You Are Not Alone

Monday, March 29, 2010

Trust in thyself

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I started researching Pregnancy, Childbirth and Mothering long before I felt the first stirring of life within my womb. I am sure that my fascination with Pregnancy and Mothering would be an excellent source of study for someone in the field of psychology, but simply I just love to Mother.

I remember feeling non-committal about the answers I would give when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. The only time I ever felt invested in my answer was when I replied that my goal was to be a Wife and Mother.

Calm down Women’s Libbers…calm down.

The way I see it, Women’s Liberation enabled me to wear jeans, speak my mind, work in different occupations that normally would have gone to a man, explore my sexuality without the fear of getting pregnant or being stoned to death in the village square, and most importantly ALLOW me to CHOOSE to be a Wife and Mother, instead of that being my ONLY option.

But I digress…

I didn’t start reading up on Pregnancy, Childbirth and Childrearing in earnest until after I got married, but I received plenty of education long before that. Being the eldest of four brothers and four sisters, I was often Mother’s Little Helper. When my brother Christian was born, my Mom allowed me to feed him, change his diapers and hold him often. After Christian, my dad remarried and I FINALLY gained a sister, Angelina, who was three at the time. By the time I was twelve, my Stepmom and Dad had my second little sister, Marlana. My Stepmom breastfed Marlana, so I was able to see how special and beneficial it was to breastfeed. (I also saw how difficult it could be, and even when I had Colin, I was not looking forward to blisters or biting. In the end, I didn’t experience any blisters, but I did get a lovely little gash on my right nipple. NOT COOL people. NOT COOL. It took almost two months for that sucker to close up. They don’t talk about GASHES in breastfeeding class…No sir-ey bob! I suppose that they don’t because they don’t want to scare any new moms, because latching and raw nipples are bad enough…but that’s a whole other blog…)

Every time the baby fever would hit, I would get on the computer and troll pregnancy and childbirth websites. I found myself fascinated with birth stories and breastfeeding. I would daydream about the day I would be a Mother to my own child, imagining sweet family moments where Mark and I would be laying in bed, our baby nestled between us. I would fantasize my pregnancy and labor, dreaming of moments when I could rest my hands on my growing belly, and push my child into the world.

My pregnancy and Labor didn’t mirror my daydreams and fantasies, and I quickly found out that taking care of your own baby was much different than helping to take care of siblings. What was surprising was how uncomfortable pregnancy was, how my contractions seemed isolated to the lower region of my stomach, how I wanted to MOVE when I was in labor and how much I hated being bed bound because I had high blood pressure. I wanted to jump out of bed and walk around with each contraction, but was forced to lie on my side and wait until I could get an epidural that came just as the contractions started to become really painful. After I had brought my Son into the world, the OBGYN who delivered us told me that I could have been one of the “ones” who could give birth naturally, which gave me pangs of regret and guilt, even as she stitched me up. Still, I had my beautiful, healthy Son. I rode on a wave of adrenaline for hours after his birth, and reveled and marveled in him, in his miraculous presence, how light and small he felt in my arms.

I found that taking care of him was easy. I had some trouble helping him to latch on correctly when feeding, but other than that, it was all a piece of cake. Changing diapers wasn’t a chore, getting up to his cries was a delight, even if I was exhausted. Even after we came home, it was still easy. Colin woke every two to three hours, and Mark and I would get up, change his diaper in tandem, and we would settle back into bed and fall back asleep while Colin nursed at my breast.

Our days and nights blended together, at least mine did. I was on Maternity leave, but I was resolved to stay home with my child, knowing both of us would benefit greatly from the arrangement. I couldn’t bear to think of paying someone, or give someone else the care of my child, when I desperately wanted to, and could, do it myself. Fortunately, my Husband has a good and stable job, and we had savings to draw upon.

My world shrank from the whole of Lakeland, Florida to our little Townhome on Quarry Rock Road, three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a Mom and a baby waiting for their Husband and Daddy to come home from work.

