New Mama Musings

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hopelessly Devoted

When I get the opportunity to use the bathroom with the door closed, this is what my husband sees on the other side:

I know I said I wanted to be The Mommy, but this is ridiculous.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Easy Rider

Last night when my husband came home from work we put Henry in our new (second-hand) Bumbleride stroller (purchased because the reversible handle allows Henry to face us if we want, hopefully allowing him to feel more secure) and walked up to the park.

We saw a mother duck and her ducklings crossing the path and plopping down into the pond,

people fishing, kids playing, bike riders, tennis players, and lots of other fun and interesting things.

Unfortunately, Henry missed all of it.

As soon as we stepped into the park he fell asleep, and he didn't wake up until we were on the walkway leading up to our house.

I guess he feels pretty secure in his new stroller.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Minister of Silly Faces

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

For the Kids

This morning Henry and I attended the first session of the "Conservatory Tots" music class at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. He was the only boy and the oldest of the three babies, and he flirted shamelessly with Mason while snubbing poor chubby Kennedy. He got to strum a guitar, rattle some shakers, bang on a drum and play peek-a-boo with a sheer play cloth, all accompanied by Miss Karen's singing.

I think he thoroughly enjoyed himself. Because that's what things like this are all about, right? The child enjoying himself?

That's what I thought, but apparently this is not a truth universally acknowledged.

Henry and I arrived at the conservatory about twenty minutes early and as we waited outside the classroom we could hear a child crying hysterically in the session before ours. The mother finally brought the little boy -- who looked to be about two years old -- out of the room, and while he whimpered, "Wanna go home," she said, "We can't go home until you say you're sorry to Miss Karen. You were very rude and bad to cry and disrupt her class."

Then she kept trying to entice him to go back in: "Don't you want to bang the drum? We need to say goodbye to the other kids! Let's go back in and watch!"

I felt so bad for that little boy. He was obviously afraid. Honestly, the drum was pretty loud and the teacher is very in-your-face, so I don't blame him. I was kind of surprised Henry was okay with it.

Way to shame your child and teach him that what others think is more important than how he feels.

I don't have all the answers, but if I were that mama I would have picked my child up and stood in the corner of the classroom, so he could watch everything from a distance (and to be fair, maybe she tried this). Then, if he were still upset after a few minutes, I would take him out of the room and validate his feelings: "It's pretty noisy in there, isn't it?"

And then over the course of the next week I would try to role-play with him about the class and work through his feelings. I would make arrangements for him to arrive early and look at the instruments by himself at his own pace before the other kids got there. And after all that, if he were still freaked out, I would drop it.

I really hope this little boy isn't made to attend next week if he's still afraid. And I really hope the mom doesn't shame him again, because I may have to bite my tongue until it bleeds.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Nothing Worthwhile is Ever Easy

Before becoming a mother I had a few preconceived notions: that labor would be a time of bonding between me and my husband, that all babies automatically slept through the night after the first few months, and that breastfeeding -- though slightly painful in the beginning -- was a natural and blissful experience.

Good thing no one tried to sell me any bridges during my pregnancy.

I had the "painful in the beginning" part right. For the first several weeks each time Henry latched on my entire body tensed up. I had to flex my feet and grimace in order to get through it, though I knew it would be better for our nursing relationship for me to be as relaxed as possible.

But natural? Not a chance. I was lucky in that Henry was born to suck (and I mean that in the best possible way, son) and I had no problems with my supply. However, holding Henry while he nursed felt very, very awkward. For some reason it just didn't feel right, no matter if I had him in the cradle hold, the football hold, or any other hold.

Finally, after learning how to nurse him lying down, I did that. For every nursing session. For the first seven or so months.

And blissful? Yeah, right. It hurt. Even after getting past the initial pain there were periods of time when it would once again be agonizing. Did you ever experience someone grabbing ahold of your forearm with both their hands and twisting in opposite directions (what we called a "snakebite" when I was a kid)? That's pretty much how it felt, but on my nipple.

I ruled out thrush and settled on "bad latch." My midwife told me to release the suction and try to re-position Henry, but I think that only served to piss him off. The lactation consultant I hired said the football hold would help, but we all know how useful I found that advice. Finally, the pain just went away on its own.

