Creating a story at home

Standard

As I nursed Malcolm last night, some thoughts had occurred to me concerning my path in life as an artist and how my focus has shifted since having my kids.  After Vi was born, I had a very hard time accepting this new roll as a stay at home mom and I ached to work.  My last contract as a designer was a gig in Maryland as a props designer for a college producion when Viola was arounf six months old.  Aside from a social media marketing job part part time, of which I was laid off, I haven’t formally worked in theatre for two years.  After Malcolm was born I was so relieved to be unencumbered by a job, no matter how part time, because such an endeavor would have been impossible.

Why do we work?  For a time I realized it helped fulfill my identity and worth. After Vi was born, I struggled to find my footing as a mom and a woman outside the realm of my skill set.  It was hard.  After Malcolm was born, I barely gave working a second thought. as I did not have the luxury of time to think about it. Plus, I had become accustomed to my identity as a mom. Image

So as I nursed my nine month old last night, I thought, “What would I do if I was free to work now?”  I would likely try to find a scenic painting contract with a local theatre company that at least paid, leaving my scenic design and stage management training in the dust.  Scenic design wasn’t feasible any longer, as I don’t have a decent autoCAD program or the finances to market myself as a scenic designer.  And Stage Management isn’t appealing once you have a family.  Period.  

Having two little kids less than two years apart has been hard and Malcolm has his high-maintenance issues.  But even so, there is something to be said for home-making.  Not “being-a-home-maker”–that makes me think of 50’s women massaging their man’s feet after work in full make-up while the pot roast cooks in the oven.  But we as moms are the ones defining home life, aren’t we?  That’s why we work–to come HOME.  I feel I am apart of the very crux of why we do what we do every day.

Someday I might pick up a scenic painting contract.  Because I love telling a story and being a part of a shared experience.  For now, I can plan painting projects in my home and help create the story that really matters, even if that means less sleep and seemingly mundane tasks.  But I am glad to know that working is simplya means to the end I get to live in every day.  And that is encouraging.

Advertisements

Hiding upstairs

Standard

…is what I’m doing right now. I just put Malcolm to bed at 5:45pm, and I’m pretending that I don’t need to go downstairs and function. I’ll write a blog…yeah. That’s it.

I wish I could say that I’m doing better at “being present” and accepting things, but its slow going. Today was a snow day so Eric was home and Malcolm was having a hard time. Teeth/cold/angry at the world, whatever. Although it was nice having Eric home, the day was an uphill climb… putting out fires with Malcolm, trying to get things done. I still don’t really see Eric all day since one if us has a kid, and I feel like all I say is “no” to Vi all day and then ignore her to try and calm Malcolm down. I miss her. How can I miss a child I spend the whole day with?

He was doing so much better until recently and I know it will pass.

Lately Malcolm is bordering on inconsolable on a bad day. And I know I should be sympathetic to him and whatever is going on, but after awhile it gets old. He gets himself so wound up, he wont nurse or eat. I’m not worried about him, that’s just how he manages his stress, and it will pass.

I have a great support system of moms in the area and I am so grateful. I think this experience will help me encourage other moms in the future. I get great encouragement like:”You’re a good mom.” I think that’s always good to hear. The funny thing is is I don’t feel like a bad mom. I mean, occasionally I’ll say something OUT LOUD that isn’t what a “good mom” might say, but my kids won’t likely hold it against me! Another one is, “its ok to feel this way (frustrated, angry, whatever)”. I don’t feel guilty when I’m angry with a situation. I hope I wont react badly, but Im pretty comfortable with my emotions. “Its not forever.” I know. But it sure feels like forever.

I think I’m ready to go downstairs and detox.

There’s no fix to difficult situations besides prayer and more prayer. And maybe a good friend to hold me while I cry and hand me a martini. Cheers.

Aside

I’ve been writing blogs in my head for the past few months, thinking “Yes, this would make a good blog entry.  This is right where I’m at.” Then, alas, nothing is written for obvious life reasons.  Most of them revolve around a general desperation since Malcolm was born.  Its not overly dramatic at all, its just the right word for it.

