Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finding Gratitude through Love Juices from Heaven

I'd be telling you the truth if I said I absolutely love life right now. I love my job, my marriage, my cute little home, my kids, and being here with them every day.

But I'd be lying to you if I said I am always cheerful, smiley, and constantly singing praises of happiness and gratitude. 

This is not going to turn into one of those posts where I list everything challenging about being both a SAHM and a WAHM.  (Does anyone else read those words as "Sam/Wam"? I amuses me.) 

But this is going to turn into an anecdotal little post about what happened last night and what I learned from it. on if you wish. :)

Well, Mr. Pippin is 7 months now and is an absolute JOY most of the time; like 97% of the time. However, he's also teething. So when that mixes with tiredness, it's another story. Bla bla bla, nothing new, right? What baby doesn't get crabby when he or she is tired/teething? Anyone? Anyone? Oh...your child?

....We are no longer friends.

Just kidding. 

With all seriousness, his crabbiness usually doesn't bother me. Out of all the living creatures in my household, I seem to have the most patience for the baby. He is just so cute. My husband thinks it's crazy that I don't get annoyed, but I think it must be all the love hormones flowing through me every time Pippin nurses. (What, it's SCIENCE.)

Well, last night those love hormones were not runneth over when he woke up around 10:30pm, ready to play. He was completely exhausted (because...duh, 10:30 is for SLEEP not PLAY, young child). 

First, I tried getting him back to sleep. But he wasn't having it.

So I left the comfy bed, baby in tow, and went back out to the living room. I decided to let him play it out, and then he'd go back to sleep in an hour or so.

Well, it ended up being two hours (which is fine, whatever, I'm already over it). I had waited till he was exhausted...he was ready to just conk out when we hit the bed.

But, as soon as we laid back down in our bed, he got goofy. No conking out was happening like I'd planned. #fail.

I tried to cuddle, nurse him to sleep, the usual routine. He was just SO EXCITED to be back in his bed, though! Like, kick his little legs, whip his binky around, happy!

I put him on my chest and figured he would eventually fall asleep. Sometimes that's all he needs. But alas, no such luck. This is because Pippin has found a new game/torture session where he likes to dive-bomb into me (my chest, my arms, my lips...whatever is in front of his head, really...) when I'm already holding him. Then he snuggles for 2.3 seconds, lifts, and repeats. 

So imagine this baby repeatedly bonking you, all while being so cute, quiet, and content as could be. Sounds adorable, right? 

Yes and no. Depending on who you're asking. I was SO exhausted and tired by this point and was ready to sleep. But there he was, flopping around in my arms, dive-bombing into my chest.

The love juices from Heaven must have started flowing right around then, because nothing else explains the patience, love, and peace I began to feel suddenly. Instead of feeling frustrated at losing now over two hours of sleep, I felt so content. 

I realized that I am SO blessed and lucky and proud to be this little stinker's mom. I love him so incredibly much, and his amazing smile and goofy behavior are enough to smooth things over. He is my priority, and he is the best priority I could've asked for. Instead of sleeping, there he was in my arms, sort-of crawling around, and I could feel his little heartbeat and hear his whispers. (He has recently started whispering.) Everything was okay and beautiful. It will probably make it into my Top 10 Best Moments of 2014. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Birth Story of Peregrin Marcus

This is the story of how our third child came into the world. He arrived on Monday, May 5th, 2014...just a few days shy of his due date on the 8th.

PS: This is a long, somewhat detailed/slightly graphic-ish birth story. We all know where babies come from, and where they come out, so you've been warned! No, don't worry - it's nothing THAT bad, but I wrote this mostly for myself, so read if you want!  

The Saturday before, I started to feel a little crampy. Nothing significant, just slightly annoying. It would come and go. I also had an increase of mucus/fluid/discharge - whatever you want to call it. I got excited - but nothing was pink. I knew the increase meant something could happen that night, or not till next year, so on Sunday I texted my midwife just to let her know about it.

Monday brought the same things, as well as a unique mental state that, looking back, should have been a sign that something was going on. They say women feel depressed and "over it" near the end, and that is exactly how my brain was all day. Emotionally I had been fine up until then. It wasn't even the pregnancy I was down about or "over" - so it was just weird for me! I had my weekly visit with my amazing chiropractor in the morning, and we joked that the next time I came in, the baby would be born! (We said this every week though. Haha.)

