What it’s really like, here on the other side of maybe

My friend* Randi Buckley is a coach who has been doing some amazing work with a program she calls Maybe Baby, for women who aren't sure they want to become mothers but are afraid they might regret it if they don't. Her program is designed to help you sort out your conflicting feelings and come to peace with whatever decision you make. She wrote a piece last Friday that just knocked me out, called "Afraid of whom you might become–in motherhood."

In that piece (which you should click through and read) Randi talks about how many of the women she's worked with in Maybe Baby have been afraid of who they'd become when they were mothers. And how all the platitudes of "It's a love like you can't imagine" just didn't help.

I was so struck reading her piece, because we've spent almost seven years here (seven, people!) talking about revisioning ourselves/picking up the pieces/crying through it/becoming more badass after becoming parents. I honestly haven't thought about pre-baby fears about who I'd be since before I had a baby, 10+ years ago, because I've been too busy playing–and helping you all play–the hand we're dealt.

But reading her piece, I got this vivid picture of what it could look like here on this side for people on the other side.Tired, worn out, cranky. No energy for anything creative. Endless posts about potty training and T ball, pictures of first days of school and Halloween costumes. Not sexy, not confident. Not doing anything but react to whatever bodily-fluid-covered problem you step in right then. Bored. Settling.

Keeping your hair dry and styled instead of diving under and swimming to the other side of the pool.

That's not even remotely how I feel about who I am now that I'm a mother, though, and I think it might be useful to think about how this whole truly strange experience can affect you by separating out the experience from who you are. I think of it in terms of 1) the conditions you experience, 2) the state you're in at any given time, and 3) who you are.

The conditions you experience range from fantastically wonderful to brutally disgusting. You will have a sweet little baby sleeping on your chest. You will be the first person to see another human being smile. You will be pooped on and puked on. You will be sleep-deprived for months or years. You will doubt yourself to your very core. You will experience soul-crushing weakness and euphoric strength. All that crap about "a love you've never imagined" and "your heart walking around outside your body" is about the conditions you experience.

While you're going through those conditions you'll be in a state of being. Everything from serene beauty to terror to exhaustion to resentment to adoration. You''ll be the woman pumping on the couch at 3 am feeling like nothing but a milk-making machine. You'll be the flabby unhappy person who wonders what you do with your days. You'll be the strong ecstatic person who helps her kid ride a bicycle.

In other words, becoming and being a parent is like any other intense experience. There are extreme highs and extreme lows and those are going to shape who you are.

The experiences themselves are not who you are. Your state of being while you have the experiences are not who you are. They form who you are, but they aren't you.

So I'd suggest the following questions to think about:

Are you ok with having the experiences of parenting in the first place? (And I don't mean do you WANT to have the experiences of parenting, because who wants a poopsplosion, really.) Because if you aren't even willing to have those experiences in the first place, that is very important to know (and completely valid) and you don't have to go any further.

When you have had intense experiences in the past, have you been happy with the ways you've changed as a result of going through those experiences?

Do you feel like going through something intense has made you stronger, or has weakened you?

Is there anything about the experience of parenting that is different from other intense experiences you'd had that you think could make you change in a different way through parenting?

Are you willing to play the long con? Because the changes in who you are don't always show themselves for what they really are until your children are out of toddlerhood, at least.

 

And now I'm going to ask for some data points. I'll start: I am stronger, more resiliant, more confident, better at making decisions, more patient, more compassionate, more empathic, more focused, more light-hearted, more loving, and I have released fear in a way I never thought I'd be able to. I've been a parent for 10 years, so I've had time to see these changes. (If you'd asked me 8 years ago the list would have been shorter.)

Readers? What do you have to say about who you've become as a result of becoming a parent?

 

 

* We met at summer camp in 1987! Seriously. The same summer camp my older son went to this summer. And then ran into each other again a few years ago on FB, and got to hug each other in person at that camp again this summer. Crazy, no?

Paralympic Fever: Catch It!

Did you all know the Paralympics are going on right now? And they're all being live-streamed on the internet so we all get to watch them without being subjected to Bob Costas and his own special Olympics event (foot in mouth).

It's all right here at paralympic.org

Today we have Archery, Track Cycling, Equestrian, Goalball, Judo, Powerlifting, Shooting, Sitting Volleyball, Swimming, Table Tennis, and Wheelchair Basketball.

