I decided at the beginning of the summer to do something for myself. Between juggling life as a mother, wife and teacher, I was starting to feel like I had lost touch with myself. It’s a common occurrence for new mothers especially. Everything gets put on hold in order to focus on this brand new little life. It’s not that I don’t love my new role of being a mom, I just missed my time writing, painting, and creating.
A few years ago my friend sent me a book, “The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Path to Creativity.” It is a twelve-week process and I always put it off because I was afraid of the commitment. How on Earth would I be able to do it now with an infant? Then I got to thinking, “How would I be able to do it with two kids?” This thought spiraled into a series of events where I felt like I would never get personal time again. That’s how I arrived at my answer: If it would not be now, it may as well be never. Is that an answer I would be willing to accept?
No. It’s not.
I am an excellent mother. But I also need to be an excellent me. I owe it to my children to share my creative life. It will make me a happier, more productive mommy (and wife!). So I started the process my first week of summer break. Halfway through, the author, Julia Cameron, requires you to do what she calls, “reading deprivation.” Most creatives block themselves by reading other people’s work and neglect their own. For one week I could not read anything. Cameron offered a list of things to physically do in order to boost creativity. One of the items was knitting.
My mother-in-law is a fantastic knitter. Two years ago, while she was here for our wedding festivities, she crafted a few things and I was intrigued. I made the comment that I would love to knit one day. She bought a beginner’s knitting kit for me at Hobby Lobby. It has sat in a drawer with my bandanas for the past 730 days.
After thanking God that I had already finished the Fifty Shades series before my reading deprivation ensued, I decided I would learn how to knit. The kit came with a book, so how hard could it be?
Very, I would find out.
I just could not understand what the diagrams were trying to explain. I wouldn’t settle for my incapability to comprehend pictures, so I went straight to YouTube. I typed in “knitting for beginners” and a plethora of videos awaited my discovery. I tried the first one on the list because it had the most stars. I watched it 10 times as I tried to follow along. My needles did not look the same as the video.
Frustrated, I went to sleep.
The next day during Buddha’s nap time, I tried again. This time I watched a different video. It made a little more sense, but I still wasn’t getting it. My son woke up and we played for a few hours and then he went down for another nap. I decided to try again. I opted for a bigger set of needles and thicker yarn. I kept my laptop closed and tried to talk myself through the steps. Magically, it began to work. The next thing I knew I had seven rows knitted and it didn’t look bad. Now it was time to learn how to bind off. This time it didn’t take nearly as long to understand the steps.
I practiced knitting small squares for a day. Then I made a potholder-ish rectangle. Before I moved on to learn a purl stitch, I wanted to make sure I mastered the knit stitch. I cast on 30 loops and decided I would use the entire ball of yarn to knit a scarf.
I work on it at night before I go to sleep, which is more soothing than trying to read because I end up staying up later than expected. I went to Lafayette with my mother and a younger cousin, V, and brought it to work on while I rode in the car. The seven-year-old was fascinated that I was creating a scarf. She asked if she could have it so she could wear it this winter. I told her I would try to make her one before it got too cold.
That night while I was working on the scarf, I noticed a whole slew of imperfections: uneven rows, sporadic holes, etc. I was starting to get discouraged, but then I thought about something. I bet if I would give it to V, even with all of its mistakes, she would still be thrilled. Which led my brain to explode with information.
My ultimate goal is to be a successful writer. I rarely share my fiction because all I usually see are my mistakes. I worry it’s not good enough. It could offend someone. It’s not really considered work. Blah. Blah. Blah. So I just keep it hidden away and allow my ideas to remain streaming through my head.
V taught me a lesson. She didn’t see the holes. She saw a colorful scarf. It made me realize that even though my writing will have flaws, someone will appreciate it and either never notice or look past the imperfections. Instead of unraveling the whole thing, I need to keep going and finish something. Maybe once I get to the end it will make sense.
It’s funny how the by doing something else, I have insight to my subconscious. Now I just need to stitch together my fiction.
Buddha did not want a sibling. Any time that my husband came close to giving me a kiss, our little one would wake up screaming. Between lack of sleep and adjusting to working full-time, when it was time for marital moments they were few and far between. Plus, when a moment would finally arrive, we were so excited that we really didn’t think about the consequences.