Ian came home from work at his usual time, and we all ate dinner before he left 20 minutes later for his second job. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I took my crochet outside and worked on my blanket while the kids played. My sister and I had been playing phone tag during the afternoon, but my cell was almost out of minutes. I was bummed I couldn't call her. (Woh woh.) But the sunshine felt good so I looked on the bright side.
My in-laws dropped in for a quick visit, and as they left about 15 minutes later at 5:00pm, I started cleaning up the backyard. The kids had opened up all our seed packets earlier that day (no cukes this year, kids!), and the pieces of paper were annoying me. As I picked them up one by one, I felt warm fluid come out. At first I was like, "Oh that was a lot of mucus..." but then it kept coming. I straightened up and felt it just steadily pouring out! Oh water broke!
I quickly made my way to the bathroom and expected it to gush out and be over in five minutes. With both previous births, my water broke right as the babies were born in the pools, so this was completely new for me. I had no idea that my water would continue to come out...and out...and not just be over in one gush!
Finally about 15 minutes later, I got the "leaking" controlled and made my way to the phone to call Ian. He and I never communicate via cell phones anymore, but I made him carry his as my due date got closer. So when he saw I was calling, he must've known. His voice was so excited as he answered.
"Hey, um, you need to come home!" I said happily.
"Oh yeah?"
"Yeah! My water broke...and it's still going!"
He was like, "Okay I'm leaving right now." 
Then I called Jen, our midwife, and told her the news. We decided that I would be in touch and talk to her again once contractions started. She said they could start any minute or not for another six hours, so I wanted to just play things by ear.
I finally made my way back outside to the kids and had them come inside. I was ecstatic. I couldn't stay calm or focused. I wanted to do every little thing to get ready for the baby. But first things first: I had to get the kids settled and fed and bathed. They were grubby little messes from playing outside all day! So I put them in the tub. Then I made the premature decision to tell Malley that her sister, Siena, was arriving soon. I also made the over-zealous promise that Malley could stay up until she was born. (I know, I know...)
So they bathed, and I went into insane nesting mode. The bathroom looked spotless. My room became tidied. Ian came home just as the kids were finishing up their bath. He greeted me with a big kiss and said, "Cinco de Baby!" I had no idea when she would be coming, but he'd been saying all along it would be the 5th! I couldn't stop smiling or saying, "I'm so excited! I can't believe she'll be coming soon!"
A little backstory: I had insisted this pregnancy to find out the gender of the baby, so at 19 weeks back in December, we visited our friend who's an OB and he gave us an ultrasound revealing: it's a girl! Siena Martine was the name we picked, and we called her that the next five months.
While I got the kids out of the bath and into fresh clothes, Ian filled up the pool.

We put on a movie for the kids, and Ian made us all dinner. Around that time, I notified my mom and sister, Marie, who would be there at the birth. Just said we'd keep them posted when things started picking up. Finnegan just loved having this big, empty, fun, fishy pool in our dining room. He got a few of his toys and went to play in it. Who needs a movie for entertainment when you have THIS?

I took a shower, put on fresh clothes, continued to deal with my water breaking, and couldn't believe how much softer/squishier my belly felt without all that water in there! I kept poking it. Ian and I continued to go crazy intense and clean the house. It's amazing how much you can get done when you've got a new houseguest arriving. ;)
It was 7:30, and still there were no signs of contractions. Baby was still moving around in there, and every now and then, I'd get a Braxton-Hicks. Malley was one extremely tired little girl when bedtime arrived, so despite my earlier promises, we explained she had to go to bed because we just didn't know when Siena would arrive. I told her my body hadn't started helping the baby move down yet. I told her when Siena started to come, we would go and wake her up.
So for the last time, Ian and I brought both the kids to bed upstairs together. We only do that every once and a while, and it just seemed perfect and somewhat ceremonial to do it together. The kids gave my belly kisses for the last time ever. It was so sweet.

I checked in with Jen and told her nothing was happening - just regular Braxton-Hicks. I then called my sister. She works really early shifts and I knew she would normally be going to bed soon on any other night. So we decided that she would come over now before she got too tired. She was afraid that if she fell asleep and I called her in the middle of the night, she would sleep right through the call.

