Sunday, January 31, 2010

now he is two! . . . and why i don't believe in the "terrible twos"

My little boy is two years and one week old now! I love two! He is more and more verbal every day, is beginning to put his own thoughts into words more and more, and is playing more and more imaginatively every day. And while I can't believe he's already two, I also just look at him and think, "You're two! And you're still so small. And you have so much life in you and so much life ahead of you." I grab him up and hug him constantly, knowing he will be towering above me in no time at all.
As much as I love two, and every phase so far, I really dislike the phrase "terrible twos." The reason I dislike this phrase is not because I have an ultra-compliant little boy who never exerts his own opinion and will. It's not because he's never had a tantrum in a public place. I have been there--in the grocery store, the playground, and the library. On two occasions, it was bad enough that I had a librarian trying to help me. And no, I don't think this behavior when it happens is cute, endearing, or acceptable. But I do think it is normal for a toddler to "lose it" now and again when he/she doesn't get his/her own way, or when he/she is simply tired, hungry, confused, or some combination of those. And I do believe my not-even-two-year-old at that time needed boundaries and love and direction and instruction and gentle discipline to help him understand what was going on and what was expected of him. Tantrums are not commonplace in his life, but they do happen. And even if it is not a full-blown tantrum, he has been exerting his opinion long before he turned two. I guess I just don't see that as a bad thing. I am glad that even at a young age he has shown independence and thoughts of his own. It is my job to make sure that his point of view is listened to in an understanding way, while at the same time not tolerating disrespect on any level.
Maybe a lot of parents feel the way I do, but I have heard so many parents and grandparents and grown-ups in general start complaining about the "strong will" of a child as soon as the child shows any sign of being an individual or having a thought of his or her own. We should be celebrating our children's thoughts and opinions and, yes, even their strong wills. Given the proper direction, which requires a lot of hard work, children with strong wills and a sense of independence and fight have potential to lead and create change in their worlds. On the other hand, a child with a crushed will has the potential to bring a lot of hurt to his or her world. This is a tragedy and happens all to often I am afraid.
I would not necessarily describe my child as strong-willed. I would describe him as having a mind and will of his own and I would describe him as an intense child. He is a very happy child and has always been a joy to be around, but he is not necessarily an "easy" child. For instance, he has a ton of energy, and he seems to require very, very little sleep to keep running full speed. This has been the case since he was just a tiny baby. So, his dad and I are often very sleep deprived, because it is entirely impossible to get anything done with this little live wire awake, so we have to wait until he is asleep, and those hours go by fast. When he is awake, he is interactive and social. He does not usually enjoy playing alone. He wants to engage whoever is with him, usually me. He wants to be involved in absolutely everything I do, and he wants me to be involved in everything he does. I adore this about him. But it also means it takes me a very long time to accomplish something, and that can sometimes be stressful when I have a lot on my plate.
Toddlers feel things big. My little boy gives me such intense hugs, he can take my breath away and give me a chiropractic adjustment in the process. When toddlers love, they love huge. When they are happy, it's often over-the-top, uncontainable joy. When they are sad, they can completely fall apart. When they are angry it's sometimes more than they can handle. It's called being a toddler. It's called trying to figure things out in this world. It's called part of growing up. It can be called a lot of things, but not "terrible." We are privileged to walk alongside these little human beings, teaching them about this world, their feelings, and guiding their steps and their understanding of things.
Yes, there are challenging days with a little one, but there is nothing terrible about it in my opinion. The privilege of raising these little ones, of guiding them and instructing them through hard days and easy days, is nothing short of a blessing. It's hard work. It's rewarding work. It's the best work there is. It's definitely not terrible.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

