A very special thing happened today. I got my 100th comment.
Thanks, Audrey, for being my 100th.
And thanks everyone who posted #1-99. Every comment is precious to me :)
A very special thing happened today. I got my 100th comment.
Thanks, Audrey, for being my 100th.
And thanks everyone who posted #1-99. Every comment is precious to me :)
Josh and I don't usually shy away from telling people our name choices. We're not secret-keeping types, anyone in my family will tell you I am the WRONG person to trust with sensitive information. Our blabbing extends to our own private information as well. Josh was outside telling our neighbors about our pregnancy before the pee on the test stick was dry. Seriously.
So we were at a family gathering at my aunt and uncle's house, and we were throwing some names around. Some of you may know that our boy frontrunner is Milo. And then we remembered a name we considered for Naomi if she was a boy: Dexter, nickname Dex, which we ruled out at the time because of the TV show Dexter's Laboratory. For some reason, Dexter rang Josh's bell, and he started getting enthusiastic about the name.
My aunt, who winced a little when we mentioned Milo, had to speak up against Dexter. "You can't just name a kid what you like, you have to think of them too!" She went on "You don't want to give them a name that will get them teased!" She is pretty much against any names off the beaten track. Being the dean at a local Catholic high school, I suppose she knows how small minds react to unusual names.
She must have forgotten that I know very well what it's like to go through school with an unusual and unpronounceble name. Kateri is not a name you hear every day, and it's a name that surprisingly few people pronounce right on the first try. I will not, under any circumstances, give my child a name that a smart, sane person will butcher regulary. But I think it says something that I go out of my way to find names that are unusual.
I hated my name all through school. I wanted to be a Stacy or a Jessica. Part of the reason was that I already felt like a square peg and my name, even though it came with a normal nickname (I was called Kate most of the time), only made me stand out more. It wasn't until high school, when for the first time I started to embrace being a square peg, that I began to appreciate and grow into my name. I thank my lucky stars that I wasn't just another Jennifer or Jessica. How boring that would be.
I tried to explain to my aunt that "not being teased" is not a high priority of mine. Conformity is not one of my values. (It didn't come across very well, because I"m not very verbal when I'm put on the spot. I also am leery of offending her, since she has three kids with very nice, but very safe, names.) I think a kid has to be able to withstand a little bit of unpopularity. It's a risk you take when you step outside the mainstream and make your own choices. Sometimes good choices are unpopular choices, and sometimes those choices may get you teased. Maybe having an unusual name with help develop some of that inner mettle. I like the idea of a kid having a name that s/he will have to grow into, that won't necessarily fit a small child or a teenager.
I would never give my kids a name that would be like a beacon to bullies, like initials that spell FAT or something. But whether or not a kid is teased usually has very little to do with their name. No one teases a cool kid no matter what his name is. And being named William or Michael is not going to exempt a kid who's just plain dorky.
Damned if i'm going to make a name decision on what may make a teenager uncomfortable. Talk about futility.
I have been cooking up a post about Continuum Parenting for some time now. Kim at Catawampus has written an excellent piece that said pretty much everything I wanted to say.
I only have a few things to add.
I came to Continuum parenting at a time when I was getting frustrated with the AP child-centered philosophy. I'm all for filling a child's physical and emotional needs, but putting your child at the center of your life, or thinking that you should and thus feeling inadequate when you don't, seems to lead to the dissapearing self that so many mothers complain of. Child centered living simply felt wrong to me.
After I read the Continuum Concept, it made perfect sense to me that it's a child's place to observe adult life and take increasingly larger parts in it as they become able.
I have tried to implement this philosophy in my parenting with varying degrees of sucess. Naomi doesn't do any chores. Probably because I don't do any chores, but that's a whole 'nother story. She doesn't help me cook either. But she is very self-aware when it comes to her physical abilities. We made an effort not to hover and freak out when it looked like she hurt herself from her very earliest falls. Now, she prefers to do things herself but has a keen sense of what's safe, and she asks for help when she needs it.
My goal in raising children is for them to understand the way the world works through their own trial and error. I do not want to raise sheltered children who allow other people to make decisions for them. I think the best way to teach a child this is to allow them to develop their own sense of what's dangerous. So far, Naomi's usually right.
I live on a great street. It's the street I always dreamed of when I fantasized about raising kids in the city.
It's a side street with very little traffic, so the 15 or so kids under age 6 play unhindered all summer in the evenings. The adults don't just lend cups of sugar, they watch each other's kids, hold book clubs and workout clubs, share cars, order ten pizzas and set up tables on the sidewalk on summer nights.
Except for the girl who lives near the end, the one who's ten years younger than everyone else, the one who doens't pay her street dues and scurries indoors before making eye contact.
That would be me.
