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Archive for March, 2007

We all have a reason(s) to smile, here are mine:

I’m taking a couple weeks off from writing. RA is getting the best of me right now so I need to lay off the computer. It will be hard but its necessary. I’m going in to see my rheumatologist tomorrow for a cortisone shot (or two). Either I stay off this damn computer or I’ll end up back on my meds and feeding Bella formula. The thought of feeding her formula tears me up inside. I have to try to avoid doing that. Sometimes, only sometimes, sacrifices for the good of my children are not only the right thing to do for them – but for me as well. I can’t even imagine the depression I’d go through if I had to give Bella formula. Just. Can’t and Won’t. Do it.

However, if I have to give her formula, I’m happy to say that my hardcore lactivist husband will support that decision.  He hates seeing me in pain and is actually the one who suggested that I think about giving her formula so I could go back on my meds.  I found that comforting.

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Morbid Much?

Why do I feel responsible in some way for Monica’s death? Intellectually, I know it has nothing to do with me but emotionally and intuitively I feel like if I’d kept in touch with her this wouldn’t have happened. Was she reading my blog? Did she know I was pregnant? Was she upset because I didn’t call her when Bella was born? Was she upset that she wasn’t invited to the birth? Was she upset that I didn’t tell her I was pregnant? Did she think that I was never going to speak with her again and that she had, “lost me” as a friend? Was her overdose intentional and in anyway about me? That sounds so egotistical to her myself say but I can’t help but to wonder. And I’ll never know. Her own boyfriend, the father of her son, did not even know that Monica and I had gotten into a fight and that was the last time we spoke. She never mentioned it to him. There is a lot of things she never told him. Things she would only tell me. Things I will never repeat.

My last interaction with her was filled with annoyance.

I spoke with her sister on the phone to find out about the services. I’m feeling paranoid that everyone secretly blames me for not being a good enough friend to Monica. After all, I was her *only* friend. I was the one person she could speak honestly and openly with. I know her darkest secrets. I have been Monica’s only close friend since we first met. She would even get jealous when I had other friends, pining to make certain she was still my “best” friend. I’m paranoid that her family will think that had she been present at Bella’s birth the night before, none of this would have happened. Hell, I think that.

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I’m trying to stay on top of these feelings. I’ve never mourned the loss of a loved one so this is all strange to me. It literally feels like there is a hole in my heart. I want to spend the day crying but can’t because Max will become distraught seeing me like that. I’ve cried a few times in front of him and he appropriately empathizes with me (he cries, too), comforts me (by saying, “it’s okay, mommy”) and tries to make me laugh (fart noises and funny faces – that always does the trick in our house). I must admit, his responses make me proud – like I must be doing something right with him.

It’s not his job to take care of me so I always say, “mommy is sad right now, mommy’s friend died but mommy will be okay. I love you.” Then I give him lots of hugs and kisses. After all that he says, “you feel better, mommy?” And I say, yes. Mostly, I’m hiding the tears but when I get on the phone with friends and family its harder to hold them back. I’m not looking forward to the funeral. That sounds stupid to say… who ever looks forward to a funeral?

I started pumping milk last week so have a good supply in the freezer. Friday, we’ll do a trial run with the bottle. I’ll leave the house to get some chalk board paint and Hal will stay home with Bella (maybe Max, too) and try to give her a bottle. Hopefully she’ll take it because I don’t know what I’ll do if she doesn’t. I have to go to Monica’s funeral on Saturday.

Max and Bella are sleeping. I need to let the dogs out then call Monica’s parents. I’ll post pictures of my kids later… Bella just keeps getting cuter and cuter everyday. Those two, they really lift my spirits.

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RIP, Monica.

Monica, a long time friend of mine, passed away last night around 8pm. She was a drug addict. Prescription pills were her drug of choice. I have to keep reminding myself this because my mind keeps falling into self-blame. She suffered from depression and severe pain from scoliosis. I also think she suffered from untreated post partum depression. When she passed, she was in a nursing home. She was brain damaged from dieing on February 3rd, 2007 (overdose), and being resuscitated after having been without oxygen for too long.

Our friendship was in an ebbing state – I had not spoken with her in over a year. But like the song says, I always thought that I’d see her again. I always hoped that she would get better. We have been friends since I was 17 years old, I’m 32 now. I have never had a close friend die before – or anyone close for that matter. This pain feels like a black pit of loneliness.