The week before Valentine’s Day I noticed I was extra emotional. My friend had sent me a postcard from Alaska for a project I’m working on. She had written it from the perspective of her son and he was giving directions from the airport to their house for Buddha. The notion that my son would grow older and take trips sent me into a hysterical crying binge. I thought to myself, “Okay. I know I’m a sensitive person but I’m not this damn emotional.” I decided I would take a pregnancy test that next morning.
The sun woke me up to find Buddha with a fever. The morning was more scrambled than eggs. I gave him some tylenol, called my pediatrician to score an appointment, brought Buddha to my mom’s, and went to school to prep for my sub. I realized I had forgot to pack the tylenol in case his fever spiked again, so I stopped at home before I scooped up Buddha to head to Lafayette. I turned on the light in my bathroom to find the tylenol and noticed the pregnancy test.
The test! I had forgotten to take the test. I figured I had an extra five minutes to pass or fail. I performed the necessary process and waited. The first line popped up and I sighed a breath of relief. As I started to thank the heavens I looked back at the test to see a faint second line had crept onto the screen. Now I was praying to the stars.
My first instinct was to call the hubby, but I decided I didn’t want him to freak out at work. Instead, I called my doctor’s office while I drove to pick up Buddha. The nurse wanted me to get blood work taken to make sure it wasn’t a false positive. I decided to go after Buddha’s appointment. My doctor and her nurses were excited to see Buddha, but were surprised that I was back so soon. I mean, my first born was only three and a half months old. I was trying to remain calm about the whole situation and just smiled at their questions. “We’ll just see what happens,” was all I could reply.
I have always been an avid believer that everything happens for a reason. I do trust that God has my best interests at heart-even when it comes in the form of complete chaos. For some reason, I’m supposed to handle this situation of mothering two babies at the same time. It could be a lot worse. A baby is a blessing.
Buddha’s fever turned out to be nothing serious, so I decided to drop him off at my mom’s so I could work the rest of the afternoon. The wait felt infinite.
The school bell rang to indicate the end of the day. I packed up and walked to my car. As soon as I started the engine, my phone rang. It was my doctor’s office.
“You’re very pregnant,” said the nurse. The word very lingered in my mind.
“Excuse me?” I managed to question.
“Well anything over 10 is a sign of pregnancy. Your levels are over 18,000. You’re about six weeks pregnant.”
“That doesn’t mean that there’s more than one in there and I’m only four weeks pregnant, does it?”
“I don’t think so, but you’ll have to talk about that with the doc. Congratulations. I’m sure it will be another big, beautiful baby.” the nurse said right before the dial tone.
How am I going to tell my husband?, I thought. I drove to Walgreens to find some inspiration. Hallmark doesn’t really make a, “Surprise! We’re having another baby this year!,” card. (I really think I could come up with some funny cards for odd situations). I perused through the cards and found one that I thought fit the moment perfectly. I grabbed about five boxes of his favorite candy and headed to pick up Buddha then go home.
I cleaned the house and set up a little table with the candy boxes neatly arranged with his name on the card in the middle. Now I just had to wait for him to arrive. Of course, he would be almost 40 minutes later than usual. I was beyond antsy. I was more like mosquitoey-lightly flying around looking for anything sweet to distract me from the door.
Finally I heard his truck door close. I was holding Buddha when he walked into the house. He was in a terrific mood and started to tell me about his day when he noticed the table.
“Oh. You know. Sweets for my sweet. Why don’t you read the card?” I said as smoothly as I could.
He still talked as he opened the envelope. I saw him read the cover, “Congratulations! Way to GO! Woo Hoo!”. His eye brows slightly started to furrow curiously until he opened the card. Then they shot straight to the top of his forehead as he read, “You did it!” In my handwriting was, “I’m pregnant. Love, Your Belle.”
His eyes bulged as he looked at me and Buddha. “Are you serious?”
All I could do was shake my head up and down.
He began to smile as he asked, “How did this happen.”
“You see, when two people really love one another…” (oh sweet sarcasm)
“Oh I know how it happened. I just didn’t think it was possible right now.”
“Well, turns out it was very possible.”
He immediately jumped up from the couch and hugged me.
“I just can’t believe we are going to have another one.”
“Me neither. How are we going to tell my mom that she really will have a daycare?”
And so the story goes. I found out that I would be due at the very beginning of October, which would put the siblings right at a year and a week apart. I’m now at 22 weeks and we found out on Wednesday that Buddha is going to have a little brother.
