Monday, November 28, 2011

What I've learned in a decade as a mom

Today marks a pretty major milestone. Today is my son's 10th birthday, and thusly my 10 year "mom-iversary."

I've thought a lot over the past month or so about what sort of blog I should write to commemorate the day; to pay tribute to my son and how profoundly he has changed my life. I considered many possibilities, but every time I really thought about it, I always thought about how I have changed as a person over the past 10 years, and how instrumental he, and being a mother, have been in that evolution of self.

When my son was born, like most new parents, I had no idea what I was doing. I had younger siblings, had worked in childcare centers, and had babysat a lot, but nothing prepared me for my own child. At the time, I thought I knew what I was doing, but let's face it, I was clueless.

My pregnancy with him wasn't ideal. Compared to my girls, I had less morning sickness, but that's about the only thing that was better about my pregnancy with him. About midway through my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Watching my diet and poking my finger 4 times a day was not my idea of a good time. I couldn't even eat cake at my own baby shower! I took that in stride, but then around 32 weeks, started showing signs of pre-eclampsia. And anemia.

I went in for my 36 week appointment on Monday, November 26. My midwife took my blood pressure, checked my sugar levels, and immediately sent me over to labor and delivery, stating that I wasn't leaving until I delivered my baby, and that we would be starting induction the following morning. But it ended up being nearly 48 hours before he was born, at 12:49 PM on November 28, 2001. I was rapidly getting sicker, and the only way to avoid potentially dangerous complications was to deliver him. The next thing I knew, I had an IV in, blood pressure-lowering medications started, constant fetal monitoring, and regular blood draws. Let's just say, I felt like a human pin cushion, and I got to know the nurses very well.

I wasn't prepared for that at all. I wasn't going to be delivering a preemie, but I did realize he was going to be early. I still didn't "get it" though. I had no idea that after birth his blood sugar levels and core temp were going to drop to concerning levels. I had no idea that he was going to be so groggy and "doped up" from all the meds. I had no idea his bilirubin was going to spike so high that they wanted to keep him under the lights after they had already discharged me. (Fortunately, my midwife fought the pediatricians like a pit bull and was able to get us a bili blanket to take home with us.) And I had no idea how much each of those things were going to put me in distress. I was completely unprepared for the protective instinct that kicks in when you become a mother. The love and concern that you have for this tiny, new person is greater than any emotion you've ever felt before. You love your parents and siblings, but its not the same. You love your spouse, but that's different, too. Nothing is like the moment you become a mother. Nothing. Nothing is like the subconscious realization that this person depends solely on you, and you will do anything - anything - to make sure no harm ever comes to them.

Throughout the first year and a half of his life, he had many (minor) health problems. Due to being almost a month early, his lungs were still a bit immature, so he was sick constantly. Within his first year, he had already had RSV, bronchitis, and bronchiolitis multiple times, and pneumonia once. We were at the doctor's office approximately every 2 weeks. He had to go to the ER 3 times for breathing problems. After a few months, we went ahead and purchased a nebulizer, since we had already rented one enough times that it just made sense. After a year with no concrete answers, a lot of "maybe" diagnosis, and a lot of trouble-shooting, the pediatrician then threw out the term "cystic fibrosis." She doubted that was the case, but recommended we take him to a specialist in Portland for an evaluation. Fortunately, he checked out just fine, but hearing that remote possibility was one of the scariest moments of my life. Here I had brought this child into the world, fallen in love with him harder and deeper than anyone I ever had before, and now I was having to have him tested for a devastating disease. It was gut-wrenching. I had to, somehow, accept that there were some things I couldn't protect him from, and that was a very terrifying and helpless feeling.