She has a seven year old son. I’ll only tell him the good stories about his mama. If he ever comes to me with questions, I’ll be honest but loving.

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I realized today that it is Rage that I am reacting to when I loose my temper with Max – not Max and not Rage’s little sis, Frustration.

I experienced it in awareness, today. I looked Rage straight in the eye and did nothing. I just stared. She was ugly and hurtful.

The scenario:

Max was “suppose” to go down for a nap. He said that he was ready to take a nap. He lied. I know he doesn’t understand what it means to “lie” but my brain reacted as if he does.

He lied because he wanted me to himself. I have to put Bella in the swing in order to nurse Max. I always nurse Max to sleep. He knows this. I know he knows this because when he wants num-nums or a nap he will say, “put Bella down, put Bella in the swing,” So today when I was holding Bella and asked Max, “are you ready for your nap?” naturally, he said, yes. He wanted a nap just so he could nurse.

When he isn’t lying about being ready to nap he falls asleep rather quickly and doesn’t fidget as he nurses. It’s the fidgeting that gave him away. Normally, I would jerk my body away from him or out of bed (to make sure he could “see” how mad I was) and exclaim how angry I was that he lied to me. Then, I would say something manipulative to “get” him to say he was ready to sleep. Like, mommy isn’t going to nurse you ANYMORE today unless you take a nap RIGHT NOW! This, as you may have guessed, never works. He’d still be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as he told me he was going to take his nap.

I’m starting to notice that while I don’t yell or become violent when I’m pissed, I do become manipulative. I threaten Max with actions that I can’t or won’t carry out. I don’t want to do this. I also struggle with empathizing with him.

The fidgeting while nursing is annoying when *I’m* ready for him to sleep. He pinches, rubs, and slaps until I just can’t take it anymore. However, instead of my usual M.O. (which always brings him to tears), today, I did nothing. I just said to myself, hello rage. I see you. I hear you loud and clear. Max looked a bit surprised and confused that I didn’t react the way I normally react. I just got out of bed quietly and smoothly without expressing the anger (out loud). He seemed happier, less tense, and stopped acting out faster than he would have had I reacted. Oh, and he finally fell asleep on the couch while watching Jurassic Park (he’s into dinosaurs – big time). He requested to watch “the real dinosaur movie,” then conked out ten minutes into it.

Acknowledging Rage but not reacting to it didn’t make it go away – like I hoped. It lingered, prodding me to do something about it’s presence. However, seeing it clearly and without judgment took the focus off Max. The benefit… a good relationship with my son.

Rage is something that visits me when I feel like I don’t have any control over a situation. I.e.: Max’s behavior. And while it didn’t go away, I did feel a sense of accomplishment for not “taking it out” on my kid. The fact that the feeling is lingering (still, even as I type) means that it is there for some other reason. I’m thinking being tired and having poor nutrition are those reasons. These things aren’t always about our childhood – the same as when a child gets cranky because she’s hungry or tired. This rage had a physiological trigger.

In an attempt to control my rheumatoid and to become a healthier person (physically and mentally) I’m looking into the macrobiotic diet. Wish me luck on this because to eat a macrobiotic diet takes a form of discipline that I’ve never had.

I need to wean Max because I really hate nursing him as much as he *wants* to nurse. Even nursing Bella has become joyless (though I mind less with her). I’m at a point where I only nurse her because it is the right thing to do and I nurse Max because I don’t want him to resent Bella. I don’t want this to be the fate of our nursing relationship.

I know I’m going to have to facilitate Max in weaning – as opposed to him “self-weaning.” My plan is to wait until Bella is eating solids before I start the process of getting Max off the boob-juice during day-time hours. I’ve started the night weaning already and am taking it slow from there. I need to set some more boundaries with Max. I knew tandem nursing would be hard but nothing really prepared me for all these feelings.

There is a balance that needs to be respected with weaning. It’s not just about me. It’s also about Max’s needs. I have to reteach him that there are other ways to obtain comfort from mommy and himself. I have to take the boobs away slowly and gently. Maybe I’ll get to a comfort zone again with nursing them both and will be able to continue until Max weans himself. It’s hard to say right now. I know it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” thing.

I’m considering weaning Bella after her first birthday – at least night weaning her. However, if I get this pain under control and Max cuts back on how often he nurses, I *may* feel differently about weaning Bella so early.

