Monday, December 30, 2013

new year; fresh start

This week it will cease to be 2013, and begin 2014. Its a non-existent line in some non-existent sand, but one that hold so much significance to so many people. I don't know why it does, but heaven help me it really feels like a clean slate, a fresh chance.

As a mom I find myself looking for clean slates. Its so easy to hold every raised voice, every overreaction, ever missed learning opportunity against myself. Its so easy to judge myself and find me to be lacking. So here's to using this fresh start to allow myself a little more forgiveness. Fresh slate, new day, new year.... my mom sins have been purged and I'm starting anew.

When we hold on to old "failures" (whether they be a real failure, or only something that feels that way in our heads), we bring ourselves down, wear ourselves out, and set ourselves up for future "failures." When we forgive, give ourselves the space to be human, and show our children that everyone makes mistakes but if we own them and learn from them then they aren't failures.

So my parenting resolution for the New Year? Make mistakes, and let them go. Be the best mom I can be to Gwen in each particular moment. Then start anew.

What do you hope for the New Year?


Monday, December 16, 2013

I thought it would be forever...

I thought I would fight you on sleep forever. When the nights are long, and you have to be shushed and bounced and rocked and nursed, it feels like forever. But here we are at almost 4, and bedtime is a breeze. After we read a book, I tuck you in and turn out the lights. I rub your back for just a minute, then we give kisses, I tell you how much I love you and I leave. Simple as that.

I thought I would nurse you forever. When you are touched out and tired and sore, it feels like forever. But at 39 months you led me, and did it yourself. The end was as peaceful and sweet as I had hoped, and you still remember fondly how you drank milkies.

I thought you would be in diapers forever. When you are changing your 2 poop diaper of the day, and being told NO that you don't want to sit on the potty, it feels like forever. But when the time was right, you did that practically on your own too. Happily sitting on the toilet to pee, and fine with waiting if we weren't next to a bathroom.


Despite how it feels when you are tired and worn, I know that nothing is really forever. Except for my love for you, child. That will never change.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Domestic Violence in Your Community: Remembering Chris Keith

Recently, my community and the blogging community suffered the loss of a person I never even knew before she was gone. She wrote a blog "Confessions of a Thrifty Mama on a City 'Stead," homeschooled her children, went to church, and by all accounts was an amazing person who did her best to live sustainably and ecologically in tune with her family and her community.  As we seem to have friends in common, I am sorry I never got the chance to know her and now never will.  She was Chris Keith, a devoted mother, who was doing the best she could for her children and was struggling to divorce the father of her three youngest children and was killed by him Dec. 4.  (He also killed himself and Chris' eldest son, Isaac Miller, who was just 14, that night.)

Because I did not know her, I cannot speak to her specific story and what the details were of her life, but I feel compelled to share the facts of her death (and life) with you for two very specific reasons.  The first is to break some of the silence and isolation that empowers domestic violence to continue.    Our contributing author Amy has written bravely of her own story to that end and I want to share her story as well here.  It is not easy to leave and both Amy and Chris deserve recognition for their bravery in fighting to get out of their situations.  I'm not sure anyone knows the details of what Chris was going through this year as she left her husband, but the one silver lining to this tragedy is that while two innocent souls were tragically lost last week, the lives of her three youngest children (who were thankfully not home that night and were spending time with their grandparents who are now going to raise them) were quite possibly saved by her courageous decision to leave their clearly mentally unstable father.  While these children have been both orphaned and have suffered the loss of their elder brother in a single horrific incident, they are still very much alive and will keep the legacy of their mother's bravery and devotion with them.

This leads me to the second reason for me to share this story, the church where she used to attend has created a memorial fund for her and Isaac in order to benefit the three young children who have been left behind.  Obviously, their grandparents who are now planning to raise them, had no idea that they would be taking them in and need funds to fix their van, make their house work for three young children, and generally care for their grandchildren.  If you have not already allocated your charitable funds this holiday season, please consider giving to them.  The link is here.  It is not tax deductible because it is not going to the church or to a non-profit domestic violence charity (although both of those causes would probably benefit from some patronage as well), but to the family directly so that they can deal with the practicalities of surviving the loss of this brave, powerful woman and her son.

Also, if you know someone who is in a relationship that you suspect is abusive, please talk to them privately about it and offer your support (it may take several offers before she feels safe enough to confide in you).  This is the first step to helping her.  Here is a link to the national domestic violence hotline for more specific information and help with planning an exodus safely.  As Chris' story illustrates tragically, it is a life and death situation.

Thanks for reading,
Shawna

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Birth Matters: So Does Motherhood

 I believe in birth.  I believe that women's bodies were made to birth naturally and that most women, if left alone medically and supported emotionally, will birth and that experience will be both powerful and transforming.  I believe that birth matters for not just the mother and the baby, but also for the family unit as a whole.  I can attest that had I not been successful in my VBAC last march, I would have had a different kind of recovery and our bonding as a family would have been very different and might well have been more difficult, but difficult is not impossible.

You see, I've been reading a lot of different blogs and articles lately about the importance of your birth on the bonding process and the impact your birth can have on your child for life.  Whether its the physical trauma of a csection on the body of the mother and the baby or the stress put on the spine of an infant when misaligned for long periods before a vaginal birth or the emotional trauma of a long separation after surgery for a mother and child or the emotional impact of the use of pitocin during labor, there is no doubt that birth has the power to profoundly affect the developing relationship between a mother and child.  However, I don't think birth defines that relationship.  It is the start of the relationship and for a time it might set a tone for the relationship, but it is not the final word on your relationship.

I don't care how rocky the start might have been between you and your child, how many "mistakes" you think happened in your birth, how many interventions happened in your birth, or how traumatic your birth was for you and/or your baby, as long as you are both alive at the end of it, there is still hope.  After a birth, comes motherhood and the choices you make as a mother matter even more than the choices you made in birth.  Not just the choices you make with your newborn, but the choices you make with your toddler, preschooler, and even your teen.  What is dynamic and awe inspiring and humbling about motherhood is that it is completely based on the unique, idiosyncratic relationship you have with your child.  Just as your relationship keeps evolving, so, too does your mothering skills and what is even more inspiring beyond that is that it is never too late to change.  Even if your children are adults, your relationship with them is still important and although it gets tougher as they get older, your role as their parent is never not important and is still impactful.  If you doubt me, think about how strong your emotions are about your own parents whether you have good, strong relationships with them or not.  Ambiguity and ambivalence are not descriptors that are often used for the relationships between parents and children at any age for good reason; the depth of our emotions (positive or negative) prove how important and primary the relationship is to us all.

So, if you feel distant, take steps to get closer.  If you feel like you are not bonded, do some bonding activities.  If you made choices you now regret in your birth, in your newborn parenting, in your young child years parenting, or even last week, let your child know about your regrets.  Let them know that you want to make a new choice now and then make it.  Every beginning is just that, a beginning.  It isn't the whole story.  It's never too late to make a new start.  Birth matters the way every introduction matters, but it's not the end.  If it was adoption would never work and we all know that adoption does.  Beautifully.  Take heart, mama.  Make a new story for you and your child with the choice you make today.

Thanks for reading,
Shawna

Monday, December 2, 2013

ask a Connected Mom Writer

Calling all Connected Mom readers, this one is for you:

We're looking for your questions. Is there an aspect of Attachment Parenting that have a question about? Are you having a parenting issue you could use some feedback on? Or do you have a question about one of our writers specific experiences?

