Wubbzy... Happy and Deep, all at the same time.
The things that you learn as a parent...
There is seriously a Wow Wow Wubbzy song for every occasion. I kid you not. I know because I hear these songs every day -Gerry LOVES him some Wubbzy.
It was hard to choose which song to share for my first ever Wubbzy Wisdom post. I finally settled on "Love Is All Around." It seemed appropriately happy and deep. I was doing a writing exercise tonight that I found on another blog that asked me to choose three words to describe myself. It is difficult to choose only three! I had chosen Thoughtful, Fun, and Open, but now as I write this, "Happy and Deep" those two words seem pretty good too. This blog seems kinda heavy sometimes, but my real life is anything but. It is fun! I am fun, goshdarnit! Every day I get to play and laugh and grow and I feel so grateful for this life.
I have a lot going on in the next several weeks. June 1st (this Friday!) marks the start of The Invincible Summer writing e-course and The Self Love Revolution (It's free, check it out!) Next week I celebrate my 34th birthday and I seriously believe some awesome stuff is in store for me in my 35th year. It's hard to believe that we are almost half-way through another calendar year. But 2012 has already been amazing and I only expect it to get better.
So I am unofficially and publicly releasing myself of my two posts per week goal. It was a great way to get me writing and it served it's purpose, but with all this Self-Love and other commitments (my next Hypnobabies class is also starting in less than 3 weeks) I need to let some things go. Who knows, maybe I'll write more here or maybe I'm going to take a little break, I'm not sure. I've been really following my heart and writing when the urge strikes. The past week I've had little desire to write which is strange after months of basically being ON FIRE for writing. But we've been busy and I've been content. Busy and content is not the best recipe for writing inspiration.
So enjoy this tidbit of Wubbzy Wisdom. In light of the upcoming Self Love Revolution this last verse seemed especially appropriate, "If you want to find some love,
Here’s the place to start, Look into the mirror, It’s right there in your heart."
Rest assured - there will be future Wubbzy posts for your enjoyment. Because Wubbzy is happy... and deep... and I like that.
Love Is All Around
Lyrics: Bob Boyle / Music: b. Mossman
You are loved
We all care
There is love, love, love everywhere!
Love is all around
Love is all around
Love is all around
Love, love, love
It’s all around
It’s in the sky
It’s on the ground
Love, love, love
It’s in a flower
It’s in your hair
Love is in the people you meet
Love is in the food you eat
Love is in a game you play
And love is in a word you say
Love is all around
Love is all around
Love is all around
Love, love, love
It’s in everything
It’s in a book
Or a song you sing
Love, love, love
Summer or winter
September or May
If you want to find some love
Here’s the place to start
Look into the mirror
It’s right there in your heart
Love is all around (Love is all around)
Love is all around (Love is all around)
Love is all around (Love is all around)
Love, love, love
It’s all around
In their own time
In their own time...
Children will sleep through the night,
fall asleep without nursing, AND
ask to go to bed when they are tired
They will choose to shower,
brush their hair and teeth,
and change their clothes
Your son and daughter will share their toys,
Learn to take turns,
and say Please, Thank you, and I'm sorry
A child will eat healthy, wholesome food -
Not only will they eat it, they will ask for it
And tell you that they *need* it
Your daughter will willingly separate
To go on long excursions with another beloved adult
Your son will happily say goodbye
give you a kiss
and go on an adventure with his sister and daddy
They will happily help clean up messes - self and other made
They will help with laundry, sweep and vacuum, and clean the windows,
and THEN they'll help you make dinner
All of these things and more,
Children will do on their own,
In their own time.
How do I know all this? Because I've seen it with my own eyes - and I can count at least a dozen of these occurrences TODAY ALONE. There is no need for punishment or rewards, no need to teach or force any of it before they are ready. Given time, love, and support it all comes naturally because growing and learning is what they are meant to do.
So yes, they do need love, support, and guidance. They also need freedom - to make their own choices and mistakes. Be there when they need you and ask for your help. Before they are ready to do something be proactive, creative, and flexible. Their growth does NOT mean others' needs are ignored. Set them up to succeed. And of course model every value you hold dear, every virtue you treasure, every characteristic you've worked hard to develop in yourself.
Children will not be perfect and when they make a mistake they are still learning from you. Be aware of what they are learning - when things don't go as planned are they learning it's ok to explode or are they learning to take a deep breath (or 10)? They will learn about compassion and patience, love and what to do when mistakes are made, when they see it in action.
There is so much pressure in our culture to "teach independence" and to expect our children to do things they are not developmentally ready for. Recently at the playground a mom worriedly asked if her little girl said "Thank you" after I helped her into the sandbox (mom had a baby in a sling). The little girl was not even 2 years old yet! It is not realistic to expect a baby to sleep through the night, or a barely verbal child to say "Thank you" or "I'm sorry", or a 3 year old to share his most prized possession. We do not do ourselves or our children any favors when we push expectations on them before they are ready. It can be hard to resist the pressure. But maybe if more parents begin to embrace this natural unfolding it will be easier for others. Reassuring parents that you've seen the traits they value arise naturally in your own kids can bring a sense of relief and they can relax, even if just for a moment. Personally I am wary of the lessons children are actually learning when they are forced to do these things before they are ready. Children are very adaptable and will quickly display behaviors if it means they avoid a punishment or earn a reward. But when you show you do not trust them, they are learning to not trust themselves.
Last weekend I interviewed Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of "The Old Way" and she said of the Ju/wa society that there was a "Lack of punishment - they never punished their kids. They didn't even speak to them harshly. And somebody else pointed out that they, they also didn't particularly praise them, say, 'oh that's a good thing,' or 'you did that very well.' Kids were sort of expected to come along normally, which they certainly did, and they got their clues from watching other people."
Just as my children learned to walk, sleep through the night, and use the potty (last night Gerry said, "I no don't want to doe pee-pee in my pants! as he hurriedly pulled his potty out), they learned or are learning their colors, abc's and shapes. I fully expect this trend to continue and know that they will become fully independent - from using the potty and sleeping, to reading and researching the answers to their own questions - in their own time. Until they are ready I intend to love and support them the best I can. I believe it is difficult for parents to believe this is true in our culture. When I describe our life to acquaintances most people tentatively agree, "I could see that," but then go on to explain why they couldn't see this with their own child or in their relationships. Children are being sent to "school" at 2 and 3 years old. I believe this contributes to our lack of trust in this natural process. Because they are in school we attribute their learning - from social graces to academics - to their environment and the strategies employed there. My children are proof to me every day that a different way is possible. This way is not a quick or "efficient" process. In many ways what I am advocating takes more time, presence, trust and patience. But the long term... benefits? ...outcomes? ...advantages? None of these words seem sufficient to describe a child's growth and development into an adult. In any case - in the long run - individuals and society will benefit from a paradigm shift in our parenting culture.
Yes, given time and trust children will show you their true nature. Not only that, they will hold up a mirror for you to look in and see your own. Given support they will do all these things and more: on their own and in their own time.
This is the second part of the birth story of Marisol. You can read the first part here. I want to preface the rest of her birth story with a few thoughts. First of all, if any Hypnobabies students are reading this, definitely use your Bubble of Peace (BOP). Marisol's birth was long but completely endurable. It wasn't till the end that the intensity really felt painful and was a very small part of the whole experience. It is so amazing to read her birth story almost 6 years later. For one, I just know so much more about birth than I did then - even though I read numerous books and took an extensive childbirth class - it is just a lot to learn and assimilate in a relatively short time. Then there is the fact that I made a huge paradigm shift when I used Hypnobabies for my second birth and then became an instructor. It is strange to read my first birth and see the words "contraction" and "labor" instead of "pressure waves" and "birthing time".
But even though my perspective is different today, I would not change one thing about her birth. What isn't written here, as part of her birth, is how I felt in the days and weeks that followed her birth. I was literally on a birth high. I felt like Wonder Woman herself. I was so empowered by the experience that I literally could not stop thinking about it. I fell in love with my midwife and wanted to be her new best friend. I watched more births on TV in the weeks after than in the months leading up to Marisol's birth (there was a great show on at the time called "House of Babies - it was a birth center in Miami where many moms had water births). Basically it was the beginning of me becoming a "Birth Junkie".
But most importantly Marisol's birth began the journey that I am on today. She came into our lives and changed everything. I am so grateful for her and for everything I have learned from her. I tell my students that Birth is really just the portal. It is an important one to be sure, but it is the doorway to their new lives as parents.
