because I am never going to be QUITE the same person I was before becoming a mom.  That just isn't possible. But my humor and my energy had taken a pretty big hit from the hormones and sleep deprivation and weaning brought about a much needed and honestly, unanticipated change.  BUT weaning is a topic for another post.  THIS post is about how 4 years ago The Huz and I finished our days and met some friends at a bar where we exchanged rings and promised to show up for each other, the best we could, every day as long as we are together.  I know that sounds a bit equivocal but as the child of parents who split after 34 years together I was profoundly averse to saying "forever, till death do us part....I promise...." It all seemed totally impossible to promise and almost seemed to invite disaster.  Instead, we declared our intentions to be each other's best friend, partner in adventure and struggle, confidant and coach, nurse and maid and reality check keeper.  All of those things seemed very doable.  All of that felt very honest.

Four years later we have lived in two different houses, survived a family wedding, welcomed a daughter, became exponentially closer with at least a dozen people, started putting me through nursing school, started bike commuting and about a hundred other smaller victories, defeats and adventures.  Right after Ramona was born and really that whole first 18 months we struggled in new and different ways individually and as a couple.  We were tired and out of our depth.  We were trying to keep all the bills paid and plan for the future.  I battled some pretty shitty post-partum anxiety and depression without really understanding how bad it was until it passed.  We lost some dear friends who just didn't care to "get it" when our priorities shifted.  We never had sex anymore...or at least not like before.  The one thing that saved us though, as if I could really say it was just one thing, was that we gave the other one the benefit of the doubt MOST of the time.  90% of the time we managed to keep in mind that if the other was being an asshole it was likely because they were up against something hard them self and not because they were trying to be a shit.  When I keep this in mind it makes it MUCH easier to move through whatever struggle we are in.  It keeps me from being too resentful or keeping score because I know that sooner or later I will be in the other seat and will very much hope to be given the same benefit of the doubt.  We happen to fancy ourselves excellent communicators with one another as well so that helps but really its just keeping an open mind to the other person's struggles.  At 4 years we feel like that has carried us through the bulk of our shit thus far. 

At four years we are better friends, more in love, parents....A lot has happened since that night.  Having a child has been hell on us in a lot of ways nobody likes to talk about.  I worry about horrible things all the time.  I don't let them eat me alive but I know too much about the evil in the world to ever NOT worry.  I am tired most of the time.  I am getting better at working up to my full potential despite my tired but I was more fun when I slept more.  I feel differently about my body since having a baby.....and this is the hardest one.  I still feel like I have all of this skin and flab and I feel like a mom body in the not sexy way.  I would love to have the kind of schedule that made working out easier instead of the insane full time work 4am-4pm 4 days a week and school and a house to keep and an amazing kid I want to have adventures with schedule that means I get even less sleep than my 5 hours a night if I want to work out during the week.  If it didn't insult my belief that I can learn to love and care for the body I have I would get a tummy tuck in a hot second.  Not even lipo just a bit of help with the mom flap...Anyway, he still thinks I beautiful and that is great but its really an inside job at this point.  Its my work to figure out how to feel happy and sexy in this body while keeping up my efforts to be strong and healthy instead of fixated on a weight or a size.  I refuse to raise my daughter in an example of "dieting" or calorie counting.  My mom was body negative and obsessed and it has certainly transmitted at least at the level of the constant thoughts about how I don't fit into the clothes I wish I did or look the way I wish I did....So, no.  Not for my daughter.  She will grow up running, riding bikes, playing hard and eating real food.  Real cheese, real meat, real dairy, real veggies that still look like veggies.  She will learn to celebrate her body and to know food as an act of love and health. 
.....Anyway, I have so much to write about and so little time.  I am writing this morning as R is at her Aunties and G is asleep next to me.  We had a child free night last night to celebrate 4 years and the dogs still woke me up at 8 to give them breakfast....jerks.  But yes, 4 years is a happy landmark for us.  There will be more babies and more struggles and more adventures to come but for today, for right now I just want to take a second and celebrate how much I love my partner in crime and state for the record that had I known then what I do now, I would have said "Til death do us part".

Mindfulness in every day life.