Leave a comment here with your questions, and we'll feature them in an upcoming Connected Mom post, with collaborative answers from our Connected Mom writers. If you wish to remain anonymous, feel free to send your questions to connectedmom.meegs@gmail.com. 
 




Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Post - Music and Child Development


Music provides a fantastic way to challenge kids’ developing brains while giving them space to express themselves. Whether it is through a basic rhythm class or private cello lessons, there are a number of fantastic ways to open up the world of music to your child.

Music and the Child Brain

For years, people have believed that music can help young minds. That’s probably why you see mothers playing Mozart to their pregnant bellies. Recently, researchers at Concordia University uncovered that starting music education before age seven is ideal.

In a study of adults with the same musical background but different starting ages, study authors found that musicians who “began musical training before age seven” had more white matter connecting the halves of the brain. Musicians who started their musical training after age seven had brains which more closely resembled non-musicians.

The study tested motor skills that were not music related and demonstrated that early musicians seemed to have an advantage. This “suggests that the benefits of early music training extend beyond the ability to play an instrument.” But in the end, researchers concluded that “while starting early may help you express your genius, it probably won’t make you a genius.”


Ways to Get Your Kids Involved

For parents who want to unlock the benefits of music exposure for their children, there a number of fun possibilities. There is, of course, the traditional option of private music instruction in a classical instrument like the violin, piano or guitar. As kids’ skills improve, they can also play in youth orchestras and in bands with their friends.

For children who love active play, try a dance and creative movement class. If your little one is a want-to-be rock star, enroll him or her in voice lessons or help them learn to sing online. If, on the other hand, your child is still too young to begin formal musical training, there are also many rhythm classes which parents can enjoy with their babies and toddlers. These are all great options for exposing children to music and helping them grow.

Keeping a Balance

It is important to keep a balanced approach when encouraging kids to play music. Learning an instrument requires discipline and focus. So it is key to make sure that children are having a good time and finding opportunities to exercise their new skills. Find opportunities for them to display their growing ability with friends and family, and this can encourage kids to continue pursuing their instruments.  

Music is an amazing tool to enhance a child’s growth and development. While it won’t make them more intelligent, learning music can unlock more of a child’s natural potential and help to connect pathways in the brain.
 
--
Jessica Socheski is a freelance writer who loves discovering ways to help kids grow. You can follow her on Google+.
 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Five Reasons Why You Don't Want a "Good" Baby . . . at least not all the time!

Few things frustrate me more than being asked if I have a "good" baby. I know that most people are wondering if I have a baby who sleeps through the night/naps well, doesn't cry often, keeps himself entertained, etc. but it irks me that somehow my baby isn't "good" if he doesn't fit those parameters.  Especially since those traits may make a baby more convenient, but they have nothing to do with how "good" of a person that baby is.  Just because a baby might have more needs than another or is more expressive about those needs, it doesn't mean that baby is "bad." In fact, it just might be better to have a baby who is decidedly inconvenient and not "good."

1.  Babies who aren't "good" wake up a lot . . . and that makes them less vulnerable to SIDS.

Babies are designed to wake up often for good reason.  SIDS is actually related to a baby's inability to rouse easily or detect a build up of carbon dioxide in their blood.  Now, the general mainstream medical consensus is that babies are safest on their backs in their own beds, but other medical experts have suggested that babies may be safest when with co-sleeping with their sober, non-smoking mothers.  In fact, SIDS rates have continued to stay low despite a rise in safe co-sleeping.  This might have to do with the increase in breastfeeding rates among co-sleeping mothers as much as anything else, but the fact remains that while "good" babies might let their mothers have more uninterrupted sleep, babies who aren't so good (or aren't good all the time) actually demonstrate that they have a good arousal instinct and that is a definite positive!  Besides, there are sweet, snuggly times to be had when babies are awake, sleepily nursing, and snuggling with you that mamas of babies who sleep all the time, just don't get.

2.  Babies who aren't "good" cry a lot . . . and that means they are attached enough to want to communicate and believe that you will respond to their cries.

We all know people who are more verbal about what is going on with them than others.  Babies are just little people.  So, some of them will cry more than others because some of them just have more they want to say.  Some babies also just have more to communicate.  No matter how much or how little your baby cries at night or during the day, it is good because your baby is communicating (even if it doesn't seem that way at two a.m.).  The fact that your baby consistently is communicating with you about his or her needs is a positive thing.  It proves that your baby trusts you enough to tell you about what's going on with her/him.  By responding to your baby's cries, you are forming a trusting, attached relationship with your baby.  This might not mean your baby stops crying right away or that your baby cries less, but it does mean that your baby believes that you are going to respond to his or her needs.  When that baby grows up this will translate into words.  For example, my eldest baby cried a lot, and now, when he is sick, he still talks a lot.  He's just the kind of person who feels things very strongly and he needs to talk about his emotions to process them.  Because of the relationship we've been forming since his very first newborn baby cries, we have a very open communication line and I hope that honest communication continues for years to come.

3.  Babies who aren't "good" don't just lay/sit around and play with their toys . . . they are curious about their world and they want to explore it.

We've all had those moments when we've wanted to just put our babies down and have them keep themselves busy while we finish dinner/pick something up/whatever, and sometimes they may let us, but some babies mostly use that time to get into things, practice their crying communication with you, and generally cause a ruckus.  However, these are all good things!  A baby who isn't very interested in the world around them or who doesn't want to test that you will come running at least part of them time, is not a baby who is very interested in the outside world and that lack of curiosity probably isn't their best trait.  I imagine that if we could interview the mothers of most of the world's greatest inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs, we would probably discover that as babies and small children they were incredibly curious and often got themselves into some scrapes because of it.  Whenever my sons are driving me crazy testing my communication line with them from the next room, I just remind myself that Pavlov's mother was probably his first and best test subject.

4.  Babies who aren't "good" don't stay in their car seats all the time; they insist on being held/worn and seeing the world from a higher level.

Risks of leaving your baby in their car seats frequently and shopping with your baby in his/her car seat aside, babies who are not kept in their car seats all the time actually tend to do a little better because they are held more often and get worn in a carrier.  In fact, God bless babies who aren't "good" all the time because they are the reason babywearing was invented and the benefits of babywearing are amazing.  From heart rate/physiological benefits for newborns to social interactions/connections with toddlers, your babies are made to be in your arms or worn and nothing but good comes from it . ..even if it seems inconvenient for you and what you want to get done at times.

5.  Babies who aren't "good" don't listen to what "they" tell you about parenting, they make you learn to listen to your heart and do more research.

You know who "they" are.  "They" are the ones who were asking you whether or not your baby was "good" to begin with.  "They" tell you you need to do XYZ to make your child into a convenient "good" baby or "they" will congratulate you when your baby doesn't cry or make a fuss, but give unsolicited advice when they do.  Babies who aren't "good" don't give a flying fruit what they say and if you let them, they will teach you not to care, either.  Babies who aren't "good" push you to examine who you are as a parent and as a person.  They teach you to make real connections to them and they become the catalyst for you to learn more about them, parenting, and yourself as a person.  Babies who aren't "good" push you to become better than you've ever been before and they teach you where your limitations are.

Babies who aren't "good" all the time are my favorite kind of babies!

Thank you for reading and kiss your "not good all the time" babies for me!
Shawna



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Life After the Rainbow

We had seven losses before our beautiful rainbow was born.  She lights up our lives in ways we didn't know we needed.  We have two beautiful daughters, and they are both such incredible miracles.

