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Month: September, 2011

Birth Power, or something along those lines

It is an amazing transformation that can take place in people when they find out the strength of birth and what an amazing source of information and inspiration it can be. It affects your life forevermore.

Can I get an AMEN?

That quote was taken from an interview I read with midwife Ina May Gaskin, the godmother of modern midwifery. She was able to put language to a number of thoughts I’ve had swirling in my head since Courtland’s birth.

A week ago today, my first close friend gave birth to a sweet baby girl. As we lay in bed texting about the experience – she in the hospital while her new baby and husband slumbered and I in my home nursing Courtland in the early hours of the morning – I was filled with such happiness and overwhelming joy. For the first time, I had someone dear to me with which to talk about and truly understand, truly know, the power and joy that comes from bringing life into this world.

This all sounds so over-dramatic. But it’s true. I felt like shouting, “Welcome to the club!” Birth is one of those things that until you experience it, is difficult to fully discuss. To find proper language to convey the magnitude of that experience is a challenge I’ve struggled with for two years. Now I have someone close to me who’s “in on it.” I couldn’t help but be filled with excitement.

This friend conveyed awe and amazement over the birth of her daughter. She shared a profound contentment and satisfaction with the birthing experience she’d had. She wrote about these feelings and I could sense the transformation that had taken place just hours before. That deep, inner knowing that can come from birth. That strength. That awe. That power.

That she was able to have those things is what I want for every woman that gives birth. It’s what every woman deserves.

Earlier this month we had dinner with some new friends in town who have a 3 year old son that plays with Sunny. They had welcomed their second child into the world in May. The wife and I talked about the differences of our two children’s births, and discussed some of our frustrations with the medicalization and lack of information that women receive during their maternity. We were both fortunate to deliver our second child with the same midwifery group, at a hospital that allowed for intervention-free, natural deliveries without having to advocate for such care.

What I found most powerful and heartbreaking about this conversation is that this woman, someone who is typically very private and reserved in what she shares about herself, said that with her first child’s birth – one that wound up having unnecessary intervention lead to more unnecessary interventions in the classic tale of how medicalized labors can go – she felt that she was robbed of something. That something had been taken from her. That through that experience she’d lost a piece of herself. She said that she had been carrying around a trauma for three years. Until her second baby was born. When her second child arrived and she was able to have the birth experience she wanted. She said that that birth gave her back what was taken from her three years prior. It had healed that trauma, that loss, and was incredibly important in reestablishing her sense of self.

Yep. Whoa. Birth Power, y’all.

I write this because sadly I think that many women, particularly in America, don’t even realize what is possible from labor and delivery. That there is the possibility of empowerment and transformation and inspiration that comes from the birthing process, and yet they never know it, never even know it exists, because they passively engage with the process. And there are many ways to have an empowering experience. It most certainly does not only come from a natural birth, but I think rather from an educated one. A birth where the mother is an active participant in the process and in her care. A birth where the mother has a voice. A birth where the mother is empowered to trust her body. To trust instinct. And to know that she has the support of the medical industry should she need it or want it. THAT is the kind of maternal care I wish all women had.

I’ll end with more words from Ina May Gaskin’s recent book, Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, because she says it better than I can.

Giving birth can be the most empowering experience of a lifetime – an initiation into a new dimension of mind-body awareness – or it can be disempowering by removing from new mothers any sense of inner strength or capacity… Birth may be followed by an empowering joy, a euphoria that they will never forget or by a depression that can make the mother a stranger to herself...

Card Memento Book

Everyone says that the first born in the family has the most thorough documentation of her early years of life. Look at any family’s photo albums and you’ll find that Baby #1 by far exceeds subsequent siblings representation in these books. The first has the undivided attention of her parents. No pesky siblings to distract from Mama’s collaging efforts or Daddy’s focus behind the lens. This blog is very much a testament to that. Addison has two years worth of material that is solely focused on her.

Knowing this, however, I’ve been trying very hard to ensure that Courtland has mementos and documentation of her childhood that, while different due to her placement in the family, is still meaningful and distinctly hers. I’m going to try my darnedest to write 24 monthly birthday letters to her. And while she’ll often have to share the camera frame with her sister, I want to be sure that we have plenty of footage of her as a little one. My maternity series and the Weekly Growth Series are both unique projects inspired by her arrival. While I had far more time to catalogue and collage photos, cards, and mementos of Sunny’s infancy, I whipped up this little book the other day in an effort to save special cards and letters from family and friends to baby sister Courtland.

This is an easy DIY project for any parent. Promise. And a simple way to contain all those sweet cards that descend on your home upon baby’s arrival.