I couldn't possibly catch up on everything that has happened since my last post, in one post.  I am not going to try except to say that life has been wonderful, challenging, exhausting, inspiring, educational and humbling.  I don't mean to sound negative at all when I say motherhood is like sandpaper to my ego and preconceived notions.  Motherhood wears away at all of those things slowly and sometimes quickly but constantly always rubbing, rubbing, rubbing it down and changing the surface of it.  Motherhood has made me such a different person in so many ways.  I care so much more than I ever thought I could about things like where my kid's food comes from and how I choose to speak to her about just about anything.  I care so much less than I ever expected about other things like what my mother thinks about my extended breastfeeding and my gradual weaning of a toddler.  I feel like everything I do with her and for her matters.  Some of it matters a lot more or less but it all matters. 

In my study of Buddhism there is a thing you do when you go to retreat called Oryoki.  It is a mindfulness practice for eating.  Everything you do and every way you move is prescribed.  The goal is to practice bringing awareness to even the minutia of how you hold your spoon.  The idea is to become more mindful of all the ways you move in the world and to let that permeate into your thoughts and speech and so on.  While my practice of meditation has been seriously lacking in the last two years my practice of mindfulness has been daily.  My life is permeated, if not totally, at least largely, by the mindfulness brought to me by the sandpaper of motherhood.

The Huz and I had talked a LOT about how we wanted to raise a kid and when she appeared to us as a daughter we talked about how to foster self reliance and strength to counter the culture's prevailing message that girls are weak and dependent and fragile.  We talked about how to address things from bonked knees to first broken hearts.  We decided to try out the method of giving her space when she experiences minor injuries and physical accidents, asking her if she could tell us what happened, and then offering hugs, kisses to booboos etc, and letting her decide what she needed from us.  At 1 year it looks something like this in practice: Starfish falls down while cruising the coffee table.  Bonks head on floor.  Commence super pissed off crying.  After initial assessment that there is no blood and the baby is screaming mad (medics LOVE screaming mad babies because it means they are probably just fine but at least they are not unconscious) Mom: "Sweetie did you fall? <Pause> Was that scary? <pause> Are you hurt?"  At this point I would ask her if she wanted me to pick her up OR just pick her up if precariously positioned.  Mom: "What happened?" Baby:"Wahhhh *babble, shout cry, point emphatically*".  Mom: "Are you mad? Falling down can be scary.  Learning to walk can be frustrating.  I'm sorry you fell. Lets rub your bonked head and make it better".....In a two year old who has been approached with this method it looks like this; Starfish falls down and skins knee running home from a friend's house.  Baby: "Waaah!  Ouchie kneee!" *Pulls up pant leg and rubs skinned knee* "Make it better! Make it better! * kisses own hand and applies to wounded knee and then to bonked elbow. Turns and looks at mom who asks if she is ok and says "Wrunning and bonk knee.  Ouchie Knee.  Make better.  Wrunning!  Sree, Two, Wun!" and takes off running again.  Certainly your mileage may vary but in general, I believe kids can be taught to process with emotional intelligence starting very young.  Instead of always scooping her right up and freaking out about every bonked head you can give a kid some space to figure out how they feel about it and decide if they need additional resources to manage whatever it is.  Certainly sometimes she is being a toddler and she is tired and fragile and drops a matchbox car and dissolves into tears but that's actually ok as well.  She may or may not want to climb up into my lap and snuggle.  She may or may not want me to listen as she shouts about how she fell off of her bike or tripped on the front steps or stood up into the edge of the table.  But the important thing is that SHE decided what she needed and she ultimately soothed herself.  Nobody tells her to walk it off or suck it up.  Nobody forces kisses and cuddles either.  Sometimes she wants kisses on a booboo and then, still mad and crying she gets down out of my arms, and goes back to whatever she was doing, still crying.  I call it "working it out". 
Its not just for injuries or sad emotions either.  If she goes to a new place or meets new people and needs a minute or two to adjust we point that out to her quietly as well.  Mom: "Are you overwhelmed/nervous/scared?  Its ok to feel that way.  I get X sometimes too.  Do you want me to pick you up/hold your hand/sit with you for a minute?"  I think we are in such a rush all the time that we forget to pause and let change settle in.  We forget to take 30 seconds or two minutes to let a child or ourselves adjust to a new thing or a change in the plans.  We rush and rush and then wonder why we feel upset or have a stomach ache or headache later.  We don't let our mind and body connect and process ANYTHING and it shows. 

