I was my grandmother's favorite grandchild. The fact that I was her first grandchild might have had something to do with it. It's uneasy to say this but I suspect she even favored me above her own children. My father (not her son) likes to tell me about how when I was a baby I would push my grandmother's favorite armchairs around the room. She loved those chairs so much that she wouldn't let anyone near them, that is, except for me. I could do whatever I wanted with them. I could do no wrong.
I suspect that's how it is with many grandmothers. A grandchild is a chance to relax in ways they may not have felt able to do with their own children. I see that with my mother who will let her grandsons (no granddaughters yet) do things that she would never have let my sisters and I do. Things are funny that way.
I suspect that my mother's relationship with my grandmother, her mother, was not the best relationship. I have never talked with my mother about this and I can't quite think of any specific examples to show why I suspect this. I did always feel a kind of distance, a gulf of understanding, that existed between the two of them.
My relationship with my mother is markedly different. I hug and kiss her when I see her. We say, "I love you" when we speak on the phone. I 've seen hurt in her eyes when I exhibited the parental rejection that adolescents tend to do. I've been exasperated by her yet always appreciative of her. I don't remember seeing any similar moments like that with my mother and grandmother.
He said his first word at nine months and by the time he was a year old he was speaking in three and four word sentences. What a blessing! He could verbalize, to some extent anyway, his needs! I believe his verbal acumen got us through the “Terrible Twos” with few displays of toddler bull-headedness.
Then three hit and my perfect baby became something of a despot. Everything had to be his way, on his time and he discovered that hitting me and pulling my hair helped him feel more in control of the situation. Neither of us could know that hair pulling would be a powerful trigger for me. When I was a little girl my hair was long-to my waist- and always in a ponytail. My mother liked it that way so she could always have an easy handle by which to grab and throw me. I thought I had processed all of that hurt, fear, and anger long before I got pregnant, but when my three year old grabbed my hair and wouldn’t let go, I was suddenly six years old again and I just lost it. I screamed and cried and pushed him away from me and hid, sobbing in my bedroom, while he pounded on my door. I must have scared him.
Instances like that happened fairly regularly for about two years, and when he was around five or six he calmed down some. But now that he was the age I was when I started remembering my abuse, parenting him got harder. He would throw a fit over something small-like hating green beans- and I would try to stay calm. But the louder he got the more the little girl inside me would freak out. My boy would throw something and little me would cry and curl up into a ball. I felt like she was begging him to stop before something bad happened. Sometimes that little girl would get angry and scream inside my head that he is lucky to have a nice mommy who never hits him and he should just be good. I can’t describe how it feels to have all this happening silently inside me, but it became clear that I had two children who needed love and safety.
Around the time my little self started making herself known, my mother came out too. It was this horrible feeling of being divided. Ethan would be pulling my hair or spitting; little me would be crying or getting jealous; current me would be trying to keep my cool, and in would pop my mother. I could see her doing to little me what she used to do. Hitting, screaming, pulling hair, spitting, kicking- all in the name of “giving me something to cry about” or “making me tough”. All the time this was going on inside, I still had to be present and parent my flesh and blood child. I thought I was crazy. Not just a little off, but certifiable, send me off to the nearest padded room and keep a thorazine drip running constantly, insane. I spun down into depression and felt like dying. Clearly, I reasoned, I was much too fucked up to be the mother Ethan deserved.
I’ve been dealing with the three “mes”, or the two Dannies and her evil mother, for a few years and it’s easier now than it was at first. But it is still so scary and painful. Sometimes I still feel like I’m doing more harm than good by sticking around, but I’ve come far enough to see that’s not true. My son is always safe. He is never physically punished, and most importantly, he knows he is loved beyond measure. And I have to believe that knowing and feeling that love will far outweigh my faults.
I had just taken a journey that inspired every ounce of bravery that could flow through me, and I had felt more love and gratitude for every thing around me than at any other time in my life, before or since. In 3D terms, when I first looked into her eyes, I was strapped to an operating table, in a room full of latex gloved strangers completely unaware of the heights of spiritual states I was existing in, the entire ceiling above me ablaze in unearthly white light. But saying it this way does not begin to do the moment justice. The important thing was that i had transcended all this, i had found my connection to the love that pervades every.thing. that. is.
That is where I was when I first saw my daughter.
Her tiny face so familiar, I felt compelled to tell her everything right away, to explain to her what was happening. My words felt hollow but necessary. " I love you, thank you so much for coming we are so happy you are here. I have to stay here, but I will see you soon, I will be with you as soon as I can be. Your papa will take care of you. Go with him. " My mind wrenched with the thought that I couldn't hold her right then, that the first hour of her life I'd be removed, separate. I had spent the last ten months learning just how important this time was, and now irrevocably it was gone from me.
But I had been so brave up to this point, so fearless, I had made the best of every single thing, and I was proud of myself. For once in my life I knew I had done everything I could to be my best self, to be so full of love that I could walk into a room full of strangers about to forcibly pull my surprise breech baby out of my womb and not hate the moment, but love it for what it was about to be. Inevitably, this was where my daughter would be born, and I wanted to fill this room with all the love I could possibly emanate. So I did. And it felt wonderful.
For days & weeks & months afterwards, every time I’d touch his small head, I’d feel the mystery of that moment all over again. I was transported back to that first time I touched our dear Abraham’s head. That moment when I was caught between two worlds – the world of being a pregnant woman & the world of motherhood. Every time I felt the crown of his head it felt so precious & sacred in my hand. Some days I’d place my hand on his head multiple times. I could close my eyes & be transported back to that life-altering moment when our son began his entry into this world.
Even though he’s now 13 months & his head is far bigger I still like to rub it occasionally & get a small remembrance of that first day. I feel that special moment all over again. It’s so much more than mere touch. I feel it with my whole body. He’ll never really know this feeling I have & I’ll never be able to fully articulate it, but oh how I cherish it. This dear child will one day be a man, hopefully one day be a father and he too will hold his first child for the first time & have that awe-struck moment when EVERYTHING changes. For now, I’ll cherish his smallness, his innocence, his ah-ha moments when he discovers something new. These small moments pass too soon just like that brief moment when my midwife introduced me to my son & I faced the pain. Pain. My relationship with Abe will always have pain of one sort or another. My heart will feel pain when he’s sick with a stomach bug & crying & miserable, like today. My heart will feel so much pain yet so much joy the day he takes of on his own into the big, wide world. Some of his firsts will bring me pain but I hope that by opening my heart & soul & body to it, that pain will open so many new doors for me in this wild adventure called motherhood.
