Thursday, October 18, 2012

Naptime No More?

I had big plans today.

Inspired by the brilliant sunshine smiling on the corner of the living room that has become my makeshift office, I planned to begin outlining my novel – one of the many things I’ve been putting off since my daughter was born over two years ago.

My six-month-old has been giving me two decent naps a day for the past three days, and I had the nerve to want to take advantage of the free time by making a to-do list: catch up on laundry, workout, write.

But unfortunately, all of the progress we’re making with the baby is being cancelled out by our toddler’s sudden backsliding. My beautiful angel who slept peacefully through the night at three months, who quickly fell in line with daily my eat/sleep/play schedule is now trying to eliminate sleep from the routine altogether.

As I write this post, she has been screaming, kicking and calling me a host of dirty names in her unrecognizable baby blabber for the past two hours. I’ve done my best to tune it out, but like most moms, the sound of your child screaming at the top of their lungs makes you want to either spring into action or rip your hair out. I tried reasoning with her – explaining that after a nap, she’ll have more energy to play (as if she really needs any more energy). I tried bribery (a trip to the park in exchange for a nap). I even got so fed up that I threatened to leave her in her bed all day until she napped for an appropriate amount of time (I know. What the hell am I doing trying to negotiate with a toddler?

Watching my daughter learn and grow has been fascinating, but I can’t help but feel just a little sad with the loss of each nap. Now that we’re down to one, I’m not ready to let it go. Maybe a little part of me wants to keep her a baby forever, but a bigger part of me is going crazy trying to manage the demands of an infant and a toddler 24/7. I’ve given up a lot since becoming a mother: regular haircuts, going to the bathroom alone, wearing a size four, but I absolutely refuse to give up on an hour of complete silence. If I’m going to be any good at this stay-at-home mom thing, I’ve got to have a little time to recharge. At this rate, I’ll probably get my novel outlined by the time the kids leave for college.

Maybe it’s me who needs a nap?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Second Time Around

With my first child I did a lot of things right. However, I also did a lot of things wrong (She’ll forgive me for posting a picture of her in nothing but a diaper on facebook one day, won’t she?). One of the best things about having another child is that I’m getting a do over – a chance to right all of the wrongs from my introduction to motherhood. So when my son was born this past April, I promised myself I would do a lot of things differently. Here are just a few:

Make time for cuddling – When my daughter was an infant, I spent most of my time walking around in a sleepy haze – nursing and changing diapers on autopilot. This time, I’m reminding myself to snap out of my zombie-like state and be present. I want to appreciate those quiet moments (even if they do come at 3am!), and snuggle with my little boy. Soon, he’ll be asking me to drop him off three blocks away from school so his friends don’t catch him hopping out of my Subaru!

Don’t rush the firsts – I used to obsess about when my daughter would hit her milestones. I couldn’t wait for her to crawl. And when crawling wasn’t enough, I wanted her to take off on two feet. That was until I realized that the knickknacks in my living room were just too tempting for her little hands to pass up. This time, I plan to appreciate this time while my son is content sitting in a chair at my feet while I read. Because his sister is anxiously waiting to teach him her favorite game, “Hide from Mommy.”

Use my tiny wingman – Rather than complain about the death of my social life, this time around I’m going to do a better job of using my little guy to help make friends with other mommies. Instead of keeping myself locked up in the apartment, we are going to head out to the playground, the bookstore and anywhere else we can find likeminded people who don’t mind hanging out with the under 3 crowd. After all, the playground is one of the few places you can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and not look completely weird.

He’ll try anything once – Before she could talk, my daughter would happily gobble up just about anything that came out of my food processor. Now that she can ask for what she wants, it’s usually only bunny-shaped mac ‘n cheese or peanut butter sandwiches. I have to be more creative than ever to sneak in a few fruits and veggies. I plan on taking advantage of my son’s clean palate and give him as much spinach as possible.

