Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Resentful Mother--the trials of a stay at home mom

It is Christmas morning, 3am. I am wide awake after 5 hours of sleep. I need more, but my mind is full of all the things that need to be done. All the things I'm not getting done while I sit here in bed and soothe my restless son.

Motherhood is tough. Being a stay at home mom is tough. It is hard work. It's my little, incredibly active baby boy dismantling my home bit-by-bit. I find myself cleaning up one mess while he makes another mess. Or two. Or three. It's being behind on laundry, on taking meds, on brushing teeth. It's needing a nap when your child is still running around and jumping off furniture. It's trying to listen sympathetically when your partner has a rough day at work. It's seeing the dishes piled up because it's hard to do them when you've got a baby on one hip. It's not getting to shower unless you want to have a child playing in the water at your feet. Ah, yes. Motherhood.

Women aren't meant to raise children on their own, home alone.

Let me say that again. Women aren't meant to raise children on their own, home alone.

Raising children is supposed to be a group effort. Family, friends, neighbors. Community. I remember growing up with my mother's friends and their kids around all the time. With the neighborhood kids playing in the front yards and sidewalks and streets. I remember when 10 year olds used to babysit, no problem. When putting a baby on a blanket in the front yard with a dog to watch him was perfectly ok, because there we people around. I remember my uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins coming and going. But this is America in the 21st century, where kids grow up in a culture of fear, and the nuclear family, as horribly dysfunctional, isolating, and destructive as it is,  is the rule, not the exception. The American penchant for mobility, for chasing the dream, instead of staying near one's childhood home (assuming ever there was one)is destroying the fabric of our society. But that's another post entirely.

My family is over 200 miles away. My partner's family is 2000 miles away. My primary core of friends is 700 miles away. And I've got some wonderful neighbors, but they're either working or elderly and frail. I've tried connecting with other stay at home moms in the area but we are all so... busy. It's tough to make the time just to get together. And then there's always the kids to keep an eye on. So it's just me. Well, not just me. It just feels like just me.

Little Man's father is a wonderful man. He's kind and gentle and generous and tries to be emotionally and physically available. But he works a lot, supporting our family here in the Bay Area on one income so I can stay home with the baby. He gets stressed and tired and needs his down time, here at home. So I try to balance my need for a break from unrelenting motherhood with his needs, which means I put his needs before my own. And with the baby come first and him second, I'm running not just third, but last. And I'm tired.

I try to remind myself that in order for me to take care of them, I have to take care of me. But I don't have the time. Especially not since I've been handling my Uncle's Estate and my Grandmother's Trust. Getting the hoarder mess cleared out. Putting the house up for sale. Putting on a new roof and fixing termite damage and getting the plumbing working again. Realizing with horror that the conditions my uncle lived under were so much worse than I'd feared when he stopped letting me into the house. Oh what a mess. It was so bad I put on protective gear before I entered it, and the main bath had to be gutted to the studs just to get the smell out, never mind the biohazard filth. That bad.

So much to do, and my Little Man needing me. Constantly. It started wearing me down, eclipsing my enjoyment of him, interfering with my ability to feel maternal. Resentment blooms in my heart when I think I've got him settled down for a nap and he wakes up when I'm in the middle of something I've put off for hours, days, weeks because he comes first, and there isn't anyone else to help. It tears at me that I'm feeling resentful, that I'm getting short with him. This isn't the kind of mother I want to be. This isn't the kind of mother Little Man needs me to be.

I don't have the energy for Christmas. I got as far as putting up a little tree. I haven't bothered wrapping any presents. I've given M his gifts as I've gotten them, and the Little Man has been getting his gifts as they come in. At 18 months he's too young to understand Christmas, or any of the fuss. So I'm sparing myself the additional stress. I'll make a nice dinner and we will stay at home and it will be just the three of us. And it will have to be enough. Because I can't do more.

In desperation, I looked for drop-off daycare facilities. Nada. You'd think, in such an urban, affluent area as the Peninsula, there would be facilities that provided as-needed daycare. Nope. Not a one. I searched from SF to SJ. If I want to join a health club or visit a shop, I might be able to find child care for an hour or two. But if I need to go to the doctor, see a dentist or a lawyer, I have to bring the baby or arrange for his father to be at home. I'm supposed to be doing physical therapy for cervical compression due to carrying the baby around so much. Yeah... right. If I want day care I have to pay $250 for part time slots with very set hours (8am-12pm) or full time slots at home daycare centers ($400-$500) that will allow me to drop off as-needed.  Or, I could pay $25-45 an hour for a sitter/nanny to come in. For a 3 hour minimum.

I need a break! I told M as I cried on his shoulder, struggling just to take a deep breath. I need a break. So he took over the baby for a few hours. A few times. He really makes the effort. But it's not enough. It's too late for an occasional few hours to make a dent on this crisis brewing inside me. I spent precious sleeping hours thinking about the problem. Honestly evaluating where I'm at, what my needs are, what solutions are out there. What I need, I recognized, is a few weeks off from being a full-time mom. I need to farm the little guy out to someone else for a little while, so I can get centered again, and hold there. And to get centered, I need to get all the other stuff handled -- the estate paperwork organized, the investment property renovation work on track, the house cleaned and organized and re-baby proofed to take a climbing toddler into consideration. Oh, and the site for the spa we bough each other for Christmas prepped before delivery on January 3rd. The messy state of my house has quietly eroded my ability to find inner peace. I have no sanctuary. No where to go to relax and go 'ahhh.... home'.

I seriously considered enrolling my son full time in day care when his father put his foot down. The Little Man has been raised in the attachment parenting style, he's used to co-sleeping even for naps, he's had very little interaction with groups of kids except for the few hours a week at the local indoor playland -- tossing him into daycare where he's one of 5 or 7 or 10 kids per adult isn't going to be good for him. It's going to be a big shock. Are we really going to risk making matters worse, risk him being more clingy, risk having to do months of clean up work with him, just to give me a few weeks off?

