Mom Stays in the Picture

She’s mean.  Sometimes, she’s super-crazy mean.  She can cut you to the quick and devastate your feelings in a heartbeat.  She can take your deepest secrets or your darkest fears and force them to swim up into the very forefront of your consciousness.  If left to her own devices, she can make you feel utterly, ruthlessly worthless.  If it were anyone else, you’d have washed your hands clean of her long ago and good riddance, too.

She’s the Little Voice Inside Your Head.  And she can be a bitch on wheels.

Maybe your Little Voice says you’re boring or ugly or strange or ungraceful.  Maybe she calls you stupid or thinks you’re too short or too tall or makes fun of your acne or thinks you have a mustache or weird boobs.

When my Little Voice gets loud, she calls me fat.

I’ve always been chubby.  I took to food as comfort at a very young age.  Childhood trauma taught me that in world that was sometimes inexplicably cruel, the constancy of chocolate’s deliciousness (for example) was incredibly soothing. Thus was born the emotional-eating monkey that would cling to my back for the rest of my life.

One of Little Voice’s favorite and most fecund stomping ground is in photographs.  How many times have I seen a picture of myself and heard Little Voice scream, “Look how fat you are!  Double chin!  Flabby arms!  Thunder thighs! You’re so groooooooooooss!!” This is probably the reason why I became such avid picture taker.  I don’t have to be in the picture if I’m the one taking it.  This has been a pattern for my entire life.  See a picture that makes Little Voice kvetch?  Just tear it up (I’m dating myself here) or delete it.  Feeling particularly large on a given day?  Avoid the camera completely.  Stand in the back.  Make sure you’re at a lower angle than the lens, don’t get shot from behind.  I know all the rules. And I adhere to them like they are commandments.

Then I had a baby.  Now I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been and things are…um…droopy in a way they never were before.  Now I’ve got perma-circles under my eyes and my hair is rarely clean, let alone brushed.  My clothes are always covered in barf.  And did I mention that I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been? Besides which, I’ve got the cutest baby in the entire world, so why bother even being in pictures when I’ve got such a beautiful subject and Little Voice doesn’t get mean about him?

And then it occurred to me.  In giving Little Voice the microphone, I am at risk of digitally deleting myself from the documentation of my son’s childhood.

LIGHTBULB!

When he looks through the pictures of this time, I want my boy to know that I was there.  I want him to look back at the pictures of his childhood and say, “There’s Mommy!” not “Where’s Mommy?” I want him to know how much time we spent together, that I took him on walks and tickled his toes and fed the ducks and read Brown Bear a hundred thousand times and sat under big beautiful trees and marveled at the beauty of autumn.  I want him to have photographic evidence of his homemade baby food, his ridiculously adorable outfits, his penchant for slobbery, double-handed face mushes.  I want him to leaf through photos of times he was too young to remember and realize that for his entire childhood, I was never far from him.  I was there, I took part, I was vitally present and involved in this very important time.

If I kowtow to Little Voice, then I risk losing all of that.  Plus, if I let Little Voice do the decision making, then I run the risk of teaching my son that a woman who could stand to lose a few isn’t worthy of attention, respect, or love.  If I don’t actively and demonstratively love myself, just as I am, then I am setting a dangerous example for him follow.  I want my son to love and respect himself, just as he is.  And I want him to love and respect women, just as they are.  I can hardly expect that of him when I don’t expect that of myself.

So, shut your face, Little Voice.  My son doesn’t care what I look like.  My son cares what I smell like.  He doesn’t care if I have a double chin, he nuzzles his face right in it.  He doesn’t think my curves are too curvy.  He thinks they make for the comfiest snuggle spot in all the land.  I think I’ll hand the mic over to him for a spell.  I could learn a thing or two.

 

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm.  Little Voice is so blind!  Look at that fucking kid!  And the look on my face says, "I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such."

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm. Little Voice is so blind! Look at that fucking kid! And the look on my face says, “I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such.”

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too.  But it was Boyo's first swim ever!  I don't want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too. But it was Boyo’s first swim ever! I don’t want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Love, Fear, and Cupcakes

LST is a middle and high school girlfriend of mine and author of this guest post.  She is a lawyer, a wife, and a mother to two adorable food allergic boys. This is the story of her difficult and brave journey into new motherhood.