One of the imaginary blogs would have been about a man who bought me a chik-fil-a gift card.  He was a stranger who happened to hop right out of his car in the parking lot, just to open the door for me to get into the place.  I must have looked desperate and cold, but that doesn’t typically prompt others to help me, so I was very grateful for his help, having two kids in tow.  Little did he know that I had a newly purchased bottle of wine in the stroller basket.  That’s the kind of day I was having.  Nevertheless, we were going to amuse ourselves at chik-fil-a and get through to naptime, even though it wasn’t in the budget.  Neither was the wine.  As I was hauling everyone to the bathroom, an employee approached us and handed over a gift card, saying the man outside bought it for me.  It was for $20.  I cried in the bathroom.  Yes, the card was great, but what made the difference to me was that this man “saw” me.  I remember seeing tired moms at the grocery store with their children and thinking nothing of it.  They do this everyday.  Now, I see that even getting in and out of a doorway can be quite an endeavor, and I want to hand the frazzled mom a cup of coffee and give her a hug and walk away.  This man saw me and I cried, because everyday can feel like a marathon that I haven’t had enough sleep to train for.

Most of the other imaginary blogs sounded like a broken record: “This is hard.  This sucks.  Help me.  HELP…HELP…”  I was even annoying myself with the pleading in my head.  But there have been some positive things that have happened recently.  I decided to stop medicating with food and get an accountability partner.  We have been talking about how to crave God instead of food.  I’ve lost over 13 lbs since late December and I hope to lose 25 lbs total.  I’ll keep you posted.

Last week I had a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting.  I absolutely love these meetings because I get to have a couple hours, kid-free and drink coffee and hang out with adults.  Its about the little things.  I put Malcolm in childcare this semester, so I was pretty stoked that I didn’t have to wear my 18 lb infant on my person this time.  Long story short (too late?), Malcolm wouldn’t nap unless I held him, and wouldn’t transfer so I could have a few moments peace.  I ended up with my head in my hands in the hallway, with angry tears saying things like, “I’m tired of doing this SHIT everyday,” to a MOPS mom who happened upon me in the hallway. Followed by, “I will NOT cherish these moments,” and “This is not beautiful and wonderful all the time!!!”, and “I WILL NOT miss this!”

Lucky her.

I did end up getting to hear the speaker and cram a donut in my face out of frustration (I told my accountability partner) before needing to rescue Malcolm from the nursery, so it wasn’t a complete waste, but I was upset.  I had the expectation that I would get a couple hours to myself.  I DESERVE a couple hours.

Now here’s what has happened since.

Three people in my (and Eric’s) experience have died within one week.  All of them were in their early thirties, dying of freak ailments that don’t normally afflict thirty year olds.  They weren’t extremely close friends, but their passing was a jolt to us as a part of their respective communities.

Second, I have realized my expectation for Malcolm is that he be someone different.  He “should” be X. Y, or Z.  He should sleep, he should be content, he he should blah blah blah.  I feel like the root of most disappointment is unmet expectation.  But for me as a parent, isn’t it all about comparison?  Why do I think he should be  certain way?  It’s because Sally Shmoe’s kid is sleeping better.

Lie Number One:

“My kid isn’t this way because of ME.  Its someting I DID.  Its something I’m NOT DOING.”

Okay, lets stop right there.  Parents, I’m talking to you. This is the point where I tell you my realization… and the cheesy music plays.  Like at the end of Full House.  Here’s my journey:

“Malcolm is my son.  He is exactly the way he’s supposed to be.  It is not about me.  It is about him.  And I will celebrate what that looks like.”

(Cue cheesy music)

Okay, this difficult infant thing is not new to me.  This is number two of two discontented infant, but Malcolm has come a long way.  He sits in a stroller (or carseat) now without screaming the WHOLE time, he likes daddy, he eats solids.  When things are good, they’re AMAZING.  It feels like a commercial.  Malcolm is adorably cooing while chewing on blocks while Eric teaches Vi the difference between a Dimetrodon and a Spinosauraus while I bake bread from scratch.  Its so perfect, it is almost nauseating.  The next moment Eric and I are wondering why we didn’t get a vasectomy sooner.

My point is that I’m learning how to view Malcolm with a different lense: as a person.  As an individual.  As my son.  If I continue to see him as an unmet expectation, what kind of future will he have, him feeling not good enough?  I don’t want to find out.

Things are better.  Things are good a lot of the time.  I hope to continue to learn the things I need to learn to be present for my kids.  Its really hard some days, but that’s my job, and I love having that opportunity.