Finally, a word of caution for those of you who may be "uninitiated" into the world of birth... I transcribed my story from my journal word-for-word - including references to bowel movements. I know that for some it may be "TMI", and so this is your warning. Even for myself ("Mrs. Share-All!"), it is pushing my comfort levels leaving it in there. But it is part of my story and it is *often* part of birth (don't think much explanation is necessary - just think of the force of pushing, the size of what women are pushing, and the placement... it's not a surprise that poop is often part of the equation!) What is interesting to me is that even in my own private journal I referred to it as "#2" - I couldn't even bring myself to call it what it is in there. I hope that as more women share their stories it becomes less taboo to share these things so women realize that such things are *normal* - to be expected and NOTHING to be ashamed of!
And with that said, I give you the rest of Marisol's birth...
On the way to the hospital I had 3 or 4 contractions. It was about 10:30 or 11 am when we arrived. Some of this I remember like I'm still there - some is a bit vague - I want to write details but not too boring...
I remember holding the garage elevator for Mary Ann but it didn't want to let us! Started making beeping/buzzing noises at us... I remember making it to the maternity "check-in" having to fill out paperwork and having a contraction there... I was definitely more inhibited in front of other people, like I would try not to be too loud... the secretary (nurse?) was actually talking me through it - "Just breathe through it" - I thought it was kind of funny/weird since Mike and Mary Ann were right there...
Then to triage - ahh... triage. I was definitely there longer than I expected. Mary Ann wasn't allowed in - they took her to the waiting area and then our birthing room. I had a contraction standing there waiting - just as Stephanie's (Mike's sister) friend Stephanie (also) who is a nurse appeared - then they gave me a gown - Mike came with me into the bathroom - I peed, put the gown and some underwear on - had another contraction - someone actually knocked! Then we went to an area curtained off - two nurses helped me there - they were young and nice. They put the external monitor on me and April showed up around that time - she said I didn't have to lie down which I was so relieved to hear because I had told Mike I didn't know how I could do 20 minutes in there.
So I could stand up for contractions - but then the paddles would slide off! So April or a nurse wold try to hold it so they could keep the baby's hearbeat. What a joke. They needed to see 3 jumps from baseline - 25 beats/minute or something like that.
April also checked me there - and I was 7 cm! ~80% effaced - Man I was so happy! Everyone was like, "what great news!" I remember April also commenting about how relaxed I was when she checked me...
Finally they let us go to our room - they had to hook me up again to get one more change in the baby's heart rate. I've never had my temperature and blood pressure checked so many times in my life either - through labor and all the next day for our stay. I remember having a contraction while a nurse was doing something - the EFM - and she didn't stop and I definitely felt more uncomfortable - I thought April looked annoyed.
April jiggled the baby around and finally got the last heart rate jump.
After that... I labored! On the birth ball - in the bub - on the toilet - I don't remember to many specifics of what I did. What I do remember is the people - how great they were, things they said, things they did for me... Mike was great. I was leaning of hanging on him all afternoon. He didn't say a ton but he gave me water, reminded me to go to the bathroom, kept me covered in the tub - and he never left!
The two nurses were great also. I think Louise (Grandma "Weezie"?) and Rachel was the young one - training. Louise kept telling me what an amazing woman I was - that she couldn't have done it... She told people outside too - and that she would have asked for something by then... Afterwards she told me that she had been present at many births and this was the most peaceful first birth she had ever been to... Rachel was great too.
And April - I have April on this pedestal right now - I was soo excited that she was on call - the 1 appointment I had with her was great - we talked a lot and I really liked her. She never pressured or rushed Mike and me - and she was present most of the day. She was so great!
And of course Mary Ann - our doula. She was also wonderful - massages, wash clothes, suggestions for different positions... we were both so glad to have her.
Another thing I noticed is that I hardly looked at the clock. Everyone thought we would have our baby by afternoon sometime since I was already 7 cm - we had Mary Ann go tell our families... but Marisol had other plans for us! I also remember that I never felt like I wanted to ask for drugs - I think I figured I had made it this long and it couldn't be much longer. Also I was very relaxed between contractions - I actually slept between them towards the end - at the bed and in the tub. I think I really felt confident about not needing drugs Saturday night (well actually Sunday morning 2-4 am!) When I was in the tub - I just realized - I can handle these contractions. I did well with breathing low "ooh" noises, and once they were over I wasn't in any pain.
I think I'll just list random things I remember from that afternoon-
- blue Popsicle, honey stick
- April saying, "I can't believe how with it you are between contractions!"
- Me telling Mike, "I still have to push!" (I was pretty tired)
- The worst contractions - on your back!
- Listening to music - Sarah McLachlan, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Tracy Chapman
I think they were mostly surprised how "mild" I stayed - I never really got mean (with Mike for example) actually I said sorry to him at least once - and to Mary Ann when I leaned the chair back on her... I still was smiling between contractions when they told me how great I was doing - almost till the end.
I don't know what time it was - but I was starting to wonder myself - I wanted that "urge to push" to come! I was getting tired... no wonder with 2 sleepless nights! April decided to check me...
She said... you're about 8 1/2 cm (I'm convinced she added the 1/2 to make me feel better) I don't remember when... but soon after April brought up breaking my water (it had only broke partially - she could still feel it bulging) Also, Marisol was posterior.
I looked at Mike to see what he thought about breaking my water - he kind of shrugged his shoulders - I asked April if there were risks - especially with the umbilical cord - she felt that this far along and the head being so low, that it really wasn't a risk at all. I also asked if it would hurt and she said less than getting checked.
So she broke my water - I think she tried to turn the baby's head then - I'm not sure - she had me stay lying for a contraction so she could feel what was happening - but I can't remember if that was before or after breaking my water.
After my water was broken I tried different positions to "turn" the baby - "polar bear" (on the bed on hands and knees) and on the toilet. Those were some tough, intense contractions! I remember saying, "I don't like this position much" and on the toilet, "how many more do I have to do?" "Ok, I'll do a couple or 1 more" I think April was gone... I got back in the tub - I wanted to get to the pushing stage so bad! I remember also saying "This hurts!" but I never asked for drugs... The tub contractions were really tough - but it felt good in between - I couldn't relax or stay still during - I would basically say I was "writhing" I would grab at the side of the tub... I remember wanting April to come back because I kept saying I wanted to push - but I couldn't tell if it was an "urge" to push or just my wishful thinking - I think the nurse checked me at one point but I can't remember - that may have been earlier... I also remember feeling like I had to poop, and saying I think I had to throw up in the tub - they put the container in front of my mouth and I was pushing involuntarily at the end of a contraction. I remember Mary Ann saying these were all good signs - I don't know if that I believed her at that point! (I remember April and Mary Ann saying, "Stay with it" during these tough ones and although I still don't know how you do that - it helped me! Sports mentality I think :)
I actually fell asleep before the last contraction in the tub - They were all standing around looking at me! I thought it was pretty funny (I wasn't laughing at the time though) I vaguely heard April say something to Mike about me sleeping and a baby... then bam! The last contraction and I was rolling around! I think I was in transition at the time and the doubt was there... I wanted to push but wasn't sure - April checked me in the tub and said there was only a "lip" that I could push through.
So I got out of the tub - I think I wanted to - They asked if I cared to put the robe back on - I didn't care either way - I guess I did? (there's a picture of me with it on) at some point Mary Ann suggested the sports bra I had brought - I agreed - but found it humorous that I got naked in front of everyone to put it on.
We tried pushing in the bed - My urge to push wasn't strong - and sometimes I was pushing with my stomach instead of down low... April suggested moving to the toilet to help... I was glad to push there because I went to the bathroom (#2!) several times - It definitely helped me push correctly too. That part surprised me - I thought pushing would come very naturally - also my contractions spaced out a lot and weren't very strong... once again everyone was is the bathroom staring at me - this time on the toilet :) Everyone was so nice though - I made a joke about it smelling and blamed it on Mike - we flushed after every push - Mary Ann didn't get it (my joke) and April explained it to her... I also was very impatient during the pushing phase - I kept asking, "What's going on?" why were they so far apart? - April thought I was pretty funny about that - it was just so weird having everyone just standing around waiting for me to have a contraction! After 3 or 4 pushes I wanted to go back to the bed - I didn't want to continue on the toilet.
At some point Mike was on the bed behind me - I can't remember if it was before or after the toilet - but neither of us were very comfortable. I also tried with the bed propped up...
I think I was very tired at this point. I went #2 one more time - in bed! I thought I felt it but wasn't sure. April suggested a side lying position - when they helped me roll sure enough - more poop! But the nurses were awesome and it was cleaned up before you knew it.