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When I think about my experience of the first year of my older son’s life, I think a lot about gluten-free vegan baking.  I have always had some liberal and foodie tendencies, but vegan baking, prior to 2010, seemed a hippy-dippy, earthy-crunchy bridge too far. I was more of a fake-it-til-you-make-it, doctor up the box mix kind of girl.

Until, that is, there was the possibility that my adorable baby son might not have cake or cupcakes for his first birthday unless I made them my own self. Thus is the life of an allergy mom – specialty baking mixed with a serious dose of panic.

My oldest son was diagnosed at about eight months old with a rare allergic condition called eosinophilic esophagitis.  His life up until that point had been…well…frankly, terrifying to me.

My kiddo entered the world the rarest of the rarest of the rare. His birth involved me on a gurney with a nurse on top of me, people running, and lots of screaming, “OR, STAT!” and “We have to save your baby!” He had a prolapsed cord with a true knot in it. My friend the internet tells me that those complications happen in about .23% and about .05% of pregnancies, respectively. Either complication on its own can, and often does, kill a baby. How lucky we were to have had those nurses and doctors screaming and running. How lucky to have general anesthesia and surgery so quick they cut the side of the baby’s head on the way to get him out. How traumatic it all was! After he was born, he needed stitches while I was still out cold. Due to general anesthesia, I didn’t really meet him until he was about six hours old.

Our young son’s adventures with medicine didn’t stop after his birth. He vomited blood at 24 hours old, and again at 48 hours. He was admitted to the NICU for observation for several days, and they never really found the source of the problem. “It was probably related to his traumatic birth. He’ll probably be fine,” we were told. Then he had blood in his stool at six weeks old. No explanation. Then he was “fine.” Then he vomited blood again at about eight months old. In the meantime, he grew really well, and smiled and was very social…but he never really slept. We held him and rocked him and walked him and literally read prayers from the Book of Common Prayer over him in an effort to will him to sleep. He was a sweet, wonderful little person during the day, but he nursed all. the. time. His symptoms were so non-specific, that the only response we got from the pediatrician was, “Let him cry. It’s probably time for some sleep-training.” In the meantime, while I desperately wanted sleep, I was panicked that he was going to die and I felt that it was my responsibility to watch him every minute. I mean, in all of those months – 24 hours old, 48 hours old, 6 weeks old, eight months old – he had had blood coming from *somewhere* but no one could tell us where or, more importantly, why. I had crushing guilt that I didn’t know how to help this little person whom I had *created* and for whom I had total responsibility.

In the meantime, probably because he was immune suppressed from having to deal with the underlying allergies, he was frequently sick. He had recurrent ear infections. He had recurrent croup. I lived in fear. The Christmas season when he was six months old, I had such a hard time seeing the “beauty of the season” that I wanted to shout to that young woman on the donkey, “Mary!!! Look out! That miracle child of yours dies in 33 years! DIES!!! Guard your heart! DIES! Crucifixion! Look out!!!” Like a young mother, even thousands of years ago, could guard her heart against the future, protect against the pain of losing someone whose DNA was knit into her very brain. As though knowing the outcome lessened all the amazing days in between – and this was JESUS. I wanted to warn MARY that her baby JESUS was going to DIE. Terror wreaks havoc in the brain of the first-time mother. In my mind, I refer to the overwhelming panic I felt about my son from his birth until he was about ten months old as That Dark Time.

At eight months, after vomiting blood, he was admitted to the hospital and an upper GI endoscopy with biopsy was scheduled for the next morning. They would knock our boy out with general anesthesia and send a tiny camera down his esophagus and into the first part of his stomach, taking tissue samples as they went.

