Thursday, January 30, 2014

Parenting, the Ultimate Labor of Love

Dear first-time mothers-to-be,

Please take a deep breath, because I have some bad news. I’m truly sorry to do this—as a doula, it’s practically my job description to be positive and encouraging, and I love that role. It comes easily to me.

But sometimes a reality check is in order, and the reality is not always pretty. I feel compelled to give you a heads up, and hopefully buffer you just a tiny bit from the shock I’ve witnessed so many new mothers go through as they discover what it really means to be a parent.

Now you might brush all this off, thinking it won’t apply to you, or simply not believing me, and that’s okay. I probably would have done the same. But some day, you might find yourself awake at 2 am, with vomit in your hair and tears in your eyes, and you might remember this. Hopefully then you won’t feel so alone.

See, there’s a secret no one talks about.

Do you want to know what it is? Are you sure?

Here goes:

For as difficult as labor and childbirth are, they are not nearly as challenging as the day-to-day responsibilities of being a parent. Not even by a long shot.

In fact, labor and parenting are really just versions of one another.

Think about that for a minute.

After birth, labor never actually stops. Just changes.

As with labor, being a parent means fluctuating between moments of the most extreme intensity and blissful relief. As with labor, there are things, so many things, you can’t control. Things you can’t predict. Things you can’t plan for. As soon as you start to get the hang of it, it changes…

As with labor, parenting is probably not what you expect it will be.



As with labor, being a parent can be beautiful, and funny, and gross, and exhausting. Sometimes it hurts.

As with labor, there are moments you may think

I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore. I changed my mind!

Or perhaps

How long can this possibly this go on?

Or even

Why did I do this? I’m not cut out for this. What’s WRONG with me?


Maybe you will compare yourself to other women you know. Or women you think you know because you follow their Pinterest page. And maybe they seem like they’ve got it all together. Guess what? They don’t!

(And if they do, then good for them! Because enough with the mommy wars. We are all in this together. FUCK THE PATRIARCHY AND CAPITALISM that feed isolation and competition between women, and create unattainable expectations of motherhood).

I digress.

The point is, motherhood is an extension of laboring.

But we don’t treat it like that, do we? If you are like many women I know, your preparation for motherhood mostly involved the acquiring of things. Building a crib, finding the perfect matching curtains, folding the adorable clothes. That is fine and good, but it doesn’t prepare you for parenting, not even a little bit. You can’t buy your way to sanity and tranquility. You can’t decorate yourself out of exhaustion and frustration.

If this is disheartening to read, I apologize. But be of good cheer, it’s not all bad. As with labor, there are things you can do now to help prepare yourself for parenting:

You can gather your support team. You will need them. We’re not meant to do this alone.


Don't judge.
You can talk to other moms to hear their stories. Real moms, who are not afraid to show you the massive pile of laundry stashed in the corner, the granola bar encrusted into the back seat. Who will confess that their Facebook pictures are not telling the whole story. Who will admit that although the immeasurable depths of love they feel for their children make it all worth it, there are still hard times. Maybe even lots of hard times.

You can work on your relationship with your partner, finding ways to build each other up, asking “what do you need?” and explaining “this is what I need.”

You can give yourself permission to meet your own needs without guilt.

There’s more. The very same techniques you use to get through labor and birth will serve you very well when the parenting poo hits the fan, as it will. Practice them. For instance:

Take lots of deep, cleansing breaths. This will take you further than you can imagine.

Trust in the process. In yourself. In your child. I know that can be hard, dear mothers. It’s okay to fake it ‘til you make it.

Use a mantra. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I AM doing this.

From time to time, look into your loved ones’ eyes, and pause to simply be in awe and wonderment at the whole thing.

And you know what? Just like labor, you WILL get through it. You really will. One day at a time; one breath at a time; one leaky diaper, skinned knee, forgotten homework assignment at a time.

And then, as with labor, you might eventually look back through a filter of love as the memories blur and the pain recedes. You might even find that you miss it and would do it all over again given the chance.

But please do me a favor. Some day, so very many years from now, when the tables have turned and you are becoming a grandparent, dig deep. Rose-colored nostalgia might tint your view of birth and parenting by then (as rose-colored expectation may tint it now), but please don’t gloss over the realities to your future son or daughter.