my son's birth story

Looking back, I always have to laugh. It was about 48 hours before I would give birth to my son, and I said to my husband, "Maybe I will be one of those women who really doesn't feel contractions." I was completely serious too. I think I said this rather silly comment because my entire pregnancy I had not even had one "practice" contraction. Not one Braxton-Hicks. Nothing. So, I thought, well maybe I've had some contractions but I just don't know it, because I'm going to be one of those really fortunate women in labor. At the time I made that comment, we were walking through a store by our home. It was about 10:00 at night. Shortly after my first comment, I said, "Hmmm . . . I feel kind of crampy. This weird cramp keeps coming and going" (making absolutely NO connection in my head, believe it or not). I have no idea what we were even shopping for, but we wandered around that store a long time. Finally I said, "You know, I just realized that weird cramp is coming about every ten minutes. Do you think it's a contraction?" It felt nothing like what I expected. It felt like pms and kind of went around my whole body around to my lower back. The next time I got a "cramp," we both put our hands on my belly and realized it was indeed tightening and contracting. I started getting very excited and still thought, "Oh, if these are contractions, I can handle it."
We had been taking Bradley classes (husband-coached natural childbirth) for a few months, and our instructor had told us to sleep through any contractions if at all possible. I slept very comfortably that night. I worked from home the next day. The contractions remained steady and very manageable every ten minutes the whole day. My husband went to work and kept his phone close by. My grandfather, who had been steadily failing in health died that day. My emotions were all over the place, awaiting this amazing new life and mourning by beloved grandfather, knowing he would never meet my baby and I would never see him again. I wouldn't even be able to go to his funeral, 850 miles away. Strangely enough, almost 12 years earlier, my grandmother on the other side of the family had died on my older sister's due date. (This in itself could be another post.)
Around 10:00 the next evening, 24 hrs. after the first contractions started, we were watching one of our favorite shows that we had recorded. I don't even remember what it was now. I was doing my Bradley exercises in front of the TV, and I realized the contractions were getting stronger. I figured it was no big deal. I would just sleep through them again.
When I went to bed, I fell asleep with a stopwatch in my hand, timing each contraction. They were getting closer, maybe 7-8 minutes when I fell asleep. I woke up around 3:00 a.m. and the contractions now were maybe 5-6 minutes apart and so strong that I had to get out of bed at that point. I went to the bathroom and leaned over the sink and breathed deeply through each contraction. I was actually feeling a little scared by the sensations in my body, but I didn't want to wake my husband until I really needed him. I wanted him to be as well rested as possible to help me later.
Before this point, I had never really felt fear about giving birth. It was an emotion that surprised me and that would come and go my entire labor. Up to this point, I thought I could have given birth completely on my own and that the sheer joy of looking forward to meeting my baby would get me through anything. I wanted my husband to be there, of course, and I wanted his support and help, but I didn't know how much I would come to completely depend on it.
Around 3:30, I was breathing deeply and laboring hard on my hands and knees. The contractions were strong and about 3 minutes apart. I called the midwife at this point, and she told me to meet her at the hospital. [A little side note here: I had initially wanted a home birth, but in my area options are very limited for that and very expensive. The practice I looked into that I was sure I would go with was going to cost us $5,000 out of pocket. We didn't have that. I also did not feel very comfortable with the staff in the practice on a personal level. Also, while I have nothing against men, all of the doctors in the practice were men and there were no midwives on staff. I came to really want a woman who had been through childbirth herself to deliver my baby, and I found a midwife practice in my area and fell in love with them and their philosophy. The only downside for me was that they only did hospital deliveries, but I chose to go with them pretty early on anyway. I knew that I would never have to see a doctor the entire time, unless complications arose. I also knew that my birth plan would be followed as close as possible. I felt good about this decision and still do.]
