Saturday, 2 August 2014

Hi, Baby Girl

Happy birthday, Baby Girl
One of my biggest concerns with birthing baby girl is that I wouldn't arrive at the birth center on time. My first baby came under seven hours from first contraction ever felt in my life to birth. I only pushed for forty minutes. I was told that babies only come faster with each one you have, so I felt justified in my angst.

At a little before four in the morning the day baby girl was born I woke up with contractions. I was able to sleep in between them, and they came every twenty minutes. I did my best to relax and breathe through them. At around six I decided to get up and begin the day. I showered, did laundry, etc. I didn't think I was going to have my baby that day because my labor was progressing slower than my first. I was trying to be patient.

I had an appointment that afternoon at the birth center for a non-stress test since I was one week overdue. By the time I needed to leave, my contractions were so close and strong I didn't want to drive myself there. Luckily my husband had stayed home that day, and we were able to have a family member watch our little boy at the drop of a hat. We grabbed the bag and car seat and headed out the door.

When I got to the birth center, my contractions picked up in speed and strength significantly. The midwife measured me, and I was a ten. Good thing I had an appointment, or else I don't know when I would have made the decision to come in. It was only about a half hour ago that my contractions were still on average twenty minutes apart.

I was escorted to my birthing suite where I stripped down and stepped into the tub. I got on my hands and knees and almost immediately began to push. Baby girl had been quite a mover my entire pregnancy, and while I tried my best to keep her turned anterior, she always preferred posterior. So posterior she came, and it was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. With every push, it felt like my tailbone was being smashed to pieces. I screamed and thought I would pass out from the pain. I clenched my husband and said, "Oh, God."

But in ten minutes it was all over. I was lucky. Baby girl was born, scooped out of the water, and placed in my arms. I sat in the tub and held her with so much relief. There is no feeling in the world comparable to that first moment after birth. Nothing can touch you.

Although it was so very hard, I'm grateful I could have another natural birth. I was really proud of myself for being able to breathe slowly and focus on bringing oxygen to my baby for the entire labor. It helped keep me calm. There's nothing like experience to help things go more smoothly the second time. As always, I feel midwives are some of the most remarkable people on earth. I'm glad they could help me so efficiently, professionally, and lovingly in my time of need. They are wonderful.

It's nice to be done with the waiting game and finally enjoy being a family of four.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Peter Pan: learning about a mother's love


I've been thinking a lot about mothering lately. My toddler gets older every day with new challenges, and baby girl is due next week. I know it's just the beginning, and sometimes the pressure of doing things right from the start gets to me. It's nice to be reminded that my love is enough, which is probably why Peter Pan has been one of my favorite things lately. I knew mothers played a key role in the story, but the emphasis had never struck me until recently.

When the Darling children arrive in Neverland, it is the motherly Wendy who receives all the attention. The boys feel the need to build her a house, a place where she is protected and treasured, and then they break into song about her.
Oh what pleasure
She'll bring to us
Make us pockets and sing to us
Tell us stories we've been longing to hear
Over and over!

She'll be waiting at the door
We won't be lonely anymore
Since Wendy
Lovely Wendy's here to stay

We have a mother,
At last we have a mother!
Throughout the story Wendy does these things and much more (like taking pleasure in giving the boys their medicine). She is the embodiment of tenderness as a motherly figure to Peter and the boys. They want someone to care for them. It's as simple as that. There is no criticizing of her ability or lack thereof. She is their mother, and that's all they need.

I know there are many things to be done to be a "good" mother, but all those things stem from the love I have for my children. It can't be measured or compared to other mothers' love, which makes it difficult to know if you're doing everything "right." The most I can do is my best and not judge others, whether those judgments be positive or negative. I am here for my children. When I waste energy on what I think others are doing better or worse than I am, it's taking away my focus from my own children, my ability to love them in the way they need.

In the end, it is Wendy's memory of her own mother's love that draws the children and the lost boys back home to London. I don't think there is a better scene than when the children are reunited with their mother and father in the end, and then the nervous lost boys are equally just as welcomed. There really "could not have been a lovelier sight."

When Peter Pan, the lost boys, and the Darling children speak of mothers, it is always of their own mother. They each defend her as the best, even brag, despite most of them not knowing what their mother was even like. Their faith in their mother's love was all that they had. It made them individuals and confident because they knew that somewhere someone still loved them.

