I've been so cryptic lately, not writing, and generally a mess that when I read this post from Elisa at Globe Trotting in Heels today I wanted to clap and jump up and down I was so relieved to see that someone else - clear across the globe, even - gets it. Of course neither one of us really has the details of each other's lives, but it doesn't matter. Just knowing, and seeing with my own eyes, the proof that I'm not alone is worth the world to me right now (just wait, you'll see why soon enough).
I very recently realized that my life has to be about pursuing happiness, following your bliss, so to speak and when I saw those very words from Elisa my heart stopped. Also, her sentiments about fogginess, friendship, and finding yourself while not losing anything or anyone are also beautifully honest and strike a chord with me, as well. Here is her post:
Lately, I have resurfaced. I am no longer being a stranger, I started blogging again, I started tweeting again, and I’m trying to keep up to date with the posts of my all fave bloggy friends (haven’t quite succeed yet, you are all so prolific, but I’m working on it!).
I’m no longer in hiding, no longer depressed, no longer feeling sorry for myself while simultaneously feeling guilty for feeling sorry for myself while others in my position would consider themselves lucky.
When I read about things happening in NYC, it no longer makes me sad. Sure, sometimes I wish I was there, but I no longer feel like I am missing out on the best things I could be experiencing, like my life is “less than” because of me being here instead of there. I no longer feel like I got relegated from the center of the universe to a remote corner of its outer frontier.
In fact, I may go as far as saying that I feel quite happy. Today I feel the happiness that comes from simple things: exchanging friendly banter and snarky comments with a new friend, experiencing excitement at the discovery of a new local treasure, having a chat while sitting on the tram. The happiness that comes from things that are so plain, so everyday, that we take them for granted. But those same things are what helps you create a life, a life where you feel comfortable, not constantly awkward and out of place; a life where you feel you can be yourself, and not everyone has to like you, and that’s ok; a life where you are not alone, not lonely, not an island, not lost in yourself.
It’s amazing how much we take for granted. How everyone craves the flashy stuff, without realizing that the simple things are really the best part. Someone to share a laugh, a day, a passion with. Someplace to go back and gather your thoughts, knowing you can leave and it will still be there when you come back. Knowing you have a place in the world, a role, even if you don’t know what it is quite yet. And knowing that you can, you will, find a way to follow your bliss without leaving anyone behind and without being left behind.
Also, the luxury to say things like this, and know that not everyone will understand, but your friends will listen anyway. So thank you. For sticking with me during the foggy times, when my sky was nothing but gray. There is snow on the ground outside, but in here? Things are looking up.
With my sidebar feature, "A Worthwhile Post...", my hope is that I will spread some blog love and give due nods, props, and high-fives to the writers I stumble across without having any rules or strings attached.
If I ever feature your post, please feel free to grab a "This is Worthwhile" button. There's no obligation whatsoever. Do whatever floats your awesome writer's boat. My feelings won't be hurt if you don't use the button.
I'll also do individual codes for each blogger, because I want anyone who clicks on this button to come directly to the post that says why I think it's worthwhile.
My mom was there for the first week or so of Atticus' life, but had to come home to Austin. Then there was a string of visitors that came through for a day or two here and there, but nobody was able to really dig in and stay with Gabby and her husband, Maurice.
(And speaking of Maury, he was able to take off 8 weeks of paternity leave, but only took his first 2 when the baby was born, choosing to save his last 6 for when my sister has to head back to her office at the end of February.)
S0, basically, like so many new mommas, Gabby's been sorta on her own. Maury's there as much as possible, but he's a man and he's a new daddy himself. He doesn't know all the tricks of the trade, yet. And Gabby's also the first of many of her friends to have a baby, so they don't really get it either.
Enter me, the Big Sister. Yay!!
Ohhh, it was beyond wonderful to be able to swoop in and help her in ways I knew that even she didn't know she wanted help with yet. Like propping her arm up with a pillow while she nursed, bringing her a glass of water whenever she nursed without asking, making sure she had snacks when we left the house and bottled water, showing her how to nurse the baby on the move in the Baby Bjorn, and so on.