All the confidence that I had previously had about how good of a mother I was going to be was suddenly wavering. Now I wasn’t sure I was going to know how to do it. And what occurred to me then is what often occurs to me now. There really are no second chances with mothering. Sure, there are on some level. If I handle a sibling dispute poorly today, I can do a better job tomorrow.
But if it turns out I wasn’t all that great at parenting a baby, or a toddler, or a preschooler, or if I wasn’t as nurturing as I thought I’d be—that’s it. There are no do-overs. My sweet daughters will live with what I have given them and what I have deprived them of for the rest of their lives, and it will be their own beast to contend with everything I did wrong, any ways in which I hurt them emotionally.
On the one hand, there is a (very) small comfort in knowing that we all make mistakes in this realm, and we can’t be held responsible for doing more than our best at any given time. On the other hand, that comfort only goes so far when I fear that my best may not be good enough. What if my actual mothering and nurturing abilities fall short of the goals I have in parenting my daughters?
When I think about my mother’s stubborn parenting and the lack of nurturing it provided me, I am terrified that my own daughters will deal with these same hurts and those same feelings of inadequacy. I will never even be able to figure out what my mother’s goals were in parenting me (in part because I will never ask her—we don’t talk that intimately--, and in part because I doubt she even thought about it in that concrete a way), but I can say without a doubt that, especially after a certain age, far more of what she did was detrimental than nurturing.
She did not believe in complimenting her children’s abilities, praising them, or in any other way encouraging them. It is almost as if she believed that constant criticism would make us better people. That we would take the critiques as motivation to improve ourselves. But that’s not how it works. A small child who has not had the opportunity to build up a strong sense of self will only by damaged by this kind of parenting.
I remember waiting and waiting with anticipation. I was 33 years old, and having my first baby. I remember my mom telling me over and over not to do what she did. She had her first at 18 … and maybe that is why I did the career thing first.
I remember researching and reading everything, I could get my hands on. I remember skipping the c-section chapters because clearly my hips were made for having babies. I had said that all my life. I remember being angry at the things I read in Henci Goer’s Thinking Woman’s guide to pregnancy. Surely, she is biased. Surely educated obstetricians would not think and do those irrational things.
I remember sending my hubby out for lunch, and then losing my mucus plug. I thought maybe my water had finally broken, although it was just a trickle. I was not about to tell J that though, I wanted to make sure he had already picked up the Chicken Pesto Sandwiches I was craving.
My mom had flown in on the 19th, two days after my due date. I was ten days “over due”. (It kills me to write that now since I know so much more.)
I remember bending over and picking up a pile of dog poop as we were gathering things and putting them in the car for the ride to the hospital. I remember my mom laughing, and me feeling like I could tackle anything. I am so in control here, I even pick up the yard on the way to have a baby! I was feeling fine, no contractions. God, how I wish I had stayed home longer.
I remember asking the nurses “shouldn’t I be walking around?” I remember the evil inexperienced nurse that said, “If you think this hurts, wait until actual labor” when I complained about multiple pokes for the IV thing she was trying to stick into the back of my hand.
I remember the evil lying doctor Luanne Rich telling me that “pitocin contractions are no different than natural contractions”. I remember her generosity in granting me just one more hour to start contracting on my own, and then she would start pitocin.
I remember trying to fight for what I knew was right, but believing these people. I remember the anesthesiologist saying something about how my hubby should leave the room. Why? I don’t know. But for some reason, I chose to fight with the only person on my side and (I think) he left the room momentarily. Pitocin is the devil. It is clearly wrong. It is not ok! Why oh why do doctors do this to us? Why do we let them?
Why are we afraid to warn first time moms about the evil that awaits? Why is it so hard to balance being supportive of their choices, but easier to protect the intervention-happy OB’s?
But I digress….
I remember being in the recovery room. I remember asking the nurse “can’t I just stick him to my breast?” She wanted him to crawl up there on his own. Why did I ask her?
Why didn’t I trust myself at that point? Perhaps it was impossible to trust myself after what the docs had just put me through. Who would be in a good mental state after that?
I don’t remember them taking him. But I do remember my hubby saying he was going to go get the baby. My mom was now with me too.
My husband, Stirling, was outside, mowing the lawn and Ethan was helping-following along with his little mower. The sound of the mower stopped and I thought Stirling would come in, so I poured him a glass of water. After a couple of minutes he did come in, carrying a naked, dirty, pink, sweaty two year old in his arms. He looked frustrated.
He set Ethan down on the kitchen floor and said “You deal with it. He says he has grass in his butt, but I can’t find it.” I gave him his water and he went back out to finish the yard work. Then I gave Ethan some water and tried to look at his little toddler rear. I asked if here was grass there and he said yes.
“Can you put your hands on the floor and pretend you’re a bear?” I asked. He did. I looked carefully for grass and just couldn’t find it, so I asked “Sweetie, how did you get grass in your butt? Did you sit down in it?”
“Uh-uh. I put it there. I can feel it.”
I carefully spread his cheeks apart, looked very closely and saw it. The very hard tip of a weed, poking out of his anus. I was able to get him to be still while I removed it, and he was no worse for the wear. “Ethan, why did you put grass in your anus?”
“It was an experiment. I wanted to see if grass can go in like poop comes out.” Ugh! How do you respond to that???
“Well, please remember not to experiment with your body. Especially your anus, okay?”
“Kay. Go put on some undies and wash your hands. It’s time to eat.”
As he ran off to the bathroom, I opened the fridge and pulled out a beer. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
It was cold in the apartment. Russia and the Ukraine were in the middle of a gas dispute, which Serbia had to be caught up in, of course. Belgrade’s central heating system was short of fuel, we were left in the cold. Outside, there was a fierce frost and a lot of snow. I was struggling to get the airconditioning in my apartment to blow hot air instead of cold, so that my baby would not be born into a cold space. I finally succeeded but it was still cold, so I turned the oven on and left its door open. Finally, things were starting to heat up. Contractions were now painful, and I vocalized through some of them. Kaya woke up and asked what was going on. It was probably around three in the morning. “The baby is on his way, honey, he’ll be with us soon!” She brought me drinks, and seemed excited. I tried to get her to go back to sleep, but she wanted to be there with me.