There is a lack of information out there concerning the various ways of gently weaning your baby/toddler. There should be more information about the feelings that a mama experiences throughout the weaning process as well as the feelings/circumstances surrounding the decision to start the weaning process. I find it annoying that every piece of information about breastfeeding deals with why it is best for the baby and how blissfully bonding it is for the mother. This type of white-washing sets women up for depression and feelings of failure. There is a whole spectrum of feelings that women go through during the different stages of nursing – and they’re not all flowery. Too bad I’m in no shape to right a book right now.

Max News:

He has adjusted well to having a baby sister. He kisses her all the time and talks to her. When she cries he’ll say (usually), “mommy, Bella crying. Bella want mommy’s milk. My (I) want to kiss Bella! Kiss Bella.” We stopped having play dates at our house because Max was having a really difficult time sharing his toys. And because of all the changes he has been going through – having to share everything with Bella – I don’t want to force him to be polite and share with other kids in his own home. For now, we are only having play dates at other people’s homes. Also, going out in public (without Hal) is out of the question for a while.

Bella News:

The girl is growing like a weed. She is seven weeks old and wearing 3-6 month old clothes. I’m cutting dairy of my diet (as of today) because I think she is having a negative reaction to it – gas and rashes. I’ll know in a few days. She sleeps well, only waking 2-3 times a night. She also sleeps in her own bed. Max wouldn’t sleep alone and kept crawling into bed with Bella and I. Because of my arthritis, laying in one position all night KILLED my joints so, I moved her into the twin bed and Max is with me. Bella will probably be sleeping in her own room before Max. As soon as she starts sleeping “through the night” (at least five hours) consistently… I’m actually going to put her in her and Max’s room to sleep. Not sure yet if I want to use the crib or put a mattress on the floor. I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

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Mother Blessing

This is the last article I’ll have published for a while:

Mother Blessings

While I was pregnant with Max I had (to endure) two baby showers. I’m about to out myself here… I’m not a big fan of The Shower. The games bore me and small talk isn’t my forte. During my showers I was the center of attention for several people who were practically strangers (how awkward) and a few that I loved (slightly less awkward). I was subjected to the guessing game, How Big Is Her Waist? (offensive) and to everyone yelling at one another for saying the word, “Baby” (*yawn*). I was honored that people showed up but unmoved by the actual events of the shower. I appreciated the gifts but hated opening them as everyone predictably oooowed and awwwwed over the cuteness of each item. I’m pretty darn sure I’m not alone in feeling this way. Though I may be the only asshole to admit it. After the second shower, I started to wonder if there were any alternatives, in case we had a another baby.

When I found out I was pregnant with baby number two I started to consider having a Mother Blessing ceremony. I heard about this ceremony while pregnant with Max but thought it sounded too eccentric. I thought, “Hmmm, not only would I be the center of attention but people would also be focused on me while talking to me? That sounds intense – and weird.”

As I continued to contemplate what I wanted, I received an invitation to my doula’s daughter’s Mother Blessing. “Perfect!” I thought. “Now I can see what this thing is about before I decide if it’s a good fit.”

Well… OH MY GOSH. I was moved by the intimacy and meaningfulness of the entire ceremony. Every woman in the room shared a bond with the mother-to-be. The sincere words that were voiced were empowering (I think for everyone) and had me in tears. The environment felt communal and supportive. And the bond I felt with the mother-to-be was intuitive, immediate, and beautiful, even though it was my first time meeting her.

Attending this Mother Blessing peaked my interest and put me into research mode. I found out that a Mother Blessing is a ceremony that is adaptable to fit a woman’s personal beliefs. It can take the place of or be held in conjunction with a traditional baby shower. And like a baby shower, it is held before each pregnancy or adoption. The common thread with all Mother Blessings is that it brings together women in your community who want to support your journey into motherhood. I also found out that it isn’t that eccentric (read: weird) at all!

A little bit of history:

A “Mother Blessing” is modeled after the “Blessingway” ceremony that is a sacred ritual of the Dine (Navajo). A traditional Navajo Blessingway is held for a women who is about to give birth as well as for men who are preparing to leave for war. It’s purpose is to bring the Navajo community together in support of the person making a significant life transition.

In the 1970’s, American midwives – led by Raven Lang, Jeannine Parvati Baker, and Nan Koehler – adapted the Navajo Blessingway into the modern ceremony that many pregnant women celebrate today. Out of respect for the sacred ritual of the Dine (Navajo), many people are starting to refer to the Blessingway ceremony given to a woman as a Mother Blessing, Birthing Way, Belly Blessings, or Alternative Baby Shower.

