I have so many things I want to write about every day. Or at least I THINK I want to write about them. So many thoughts and feelings swirling since Carter's birth. So many blog posts - starting with his birth and the postpartum period - but the truth is I am blocked when it comes to writing. It seems counter-intuitive that at a time when I am so RAW and my heart is so wide open that I would be unable to express all that is going on with me.
I spoke with one of my best friends the other day who just had her second baby about a month after Carter was born. She is at a very different place than me because she has two babies under the age of 2. After we spoke she sent me the nicest text telling me that she hopes our conversation didn't make me feel bad for "kicking ass as a mother." She reassured me that she finds my posts inspiring.
I was so glad that she let me know that. Because I've been posting lots of cute pictures of Carter and his big sister and brother these past few months. And honestly, I do feel pretty darn good about how things are going. I really am doing a pretty good job of taking care of all of us - myself included. But that is not the whole picture - and when will Facebook or Instagram or a blog post ever depict "the whole picture"? (Spoiler: NEVER!)
The honest truth is that in some ways I am really struggling. Not the same ways that I struggled when I had two "littles". No - I'm not sleep deprived like I was the first two times.(Someone, knock on wood quick! Because that is one thing experience teaches us - things can change at any time!) I'm also not grappling with what the "right way" to parent like the first two times - no angst about breastfeeding, no hiding the fact that I adore cosleeping, no worries about spoiling my sweet, little guy.
This time I struggle with despair. With a heart so heavy and achy that I feel it, like a living rock lodged in my chest. There is a gnawing pit in my belly some days that no amount of food can fill, making me physically nauseous. Some days I struggle with the motivation to do things, but most often I am able to carry on just fine. I keep smiling and getting food and I tell myself it will pass... and it does.
It's hard to talk about. I do a little bit, in fits and bursts. I tell my mom I've been feeling "low" or "down", I tell Mike that "I'm feeling sad today" but it doesn't really describe the depth of the feelings. I don't talk about it for a lot of reasons I guess. Maybe it partly is my ego and wanting to appear like I "have it together". But I think it is more because I don't want people to worry. I am "ok." I am NOT depressed (at least that is what I tell myself!) If were depressed I wouldn't be functioning at such a high level, right? If I were depressed it would last longer and not "pass." No, I don't think I'm depressed. I'm just struggling on some days.
So why share at all? Because honesty is important to me. Because sharing actually helps. Because I think it's normal and I want other people to feel like they can talk about their feelings too - because it DOES help.
Why do I feel despair? Honestly it is a "state of the world" kind of thing. I've always kind of considered myself an optimist, but I've been "moody" since I was a baby (ask my mom!) and the idealist in me wants to solve the world's problems even though I know I can't do it all. I cannot stand or understand how horrible we are to each other sometimes. It kills my spirit.
I feel despair because I've felt such great joy. I had the beautiful homebirth that I imagined and now I long to be back on that day again - safe, loved, cherished... I want to experience it again and know that I probably will not have that particular experience again. I miss my midwife and her assistant and then I feel like I'm very strange for missing them when my life is so great. I was so focused and happy during my pregnancy and now... it is over.
I finished reading The Continuum Concept and there were so many wonderful stories that fill in so many holes for me - so many pieces that fill in this strange, sometimes awful (and sometimes wondeful!), modern puzzle we've created. It made clear to me why we are all seeking and longing all the time and how we fill that need in different ways.
What if we weren't meant to feel this way all the time? Is it possible that the "norm" could be a peaceful, joyful state? I think it is. But I do not feel guilty for the despair either. I know I must let myself feel it.
And every day the joy too. Every day seeped in bitter-sweetness so strong I can taste it. I see the joy and the overwhelm reflected back to me by my kids and I do my best to be a role model of how to handle it. I realize (again and again) that I need to protect myself sometimes - as I did when I was pregnant - because sometimes I cannot bear everything that is coming at me from the outside world. I remember how to take care of myself - to eat well and rest and go to yoga each week and create and write. I breathe. I embrace the rawness of this time, knowing that someday - not long from now - things will heal and change and grow and I will have new feelings, new blessings, new challenges and new joys.
Carter - you are 3 months old today. I will not say that time is going "too" fast because I'm trying to learn to let go and live in the moment. This is a constant practice. But I will say that time is going SO fast. I knew it would go faster this time - because the older I get the faster time goes. It's a universal human understanding, but it still boggles our minds. Also, I have your big sister and brother keeping me busy. It is a good kind of busy and "Time" is moving just as it should, I know. Still my heart sometimes resists and this clinging creates a sweet ache.
Anyway - moving on (and letting go!) The other day I was rocking you upstairs in our bedroom and singing to you. I have a favorite Pandora channel called "Lullaby". "All of Me" came on - and I crooned "I give you all of me" while you smiled back at me. I was struck by how "romantic" love songs are often perfect for describing a Mother's love too. You like it when I sing to you - sometimes you even "sing" with me, in happy screeches and warbles - so I am going to keep singing to you every day until you are old enough to tell me to stop.
I stared at you feeling the love course through my body. And I wondered how anyone can ever think that tiny, little humans can be "manipulative." How did we get to this place of believing that it's possible to "spoil" our babies or that we need to start "teaching" you how to be "independent" and "self-soothe" before you are even able to roll over on your own? My heart aches for babies and families who suffer - many unable to do things differently, confined by real and imagined restrictions in their lives, largely created by the culture they are steeped in. I wish things were different but I am grateful for the many blessings in our own life that allow us the freedom to choose our own way, as different or odd as it may seem to many.