He pointed me to Care.com and UrbanSitter.com -- Find someone, he said. I'd looked at Urbansitter.com and I just couldn't see paying $25-45 an hour to have someone come in and babysit, especially when most of what I need to do is here at home. I need him out of the home. At Care.com I posted a job. Got a half-dozen responses from people willing to sit for me for at target rate of 4 hours for $50. And then I struck gold. A stay at home mom with two kids contacted me, saying she didn't run a day care per se, but she did babysitting for other stay at home mothers, and some after-school daycare, too. Cautious optimism sputtered inside me. Wouldn't it be nice if someone offered as-needed daycare? I contacted her. Explained my needs. I need 3 weeks of 4 hour blocks of day care on W-Th-F, and then I've got family visiting. After that, I'm hoping to go more to an as-needed, drop off care, maybe a day or two a week. Was this something she could accommodate? It turned out she's less than a mile from me. I visited her home (so clean and organized!) and met her two children. Let the Little Man play with them for 45 mins or so. He was very active. I made sure she knew how active he is (so active that other mothers say "My! He's...busy!") and she said she had a nephew like him. And of course, while we were there, he jumped off a little chair in her daughter's room and hit his head on a toy. ("This happens all the time," I explained to her. "He's a climber.")

She agreed to take him for 10 days, for 4 hours, for $50 a day, starting this Friday.  I'm calling it my Christmas Miracle.

I'm really hoping that this will be enough. That I'll be able to get everything I feel I need to get done, done so I can enjoy my son again. So I can stop feeling resentful when he reaches for me, can stop feeling angry at myself when he cries and all I want to do is walk away. I know that when I feel this way he picks up on it and it makes him clingier. It's a cycle of negative reinforcement and it needs to stop. And I think, I hope, that this will do it, that three weeks and $500 will buy me time enough for me. Time enough for love to replace resentment again.

Here's to a better, less eventful, less stressful new year.  Bring on 2014!







Monday, September 9, 2013

Summery Summary

It's been a busy few months and I've not kept up with the blog very well, so what follows is my attempt to remedy that by summarizing the summer's activities and how the Little Man developed over the course of it.
 
Little Man's 1 year checkup went as expected. He is perfectly healthy. Height and weight proportionate with a head somewhat larger than is proportionate but still well within normal range. This is good news because he's in the 40th percentile for height and weight -- and a bigger head means at some point he will gain height and weight to better match his head size. Either that or he's going to be Megamind. Still no sign of his superpower -- unless you count d20 Charisma/charm. As of June he had three words: mama, dada, and kitty. 

M's family visited from Canada in late May / early June and a good time was had by all. He got to see his father's sister, his great-grandmother, his father's father, his great-aunt, and his father's cousin. They spoiled him with birthday gifts of clothes and toys, and he bestowed upon them lots of smiles and coos. When he's happiest he makes wonderful cooing and babbling sounds that make people smile.

Shortly after Father's Day, in mid to late June, I took the Little Man to Oregon. We visited with many of my friends in Portland and on the Oregon Coast. The weather was beautiful and it was good to see everyone. A friend of mind hosted a gathering at her house for about 10 people and then about 20 people showed up for dim sum. I even took him to ecstatic dance on Sunday. He really seemed to enjoy running around on the ballroom floor and watching people twirl and dip and spin to the music.

It's hard to believe that I moved away from there 5 years ago. It only seems like a couple of years. Little Man did pretty well -- there weren't very many mishaps or broken items, thankfully. I was pretty tired when I got home though... I was trying to keep him from waking people up so I was getting him out of the house and to parks and whatnot pretty early in the morning, and trying to stay on top of a toddler in an unfamiliar environment stretches the nerves more than a bit.

No sooner did I get home then we started work on the roof. We wanted solar panels, but in order to install them we needed to put in a new roof. Since our roof was asphalt tile on tome of shingle, with no underlayment, they hard to pull off the two kind of roof and lay plywood before the new composite tile could go on. It was supposed to take just 4 days, but there was a problem in that they brought all the materials over the garage roof and stored the pallets on the cross beam such that the whole roof of the garage sagged/warped very noticeably. I made them stop work and take up all the plywood and re-build the roof.  It ended up taking two weeks, running over into the July 4th weekend, and it was hard on him and me both. Lots of banging and whatnot overhead, very little time outside playing because of risk of injury, and 10 days without satellite TV reception.

For July 4th weekend we drove down to see my friend Annette in Santa Barbara. It was our first real road trip in the Tesla Model S and it went swimmingly.  We drove down the Peninsula to Gilroy, plugged in and grabbed a drink while we added 100 miles of charge, then drove a few hours to Atascadero, where we stopped for lunch and charged another 225 miles in an hour. It is true that stopping to charge did add an hour or so to our travel time, but that's because we normally would just stop once for gas and drive straight through. The Little Man did pretty well, overall, given the length of time he spent strapped into the car seat. 

Once home again, the installation of the solar panels began. It took 3 or 4 days and at the end of it we are producing more electricity than we are using, so PGE pays us every month.

July was a month to enjoy the fruits of my gardening efforts. The tomatoes started coming ripe. The corn grew up into the eaves. The sunflowers and dahlias bloomed. And the peaches started to pink up. I started taking the Little Man to an indoor play land a few blocks from our house, as well. He enjoys playing with the other children and climbing through the structures that are changed to a different arrangement every week. We also learned that there is a water fountain for kids to play at in one of our favorite parks. He had lots of fun and I have lots of photos.

In the months of July and August he learned to suck liquids through a straw, how to take off his pants, how to take off his pants and bring me a diaper so I could change him, and how to say "mean mama." He learned that he could climb up on a chair to get to things that were out of his reach. 

We took him to Roaring Camp in Felton for the Thomas the Train Days, too. The train ride was mostly for me, seeing as I'd spent my childhood summers in Felton. We had a good time, despite the fact that all three of us were under the weather due to a cold.