A week or so later we received the results of the test. He had eosinophilic esophagitis, also called allergic esophagitis. He was allergic to some of the food proteins that were passing through my breastmilk to him. His immune system was attacking the proteins as they went down his esophagus, and this was causing visible damage to his GI tract. No wonder he couldn’t sleep. An answer. An answer that caused the specialists to apologize to us – “This is rare.” “This is a long, slow road…but at least now you’re on the road.” – but an answer, nonetheless. We embarked on a long, complicated journey to find out which foods were causing a reaction. For a while, I avoided dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy. After he had more trouble at around ten and a half months of age, we weaned him from breastmilk to hypoallergenic formula. Through allergy testing we found out that corn, wheat (gluten), dairy (cow’s millk), eggs, sesame, beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and treenuts were probably the things causing the trouble. Once weaned to the hypoallergenic formula alone, he slept. It was like a miracle. He was still happy during the day, and now he was peaceful at night. Thank you, sweet teeny tiny baby Jesus (he who died at 33 years of age).

As it turned out, not all of my fear that something terrible would befall my tiny son had been irrational. One of his pediatric specialists or his pediatrician (I don’t remember which) told us shortly after his diagnosis, “Well, this probably doesn’t lead to cancer.” Probably. Doesn’t. Lead. To. Cancer. My son was eight months old.

Even having a diagnosis, I still felt awful. If allergies were playing a role, that also meant that genetics were playing a role. My husband and his mother have seasonal allergies. My mother and father had seasonal allergies. That meant our son had gotten “allergic genes” from both sides of his family tree. I felt like I had brought this broken person into the world, and that it was my (and my husband’s) fault he wasn’t typical, because we chose to conceive him, and we gave him our (as I saw it at that point, clearly flawed) genes.

I said something to that effect to the pediatrician once through tears as we were talking about how allergies had a genetic component: “What did we do to this child?” The pediatrician pointed out that we had also given our son some “really good [genes], too.” It took me time to see the good ways in which his genes have affected our kiddo  – now that he is funny and clever, I can see (and claim) all the good genes.  Even adorable and happy pre-verbal children can be hard to fully embrace when they don’t really sleep and everything about them makes you think that the other shoe is about to drop.

Over time, we have learned how to cook differently, bake differently, and be differently about food. And we learned, and we learned, and we learn. And our son grew and grew and grows.  Today our son is a beautiful, kind, active, silly four-year-old. He loves dinosaurs, superheroes, running/jumping/swinging, drawing, and his little brother.  He’s also grown up knowing that some foods are safe for his body, and some aren’t. He knows to ask what the “‘gredients” are before trying a food. He knows that he has special treats in the freezer of his preschool, in case someone has a birthday circle. He knows that that isn’t always a bad thing – like when your preschool has a substitute teacher one day and she gives you all four (!) special treats at once (yes!), so while all the other kids get a muffin for a snack, you get a special brownie, and a cupcake, and some fruit snacks, and a cookie. He knows that he should always wear his special allergy bracelet to remind the adults around him to check before giving him food. He knows that one simply doesn’t leave home without the Medicine Bag – containing Benadryl, Epinephrine, and an asthma rescue inhaler.  He knows that he has to drink all of his “powder milk” (hypoallergenic formula) before he can choose to drink whatever he wants with dinner (like chocolate soymilk – yum!).

The kiddo avoids foods for which he has a positive allergy test, and that seems to have done the trick. He has to have new allergy tests every so often to see if his body is able to tolerate a food it once had trouble with. Then, he can try a new food. After a few weeks on the new food, he has a new endoscopy to check for hidden damage. So far, he’s been able to add successfully into his diet wheat (gluten), sesame, milk baked into baked goods, peanuts, pork, pecan, cashew, and almond. To add in the foods in that last sentence took about two years. That sentence was hard-earned, and involved pokes, prods, a couple of rounds of general anesthesia, some frayed nerves, and countless prayers. Right now he is trying chicken. Just this last week, for the first time, we went out into the world without bringing a lunchbox. He ate a grilled chicken sandwich from Panera Bread. I almost cried. Each act of trying a food that he’s previously been told to avoid is a profoundly brave act. I can see that he has learned from the superhero stories he loves.

From his parents, to get to this healthy point it has taken many internet searches (thank you, Al Gore or whomever, for inventing the internet so that I can find safe recipes to feed my child), many special-ordered ingredients (new allergy mom, repeat after me: “Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice Flour”), several new cookbooks (I love you, Cybele Pascal), the gift of a Kitchenaid stand mixer, and a few breakdowns (“Why, God?! Why! I just want to doctor the cake mix like Rachael Ray says is delish! Why?!?!”).  Each birthday our homemade allergy-friendly cupcakes tasted better than they had the birthday before as we perfected our recipes and technique.