My second birth was an extremely spiritual experience. Because I chose to birth unassisted, and had to rely on myself exclusively, I felt every sensation, and was aware of the process every step of the way. I did ask myself whether I was doing the right thing, and if I should go to hospital, but I knew, in my heart, that this was the best choice. Not just because of the midieval maternity system in Serbia, and not just because the midwife who attended my first birth did many of the things that they did in hospital too, like shouting at laboring women and trying to cut an episiotomy without the consent of the mother. No, this birth was so much more than an alternative to something unwanted. It was a rebirth for me, as a person, too.
My son was born into my own two hands, face up. Kaya was excited to meet her little brother. “Hello, little one. Hello, my little one,” I exclaimed, as I stared into his tiny but bright blue eyes, eyes that stared right into my soul. He was tiny. So much smaller than Kaya. So fragile, and so perfect. The placenta came out with ease, very soon after my son did. After I was sure that the umbilical cord had stopped pulsating, I cut it with the knife my grandfather, a Dutch resistance fighter, had used to kill 18 collaborators of the Nazis, in the Second World War. I hadn’t intended it that way, but the knife was waiting for us on top of the washing machine, in the bathroom where Sasha was born. We bathed together and then got dressed. My daugter picked the clothes my son would wear for the very first time, and we went to bed. My children went to sleep peacefully. I couldn’t possibly let this precious moment go to waste by sleeping, and observed my two beatiful children for hours, just being. I felt at peace, yet energetic. For months, I was on a birth high. I felt euphoric.
Those first months, I remember with so much love. With a feeling of total peace, total harmony. I felt comeplete, perhaps for the very first time. My little family seemed so very perfect. I felt so very blessed. Serbia was in the middle of the coldest winter it had seen in decades. We snuggled up close under all the blankets we had, me, Kaya, and Sasha, to stay warm. Just us, nobody else to disturb these first perfect moments. Whenever I remember that time, it puts a smile on my face.
I remember lighting incense with intense conviction. Standing in the kitchen I’d pull a long strand out of the crinkly package, hit the lighter, close my eyes and pray for a natural and normal birth. Repeating it at least three times, like a mantra, ‘normal and natural birth-normal and natural birth-normal and natural birth’. Typically wrapped in a sarong looking for geckos and ready to sweep the floor for ants I’d start my day focusing on my normal and natural birth. Day to day this was my practice, I knew that focusing on these words would help convince my mind to trust that my body knew what it was doing and all would be well. This was my mantra in preparation for my birth in the middle of an island in Indonesia far from anything I was used to.
I remember that I had focused so hard and so long on the birth of my baby that the minute he came out I entered another world where the focus was not on him. I shouted, “oh, you’re a boy,” and celebrated with a large meal my new quiet baby lying skin to skin on my chest, me with no after effects, laughing and talking. It was over, I was done, I’d accomplished the normal and natural birth….until weeks later when I’d realized that my energy was turned so outward after the birth that I hadn’t given any of it to him in those few hours afterward where we tousled together on the cot in that tiny room full of ants, mosquitoes and geckos.
He was so quiet, never stirred, never woke to nurse. I was quiet, I up on one elbow peering at him so closely trying to see him in the moonlight, trying to make sure that no mosquitoes had bitten my fresh baby. I waved my hand over him all night swatting away bugs. He was so sleepy, so tired, so… What was he? People tell me that guilt and regret just come along with being a mother. Was he hurt? Did he get enough oxygen? Was his heart dipping during the pushing? Did that mean something? Why was he shocked when he came out? Why did he need oxygen? Why didn’t he crawl to the breast? Why wouldn’t he latch properly? Why did it take almost 4 months for him to nurse properly? What was wrong? Why didn’t I focus in on him after birth? Did this outward energy harm him in some way?
When I share people tell me that he never left me, that he was skin to skin with me the whole night and basically ever since. I know I know. But I never planned for what to do after birth; didn’t have an after-birth plan. I’d focused so so so hard on ensuring that I felt confident and positive about having an uncomplicated birth experience because I was in such a different environment than us Americans are used to that I never once considered what I should do once I was able to hold his sweet self in my arms?
Does every little thing possibly impact our babies in ways we do not know? Maybe, but we do the best we can right? And this will probably never be good enough in our minds. Welcome to motherhood people say, so welcome…welcome. I remember and I know.
A few days later she called my hotel room. She talked about her children. She had her oldest son, Kareem, sing for me over the phone. I think he'd won an award for singing either at church or at school. At the time I was a little nervous in talking to her. I hadn't really talked to her since we were teenagers and our lives had gone in very different directions. I'd left the island, gone to college and now had gotten married. She'd had her first child at age 16 and by age 25 had had three more. I wasn't even in the planning stages for children at all. I'd squarely decided that 27 was the age I ought to start and I had two more years. One of the last things she told me before we hung up was that she was proud of me. She felt I'd done things the right way. She meant I'd waited to get married first and also completed my education before even thinking of having kids. I don't remember what I said next. But I remember feeling kind of embarrassed. I'd hoped that she didn't think that I felt I was better than her. We never spoke again after that call.
Two years later my mother called to tell me that Nkwa had died. Some perverse, effed up sequence of events led to her dying in a hospital from some unexpected illness. She was only 27.
I'm weird with grief. I almost never cry at first. It's usually days later when I fully feel the brunt of it and the tears come flowing out. This time it happened at the end of a yoga class. I was sitting in a semi-lotus, releasing, breathing and lifting her into the light. And then it all came out. Rivers of tears. Tears for the memories of our times together. Tears for the regret of not having spent more time together. Tears for what she doesn't get to do anymore -- see her children grow into adulthood.
It's only now that I'm a mother that I can say that this is my biggest fear. Should I die while my son is young, will he forget me?
