Friday, March 25, 2011

How did we get here?!

So this thought came to me today, and to be honest, I'm not even really sure where I'm going with it, but hopefully it'll make some sense. I was listening to some Bollywood music, and I was kidding around with myself (internal monologue), thinking, "I like this music so much, there must be some Indian in me somewhere...waaaay back...many, many centuries back..." Then I snickered at my own ridiculous thought, but as I did, it hit me. Technically, I do.

Here's what I mean. Taking creation from a Biblical perspective, as I do, I know that we all are descendants of Adam and Eve. So we're all linked together by our waaay, waaay back heritage. We all look different, we all sound different, we all have different languages, and most of us don't know eachother. Although many people have pretty impressive friends lists on Facebook and whatnot (my pastor has an impressive 700-some-odd), just shy of 7 billion would take a LOT of networking! Nevertheless, we're all connected. We're all brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, inlaws, name it. And if that's true, then it begs the question, why don't we act like it?

I think about my family, and I would do pretty much anything for them! My kids? I would take a bullet for them without even thinking about it. My husband? I would fight like mad if someone ever tried to mess with him. (Although, let's face it, he could hold his own waaay better than I could ever protect him, but its the principle of it.) My parents? I'd kick some butt for them. My siblings? Well, I've already verbally stood down some of my sister's former druggie friends, so conclude what you want from there. My grandpa? My aunts and uncles? My cousins? My neice and nephews? My inlaws? Yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep. And yeah, even my outlaws. (There aren't many of them though, truth be told.) Some of my family members can be trying and taxing, and some of them drive me nuts, but they're still my family.

So, on a larger scale, at what point did we decide that the black sheep was worth killing? Looking at a micro-family scale, that would be pretty messed up, right? Yet somehow (back to the global family), once the family grows, those on the fringes become the target. Those who look differently, think differently, act differently, believe differently, live their lives differently, talk differently...and so on...have now become enemies. And why? Because we don't want to accept them. We don't want to try harder to understand and love them. They are the wierd Aunt Greta, with bad breath, false teeth, a funny smell, too many cats, and a few packs a day habit, and therefore need to be avoided like the plague, lest we "catch" whatever it is that did this to poor Greta. (No disrespect to any relatives - mine or others - who fall into that category. Or anyone named Greta.)

I also was thinking, because today has been a fine example between my kids, siblings squabble! Its what they do! Shoot, I'm all grown up and my siblings and I still squabble sometimes. But when it all blows over, I still love them and they still love me. We find a resolution, sometimes a compromise, and we move on.

Its unrealistic to think that, amongst global brothers and sisters there won't be squabbles. That's inevitable. But we need to stop acting like children and get over it! Just because your brother hit you first, doesn't mean you now get to grab a boxing glove and knock his teeth out. In the same token, just because one country wrongs another, doesn't mean we get to bring out the tanks, guns, M16's, rifles, bombs, missiles...and whatever else we've got stored in the toybox...and retaliate with great force.

How did we get to this point? When did we decide that its okay to torture and kill eachother? At what point did we decide that civility, tolerance, acceptance, and love is only for some and not for all? When did we decide that extending an olive branch was more work than pointing a gun in someone's face?

I know I'm being hyperbolic, but this is something that just breaks my heart, and if hyperboles and analogies are the only way to make my point, then so be it, because I think it needs to be made. Way too many people, all around the globe, turn a blind eye to the killing, torture, hurt, pain, suffering, famine, disease, and war in this world. Or worse, we justify it with the pathetic excuse, "Well, he did it first." You know what I tell my kids when they use that excuse? "I don't care who did it first, I care that it stops right now." The world is far too full of bullying big brothers who will whomp on you if you don't do exactly what they say, and far too void of sweet little sisters who just want a quiet, peaceful afternoon tea party. We can perpetuate the bullying and abuse, but if we do, it will never end. Of that I am certain.

It just pains me to see family hurting family. Somewhere out there, I know I have an Afghani brother who is scared for his life. A Libyan sister just trying to survive. A Somali cousin with barely enough to eat. An Iraqi nephew wondering what has happened to his home. And it absolutely breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that our family is full of so many bullies and self-absorbed people who don't care. I just want to see the violence end and my extended family to live free of fear, pain, and suffering. Is that too much to hope for?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ah, sweet validation!

I was having this conversation with a friend the other day, but thought I would blog about it too, and probably elaborate more than I even did with my friend.

I guess I'll start at the beginning... That seems like a logical place to start, right?! In 2006, I had what I can only describe as a full-on emotional breakdown. I had suffered from depression off an on since I was a child. I had done dance therapy, dietary changes, vitamins, various antidepressants, met with a therapist regularly, but yet getting a proper diagnosis and treatment that actually worked eluded me. I was under tremendous stress from my sister's worsening addictions, but things were harmonious within the walls of my own home. There was no real reason I fell apart, but I still did. I still broke down. But somewhere within the depths of all that despair, depression, and confusion, I found the strength to get help. I called a psychiatrist and met with him, and within the first session had a diagnosis...or at least it was narrowed down to few enough that we could proceed with a particular medication.

