Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mama Guilt

There you are, playing on your floor mat. And here I am, on my computer. I'm not ignoring you, but I'm not interacting with you, either. When you go to bed, or when I drive away to work, I will feel like I haven't spent enough time with you. I will be flooded by the knowledge that you are growing and changing every day, and that I don't want to miss it. I will battle the mama guilt about whether or not I have made the right choices.
Every day I am torn between giving you space to become independent, competent, strong... and giving you attention to know that you are loved. I can't find the middle ground no matter how hard I try. Or maybe I'm found it and just have no solid confirmation, because in parenting, that's a thing that doesn't exist.
When you smile at me from across the room, is it a just a smile? Are you happy there? Or are you trying to entice me to come play with you? You don't seem discontent, but you're a baby. The life you have is the only life you know. If you could understand everything, what would you ask for? Would you thank me for letting you discover things on your own? Do you appreciate the time to move freely and concentrate on your toys without interruption? Or are you lonely? You are not one to cry or even fuss unless something is very bad, and even then you calm easily. So maybe you are sad and lonely, missing me even as you play. It sounds overly dramatic to ask if you play with your toys for something to do while you wait for me to come back to you, but I can't help wondering if that is what happens sometimes.
And honestly, I need some time to just be. I always want to be with you, I love being with you, but there are things that I need that come from other sources. And yet, I'm gone so much. Every day I go to work and you stay home with daddy, and then I feel like spending even a minute on anything else is squandering our precious time together. But I do it anyway. Because even people like me, whose whole lives are focused on children, who waited and longed for a baby to come to them, who felt bittersweet pangs of emotion every time another person's child told us they loved us... even we need some time to not be responsible for anything. We're still human. But those minutes are paid for in guilt; in fully understanding that every second spent on something else is a second away from this tiny person who rules our hearts, who depends on us and loves us like no other; a person whom we love like no other, and who is constantly changing and needing different things. Because our time isn't our own anymore, even though it is. So those stolen moments are bittersweet, too.
I hope that when all is said and done, when you are an adult fully responsible for your own life, you will be glad I made the choices I did. I hope you don't feel like I abandoned you, and only your dad was there when you needed someone. I think that you will, but something like this is too important to be content with uncertainty. And yet I can't know, now, whether or not I am doing the right thing. I can only do my best.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cloth Diaper Time!

Lila will be 4 weeks old on Tuesday and we've been cloth diapering about 75% of the time. We got a cloth diaper trial from our local cloth diapering store, and unfortunately I'm not a big fan of the ones that it included. Good thing there are a ton of different brands to try! We're using the trial diapers, still, while we wait for Lila to grow into her one size diapers. Her waist fits, but her legs are too slender still.
Anyway, we've found a few diapers that work really well for her! I love the Rump-a-Rooz Lil Joey on her, but we only have two because the diapers will only fit until 12 pounds or so. They might last a little longer because she is tall for her weight. But since she was already about 9lbs when we first tried them, and they are $30/2, it seemed silly to buy a bunch of them now. I'd like to get about 10 more when we're ready for number 2, though. They're so soft and easy to use, plus the inner shape seems more comfortable because it is more of a cup than a wrinkly mass of fabric. They're also quite trim, and they have an umbilical cord snap-down which will make them fit our next baby right away without me worrying about irritating the cord stump.
The other diaper I really like on her is the Newborn Blueberry Simplex. They also have a cord snap down. They're a little bigger, but still a good fit with only one leak so far, which was at night and it was perhaps on a little too long. I do change her before I nurse at night, but sometimes she goes 4 or even 5 hours asleep. This diaper is supposed to last until 16 pounds, which is a lot longer than the Lil Joeys. They're a little bit more expensive, about $18 each, but you can buy them singly so it's easier to slowly build up a stash.
Both of these diapers are hard to find used, and when I have spotted them they are priced nearly as much as if they were new. It kind of stinks right now, because it's hard to find a good bargain... but I also know they hold their value so when we don't need them anymore we can sell them and get back some of our cost.
I definitely want to try some new kinds of diapers, though, which is kind of the point of this post. I'm entering a bunch of contests, and one of them gives extra entries for sharing the link in a blog post. It's a giveaway for Ella Bella Bum, Glow Bug, and Green Line diapers, none of which I have tried yet. It also includes a prefold diaper and two sets of boingos. Here's the link to the giveaway!

Friday, January 10, 2014

A day in the Life of a Two Week Old Baby

This has been Lila's basic schedule for quite a few days now.