Despite all that, it never occurred to me to not breastfeed. I remember last summer, when I was very pregnant, my sisters-in-law commented that neither of them breastfed their daughters; furthermore, neither of them even tried to nurse or had the faintest desire to do so. ("Because then you can't hand the baby off to anyone else to take care of," they said.)

But I always knew that if I had a baby, I would nurse it for at least a year. Of course, now that we're ten months in, a year seems way too soon to stop.

Ironically, now that Henry is past the age that most breastfed babies in America are weaned, I'm getting pretty comfortable nursing him. I've yet to feel the effects of the nursing hormones that make breastfeeding moms feel relaxed and peaceful and it's far from the sensual experience some moms make it out to be. But it doesn't hurt anymore -- and it actually feels pretty natural.

Sitting with Henry in the glider while he nurses (and honks my nose, or sticks his foot in my face, or twists all around my lap) has become one of my favorite things.

P.S. The wonderful photos in this blog entry are courtesy of my friend Allie. If you live in southeastern Wisconsin you should hire her. And if you live outside southeastern Wisconsin and you're wealthy you should hire her and fly her out to wherever you are. She's that good.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The House on Spokane Street

Last night my husband, all four kids and I went to my father-in-law's place -- along with the rest of my husband's extended family -- to say goodbye to my husband's childhood home. My mother-in-law passed away almost four years ago; my father-in-law is getting married again. He and his fiancee bought a condo together and new owners take occupancy of the old place today.

The house isn't much to look at: a 1960's era ranch with the requisite paneling, deep pile carpet and decorative mirrors. But there's an above-ground pool out back where my husband, his sisters and all the grandkids but Henry learned how to swim, and a huge old maple tree that shaded every summer get-together.

The house, to me, and to everyone else, too, was all about my late mother-in-law. Nothing made her happier than having her entire family, their friends and the neighborhood kids over. She had no desire to travel, read or be involved in politics. Her family was her world. Saying goodbye to the house also meant grieving the loss of my mother-in-law.

But we all grieve in different ways, and for different reasons.

I hadn't really wanted to attend last night's gathering; I went only because it was important to my husband. Because despite the wonderful, accepting, loving nature my mother-in-law showed to, well, everyone else, she was not this way to me. Even though she had been married once before, her oldest daughter was on her third marriage and her two sons-in-law had each been married previously, she did not accept my husband's divorce or my entry into the family.

Nothing I did pleased her. If I read to my stepkids, decorated their rooms, planned outings for them -- then I didn't fix Maddy's hair or cook them dinner. If I helped support her son and worked to get us out of debt -- then I shouldn't have spent $80 on a jacket for myself. If I took an interest in her old family photos, copied some and displayed them in our home -- then I hadn't chosen the right photos.

I was always uncomfortable in that house, as you can imagine. Nevertheless we spent a lot of time there. My stepkids loved the pool and the treats and the video game systems, and it was somewhere for us to go when the kids were young and we were overwhelmed with them in our small, un-airconditioned apartment.

But always I felt criticized and stifled and out of place in that house. It didn't help knowing that my husband's ex-wife was welcomed there with open arms, becoming even closer to my mother-in-law than she had been before.

When my mother-in-law died, I grieved then not because I missed her, really, but because there was now no chance of ever gaining her acceptance. It's possible I never would have, but I wonder how things might have changed with the arrival of Henry. Would she have more respect for me now as the mother of her youngest grandchild? Or would she be annoyed instead that I keep Henry so close to me rather than dropping him off for the night, the weekend or the week as the other grandkids were?

So last night, while my husband's sisters and adult niece wiped away tears and struggled to say goodbye, and everyone reminisced about the house and the mother who made it a home for them, I once again felt like an outsider. But this time Henry (who has been there only a handful of hours since his birth) was on the outside with me. And we left that house together, never looking back.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Moment of Silence

Please join me in a moment of silence for the passing of part of Henry's babyhood: he no longer sucks his thumb during the day.

It was good while it lasted.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ten Months

Henry turned ten months old yesterday. He stands unassisted, shakes his head back and forth until he practically falls over just for the fun of it, waves by opening and closing both hands, still isn't too sure about the stroller but loves going places in the mei tai, finds many random things (like Mommy tapping her feet) funny and is reaching new heights every day.

It's getting fun now, folks.