Posts Tagged 'motherhood'

Detached

My sister has the day off and offered to watch the boy for a couple of hours while I went to work. 

I had visions of all the things I would get done, day dreams of working in quiet, of finishing an entire spreadsheet without having to pull little hands out of the desk drawer or protect the computer’s power button.  The boy will get some quality time with his favorite aunt, I’ll get a much-needed break, it’s perfect!

What a fool I am.

Oh, it’s quiet, alright.  Too quiet.  I can’t seem to focus.  I have been sitting here for an hour, wondering how long I have to wait before I can go pick up my son.  I have discovered I am incapable of working without someone biting my leg or pulling my hair. 

It’s not that I am worried about leaving him–I know he doing just fine on his mini-adventure.  I just miss him, that’s all. 

The flip side of this whole attachment parenting thing is that it feels so incredibly wrong to be unattached, no matter how temporarily.

Now, if I’d used this time to take a bubble bath or a nice long nap, that may have been another story…

Fear and Fevers

I woke up Saturday night to find my baby had been replaced by a fireball.  He was so hot, it almost hurt to touch him.  After a little bit of Tylenol and nursing, slowly he returned to baby temperature and drifted back to sleep. 

I did not return to sleep so easily.  I kept checking him, touching his skin, reassuring myself that he was still baby, not fireball.  He was restless, waking often and whining in his sleep, and I cursed my inability to fix what was bothering him.  I want magic cures, I want instant fixes, I want my happy healthy baby back.

It’s been like this for three days now.  He will play for short periods; mostly he just sits limply, or clings to me.  His eyes are so heavy, but he only sleeps for fifteen minute stretches.  He cries and bites himself and pulls his ears, and I could easily sit down and cry with him.  And there’s the fever that keeps returning, the two am fireball baby, my fear so thick I can taste it.

First thing Monday, I took him in to the doctor.  His fever was down, thanks to the dose of Tylenol I’d given him at 5am, but he didn’t even move when the doctor examined him.  His diaper was still dry after 16 hours.  I wanted to plead with the doctor to make J feel better, but instead simply nodded along when he said that J must have a virus, no ear infection, and keep doing what I’ve been doing.  (But it’s  not enough, I thought.  He’s still sick.)  And then he gave me 24 hours to get J’s fluids up before putting him in the hospital.

At the words “IV” and “hospital,” I think my heart stopped.  My fear reached a whole new level.  It didn’t matter that the doctor also said it probably wouldn’t be necessary, that J was going to be fine, I only heard the danger–the needles the machines the tiny body on a hospital bed.  In that instant, I wished I was still pregnant with him.  Carrying him inside of me, he felt safer, less vulnerable.  Now, I am so  helpless to protect him.  I kept thinking, what if I do everything I can, and it’s not enough?

I went home armed with Pedialyte and determination.  He will get better.  Right now.  I’m his mommy, and that’s what mommies do–we make it better.  Of course, he refused to drink any of the juice (frozen or not), or anything else I put in his cup.  Instead, I nursed him as much as I could.  I wrapped him, comforted him, loved him, and waited. 

After close to 24 hours, we were finally successful.  I have never been so happy to see a wet diaper in my life.  His fever has stayed down, he’s a little more active, and I can breathe a sigh of relief.  He may still feel a little yucky, I still wish I could do more to make him feel better, but at least I know he is going to be okay.

Suck This (I Will Breastfeed Wherever I Please)

NursingA few months ago, I went to lunch with a friend of mine.  Predictably, halfway through the meal, J wanted to nurse.  As I settled him down to the task, she made a comment about it weirding her out.  “It’s just food,” I told her.  “No, it isn’t,” she said firmly.

I changed the subject after that, but the comment has stayed with me, along with the many others made by family, friends, and complete strangers. I remember feeling embarrassed, like I should apologize for needing to feed my son in her presence. 

I know I’m not the only one who faces such negative attitudes towards breastfeeding.  Go to any parenting forum, and you’ll find at least one post about some poor mom trying to deal with criticism.  In fact, La Leche League has an entire forum devoted to dealing with criticism.  You’ll find stories of strangers telling breastfeeding moms that it’s “disgusting,” that they’re being “indecent,” husbands pressuring their wives to give it up, family members asking them to leave the room to nurse, and doctors paying lip service to breastfeeding while encouraging the use of formula.  I personally have been asked to take my baby in the bathroom to feed him, told (at the beginning) that I needed to supplement with formula because he wanted to nurse all the time, and told I was spoiling him by feeding him on demand (why is it spoiling a baby to nurse him, but not to give him a bottle?).  My doctor, while being a pretty cool doctor in general, seems unsure about the fact that I’m still breastfeeding, and when J was four months old the people in the WIC office expressed shock that I was “still breastfeeding.”  That’s not counting disapproving looks I frequently receive when nursing in public, even though I am decently covered and try to place myself in the most discrete location so as not to offend anyone. 

It is frustrating and disheartening.  I didn’t start out feeling self-conscious about breastfeeding, but I quickly learned to be.  It’s no wonder that so many moms give up breastfeeding, or don’t try at all.

