Browsing wisdom

Audrey Contemplates the Nature of Family

July24

“Does everyone have a Mom and Dad?

She asks this a lot. Short answer, yes. Biologically. Long answer…whew…baby steps on that one. I heard her talking about dead parents while she was playing yesterday. Dammit, Frozen. Also, we have covered adoption. Well, we continue to cover it, as I’m sure it’s not easy to grasp.

“Are there two kinds of Mommies?”

Okay, I think she’s asking about adoption, so I’m going to talk about adoption again. There’s a Mommy who grows a baby in her belly and a Mommy who takes care of that baby forever.

“Do I have two kinds of Mommies?”

Nope. Just one. Just me. I did both those things.

“Is Grandma your mom?”

Asked with a bit of humor, because she knows Grammy is my mom. But she also knows Grams is Daddy’s mom, so…Okay. Here we go. Grandma is Daddy’s Stepmother. See, Grandpa is Daddy’s Daddy. And Grandma is married to Grandpa. That’s how she’s a Grandma. Does that make sense?

“It doesn’t make sense, but it’s kind of sense-y!”

Excellent.

I’m sure the questions will never get harder than this…

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Audrey Contemplates Life

June28

Audrey pops out of her room after not napping for an hour.

“Mom? How much tall will I be when I get bigger?”

“Maybe as tall as me. What do you think?”

“Mom…? Will you…be here…when I get bigger?”

Oh, crap. After months of watching Frozen, Audrey only today asked why Anna and Elsa’s parents had to leave.

“Yeah, baby. I’ll be here while you grow up. That’s my job. To help you grow up so you can be a mommy someday if you want to.”

Audrey thinks.

“I don’t want to drink wine.”

Ha. Hahahahaha.

“You don’t have to, baby.”

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Let Me Tell You My Opinion on Everything

June3

A friend just asked me for a list of books for someone who wants to get pregnant and wants to research everything about babies. Asking a mom for parenting advice is like giving a toddler Pixie Stix and taking her to the park: ABSOLUTELY THRILLING.

I have a lot of memories of ignoring my baby complaining on the floor while I finished a page in a parenting book. So I obviously know what I’m doing. 😛

I’ve actually been wanting to write about some of the things we did with Audrey, and what I might change for the next kid, and this seems as good a reason as any to explore that topic too. So…Books I Like plus What I Think about What I Did: let’s start!

For the making of babies in the first place

Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I never would have picked up this book if a friend hadn’t handed down her copy. It sounded like something for people who have, you know, problems, but it’s actually for anyone currently in possession of a uterus. In fact, I wish I had read this book when I was 11 or 12. I learned so much about how my body works. A little observation and you can know the second you wake up if you’ll get your period that day, you can avoid making a baby without putting artificial hormones in your body, and you can make a baby faster than you would have by just, you know, throwing caution to the wind. Love this book.

Pregnancy

I have another hand-me-down called I’m Pregnant! that served me well but I really have nothing to compare it to. It seems well-balanced. I hear What to Expect While You’re Expecting is a fright-fest but has toned down a bit in recent editions. But what I really push is a hilarious week-by-week column called Zero to Forty. It made me so happy. I learned important things like how to get more pee out when you go so you don’t have to go five minutes later, and that maxi pads be damned, old people diapers will take on the post-birth carnage better. I’m reading it again every week with the baby I’m cooking now.

On birthing the babies

I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born and read the book in the same vein Your Best Birth. I will say these were A) Mind-blowingly informative and B) Scary. While it’s important to be totally aware of common medical practices that may actually get in the way of an easier, healthier birth, it’s also important to not become frightened and mistrustful of the people taking care of you and your baby. Here’s the thing: it’s not all-or-nothing. You don’t have to go either intervention-filled hospital birth or crunchy home birth. There is a HUGE land of in-between, including a lot of hospitals and providers that happily default to a gentle, hands-off approach. Learn what you want, find a provider you trust, and after you’ve made as many decisions about birth as you reasonably can, try to then do the opposite and relinquish control to your baby, cause that kid’s going to decide what happens from there.