I've lived here three years and I am still a stranger. My neighbors are more than friendly; they've given me many chances to redeem myself. They must think that I need an engraved invitation before I deign to participate in the goings-on of the street.
When I moved here, I was a few weeks pregnant with Naomi and feeling quite naked, having given up my drugs and crutches all at once. I had done exactly nothing with my life for four years and I was faced with all these cheerful people just reeking of Type A Success. I was enormously intimidated.
When you isolate yourself on purpose for so long you lose your social skills. You lose your ability to read people. I was very surprised, when I tried to re-enter social life, at what I dunce I could be. I used to be a student of human nature, a fan of Jane Austen, an avid people-watcher. I thought my social skills would just hibernate as long as I did, and come out as sharp as ever when I called upon them again.
So now, when Naomi hears the noise of children though the open window, she yells "kids!" and scrambles over to the front door. I stand around stupidly and make awkward conversation. There are a few neighbors left who will still talk to me. Some outright ignore me. I came into the house tonight feeling sick with shame. I did this to msyelf. I ruined the perfect street experience. It's beyond redemption now. I'm the Weird Neighbor.
I'm not that kind of mom, either. I tried to read Playful Parenting once, and at best it sounded like a lot of work to always be engaged in play with your kid, and at worst it threatened a guilt complex.
I give Naomi as long a leash as she can handle. If I join in a game of hers, it's because she either specifically asked me to, or because I find it cute or interesting. As a result, she can amuse herself almost indefinitly. She knows how to turn off the TV by herself, and she does so once she's sick of Sesame Street. I've heard her in the living room (while I listened, knitting, from the den upstairs) while she sang herself songs, played with her dolls, rearranged her dollhouse, and moved from activity to activity for more than 30 minutes.
The downsides of not being on the recieving end of my white-hot attention all day are few, but some would consider them significant. She doesn't recognize all her numbers and letters consistently. At 2 1/2, most of her Playfully Parented friends can. So she looks like she's behind. And I never know what havoc she's wreaking in another part of the house, is she tearing apart the toilet paper into little tiny bits so she can feed them to the cat? Is she helping heslf to the cat's yucky dry food while I'm sorting laundry in the basement?
It leaves me more time to do the things I want to do, like check blogs and, well, check more blogs. If I sat on the floor engaged with her for most of the day, I would go out of my mind. With playing, I use the weaning adage: don't offer, don't refuse. And you know what? I think she'd rather play without my interference. I think, in the long run, she learns more that way.
I just made my first prenatal appointment with the hospital/birthcenter midwives I am tentativley planning to deliver with.
I know from my last experience that birth choices are important. I readied myself to give birth naturally in the hospital assuming that since I was educated and active I would be able to overcome any obstacles or policies. I ended up having to fight for a hep lock instead of a permanent IV, fight to delay Pitocin, and I ended up with the synthetically augmented epidural birth I was trying to avoid. By the time I consented to the epidural I was seething. And then, and THEN, they whisked Naomi away from me so fast that I didn't get a good look at her face. She was out of sight getting all procedured and I was getting more and more pissed off. By the time I got a good look at her face her eyes were swollen from the vile ointment and I"m sure she couldn't see me.
I'll never forget the powerless feeling of lying there immobile while this birth was DONE TO ME, when all I wanted was to make a few decisions for myself.
I know this is all a matter of your frame of mind. My birth with E. was an elective induction, protaglandins, Pitocin, an epidural a 2cm, the works. Complete with fetal distress and an oxygen mask. This didn't bother me one bit. I knew natural birth was better, but considering the circumstances, this was good enough. Josh was about to go back to school 4,000 miles away, and having him not be there would have complicated the adoption process quite a bit. I was happy lying there watching my contractions go by on the monitor. I imagine many women feel that way.
I felt like my OB was very sensitive to my needs in that situation, so of course she would be sensitive to my needs in my next pregnancy, even if my needs and wants turned out to be very different.
It was loyalty to this OB that kept me from exploring other birth options. My gut was screaming for me to go someplace else, especially when, midway through my pregnancy, I realized that she still thought of me as a pregnant teenager and treated me as such. It took me that long to figure this out because my prenatal visits where never more than five minutes long.
But I stuck with her, because I knew she had a very low episiotomy rate and so must have some respect for the natural process. It ended up that her partner delivered me. Her partner, who must have an astronomical epidural rate. Well, at least she didn't cut me.
So here I am, facing birth decisions again.
I've heard mixed reviews about the hospital midwives. I think they are a little more interventionist than I would like, and the birth center is not always staffed, and I've heard that since I must go through triage at the hospital, any little thing can land me back in the world of fetal monitors and pitocin. I know that for me, natural birth in the hospital will be next to impossible. I've tried it already.