Despite the Breast is Best campaign, which strives to promote breastfeeding in order to improve general health, the majority of Americans remain fairly uneducated about breastfeeding, and the negative attitudes remain.  Even doctors seem to lack critical knowledge of breastfeeding, which is why we see a lot of instances where supplementing is encouraged.  In one survey, it was found that only 37% of pediatricians encouraged breastfeeding for the first year, and most of them felt that formula feeding was equal to breastfeeding.  The majority of them had not been to any sort of presentation on  breastfeeding for at least three years, and admitted to needing more education about breastfeeding.  Without doctor support, many women not only lack the encouragement they need to breastfeed successfully, but also lack vital information–or in some cases, receive incorrect information.  For example, as I said before, I was told that I needed to supplement in the beginning, but all that would have done is reduce my milk supply.  A lot of women fall into that trap, where they are told to supplement with formula, but then they are not keeping up with baby’s demand, so they have to supplement more and more, and eventually they give up breastfeeding altogether.

The campaign has not been totally ineffective.  Most Americans seem to agree that breastfeeding provides a lot of health benefits for mom and baby, which is an improvement.  Yet many still feel that women should not breastfeed in public and feel grossed out by breastfeeding in general.  It seems that the attitude is Breast is Okay, but Bottle is Better.  I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.  After all, you can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine without seeing an ad for formula that claims in some way to provide the same benefits as breast milk.  And isn’t bottle feeding easier/more convenient/less embarrassing?  And don’t you have to stop breastfeeding as soon as they get teeth anyway?  The misconceptions abound, fueled by a multi-million dollar ad budget.  (For more on this, there’s a really wonderful blog post  about formula ad campaigns.) 

At the same time, I know a lot of moms who feel pressured to breastfeed and feel like they’re bad moms if they end up bottle feeding for whatever reason. Yet  there’s all this negative feedback about breastfeeding, especially in public.   You really can’t win.  (And just so everyone is clear:  I am not in any way against those who bottle-feed.  My issue is with attitudes towards breastfeeding, not other’s parenting choices.  🙂

I talked to a friend of mine about this, and she said she thought it was more of a modesty thing: that people just don’t want to see something they shouldn’t.  I thought about it, and while that may be true in some cases, I think as a generalization it doesn’t work.  (Besides, I have an issue with the idea that women’s bodies are something that should not be revealed, unless of course you’re at Hooters or an act on America’s Got Talent.)  For one thing, no one seems to have a problem with skimpy bathing suits, and they’re way more revealing than the average woman breastfeeding.  For another, it’s not just actual breastfeeding that freaks people out, but breast milk as well.  There was an article in Parent’s magazine just last month about a lady who was trying to bring home milk she had expressed during vacation.  It was really quite amusing to read about people’s reactions, and yet it got me thinking… why is breast milk, this amazing fluid specifically designed to provide the perfect nutrition for our babies, treated as something gross/weird?  Why do we see so many instances on TV shows/movies where someone inadvertently picks up a bottle of breast milk or, God forbid, drinks it? (I know I’ve seen it on Friends, Look Who’s Talking, Seinfeld.. and I don’t even watch TV!)  I have never seen this happen with formula (and have you *smelled* that stuff?). 

I don’t get it.  I really want to understand, but I just don’t.  Is it that breasts are viewed as  sexual objects in our culture?  Is it simply the lack of education?  The result of formula marketing campaigns?  An extension of sexism?  What, please tell me, so we can fix it. 

When we trust the makers of baby formula more than we do our own ability to nourish our babies, we lose a chance to claim an aspect of our power as women. Thinking that baby formula is as good as breast milk is believing that thirty years of technology is superior to three million years of nature’s evolution. Countless women have regained trust in their bodies through nursing their children, even if they weren’t sure at first that they could do it. It is an act of female power, and I think of it as feminism in its purest form.” —– Christine Northrup M.D.

My Baby Can Beat Up Your Baby (and Other Ridiculous Comparisons)

Standing in line at the bank today, I got asked the question I have come to dread:  “So, is he walking yet?”After responding with the same defensive “No–but he’s really close!” that I have been saying for over two months now, she launches into this big story about how her niece is only nine months old and already walking.  She says it like she just composed her first symphony or something.  “That’s nice,” I tell her.  What I’m thinking is, “I bet she’s an ugly baby.”

My son is smart, entertaining, healthy, and completely within the normal age range for learning to walk.  He will walk when he’s good and ready, and I’m completely fine with that.  I harbor no secret anxieties about his development, I have no desire to push him to reach that milestone before he’s ready.  So why do I feel like we were in a race, and just lost?

It’s completely overwhelming, this feeling of competition that washes over me.  Logically, I know that every child is different and they all do things in their own time.  Logically, I know that comparing my child to another is not only unhealthy and frustrating for me, but also a complete waste of time.  But logic has nothing to do with it.  I simply cannot control myself.  I see another baby about J’s age, and I am compelled to compare them.  How much does your baby weigh?  Does he talk yet? Oh, he’s walking.  Well, mine has more teeth and he says “patty cake!”   I sound like a fourth grader, for crying out loud.