So around 8:30pm, Ian got us bowls of ice cream, and I sat on my exercise ball while we watched Arrested Development. It was fun, just chilling, and waiting. We didn't know what to expect for the night, so we just did our usual routine. Ian looked at the clock and was like, "Cinco de Baby?" I shook my head, "I really don't think so...but that's okay. May 6th is still a good birthday!"

But around 8:45pm, I felt the first contraction. It was really strong. And sudden. I immediately had to block everything out and breathe through it. Ian looked at me when it was done and asked, "Should I shut this off?" I nodded. No more Arrested Development for us that night.
A few minutes later, Marie arrived. I stood up to say hi and felt the second contraction come on. The kids were still awake at this time, and after yet another contraction passed, I went upstairs to give them hugs and kisses so they would relax and fall asleep. Malley was too funny as she said, "I can't believe Siena's not coming yet...she is a stinker." And then she said, in her matter of fact way, "I mean, what if she's a boy!"
Back story: for some crazy reason, we had decided to warn her now and then during the pregnancy that the ultrasound might have been wrong and that Siena might really be a boy. The reason we did this is because Malley wanted a baby girl more than anything in the world. Like, more than anything in the world. No amount of Princess Sofia or purses full of jewelry or orange tic-tacs competed with this one wish. Malley was one of the reasons we found out the gender (well, okay, I had 90% say just because I wanted to know myself, but it was also nice to be able to tell Malley what to expect). So when she said this right before going to bed, I laughed and said, "Oh don't worry, she's a girl..."
I had prepped myself some remedies, Mag Phos 6x and Arnica 200c, and had started sipping them around every contraction. We had been loosely timing them at 5 mins apart, but at 9:00 we noticed I had actually had three in the last ten minutes. So I was like, "We need to call Jen." So I texted both her and my mom to come over right now...these bad boys were already intense.
Ian called Jen a few minutes later to make sure she got the message, which she hadn't!, so she headed out right away. She lives about 90 minutes away, so I was glad she was getting on the road.

10 minutes later, my mom pulled in. I was sitting, listening to my hypnobirthing track on my iPod, trying to focus in between the strong surges. My mom sat with Ian and I in the living room for a few minutes, and I found myself having to sit not-so-lady-like on the chair because the surges were so low.

Marie had started filling up the birth pool around that time. We hadn't been able to find out adapter for the sink faucet, so she stood there in the kitchen holding the hose so the tub could fill up. I needed to stand then - sitting was not working anymore. But standing also made the surges stronger - I had to take the ear plugs out...I couldn't really focus on my tracks. I quick bopped into the bathroom, hoping to pee in between surges, and I ended up dealing with two of them on my own. The cool thing was I saw pink tinged stuff - yay for dilation!
When I opened the door, Ian saw the look on my face: yet another one was starting, and he came right to me. We hugged during that one, and when it was done we looked at each other like, "Holy crap..." we were both really surprised by how quickly they were happening.

It was apparent the birth pool needed to be filled up more quickly than we thought. Ian started helping by using pots and pans in the tub. When a surge would come, he'd be right by my side, and then he'd go back to quickly filling up the pool. But after a few minutes, I told him, "Ian - have my mom or Marie do that...I need you here." The next two surges were insane - I had to slide my foot away from the other during the last one - it was so crazy low. I also had to make a little noise during it. I realized suddenly: this baby was coming down.
Ian noticed the change and was like, "What do you need, baby?"
I remember time almost stopping just then. "Malley." I said firmly. "Tell them to go get Malley - I need to push."
It was 9:45pm. I faintly remember Ian calling to Mom and Marie. The water stopped, and as Ian helped me into the pool, Marie ran upstairs to wake Malley, then Mom called Jen on the phone. There was a pause in the labor...the warm water felt so amazing, but it was just barely covering my belly. We had just enough to do this! I settled on my knees in the pool and heard Marie try to wake Malley. She came downstairs saying Malley was just out cold - and even after trying again, we accepted that she was in a nice little sleep cycle and this baby wasn't waiting!
I remember telling my mom, "My phone's going to run out of minutes - my cell won't work" so she called Jen on another line. She was very calm as she explained to Jen I was in the pool, ready to push. Jen asked if I wanted her on speaker or if we would call her back. I was not in the talking mood - I was barely in the thinking mood. I waved my hand and was like, "I can't talk...we'll call her back." So after receiving some instructions from Jen, my mom hung up and got down next to the pool with us.