So, we headed to the hospital. The midwife was not there yet, so I handed over my birth plan to the nurse, and this nurse could not have been more supportive of everything I wanted to do. This is nothing short of God's hand. I know from the midwives that not all the nurses in that hospital are supportive. I had no IV, no hooked-up monitors. I never laid down on my back to labor. The midwife arrived shortly after wearing very bohemian, non-medical clothing and put me right at ease with her amazing massage techniques and her soothing voice. She was a God-send. I was free to roam and eat and drink (I didn't eat, but I drank a lot during labor). The nurse and midwife got me a birthing ball and a ton of pillows so I could lean over the bed, which seemed to be my preferred laboring position for hours. I walked around the hospital for a good 45 minutes, stopping to lean on my husband through contractions. They dimmed the lights for me and we put on Norah Jones. The room was quiet and homey. They filled the tub, and although I was not allowed to give birth in it (which is a real shame--hospital policy), it sure did help during the transition phase of my labor. The nurse made me a waterproof pillow to lean on in the tub. At this point the contractions were coming on top of each other. I eventually got out of the tub and went to the shower (this is about 2:00 p.m. now), where I had excruciating back labor. I really believed I might die. I tried my best to continue deep breaths. Each contraction, the nurse would put the water pressure on high and as hot as I could handle (at my request). My husband helped hold me up. For some reason I wanted the water scalding on my lower back. It just seemed to help me through it. I was crying for God to help me at this point. I just didn't think I could do it. I was honestly frightened.
Somewhere in all of this, my midwives switched shifts. I knew all of them at this point, so I was comfortable with both of the midwives who attended my labor. I was very fortunate that there were no other midwife patients laboring at the time. I had a nurse, a midwife, and my husband with me the entire time, and I know I could not have accomplished this without the support of all three of them. I continue to thank God for giving them all to me that day.
When it came time to push, I requested a squat bar. My husband was behind me, adding physical support. The squat bar was in front of me and so was the midwife. The nurse was beside me, and I can never thank her enough for lending me her hand to squeeze. I really didn't end up using the squat bar. I used my husband's knees, which were on either side of my hips, for support and the sweet nurse's strong hand. I don't know how I didn't break it. My pushing stage lasted almost two hours. I was so so worn out and really did not have any more strength to push. I don't know how I finally birthed this baby. Everyone kept cheering me on and telling me I was doing great, but I was disheartened by now. I always believed the hope of seeing my little boy would get me through anything in labor, but even that hope and expectancy had left my mind at this point. I had requested a mirror to see the baby be born, but I didn't even want that now. I felt it would detract from the concentration I needed to push. We had wanted my husband to catch the baby, but I needed him behind me, so we departed from that plan without even needing to talk about it. We both just knew where he was needed. The midwife kept telling me she knew I did not want an episiotomy but that she would give me one if I changed my mind. It might speed things up. I did not want it, but I thanked her because I really think she was looking out for me--not just trying to do an unnecessary medical procedure for her own convenience. She did end up breaking my water after many requests to do so. I finally agreed, because she told me my labor and pushing stage were going on so long that she feared the baby might have swallowed meconium by now. The water was clear, and in retrospect I wish I had not let her do that, but I do think I understand her reasoning.
Every push seemed self-defeating. I was using every ounce of energy and feeling the baby move out slightly, but then in between pushes, he was just slipping back in and I felt I had made no progress whatsoever. Everyone still kept saying I was doing great, and the intermintent heart monitoring showed the baby's heart rate continued to be strong, so we just kept going. I believed this was never going to be over. I did not feel strong or in control anymore. And then on one push, a push that was not even all that big, the midwife said, "Stop!" The baby's head had emerged and the cord was around his neck twice. I did not look or even know why she told me to stop. My husband told me later she was so calm and amazing unwrapping the cord. Then she told me to push again, and there he was, screaming his little lungs out. She put him on my chest, and the baby and I were both crying, and I told him I felt the same way he did and that it was okay to just cry. I held him for maybe fifteen minutes until the midwife said that I was bleeding too much and she needed to make it stop. My husband took the baby and they weighed and measured him right next to me. 6 lbs. 12 oz. 20-3/4 in. 5:04 p.m.
We got settled in our recovery room, which was beautiful and warm. The baby never left our side. I held him and stared at him for hours on end. And this is pretty much how we spent the first year of his life. Holding him, wearing him, staring at him, cuddling him, talking to him, praying for him.
I told my husband that night, "This is it. I can't do this again." Within weeks I knew I would do it again in a heartbeat and that I would do it every day of my life for the little miracle I now held.
I remember waking up next to him in the hospital the morning after he was born and being so in love with him. I looked at him and did not know how he had managed to get cuter in the few hours I had slept. I still think that every morning I see him. How does he just get more precious with each passing day? But he does and I love watching this little life unfold day by day, moment by moment. God is amazing to bless his children with the gift of parenthood. Who could have dreamed this up?

