The Birth of a Mother

For me, ‘childbirth’ is a misnomer.  When my son was born, I didn’t see it immediately, but I’ve realized now that really it was my birth.  I became a mother, and was changed more in that moment than at any other time in my life.

My husband and I were not going to be parents.  I was unsure about kids.  I felt that I was too selfish to raise children, and, well… I never was a baby person.  To be completely honest, I just thought they were gross little poop/spit up factories.  As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t know that babies were people.  I thought they were little empty shells waiting for a personality to be dropped in by their parents sometime during childhood.

But then we met a couple that had a daughter.  The mother was healthy and fit, and didn’t wear “mom jeans” (you know the ones… with the waistband at the arm pits).  They went to friends’ homes and had friends over.  They stayed up late and drank wine and margaritas, with their daughter sleeping in her bedroom down the hall.  In other words, they still had a life.  It hadn’t occurred to me before then that it was possible to have children and not give up having a life.  God was preparing my heart.

We were surprised to find ourselves pregnant, and only months after meeting these hip parent friends.  I was panicked.  I forgot everything I had seen in our friends’ lives, and started believing my life was officially over.  I was going to be a fat, boring mom, stuck in my house with a drooling poop factory for the next 18 years.  And someone was going to call me ‘mom’ for the rest of my life…  Oh the humanity!!  How could this be happening to me?  Why was God punishing me???

My poor husband.  He struggled during this time, as he was ecstatic about having a baby, but trying to quiet the fears of his panicking wife at the same time.  It didn’t help that I threw up everyday for the entire nine months.  Friends would ask us if we were excited, smiling expectantly as they got a stone silent response from me.  How could I tell them I was scared to death?

We took childbirth education classes – 12 weeks worth.  And while this calmed all fears about pregnancy and birth (and in fact gave us a lot of confidence and empowerment, even over future parenting decisions), it didn’t do much for my fears of motherhood itself.  What if I hated it?  What if I hated the baby?  What if I was an awful mother?

Labor began for me around 1:00 am.  Contractions were a minute long and two minutes apart from the first contraction until his birth ten hours later.  While they were strong contractions, I was relaxed and confident, and calm.  My husband was an amazing coach, and being at the birth center with a supportive midwife was great.

As I transitioned into the pushing stage, the baby’s heart tones started dropping rapidly.  My midwife was concerned, so we transferred to the hospital.  I was not afraid, and trusted that it was God’s plan, even if we ended up with a still birth.

Thankfully, our son was born without complication… pink and screaming and perfect.  And I loved him the moment I saw him.  Suddenly, all my fears were gone.

Besides the frequent leaky diaper (I just couldn’t get the hang of that!), I found motherhood to be quite natural for me.  We took our son everywhere with us, even snowshoeing at only three months old.  We ignored criticism from friends and family who thought we shouldn’t be so relaxed.  We were determined to make our baby a part of our lives, not make our lives about our baby.

We had parties and friends over and played loud games and music late into the night with Henry asleep in the next room.  We went to friends’ homes and played cards until 2:00am with our son in a pack-n-play.  We went to a bed and breakfast, and took him along.   We planted the garden and took him to the farm.  He played with worms and dirt and bugs, and got covered in mud.  We were actually having fun!  And best of all, even from birth, our son was a little person, waiting for us to get to know him… this boy was no empty shell.

We decided to do it again.  This time, my fears were relegated to “How in the world will I be able to take care of two without neglecting one of them?” and “What if our son hates this?”

But my pregnancy was much better the second time around.  I wasn’t nearly as sick after the first trimester, and I was able to say yes when people asked if we were excited.  We decided on a home birth this time, and picked a wonderful midwife, Julie, to help us.

I expected to be in control, calm and collected during this labor and birth.  I had been through childbirth once already, and I imagined that this second birth would be somewhat similar to the first.  But while our son’s birth was ten hours long, this labor was probably a ten on the intensity scale.

The contractions I had this time, built slowly over hours of pre-labor.  By the time labor was active, there was only an hour and four minutes of it, and the contractions were very powerful.  And while I pushed for just seven minutes, I felt completely out of control, and quite afraid during his birth.  My midwives were a huge support and very reassuring when I felt so uncertain, and my husband was calm and confident throughout (not to mention, quite unabashed about lying to me that these contractions were just like the ones I had with our son, no matter how many times I asked him if HE felt like they were just way more intense).

