motherhood

For all the mothers

I’ve always viewed Mother’s Day as a commercialized holiday meant to guilt people into purchasing expensive flowers and gifts for mother figures. I was surprised to learn that the holiday that we have today is far removed from the holiday it was intended to be. For some interesting information about the origins of this holiday take a look at this article on American Live Wire.  Regardless of its commercialized taint, Mother’s Day is a difficult day for many. There are those who no longer have a mother to celebrate with, or those who have been trying unsuccessfully to become mothers themselves. For better or worse, this holiday puts motherhood and mothers at the forefront of our minds. It can be a sad day and I think this sadness should be acknowledged.

To me, Mother’s Day should be about celebrating motherhood in all its forms. You needn’t have ever been pregnant to be a mother, and you needn’t have carried a baby to term either. Motherhood is a state of being that transcends biology. There are women who will never have a child of their own (either by choice or circumstance) and they are mothers, too. If you’ve ever loved a child as if he/she were your own then you are a mother. Being a mother is not made up of the single act of adopting, or becoming pregnant. Being a mother is a verb, it is something you do with your whole being, with your whole heart.

Being a mother, to me, is nurturing the caretaker side of our humanity. By this definition being a mother isn’t limited to women. Men can be mothers as well.

When I think back to my own childhood I fear that I am not living up to the standard my mother set. I don’t feel as organized as she seemed to be. To this day I often feel incapable of stocking up my pantry, and planning dinners consistently still eludes me. But don’t feel sorry for me, because I don’t. This sort of thing amuses me because whenever I talk to other women I usually find that at some point we all feel this way. Mothers tend to be very critical of themselves. I believe it means that we care.

For all the mothers out there, in all their forms, ages, and stages, and for those who look down on us from above: Happy Mother’s Day!

Every day, do something that scares you.

As a person that suffers from anxiety, there are a lot of things that make me anxious. There are a lot of things that give me pause and make me question if perhaps I should not do them. My anxiety itself causes me to worry, especially when it comes to my ability to care for Diego. What kind of a mother works herself up into a panic attack over a toddler group at our local library? This one right here. I have been wanting to go since the beginning of the year. I even had it written down in my planner. Intentions don’t count, and it is now April and I have yet to take Diego to one.  It is one of the many things that I am working towards.

Every time I write about my anxiety, my struggles, and my goals, a small part of me feels silly. A small part of me worries about the opinions others will form as a result of what I disclose here. The other part of me, the part that thinks it’s a great idea to write blog posts about this very topic thinks it’s necessary. I know I am not the only person, woman, or mother to go through this. I also know that some are struggling much more than I am .

Last year I was doing great. I could go out without a care. My anxiety had vanished. I still felt it creep up now and then but it didn’t inhibit me. I look back and feel so angry that I am now back at square one. How does this happen? The truth is that is doesn’t matter how it happened. What matters is that I am working towards a cure. One of my tools in this journey is to challenge myself every day to do something that scares me. Anything that makes me uncomfortable or anxious I must do. These challenges become victories, these victories become ammunition for that little voice in my head that is always on the lookout for danger and impending doom.

Even though I strive to challenge myself every single day sometimes it’s just not possible. Some days I’m just not feeling anxious at all, but the idea is to challenge myself regularly. For me, this has really been working. I am still working on Freedom from Fear by Dr. Howard Liebgold, and blogging about it as I go. I have gone from avoiding anxiety and panic to facing it head on. Before, whenever I felt anxious, I would opt to stay home. I would rationalize my avoidance. Now, I don’t let that feeling stop me from doing anything. I still have a way to go but I feel so much better about my anxiety.

I wish I could tell every anxious person that feels alone that they are not. Is there a mommy and me group comprised of agoraphobes? There should be!

My challenge to all of you is to go out there and do something that scares you. If you think you can’t do it, then you must.

 

I was a better mother before having Diego

Before having Diego I had a lot of answers. I had plans, and scenarios that put me first in line for a reality check. I was determined to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice regarding no television for children under two, I was going to swaddle my way into a baby that slept through the night within the first six months, I was going to breastfeed for at least a year and I forget what other lofty goals I had for myself and my unborn child. I read books, blogs, journal articles, and watched countless YouTube videos about everything from which stroller is best to what foods to avoid.

We are all better parents before our children arrive. We are so full of energy and motivation that we can’t fathom that we will fail, or deviate from our preconceived ideas about what parenthood will entail. My first lesson in this came at my thirty-five week appointment where my blood pressure was so high I had to be admitted right away. Right then, I knew that my natural childbirth had slipped through my fingers. I had wanted a vaginal birth, I wanted to feel the pain of labor no matter how briefly (I was always open to an epidural) and I wanted to give birth to my baby in the beautiful way I had seen time and time again. My doctor, accustomed to my neuroses assured me that everything would be ok. She also reminded me that things change. I knew this. I had discussed this with her at length, but in that moment, overcome by fear, I could only grieve for that experience I wouldn’t have.

Diego was born via Cesarian section the next day. I saw him briefly before he was taken to the NICU. Already, my plans were changed. I did not get to nurse him right away. It would be days before I would put him to my breast. Breastfeeding is hard and even more so when your baby has been drinking from a bottle while in the NICU. I was pumping regularly and fortunate to have an ample supply but I couldn’t be there to feed him every three hours so I had to be satisfied with sending baggies of pumped colostrum/milk to him.

When we finally brought him home I discovered that he could break through his swaddle and end up scratching his face. He did not like having his arms contained. We tried using mittens to avoid scratches but his jerky movements had him smacking himself in the face and waking himself up. Where was this swaddle magic I heard so much about?! By the time Diego was four months we couldn’t swaddle him anymore because he could turn over. Sleep would elude us for most of his first year. We had some good nights where he slept for five or six hours straight but those were rare. We tried everything to no avail. Books will tell you that by six months babies should be able to sleep through the night but babies don’t read the books!

Diego is now almost eighteen months and has been sleeping around twelve hours straight each night for a while. He obviously did not fit the mold when it comes to typical sleep in babies.

As for television, he watches some shows. There are days when the TV stays off all day and he doesn’t miss it. It’s not part of his routine, but he does watch it. How unrealistic is it to expect parents to not expose their kids to ANY television whatsoever? In my opinion it’s pretty unrealistc. At least for us. Somedays I need those thirty minutes to an hour to get something done. Other days it’s just nice to sit together as we sing along to some of his favorite songs on his favorite show.

I was a better mother before having Diego because I had answers. I thought the experiences of others would somehow help me navigate first time motherhood with grace. Nothing helps you when you’re up at four in the morning, crying because your baby hasn’t let you sleep in days and if you put him down you will only ensure a screamfest. The books don’t tell you that sometimes a shower is the last thing you will want at the end of a long day of pumping, feeding and cleaning up poop. There are days when we are at our worst, when we cut corners, feed our kids frozen chicken nuggets, and let them tear our mail into pieces just for a few minutes of peace and quiet.

I was  a better mother, but now I am something even better: I’m mama.