Tomorrow I'll be watching Football 5-a-side, which is basically blind soccer but with 5 players per side. Hardcore. (Saturday is Football 7-a-side, which is soccer for people with Cerebral Palsy. I did not even know this existed but now I'm rearranging my schedule to make sure I can watch.)

Who else is watching the Paralympics?

Also:

1. I was on a work trip, and got to train staff at a couple of schools to use DimensionU, the multiplayer math video game. Some of those people were elderly nuns. They were excellent, and one of them told me she was going to practice the game all weekend. Awesome.

2. My favorite non-nun-related aspects of this specific client is that I get to stay with one of my SBFs from college and her family. I spent too much time holding my friend's baby and talking with her hilarious husband and not enough time on the internet, so I'm behind on Ask Moxie questions. I'll try to get one up for tomorrow, but everything I thought I'd do this week is probably going to happen next week now.

Q&A: Nakedness in front of the group

S writes:

"I walked into daycare during snack time. All the children were sitting
at tables and it was pretty quiet. The teacher promptly updated me on
how good my daughter was was then said “come on, let's change your pants before
you go". Then instead of lifting my 25lb 2yo onto the changing table the
teacher squatted down on a stool and pulled my kids pants down with her
butt facing all those kids eating. My daughter just looked at me kind of
funny. I redirected the situation by asking her if she wanted to try
the potty before putting the diaper back on. She shook her head yes and
I took her into the bathroom and then finish, leaving the teacher to
take care of the other children. I was very surprised at the act and
plan on discussing with the manager of the daycare but am I being too
harsh?? When do children develop modesty?? I remember being this young,
not a whole lot but the stuff that was emotional to me."

Most kids seem to develop modesty later than 2 years old, but I don't think that that means that it's ok to just pulll down a kid's pants in front of the whole class. It's completely possible that your daugher was embarrassed or just felt like something was wrong. And, even if she didn't, this is sending the message that her body is fine for display.

I think of this the same way I think of forcing kids to kiss people: It might not be uncomfortable for the kid at any one instance, but you're' sending the kid the message that their body is subject to what other people want. That they don't have the right to control who sees or touches them, or who they're forced to touch. Even if you don't mean it, you're telling your child that their own personal boundaries are not worth enforcing.

So, yes, please say something to the teacher. Who I hope just wasn't thinking, but should be more sensitive about what we're teaching kids about their bodies. And good for you for standing up for your girl and her body and her right to her body.

When did your kids start to notice modesty about their bodies?

For kicks

It all started when I mentioned that I might want to start getting into soccer, and my friend Sara started sending me links from Kickette of half-naked male soccer players (Tim Howard at the top of the list). And then I started actually watching soccer on tv, and watched a zillion UEFA games. And then I got Olympics fever and watched every women's game that was aired here in the US. I mentioned that to my friend Wendy, who told me if I liked soccer so much why didn't I join a recreational league?

I read that and my eyes kind of blurred and I got a cramp in my chest. You see, I've never played soccer. And I've never played a team sport. (I don't think JV tennis in 1988 counts much. I only did it to have a sport for college applications, and I was playing singles so it wasn't very teamlike, and the only match I ever won the whole season was when my opponent didn't show up.) And I grew up thinking I was uncoordinated and unathletic. Team sports were for people not like me.

But if there's one thing I've learrned since having kids it's that if something makes you feel that scared, you need to look at it and push into it. So I found a league that said it accepted beginners. And I emailed the registrar and asked, "Do you REALLY want beginners? I have never once played soccer, and the only things I have to offer are enthusiasm and a willingness to run around the field until I puke." Shockingly, they said yes, so I signed up. 

[Editor's note: I've watched enough soccer to sort of know what's going on, but since I've never
played it before I thought I should do a little research. I typed in
"How to play soccer" and got this list of 6 steps. My favorite is Step 4, which tells me how to head the ball.]

I told my parents, who were shocked but supportive. I told my ex (I needed to clear the nights I'm playing for him to take the kids) and I am sure there is nothing I could have told him that would have shocked him more, but he was cautiously encouraging. My friend Jen and her daughters came over for dinner and I told them. Jen was all, "Go you!" and her 9-year-old A, who had just come off her first season of playing soccer in the spring, gave me tips for choosing gear. The next morning I went and bought shin guards, socks, and cleats, and wore them around the house for the rest of the day.