It hadn't occurred to me that we might be doing this "unassisted", without our midwife there. A couple times during the pregnancy, I had asked Ian if he would consider having one. Even though both previous births had been very straightforward, Ian really insisted on having Jen there, because heaven forbid, anything should happen...he just felt so much better having our knowledgeable, trusted midwife there too. So that night, when it was clear we were doing this solo, I was blown away by the way Ian just stepped right up to the plate without any nervousness, hesitation, or worry. He was right next to me, holding my hand and ready. We waited a few moments together, and then it was time to push.

I've read about women saying their bodies took over during birth. With both previous births, I felt like I had some "control" or "say" during this part of the labor. I now know what those women meant though. This time, my body did just take over. Pushing was so powerful, fast, and really strong...and crazy painful. I was pretty loud! When it hurt, everyone knew because I told them. When I felt the head coming down, everyone knew because I told them! Ian was seriously amazing. He was so excited but also very calm, helping me with his words, guiding me through it all, and telling me to breathe down. Apparently, and this makes me laugh looking back, he says I snapped, "I KNOW!" at him when he told me to breathe down. In my mind, I was just agreeing with him - but the experience was so intense, it must have sounded like I was mad at him. Nothing was further from the truth - hearing his words being the ones to help me through this meant the world to me, but I guess the appreciation didn't come out as the most prominent emotion during the experience. :P
With only a couple pushes (that were really INSANE), the head came out. I felt the baby's soft hair and face. Ian was hugging me and also feeling the baby right along with me. There is seriously nothing in the world that can explain that feeling...after months and months of knowing the baby is there, and feeling the baby move inside of you, to finally FEEL the baby beneath your finger tips just is overwhelming...I literally was crying and laughing at the same time.

There was just enough water in the pool for my lower half to be submerged, so I was very careful to remain underneath now that the head was out. It was so cool and strange to feel the head moving a little bit outside of me, and there was a few seconds of pausing before I felt another contraction coming. Ian was so excited and encouraging - and we were so ready to see the baby! It took everything I had to push the baby out, but then the baby was just OUT! I saw the whole body in the water, and despite the excitement and happiness, my Mom had instructions for us to check for the cord first before pulling the baby out of the water. And thankfully we did; even though it wasn't tight at all, the cord was around the neck. So we simply slipped it over the baby's head, and I pulled the baby out into my arms!

We were so happy! It was an amazing moment. The skin was covered in the white, slippery vernix, but I hugged and kissed the baby anyways. But we noticed that the baby was very calm, very quiet. I felt a tinge of worry as I looked at my mom. "She's not really moving..." I said.

"Just talk to her, put her in the water, rub her belly," my mom encouraged. So we did, somewhat quickly and vigorously. I was rubbing her belly when I moved my hand and looked down at her private region - just to make sure...she know, a girl.

Well, guess what.

It was a boy!!!

I was SHOCKED! We couldn't believe it! We had been calling this little baby a GIRL for months! We all laughed and were like, "What!?" I think the extra excitement jarred our movements a bit more, and within seconds, the baby was moving and acting a little annoyed that I was poking him. HIM.

He started to cry. It was so sad and precious.

It was 9:52...and our little son was here!

The next half hour flew by. I stayed in the pool, and we let the baby relax in the water. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck, so I didn't really want to move anywhere just yet. When Jen arrived around 10:30 or so, she immediately jumped in and helped me finish birthing the placenta. Then with Ian, they cut the cord. I was a shaky mess while the wonderful women helped me onto the couch, but with blankets and the baby on my chest, I soon calmed down. Marie kept giving me my remedies to sip, which seemed to help a lot with the overall shock of birth.

My little guy latched on so quickly and nursed that night while he made the sweetest, funniest noises. His face was a little "bruised" from the quick-ness of the birth, but the rest of his body was bright pink and perfect. 

For a while, we all enjoyed the bliss. We still couldn't believe he was a boy, but honestly looking back, we quickly got over it as we started thinking of a name. This actually only took us a few minutes. It's so can spend days, weeks, months, thinking of a possible name. But when push comes to shove, it's not hypothetical anymore! 

Peregrin Marcus.That's what we chose. 