Accept a helping hand – With my first, I had something to prove. I wanted to show the world that I was a Super Mom, and foolishly turned down help from everyone – including my husband. This time, I will happily accept any offers to help with housework and errands so I can spend more time bonding with the kiddies (or catching up on some much needed sleep!).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Call Me Crunchy

Attachment parenting is for weirdos. You know, those tree huggers who don’t bother to shave their legs and who think Crocs are an acceptable form of footwear outside of the garden. All of that baby wearing and co-sleeping stuff is just downright peculiar, right? At least that’s what I thought, until I woke up one day and realized that I had become a card-carrying member of this bizarre movement.

Where I’m from, alternative parenting styles were almost unheard of. Mothers gave birth in the hospital. Their babies subsisted on formula from a bottle and food from a jar. I never really thought to question it, and just assumed that things would be the same for my children. My mother was one of the more unconventional people in our Chicago neighborhood. When she dared to go against the grain, dabbling in vegetarianism before it was cool, the tofu sandwiches she packed in my lunchbox became a prime target for the class clown. But when my husband and I lost our jobs in the middle of my first pregnancy, we were desperate for creative solutions to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the country – some of which put us in peculiar company.

In the beginning, our choices were driven by economics and convenience. Breastfeeding was a free alternative to the expensive powdered formula kept under lock and key at the local grocery store. Our collection of baby wraps in various shapes and sizes helped us avoid navigating the subway system with a bulky stroller. Both babies slept snuggly next to our bed because in a one-bedroom apartment, there really isn’t anyplace else to go. And in probably one of the most extreme choices, we decided on a home birth for our son as an alternative to the painful and expensive hospital birth we had with our daughter.

As we settled into our new normal, we discovered advantages we hadn’t even considered. Nursing not only had amazing health benefits for our kids, but after a few months, I noticed that my belly began to look less like an old tire. My Moby wrap turned out to be a magical contraption that lulled my babies to sleep, allowing me to cook and clean with both hands free.

I turned to the Internet in search of other women who were making similar lifestyle choices and realized I had more in common with the crunchy natural mommas I once shunned than I cared to admit. I found that I actually enjoyed comparing birth stories and baby food recipes in these close-knit online communities. We had no idea our low-budget lifestyle had a name and a huge following.

Contrary to what I thought, the principles of Attachment Parenting are meant to be more of a guide than a list of commandments. People who subscribe to this theory interpret things in their own way. And while I don’t think I’ll be nursing my son through Kindergarten, a lot of the AP principles including positive discipline and nurturing touch are closely aligned with our family’s values. The lesson I learned in all of this: Never judge a mom by her Crocs!

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Two Births

When you’re married with children, Brie and crackers, 80s pop, and a lively game of Uno can make a pretty awesome party. In my case, this party’s guest of honor was my newborn son. After an unpleasant hospital experience with our first child, my husband and I decided to create the ultimate birth experience, the second time around, in the place where we felt most comfortable: our living room.

Expecting my first child should have been one of the happiest times in my life. But instead of blissful prenatal yoga sessions, I spent more than half of my pregnancy on bed rest, due to an “incompetent cervix.” Our obstetrician warned that I wouldn’t be able to carry my little girl to term, and I lived in fear that the slightest movement would have dangerous consequences for my baby.

After months of tests and confusing “doctor talk,” I underwent a painful labor induction at 37 weeks due to low amniotic fluid (probably because of all of my crying!). If that weren’t enough, my parents and OB missed out on the whole thing. In the end, I was left with a bunch of half-finished knitting projects and a resolution that my daughter would be an only child.

Needless to say, when I learned that number two was on the way, I was everything but excited. I was insecure about my ability to manage two little ones in diapers. I was even a little depressed about the possibility of never fitting into my favorite skinny jeans again. But most of all, I was terrified of another labor. The pain of my first pregnancy was still extremely raw. I didn’t want to relive that experience, but I had no idea how I could avoid it. Once an incompetent cervix, always an incompetent cervix, right?

After watching a documentary about home birth, my husband and I decided to consider it as an alternative to revisiting the hospital. This time, we wanted more control over our birth experience. He didn’t want to be confined to visiting hours and hospital policies. I wanted the freedom to eat, move and dress as I pleased. For us, home was the best place to make all of that happen.