However, it isn't all sunshine.  In some ways having our miracle baby makes the pain of losses easier and in other ways having her here makes it all so much harder.  The pain isn't gone.  Having a baby after loss doesn't mean the pain didn't happen.  You can be happy and joyous, yet sad at the same time, and that is completely okay!!

Milestones she reaches are bittersweet.  I love how fast she learns things and how smart she is, but seeing her reminds me I didn't get that with our other children.  It doesn't make the joy at seeing her learn any less, but sometimes it means that it takes time for me to truly feel the joy that used to be so easy when our oldest daughter did these same things.

One thing I have learned through all of this was I needed to forgive myself and let myself have the space and time needed to feel the grief and joy that sometimes feels never ending.  It doesn't mean that I take her for granted, it doesn't mean that I am not so very happy she is alive and thriving, it just means that I am being the best mother I can be, to all my children.

You need to allow yourself to feel all you need.  Pregnancy after so many losses was exhausting.  I was constantly terrified I would wake up one morning and it would all be over, just like the others.  I couldn't let my guard down.  I was terrified to love the baby growing inside me.  I struggled with depression and anxiety, and amplified by hormones I was a mess.

Preparing for a freebirth made me work through the fears I had, which was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  The actual birth was the most powerful I have ever felt, but that simple act wasn't enough to take away all the fear.

As it nears my rainbow's first birthday, I think of all we went through to get her here, and all that I still struggle with.  The upcoming holiday season also makes it all the more apparent.

I'm slowly relaxing and some anxiety is lifting, but I still have a hard time leaving her or her sister with anyone I'm not very very close to.  I still have flashes in my mind of something happening her.

Once you lose a baby, the innocence you had before is gone.  And if you struggled with it before losing a child, it becomes amplified.

During this holiday season and always, please know there are so many places to find support.  Websites such as Unspoken Grief and Stillbirthday, twitter, facebook, in person support groups.  Such a wide variety of support and understanding, so please reach out.  And I am always available, so please send an email (connectedmom.kayce@gmail.com) if you would like information on anything, or even just to talk. 

Just because you've received your miracle doesn't mean your grief stops.  Feel what you need to feel, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remembering Infertility: Honoring the Child of Your Heart

I'm not sure there is anything more frustrating than trying for a baby. . . especially in a culture that treats the decision to have a baby as some sort of given.  We are encouraged to "plan" our babies and to "try" when our lives are stable and all circumstances are perfectly ready.  So, we wait and we plan that pregnancy for the perfect time .  . . and then we learn that babies, even when planned, come in their own time (and sometimes not at all).  To have all our illusions of control over conception stripped away so thoroughly may be an excellent precursor of what motherhood is like at every stage, but that knowledge is little comfort when you are still trying to make the child of your heart and your dreams incarnate.   I have read about the Himba tribe in Namibia where a child's age is not counted from when the child is born, but from when his or her parents first decided they wanted a child.  So, a child who is ten years in the making is considered ten from the very day s/he was born.  Imagine going through your life knowing not just how long you've been on this earth, but also how much you are wanted and knowing what a struggle your parents had in conceiving you and how dedicated they were to you before you even officially existed.  Imagine those children who were hardest to conceive being the most recognized and celebrated in the community.  Imagine if our culture recognized that we do not all have such easy control of our fertility and we should celebrate those who labored the longest to have their children (however those children end up coming whether through biological, natural conception, fertility treatments, or adoption) by recognizing not only their achievement in getting a child but also their journey to getting that child (whether that child is their first, second, or even third or fifth).

Last month was Pregnancy/Infant Loss month and I saw many beautiful links going across my facebook feed and I am thrilled that a topic that was so taboo that it seemed like no one ever talked about it as recently as ten years ago, is suddenly getting the attention it deserves.  Yet, October was also Infertility Awareness Month and I saw very little about this topic and I've seen very little during its awareness week in April .  I get it; it's a little awkward to talk about it.  Unlike a lost pregnancy or an infant loss where the pain of the loss is easier for everyone to recognize (if not easier for people to talk about), the pain of the loss of the opportunity for life is a lot harder for people to grasp perhaps especially for those who have always gotten pregnant when they wanted to or even without wanting to.  So, I want to take a moment to recognize that the loss of the opportunity to have a baby cuts deeply every single month it happens and even if you aren't being public about your efforts to get pregnant, I want to take this moment to recognize you and to tell you that your journey is just as important as the journey of those who have gotten pregnant while you've been trying.  It seems like only yesterday it was me waiting for my period to restart (for over two years after having my first baby) and then crying in frustration every month there after as I waited for it to stop again proving that I was once again pregnant.  It did not take me as long to get pregnant as it does many other people, but it was long enough for me to fully appreciate and recognize the miracle that my second child is.  While many out there are still trying for their first child or their second child, I now have my youngest son in my arms.  I am forever grateful for that, but my good fortune does not blind me to the painful journey you are still on.  I want you to know that I see you, I recognize you, and I care about you and your journey.  It is my wish that every woman who currently has a child of her heart will also have a child in her arms one day and that child will understand exactly how wanted and blessed s/he is to have been wanted for so long before he/she was in your arms.

I just wanted to take this moment to let you know this.  So, if this is not the month, may it be next month and know that you are not alone.  There are thousands of women out there who struggle along with you.  Some of those women have talked very openly about their own struggles with infertility on this very blog (Kayce has written about this topic often in the past and Amy has written about her very painful journey).  Know that you ARE seen.  You ARE loved.  You ARE NOT failing. And you ARE a mother to a beautiful child of your heart.  I want to honor that and honor you.  May your journey end soon with a child in your arms.

Thanks for reading, 
Shawna

Monday, November 4, 2013

we are our own worst critic

So often, we as parents see only the ways that we fall short. Its is so true what they say, that we are our own worst critics. So a sweet little video, that I couldn't resist sharing, to show you that maybe what you see, and what our kids see is very different:


A New Perspective For Moms from Elevation Church on Vimeo.


Keep on keeping on, Mamas.


Monday, October 21, 2013

one day I'll poop in private

Gwen is going through a want to be with one of us at all times phase right now. While just a few weeks ago she would happily wander throughout our downstairs, grabbing a toy from her play kitchen (in our real kitchen) before grabbing a coloring book from the living room, then flopping down on the floor in the dining room to color, now she seems to be developing some fears of being alone* and consequently wants us to go with her anytime she needs something from another room. It also means that she wants to follow us when we go to other rooms, including the bathroom.

We are pretty open in our household when it comes to nudity, and bodily functions. Gwen will take showers with me on the weekends, we change in front of each other, and we often leave the door open when we go to the bathroom. Its just not a big deal. But suddenly my normally quiet "nature calls" times, have become together times with a chatty girl standing by my knee. Its been interesting. I'm all about attachment, but this isn't exactly what I pictured.

The thing is, I don't want to force her out of the room. While I don't quite understand her newly developed fears of our safe home during the light of day, they are still very real to her, and I want to respect that. While I miss her independence, I know it will return and even more so then before. We've had some talks about how she is safe here, how Mama is always nearby and can hear if she needs help, and that she can go from room to room without us, but I know this will take time.

For now we're going day-by-day, and finding the balance of making Gwen feel secure and safe, while still enforcing some personal space during more private moments (we picked a floor tile in the bathroom a safe distance away, and she stands there!). And I know that soon enough I'll get to poop in private again.


Did any of your kids go through a scared phase? What did you find that helped?





