Thursday, May 30, 2013

Peaceful Moment

When I imagine peace, little boy
there are doves and white fluffy clouds
I see a woman
not me
smiling slowly
moving slowly
living slowly
Waves crash rhythmically against a beach
I've never been to

When I imagine peace, little boy
the moment is in an active
Someone is enjoying
a refreshing beverage
their limbs are tan and toned
Not a care in the world.

But tonight, as I hold you
the washer is chaotically
tossing clothes
the fake rushing water of the noise machine
covers up the sounds
of John Mayer

You are in my arms, eyes closed
finally snoring
I smell your head, like I do thousands of times
in between activities in our day
your busy arms are slowing down as you drift off.
I hold you tightly.

And this is the only peaceful moment I care about.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The New Village

I wrote before about finally accepting that I do not live, and will not be living, in a village in Africa. But when I look around, I do have a village. A different kind of village, but one that works (or can work) in similar ways. I/we just have to start seeing it that way.

It's hard to not act like a nuclear family. With one car, a single-family house, four part-time jobs between us, a mortgage, and significant debt, it's culturally easy to feel alone.

But if I examine just a little bit further into my actual life (rather than skim the surface with statistics), I can see the remnants of The Village (and no, not the movie).

My family and Josh's family, (except for second cousins), all live in Washington. And most of the Washingtonians live in Greater Seattle. So even though we are a 30-45 minute drive, at the most, from our flesh and blood, that's nothing! When K was born, our immediate family all came to the hospital the next day(if asked, almost all 20 of them would have attended the birth, they were THAT excited!). When our house flooded two years ago, three family members were there in 15 minutes to help! We have been blessed with closeness, literally and figuratively. All of our family has helped us with our house several times, doing really important things (painting, remodeling, helping with financing, dealing with the backyard, electrical wiring, etc). Their blood, sweat, and sometimes tears are sewn into the fabric of the foundation.

Our friends, who act more like family, have also been there. Helping us, living with us, celebrating with us, mourning with us, and just chillin' with us. They have shown up for the fun parts, the hard parts, the annoying parts, the challenging parts, and their blood, sweat, and tears are also woven into the home fabric.

We have shared meals, we have played games, we have birthed our first child, we have endured remodels and floods, we have grown vegetables and sat around fires.

And now I/we are entering this new phase, and the community village keeps growing. We have met an ever-growing group of mamas and papas who have donated milk, watched K when we were both working, given us clothes and toys, reassured us that we were doing a good job, fed us delicious meals, given us advice we didn't know we needed (miracle blanket!!!!), supported our businesses, read our blogs, kissed our baby's head, and were available at 2:48am, when we couldn't sleep.

Now, other than a few travel experiences, I have not really lived in a "traditional" village, so technically, this is all I've really known. I've lived in an intentional community, that I thoroughly loved, but it was only for three months, so my extensive knowledge comes from just living my life here, this way.

I call this life, my life, with all the wonderful people in it, The New Village. It's not new, it's not really *mine*, but when I see it for what it is, I am able to see all its glory.

That glory includes:
- Not feeling alone anymore. With cell phones and computers I am 1's and 0's away from over 500 people. And those are the people I *know*.
- I have experience and wisdom at my fingertips. When I was a kid, I had to go to the library, read books, and make educated guesses. I had to know things or know people who knew things (which I didn't, really). Now I can find graphic designers, house-sitters, nannies, contractors, plumbers, ice-cream makers, and hundreds more awesome people because of my huge network. In minutes.
- I have resources. In addition to people, I am able to borrow and lend a huge assortment of things, that normally wouldn't be in our budget. Cars, vans, toys, clothes, recipes, etc. are all within reach now.
- K has teams of people to go to, ask questions of, share stories with, and learn from. His social skills are in direct correlation to the strength of our Village. Even the B&B guests touch his life and become part of his learning.
- Saving money. The above-mentioned things include saving money, but for us, this is a stand-alone item. I used to go shopping to fill a huge void. And now, that void either doesn't show up as much, or is non-existent. I am blessed with things to do, places to go, and people to see that is pretty much un-ending. We know people who like playing games, taking walks, having potluck dinners, sharing clothes, and just hanging out around a fire.
- We are supported. When the natural disasters strike, when we lose people, when horrible things happen, or even when we're just having a bad day, our amazing Village is THERE. In seconds. With phone calls, emails, texts and kind words. With cleaning supplies and a free hand. With bathtubs, delicious food, and hugs.