It is amazing how none of this embarrasses you at this point. I knew it could (hence the joke in the bathroom) but didn't really care that much! Anyways - once I was in the side-lying position it went fairly quickly - April was motivating me by saying - let's see if this baby has hair! She said my pushes were very powerful and it wouldn't take many now (it took quite a few - but, hey I was tired!)
Pushing was definitely quite a feeling - April helped me a lot - she said it will burn and all that, but you will get mad! and push right through it. That helped me a lot! They had a big mirror for Mike and I to see (he was behind my head) - somehow I ended up diagonally across the bed - with my head almost off... They had me touch when just a circle of her head was showing... I couldn't believe how soft it was - April and the others kept exclaiming about all the hair!
The strangest was the head coming out then going back in... There were 2 or 3 pushes when I thought this one I get it out! But no... Almost but no cigar... Finally on the last few the head wasn't going back in or as much - I was like - "I don't know what to do! What do I do with my legs??" Everyone said just to relax - and I finally said, "I can't" or "It's hard to relax" or something and they said it's hard... Definitely very weird having a head stick out between your legs! Finally (they were holding my one leg up each contraction... each time I would be like... I think one is coming - and usually it was they were just so far apart and so gradual though! Very different from stage 1 labor contractions)
Finally her head crowned- April told me to rest (with some of the pushes I was shaking like crazy in between - I was grunting like crazy and turning so red too! April said it was ok) And then push - I didn't need a contraction...
She was pushing me down while I pushed and finally the head was out! Then it's kind of a blur - did they suction? (her nose - probably) her shoulders and body seemed to come out quickly - and the body coming out almost felt good - it just seemed so easy after the head!
They put her on me and there were hands all over her rubbing... someone asked "Mike what is it" he wasn't sure and asked, "Girl?" and someone confirmed, "It's a Girl!"
No More Mrs. Wishy-Washy!
So last weekend I had a great discussion here and on Facebook with a friend about attachment parenting and whether it is actually good for the child. It goes without saying that I think it is good for the child - why would I parent this way otherwise? But the discussion did spur a lot more introspection on my part. (Is that even possible - *more* introspection??)
I came to some really big conclusions. First of all, when talking about topics like these it needs to be clear in your mind what your core values are and what you are trying to achieve (I use the word "achieve" very loosely, because I am actually way more about the "journey" than the "destination" - but I also recognize that I choose the methods I do because I *believe* they will foster certain tendencies or trends in myself, my family, and our lives).
So I am going to lay out my core beliefs and where I see them leading me and my family.
Definitely the overriding principle governing my life is PEACE. It has been a guidepost for me for quite some time - since before having children. One of my favorite books that I read while I was still teaching was, "I'd Rather Teach Peace" by Colman McCarthy. I also read several other books about nonviolence. This of course directs my approach to parenting. I see parenting my children as the most powerful thing I can do to help promote peace, in my immediate environment, and, by the ripples that inevitably extend outwards, to the world. In fact when choosing my Hypnobabies business name I chose Hypnobabies4Peace and my motto is "Peaceful births, Peaceful parenting, Peaceful world." Here is a paragraph from my website explaining my motto:
Do you really believe your motto? Can Hypnobabies actually have an impact on world peace?
Another excellent question! You are really on top of things :-) I will try to answer it the best way I can. I've already had several people close to me wonder out loud, "Hypnobabies4Peace? What does that mean?" or "so if I had been a 'Hypnobaby' I would be more peaceful?" I laughed with them because honestly I believe it is a good thing to keep a sense of humor and not take oneself too seriously. And it would be so nice if World Peace were so easy to attain, kind of like when people wonder, "Can't we all just get along??" But I do believe that there is a very real connection between birth, parenting, and peace in the world. During pregnancy and birth parents are making decisions that affect their children. Right now there are a lot of practices out there that are the "norm" but not necessarily best for mom or baby. Everyone knows that it is not always easy to make the right choice or the one that is different. How we treat our children is a very real and important way that we can begin to create more peace in our immediate world. This begins from the time our children are growing inside of their mothers. Even decisions that only seem to affect very few people can have ripple effects. It can be that simple. So yes, I do really believe in my motto. Thanks for asking :-)
To me, choosing Peace means choosing love, trust, and compassion over fear, control, and judgment. It is promoting partnership with someone instead of trying to using power over them.
Some other core beliefs that I have about humanity in general are 1) we cannot control others and 2) at our core we want to be good.
Through some challenging past experiences with loved ones I really came to understand that one person can NEVER control another. It is up for each individual to decide what they want and need, how to get it, and if they want to change, it will only happen when it comes from them, internally. There may be an illusion of control - encouraged by punishments, rewards, and other types of coercion, but at the end of the day eventually a person is going to be "out of your control" - if it is a child, when they are older (or out of sight!).
When I say that we are good at our core I do not mean that we never make mistakes or hurt others. I just mean that we *want* to be good and that is what feels right. Unfortunately, in our society we don't often trust kids enough or give them sufficient time (by which I mean short and long term) to show us that this is true.
So you can see that if you do not share these core beliefs then you will probably have a very different parenting (and life) philosophy. This is part of my purpose in writing here - to show you how in my daily life I see these beliefs confirmed every day.
So it's time for me to stop being so wishy-washy (what can I say, I'm a Gemini? Remember: I see both)
I'm just going to come right out and say it:
Yes, I believe that Attachment Parenting is the best way to raise children.
Why do I believe this? Well, first of all because I believe in changing our world for the better and trying to make it a better, more peaceful place I want to parent in the way I believe will best achieve that reality. Attachment parenting has the best chance of starting our littlest people out on a path guiding them towards these ideals. To me, attachment parenting fits perfectly with the ideal of *being* the change I want to see in the world.
I also believe that when we look at our evolutionary background, Attachment Parenting addresses the very real needs of a baby and young child best. And when we meet their needs they grow and develop at the rate and in a way that is best for each individual. Because our society has changed so drastically and at lightning speed, our children's brains, bodies, and spirits still have needs that evolved in very different times and circumstances. Take crying, for example. In Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' book, The Old Way, she says, "The danger of predators explains why the Ju/wa women virtually never went gathering alone and why their babies did not cry. A baby's crying, after all, is a distress signal, telling the world that it needs help. (emphasis mine) Prolonged crying suggest that the baby has been abandoned, that no one is there to defend it. What predator would not prick up its ears at an invitation like that?"
In today's world we generally do not have a threat of predators, nor does prolonged crying necessarily mean that the baby has been abandoned (or does it?) but I do believe that the cry is still for help; the baby's way of communicating. When babies are not responded to their bodies are flooded with the adrenaline and other stress hormones. You only need to search "stress hormones baby crying" to find many more articles and research on the topic.
This is one example of how our current culture is not a great fit for most babies' normal makeup. Attachment parenting is the response to this mismatch - Doctors and parents trying to define what works and makes sense to help their babies be healthy and happy - thriving, NOT merely surviving.
So why do I say Attachment parenting is the best? Why not just continue to say, it's best for my kids, my family, and other families who choose this lifestyle?
I believe the answer lies in all the stories of how mothers and families have been led back to this style of parenting, by their babies. Sarah Scott wrote an excellent piece for Mothering in reaction to the TIMES cover and article last week. But my favorite part was her biographical blurb at the end:
"While she was pregnant, Sarah envisioned working part time. Of collecting her smiling child from it's crib each morning after 8+ hours of sleep. Of watching her husband, Jake, jog off with their baby in the stroller so she could have some "me" time. But, baby Maren overheard that plan and decided she didn't like it. Nope, not one bit. And so, with a potent combination of ear-splitting cries, breastfeeding hormones and the sweetest face this side of the Mississipi, she introduced her parents to attachment parenting in a way no book ever could - through pure gut instinct and trial by fire. Soon they were hooked - er, attached? - and dove head first into the world of co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering and more."
This is what I meant when I said BABIES HAVE OPINIONS TOO. So many people seem to think that parents are choosing these strange practices for their own indulgement, instead of recognizing that they are really listening to the very real needs and voice of their child. I can relate to these stories - I didn't start out a breastfeeding fiend, or a co-sleeping fanatic, or a baby wearing guru. No, there was a very small, but strong, being who came into my life and made her needs explicitly clear. When I went for a walk I almost always ended up wearing Marisol in the sling and pushing an empty stroller. From the time she was about 4-6 months old I tried so hard to get her to sleep in her crib that I often ended up sleeping with her on the floor when we were both too exhausted to do anything else. And when I felt funny because I had "just" nursed her 20 minutes ago, I shrugged my shoulders and nursed her again because her body relaxed into mine, her eyes locked with mine, and we both knew it was the right thing to do. Looking back on these things I almost laugh at myself - from my view now it is so obvious what she needed and what I could do to meet her needs. But *I* needed to learn and she was my teacher.