In my isolation, I gravitated toward Facebook for a social outlet. When I was five months pregnant, our second vehicle decided it wanted to retire, and we became a one car family at the very worst possible time. If I wanted to leave the house, (which I didn’t really want to, at least not daily, and not for more than a couple of hours) I would have had to wake my baby, a baby who HATED his car seat, drive Mark to work while the baby was wailing and then drive back ALONE with a wailing baby. Have you ever been behind the wheel while your child is screaming like a banshee?! It’s not pretty, not pretty AT ALL. Driving is stressful enough without the shrill cries of a newborn coming from your backseat and wrenching your heart like a wet wash cloth. It was HARD, and several times I had to pull over, get in the backseat, unstrap Colin from his car seat and hold him for five or so minutes to soothe him because I was SURE he thought I had abandoned him to some crazy moving thing that was taking him somewhere and where the HELL WAS HIS MOMMY?! I mean…how could you NOT screech to a stop, do a Chinese Fire drill and rescue your child? Unless you’re made of steel, or have a heart of ice, YOU CAN’T.

Jeez, but I am awesome at digressing…

So, here I was, isolated and for some reason, no one wanted to come to my house. Maybe it was because I had requested that people give me ample notice, and by ample I meant a couple of hours, to shower, pull on some clean clothes and pick up the house. I can only conclude that this has/had put people off, because the few times that someone asked to come over, I made this totally reasonable request, and then I NEVER HEARD BACK FROM THEM AGAIN. I’m not kidding. This has happened several times. Why would I say, “Sure come on over!” when my Son has been cluster feeding all day (cluster feeding is a breastfeeding term. Cluster feeding is when your baby, who normally eats every two to three hours wants to eat every fifteen minutes to an hour), or when it’s 7:30 at night, and we’re trying not to fall face forward onto our dinner plates because WE HAVE A NEWBORN and we’re EXHAUSTED. (NO, I wasn’t making it up…you know who you are…) Totally unreasonable, I suppose. I had someone ask me if they could visit, and I enthusiastically said that I would LOVE to see them, but I think that they must have meant their texted request for someone else, because I didn’t hear back from them again. I had another person say that they wanted to come visit more often, but their schedule was hectic, so I told them that we would love to have them over to have dinner, but to call me and let me know what works for them so that I could make enough food, but NEVER HEARD BACK FROM THEM AGAIN.

I must smell, or be the biggest bitch, or demanding, OR SOMETHING because I apparently, I’m social kryptonite.

For awhile, it hurt, but now I’m taking matters into my own hands and making new friends OUTSIDE of the internet! Go me, right? I have graduated from social networking nerd to a real girl!

Holy crap cakes, I digressed yet again…

Look, internet, the reason I started this blog was because I realized that my Husband’s parents don’t trust us. (Thank god she finally got to it…)

After Colin was born, the surge of hormones desperately trying to go back to a semblance of balance made me fear that my Husband’s parents WANTED my baby, WANTED my Son for their own.

I suppose that the warning bells should have gone off when I was pregnant, and after buying THREE bassinette’s, (one of which I had given my Okay, despite my misgivings because that particular bassinette had been sitting outside, near the trash can, for MONTHS, but I didn’t have a bassinette, and my Husband is a frugal man, and what could it hurt, to just say yes and please my Husband and his Mom? I had to spray it down with cleaner to rid it of the cigarette smell and two months after my Son was born, it fell apart, thank god my Son wasn’t in it!) They said that it was okay, they would keep one for when MY Son slept over at their house. I should also mention that their were TWO previously used, years old car seats and I heard the same response, that they would use one of them to transport MY Son.

SCREECH! Wait a minute! I wondered why in the world they thought that I would let my newly born Son sleepover at their house. Why would they need an infant car seat for My Baby? What did these people think? That I would have MY baby, their Son’s child, whenever they wanted, so soon after he was born?

My Husband tried to smooth things over, saying that they hoped. Hoped what, exactly? Hope that we would not want to take care of OUR baby? Hope that I would go back to work full time so that they could take care of him while I was at work, pumping breast milk and ensuring their Son didn’t have to be the sole breadwinner? Hope that we would suck so much as parents, be so confounded and helpless that we would fall upon them as a crutch for assistance, to practically raise our child for us?

What are we, sixteen?

Mark and I weren’t expecting Colin to come when he did. I was terrified, and we were still living with Mark’s parents. In fact, we had been living with them for three years together, me for four years, one year while Mark was stationed in Afghanistan. We were both a mess from his deployment, and neither one of us were in a great spot when he came home either. In fact, both of us were quite a mess. It was hard, for so many reasons, and it only compounded the problems by living with his parents. We didn’t feel free to be intimate…well; I didn’t, especially when Mark’s Dad was watching television in the room next door. I mean, we had a SLIDING DOOR MADE OF GLASS separating us from the living room/dining room. They tried to give us privacy, but even so, it was hard to get in the mood when I felt like we could be “heard”.