Instead, be honest. And then ask, “How can I help?” Because as you are about to discover, new parents need all the help they can get.

Now go get yourself a massage.

Sincerely,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Doula, keeping it real



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Blame the Mayans

You may have noticed that I skipped an entire year of blogging. Apparently I only write in odd-numbered years - who knew? Here is my grand list of:   


Things I Did Instead of Blogging during 2012

10.   I courageously learned how to use a pressure cooker. I 
       then immediately turned all pressure cooking duties over to 
       my husband. (He’s from Mexico City and is not afraid of 
       anything. Plus, the dude knows his way around a pot of 
       beans).

9.    I baked my first ever loaf of bread, which happened to be 
       for a friend’s bachelorette party. Think there’s a high 
       demand for penis-shaped breads? Because it was delicious. 
       (I shall call my future side business…  Special Shapes.) 
Balloon Fiesta
The Special Shapes Glowdeo. Heh heh. 
(How come there's not a Beavis balloon?) 



8.    I checked out 
       Pinterest. 
       It was not life-
       changing.
       I checked out
       Gangnam Style. 
       Nothing will ever 
       be the same. 


7.    I grew an organic garden. It yielded lots of rich sensory 
       experiences for my children (“Look Mama, I found the 
       seeds you lost in the dirt!”) and not a lot of vegetables, 
       with the exception of tomatoes. They were abundant, and
       harvested and eaten primarily by baby N (an intrepid 
       toddler by now). Turns out she will eat a tomato like it’s an 
       apple. It’s really pretty gross. I have to look away.  

6.    I facilitated a public meeting, this time without a 
       SpongeBob SquarePants sticker attached to my butt. 
       Progress. 

5.    I went camping—twice!—with my crew. And we weren’t
       even eaten by a cougar. (I know because I stayed up all 
       night in terrified mama bear mode thanks to the helpful 
       DANGER COUGAR AREA signs posted everywhere.)

4.    I threw a celebrity-themed baby shower for my little sister. 
      My favorite game was called “Person or Pony?” As the title 
      suggests, you had to guess whether a given moniker was a 
      celebrity baby name, a My Little Pony, or a Kentucky Derby 
      winner (harkening back to our Lou-uh-vul roots). It was 
      pretty amazing and I’m very proud of it and it may require 
      its own blog post. Just to give you a taste – can you identify 
      which of the following is a real person? Pilot Inspektor, Petal 
      Blossom Rainbow, and my favorite, Jermajesty. 

       Answer: Folks, those are ALL PEOPLE. 

Meet Fifi Trixibelle! No, wait, wait, that's a PERSON. 
This here is Rainbow Dash. My bad.

3.     I/we survived our first road trip as a family of four. Sure, a 
       7-hour drive took us 12, but I am now familiar with every 
       playground from Albuquerque to Phoenix, and I ate 
       something called Amish buttermilk pie along the way that 
       was DIVINE. Totally worth a cart and buggy lifestyle.

2.     I became a Dancing for Birth instructor. Though one 
       pregnant friend kindly described the idea of the class as 
       “her worst nightmare ever” I promise you that it’s really 
       fun and awesome and you will learn some amazing birthing 
       tips. Really! You should come! (Please don’t make me 
       dance by myself.) 

1.     Finally, I tended to the physical, emotional, psychological, 
        social, and spiritual needs of two other human beings. And 
        got a full-time job. And took some doula clients (yay!). 


So dear readers (do I have any dear readers?), I'm sure you're all wondering if this post means that Carlos is back. Well, that remains to be seen. But 2013is off to a bang (just last week I cleaned parts of my house that hadn't seen the business end of a sponge in 6 years), so anything is possible. 

To the new year!

P.S. If I do have any readers out there, and you like what you read, please comment on or share your favorite posts. It so warms my little heart. And who knows? I just may repay you in baked goods! Any shape you like. =)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Well, This Stinks


In honor of the great Shel Silverstein's birthday today, and because the depths of my nerdiness apparently know no limits, today's post comes to you in verse. 