Anyway, I never anticipated becoming such a turbo hippie.  I never thought I would spend so much time fostering this little woman's emotional health and mental well-being from the start.  I read a lot of books that had one or two ideas that resonated with me about discipline or development and the rest seemed like crap or too rigid.  But, here I am....just cobbling it together the best I can.  Trying as hard as I can to have intention in the bulk of what I do because it matters.  It all matters. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Learning to trust my gut (part 1)

Two weeks ago now Ramona started getting fussy.  She was a little drooly, a bit snotty and most notably crabby.  She is not a crabby kid.  She is bright and funny and silly and thoughtful (yes, even for a 14 mo) she is independent does not appreciate having things done to her without a little heads up first and does get frusterated with things that are challenging but she is not a screamer.  So, back to the beginning....After six nights all increasingly miserable and increasingly sleepless I called out pediatrician.  I had been sure it was a hat trick of teething, a little cold and a developmental growth spurt.  She was so out of sorts and had spent the last six nights violently thrashing about for hours, seemingly unable to get comfortable at all.  I left work early and biked home in time to take her to the doctor who took a peak in her ears and mouth and said she saw some redness in her throat and she suspected it was as I suspected the toddler triple.  I went home reassured and feeling confidant that I was a "good mom" and "on the ball".  We kept up the motrin and cuddles and hoped it would pass in a few more days.  I went back to work the next day and checked in on her at home with my mother in law and sister in law all day long.  She was crabby and not eating and not interested in any of her favorite things.  It was a sad day and I felt like shit for leaving her but I was still really quite confidant this was just a bug that needed tincture of time and a few extra cuddles and certainly my family was equipped to provide that so I could go to work.  Upon arriving home that night I was greeted at the door by a very crabby and now very cross eyed Ramona.  I asked the team how long her eyes had been that way and they said it was pretty recent, maybe an hour or two.  We all scratched our heads and hypothesized that she HAD been rubbing her eyes a great deal and maybe she had irritated the muscles and yadda yadda, schlocky pseudo science blah blah, rationalize something pretty alarming if you stop and think about it....That night was the WORST night yet.  R woke up at 1130 and was still screaming and thrashing about at 4.  Around 1am I called my mother in Michigan in tears.  I didn't know what was wrong and she was so upset and I was at my wit's end.  R stopped crying and just sat limply in my arms, awake but seemingly spent from crying.  When I hung up with my mom she started crying again.  It went on from 1:30 to 3:45 when my husband got home and I called the advice nurse at the pediatrician's office.  She and I talked and I was insistent that R did not seem toxic or in danger she just seemed miserable.  I told her I didn't think she needed an ER visit but I just didn't know what to DO! She was very sweet and again, R laid spent in my arms for the duration of the conversation.  I went to the guest room to try to sleep since I had now been up for the better part of 6 days but awake awake for 29hrs.  I awoke after 3 hours to the sound of R screaming for G.  He said she had passed out for a while but not long and he had just been trying to console her for the better part of the last hour and a half.  Just about then the phone rang and it was the ped's office calling to make an appointment for her to be seen in Saturday clinic. 