* though thankfully not in the comfort of her own bed at night  ::knocks on wood::

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

They Might Not Listen, but They Always Hear

My eldest son is very spirited and he is challenged by having my temper coupled with a strong desire to throw things especially when he is angry. He's been like this since he was eight months old. In the over three years since then, I have probably told him not to throw hard, potentially harm causing objects at least seventy two billion times. (Because the impulse to throw is so strong for him, we do have a rule that soft objects [and we have painstakingly determined every object he owns that belongs in that category] may be thrown in the house not at people unless you ask them to "catch" first AND they say yes.)

However, at least once a week, I find myself complaining with my husband after the boys are in bed that he isn't "listening" again when I ask him not to throw.  There are other things I feel like I have to repeatedly ask him not to do and things that I ask him to do that he should probably remember on his own.  All of this is very irritating and disheartening.  There are even times when I wonder if I'm any good at this parenting thing at all. It seems like for every three good moments of gentle parenting I have, I have at least one truly awful one and no matter how many times I get down on his level, look him in the eyes, and provide a brief, age appropriate reason not to throw (or whatever), he still never seems to hear me.

Yet, I know that is not the case because recently, I had a chance to see my little boy demonstrate how much he is always listening in the sweetest way possible. I had laid my six month old on a blanket on the floor in the playroom where my eldest son was playing so I could switch laundry from the washer to the dryer (just one room over through an open floor plan). My youngest started to cry because I was out of his eyesight and my eldest (who has had thoughtful conversations with me about how he is really uncomfortable when the baby cries and how he doesn't like it) immediately jumped into action.  He sat down next to his brother and took him in his arms and started murmuring to him, "It's alright little one, your brother is here and mama will be here soon.  I love you little baby. Don't be afraid. Don't you know you're not alone? Mama and me are always here for you.  I know it's scary, but I'll take care of you. I'll stay right by you until mama comes."

These were paraphrases of the same words I have said to him and the baby any time they have started crying in the middle of the night or day and he used them and demonstrated extra tenderness by holding his brother in spite of being admittedly frustrated when he hears his baby brother cry.  He had somehow picked up empathy and kindness from my example without me even knowing I was teaching it! I teared up on the spot, stepped out of the doorway I had been peeking around, and took both boys in my arms and told them exactly how proud I am of the love and empathy they are showing one another.  

I also decided right then and there that while the little day to day lessons I keep repeating don't always seem to be sinking in, at least I'm getting some of the big stuff right. After all, the chances of him growing up and continuing to chuck random stuff at and around people is probably pretty slim, but the chance he'll need to use empathy is pretty high. 

So, take heart, mamas, even if your kids never seem to listen, they are still hearing how you interact with them and they are learning from that who you think they are and should be.

Thanks for reading!
Shawna

 

Monday, October 7, 2013

parenting the child you have

When Gwen was a baby, I remember wishing that she came with some warning lights and maybe an LCD panel that told you exactly what combo of things would work today. Warning: tired baby. Use sleep sack plus fan plus white noise and hold an extra 5 minutes. Warning: just fussing in sleep. Leave her be! It was an interesting juggling act, trying to figure out what would make my girl happy.

Babies don't come with warning lights though. Nor do they have owners manuals. But you do figure it out. Eventually I realize that if I trusted my intuition and really listened to her, I could start to "read" her cries. I could tell the difference between a cry that meant she needed something, and one that was just a sleep whimper (aka. leave her alone or you'll wake her more!).

Every mother has to learn to use her intuition. We all seek advice at some point, and commiseration often. That's why blogs such as this one exist: a place for like mined Mamas to come together and share some collective knowledge, to share their experiences so that they, and other mamas, can know they not alone. I love these places for that purpose.

This is why I will always ofter advice if someone asks for it: I'm happy to tell you more then you ever wanted to know about breastfeeding, babywearing, baby lead weaning, safe bedsharing, and gentle parenting; not to mention offer copious amounts of commiseration on sleepless nights and strong-willed toddlers. But every baby is different.Which is why I completely understand if you ask for my advice, listen to my advice, digest my advice, then ultimately throw that advice right out the window!

The biggest lesson most mothers go through, no matter what parenting style you use, is learning to parent the child you have. We all form an image in our minds, pre-baby, of what kind of mother we will be. These unique little people though, they have their own ideas. What worked perfectly for others would not have worked for Gwen, and what works perfectly for Gwen would not work for others. That is okay. It says nothing about me as a person and everything about my child as an individual.

For us that looked like full-term breastfeeding and BLW, continuing to babywear, bedsharing for a few months then transferring to a crib where she stayed until 3.5. It means always trying to use our gentle words and gentle voice, giving my child lots of whys, but using time outs if needed when everything is just too much and she can't listen anymore. To others it looks VERY different. That's okay. 

Too often mothers pit themselves against one another for the "right way" to do things. Even within communities, even within the Attachment Parent community, there are debates about what makes you AP enough, who's doing it the right way. But my ultimate advice for the most AP thing you can do when parenting? Listen to your baby, listen to your heart, and not to anyone else. Parent YOUR baby.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Forget Earth and Health Conscious! I'm Lazy!

Maybe I'm a bit punchy, but I realized many of the things I do that people think are for good reasons are really because I'm lazy. Enjoy!

1. Breast feeding and natural weaning
Professed Reason:
Lazy Reason:
Breastfeeding for the first six-ten weeks is hard work and can be very difficult, but if you can keep going out of the newborn period it gets a lot easier, like way easier than bottle feeding. Sure I don't go far from my nursling when I can help it, but that just means I have no period and he's over six months old. Last time it stayed away until my eldest son was over two years old. Think about that! Two extra years without a period AFTER giving birth. Likewise, I don't have to run to the store for formula, no buying bottles, nipples, etc., and no doing extra bottle dishes!  When weaning happens on the nursling's terms there are less tears and struggle, too.

2. Co-sleeping
Professed reason: 
Lazy reason: I am too lazy to run to the nursery all the way across the house for every single infant wake up.  I tried it with my eldest and I am too tired for that crap. Besides, I get more sleep and so does the baby if we don't have to wake up fully to start nursing. Insert boob in baby mouth half asleep and we both drift off while nursing. Voila! Baby fed and mama gets as much sleep as possible. Bonus: I don't have to play the "is the baby asleep enough to be put back in the crib thing" every single wake up and I have sweet baby snuggles nightly.

3. Cloth diapers
Professed Reason:
Lazy reason: 
Since I'm avoiding the store by not running out for formula all the time, I'm certainly not going to run out for diapers! Also, I clean diapers about every other day which means I'm only doing three extra loads a week in addition to the fifteen million loads I'm already doing as a mom of a four year old and a six month old. Additionally, between not having formula cans or diapers and diaper boxes to throw away, I don't have any extra trash to take out. Good for the environment? Perhaps. One less thing I have to do all the time? Definitely. Besides, cloth diapers are really freaking cute.

4. Homemade baby food/baby led weaning
Professed reason:
Baby is fully ready for solids and baby gets best, freshest foods.
Lazy reason:
Look, I think it's clear I'm not crazy about shopping for things other than books, cloth diapers, kids clothes, good foods, and sweets that fit around my sons' dietary restrictions. I buy darn good, healthy food for my family in general and I don't like wasting more time or money buying separate food for our tiniest, less pickiest family member. So, I plan to steam vegetables to go with dinner for everyone and then purée or tiny chop them for the baby. Voila! Baby is just a tiny member of the same dinner as everyone else and I have less glass bottle recycling to do.