I was talking to a few mamas (several I didn't know that well) about life with a newborn baby. We were talking about showers and cleaning houses and making meals and how to get those things done. But in many of the examples I imagined a solitary mama, juggling her new responsibilities and judgments and fears, eventually collapsing into overwhelm because she thought she was alone. Ugh. I wanted to reach out and offer support and really it came out as, "I can definitely help clean your house." Because I can. My kid is already old enough to be away from me for hours at a time and we're cool, and if I can scrub a toilet or tub or do some dishes, then by all means, call a sister up. But we're practically strangers, so our inclination is NOT to call. Our inclination is to be polite and brush it off, cry ourselves to sleep, and soldier on. No no no nonononono! There are no bonus points for doing this alone. Just because we have a good day where we didn't cry and our child managed to stay alive, does not mean we are meant to do this alone. Not only that, but it's boring alone. And even if we don't live in Africa, that doesn't mean we can't make a village of our own.

Josh and I have cultivated and worked on creating our community. We have big families and lots of amazing friends. But lots of people/families don't have this. And a lot of those people don't know how to create that community (Josh and I actually studied this, isn't not innate!). Several friends of mine I  barely have time to visit, but I make an effort to at least try. I "practice" calling them and asking them to hang out. Even if it's just for an hour. Right before bed. Or on Facebook. Or on the phone. Even though it sounds corny and a bit intense, I tell the families that have saved our butts multiple times, that their presence in our lives is a blessing. Seriously. I'm being sincere. Because it is. When I can leave my child with people that I haven't had 23 years of friendship with and feel that K is safe, loved, and taken care of, that's better than any gift. And I tell them that.

When I see another papa loving on K, marveling at his growth and agility, it warms my heart. Because that papa doesn't HAVE to love OUR kid. He has his own precious person to adore. But the fact that both children can be loved (and we can love THEIR kid too!) by two sets of parents is how the New Village works.

It takes effort. And there are many bumps and questions and embarrassing moments as the Village engages. It can be awkward. It can feel unnatural. But as it begins working, it's a miraculous sight. And worth the weirdness in the beginning. Because now K has people to go to. He has friends and trusted adults and his love circle is exponentially bigger than mine. And in the end, if he never learned to read or went to college or whatever, I would relax in the fact that he had an awesome circle of love to fall back on. We're building our network AND his network. We are strengthening the bonds of the Village so that no family has to fear homelessness, poverty, hunger, or solitude.

It's constant work. It's worthwhile work. And it's spiritual work. But for me this is THE work. Everything else just feeds this.

So count us in.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gotta let go of "less than" mentality

It's been 8 months since K was born. Holy smokes. As a new mama, I didn't know exactly what to do all the time, despite the books, friends, DNA, experience, etc. Some days I might have known "what to do," but it didn't feel right or I wasn't ready or damnit, I wanted to do it another way to see if a new perspective was different.

K has been exposed to a LOT of people. A ton of family. As many friends as I can figure out how to see in- person. More strangers than I probably want to know about.

In the beginning I was jealous when people wanted to hold him, comfort him, oggle him, play with him, or do anything else he liked or needed. He was MY baby (yikes!) and I wanted to be the person doing all the things...

Of course enough sleep deprivation and anxiety got me to change my tune pretty quickly. "Anyone want to have my kid for a while?" "Great. Here ya go. Bring him back alive-ish, please." As I got more comfortable sharing, and letting people "do their thing" with K, I started to worry differently. Now my thought was, "Is my lax behavior going to create something bad for him (food allergies, abandonment issues, fear of strangers, fear of the outdoors...on and on)?"

The pendulum swings, right? At first I wanted to be his sole provider and now I'm worried that I'm not there enough. Sheesh!

And as I swing back to the "This is the way I/we want to raise K..." concepts, I feel defensive. Like my ideas are crazy or uptight (still) or worse, just plain wrong. It only comes up when I try to explain why I do what I do (I know, I don't have to explain, but when K gets babysat by others, I really do need to tell them what I want or what I know about K so that things can go more smoothly). In my head it all sounds good. Out loud I feel like a freak!

But as I was trying to calm down about it (my mantra has been "As long as he's alive..."), I realized that there's an underlying current of "less than." I've read a lot of books, have several awesome Mom groups, have a ton of friends and family with loads of experience...and yet, the expert on Kalev (other than K himself), is me.

I know the cries. I know the looks. I know when it's time to sing and when it's time to rock. I know the hand gestures. I have to say I even know the poops. We move seamlessly together. Many people who know me know that I'm a huge fan of comparing. I'm always looking around to see what other people are doing. And it totally undermines any expertise I might have from the get go. I also miss the innocence of my own "figuring it out." Taking care of K doesn't really allow me to phone that in anymore. Sure, I compare his feats and triumphs (and when I find some faults, I'll probably compare those too) to make sure he's not "falling behind" or whatever, but honestly, after 8 months, I am confident that he and I have that special language, crafted from his first moments in my belly, that allows us to get each other. And no book, expert, friend, or chart can tell me about my son. I get help when I need help. I *feel* things when I am worried and then I check them out. But I am not less than.