Now he’s grown up. And he’s not all that wild any more. I should try to get him to open up about the adventures he still wants to have…the last few years have been mostly adventures in parenting…sometimes the logistics get so consuming that you forget to really talk about things other than who is picking up and who is dropping off and who will get the drycleaning and are there juiceboxes in the cupboard and the train is late, his commute home is delayed, dinner is shot, and by the time he gets home…there’s not much left that seems important other than eating something and trying to grab some downtime.
He still rock climbs, he still surfs, he is painfully giving up playing hockey—emotionally painful because he loves it, physically painful because he’s been told he needs a hip replacement and that’s what all the pain is about. I like that he is so active. I’m not. I like the couch. I like to read. I like to cook! So I actually love that he does all these things and leaves me with some privacy to do the things I like to do, alone.
For all that he gives off a laid back vibe, he’s really not. He likes things a certain way, and that’s the right way. Most of the time it is. Most of the time it’s things I don’t really care about, either. Like pushing the sink strainer completely in when I’m done with the dishes. I don’t know why it’s so important to him, but it is, almost to an OCD extent, so now, after passing 10 years together, I just push it in. I resent it a little bit every time I do it, but I think that’s marriage. There’s also a right way and a wrong way to put the paper towels in their roller. I’m only about 50/50 on that. Give me ten more years and I’ll master it. He has an extensive to do list each weekend, I rarely do. I actually have things I need to do, but none of them ever seem like priority items that must be done immediately.
I think he’s always been very kind. Beloved by children and the animals and kind to old people. He’s just kind. He loves our daughter. He is a bit of magic with her. He told me once he’s do anything for me, and I know he’d do anything for her. Time is flying by so quickly now, I wish he could slow down but that’s not the person I fell in love with.
The last time I hold my baby with his little arm dangling behind me to my breast will be a moment I don’t want to meet. The last time hasn’t even happened yet and I already mourn the day we don’t meet to nourish each other in this way anymore. People always ask me how long I’m going to breastfeed and tell me how awesome it’s going to be when I stop, but I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, it would be great to go away for the night or the weekend or even out and not have to worry about when and how he’ll be fed. Of course it would be a burden lifted in some respect. Yes I know it would feel good for my husband to be able to shoulder more of the responsibility, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough for me not to have these moments with this little guy. The funny way he has grunted and groaned in the past at the breast. The way he opens and closes his hand in a way that he’s trying to ‘rub’ me but doesn’t quite have the coordination yet. The way his hand loves me by going up and down my back as he nurses. The way his little nose scrunches up as he opens his mouth to get a bite. The way he would look up at me just before he bit me to see what I would do. Such freedom lies in not nursing your baby; but I’ve got one more to go and more years of being ultimately bound to my children and yes this is what I’ve chosen. It’s very me. Never the easy way out. Always the hardest way around, but the way I always believe with every cell in my body that is the most beneficial.
I do now understand the concept that sometimes what might be the healthiest in one way can be unhealthy in another. If something like breastfeeding causes you such great sadness or negative energy each time than the benefit of the milk and the bonding may not override the power of those emotions that babies are so keenly able to detect. Bad news for us moms, those babies know don’t they? They expose all of the things we’d like to not be there and when they mimic our behaviors in public then we’re busted right? No, we were busted long before when they see so clearly those things about us we’d like to not embody.
The last time I nursed him was this morning as he wriggled next to me seemingly unable to fall back to sleep on his own. Suffering from his first cold how could I try to make him do otherwise right now as he’s uncomfortable. I am his comfort. Did those nurses think me weird for whipping out a boob as they pricked and pumped his finger? Probably. But the days of me really caring what other people think over what I think is better for my baby are gone.
The last time I felt ashamed of the way by boobs looked or hung was long before I started breastfeeding. And right now it seems like a relief. I thought I’d be so bashful, so private about nursing, but I just made it a part of the normal scenery, because I believe it should be. I didn’t leave the table or go to another room, still don’t unless he can’t focus. The last time I felt badly about my boobs was before they helped life grow.
The last time my boobs felt like a sexual entity was before I had my baby. It’s so clear now that they aren’t a fixation for someone else, never were meant to be.
The last time I was able to write like this was many many months ago in a pool in Indonesia where my huge baby bump became buoyant and able to bounce in the water. I’d write about my feelings, about looking forward to having the baby, my feelings of just waiting, the adventure of the day. Always in the moment I’m feeling things that when looked back upon seem like I was living in a box; a box around my head where the emotions just bounced from each of the 6 walls onto my brain and back.
I yawn and stretch a bit, and your eyes pop open and search out my face in the dim light. I see the tiniest of smiles at the edge of your lips and then you turn slightly back toward my chest and dream as you feed. I gaze at the curve of your cheek and the familiar pulsing of your jaw and play with the wisps of hair that curl around your ear. I am tired, achingly tired, but I cannot resent your intense need for me. I know now that this time is shockingly fleeting and that in a flash you’ll be tumbling with your brothers and scraping your elbows and sleeping soundly through the night. You’ll still need me, but not so urgently, so tenderly, so intimately.
You shift and doze and a thin line of milk drools from your mouth onto my pillow. I lift you to my chest and rub your back and feel your body melt heavily into mine. I graze my lips across the top of your downy head and breathe in the smell of you- a hint of lavender, and sweet milk, and even a little sour on your collar. I settle you onto my other breast and your mouth is open and searching, but less urgently this time. You drink with purpose and a little greedily, but yet perfectly at leisure. I smile at your contentment and a wave of exhaustion washes over me, but I revel in it, feeling the spray upon my face and inhaling the salty air, ignoring my sandy eyes.
I type a quick hello to a fellow sister-at-babe-in-arms, members both of us of the same secret society, the same quiet house and precious nursling and heavy eyelids. Suddenly you pop off, satiated, and sleeping soundly, nestled against my arm. I bid my friend a quick goodbye and shut the screen. I gently lie you down and you snuffle a bit and snore softly. I tuck your blanket around your toes, and then I tumble into bed and resume my former slumber.
~crunchy mama of four boys~
I didn't get to hold her much. I wasn't with her and this still kills me. The ambulance ride was strange, not part of the plan. But there was too much blood loss. In the end I needed 2 blood transfusions. An overnight hospital stay and my in-laws holding her almost her entire first day of life was definitely not part of the birth plan.