The first part of August was spent getting ready for our big peach party. We have one every year, inviting all of our friends in the area to come by and take their pick of peaches. Our tree was especially prolific this year... in fact, the whole garden area grew like mad this summer, and since I was doing all the garden and lawn care, I had some serious trimming to do before we had a gang of adults and kids over. I trimmed my two rosemary bushes back to 2.5 feet tall and wide, and shaped my lavenders as well, half filling the compost bin. I converted the back lawn into a kid's play area, with a tent and tunnels and their own table with toys and food and drinks. Set up a canopy on the patio to make sure there was plenty of shade, and added another table and chairs for extra seating. Then I started parboiling and peeling peaches.

I made ginger syrup for the peach-blueberry fruit salad, broccoli-carrot-dried-blueberry slaw with parmesan ranch dressing, peach-mango-papaya salsa, peaches&cream jello shots, tabouli, Zatarain's beans&rice, peach mascarpone for dipping, and sweet tea with fresh mint, along withfruit and veggie plates for adults and kids, and some deviled eggs and veggie burgers for the ovo-lacto vegetarians.The party went well -- not quite as many people as I thought would show, but life happens to all of us. The Little Man has a good time playing with little friends and that's the best part :)

I started physical therapy for impinged nerves in my cervical area -- I've got numbness and tingling in my arm and fingers due to carrying the little guy around so much. I'm not 40 anymore ;)

The week after the peach party I got the news that my uncle had collapsed in his home and was on life support and unresponsive. I spent the following week trying to locate documents expressing his wishes and looking for a will, as well. after nearly a week on life support his doc called me in to the hospital and basically told me that they were keeping him alive until I was ready to let him go. I knew he wouldn't want to be on life support indefinitely, so I arranged to have him taken off the following day, after his priest administered Last Rights. My uncle was a very devout man, and I knew that he would want Last Rights. He passed two hours afterwards. I'd left the hospital to put the Little Man down for the night and no sooner did I leave than my uncle passed. Fortunately, a dear friend who has known him her whole life was there with him. We didn't want him to die alone.

I'm back home now, for a couple of weeks. I'll have my uncle's memorial service and ty to make more headway on resolving his estate. He died without a will, which complicates things, but I'm basically his only relative left that isn't a distant cousin, so... It's on me. The Little Man has been great about the change in routines and locations. He's a very adaptable little guy. It's his daddy who gets to missing us something awful, but it can't be helped. He's gotten very proficient (and fast) going up and down stairs, and he's learning to play with other kids rather than just in parallel. He had fun playing with a little girl named Scarlett in the kiddie pool, and he's learning to pet doggies instead of smacking at them. As always, he's got a sunny disposition, and his smile never fails to make others smile as well. Little Man is my sunshine on a foggy day ;)

The big political news of the summer is that my son will grow up in a country in which homosexual couples will have the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples with regards to marriage and family benefits. Yay! 

So that's the summery summary.



Thursday, July 4, 2013

The only response to abortion that matters is one based on The Constitution

The only response to abortion that matters is one based on The Constitution.

My position on the abortion issue is complicated and seemingly paradoxical. It is informed by my status as a preacher's grandkid and ordained minister as well as two decades of work as a sex educator. I can argue the morality and immorality of both sides of this issue -- and I have. In the end I concluded that the conflict between a woman's right to self-determination and fetal right to life is one that is so fraught with emotions and so clouded with religious and moral passions that any decision I arrived at that was not soundly based upon the law of the land (ie The Constitution) was both relative and subjective and could only be reasonably applied to myself. In sum, I've come to realize that our individual convictions don't matter -- the only response to abortion that really matters to us as a society is one based on The Constitution.

So, I re-read The Constitution. For the nth time. But this time, I re-read it through the twin lenses of women's reproductive rights and fetal rights to life.

Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything in the Constitution that specifically guarantees the right to life. It does state that the government cannot deprive someone of life without due process of law, but does that mean that the government guarantees a fetus the right to life? It's a big stretch. The Declaration of Independence indicates that born people are endowed by their Creator with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but of the those three, only liberty is enumerated as a right in the Constitution. However, if we assume the right to life is under the mantle of the 9th Amendment, then we'd have to also acknowledge that it covers the right to self-determination, which is so fundamental a right that it is the guiding principle of our entire political system: the people are sovereign -- their rights to self-governance and self-determination are inviolate.

Of all the parts of the Constitution, 14th Amendment seems to be most definitive on the question of abortion rights:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any States deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In other words, all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and no government, Federal or State, can deprive a citizen of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Since a fetus is not yet born, it is not a citizen, naturalized or otherwise. Until a fetus is actually, rather than potentially, a member of society, it does not have constitutional rights. It doesn't have standing under the Constitution -- It isn't a person yet. Fetuses aren't individual entities that can be called persons until they are born--until they survive childbirth and exist separately from their mothers. However,  in a softening of that position, The Supreme Court decided in 1973 that the unborn fetus does have constitutional rights around the third trimester (24-28 weeks), as it is capable of functioning independently from the mother at that time.

This creation of rights for the fetus in the Third Trimester is problematic, because it conflicts with women's Constitutionally enumerated rights to liberty and equal protection. This is why challenges to Roe v. Wade are going to come before the Supreme Court again. The creation of rights for fetuses, particularly in State legislatures, potentially creates severe limitations of the rights of all women of childbearing age. Many women do not know they are pregnant until the second trimester when they begin to "show", and what a woman does or does not eat or drink during pregnancy can profoundly affect a fetus. In guaranteeing the fetus a right to live and thus forcing a woman to carry it to term, does the government also have the ability to force all women of childbearing age to change their behaviors so as not to endanger a possible fetus? Does a fetus have a right not to be born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Spina Bifida, one caused by alcohol consumption and the other by insufficient folic acid in the mother's diet? And if the government does hold women legally responsible for what negatively impacts a fetus during pregnancy, what position shall the government take on spontaneous abortions, which are estimated to happen to 35-40% of all pregnancies, 20% of which are unknown to the pregnant woman at the time of miscarriage, and many of which could be prevented by nutritional and behavioral changes? What legal and policing apparatus will the government put into place in order to guarantee that fetal rights are being upheld, and just how invasive will they be with regards to abridging women's Constitutional rights?