Photos by Ashley Weeks Cart

A Bedtime Story

Addison has memorized her first book, “Kitten’s First Full Moon.”

It blows my mind every time she “reads” it. She has most certainly earned that Big Sister title.

See, this is the flipside of yesterday’s meltdown. The amazing, incredible, heartwarming awesome that comes with being a mother. Watching your child do something like this. It’s hard to find words to describe it. So instead, why don’t you take a glimpse at what I find to be pure magic.

A Metaphor for Parenting

This is mostly just footage of Kaki tummy timing. Thrilling, I know. The last 2 seconds, however, are a classic example of this roller coaster ride we call “parenting.” Total cuteness to total yuckness in a split second.

Baby Gift Ideas

People have been remarkably generous in response to Courtland’s arrival. From adorable baby outfits to home cooked meals, friends and family have gone above and beyond to help us welcome our second born into the world.

It’s expected with the first child, but I’ve been surprised to experience a similar level of generosity lavished upon us with baby number two. I am particularly awed by how thoughtful people are with Addison. Practically every gift that has arrived has included a little something for the big sister. There’s been handmade baby blankets, silver baby cups and bowls, outfits, toys, books and, of course, Big Sister/Little Sister ensembles.

I wanted to share a handful of items that I found particularly unique, so each of you could be aware of such clever, smart, and well-loved potential gifts. I realize that you savvy folk may already know about each of these items, but they were all novel to me.

1. Mysterio Predicts Baby Shirt, $14.99
This gift had me laughing out loud. It came sewn up in a cloth baggie that claimed that my child’s future profession was embedded on a t-shirt within. Turns out Courtland is a future Dog Show Judge! This is not surprising to me or my mother who look forward to the Westminster Dog Show as though it were Christmas come early. Such dog breed fervor apparently runs in the family. To think we could attend IN PERSON if Courtland attains such a status.

2. Kitten’s First Full Moon, $17.99
I’m sure that this book is well-known by others, but neither James or myself grew up reading it and thus it was not yet a part of our library collection. It was gifted as a special big sister present and became an instant favorite. It’s the first book that she has memorized, she loves it so.

3. Dresses by Pink Chicken, $74
Oh how I wish I had the disposable income to buy up every article of clothing packed within Pink Chicken’s collection. I had not heard of this children’s clothing designer until a box with the dresses pictured above arrived for Courtland and Addison. They are gorgeous. Beautifully made. And absolutely my style. Swoon.

4. Big Sister Mouse in a Matchbox by Maileg, $29.95
This mouse is the cutest little thing to enter our household since Courtland’s arrival. She was a gift to big sister Sunny, and Addison delights in putting the little mouse to bed with her miniature pillow and blanket each evening. It’s made by a Danish toy designer and they have a number of different mouse designs. Adorable.

5. Baby Record Picture Frame by the 925 inc., $178
This gift, while pricey, is so stunningly personal and so thoughtfully designed. It’s a sterling silver picture frame, but each design element on the frame is crafted to include the receiver’s date of birth, time of birth, weight, height and, of course, name. It is truly a special piece.

Confessions of a Frustrated Mama

It’s been one of those mornings.

One of those mornings where I would rather live in a mosquito-invested nudist colony than suffer through one more minute with my four dependents.

That’s a horrible thing to admit.

And I feel guilty just thinking it, let alone writing it down.

Now that they are all napping peacefully, the guilt is really building, bubbling over into a horrendous emotional concoction of personal resentment and failure. This manifests itself in the form of a good ugly cry. And a dramatic phone call to James, demanding that he come home from the office earlier than we’d planned. (We’re easing him back into his part time schedule, and even 20 hours away each week is proving a challenge).

And then some covered in lies blogging.

Thanks for tuning in and bearing with me.

My mother always said that the early years of parenting are exhausting physically, but relatively mindless. As the years pass by, however, the exhaustion flips, and you find yourself mentally worn out, but with less of a physical burden to bear.

Unfortunately, I’m currently living in both stages. Like a parenting pergatory.

Courtland is in the heart of the physically exhausting stage. My body is her only source of nutrition. She cannot yet self-sooth, so my arms serve that purpose. She is not capable of sleeping through the night or entertaining herself. Her only form of communication is through crying, and oh what a cry it is. Equivalent to the sound of a broom on a tennis court: Grating, mind-numbing, not-to-be-ignored, must-be-stopped-before-I-remove-my-ear-drums-out-with-an-icecream-scoop kind of awful. All these things pose overwhelming, albeit mindless, physical demands.

Meanwhile Addison is moving out of the physically demanding stage and into the mentally challenging one. Just the other day, as I held her in my arms and she thrashed and kicked and screamed in the heart of a temper tantrum, I thought, “I have no idea what the fuck I am doing. Shit.”