For once, I am the ultimate expert. I can (and probably will) write a book on K. Yes, everyone has had success doing x with their kid...and sometimes I want to copy their exact moves to see if it works with K. But I know better. K gulps milk. K gags on big chunks of food. K doesn't really freak out about teething or being sick. K sleeps differently each night, just like I do. K wants to be with me a lot (and again, it's not weird, because in a room with him and Papa, I always want to be with them too!...I just don't cry about it).

Owning that expertise is unfamiliar. In fact, owning any expertise is unfamiliar. When I'm right about things, I surprise myself. I even think I surprise others. I don't stand tall and proud in that wisdom. But as K's mama, I can say I know K. And it's about time to let go of the idea that I'm not good enough or don't know stuff. I DO know "stuff" and the bond that K and I have is full of knowing, too. I know that he knows stuff, too. That keeps him safe as well.

As I start to trust what I know, then I am more free to trust what K knows...and that can only bring good things.

A hard post to write...

I'm not ready to talk about HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) yet. But I am ready to start getting ready. For now I will link to this post and then maybe I will try to reflect on my own (unfortunately, similar) experience. And one day I will also let it go...until then...

I might come back and update soon, as I recently met another woman with HG and I  was compelled to email her the website. I remember how hard it was, how strange it was to hate being pregnant (especially when I wanted to be pregnant SO badly AND everyone was asking me constantly if it was amazing---which is never was), and how defeated I felt every time I had to throw up (anywhere from 8+ times/day to 2 times/day, later in my pregnancy, until K's birth).

Please don't diminish a pregnant woman's experience of HG. It's not simple nausea. It can be life-threatening if not treated.

Monday, May 20, 2013

9 months old

I'm not exactly sure why it's significant to mark the 9 month point in a child's life (supposedly, it highlights that the baby was inside for 9 months --really 9.5 months-- and now the baby has been 'outside' for 9 months...but why does that matter? Please share comments if you have any ideas!)...but it's significant to ME (and that's the most important part, right? Why I find it significant...) because K is now wearing 12 month clothing.

I see other infants, usually 5 months and younger, and I am immediately wistful (oh, that strange womb-y feeling of wanting another so soon is relentless!). K is what I consider an "established" baby. That's not a medical term or a child development term, it's just a term I use to tell myself that yes, we know this child, he is firmly established in his personality and in our lives, and we are moving together, usually forward, as a unit.

But back to clothes. He is 8 months and 4 weeks (seriously people, I'm just going to say 9 months!) and I am still trying to keep him in 6 month clothing. 1) Because his torso is still quite thin, and 2) because I am just really not ready to accept that he is 9 months. I still try to talk with other 6 month old-having parents like we're in the same boat. We are so not in that boat.

Yet, I'm not ready to let go of 6 months.

He had his 9 month checkup today. He's 19 lbs (42nd percentile) and 30+ inches (99th percentile). He's crawling, standing on his own for 3-5 seconds, eating solid-y food, sharing his disdain for not getting everything he wants in 0 seconds, playing in bed for minutes on his own before he calls us in, wriggling out of EVERY diaper/clothing change, putting everything SINGLE thing in his mouth, he's on his 5th tooth, he has words that have meaning that we know (which is pretty cool because communicating is awesome!), and there is understanding between us (which is also related to communicating, but is often non-verbal). And don't forget the new and improved sleep pattern of letting mama and papa get 5-7 hours of sleep straight (this is by far the best thing ever!)

I am having a hard time packing up those 6 month outfits. I am also challenged by the fact that there are more needs (different needs) and that K has preferences. At 9 months? You can't possibly know what you like at a mere 9 months...oh yes I can, mama. And I do.

There are big letting go moments and small ones. I frequently cannot judge which is which until some hindsight has been established. But it seems that putting away clothes is a trigger for holding on...a kid who grows in his sleep will inevitably outgrow clothes pretty often...and I hate it. I don't really want another baby for several more years, so hanging out with mamas with new babies is appealing for the sole reason of remembering that now we are out of that crazy time, and it's a lot better. But man, do I lament the switching out of clothes.

Sometimes my blogs are declarative (Letting this go!) and sometimes they are simply an awareness I've gained (Not ready to let this go!). I'll let you know when the clothes things goes away or is let'll likely be around the time K is weaned or potty-trained...swapping one thing for the other.

Parenting is a strange, strange trip.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Abdominal's not just for the body, but also for the spirit

I was getting into a habit of letting go of stuff and titling it appropriately, but I'm shakin' it up!

I got this amazing abdominal massage today from April Bolding, PT at Highline Physical Therapy. April herself is awesome, but the Mayan Abdominal Massage Technique(s) is what I was clued into.

What's this have to do with letting go?