Peregrin: because it was my first choice this pregnancy before we "found out" it was a girl. It's a saint and a Lord of the Rings it's pretty much perfect.

Marcus: because Ian had been rooting for it because of Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Cicero (stoics...can you tell my husband's a philosopher?) and Marcus Mumford. I would've been Mark had I been a boy all those years ago, and St. Mark is just cool. So again, perfect.

He weighed 10lbs, 6oz, and was 22 inches long. 

Oh yeah! And he had bright blonde/reddish hair! Our little Pippin...the heartbreaker already! ;)

Jen and Marie were fantastic and cleaned up the pool. Then everyone texted pictures and the news to our family. We debated waking Malley up so she could meet her brother, but we eventually decided not to. We had no idea how she'd handle the news, and we didn't want her upset that it was a boy. So after a little longer of just enjoying the baby, everyone went home and it was time for us to sleep. 

What were the kids' reactions when they woke up? 

Well, Malley woke up around 3am and called down, "Did Siena start to come yet?" So Ian went upstairs and told her she could see him since I was awake nursing on the couch anyway. He pre-warned her while they were still upstairs together that Siena was actually a boy. I braced myself for her reaction as she came downstairs toward the couch, but she was beyond adorable. She immediately wanted to hold him, so she got to snuggle with him on the couch, smiling her sweet sleepy smile, and kissing him. She decided on her own to go back to bed very quickly after only a few minutes, and promised us she'd see us in the morning to hold him again.

Ian and I were like, "Woah, what just happened..."


The next morning, Ian was the first one awake with us, so we enjoyed some quiet time before the kids got up. We heard Finn at the top of the stairs, so Ian brought him over to us. He was so shy when he saw Peregrin and I on the couch. He smiled so cutely and eventually wanted to hold him. 

A little while later, Malley woke up and wanted to hold him immediately. So we let her and talked about the night before. She wasn't upset at all that she had slept through the birth - I think all that mattered was that she held him.

I, as the mom, have been given the rare privilege of holding him when it's time to nurse, or when he gets too fussy for Malley to handle, but holding him is the first thing she wants to do in the morning when she wakes up - sometimes she even passes up breakfast if it means getting to snuggle. She is such a little mother to him...they take naps on the couch together and she comforts him when he cries. Finn has caught on and tells him, "I know, baby...I know..." when he's sad. He also says, "It's okay, little guy..."

 The cuteness!!!

Recovery this time has been noticeably more difficult than both previous births combined. There was a lot of limping around the house, bra-less, for that first week. The second week has been much, much better. I still need to take it easy; I definitely notice pain coming back if I try to do too much. Ian literally did everything that first week for us (except nurse or hold the baby...the latter we blame Malley for :P), and I truly believe that's why I'm able to move this week! It was a godsend having him home on vacation. I couldn't have done anything without him and the meals our families brought. I cried a bit the morning he went back to work. 

Now, at 16 days old, Peregrin is still so perfect. SO cuddly and sweet and yells like crazy during a diaper change. I never heard a baby actually say "Waa" before this. Sometimes he cries "Maa" -- and my heart breaks. I still can't get over his hair, which is still a beautiful strawberry blonde. (Naysayers who insist he will only have blonde hair can go stand in the back of the line. No free cars for you.) I can't get past his funny faces or noises in his sleep. I LOVE how he smells. I could smell him all day. 

SO there you have it. If you made it to the end, good for you. Here is a bonus picture of my handsome, sweet little man! 

I'm just so glad to be his mom...he is such a blessing! 

Our first time baby-wearing a couple days ago. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Where I've been, what I've been doing, pictures, and other shtuf!

Hello, my very advanced readers! How are you all?

It's a gorgeously warm April afternoon, and I had an itch to update with a small post. It has been a few months so I know you're all just dying to know some details! Well, here's the deal: I'll update you about my life, and you leave a comment updating me about yours. It's only fair!

Life has been so busy! With Little Olive at 4.5 and Little Huck at 2.5, they're growing older and more independent every day, but that also means more bandaids and snacks for their non-stop activity. I'm almost 37 weeks pregnant with Baby Number 3, and it's definitely starting to feel like the end! We're so excited to have a new baby in the house again, and the pregnancy has been really fun because Olive and Huck are so into the size, name, and other details of the baby. At our midwife appointments, she lets them find the heartbeat all by themselves with the doppler and includes them in measuring and taking my blood pressure. It's beyond precious!