I am grateful for the many wonderful years I have to raise my children. May my love match their faith.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

How to raise a girl

 
I am about a month away from having baby #2: a girl. Raising children in itself intimidates me at times, but raising a girl has always worried me more than raising a boy. I'm grateful that our little guy came first because he has given me the time I've needed to prepare for his sister. Now that I've overcome my initial doubts (for the most part) of my ability, I'm excited to have a girl and feel more confident in raising her, knowing all the while there will be plenty of situations when I am clueless.

Besides all the basics of raising a good and well-rounded human being, I'm excited to teach my daughter how to honor being a girl. I am a believer of gender roles, but they were hard for me to understand for a while. I don't think I fully grasped them until I had been married for a year or more. I struggled with feeling "second" a lot, especially while single in college. I did my best to accomplish what I thought were really great things, but to others those things didn't seem to matter as much as who I was dating. It made me feel like I wasn't succeeding at anything because I wasn't married. I hated it and became a bit misandrist. I hated that I felt I was the one who was different and had to adjust my ways to be more appreciated. Being feminine was weak and embarrassing to me.

It took a lot of humility, self-reflection, and learning to understand how wrong I was. I had to reshape how I saw the world instead of how I thought the world saw me. No one was actually telling me that being feminine was demeaning but me. I was my own worst enemy, but the harsh mental battle made me delve deeper into my struggles and more fully resolve them. Now I respect and love the differences between men and women. They are equalizing, not polarizing. Realizing and accepting those differences strengthened myself and my marriage, and I know that as I continue to raise my family with these truths my children (both boy and girl) will be strengthened as well.

I'm going to raise my girl to honor being a girl. I am looking forward to making her dresses and watching her bounce down the hall in them and will be just as thrilled if she takes up blacksmithing like her papa. Being strong and compassionate are not a paradox. She needs to know that being a girl is a wonderful thing, and she shouldn't ever be ashamed of it. I want her to embrace her femininity, be proud of her gender by being true to herself, and not ever feel like she is second to a man but beautifully and perfectly different because that is the way God created us.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

No screen time for the littles


I want to preface this post by saying I am not judging anyone! This is just how I believe in raising my kids.

Moving on.

A lot of people comment about my little one's overall relaxed behavior. Although he's a wild boy who is constantly on the move at a sprint, he knows how to sit still, be patient, and entertain himself. Tantrums are rare around here, and communication gets easier every day. I'm sure there are many factors, including just plain luck, but I honestly attribute part of his behavior to the fact that I don't turn on "his favorite show" or let him play "educational games" on the iPad.

I recently read this great article about children and screen time, and this quote essentially sums up my reasoning regarding my baby and why I raise him the way I do:
Between 0 and 2 years, infant's brains triple in size, and continue in a state of rapid development to 21 years of age (Christakis 2011). Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010).

My level of motherhood experience is extremely low, but in my 18 months "on the job" I can already see the benefits of keeping screen exposure to a minimum for my child. I love our home being low media, and I'm very protective of it. I love that my little boy can keep himself busy for hours building with blocks, "reading" books, playing cars, helping me with chores, coloring, doing puzzles, exploring outside, and whatever else he finds interesting that day. I know these activities are building his independence and ability to learn, and I love seeing his creativity blossom from them.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Challenging yourself


Stourhead Garden

 My thoughts lately have been focused on doing things that are hard. I'm talking about decisions, not unpreventable misfortunes. What are the necessary miseries in life? What are the things we need to endure that make us stronger? Sometimes it's difficult to know if I'm doing what's right when it's making everyone, including myself, miserable.

Challenging myself has never been easy. I always feel like I've made the wrong decision when things get hard or that I'm not good enough and should have never given myself such ridiculous expectations. When I make a weighty decision, I usually feel I have chosen the right path. But some paths don't turn out the way I thought they would. They don't seem bad to begin with. They even seem great, which is why I initially made the choice. But then that one decision takes over my life like a storm, and I quickly come to the point where I don't care how much I have to leave behind to get out of it, as long as I can find shelter. Only until the storm has passed can I finally evaluate with a level head.

Recently I made a decision where there were very few moments I actually enjoyed what I was doing. Even though the product was good, the process was one stressor after another that wasn't worth my time or the money, but even now I can't say I regret it (although I wouldn't do it again!). It was a valuable learning experience for me, and it changed the way I see myself for the better.

I learned many valuable lessons through this experience, but one of my most meaningful is knowing that just because consequences are sometimes hard, doesn't mean I made the wrong choice. My life may have been temporarily thrown out of balance because of this decision, but the experience helped me to realize and more firmly establish my priorities and know what I want and of what I am capable. Ironically, the experience brought more balance to my life, and for that I am grateful.