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
I want to be clear that although I'm stating my belief that Attachment parenting is the best way, I am not judging choices that other parents or families are making and I'm NOT saying it's the "only right way". I also truly believe that the structure of our current society does not support parents in the best way to practice Attachment parenting if they want to. Too many of us live in cities of hundreds of thousands, yet are isolated in our own homes - young mothers caring for their babies all alone all day long. As pointed out here our country is one of the worst when it comes to maternity (or paternity) leave after a baby is born.
In Mayim Bialik's book "Beyond the Sling," she cites psychologist John Bowlby and his work on attachment in which he identified 4 main types of attachment: disorganized, avoidant, ambivalent, and secure. It is quite obvious that we are all trying to raise secure children who will grow up to be secure adults. And it is also true that Attachment Parenting is NOT the only way to achieve that goal. Many very well adjusted people come from homes where the practices were very "main-stream" or "conventional".
That is why I love this quote that I found on Facebook:
The question should not be, “Are You Mom Enough?” The questions should be:
-Are you responsively parenting your child in a timely way?
-Are you attuned to his or her individual needs?
-Are you providing a safe, protected and predictable environment?
-Do you understand and respond to the developmental differences between infants, toddlers and older verbal children?
-Are you available and empathetic when your child needs you or is under stress?
If the answer is “yes” to these questions, you are practicing attachment parenting. You can reasonably expect that your child will become emotionally secure, will be able to give and receive affection, and will lead a productive and successful life.
~Isabelle Fox, Ph.D., author of "Growing Up: Attachment Parenting from Kindergarten to College"
Because after babyhood comes toddlerhood, and after toddlerhood comes childhood, and then adolescence, and then young-adulthood... And then how do we identify "Attachment Parenting"? Not by our breasts or baby carriers, not by where we sleep or what our children poop in. Nope, eventually all of our children grow up. So to me the real question is, are you LISTENING to your child? Because that is what attachment parenting really comes down to. That is why it is true that NOT all children need to be in mama's arms 24/7 for their first year of life, or nurse till they're 3, or sleep with their parents till they're 7. Because each child is an individual. Just like each parent is an individual. If you and your child are happy and thriving you probably don't need to change anything. Attachment parenting is loved by so many because it helped parents and babies when things were *NOT* going well, when something wasn't right even though the parents were doing things "by the book." To me it is best because no matter what *kind* of baby you get, it's principles will work. I just love everything that Mayim Bialik and the Sears family are doing for babies everywhere. They were both recently on the show "The Doctors" and Mayim said the best advice she got was from Sears' "The Baby Book" which said that "There is no manual - the baby is the manual. Read the baby. The baby tells you exactly what they need - it's *ok* to listen."
Lately I'm realizing that the "mainstream" is really the myth. Attachment parenting is a solid reality. There are many, MANY families who follow some or all of the practices that define Attachment parenting. But what does "mainstream" parenting mean? Does it mean spanking or using time-outs? Does it mean using a bassinet or a crib, or letting your child crawl into bed with you in the middle of the night? Does it mean having a nanny or going to day-care or having a full time stay at home mom? I've realized that my reaction to the word "mainstream" is very negative because it has come to mean "unthinking" to me. But the truth is most of the parents I know are thinking about every little decision they make that involves their children. And I would say that they are all very attached to their children. We need to stop identifying ourselves as us and them and recognize that at our core we all have very real human needs. As the Dalai Lama said today on Facebook (he's so hip!):
"The many factors which divide us are actually much more superficial than those we share. Despite all of the things that differentiate us – race, language, religion, gender, wealth and so on – we are all equal concerning our fundamental humanity."
"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.
She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new."
This post is another in my "Awakenings" series. I know I said before that Unschooling was my biggest awakening, but I was wrong (see I do change my mind!) Becoming a mother has been the most magnificent awakening of my life - it is just very different from the awakening I experienced when I discovered Unschooling. Finding Unschooling was like a lightning bolt hit me and because of it, things were switched in me that I couldn't switch back. What I mean to say is that it was a fairly fast transformation.
Becoming a parent on the other hand is a completely different kind of awakening. It happens slowly over time and it re-occurs over and over. Of course everyone knows and understands that becoming a parent changes your life, but you cannot know the ways or the hows or the whens and whys until they actually occur. I was trying to think of an appropriate analogy to describe parenting as a recurring, growing awakening and a few came to mind. Maybe it is like a wave that starts way out in the ocean, looking so tiny because it is so far away, then grows and grows until it finally crashes on the shore. (In this analogy, Unschooling would be a smaller wave overtaken and becoming part of the larger wave.) Or maybe parenting is like a snowball at the top of a hill, and as it rolls down it gathers speed and snow getting bigger and bigger as it goes (and unschooling was like a ramp that my snowball hit, catapulting me - well my snowball - high into the air for a short while). Ok, that one's not working for me so much.
Then I thought of sunrises and new days. I remember how when I was a teacher one idea that helped me so much was that every day was a new day and I got to start over. Parenting is like that. We are always having new realizations. But that wasn't just right yet. So I thought of a seed. And how when we are born we are like a seed, just waiting for water, fertile soil, and sunlight. And with time and these important resources we sprout and begin to grow, taller and taller. Maybe the seed is of a Cherry tree. Did you know that it takes most flowering and fruit trees several years to mature before they can bear blossoms or fruit? I didn't till I just searched for it now, to see how my analogy might work.
So we grow. The first time the Cherry tree blooms is what I think it is like to become a mother. (Trees apparently reach maturity and the age of discovery faster than we do. But they still have their childhood!) But every day the sun rises on that tree and the tree keeps growing. And it goes through many seasons - sunny, abundant, green summers; brisk, windy, rusty colored autumns; and cold, snowy, white winters. And of course spring again every year. Discovering unschooling was like one of those springs for me - the beautiful blooms seeming to appear overnight and lasting only a few short days. But motherhood is like the sun rising on that tree every day, and the seasons changing it every year, and its blooms always reappearing, even after the cold winter. It's what makes life so exciting and new even when every day you are doing normal, mundane things like the laundry and dishes. It's your kids learning something new or telling you that you are the best mama ever. It's the first time they say "I love you" or pucker their little lips to give you a soft, wet kiss.
So the arrival of Marisol truly was the beginning of a new life for me. It was the beginning of feeling I had a true purpose and passion in life. I thank her every day for this gift, the gift of making me a mama. I've been meaning to write out and post her birth story for quite some time, and the Monday after Mother's day seems an ideal time.
I have transcribed her birth story from my journal almost exactly - down to underlines and smiley faces - everything. The only few small changes I have made were to make the writing a little clearer (remember I was writing just days and weeks after having my first baby!)
So if you are into Birth stories I invite you to read. It's heavy on details, because I couldn't bear the thought of forgetting any, and therefore is quite lengthy. I am going to split it up into at least two sections for this reason. Before her birth story I want to leave you with a couple of paragraphs from an essay that really spoke to me. This mama has a way with words and it explains what my heart is trying to say.
Look at me, I have no idea what I'm getting into!
"When I did get back to me, I was gone. This is the thing that women don’t tell each other about motherhood. That you will never be who you were. That you will not see anything the way you used to see it, you will never hear language the way you used to hear it, music, color, photos, friends, family, career path–nothing or no one came through my transition from single woman to mother unexamined. Least of all myself."
"A new self did emerge. This is what women do not tell each other. I want to say it here: You will die when you become a mother and it will hurt and it will be confusing and you will be someone you never imagined and then, you will be reborn. Truthfully, I have never wanted to be the woman I was before I had children. I loved that woman and I loved that life but I don’t want it again. My daughters have made me more daring, more human, more compassionate. Their births have brought me closer to the earth and they have helped me pare my life down to its essentials. Writing, quick prayers, good food, a few close friends, many deep breaths, love, plants, dancing, music, teaching-these are the ingredients of my/this new self. I waited for this new self in the dark, in the bittersweet water of letting go, in the heavy heartbeat of learning to be a mother, against the isolation, I grew and emerged laughing and crying and here I am, sisters and brothers.
Here I am."
Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie
Rebirth: What We Don't Say
The Birth of Marisol Grace, Part 1
(written on July 12, 2006)
Friday June 30, 2006
I started having contractions late Friday night. At first I wasn't even sure if they were true contractions. It seemed like they were Braxton-Hicks... I played solitaire on the computer and listened through the whole Dixie Chicks CD (2012 EDIT: it's still Marisol's favorite!) I started feeling very anxious - what if these are really contractions? Am I ready for labor? Am I ready for the baby? I was starting to pay attention to how far apart the contractions were - they were getting stronger - I could barely focus on solitaire :) I mentioned to Mike a couple of times that night that I was having a lot of Braxton-Hicks... We were both in bed by around 11:30.
When each contraction came I would look at the clock... I was surprised how close some of them were. I was also starting to feel more cramping down low - not like the tightening in my belly (that was still happening too though)They felt a lot like period cramps - they also started to burn in my back a little - some were 10 minutes apart, some 7, some 3! There wasn't a clear pattern though...
I was not sleeping at all... I think I took I think I took a bath that night... I still hadn't told Mike. At 3:30 am I woke Mike up and told him I hadn't been asleep yet... he said, "Why?" I said, "Because I really am having contractions!" but I reassured him they weren't that bad and they weren't regular (They were "irregular") I went downstairs to have a snack because I was hungry, and next thing I know Mike was down there with me... I was like - I knew you wouldn't be able to sleep! - he said, "It's like Christmas!"I got him to go back to sleep by going back into bed myself.
So, I was in bed long enough to make sure Mike fell back asleep (2012 EDIT: haha, this must have been practice for the kids!) then I think I was back up. I finally slept for about an hour and a half I think ~7-8:30 am (on the couch) I think I put some laundry in and put Pelo out in the cat run... poor kitty :) I believe we called Marry Ann (our doula) that morning - and she agreed it might be early labor...
It was a really nice relaxing day. Mike and I went on a walk that morning... the contractions kept coming all day but they did not get stronger or closer. Every time I thought they had stopped I would get another one. I rested from about 11-1 but didn't sleep much. I don't remember much else of what we did that afternoon - I just remembered - I started re-reading the book "Little Alters Everywhere" What a great book and distraction! I think I finished laundry and watched NASCAR with Mike. (2012 EDIT: Oh my goodness - my last day without children for a really long time! What a different life!) I remember Mike was very laid back - he really hung out with me and wasn't trying to work on any projects like the bathroom or the yard. I was so glad he was home because otherwise they day would have been so long! We ordered pizza and ate. Then we actually went on another walk and went over to his parents' house - his mom has a couple of pictures! (2012 EDIT: I might have to dig one out and scan it!) We didn't stay too long - I had a couple of contractions there and hid it pretty well :) but pretty soon I was like, "Mike - I want to go home..." I'm pretty sure I checked over our stuff that evening to make sure we were ready.
We started to watch Harry Potter. I remember noticing around 11:30 the contractions were coming closer - so I started timing again and they were 5 min... Mike soon wanted to go to bed... I had read to call the midwives when contractions were 5 min apart for at least an hour... I think they were supposed to be getting stronger too... @ 12:30 I decided to call Mary Ann - they were pretty strong and I didn't know what to do. I definitely woke her up! She was groggy... We talked for a bit and decided to see what happened. I decided to have Mike sleep and I would get in the shower. I was a little put out that she didn't mention coming over but I didn't want to ask... 2 minutes later the phone rang and it was Mary Ann! She said, "I realized I didn't even ask you if you wanted me to come over!" That made me feel better... I felt like I had a plan so I said no, I'm ok for now...
It was another long night - but I was not bored and had no desire to try and watch TV or read. I did a little of everything - 1st shower then kneeling on the birth ball, then bath, then birth ball. I got about an hour - 2 hours of sleep on the couch where I slept 5 minutes @ a time then woke up with a contraction! It doesn't sound like much and it wasn't great being woken up that way - but the sleep felt great and I'm sure it helped later.
I also walked around downstairs - pacing in a circle like Mr. Pelo does through the kitchen, dining room, and living room. I set myself little time goals - like "I'll stay in the tub until this time then go downstairs..." The second time I got back in the tub it was ~ 4:30 am - I decided to go back to bed ~ 5:30 to start waking Mike up... I lay with him and told him I wanted to get up @ 6 make breakfast and pass time till 7 - @ 7 am I knew the midwives switched so I figured I may as well wait till then... I was so excited/happy that April was on that Sunday. I called almost exactly @ 7 (after Mike made us scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, which I ate a little of) April was paged and called back ~ 15 minutes later - she listened to how things were going and said I had 2 choices - come in to get checked and if we weren't that far we could go back home, or wait a little longer. We decided to call Mary Ann and stay at home.
Around that time (8 am ?) I was feeling really tired - it also seemed like the contractions were getting farther apart rather than closer and stronger. Those two things discouraged me - it was probably a low point for me. (side note - earlier that night in the tub I really gained confidence that I could actually do this whole thing the way we planned - I was handling the contractions - I was really proud of myself for laboring the whole night - 12:20 am - 5:30 am by myself. I also had figured out that a low "ooh" sound helped me a lot on the Birth ball and really worked on my breathing..._
So after all that labor and doing all those things I was actually in bed when Mary Ann (our doula) arrived - I round that ironic and thought I must look pretty exhausted... I certainly felt it. Mary Ann just starts talking about things like our wedding photo on the wall and prints from Rome... And I don't know why, but the contractions start picking up! I guess she just helped me relax.
So she suggests standing for some contractions and "slow dancing" with Mike. Oh yeah - I also walked up and down the hall some... then she suggested going downstairs to change the scene... next thing we know the contractions are coming closer! They were about 3 minutes apart and seemed pretty strong (stronger)... Mike called his parents to bring Mary Ann some water - we called the midwifes again - we started getting all of our stuff together - and what a load of stuff! (birth ball, backpack with clothes, CDs, toiletries, CD player, baby car seat, diaper bag with baby stuff, food etc. but we used just about all of it!! :-) April (midwife) wasn't calling back and I was getting anxious to go (Mike's mom had dropped off two 6 packs of water 0 right when I was having a contraction! I remember her poking her head in...) So Mike called back and gave his cell phone... Mary Ann drove separate - I knelt in the back - my knees on the floor facing the back seat - Mike spoke to April then called my parents to let them know we were going to the hospital - they didn't even know we were having contractions - I hadn't spoken to mom since Friday morning - They played golf with Paulsens then went to Ithaca (where my sister, Laura lives) Friday - stayed over night and went on the boat all day Saturday. Mom called Saturday night but I didn't call back - I didn't want to get them all excited :) Anyways - dad was home and mom and grandpa at church - I guess dad was so excited that he called them at church...
Getting ready to go to the hospital, Mike helps me through a contraction while brushing his teeth!
To be continued... I know the suspense is killing you!
I had another epiphany tonight after posting about 5 breastfeeding related posts on Facebook (while nursing Gerry and typing one-handed). I've never really thought of myself as much of a "lactivist". I mean I love breastfeeding and it clearly works for me and my babies (going on 6 years straight come July 2!), but I've kind of been (relatively) quiet about it. There are lots of posts on Facebook that I just don't care to re-post and there is a huge movement trying to get them to not censor nursing pictures. I'm not sure why I'm not more "into" it. I guess I've been more drawn to birth and now peaceful parenting and unschooling. Breastfeeding was part of the package for sure, but not something I needed to get loud about.
Until TIME went and did an article on Attachment parenting (I guess - I haven't read the article) with a cover on it of a mom breastfeeding her 3 year-old standing up. One thing is pretty clear - people on "both sides" are riled up about this article. The title itself was very inflammatory, "Are you mom enough?" Moms who *do* live by attachment parenting principles are left looking "extreme" and "judgmental", moms who don't are left feeling "judged" and "not good enough". So who won? (answer: TIME magazine)
Anyways, back to my rambly thoughts. Although I'm not a hard-core lactivist I have noted an interesting trend in myself lately. Namely, I seem to tell everyone I meet that Gerry "still" nurses. I don't feel comfortable nursing him in public or in front of too many people, but for some reason I find myself telling neighbors, other moms at dance class, and anyone else who will listen. I guess it's my way of spreading the word, "Look, I at least appear somewhat normal... well, at least *nice*, and I nurse my running, tooth-a-liscious, talking son". This is what I wish would change - that it would be normal enough for moms to choose and do what is right for them and their children. That mothers would not have to feel uncomfortable feeding and nurturing their children anywhere, anytime if they need it.
A friend made a statement and followed with a question on my FB wall:
However, this whole "attachment parenting thing" seems to be more about the mother's personal issues and not about what it can do for the child. Given your interest in parenting and child rearing, have you come across any clinical, medical, psychological, or sociological critiques of Attachment Parenting? FYI: I could care less about the feminist critique, my main concern is long term effect on the child.