The strength of this labor and birth were perfectly contrasted by the serenity and peace of being at home in the calm of our own bedroom.  The midwives treated us with so much love and respect, and really honored what we had asked for in our birth experience.

I had another perfect, pink baby boy.  And again, my fears dissipated with one look at him.  Our first son and my mom had come home from the museum while I was pushing, and were able to meet the new baby, right after he was born.  Our older son was so excited to meet his brother, and even now can barely keep himself from hugging and kissing the baby all the time.

So now, I am the mother of two!  I feel utterly transformed my becoming a mother.  I don’t look at the world the same way.  Some things that I thought were important before, just don’t seem to matter at all, and things that I had no idea about are monumental.

And I know that all my fears; being boring, having no life, being trapped with drooling poop factories – were completely irrational.  I don’t feel nearly as selfish as I thought I would be.  I actually like sharing my husband with our sons.  I don’t mind loosing some sleep when one of them is sick, or when the baby needs and extra feeding.  Breastfeeding is not at all gross, and I actually enjoy the quiet one on one time with my babies.

I’m excited to see who these little people become.

*originally posted on my personal blog on July 26, 2009.

Cloth Diaper Review: Fuzzi Bunz

Fuzzi Bunz diapers are the diapers I originally bought when I had my first baby.  I did not try any other diapers before buying them, but simply invested in them based on friends’ recommendations and online reviews.  Now days, parents have the option of buying a fitted diaper from Fuzzi Bunz called the Perfect Fit (they come in preemie, small, medium, large, petite, etc.) or a One Size, that has many snaps like the Rump-A-Rooz to fit from birth to 35 pounds or so.  When I bought my Fuzzi Bunz they didn’t make the One Size, so this review is specific to the Perfect Fit style of Fuzzi Bunz.

Also note that I know a bit more about these diapers than the others I reviewed, since I’ve used them on two babies now, and the others for only nine days total.

Fuzzi Bunz Perfect Fit

These diapers are another pocket-style Continue reading

Cloth Diaper Review: Kushies Classic

During the nine day study I participated in, the other type of cloth diaper I got to try was the Kushies Baby Classic diapers.

Kushies Baby Classic Diapers

These diapers are an All-In-One (AIO) cloth diaper.  That means that there are no inserts like the pocket diapers.  Essentially, they are the most like disposables in the ease-of-use category.

Kushies are made up of 8 layers Continue reading

Cloth Diaper Review: Rump-A-Rooz

A few months back, my youngest son and I participated in a infant feeding study.  During the last nine days of the study, we were required to collect stool samples from every diaper he wore.  The study provided cloth diapers that had been washed in a special soap for these nine days, so I had the opportunity to try a couple of different brands of cloth diapers (besides my own, which I could not use during the study).  I thought I’d offer up a review of the diapers we tried, in case it helps other parents decide what kind of diapers to go with.  One of the diaper brands provided in the study were Rump-A-Rooz.

Rump-A-Rooz

These diapers are a pocket style diaper, meaning that the diaper its self it made up of two layers: the outer one being water proof, and the inner one, meant to wick moisture away from your baby’s bum.  There is an opening between the layers (the pocket) where you can put in various absorbent inserts, adjusting for your baby’s individual needs. Continue reading

Motherhood and Redemption

We love our independence here in the United States.  Our single family dwellings have fences, our cars have tinted windows, our children each have their own rooms.  In our culture, we are often alone.  That means when women become mothers they don’t always have the resources or experiences to know what normal is.  It can feel very isolating, overwhelming and even frightening.  We are told about how when you give birth you will instantly love the baby.  And while that it true, it doesn’t mean that everything will be easy or that you won’t make mistakes. 

Because fears and thoughts are often not talked about, women believe they are alone in the dark and frightening thoughts that can occur at two in the morning.  When you are exhausted, even the baby who you love with all of your heart can push you to your limit. 

I want to give voice to some of those thoughts and fears, because it can help to know you are not alone.  I was comforted when in the middle of the night I was exhausted and frustrated, I remembered a friend telling me about the way it sometimes really feels to be a new mother. 

