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How to be the perfect parent…

21 Mar

Cheaters blog alert! Not every wise word written on parenting comes from me, didn’t you know?? 🙂 so every now and then I’ll re-post an awesome article or blog. It’s cheating and I have no regrets.

I read this today and felt like the words came straight from my addled, malnourished brain. Enjoy!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/una-lamarche/how-to-be-a-perfect-parent_b_2888253.html

Survivors

19 Mar

I was talking with my Best Friend the other day about some bad news she had recently gotten. Many of you who know me know that she had a harrowing 2012, being diagnosed, treated for, and eventually overcoming, stage 2 breast cancer. It was triple negative. You can read about triple negative breast cancer here and learn why it is a scary diagnosis.  My friend was 36 when she got hers.

Anyway, said friend is doing great with a lovely new pair of boobs and a flatter tummy to boot.  But she has met and grown close with many other women during her journey, and learned that one friend had to have a hysterectomy because her cancer came back.  She was a newlywed and hoping to get pregnant.  😦

This made me think.  When we talk about being a SURVIVOR, what does that mean?  That one has escaped death?  I guess in the most literal sense, you are escaping death when you survive, but I think being a survivor is so much more.  My friend didn’t just survive breast cancer.  She endured despite (because of?) all she experienced while getting treatment.  When you survive something, you don’t just survive the event itself; you survive everyone else that didn’t.  You survive what you went through to come out of the other end, most likely very different than how you entered, if not just on the inside, maybe even on the outside.  You have battle scars and wounds that you wear proudly and you will never be the same again.

Her weekly trips to Hopkins were not exactly summer camp excursions.  She is likely to have more stories like this as time goes on, sad as that is.  But this makes her even more of a survivor to me.  I imagine the diagnosis of cancer is not nearly as scary as chemo, surgery, mastectomies, or the pain she feels when she hears of another fallen comrade.  Of these things, she is a survivor, too. I tended to think that after this surgery of hers (see “boobs” above), that it was pretty much over.  But she is now inextricably linked to this culture, and these other women that crossed her path on her journey.  And to endure the loss of another friend, well– that, to me, might be the worst part of being a survivor.

We are all survivors, though, aren’t we?  Everyone has a story.  Look at us.  Marriage. Relationships.  Breakups. Divorce. Fertility treatments.  Pregnancies that made us so sick we thought we’d never get out of bed or gain weight.  Painful births.  The scar of a c-section after 2 hours of pushing.  Mothers. Sisters. Wives. Daughters.  The decision to stay home with our children, or go back to work, either one an agonizing decision to make with equal downsides.  Caring for ailing relatives. Sacrificing. Dealing with illness. Admitting we need help.   We are all survivors.   As women, this is part of the hand we are dealt, and we all must survive. And every day, we grow stronger.

Being a “mom” before I had kids was so one dimensional to me. I only knew how to be a daughter.  Now I know that “mom” isn’t just a dictionary definition of a maternal parent, but a symbolic representation of the greatest and strongest type of survivor.   It is entry into a club that you can’t even fathom until you get there.  It is looking at life through a new and permanent kind of lens.  It is seeing every human being as somebody else’s baby.  It is truly understanding why God made Woman.  It is feeling connections with other mothers through a single look, because that’s all it takes to say the thousands of words we want to say to each other.

I would imagine that surviving cancer is like most things in life, in that you can’t understand it until you’ve gone through it.  I would never presume to.  And my friend is one of quiet contemplation, not a boisterous noisemaker like me, making it something even more individual, complex and unique.  The next time I see someone who has gone through cancer, I won’t just see someone that beat a disease, I will see someone that survived two lifetimes worth of battles.

The X-Factor

22 Feb

Okay moms, I’ve decided.  All this stressing, worrying, consulting, reading, class-taking, and flash card purchasing is in vain.  For the first six months, you only have control over 10% of what your kid does well and doesn’t do well (sleep, eat, latch, take solids, sit up, roll over, laugh and crawl).  There will always be another kid that makes you wonder about your effectiveness as a mother.  Don’t let it erode your confidence.  Some kids just have it:  the X-Factor.

Beatrice was always a great sleeper.  By 8 weeks she had a schedule, slept 5-6 hours at a time and went back to sleep easily after waking to nurse.  Her brother Gus….not so much.

I started a new baby playgroup for Fussy Gus and we have met several other moms and babies (all of them first time moms).  I am sure they are sick of hearing me talk about how different Gus is from his sister and what a great sleeper she was.  Who am I trying to convince?  Maybe if I say it out loud enough, I’ll convince myself that I’m not doing anything wrong, or, rather there isn’t anything else I could or should be doing. I just have a fussy baby.

