Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hopes and dreams, June 2011 edition

In June 2011 wrote several pages of thoughts about my life, both where I was and where I wanted to be. I used to do this kind of spontaneous journaling regularly, but regrettably fell out of the habit sometime in the middle of college.

Here's the first entry from June 16, 2011 (please excuse the many fragments, poor grammar, and generally unpolished nature of the segment):

What would I wish for recklessly? What do I want my life to look like in two years?

A baby. A house. Fruit trees. Bees. Blackberries. Raspberries. Strawberries. All-year round garden. Chickens. Gas stove. Cargo bike. Herb garden. Colored walls. Me as a photographer. Flowers. Sewing. Root cellar. Canning. Reading. Bridge playing. Loving.

I haven't written anything about Neil. Why is that? I think because when I'm wishing, I'm wishing for what I don't have. And what I don't have is a strong sense of physical place and home with my creative life flourishing out of it. And that's what I wish for. My vision includes Neil as a stabilizing force and constant presence, but not as an object of my wishes.

I love that I gave myself two years--that was smart. (And I'll probably need to tack on at least one more to get it all done.) I've made good progress toward achieving this vision. I wrote this shortly after we arrived in Austin. At the time, I felt like I was floundering. I remember feeling so lost. I'll let my former self describe how I felt (written on June 30, 2011):

I feel... lethargic. Apathetic. Directionless. What's a better word for it? Lacking purpose. Why is it that purpose is so closely tied to income in our society? I want to escape from that model of thinking, but I can't. Or won't. I feel pulled back to it. Like it has some magnetic force. I think it's the force of my own judgements. Looking down on people who weren't supporting themselves. I have it ingrained in me that supporting myself equals being successful. Not being rich, just not having to ask for help. How very American of me.

I want my purpose to be raising children and feeding my family. I love the dedication of Deborah Madison's Local Flavors cookbook: "For Michael and Diane, for quitting your day jobs to grow good food, gorgeous flowers, and great girls."

That's what I want people to say about me. That's what I want my life to be like. Right now I feel stuck on the first clause. In limbo. I see where I want to be but I can't get there yet... This is just a season.  Right?

I love looking back because it provides a unique lens to view the present and the future.  I love my life right now, I truly do.  Becoming a mother has been both challenging and rewarding in expected and unexpected ways.  Some aspects of parenting an infant feel incredibly isolating, but other parts have parenting opened me up to life in a new way--a better way.

I feel more determined now than ever to live the life I want, which in many ways, is outlined above. I am still working through figuring out exactly where I want to be in one, two, five, or twenty years from now, but the vision I described more than a year ago still rings true. The need to take those ideas from words on a page to reality has taken on a special urgency since HP's arrival. The life and home we are creating will be the foundation of his childhood.

And apparently it's going to require a lot of berries.  Better get started!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Advice to my future pregnant self

On Sunday we had a reunion with the other two couples from our birth class. One of the little girls is two weeks and a day older than HP, the other little girl is two weeks and a day younger.

We all shared our birth stories and how we were adjusting to life as parents. The experience allowed me an opportunity to reflect on what I loved about HP's birth and what I would change.

There are so many things I loved about HP's birth. I loved being at my own home. I loved how calm everyone in the room was, even when it was taking longer than expected. I loved not having to travel to the hospital or birth center while in labor. I love that when I walk into our bedroom with HP I get to tell him (or think to myself), "You were born here in this room!" I loved how the experience made our house our home in a new way.

Even while acknowledging all of the beautiful aspects of his birth, there are still things I will do differently next time. So future pregnant self (I'm sure we will have a second child, even if Neil is not yet convinced), here's what you should do differently next time:

(1) Wait to push. Yes, I know that you are tired of being in labor and you just want to get it over with, but starting to push before your body has the urge to push may result in three hours of pushing. Not fun.

(2) Don't get checked early in your labor. You may think that you want to know, but when you find out that you're close to complete at midnight, think you're almost done, and then end up being in labor for another ten hours? It's hard to cope. It's better not to know so you don't have false expectations about how much longer it will be.

(3) Take the time to find the right personality fit with a midwife. We chose our midwife in large part because she was so experienced (she's attended more than 2000 births!), she was in our neighborhood, and there was a chance our insurance would be accepted (it was!). There were three midwives who attended our births and all of our appointments, the primary midwife and two assistants. Personality-wise we clicked best with the assistant midwives.  I don't want to make it sound as though we had a bad experience with our midwife, because that is not the case, but I do think that finding the right person to deliver your child is about more than experience, convenience, and finances. There's something intangible about finding the person who fits best with your family and it is worth the extra time it takes to find it.

(4) Most importantly, trust your instincts and your body. This advice will be easier to follow since you've been through the experience once. If you want to push in a certain position?  Don't let anyone tell you not to.  If you want to tense up during a contraction instead of relaxing? Do it. And tell everyone who tells you to relax to back the heck off. (I was cursing so much in my head at every person who told me to relax. All I wanted to do was not relax for one contraction--just one--but as soon as I would start to tense up everyone told me not to. In retrospect I should of just said what I was thinking instead of bottling it up. And yes, I do know it's better to relax then to tense up, but at the time I just didn't care.) Of course you should listen to your midwives and the advice they give, but in the end, it's your body and your labor. Be assertive in what you do and don't want.

(5) You may not think so at the time, but in the end, it's all worth it.