Special thanks goes to Sara Chapman, who wrote the essay below as part of the Mindful Mama Rites of Passage contest.  Thank you Sara, for letting me repost this here.

Tell people you have twins, and the reactions range from the joyous to the cautionary.  They  lean in close, and whisper conspiratorially, as if confiding a weighty secret. You know, its not twice the work, they would say, It’s four times the work!  I would nod, a stiff smile on my face, say “Oh I know.” What else could I say? I didn’t know.

 

Around 2 weeks after the birth of my twins, I read a story in the newspaper. It was just a tiny paragraph, buried in the B Section, about a woman who had dropped her baby girl into Lake Pontchartrain. She had felt the heart beating in the infant’s tiny chest just before the waters closed over her.  I wept bitterly about that story. I wept for the loss of life, for the terrible waste of her mother’s blood and sinew and essence. I wept for the baby because it is a terrible thing to be unwanted, and because she never got a chance to win her mother’s love. I wept, but I could not bring myself to judge that young mother.

*

I had come late to marriage, late to motherhood. In the latter days of my pregnancy, I would lie awake at night and think about our future. I worried about all the things every first time mother worries about; will they be healthy, will I know how to care for them, comfort them. Can we afford two sets of clothes, toys, lessons, educations. My husband wasn’t the least bit afraid. He assumed we would get through parenthood as well as everything else we had done. He had courage enough for both of us, so I borrowed some from him and stifled my fears. It comes to me now that all the nights I lay awake, I never tried to picture their faces.  As much as I worried about the mundane details of raising children, they remained an abstract to me until the day they were born.

 

My babies were born in  mid-winter, close to the solstice; the darkest time of the year.  I had wanted a natural birth; instead my daughter remained stubbornly breech and at the 38th week of gestation, I had a c-section. I was terrified of the idea; of the spinal block needle, and of being cut open.   But I felt nothing except an odd tugging, as if someone were rolling my lower half back and forth. I waited anxiously for my babies to appear, and when they did, I got only a brief glimpse before they were whisked away to be weighed and measured. I lay on the table, craning my neck as far to the side as I could, trying to see my daughter. When my husband finally brought her to me, swaddled tightly, I studied her face through tears of relief, trying to recognize her. She looked so odd to me, not at all what I expected.  

 

The first few weeks after the birth of my twins is a blur of fatigue and intense loneliness, despite the devotions of my beloved husband and my endlessly patient and kind mother. I have never experienced exhaustion like that in my life. I craved sleep the way heroin addicts crave the next fix.  Breastfeeding didn’t make me feel natural and powerful; it made me feel resentful.  Every time that thin cry woke me from a stupor at 3am, I fantasized about having a nursemaid take over.

My husband and I spent endless hours trying to get the babies to sleep; and when they finally did, we would do anything to avoid waking them. We kept the house tomb-like quiet: cuffed the dog when she barked, shushed company if they spoke too loudly, glared at each other with each clank of a plate and accidental door slam. I felt intensely guilty about how badly I wanted them to just sleep and wondered if something was wrong with me. I spent hours rocking them in my arms, sitting on a huge exercise ball and bouncing, pacing up and down, up and down gently jostling them into submission. One night, I had spent 45 minutes bouncing on the ball holding my son. My arms ached, my shoulder screamed in protest. I was hungry and tired and I didn’t want to be there anymore. I was certain he was finally asleep, but as soon as I tried to place him in the crib next to his sister, he awoke and bellowed. I suddenly had the most intense desire to shake him, which scared the wits out of me.

 

I called my sister for help. She is a devoted mother herself, and I felt ashamed and awkward confessing my thoughts to her. I told her how scared I felt, how frustrated. I told her that I wasn’t sure I was cracked up to be a mother. She surprised me by the strength of her affirmation; she too had felt frustrated and angry. She said something which buoyed me for weeks: You give so much more than you get, at first. You are putting so much in, and you get so little back. Be patient, give them time to win your heart. 