The nurses kept telling me it was normal for her to only latch onto the nipple causing me to scream out in pain. I knew it wasn't. By the time the lactation consultant got to me the next day my nipples were bloody, raw. She used the words "nipple trauma".
The screaming as they stitched up my 2 tears, the needles, all the needles, definitely not something I had anticipated.
I wanted something to drink but all I was allowed was ice chips. I hadn't eaten since the night before, my dinner of chicken and rice "labor day" soup my mother had prepared. During labor I was never hungry but hours later I was.
My mother-in-law kept asking if I wanted to give her a bottle of water, a bath. And the answer was a weak no, no energy to explain why. She kept insisting the midwives didn't cut the cord correctly. I just wanted her to leave me be. My baby was fine. They wouldn't give me my baby; they said I was too ill but I wasn't. They stole all of the bonding of her first day from me. It took me awhile to bond, to nurse correctly.
No one told me I would barely be able to walk afterward. The scariest part of coming home was getting in and out of the car and up the stairs into the house. It felt like the bottom of me was going to fall out.
But she was so perfect, so sweet.
i went through the motions of taking care of you. nursing. diapers. sleep. crying. baths. crying. nursing. sleep. crying. nursing.
one day we were alone in the house. daddy was at work and i looked down at you. my hair was a mess and i was tired. you smelled like sour milk as usual. my shirt was stained. i did not know the last time i had a shower. i did not know the last time you had either for that matter.... we both looked a mess. i laughed. you looked at me like you did not recognize the way i looked when i laughed, confused even. at your tender age you already did not understand your mother.
At that moment i knew for the first time that at some point during the past few weeks i had fallen in love with you. through the tears and the pain my love for you had grown and it hasnt stopped. it was not the brushfire that consumed...that had been described to me but a slow, steady, and strong feeling that built me up and gave me strength.
trottin', pole dancing, Norway and Sweden lovin' , ,WOHM Kiddos born 12/11/06 and 08/09/08
with #3 EDD:01/2013 So in love with my sweet Swede and my bonus-son 10/25/98
But you were there, somewhere. Someone else was holding you. The doula? Your father? I don't really remember. I remember weird things instead: the headlamp the midwife wore as she stitched up my tear, the fact that your father gave the midwife one of our Good Towels to wrap you in after you were born and you took your first tarry poop in it, your long fingers, the cleft in your chin, the fact that there was no vernix to massage into your fresh skin.
You had barely slithered out of me when I declared, "We're buying the next one," and yet here I sit. 33 weeks pregnant with your brother and terrified. I don't want to bleed again. I don't want to tear. I don't want to end up at a hospital. I don't want to miss out on the post-birth endorphins. I want to have nothing more to worry about than nursing you and your brother in our big family bed and feeling in love with all of us.
You're two now, but I still cradle you while we nurse, your body curled around my big belly while your brother pushes against you. It feels like 15 eels in my uterus, all fighting for space. I don't think I have any milk left, but we nurse anyway and I trace your eyebrow and ears with my index finger. You mumble around my nipple, "Mama, sing 'Puff Magic Dragon' and 'Danny Boy.'"
And I do, always I do. Because I know that one grey night it happened / Jackie Paper Came No More. Time is eating itself greedily and these moments together--so mundane and extraordinary all at once--will never be the same.
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Or I was obsessively watching old Japanese samurai movies. Or S and I played video games, taking turns. I play Final Fantasy XII, then he plays Morrowind.
Often we were at the grocery store because, hey, we were up, and why not? There were no lines. The potatoes and other noctural produce lay sleeping beneath coarse green blankets. Sometimes we'd arrive at the same time the bakery was beginning to awaken.
When I was pregnant the last time, we often took walks at two in the morning. Our Central Pennsylvania neighborhood was dark and quiet, except for the crickets and their loud songs. Round and round the block we'd go, talking about what we'd name the baby or preparations we needed to make, or whether or not we'd know what to do, given the bad parenting examples that had been set for the both of us.
And now? Now at two in the morning I am struggling to propel myself out of our big family bed so I can pee again. I roll myself out onto all fours, slowly lurch up and try to tiptoe to the bathroom down the hall without hitting any of the rotten spots in the wood. My menfolk snore and shift in bed.
By the time I get back, I have to move the toddler so there's room for me. I'm completely awake and alert from my stealth operation. Moving the toddler rouses him and he wants to nurse. The latch-on is a terrible pain at first, and although it fades, I haven't been able to sleep through it for months. When he finally pops off and rolls over, pressing himself against his father's back, I realize I probably have to pee again.
In the morning S asks me how I slept. He declares I was in bed for 8 hours, and expresses incredulity when I report that I'm exhausted. Up to pee five times, 3 nighttime nursing sessions... not to mention my general discomfort. Rolling over is an epic affair these days (nights?) and I often wake up on my back with a toddler sleeping on my chest. Changing position provokes my uterine passenger to begin a 20-minute long interpretive dance performance and sets the toddler to rooting for a breast ("Nursey nice, mama, need to nurse"). I feel like I'm aware for every one of those 8 hours, but I'm sure I just sound like a whiner when I tell S so.
And besides, for as tired as I think I am now? There's a world of tired coming right for me with the birth of this second baby.
Two in the morning is a relief to see on the clock as I'm stumblng back from the bathroom or fastening my nursing tank (or rolling over in stages). It means there are still some hours left to doze, some hours left to dream. I press my face into my son's hair and breathe deep. Sleep will come eventually.
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But my mother is still there.
And I am her only child, though I often wonder if she wishes it weren't so. She reminds me that I am an only child because I was such a sick baby. She reminds me what a toll I took on her. So sick. She still treats me like a sick person.
I couldn't have her at the birth of my first son, and she knows better than to ask about being there for this one. It was the beginning of a massive shift in the tectonic plates of our relationship. The topography of it will never be the same. Always I am holding back the best parts, the most secret and real parts. Because she uses them to manipulate and guilt. As I have become a parent myself, I see the wrongness of it and it turns my stomach.
Through, not around. That's what Tanya said. But I can't make any move at all. I stand here and stare. My pen moves only reluctantly and my mind starts to wander.
