When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


2/29/12

The Reluctant Parent

I am sharing this post for all the friends who have struggled/are struggling with the transition into parenthood.  You know who you are. 

I was there, and I was shocked.  Hadn't I always said I wanted 8 kids and that Aaron talked me down to 4?  Wasn't I the child counselor who couldn't get enough of the little dears?  Didn't TLC's A Baby Story make me tear up every single stinkin' time?

So why was I such a mess when I actually had a baby? 

No one can tell you what it's really like when you bring a new life into the world and are suddenly completely responsible for another human being's survival.  If someone tried to warn tell me, I either a) didn't listen, or b) assumed they were exaggerating.

We recently had dinner with some old friends [who shall remain nameless].  I was so refreshed with how candidly they talked about their own difficulties transitioning into parenthood.  They freely admitted that during the early weeks of their child's life they would lie in bed awake at night and cry, asking each other, "What have we done?" and "Why would anyone be stupid enough to do this twice?!"

Now you have to understand that their infant was sick for a time.  I think that added stress can really color the early parental experience.  I have never experienced anything more exhausting, terrifying, depressing, etc. as knowing something was wrong with my infant and not being able to fix it. 

Parker was born tongue-tied.  The frenulum (little membrane under his tongue attached to the bottom of his mouth) was so short he was unable to lift and extend his tongue.  This hindered his ability to breastfeed.  Though the doctors and lactation consultants insisted he would be fine, he kept losing weight.  For weeks.  He (and I) cried continuously, until he would pass out from exhaustion.  Finally, when he was on the verge of receiving a "failure to thrive" diagnosis, we switched doctors, clipped his frenulum, and started him on formula.  I'm not sure I will ever fully recover from the guilt I felt about starving that poor child.

I know that's a bit of an extreme case.  I think even without all of that drama, I would have had a tough time adopting the role of mother.  During pregnancy I read all the books.  So the baby wouldn't sleep well to begin with, big deal. (I don't recall anyone warning me that this could last for six months).  I knew I would need to change some diapers, etc.  I was just looking forward to putting the baby in adorable outfits, going on walks, taking the baby to lunches with friends...I suppose I thought I would give birth to a baby doll as opposed to an actual infant.

The realities of motherhood soon set in:

Spending money was sparse.  We went from being DINKS (double income, no kids) in the south to one check and three mouths to feed living on the west coast.

Our support system was gone.  Far from being a day's drive to Louisville, we were now 3 time zones and zero direct flights away from all of our family.

Hearing Aaron say, "I'm going to have to work late tonight" had the ominous ring of a death knell.  In days past I would have shrugged my shoulders and scheduled an impromptu dinner with my girlfriends.  Now, if he were more than 15 minutes late, all hell might break loose (because momma was losing her everlovin' mind).

Even personal care was altered.  Lengthy, luxurious baths were replaced with 2 minute showers.  I still don't get to use the bathroom alone most days.

Routine outings (grocery shopping, doctor visits, etc.) were suddenly complicated hassles.  Never again would I be able to preface a trip to the store with: "I'm just going run in and grab...." Forget it. You are taking that ginormous car seat in with you, like it or not.  And good luck scheduling your outing.  Between naps and feedings, you might just as well stay home. 

Vacation?  Ha!  With a baby?!  Let me tell you, that was one of the biggest eye-openers of all.  Do you really think the baby will magically know you are all on vacation and choose to sleep in?  Good luck planning those fun outings around baby's schedule.  Someone is staying in the room.  And then there's all the gear.  After schlepping the pack-n-play, diapers, portable highchair, etc. you quickly realize you would have had a better time if you'd just stayed home.

Basically, it's the end of the world as you know it.  (R.E.M., anyone?) 

The thing is, it's the end of your old world, but it's just the beginning of your new life.  As much as I loved Parker, I will freely admit it took me a long time to embrace my new life...to accept that it wasn't just mine anymore.  Once a mommy, always a mommy.  And what a gift!

But for those of you who may not be there yet...Perhaps you have a newborn.  Perhaps you have a sick child.  Perhaps you just returned from your first "vacation" with your one year old.  May I give you permission to grieve your old life?  The one where you never left the house with puke on your shirt, where you had intelligent, adult conversations all day long, where you did what you wanted when you wanted.  Just take a moment to recall all of the freedoms and joys of that past life. 

Now, let. it. go.  Don't waste a moment dwelling on the past.  You probably have on rose colored glasses anyway.  Embrace every moment [well, almost every moment, not the poopy ones] of your new role.  Everything is a phase, even the good stuff, so don't blink.

2/21/12

Speaking of Germs....

God has a funny sense of humor...

Earlier this month I wrote about germs and how my kids seemed bent on ingesting as many as humanly possible.  I wondered at that fact that they were well...
Yeah, not so much now.

Jack has RSV.  That's why I'm writing this post at 1:47 a.m.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this lovely little virus, RSV stands for respiratory syncytial
(sin-SISH-uhl) virus.  It's like a baby cold. On steroids.  Before I continue, I would like to thank my Heavenly Father that we didn't end up in the hospital like so many other babies with this virus this year.

That said, it sucks.  Quite literally.  It sucks the energy right out of me (well, the sleepless nights do, anyway).  I suck the snot right out of his little nose.  Over.  And Over.  And Over. 

It goes a little something like this...
Jack can't breathe.  We suction his nose and give him a breathing treatment.  (Please don't think for a second that just because I ended that sweet little sentence with a tidy little period that those two tasks are simple as they sound.)