5:30 am - start making weird noises in my sleep, but be silent and still whenever mom looks at me. Until she lays back down and can't see me anymore. Then make more weird noises. Appropriate choices include groaning, grunting, coughing, choking sounds, and squeaks. Bonus points for putting them together in the scariest combinations, like coughing, then choking sounds, and then utter silence.

6:15 am - Mom decides she can't handle the crazy noises and decides if she feeds me I might sleep better. Make faces and squirm while she changes me, then half-heartedly nurse for 30 seconds. Flail around wildly with my baby talons, and punch her in the breast multiple times. Make mouth gape like a fish so Mom thinks I'm still hungry and will put up with this abuse. Repeat for 30 minutes.

6:45 am - Pretend to be asleep. When mom gets settled in bed, start making weird noises again. Repeat until she brings me in the big bed.

7:15 am - am I feeling generous? If so, sleep for an hour or two in the big bed. If not, keep making weird noises until Mom decides she's not going to get any more sleep, and the noises might wake up Dad. When she takes me out to the living room, promptly fall asleep there.

From arrival in the living room to 8:30 pm:

Is mom reading, watching TV, or surfing the internet? Sleep peacefully and wake up occasionally to nurse, then fall right back asleep immediately. Easily accept diaper changes. Generally be adorable, especially while alert.
Is Mom cooking, cleaning, or filling out paperwork? Fuss and demand to nurse, but only for a few minutes at a time. Then fall asleep, but only until Mom puts me down and goes back to what she was doing. Then wake up and demand to nurse again. Accept snuggles from Dad but only for a little while. Then demand to nurse again. When Mom changes my diaper, pee or poop after the old one has been opened but before the new one is in place. Fuss and flail around wildly while Mom tries to clean me and replace my diaper. Still be adorable and melt into Mom's arms while nursing, but don't let her put me down!

8:30 pm - Get the hiccups. Demand to nurse but instead shake my head around with my mouth open and attack with my little baby fists until Mom manages to shove her nipple in my mouth. Immediately eat like I'm starving for not more than 3 minutes. Fall asleep. Sleep peacefully UNLESS Mom tries to put me down. Then cry. If Mom tries to soothe me without picking me up, cry louder. Accept snuggles from Dad but only for a little while. Then demand to nurse again. Cough, sneeze, and have painful gas that requires constant bouncing or leg pedaling. Generally be miserable, sad, or angry. Continue so for about 3 hours.

11:30 pm - Finally have gotten enough milk from dozens of attempts at nursing, accept snuggles from Dad, and let Mom go to bed. Fall asleep in his arms but wake up immediately and angrily if he tries to put me down, or after thirty seconds. Whichever comes first. Settle easily but do not sleep for more than a minute. Repeat for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour and a half.

12:00 - 1:00 am - accept sleep and transfer to bed.

2:30 am - Make weird noises until Mom comes to feed me. Eat for 15-30 minutes and fall asleep. Accept transfer to bed. Sleep peacefully until about 5:30.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Becoming a Mother

Yesterday I read a beautiful, evocative piece about becoming a mother. And it touched my heart; in many ways it describes my experience. But it also doesn't - in fact, the main concept of the post has not been my experience at all. 
You see, the post is about how the women we were before giving birth are dead, irretrievably gone; how we will never get that person back. And how, while we are (in most cases) thrilled to become this new person, this mother, it is normal and natural and expected to mourn the loss of those individuals we used to be.
But I don't feel that way at all. I miss some things about not being a parent, sure. But they are trivial, minute; not even remotely close to the center of my being. They're things like sleeping uninterrupted all night long, or not dousing myself in milk whenever I try to go bra-less. Tiny, unimportant things. Not even on the scale when compared to the wonder of this tiny person that came out of love.
I imagine most women don't throw themselves wholeheartedly into this whole motherhood thing until they actually become mothers. That's logical. But me? I have been preparing for this baby my whole life. I was just figuring out how to be a whole person by myself when I met her father, and it was the easiest thing in the world to slip into motherhood. It's like I finally became myself when she was born. Like I hatched, or blossomed. It was something I had been anticipating with barely contained enthusiasm; my only fear was that I would never manage to achieve it.
I've written before about how people often used to tell me not to rush into this stage of my life. Clearly they were people who mourned the loss of their old selves, and I don't judge them for that. It's completely understandable; it's just not my experience.