With Audrey, I had a Certified Nurse Midwife and a doula, and birthed drug-free in a Jacuzzi, all while still being in a great hospital with a NICU down the hall. That’s not the right formula for everybody, but it was amazing to have that kind of option. In my fantasy life, it’s how this next one will come out, but you never know. Your choices change if you have any kind of problem or risk and you have to ride along with it. But it’s always good to know your options in any situation. A great thing about doulas: they will help you figure out what you want to happen in various weird labor situations and help you accomplish it. Get one.

Also, long before I ever saw my husband, I read Misconceptions and some books by midwives and they were the first I ever learned about how birth is treated these days.

Keeping Babies Alive and Stuff

I spent so much time obsessing about birth that I totally forgot I’d have to take care of the kid once she came out. And by then I was burnt out on reading. So…well, eventually I picked up Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book, and that along with the tome the pediatrician laid on me have been the medical/developmental backbone of my baby library. It’s like a range of views: one is from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Dr. Sears is more your warm-fuzzy attachment parent take on everything.

Oh, also, there’s another book in the Dr. Sears canon (a different Dr. Sears, but they’re all related) called The Vaccine Book. WAIT. DON’T YELL AT ME. I am passionately pro-vaccine, but I also think it’s completely sane to look at each one individually and make choices about when and how your kid gets it. We are doing every recommended vaccine, but we do fewer at a time (yes, I went in twice as often in the first few months so Audrey would get half as many at a time) and we put off some until later (while the newborn Hep B shot is necessary if Mom is infected, it seems like too much for a freshly born person otherwise: Aud has yet to start sharing her drug needles…). I do care that all kids that can get vaccinated get vaccinated. Please. But it’s okay to find your own method.

Breastfeeding

We saw some good videos in our childbirth class, and it was super helpful to really see how you were supposed to get those things in there. I don’t think a book could have done that for me. Also, my doula was a certified lactation…person…I forget proper terminology, but she was great at getting us started and answering questions when they came up later. Shop around if you don’t like the person messing with your boobs. It can be hard and not all lactation people are created equal. Does anybody out there have a book they’d recommend?

Sleep

Oh, sweet heaven. I read every book on the subject. No, really. All of them. After the first few months where the kid pretty much validly needed to wake up all the time, I became obsessed with sleep. Things would feel okay enough and then every six weeks or so I would lose my mind, say “Something has to change,” research a ton, and then do nothing. Rinse and repeat.

I read the range. I read – and liked – The No-Cry Sleep Solution and The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep. (Oh, P.S. Just watching a short video of the Happiest Baby dude working his voodoo magic on crying babies was worth the 12 weeks’ tuition in our childbirth class alone.) They are both chock full of ideas to pick from and try. They totally understand that there’s no single formula – what works will be different for every family, different for each baby, different from month to month. But I also read at the more extreme ends. I read the “Cry It Outguys, even though it went against my gut, because, hey, sometimes I was desperate enough to hear every perspective. And that’s good. I learned “leave the room and let them cry” wasn’t actually the entire text of the books and there was a lot of good info on how sleep works, and many other techniques to help babies. I also read Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling, and her sleep chapter felt basically like, “I gave in to our primate neurological wiring and bed-shared for 12 hours every night.” And I learned a lot from that book too. So. My advice would still be to read the range. Seek out perspectives that make you uncomfortable. Then ignore everybody and go with your gut.

We did these things:

Co-slept (same room) and bed-shared (same sleep surface), nursing on demand all night (0-15 months)

(If you’re into sharing your bed, ignore those billboards that tell you it’s like putting your baby to sleep next to a butcher knife but of course do it safely: Sleeping with Your Baby is a good one.)

Put her in her own room and shut the open bar while lying next to her until she fell asleep, including night wakings (15 months to…hmmm…somewhere around 2?)

Sat in the same room while she fell asleep, including night wakings (2ish to 29 months)

Left the room and let her fall asleep alone, including night wakings (29 months and counting and she’s not waking at night anymore)

I like everything we did but….every transition was surprisingly easy to make and I realized it was me being nervous about moving her forward that made it all take so long. I could have pushed it more; I could have done all those things ages earlier. So that’s my goal with the next kid. I mean, he’ll have his own personality, and nothing will work exactly the same, but I won’t be afraid to, say, cut off the nursing at night sooner. I will know he can cry, but if he’s crying next to one of us, he’s going to be okay. That kind of thing.