Speaking of The Constitution, the 14th Amendment, like the 4th Amendment (The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated) would appear to guarantee a person's right to choose what to do with his or her body unfettered by interference from any government, Federal or State: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any States deprive any person of life, liberty, or property..." The body is the property of the sovereign individual, and viewed through the lens of a woman's ability to choose what she (and the government) does with her body, The Constitution appears to uphold and secure bodily choices as an unalienable right. Additionally, forced medical procedures of any kind (unless they're in the interest of the public health, like immunizations or quarantines) are also unConstitutional (read requiring ultrasounds prior to abortions) under the 4th Amendment.

It is also obvious that compelling a woman to continue a pregnancy is also a violation of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. "The Thirteenth Amendment’s purpose is to end the specific institution of antebellum slavery. A ban on abortion would do to women what slavery did to the women who were enslaved: compel them to bear children against their will. (A Koppelman, Originalism, Abortion, and the Thirteenth Amendment)

The Fifth Amendment states that "No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." If the rights of the fetus are given priority over the rights of the mother and a woman is compelled by her government to carry a child to term, the issue of just compensation arises. Her most private property, her body, has been expropriated by the government in a perverse form of eminent domain, and the Fifth Amendment guarantees just compensation.

But how do you calculate just compensation for compelling a woman to bear a child against her will? Pregnancy is physically and financially demanding on a woman. Health complications often arise which cause a great deal of physical suffering, mental anguish, and medical care. Eventually, mobility, emotional stability, and clarity of thought are impacted by pregnancy, and with them, the ability to work enough hours to earn a living, to pay rent and buy food, and cover medical expenses. Childbirth is widely acknowledged to be one of the most painful experiences a human being can go through. Forcing someone to endure childbirth could be considered torture and thus unConstitutional, but even without that consideration, juries have been known to award millions of dollars to people for pain and suffering on a similar scale, particularly when it has been determined to be intentionally inflicted. And the suffering doesn't end with the birth of the baby. The healing process takes a minimum of six weeks, and that's just the superficial stuff. It takes months and sometimes years to recover from bearing a child. How can someone be justly compensated for being forced to endure that, even if does save a life? In life or death situations some people make choices to save another's life at the risk of their own and others do not. They choose themselves, they chose to act in their own self-interest, and we don't penalize them for it. We don't force anyone to make a choice between their own lives and someone else's -- except in the case of a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

In conclusion, when it comes to reproduction, the governments, Federal and State, have no legal foundation by which they can force a woman to continue a pregnancy any more than it can force a woman to begin or end a pregnancy -- and we're fools if we decide to give any form of government that authority. We really don't want the government involved in issues of reproductive choice because once we open that door again there is so much potential for abuse. To illustrate, I'll remind you of the eugenics programs in the US and Europe in the mid-20th century, the involuntary sterilizations of mental health patients and criminals here in the US, the forced relocations of Native American children into residential schools that were demoralizing and abusive, and the restrictions some countries place on the number of children people can have. From there it isn't that far a stretch to predict a time when our government restricts who can reproduce, forces people to give up genetic material so the government can design it's future citizens, and takes children away from their parents to indoctrinate them according to government wishes.

I recognize that God gave man and woman the ability to choose for themselves how they lived their lives, even knowing that some would choose to sin. The Constitution also secures this ability as an inalienable right for born individuals, and while some governments may recognize that the unborn have rights, ultimately fetal rights cannot be given primacy over the rights of the mother upon whom their very existence depends, because women are guaranteed equal protection under the law by the 14th Amendment. Interpreting The Constitution in any other way re-opens the door for government interference in matters of reproductive choice. We've fought all the way to the Supreme Court in several cases to void State laws abridging rights in this area, and I'm fairly convinced that, should the Supreme Court hear another abortion-related case, the justices will come to the same conclusions, reluctantly or not.


[Note that this essay is a work in progress and may be edited over time.]

It is possible that the right to self-defense as enumerated in the 2nd Amendment may apply here, as well. Certainly the unborn child cannot (except in the case of endangering her health) be considered the equivalent of a dangerous aggressor, however, a woman's body does house the fetus, the body is hers, not the child's, and if she deeply, passionately does not want that fetus occupying her body against her will, it could be argued that an abortion is an act of self-defense in that case, and legal under the 2nd Amendment. I haven't thought this all the way through, though, so I'm not including it in the body of the essay.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One year old!

The Little Man is one year old now.

When I look at photos of him from his birthday I realize that he's not a baby anymore. He's a little boy.

He's been walking for about 6 weeks now, and he's become much more interactive. Now that he's more active he's taken to eating solids with more gusto, and also takes a two hour nap around mid-day. He uses words like mama and dada, hi and yay. He vocalizes a fair amount, but isn't really talking yet. That will be a while down the road, I know.

He's still this amazingly happy, chipper little guy, thankfully. But I notice him concentrating, trying to decipher things. I see the frown on his forehead sometimes when I'm talking to him, and I know he's trying to understand me.

We spend a lot of time outside. There are lots of parks near home, plus we have a great outdoor space at the house. One of his birthday gifts was a child-height sandbox that he seems to enjoy playing in rather a lot. I put down a tarp to capture the sand he enthusiastically shovels out of it. It was a good idea of mine to underplant all the potted palms with herbs and strawberries, because he's got his little hands in the pots all the time.

He's teething again, after a two month break. I'm not sure yet where the new tooth or teeth will be coming in, but all the drooling and constant gnawing on things is a good indicator that something will be breaking the surface of his gums soon.