A few things made me uneasy: first, I was on hold for five minutes waiting to make my appointment. This reminds me of the last OB's office, when I would regularly wait nearly two hours for an appointment that lasted two minutes. The other thing on my radar was that on the website and the phone, they either mention the obstetrics first and the midwives are a side note, or they do'nt talk about the midwives at all. For example, I had to click through two or three obstetrics links to get to a page that mentioned that they have midwives and a birthcenter, too. It would be just like this hosptal to treat its midwives like second class citizens. And there are 11 midwives in this practice. So I will have almost no chance to build a relationship to the person who will end up attending the birth.
Fueling the drive for the birth I really want is the feeling that this might be my last chance. What if I don't have more children? We've always talked of having two or three. I think Josh would rather have two. I would rather have more. Even so, Bad Things Happen. I won't tempt fate by naming what could be.
I have to admit, my heart and gut are with homebirth. When I picture how I want things, that's what I see. So then if I do end up in the hospital, I know it will be for a damn good reason. Not some "staffing issue" or some other spurious excuse. But homebirth is a tough sell. It will cost us more money. Josh isn't entirely comfortable with it. Neither is my mom.
Want to hear something odd? The more I nurse Naomi, the less my nipples hurt. But when she goes the whole day without and then nurses at bedtime, YEEEEOOOOOWWWCH!!!!
If that's not a push for weaning, I don't know what is.
But this is just stage one; stage 2 leaves it up to the kid: wean, or drink this sour tasting juice-like stuff. I'll bet there's the same kind of sliding scale built into that, too: the less milk you make, the odder it tastes. So for a kid who really needs it, there's plenty of almost normal tasting milk.
My pregnancy with Naomi was blessedly free of first trimester complaints. I kept waiting for the nausea and puking I remembered from my first pregnancy, where I would regularly be dashing to the loo after getting a whiff of something foul (like fake cheese) to throw up green bile and what looked to me like sheets of my own stomach lining. I was sure I would die.
My first trimester was Naomi was all about sleeping off my addiction to what I lovingly call the Slacker Cocktail*. I Quit Everything the weekend I thought I was ovulating, and thank god I only had to try once to get pregnant, because those two weeks of waiting were the most excruciating of my life. Withdrawls are not fun under the best of circumstances. My only defense was to sleep 16 hours a day. For two months. So if I had any first trimester symtoms, I totally missed them.
This is the first time I'm really present to the experience of the first trimester, when I'm not either sleeping or pretending I have food poinsoning followed by an ulcer for months on end. I am dog tired, and nauseous, but not puking yet. I was absolutely cross-eyed with nausea while standing in line at Saladworks the other day, praying for some puking just so I could get some relief. But I vaguely remember puking during pregnancy making the nausea worse, not better.
My body is generally good at being pregnant. I don't show until 18 weeks or later, and when I do, I don't get that big. I wonder how much this has to do with my being 19 and 24 during my pregnancies. I wonder if this one will be harder, now that I'm a ripe old 27.
The first trimester is my least favorite part of pregnancy. The end seems so far away. I am impatient for things to get going. I want the constant feeling of Something In There. Until I feel movement, or at least a heaviness in my pelvis, I feel like I might be imagining the whole thing, and I just don't feel pregnant. The best part of pregnancy for me is from week 28 to 35, when I'm full of baby but not obsessing about labor yet. I'm in another world, a rich and miraculous world.
*Slacker Cocktail: the heady combination of good strong coffee, high tar imported cigarettes, hydroponic weed, and microbrewed beer. Or, on a more realistic day, swilly Wawa coffee, Camel Lights, cheap Mexican flat-packed weed, and Yuengling Lager, the official beer of Philadelphia slackers.
When I tell people in my life that I'm a birthmother the same question usually comes up every time. "Do you think you did the right thing?"
The short answer is that I don't know, and there's no way to ever know for sure.
The long answer, the real answer, is something I'm afraid to explore too deeply. If I look back and decide that I did the "right" thing, I feel like I'd be invalidating years of grief and depression. It's hard for me to get my mind around it being right and being this painful anyway. If it was right, shouldn't that be of some comfort? If it was right, where does my anger go?
If I am faithful to my feelings at the time, I would have to say that it was the right choice to make. When I recreate the time in my mind, the overwhelming memory is the feeling I had of being in the hand of God, fate, destiny, karma, or what have you. Like Martha Beck in Expecting Adam, I felt like a spiritual portal had been opened during the pregnancy, and I was making choices with profound insight that I never has access to before, and never had access to again. I wasn't really a religious person, in fact I was very dissillusioned with all things spiritual at the time, which made the open portal feeling even more striking.