This is my attempt to respond in an intelligent, mature manner. First of all, I'm not exactly sure what is meant by attachment parenting being about a "mother's personal issues". I have heard comments to the effect that people believe mothers nurse their children past a deemed "acceptable" age for their own needs and not the child. I'm going to assume that may be what my friend is referring to. I guess the same might be said for co-sleeping - the mother needs the child for something (comfort, company?) and is using the child to meet that need (who needs a husband for that, right?).
I'm going to answer from my own personal experience and from other moms that I know in real life and through the internet. First of all the use of the words "personal issues" seems to me to have a very negative connotation. But because I know my friend somewhat, and that he doesn't have children, and that I believe he wasn't *trying* to offend me, I am not taking it to heart. (Trying to walk the walk, you know purple spots and all.)
So I will just answer short and sweet and directly - no, attachment parenting is not about "the mother's" personal issues. Yes, is is about what it can do for the child... and the parent. (Read here for an account of why this mom feels AP makes *her* a better mom)
Most people choose to parent in this way because it is the way that feels best overall for their whole family. Sometimes they didn't "plan" to do things the way they are, but guess what, BABIES HAVE OPINIONS TOO!
As for clinical, medical, psychological or sociological critiques, I am going to keep it fairly simple too. Parenting has led me *away* from "experts" and back to finding my own inner truth. (It takes a lot of time and effort. It can be challenging finding our true "instincts" versus the "voices" that have been programmed into us due to our social/cultural environment.) All of those perspectives boil down to "research". I like research - I was a science teacher. But more and more I find I don't really care about or need research. I only need to look at my own kids and listen to them and my own inner wisdom. I don't need research to see my kids learning and growing every day. I don't need research to hear their laughter or see the happiness shining in their eyes. I don't need research to tell me that they are healthy and thriving and whole and turning into exactly who they are meant to be.
But some people like research to back them up. I get that. I recently read an awesome book, "The Old Way," by Elizabeth Marshal Thomas (who I am going to be interviewing soon - I'm so excited!) If one needs a sociological or evolutionary perspective on what we humans would look like "in the wild" before all of this Western civilization stuff, then I highly recommend it. Here is a quote that I found on the internet from the book that led me to seek it out and read the whole thing:
The Ju/wasi were unfailingly good to their children. An infant would be nursed on demand and stay close to its mother, safe in the pouch of her cape, warm in cold weather, shaded in hot weather, compete with a wad of soft grass for a diaper. Ju/wa children very rarely cried, probably because they had little to cry about. No child was ever yelled at or slapped or physically punished, and few were even scolded. Most never heard a discouraging word until they were approaching adolescence, and even then teh reprimand, if it really was a reprimand, was delivered in a soft voice. At least the tone was soft, even if the words weren’t always.
We are sometimes told that children who are treated so kindly become spoiled, but this is because those who hold that opinion have no idea how successful such measures can be. Free from frustration or anxiety, sunny and cooperative, and usually without close siblings as competitors, the Ju/wa children were every parent’s dream. No culture could have raised better, more intelligent, more likeable, more confident children.
Sounds pretty good to me!
I read horrible, vitriolic comments on articles often judging the very actions that go on in my everyday life. But I am learning: 1) AGAIN, DON'T READ THE COMMENTS (It's like getting beaten over the head with a stick repeatedly) and 2) When you fail to follow #1, DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY (again, PURPLE SPOTS PEOPLE!)
I get why people are uncomfortable with some of Attachment parenting practices. They aren't the "norm" in our times or geographical location. What I don't get is people being so mean. I can honestly say that I do not judge people who choose not to nurse (and I know some can't), sleep with their children, or use punishments (to name a few).
It seems to me that these "Mommy wars" mostly exist on the internet. In real life I don't run into people saying nasty things to me because I am still nursing my son or sleeping with my children. Just like in real life I don't go around telling people that they should be doing things differently - because I don't believe that. In fact I just posted a Mother's Day Tribute to some of the most amazing moms I know, and guess what? They all do things differently than me.
Anyways, back to my epiphany. I realized something really important tonight as I lay next to Gerry, waiting anxiously for him to fall asleep (come on kid, mama's got to WRITE!) . I keep wondering "why" am I writing here, why am I sharing? And tonight a part of the answer came to me. I'm not sharing to try and convince anyone or to change anyone's mind. I actually don't believe it is possible to change another person - the individual must decide they want to change. I'm not even that interested in defending my choices - although when push comes to shove I will if I get fired up - I feel good about what we are doing here. But I do want to shine my truth for others to see who maybe want to try things a little different, or who are interested but aren't sure, or who need to know someone else out there is doing this "crazy" thing and they aren't all that crazy. That is why I'm writing here.
You know what? An amazing thing happened! When I got down here there was a message on my computer from a friend whom I haven't spoken to in ages asking for advice about breastfeeding because, "You are the only person I know who has breastfed for an extended period of time (at least the only person I know who isn't afraid to let it be known). I hope you don't mind me asking questions and looking to you for advice."
Holy Synchronicity AGAIN! Seriously? Life is so unbelievably good sometimes. Um, no I don't mind you coming to me at all. And THANK YOU for affirming to me my purpose here. That's what it's all about people - love. There is so much more I could say on this, but there is always a new day and a new post. And I need to go to bed so I can be a respectable mama tomorrow. Good night to all!
ps I will get to the "feminist" part of this issue someday... maybe. When I'm feeling brave and rested and have oodles of time. (might be a while!)
Mothers' Day Tribute
This is my Tribute to the mothers that have had the most impact on my life in general and as a mother up to this point in my life. These women are all amazing. It struck me after writing this that my kids have very special connections with all of these women too. It speaks to what wonderful moms they are. So without further ado, here they are...
I don't really have the words to convey all that my mom means to me. She is just the perfect mom for me. She listens to me (and listens and listens). She is my biggest cheerleader, and even though I know she kind of "has to be" because she is my mom, it means the world to me. I still remember in Elementary school my mom taking the time to read a WHOLE chapter book so she could help me with an assignment. It kind of embodies for me how she always takes the extra step to support me (and my sister). I couldn't ask for any more from a mama!
There is nothing else left for me to say except:
THANK YOU AND I LOVE YOU!
I have been incredibly lucky to have two very strong women for Grandmothers. I would describe them both as loving, opinionated, generous, hardworking, and talented. And yet they were very different people - very unique. Grandma Damaske loved to shop, brought us to church every week when we were little, and I remember her writing letters to others even when she was very ill. Grandma Lockwood was a very talented craftswoman, a singer, and I can hear her laugh still in my mind.
I loved them both very much. Marisol is named for them - Mary and Marion. I am thankful that I was lucky enough to have them both in my life for as long as I did and they live on in all those who love them.
I am lucky to call Gigi, or Nonna Gigi as my kids call her, my mother-in-law. She is a great cook (love that Italian food!), keeps my kids dressed in the finest clothes, and loves her grandchildren with all her heart. But my biggest evidence of what a great mother she is, is in her son. I am so lucky to have Mike (Michael) as my husband. I see her faith, strong mind, and generosity in him every day.
Thank you Nonna Gigi for raising the amazing man who is now my husband and my kids' dada!
Mieke is really more of a big sister to me than a cousin. I have always looked up to her and she is definitely one of my biggest role models. She is one of the first people I think of when I reflect on my own journey into motherhood. Because she handled the transition to motherhood with such love and grace she inspired me to also. Mieke was one of the only people I knew who used cloth diapers, yet because she did it I had no doubt that I could also. She also nursed all of her children. These two things were HUGE to me when I became a mother. I looked to her for advice and reassurance and she always gave it to me. She is one of the least judgmental people I know and most generous.
Obviously I think the world of her - thank you Mieke, I love you!
Trisha and I have been friends since we were in Kindergarten together. She is the amazing mother to 4 kids that range in age from 7 to 2. When I think of Trisha as a mom I think of patience, creativity, and presence. I still remember being with her before I had kids and also before Marisol was big enough to move much. I would be talking her ear off (like I do) and she would be able to listen and keep track of her boys. I on the other-hand was oblivious to the obvious attention that the kids needed. Ahhh, the life of a person before parenthood.
I also remember going over to her house to play and she had made Dominic, her oldest, a "car wash" to go through with some big paper - laying it over a box and making strips just like the cleaners in an automatic car wash. I was amazed at her creativity and thought I would never think of such a thing. She assured me that I would.
You know what? She was right.
Trisha, thank you for being such a great example of many things I aspire to, and for believing in me.