The first game was last Wednesday evening.

Jen's girls were over for a playdate on Wednesday afternoon, so I asked A if she had any advice for my first game that night. She told me, "Soccer is kind of scary and kind of fun!" Then I asked her what she thought I should remember when I was on the field, and she said, "If you see the ball and you think you should run away, instead you should go toward it! Pretend you're a cheetah and the ball is a bull and you want to catch it so you can eat it!"

So I drove to the field and got my shirts and almost immediately one of the other women confessed to me that she'd never played before. Yes! We could be beginners together. But then it kind of didn't matter because the whole gang of women, some of whom knew each other but most of whom didn't, seemed to use consensus to decide who played what position and who would sub in and out when and who should do what. Honestly, I haven't experienced this kind of spontaneous interrelated harmony since I was in undergrad at Bryn Mawr. And now I'm wondering if this is what I was missing all those years by not playing a team sport.

But anyway, I played left midfield for the first half, and three of the women on my team near me coached me through it, and then at the half I switched to right mid, and three different women coached me. And I ran almost the whole time (OMG you get to just run flat out like a little kid! The joy!) and they kept telling me that whenever I touched the ball I was doing well. And I was mesmerized by the rhythm of the game, how you just respond respond respond to what happens and you're out on the field in the cool of the evening and nothing else in the world exists but the ball and your legs running and the women yelling out encouragement to each other.

[Editor's note: Yes, my foot is still sprained. But if I was going to play soccer, I had to just play soccer.]

The next time I saw A she asked me if I used her advice when I played. "I sure did–I was a cheetah going after a bull when I went after the ball," I told her. "I knew you would," she replied. Then we discovered that her team shirt from last spring and my team shirt are both purple.

I'm on a work trip next week, but the week after that I'll be back on the field running around for 90 minutes for the ball.

 

What’s the deal with 7-year-olds?

I was thinking of writing this post, called "What's the deal with 7-year-olds?" (subtitle: "Who ARE these people??") but then thought I should try to figure out if it was just mine, or if other people are experiencing the same frustration.

Let's put aside the fact that for years you all have been saying "Seven-year-olds are so frustrating!!" but my older one was totally fine at age 7 so I just didn't get what you mean. I get it now. Boy, do I get it.

And it makes so much sense that 7 is a rough age, because we already went through the crappy developmental leaps-slash-sleep-regressions at 4 months, 9 months, 18 months, then that massive personality implosion of 3 1/2 years. So if we double that we get to 7 years. (And then 14 sucks, too, if you will recall your own life. I felt out of sorts at age 21. And 28, too, come to think of it.)

So it makes sense. But, also, I'm tired of it.

So I went to see if our friends Louise Bates Ames and France Ilg from the Gesell Child Study Institute had written a book on 7-year-olds. Their "Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy?" book saved my sanity twice, but I hadn't read past that one.

So I went to Amazon to see what the book for seven-year-olds looks like. (It turns out that Ilg wasn't on this project, but Carol Chase Haber was.) I was not disappointed: Your Seven-Year-Old: Life in a Minor Key

Well, yes. Here's the blurb about the book:

"Your Seven-Year-Old is devoted to the delightful but often
anxious and withdrawn child of Seven. Although any seven-year-old will
have moments of exuberance, security, and happiness, in general this is
an age of introspection. As it begins, parents and teachers may welcome
the quiet after the tussles and tangles of Six. But once the child of
Seven starts to withdraw it’s almost as though he doesn't know where or
when to stop. Seven-year-olds feel picked on by family, friends, and
teachers alike; they worry that no one likes them; they expect every
little task to prove too difficult to handle; tears come easily at this
age.
 
With wit and wisdom, Dr. Ames of the highly respected
Gesell Institute and Carol Chase Haber offer insights into what children
this age are feeling and thinking, and how parents can best deal with
these moody, serious Sevens."

Yes! Moody moody moody. Easily set off. Dramatic, as if every little slight is a deep wound to the soul.

I ordered the book, but am almost afraid to read it when it gets here, lest it confirm that this is really happening. Still, knowing is half the battle, so I'll read it.

Who's got a beef with a seven-year-old? Who's all cocky because they had an easy seven-year-old like my first one was? Who remembers being seven? Someone tell me it's not just my house, please.