Have you ever tried to suction a baby's nose?  I'm not talking about a docile little newborn.  I'm talking about an 18 pound, arm-flailing, fingernail fighting (yee-ouch!  when was the last time I trimmed those suckers?), little person who can thrash his head from side to side with the best of them.  I have to lie across his chest, pinning his arms with one arm and shoulder and attempt to stabilize his little head and place the suction bulb up inside impossibly tiny nostrils with my other arm and hand.  What?!  I don't mean to brag or anything, but I kind of feel like Supermom when I'm able to successfully remove some gunk.  Then I feel evil because I am gloating about subduing a 6 month old (whose face is purple from rage after the ordeal).

Now on to the breathing treatment.  Seriously.   To the person who invented the tiny little plastic mask that is supposed to stay over a baby's mouth and nose by simply placing the elastic band around the back of his head and pulling on the band (think airplane low cabin pressure emergency masks), I say: What were you thinking?!!  The only way that contraption would work is if my child were unconcious.  As it is, after I place the mask over his nose and mouth, turn on the machine (which sounds like a Mack truck), and the smoke [albuterol] begins to flow, he hell-bent on getting out of town.  Do you really think that quarter-inch piece of elastic is going to serve any purpose whatsoever?  I suppose if you were trying to strangle your baby, this would be a good place to start.  Soooo, simply hold the mask in place [read: use every available body part to keep the child an a human straitjacket while holding the mask on his face] and wait 5 minutes for the treatment [torture] to end.  Repeat 4-6 times per day.  Did I mention RSV lasts about 3 weeks?

After the breathing treatment it's time to suction his nose again because he's been crying and of course, can't breathe.  He can't nurse well because he can't breathe, so feedings are frequent (like newborn, up all night frequent).

Now it's not as bad as it seems.  After one week we can venture out into society again, as he won't be as contagious.  After a few days of breathing treatments, we can reduce the frequency. 

There is always a silver lining, and I don't want to miss the blessings that have accompanied this trial.

1.  When you wake in the middle of the night from a dead sleep, it is amazing what you can accomplish (especially since everyone else is asleep and not underfoot).  My kitchen is clean, I have time to blog and answer emails, I remember to check my calendar and Parker's backpack, etc.

2.  When you are forced to stay home, you can relax and just stay home.  No running to the gym, baking banana bread for the mothers' meeting, play dates...Instead I had play dates with Parker and Maddie.    It was so nice that I think I need to re-prioritize our calendar again.  (Who knew being a stay-at-home mom meant I'd never be home?)

3.  I am reminded to be thankful that my kids don't suffer from any major long term illnesses.  I cringe when I think about how much I whine [see above] about my child's 3 week illness.  I know parents whose children suffer on a daily basis and likely will for the rest of their lives.  They frequent the childrens' hospitals, have to watch their babies undergo painful treatments, have to administer treatments at home, and they don't bemoan their situation to the world. 

I hope most of you reading this will recognize that while I'm not thrilled with our current circumstances, I am just trying to offer some humorous commentary.  I know how good we've got it.  And I'm oh so grateful!

James 1:2-4
 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

2/9/12

Germs

When we lived in Seattle, there were a few times I would wonder how on earth the kids got sick.  We didn't go many places, and I was militaristic somewhat obsessive about hand sanitizer. 

When the kids are healthy these days, I wonder why they are not sick.  Between preschool, the gym, the church nursery, etc. they are constantly exposed to a plethora of germs.  Apparently mere airborne exposure isn't enough to satisfy them.  They seem bent on seeking out and ingesting germs. (Like the time when I caught Parker licking the length of the handrail that lead down the ramp into the library, or when Maddie popped a piece of candy in her mouth that was on the floor near a quarter candy machine before I could utter a "nooooo!")

So right now Maddie has a very runny nose.  Thankfully it is of the clear variety.  Somehow that doesn't gross me out as much as the other kind.

Today as we sat at the kitchen table eating lunch, she complained to me of her runny nose.  I was feeding Jack some strained carrots and oatmeal mush (quite a messy and consuming job).  I instructed Maddie to go to the bathroom and get a tissue.  She argued that she wanted me to get the tissue.  I informed her I would gladly do that after I had finished feeding Jack.  If she needed one before then [and by the looks of her nose, she would], she'd need to get it herself.  Repeat this exchange about 10 times.

Pause.

"Mommy!" she exclaimed excitedly, "My boogers are gone!"

I glanced up.  She was grinning in a delighted, almost surprised manner.  Sure enough, it was as if they had miraculously disappeared.  I was not so delighted.

"Wow!  Where did they go?" I forced a smile.

"I don't know," she replied (still grinning).

"How did you get rid of them?"  Neutral tone.

"I don't know."  Her smile begins to fade.

"Maddie, did you use your shirt?"  Business tone.

She shakes her head and looks serious.

"Your fingers [please no]?"  Approaching "mean mommy" tone, thinking about what I'll need to disinfect.

She shakes her head again.

"Your tongue [ewwwww]?"  Desperate tone.

Shaking her head again, all of the usual excuses begin to pour out of her little mouth.  I could almost watch her nose grow. "I don't know...I forgot...It was an accident..."

"Maddie!  Just tell me what you used so I know what I have to clean!"

Realizing she wasn't in any real trouble, she smiled and answered simply, "My pants."

(*Whew*)  It makes me cringe to think that I was actually relieved by her answer.  When you consider the alternatives, pants don't seem all that bad.  Oh, how low have I sunk?!