5. Homemade cleaners
Professed reason:
Lazy reason: 
I can buy baking soda, distilled white vinegar, borax, oxyclean free and clear, Castile soap and blue dawn in bulk and clean everything from the toilet to my baby for months. Throw in coconut oil and my shopping other than for strictly foods to eat is pretty much done, and half of these cleaning products I can also use IN DINNER if I need to!  Meanwhile, I almost never have to use my inhaler to clean the bathroom or the kitchen anymore AND I am not really worried if the children get under the bathroom sink and break into the vinegar and baking soda.

So, there you have it! I am not an earth goddess busting my butt to save Mother Earth and enslaving myself to my children, I'm really a proponent of "work smarter not harder," now if you'll excuse me I have cloth diapers to fold with my four year old while eating organic "you pick" apples and watching "Downton Abbey" while I'm wearing my baby to sleep.

Thanks for reading, 
Shawna


Monday, September 23, 2013

Sullivan's Fast & Furious Home Birth or Why You Cannot 'Doula Yourself'


Saturdays, around our house, are known as 'Daddy Days', basically meaning that Kevin gets up early with Oliver, the two have breakfast together then go out on the town to do 'guy stuff' while I get to sleep in and then take myself out to the farmer's market and for a brunch date with a book. 

That Saturday I invited my best friend and doula partner, Nena, who would be attending my birth, out on my Me-Date. Looking back on my texts from that day I was already showing some early labour signs: 

"True. Lol.... Ok. Braiding my hair, starting laundry, then leaving my house. Slowly. You may even beat me there."... "Ok. Psa. I laid down in my towel with some Braxton hicks and haven't gotten back up. Sloooow. Haha"

I did eventually get out of bed and walked the 4-5 blocks to the market to meet Nena. I had a crepe from my favourite food truck, we roamed the market, bought some produce,  joked with friends we passed that I was still pregnant, then walked back to the coffee shop on my street for a tea.  

While we were there I couldn't stand long enough to wait for my order at the counter and when we sat down finally I couldn't sit still and before we were finished I started feeling 'weird'. It was too hot, I was nauseous and dizzy, something just wasn't 'right'. I knew my blood sugar was fine since I'd just eaten and I was hydrated and it wasn't a hot day so I dashed across the street to the pharmacy to check my blood pressure thinking maybe it had dipped but it was normal so I figured maybe I'd just over exerted myself and went home for a nap.

Knowing Nena had plans for the rest of the day and a wedding out of town that evening  I joked that I would wait until next week to have the baby. But she was really adamant that I not hesitate to call and interrupt her if I needed her. Apparently right after leaving me she made arrangements for all her other commitments & responsibilities for the weekend. 

On this 'Daddy day' Oliver and Kevin went to see some crazy hillbilly mud racing monster truck thing, leaving me with the house to myself all day. I took it easy, I did some laundry, I napped, I read, I watched TV. And eventually started feeling better. throughout all this I was having some sporadic surging but nothing even remotely 'productive'. I did have a bit of mucus and 'show' but it was such a small amount I dismissed it. 

I texted my other doula, Kim, about it and then assured her she should still take her kids to an event 45 minutes away but to maybe just keep her phone close in case anything changed (as if us doulas ever leave them far away). 

By the time Oliver and Kevin came home around 5pm I was starting to feel some downward pressure every 10-15 minutes but I still wasn't calling them 'contractions'. I felt nothing 'up top' or in my back where most of the intensity had been when I laboured with Oliver so I figured it was just baby moving or getting into position. We ate supper, we watched the first 3 quarters of the 'Rider (CFL Football) game, and then I took Oliver up to bed at about 8:30.

I nursed Oliver down that night and the moment he latched I knew if something hadn't already started it was starting now. In the 15 minutes that he was at my breast the 'pressure' went from about 10-15 minutes apart to about 3-4 minutes apart (i never timed them, just guessing) and I had to focus on my breathing to get through each one. 

I texted Kim again while I was laying there, I told her I didn't know if it was actual surging because I still couldn't feel anything except for the intense downward pressure on my cervix. She told me to put my hand on top of my stomach during the next one to see if I could feel the tightening that way. The second another pressure started with my hand resting there I knew for sure they were 'real contractions'. The light pressure of my hand felt unbearable and I could definitely feel the tightening of my uterus from the outside. But I was still convinced it was early and could go away at any moment so Kim suggested I eat something, take a walk, and then try to get some sleep.

Once Oliver was asleep I went downstairs (stopping twice on the stairs to breathe through more pressure) and tried to eat but wasn't hungry, I took a walk around the main floor of my house (stopping every few feet to breathe through more pressure) then got onto my knees and leaned into my couch thinking if I just stopped moving around they would go away. 

Kevin, who had been watching me quietly since I came down the stairs asked if I should call the midwife. I laughed and told him if this was it then it was really early and maybe I would think of calling once the pressure was a consistent 3-1-1 (three minutes apart, lasting a minute, for over an hour). He, in his totally straight faced take-no-bullshit way, asked how I would know when that was if I wasn't timing any contractions. I promised him I would track some and text my doulas again while he gathered the supplies on our 'Homebirth List' the midwives had given us. 

I didn't really time anything, or text either of my doulas. I just hung out there swaying my hips asking myself if I was ready for this and thinking of all the ways I could make it stop and wait for another day. I decided a bath would be the ticket. Everyone knows if you get in the tub too early it can totally slow everything down. 

Before going up to the bathroom I texted Nena:

 "Hey so like. Don't jump in your car or anything. Enjoy the wedding. But like. Don't accidentally get drunk because there are surges happening... Fairly close-ish together. Keep your phone close?" 

and to Kim:

 "can't decide if I want to stop this or encourage it. Getting in the tub to slow down" 

I was in the tub only a few minutes when the intensity picked up again. Kevin came in and timed a few surges. They were 2-3 minutes apart lasting a minute or more but because it was only 9pm and therefore not over an hour I still didn't want to call the midwife. I compromised and told Kim: 

"I think I may need you ... 3min apart lasting 50-80sec for half an hour. Trying to get Kevin to wait the hour and see but he's jumpy.... And they're getting intense for me to reassure him"

Then told Kevin I would call the midwife after Kim came and told me this was real. It could still be in my head, I needed someone (not Kevin) to tell me this was real. I also texted Nena who had apparently anticipated me and was already on her way back from her out-of-town reception. 

Kevin lit some candles and sat with me through a few more surges applying counter pressure to my back (which was suddenly in for the ride) and around the point I started needing to vocalize through the surges he called the midwife anyways even though I was still in denial. 

Kim showed up right as Kevin got off the phone and I remember complaining to her that the midwife would get there and check me and I would only be 3 centimetres and that would mean more checks later and I really didn't want to be checked at all so couldn't we have waited until I was more active? This was at about 10pm I think. 

Not long after the water in the tub just wasn't doing it for me anymore and, having resigned myself to getting a vaginal exam, I decided to get out of the tub and go to my bed to settle in where the midwife could do her assessment without moving me and I could try and sleep a bit when it turned out I was only 3cm. I was really convinced I was only at 3. 

But when I stood up everything got even more intense. I had to pee. No I had to poop. But I couldn't -No really I COULD NOT- sit on the toilet. 