I went to San Francisco with a job to do and I can tell you that it made my heart soar to be able to come through for my little sister. Maury and all her friends were doing a wonderful job on their own, but I really felt for the first time what my contribution could be to my sister's life that might be different from what she usually gets. And it made me feel even better about being able to help her.
So, in no particular order, here is my MUST DO'S FOR A NEW MOMMY LIST:
- 1. Always offer to prop up her arm with a pillow when she's nursing - and this is the really important part - EVERY TIME SHE NURSES. Doing it once or twice only makes her have to ask and having to repeatedly ask for things erodes a new mommy's confidence and good mood.
- 2. Always bring her a glass of water - EVERY TIME SHE NURSES. I've never seen a thirstier woman than one who's breastfeeding. If I could have had a hose brought to my bedside I would have I drank so much water during those months.
- 3. Never let her leave the house without snacks and, in general, make sure she's fed! Nursing, exhausted mothers need nutrients!
- 4. Help her to leave the house every day and go for walks wearing her new bundle of love as much as possible. It helps her to regain strength and it's great for the baby.
- 5. Espouse the brilliance of a belly-band. It's a post-partum dream: it holds you in, supports your back, and helps support your organs' retreat back to their regular places. Better yet, bring her one.
- 6. Brush up on breastfeeding-in-public techniques to share with your new-mommy friend. Support her in her first endeavors (it's always a little unnerving at first and new mommies are nothing if not nervous about pretty much everything baby-related). Show her how to drape the baby without covering his whole little face. (see Ed. note below for more on this.)
- 7. Help her pack all the essentials in a diaper bag since blowouts are many at this stage in life. Must haves: a spare outfit, a couple of diapers, lots of wipes, and some burp cloths. She doesn't need the nasal aspirator or baby Tylenol to go to the mall.
- 8. For car rides, help her with the baby when she cries. Hold baby's hand or give her a paci. Tell the new mom it's 100% ok to pull over and nurse and take the baby out as many times as she needs to - or to even turn around and go home. And that she's not crazy if she does.
- 9. Offer to do laundry. New babies seem to quadruple the laundry requirements and that's about the cruelest joke of new motherhood. You've got this tiny little baby and mountains of laundry to do. She'll be eternally grateful.
- 10. Help her tidy the house to a state she's most accustomed to. A home that's comfortable is like a salve to a frazzled new mom.
- (and lastly) 11. Hold the baby as much as you'd like at any hour. Momma would probably love to go pee without having to figure out what to do with her baby first. Or take a shower. Or write an email. Whatever, you get the idea. If you're an overnight guest, work out something where you can take care of the baby and mom can catch some z's alone. Man, what heaven that can be!
I tried to do all of these things when I visited. Of course, I also had a toddler with me - and a husband - but all three of us did everything we could think of that we had wanted at the same time in our new parenting life. I believe the result was a positive one. My sister learned some new tricks, her husband saw what his wife needed from an outside perspective, and the little cousins got some good bonding time in as well.
These are all tips and tricks that I've picked up over the last couple of years. What were some life savers you experienced in those first few weeks of parenthood from friends and loved ones?? I'd love to add to my list!
(Ed note: After reading a PhD in Parenting post by Annie I wanted to add that I believe 100% that nursing mothers (and bottle-feeding ones, too) are to be supported in whatever manner they choose to feed their children. It just so happened that my sister's comfort level with exposing her upper breast is such that she preferred a little covering up. If she had wanted no covering whatsoever my job would have been to support her in that, as well. Likewise, if she had insisted on being out of public view, I would have done my best to find secluded areas where she could nurse comfortably. This whole "cover up to be polite" bullshit is just that: bullshit. It's incumbent on anyone who is offended to take action for their own comfort levels, much like we already do with men's plumber butts, open-mouthed eaters, and scantily clad bums and breasts. It's their right to let it hang out, so to speak. Not my preference, obviously, but still their right, and who am I to tell them how to dress, eat, or express themselves? And a mother is doing something none of those scenarios encompass: feeding another living being.)
Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip:
It's so much fun what you can do with a baby.
Hollis was obsessed with the "bebe" and "Lala." Here he is pretending to sleep with them.
Lala's idea of funny: mommy's pink tights, daddy's sweater, and Hollis' slippers on his hands.
Matching outfits up the cute factor, no??
