tough beginnings


There have been so many changes in my life, in addition to actually giving birth to my little one.  One of the biggest was giving up my "vegetarian" label.  When I became pregnant my body started needing something else besides veggies and soy (ick).  One day before I knew I was pregnant but when my hormones had already started to flare, I craved a turkey sandwich so much that as tired as I was, I got in the car, drove to the Publix deli and asked for a foot-long turkey sub on wheat (ack).  It was so good, though.  I thought it was just a one time fluke but the cravings for turkey sandwiches were very strong.  So much so that one day I wrote my hubbie a really long email while in tears about my new turkey cravings.  He was a staunch vegan at that point too and his response surprised me:  "So, eat turkey."  I was so emotional about it so I wondered "what in the heck is wrong with me?"  Fast forward to two days later when after two minutes of waiting and two lines on a pee stick, John and I were hugging and laughing as we had just learned we were pregnant.  The whole turkey e-mail made sense when I found out I was pregnant.  I mean, after 7 or so years of being vegetarian I knew there would be some guilt involved, but my reaction clued me in to something else being up besides food guilt. Anyhoo, I am no longer vegan or vegetarian or anything having to do with an "ism" when it comes to food.  Some days I eat no animal products, some days I eat yummy fresh eggs and amazing raw cheeses and yogurt from the farm we order from in Pennsylvania.  It took a bit to get used to but my body takes so well to it and I feel great.  My take on the whole food thing is as simple as this:  do everything (eat, poop, sleep, love, walk, breathe, run, cook, laugh, sing, doodle, whatever) with a heart full of gratitude.  I could go on and on about food.  No really, I can.  My hubs is a health educator and a chef.  After his time on our computer doing research he usually leaves web pages up and I always end up reading them.  I also get to hear podcasts, read books around the house, and hear his conversations with other peeps about stuff.  The truth is, food isn't as easy as it used to be.  Today I read an article about how the seafood industry in the Gulf and south Florida is basically going kaput because of the oil spill.  So sad.  And so weird that it's not going to be as easy as going to grab some sushi at your fave sushi restaurant.  The small sea life will eat the oil and the bigger sea life eat the smaller sea life and we eat a lot of sea life and there you have it folks.  And the irradiation, the pesticides, the contamination, the agave myth that just cracked, factory farming (oock), the introduction of the microwave, the soy and corn problem, high fructose corn syrup...  I could write an entire book about all of this.  So, I'll just repeat my stance on food:  eat with a heart full of gratitude (oh, and don't eat a bite of anything processed or that is a product of factory farming).  Like the Native Americans.  They weren't vegans but ceremoniously gave thanks for every kill and every meal and they were great sustainers of the land.

Another big change has been my body.  Thankfully, breastfeeding brought me back to my pre-pregnancy weight after just a couple of months.  But there are these sensations in my body that I have never felt before.  Knee pain, back pain, neck knots, bumps, thumps, loss of balance, muscle and joint kinks.  I am so grateful that other moms have shared their body weirdness with me because I was starting to get paranoid that it was just me.  I am a very healthy person- always have been.  So, this adjusting to a post-partum body is new to me.  It's annoying more than anything.  Some days, I long for my super fit, high-energy,  sometimes-do-yoga-twice-a-day me.

The most amazing changes are actually happening to my daughter.  Big and small changes. One day her poop is the desired "mustard yellow" and the next day it has a greenish tinge which has me burying my face in her poopy diapers for any weird smells or odd textures.  She spits up so much more and drools constantly so her cute little baby clothes are always covered by oversized bibs now.  She has always been vocal, but the way she communicates now I feel as if any day now her first word is going to come bursting out of her mouth.  And she's so smart I suspect her first word just might be "antidisestablishmentarianism".  She can hold her head up so high and firmly now.  She is very friendly to new people.  She nurses like a champ now-  in and out in waaaaaaaay under 45 minutes (yes, that is how long she used to nurse- and just about every hour too).  Her sleeping schedule changed and I hear that change is normal and that it could very well change again and again.  The last of the NB tees were put away yesterday.  She was getting away with fitting in to them just enough to sleep in them, but not anymore.  And she's bigger, yummier, and pudgier every day.

I've already mentioned the changes in my level of desire around anything to do with sex.  I shuddered even just typing the word!  I just appreciate sleep now.  And comfort.  My favorite thing to wear are my yoga pants and a tank top.  I can't stand bras anymore and I can't imagine I ever will again.  People will just have to deal with my nipples.  I LOVE my new five fingers even though they are these funny looking shoes.  But they have a philosophy and a story and I love that.  :)  My hair is longer than it has ever been and frizzier than I have ever let it be.  But I don't use hair products besides some Monoi oil anymore really- just look at those ingredients!  Even the stuff at Whole Foods isn't great (and don't get me started about Whole Foods.  Whole Foods is a lie.  Sugar bomb "organic" pop tarts are STILL sugar bomb pop tarts!  Oops, I said I wouldn't talk about food anymore...)  My nipples have changed- they look like two wrinkly raisins.  And my butt.  My poor used-to-be-little-perky-cute-but-now- completely-nonexistent butt.  That's all I have to say about that.