Monday, January 18, 2010

my pregnancy in a nutshell

I loved being pregnant. I knew I was pregnant very early and started experiencing symptoms very early. I could not stand the smell of coffee. I could not keep myself awake. I got very nauseous when my husband made some not-quite-burned toast--even though I was upstairs with the bedroom door closed at the time. I could hardly stand to be in the kitchen or even the smell of the gas stove/oven being on (even just preheating). I got very upset at my father-in-law who was visiting and who kept frying eggs. One night when I was very thirsty, yet very nauseous, and not sure what I could handle as far as beverages were concerned, I opened the fridge and something caught my eye--it was then I drank an entire jar of pickle juice--and it was soooo refreshing I can not even explain (this is when my husband said, "I don't think we need a midwife anymore to confirm that you are pregnant.")
Most of my pregnancy I could not stand most food. The question was not, "What do I have a craving for?" but "What can I possibly tolerate that will not make me want to vomit?" I remember one of the last meals I cooked before signing off from the kitchen for several months was a creamy pasta dish--and I am not going to explain it any farther because the thought of it still makes my stomach turn and starts my gag reflex. If people were barbequeing in the neighborhood when I was walking or had the windows open, it was very, very rough. I still don't care for burgers.
It seems I could tolerate one specific food at a time--and then all of a sudden I could no longer tolerate it, and I would have to find the next one food to live on for awhile. These are the food phases I remember going through--as close to chronological as I can recall:
-tuna sandwiches from Culvers (although my midwife told me no more than two of these a week--so this was a hard phase, because there was little else I could tolerate)
-oatmeal early on, but I soon became very sick over this
-a very specific turkey sandwich (twice)
-cheap, thin frozen pizza (once)
-There was an entire day where I craved Sour Patch Kids and Lemonheads and that is all I ate; thankfully this was a short phase.
-Cheez-Its (this lasted about a week)
-Corn Flakes (one or two nights, sprinkled with sugar)
-blueberry pie, or any berry pie
-ketchup-doused fries. The more ketchup the better.
-Our family went out to a big smorgasbord in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and I ate a huge plate of pot roast followed by an enormous plate of watermelon.
-pickles (this was one food I could snack on pretty consistently and not get sick). I had jars of every type hanging around the fridge. And, yes, I saved the juice--just in case.
-salt and vinegar chips (lasted about a week)
-Taco Bell bean burrito--with a side of rice (this phase lasted at least a month or two--I did learn this was one of the healthiest things you can order at Taco Bell, which isn't saying much, but still--protein and iron)
-grapes, the more sour the better. Many days I lived on these. I would just bring a huge bag to work and munch on them all day long. This phase lasted most of my pregnancy.
-peaches and nectarines--yum for about a month or two
-baby salad greens. I could eat these by the bags plain or with balsamic vinegar.
-pineapple. I think I ate an entire pineapple for dinner two or three times.
-strawberries. All the fruit was pretty much a constant. Other phases would come and go more readily, but I could pretty much always eat fruit.
-baked potates and sometimes sweet potatoes
-raw string beans--also bought at the grocery store in the morning to munch on during the workday
-I finally started tolerating eggs and even enjoying them again.
-At 7 months, I actually fully enjoyed my mom's Thanksgiving meal. I think it was the first full meal I ate that actually tasted good and that actually felt good. I started getting more hungry after this point.
-At the very end, I made chicken pot-pie over and over and over again. It was my first time back in the kitchen since the creamy pasta (oh, I did cook on Christmas too--about a month earlier, but I didn't really enjoy the food). I seriously could not get enough of chicken pot-pie. It was my last meal before going into labor.
-I had a very difficult time drinking and finally was able to figure out how to drink plenty of water by adding just a touch of Simply Limeade to it.
Other than food issues, my pregnancy was full of excitement and gratitude and planning for and dreaming about the baby. And it was full of long, long, long walks and hikes. I loved being outside--except when the smell of food wafted through the outside air. We took Bradley classes, and I did my exercises and tried my best to eat all the food suggestions. We visited family, and my three nieces and one nephew surrounded my growing belly with love. They all felt the baby kick over the long weekend. Despite all the nausea and difficulties with food, I felt very healthy and strong and experienced a true sense of wellness. I was so, so happy. I talked to my baby, told him how much I loved him, and sang to him. I thought for sure I would miss being pregnant once he was born. But I never ever did. Once I held him in my arms, I never ever wished that I was still pregnant. I just wanted to hold him and hold him forever, and that is what I did.

[Birth story next.]

Friday, January 15, 2010

going on two

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." --Elizabeth Stone

I love this boy. He'll be two in a week and a day. I can hardly stand it. I'll be reminiscing this week about my pregnancy and birth and will finally get my birth story in writing, something I am really looking forward to.
This boy is light and energy and laughter and pure joy and has brightened our lives beyond comprehension. I am forever grateful that God entrusted him to us. What an amazing gift. We love you, sweetheart!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

a beautiful post by stephanie of metropolitan mama

I think we all have Haiti on our minds today. And perhaps the extreme awfulness of that situation calls us to think of tragedy, sickness, and sadness throughout the world--and then to do something about it--anything that is within our power to do. This post by Stephanie is beautifully crafted: Here in the Darkness. She talks about the sweet moments during which she puts her little one to sleep for the night--and what is going on in her mind during that time, particularly tonight.
Stephanie mentions two of her favorite organizations in her post, and they are two of mine as well. Click on the links below to see how you can help. And when you think of Haiti today and in the coming weeks and months, won't you stop for a brief moment to whisper a prayer?
World Vision

someone's missing in our house

She may not have been a human . . . although according to C.S. Lewis's fictional writings, she very well could have been considered a person. In any case, she was definitely a part of our family, and not a small part. Her name meant lovable, and she lived up to it and beyond.