And of course, this competitiveness isn’t limited to just strangers I happen upon.  Oh, no.  I like to share the experience with my friends and family as well.  It usually starts off innocently, something like “How’s it going?”  Next thing I know, we’re in a verbal sparring match pitting baby against baby, birth story against birth story, mother against mother.  A perfect example is the comment made by a friend of mine on my post about signing with my baby. “Your baby signs?  Neat. Well, mine knows Spanish!”  Clearly, she cannot control herself either.

The funny thing is, I don’t even think it’s about Jayden at all.  It’s about me.  Underlying all the defensiveness is the feeling that my mothering abilities are in question.  Somehow, every time someone asks me if he’s walking, or sleeping through the night, or solving world hunger.  I feel like somehow I’m failing as a mom because the answer is no.  I may not think that consciously (and I’d deny it if you asked), but the feeling is there. 

I’m wrong, of course.  We are not better parents if our baby insert milestone here earlier than another, and quite frankly all this ridiculous competetion is a waste of energy.  We should be uniting and focusing our collective energy on more important things, like eradicating florescent lighting or banning loud commercials on TV.  Oh, and did I mention that J signed the entire national anthem this afternoon?  Take that, walking nine month old.

At the End of a Monday

We’ve all had this day.  The Monday of all Mondays: the shirt on backwards, spilled milk,  hour at the doctor’s office,  teething baby, raging headache kind of day.  It’s not even that there’s some major event that you can point to and say, “See, I had a  bad day.”  No, it’s the string of little things that can turn your average day into an endurance challenge. 

I returned home this evening feeling… defeated.  I’d managed to navigate my way through the day, perhaps, but a toll had been taken.  At one point, I sat with my poor teething baby red-faced and crying on my lap and came close to joining him in the tears.  With his angry cries still echoing in my head, I began to make a mental list of all that had to be done with the few remaining hours of my day.

There was a tugging on my pants leg accompanied by little voice calling, “Mama!”  With a tired sigh, I replied, “What, baby?” and looked down to find my son’s hands reaching for me.  As I picked him up, he gave me one of his sweet baby kisses and wrapped his arms around me, resting his head on my shoulder.  I just held him tight, enjoying the rare moment of stillness.  And just like that–the whole messy day melted away.  The only thing that mattered in the whole world was right there in my arms.

I set aside all mental lists and instead took him outside to bask in the sunshine.  Tears forgotten, we laughed and played in the grass and I concentrated simply on enjoying the little person that I love so much.  There wasn’t a better remedy for the day than my son, and sunshine.  When I walked back in the door, the weight of  all the things left undone didn’t feel so heavy.  I was rejuvenated, able to happily run through the nightly routine of cooking dinner, cleaning dishes, bathtime, bedtime. 

At the end of a Monday, I find myself thinking about  how easy it is to get bogged down in the things we feel must get done.  We get focused on the rough patches of parenting, on the tantrums or the fights or the late night or the tears.  It’s all too easy to miss all the sweet little moments that happen in a day, too easy to lose sight of what’s important.  Laundry can wait until tomorrow–love can’t.

Lists of Another Kind

How is it that it’s almost midnight on Sunday, and I have gotten absolutely nothing accomplished? 

Okay, that’s not entirely true.  Saturday was a very full day, what with the trip out of town, my nephew’s (four hours of) football games, and of course, birthday shopping.  In fact, we walked around so much that my legs are still protesting today (and this is where you point out that perhaps I should exercise like I’ve been promising to do for weeks now.  Yeah, yeah, add that to the list of things that didn’t get done today).  So make that just today that I was completely unproductive.

I had plans.  I was even up early (thank you, J) with plenty of time to accomplish my goals.  There’s not only the laundry baskets full of laundry that need to be washed, but also the mountains of clean clothes which are plotting the hostile takeover of my entire room (the victory is very near).  The dresser needs to be sorted, all of J’s outgrown clothes need to be boxed up for my sister-in-law.  The stack of papers that I need to weed through and file or throw away.  The fridge needs cleaned out.  The bathroom garbage is a science experiment.  There were people I was going to call and chat with, blogs I was going to write, a week’s worth of menues I was going to plan in order to be organized for the week.  The gluten-free cake recipe that I need to pick.  I was going to take the boy to the park, enjoy the sunshine, relax.  Hell, I was going to take a shower. 

What in the world happened to my weekend?

Looking back on my day, I am honestly drawing a blank as to what I was doing that prevented me from getting anything else done.  I know that I wasn’t relaxing, because I would have had to sit down for that.  Somehow, by the time I got J changed, fed, cleaned up, down for nap, changed, fed, cleaned up again, the day was pretty much done. 

Days like this make me feel very… incompetent.  How is it that other mothers manage to chase their wee ones, provide stimulating educational interaction, cook yummy food, and still have time to get the house clean?  Please, share your secrets of success with me (especially where the food is concerned, my menu needs help).

I did manage to get J all wrapped up and take him for a walk, though.  And J did seem to have fun today.  I suppose the list will have to wait yet another day, and I will have to continue to dream of Supermom powers.