As he grew into a toddler, it took him a long time to walk. It was hard to see other babies his age getting up and running, while mine was still doing the army crawl. People began to make comments about the fact that, at 18 months, my child still wasn't walking. People kept implying that there was something "wrong" with my child. I never doubted he was absolutely perfect, but to hear everyone say that there was something "wrong" with him, even at times blaming me for it, was hard. Eventually we found out why he wasn't walking - he had two undetected hernias that, by the grace of God, were found and corrected during a surgery for something completely unrelated. Within two weeks of the hernia repair, he was up and walking like all his little play mates. I think that was the experience that made me realize that I had to be an advocate for my child. I couldn't let people judge him. I realized now that I not only had to protect his physical safety, but now his emotional safety, too. I had to protect him from the judgments and unkindness of others. And I wasn't someone who liked to stand up to people, so that wasn't easy for me.

I look back, and really my only regrets are experiences when I let others make my decisions regarding my children for me. When my son was little, I really let people walk all over me. I let other people's opinions mean too much, and my own intuition mean too little. I assumed that age and/or medical degrees meant that others knew more about what was best for my son than I did.

But I remember, after getting absolutely fed up with his pediatricians (that's a whole other blog), going to see a family nurse practitioner that a friend had recommended, and she said something that I think was one of the most empowering statements I've ever gotten as a mother, or a human being. I timidly asked her a question, and she asked me, "Well, what do you think? You know him best." I know my child best! Nobody had ever affirmed that for me before. And apparently I needed it affirmed, because realizing that has been life-changing.

Since about the time she told me that, I have developed a voice and a back bone. I don't sit silently while other people take verbal shots at my kids. I read, research, draw my own conclusions, and question the "experts" on pretty much everything now. (To the point I think it may annoy people.) I don't allow myself to be guilted or duped into agreeing to something that I don't feel is right or necessary. Plain and simple, I do know my kids best, and you don't have to like my decisions. As long as I am at peace with my own decisions, and with my own child(ren)'s development, health, and well-being, then what does it matter to anyone else anyway?

The things I've learned in a decade of being a mother are infinite. I've made mistakes, and I've had triumphs. I've had many situations in which I will freely admit I didn't have the foggiest idea exactly what I was doing. But in any given moment, I go with my gut. And that is, by far, the biggest and most life-changing thing I have learned in my first ten years of motherhood.

I've learned how to parent with conviction. I know what I believe is best, and why I raise them the way that I do. And I fight for my kids. I don't let people walk all over me anymore, and I don't let anyone walk all over them. They are my world, my life, my very breath, and I take that very seriously. I know I will continue to have moments of "failure" and moments of triumph, but I will always do what I feel is right. Because I am their mother, and I know them best.

And, finally, to my son... You are the reason I have come so far. You light up my life, and everyday you challenge me to be a better mother, and a better human being. Thank you for a wonderful first 10 years, and I look forward to everything I have yet to learn from you about love, life, and motherhood. (And please, go easy on me during the teenage years!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Facebookers Part 3 - MORE things Facebookers do that drive me bonkers

This is going to be along the same lines as the original one, . It was the pioneer post that has heightened my awareness of Facebook absurdity. I still love me some Facebook as much as ever, but I still find people really funny. Again, this is no slam on any one person, these are just observations I've made, or have been pointed out to me by friends. And again, I am sure I do some of these and am probably just as unaware I do it as anyone else.

So here is the sequel to my original list of obnoxious Facebookers...

#6 -- The advertisers
I'm sure everyone has a few; the friends who use their statuses to advertise or promote their business ad nauseum. I understand that some people are really passionate about their jobs, hobbies, and businesses, I really do, but when all, or at least the majority of, your posts begin to be business promotions, others begin to lose interest in what you have to say. Most of your friends are tolerant of a post here and there - heck, I promo'ed the the craft fair I did last weekend about to death - but when more than 90% of your posts are about your business, frankly, it just gets annoying. Tell me about you and your life outside of work! That is what I friended you for! Not to be a billboard. You're my friend, and if I need you to sell me something or swing me a sweet deal, then I'll gladly give you my business. But you don't have to be as persistent as a used car salesman to get the job done.