Maybe I missed out on who I could have been; maybe I don't mourn my loss because I wasn't anyone worth mourning. But I don't think of it that way. I think of who I am now as exactly who I was before, plus something undefinable. So maybe, just maybe, the difference for me is that I have always been on this path and never had to take a fork in the road. I'm not missing out on anything because for me, any other path was unthinkable.
She calls it:
"a human, adult reaction to a giant shift in identity, a presence of mind recognizing the end of an entire chapter of life, a heart mourning the woman that once was, and a soul shaking under the weight of a new giant world."
And for me, it didn't feel like an entire chapter of life, but rather a preface, a prelude to truly becoming. Because in my heart, I was always here. It isn't a new world. It's a world that I've been staring at for years, from outside, delving in shallowly here and there with other people's children, waiting for the day that I could call it home.
And now that I can, no part of me is in mourning. Rather I am celebrating. Quietly, yes, internally. And maybe the day will come that I will mourn. After all, I'm only two weeks into motherhood. But for now, I'll just enjoy it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Privileges and Rights

Lately I've been reading about gender and race disparities – prejudices and privilege and guilt, and what exactly those disparities look like. Of course it's a bigger issue than I can explore fully, even given an entire lifetime, so I don't think I've got it all figured out by any means. But I've noticed that I somehow managed to get out of experiencing any of it. I'm white, and mid-to-upper middle class, so that rules out quite a lot of issues right there – but I also have managed to get out of experiencing gender discrimination even though as a woman, I am technically a minority. I'm sure I've come across instances that demonstrated someone thinking women are lesser, or specifically suited to some tasks and not others, but they weren't about me. They were about the jerk who has no concept of reality.
I know that's not how it is for most people who experience it – in my scenario, it was isolated instances that don't reflect all, or even most, of society. Even though I know that there are feminist issues that have yet to be addressed, they don't really change my life. I am able to do as I please and demand what I deserve. I'm sure it helps that my life has followed a traditionally feminine path – I always planned to get married, to a man, and raise a family. I always expected that if one of us was going to stay home and take care of the children, it would be me (a notion which is currently being re-examined). I chose a career in early childhood education and childcare, which is one of the few careers that is almost universally accepted for women even by people who think women belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. So even in areas where women traditionally experience discrimination, I haven't. Mostly because my desires have cooperated with their expectations (and no, I haven't been brainwashed by society) – but maybe partially because I just do as I please. I guess I can thank my parents for raising me in such a way that I can listen to my inner voice and follow it, without anxiety, even when others think I'm wrong.
The only area where I actually have felt discriminated against was in age – I got really sick of people thinking I didn't know what I was talking about just because I was young and looked younger. That problem has gone away as I've gotten older and gotten more education – even though my basic attitude and perceptions have not changed.
But for most people who deal with discrimination, it's not that simple. I get that as much as someone who hasn't experienced it can. Their lives are, at times, defined by the way others perceive them and act toward them. Many people are facing skewed perceptions from multiple areas – as in, not just gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age... but a combination of those. And low socioeconomic status has its own implications for success potential even without people giving it negative connotations.
So life for many people is not the same as life for me. They aren't perceived by others the way I am, they don't have the opportunities I've had, and that's a problem. It needs to be changed.
I have been assured that the word “privilege” doesn't have the connotations I associate with it, but I can't let go of the idea that a privilege is something that is unearned, undeserved, and unnecessary. Most of the things people refer to as “white privilege” are rights that all human beings deserve. Unearned, yes, but that's kind of the point of rights, isn't it? You don't have to earn them. You get them for being human. The fact that people are being denied these rights is not okay (a massive understatement) – but I don't think we should call it privilege when some people actually get what they deserve.
There is another subset of what is called privilege that I think actually fits the bill – when someone of a majority group is given special treatment at the expense of a member of a minority group. That is, again, not okay. That needs to stop. But that's not usually what people are talking about when they discuss white privilege. Usually they're talking about how I can go into a store without people assuming I'm going to steal something, or how I can assume a police officer is going to help me instead of suspecting and potentially taking action against me for no justifiable reason.
I will agree that my race, socioeconomic status, and gender-normative appearance probably “buy” those “privileges” for me far more often than I realize. This is an issue, but the issue is not that I experience that kind of trust/acceptance. It's not what I have that's the problem. The problem is that not everyone has what I have.

It's not a privilege issue. It's a rights issue.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Letter to Single Me

I read something the other day on Facebook asking what advice readers would give to themselves in the past, in only two words. Two words can't convey very much! I chose, "worth waiting"; this entire letter is what I meant by those two words. Hopefully I'll remember to do this again in another five or ten years, and write a letter to newlywed Megan... but for now, here's my letter to Single Me.