My 'doula brain' thought: How many times have I insisted to my clients that the toilet was a great place to labour? Why had I said that? The toilet was an awful position to be in! With Kevin applying pressure to my back as I hovered over it backwards I was barely able to stand it long enough to push out a few drops of pee but much to my disappointment 'emptying' by bladder did nothing to relieve the suddenly constant pressure I was feeling. I'd been joking around only minutes before and suddenly I was pacing and muttering and for some reason apologizing profusely to Kim for no reason at all. I put my dress back on and fell into my bed on my side and moaned like a banshee through a few more surges praying for my butt to just fall off already. 

At some point in this the midwife got there. I told her something vaguely coherent about the pressure and I think I told her quite seriously that there was NO WAY it was the baby, I just had to poop. She asked if she could check and I agreed but wouldn't move to my back so she must have checked with me on my side. I don't remember feeling her check she just said 'No that's definitely your baby' and then something about a cervical lip but by the time she finished her sentence an uncontrollable grunt pushed its way through my body and was so loud to my ears I thought I must be roaring or something.

The spontaneous push did not feel good. My 'doula brain' quickly latched onto the midwife saying 'cervical lip' and tried to tell my primal brain not to push but my primal brain was like 'F*ck you this is happening'. 

I tried my best to keep breathing and vocalizing through each surge, I remember Kim telling me to 'slow it down, deep breaths, slow it down' but I just couldn't, the pressure was SO intense, at one point I asked the midwife to break my water (my 'doula brain' gasped in horror at the suggestion) but she just shook her head. Later she told me that the membranes were stretched so tight over baby's head that she wouldn't have been able to rupture them even if she'd wanted to. 

I remember at this point being really concerned that all of my begging for AROM and yell-moaning was going to wake Oliver in the next room but almost the moment I thought that someone told me that Nena had arrived and I was able to relax knowing that if Oliver woke up someone he trusted would be able to tell him what was happening and reassure him that his mother wasn't possessed, that writhing around on the bed yelling about pressure an butts falling off was a normal part of having a baby. 

Around that same time the second midwife showed up so my primary checked again to see if I was still grunt-pushing against cervix. I could have told her that I was still pushing against cervix. I could feel that lip with every uncontrollable grunt and my 'doula brain' was not at all happy about it but she was not in control. My primal brain was pushing, my body thought it was ready. The midwives then told me that I could either change positions to see if that helped or they could try and push the lip away with the next contraction. My primal brain, which was the one connected to my mouth, said 'no I can't move'. And my 'doula brain' threw up her hands in frustration. 

After just one surge baring down with the midwife trying to move my cervix primal brain caught up and realized her mistake (OUCH!) so I moved onto hands and knees. 

The second I got to my knees my membranes finally, mercifully, gloriously ruptured on their own but the relief was really short lived because with the next surge I yelled 'there he is!' and I felt his head, then for some reason second guessed myself and asked 'what is that!?' (I laugh at myself for this now. Of course it was him! What else would it be!?) with the next surge I felt his shoulders rotate and suddenly there he was. 

At 11:15pm The midwife guided him from my womb under my legs and up into my arms. I looked up at Kevin first as if to say 'holy f*ck that just happened'. Then down at my baby. 

The first thing I said after Oliver was born was 'oh my god look at all that hair!' and apparently I was expecting the same for this baby because the first words out if my mouth were 'where's all your hair!? You're bald!' And really I think the most shocking thing to me about Sullivan is how very different he is from Oliver. His pregnancy, birth, postpartum, appearance, temperament, everything is so very very different. I am a new mom all over again. 

I don't know where people get this idea that second or subsequent babies make you a 'seasoned' parent. I am 'seasoned' at parenting Oliver, but I've never parented this little guy before and I am learning everything fresh just like I did the first time. 

Anyways. Once the initial meeting was over I turned to lay back and rest him on my chest to hopefully get him nursing. The midwife asked if she could cut the cord and I said to leave it for now since it was long enough to bring him up to my chest. He bobbed and looked around and made a few moves in the direction of my breast but didn't seem ready to eat so we just rested and gazed at each other. 

A few minutes later I started to get uncomfortable and told the midwife I was ready to push the placenta so she clamped the cord and offered Kevin a cut. He said no and I jumped in and said I wanted to but I was shaking too much so I handed the scissors back to the midwife. As soon as that was done I pushed and coughed a few times to deliver the placenta. 

Needless to say after pushing against that cervical lip and how fast he came once I moved to hands and knees, and the previous perineal damage from Oliver's birth there were stitches to be had but its amazing how much less that part sucks when you're at home in your own bed and there aren't any nurses trying to take your baby away for 'assessments' or trying to tell you it will 'be more comfortable' to hold them once that's all done, or, in Oliver's case, whisking them off to NICU. I just snuggled in and loved on my new baby and chatted with my husband and my friends and occasionally asked the midwife for more freezing.  

After that because I was still bleeding a bit and Sullivan still wasn't latching I accepted a shot of synthetic oxytocin. God I hate that stuff. Immediately felt awful and the after pains got way worse but it did its job and soon I was ready to get up and get cleaned up while the midwives did the newborn check.  

8lbs 7oz, 20.5 inches long, great tone and colour, heart good, chest a bit mucous-y from the fast delivery but not enough to worry. 

Shortly after that the midwives snuck away to the other room to fill out their paperwork, Kevin and Nena cleaned up a bit while Kim (an IBCLC as well as my doula) helped me try a few tricks to get Sullivan latching. 

We knew going in that he would likely be tongue and lip tied like Oliver and even though Sully was sliding around and sucking air and doing all the worrying things Oliver did it felt amazing to have Kim there to reassure me that it would be ok and make a plan so I could stay confident. (That's all a different story for another day)

It was 3am by the time everyone packed up and went on their way and I drifted off to sleep with Sullivan while Kevin went to crawl in with Oliver for the rest of the night. 



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Letter To My Sons

A few months ago, I saw this letter shared on Facebook about what kind of guy the author wanted his daughter to look for and it got me thinking. Much is made of female sexuality and morality and looking for Mr. Right, but not much is ever said seriously to young boys other than the occasional "be strong" or "patient." So I wanted to write this to explore the advice I want to give to my sons one day.

Dear Sons, 

You must know by now that you already hold the key to my heart and that I will always love you, all of you, unconditionally and without pause, but everyday, you grow older and closer to the day when you will want a wife and love of your own. This is what I want you to look for and who I want you to be to make that relationship everything it should be for you:

Choose someone that you are not only attracted to physically, but who also has a beautiful soul and a kind heart. Such a person will only grow more beautiful with age and will support you in becoming more kind and selfless. You will, in turn, become more beautiful yourself long after your physical self starts to age.

Choose someone who respects your needs. This does not mean its somehow possible that someone will give you everything you want when you want it, but a good partner will respect and try to help you get what you need when you need it.   If you are really lucky, you might even find someone who helps you see more clearly what your wants and needs are.

Choose someone who cares for family because once you marry, you will be family.  You can learn a lot by watching those whom your beloved has known and loved a long time. No one's perfect, but ask yourself how faults and mistakes are accepted and how love is expressed.  You don't have to write someone off because of a family dynamic that wasn't a matter of choice because people can make new conscious choices and grow. However, be aware that family history will set the tone for the family you build together.  You will need to remember and be accepting of some differences, but only commit to someone who will love you and respect you as much as our family always has tried to because that is the kind of love you deserve. Make sure to choose someone whom you can  love the same way.