#7 -- The chronically infirm
You know, the ones who post about being sick all the time, their kids being sick all the time, all their aches and pains hurting all the time... I consider myself a really sympathetic person, but I'd like to hear more than, "Baby Tommy has a horrible cold again, and was puking all night. I had it last week and it was terrible," followed a few days later by, "Tommy is still sick, and now I have a migraine and a giant blister on my foot," followed the next day by, "The hubby slipped on the pavement yesterday and twisted his ankle. And now I have a sinus infection." Do you ever have a good day?! Are you ever not sick?! Again, I feel for you, I really do, but I'm not your doctor.

#8 -- The way-too-TMI'ers
Now, I have 3 kids, so I have a high tolerance for grossness. But some things do cross a line. You can (occasionally...see above) post that you're sick or hurt and nobody minds. But I don't need to hear about the color and viscosity of your kid's poop and/or how much leaked out of their diaper. (Okay, yes, I have been guilty of this one.) I don't need to know in graphic detail exactly what you puked up last night. I don't need to see pics of your gnarly gangrene toe or the tick you found on your kid's neck. If you're making others ill with what you post, then congratulations. You've just found - and successfully crossed - the line. Mission accomplished.

#9 -- The potty mouths
I know not everyone is bothered by this, so maybe I shouldn't include it, but its my list, so I'm adding it. I don't consider myself easily offended, but I just don't think its very classy to fill your posts with lots of profanity. I mean, do you really think bad words in every third status you write is necessary?! I'm sure you have other words in your vocabulary; words that have just as much, if not more, impact. And if you don't, there's this awesome thing called And just so you know, a bigger vocabulary makes you look a lot more intelligent. Or, at least to me.

I wish I had a #10 to round it out, but that's all I can think of for now. Again, nobody be offended. This is written purely in jest, and not pointed at anyone in particular. I am merely posting it for the amusement of those who deal with these minor irritations on Facebook. Because people can be pretty ridiculous on Facebook, right?! (Myself included!)

Between my 2 installments, am I missing anything? What do you find simultaneously ridiculous and hilarious that people do on Facebook?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My family is just right, thank you.

Some friends and I were discussing on an online parenting forum the phenomenon that, no matter how you plan your family, others are always going to comment that you're "doing it wrong."

I always assumed it was just me. I have three children; a son and two daughters. My son and daughter are 2 1/2 years apart, and my daughters are 4 years apart. Between my oldest and youngest is about 6 1/2 years. I had only been married 7 months when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. I was 21 when I had him. I had my 3rd, and last, child at 27. I am a stay-at-home mom, and we're supporting our family on just my husband's income.

I don't have an even number of kids; there will always be an "odd man out." I only have one son; he'll never know what its like to have a brother. My older two kids are spaced too close together, my younger two, too far apart. I had kids way too young, and way too early into my marriage. I am irresponsible and lazy for being a stay-at-home mom and not earning money to support my family. Or maybe its that we must be really rich.

I am, of course, being sarcastic, but I have heard it all. When it comes to people's families, everyone feels like they can give you their opinion about how you should be doing it "right."

One of my friends said it drives her crazy when people ask, "So, when are you going to have another child?" She pointed out that, quite frankly, its none of anyone else's business. And she's right.

Another friend has decided she is going to raise her daughter as an only child. Yet, people constantly insist that she needs to have another child, or her daughter will be scarred for life...or something. She doesn't need to do anything. She, her husband, and her daughter are all perfectly happy with that decision. The only people who aren't are people who have no right to offer an opinion.

Another has 8 kids. She has told me that people have made some comments that have been anything but nice about her choice to have 8.

I also have multiple friends who had their kids really close together in age. They have all endured comments about how they should've waited longer between kids.

I could go on and on....

The fact of the matter is, what's "right" for one family won't be right for another, and whatever I choose isn't "wrong" just because its not what you would choose. I wouldn't want an only child, nor would I want 8, but I think both my friends in those cases are making the right choice for them. If you feel like you are meant to have only one, then don't have more. If you feel like you're meant to have 8, then by all means, have 8!