Then yesterday it hit me.  I hosted playgroup at my house.  While a few of us commiserated over interrupted nighttime sleep, babies that have to be held all the time and low milk supply, I was in awe of one mom and baby.  Not only did “J” sleep from 11-6 each night, and had been doing so for weeks, when we asked his mom about nursing, she said she produced 4-5 ounces… per side.

“PER SIDE!!!”  we all exclaimed.  She had 200 bags of frozen breast milk in her freezer.  Meanwhile I was happy to get 3 whole ounces when I pumped (way back when I still pumped).  They sell supplements, herbal teas, even a line of snacks to help with Mother’s Milk.  Old wives tales tell us to drink Guinness every day.  Our Pediatricians tell us to eat fatty foods.  And all of that stuff helps to an extent. Some women just produce a lot of milk and others don’t.

I think, among all of Bea’s friends, their moms and I have probably read just about every sleep book out there on the market:  Happiest Baby on the Block, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, the Sleep Lady, Ferber, etc.  So I’d consider us all pretty educated on the topic of sleep.  Why, then, did some babies cry from colic for three months and not sleep through the night until a year?  My expert answer is: Who the hell knows?  Some kids just have the X-Factor and some don’t.

We all started out feeding our eager six month olds healthy veggies and fruit.  Many of us reveled in making our own baby food.  There wasn’t a colored jar on the shelf that Bea wouldn’t heartily gobble up. So, why, then, does one little friend eagerly gobble up whatever vegan-friendly concoction his mom makes in the Vitamix, and Beatrice suddenly only likes chicken nuggets, rice and plain noodles?  On veggies, he’s got it. She doesn’t.

I nursed Bea for five months, so I was fully prepared to stick it out again with Gus (yeah, it hurt just as much as the first time.  Needles. In. My. Boob.)  But poor guy was losing weight.  We supplemented and he was still losing weight.  He was ravenous after a feeding because he wouldn’t stay on for more than 3 minutes.  So I stopped after two weeks.  Why?  Beatrice had the X-Factor on nursing.  Gus did not.

So, I am happy to say, let’s not stress anymore.  Do what you gotta do, moms. If your baby does not have the X-factor, its ok.  By six months, he will have caught up for the most part (and if he hasn’t, your ped will help you).   If you or your kid is lucky enough to have the X-Factor, be glad, but don’t get complacent.  Your next one may not.  🙂

Remind you of anyone?

13 Feb

A good friend passed this onto me yesterday. Hilarious.

http://www.scarymommy.com/when-mother-knows-best-its-the-worst/

I’m OK, You’re OK

1 Feb

So I have to thank my friend Lisa Dvorak at Housewife Hon for inspiring me to write again. Well, maybe the competitive edge in me came out. Lisa stays home all day, every day with her 2 1/2 year old and 7 month old. Lisa is hands on in every sense of the word, and makes all of us fellow playgroup moms look bad by making fun crafts and then having time to blog about it. She has managed to post like 10 times already in January. Her most recent post is about cleaning toddler poop up from the carpet, on her hands and knees, WHILE SHE BREASTFED HER INFANT AT THE SAME TIME IN THE ERGO CARRIER. You read that correctly. I would have been sobbing in a corner on the phone to my mother or husband, baby screaming from hunger. But I digress….

Where to pick up? Seeing as how I have both my kids parked in front of Dora the Explorer, I estimate I have three minutes to write. So, uh, yeah I got pregnant, was sick for three months (If Kate Middleton was a 10, I was a 9), lost my job, moved to the suburbs in the middle of a Baltimore summer (AGAIN) and had my cutie pie Gus William on December 1st. Okay, so you’re caught up.

Well, I guess not quite. This blog started out as something to discuss fertility, and slowly walk you through my journey of having Beatrice. Then I got pregnant again (not through fertility… oops!) What many people don’t know is that I suffered Post Partum Depression very badly with Beatrice and somewhat again with Gus.

Maybe this is a post for another time, but if you’ve had PPD, or even a touch of baby blues, you and I are sympatico and we share the war wounds. If not, you are one of the lucky ones that my friends and I secretly make fun of, because newborns are like ZERO fun on a good day. Just kidding, hahaha, seriously though you were lucky and probably have a sunny outlook on life all the time. So I won’t get into how it felt, how I got help, etc. That’s an important story but, again, for another time.

When going back to my Doctor for a check up recently she asked me if I would accompany her on an upcoming psychiatry lecture to med students. She was going to be discussing Post Partum Depression and wanted someone who had experienced it to be there with her to talk to the group and answer questions. She said she knew I would be “brutally honest.” LOL. I was more than happy to do this! I feel like everything happens for a reason, and if I could possibly help one person who will eventually become a doctor go on to help another person, then it was worth it. I mean it was worth it to have my kids and all, but you know what I mean.