Discipline

Ha! I have no right to talk about this. I got a really easy kid and she only just got to an annoying stage of toddler. And she still ain’t half bad.  But I’ve enjoyed Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood, Discipline without Shouting or Spanking, and Mayim’s chapter on gentle discipline. I’ve heard great things about the Happiest Baby guy on this topic too.

Oh, balls, the greatest book of all time I nearly forgot: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. If you read no other book ever, seriously, this one. Kids or not. It may fix every relationship you’ve ever had. If everyone had a copy, we’d have world peace. No foolin’.

In Conclusion

Gestating this second babe of mine makes me realize how little I’ve really learned in some ways. I’ll probably just bumble along again and see what this one seems to need. My greatest book wisdom, on any topic in life, would be to always read the opposite of what you believe along with the people you know you’re going to agree with. My life-with-baby wisdom would be to always err on the side of mushy smushy affection.

Oh, and also: to remind you that all the decisions you obsess over are probably not that big a deal:

parenting

Instinctive Parenting

Who else has books out there they love? Am I forgetting any essential topics?

 

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Second Birthday Wisdom

November16

Last year, I wrote a post on Facebook saying I had been a mother for a whole year and now knew absolutely everything about parenting, and then proceeded to list it all. Thank you for putting up with that. So.

I’ve been a mother for two whole years now, so I totally know everything about raising kids. Here’s what I’ve learned the last year:

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1. You can baby-proof a house, but you cannot toddler-proof it.

2. The only way to get my child to do something she doesn’t want to is to say, “Mommy do it or Audrey do it?” Suddenly she is gung-ho to take on any challenge. “AUDEE DO IT!” I do not look forward to the day this stops working.

3. I’m guessing sweeping will also cease to be fun for her once she’s actually of any use at it.

4. The American Academy of Pediatrics may say children under 2 shouldn’t have any screen time, but Sesame Street is the perfect time to go to the kitchen and sneak all the junk food you don’t really want your kids to have. TV – the healthier choice! Also:

5. Find what they love and use it to bend them to your will. “Sure, we can watch Elmo! We just need to pick up books first.” Watch how fast your living room gets clean.

6. I just found out how to take a shower! Toddler in her mostly child-proofed bedroom, with door anchored open but gate shut, with a Super Why app on Mommy’s Kindle. Mommy in bathroom three feet away with door open, and nothing fancy like shaving. Tried it once so far, and there were no injuries. Breakthrough?!?!?

7. Having a best friend whose kid is your kid’s best friend will SAVE YOUR SOUL.

8. Don’t give that baby your phone unless you want her to create a Twitter account or text your ex-boyfriend. Kids these days are born knowing how to do this stuff.

9. It’s totally okay to ask God for a sign as to how you should deal with your toddler’s stupid sleep, but if that’s immediately followed by your child having a sudden, terrifying, barky cough that freaks you out so much you spend the night in bed with her so she doesn’t die, and then you all end up getting the best sleep of your life and the cough disappears after you get up the next morning, well then, what are you going to do about that, because GOD.

10. And you really don’t regret lying with her until she falls asleep when you get some sloppy, wet kisses out of the deal.

11. When Aud was born, I had an intense bond to her, but not what you would commonly call “love.” I fell in love with her as I started to see tiny bits of her personality emerging. Well, she’s got a lot of personality now. As she becomes ever more herself, my love for her just gets crazy. Crazy big, crazy joyous, crazy I-would-boil-a-bunny-for-her-if-I-needed-to.

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12. On the flip side, her more difficult days make me love the husband a lot more, I tell ya.

13. Turning two means this is the last chance to let a lot of stuff slide. This year the kid really won’t have an opinion on her birthday party or, you know, even notice if her lousy parents get her any presents or not.  (I mean, REALLY, the grandparents have that covered pretty damn well already.) She doesn’t know that anyone other than those two friends you picked could have attended. She can’t stop you from ordering another literary-themed cake, as she doesn’t know Elmo cakes can be made. But I don’t feel too bad half-assing her party. Audrey’s second birthday won’t be the impressive affair Suri Cruise’s $100,000 second birthday was 5 years ago, but Audrey’s dad ain’t Tom Cruise, so I think Aud wins.