I didn’t feel like I could be myself, and so I spiraled to a place I promised myself I would never go. It was dark, it was painful, and it was desperate and hopeless. I was ready to wash my hands of it all, but love kept us at it, and we began to look for a home of our own. I wanted out so much sooner than that, and kept pleading for us to find an apartment, so we could be sure that we wanted to stay together, to give us time to figure out whether or not we still worked, but Mark…well he didn’t see the sense in renting an apartment when we could buy a home, so we stayed. We stayed, worked, saved money and acted like selfish, immature children that went out on weekends, ate out regularly.

Another factor that may contribute to the lack of faith on his parent’s part could be due to our dog, Tess. We purchased Tess from a pet store in our local mall when she was four months old. It was an impulse buy, driven mostly by my Husband, but once I set my eyes on that little black ball of fluff, I was sold. Several months later, she proved to be a dynamo, and I always felt guilty because she was confined to our little one bedroom, third story walk up and neither one of us had the energy to match hers. I often pleaded with Mark to find another home for her. I was often left to her care, feeding, walking, bathing and the like, and resented Mark for it because he didn’t have to “deal” with taking care of her. Mark would come home from work, play with Tess, pet her and that was all. I’d ask him to walk her, to fill her food bowls, to bathe her, and it just never seemed to be on his list of priorities. I thought Tess deserved better than that. I thought Tess deserved people who would walk her, run her, play with her and test her intelligence. I thought she would be happy with a home that had children and a backyard where she could run free. I should have been adamant, I should have stood my ground, but despite my bitching, I loved her, and I loved my Husband. I couldn’t start finding her a home without my Husband’s blessing, even if he wasn’t seeing the situation clearly.

When we moved into his parent’s house, we tried to take care of her. Tess required a lot of discipline and work. We followed the Dog Whisperer rules of dog care, but every time we would try to work with Tess, Mark’s parents would admonish us for being too hard on her. We would try to explain, but it seemed that they only wanted to indulge her. After Mark left, I didn’t have the strength to fight them. I figured that if they thought that I was doing it wrong, they could take care of her. Sadly, Tess was still not receiving the care she should have had.

When we moved out, I had plans to walk her regularly, and to adhere to the Dog Whisperers ways, but when we moved into our house, we had to keep her in her crate while we were gone. When I was home, unpacking at six months pregnant, she would sit by the door and whine. When we took her out to walk, she would run to our car and sit, and we’d have to pull her to get her to go. I felt it was better for her to stay at Mark’s parent’s house. She seemed to want to be there, with them. I wanted her to have a yard to run around in, squirrels to chase.

She died last year, and I am so, so sad. The guilt I feel is tremendous. She had a short life, and I feel like she should have had more joy, more love and it’s my fault…it’s my fault that she didn’t have better. Mark and I didn’t even get to say goodbye. His parents took her to the vet and had her put down and didn’t even think of us, and how we loved her and needed to say goodbye. I don’t know why…maybe caught up in their own grief, maybe thinking that we didn’t care anymore now that we had given her to them to care for…and I have made peace with it, but a part of me still hurts because I didn’t get to say goodbye until I was standing over the patch of yard she’s buried in.

So, maybe how Mark and I behaved while we lived with them, maybe how we seemingly, “neglected” our dog has contributed to their lack of faith in my parenting skills, but I resent it.

I spent a majority of my life caring for my siblings. I sacrificed a lot of my time to help care for them, gladly, but still sacrificed. When I wanted something, I rarely got it because my parents had other kids to worry about. I was the “good” kid. I stayed out of trouble, didn’t date, had good friends, went to church and rarely failed classes. I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t have sex, I didn’t drink and I didn’t drive. I was fourteen when I went to my first dance. When I finally had a boyfriend, at thirteen, we dated for a week and I told my Mom, who told my Dad, and I got grounded for two weeks. The worst part was that my boyfriend dumped me because I couldn’t go to the movies with him because I wasn’t allowed to actually date until I was sixteen. I had a handful of dates during high school. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was eighteen. By the time I met Mark; I had unfurled my wings, stamped my feet firmly into independence and made some headway on making up for all the mischief I had spared my parents during high school.

