Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Time . . .

Parenthood is such an unpredictable job. Even the best laid plans get thrown out the window the minute Baby’s born. As someone who researches by nature every thing I do, I’m the first one to admit that books are helpful and handy and yet totally pointless too. I am an information gatherer . . . but no book nor google search is gonna raise a baby. When things got rough and complicated with Amelia, there was no book, video, or even doctor with answers. I had to find my own answers and learn something very valuable—to trust my gut and fight the experts when necessary. I learned early in motherhood that even the most experienced parents and doctors were not the experts on my baby. That, even as a brand new, have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing mother, I was the expert on Amelia. It was a profound realization.

As we get closer (she will be here two weeks from today, no matter what!) to bringing home another baby, I’ve been reflecting  a lot on our experience with Amelia (oof) and how far we’ve come (seriously) and wondering how it will all apply to our new beginning. . . while also realizing that our expertise is likely out the window with this baby too. They’re all different right?!

What I’ll Do Differently

Breast Feeding. I will do a lot about breast feeding differently. The top thing on my list of doing things differently will be to not care what anyone else thinks about it. I won’t cover up, go to another room in my own house, or run to the parking lot to feed my baby in the cramped seat of the car. I had such anxiety about feeding Amelia in front of family members and friends, even when they came over to our house! And why? Because I didn’t want to bother them. I never once fed her in public because of the perception of others. Why?! Why would I censor myself in something as innocent and natural as feeding my child? Why worry so much about other people including strangers that I would make myself and baby uncomfortable in the process? Quite frankly, if someone doesn’t want to see my boob, they shouldn’t look. If they think it’s gross or inappropriate, I dare them to confront me. In a world where Hooters has a children’s menu and Playboy sits on the backs of millions of toilets across the nation as a classy magazine, I refuse to consider my body obscene when using it for its intended purpose.

I will not agonize over stretch marks and the bread-dough belly left behind. As a mother of two in my thirties, it’s not only okay, but totally time to let the hawt, college girl in her twenties go. Since having Amelia and struggling with body issues, I have come to an important realization. I don’t want to be the same person I was in my twenties. I don’t want to wear the same clothes. I don’t have a desire to be a MILF or attract younger men, cougar style. See, I don’t have to be sexy to anyone except the one I actually have sex with. The hell is up with expecting moms to look like they’ve never had babies? Y’all know that’s impossible right? Permanent damages, yo. And you know what? I believe that by getting women to focus and obsess over stupid things like stretch marks and saggy boobs, she doesn’t realize how powerful her body is and how vital its abilities. If she focuses on what everyone else thinks about her body held up to a silly Hollywood standard, she won’t ever acknowledge her own strength in surviving such a grueling process. We’re so weird as a society that we talk more about her getting fat than the amazingness of bringing a whole person into the world. The HELL?!

I will accept help. I may even ask for it if it’s not offered. I can’t do it alone. Justin and I can’t do it alone. I’ve become a believer in the Village necessity in raising babychildren and I can let go of some of the work to let that village take root. With Amelia, she screamed so much that I couldn’t bear to put anyone else in the position to listen to it—and therefore never got a break from it myself. I didn’t think anyone else should have to deal with it/her. Now I realize that it would have just done me wonders to have gotten out for an hour here or there and it wouldn’t have killed anyone to listen to her for an hour or two either. I’ve also learned as my friends and family have had babies that people want to help. They do. When someone offers, they want to be involved. It’s a win-win.

I will try to demand sleep one night a week. With Amelia, I did the night duty. Every night. And when it was 9 months later and I hadn’t slept, I imploded . . . and then exploded. It’s not possible to get by without sleep. It infuriates me when I see mom blogs/boards that say ‘sleep is for the weak.’ No. Sleep is for survival. I very nearly landed myself in the hospital for not sleeping when A was a baby. My body felt like it was crumbling and my brain was just mush. And I wasn’t a good mom when I was exhausted. The biggest problem for us was that we got into the routine of my getting up, no matter what. Learned early on that Justin was useless without sleep so he’d get up early and relieve me so I could sleep for an hour or two. Added to that (and probably more significantly), I was constantly paranoid about my milk supply so even if he by chance got up to feed her, I’d insist on getting up to pump so my body wouldn’t quit producing. (palm to forehead) So in my mind, it was pointless to have anyone else feed her because it was more of a pain than just feeding her myself. My bad on that one. This time, I will try to take one night a week that is for me to sleep through and recharge. I will not feel guilty about how exhausting it will be for my husband because he is a parent too.

I will communicate more with Justin. He is receptive and willing to do his part. With our first child, I think we both struggled to figure out what his part was. It’s really difficult to manage roles with a nursing baby. I mean one person has the milk and the other . . . doesn’t. So yeah, equality in parenting goes right out the window. BUT I could have asked for more help. I could have asked him every once in a while to bring the baby to me and take her away after nursing so I wasn’t up. I should’ve told him how much I was struggling because he wanted to do more and didn’t know where to insert himself. I trust that he’ll be more comfortable and take more initiative this time . . . BUT I can’t expect him to read my mind.

I will trust my body on the milk supply thing. Taking a 3am feeding off once a week will not result in my starving the baby the next night. As long as the baby is on the boob, there will be ample food for her and I shall trust that a whole lot more.