You are growing at lightning speed, yes. Another piece of this puzzle is that things are easier this time. I told myself it would be - different and easier. This was my hope and so far my expectation has proven true. Is it because you are easier or because I am confident and sure of how I do things? Is it HOW I am parenting or your Nature that is making for such a smooth start to your life? My best guess is that it is a little bit of both.
You've slept with me from day 1 and we only used your bassinet a handful of times - mostly when I wanted to put you down for a couple of minutes so I could go to the bathroom or change my clothes. Miss Katie sure has enjoyed her new bed though!
I've kept you in my arms as much as possible, using carriers to make it easier to keep you close and keep on living life too. I just finished reading the "Continuum Concept" and it reinforced my desire to keep you close as much as possible and to always respond to your sounds and cries - your way of communicating your needs to us for now.
I started holding you over the sink when you were 3 days old and you now use our little potty multiple times per day. This morning you were kicking and squirming for a good 10 minutes while I tried to soothe you back to sleep with nursing so I could get a few more minutes of sleep. But you didn't need or want milk - you needed to get up! So up we got, and I was rewarded for my efforts - you managed to wait until I got you to your potty! I am amazed at how well we are doing with Elimination Communication and it one of my favorite things about caring for you. You are content to sit on the potty with my arm around your solid little belly - needing less support every day now that your neck grows strong enough to hold your head up. After you've used the potty and I lay you on the couch to put a new diaper on (or the same one if it was clean!) you smile and talk to me. You are so happy and I love it!
Yes, you are content and that makes everyone in the family feel good. Marisol and Gerry dote on you. They help by talking to you and keeping you company. Marisol is starting to pick you up and carry you around - although not far because you are quite heavy already! (I can't wait to go to the Doctor this week and get your "official" weight - I think you are already 15 pounds, give or take, based on weighing you on our scale in my arms. I can't believe how big you are already!) Daddy loves to hold you and talk to you every morning and evening after work - sometimes harrassing with you with raspberries - his scratchy face rubbing yours. You are loved little one.
I wish everyone could experience parenting this way - joyful and with ease. You are already so good at communicating with us and I love meeting every need. We have completed the "Fourth Trimester" and it was wonderful. Onward and upward from here - literally and figuratively!
Thanks for joining our family Carter, We Love You!
I know that in theory we all know that there is no such thing as "Perfect Parenting", but I believe in our hearts many of us still strive for it. Maybe it's another effect of our modern, competitive society. Maybe it's because we sense that we are "missing" something. Whatever the case may be, I think that a lot of us feel defensive when any idea or advice seems at odds with how we do something.
I know that sometimes when I read some of my favorite unschooling blogs or writings I start feeling like they do everything right and that I "should be" doing better.
So I wanted to share a short story. A few weeks ago I took my three kids (3!!!) to the zoo for my daughter's class. It wasn't the first time I had done it myself with all 3, but we're still getting the hang of how everything works with a new little person added to the mix.
When we arrived, Gerry had just about fallen asleep. This is the hardest for him because he is tired and groggy. So I wasn't surprised at all when he said that he "couldn't" walk.
Well, I knew we didn't have a lot of time to wait around for him to wake up since Marisol wanted to be on time. So I put on my Super Mommy cape - I mean I the baby carrier - Marisol helpfully carried our heavy backpack, and I had Gerry climb onto my back.Voilà! We were on our way. Of course I had Marisol snap a picture, because these days I take pictures of everything.
This was a good moment. A moment when I felt like I was doing my best. I don't care anymore if people think I look crazy or like a martyr or if they're thinking that I "should" "make" my 6 year old walk. I feel strong and competent and happy to meet all of our needs when I can.
Plus I didn't carry him that far. Ha! A little fresh air and I put him down and he was off and running, literally, racing his sister to the building where her class was.
Remember - this was a good moment.
Later, after class ended, we tried to get ice-cream. The first machine said "out of order." So we walked uphill to another machine. This one said "Cash only". Come on! Who carries cash anymore??
My son was tired and not pleased to say the least. "Why don't you ever have cash??!" he cried. And also - of course - he couldn't walk again. This time I didn't have my super mom cape. The baby was stretching out my carrier and riding low. Plus we were walking down hill now - surely he could walk.
We walked a bit with him crying and then he stopped. So I grabbed him under the armpit in a half-hearted attempt to "carry" him. Since he wasn't moving his feet (because he couldn't walk, remember?) it turned into me dragging him. I was tired and frustrated and after a few feet (yards??) I stopped. I probably walked a bit more then looked back.
"I hate you!" he shouted at me, his face contorted and sad - the first time he uttered those words. Not a milestone we parents normally like to mark and remember. I squatted in front of him. I didn't yell or tell him he was ungrateful or try to remind him of all I've ever done for him. Actually I didn't blame him at all - I was a little sad myself, but my behavior kind of deserved it.
I sighed and said, "I don't know what you want me to do, Gerry. What should I do?"
And with those words I knew what to do. I went back a little ways to a bench. Marisol and I sat and ate a snack while Gerry rested on the curb. I decided to re-do the baby wrap tighter so I could carry Gerry again. Marisol's teacher walked by and we chatted - I told her "someone was having a hard time" and we smiled. She told me "I don't know how you do it."
Well, I do know. I just do my best. Sometimes I make mistakes. I try to apologize for them. Later that night I talked to Gerry and he cried and told me that I was "dragging" him. It's true - I was. So I said sorry and that what I did wasn't ok and I wouldn't do it again.
Peaceful parenting doesn't mean we have all the answers - it means admitting when we're wrong and apologizing. It's not making excuses or blaming our kids for our own bad behavior. And then we follow through and try to do better while forgiving ourselves for being human.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.