Well, while on the table, we were discussing the healing process of a cesarean section, and that it's common to feel like a failure or that you didn't give birth (I don't feel like this, but I know some folks who do). And attaching those feelings to your body creates a lot of healing potential, I think. We started talking about how the body can be viewed according to its function, first and foremost. We place a lot of value on our brains, but I'm not hearing a lot of value placed on our abdominal/stomach area. In Mayan culture (and actually, many other cultures), that area is the seat of POWER.

I got sad thinking about how in my world, my "flabby" (I usually call it "flubby") stomach/abdominal area is not only not valued, but I often ignore it because it's out of shape, it's not rock hard, it's weak, and ultimately unattractive. If it's not thin and tan (um, how is this fantasy ever going to come true, living in Seattle???), then it's useless. Yikes! That's no way to think or feel about this amazing vessel of birth, power, groundedness, and all around awesome. I guess I want to let go of thinking that my stomach is just a body part in between my head and my feet.

I am letting the cult of body take away my abdominal power. And I don't mean how many crunches I can do, or how often I attend Pilates classes. My song comes from my second chakra. My ability to act calmly comes from my gut. My intuition and connection centers are in my belly. My beautiful belly. I love to hug a soft belly. I love to cradle my baby to my soft belly. I love to plant my feet, unlock my knees, and 'CareBear stare' into the souls of others with the clarity of my power, located in my lower abdomen.

So in this one session, I heard Little Voice tell me that I can come back and say hello and reestablish my connection to my awesome belly. There's a lot of awesome that I haven't tapped and it's silly to work on letting go while ignoring this component of my life.

I have to say out loud that it's not about losing weight or doing yoga, it's about establishing a relationship with my whole body. I worked my body harder than I ever have before in a 10 month period and it's only fair to:  1) acknowledge AND appreciate that, 2) get back in touch after a very long hiatus 3) and be more than just "nice" to it. I need to respect and honor it. I need to pay attention to it. I need to be gentle but not condescending. My core has endured a lot, over my lifetime. And it's time to start giving back.

I will start focusing on eating healthy, prepared-with-love food, working with my scar tissue, saying nice things to myself, getting body work, and generally respecting all the work my abdomen and really, my entire body, does without any thought on my end.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Letting go of incompetence

I don't like the title. I don't like admitting that sometimes I feel incompetent. Not just imperfect, but unable to even figure it out. It=anything and sometimes everything.

But recently, with Papa's last trip away from home, I heard that little voice inside me that said, "Mama, you gotta let that incompetent feeling's silly and untrue and it keeps you from yourself and it keeps others from you, too."

Oh, Little Voice, why do you challenge me so?

So Papa went away for 6 days and prior to that I had mild (well, I hoped it was mild) anxiety about his absence. I printed out a calendar of those 6 days, and filled in my schedule so that I would not be stuck (nor subject K to my stuck-ness) at home. I had a car, that was helpful. I was always able to go somewhere.

I had one night of sleeping with K taken care of (without sleep I become crazy), thanks to the in-laws. I had Monday covered with Auntie. The rest of the days were the same, as if papa were here. K had regular care with his other Auntie. I planned to hang with a friend on Friday, family came late Friday night to stay the weekend. Saturday I hung out with cousin while K went to the zoo with friends, Saturday night extended family came over for dinner (which I didn't prepare, but sort of managed as a potluck/make your own pizza). On Sunday I met with our birth class group for brunch and I took friends up on their dinner offer after a nap in between. We had a rough night on Sunday, but I didn't die. Neither did K. On Monday we went to Auntie and Uncle's house and instead of berating myself about how I should spend my time (work, sleeping, cleaning), I allowed myself to take walks, enjoy family, get another dinner made for us (notice the theme), and then head home later in the night so K would just transfer right to sleep.

Papa came home Monday night really late, and the 6 days ended with no breakdowns, emergency room visits, or frayed nerves.

I'm guilty of thinking it's a fluke, that it just "happened" to work out for us. That if it were one more day all hell would have broken loose. But to be honest, Little Voice tells me that I did all that preemptive work. It wasn't a fluke. I planned; I had Plan B and Plan C. In fact, I over-planned. I told about 4 people that I might need to hang out with them because nights might get tough and I'd see how I felt. I knew who to call if I needed someone to be at home if I needed to make a late night run for something.

So it's time to let go of the weird story that I think I can't handle motherhood. Because when I let that hang around, it gets in between K and I. And frankly, it gets in between Papa and I, too. It may not disappear immediately, but I have proof (again) that it's just not true. I can handle motherhood. And just because it gets hard, doesn't mean I can't handle it. And even when I can't ALWAYS handle it, it doesn't mean I can't EVER handle it. I'm an awesome mama. So I'm letting incompetence go....


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