It is strange to realize that a whole year has gone by since I cursed and cried and screamed and pushed him into this world. As painful as the birth was, it's the week afterwards that I remember most vividly, with a level 2 tear and no pain meds and constipation. I didn't sit if I could help it, and could only stay in bed for so long, which is why I was doing things like cleaning the floors and baking cheesecakes that first week or two. I wasn't being super-mom -- I was trying to distract myself from my discomfort, which was far greater than my exhaustion.

I've got to admit that M was right about most of the first year. His time building the Baby Center site means he knew more about babies than I did. The first three months were the hardest because the Little Man was so dependent and wasn't a day-sleeper / napper. But he did sleep well at night almost from the very beginning, so that helped. He was sitting up at about 5 months I think, and that was a huge help. Well, as long as he remembered he wanted to be sitting up. When he forgot, he'd fall over and cry. Once I stopped making milk at 6 months, things got easier, too. No more waking up every 3.5 to 4 hours to pump and feed. 

When he developed mobility -- the ability to crawl -- things changed radically. I had to childproof because he was pulling himself up and reaching for things, but he also became much more self-entertaining. He would go to what interested him rather than relying on me to entertain him. He mostly does, anyway.

He's great with people. We had various members of M's family visiting for the past two weeks and he did wonderfully with the disruptions and new faces.

M and I are intact. We don't get to snuggle up and sleep together as much as we'd like, but we're loving being parents and I think our bond is stronger than ever. Certainly he's happier than I've ever known him to be. And I think I am, too. I have a good life, and lots of love, and a sweet little boy who brings me much joy. I really can't complain about anything.

Except maybe that I'd sure like some more "me" time.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Accidents, vacations, and home again

It's taken me 3 weeks to write this. It's crazy. I used to be able to churn out five thousand words a day when I wanted to. Not anymore. Being a stay at home mom to a 10 month old without family nearby to help out makes it difficult to get much done that isn't directly baby-related. 

I've got to say I've got an incredible kid. Little Man pulled a side table down on himself on Friday, April 5th, splitting his eyebrow open and requiring 8 stitches. He cried for about a minute when he initially hurt himself, and that was it, even as his face continued to bleed.  It was a bad day for an accident. We'd just turned our family vehicle in to the body shop to get it fixed from a parking lot accident last month, and M was driving my car to work, which left me without a vehicle. Enter good neighbors. The neighbor on my right was home, fortunately. She has started back to work part time after having a baby in December and on Friday she was home. She gave me a ride to my doctor's office. My doc said Little Man needed stitches and since it was on his face he wanted a plastic surgeon to do it, so go to the Kaiser emergency room. So I called another neighbor to take me to the emergency room. I didn't want the neighbor with the baby to be stuck waiting for us for hours with an infant. I know how much work that is.

Meanwhile, I'm on the phone telling M what happened and that I've got it covered -- no need to come to the hospital and interrupt his last day at work before we go on vacation to Cabo San Lucas. He came anyway, even though he's as squeamish about bleeding as most men are. He came, and he was awesome. He helped keep Little Man occupied while we waited for the surgeon to become available, and while we discussed options for sedation. Eventually we settled on intravenous ketamine, which is a sort of hypnotic, that would make it possible for them to bundle the baby up and hold him still long enough to stitch the wound closed. Little Man cried again as the nurse put in his IV, but that was it. She got it in on the first try and he didn't fight her at all. M helped hold his kegs down and I spoke to him soothingly. The hospital staff said they wished all parents and children were so easy to treat -- that parents often get upset and their crying and anger makes it harder on the children and the staff.

It was difficult watching the ketamine take effect. The surgeon said they usually ask parents to leave because they don't handle seeing their kids that way very well. I can understand why. But I stayed and talked to Little Man as the drug took effect. He was fighting the initial onset -- the disorientation and the uncontrollable trembling -- so I spoke to him soothingly and he calmed down right away. Once he was swaddled and too far gone to notice me I left so I wouldn't be in the way. It appears that he's got my funky metabolism for drugs because he started to come up out of the dissociative state before they finished stitching him and a second dose was required. This meant that we had to wait around at the hospital for an hour and a half until he was back to the way he was when he came in: a smiling, alert baby.

We got the blessing of the doctor to go on vacation Saturday -- just keep him out of the pool for a few days and keep the sun off the wound to keep it from getting dark. Chances are good that by the time he's ready for kindergarten there won't even be a scar.

M usually teases me for starting the packing process early, since he usually throws stuff into a bag last minute, but this time we agreed that it was a good thing that the packing was all done except for the toiletries and gadgets. Little Man was pretty needy once we got home, so I wouldn't have had time to pack before we left the house at 10:30am on Saturday.

We've traveled with the baby often enough now that we pass through security screening at the airport with ease. These were his 7th and 8th flights and he survived them without a whimper, much to the relief of those who sat nearby. No one wants to sit near a bawling baby during a flight.

Cabo San Lucas is very different from Puerto Vallarta. PV is very lush and tropical. Cabo is like Arizona, but with a beach. It's a very sere, bare landscape. There are lots of dry creekbeds, some cacti and scraggly trees. And then there is the blue-blue sky and the turquoise blue water. It's lovely in its own way. We stayed at the Wyndham right on the marina.  It's in the middle of everything, which is great, because when the Little Man would wake up at 6am we could get out and walk around so as not to wake his father and grandmother.

I got a decent massage for USD20.00. Ate the best coconut shrimp I've ever had at a place called Alexander's which is right on the marina. Had really good fish tacos at Squid Roe. Swam with Alex in the Skypool. And got suckered into doing a timeshare presentation. Ugh. Got a great massage at the fancy spa in exchange though. Mostly I relaxed and nibbled and read and played with Alex. It was lovely. His grandmother was great with him and even watched him so M and I could go out to dinner one night.