Modern culture has become focused on the baby-to-be and has lost sight of the mother about to be born. I felt this way during my own baby showers. The event was completely about my unborn baby, leaving me feeling like a vessel without a life of her own. I was present, but the party wasn’t for me. If only I could have removed my womb and sent it instead. Though, I would have missed out on all the yummy food.

A Mother Blessing is different than the typical baby shower. It’s purpose is to honor the mother-to-be by acknowledging the profound rite of passage labor and mothering brings. It also provides a safe space for the mama to express her deepest fears about labor and to receive words of encouragement and support. In short, the Mother Blessing is all about the mama. It is about empowering the mother-to-be. And of-course, gifts can still be a part of the event.

Having a Mother Blessing:

First step: Who do you want to invite? This is a very important step!

I chose to invite only the women in my life who have been supportive of my transition into mothering. This list comprised of women I knew but wanted to know better, women I always felt supported by but only spoke with occasionally, and women whom I already shared a deep friendship with. It was important that those invited brought a good attitude and positive energy with them. I didn’t invite anyone who had a history of doubting my mothering choices or anyone who ignored my mothering life (um, except my mother-in-law but I have a lot of love for her so she was a worthy exception to the rule). I didn’t invite people because of fear of hurting feelings. A Mother Blessing is meant to be an intimate and meaningful ceremony. So, the idea to keep in mind is “quality before quantity.” Invite only those who lift your spirits.

Step two: Making the invitation – get detailed!

The invitation needs to include an explanation of what your Mother Blessing will entail as well as instructions if your guest are to bring items with them. For my Mother Blessing, guests were asked to bring a flower and a bead. Those who were unable to attend still participated by mailing these pieces. Relatives and friends from far away mailed flowers, beads, and thoughtful letters to be shared during the ceremony. I also had loved ones who live close by send these goods because they had prior engagements or were uncomfortable with the intimacy of the ceremony. Allowing people the option to mail the ceremonial pieces gave my guests the freedom of relinquishing their presence but the ability to still participate.

Step three: What do people do at a Mother Blessing?

The ceremony can involve rituals from your religion or rituals that you create. Many ceremonies include: making birthing necklaces and bracelets, hair brushing, foot washing, sage burning, sharing positive birth stories, passing on wisdom and blessings, singing, gift giving, and feasting on potluck fare.

The woman being honored usually has a primary role in planning both the guest list and the ceremonies. I made the guest list and picked out what ceremonies I wanted to have at my Mother Blessing. My closest friend hosted it at her house and made the fabulous spread of food while my doula facilitated the actual ceremony. We worked as a team and the entire event went without a hitch. Not to mention… because the three of us had a role in making it happen, it was a relatively stress-free process to getting it done.

Following is an outline of what we did during my Mother Blessing:

# 1 – Introduction.

Taking turns, each woman lighted a candle, placed it on the table, and introduced herself. And since this ceremony is about the power of women she also acknowledged her mother, grandmother, and her children. The introduction sounded like this:

I am Michelle, daughter of JoAnne, granddaughter to Elizabeth, and mother to Maxamilian and BellaGrace. I light this candle in honor of, ______, to support her journey into motherhood.

Seeing Grandma Harmon shuffle over to the table while introducing herself in her shaky grandma voice brought tears to my eyes and bombed my chest with esteem and love. I suddenly felt incredibly privileged to be sitting amongst the women who filled the room.

#2 – Bead Giving Ceremony.

Everyone was asked to bring a bead that reminded them of me, meant something to them, or was symbolic for a sentiment they wished to share. A bowl was passed around the room and each woman placed the bead into the bowl sharing words of support, wisdom, and gratitude.

This part was very special and touching because every woman brought a unique element of wisdom to the room. Afterwards, my closest friend made a beautiful necklace out of the beads. This necklace was worn while I was in early labor to remind me of the connection I have to all the women present at my Mother Blessing.

#3 – Umbilical Cord Ceremony.

A long string of yarn was passed around the room. The yarn represented my connection to the baby in my belly as well as the alliance I had with each woman in the room. Once the circle was complete each woman cut the yarn and tied it around their wrist or ankle to make a bracelet. While this was being done my doula explained the purpose of the string: With the wearing of this bracelet each woman is reminded of Michelle’s upcoming labor. Michelle is also wearing the bracelet to remind her that we support her journey into mothering two children and have confidence that her baby will be born complication-free. This bracelet will give her the wisdom to know that she can give birth and that we believe she can do it.