The "perfect" family is all relative. For me, 3 is the "perfect" number. I didn't feel like our family was complete without our third, but I also feel like 4 would be pushing it. Others prefer to devote all their time, attention, and love to just one child. And others prefer to "fill their quiver" to the brim.

And the reasons behind how we choose to form our family are our own personal business anyway. People deal with fertility problems, miscarriages, money problems, all sorts of other logistics... And no, we don't want to share our reasons, nor do we want to have to explain or justify our choices. We are doing this our way, just like you did it your way. Your way doesn't work for me, no matter how much you, stranger with good intentions but unsolicited input, want it to! And let's be honest, what I do probably wouldn't work for you.

If you don't like my perfect, that's fine. Its perfect for me, and doesn't have anything to do with you. I am happy with my family just the way it is. I don't have too few kids, and I don't have too many. The age gaps between my kids are just right. Being a younger mom is great. Having to pinch pennies to be a stay-at-home mom is tough, but we do it because me being home with the kids is what we feel is right for us.

How many or how few kids you have, when you have them, how far apart they are spaced, or how young or old you are when you have them is irrelevant anyway. Your number one priority is to make sure your kids are loved and cared for - whether it be one child or 20! (Michelle Duggar, you make my uterus ache!) As long as you are meeting your child(ren)'s needs - if they're happy, healthy, loved, and nurtured - then you are doing everything "right." How you "did it" doesn't even matter.

What are some comments you've had to endure about your choices with family planning? I know we've all gotten at least a few....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Its official. I'm a lame parent, too.

I have arrived. I have arrived at lame, uninformed, uncool, unhip parent status. Fortunately, my kids haven't quite caught on to that yet, but I noticed it in myself yesterday.

Being a younger parent, relatively speaking, I thought I would have an advantage on not losing touch with the younger generation, and therefore being less lame, more informed, cooler, and hipper than most other parents. I thought maybe, just maybe, with only 21 years between myself and my eldest child, I could cheat the generation gap. And until yesterday I thought I was doing pretty well. But no.

The first blow was on our way to Costco. One of the big kids (I can't remember which one), broke out in song with "Moves Like Jagger." My son was singing, "Moves Like Jagger," and my daughter was singing, "Moves Like That." My son started saying, "No, its Move Like Jagger!" To which my daugter replied, "No! Its Move Like That." They began to argue, so doing what young, hip, cool moms do, I butt in and said, "I'm pretty sure its Move Like That. Move Like Jagger makes absolutely no sense." My son insisted he was right, so he challenged me to a googling duel. I grabbed my trusty smartphone, pulled up Google, typed in "moves like," and up popped, "Jagger." I stuck my proverbial tail between my legs, admitted I was wrong, and my son got to gloat. I'm not going to lie. It stung a little.

The second blow.... Later that night, I asked my kids to clean their rooms. They love music to clean to, so I turned on Pandora for them on my phone and prepared to send them upstairs with it. I thought it was preset to the Big Time Rush station for them, but apparently I had set it to Matisyahu at some point. My husband, who has a distaste for a lot of my musical preferences (and likewise, I of his), asked, "Who is this?" To which I replied, "I don't know exactly how to pronounce it, but its spelled M-A-T-I-S-Y-A-H-U." Without skipping a beat, my son chimed in, "Its Mah-tis-ya-hoo." Which is what I thought, but I really wasn't 100% sure. Apparently he knows these things better than I do. *sigh*

The third... When I did get it switched over to Pandora, a song came on by some young girl. That was all I knew, and I wasn't really listening anyway. Teeny-bopper pop isn't exactly my cup of tea. My daughter came running in and asked, "Mom! Can you guess who this is?" I had no clue so I threw out, "Selena Gomez?" "No, mom! Its Miranda Cosgrove!" My son added, "How could you not know that?" To which I uttered the most uncool words I have ever uttered, "Well, I'm sorry. I don't follow your music."