And the biggest change of all:  In a year or so, someone is going to call ME "mom".


About clueless parenting...

So I just bought the Bumbo chair which I love.  I don't leave the baby in it too long though.  I just use it to help her practice sitting up and if I need to run to the potty or something.  I don't know how some moms do it... you know the ones that know exactly what diapers to buy and know exactly what thingamajig is perfect for each stage of development and the ones that know where all the cute/inexpensive baby clothes are.  I guess it's play dates with other mommies or going to mommy groups.  I'm not doing much of that lately because my little one can't stand being in the car for more than 5 or 10 minutes tops.  Almost all the mommies I'd like to visit live much further than that. I woke up this morning to my daughter's beautiful smiling face.  This little one couldn't be cuter if she tried.  I get so happy when I see that smiling face every morning.  She wakes up so happy and that makes me happy too.  When I looked at her though, it dawned on me that I have NO idea what I'm doing.  I wonder if that happens to every parent.  One day they look at their child and think "Holy poop, I'm a parent and I have absolutely NO idea how to be one!"  It's comforting to know that there are others out there that feel the same way I do.  Even the parents that have it together and feel confident were clueless parents at one point too I'm sure.  I always thought that saying "kids don't come with an instruction booklet" was a silly saying.  I thought it was so redundant.  "Of course not," I would think, "so why bother even saying that?"  But now I know why parents say that.  Because for the first few months they were probably scouring their home, their parents', and their friends' homes and pretty much every possible corner of the universe looking for that instruction booklet only to finally discover no such thing exists and they're going to have to go it alone.  Aaaaaahhhhh!!!

My little one is already teaching me so much.  When I see her all blobby, not able to control all her limbs yet and jerky, I can sense her helplessness and it then becomes mine.  And then I go back to when she was first born and think maybe that's why I wouldn't completely connect with her.  I think she reminded me of parts of me that feel weak and helpless and that I knew just needed time and patience on my part to rebuild and strengthen- emotionally and physically.  Her smiley mornings remind me to always smile at life.  Her being in the present at every moment brings me to my present every time.  It's lesson after wonderful and heartbreaking lesson.  I wonder how single moms do this.  I wonder how teenage moms do this. I wonder how moms of multiples do this.  I'm sure they punch it out as best they can.

The thing is that "best they can" is just not enough.  It's okay to start clueless but not okay to stay so.  I realized this the other day at a play date I had with these two awesome mommas.  We were all at different stages of parenting.  One's little one was 4- her only child.  The other momma's first boy was 3 and her other boy is just about my little one's age.  And then me, who's only little one is almost 4 months.  We have all made big sacrifices to be there as much as possible for our children.  We all co-sleep.  We all are breastfeeding (or did breastfeed at one point as was the case for the 4 year old).  We all keep our babies in arms.  We tune into and follow our baby's cues.  We are committed to raising children that will be more sound of body and mind than was last generation's status quo.  We are committed to changing the face of the world through our efforts and actions.  So it's not just about punching it out and just getting by with kids.  I think parents have a moral obligation nowadays to foster change by way of their children's upbringing.

If anyone wants to disagree with me- maybe say I'm being a bit dramatic- here's something to chew on.

Some funny things about being a mom.

Today, my little one had her fourth big poop accident so far.  These eco-friendly diapers aren't very baby-friendly or clothes-friendly.  I had to throw out one of her yummy organic cotton onesies (not the first time I have to throw out an article of her clothing due to a diaper mess).  The Seventh Generation diapers are alright, but the Nature Babycare and the Earth's Best are not absorbent at all for breastfeeding poops.  I won't even get into the G Diaper debacle.  A friend of mine had some diapers to throw out so she gave me a NB package of them and when I finally went to use them I realized- to my utter disappointment- that they were Pampers Swaddlers.  They work great... no diaper rash and super absorbent.  But are also going to super linger for 500 years in landfills.  Poop. The whole thing was kind of funny.  It's so cute how babies are clueless about what is happening around them- they always have that matter-of-fact look on their faces.  I was cracking up when I saw her covered in baby poo hanging there in her daddy's arms.  5 wipes and a new outfit later, I was thinking of the quirky things about my experience with motherhood so far and here's what I've find the most quirky...

...The toe curling for 30 -60 seconds when the babies first latch on to your breast to feed.  It's excruciating at first but when I started getting used to it I would sing the ABC's in my head and by the time I got to the end of the song, the toe curling sensations were over.