Dear me,
Let's start with “don't worry”. I know the driving force in your live has been getting your own family, and you will. I promise – and you can trust me because I'm you.
I know you're afraid it will be impossible to find your husband. I know you're sick and tired and of people telling you you have plenty of time and to enjoy your youth while you still have it. I know you are desperate to feel those little kicks inside you and then to hold your sweet little baby. I know that just thinking about that moment brings tears of mixed joy and terror to your eyes – because you're afraid it's all just a dream, but it's the future that you want with all your heart.
So believe me when I promise that it happens. It happens more easily and beautifully than you could ever have imagined. It doesn't take years of dating to know he's the one – for other people, sometimes, but not you. You get lucky, even though it seems like it's taking forever to you right now. And it doesn't take years of trying to get pregnant. You'll hardly try at all and suddenly that sweet little baby will be growing inside you like the seed of love.
And all that worry just disappears. Almost the minute you find him you'll start to calm down. You'll surprise yourself with your choices and with your lack of fear. You'll be completely yourself, right from the beginning; no holding back, no waiting to see if he can really handle all that affection you can't help but act on. It will shine through you, and your coworkers will nod knowingly and say you're in love.
You'll laugh together every day. You'll be silly and make mistakes and forgive each other, and the beginning at least will be so easy you'll be amazed. I know because I'm amazed.
You won't believe this, but everything you're feeling really does just disappear. You'd think that all that fear and anger would leave some kind of scar, wouldn't you? Maybe it does but if so, it's gone into hiding, now, for me. For you. Suddenly you'll be content to let things take their natural path, even though you never were before. Because once you meet him, you'll know. You won't be afraid of messing things up, not enough to matter. You'll just enjoy the ride. Because it really is beautiful. It really is amazing to wake up next to the person you love, every day, and just know that he loves you, too.
I know that just before you met him was a rough time in your life. You were never really happy, just kind of going through the motions. You couldn't seem to really get a handle on what you needed to find that happiness. You were just starting to see that taking control of your life was the key. And then came one of the dates you were looking forward to, the only one that didn't ultimately end in disappointment. You began to feel like all you needed was to take control – to stop feeling powerless – and suddenly everything else fell into place. It happens, just like that.
Of course I can't promise everything will be perfect. Of course there will be money trouble and different solutions to shared problems and all of that. But you will find that having a partner to work through it with you makes all the difference. You've suspected that, I know. But now you'll be sure.
And that's what you find – you find a man who understands that loving each other is only part of the journey, that it sets the foundation for all of the work that's coming. And he's willing to put in that work to stay by your side, even though it's been pretty easy so far.
He's totally worth waiting for.

Love always and never fear,
Megan in 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dating Advice for Our Kids (Part 2)

Yesterday, while browsing Pinterest, I came across this letter that a mother wrote to her son about dating. It was labeled as, a letter every mother should read to her son.”
Here is the second part of my altered version: I don't know how to start the numbering at 11 so let's just pretend :)
  1. Handle your date's heart with care. People (male or female) usually try to only show when they are strong, but inside they are also very delicate. Don’t ruin that. Do not be responsible for hardening a person's heart.
  2. Get to know his or her family and friends, and let your family and friends get to know him or her. How they get along and interact with each other can tell you a lot about what the future will hold if you become serious.
  3. When the time comes, tell him or her “I love you,” but only if you really do. Never, ever, say those words unless they come from your heart, because they are a very big deal. At any time, you can tell him or her why you like them – everyone deserves to be complimented.
  4. Do nice things; make a meal, take out the trash, offer compromises and so on. Show that you appreciate being together.
  5. Surprise him or her. Again, a little can go a long way. Just stick with small surprises. Bring a little gift like a bottle of his or her favorite soda, or show up at his or her work for a surprise lunch date.
  6. Never underestimate the power of the written word. As nice as it is to hear good things, it’s even better to have them written down so you can reference back to them. Write letters or notes to your love as often as you can.
  7. When the time is right and you’ve found that special someone, know that it doesn't have to be the man who asks, “will you marry me?” If you are sure, you can ask no matter your gender. You can also wait, if you feel more comfortable with that. Choose a course of action or inaction based on you comfort level, not societal expectations.
  8. Speaking of societal expectations, if you want to date someone of the opposite gender, that's okay. If you want to date someone of the same gender, that's okay, too. If you're not sure which gender you prefer, date whoever catches your interest when you're available. Some people may not accept your preference, but it's not up to them. It's up to you and the person you date.
  9. If someone treats you badly for any reason, they do not belong in your life. That doesn't mean you shouldn't forgive mistakes (you SHOULD), it just means you should defend yourself and demand the respect and compassion that all human beings deserve. If someone you date or someone you are friends with can't do that, they're not worth your time.

    What dating advice would you write to your kids?