All is quiet in this mother-free zone. Well, it's not entirely mother-free; I am the only mother here, and it's the way I like it. The Scissor Sisters play on the radio and I pause to look out the window where I can see the city's skyline and swaying evergreens. 2,085 miles from my mother, and all is as it should be.
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Oh, how our lives have changed since that first day we met. He was a long-haired hippy then with artistic tendencies. Never in a hundred years did I anticipate him one day pursuing a PhD in chemistry. You just never know! We’ve been married 2 ½ years now & that first week after our marriage I remember him saying, “We’re a team now! We’re in this together!” Oh, how much those words have meant to me time & time again. Those hard days when I wonder how am I going to tackle the next challenge in our marriage. Those days when he’s far away on a research trip or putting in long hours in the lab. That hard day when we moved with our 2 month old baby away from our home of 8+ years so he could attend grad school. Away from the house in which we’d met, the house we’d come home to after our wedding day, the house in which our first child was born.
Yes, we’re a team, in it together! And no more so was that true then on the day our baby was born. We had taken the Bradley birthing course which catered to our hope for a natural birth & to our inclination to work as a team.. He was somewhat doubtful before that first class, even fearing to be in the same room on the day our child would enter this world. It soon became apparent, though, that not only did he appreciate this birthing approach but he was now eager for the big day. By the end of the class he not only wanted to very much be in the room, he wanted to catch our baby! The class showed him that he had a job to do on B-day & a very important one at that. I think even without the class, my dear husband would have stepped up to the plate & played the role he did, but that class certainly helped.
We were a team! He was my rock! With each contraction, we’d sway together, our bodies moving together then pausing to rest. I’d lay my head on his shoulder & breathe a sigh of relief that I had this great man to support me through this grand adventure. He softly spoke words of encouragement time & time again. He reminded me, when necessary, to relax. When it came time, he gently helped me to enter the birthing tub.
As the contractions became more difficult, he continued encouraging me & remained just outside the tub right behind my left shoulder. Occasionally I’d turn over & reach for his hand. He never left my side. We’d visit between contractions & he’d laugh when I made a joke. Who knows if I was even funny, he just knew he had to laugh or else! When the birthing tub wasn’t doing the trick he helped me out & we tried several different pushing positions. I say we, because he was right there for each one supporting me physically & emotionally.
People have scoffed when I say, “I really couldn’t have done it without him.” Oh sure, I could have birthed our child without him being there, but I could not have done it in the manner in which I wanted. I would not have had the same glorious experience without him by my side. This gentle soul was truly my partner on the grandest day of our lives . . . the day he became the father to my baby.
Nursing is my main memory of that time. The first time he nursed at the hospital, the nurse smiled and said he had a good latch. The next day, when we were home, I sat in the rocker that we bought just for nursing. My husband held Ethan while I put the Boppy in my lap. Gently, slowly, he handed our newborn to me and watched as I tried to get the position right. “How about the football hold?” he asked. In the end I threw the Boppy off, pulled up my knees and developed our own nursing position. My husband brought me water and I gulped as greedily as my baby.
The first year of his life, he nursed every hour- night and day. Not just little five minute snacks, but full on meals, at least fifteen minutes on each side. He nursed until I was so empty my breasts felt hot and hollow. I don’t know how I would have survived that first year if we hadn’t been co-sleeping. I’m so glad that my husband insisted our baby be between us every night.
I remember the exhaustion, so heavy on my body, that made me feel like I was looking at the world through fun house mirrors. During that first year there were no straight lines, no obvious shapes and no distinctions between days. I am amazed that I was able to drive without killing us both.
Even my husband’s world was all about nursing in that first year. He was supportive and wonderful, and he became quite an expert on nursing. It was like living with a lactation consultant and I was grateful that he didn’t feel left out of the process. I suppose Ethan nursed so much that it just made sense for Stirling to be involved- otherwise he’d have missed out on a lot.
Now that my baby is eight and the haze of the first year is long past, I’m aware, really aware, of how fleeting childhood is. I really do savor all the moments of our life. And when I see a new mom I want to tell her to hold on to these moments, they end all too quickly. But I don’t. She’s heard it before, and she’ll find out on her own soon enough.
After a busy weekend producing a monologue performance here in Santa Fe, I spent the afternoon reading your stories.
Thank you all for you willingness to show up so fully to this process. You have already exceeded my expectations...We already have a wonderful basis for your Mother's Day monologue/stories....
I look forward to our check in call tomorrow night....I will be giving you some more topics and answering questions about the next phase of the process.
Love to all your brave mama souls!
Years later, expecting our first baby, I hoped for a little son. My husband was anxious for a boy, and I wanted him to have his son right off the bat, so I’d not have to feel the pressure in future pregnancies that I saw my mom face, wondering whether we’d finally have a boy. I also imagined a big brother figure, one who could look out for his little sisters in the years to come. So we were pleased to learn our first child would be a boy.
With each of our sons we had an ultrasound and each time the tech was reasonably able to determine the gender of our next baby. And each time, my husband remained doubtful until our child was actually born. So even though we were pretty well expecting a boy each time, it was still a delight when each was born to confirm the truth, along with the obligatory toe counting and hair inspection and peering into the eyes.
Even though I believed the techs who performed our scans during pregnancy, and sometimes even had pretty indisputable photographic evidence of said genders, my husband’s skepticism was enough to make me breathlessly anxious at the moment of birth to KNOW. Our second son was born into water, and my midwife lifted him up from the water and to my chest and immediately covered him in a warm towel. As I cradled my baby to my chest, my hand cupped his little bottom, and I KNEW. I could feel his hormone-swollen testicles against my palm and without even looking I alone knew that he was in fact a little man. I laid back against the tub, cuddling him close and he gazed up, blinking away the moisture and trying to focus on my face for the first time ever. After nine long months of just the two of us, I savored these moments of knowing him. Still. Just the two of us together.
~crunchy mama of four boys~
I graciously accept the gifts of love from family and friends, and giggle helplessly at a stack of onesies that surprise triplets could not even wear out. There are a few sparks of newness to the experience of our third baby- handmade blankets and embroidered diapers, just for him. One harsh novelty, bittersweet and sad- this is my first pregnancy after a pregnancy loss. Fear and dread taint the first months this time, but give way to gratefulness and appreciation as things seem to progress normally this time. As I feel the familiar kicks and heartburn, I am reassured by the sameness and relish the discomfort, at least in my heart if not so much in my demeanor.