The flight back was Uneventful. Getting through customs in SFO is always a pain in the ass because they just don't have enough immigration and customs staff working there.

It was good to be home, but once again all three of us got sick. M had simple cold. I ended up with intestinal distress as well, for about a week -- I think it might have been the burger I had at the airport. The Little Man wasa little sneezy and had a light cough -- he also had some loose stools but nothing terribly messy. I'm just now getting caught up on the laundry and we've been home for 3 weeks.

There is no place like home. I really like coming home. The weather is beautiful, the patio area is really shaping up nicely (thank the gods for automatic sprinklers) and I like being in the house -- the beachy colors are very relaxing. I dug out the planting bed and put in fresh organic soil, then planted corn starts and carrot seeds. Harvested sugar snap peas and strawberries. And washed load after load of laundry. Some days I fantasize about having a maid. And a nanny. But I still love my life :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

From cheerfully childless to mindful mommy

I'd be lying if I said that the transition from being cheerfully childless to motherhood has been a smooth one. My life is so radically different that is almost as if I woke up in an alternate universe.

I really loved the life I had before. I loved being able to pick up and go somewhere on a moment's notice. Loved the freedom to take a course or sit and write or stay up all night hanging out with friends. I had a few lovers, each unique and wonderful, each aware of each other and my love of them all. Even with death and dying in my family, such heavy subjects, I felt a lightness of being. I felt free from all the constraints I'd placed on myself over the years. I'd finally grown up and become fully me. And then my female best friend goaded me into recognizing that I'd fallen in love with M and accepting his invitation to move in with him. He supported me after my grandfather's death. We traveled. I supported him through a grueling start-up. We bought a house. And then I got pregnant out of the blue.

Yes, I miss my old life. I'm giving myself permission to miss it, and to come to terms with the changes and the challenges.

The loss of my independence has been the most difficult to adapt to. It would probably be easier if M and I had family closer by, or if I had more friends in the area, because I could call on them to spot me for things like doctor appointments or haircuts or shopping. As it is, I have to pack the Little Man up and bring him everywhere I go. It can be an ordeal even if it's just to go weed outside.  I find it damned inconvenient that I can't just climb up onto a ladder to clear the gutters or empty the dishwasher or take a shower without having to make some sort of provision for my son, especially now that he is crawling around and has figured out how to open cabinets and drawers. And really, there's nothing relaxing about showering listening to a baby howl with displeasure because he's trapped in a walker or a bouncer or otherwise restricted in movement. At best, I get to shower every other day. Any longer than that and the smell of baby puke and sour milk and my own body gets to me.

I miss being able to focus on myself. Before I got pregnant, I was determined to get down to a normal weight range and I made good progress. In having a baby at my age I made a further commitment to being healthy and fit. I'm down 100 pounds in the past 2.5 years. I really want to drop another 30 pounds but I've hit a plateau and my visits to the gym are too infrequent. I try working out at home but the Little Man either wants to participate or wander off. It's rather difficult to monitor him while tying to make sure I don't pull a muscle or otherwise injure myself due to inattentiveness. My doctor says I've done amazingly well and I should focus on maintenance more than further weight loss. He says he's concerned that my focus on dropping more weight will become sabotaging if I get too discouraged. Meanwhile, I'm fighting this near-constant "I'm hungry" feeling that the doc says to feed with warm water. I'm almost chronically under-hydrated since I started breast-feeding, and even after my milk dried up I still struggle to drink enough water -- I'm just too busy playing mommy.

The changes that pregnancy and childbirth have wrought on my body have mostly been awful. My body still doesn't feel like it belongs to me. I often find myself walking funny because there is a cramp in my pelvic area, usually the hip-flexor muscle, I think. My ass aches when I get up after sitting for a while. My lower abdominal muscles, while never particularly strong, seem to resist my efforts to tone them up--from the waist down I feel gelatinous. I'm ok with the changes to my breasts and nipples. I actually like them more, with the weightloss and the changes from pregnancy and lactation -- they are less lumpy than they used to be, and I'm fortunate that I didn't experience mastitis or thrush. The acid reflux and the intestinal spasms have been agonizing.  Since I'm not lactating anymore I switched from Tagamet to Prilosec and it's made a world of difference. Now there is occasional discomfort rather than a constant mid-level discomfort that ramped up to must-go-vomit-stomach-acid-now a few times a week, often a few times a day.

But before I sound too much like some whiny, ungrateful, unfit mother, I should say that I love my new life, too. I love the home I've made for the three of us. I'm happy here, even if I do miss my friends. I've got my patch of dirt to dig in and grow things. I am grateful that M's brilliant mind, which is what initially attracted me to him, is also attractive to so many companies here in Silicon Valley. He makes a good living and we try to live modestly on his income so we can still put money aside. Yes, I'm itching to take some courses and get myself marketable again so I can feel less dependent, but that will have to wait another year or so. I really enjoy his company and he enjoys mine. We talk to each other often, we snuggle when the baby's needs allow, and we both agree that having a baby together has made our bond deeper.

And our son! Wow, what an amazing little guy. Yes, he's teething right now and I really want to run screaming from the house after his nth meltdown, but he's got this wonderful smile and even when he's crying he tries to smile for me sometimes. He's developing so fast and he's becoming his own little person and even as I struggle not to create habits in him I'll regret later, I can't help but scoop him up and love on him. He has so much joy in him and I'm loving experiencing the world from his perspective. I'm experiencing an aspect of life that I'd never thought I would (parenthood) and while it's definitely a mixed bag, I've no regrets. I'm trying to be mindful of what I feed him, trying to keep his chemical-load to a minimum. I'm thinking about what stories I read him and what television programs he sees so I'm aware of what social and cultural norms are being passed on to him. I'm trying to create a safe space for him to grow into the person he wants to be --whatever that looks like. And seeing what a fine job some of my friends have done with their own children, I've got some good role-models and sources of of moral support.