At the pediatrician's R was not as fussy.  The motrin seemed to be helping and she had even eaten a little toaster waffle.  The ped looked at her and saw her cross eyes and said she couldn't see anything ELSE significant but the eyes were concerning and there was no way for her to rule out something bad in R's brain without imaging.  She sent us to the ER for a cat scan.  We drove straight there and I was anxious about it all the way but also felt relieved that we would get some sort of an answer.  The ER at Randall Children's Hospital in Portland was amazing.  The doc had already spoken to Dr Tara and we were set to just get and exam and a scan no pokes or extra "nonsense".  I was so glad.  About an hour later the doc came in and told us he saw what looked like a sinus infection.  He said kids have tiny sinuses and it looked like hers had some fluid in them and that was possibly trapping her nerves running to her eyes giving her the crossed eyes.  He sent us home relieved and on a course of antibiotics that should help her feel "much better in a day or two".  We followed the instructions and readied ourselves for another 48hrs of tough but better.  Two days later no one had slept and if anything R seemed worse.  She hardly ate anything, she didn't want to play and she wasn't even nursing very much.  She just wanted to be held and to cry.  I spoke to my mom and bemoaned the situation now 9 days old.  I told her it just didn't feel right.  I felt like we should have some sort of improvement by now.  I really felt like she should be looking at least a little better.  My mom told me to call the doctor.  I had a nursing test that day so I said I would call the nurse and see what she said but then I had to go take my test (on less than 3 hrs of sleep).  I called the nurse who seemed pretty unimpressed with my story and told me to stay the course and that it takes 48-72 hrs to see improvement on antibiotics.  I was frustrated but convinced myself I was being crazy and overtired and went in to take my exam.

I got home from my exam and wasn't feeling so great myself.  I spiked a fever and had some GI upset followed by debilitating body aches that made holding her nearly out of the question.  She, in turn was insistent on being held all arched and cockeyed out of my arms and I was in pain and frustrated and made G take a turn with her that night as I sweated and moaned and puked my way through.  The next morning she was a mess.  I had called and spoken to the doc again the night before and she had offered to refer us to a pediatric urgent care to get her seen but I (medic minded mother) declined the offer feeling exhausted at the thought of explaining the whole thing to another new person.  We agreed on an office visit in the morning with the caveat of a trip back to the ER in the night if things got scary. 

The next morning, sitting in the pediatricians office waiting room R was draped across my lap quiet and miserable.  She was grunting as she breathed and looked like a limp rag doll.  We walked into the exam room and the Dr took one look at us and said she wanted the senior doc to take a peek as well.  Five minutes later the decision had been made.  Nobody knew what this was, it was not right, it was more than a sinus infection and it was time to go to the hospital for a big scary work up.  I was too exhausted to cry but I was completely scared. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Just a breath of air

I am SO far behind in my blogging.  It makes me sad really.  I had so hoped to be keeping up better with some of the things I am experiencing this first year of motherhood....alas, I work a swing shift, am more than full time in school and we have one computer so....yeah,....there's that too.  Anyway, my dear loving mother is here visiting.  Ramona just turned ONE!  Holy fucking shit!  Pardon my French but when did that happen?! Nobody asked ME if she could walk, talk, tell me "no".  She is on and off sleeping.  On and off eating like a viking and generally rules my world with one hand tightly grasping my heart at all times.  I am blissfully happy and also so fucking tired.  I am EX-HAUS-TED!  It is not the baby it is my life.  I am running two races at once right now with school so highly prioritized.  I want to be done with my RN before she turns 18mo.  I want to be making us more money for less hours spent away.  I am ready to attend to families and to continue in my quest.  All that said, I am ready for a god damned nap too.  My brain is balking at the extra effort I require of it.  My body is a mess.  I am feeling like a cookie left on the counter too long.  Crumbly, dried out, not particularly desirable.  Things with the Hubs are good and strained intermittently.  We are both doing our best to keep up but we are tired.  We are trying to learn to run at this new faster pace in order to get to a better place but we fall down and scrape knees and get frustrated in the fog, thinking we are running alone and the other one MUST be walking because we can't SEE how hard they are working to keep up.  I know it sounds like I need a major priority check but I assure you that is not the case.  If I can just get over this wall there IS a better existence for us on the other side.  One where we can prioritize family and time and and and....I just have to keep my head down and keep charging the waves that threaten to drown me.  More as soon as I can because BOY oh BOY do I have reflections. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reflections in a shallow pool