She challenges me constantly. I say, “Don’t touch that” and her hand immediately reaches out and taps the forbidden item. I tell her not to throw things in the house, and she hurls an object at my head. I put her in time out and she screams bloody murder, shrieking statements like, “YOU’RE NOT VERY NICE!” And I can assume that these insults will only intensify as her vocabulary expands.

Since, arguably, I can reason with her through the English language, I find myself getting angry, wanting to yell and scream right back at her. I know how stupid and inappropriate that response is. But it doesn’t mean that in the heart of one of her fits I don’t loose my cool every now and again. We have entered a new stage of our relationship, and it’s complicated and confusing and heartbreaking and amazing, all at the same time.

Today I put her down for a nap and went to nurse Kaki. A lawn mower started up outside and Sunny came running into the room claiming she was scared, absolutely hysterical. I found myself coldly demanding that she go back to her bed. She was fine. Get over it. I just did not have the energy to deal with her.

Then she came out of her room because she’d pooped her diaper. I changed her and asked if she was done pooping or wanted to try using the potty. She said she was done, so I put her back in bed. Not 30 seconds later she appeared with another poopy diaper.

You can imagine that I was less-than-kind in how I handled this interaction. I know I’m not supposed to get angry about potty training. I know that scolding her won’t work. And yet I found myself telling her that I was mad. And disappointed. And very frustrated with her for being a bad girl. I changed her diaper, again, and put her back in bed, meanwhile Courtland shrieking her face off and the two dogs whining outside to have me come and throw the tennis ball for them. All audible examples of my failings as a mother at that very moment.

As I lay Addison down, she looked up at me with a sad, pouting face and said, “I’m really sorry, Mommy. I’ll be a good girl.”

And then I lost it. I sobbed big heavy ugly sobs right into her chest. The guilt for having been so frustrated with her, the resentment at myself for not knowing how to better handle these situations, the anger for not being able to control my own temper, and the disappointment that I ever let myself feel bitter toward my children, they all boiled over.

I don’t want to be an angry mother.

Everyday I am learning. Learning how to be a mother to a 28 month old and a 7 week old. Learning how to embrace this identity in all of its complicated and ever-changing forms.

Every single day is slightly different. Filled with new joys and challenges. Some days I manage the new tests and hurdles with gold stars and blue ribbons. Others, I wind up flat on my face, knees bloodied with gravel and angry red frowny faces to show for it.

What I’m saying is, I’m a work in progress. We all are, I suppose. And that’s okay, as long as we allow ourselves to learn from it. And to forgive ourselves. Because there is always an opportunity to grow and do better the next time.

Here’s hoping for that gold star. Because just as Sunny now asks to do everything “by her big girl self,” I too am being pushed to do things by my big girl self. And it’s not as easy as it looks.

Red Furry Monster

We’re off to the Poconos to see James’ family for a couple days. When we return, I have pictures, stories, and video of Sunny meeting her idol. As in Elmo. Complete with Kevin Clash.*

Prior to her rendez-vous with Elmo and in honor of what would be Jim Henson’s 75th birthday, Sunny posed with cupcakes featuring her two favorite Sesame Street characters. Elmo, of course. And “Monster Cookie,” primarily because he’s blue, her favorite color.

20110924-230046.jpg

*Kevin Clash is the dude man who created Elmo – the voice, the puppeteering, etc. Needless to say, it was a pretty special meeting. To be honest, James and I were more emotional about it than her.

Week 6

This week has been a doozy. I blame what the lactation consultants referred to as “The Six Week Growth Spurt.”

All week long it felt as though Courtland was a permanent accessory. Like hair extensions. Or a parasite.

I say that with all the love in the world. I swear.

She nursed constantly. I’m surprised I’ve not turned into raisin. Thank goodness for my trusty Camel Back that James has conveniently rigged on the bedside table. Best. Idea. E-V-E-R. Just picture it, me suckling from a Camel Back while Courtland suckles from, well, me.

Okay, maybe don’t picture it.

Anyway, I think we’re coming out of this little spurt – PLEASE GOD let us be coming out of it! – so onward into Week 7 we go, with hopes of some time unbound by the demands of a nursling.

Doesn’t she realize that if I’d wanted to accessorize my breasts I would have opted for a nipple ring?

Note: The Mohawk just keeps getting better and better.

Courtland: 6 weeks
Addison: 28 months

Kisses

I love this photo. For so very many reasons.

 

Saturday Smiles

Just wait until 0:58 in the video. Worth it. Promise.

Also, I realize that I’m talking to the 6 week old as though she can understand my commands. It’s called Mommy Brain.