Archive for February, 2010

Defining

A few months ago, a friend of mine entered a contest that asked her to describe her personal definition of parenthood. I don’t know whether she won (though I think you should have, K!), but since then I’ve been thinking about my own definition.

Back when I was pregnant with MJ, the thought occurred to me one day that I was in the midst of experiencing the only truly symbiotic relationship a person can have; a moment later, however, I realized that the more accurate term would probably be parasitic. Nursing, baby wearing, and co-sleeping all reinforced that latter definition.

For the last year or so, however, MJ has been growing more and more independent, and the word no longer really applies. At two and a half, she is clearly her own distinct self, possessing a number of traits I admire but don’t always share: her sunny disposition and sweet-temperedness, her lack of fear and her eternal optimism. Already she has taught me at least as much as I’ve taught her. And so my personal definition of parenthood has shifted yet again, and I think my first term was right, after all: I need her as much as she needs me.

– AC

Advertisements

Nursing Nebula

New babies bring excitement, they bring joy, and they bring feelings of love like never before. But often times, new babies bring fear, feelings of inadequacy, and feelings of hurt, sadness, and aloneness. And worst, they bring feelings of being judged by other mothers.

I dreamed that my adventure as a mother would take me to place I hadn’t been before, but I had assumed that the place would be filled with fireflies, late night conversations about the stars and the moon, and eating cheese and crackers as a pre-bedtime snack. I didn’t think that two weeks after my sweetness was born I’d be lying on the couch sobbing. And that every time my newborn needed me (aka: started moving his lips like a fish and turning his head side to side looking frantically for drops of milky goodness) I would wish to run as fast and as far as I could. I left my jogging shoes by the door, just in case.

Nursing, that loving “relationship,” started out not-so-hot for us. The little man had a short frenulum (you know, that thing that holds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth), and something that wasn’t diagnosed until weeks into his life. By then, he had learned to eat ALL WRONG, and my body was PAYING for it. Hence the running shoes.

Little Guy had his first “surgery” (OK, it was a quick two-minute procedure) three weeks into life. I was all worry, but he couldn’t have cared less. It was so fine with him that we all went out to lunch together afterward and I ate pan-noodles while he slept away. But what I had hoped was the magic cure was nothing of the sort. He had to relearn to eat, and my body needed to heal.

Months went by of more fear, more sobbing, more exhaustion. Nipple shields, lactation appointments, low-supply, engorgement, blah, blah, blah. He did eventually get it, and I thought we were sailing into a more pleasant future. Certainly, he was still colicky, temperamental and stubborn. But at least we had finally gotten a hang of this whole Eating thing.

Until the pain started again a few months later. Cracks, bleeding, serrated knives sawing off my nipples each time he ate. Lactation consultants, doctors, medications, and a dermatologist (who I still think four years later I should report given the way she treated my “problem”) later, life still sucked. And I still spent a lot of time crying and hating motherhood.

I was finally referred to a doctor who was a specialist in breastfeeding issues, and who, bless her heart, diagnosed my problem as a Staph infection. Who Knew! Apparently it is fairly uncommon, and almost rare. (Apparently I’m also predisposed to this issue as it happened again with my second child three years later).

In my case, the bottles of magic pills (5 months of them, to be exact) never completely solved the problem. But in the mean time, I got involved in MOBI (Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues) which allowed me to “meet” mothers across the country going through similar and, in most cases, even more extreme measures to feed their children.

I was so proud to be a part of such an emotionally strong and supportive group. Mothers who made different choices for more reasons than the number of items under $9.99 at IKEA, and who REALLY understood the importance of holding each other up and affirming another momma’s choices. Who saw the beauty of motherhood for what it was. Who knew it was less about what you fed your kid, how much TV you let them watch in a day, and whether or not you brought them to baby yoga or let them tear the house apart while you read a magazine – but only about Love.