 

As the days and weeks wore on, I gradually came to know my children better. The way my daughter smiles; slowly and looking sideways at me through her impossible lashes. How my son will patiently wait for my full attention, and when I finally give it, will crack his face almost in half with a grin so giant it could threaten to outshine the sun.  I know now that my son likes music and swings and my daughter likes to bounce and have her head gently stroked.  I know who is ticklish and which one likes to be pleasantly scared when we play “peek-a-boo.”  I now know the intense delight of a new skill suddenly mastered, the joy of watching a tiny lightbulb go off over each silken head.  I know the honeyed sweetness of a quiet moment spent cuddling a just-nursed baby, milk-drunk and pliant in my arms.

 

I think about that young mother in Louisiana a lot these days. I am lucky, I have had so much support: a mother, a sister, even strangers on an internet forum who have shared my moments of joy and desperation.  I imagine that maybe she didn’t have any help, that she had to spend those first dark weeks feeling burdened and alone.

 

I wish I could have put my arms around that young woman, held her close and whispered in her ear, You are not alone. Be patient. Give her time to wake up and reveal herself to you.  Give her time to win your heart.

 

Sara is a Los Angeles mother and keeps a blog of her babes’ monthly achievements, The SkatKitten Diaries.

Carrier Recall and Baby-Wearing Safety

Baby slings are all over the news lately.  After three deaths in the last year caused by improper use of the Infantino sling-like carrier, the product is being recalled.  But it is important to realize that these deaths are linked to a specific type of carrier (a bag sling) and not to all slings.  Click here to see the latest story and video from the Today show on the type of carriers being recalled.

With this recent news, it’s normal to be concerned about the safety of babywearing.  I’m glad to share that Babywearing is and continues to be  a safe and positive way to care for your baby.  On Sunday, Mothering Magazine released the following statement,

SANTA FE, NM (March 18, 2010) — On March 12, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a Federal Agency, issued a warning in regard to the use of baby slings. The CPSC asserts that there is a risk of slings suffocating infants who are younger than four months old, and that caution should be used when carrying babies of this age group in slings.

Mothering puts the CPSC warning in perspective: Babywearing is safe, but some slings and positions are not. While baby carriers are as old as civilization, modern babywearing has exploded in the last four years. Along with this rapid increase in use has come the creation of some unsafe carriers, in particular bag-style slings that have a deep pouch, excessive fabric, and an elasticized edge. These deep, bag-style slings can be especially dangerous for premature or small babies.

Some general guidelines for safe babywearing:

1. Only choose a sling that allows you to see your baby’s face.

2. Be sure baby is not curled up tightly, chin to chest. This position can restrict breathing, especially in newborns or in infants who cannot yet hold up their heads.

3. Make sure that the sling fabric is “breathable,” and keep baby’s face clear of fabric.

4. Do not press baby’s face tightly against the sling wearer’s body.

5. Position the baby’s face upward.

6. Reposition baby if there are any signs of respiratory difficulty: rapid or labored breathing, grunting or sighing with every breath, restlessness.

For more information, see Mothering’s Special Report on Babywearing

On Monday, Parenting Unplugged Radio hosted a radio show with Mothering and Babywearing International to discuss babywearing safety and answer questions (listen here).  And several articles have been published recently to help parents choose a safe sling or wrap for their baby and reassure them that babies can be worn safely.   Please note that today, the bag slings by Infantino and Wendy Belissimo have been recalled.

Here is the press release from Babywearing International.

And here is a wonderful post from Dou-la-la that includes a video and very clear illustrations (including the ones above and below) on safe babywearing.

It is important to remember that anything used incorrectly can be unsafe.  Read this October 2009 article on car seat injuries occurring outside vehicles, for example.   Used correctly, Babywearing is still safe and a wonderful way to parent and bond with your baby. 

If you have a sling and are concerned about its safety, please take a look at sleepingbaby.net for some safety guidelines and pictures of slings that are not safe.  If you have an Infantino SlingRide or Wendy Bellisimo carrier, please note the recall information, which can be found on the Today show link at the top.

Mothering Magazine Offer

I got this offer in my email today from Mothering Magazine.  Since I already have a subscription, I can’t take advantage, but the Abeego Flats look very interesting and I thought I’d pass the offer on!  You’ll save $2.00 off the normal subscription rate and get to try the Abeego Flats for free. 

Click the image below to go to the Mothering.com site.  And let me know if you try those Abeego Flats – and if you like them!?!?