I wish I could go back and tell that mama of That Dark Time not to feel so scared and guilty, that it would all be okay, and that I was missing this amazing little person who had cheated death (twice!) before ever entering the world.

I probably needed therapy. Or a drink. Or a therapeutic drink.

The thing that released me most from my fear, other than time and the gift of experience, was when I asked the pediatric gastroenterologist, “Do you expect this child to grow up typically, except for this condition?” He said, “Yes.” It changed my life.

I am eternally grateful for the people that came to me during That Dark Time and held him and loved us – telling me, “You’re doing great. He’s growing. You’ll get there. You’re a great mom. You love him so much.” The people who held our hands before his early endoscopies will forever have my heart. The people who prayed for him (and still do) are my heroes.

I have two sons now – our amazing four-year-old and his baby brother. We are still in mystery, sleepless night, pre-verbal territory with baby brother. I do not know what lies in his future. I know that I am lucky that I have not been so terrified with him and that allows me to enjoy him more. We are different people each time a child enters our lives, so we are also different parents.

For the record, I recently found a woman in our city who makes cakes for people with special diets. For a price, she makes us vegan, corn-free baked goods. I love her. I can e-mail her even faster than I can doctor up a box mix.  Eat your heart out, Rachael Ray.

Here are the boys, dressed as the Supperheroes, their team for the FARE walk for Food Allergy.

Here are the boys, dressed as the Supperheroes, their team for the FARE walk for Food Allergy.

Update: Night Weaning

You know that scene in E.T. where Elliot and E.T. are out in the woods, watching to see if the Speak n’ Spell-Umbrella contraption really will phone home?  Well, when that fork starts moving across the teeth of that saw, Elliot cries out, “It’s working!  IT’S WORKING!”

That stunned, cautious elation is exactly how I felt when I woke up this morning.  The night weaning is working, y’all!  IT’S WORKING! Here’s the skinny on the last two nights:

Night 3: My gilded god of a husband sent me to bed early and said he would wait up for the 10:00 bottle since he had work to do anyway.  (Baby, your parking spot in Heaven will be a corner spot under a birdless tree and it will be home to your very own Top Gear Wet Dream Car of the Day.  You are that wonderful.)

We never go to bed before discussing The Plan for the night, so once we had determined that he would get the 10:00 bottle, I would take care of our boy when he woke at 1:00ish, then we would take turns getting up for him in the 4:00ish hour.  We also put the kybosh on the support parent coming into the baby’s room to help unless specifically asked.  We kept scaring the shit out of each other and really, there’s nothing a second set of hands can do to help in the great Battle of Shush.  So, if we needed help or a “tag out” we would just call for the other over the baby monitor.  Perfect. Plan made and agreed upon, I passed promptly the fuck out.

He woke at 1 or so (the details get fuzzy quickly) but I got him back down pretty easily.

Then from 3-4, he was up and down a hundred thousand times.  Literally every time my husband or I would walk back into our bedroom, Boyo got to wailing.  And a zero-to-sixty kind of wail, too.  Like he woke and remembered, “Oh, right.  I’m furious.”  Finally gave him 2 ounces of water and he slept until 5:30.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Somewhat embarrassingly, the night wails make me sweat something fierce and so I was soggy and wired when I came back to bed.  Plus, we’d gotten some terribly disappointing financial news that day, and as always, the middle of the night is just when the brain wants to stress out the hardest about such things.

So yesterday, I felt really terrible.  The sleep deprivation manifested itself in the form of good old fashioned blues.  I had a couple of big “O! Woe is me!” cries.  Once when I spilled my coffee and the other when Boyo took 45 minutes to settle into a nap.  But that time, I turned off the monitor in my bedroom, put in my headphones and scrubbed the holy hell out of my bathroom. But I cried the cry of “How can I just ignore my baby?  What kind of mother am I?”  The kind with a bathroom as clean as a spanked ass, as it turns out.

Night 4:  Again, gilded god husband sent me to bed early and stayed up to do work and get the last bottle.  The Plan remained the same.  Well, our precious little bundle slept until 1, woke and wailed, but settled with less than two minutes of shushing and rocking.  (I also changed his diaper.) He woke again at 4:30, but settled quickly again.  When he woke at 5:15, I felt remarkably rested.  Boyo voraciously drank his full bottle, slept another hour and half and woke happily chirping to himself.  Huzzah!