As excited as we were, we had a hard time finding others who shared our enthusiasm. We reassured our parents that women had been having babies at home for centuries and that midwives were more than capable of handling emergencies. But there was a little part of me that was uneasy as well. Could the girl who can barely tolerate a paper cut handle natural childbirth?

It didn’t take long for us to find a pair of local midwives who made us instantly comfortable. Their cozy office walls were lined with photos of women and their beautiful healthy babies – all born at home. The pair reviewed my medical records and were skeptical of my incompetent cervix. They gave me the green light to keep my routine, and encouraged me to allow my body to be in control of the pregnancy along the way. After all, I’d already proven I could carry a baby to term.

I looked forward to my monthly appointments, which were more like therapy sessions than medical check-ups. I used the hour to vent about everything from piles of dirty laundry to painful hemorrhoids. Their encouraging words left me with enough motivation to get through (at least until my next appointment). They even helped me find a pair of doulas who worked with me on natural pain management techniques.

With our team in place, there was nothing left for us to do but wait – and wait. Much to my dismay, my due date came and went with little more than a flutter in my belly. I grew increasingly frustrated as friends and family made daily calls to see if they’d missed the big announcement. I was annoyed with my midwives who monitored me closely for issues, but resolved to rely on my body to decide when the baby should be born. “The baby will come on his birthday,” one of them joked when I complained that at 42 weeks, my baby bump felt more like a boulder. I live by my calendar. How could I relinquish control to Mother Nature? I tried every natural labor-inducing tactic out there – spicy food, long walks and acupuncture, but my little guy chose to stay inside and cook.

At the end of week 42, the big day finally arrived – with a little help from a castor oil and orange juice cocktail. We eagerly transformed our one-bedroom apartment into a first-class birthing center. We filled the pool, sliced fruit, brewed coffee and cranked up the music. As my midwives monitored the baby’s heart rate, my doula coached me through each contraction, encouraging me to move towards the pain rather than away from it. I clutched the side of my birth pool and envisioned myself climbing a mountain. My concentrated breath and counting did the work that Pitocin could not with #1. I was surprisingly calm in the face of excruciating pain. I was encouraged to change positions often, until I found comfort (and the undeniable urge to push) in the shower. In true dramatic fashion, Baby Aiden made his debut moments later, in the middle of my favorite quiet place.

My team hung around to clean up all of the evidence and help my son and I enjoy our first meal together. By the time my little guy had been cleaned and weighed, I was chowing down on a delicious homemade breakfast and a long-awaited cup of coffee. His big sister, who slept peacefully though most of the excitement, managed to tear herself away from Sesame Street long enough to meet her new baby brother.

I never imagined I’d give birth in my one-bedroom apartment on purpose, but I’m so proud of my family for having the courage to make Aiden’s birth what we wanted. We now have two healthy children who are as unique as the conditions under which they came into the world. Now if only I could get them to sleep at the same time!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Little Helper

Whether it’s your first or your fourth, the addition of a new baby can be tough on everyone in your family. After my first child, I was more than a little overwhelmed. But I eventually became adept at balancing time for showers, workouts and even the occasional glass of wine with caring for my little girl.

However, no sooner than I’d let out my first post partum exhale, we learned that number two was on the way. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a complete basket case when I saw that positive pregnancy test. I’d just gotten back to a somewhat normal sleeping schedule and a comfortable body weight. There was no way I wanted to go back to waking for late-night feedings again.

I knew my husband and I would have to make some adjustments, but I was even more worried about how my now almost two-year-old daughter would handle assuming the role of big sister. Everything I’d read said that many kids have a difficult time adjusting to sharing mom and dad with a new baby. I could potentially have to endure some serious back sliding – everything from terrible temper tantrums to a desire to nurse again. So I put off potty training, moving to a toddler bed and anything else I thought might make her think the new baby was somehow taking her place. Believe it or not, I even tried to rush my labor along to make sure baby brother was born before 7:00 am so we didn’t have to miss our regular breakfast together.