The Christmas season before E. was born in January was not the worst Christmas, like you would expect, it was the best Christmas I can remember. It's one of my dearest memories. So many people reached out to me, the kindness of strangers during that time was just staggering. Meeting the adoptive parents was also magical, profound, indescribable.
One of the (quite literally) soul-crushing things I experienced in the years after placing E. was the loss of this profound faith. In my mind, it became a symptom of my denial, something I wished someone had tried to puncture. It became a foolish refuge of a 19 year old who was terrified of growing up, a delusion. A psychological reaction to the guilt racked up by being a "troubled" teenager, a craving for redemption. A decision made not with profound insight, but with profound ignorance and blindness.
Was it right?
Yes, I think it was. Not just for the rational reasons. The flickering memory of E.'s hands in my life before she was born is what stands between me and atheism.
Why is this so hard for me to say? What is it about being wronged that is so attractive?
By accepting the experience as it occurred at the time, without all the knowledge and coloring I added later, there's no reason for me to be angry. Or sad. According to this story, I did a beautiful thing. I should be proud of myself.
I honestly don't know if I would have made a different choice if I knew how truly sucky it would be.
Part of what I'm afraid of is my experience being used as a stick to beat other birthmothers with. Just because my choice was right, it doesn't mean everyone's is right. It's certianly doesn't mean that there's nothing wrong with the way adoption works. I feel like admitting that my choice was right robs me of the right to criticize adoption and the way birthmothers are sometimes treated.
If it was right, how do I justify how I behaved afterwards, what with all the crying and failing out of things and dropping out of life? If it was right, what kind of person does that make me, one who bears a child she can't, or won't, care for? If it was right, and what I remember and believed was true, what does life have in store for me?
Since I don't believe that any living human can know the whole truth about anything, I have lately been making a conscious effort to believe what empowers me, instead of what defeats me. For nearly seven years I have believed all the worst things about my adoption, and where has it gotten me? I'm an angry, shameful person who is deathly afraid of people. If you knew me from before E. was born you would not recognize me.
There's one moment that sticks in my mind, that I return to again in again. When E. was born, her cord severed on its own. It just broke. There was no medical explanation, the cord was healthy, the placenta was tested and found healthy, the cord just broke. The could be a medical anomaly, or it could Mean Something. It's my choice to make.
Thursday, April 14, 2005 in For Shame! The not-so-secret life of a Birthmother | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
I have been curious how nursing would go during pregnany. It seems, from what I read, that nature would have the child wean during pregnancy, and I have been wondering about the mechanisms set in place to bring this about. Assuming your child is an avid nurser before you get pregnant, will weaning simply occur if you don't push either way? I"ve heard that the changes the milk will undergo in the second trimester mimic the changes that happen during weaning: lower protein content, less sweet, less volume.
I have been curious about how this will affect Naomi's nursing, since she's as avid a nurser as any kid. Will she taste the second trimester milk and spit it out, never to go back? Will she nurse up through early labor and immediatly after the baby's born?
I started the weaning process about a year ago, when I began to refuse every once in a while. I was getting burnt out; there was no other way for me. Several times I've gotten fed up and cut back drastically to something I felt was more sustainable for the long term. Now she typically nurses in the morning and to go to sleep at night, usualy after her nap, and sometimes before her nap. Occasionally she nurses once at night, and occasionally she'll ask to nurse at other times when she's hurt, feeling sick, or overtired. This is quite bearable, in fact, mostly enjoyable to me.
I'm starting to get nature's first push toward weaning. I'm getting insanely sore nipples when she nurses. I thought I could prevent this by keeping my supply up, but NOOOO. The only tyhing that helps is that I know it's just a first trimester thing, and it's temporary. I'm getting a little bit of the nursing agitation too (which I also think is a built-in signal that it's time to cut back) but nowhere near as bad as I was before I stopped nursing on demand.
I really want to continue nursing her. I am looking forward to the time when we'll sit down on the couch after a long day and she'll latch on and the baby will start to squirm and bump, and she'll have the feeling of the baby long before she meets him*. I also think that having her port in the storm still be available will help to smooth the rockiness of getting a sibling. I think that nursing will help me not to gain too much weight, I think it will help progress my labor in the early stages, it will help bring my milk in after the baby's born.
The only thing I can do is remain watchful and relaxed. I don't want to interfere too much with her process of weaning, I want to nurse her as long as she wants to nurse. But if it seems like she's ready to let it go, I want to help her with that. Chances are, if she's anything like me, she'll know she wants to stop but will have no idea how. I have to have faith that this will all work itself out for the best, these things take time to unfold and I need to accept that things may not turn out the way I envision, but things will be "right", regardless.
*I had a dream last night about a boy named Milo. So until I start to have girl feelings again, I'm using the masculine pronouns.