I know it’s usually when things start to go right that the ground falls out from beneath you, but I’ll deal with a sinkhole if and when I get one and not go borrow trouble.  In the meantime, I will take a moment to be thankful for my husband, high five our                 stick-to-itiveness, and be beamingly proud of my boy as he grows and learns and adapts to change like a motherfuckin’ champ!

Today, I could ride my bike over the moon.  That feeling is pretty out of this world.

Here's a look at Kingdom Come for you, Baby.  You are the very best of the best. (What does make you?  A Ferrari? A Lambo?)

Here’s a look at Kingdom Come for you, Baby. You are the very best of the best. (What does make you? A Ferrari? A Lambo? The green one?)

 

 

Parenting in Action: Night Weaning

A week after our boy was born, my husband and I took him for his first appointment with his pediatrician.  The doc walked into the room, took one look at our faces and even before he said “Hello,” he said, “Four months.  He’ll be sleeping through the night in four months.”  At the time, it was all I could do to keep from weeping with gratitude (and, let’s face it, total annihilating exhaustion.) He knew exactly what we needed to hear and he wasted no time reassuring us.  He was our hero.

He was also a liar-liar-pants-on-fire.

Boyo is fast approaching seven months old and he is nowhere near sleeping through the night.  He’s like a Swiss train:  always exactly on time.  Every three hours, on the nose, he wakes for a feeding.   After his bottle, he settles immediately back to sleep, which is very thoughtful of him, but, frankly, I’m over it.   I’m ready to get a good night’s sleep.  Or at least to have a crack at one.  I had read a little about night weaning, but I wanted to consult with a doctor first.  It took some time to find a new doc after our cross country move and then we had to wait for new insurance benefits to begin, so I had resolved to wait it out and hope that in the meantime, nature took a quick course.  (It didn’t.)

When the day of our first appointment finally arrived, the doctor, a lovely woman, asked if Boyo was sleeping through the night.  When I told her about our little Swiss train making all local stops all night long, she not only suggested that it was time to try night weaning, but she also gave me some definitive advice.

This is why I love doctors.  By reading books and researching online, you can find a hundred thousand suggestions for every minute parenting decision.  For every single one of those suggestions, however, there will be an argument against it.  It can be paralyzing.  So when a trained medical professional who has examined my particular baby suggests something, I am thrilled to have a place to start.

So, my husband and I set a goal and made a Night Weaning Plan of Action.  (Parenting decisions obviously differ from family to family.  All of our parenting plans of action are based on a combination of three things:  the advice of our pediatrician, our own parental instincts, and what works for our family as a whole.)

The Goal:

Make it from 10:00pm to 7:00am without a feeding.

The Plan:

-Acknowledge that we are in for some sleepless nights, but that we are committing to a challenging present in order to bring about a better, more restful future for all of us.

-Remember that we are changing a fundamental part of the baby’s routine and therefore to be extra patient with him if he’s a little assholian.

-Three meals of solid food a day.  Bottles in between.

-Last solid food meal at 6:45pm.

-Then bath time followed by naked time (he spent his first three weeks with diaper rash so severe, it scarred his bum. So on the recommendation of the doc, Boyo gets a period of “airing out” every day)

-Strict 7:30 bed time.

-One last bottle when he wakes around 10:00pm.

-All other wakings get a three-pronged approach:

1) A binky and a bump. (Boyo weirdly finds a series of solid thumps on the back or bum quite soothing.  He always has.)

2) If that doesn’t work, 2 ounces of water in a bottle. (In case the suckling is the soothing he wants.)

3) If neither of those will do the trick, 2 ounces of formula.  (This is the last ditch “Hail Mary” as it rather negates the point.  Plus, with the advent of teeth, we’re trying to establish good preventative oral care and that means no milk in bed.)

How It Worked

Night 1:  He Swiss-trained all night.  He woke at 1:00 (binky and a bump), 3:30 (2 ounces of water) 5:00 (2 ounces of formula.)  Slept til 7:30am.  Decided to make 5:00am the goal and give him a full bottle at that time.  A seven hour stretch seemed a more realistic goal than nine.