It wasn't that he wasn't communicating. Au contraire, he did that impeccably, it was just that he was full of barely coherent one-word commands and names when other boys his age (and younger) were well on their way to three- and four-word sentences.
I routinely told myself that nothing was wrong (and there isn't) and that I would let him just BE. If he was going to take longer than other kids, then so be it. My job isn't to rate him against others or check things off a list, it's to protect him and give him space to grow. I'm not concerned with raising a genius or arming him for excellence in pre-K. Seriously. I trust that whatever intellectual gifts he has will come out with or without my coaching.
Having said all this, I am greatly relieved to be in the midst of a true word explosion. Something happened in his little two-year old brain, a mysterious pow-wow of synapses and neurons, that has catapulted us into a new realm of family life. No longer can Mimi say, "Fuck!" and expect little ears (and mouths) to not instantly regurgitate. (And imagine my great amusement that grandma was the first to be mimicked in the cussing department and not Potty Mouth Mama! Oh, the irony!!)
I can trace the magical moment to the visit with my friends in Houston before Christmas. He hung out with two 8-year olds and an 11-year old and almost upon contact he was saying new words and commands.
Watching them together I realized how much Hollis needs other children. I'm lovingly parenting him with attachment and kindness and thoughtfulness, but I'm no replacement for little grubby hands and a shorter shadow on the playground. Being a kid means being around other kids, too.
I keep saying it (and you all keep helpfully giving me ideas to change my situation): I need to get out there and make friends with children. I'm in a book club with a local mommy's playgroup (I know, that's more for me, but hey, I'll be more likely to go to the kiddie things if I know some of the mothers there) and my neighbors' kids are getting to the playing age, too, so I'm working on it. I can just sense that more kids are coming into our lives and I'm so excited. I'm sure Hollis would be, too, if he knew about it.
Also, I'm going to start putting feelers out for part-time work in a month or two and lil' ol' Hollis will be in part-time day care.
Whoa. Now that's some big news, right?
And goddamn does it feel good to know that I'm taking care of the Jessica part of Mommy and not trying to force my square self into a round life. I already feel lighter, smarter, happier, and more satisfied with my life. This nuclear-family, no-tribe-having, alone-due-to-a-traveling-husband, running-out-of-ideas-by-4 o'clock-bullshit is ovah. Did I mention that in my resolutions? If I didn't, I should have.
Hollis is growing. So should I. I want him to have a mother who doesn't martyr herself "for the family's sake." That's just about the worst message I could send him. He could either a) end up doing the same thing himself, or b) think that's how women are supposed to behave in a relationship - or how a child-rearing partner should behave.
He's learning new language to navigate his world and it's time I learn some new tricks, too.
Pretty soon, I'm sure we'll be able to chat about our day over coffee. Well, not really "soon," but you get my drift. He's busy moving forward and I'm going to join him.
This is a picture I just took in the parking lot of the grocery
store. The look on his face says it all... yeah, we're exhausted and
the daily grind is a bitch.
Ahhhh, yeah. I'll scrape myself together by tomorrow, I'm sure. At
least I hope I do.
I love resolutions. I don't care when I make them, but I like to have a plan, a list, be organized. It's the Virgo in me I guess. So, I was very excited to read on Hobo Mama's blog that she and Code Name: Mama are co-hosting a new blog carnival and the first theme is "parenting resolutions."
My previous post I touch on some personal resolutions, but none of my parenting goals, and believe me, I have a few.
What I'd like to improve on, or just plain add to my repertoire, is knowing better my personal limits and recognizing when I'm unraveling and headed towards a fight with a two year old; being more social with other parents and children of all ages; allowing him to figure out his world on his terms without intervening; figuring out a way to allow him to express the whole range of human emotions without attaching "good" or "bad" tags to them.
Mostly I want to continue in my current parenting vein. I go out of my way to create lots of YES spaces for Hollis; I look beyond his current frustrating behavior to what might be causing the yelling, screaming, throwing, tantrum, etc.; and I am exceptionally tender with him. I am proud to be his mama and to see this charming, trusting, well-rounded little person navigate our world with optimism and cheer. I feel like I'm definitely on the right track there.