 

* Good news! The internet tells me the name of the book about 8-year-olds is subtitled "Lively and Outgoing." That's hopeful. Nine more months.

 

Q&A: Weaning a 1-year-old

Megan writes:

"My daughter is 1 year old now and I'm ready to wean her from breastfeeding.
She only nurses at night. I've managed to wean her from day time nursing
by just laying her down in her crib and letting her cry herself to
sleep. Problem is, I've recently moved into an apartment and I don't
feel that I can let her cry herself to sleep at night for fear of
disturbing the neighbors. It's not that big of a deal when she first
goes down for the night, I let her cry part of the time then, but when
she wakes up during the night she won't put herself back to sleep, she
wants me to nurse her back to sleep. She's to the point where she's
waking up almost every 1-2 hours and my boobs can't take much more of
this, she digs her little teeth in. The other thing that compounds the
problem is that we now share a bedroom so she knows I'm right there and
will scream and cry until I come nurse her. I've thought of trying to
make my breasts unpleasant to her, but I'm not sure what I could use. I
joked about tobasco sauce. Help! My boobs are killing me! Oh and I
think she's waking up so much partially due to teething. I give her
Advil and Orajel before bed, but that doesn't seem to cut it anymore."

Problems I vaguely remember but am so so glad I don't have anymore for $1000, Alex.

First, let me say that there's a sleep regression at 13 months, so it's possible that your daughter is in the middle of that, and if she is you'll have better success if you wait a few weeks until the sleep regression passes. Or it could be teething, too, and there's not much to do about that until the teeth come in.

It seems to me that you have two problems:

1. Your daughter wants to nurse in the middle of the night and you're ready to stop.

2. She cries when she can't nurse in the middle of the night and you don't want her to cry.

To attack the first problem, instead of putting Tabasco sauce on your breasts (which made me cringe and laugh at the same time), why not try drying up your milk? All kinds of things will dry up your milk when you don't want them to (like red wine, mint, stress, etc.), but if you're trying to specifically, I'd go with sage tea and/or old-school Sudafed containing pseudoephidrine. Beware, though, that if you go with the Sudafed, it dries you up all over, so you may feel like a desert and you'll need to drink extra water while you're taking them. So maybe you want to try sage tea first. Buy sage (fresh or dried) at the store and then just brew it with boiling water. Yes, it tastes like the dressing you eat with turkey at Thanksgiving, but whatever if it works to dry up your milk.

Now, for the second problem, can you give her something else that will comfort her when she wakes up? A bottle of water? A pacifier? Anything that will comfort her back to sleep while keeping your boobs out of the loop is fair game.

I would also, in support of the other plans, talk to her during the day about how your breasts don't have milk anymore, but if she wakes up she can have [whatever substitute you give her]. A lot of talking about it and rehearsing verbally during the day will help her have the right tapes playing in her head to stay calm and accept the substitute in the middle of the night.

Who's night-weaned recently and has some tips or words of support for Megan?

 

(I was going to link to Dr. Jay Gordon's nightweaning method, but his whole site seems to be down. Not sure what's up with that. So this message board has summarized his method. It sounds like Megan is already doing basically this whole thing without success, though.)

Ew, lice

Last week on the post talking about getting your confidence back after something knocks you down, Tine posted that she just found lice in her child's hair.

I do not cry very often. But a few things have made me cry during my parenting career, and one of them is lice. I think I may have cried every day for a week the last time we got lice.

At any rate, Jamie from Light and Momentary told me she's found The Treatment for lice, which consists of Cetaphil. Yes, it seems too easy, but people, Jamie has five (5) children and a PhD, so I'm ready to take her word for it. Here's the post she wrote with instructions for the Cetaphil lice treatment: Lose Your Head Lice Without Losing Your Mind.

I asked her if it was true that you really only do the treatment once a week, and expressed skepticism. She assured me that I was reading correctly.

Here are the original instructions for the Nuovo Cetaphil lice treatment, and the article in Pediatrics about it.

If it really works, it might combat what felt like the biggest problem last time we had lice, which was that it felt like the kids were passing them back and forth between my place and their dad's place. Last time we had lice we were still in NYC and I did more of a modified version of this treatment, but the beginning step was getting both my boys' hair buzzed all the way down. (For my own hair, I just used a blow dryer on my head twice a day so hot it hurt enough that I knew I'd killed any lice or nits. I can't really recommend it for common sense and scalp health, but it did keep me lice-free.)