Night 2:   He woke every 30-45 minutes.  All.  Night. Long.  Great gobs of goose shit.  It’s like he just couldn’t settle.  Or that he was giving us the finger for messing with his routine.  Even after his 10:00pm bottle, which usually buys at least 3-4 hours, he was up just 1.5 hours later.  From 3:45-4:30am, I snuggle-slept with him on the couch when I just couldn’t get him down.  I put him down in his crib at 4:30.  He got a bottle at 5:00am and then slept until 7:30 when I heard his happy babble over the baby monitor, but was so soundly asleep, I dreamt I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion and that Garrison Keillor was having a stroke.

So, a decidedly rough night, but still, we hit the goal!!  Go us! Celebrating the small victories is part of what makes us feel successful, right?

I think I’ll celebrate with a little unconsciousness.  Wake me for his wedding.

We have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us keep track of Boyo's feedings.  This is especially helpful in the mind numbing middle of night when my husband and I take turns.

We have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us keep track of Boyo’s feedings. This helps my husband and me stay on the same page especially in the mind-numbing middle of night when we take turns tending to the babe.

Guest Post: My God, What Will People Think?

In the first of what I hope will be a growing series, my very own mother takes the helm of The Truth About Babies as guest author….

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I am honored to have been invited to write a guest post on The Truth About Babies.  The only guideline was that it had to be at least 400 words and it had to be “my truth.”  I didn’t think this topic was going to come out when I sat down to write, but apparently this truth was aching for a platform and could not be suppressed.  All of these questions and comments came up in real conversations with people I love, and these are my heartfelt answers.

 “She admits to not falling instantly in love with her child!”

True, and isn’t that beyond brave?  She gives voice to the dirty little secrets people usually hide away in deep black guilt lockers, making some already overwrought new parents even more angst ridden. Some of us were blessed with more tranquil experiences, but others have had worse.  The fresh air of candor works miracles. You go girl. 

“She chronicles in vivid detail things that most people wouldn’t even say out loud!”

True, and isn’t it about time someone did?  Admit it, fellow parents of grown children, we hoped we were raising our kids to be brave.  We hoped they would form independent opinions.  We wanted them to make a difference in the world. So far this one is batting a thousand.

“She posts her thoughts out there for just anyone to read!”

True, and isn’t social media an extraordinary blessing?  Sure, there’s a downside, but doesn’t it beat the living hell out of the isolation, the deep terrifying loneliness new parents endured in the none too distant past?  Even more importantly, if she weaves a thread of common experience to a stranger who happens on the blog (she has), if she comforts someone facing a similar situation (she has), if her extraordinary gift with words brings a smile or a laugh out loud moment to anyone reading her work (you know she has!!), she joins the ranks of people who make a difference. 

“She has such a potty mouth, and she’s talking about babies!”

True, but in a very real sense, there are no dirty words.  Words, all words, are tools of infinite power.  Spicing things up with a well-placed F- bomb creates a connection between people.  If you want to get your point across, getting someone’s attention is a really good idea.  And truth be told, she comes from a long line of swearers.

“Shouldn’t she worry that someone might call Child Protective Services?”

Hell no.  Ventilating frustration in words, especially words expressed with such passion, is a mighty deterrent to acting on those frustrations.  She may be the victim of her word-loving Irish heritage where the gypsies are concerned, but even that creates a connection between her boy and his Irish ancestors, all of whom threatened to send miscreant children to the travelers.  Desperate thoughts about taking advantage of Moses Laws or the temptation of an open window, do not child abuse make.

“Shouldn’t she worry that being so very public about her very private thoughts could come back and bite her in the ass?”

Hell no (to keep this parallel), but really hell yes. There is a small but real danger that someone sometime, a potential employer, a private school administrator, etc. could discover this public posting and use it against her.  She makes herself potentially very vulnerable.  Then again, life is risk and the only real protection against the possibility that her words could be used against her is to keep them to herself, which would negate the whole point of expressing herself.

“Shouldn’t she worry her son will be damaged by knowing these deep thoughts?”