Little Olive also picks up on the experienced hands of our midwife and takes it upon herself to press very strongly all over my belly, trying to determine the position of the baby.

As much as she's interested, she's also terrified of seeing the umbilical cord get cut when the baby's born. She hates all things blood! We tell her she can look away for that part, so I think she'll be okay! Olive tells me she does not want to be a midwife, a mom, or anything like that when she grows up. She simply wants to have orange tic-tacs, jewelry, and gum.

Live the life, darling!

Yes yes, we are planning another homebirth/waterbirth in our home. Every night before I fall asleep, I practice hypnobirthing. I really recommend this book and the tracks that come with it for every single pregnant lady out there. I just listen to my favorite on my ipod every night and sometimes even fall asleep before it finishes. They really helped when Huck was born, so I'm looking forward to the relief they bring when I birth the new baby in a few weeks!

And ladies, once you learn the techniques, they can even help ease cramps each month! Win win!

I'm starting to slow down a little more now that the end is nearing, so I notice I'm more tired and quiet than usual. Sometimes I get excited when plans get cancelled so that we can just stay home and relax.

Is that awful?

I don't think so! ;) It means my body and mind is telling me to make room and time for the baby who will soon be arriving!
That being said, I couldn't be more grateful for the flexibility of my position within Radiantly You. I literally can choose whether or not to work if my family or Baby Belly is pulling me elsewhere. I've been learning better lessons in time management and efficiency so that the time I DO put into my business really produces results instead of me just taking a shot in the dark.

I am proud to say that my team has grown to over 100 Independent Wellness Guides, and not only have I promoted to the Founder status, but two wonderful, amazing leaders on my team have also reached that level.

Zig Ziglar knew what he was talking about when he said, "You can get everything you want in life if you just help enough people get what they want."

I'm truly seeing the joy and fulfillment of helping other motivated individuals get what they want with this company. And I can do it without ever having to get a baby sitter or leave my home.

Perfect for a WAHM who's also 9 months pregnant! ;)

Oh hang on...Braxton-Hicks coming on...

Okay I'm back!

Seriously, if I can do Radiantly You, anyone can. It's not how much time you have, it's what you do with that time. It all just comes down to being motivated and having faith. Don't let fear of anything hold you back...your mind only has room for either fear or faith. What's it going to be?

Not my actual phone!
Another thing going on in my life that is pretty "dramatic" is that I gave up my smartphone a couple weeks ago. I'm not bragging here because, trust me, this was not my original idea. It was my Handsome Stallion of a Husband's idea almost a year ago that resulted in many discussions about the topic.

"Sometimes, even plates fly." -Our Cute Pope

I soon realized that the health hazards of a cell phone really cannot be ignored once you start looking into them. I am not judging anyone who still uses theirs. I totally get the convenience, ease, and downright FUN of a fancy phone! But I was up to my eye balls in denial for a very, very long time. I am currently in denial about plastic tupperware and plates/bowls. I close my ears when I hear people talking about it. Handsome Husband is not in denial though and comes home from the thrift store regularly with wooden plates that smell like attics. We are currently airing many of them out so that our food doesn't taste like moth balls.

Anyways again, when Hubby told me he wanted me to consider getting rid of my fancy-ish phone, I pouted. But I also knew he was right. He smartly didn't bring it up again, and I had time to think about it on my own. Without any other prompting, I sold my phone online and replaced it with a very simple cell phone. Flip, no camera, not even the ability to change the volume during a call! (At least I haven't found the ancient method of this device to do so.)

We got a landline instead so that we can talk for long periods of time without roasting our brains. I use my cell mostly for texting now and keep it away from my body when not in use.

I feel content with this decision and do not miss my old phone as much as I thought I would. So hey, if you don't feel like you NEED yours, try going with something simpler! If you do feel like you need yours, I just encourage you to do a little digging into the radiation levels of your model and see how you can be a safer, especially if you have little kids around.

And that, my friends, is all I've got for you today! My next post will probably be the baby's birth story, so stay tuned for that!