Michelle and I taught together at Jefferson High School. I was very close to Michelle when she went through her first pregnancy and then I followed her the next year with my first pregnancy! She was the first person to know I was pregnant with Gerry (yep, even before Mike!) Michelle is one of those people you just have to hang onto as a friend because she lives life to the absolute fullest. I just love being around her. This characteristic carries right over into motherhood for her. She loves her kids with all her heart. Michelle is a fighter (anyone ever play against her in soccer? Watch out!) She was one of my biggest supporters and a huge source of encouragement my first year of teaching - one of the hardest years of my life. When her kids are facing anything, she is right there next to them doing everything she can to help them overcome their challenges. Also, she's just fun.
Thank you Michelle for being a fun fighter, both as a friend and mother!
A few weeks after Marisol was born my awesome doula, Mary Ann, contacted me and let me know that she had another client who she thought would benefit from talking with my about my birth experience. Lisa was due with her first a few months later and also lived in Irondequoit. Who knew that this introduction would lead to a long, very strong friendship? Lisa is my go-to person when I want to talk about any of my newest thoughts on parenting. Her son Robbie and Marisol have been buds since they were babies and they are also trying their hand at homeschooling. Lisa is a kindred spirit, in that she likes to research. (I have yet to convince her to join Facebook though!) She would do anything for her son and it shows in his sweet personality. We moved from Irondequoit when Marisol was ,1 and now Lisa lives in Florida, but we still manage to keep in touch.
Thank you Lisa for always being a sympathetic ear and a loyal friend.
You are one amazing mama!
When we first moved to Washington DC almost 5 years ago Marisol was just barely one year old. I was nervous and excited about living in a new city. My mission was to meet people and make friends - especially mama friends. It was my first time living away from family and I knew that I would need to build up a new support system. Anita and her family were the answer to my heart's desire. Her oldest son Daniel is just a couple of months older than Marisol and they lived - wait for it - one floor below us in our condo building! Honestly I felt like her stalker for a while, but we had so much fun together I pushed my paranoia to the side and kept right on calling. I'm so glad I did because I found a friend for life. I respect Anita so much as a mom because she really follows her own instincts. Unlike me who likes to read and read (and then read some more), Anita listens to her heart and learns from her experiences. I love talking to her about parenting "stuff" and she was so helpful and supportive when our kids were really little and we were figuring out this kid "stuff" with our firsts. Anita is an amazing "re-director" of little people and gets involved to help make everyone happy and comfortable. One of my first memories is of her sharing fruit with us at the playground saying, "Food is for everyone!" Now I follow suit and always think of her when we share our food.
Thank you Anita for becoming my DC sister and mama friend for life.
I met Rebecca when she was 9 months pregnant with her second son, Ben. We met in DC at a local playground. About 9 months after I met her, she moved away to Charlottesville, VA. Even as I write that I am wondering, is that really right?? I have to double check with her. How is it possible that we lived in the same place for such a short time, yet have become so close? It speaks to the amazing person that she is. Even though she lives about 3 hours away from me we have only gotten closer in the almost 4 years (really, 4 years??) since she moved away. We have a tradition of eating pizza, drinking wine and talking late into the night (ok, so really like 10 o'clock when Rebecca can no longer keep her eyes open. EDIT: Rebecca claims that she can now stay awake till 11 o'clock. I will find out if this is a true statement when we visit in a couple of weeks). Rebecca loves her kids "fiercely" (her word) and I always think of her when I feel that fierce, mama-bear love rise in me. I also think of her when I hear or think of the word "lovely". It is the perfect juxtaposition of words to describe how I feel about her, "fiercely lovely". She is an incredible mother, demonstrating her love openly to her boys. I also am impressed with how she and her husband have worked so hard together to find a good work/family balance that is best for them. They are a great team. I can talk to Rebecca about anything on my mind and she has been so supportive of my newest passion - writing here.
Thank you Rebecca for being an amazing woman, friend, and mother. I can't wait for our next rendezvous!
My sister, Laura
So technically my sister is not a mother. But she is one of the most important woman in my life and I also love the idea that all women are mothers, regardless of their "biological child status". Laura is representing here for all the wonderful women in the world who inspire, love, and play with children every day. Laura is so great with kids and a wonderful Aunt. Her laid-back and happy attitude make her a natural when it comes to hanging out with her niece and nephew. She is always up for whatever and is great at following their lead. Although I'm sure some of my ideas have seemed strange to her at first, she listens and loves me anyways and shows us unwavering support.
Thank you Laura for being you! We love you so much.
There you have it! The amazing women and mamas who inspire me every day to be the best mama *I* can be. I realized as I wrote this that these mamas represent my growth from child, to woman, and finally to mother. I've been so lucky to find incredible women wherever I am geographically and in life. There are so many others that I know and love, and I am meeting more every day. Each one of these women is unique and so their lives and paths reflect that. The commonality, of course, is their love for their children. Which mothers have had the biggest influence on you? Who supports you the most when you are needing extra love? I hope you let them know this Mothers' Day Weekend how much you love and appreciate them!
Happy Mothers' Day!
I hurt someone I love with one of my "out-there" ideas. It wasn't my own writing but an article titled, Your Child does NOT Thrive on Routine, that I posted on Facebook. The first time I read this article it resonated strongly with me on a personal level. But when one of my favorite people and best friends shared her sadness in reaction to the piece, it made take another look.
How did I miss that this article had the potential to offend? Recently I read an article titled, "Babies Are Needy—Does That Bug You? Maybe get a dog instead of a baby." This article is also very blunt in its presentation, yet its core message resonated with me. After reading a lot of the comments I saw how many people were hurt by it and decided not to share. (If you're really curious I can send you the link.) Presentation does matter. Mayim Bialik's new book, "Beyond the Sling" advocates similar parenting choices BUT with a totally different tone. Tone matters. Words have power.
Part of the reason I didn't think much of posting this article is that it seems to be about a somewhat benign topic: "Routine." Compared to other controversial parenting topics like breastfeeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping, spanking, and homeschooling, it seemed pretty safe. But "Routines" (aka schedules) are as accepted and entrenched in our culture as anything else, and in this case was code for school (or daycare for the younger child). Also the use of the the words "Your Child" make it very personal, giving it more power. This is why I try to be very careful with the words that I choose. For example I write here about MY TRUTH, and what works for me and my family. I wonder though, would the author's point have been as powerful without the strong language? Which style is more likely to actually make an impact and be heard: powerful but possibly offensive, or a more subtle, hopefully compassionate approach with less "oomph"? I'm finding that as I try to share my truth without hurting/offending/judging, it can be difficult to do since my reality is so different from most people I know.
But let me backtrack for a minute. Let me explain why I liked the article to begin with. I've recently been thinking about my kids and how we've for the most part never really had a "schedule". There have been times when we got into a certain flow that seemed to stick for a while, but routines or schedules have never really worked for us. I used to think that it was Marisol who broke me into this kind of a lifestyle. But lately I've been delving more into *me* and I've realized that *I* am the one who is just not very "routine". I just didn't really know it since I had always had routines and schedules my whole life - until my kids joined me. It was the classical case of mistaking correlation (the arrival of Marisol and my lack of schedule) for causation. Now, I'm not saying that Marisol is prone to an orderly day (or night!) either. I'm just noting that I am as much the cause as she is. I also agree with the author's assessment of children thriving on predictability and familiarity, that these two things lower stress, and that routines, schedules and school are not the best ways to achieve these things.
Let me go on a little "school tangent". I realize now that I've been "hiding" behind some words when I talk to people about homeschooling my kids. I say, "I loved school! It was great for me. I'm not homeschooling because I have something against school, I just see a better way for us." Now, these words are true. I'm not lying when I say them. But they are a buffer of sorts - it puts the people I'm talking to at ease. But another truth is that the more I inspect and reflect on my own experience as student AND teacher, the more I see wrong with school.
I will begin by critiquing myself. Because that's what I like to do (ok, well I'm trying to get away from that, but for now to make this point I will. And it's about my past self, not my present self). One very strong memory I have of school - and this was high-school - was of my teachers (and mom's friends - my mom was my math teacher in the 9th and 12th grade) ooohing and ahhhing over my report cards. Teachers LOVE those 99.99% GPAs. And my reaction? "Well, isn't that the GOAL?" To get 100%, I mean.
I am ashamed to admit that is what I thought. In my defense, it wasn't completely my fault - I mean that is what we are taught - to get the right answers and the high grades. But it ignores so many other factors - like different learning styles, and kids that are really smart (ALL OF THEM!) but don't care about grades (I have so much respect for those types now!), and people that just aren't interested in what x + y equals, or what day the Battle of Gettysburg took place. Not to mention not everyone can memorize hundreds of unrelated facts and regurgitate them on command. As for me, "school-smarts" and "know-it-alled-ness" run in my family - thankfully so to kindness and the ability to think critically (aka change our minds!)