Experiment with dating as much as you want, but don't feel you need to be as sexual as people seem to expect you to be. A man's body and sexuality is every bit as important as a woman's. You have an obligation to protect it from those who do not treasure the emotions and spirit your body houses. There are those who will try to convince you that you are cold or just a dumb guy who isn't vulnerable when it comes to physical intimacy. That is a lie.  Real intimacy is vulnerability and truly physically, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying sex can only happen when you are deeply intimate and committed with someone. That doesn't happen on the third date.  Don't tolerate anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. Let your heart and your soul guide you not what anyone has to say about what it means to be a "man." A man is simply a human the same as a woman and you are not any less attune to what you are and aren't ready for.  Choose someone who loves you for your humanity and who can appreciate that your masculinity is whatever you feel most comfortable defining it as.  You should be the man you want to be and you need to be for the people you love, not "the man" others might tell you to be. Someone who loves you will respect that. Make sure to respect her as well. How she dresses, how she talks, how she dances,  and how much she touches you does not imply anything about who she is or what she wants from you. Always ask the person you love about what she wants and respect her wishes and boundaries as much as she needs to respect yours.

When you do find someone, make sure that someone truly supports the journey you are already on. It's not important that you are loved for everything you do or even who you are in the moment because you will continue to grow and change in unexpected ways for the rest of your life. You need someone who will love your trajectory, not just your current position in life.  Likewise, choose someone whom you can love the same way and whose faults (which will be just as numerous as your own) you will be able to live with.

Make sure you are with someone who listens to you and make sure you listen as well. Real men do cry when they are hurt and sad.  They also accept support given in love when they need it.   Real men wipe tears away and aren't afraid to hear their loved ones cry and offer support and love. Steel is considered the best building material for sky scrapers because it is both strong and flexible.  In fact, its flexibility is probably its greatest strength.  Make sure that you stay flexible, vulnerable, and open with your partner so that your communication lines can stay open and you can be truly intimate.  That is what a real men do. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Once you are committed, expect to go through hard times. Remember that on the other side of every valley is a peak and even though the climb may be hell, the view will be worth it. If it seems like you are wondering in the valley too long, change direction and tactics with your partner. You may need to turn to find the way to climb. 

Know in your heart that I will always support and love you and am excited to support and love the partner you choose to share your life with as long as I know you are loved, respected, and honored as you deserve to be.  

All my Love,
Mama







Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sweeter the Second Time Around

Yesterday my baby turned six months old. I can't believe it. When my eldest son turned six months old, I didn't know how we had survived those first six months, but with my second son, I can't believe the time has gone so fast! Before I had my second baby, I was desperately afraid of what it would be like to be a mama of two, but six months in, I can honestly say that it actually is easier than I had made it out in my head to be. I know that is not everyone's experience, but I think it's important for me to share mine because it may give someone out there hope! So here are ten things that are definitely sweeter the second time around!

1. The Birth.

Okay, so this didn't really come true for me, but for many women, the second birth goes more smoothly than the first. Statistically, it is hours less than the first and is far less scarier because you know what to expect. Even in my experience, the part of labor I had experienced before was a whole lot less scary and seemingly less painful AND my second birth actually took about half the time of my first.

2. The First Two Weeks

I'm not going to lie. The first two weeks is still a very intensely emotional period and things still feel like they are going crazy all around you, but instead of shifting your whole paradigm of life, you are just adding in another kid to your already hectic schedule of being a parent. The result is that it feels a lot more normal, a lot less intrusive, and a lot more bearable.

3. Sleep (or lack there of)

Now, this will not make sense to the lucky few who had one baby and that baby slept through the night really quickly or were very sleepy as infants, but if you have a baby who is about as sleepless as your first was or even a little less sleepless (as my second baby was), the sleeplessness is a whole lot more bearable. For one thing, you don't have the fear that this will actually last for the rest of your parenting life as you probably did with your first (and this is from a mom whose four year old still has not slept through the night without at least one wake up). Also, you probably made your peace with co-sleeping or not co-sleeping the first time around and even if you have to change horses midstream with your second baby because your second baby has different sleep needs, you do a lot less soul searching and worrying about it because you already know that everything will be alright!

4. Snuggling

Snuggling was sweet the first time around, but some part of you probably worried from time to time that you might actually "spoil" your baby by holding him/her too much and by not putting him/her down enough. By your second baby, you know better. You look at your first baby (so fiercely independent and uninterested you in you holding him/her every minute of the day) and you know that you might as well savor every second you can hold that baby and you do. You appreciate the time when your baby is a lap baby so much more when you've already had a little one graduate from your lap!

5. Eating, Showering, and Tooth Brushing

Okay, it's just as hard to fit all that stuff in with a newborn/infant as it was the first time, but this time you have skills you had to develop before. Sure, the first month or so, you might be a little rusty (and your baby is really floppy), but by the second or third month you will be eating, showering, brushing your teeth and doing just about everything one handed and with your first child holding on to one leg chatting with you about everything from the task at hand to his/her latest game invention. It's okay to feel like a master parent a little earlier in the process of parenting your second baby because you freaking are!

6. Taking Time for Yourself

This is still a struggle for me, but I do have to admit that I don't feel nearly as bad about taking whatever time I need away from both of my children (whether in the house or out of it) because I already know what the consequences are if I don't take that time and those consequences include me being a very bad person to be around and my children will suffer from that.

7. Your identity

When you became a parent (whether you became a stay at home, work at home, or a work outside the home mom), you had to re-evaluate who you were and what the balance would be between yourself as an individual (and a wife/partner) and your identity as a mom. By the second child, it isn't that hard to slide into an identity as a mom of two. In fact, for me, I became more comfortable with myself in both categories.

8. Milestones

With your first baby, milestones are something to look anxiously forward to and you are constantly worrying that he/she won't make them on time. (And if you're naturally competitive, you might feel a little pressure to have your baby accomplish milestones before those other babies in your playgroup.) By your second baby, you aren't nearly as worried. Milestones just become sweet (maybe even bittersweet, if you suspect this baby is your last) celebrations. I feel like with my first son, my mind was constantly focused on what was coming next, with my second son, I'm content to let him just reveal where he is at. It's a far less anxiety invoking experience.

9. Love

This is a huge worry for many of the second time mothers I have known. Will I love my second as much as my first? Will I fall in love with him/her as quickly or as slowly as I did my first? Will it change the love I feel for my first? Here's the truth: Yes, you will love your second as much as your first, but maybe not immediately. After all, this is a completely new person who may or may not look exactly like another completely new person you remember falling in love with not long beforehand. You have to get to know your new baby a bit before you can love him/her with the same kind of intensity you feel for your child you have spent over a year building a relationship with. Cut yourself some slack if it doesn't quite feel the same right away; it will. It will be a new love for a new child and that love will grow. In my case, I actually found my love feelings growing faster than they had the first time (probably because with the VBAC, I had access to all kinds of hormones that were different from the hormones that happened with my c-section first). And yes, the love you have for your second baby will change how you feel about your first. At first, you will feel torn as your child works through her/his feelings for the new sibling, but once your baby learns how to love your new baby, your love for your first will deepen even more because you will have a new facit of that baby to love: the caring older sibling side.

10. Expectations

By the second baby, the way your expectations have evolved as a parent really changes. You know better what to anticipate and you know better what to ignore. You feel more confident in your ability to let things lie from time to time and you just all around enjoy things more. Despite a myriad of personal problems and obstacles in my life right now, I have never felt happier as a mother since I had my second baby. He has helped me to once again grow and become a better person.