HP at two days old.  Photo by Jennifer Borget Photography

Monday, October 22, 2012

Solo Parenting and Goals Revisited

This week is going to be emotionally and mentally challenging for me.  Henry will be out of the house for HP's bedtime four out of the five nights.  Having him share parenting duties with me for the last one to two hours of HP's day is key to maintaining my sanity.  He's usually home by 4:30, at which point I am ready to hand our child over, start cooking dinner, and swap stories about our days.  Rehashing the day of an almost four-month old in great detail may not be very interesting, but Henry patiently listens as he entertains our son and then regales me with stories from the adult world.  I don't mind being on my own once a week (which is the norm for us), but four times?  I think it may push my parenting/coping abilities to their limit.

Of course the week Henry has to work late is also the week that HP gets his four-month shots.  Not only will I be exhausted from parenting solo most of the week, but at the end of said week, I will likely have a tried, fussy baby on my hands.  He won't be the only tired, fussy member of our household either... I think by week's end we'll all have legitimate claims on those adjectives.

I welcome all positive thoughts and words of encouragement.

Last week was my first attempt at intentionally accomplishing bigger projects (and by bigger I mean small projects that have been hanging over my head for weeks and weeks without getting done).  Here's a quick recap of how I did on my weekly goals.  

Tasks completed:
  • Catch up on uploading pictures to HP's shutterfly site.
  • Sign up for the meet-up group for moms in my neighborhood.
  • Create a meal plan and corresponding grocery list for next week.
  • Write at least one more blog post.
  • Finish thank-you notes.

Tasks still left to do:
  • Organize HP's latest pictures into folders by date.
  • Back-up HP's pictures onto the external hard drive.

I feel good about what I did accomplish.  I can't believe I had been putting off some things, like signing up for the moms' group--it took less than five minutes!  We were also able to cross off a few house projects (like flushing the hot water heater, knocking down wasps' nests, and getting the grass out of the cracks in the driveway), which always feels good.

In light of Henry's work schedule for the week, my main goal will be to make it through the week in one piece.  If I can find the time, I'd like to finish the two incomplete tasks above and start working on organizing the file cabinet.  I have a feeling that project will take more than one week, which is fine.  Slowly, slowly...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Taking a Break

This morning I woke up and read this article by Erica at NW Edible Life and it renewed my desire to make the hours of each day count.  My favorite line is,
"[T]ime is a currency that doesn't pay dividends.  You spend your hour and it's gone.  Please spend your hours on the things you love and cherish and value."
I don't need to fill my days with more activities and productivity (though I am working on that as well), but with more meaning.  I want to spending less time on Facebook and more time walking through the park with HP, less time reading blogs that don't inspire me and more time getting lost in books, less time checking my email and more time laying on the floor playing with my son.

In an effort to not be inspired and then fall back into my regular habits, I'm going to take a Facebook break for the rest of the month.  I periodically find myself needing to take a step back from the social media behemoth to reassess how I use it.  Lately I've been going to the site out of habit, with no real purpose in mind, and leaving feeling less fulfilled than before I went.  I want it to be a tool to connect to friends, not a black hole into which precious hours of my life disappear.

Social media is a tricky beast.  It's a never-ending balancing act to use it in a way that adds joy to my life without wasting my time.  Hopefully these two weeks will allow me to reset my habits and relegate Facebook (and mindless blog browsing) to its proper place in my life.

Because who wouldn't want to spend more time making memories with this child than staring at a screen?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Savoring each stage

Two nights ago I read this article by Devon Corneal in the Huffington Post about how as parents we so often celebrate the firsts, but we never know when the last times are happening. My favorite quote is:
I'm not naïve enough to believe that this moment of reflection will stop me from becoming irritated, impatient, frustrated, bored or upset tomorrow when my son whines, spills spaghetti sauce on the rug or throws a fit because I won't let him stay up late. Maybe, though, I'll temper my response if I can remember how fleeting this all is. That for every moment I've prayed would end, there is something I miss.
HP and I have been having some serious napping struggles these last few weeks. I'm at a loss for what to do, which leaves my approach lacking in consistently. I have a new plan to try every day, and each one is a flop.  

On Sunday Neil tried putting HP down for each nap instead of me nursing him to sleep. That plan was a big, fat fail. The child is stubborn. By the end of the day I decided to just let it all go. Yes, he nurses to sleep right now. I'm sure that statement horrifies some who think he shouldn't be addicted to a "sleep prop."

I don't care.

He's just so little. Of course I don't want to create "bad habits," but I feel like I have been so worried about not creating those habits that I'm no longer effectively meeting his needs. The child no longer takes a pacifier (I can count on one hand the number of times he's actually taken it, and I don't even need to use all my fingers) and he needs to suck to calm himself down. So nursing it is.

I keep reminding myself that this is just a phase and will be gone before I know it. He's not always going to want to cuddle in my arms and nurse to sleep. He's not always going to refuse to nap longer than thirty minutes no matter how many ways I try to soothe him back to sleep. Both the things that I most enjoy and the things that frustrate me most about this stage will come to an end and we'll be facing a fresh batch of joys and challenges.  

What I loved most about Corneal's piece is that it wasn't overly sentimental. Of course we all want to take the time to be present with our children and enjoy each stage to the fullest, but that's easier said than done when the reality of parenting is staring you in the face. She sums it up nicely when she says, "Raising children isn't all warm snuggles and charming memories. Parenting can be a long, hard slog."  
I continually go back and forth between telling myself that "this is just a phase" so I can get through the day and telling myself that "this is just a phase" to make sure I soak it all in.

The night after I read that article I thought, "Yes, I really should savor those middle of the night feeds when I get to cuddle with him in the quiet of the night; they won't last forever." That night he woke up four times. Four.  

Maybe I don't need quite that much savoring.