Tag Archives: Motherhood

Are things better?

Prompted by a thoughtful letter from a friend and former colleague, after reading a recent post.

Are things better? Well, not really. That said, I have started a skills class that uses both cognitive behaviour therapy, acceptance commitment therapy (kind of CBT 2.0) and other techniques based on mindfulness. My application of these techniques is still somewhat rustic; some of the techniques are more familiar and useful, and I find myself employing them to constructive ends. Counting, for example.

Other times, the notion of radical acceptance,  a critical piece of these therapies, seems anathema to who I am. Would I have been able to work where I worked, and do the things I did were I to radically accept the environments in which I worked? It seems, in some fundamental ways, that my radical rejection of the status quo was the key to my professional successes, if not my personal ones.

That is not to say that I don’t radically accept situations around me – it’s just that I am aware of my ambivalence. I sit and offer both radical acceptance and my reticence chairs next to me, and keep my hands, palms up, on my lap. It’s new, and difficult.

Another technique critical to CBT in terms of dealing with trauma is encouraged disassociation. This is another one of those tools that doesn’t feel natural. Trauma in me triggers confrontation, not hiding or pretending something doesn’t exist. Again, it’s a matter of degrees, of understanding that the dissociation is only used sparingly, and in a temporary manner  – to give a bit of breathing room and of space, to allow for the right solution to make itself more apparent.

My moments of peace and happiness to the point where I feel close enough to happy to be making up songs, are in the kitchen, and with the kids at bedtime. So I do get to have them, and they are delightful, and I can forget the other aspects of my life completely. Baking is just wonderful, and a good outlet for me. I enjoy making things that are appreciated, and the cakes I’ve made for my son’s school auctions (mostly in the form of year-long subscriptions) have allowed me to investigate recipes on behalf of the client family. And musically speaking, keeping a melody, a metered lyric, a rhyme scheme, and a child’s attention at bedtime, when they’d prefer to be jumping on the mattress, are distractions aplenty.

We have projects here and there; my son has sports, school activities, and a certain melancholy. My daughter has yet to decide whether to use her tremendous personal power for good or evil. We are about to embark on a large remodel which will create a family room, a new bedroom for my son (it will be the nicest room in the house, given that he will inherit both Doug fir built-ins
– a bookcase and a floor-to-ceiling cabinet), and will give up half of the spider park that is our two-car garage for a new bathroom. The lab technicians took 13 samples to determine whether we will be exposing lead and asbestos in the inevitable clamor of demolition. Plus the permits.

And yet, there it is. The sadness is still very much there. The lack of community. The sense that the only help I get with my depression requires payment. The things I miss.

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Why I nearly hate Boden

Okay, I said it. That catalogue full of playful, colorful clothing for women? I am almost at the point of hating it. Not because I don’t like the clothes – no, they’re lovely pieces. What I don’t like is how they came about, and the guiding philosophy of its founder, Johnnie Boden.

Johnnie wants us mommies (or mums) to know he really cares about us, and our bodily insecurities . He wants us to feel pretty, to feel like we’re not “mutton dressed as lamb.” So he makes delightful, not-too-threatening clothing in terms of silhouette, palette, and implied intelligence, with the idea of making happy, pretty wives, happy to stay at home with children, or if we deign to work and deprive our children of the healthiest possible family structure, to communicate a sense that we’re really not all that important. We’re decorative, and we’re happy to be that way.

His career in helping slummy mummies began when Wall Street kicked his sorry arse back to the UK. And yet, he remains enamored of American capitalism. Evidently, a welfare state is to blame for people not picking up after their canine pets tend to their business streetside. What I wouldn’t give to see the trigger of his ire to be pure Tory.

Yes, I have flab, Johnnie, and yes, I don’t feel good about it.

But I feel a hell of a lot worse about being dismissed because of my gender; that there is nothing more threatening in our english-speaking culture than a woman who knows she is intelligent and isn’t so interested in hiding it, particularly if it might hurt some man’s feelings. I feel much worse about living in a neighborhood where placing priority on feeding your mind, particularly if your mind is awash in estrogen, might be about as evil as starving a baby. I feel much worse that your business is based on the premise that a pretty empire-waist frock will make me forget the things that genuinely vex and trouble me most.

In the end, I don’t hate clothing, and the catalogue itself has become better since they dropped the child-playmate q & a descriptors for each model in each layout. But I hate that it’s offered with a pat on the head and a “there, there” from someone I could easily think under the table.

p.s. this essay owes a great deal to Blue Milk’s dead-on Yummy Mummy post; here’s hoping to approach its thoughtfulness and writing.

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soft armor

Walking into the reunion room

I’m startled by the low light, the drafts, and the stale air.

I’m not 38 anymore, picking at imaginary lint balls on my sweater

But 17, anxious, anticipating something hard and hostile crackling behind me.