But to my surprise, my little girl has been an incredibly good sport about the whole thing. My daughter is incredibly protective of her little brother. She dotes on him constantly, never missing an opportunity to rub his head or give him a tender kiss on the cheek. When he cries, she is the first to let me know that “Baby crying,” and urges me to spring into Mommy action as quickly as possible. She watches attentively at the pediatrician’s office to make sure he doesn’t get hurt. And she’ll tell anyone who will listen that Aiden is “her baby.”

Somehow, she even manages to find a way to be there for me. She sees that the added responsibility of a newborn has taken its toll on me these past two months. She knows that sleep deprivation sometimes causes me to be less than my usual perky self, and does her best to cheer me up with a silly dance or a funny expression. And when I dropped the Eggplant Parmesan that took me over an hour to make while rocking the baby with one foot, she stroked my hair while I balled uncontrollably on the kitchen floor. I had no idea that my two-year-old would be more ready for a new baby than me. But it definitely makes her occasional meltdowns easier to deal with knowing that I’ll need her to be there for me when her brother poos on my favorite dress.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Did I Create A Monster - Literally?

This week, I left my local library feeling frustrated and embarrassed after my daughter had yet another public meltdown. For my part, I did everything right – from scheduling our trip after a 90-minute nap, to leaving her little brother at home for a rare mommy-daughter only outing. But when she discovered the line of toddlers waiting to play her favorite Elmo game on the library’s computers, she erupted into a full-blown fit of rage that would have made Teresa Guidice blush. She left me with no choice but to drag her home kicking and screaming. Somehow, she’d already forgotten the talk we’d had the day before about how acting out in public would guarantee her a one-way ticket to her bedroom. Something happened to my daughter around her second birthday. No longer was she my sweet, loveable travel companion who would go anywhere with me as long as I had plenty of juice and snacks. She’d somehow transformed into a miniature monster capable of mass destruction. From combing her hair to getting in the stroller, leaving the house is a battle of wills. And once we’re outside, I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best. Before I became a mom, I was hypersensitive to other little maniacs. I noticed them everywhere – on planes, in restaurants and at the grocery store. I rolled my eyes at the parents who seemed to be completely lax in their jobs as disciplinarians. How in the world could these people allow their children to act that way in public? Now that the tables have turned, I have the answer to my own question. I’m certain that my daughter goes out of her way to embarrass me at the worst possible times, and sometimes all I can do is sit back and watch. I grew up with the fear that a severe spanking was imminent if I disobeyed my parents. All I had to do was look at my younger brothers who were rubbing their sore bottoms with regret to know that the threat was real. I did my best to avoid my daddy’s wrath. But today it seems that spanking is no longer an acceptable form of punishment. The experts encourage us to talk things out and use techniques like time out instead. I’d rather not have to beat my kids into submission, but as a black girl from the South Side of Chicago, the concept of time out is completely foreign. When my two-year-old is in the middle of a crazy screaming fit, it can be very difficult to keep a cool head. And as hard as I try to talk things out, sometimes I think a quick swat on the butt seems a whole lot easier than trying to explain why jumping on the bed is dangerous for the ninety-ninth time. So do I continue to let her laugh defiantly when I put her in the corner for drawing on the sofa? Or do I smack her hand and hope it stings enough to stop her from wanting to do it again? I never imagined discipline would be this hard, but I’m sure we’ll be spending the next 18 years trying to figure it all out!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

A few months back, I wrote an article about the top five things you should never say to a pregnant woman. I thought I had a pretty comprehensive list, cautioning readers to avoid saying things like, “You are huge!” and “Should you be eating that?” But if I could write the article over, I would certainly add, “Is the baby here yet?” to the list.

As I approach my 42nd week of pregnancy, I’ve been overwhelmed with calls, texts and e-mails from friends and family members who think they missed out on the big announcement. I can’t tell you how tired I am of having to tell everyone that I’m still waiting. And I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have to pretend to laugh when I hear, “Oh, he’s a stubborn one!” for the 99th time.