This week has been hard to witness. As a member of a family, a community and humanity as a whole this week has been nearly unbearable to witness. Random acts of violence, heartbreaking losses and general struggle are everywhere. I know I live in a white, upper middle class "I buy my groceries at the fancy co-op" sort of bubble. I am insulated from the constant barrage of war, poverty, violence and danger that permeates so many other human lives in so many places. I am beyond fortunate to live in a beautiful home with my loving partner and our healthy, beautiful daughter whom we conceived with absolutely no effort or struggle and whom I gave birth to (relatively) effortlessly and without major complications (Yes, I have gained some perspective). I am gainfully employed and passionately pursuing my dreams to become a nurse midwife. I am able to breastfeed easily, sleep well enough, eat anything I want and know that while I am at work, being paid equal wages to my male counterparts, my beautiful daughter is safe in the arms of people who genuinely love her. I am the most fortunate person I know. This week I am wracked with my own version of "white guilt". I feel sick with guilt for having all of this. Watching the waves wash through this week I felt like I was watching people on the beach drown and I couldn't throw a rope. My heart broke over and over as malls were shot up, families were destroyed, mothers lost the babies they had waited their whole lives to hold.

It has been unbelievably difficult to stop myself from throwing rocks at the sky and demanding answers. I am angry and scared and sad. I am constantly finding myself looking for rationalization of this insanity. I am in and out of tears a dozen times a day. It is times like these I struggle with my practice of Buddhism. I struggle to remember that while we are all interconnected by the collective consciousness, there is no great puppet master in robes and a beard trying to teach us a lesson. A woman does not lose her child "because". Shit is shitty and it happens sometimes. Hearts and families are broken and it is awful. It is sometimes the catalyst that engenders change but it is not simply IS. And this week the "is-ness" is overwhelming. My desire to reduce things to bite size so that I might brush them off my plate and avoid the emotions they stir in me is so strong but that is not helpful. It does no good to me or to my community. Thats not to say that laying down in the road and crying myself dry would be helpful but there is something to be gained in my raw broken heart. People deserve to be seen and to have someone bear witness to the joy as well as the unspeakable. We honor each other by "seeing" each other and if I brush it away I am not seeing it and therefore I am not truly honoring my fellow human's experience.

In Buddhism there is a practice called Tonglen. In the simplest terms you imagine breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out relief for them. It is a practice in compassion and selflessness. It can be very powerful. It levels up as you become more practiced. You begin thinking of a particular person and practice exchanging "self for other" for them. Next you take it to a larger and larger group until you are practicing for all of human kind. It gets tougher as you expand out because you have to include people you dislike, prisoners, pedophiles, murderers, IRS agents...all of it. People usually run up against a barrier where they cant truly include a group or individual and that is where you must practice. To loosen the binds to the resistance. Its hard. This week I find myself too upset to include everyone. But I also cant figure out who to exclude. The failures of the system, the mentally ill, the higher power... I'm pissed and I have nowhere to point my anger and sadness and blame. I know too well that this is just a shit sandwich and it isnt even "my" sandwich and I am powerless against the devastation around me, unable to fix any of it or to assuage my own guilt so I will sit and practice and I will include myself in an act of forgiveness for my inability and for my own good luck.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Tell me about your mother(hood)'

I have a friend who has been thinking about babies and whether or not she would like to have one.  Her major concern is that she would not love it "the way everyone talks about loving their kids".  She fears she would be indifferent to the new person whom she turned her life inside out for.  She fears she would fail at the loving part.  At first I was inclined to scoff and say "thats ridiculous! Of course you will love it. Even before tiny was born I would have died for her!". But then I turned off my judgy brain and really thought about what she was saying.