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Pasta and Profundities

November7

So last night was our anniversary, and we celebrated in the most exciting way we could imagine: going to dinner at a restaurant without a toddler. The truth is, I’m not even being funny. It was a great thrill for me. Thanks to gifts from my parents and sister-in-law (and babysitting by Grams) we got crazy at the Olive Garden, ordering enough food to feed six people.

You know, yesterday, how I told you all that good stuff about Andy? Yeah. I have it easy. The hard part for me is to stop and check on what kind of wife he has every so often. See, I’m a decent enough person, but it doesn’t come as naturally to me as to Andy. I need reminders sometime. The good thing is that I was smart enough to put the best lesson into our wedding ceremony. I just need to hear it every day. So here is my favorite prayer. It’s attributed to Saint Francis, though it didn’t appear in history until 1912 in France (a cool surprise at our wedding was that my beautiful friend that read it followed it with the French version). We may not be able to remember exactly how our vows went but we always have this!

 

Lord, make me a channel of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

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Non-Hippie Reasons to Be a Hippie Parent

October16

I had never heard of “Attachment Parenting” until the first time I went to pick up my raw, grass-fed milk from the farm. Which is pretty funny for someone who just said, “pick up my raw, grass-fed milk from the farm.” The dairy farmer told me she taught Attachment Parenting classes and I could not fathom what that was. Who doesn’t attach to their children? I could only picture a group of students with children clinging to their bodies throughout the day like baboons or something. Which, again, isn’t that all of us?

 

Well, I eventually became pregnant and learned all about Attachment Parenting. People, it is ALL THE RAGE. And it all sounds so natural, and moral, and beautiful, getting all bonded to your child and making their world gentle and kind, and a little like you had better Sacrifice Yourself Completely for the Sake of the Children, won’t somebody think of the children???

 

The good news is that all this stuff the AP people and warm, fuzzy, natural, connected parents recommend, yes it’s all great for the world and the children and peace, love, and understanding, but I guarantee you don’t have to give a crap about any of that for this stuff to benefit YOU. Yes, actually YOU. There need be no martyrdom on this ship, people. Hmmm. I’m starting to notice a theme in my writing: how to be as self-serving a parent as possible while technically doing really great things for your children. I wonder how long I can make that work. Well. Let’s go:

 

Breastfeeding

There are about infinity number of reasons breastfeeding is great for your heath and your baby’s, and that if you don’t have too much working against you, it’s totally worth a damn fine effort to do it. BUT. One important thing often left out of the “pro” column  is that breastfeeding is really great for lazy people. Think about it. Do you really want to plod to the kitchen in the middle of the night to whip up a bottle of crazy expensive formula while a tiny person is screaming at you? Boobs: right there, right temperature, right price.

 

Co-Sleeping

Sharing a bed with a kid sounds insane to a lot of people and there’s been plenty of propaganda against it, but we all kind of do it every now and again in some fashion, even if it’s just for a nap, or for that last hour in the morning. There is no reason, if you do it safely, that it can’t be common practice if it works for you. There were a couple of stretches of time in our kid’s life when we all slept better if we were in bed together. There were times we did better apart. Do yourself a favor and do whatever helps everyone sleep as painlessly as possible.

 

Baby-wearing

Literally attaching your child to your person, by way of wrap, sling, or other carrier does wonders. You can run around with free hands. You won’t kill yourself carrying an ever-heavier car seat. You can turn a cantankerous baby or toddler into a calm (or unconscious) one in no time flat. It’s like putting them back in the womb and it’s good for everyone.

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Cloth Diapering

Enviornment Schmenviornment. My interested in cloth diapers started the first second pregnant me looked at the price of disposables. Go cloth and you can save a grand or two with one kid, no fooling. Also: surprisingly less gross. Look, you’re going to become good friends with your baby’s poop no matter what but at least cloth holds the sloppy ones in better. And paper diapers smell weird, and have a weird texture, and I hate them anytime I use them. Parents who go cloth weirdly enjoy diapering. It’s a thing. Course it could be because they are WICKED CUTE:

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Water birth

I don’t even know but I think it’s a thing, with good, strong, natural reasons like it being an easier transition for the baby to be born underwater or something. Don’t know, don’t care. You know why I had a water birth? Cause that’s where I was. The Jacuzzi was COMFY, you guys, it made labor suck a little less. By the time my kid came out of me, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. I’m sure there are a lot of benefits to being in certain positions you can better achieve on land, but it’s like sex, okay? I don’t always want to have to focus my strength and energy on extraneous stuff; sometimes I want to lie back and go along for the ride.