Like lightening, I had just turned into an uncool, out-of-touch parent! The generation gap is closing in and squeezing the cool right out of me!

Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, my kids haven't caught on yet, but I'm sure they will soon enough. My son enters the double digits in a mere 14 days, so I can feel it looming just around the corner. I'd like to say I'm mentally prepared for that, but if I'm being honest, I'm not. I want to stay cool! Well, at least cool enough.

What about you? What have you done lately that's made you realize you're a lot less "cool" of a parent than you thought you were?

Monday, November 7, 2011

What breastfeeding is, what breastfeeding is not

I don't even know where to begin with this post. All I know is that I feel compelled to write it, because I am still bugged by a breastfeeding related post - and some comments made in response - I read 2 days ago on Facebook.

I think there is a serious flaw in the way breasts are viewed in America. Somehow, we're unable to separate the two separate functions of breasts: for sexual pleasure, and to nourish a child.

First of all, our view is so completely warped as a culture when this is viewed as gross, perverse, or a turn on

and this is viewed as perfectly normal, attractive, and beautiful.

(After searching for an "appropriately inappropriate" photo to use, I now feel like I need a shower. My eyes....they burn!)

There is a strong distinction between uses of breasts in those two contexts.

In the first picture (and yes, that's me), the breast is being used to feed a child her first meal. It is being used to bond mother and child. My husband was in the room watching it all happen, and I assure you, he was in no way, shape, or form turned on by it in a sexual manner! He thought it was tender, sweet, and beautiful, but certainly not sexually arousing.

In the second picture, the breasts are clearly there to attract sexual attention. It doesn't leave much for the imagination, that's for sure! I am sure there were a lot of men at that event (I can't tell if that's a stadium, theater, or what) who were sexually aroused by that woman's immodesty.

Breasts were designed to nourish children. Thousands of years before the baby bottle, there were breasts. Thousands of years before infant formula, there was breast milk. Its only within the past 75ish years that we've taken what is natural and normal, replaced it with artificials, and in doing so have thus removed all the cultural "normalness" from it, and our view has become so completely distorted that we view it as disgusting, immodest, gross, a chance for a peep show, inconvenient, embarrassing... The list is endless.

Breasts were also designed for sexual pleasure. But there is criteria for that. Certainly we were never meant to walk around with half our tatas hanging out of our shirts, arousing every guy that walks by! Sexual arousal is supposed to happen behind closed doors, between two individuals. Its not supposed to happen out in the open, unsuspectingly, by some hot little blonde walking by in a low-cut shirt.

But that's where our culture has gone. What was meant to be private and intimate, is now abundantly on display on just about every channel of my TV, walking down my street, shopping at my mall, in my magazine... And what was meant to be natural and normal, is now viewed as perverse, gross, and to be done behind closed doors. Public low-cut shirt wearing is now normal, but public breastfeeding is not.

What happened?

And as far as the whole "breastfeeding is gross" thing, I ask you, would you rather fill your baby's mouth with natural, human milk from your own breasts, or artificial milk that is a far cry from "human," from a sterilized piece of plastic? Now maybe I've just turned into a crazy breastfeeding nazi, but I always find it sad when a parent gives a child a propped bottle then walks away. Part of breastfeeding - and to me, the most beautiful part - is the one-on-one time spent gazing into eachother's eyes, the skin-to-skin contact, the hormonal exchanges between mother and baby... Those are things no bottle can ever provide.

I am not trying to guilt trip anyone who bottle fed, nor am I trying to start a debate, but I am just so bothered that so many people are so convinced that breastfeeding is gross, embarrassing, to be done only in private... As a culture we have it so backward!

Breasts are for nourishing babies. Breasts are also for sexual arousal. But don't blur the lines.

What do you think? Do you think breastfeeding is beautiful or gross? Do you think breasts are just breasts, or do you agree with my theory that there are different purposes within different contexts?