My friend is quiet and shy and sensitive. Her own mother is the same way. Nobody lavishes affection on anyone and relationships are simple and unadorned. Even at her wedding, her mother did not fuss and fawn over her. Society would have us believe that her mother loves her less if she us not reenacting a hallmark commercial at her daughter's wedding, that somehow she is cold and unloving or less of a mother. If you dont constantly gush over your kid you are a stones throw from either neglect or mental delay by today's standards. It is crazy. My friend was really saying "I'm not a gooey, gushy person. What if I dont gush and marvel at my child 24/7? What if I get frustrated or tired? What if my husband and I have differing opinions on how to parent? What if my already very important relationships take a hit? What if I dont want to or am incapable of "losing myself in motherhood?". As far as society is concerned women should give birth, after a blissful pregnancy where vomiting all day and peeing all night are cute little annoyances instead of confidence shaking recurrences that fray your already hormonally challenged mental stability. You should only gain a bit of weight in belly and breast, look adorable in everything including your taco sauce stained last pair of pants that dont chafe your marbled belly. You should either formula feed or breastfeed effortlessly. By six weeks you should look mostly back to prepreg body except for awesome boobs and you should be dying to jump in the sack! You should be well rested enough to maintain the house while you are off work. You should not be crying, sweating, leaking milk and wondering if anyone got the license of the bus that just ran you over. You should not be awake in the middle of the night crying over cracked painful nipples, trying to nurse your baby while your partner slumbers gently and deeply beside you. You should not be planning ways to inflict max pain upon him when he wakes after six hours of sleep to your 90min, and then says something stupid like "what honey? Gah, I am so tired I cant even think straight". But most of all you should think everything your kid does is "The Best". Every fart, every booger, every sleepy eye rub has never been done better or cuter than your very own. You should feel no pain, no exhaustion, no hunger, thirst and certainly never fear, anxiety, resentment towards this magical creature. THAT would make you a monster!! So, I see where she is coming from. She loves her job. She and her huz have a fun life. They can afford nice things and travel. They live on their own clock and calendar. Wouldn't kids just complicate EVERYTHING? Yes, yes they do. At least in my experience. The first six months of my daughter's life were sone of the most intense months of my life for better and worse. I was happy, sad, broke, filthy, overwhelmed, convinced I would never want sex again, angry at my husband in ways I'd never felt before, tired (sweet jesus was I tired!), flabby, insecure, in pain, sweaty, stinky and melancholy for no reason whatsoever. That may seem like a long bummer list. You may be expecting me to say something like "but my daughter shits guinness cupcakes and milkshakes! She is magical and anesthetizing and worth every second of it!". I would only say part of that. She IS worth every second of bummer. Not because everything is ooey, gooey, wonderful all of the time but because it seems worthy. It is ordinary magic. The way I love her is not fancy or decadent. It does not anesthetize all pain. It does give me more joy and curiosity and wonder. Not wonder covered in glitter or joy that comes with a soundtrack. This contentment I feel is like a clean countertop or fresh sheets on your bed. It is only "perfect" for a moment but that moment is delicious. My life is not gloriously blissed out. My life is a series of tiny moments of perfect, simple, basic goodness. They punctuate the sleeplessness, they round off the sharp edges of conflict and guilt. They provide breathing room when the diapers and the laundry and the teething threaten to take over. They are the tiny fingers on my face, the shriek of glee when I come home, the curious person learning to pull herself up or crawl or put kix in her mouth by herself. They are nothing special at all really but they mean everything to me.

So, I told my friend that I understood where she was coming from. I understood the fear in the back of your mind asking "are you suuuuure?". I told her how I spent nearly the entire first trimester crying about how I had ruined our lives and then weeks 4-12 postpartum feeling the same way all too often. I told her the truth. Mothering someone is hard. But I told her its never hard because I dont love her and its never hard because I dont want to be her mom. Its the balancing act that takes constant attention and work. Communication, dedication to the other things in life that are less rewarding but very important, like the mortgage. "Its not all wine and roses"I said, "but it is the best peanut-butter and jelly sandwich I have ever had".

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Some Days

And then there are days that start out hanging out at post with your favorite work partner so happy to chat and catch up that you dont nap but you dont spend the day doing mostly nothing but the occasional drunk to the hospital run. You watch the Kona Ironman on TV and are just about done for the day when the tones blast forth from the radio and you are behind the wheel speeding of to a "god-damned late call". You arrive to find her in bed post-ictal? Maybe...PE? Maybe...Your partner breaks the bed putting oxygen on her and she is slowly waking up and talking to you. . You tell her "dont worry, we are going to take such good care of you. You just hang in there and let me know if anything changes". She smiles and nods she says "thank you", then she dies. The rest is a blur of living-room floor and neon green lines on the monitor, sweaty purple gloves drawing up drugs and pushing, pushing, PUSHING on her chest. The cardiologist is a tall woman who nods and says "yes, yes...I think the same thing". Pushing, pushing, pushing drugs, purple gloves, more drugs. Time of death.... Sometimes that is how your day ends and it hurts your heart. You care. She was someone's family, someone's love...she was your first code.