If I sound a little annoyed, it’s because I am. I know that everyone is just excited and concerned about me, but it only makes me more anxious and concerned myself. While I’m doing my best not to obsess about when my little guy will make his debut, people’s calls force me back inside my head. They force me to wake up every morning wondering if today will be the day. They make me nervous that every bit of movement is the start of something. And worst of all, they leave me disappointed, thinking something is wrong with me because I haven’t gone into labor yet.

And even though I’ve told everyone that I’ll make sure they know the moment #2 is here, they ignore my request for space and check on me relentlessly. I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I have to appeal to everyone who has been on baby watch for the past three weeks – If you don’t hear from me, it’s because NOTHING HAS HAPPENED! No one wants this whole thing to be over more than me (and maybe my husband). So don’t worry about missing out on the news. If you’re anywhere in the tri-state area, you’ll probably hear me shouting from the rooftops when this whole ordeal is over!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Past Due!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in a hurry to experience tremendous pain, but believe it or not, that is exactly what’s happening. For the past couple of days, I’ve been going out of my mind trying to figure out what I can do to trigger my body into labor.

The rational me knows that due dates are totally arbitrary, and that babies rarely have any regard for what doctors and midwives think they’re going to do. However, the impatient me, who can barely sleep with anticipation, (and 30 extra pounds of baby weight) finds it very difficult to deal with the fact that my little guy is four days past the day he was projected to arrive.

It probably doesn’t help that my friends and family have been calling and texting me like crazy thinking that they’ve missed out on some big news. I’m sure it has to be a major buzz-kill to hear that I’m sitting at the playground rather than in my birthing pool. I’ve been trying to convince them to place their bets on a date to make things interesting.

I try to stay sane by telling myself that this is exactly what’s supposed to happen. One of the major reasons we decided on a home birth was to allow the labor process to happen organically. Part of that means surrendering to the process mind, body and spirit. I’m lucky enough to have the chance to have a childbirth do over, and erase all of the bad memories I had from my Pitocin-induced, botched epidural experience. I just hope that this kid’s stubbornness isn’t a sign of things to come!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's in a Name?

I’ve been bragging to anyone who will listen about how ready I am for the arrival of #2. As my due date approaches this Friday, I’ve done all sorts of things to get ready for him and all of his tiny belongings. I’ve washed and folded the clothes, made a list of the important phone numbers and even inflated the birth pool on trial run. But as I sat down to write today, it dawned on me that there is one thing my husband and I haven’t done in preparation for our little boy – decided on a name.

We’ve received more than our fair share of suggestions from other people that have ranged from acceptable to downright ridiculous (we are not naming our son after any cars or alcoholic beverages!), but nothing has really resonated with us.

Choosing a name is an incredibly important decision. We’ve tried to look for good names that have a strong meaning, that will stand the test of time and will allow our son to make the best possible impression on the world. But finding all of those things in one name has proven to be quite a difficult task. We’ve discovered that there really aren’t a whole lot of good names out there. If it hasn’t already been taken by one of our close friends or family members, it sounds terrible with our last name or is just plain weird. So we end up going back to the same old plain names. Seriously, does the world really need another Mark, Bob or Joe?

If Baby Boy arrives before we’re able to make a decision, we’ll hopefully be inspired at first sight to come up with something that will lead him to greatness – or at least make sure he doesn’t get too many wedgies at school.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Waiting Game

As week 38 of my pregnancy comes to a close, I don’t think it’s possible for one person to be any more uncomfortable than I am now. The anticipation of meeting my new little boy, coupled with the fact that his beautiful little head is pressing directly on my pelvis, is making me extremely anxious for our first meeting.

I’ve done everything I can think of to distract myself. I’ve washed all his clothes, organized the closets and written thank you notes for all of the shower gifts – not to mention, I have an almost two-year-old that does everything she can to make sure that she’s the center of my world at all times. Even so, I can’t help but convince myself that every Braxton-Hicks is the start of the real thing.

I know that I should be making the most of this calm before the storm. I should be sleeping, showering and writing as much as I possibly can before the new baby soaks up the little bit of energy I have left after caring for my toddler. Things are going to get really crazy around here in a couple of weeks, and I’m going to need all of my strength to deal with the things these two are going to throw my way. I have nightmares about my husband coming home to find me in the midst of a nervous breakdown induced by my pint-sized rabble-rousers.