 

Follow Your Own Instincts

Don’t do anything I say. Who am I to tell you what to do? That has to be the ultimate hippie parenting answer, doesn’t it? I mean, really? Don’t let anyone bully you into any parenting choices, no matter what they are. No one on the planet knows how to parent your kid better than you.

But come to me anytime you think you need to justify doing what you want to do. I’m super good at it!

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How to Make Parenting Harder

September23

In 17 Complicated Steps

(Conception to Age 2 Edition)

 

1. Start by waiting until you are 33 to have your first child. You will have had more time to think about the Right Way to Do Things by then.

 

2. Don’t leave your child’s conception to chance! Carefree sex is for 20-somethings. There are thermometers and cervical mucus and charts you can involve in the process. You can use them – and this is the important thing – whether you need them or not.

 

3. Read every book about childbirth you can, so that by the time you actually birth the child, you are too burnt out on reading to learn anything about the actual care of babies.

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Super wary of mother’s skills.

 

4. When she is born, never let her leave the hospital room without you. Other mothers might take a nap, or let the nurses take their babies away for a doctor’s once-over. You, however, have seen enough Lifetime TV movies to know that if you leave your baby in the nursery, a woman who has been faking a pregnancy to keep her man will come in and kidnap her.

 

5. Make sure you buy a beautifully coordinated bedding set for a crib she’ll almost never sleep in. It should be expensive – so you know it’s good – but only use the fitted sheet because everything else is Dangerous! Don’t put any of that in her crib! When you put the cute bumper in her crib anyway, it should have a high-contrast pattern. That’s good for babies. You know, in the dark at night.

 

6. Do not leave your baby in the care of anyone with less than a PhD. Grandparents may be exempt on a case-by-case basis.

 

7. Make sure you correct your husband whenever he dresses the child. It’s how he learns.

 

8. Read every book ever published on the subject of sleep. If you obsess long enough, you will certainly find the Exact Right Thing to do to ensure good sleep, despite anecdotal evidence of the entire world to the contrary. Make sure you discuss all your newfound knowledge at length with your husband.

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Wildly appreciative husband.

 

9. Develop a pathological aversion to people feeding your baby crackers. Practice statements like, “Yes, ‘just one’ will hurt her! It’s nothing but white flour, salt, and hydrogenated vegetable oil!”

 

10. Keep up with news on the internet. If not, you may not learn that going down slides with your child can break their legs, hide and seek promotes dangerously secretive behavior, and fruit will maim your baby’s beautiful face.

 

11. Instruct your pediatrician – the one with about a billion years more schooling that you – on the proper schedule to vaccinate your child. Remind her your child will not be engaging in unprotected sex and recreational drug use in the first couple of months of life, so you can put off the Hep B. Spread out the other vaccinations so her body has less to deal with at one time, and you get to come in twice as often!

 

12. Buy a book full of really boring activities with needlessly complex preparations to do with your baby every week to help her develop skills she would have picked up on her own anyway.

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No instructions necessary.

 

13. You’re doing sleep wrong. Read every book again. Take copious notes. Don’t forget to judge any parent who’s had success as “too cruel” or “too coddling.”

 

14. Put things up high so the baby can’t reach them. When she gets taller, find a higher place. Remodel the house as needed. Anything to avoid figuring out how to teach your child appropriate behavior.

 

15. Cluck your tongue at every parent who hasn’t taught their child “appropriate behavior.”

 

16. Spend several hours a day thinking of graphically specific dangers that could threaten your child. Bonus if they are complex enough to be plotlines for Criminal Minds.

 

17. Do all the things you were Never Going to Do Because You Don’t Believe in Them but take a lot of time to feel guilty about it.

 

Congratulations! You must be a success! After all, you worked awfully hard, didn’t you?