They taught me that this whole momma-dom thing doesn’t come with a users manual – and even if there was one, it would be like a Choose your Own adventure, not like the one you got with your new HDTV.

Happy, Awesome Momma- filled adventures to you! May your popcorn bowls be full and your days be filled with more hugs and kisses than snotty noses and smeared peanut-butter in your hair.

EC and H

– EC

Hair

I have the kind of hair that is common is some parts of the world, but not where I’ve spent a majority of my life. It’s crazy curly; the type that can turn into dreadlocks if I go more than two days without washing it. It’s the kind of hair that they run special articles about in magazines. The kind of hair that I was teased about during middle school. The kind of hair that women spend lots of money to get flat ironed and chemically straightened. It’s what happens when Russian Jewish and Chicano genes marinate.

Why walk down such a hairy memory lane? Because my daughter, C, while not sporting a sometimes fro, was born with a head full of wavy red hair. That’s right, she’s a Ginger. We’re talking deep red, the kind with subtle glints of blond, the kind that even at one week old, people would stop me – and still do – to comment on.

To be honest, in the beginning I wasn’t that much of a fan of her one-of-a-kind color that people pay mega bucks to have. I mean, if I hadn’t been in the room, awake to witness her birth, you would have thought I kidnapped the girl. Good thing she was identical to her dad as a baby. So I sulked for a few weeks (shameful, I know) that I had this adorable baby that had red hair and looked nothing like me.

Then I grew to dig it, but I worried that people would tease her. There are insults involving red hair and I didn’t want men asking her lewd questions about, well, you-know-what “matching.” And as someone who was teased for many years about her own hair, I didn’t want her to be ashamed of it or want to change it.

But doesn’t a lot of parenting end up a do-over to the minor injuries we suffered as children? Isn’t it a wish to provide for our children what wasn’t emotionally, physically, spiritually or mentally provided for? Where do we set boundaries on providing in a nurturing way and suffocating or becoming a helicopter parent? I was once told that “suffering makes people interesting,” yet the thought of my daughter suffering momentarily stops my heart from beating. Does watching our children wander through the mental halls of insults help us finally learn how to cope?

I don’t know. I guess the only answer I have right now is the one C gave me tonight while I was rocking her to sleep. “Mama hair,” she said, petting mine. “Mine hair,” she said, patting hers.

– MD

Mother Nature

The first genetic link I noticed was Sweet Pea’s eyes. She couldn’t have been more than a week old when I noticed that the shape of her eyes looked familiar—it looked just like my grandma… and my dad… and me! It was such a great feeling of connection: this baby was part of me, just like I was part of my parents, and so on and so forth.

The whole first year was all about playing “match the physical characteristics.” In addition to my family’s eyes, SP had my dimples, toes and skin (poor girl). She has my husband’s eye color and eye lashes. (Before you go feeling too sorry for DH for not getting many physical traits, consider that he said out loud that he always hoped she wouldn’t get his nose and ears. Trust me, he’s fine with it.)

Once SP got to be a toddler, and then a preschooler, the game shifted a little. It was less who she looked like and more who she acted like. We were delighted to link her love of art to DH’s. Her vocabulary and desire to make everyone laugh? Just like her mama’s. And she pushes food on people just like her great grandma, whose eyes she has. But for the first time, we were starting to see the “dark” side of some of these genetic connections.

DH’s fear of conflict combined with my belief that what you see on television is real resulted in SP’s aversion to watching any movie ever made. DH’s tendency to tamp down any “bad” feelings combined with my tendency to take everything personally led to SP not being willing to talk about why some small slight has plunged her into misery.

Now I’m not one to come down solely on the nature side of nature vs. nurture. I firmly believe that how someone is raised has a huge influence on how they behave. So I still have hope that we can overcome the genetic gifts we’ve given SP by giving her the nurturing gifts she needs: patience, understanding, hope, confidence.

I just wish we had more of these things in OUR genetic makeup. Because right now, nature is kicking nurture’s ass.

– RBVH