Sound the bell. It’s round two.
#1 Losing his umbilical cord.
We waited for a little over a month for that black knot to fall off of his belly button. We couldn’t wait to discover if he had an innie or an outtie. We cleaned the heck out of that thing after each sponge bath, hoping the deep cleanse would trigger it to depart.
On one random morning, we woke up (9 a.m. was our usual time considering I was getting used to not sleeping throughout the night) and changed his jammies. I was going to put on an outfit, but he looked so happy to be in just a diaper, so I decided to let him play. We took Jackson out for his morning potty break then I wrapped him in a blanket and fed my Buddha. There was a knock at our door and as I scurried to open it I noticed the cord was gone. My mother and nieces greeted us as I frantically started to search for the small black piece of dead skin.
I followed our every trace. I took apart the recliner. I shook his blanket. I checked Jackson’s poo. We tried to keep an eye out for it for several days. We never found it.
#2 He peed in his mouth
They warn you about little boys, especially, when it comes to changing a diaper. They squirt. I anticipated the first accident, but never imagined it would occur like this.
I had him on the changing table. He had a bit of a rash and hadn’t had an accident yet, so I let him go diaper free for a minute. As I squatted to get a fresh diaper, I heard a stream of dripping. I popped up to see an arch of urine shooting over my boy’s head. As I reached with a cloth to cover the source he managed to squirt himself right in the mouth.
It only lasted a second and his confused face was priceless. However, my heart felt pretty guilty. My son peed in his mouth.
#3 The bath-time fiasco
My aunt told me that one of her favorite things was to bathe with her newborn. She said it was a wonderful bonding experience and that it let her son learn to be very comfortable in the water. There was a week when my hubby was sick and couldn’t help with the baby. In order to save some time, I figured now was the time to test her theory…with a minor alteration.
I put his baby tub in the bathtub with me. The first two nights were perfect. He splashed around and giggled. He loved the water. It was wonderful, until the third night. I had just finished bathing him and was all sudded up myself when it happened.
There were bubbles then a massive green color spread throughout his tub. I scooped him up before he was coated with the green surprise. I tried to balance him at the end of the tub so I could rinse myself off, but the distributed weight caused his tub to flip over, along with the green surprise. My instinct was to pull him closer to me, but that caused his head to face-plant into my soapy chest. He started to scream as I realized his eyes must have been burning.
At this point, I was in a shitty bathtub with a screaming infant. All I could do was take a quick second to laugh at the situation as I tried to reach for the dry towel to wipe off my poor baby’s eyes. Once he was calm I cleaned up the tub and then we tried round two – separately.
#4 He found his penis
I grew up in a house of girls. Although I grew up as a tomboy, that does not constitute living with a member of the male species. And boy, are they a different species!
One of the most intimidating things when I found out I was going to have a son, was that I would have to care for a penis. There should be a book on it. Maybe there is. Maybe it’s, “Raising a Penis for Dummies.”
On the eve of his four-month birthday I was giving him a bath. Two weeks prior, he really discovered his feet. He couldn’t get enough of those Fred Flintstone feet. As I was trying to scrub his legs he started to reach for his feet. On his way there, his hand found that wonderful little combination right at his groin. His eyes grew wide and he almost smiled as he began to explore this curious body part.
I sat back pretty dumbstruck. The only thing to escape my mouth was, “Are you kidding me? You already found your penis?!” Then it dawned on me. Like a smack you in the face epiphany of understanding. No wonder boys are so attached to those things. They start playing with it when they are four months old!
This is all perfectly normal behavior and he doesn’t reach for it all of the time. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon. But that has been one of my biggest lessons so far: Don’t have too many expectations.
I have learned that there is a reason children don’t develop long term memory until early childhood. There needs to be a parental learning curve. He’s not supposed to remember these little mishaps, I am. My little Buddha is helping me on my path of enlightenment, otherwise known as parenthood.
Not only am I learning how to be a mom, but I’m still learning how to cohabitate with a member of the male species. The hubby and I are nearing our one year anniversary-yes we had a baby within the first year-so we are still training our means of communication. We often joke that I am Mrs. Communication, which is ironic because of our many MIScommunications.