(Cue cheesy music)IMAG1732

Being Present

Happy Thanksgiving

Standard

When you are child-free, its easy to pass judgement on other parents.  I remember looking at a kid’s behavior and thinking that my child would NEVER get away with so much,  Of course, I would have close to flawless discipline and my child would be punished swiftly and consistently.  Now that I have a toddler, it is much more complicated than that and I try and judge other parents as infrequently as possible.

Another layer of know-it-all-ness is when you read book about child-rearing or sleep training or whatever, and decide you know how babies work.  Then you have a baby.  And BAM!!  Humbled once again.  When Vi was born, she was a terrible napper for about a year.  Regardless of whatever methods we used (and I resorted to all methods), the problem corrected itself around her first birthday.  But we were pros at nighttime sleep training and we preached the Ferber method whenever we could, praising Vi’s nighttime sleep which was decent.

And then Malcolm was born.  He screamed for two months straight, got better, then decided to have a major sleep regression for the past month or so.  He has been going to bed awake most nights and putting himself to sleep with minimal crying for awhile which I thought was a good omen.  But he is back to continual waking throughout the night and will not go back to sleep without nursing.  So we thought, “hey! its time to bring out the big guns!”  We thought we would try and space out the feedings over a period of time.  Minimum four hours between feedings, no exceptions.  After two straight hours of Malcolm crying at 2am, I don’t know who was in worse shape–him or me (or Eric).  Well, humbled once again.  But this nursing 3-4 times per night is not sustainable and needless to say, we are a little frustrated.  And I don’t think I have the courage to listen to more than an hour of crying, maximum.  I’m not sure what makes him more pissed off–trying to comfort him or leaving him to cry alone.

And another thing.  I’m so OVER the whole baby thing.  Not just the experience, but TALKING and ANALYZING and just plain GUESSING WHY? WHY? WHHYYYYYY??  Teeth?  Growth spurt? Hunger? And secretly: “Do I just suck as a parent?”  It seems silly when I type it out, but isn’t that really why it feels like your heart is being ripped out when your child won’t stop crying?  Or won’t sleep?  Or breaking out in an angry red rash all over their face that the doc can’t make sense of (that’s this week’s debacle)?  Joe Schmo’s kid can sleep, then why can’t mine?  Even typing things like “sleep regression” makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little because I’m just over it.  Because I know in my heart that there isn’t a “right” way to parent.  Kids just aren’t textbooks.  They’re people.  And people suck sometimes.  Ha ha.

I have nothing to offer besides this vent of mine, but its real and its all I’ve got right now.  Ok, there are a few major things I can hang my hat on:  I have two (more or less) healthy, beautiful children.  I have an amazing husband.  And I’m thankful for things like vasectomies.  Thank you modern health innovations.  And Happy Thanksgiving!

20131109_091850

An honest moment

Standard

Soooo… I wrote this last night at around 10:30pm:

I don’t know what to say except, here I go again sounding negative.  Babies cry.  And cry and cry.  I’m sitting here waiting for Malcolm to stop crying and go the &@#% to sleep, even after I fed him.  Again.  I don’t want any more kids.  Its too damn hard and I miss having any energy left for what I consider “real lifE”.  When in fact, I know sitting at a desk job all day since I can’t afford to do what I want is a little too real for me.  What a beautiful magical thing it is to have babies.  Blah blah blah.  I don’t want any more kids.  Its too damn hard.  I have two healthy kids and its too damn hard.  I’m so tired of being tired.  I’m so tired of worshiping sleep, as if nothing in the world mattered more than a nap.

I saved it as a draft, not knowing what I’d do with it later.  Find a lesson in it?  Edit out the rough edges?  Nope. Perhaps just an honest moment that can stand on its own with little commentary.

A New Hope

Standard

I recall my last post had a rather frazzled edge to it, and I don’t blame myself.  The first two months of Malcolm’s life was hell.  I remember things started getting better around seven weeks when he would have his “happy time”–a whopping five minutes of contentment at around two in the afternoon.  Come to think of it, it was almost like the “eye of the storm”–how its quiet and peaceful until the eye passes you and the wind picks up again at a deafening pitch.  Not to mention the many hours of bouncing and walking him around to get him to stop screaming and go to sleep.  It also brought out the stark contrast in how I deal with stress and how my husband Eric deals with it, leaving us frustrated and at odds with each other in the fray.  That was almost harder than the problem itself, and it was like waiting out the storm until I could reunite with my best friend again.