2009 has been a strange year for me. Really strange. Hollis entered full-blown toddler-hood and I seemed to have left the building. We've managed to still retain a harmonious relationship, the best I have in my life, honestly, and we're growing together (as in onward, not into each other) as any mother and child should. The loving connection between me and him has anchored me and guided me and even though it's not a technique it's what has really shined for me in 2009. My belief that Hollis is a person with needs, moods, and expectations just like me, and not a tiny puppet to do my bidding, has steadied my hand and my heart and given me reserves of patience and understanding I never knew I had. I respect him and it's more empowering than any other philosophy I could adopt.
However, respecting his person doesn't protect me from having horrible days. I've still had days where I put a screaming child in his crib, closed his door, stalked down the hall, closed my door, stalked to the closet, and closed that door, too, to only stand there thinking, "Oh. my. God. I have lost my f*ing sh*t!!! AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH!" Occasionally, I even rocked myself on the floor of said closet. Glamorous and grown up, right?? haha. But there it is.
And you know what? Those were the days I was most adrift, aimless, and disconnected from Hollis, so that's what I want to focus on for 2010. It means that I need more structure, more alone time with myself, and, frankly, more time outside of the house (alone or with Hollis). I know I'll still have those days, but I want to focus more on recognizing the signs of a Mommy Meltdown.
I should write a note to myself about doing a mid-year resolution list, too, because it'll be interesting to see where I'm at with these goals in relation to the reality of a growing two year old, a possible cross-country move, a possible pregnancy, and a traveling husband. It's a crap shoot: I may end up with a paper bag over my head trying to get everyone to ignore the weirdo in the corner, or, maybe I'll be baking a loaf of bread a day and volunteering. Who knows?? Wish me luck!
• To Yell or Not to Yell — The Adventures of Lactating Girl
• It Is All About Empathy: Nurturing a Toddler's Compassion Potential — Baby Dust Diaries
• To my babies: this year… — BluebirdMama
• Mindfully Loving My Children — Breastfeeding Moms Unite!
• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Resolutions — Code Name: Mama
• Imperfect Mother — Consider Eden
• Resolutions — Craphead (aka Mommy)
• FC Mom's Parenting Resolutions 2010 — FC Mom
• What’s in a Resolution? — Happy Mothering
• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutions — Hobo Mama
• Natural Parenting Resolutions — Little Green Blog
• This year, I will mostly... — Look Left of the Pleiades
• Parenting Resolutions — The Mahogany Way
• I Resolve to Breastfeed In Public More Often — mama2mama tips
• Moving to Two Kids — Megna the Destroyer
• Use Love — Momopoly
• My parenting resolutions — Musings of a Milk Maker
• Talkin' 'bout My Resolutions — Navelgazing
• Parenting Resolutions — One Starry Night
• Invitations, not resolutions — Raising My Boychick
• No more multitasking during kid time — The Recovering Procrastinator
• I need to slow down, smell those roses AND the poopy diapers — Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma
• Resolutely Parenting in 2010 — This Is Worthwhile
I want to write about 2009, but I don't know that I could make it interesting. It was a shitty, brilliant, wonderful, sad, intense, incredible year.
I've been trying to imagine what 2009 will look like to me in 5, 10, or 15 years. When my kid is nearly grown and I have gray hair and wrinkles. A year is such a short amount of time, yet when we're living it we're no better at seeing the larger picture than our toddler who's screaming for more Little Mermaid at bedtime.
The idea that I can't see outside of myself during this time reinforces my belief that age most simply separates at a glance, but internally, we change little from children. We're still bundles of passionate feelings. Obviously, age tempers those things and we learn how to better manage outbursts, but I've been feeling pretty ill-equipped to deal lately.
Funniest part of all this is that I would be willing to bet that no one who knows me in real life would ever suspect the internal warring I have going on. It's not only about mothering, like the duck metaphor Cave Mother wrote about, but just in general. As a woman. I struggle to do the right thing every day. At least it feels like a struggle sometimes.
I want to run away for a month, a year, five years. I want to do whatever my heart desires whenever I want. I want to love more, do more, be more. I want to also have my current life.
Yep. I want a different life AND I want my same life. You think that's confusing to read? Try living it.
I want my cake and to eat it, too. I want everything I have right now and everything I gave up to get it.