Hell no.  Her boy happened to her.  This is her experience.  By the time the boy is of an age when he would be interested in such thoughts, he will already be the beneficiary of years of her style, her wisdom, her candor, her humor, and her truth.  He will totally get her.  He will marvel at her. He will pray that he is just like her.

“Shouldn’t she worry some people will find this blog offensive/disturbing?”

Hell no. If she were to tie someone to a tree and force them to take her thoughts into their minds, it would be deeply offensive.  Absent the use of force, people have to make their own decisions about other people’s thoughts.  Don’t like it?  Don’t read it.  Simple as that.  What would be extremely offensive is the idea that she would edit and censor herself and her very thoughts on the chance that someone might not see things the way she does.

(Disturbing could be a slightly different issue, but writing is meant to be evocative.  If readers are disturbed by this content, it might be that she has touched a nerve because she is addressing issues that seldom see the light of day, things that some folks have never thought about before and that, in essence, is why authors are compelled to write.  The “don’t like it, don’t read it theory” also applies.)

“Shouldn’t she worry about what her poor mother will think?”

Hell no. In the case of the firebrand behind The Truth About Babies, her mother thinks she is off-the-chart brilliant and could not be prouder or more supportive, but I’ll get back to you if she writes a 50 Shades of Gray type novel.

I love you, Mama!

I love you, Mama!

 

A Call to Arms (Even the flabby ones!)

Wanna feel really terrible about yourself as a mother?  Make a decision.  Any decision will do.  There will be someone, some “expert,” some busybody, some article, some link, some tweet, some Anonymous comment, some neighbor, some friend, some family member, some part of your own self who will pack your bags and send you on a guilt-trip.

There seems no end to the list of forces that conspire to make sure we feel like the utter-failure-waste-of-flesh-shit-for-brains parents. From the almighty spanking-hand of Religion to the subtle, insidious raised eyebrow of the Total Stranger, to the Little Voice inside our heads that just won’t shutthefuckup, there hardly seems a safe haven from the “woulda-coulda-shouldas.”

Which begs the question, why aren’t we acting as one another’s safe havens?  Why are mothers writing articles entitled, “Homemade baby food Is best.  Sorry, busy parents, but it’s true.”   I mean, what is that?  A simple, “Why I Choose to Make My Baby’s Food” would make all the same points and cut down on the risk of guilt-tripping some frazzled mother who tortures herself every time she opens a jar of baby food.

It’s bad enough to feel judged by a faceless mom-snob, let alone having to endure the virtual stinkeye from a Facebook “friend.”  Friends of mine (and brand spankin’ new parents) just went through the hell of beloved pets not taking kindly to baby.  When they took to Facebook to put the word out they were looking for a good home for their fur-babies (heartbreaking!) someone had the audacity to admonish them for “abandoning” their pets when they became “inconvenient.”  I thought my head would explode.  I don’t normally throw in my two unsolicited cents into any Facebook arguement, but these days, I find myself pretty ready to spring to the defense of any new parent who is subjected to anything other than, “What can I do to help?”

Ladies (and gentledaddies,) why the hell are we judging one another on our parenting choices?  We are grown adults, not middle school bullies.  Do we really still have to tear down others’ choices in order to feel better about our own?  Your love for your Family Bed can just be that…love.  It’s doesn’t have to come with any nastiness towards folks who don’t co-sleep.  Be proud that you’ve Zumba-ed your way back to your pre pregnancy body, but don’t judge the upper arms of a mother who decided on different priorities.   So, breastfeeding is the best option for you and your child? Don’t lose sight of that fact that every time you “breast is best” another woman, you may pressing on her bruised sense of worth.  Excited that a strict “Cry-it-Out” policy helped your baby learn to self soothe? Well, the mother who just can’t handle the cries of her baby need not dampen your excitement.  Relieved you decided to get your tubes tied after having just one?  Well, that mother of five you just threw shade at might be just as relieved that her kids don’t have to grow up without siblings.