Then, two weeks before my expected due date, my water breaks to start labor, for the first time. I am caught unaware, unpacked, unready for the first time. I am disoriented by my water breaking and rather than laboring at home as planned, for the first time we head in to the birth center during early labor. Once there however, I settle into the familiar pattern- long, long, long first stages of labor, slow to progress, waiting for baby to turn. Eventually, finally, after a long 30 hours of laboring, I sink into the embrace of a warm tub and push my baby into the world. Like his brother before him, he emerges into water and I sigh, exultant and relieved.
We pull my son up, out, onto my chest, but for the first time the cord is not long enough and he cannot reach me. So my husband cradles our son in his arms, but he does not cry, he does not pink up and for the first time we see our new baby go limp. Our midwife quickly springs into action and rubs our newborn and tries to cajole him into crying, into taking his first breath, but he does not respond. She clamps and cuts his cord and severs him from me for the first time. She fills his lungs for the first time with a mask and ventilator and works with her assistant to stimulate his body to breathe on his own, and to breathe for him until he does. For the first time, my husband speaks our son’s name aloud to him and continues to say it and talk to him while resuscitation efforts continue.
From the tub, I watch this all play out, as if it were a dream, and my arms and the severed cord floating in the water add to the surreal detachment and numbness I feel. For the first time, I contemplate losing a child at the very moment of his birth, and then I banish the thought and instead pray and trust and hope and will my baby to live. At long last, five full minutes after his birth, our son whimpers, coughs, and then cries for the very first time. We all exhale fully, for what seems like the first time in a long time, and then we weep as he breathes and nuzzles and feeds all for the first time. Everything feels fresh and new, infused with life and love and reminding us that everything familiar will be experienced anew by this precious little fighter, all for the first time.
~crunchy mama of four boys~
If you need me, I also need you, search you out, get closer. I touch your skin, soft against my hand. Your breath, slightly sour, feathers across my face. We breathe in tandem, and I count the rise and fall of your breath and my hand against your chest.
In the early morning light, there are no worries, only love. The fears, the anxiety—that comes as I am falling asleep. I wonder who you are, who you will be, what path you will walk. But in the early morning light there is only peace and love and a desire to be close to one another.
You stir, and I pat your back. You sigh, and I kiss your cheek. You smell clean, last night’s bath scents still clinging to your hair. You settle, and I tuck the quilt around you.
Soon enough, I’ll have to rise, leaving you alone in this big warm bed. I have so many obligations, other children and a household to care for, a breakfast to make, laundry to hang out on the line. I have so much I have to do, yet all I want to do is to stay here, curled up into your warmth forever. The fact that this is all you want as well is a constant shock to me.
I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this adoration. I don’t know why you crave being near me so much. I don’t understand it. But I am so thankful and blessed to have you in my life. My heart feels as if it might overflow.
You grow like the dawn, silently and imperceptible. You were so tiny and now you are getting so big, so long, more and more your own person every day. You talk and demand and yell and have your own will and already the two of us are often at odds with one another. One day you’ll yell that you hate me and my heart will break. One day you’ll make conscious decisions to do things that will hurt me. And I know I will fail you a million times over. I know I already have, and it breaks my heart. But for now, the two of us are in harmony, two warm bodies together on a bed, wanting nothing but to love.
Flowers, fairies, gardens, and rainbows--
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: 10 weeks of crafts, handwork, painting, coloring, circle time, fairy tales, and more!
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for family fun, homeschooling, books, simple living, and 6 fabulous children, including twin toddlers
The first time Jack had a night terror, we almost took him to the hospital. We had no clue what was happening. He was crying, shaking, and calling out to me, but he didn't seem to hear me or recognize me. It lasted all of 5 minutes until he slowly woke up. He smiled, looked around, surprised to find himself in the living room. He promptly got up, gave Chris and I a wet kiss and toddled back to the room he shared with his older brother. He quickly fell into a deep sleep and Chris and I sat on the couch, hearts pounding, wide awake.
From then on, whenever Jack was overtired or very stressed, the night terrors would rear their ugly heads. They were awful to behold. The only good thing about them was that he had no memory of them whatsoever. Unfortunately the same could not be said of those who witnessed those terrible minutes.
As Jack has gotten older, the night terrors show up less often. Maybe this is due to the fact that he is more verbal now and when he chooses can express his fears and stresses. This is not to say that he often willingly chooses to do to so. Jack is an extremely sensitive kid combined with being the type who holds everything inside. This seems to be a recipe for night terrors. Ever so often his subconscious needs to blow off some steam. One of his triggers is when Chris is away. So, I was sure that there would be a terror attack sometime in the next few days. I was on red alert.
Now that he's so mobile, I have found his terrors to be even more disturbing. He often cries about someone trying to kill someone in the family or him, and he is always trying to escape from something. He runs down the stairs, turns on the lights and the TV, often tripping over things and pushing things out of his way. Chris and I follow along behind him telling him it will all be OK and removing anything that he could trip on or fall down. We vainly try to get him to sit down until he actually wakes up.
But my biggest fear is that I'm going to sleep through a terror and he is going to get outside. It's a stupid fear. I'm a light sleeper and the moment one of my children whimpers, I'm by their bedside. The chances of me sleeping through on of my children yelling and running around the house are less than the chance of getting hit with a giant meatball falling out of the sky. But, just in case, I've reinstalled a baby gate at the door to the boy's room. He can still open it in his sleep, but at least it slows him down.
So, at 2 am this morning, I hear a cry from somewhere in the house and I immediately leap from the bed. It's Jack in the midst of a night terror. I rush to his room calling for him, but the room is silent. He's not in his bed.
Well, the dog is still fast asleep in the hall as I rush out of the room. My oldest is still fast asleep in his bed and my youngest is sleeping soundly in my bed that he snuck into an hour before. So this bodes well. Only one child is awake and out of bed...somewhere.