...When I forget to change her for a few hours b/c I'm having fun with her and we're preoccupied with other things and then suddenly I feel some warmth on my lap. I look down at her very large and swampy diaper and realize it's been a few hours since I've changed her and that I just got peed on!

...How I've never made a picture album for myself but at three months she already has two completed ones.

...How whenever I go on an outing I think how fabulous it would be if we all still lived in tribes and in nature so that I could walk around topless in a grass skirt.

...How I crave constant company- especially the company of women.

...After birth I started snorting when I laugh.  I have no idea why and it probably has nothing to do with birth or the baby but I snort everytime I laugh now.

...I found out that you actually use that funny-looking nose bulb thing!

...How can I only lift a few pounds at the gym but am able to carry an 11 lb baby around all day long with and without a sling?

I'm sure there's lots more funny things to come.  I welcome them with good humor but I really do hope to find a solution to the inefficient diapers very soon!

Any suggestions?

For moms everywhere.

The eating, pooping, sleeping peaked within the first two months after my daughter's birth.  It seemed endless.  I felt like just a cow or just a warm body.  I didn't feel like a mother or a wife or an individual anymore.  I often asked "Where am I?  Who am I?" but couldn't conjure up a solid answer anymore.  I sat on my couch for 12 hours a day to feed.  It was overwhelming and I often felt desperate and sad.  I tried to hold on to the  beautiful parts of motherhood but couldn't hold on to them for more than a few minutes at a time or for a few hours- on a good day. When the fog began to lift (just recently), other aspects of motherhood began to come into view.  I started to SEE my little one.  I started to get to know her.  I had wanted to feel this since the beginning, but since shortly after birth, breastfeeding became unbearably painful and hormonal changes had me on the brink of tears constantly, there was a big delay.  The emotional rollercoaster was pretty intense, but I had the hardest time with the breastfeeding.  After the first week of breastfeeding, my little one took a piece of my left nipple.  And it's just now- three months later- that I'm nearly all healed up.  I thought I would quit more than a dozen times.  I felt like such an unfit mother.  I wondered how that beautiful scene of mother nursing daughter as they lovingly gazed at each other was ever possible.  I had that picture in my head all the time and constantly wondered what I was doing wrong.  It was only when I started opening up and sharing my feelings that other women began to share their own challenges.  So many women had a very hard transition into motherhood and even more loathed breastfeeding.  I never knew.  I always thought the baby popped out and you were flooded with love and automatically knew what to do.  I guess this belief was why my experience was especially shocking to me.  I wish more people talked more openly about their difficulties.  Which is why- as private as I am- am sharing what I am feeling.

My pregnancy was great.  No complications.  I was the perfect picture of a healthy pregnant mom-to-be.  The only issue I had while pregnant was the feelings that came up about my own mom.  I was so angry at her for all the things she had seemingly done wrong.  I blamed her for so much.  Maybe that was hormones too- I'm not quite sure now.  Whatever it was, I was enraged by all the shouldacouldawoulda's.  I wondered internally "Why wasn't I breastfed? Why did she go back to work so soon?  Why did she miss our recitals and performances?  Why was she never a PTA mom?"  It wasn't until one day that my mom and I had a chat one afternoon when she was helping me with my little one that I understood and began to let go of some of the anger.  I'm happy to say it's somewhat subsided.  I attribute that to the very helpful book I'm reading right now called "The Science of Parenting" by Margot Sunderland.  It explains, in a very scientific but relatable way, what happens to children and their brains due to specific forms of parenting.  I am a practitioner of natural and attachment parenting- meaning that I listen to my baby's cues, I wear my baby in a sling/carrier, and I breastfeed her- and apparently, this is the best way to parent because it helps babies learn to feel safe in the world, it is very soothing to their highly alterable states, and it teaches them how to be well adjusted and how to cope as children and into adulthood.  And as newborns and young babies, it helps them reduce the cortisol level when they cry (cortisol is very bad for babies and their brain development).  Reading all about this, I realize where my own anxieties come from and how maybe my mom and dad's parenting falling short of these tenets shaped my reaction to stress and to all of life's situations in general.  Yes she made mistakes.  Some major ones too.  But if my mom is truly at fault of anything, it is of making the world too safe for me sometimes.  She sheltered us in a lot of protection.  Anxiety and stress came about in me when I- much later in life than most people I think- finally came face to face with difficult situations.

Motherhood is hard.  It's not my favorite thing in the world.  It took a session with a beautiful healing soul named Joyce (an excellent massage therapist and Barbara Brennan healer) to allow myself to admit it.  She was also very encouraging as far as sharing my story with others so that I could shed some light to other women who may be going through similar experiences and feeling alone, shameful and/or overwhelmed.  The good news is the situation will evolve and it does get better and I know this because everyone around me has now shared their stories with me and they have all come out the other side stronger, no less sane and as happy parents.

Which is GREAT news actually because I don't always want to smell like sour milk.