Let’s cut this bullshit guilt tripping, y’all.  There are a hundred thousand ways to raise a successful, healthy, vibrant, contributing member of the human race.  Let’s don’t try to pretend that we have it all figured out.  I mean, who the hell are we kidding?  We’re all just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.  Let’s raise each other up. Let’s celebrate the bravery it sometimes takes to make the choice that’s right for our families.  Let’s congratulate and support, be available and open minded, let’s ask questions and answer honestly, let’s root for each other and hold our breath for each other and wish upon stars for each other and pray for and with one another.  Let’s HELP each other.  Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and the respect we KNOW we all deserve.  Let’s be grateful that we get to raise our children exactly the way we want and need.  Let’s be kind.

And then, let’s have a drink.

 

You are a super hero. Don't doubt it.

You are a super hero. Don’t doubt it.

 

Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face

When I was in sixth grade, my English teacher assigned a poetry project.  We had to type out and illustrate six poems by an author of our choice.  Then we had to write and illustrate six originals poems of our own.  I chose Jack Prelutsky, because even though Shel Silverstein showed us Where the Sidewalk Ends, Jack Prelutsky gave us The New Kid on the Block and with it, the National Anthem for the United Kidhood of Students: Homework! Oh Homework!  My hero.  Anyhow, Jack Prelutsky wrote a poem called Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face.  The first two stanzas (are they stanzas? Been a long time since sixth grade) go like this:

Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.

Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.

When, for whatever reason, it takes effort to turn away from what’s got me down and be grateful for all my many blessings, these words still run through my head.  So it’s no surprise that I had Mr. Prelutsky whispering in my ear yesterday because yesterday was a “Sandwiched in between your toes” kind of day.  It started out wonky and just slowly unraveled all day until I was cleaning up a poop-bomb diaper and my boy kicked me in the tits.  Both heels, both tits.  I came undone.  I dove face first into Ugly Cry.  No, dove is too graceful a description.  I belly-flopped into Ugly Cry.  I mean U-G-L-Y, you ain’t go no alibi, you ugly.

But today is a new day.  I slept pretty well and my boy woke up in a grand mood.  Today, I am glad my nose is on my face.  And to counteract all the “woe is me”ing I did yesterday, I’ve been reciting, out loud, a list of things I am grateful for today.  Here are a few:

1. My husband.  I am grateful for my husband for many, many reasons, but today, I am grateful that when he came to learn of my day, he poured me a giant glass of wine and when I finished it he said, “Now go have a cry in the shower.”  He so totally gets me.

2.  My mother.  I am also very grateful for my mother for many reasons, but today I am grateful for her because there has never been a better “in the shit” listener than my mother.  I can call her at the nadir of an emotional tailspin and rail, I mean holler my guts out, and she just lets me.  She never takes anything I say in those moments personally and she knows that I just need to lance the boil of frustration.  She so totally gets me.

3.  Facebook.  Say what you will about the dark side of FB, but I will forever be grateful for Facebook firstly because it reconnected me with the childhood friend who is now my husband and secondly because it keeps me connected to a network of friends in varying degrees of closeness, most of whom who love me, support me, are interested in me and in knowing about my life.  Facebook helped me reach out to MPU, LRH, and KDU, girlfriends I haven’t seen since high school, but who answered my S.O.S. when my boy was first born and have been rooting for me ever since.  I am especially grateful for FB these days because I have yet to build or join a community since we moved to Florida.  My entire support system is long distance.  Facebook helps make that work.

4.  Amazon certified frustration-free packaging.  As I’ve mentioned before, I get wrapper-rage something fierce and I just love that Amazon understands that and helps me not throw away the thing I just bought because I can’t get it open.

5.  Southern hospitality.  Friendly strangers help ease the sting of loneliness.  I may not have local friends yet, but the ladies who work the deli counter at the grocery store (I call them the Deli Dames) always seem so happy to see me.  It helps.  Maybe it’s weird that it helps, but it does!

6. That my boy has turned a corner.  At five months, Boyo was a different baby.  At six months, he’s a peach.  Enjoying spending time with my son is an answered prayer six months in the making.  As my girlfriend KUD says, “God made seven to nine month old babies as a reward for making it that far.”

7. That my nose is on my face.  I have a wonderful life, really.  I have love, friendship, health, a beautiful home that I am proud of, a family that understands me, a sharp mind and a clever tongue, and a sun that always rises on a new, better day.

Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Prelutsky.  And for Homework! Oh, Homework!  It’s my favorite.

 

 

Somedays are like that.  Even in Australia.