However, I’m pleased to announce the demon appears to have been exercised from Malcolm.  Within an hour of him waking for the day, I’m no longer in tears and wondering when someone from church can come over before I crack wide open.  In fact, he is contented and happy most of time unless he’s tired, hungry, or wet.  You know, like a normal baby.  What changed?  Well, he just grew out of it.  Both of my children preferred life in utero before they were ripped suddenly (or slowly in VI’s case) from the warm sanctuary they called home.  But I wonder if this transition was harder?

I was telling my mom yesterday how I don’t want to discredit the “first child” adjustment.  Having your first kid is HARD.  But I think the reason its so hard (at least for me) was that not only is taking care of a baby difficult and stressful, but new parents are adjusting to a completely new lifestyle.  Everything you were used to–every way you managed your time is obliterated, and now your time, energy, all of it–belongs to this little person you just met. Meanwhile, your nipples are blistering, your baby is puking on you, and you haven’t seen a movie in the theater in six months.  And if you even get an intimate moment with your husband, you have to keep your bra on or you end up leaking all over him. It takes a whole year to adjust, mostly because I never was a kid person and I coveted my alone time with a good book. (Now I enjoy my kindle book in the dark while nursing a child at the same time–not too shabby)

When you have your second kid, you have already accepted the fact that you can kiss the movie theater goodbye and you keep your bra on for at least six months until further notice.  I think its the starting over that makes it hard for us.  Even after Viola got over her initial “I’M ALIVE! AAAAHHHHH!!” phase, she never made anything easy.  Its almost like she started her terrible twos at six months all the way until 18 months.  The perk is that she’s a pretty easy toddler so far (look out for the terrible threes!).  We can look back and say, “WOW!  The first year really sucked!  But she’s been sleep trained (and re-sleep trained), almost all her teeth have come through, and we can communicate now.”  After Malcolm was born, the reset button was pushed and it was hell all over again, except with a toddler in the mix.  Wacky times!

But seriously, Malcolm is over the hump right now and it feels really good.  I can actually sit in my living room on a Saturday afternoon watching Eric read a book to the kids and be very content with our little family.  I know there are tough times ahead, but at least I feel like my feet are on the ground and the storm has passed.

DSC05644

two months

Standard

We’re two months into Malcolm’s life and its been quite a journey. I don’t mean to sound negative, but much of what I’ve experienced so far has been difficult. I guess I’ll just throw together some random thoughts :
1. I thought one kid was hard–boy did I have it easy!
2. I miss Eric so much. Its “divide and conquer ” on a good day and Thunderdome on a bad one.
3. I don’t think I want any more kids. Not because its hard but because we want to continue with life and not hit the “reset” button every time we have another child. Also, we aren’t really baby people. We do better with older kids.
4. I thought it was nearly impossible to have two sensitive children in a row. Who dont sleep. Silly me.
5.I’ll never be bored again
6. I am that woman at the store pointing a finger at my toddler and threatening terrible consequences if she doesn’t hold my hand while we cross the street –while having a screaming infant attached to my other arm. Threats loud enough to let her know I’m serious, but quiet enough so nobody calls CPS.
7. After 7 weeks of almost continual screaming, Malcolm started smiling at his momma. Which makes much of this pretty worth it.
8. Single moms/dads are my heros
9. I was reading an article about a woman who was asked, “wasn’t it amazing how you fall madly in love with your baby right away?” She didn’t feel that love right away and felt guilty. All she could feel for the first several weeks were exhaustion, bewilderment, stress and anxiety. What new mom doesn’t? I will admit freely that I did not feel that maternal bond to my children, right out of the chute…as it were. I will protect them at all cost with my primal instinct, but I don’t usually feel warm fuzzies being up every hour in the night. It took some time to get to know each other and adjust.
10. Giving up dairy isn’t that hard. Giving up a nap is devastating.
11. I appreciate my mom even more.
12. With the second kid, you BEG them to take a pacifier instead of declaring them “bad”.
13. The occasional Tv show is a blessing from heaven.
14. Never underestimate the support you can get from your local church or MOPS mom group. Ask for help!!
15. Comparison robs your joy.

That’s all for now. Things continue to look up as Malcolm adjusts to this world, so hopefully more posts to come.
DSC05562

IMAG1300