I came from a rough family life, but throughout it all, my heart and soul only wanted to love and to be loved. When yelling was at its peak, when objects were flung, when my dad’s family came undone, when I was mugged, when I was saying no to drugs for Mark, I kept a future when I could be happy with family of my own. That’s all I ever wanted, but it has been harder than I imagined.

Marriage isn’t easy to begin with. Having a child is…a whole new world in and of itself. Coming from a past, a childhood like I did, well, sometimes I feel like I’m fighting impossible odds just to be normal. Talking with your Husband, working through the issues of Marriage, reliving past feelings of abandonment are hard enough. Having a baby and putting away your baggage to give that baby the best possible future can be daunting. I work to give him the very best, every day. To not repeat the same mistakes my parents made, mistakes that can’t just be swept under the rug that most kids sweep parental mistakes under, is hard. I vow every day to give My Son the very best of myself. I vow not to yell, not to spank, not to…not to be like…to just give him a happy, balanced home where he can feel safe to be who he is, to learn, to grow, to explore. I worry like every Mom about his well being, his nutrition. I worry about whether or not I’m smothering him, and worry that I’m not paying enough attention. I worry over giving him Tylenol, because I don’t want to rely on medicine to stop his crying if he doesn’t need it. Then I worry that I’m making him needlessly suffer because I worry about giving him medicine. I worry that I’m not giving him enough stimulation, or giving him too much. I worry that I’m not letting him socialize enough with other people, and then I worry about the people he socializes with.

Recently, I’ve realized that the worry is good, but I need to rein it in. I CAN do this. Motherhood has become more than diaper changes, midnight feedings and feeding on demand. Motherhood is becoming more. Colin is growing, he’s eating solids and rolling and cutting teeth. He smiles and laughs and loves to be with his Momma and Daddy. Colin is becoming a person.

I CAN do this.

I’m smart. I’m resourceful and I’m not neurotic. I don’t always put a bib on my child when he’s eating, but so what? He slobbers and stains his clothes; it’s not the worst that can happen. Sometimes, when he’s sitting, he falls over, but he’s still alert and smiling. Colin pulled down Mark’s Playstation remote the other day and it hit him on the head. He cried for less than a minute after I picked him up, and he had a very small little bump on his head for a day. He’s still alive, and no worse for wear. He’s a little on the chubby side, but he’s a breastfed baby, the best food he can possibly have, and it shows. I love his chub, his little fat rolls. He’s my little niblet, my little prince, and I love him so much that I would do anything to ensure his survival. I would gladly push away my fear and catch a bullet for him. I would go without food so that he could eat. I would pack away all my issues so that he could have the happiest childhood I could possibly provide for him.

I trust myself. I have faith in my capabilities. I know I can be a really good Mother to my Son. I would go to the ends of the earth, fight off imaginary and real monsters just so we can hug each other every day. I would go outside of my comfort zone and stand up for him, but that, THAT is the scariest of all. Yet, I try every day. He helps me realize the courage I’ve always had.

There is so much beauty and joy and wonder in having a child. It only starts with growing them in your womb, and never ends, not even when you part from this world.

I am so, so lucky, fortunate, blessed to be his Mother.

And, Colin? My sweet little bean, I promise you that I will always give you my very best lovey. If someday, you tell me that you wish you’d never be born, I will answer, “I don’t ever wish that, because I love you so much”. When you have a game, a play, a recital, I will move mountains to be there where you can see me beaming at you with pride. I am going to ask about your homework every day that it’s not summer vacation. I will sit with you and help you with projects, and when I don’t know the answers, we’ll ask your Dad. When your Dad doesn’t have the answers, we’ll look it up on the internet. I will NEVER make fun of you when you hole yourself up in your room and play with toys, even when you’re sixteen. I never want to catch you “discovering” yourself, but if I do, we won’t talk about it, but you bet your ass that I’ll send your Dad in as reinforcement. I’m always going to leave condoms in your bedroom. I’m going to ask you where you’re going every time you leave the house, and I will call a couple of hours after to check in on you. I may not always be able to buy you what you want, but I will most often wish I could. I will help you learn the joy of earning your own money, and help you learn pride from a job well done. I will try to walk away when you want and should do something yourself, even if it nearly kills me. Most of all, I am always, always going to love you more than anything I’ve ever loved in my entire life and if you ask me to save you from anything, I will try or at least give you the tools to do it yourself baby.

That’s my promise, my word, my heart.

I trust myself because I am a good Mom.

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