But as nervous as I am about dealing with two in diapers, I’m just as eager to get back to some sense of normalcy – my old clothes, a glass of wine every now and then, and the ability to give myself a pedicure without having to contort my body into some uncomfortable position.

I promised myself that with this pregnancy I’d let nature take its course and allow my body to lead me through the process of childbirth. I just have to convince the neurotic, obsessive-compulsive in me to get on board. The good news is that baby boy will make his debut some time in the next couple of weeks. And when he does, he’ll have a happy mom, lots of clean clothes and dry diapers waiting for him. Until then, all I can do is wait.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dancing With Doulas

Today was my last prenatal meeting with my awesome doulas from The Doula Project. I have to admit, I wasn’t initially sold on the idea of having strangers come in to be a part of my birthing process, but now I can’t imagine what I’d do without them. The two young ladies assigned to my birth are passionate about helping women have the most comfortable labor experience possible, and their positive energy is definitely contagious.

The purpose of this meeting was to focus on ways to deal with the pain of labor. Taja and Julia introduced me to my new favorite thing – the rebozo! This amazing piece of fabric, which is a traditional Mexican garment used to carry everything from children to groceries, opened me up (literally!) to different pain management techniques that I can employ on my big day. At first, I was a little skeptical about the power of a simple piece of cloth. I found myself giggling like a schoolgirl as Taja described some of the postures like “The Slow Dance,” but after an hour of rocking, swaying and squatting as they used the fabric to tug, pull and wrap me into various positions designed to relieve pressure from my back and pelvis, I didn’t want it to end. I can’t wait to try out some of their amazing techniques. I just hope my husband is as graceful as Julia and can manage to keep the beat!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Tale of Two Births

“Is it safe?” “What if something happens?” “No epidural?” “Are you crazy?”
Since we’ve started sharing our plans to give birth to our second child at home, my husband and I have received tons of feedback from our friends and family. Some have offered words of encouragement, while most have questioned our sanity.

Believe me, if you had told me five years ago that I would be preparing to have my baby in my living room, I would have called you crazy. I always thought I’d have two children, I just never really thought about how they’d get here. I don’t like pain and I’m not that crazy about blood, so it’s always been a lot more pleasant to daydream about cheesy family Christmas cards and Disney vacations than what labor would be like.

The day I got that first positive pregnancy test result, I was forced to face my fears and focus on how to deal with the pain. Five months of bed rest due to an “incompetent cervix” allowed me to absorb every morsel of information in cyberspace about labor and delivery until I successfully convinced myself that I would be able to get through it. I even thought I might be able to get by without any drugs. Reality, however, would prove to be entirely different.

Near the end of my pregnancy, my doctors decided to induce my labor, kick-starting the process with Pitocin. Once things got going, it didn’t take long before I was begging for an epidural. But even after I’d pumped Charlie Sheen-like levels of pain meds into my system, even my anesthesiologist was baffled at why I continued to feel every excruciating contraction. Twelve hours later, when I was holding my beautiful baby girl, I promised myself that I would never go through anything like that again.

So this time around, we are turning our one-bedroom apartment into our own birthing center. This time, there will be no one telling me not to eat, drink or wear my favorite fuzzy slippers. This time, I’ll be able to move around and allow my body to do what comes naturally. I’ll be able to have as many visitors as I want (or not!). And I’ll feel more in control of the entire situation. By the way, I’m currently in week 38 of my pregnancy, and have cooked, cleaned and chased after an active toddler the entire time. So much for an “incompetent cervix!”

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been bombarded with deliveries of adorable toys and clothes for our little guy. But today’s delivery got me the most excited of all – our birthing kit, complete with gauze pads, bulb syringes and sterile gloves. Call us hippies, crazies or just plain foolish, but I think this time around, we’ve made the best decision for our family. I obviously have no idea what will happen on that fateful day, but somehow I think it will be great.