Upon finding out labor started, each woman “cut the cord” sending me their prayers and well wishes.

#4 – The Flower

Each guest was asked to bring a flower with them. The flowers were placed in a bowl that sat on the table in the center of our ceremony. I took the bowl of flowers home and it became the center piece on my kitchen table – another reminder of the love and support I had been blessed with. I am looking forward to passing on both the necklace and dried flowers to BellaGrace. They are now family heirlooms.

Fifteen people attended my Mother Blessing and the entire event took about 2 ½ hours. While everyone was arriving and introductions were being made we all munched on the amazing spread of food and talked. After the ceremonial part of the Mother Blessing, we ate up the rest of the food and chatted. The energy in the house was amazing. Women who had never met before were sharing personal stories of their own lives while long time friends enjoyed the excitement of the gathering. I was loving the environment and company so much that I had to be reminded to open the baby gifts! It truly was a blessed event that gave me the support and empowerment I needed to birth my 10 pound baby girl.

Info Box

Web Sites:

http://www.birthbeads.com/Blessingway.html

http://mother-care.ca/blessing.htm

Books:

“Mother Blessings : Honoring Women Becoming Mothers,” by Anna Stewart

“Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers–Celebrating Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood,” by Shari Maser

“ Mother Rising: The Blessingway Journey into Motherhood,” by Yana Cortlund

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I’ve made a big decision. I decided to stop writing for Mommy Magazine (a bi-monthly newspaper). I’ve been their natural parenting columnist since the second issue came out, September of 2005’.

At this point I’m not sure if this will be a temporary leave or permanent. I haven’t had a chance to actually tell my editor. I’ve been waiting for her to call me since, Sunday, so I’m hoping she doesn’t read this blog. I’m fairly certain she will understand. She’s the one who originally suggested that I take a break from writing in order to adjust to the whole “two kids thing.” When she made the suggestion I was still pregnant and had no idea how stressful I would soon find the responsibility of a deadline.

However, it’s not just the stress of a deadline that makes me want to stop. It is the amount of time it takes to actually crank out an article… it is too much. I spend at least two days writing and then have to spend another two days after I get the edit back. I’d rather be spending that time with my family.

My editor, though I have no other experience in which to compare, seems a bit over zealous in the editing department. Up until recently I’d get my work back already edited and had no idea what was changed unless it was painfully obvious (in which case I’d be upset). Also, I rarely felt like I had the final say in the articles that were printed and a couple times I felt they had been butchered. To be fair, I do think she’s a damn good editor – a bit on the tough side – but good. Also, I know a lot of my feelings are shaped by the fact that this is my first time writing for a publication – in other words… I’m still pretty green and have a lot to learn. I’m just not in the right head space to do this kind of work. The true bottom line to this complainy rant: I’m spending more time working on an article than I’d like. If I were writing for Brain, Child or Mothering, I *may* not mind so much – oh, and if I were getting paid it would be a different story, too.

My experiences with Mommy Magazine have taught me a lot – one thing being… when it comes to writing I need to *feel* in control of the final output. Having to write to please an editor has made me question my original desire to go to school for journalism. Obviously if I ever get a chance to write for money, it will be under the pretense that I’m writing to “please someone.” However, I’d much rather deal with that kind of pressure when I’m no longer a new mother of two small children… and when I’m getting paid.

Maybe I’m over analyzing this. The fact is, writing for MM was a good fit in the beginning but isn’t anymore. Maybe it will fit into my life in the future and maybe it won’t. All I know is that I can’t keep writing for them for fear of never being published again.

It’s not just the stress and the amount of time I spend writing an article, either, there’s more to it than that. It is also that I pay for it physically. I have rheumatoid arthritis. Between the time Max was born up until shortly after Bella was born, my pain levels were pretty low. Now, it seems that on a scale of 1-10, it’s at about a six on a daily basis.

Most of the pain I experience is a direct result of too much time typing. Though, it is also a result of normal daily repetitive movement. If I’m going to take in physical pain for my work right now, I should be writing for more than the benefit of others and my ego. Therefore, this blog is the only place I’ll be giving my time to write. It feeds my soul, sanity, and desire for a feeling of production and creativity. And while it’s nice to know I have a few readers… I’m still writing just for my own pleasure.

After giving birth I go into a protective mode with my energy. The only output I’m interested in is endeavors that give me strength and smiles back. Any free time to be found is sacred. All mothers know this.

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