Baby N was out good, asleep on my lap,
As I fried my brain with T.V.,
When up through the air, rose a terrible stench—
What could that nastiness be?

I gave a sniff in the diaperous region—
(The culprit I first suspected)
But the baby was as sweet as a fresh-powdered bum,
My hunch, it seemed, misdirected.

I carefully stood, put N in her swing,
And turned off Dr. Oz.
The reek still remained, taunting me, and
I had to know its cause.

I checked out the kitchen with its dishes and trash,
Sure I would find the source.
The can overflowed with veggies and rot
So I took it out, of course.

But alas when I entered my unkempt house,
The smell had not dispersed.
If anything, though I opened the windows,
The odor had grown worse.

I rolled up my sleeves and got to work,
Vowing to uproot the stink.
Maybe I’d find a forgotten sandwich
From when, I hated to think.

But there was no sandwich or abandoned diaper,
Or a long lost bowl of slaw. (Thank goodness).
I did, however, pass a mirror
And what do think you think I saw?

Well, I found the source of the Odorous Funk:
Not cheddar, nor swiss, nor brie.
Curdled breastmilk on my shoulder lie—
The source of the stench was me!

Ew! Double ew!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Don't Mind Us


I always thought babies were pacifists by nature. But baby N, despite being all big eyes and cuddles, is a warrior. She even has an archenemy: the Dark Bringer of Doom, His Uncomfortableness, the Car Seat. In her first months, whenever she encountered her nemesis, she would call upon the only weapon available to her—a piercing, hysterical scream.

And though the car seat was not phased in the slightest by N’s assault (what with it being an inanimate object), there were civilian casualties. Namely, Mommy’s sanity. 

You wanna knuckle sandwich? Try puttin' me in that seat!

To avoid these battles, I drove as little as possible in N’s early days. Unfortunately, big sister S needed to go to preschool every day (okay, let’s be honest—I needed S to go to preschool), so daily car rides were inevitable. To say these trips were unpleasant would be like saying that World War II was kind of a bummer.

One warmish March day when N was about five weeks old, I decided to pick up S from school on foot. We would avoid the DBD, get some exercise, and enjoy the fresh air.   

I nursed and diapered baby N, and set out with the stroller. N was sleepy, so I assumed she would pass out pretty quickly. Well, you know what they say about assuming…

Poor N started fussing almost immediately, and screaming not long after that. The neighborhood elementary school was about to let out, so I had the delight of pushing a wailing baby down the street at top speed, while parents sat in their cars eyeing me and probably googling ‘Amber Alert’ on their cell phones.

We finally reached S’s preschool, me huffy and puffy, N red and angry. I transitioned her into the baby wrap, sure she would settle down, and we began the uphill haul back.

S was thrilled we were walking; there were always a million treasures to be found on the way home—sticks, bottle caps, random pieces of tire, and other awesome playthings. N was not appeased, though. She howled even more as I hauled butt, with S motoring along beside me as fast as her little legs could carry her.  

The crying was not subsiding and the parents in parked cars were really giving me the evil eye now. I finally admitted that there was only one solution to this problem. Even though I’d already fed N and couldn’t imagine how she could possibly be hungry this soon, I knew the answer lay right in front of me: the almighty Boob. (And speaking of World War II, how many more problems might be solved with boobs? Just throwing that out there).

I turned down a quiet side street, found a shady patch of grass between a long wall and the sidewalk, and parked the stroller. S danced around looking for bugs while I went about my business, nodding casually at the few stray cars that passed. Nothing like nursing your baby on the side of the road. 

But no big deal. Until I heard the dread words, “Mommy, I need to go potty.” 

We were still a long way from home, and N was just getting going. I panicked. Looked left, looked right.

“Honey, do you remember how to squat?”

That's right. I told my three-year-old to pop a squat behind a tree on a public street. Not my finest moment. And she went for it.

“Mommy, I did it! I peed on the ground!” S gleefully waddled back to where I sat on the curb. Despite her excitement, it was clear that she did not remember how to squat. Her pants were around her ankles, and she was soaking wet.

I told her to take them off, thinking she could ride home in the stroller with a blanket over her. She pulled off the wet clothes and skipped around while I tried to remove N, who still clung to me like the Strongest Barnacle in the West. 