I was told up front that it was not safe to take during pregnancy. A year later, I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child. I called the psychiatrist in a bit of a panic, and scheduled an appointment. At that appointment, he told me he had just returned from a seminar about my particular medication and pregnancy, and that, lucky for me, it was deemed safe to take while pregnant. I was still given the option to wean off of it, but I decided that if it was safe to take during pregnancy, and was helping me with my depression, then I would continue on it. I let out a sigh of relief and carried on with my pregnancy uneventfully.

Three months later, when my next appointment rolled around, I went in and again we discussed my pregnancy and the medication. He asked me if I planned to breastfeed, and I answered emphatically that I did. I had breastfed my older two children for 13 months and 15 months, respectively, and felt it was the best thing for all of us. He then pulled up the drug manufacturer's website, and the FDA's site, which both advised me not to. My heart sank. No, it more than sank. I asked why, and he told me that there wasn't enough known about breastfeeding while taking that particular medication, but if the drug manufacturers and the FDA both said no, then that was the answer. To me, that wasn't really an answer. It told me not to, and who said not to, but not why they were saying it. So I continued to press him. I asked him point blank, "Well, what will happen if I do?" He then opened the thickest medication journal I have ever seen in my life, looked at the reactions in adults, and made his own conjecture. There is a very rare reaction that adults can have to the medication where they get a rash, and as the rash worsens, without immediate treatment organs can begin shutting down. He told me that a reaction like that in an infant could cause death to my child. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I was devastated. I choked back my tears, but as soon as I shut the door to his office on my way out, I fell apart. I cried all the way down the elevator, the entire walk to the car, and the entire 35 minute drive home. I called my mom on my cell phone from my driveway, and I was crying so hard she could barely understand what I was saying. But somehow she eventually got me calmed down.

The next day I talked to a few other moms I am close to, and none of them could understand why it was such a big deal to me. I am not anti-formula in general, but I am anti-formula for me and my kids. And I felt like I was being asked to give up something that was so meaningful to me with my older kids, and I felt like I was selling my third child short of the same experience her siblings had. I wanted that same experience with my new baby. Nursing a child is just an indescribable feeling to me. To some others, its not a big deal. But to me, it was a huge deal. One of the biggest parts of mothering this child was being threatened to be taken away from me. And nobody seemed all that concerned or could understand why I was so upset about it. I didn't want to risk my child's life, but if I didn't breastfeed and later found out I could have, I would have struggled with that guilt. I just hated that powerless feeling. I had all these hopes and dreams for the birth of this child, and it got thrown a big monkey wrench. Why couldn't anyone understand that?

Then I remembered, this man didn't give me facts, he gave me conjecture. I decided then and there that I would research until I found something conclusive one way or the other. If I was going to give up breastfeeding my child, I needed to have conclusive reasons why. If I had to give it up, I needed to make peace with it, and without answers, that was never going to happen. And I was holding out hope that maybe I would find something that said it was okay. All things considered, I found very little on the specific medication and breastfeeding, but I poured over my computer for 3 whole days (we're talking, 8 or 9 hours a day!), and I read forum after forum, study after study, anecdote after anecdote... Some hits, mostly misses. Fortunately though, I found nothing that confirmed that I could kill my child. And no mention of the rash, organ failure, or death. Various drug company and doctors' websites said that it could "potentially" cause cognitive delays, but they all said that further testing was needed to deem it safe. I finally found a case study of 90 women, and only one reported their baby displaying anything out of the ordinary. It was a small study, but at least it was something that looked promising. Then the same afernoon, I found a forum of mothers discussing breastfeeding on this medication. Some women did cite that they were told it could cause cognitive delays, but every last one of them said that their child was unaffected and thriving!

I decided that with that information, and the blessing of my midwife and family nurse practitioner (who used to be a midwife), I would do it. Was it a scary prospect? Yeah. Was I taking a risk? Yeah. And would I feel like a fool if it backfired? Oh yeah. But with exception of the psychiatrist, my medical team was on board, so I was going for it and not looking back.

My daughter was born and was perfect! She was a great nurser, and we nursed til she self-weaned two days before her second birthday. I can't lie, every time she had a rash I would get a little freaked out. At every milestone, I did obsess more than I should have. But my daughter, like those of the moms on the forums, has been completely unaffected by it!

At 2 1/2, she can count to 10 without help (although sometimes she does forget that the number six is in there), knows all her colors, can orally spell a few words, is active, bright, perceptive, sneaky (VERY sneaky...she's always into something!) and hilariously funny.

And you know what's strange? I almost look at this whole ordeal as a blessing. I find myself savoring every little milestone more than I think I did with her older siblings. "By the books," she wasn't supposed to be this smart. "By the books," she is supposed to be delayed. "By the books," she was supposed to have an adverse reaction and end up in the hospital with her life hanging in the balance. But she's not! I listened to my own reasoning and made my own choices with the information I had, and I made the right choice! That feels good, and so empowering!

