New Mama Musings

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Pride in Ownership

Since I've been too busy lately to post as much as I'd like, I thought I'd share an essay I wrote several years ago about my stepdaughter, who is now 12.

My stepdaughter is eight years old. Unlike other girls her age, M. has not been begging us for pierced ears, striking Britney Spears poses in the mirror, or complaining that she's getting too chubby. M. has Down Syndrome, and as far as she can tell, her body is fine the way it is.

Tell M. that her tummy is big and she'll stick it out and giggle. Tell her she has pretty eyes and she'll say, "Yep." She would just as soon we shave her head as sit through one more tortuous combing-out of her thick, chocolate-colored hair.

She is not without vanity. Put her in a frilly, girly, silky dress, and she'll beam and twirl around. But looking "pretty" is not a need that consumes her. When the dress is put away she's fine wearing her brother's hand-me-down blue jeans. If you were to say she looked pretty in them she'd probably agree.

I have much to learn in this area. Being aware of societal constructs is not all it's cracked up to be. While I'm not saying that M. is lucky to have that extra chromosome, it certainly has helped shield her from certain outside pressures. The voices that constantly whisper snide comments about our appearances are inaudible to M. She never doubts that her body is fine just how it is because it doesn't occur to her to ask for anyone else's approval. Her body always measures up because it is hers alone.

Most of us don't own our bodies the way M. does. I certainly don't. My need for approval means that I've handed off ownership a piece at a time to television, movies, magazines, and even other people.

When I was in fourth grade one of the popular girls looked around the lunch table and scrutinized each of our noses. Mine, for whatever reason, was deemed objectionable. Because I believed she was right, I lost a piece of myself that day.

I wish I had known then, wish we all knew, what M. knows: that our bodies were not meant to be constant reminders that we don't measure up. We need to stop confusing our bodies with everyone else's and take pride in ownership.

When M. sees anorexic models in catalogs wearing clothes she could never afford, she is able to view the pictures separately from herself. The dress may be pretty, the model may be beautiful, but they have nothing to do with her. When it comes right down to it, they have nothing to do with any of us.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Inefficient by Design

I recently read a post on a mothering board I frequent in which one of the women said, "There came a point in every one of my pregnancies when a light bulb went off in my head and I thought, 'OMG! This baby has to come OUT!'"

I've been thinking about this since my last doctor's appointment, when my doctor told me she thought this little guy had really grown since the previous appointment.

This all seems like such an inefficient way of growing a human being.

I mean, what was Mother Nature/God/evolution thinking? "I have an idea, let's take something microscopic, put it inside a muscle the size of one's fist, and let it grow for forty weeks until it's approximately eight pounds and over 20 inches long.

"But then...the only way out is a hole in which a tampon normally fits snugly. Hmmm. Oh well."

*Gives up and takes a nap.*

I'm guessing that's pretty much how it went down.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Shower Power

I had my "friend" baby shower last weekend (as opposed to my upcoming "family" shower -- the quotes are in no way meant to be ironic) hosted by my wonderful friend Andrea. She went out of her way to make sure the food was vegan and her home was welcoming, right down to the candles in the fireplace. It says a lot about her that she threw a shower that reflected who I am as a person rather than what's traditional. Thank you, Andrea.

One of the nice things about my shower was that Andrea had asked people to "bring a favorite childhood or motherhood item...or something as a kid or a mom that you wish you would have done." In response to that, my friends came with a mix of the touching to the practical.

One said that she wished she had kept a journal, because even though her son is only one-and-a-half she knows she isn't remembering everything about his development. (I'm hoping I have a head start on that one with this blog.)

Another woman said that breastfeeding can hurt for the first six weeks, so if I really want to make a go of it I should hang in there.

Yet another mom whose kids are grown offered a bit of zen advice: be in the moment with your child as much as possible, because the time goes by so fast.

I was moved by the thought people put into their gifts, too. One friend knitted the baby a sweater and pointy hat -- it's just too cute. She also included a onesie that says "Question Authority." Does she know me or what?

The friend with the grown children gave me a receiving blanket from when her kids were babies, saying that one of her favorite first memories of their babyhood was having the nurse at the hospital wrap them up and present them to her "like a gift."

Andrea gave me a stuffed animal (I think it's a dog, but no one's quite sure) and told me that it was like the one she received at the age of fourteen which ended a childhood of insomnia.