I'm excited. Life has been so good and I know it's just going to get even more amazing with each passing day.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Pause of Parenting

Let me start off this post with a huge disclaimer that my Handsome Stallion of a Husband and I are by no means parenting experts. We only have two kids, and the oldest just turned four, so I know we don't have all the answers. That being said, I have a blog title hinting at the opposite, so I have a reputation to maintain.'s so hard being perfect.

Please don't yell at me. That was sarcasm.

At the same time, I'm home with the kids every day, all day. If I measure my parenting just based on years, I'm an amateur. But if we're going by days... we're over 1,460, and that sounds like a lot. Because it kind of is a lot of time to be around the same two children. Every single day I try my hardest to be better than the day before, and to try to be that parent I want to be. It's not always easy; it is so hard to break old habits even if you never planned on having them to begin with.

But my husband and I have learned a skill that is too good to not share. The name of this skill is, what I call, "The Pause."

The name is not original, and I first heard about it when reading "Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman, where she describes French parents who stand back and pause before rushing to their fussing newborn. The French believe that babies have sleeping cycles, and sometimes a fuss means the babies are just transitioning from one cycle to the next. The French think that parents who rush in and scoop up the baby at every single peep disrupt the baby's ability to self-sooth and become a patient, independent little person.

To be honest, I have never had the chance to try this with a newborn. Little Huck was well beyond the newborn stage when I read that book. But I'm due with my third baby in May, and, between you and me, I cannot imagine standing by and watching her fuss for several minutes when I could easily pacify her with a snuggle or some boobies.

But the idea behind "The Pause" is smart. Maybe parents do too much too soon, and maybe they get in the way of what the child needs to accomplish on his or her own.

I have a confession: I used to love self-help books. Parenting, marriage, self-improvement - whatever the topic, I could read all day. Psychology and human interaction fascinate me. But I have to admit that my desire to read such books came to a contented little halt after reading "Connection Parenting" by Pam Leo. I've written a whole blog post about this book before, so I won't go into it deeply here. But what I will say is that it found a comfy spot in my heart and filled a void I never realized I had (until right now, as I type this paragraph). Her wisdom applies to all relationships: self, marriage, and parenting. I can put my feet up now and say good-bye to all the other books!

Ta-ta, darling!

One thing Pam Leo makes very clear is that parents do not have to fix everything. I know you might be quick to say that you don't try to fix everything, but how many times have you said, "Oh you're fine, it's nothing, you're okay, shh, don't cry, here let's do this instead, it's not that bad, that's nothing to cry about, let's sing a song, let's read a book, look - a chocolate, hey do you want to see me stick out my ears and tongue at the same time?" All those things are what adults say when trying to fix a problem. Instead of going through this list of dismissing, distracting tricks each time our children are upset, all we really have to do is be there and connect with them while they learn the skills to deal with their feelings that arise from the upsetting situations. 

Totally watch this video and then come back.

We often act like children do not deserve respect. After all, they're children and they should know their place. And I'm not saying that they never act a little ridiculous and seem to need a firm reminder, but what if most of the time it's not the children who need disciplining, but instead it's us?

What if parents are the ones who need to be taught how to behave? What if parents are the ones who need to realize that their children are human beings and deserve respect and understanding, just as adults expect it from each other?

"But kids are crazy. Parents need to teach them how to behave."

I totally get it, and our tactics might seem like we're teaching them how to behave. But actually, they're not. They're our attempts at stopping a behavior - not teaching the right one.

Young children have very strong emotions. Trust me, you haven't seen a dramatic four-year-old until you've seen Little Olive completely lose her cool when she has the tiniest, smallest, not-even-bleeding-boo-boo. It could be a leftover pink mark on her skin from when she was painting earlier - you'd think the world was ending. When my husband and I simply try to move her hand out of the way for one second to inspect the damage, she exclaims desperately, "JUST GET ME A BAND-AID!"

Little kids have very strong emotions because 1) they haven't learned how to otherwise express them and 2) because they haven't learned to hide them.

Yeah, think about it. In the eyes of most people, having strong emotions is seen as unstable. "Omg, she's emotional" automatically means "Omg she has problems." So when we see a young child expressing and displaying strong emotions, adults tend to jump to the conclusion that there is a major problem needing to be fixed. NOW.

Little children are easy to control., I can't believe I just typed that. No, they're not. Anyone who's ever been around a toddler for more than three seconds knows they're not easy at all to control. What I mean is that adults behave as if it's their right/duty/life's passion to control little children. Control their words, their emotions, their behavior, etc.