She "found" us over ten years ago, before we were married, in a parking lot, and literally jumped into our lives and insisted she stay. It was easy to say yes. She lived with my husband, sometimes coming to visit at my place, until we married.
We said good-bye to her a week ago. The snow was softly, peacefully falling. My husband had a snow day. We were all home together. She had been failing fast. Terminal. We made the very difficult decision to have our vet assist in humanely ending her suffering before the disease continued its progression in her tiny body. We held her close. We cried. We said good-bye as she quietly, peacefully slipped away.
Someone's missing in our house. And we will never forget her.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

sometimes I complain about the weather where I live . . .

. . . and it's not because I don't love winter or white Christmases. Because I do. Very much. I just don't like winter to last half the year, like it tends to do in the frigid midwest.
Today is not a day I'm complaining about our weather. For one thing, it's January. It's supposed to be cold and snowy. Today is one of those winter wonderland days. The snow is no longer falling (although I wouldn't mind if it was) and what is on the ground is sparkly and powdery. The sky is blue. The air is invigorating.

I asked my little boy if he would like to keep throwing balls in his room or if he would like to go for a walk in the snow. He chose to go for a walk in the snow, simply by saying "walk. snow." So we got his turtleneck on, his snow overalls, his boots, his hat, and two layers of mittens. All in all it took us both about 25 minutes to get ready (he is extremely squirmy), which is about as long as we spent outside. It was completely worth it. We started by trudging together through the beautiful snow on the walking path behind our house and we ended with me pulling him on the sled for about half a mile. Other than falling off once, he beamed ear to ear the entire time, taking in the world around him as he glided along the path. I tried to take a couple pictures of this happy beyond happy child, but I had my hands quite full already and my picture-taking efforts just seemed to detract from the moment and the momentum and motion of the sled, so I quickly zipped up the camera and locked some images away in my mind instead.

[The picture here is from another fun day in the snow before Christmas came and went.]

love in winter

things always sound better in my head . . .

. . . if I could just hook my mind up to an electronic device that would somehow transcribe my thoughts for me, it sure would save a lot of time and energy--not to mention it would sound a whole lot better. When I actually sit down to write, I just sort of draw a blank about all those things I wanted to write about. Or, more often, the subject that was so interesting in my head suddenly dulls on paper.
There is something about the human mind and memory (at least mine) that keeps a moment alive better than any words can do justice to. And I have a lot of moments I like to relive and think about in my mind. Because these moments make up my life. And I love life. And I don't want to forget it. Especially moments with my little boy who is growing up in front of my very eyes. My very tiny baby boy who did not even fill in his newborn clothes and who wore three-month onesies forever is now towering above other children his age. When did this happen? The moments with him are beyond precious, and I fear if I don't hold on to them somehow--in some way--these precious moments will slip right by and I'll forget all about them as I try to soak up the next moment with him. And I fear I won't remember everything I want to tell him about who he was and what he did as a baby, a toddler, a preschooler. Because as soon as I get used to him and everything he's "into," he's suddenly on to the next thing, and I mourn the old things he's left behind while I embrace the new things he's reaching for and accomplishing in his world.
I keep a journal for him. It's not all I would like it to be, but like I always say, if I wrote down everything I wanted to remember about this little boy and his life, I'd be spending all my time writing instead of being with him. So it is what it is, and although the words are pale and colorless compared to the actual days, events, or milestones, I find that all I need to do is read those words on paper--or screen--to be reminded of the memory--the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the weather, the laughter, the people involved. So, this is what words do for me.
Sort of in the same way that a picture, no matter how good, can never really fully capture the spirit, the personality, the essence of a child . . . but I take the picture anyway--and often. Because this mind of mine that can paint and relive memories so vividly is also forgetful at times. And I don't ever want to forget. And so I take lots of pictures. And I write. And the pictures and words help the moments live on, even if imperfectly. And I am thankful.