This tells me one really, really important thing: I'm doing something wrong.
I am missing something integral to my happiness. I think I've identified it, but I'm not entirely sure. Only the next year will tell. I'm taking steps to make it happen as I type. I've decided to break my life into bits and focus on those bits, not the giant overwhelming Future. You know, one step at a time, baby steps, etc., etc.
So, what's the point in making resolutions or reviewing the past year? Mostly, it feels good, as self-centered exercises often do. I can think about my year and see all its highs and lows and maybe I'll be better armed for the coming year. And I love organizing events, thoughts, feelings, and goals into bite-sized pieces.
I can head things off at the pass in terms of emotional upheavals. I have some great resolutions, for example, and because I'm a list-loving fool writing them down and sharing them helps anchor me in my chaotic head space. I'll be posting some resolutions next week, as a matter of fact, as a part of a new blogging carnival.
This is just still a whole lot of bullshit.
A good friend of mine recently asked why I expose my thoughts and feelings on my own shortcomings. Why would I air my dirty laundry like that?? It's a good question. My response was, "So that I don't feel so alone because I get a lot of positive feedback that others are also feeling the way I do," but... I don't know. I think the real reason is because I'm waiting for someone else to tell me what a piece of shit I really am. Just one person to tell me the truth.
I'm constantly surprised that anyone chooses to love me. And I am the first to admit that I have some really incredibly people in my life who truly love me, warts and all. It still stupefies me.
And now, despite it being 1:30 in the afternoon, I am going to reheat the two sips of coffee I have left and relax a little.
Also, thanks for loving me.
Life is profoundly interesting.
I don't mean that to sound trite or even over-reaching. I really mean it.
My life, in particular, has become exceptionally extra-ordinary over the last several months. I've discovered coves of my person previously ignored and utterly unexplored. I'm not the person I thought I was, wanted to be, could be, or should be.
I just am.
I wonder what kind of legacy I'm going to leave for Hollis. I generally move through my days with troves of emotions and thoughts not fit for the old me, but which fit perfectly into my new identity, this new Jessica. I am not apologetic to the old me, but I feel instead a certain condescending vibe towards my old, naive self. She really thought that if she toed the line everything would be right in her world. Little did she know how far from true that really would be.
My life is, and probably will be, a host of surprises and twists insomuch that I may do and feel things I didn't know were even possible in the landscape of living a "good life," yet somehow manages to still be a very good life.
My greatest hope for the new year is that I am able to fulfill all my yearnings as a woman (separate from mother and wife) and that I am still able to be amazing at home (as mother and wife). That's where the rubber meets the road: can I pursue Me and maintain Mama and Wife simultaneously? I'm willing to bet the answer is a resounding YES seeing as so many incredible women do it already (see my blogroll if you don't believe me) and have great success as people and mothers.
It could also be that 2010 is the year of epic disasters. But I'll take those, too.
I'm not afraid of failing anymore. I've become more afraid of not trying to make a change and of settling for the status quo. I'm literally willing to do anything to become a better, happier, healthier, more satisfied, more challenged, and more robust person. Both my guys will benefit from me becoming all of these things. Hollis will see his mama striving. Anthony will see his wife growing. I will see myself as I want to see me: fulfilled.
I have other more mundane thoughts on the New Year, as well. The biggest being getting my finances in order. I control the purse strings and I'm a terrible banker. You can guess the results of that combination. And who knows what will happen once I get that straightened out. Maybe my fitness will be next. I already think they're connected.
But mostly, it's going to be my year. I'm going to live every day like it's my last. I'm not going to worry about anything that I can't control. I'm going to remember that it's not all about me, that it's not personal, and that it's ok to seek pleasure and happiness. I'm going to be a good wife, a good mother, and a good friend. I'm going to eat with less guilt, laugh with less caution, and be more open about my feelings. Everyone I love will know it and never ever wonder. I am going to transform my space from one of frustration and griping into one of energy, love, and passion. I'm going to be the me I know I can be.
I really like the sound of 2010 off my lips. It has a clip and a ring to it that just feels right. Goddamn, I'm glad to close the book on 2009. I'm ready for you, 2010! Let's do this!
So, what's 2010 going to be for you??