We shall take this baby out more. I had just gotten in the stride of taking Amelia here and there when the screaming set in. We were so consumed by it that we just retreated, shades drawn, phone off, and alone. We didn’t want to be out somewhere and then have her start screaming (which mostly lasted for hours), we were too exhausted to go anywhere, and we were usually already trying to get her to stop screaming. It. Was. Awful.  By nature, I think the second child needs to be more mobile—because you already have a little person who needs to get out of the house. Amelia’s situation definitely stunted and paralyzed us. It would be nice to go on a road trip every once in a while or hit the beach for a day. We will all need it.

We shall take more time for ourselves. Good lord, Justin and I spent maybe one evening alone in the first year of Amelia’s life. And we’ve only spent a weekend away together ONCE since she was born! We don’t have a lot of familial support with watching her and don’t want to take advantage of the one person who does watch her, so we just don’t go anywhere. And when she was a baby, we didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with the difficult baby. But now, even if someone just watches Amelia and we take the newbie out to dinner or to the movies, we need to carve more time out together. It’s a need. More used to leaving Amelia with caregivers, it should be a bit easier this time to get help. Hopefully. We could drop the girls off with my mom for a couple hours to catch a movie and the sky won’t come tumbling down, I’m sure.

I will tend to myself. Though I am okay with letting go of the younger, single, skinnier version of myself, I am not okay with just forgetting about myself altogether. I remember taking Amelia on errands when she was a baby. She’d be dressed appropriately, always clean, fed, and cute. I’d be none of those things—walking around in the rain with a t-shirt on, hungry, and unshowered. A majority of the time, I’d be in my car before I realized that I hadn’t even looked at myself in the mirror before walking out the door. I was a mess. A zombie mess. And this made my self esteem piss poor and therefore made it even harder to take any time out for myself. Even if I have to take the baby with me, I will get my toes done once in a while and not wait a year to get my hair cut. I will *try* to buy myself some clothes instead of spending all my money on stuff for the kids, even if it means coming to terms with a new body.

I will pump more. Ack. I hate pumping. I really do. But there has to be a better balance than what I did before. I hated pumping so much that I just did it to make it through work hours. I will try to stock up milk so I can *gasp* maybe grab coffee with a friend every once in a while or just not live by the 2-hour leash every so often. I know it’s just easier to breastfeed, but maybe some space would be good too. On the fence about this one because part of me wants to just avoid bottles and pumping altogether.

I will control more of the hospital situation. If I am tired, hungry, wanting to feed the baby, I will say so and clear out the hospital room. When I think about how many people streamed into that room the day Amelia was born, I can’t believe it. Here I was, just out of surgery, and after having a baby and hosting guests all day AND night. Justin, Amelia, and I were not alone one time until after visiting hours that night. Not once. I can still tell you everyone who saw us while we were there and how special it was for people to visit us and meet her in the hospital, but I didn’t speak up for me or us. Amelia lost a lot of weight in the hospital. I should have been feeding her more, resting more, eating myself (which I didn’t do at all). This time, I’d like to protect our time with the baby more. I know we’ll be so excited to show her to everyone, but we need to pace ourselves and carve out our own space as a family with more urgent tasks at hand than seeing a slew of visitors.

I shall try not to will her first year away by constantly looking forward to the next step.

I will not feel guilty if I don’t spend every second entertaining or stimulating my baby.

I will not feel guilty when I spend every second of a day snuggling and entertaining my baby.

I will not reject pink. Feminine does not equal bad. It took me a while to get that and realize that there’s balance. Pink does not equal making $.75 to the dollar but it’s hard to separate what I know academically sometimes.  I will hold a line at the things proven destructive for girls: Barbie, Disney Princesses, and the like are still out. But now that I’m three years into this girl thing, I’m in. And I love celebrating girlhood while also allowing Amelia to be herself and explore typically boy things too. As a jock tomboy growing up, I rejected all things girly. I don’t want that for my girls because girls are pretty rad and they should know that. Although to be fair, the pink thing is just obnoxious! lol

I will enroll her in preschool at 2. The benefits far outweigh the negatives.

I will try to get more involved with the community, other moms, and in play dates. Not only is it good to have built-in friends for the baby, but Mama needs other mom friends too.


Well that’s what I’ve got rattling around for now. I’m sure there’s a million other things that will be different this time, but we’ll have to follow that story as it unfolds.

Until then, here’s a little pic of my first-born little teacher at school this week.



Phebess said...

She is totally adorable, you've done a great job!

And I personally think that pink is a very under-rated color. Easily dismissed as frivolous. Pink is fabulous as an accent to, say, a basic black dress. Or pink sandals with jeans and a white shirt. I love pink! So, say YES to pink (as long as it doesn't become an all-consuming passion).

Alicia said...

Clearly you've learned A LOT from raising Amelia...and your thoughts and plans on raising your new baby make all the sense! =) I loved when you said "In a world where Hooters has a children’s
menu and Playboy sits on the backs of millions of toilets across the nation as a classy magazine, I refuse to consider my body obscene when using it for its intended purpose."
I couldn't agree more..That's definately something all mamas should remind themselves of!

And it's good to realize that working your ass off as a mama calls for a well deserved break every once in a while. I wish you the best of luck with your new baby and raising your lil fam! =) OH! and for the record, HECK YA US GIRLS ARE RAD! =) ;)

Gena said...

Thanks Ladies! @Phebe--I really mean pink as in the category more than the color. Seriously, check out the girls' toy aisle sometime and you'll see what I mean. It's nauseating!

Monica said...

Help is the hardest word to say sometimes! By the way... I know a woman that is missing her grand-babies like crazy (my mom), and another woman that misses her nephew and niece a lot (me)!

....So, you have a couple of other people that would be happy to provide some help if needed :)