And then it happened.

A car pulled out of the driveway next to us, veeeery slowly. I tried not make eye contact. La la la. My half-naked child didn’t just pee on your oak tree, I’m not exposing myself in the middle of the street, la la la. Doo do doo. 

I kept my head down, waiting for him to pass.

Then S cried, “Guess what, Mommy? I waved at that man in the car!” 

Really? This is a child who won’t even say hi to people she knows half the time. She had to pick this moment to go all Mr. Rogers on me?

“But he didn’t wave back." She stuck out her bottom lip in a pout, then shrugged her shoulders. "Oh well. Maybe next time.”

Dear Lord, I don't ask for much, but please let there not be a next time. Thanks.

Your humble servant, 
S. B.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Murphy's Laws of Parenting


1.   The baby will wake up the second the food is served.

2.   Your child will pee in his pants the one and only day you
      forget to bring a change of clothes.

3.   Illness will hit on the first day of vacation. 

4.   Your child will choose the day your
      mother-in-law comes to visit as the 
      day she decides to go all Picasso on 
      the living room wall. 

5.   Whatever it is, it’s just a phase. (Of 
      course, after this phase comes. . . 
      another phase.) 

6.   The doorbell will ring if, and only if, 
      the baby just fell asleep.

7.   The most expensive toy will be the most ignored. 

8.   In the time it takes you to clean any given area in your house, 
      your child can destroy a space three times that size in another room. 

9.   The best way to get a baby to have a giant poop is to give her a 
      bath and dress her in her cutest outfit. 

10.  As soon as you have things figured out, they change.
      Surprise!

What wonderful truths have you discovered about parenting? Share in the comments!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Ain't No Rest for the Weary

Hello, readers, Happy Labor Day! Are you thanking the ‘folks that brought you the weekend,’ enjoying a paid day off, grateful for mandated breaks and worker’s comp? Me neither! 

The closest thing I’ve had to a Labor Day in the last four years is the day I was actually in labor, which definitely does not count as a vacation. Invigorating, life-changing, awe-inspiring, borderline psychedelic, yes. But no weekend trip to the lake.

Perhaps you are one of those lucky ladies who has fabulous in-laws that take the kids for the weekend while you and hubby zip off for a romantic getaway. Or maybe the hubs watches the wee ones while you and your girls enjoy a spa and yoga weekend? (Do things like that actually happen in real life?) Anyway, if so, I am thrilled for you! Alas, the last time my man and I went out by ourselves was for the parent orientation at S’s preschool. Aw, yeah. Big date night over here!

The thought of creating a Parent’s Union is quite appealing, but faces several challenges. First is organization. Who’s got time to devote to that?

Even more daunting is enforcement. I’ve tried to tell S at times, “Mommy’s on a break right now, but I’ll get right on that juice order just as soon as I complete the requests for clean laundry and hot dinner,” but she just laughs maniacally and cracks her whip. 

So much work, so little time for martinis. Ah, who am I kidding? Like I clean!

Baby N is even tougher. I try to convince her that Mommy is contractually entitled to a peaceful meal (since she wakes up or fusses the precise minute the food hits the table), but she won’t have it.

My children have also denied requests for: a full night’s sleep, an uninterrupted shower, an hour—just an hour!—of quiet time. Nice try, Mommy. It’s like the Gulag up in this mug.

Luckily, my bosses also provide some very nice perks. These include multiple hugs and snuggles, a job that offers lots of room for growth, and plenty of humor. Just the other day, Sofia flung open the door to see the mailman, while pretending to talk on the phone. “Hello, hello?” she yelled into her make-believe device. “Anybody there? I can’t hear you!” Her telephone prop? The flange to the breast pump. Nice.

I realize that someday I’ll have a quiet, peaceful, clean house…and I’ll probably miss the heck out of my little task-makers. So for now, I’ll try to enjoy the chaos, while I continue to labor away. Speaking of, I just got an urgent call via the Ameda Purely Yours…gotta go!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

If it Looks Like a Dog Toy…

…and it squeaks like a dog toy, is it in fact a dog toy?