Friday, March 8, 2013

Motivationally-challenged

I'm feeling motivationally-challenged the past few weeks. The question is, Why?

I think it's because I was just starting to get into a groove with Little Man after the holidays and then he started making these developmental leaps, throwing everything back up into the air again. Once again I'm feeling exhausted trying to keep up with him and feeling inadequate because I can't seem to keep up with the kitchen and the laundry and my GERD and take care of him. And I thought I had just carved out a couple hours a week for time for me and I haven't  been getting them afterall.

I'm tired, and so I indulge in coffee, and the coffee aggravates my GERD, so I don't sleep well. And Little Man is dreaming a lot and waking intermittently so I don't sleep well. Which means I'm tired when I wake up, and want coffee. Two days out of three I don't have any. But even just one cup twice a week means acid stomach all day, and sometimes all night. I should eat better, but my diet is so limited to try to control the GERD that I'm bored with my healthy food choices and either just don't eat, or snack on treats too frequently because when my stomach isn't all acidic I'm HUNGRY.

The weather has been alternately beautiful and sucky, so its difficult to develop a routine with regards to getting out and doing things. Sure, I'll go outside on the patio with Little Man, but aside from weekend excursions when M is home, I rarely venture out.  I did today though, after a cup of coffee for fortification. I went out to buy a replacement for the saucepan that bit the dust two weeks ago. I hate shopping.

And I'm disappointed because while I was out shopping I tried on some clothes and my bottom is not slimming down the way I want it to. I need to get to the gym more, but M has been too tired to take the baby when he gets home at night (sometimes after 8pm) and my neighbor hasn't been as available in the mornings as we'd hoped. And I'm tired. I just need to drop 3 pounds a month for the rest of the year and I'll reach a goal weight I haven't seen in nearly 20 years. After all the weight I dropped this past year, it should be easy to do, but I just can't seem to get motivated.

Whine. Whine. Whine.

This, too, shall pass.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

First World Problems, I know

It's been a rough few days. The three of us have caught some bug that has us all feeling pretty awful. Monday I asked M to stay home form work because I felt terrible. Every muscle in my body hurt, and I was producing a disgusting amount of mucous. By Monday evening M was feeling awful, and as of yesterday, Little Man's got the cough and the nasty mucous. Ugh. Benedryl in the bottle again -- at least it helps with the mucous.

The current politics in the US is very discouraging. Opinions and positions are so polarized that it's almost like I'm living in two societies at the same time.

On the one hand, there is a lot of really reactionary policy coming out with regards to women and control over what is done to their bodies. There's even legislation out there to outlaw divorces when people have children. And aspects of the Voting Rights Act are under review with the Supreme Court. Given the types of decisions that lot has been handing down, I'm not optimistic. I've a feeling that exercising the right to vote is going to become even more difficult than it currently is in some parts of the country.

On the other hand, States are putting forward legislation requiring labeling of GMOs as a consumer's right-to-know what their food is. We're looking actually doing something about the problem of gun violence in this country, instead of just shrugging helplessly about it. And the issue of gay marriage as a civil right that has equal protection under the law is finally making headway. Again, it's being reviewed by the Supreme Court, but while it seems pretty obvious that gay marriage is protected under the Constitution, I wouldn't put it past Scalia, et al to find a rationalization as to why it's not.

And then there is the environment, and how cavalierly we Americans are abusing it. Some revile the EPA as a job-killing regulatory agency, but I wonder how many of them take the time to remember the acid rains that deforested entire mountains and the horrible smog of the 70s and 80s? Or the toxic waste dumps that polluted entire towns and water tables, many of them to become superfund sites. Yes, those regulations make it more difficult to pollute and more costly to minimize pollution, but if you want to know what the alternatives are, look to China and India and how the environmental degradation there has affected public health.

I worry about the kind of world my son will inherit from us.

Meanwhile, I'm getting quotes for replacing the roof on the house and then we'll add solar panels made in the US and high-albedo roofing tiles. We've got the electric car. We live in a semi-urban area and walk everywhere we can. We recycle and compost, and have a small garden. We exchange produce, tools, and skills with our neighbors. We're trying to reduce our impact on the planet even as we want to keep our high standard of living. Does that make us hypocrites? I don't know.

Little Man isn't even a year old and I'm already thinking about schooling. I'm thinking about the fact that the 5 elementary schools within 1.5 miles of my house are magnet schools that we have to enter a lottery to get him into. I'm worrying that he might be extremely gifted like his father, and if that is the case, I know he's not going to get his needs met in today's public schools, even ones with GATE programs. I'm thinking that private schools are horribly expensive, and even they have issues with bullying and conformity. I worry that I might feel the need to home-school him and I don't know if I'm up to that, especially when I feel like I'm in such desperate need of me-time.

I live in a democracy. I've got the rights women all over the world wish they had. I've got a lifestyle that is the envy of most. I've had a child after years of infertility when so many are still childless. I'm lucky, I know, and I feel like an ass complaining, but it's not enough. I don't want to take it all for granted. And I don't want to squander it away. It's such a beautiful world. Will it still be beautiful when Little Man's generation comes of age, and what more can I do to see that it is? That is the problem that occupies me. Yeah, yeah. First World problems, I know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Eudaimonia -- Well-being and The Good Life


I am the first to admit that I have a good life. A beautiful home, a generous and loving partner who is an excellent breadwinner, and a healthy, adorable baby boy. I'm lucky and I know it. Some days, as I'm doing the mundane household chores or consoling a teething baby, I am visited with a sense of the surreal.  Never, in a thousand imaginings of how I wanted my life to be, would I have imagined myself being Susie Homemaker balancing a baby on my hip as I see my man off to work.