Thanks for reading,
Shawna

Monday, September 9, 2013

transitioning from crib to bed

We had a bit of excitement in our house last Friday, when we finally decided to take the front off of Gwen's crib and turn it into a toddler bed. ::gulp:: 

She was so content in her crib that we always figured, why mess with what worked?! But she is really getting so big, and the whole previous week she has been asking about sleeping in a real bed, since she slept in a single bed at my Aunt and Uncle's, and fell asleep in a single bed every night at Cape Cod (I then transferred her to a pack'n'play before I went to sleep since it was my single bed she was falling asleep in!). I'm feeling a little "Mahhh Bayy-Beee" about the whole thing, but she is so ready. I had high hopes for a easy transition.

So, Friday night, post dinner, we headed upstairs with the Allen wrench and removed the front of her crib, then added the little guard. The guard went on the opposite side of where she has always slept, but we didn't even worry about turning her around, since she hadn't fallen out once during all the single bed sleeping the previous week. We actually said, well she won't even need that... famous last words! She fell out the first night (though she didn't even fully wake herself when she did), and I ended up moving all of her blankets/pillows/stuffed animals and turning her while she slept!

A little excited, huh?!
Thankfully, otherwise the transition has been pretty easy. Other then a bit of fussiness around 10pm, she's been sleeping just like normal. And since we turned her, she hasn't fallen out again! She loves the novelty of hopping into bed all on her own, and reading her books in her "big girl bed." She loves climbing out by herself in the morning too, but so far (::knocks on wood::) still waits for us to come into her room to "get her up."

Next project will be turning that toddler bed into a real bed (should be easy with the conversion rails which we already have). But that will need a full weekend, as it will involve buying a new mattress, some new sheets, and rearranging her room. I am pretty excited for the project though! It will be fun to change Gwen's room from her nursery into her big girl room, and new sheets of her own choosing will go a long way.



Monday, August 26, 2013

7 hours on the road {tips for making a long car ride bearable}

As you read this, we are in New Hampshire, visiting with my Aunt and Uncle in the middle of the woods. As you read this, we have completed a 7.5 hour car from PA to NH, but are still looking forward to a 2+ ride from NH to Cape Cod, then a 6+ hour ride from Cape Cod back home. That is a lot of time in a car. With a 3.5 year old. And a dog. Wooo boy!

Picture source.
But, there are some easy tips for making such travel less stressful for everyone.

1. Schedule carefully!
No one wants to start off their trip feeling rushed and harried; and kids pick up on it when Mom and Dad are feeling annoyed. Know what time you want to leave (and what is your absolute MUST leave by time), and count back to figure out exactly how much time you need to get ready and out the door. Then add some extra time for the inevitable delays.

2. Build in lots of stops.
Fingers crossed you won't been 10 bathroom breaks in a a 5 hour ride, but if you anticipate and build in one an hour, then you'll feel ahead of the game if you don't need them. Check your route out too; is it a big road with visitors centers and rest stops right on the road? Or is it a smaller road which will require a little bit of searching. Knowing what's ahead is half the battle. For those with smart phones, download the Sit or Squat app and always be able to search for a nearby restroom! Make sure you build in a food stop too if you'll be traveling over a mealtime. Its a great way to get some leg stretching in too.

3. Know your travelers.
Driving over nap time? If your kids will sleep in the car, its a great way to get some quiet on your drive. Do your kids need a special stuffed animal or blanket to be able to sleep well? Make sure you have it in the main part of the car, not packed in a suitcase in the trunk! Don't have a napper? Make sure you have some books for your voracious reader, or a pad of paper and some colored pencils for your budding artist.

4. Stock up that Mom's Bag of Tricks!
We always pack a little bag of things for Gwen to take on longer vacations. Some books, some toys, little things to keep us entertained on rainy afternoons or quiet evenings. But separately I always put aside a few things that she doesn't know I'm bringing to break out in the car. This is a great time to get creative and create some special "road trip games." Depending on the age of your child, that could be: spotting license plates, car bingo (where you create cards beforehand with things you might spot on your trip), special cue cards that might help them learn about new ecosystems or areas you are passing, or a simple counting game (how many red cars, etc). Other things you want to be sure to have (unless you want extra pit stops): some healthy, filling snacks; a refillable water bottle (freeze it half full the night before, then top it off before you leave to have nice cold water); some great music.

5. Show a little extra consideration.
Recognize that this is a unique situation, and that special considerations can go a big way to making the ride a happy one for everyone. Remind yourself all the running and playing your kids normally get to do in the time you will be spending on the road. We aren't big on TV in our house, but Gwen does enjoy an occasional Sesame Street or something similar. We do not have a DVD player in the car, and normally Gwen does not get my iPhone or Kindle. However, I will make an exception during our 7+ hour car ride. I loaded 2 episodes onto my Kindle, which she will get to partake in towards the end of our trip. If you don't do TV at all, then this isn't for you, I'm sure... but a little leniency in some way, can go far in keeping everyone happy.


What are your tricks for happy travel?



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

International Travel With Kids Made Easy as a Breeze

Toys break, and clothes go out of style, but traveling will give your child memories to last a lifetime. Whether you head to France for some Parisian culture or Botswana on a safari, taking your children to different countries is a great way to spend quality family time and help them develop a wider view of the world.
Traveling internationally with children, however, can be a challenge for even experienced globetrotters. Special paperwork may be required, and while some travelers squeak by without the proper documents, other tourists have been stopped by zealous border officers or airline personnel.

Passports

If this is the first time you've applied for apassport for your children, do not wait until the last minute to send in the application. Things come up during the application process that can add several weeks to the process, so it's best to have time on your side to fix any problems.
If your child already has a passport, check that it's still valid. Adults are often surprised to discover that even though they got their passports at the same time as their child, the minor's has expired. This is because children passports expire every five years, while an adult's is good for 10 years.

Letter of Permission

If you are traveling with your child who is under 18 without the other parent, U.S. Customs and Border Protection highly recommends that you obtain a notarized letter of permission from the absent parent. While you may not always be asked for this letter when traveling, not having one could cause you to be detained by customs officials or airline personnel or barred from entering some countries. Canada is strict about this requirement. For travel to Mexico, this letter needs to be translated into Spanish and both copies must be notarized.
Written and notarized permission from both parents is necessary if you are taking a child who is not your own with you on an international trip, even if he or she is your blood relative.

International Cruises or Land Travel

You might consider taking the family on a cruise this holiday for ease of international travel. And why not, a cruise is a rather practical holiday route to go with and often caters to families and offers activities for kids specifically. But remember that there's paperwork involved there as well. Although you and your children can travel between the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda with just a passport card, it may be better to fork out the extra cash for full passport books. Two recent incidents where cruise ships became crippled out at sea point to the importance of bringing more than just passport cards with you while traveling internationally. According to Consumer Traveler, if these boats had been towed into a foreign port, any traveler who only had a passport card would not have been able to get a flight home.

Adopted Children

You will need to carry a number of documents if you are traveling with an adopted child who is 15 years or younger. If your international travel will be by land, bring a United States birth certificate, a consular report of birth abroad, a birth certification and either a naturalization or certificate of citizenship. If you are flying, you will be required to bring your child's U.S. passport or a valid foreign one and a Lawful Permanent Card. In either case, you will also need your child's adoption decree and the court-ordered proof of custody or guardianship.
It's vital you're careful with these documents. Children are increasingly a target for identity theft, according to Lifelock, so any paperwork with their social security number and other personal information should be closely guarded.

-- Hannah Collins