No! It’s the BPA-free, all rubber, French-made teether to the stars—Sophie the Giraffe. I have seen this trendy toy pop up at baby yoga, the park, and restaurants, hanging from strollers and car seats everywhere I go. One woman even asked if I named my older daughter, S, after Sophie the Giraffe. Um, yeah…if it was a boy, we were going to go with…Elmo…or…Batman…

Anyway, popular consensus is that STG is a miracle toy. A quick perusal of the Internet will show you that people cannot live without their Sophie. At least ten Etsy stores make “Sophie saver” leashes so you won’t lose her, and the product website even states at the bottom—YOUR BABY NEEDS HER!

It’s hard to argue with that kind of subtle marketing.

Meanwhile, baby N has been teething since she was 2 months old—drooling like crazy, gnawing anything within her reach, and protesting loudly if you remove the placemat, or checkbook, or breakable figurine from her tiny yet iron-like baby grip.

And so, despite the fact that we are cancelling our gym membership, shopping at thrift stores, and eating beans at every meal (I’m talking a lot of freaking beans, here), I recently went out and spent $25 dollars on Sophie the Giraffe. Okay, technically, I had store credit, but still. If I’m spending that much on a teething toy, it better not only soothe baby N’s gums, but also put her down for a nap and change her diaper to boot.

In the store, baby N smiled and cooed at the sight of Sophie, immediately reaching for the box. I was feeling pretty pleased and justified with the purchase, and couldn’t wait to give her the cute little giraffe to suck on.

I opened the box and presented her to N. But instead of flashing the gummy smile of appreciation I expected, baby N squirmed and scowled. She looked me straight in the eye and threw poor Sophie on the ground. I tried again, but to no avail. Baby N continued to fuss until it dawned on me. She wanted the box.

I offered her the flimsy cardboard, and sure enough, she put it right in her mouth with a little grunt of satisfaction. $25 rubber toy made specifically for this purpose? No go. Cheap cardboard box? Oh yeah.

A few weeks have passed, and N still doesn’t give Sophie more than a passing glance, er, chomp.

Here are five things that baby N would prefer to chew on over STG:

1.     The label from a rotisserie chicken. The kid loves cardboard, what
        can I say?
 
2.     The finger of anyone within her reach. Big sister gets a kick out of 
        this and loves to offer N her hand. Unfortunately, S has a 
        summertime aversion to soap and water, so I’m not such a fan.

3.     Those tiny packages of Kleenex. These are N’s absolute favorite 
        teething devices. They’re crinkly yet soft, light, easy to grip, and 
        provide endless fun. That is, until someone notices that she’s
        managed to open the package and has possibly ingested some of
        the tissue, and then her daddy freaks out and asks why I don’t give 
        her a real toy. Like an expensive French giraffe that she will either
        ignore or throw at me.

4.     Pretty much anything else you can possibly think of. Well, anything 
        that’s not meant for children to chew on. For example, cell phones,
        toy cars made in China, construction paper, watches, Barbie limbs…

5.     Her big toe. She really goes at it if I let her:

Must. Have. Toe! 

Nom, nom, nom.

 
"'Who's Sophie?' she said, and smiled in her special way..."


 





or
(Dontcha wish your Sophie was a yogi like me? Dontcha....?)


Meanwhile, big sister S loves STG. And not just because the toy could be her namesake. As soon as we brought Sophie home, S suggested that I go back to the store to buy one in her size. It went straight into her mouth, and she found it very satisfying to chew on. If only she didn’t have all of her teeth already…

S was also thrilled to discover that Sophie the Giraffe makes a very loud, high-pitched and not-at-all annoying squeaking sound. In no time, S learned how to squeak out Jingle Bells on Sophie, and this has kind of become her theme song. She’ll race around the backyard, squeaking out Jingle Bells (again, not at all annoying), and eventually get bored and try to shove the toy in baby N’s mouth.

But of course N doesn’t want STG. She’s already found a stick or leaf or something else entirely unsuitable for babies to suck on.

I still think Sophie’s cute, though, and she’s taught me an important lesson. If I’m ever tempted to spend $25 on a baby toy again, I’ll remember her and look no further than my own recycling bin for entertainment (soda bottle rattles, anyone?). 

So for that I say, Merci, Sophie!