It was an auditorium full of med students and my doctor and I basically walked through my history… having Beatrice, taking her home and feeling full on as though my life was over as I knew it. Getting help, getting better, having another baby…

But I wish I had talked about one other thing.  As a doctor treating someone with PPD, I think its important for them to understand, contextually, what it means to be a parent today.  And that is, that we are wayyyyy too hard on ourselves.  From the minute a woman gets pregnant, she wants to do it better than her own mother and instantly starts making mental notes of what she knows she’ll NEVER do as a parent (wink, wink).  And when we give birth, we immediately feel we aren’t doing enough, should be doing something better, bigger, more spectacular.   We don’t spend enough time with them, they watch too much TV, we haven’t done the baby book yet,  they haven’t learned to swim or missed out on immersion Mandarin classes. Why do we do this to ourselves?   Where does all the guilt come from?

I couldn’t articulate this any better than the blogger, Pregnant Chicken.  She wrote about Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother and a good friend passed it along.   Honestly this article sums it up for me, and I want every pregnant woman to read it!

Its important, I believe, when trying to understand a new mom’s feeling of depression, to know that she has just been thrust into this new competitive world of parenting. She’s been preparing for motherhood her whole life, and now that she’s finding its terribly hard, she feels like a failure.  She sees all these other super moms around her (who are actually feeling the same insecurities, she’ll later go on to find).  The pressure to breastfeed (breastmilk is best!), feed organically, to co-sleep or not to co-sleep, to make sure your child doesn’t lay eyes on a television screen  more than 10 minutes a month…. this new mom feels the pressure, and feels guilt for not enjoying EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of her newborn child as everyone says she should.

They only make “Congratulations” cards for new moms, so that must mean I should be constantly feeling on cloud nine, right?  They don’t make cards that tell the truth: “You are about to fall in love like you never thought possible, but it may not happen for you right away and you are still a good mom if it doesn’t.  It is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and you will not get much gratification for your efforts at first.  I am here if you need a hug.  Oh yeah, and you will sleep again, just not for a few months.”

Take it easy on yourself, Mom.  You are doing great.  And, what your child needs most–more than breastmilk, a natural birth, organic carrots or violin lessons– is a happy, healthy, semi well-rested mom.

How to get Kicked out of Your Mommy Group

26 Jul

My playgroup friends and I were having a discussion recently about the topics that come up on a local listserv we all belong to. There seems to be a rotation of hot-button issues that come up every so often and are always sure to stir up strong reactions.  I often wonder if the poster realizes what a hot, messy shit storm he or she (usually a she) is about to start when they innocently ask a new mom question about breastfeeding, sleeping, pacifiers, behavior, eating, food choices, education and the like.

It usually goes something like this:

“My pediatrician/ mother/ friend/ nanny told me that Baby is having a reaction to cows milk/ formula/ a food/ my boob/ our shampoo/ sleeping next to me/ public education/ our pet/ our water supply/a recent vaccination/  his daycare/ his crib and I’m wondering if anyone has any advice on alternatives?”

*Sigh*  Poor Mom. She has no idea what questions like this to do the seasoned mothers on the other end of this message, just dying to opine on why what they did with their child was best, or what new research they uncovered from a study in the UK.   Of course, this is a broad generalization.  Most moms offer good, sound advice and keep their judgements to themselves.  But there are always a select few that start violently typing away, ready to explode with self-righteous indignancy.

Because of the latest crop of posts, I was inspired to develop a sure fire way for you moms to alienate your other mom friends.  Whether you are just tired of hanging around with them, or just feel like totally effing with someone that day, these are guaranteed to get you kicked out of your playgroup!  Trying just one or two is likely to get you a raised eyebrow here and there.  Three or four will get people whispering about you after you leave.  But if you incorporate at least five of these in the same playgroup, you are happily on your way to being black balled, and free to seek out other like-minded and enlightened moms such as yourself.