Has he made it downstairs without me knowing it. My heart is pounding in my chest. I rush headlong down the stairs, leaping socks and shoes left there during the day. I don't hear him. Why don't I hear him?! Has he gotten out of the house? "Jack! Jack!" I shout desperately.
The fear explodes in the back of my head. I'm convinced he's fallen down the stairs and broke his neck. No he's lost in the woods or worse yet, he's fallen in the pond and drowned. The tears start pouring from me.
All the doors are locked! He's still some in the house. Deep breath of relief. "Jaaaack! Jackie, where are you?!" I scream, my voice ragged from fear and lack of sleep.
He's not in the kitchen, not in the living room, not in the closet, not in the basement. Why can't I hear him? He is always yelling and crying when he has terrors. I check the door again. Nope, still locked. I rush back upstairs. I look in each room, and each closet all over again, all the while shouting for him. I rush back into his room. Could he have somehow slipped into the 4 inches of space under his bed? I desperately try to lift the bed, yanking the blankets off the bed at the same time.
Suddenly...Jack sits up, rubbing his eyes, at the opposite side of the bed. He looks at me like I'm a crazy person. I am half crazy at this point with all the awful illogical thought rushing at light speed through my brain.
"Jack!" I sigh and hug him tightly to me while the tears flow freely down my face and onto his head. He half heartily hugs me back and mumbles, "I'm so tired. Someone woke me up." "um, yeah." I respond. "That was me. sorry!" I say sheepishly, as he curls back up and falls back asleep.
I wander back into bed. It is now 2:08 am. It's not the three days later that my body is trying to convince me. I have not run a marathon that my heart is trying to tell me. And, I have not banged my head against anything like my head is trying to convince me.
I am crying and laughing at the same time. Deep chesty sobs followed by hoarse laughter of a mad woman. I'm astounded that in my panic, I never even switched on the light in the room. The light from the hallway only falls on the top of his bed, not at the bottom where he was curled up like a cat. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, and I realize that Jack is not the only one who suffers from night terrors when Chris is gone. He's just blessed enough not to remember them.
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But when I walk into the room you are not sweet, not gentle when you hear my voice. “It’s me, sweetie, it’s okay”. You immediately start to wail and protest, no! no! mom! Nur! Nur!
Because it’s not me you want, it’s my partner, the one who nurses you, the one who gave birth to you, the one who has the milk. You love me and I love you, but at 2 in the morning seeing me means reminding you that we are nightweaning. It’s the 3rd day in, and all things considered it’s going well. We’ve explained clearly to you what to expect: ‘you are not a baby anymore, you are a toddler. Toddlers don’t nurse at night, only babies do (ignoring for the moment the fact that your big sister, age almost 5, still creeps into our room almost every night for cuddles and occasional nursing). You insist that you are not a toddler, you are a baby! But we are firm. And you, for the most part, in your sweet, good-natured way, are accepting.
Except tonight. For 1.5 hours tonight you beg me, tears streaming down your face, to nur. You grab your soother out of your mouth and toss it at me in frustration...you try to scramble into my shirt to get at my breasts, you toss and turn, put your head on my chest and pop up and cry. I sleepily empathize with you: ‘You are feeling sad...you want mom Beth, you want to nurse’ and get a tearful ‘yeah’ in reply that melts my heart. But I hold firm, partly out of commitment to our goal, and partly out of my own exhaustion. You pull out all the stops telling me you need to pee and poo, powerful words from a toddler who recently taught herself to use the bathroom in all of 3 weeks. But I am firm (and sleepy), and you are dry the next morning. Eventually you fall asleep again, but are very restless. I sleep fitfully, your sweet little sweaty head first nestled on my chest, then my arm, then my nose (ouch!).
True to yourself, this is the only difficult night you give us. Within two days, you are sleeping through, on your own, until 5:30 in the morning. Another gift you give us casually, a full night sleep after only two years, like you have offered so many other things: adoration of your sister, health, calm, peace, humour and laughter. I only hope that your sleepy mommies, worn out from the roller coaster ride of your high needs big sister who still does not sleep through at age 5, remember to be grateful to you each day for what you bring our family in your own unique way.
It has been a very different journey for me, learning how to mother you without the connection of nursing. But you have been a delightful and masterful teacher, and I am grateful.
I don't remember much about the morning. I had been emotionally numbed for the last 8 or ten days. I had a major meltdown with my mother, which ended in her storming out of the house at 6 am, suitcases packed, crying, running to her rental car to fly back home to Arizona. I was devastated. When I had mentioned to people that I'd invited my mom to stay with us to help during the birth, I got some crazy looks. I thought I knew better, I really thought our relationship was stronger than those pressures. I always thought I was lucky to have such a cool mom, and we'd never have crazy birth drama together. Man oh man was I wrong. I'd been trying to shake the grief for days, doing whatever I could to refocus my energy on preparing for birth, readying myself for the blessing of our daughter's arrival. After talking me through a lot of emotion, My husband was beginning to be fed up with me feeling sad about it. He didn't think she even deserved the attention I was giving her in my mind and wanted me to focus. I knew he was right, and I was feeling even more guilty about disappointing him, but it took me a long while to clear my mind, clear my heart and feel ready to birth. I was so grateful that my wise daughter decided to be a patient witness through my grief, that she knew enough to wait for the wave to pass...
We didn't notice that our oldest was sick, but we did get annoyed with her asking to pee every hour and wanting water to drink constantly during our trip to the Cities.
When we came back it became apparent she wasn't right. To the ER - blood draws, IV's, urine tests. The ER doc walking in and announcing she has diabetes and then abruptly leaving. We felt abandoned and alone. Somehow with the nurses help we made it through our first night. And our first low. Nurses poking her tiny fingers. Nurses jabbing needles into her too thin tummy. Nurses and doctors expecting us to do that to our daughter. We learn through our stay our new "normal." Wake up and check a blood sugar. Eat and give insulin. Play and check a blood sugar. Want a snack? Check a blood sugar first. Before bed there is one more blood sugar test too.
We watch her adjust to the sore fingers, the acidic insulin burning as we inject it, her miserable highs and her equally miserable lows.
And so the alarm. The alarm to check her while she sleeps blissfully unaware of her dangerous lows. But blissfully sleeping and not worrying about the diabetes.
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