I do feel that our generation has a lot going against the concept of marriage. We have so many technological gadgets that are supposed to keep us in contact, but it kind of keeps us in our own little private world. An old professor of mine used to say that he didn’t like the iPod because students would walk around campus listening to their own music instead of conversing or smiling with the people around them.
Now some could argue that this type of separation could actually bring a couple closer together because they would have to build a strong bond of trust. I’ll insert an example here.
A few nights ago the hubby and I were watching “Two and a Half Men.” The scene had Charlie in bed with Chelsea, who was working on her computer. Of course Charlie tries to put the move on his fiance and she declines because she had a report to finish. He goes to the bathroom and comments on the “maturation” of their relationship. Just then, the house phone rings and Chelsea answers only to find it’s a woman on the phone for Charlie. When he picks up the phone he finds it’s his ex-fiance, Mia, who was calling to congratulate Charlie on his recent engagement. Chelsea hangs on to every word of his conversation in the background.
This is where my hubby sarcastically inserts his comment, “You see, that’s why you don’t have a house phone because then you won’t have to know when an ex is calling…or School Time Jodi.”
Here is where I’ll insert a short back story. A few weeks ago the hubby backed up his phone on my computer. When I plugged my phone in, it synced all of his contacts onto my phone. The only reason I noticed was because when I called my mother the next day, it was under Mim and the Man (their grandparent names-yes my father has his grandchildren call him the Man). Now I’ve had that contact under “Mom” for almost a decade. When I went to “Mom” in my phone, it was an Oregon number, which is my mother-in-law. So now I had to go through the phone and update my contacts. That’s when I found “School Time Jodi”.
I am a teacher. My first, psychotic, paranoid, middle school instinct was to call the number and see who answered. I thought surely he wouldn’t cheat on me with some chick named Jodi while I was at school! Then I laughed at myself and figured I’d ask him about it later. The next day I calmly asked him, “Who’s School Time Jodi?”. He replied, without skipping a beat, “School Time is where we get our t-shirts made and Jodi is our contact there. I stored it that way so I wouldn’t forget who to talk to.” I started to laugh and then explained my moment of irrational insecurity. It’s been our running joke since.
So right as we started to discuss the easiness of cheating, my text alert went off and he asked, “Who is that? An old boyfriend?” And as we both laughed I looked at the sender and it kind of was. Oh life’s little punch lines.
It definitely made me think about how the dynamic of marital relationships have changed over the past few decades. There is rarely a house phone to unify the couple’s conversations any more. Twenty years ago, the only way one would figure out that one was unfaithful is if there were too many hang-ups.
Now when a young couple gets together there are almost a dozen modes of separate personal life: cell phone, Facebook, emails, Twitter, etc. It takes a little longer for everything to sync. Many modern couples don’t sync up everything either. We have yet to merge banking accounts and some of my marriage vets don’t recommend it. Like everything else, you just have to find what works.
I don’t have all of the answers, just plenty of questions. And we are learning what works for us. I’m not worried about all of the technological temptation. I think if you have great character, you’ll make the right choices no matter how society evolves. Besides, the more ways there are to cheat, the more ways there are to catch ’em.
So I leave you with the question. Do you feel that technology makes marriage/relationships more challenging?
It wasn’t very long ago that I wanted to change the world. Now I just want to sleep more than five hours at a time, to shower for longer than five minutes, and to take over five minutes to eat a meal. The only thing that I’m changing these days are dirty diapers and spit-up clothes.
It’s quite humorous to me how cliche life can be. My husband and I often laugh at the concept that it doesn’t matter how different a woman and man can be from any other couple, once you put them together the exact same problems will occur. It’s similar with motherhood.
I can see why women wanted to get out of the household. It feels like you get nothing accomplished with a little one around. Each day is a blur of monotony. Feed. Rock. Change. Wash. Repeat. The highlight of one of my days was chasing a wasp around the living room while holding Baby Buddha with my leaky boob hanging out. However, a simple smile and coo makes it all worthwhile. I did find a few items that helped, too.