  1. “Why in the world would anyone use formula?  I mean, its absolute POISON.  Have you seen the ingredients in it?  Any mother that uses formula obviously hasn’t tried hard enough to breastfeed and doesn’t care about their baby. ”  Follow that up with a casual “I am planning on breastfeeding until Bobby is at LEAST three years old,” and you are instantly the judgemental hippie in the group.  Well done.
  2. “I just read an article in Canadian World Health weekly that said vaccinations are directly related to autism.  I have decided since everyone here is vaccinated, we are in no danger.  I’ve asked my pediatrician to send all of our health paperwork to my new Shaman, who will be my spiritual health advisor from now on.”  Throw on a dash of petchouli before you come to playgroup that day and you have nailed it.
  3. “What do you mean you still use a pacifier?  Don’t you know that hinders speech development and will cause buck teeth?  Get rid of that thing now!”
  4. Announce this just as one of your weary-eyed, sleep deprived mom friends is on her third cup of coffee, lamenting about how difficult its been to get her infant to sleep consistently “You should just let him sleep with you. Johnny still sleeps in our bed.  Its because letting a child cry is cruel and unusual. Studies have shown that children who are left alone to cry in their cribs develop psychological disorders in adulthood.  I don’t understand how any parent can willingly sleep train a child or Ferberize or whatever.  Its getting a little cramped now that he is four, but we make do.”
  5. And while that mom is pouring milk or cream into her coffee… “We’ve just decided to switch Julia to Almond milk.  Do you know we are the only species on Earth that drinks ANOTHER animal’s milk?  Our digestive systems were not made for that.  And soy milk causes cancer.  That’s what my Shaman told me.  If you’re feeding your toddler the right things anyway, he or she won’t even need the fat from Cow’s milk.”
  6. “My sister in Manhattan only got 8 weeks of maternity leave.  Can you IMAGINE? She has a nanny coming to take care of her baby. I mean, I give her credit.  I think its great that she is confident enough in herself as a woman to allow someone else to raise her child.  It must be so hard.  I don’t think I could ever do it.  We’ve had to cut back on a lot, but in the end, Brady’s well-being is what matters.”  Say this to the mom who is about to go back to work full-time and you have earned yourself a spot in the Bitch Hall of Fame!
  7. “Our public education system is so grossly out of touch with what our children need.  Sending your child to a public school is like sending them off to a germ factory.  And who can afford private school?  The Catholics all have an agenda.  What other choices do we have besides home schooling?  Socialization, shmocialization.  Look at the Japanese! They don’t care about socialization.  There is a reason their kids are way ahead of ours in all major subjects.”  Ooh, you’ve managed to insult three separate groups at once in this one–nice work.  And way to add insult to your country.
  8. After one mom talks about a late night run to the pharmacy to get Tylenol to bring a fever down: “Oh my God, you should try these homeopathic pills that I have.  I’ll give you some for next time.  They don’t have any dyes or carcinogens like Tylenol or other brand name drugs. Our children these days are over-medicated anyway.”  See: vaccination advice above.
  9. To the hostess:  “Wow, what kind of vacuum do you guys have?   You practically got up all the pet hair from the carpet!  Toby’s allergies are barely acting up, it must be a nice one. ” Conspicuously pull out the Nasal Spray and administer to child.
  10. And finally… “Are these carrots organic?”

Things every parent has done at least once that you will never admit to anyone.

19 Mar

• Let your child eat off the floor. You’re at Panera Bread, your kid drops his gigantic chocolate chip cookie and before you can say “yuck,” he is gnawing on it again. You look around; no one saw you. You make a mental note to watch for hives and fungal infections over the next 48 hours.
• Forcing sleep Part 1: the swilling nurser. Your breastfeeding baby has been AWFULLY cranky the past few evenings—oops, was that your second glass of wine or your third? Oh well, no matter, its mostly metabolized, time for bed!
• Let your child go more than 3 days without bathing. Life gets in the way. Its 30 minutes past bedtime, and you have to get up for an early meeting the next day. A wet washcloth with some hand soap will have to do for now. They stink all the time anyway, right, what’s one more day?  Its not like they’re trying to impress anyone.
• Laughed when they cried: You’re usually not a cruel person. You love to see your child happy. But today you have been hit in the face 9 times, kicked in the groin, had your home cooked meal spit out, been told ‘no’ ad nauseam and now your child has the audacity to ask you for a snack before dinner? You say no, the tantrum begins; the tears start to flow and deep down you’re thinking “Now you know how I feel, buddy. Sucks doesn’t it?”
• Forcing sleep Part 2: the ‘extra long’ case of hives. Hell, I’ll cop to this one. Beatrice had an awful case of the hives last fall. The doctor said Benadryl every 6 hours until the hives were gone for 48 hours. We all slept fabulously that week. But when the hives started to disappear, hmmm, well let’s just say I was being EXTRA cautious to make sure they were gone for good. “Bob, don’t you think that looks like an itchy spot? We don’t want the hives to come back, do we? Its 7 pm, she needs some Benadryl.” Time for bed!
• Cheetos for dinner. Or cookies, or French fries, or cake. Cheetos is a metaphor for “I haven’t had time to go to the grocery store, husband is coming home late tonight, I have laundry to finish, the kids are at their wits end and I think they had broccoli two days ago.” Sometimes, you have to make trade offs for your sanity.

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