Another friend, who gave me some very useful and appreciated gifts at my shower, has promised me her children's crib and changing table. (Don't worry, her kids have moved past the age of needing them.) Donna, if you're out there, let me know when I can pick them up. This New Mama is in serious get-everything-ready mode.

I'm lucky to have such thoughtful friends. It makes me realize that we're all in this journey together.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

You Are Getting Very Sleepy...

I've read that a pregnant woman's constant waking throughout the night is nature's way of getting her ready for the relentless demands of a newborn.

I have to say that is the stupidest system I've ever heard of.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Fear Factor

As a child I was very timid, always preferring to watch from the sidelines rather than join in. Actually it wasn't so much that I preferred to watch as it was that I was too paralyzed to do anything else. Often I wanted to try something but was scared of drawing attention to myself and possibly looking foolish. I carried this fear with me everywhere I went.

I mention this not to garner sympathy; personally I find it annoying when adults go on and on about their miserable childhoods. It's tiresome. I know that sounds cruel, but there comes a point when people have to accept responsibility for their own lives.

No, I mention it because I've always been in awe of my husband's confidence and ability to laugh at himself. He never seems scared to put himself on the line. Self-conscious, maybe, but never paralyzed. I'm not sure he even understands quite what I mean when I say I was too afraid as a child to try things I really wanted to try. It's just not in his vocabulary.

And I wonder, how much of this is genetic? How much is environment? And what kind of kid are we getting with this baby the two of us have created? Is he a natural born leader like his daddy? Or will he hang back, like me?

No matter his predisposition, I'm pulling for nurture over nature on this one. I'd like to teach him that looking foolish for a moment that everyone else will quickly forget about is much, much better than living with a lifetime of regret.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Man of Indistinction

Will someone please explain to my husband why a maternity shirt that says...I dunno..."Oh boy" or "Love Hurts" is different (i.e., cooler) than one that says "Baby Under Construction" with a line drawing of an infant wearing a hard hat?

Or maybe it's just me.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Birthing to the Beat

Last night during childbirth class our doula showed us a video of women in labor. I'll admit that I found it intense and overwhelming to watch these women at their most vulnerable, trying to cope with the pain.

At one point I was attempting to hide my watering eyes when our doula leaned in and checked to see if I was crying. Nothing gets past her -- which is what you want in a birthing assistant, I suppose.

The thing I and my musician husband found so interesting, though, was the idea that rhythm is an important part of labor. Almost all the women in the video were keeping time in a different way -- one was counting, one was rocking, one was repeating the phrase "I can do it" and one was rhythmically smacking her husband. (My husband joked that if I resort to that he's pushing the doula in front of him. At least I think he was joking.)

I only have eight weeks or so to go...I better dig out that metronome and start practicing.

Friday, June 03, 2005

This One Goes Out to the One I Love

Because I may sometimes exploit my husband in the name of entertainment ("Man! I really took a beating in the blog today!"), I thought I would devote an entry to telling you how wonderful and supportive he has been through all of this.

Sometimes when I moan and groan and try to get comfortable, he looks over at me with sympathy and says, "My poor baby, you're working so hard!" (He has also been known to say that I am kicking this pregnancy's ass, which I think is a good thing.)

He lets me ramble on and on about my new preoccupation with cloth diapers and organic crib mattresses and glass vs. plastic bottles. And I think he's actually listening.

He's just as interested as I am in the prenatal class we're taking with our doula...and wants to do the homework!

He's told me and other people that although he went through three pregnancies and births with his first wife, this time it's different because I'm different and we're different.

The other night when I was clearly not looking my best he told me he thought I was beautiful.

He's never once complained about the third party I've been bringing to bed with me -- my body pillow -- even though it takes up almost as much room as I do.

And finally, even though I'm aware that the going will get tough, I feel completely confident that I can count on him no matter what. And really, what more could I ask for than that?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Super-Duper Ultrasound

Yesterday I had another ultrasound done. At first I laid there thinking, "Well, this isn't nearly as interesting as the previous one." I guess once you've seen that string-of-pearls spine and an arm waving back and forth it's not quite as amazing the second time around.

Or maybe I'm just jaded.

But then we caught a view of the baby's face -- his closed eyes, his nose, his lips and his chin -- and I got a bit choked up. He moved his lips, making a sucking motion, and for some reason that made him seem like such a real baby.

It was also pretty cool to see the movement I was feeling up on the screen. I told the technician I could feel the baby poking me in the left side of my ribcage and she showed us how he had both feet and one hand in that area. We were even able to see all the little toes on one of his feet.