Reading all this, I am sure there are still some out there who would have followed "medical advice" and not taken the chance I took. And that's fine. But I feel so validated each time I remember that whole ordeal and then look at my daughter and realize that we beat the odds. I took a chance, and it paid off. Maybe we just got lucky, who knows? But I think its because I didn't accept no as an answer, dug deeper, drew my own conclusions, and made my own choices regarding my child.

I daydream sometimes about walking my daughter into his office and parading her in front of him, telling him that I breastfed her on Lamictal and she's fine. No, better than fine - she's amazing! I know its wrong, but I wish I could rub his nose in it - for all the tears he caused for nothing, for all the empty threats that I would kill my child. But that wouldn't change anything. It wouldn't change the fact that my daughter is healthy, smart, developmentally right on track, and totally amazing. It wouldn't change the fact that I loved her enough to get all the facts and make the choice for myself. It wouldn't change the fact that even before she came into this world I fought for her, and I fought hard. It wouldn't change the fact that I am her mother, she is my daughter, and I love her more than life itself.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The power of the words we say to our kids

Sometimes God has to pretty much proverbially smack me over the head to make a point. I know He loves me just the way I am, but sometimes I wonder if He doesn't think I can be a little daft. Over the years, there have been many times when a "theme" will come up over and over and OVER until I just can't ignore it anymore, and the encouragement and/or admonition I get along with the message makes me know its from above.

This week I had one of those experiences. To begin with, lately I have been doing a lot of reflecting and trying to take inventory and make changes within myself to better myself, my family, and those around me. One thing I have been trying to work on is being calmer with my children, not blowing up at them or taking a negative tone with them, no matter how frustrated I am feeling. People think I am good at holding it together with my kids, but I yell and get annoyed a lot more than I should. They're kids. I need to cut them a little more slack and remind myself that they're only 2, 6, and 9. I expect a lot out of my kids, but sometimes I think maybe I am a little unrealistic.

So I already had made the conscious decision to try and watch my attitude and temper more. Then a friend posted a link to Single Dad Laughing's blog post, entitled "You just broke your child... Congratulations." The post was geared toward dads, and at first it left me feeling immensely grateful for the dad I have, and for my husband who is becoming a better dad each and every day. But as I got toward the end, he started admonishing parents to watch the things they do and don't do, and say and don't say, and to check their frustrations and attitudes at the door. It hit me.

Then someone I know called their son something I find quite derrogatory. And sadly, its not the first time I have heard someone refer to their child in a way that I find demeaning, rude, and offensive. In most of these cases, it was said in jest, but nevertheless. I am no perfect parent myself, and therefore I try not to judge other people's parenting styles, but there are places where I draw the line and just cannot let it go. Calling your child names - even jokingly, and even out of earshot - in my opinion is just plain wrong.

Yes, being a parent is hard. We all have our moments (even full days) when we feel we're going to lose it. And sometimes, we do. We will yell, say things we don't mean, or use a tone that is overly harsh. Afterall, we are the ones constantly dealing with the sibling fights, whining (oh, the whining!), bad grades, annoying habits, broken windows, scribbled-on furniture, public temper tantrums, uneccessary noise, "hey mom, hey, mom, hey mom, hey mom" repititions when we're on the phone, hating our post-baby bodies of saggy skin, extra weight, and/or c-section scars... Sometimes its akin to medieval torture! And our feelings may be totally understandable.

But think about it. You wished for this child. You were there when your child was in the womb, and you were there to see them take their first breath. The minute you saw your child, your heart found the piece it was always missing, and you fell in love deeper with your tiny new person than you ever had before, or will again. You were there during the sleepless nights, the colic, first teeth, first words, and first steps. You stayed up worrying about fevers, and choked back your own vomit as you cleaned up theirs without complaining and a heart full of sympathy. You have grinned ear to ear during dance recitals and school plays, and sat shivering in the pouring rain at t-ball games. You are the one who's always been there, the one they know they can always count on to kiss the booboo's and heal broken hearts.

How can we, therefore, justify calling our children derrogatory things? Or being unrealistically harsh?

My mom has this saying that we "create our own reality." For a long time I thought it sounded way too "hocus pocus," but when it comes to our kids, its kind of true. If your child hears that they're a brat, guess how they'll behave? Like a brat! (Every single child I can think of offhand who's parent calls them a brat is a brat.) If your child hears that they're stupid, they will think they are, and stop trying to achieve. On the other hand, if your child hears that they are smart, they will be seek to achieve. If they hear that they're kind, they'll be kind. If they hear they're beautiful or handsome, they will have elevated self-esteem. (Some will argue with me on that one, but I think as long as you focus more on reminding them the importance of inner beauty over outer, then you won't give your kid a complex.)

So I guess my point is, we need to choose our words and attitudes wisely. We need to learn to bite our tongues, have patience, and never use our child as the butt of a joke. We need to choose words that build them up, and not tear them down. We need to set our expectations high, but be there to help them attain it, with our encouraging words and positive attitudes. Our kids hear and absorb everything. We are creating their reality, their perception of the world, and perception of themselves. We are setting them on their paths for adulthood from the time they enter this world. We need to tread lightly. Its a tall order, and nobody is going to do a perfect job, but its our duty to do the very best we can. Our little people deserve it! :)