This Cetaphil once-a-week thing sounds fantastic. I, however, hope not to have the occasion to try it. Who's got lice and can try it and report back in?

No.

Today we were going to talk about getting rid of lice, but instead we're going to talk about rape.

I'm sure by now all of you are experiencing the same anger in reading about Missouri Senator Todd Akin's unforgivably cruel comment that when a woman is the victim of a "legitimate rape" her body won't allow her to become pregnant. (This is shockingly similar to VP candidate Paul Ryan's terminology "forcible rape.")

When the story first broke, it seemed laughable, that anyone could be so uneducated in 2012.

So women told stories, on blogs and FB and Twitter, of what had happened to them. Horrible, horrific stories, of things that had happened to women like us, women like you and me. Not just women *like* you and me, but women who are some of you. I know way too many of you have been raped. And some of you had the chance to say no, even to yell, but some of you were too little or too passed out or too scared or too confused to say no. And someone raped you anyway.

I am so deeply sorry. And so glad that you're still here. And sorry that you're carrying that with you.

As the Akin story unfolded, however, it became apparent that he does know medical facts. He's just using words to try to change them. "Legitimate" rape doesn't mean anything except that Todd Akin wants to decide for himself if you have the right to your own body, or if it's completely fine that someone raped you. 

I am going to ask you to click over to read what my friend Kelly told her teenage daughter about rape, and why rape is rape and not "sexual assault." Why renaming it doesn't make it not rape.

Make no mistake: This isn't about Todd Akin, or Paul Ryan, "misspeaking." This is about attempting to change the language so that he controls the dialogue and we are disenfranchised. We, all of us, women of all parties and religious thoughts and ways of speaking, our children, and the men who love us.

And make no mistake: If you vote into office someone who attempts to use words to make something ugly and brutal into something benign and harmless, you are selling yourself out. You are selling your children out. You are selling out me and the people who read this website. You are telling men who rape that it's ok.

Think, hard, about what you want for yourself and other women. And then fight back, hard, for everyone who said no or couldn't, and still was raped.

 

Snap out of it

I have been feeling overlooked lately. Overlooked and underutilized, as if I am not invited to the party, and it's making me feel small and petulant and uncool.

And then I hurt my foot.

To back up, I will tell you that just over a year ago I started running with my older son. I wrote about it here, about how we started doing Couch to 5K.I kept running all winter and joined the rec center near me to run on the track, and I've done a few 5Ks by myself this year. Along with the weight I've lost, running has helped me feel healthy and strong. It has changed the way I feel about getting older. It is something I can do, and I feel good about doing it, and working at it, and not quitting. (I almost wish I could have another baby so I could experience labor and delivery now that I've learned how to keep going even when I don't want to.)

In this post I figured out that another reason I need to run is that running is the only time I let myself feel raw, painful emotions these days. It's also a safety valve. When I do start to feel bad–rejected, angry, less than, even just unsettled–I go for a run and I get the exercise and challenge but I also get that physical stimulation of the raw place (what I'm beginning to think is the key for us tension increasers) in safety, so the feelings don't tip me over.

I have been stuck at 5K, but decided to spend this fall training up to 10K, and to run a 10K at the end of October. Last Wednesday I ran 4 miles and felt really good about it, except that my heel and toe felt a little weird when I was done. And then later that night they, and the rest of my foot connecting them, were killing me. On Thursday I decided to skip Friday's run to rest. And then by Sunday morning I realized I'd re-sprained the same foot I'd sprained in December 2010, and was going to need to give it another week plus a lot of fish oil and ibuprofen.

So I'm feeling at a loss, and I don't have my coping technique. (I've been swimming, too, but swimming doesn't hit my emotional center the way running does. T-Tapp keeps me energized and sleeping well. Pilates is fun. But they're not running.) And the "oh, poor me"ness I've been feeling about this is making me even more annoyed.

How do I get the patience to let myself heal, when I'm short on patience in the first place and that's why I need to run?

I feel a lot like Veruca Salt right now. Maybe with a side of super-dramatic Anne Shirley.

Who wants to tell me to snap out of it?