So yes, school was good to me. Or I should say, school and I were a good fit. I was lucky. I excelled in many areas and had great friends. But now I see things quite differently. In particular the competition. Even back then, I never liked it. I hated when my classmates celebrated when they "beat me" on an exam. I was embarrassed by teachers who made sarcastic remarks about me in front of the whole class. I ignored my body to come to school when I was really sick so I wouldn't "let my team down" by missing a game (how well could I have played??) I both suffered from and participated in middle school cruelty. These are just a few of the experiences that immediately come to mind.
The truth is, the school environment is tough for many kids and there are negative aspects for everyone. School does NOT foster critical thinking, creativity, individuality, cooperation, flexibility, questioning, pursuing passions, or success for all. (There may be exceptions, but for most I believe this is true. I'm speaking as a teacher now too.) These are things that I value. All of this is part of the benign and what most think of as beneficial "routine" of being part of school. It may seem like I've made quite a leap here, but this is where my mind went yesterday.
Back to my friend. My reaction to my friend's sadness was very emotional. I felt sad too. The feelings manifested in my body - a hard ache in my heart, eyes stinging, a sick pit in my stomach. I wanted to be able to vomit all the words running through my mind into this post in one big purge. I want my friend to see my heart and know my intention.
Besides the emotions my thoughts ran wild. Everything rushed in and around my head and every idea was connected to that moment. Every idea I've ever had seemed to relate. It was close to impossible to untangle it all and make sense of it.
So, am I really ready to share my truth? I thought I was. Also, this is what I wanted right? To make people think and question?
I reminded myself of some things. First, I am really starting to accept deeply that we each own our emotions. No-one makes someone else mad, or angry, or sad. We are in control of ourselves.
Second, I reminded myself of the "Purple spots". I've heard this now from two different sources, Tara Wagner and Louise Hay. If someone came up to you on the street and told you that you had purple spots all over you and you had better get to the emergency room quickly, what would you do or say? How would you respond and react internally? (Assume you just left your house and gave yourself a once-over in the mirror - you *know* there are no purple spots!) Chances are good that you would not get angry or upset. You might even be more than a little concerned for the other person (Helloooo, someone's had some purple kool-aid!)
How does this apply to every day situations? Well, if you notice that you are bothered by something that someone has said to you, then that means on some level you believe what they are saying. I would only freak out about purple spots if I really thought they were there! An example: your husband tells you to get off your lazy butt to get something for one of your kids. You get really pissed off. Why are you mad? If it's not true, there is nothing to get upset about, and if it is true then you can simply make your decision accordingly (although that really wasn't a nice way for your husband to talk to you - you probably need to work on your communication!) Seriously, I've seen how this works for me. When I'm feeling good about myself and life I don't take things personally. When I do get upset, it is time to look internally.
How this applies to me personally is that many of the choices we've made in our family (nursing an almost 3 year old, homeschooling, co-sleeping, our use of media, to name a few) are judged very harshly. I know; I read the comments (even though I know I shouldn't!) But I cannot take them to heart or feel saddened by them because I know what they are saying about me (my choices) is not true. Usually there are very, VERY big misunderstandings at the heart of the hurtful comments.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that we should not be aware of how our words and actions affect others. What I am saying is that if something bothers you that is your cue to look inwards (this seems to be a recurring theme!)
I am not so naive to believe that it is possible for everyone to home-school or stay home with their small children. But I *do* believe that many more people could make different choices if they wanted to. Maybe not the BIG one - like quitting your job today. But smaller ones. And as smaller choices are made, different paths become easier and more attainable. Feeling like you have no choice is an illusion. I also am very aware that it was relatively easy for me to jump onto this unconventional path. The choices we made early in our "parenting path" and even leading up to having children made it easier for us than it is for many. I am so lucky to have an extremely supportive, intuitive partner. Somehow we are evolving together with seemingly little effort (also not typical!) For us finding our way has been a natural progression - for others who want to break away from our cultural routines, it may look more like an abrupt break.
I believe choices are best made with eyes wide open and with knowledge of alternatives. I believe this is where defensiveness often rises up in us. If we acknowledge there are options then we are left with the (often) uncomfortable truth that what we have been choosing may not be the only or best way. In the case of school - sure maybe school (routines) work for some children and families, but does it for most? And is it the best way? If parents can honestly answer, yes - their child/ren is/are thriving and happy and healthy, then the judgment that routines aren't good for them is irrelevant.
This is part of listening, really LISTENING to yourself and your loved ones, including your kids. When your kids complain about not wanting to go to school (or dance class!) how do you respond? "Oh, you love it - once you're there I can't get you to leave," or "All your friends are in school," or "Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to," or "Do you think I want to go to work everyday?"
Naomi Aldort once said something to the extent that children are capable of adjusting and even appearing happy in almost any circumstance. She asserts that indeed children are wise to make the best of whatever their situation is. Children are the Kings and Queens of "Being" - they only know how to live in the moment. This is why they may appear to "get over" what they told you they were unhappy about. They know they don't hold the power in their lives, so they let go. We could learn a lot from children.
Finally I want to address the "judgmentalness" of the original article. This also seems to be a topic I continually grapple with. Here is what I have decided:
I AM JUDGMENTAL.
Can I finally just own this? Or every time I notice it do I take note and then actively choose something else? Is it possible to make life-choices so mindfully and differently and NOT be judgmental? If it is, then it definitely is going to take a lot of practice for me.
Luckily, I don't believe I come off as judgmental because I am also loving, kind, and generous. And slowly I am learning to keep my mouth shut. I constantly remind myself of what I truly believe, "We are all doing the best we can with the tools and knowledge we have." I can also connect to the feelings of others, even when I do not agree with their methods. Frustration, stress, anger, impatience - these I can relate to and have compassion for. No one wants to feel that way.
I've seen a lot of examples this week of parents really losing it with their kids. Usually it is about behavior that just seems pretty normal. To me the parents look like the jerks, not the kids. But I feel bad for both of them. I admit I'm still not sure what to do in these situations and usually don't do much at all. I'm hoping to get better at offering loving support in scenarios like those.
For now I'm trying to be a living example of the ideals I hold dear. I see it in the little things - a friend who was uptight about her kids wearing their shoes in the park last summer has decided this year to let them roam free and barefoot (my kids and I are such bad influences!) And I'm reminded by the big things, namely death, that our daily choices do matter because they are what ultimately make up our life. I'm learning to bare it all here where it is relatively safe and non-confrontational and I still have my coping mechanisms for "real life" - Like, don't read the comments, don't look directly at people when I'm uncertain of their reactions, or saying, "I loved school!"
Someday when I'm really confident maybe I'll just look right in the eyes of another mama and smile.
Yesterday was one of those days where I was just itching to write. And I did manage to, in fits and bursts. I started a draft here and when I couldn't type I wrote pages in my journal. The thoughts kept coming and coming - each one connected to the last.
Gerry skipped nap so an early bedtime was on the horizon, and I thought, "Great! I'll have time to write!" But sometimes life has other plans. Last night my Great-Uncle Bob passed away. And with that news my desire to write evaporated. I felt the tiredness of another full day and a fullness in my heart. The first time I heard the news Marisol was still awake and it passed through my head quickly, like a bird swooping overhead in the sky, "oh!" I said. I think it was a short-lived stage of shock. But after both kids were asleep I connected with my family through the great connector (the internet) and I felt sad.
Suddenly the words of the day were no longer so important. I remembered one of the nicest men I have ever known. I remembered his huge smile and genuine, strong hugs. I thought of Aunt Helen (his wife, and my grandfather's sister) and his kids and grandkids. There is nothing like death to put everything else in perspective.
So instead of writing I sat close to Mike on the couch while he watched a show. Then slowly the tears started. At first I hid them (a vestigial reaction from my childhood). But before retiring I asked for a hug because, "I'm sad," and the tears flowed freely. I'm letting them flow again freely this morning, as I will have to do my mourning far from my family.
I was not that close with Uncle Bob but he really was one of the nicest, happiest... just most sunniest people I have ever known. From what I can gather his death was relatively quick and unexpected. It seems to make the shock harder and pain sharper. I am thinking of all his closest loved ones today. Death is the elephant in Life's bedroom. It touches us all and unites us and puts everything back into it's proper place.
This is my goodbye to Uncle Bob. He will be remembered fondly by all that knew him and loved always.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.