Here are my Top Five Mommy Survival Finds:
#1 – T.V. tray stands:
It’s a little rare to find these in homes now, but the television tray was a 1950’s house hold staple. We do spend most dinners eating around the television because our dining room table holds most of our mail, bags, keys, tools, etc. My hubby picked up three of these for around $8 bucks a pop the day we returned from the hospital. The first few weeks with Baby Buddha I had to be on lockdown. I spent most of the days in a big Lazy Boy. I had three trays around me: one for food, tea mug, and a large bottle of water, one for my computer and Kindle, and one for nursing necessities (burp rag, pacifier, Lansinoh, breast pump, remote controls, baby beanie, and other odds and ends. I loved the portable of these things. I could bring a stand into the nursery in order to have everything I required in the middle of the night. Now that I can maneuver better, I’m down to one constant tray stand, the rest store conveniently behind my sofa-ready for an impromptu use.
#2 – A nightlight
I remember these things from my own childhood. Although I’m no longer afraid of the dark, I feel much more comfortable having a little light for my frequent awakenings throughout the night. It’s not just for the times when I check to make sure Buddha is still breathing. I have one right next to my rocker for when I nurse-no overhead light required. Hubby doesn’t have to interrupt his handsome sleep.
#3 – Yogi Women’s Nursing Support Tea
For years I have enjoyed different Yogi teas. I found their Web site: http://www.yogiproducts.com/ and ordered six boxes of Women’s Nursing Support. I relish in my tea sipping moments. There are enlightening little nuggets of wisdom on each bag, such as “To love is to live.” I’m not sure how much it increases my milk supply, but it’s the relaxation factor that matters to me.
#4 – Pro-Bars
I had an unexpected treat show up the same day as my Yogi Tea: An array of Pro-Bars, the all organic whole food bar. These turned out to be the perfect breakfast for a nursing new mommy. It’s packed with tasty, essential nutrients and easy to eat! Plus, it keeps me full for a few hours. My two favs are the Super Food Slam and Art’s blend. If you purchase a 12 pack, they are 29.99. That can seem kind of pricy, but you’ll have a yummy, no worry breakfast for almost 2 weeks. Good enough for me! Find them at http://www.theprobar.com.
#5 – “What to Expect The First Year”
This was one of the greatest gifts that I received. During the summer a veteran mom mentioned that she read so much information during her pregnancy, but was absolutely clueless once she had her child. “What to Expect the First Year,” would have helped her tremendously. It’s set up in a very easy to read manner and covers anything that can happen to a child. I read it month-to-month and it helped to alleviate the nervous mom breakdowns. This is part of series as well and I will probably get the next one, “What to Expect the Toddler Years.”
I hope this is helpful. I may not be able to change the world, but maybe I can change your household the way Buddha has changed mine. Please share your Top Five Mommy Survival Finds. We all need support:)
A few weeks ago I updated my Facebook status for the first time as a new mommy. It read, “Having a newborn makes you disappear into their world. But it’s the lovliest rabbit hole I’ve ever jumped into.” That thought came to me as I was nursing my son in the wee hours of the morning. I have experienced relatively clear thoughts during this time. It’s kind of like the state right before you fall asleep – everything makes perfect sense but then you drift to dreamland and forget your newfound epiphany.
The first few weeks having a newborn at home is almost purely dreamlike. There is an entirely new energy present and it’s no longer in the form of random cravings and stomach kicks. Because your sleep schedule is in the form of sporadic naps, everything becomes quite hazy. The only certainty I had was that my nipples were demolished. There were more cracks there than on the roads of South Louisiana. I did not expect breastfeeding to be so difficult.
I hadn’t been around a woman who breastfed since I was a young girl. I really should have taken a class before I tried to wing it. I guess that’s what I get from gathering my information from watching movies and television. It is always portrayed as this wonderful, easy experience – which it is after you establish the bond with your child. As a first timer you really do need support, both in the form of proper bras and comradery.
I had the luxury of my mother-in-law, who is a triage nurse, help us for almost two weeks once Baby C got here. She ordered me the book, “Breastfeeding Made Simple,” which boosted my mood and encouraged me through a week of mastitis. Now she is back in Oregon and I am home for the next month to adjust to my new life.
C will be four weeks old on Wednesday and we are finally getting the hang of feeding properly. A friend of mine told me it would take that long to be comfortable. Without this kind of support, I would have given up a few weeks ago when I was crying while feeding him. I have had to supplement with formula. That’s what happens when your child weighs 11 pounds 10 ounces at birth.
I can’t believe it has been four weeks. I’m starting to step out of the fog and my brain is beginning to work again. Part of me knows that I will never be the same again, but that’s part of the process. There’s no going back. And eventually, I may not need the training wheels.