Sure, I enjoyed the kept-woman period and did my best to enjoy being freed from a 9-to-5 job even as part of me resented being dependent and without enough income to support myself. My partner assisted me in growing my internet storefront business as best he could during the economic crash, and he was incredibly supportive as my family went through one health crisis after another. But finding out I was pregnant, well, that was a huge life-changer. And now, as the Little Man reaches the 8 month mark, as my body still recovers from the effects of pregnancy and childbirth, the reality of my life as an unintentional mother is both incredibly real, and incredibly surreal.

Little Man's milestone last month was cutting two teeth. This month, it seems to be locomotion. He started off with the military-style forearms and toes crawl at the beginning of the month and this week he's crawling on his hands and knees. And really getting around. I went to brush my teeth and freaked out when he wasn't anywhere near where I left him. He's also figured out how to pull himself up to a standing position. The first two days he fell over whenever I wasn't watching him like a hawk, but today he's stable on those sturdy little legs. He's falling on his face when his arms give out, but the thunks on the hardwood floor aren't quite as alarmingly loud. I'm kissing and rubbing boo-boos, mostly on his head. It's time to take the next step of child-proofing the plugs and adding baby-gates.

The benefit to all his physical exertion is he's finally napping for about an hour twice a day. The drawback is he's gotten very clingy -- perhaps from the pain / discomfort and the scariness of falling. He often cries when I put him down, so I basically wear the baby carrier 16 hours a day and carry him around in it until he pushes at me to let me know he wants out. If I put him down and move too far away, he starts to cry. Finding time for bio-breaks has become a challenge.

Solid foods are hit and miss. There are days when he won't eat cereal or pureed foods at all. Since my milk dried up he's been on formula, so his poops are really stinky, but less frequent. I worry that he's not getting enough calories, but whenever I pick him up he feels very solid. He's not a chubby baby by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is he a skinny one.

It seems like I'm never alone anymore. I am a person who enjoys my solitude. I think that has been the most difficult adjustment. I'm starting back to the gym, though, and my neighbor is coming over twice a week in the morning to give me a chance to workout, so Little Man is going to learn to adjust to not having me around all the time. I hope.

The acid reflux still gets away from me about once a week. I'm managing it with eating a boring diet and medication. I've also had a half-dozen spastic colon episodes. Very painful. Like labor pains. I'm trying to reduce the amount of time Little Man spends on my chest and belly, since his 20-plus pounds pressing into my body seems to aggravate things. I've had the x-rays and CT scan, the upper GI imaging, and over 30 different blood tests and aside from exceptionally large ovaries (courtesy of PCOS) there is nothing unusual. I'm in excellent health, though borderline anemic. I had eliminated all supplements when I noticed that pills weren't resting well on my acidic stomach, but now that it seems to be (mostly) under control, I'm taking them a few times a week. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing.

At present I'm 75# lighter than I was the day I delivered Little Man. I'd like to drop another 30 this year. We'll see. I think I can manage 3 pounds a month. I'm wearing large women's tops and extra-large bottoms. Right now my excess weight is all below the belly button, courtesy of 10 years of sitting at a desk. I'm looking forward to focusing on my abdomen and thighs at the gym and getting my upper and lower body in better proportion to each other. Given that my mother and sister both were mermaid-shaped, I'm thinking I'm probably going to be bigger on the bottom no matter what I do, but my doc thinks the softness of the muscles in my lower abdomen has something to do with the spastic colon problem, so it's important to get that area of my body back in tone.

Through it all, M has been wonderfully supportive. He knows this isn't the life I'd imagined for myself, and he checks in with me a couple of times a month to make sure I'm doing ok. Believe it or not, the life I was building toward was living in a small house on the coast or in the mountains, alone, with lots of books and paper and time to meditate and garden. I'd imagined my various friends and partners visiting me, but never staying for long. For all my capacity to be a social person, I'm a hermit at heart. He's such an introvert that he considers me an extrovert. Heh.

It's all good though. I'm happy and pretty much healthy. The baby is happy and healthy. So is M. There are things I want to do, and they'll wait. Right now, it's important to be there for the Little Man.

End surreality check :)


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nearly 8 months old!

Wow, where did January go?

We got back from Canada and the Little Man had a cold for a couple more weeks. I was just getting ready to tell the doc he had been sick for 7 weeks when he suddenly stopped coughing and sneezing. No more suctioning and irrigating sinuses, no more need for benedryl in his bottle.

Middle of the month he decided to cut two bottom teeth at the same time, and after a week of dealing with a crankety baby, I was ready to run away from home. Or perhaps it was the disarray of the house after a week of being too tired to clean up that had me ready to run screaming from the building. Either way, M took a work-at-home day when I reached the end of my rope and I got to sleep. Sleep. It's amazing how much the lack of it impacts. Like, oh, everything.

I've started meeting with a mother's group here in town. I feel like less of a shut-in now, and it is good to hear other women's experiences with infants. Being able to speak candidly about breastfeeding and milk dying up, lack of sleep, and the ordeal of teething making me want to run away from home is nice. They don't squirm like M does when I get too... graphic... for him.

Little Man is doing the military-style crawl around and over things these days. He's only taken one tumble off the bed (once was enough) so far. He's still a sweet, smiling little guy. And boy does he love his daddy. He just lights up and his whole body trembles with joy when he sees his father first thing in the morning, or when he comes home at night. He's starting to 'talk' more, and I can hear him trying to sing along to the melody of the music I play for him. It's hard to believe he'll reach the 8 month mark soon.

I start back to the gym in February. It's been nearly a year since I was there last. I need to work on my abdominal muscles south of the belly button.  I've got six-pack abs above, since carrying a baby around really works my core, but my lower abdomen is still too loose after being stretched out by the baby. And I'm going to drop 27# more pounds this year. Hopefully more, but 27# is my minimum goal. I figure after dropping 70# last year, this should be achievable. I'm hoping Little Man will be good for the sitter. He's just not used to being apart from me for more than an hour. Fortunately, he knows her, and she'll be here at the house in the mornings, so if she can't console him, she can resort to waking M up -- if a fussing baby doesn't wake him already. We'll see how it goes.