Honestly, the only person you have control over is yourself. It doesn't matter if you're a permissive parent or a rod and staff parent: control is always out of reach. Sure, it might appear to be happening for a little while, and for the wrong reasons, but eventually someone's going to snap. The more that parents try to control their children, the more they teach their children to behave in a way that gives the parent the impression of control.

It goes along with a very important truth I am trying to instil in my kids to protect them from predators: "You cannot force someone to do something they don't want to do." Sure, I could sit my four-year-old down and explain to her about our private parts and how she should never allow anyone to touch them or make her touch theirs, and I fight with this daily because then I risk putting scary images into her mind at this age. Or, I could just try my very best to instil in her the value of basic respect - both of herself and of others. You cannot force someone to do something they don't want to do. I tell my kids they have to respect each other, they have to be gentle with each other, that it's not okay to cry to get what they want when the other sibling isn't doing something the right way, that manipulation and bribing is not okay, or that physical force is not okay. Even during diaper changes and nose wipes, and unwelcomed kisses from that relative who's insisting on a kiss, it's a fine line to walk to condition a child to hold still while something is being done that's uncomfortable for them.

This makes me shudder.

Instead, I want to have that connection with and respect for my children where their emotions are validated, even if those emotions don't change my mind or the outcome. In the end, I'm the parent, and what I say goes. But that doesn't mean I don't have ears or a brain that can stop and listen first. I know for a fact that when children (and let's face it, anyone at any age), are given the opportunity to connect and express their emotions freely,  they are emotionally healthier than those who have been taught that certain emotions should not be shown.

Children whose feelings are dismissed learn from an early age that their feelings are not important and/or not good.

Children who are constantly distracted when upset about something learn that 1) their feelings cannot be dealt with and that, ultimately, 2) life cannot be dealt with.

Children having a tantrum or crying over something we see as trivial makes adults feel uncomfortable. That doesn't always mean the child needs to stop so that the adult can go back to feeling comfortable. It actually means the adult needs to ask him or herself why it's uncomfortable. Yes, I know, if the child is screaming at an ear-piercing pitch, that is physically uncomfortable and hurts the ear drums and everything. That's not what I mean though. I'm talking about a child being upset at any level. Why are adults not able to deal with it but then expect the children to do so at the drop of a hat?

My husband and I try very hard to do "the pause" when one of our children is upset about something. That doesn't mean we stand in the doorway and say, "Deal with it, kid. Figure out your emotions." No. We go to them, hug them, hold their hand, dry their eyes, and sometimes we repeat what's going on. "I know you're so sad that you can't have chocolate milk right now. I want chocolate milk too."

From the naive eye, this looks like we're coddling them. I respectfully disagree. What people need to realize is that this is not always done with a sugary voice and perfect gracefulness. Sometimes it's done with our own real-life emotions. But we're learning that it's possible to be frustrated and calm at the same time. Showing our frustration is not the same as yelling or losing it. We can still be there for the kids without being scary on one extreme or fake on the other. Understanding and connection is not coddling. Let me repeat that in pretty colors:

Understanding and connection is not coddling.
Would you believe that most times, our kids are sad for a few more moments, and then move on? Like, completely move on. Little Olive is able to talk about it later and explain exactly what happened and why the solution didn't end up as she wanted. Sometimes though, depending on the situation, they keep crying for longer than a few moments. But we usually just try to keep doing what we're doing. It might take more explaining, sometimes it takes a bigger hug, but eventually, they move on.

No bribing, no shaming, no shushing, no offering of candy, another food, a movie, a toy, a distraction. Just "This is it, you are okay and safe, and I'm right here."

Children are so smart and capable. We have to step back and trust them sometimes. That doesn't mean disengaging. It just means being there for them while they figure it out. It's hard! Trust me, I don't always do it the way I'd like. But it's amazing what happens when parents apply the discipline they need for themselves. It's not always the children who need it.

Like I said, I'm not a parenting expert. But I'm trying hard to teach my children what they should do when something upsetting comes. Telling them what not to do is not exactly what parenting is about. Discipline means to teach. And since kids model everything, showing them what to do is how they learn. 

I would highly suggest trying the pause whenever you think of it. Your kids might surprise you with their response, and you just might surprise yourself too!