The bar charges more money for pre-packaged dark beer than for urine from the tap.

I stick with water in unopened bottles, and wait.

Wait for a kind, vaguely familiar face. There’s one, then two.

Some are more familiar than others, some more kind.

And then the phone at the bar rings – my child has exceeded my mother’s capacity to comfort him.

I drive to retrieve him, then bring him back to the banquet hall.

He is soft armor, but his five months of life cover me completely.

Impenetrable.

But beyond the protection he lends me, he has a strange effect on  others.

No one can be hostile to a baby; no one with a baby will be hostile to a simple greeting.

Men remark on the pawprints on the feet of his sleeper – pawprints made by their sons.

Women coo and gently touch his round soft creamy cheeks, asking softly for a smile.

And others as anxious as I am see a chance to sit down with someone who won’t threaten them, who will help them feel less lonely in the drafty ballroom.

My baby doesn’t make all the cliquery disappear, and cokelines still get consumed in the ladies room along with misdemeanor memories.

There are still drunken stumbling people, and others who get angry at the thought of someone wanting to know more, learn more, be more than what they were.

But the baby and I can walk out of the hall, facing forward, into the chill of late November, safely. He is in my arms, but tonight he is carrying me.

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mini-me, mini-my, oh no.

From the moment he let us know he wanted out, the race went on to see Mom or Dad in the little one. I saw my father-in-law, no fat, a touch of ET, gingery fringe in a male-pattern baldness arrayment, slate blue eyes.

Later, I saw him, and me. Something in his eyes, his smile, his colic. The wisps of hair that took two years to grow, his love of dancing and singing, and those eyes – now hazel, but with long black lashes and a twinkle. How he cracks himself up, and laughs at everyone else’s jokes. How honest he is with his feelings. How he would walk away from things that were hard for him to do – thank goodness we knew about “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And his inability to successfully fend off teasing.

He talks about school, and how sad he feels not to have friends. It catches me off-guard. Yes, it’s true that this is the time when children are more likely to switch schools, and since he is staying an additional year in pre-K, his friends are leaving. But the sadness in his voice was painfully familiar: “I’d just like them to say, ‘I’m happy to see you, let’s play together all day!'”

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post-partum posting

How to measure the time, the changes of the last four months? In pounds? I’ve lost 43, N has gained 10.

In sleep? I get about 4 hours a night solid. N has good nights and bad nights. B wants me to take him to dreamland, in which case he is down for the count. H sleeps lightly, with earplugs, in another room. My jaw is sore from the clenching that evidently comes from snacking on rest rather than having a full meal of it.

In capabilities? N can laugh, talk, dance (with help), and blow out diapers as if they were kleenex. B is learning how to be a big brother, and now plays that he is the young one, not the baby. I learned how to get within minutes of blowing up a microwave oven.

Post partum depression? Yes, I have it again, but I’d liken it to being aware of a low grade cold. It’s there, aggravated by sleep deprivation, alleviated by companionship and a good stretch of sleep.

What might be most frustrating – though not full blown frustrating, because I rarely have the energy for it – is that I have ideas for writing which slip from me. A turn of phrase, an observation, a reaction to something I hear or read, and before I can put my fingers to it, give it a shape and color, something else demands my hands. The twitter 140 character limit starts to make sense – spitting out fragments instead of poetry in the beginning, and later, perhaps, looking at 140 chars like the structure of haiku or a sonnet. To be honest, I’d be lucky to make it to doggerel, and some rhyming couplets.

Walking with N in public makes me realize how far away I am from the sense of being at home, grounded, where I belong. It’s not that I don’t know I belong with her and B, walking alongside them until they pass me and my line of sight. But beyond that, I’m an invisible person, at the mercy of my bank balance and the paid substitute for care from salespeople.

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Welcome to the World, Nora

On 19 November, we drove to Evergreen Hospital to evict my beloved tenant. She made no sign of leaving on her own, having blocked the exit with her bottom and legs.

I walked unassisted but not unaccompanied to the delivery room, took my spinal like a woman (nearly soundlessly and according to my labor nurse, like “a very tough woman”) and within a few minutes became mother to a daughter. A daughter, in the words of the surprised OB, assisting and nurses, who was “a very big girl”. Baby was 8lbs, 8oz, 20.5 inches. Strong. Pink. And with the most beautiful thatch of blond hair, which after her first bath made a silvery blond cap on her little head, prompting lovely spontaneous expressions from her nurses.

Looking at her, all the names we preselected seemed wrong. And in fact, I thought she looked more like a Walter in those first hours. But with time, hospital discharges, and the 100,000 Baby Name book, we figured out her name by the 26th: Nora. Her full name is Eleanor, but when I looked into her dark eyes, I saw a determined, decidedly unfrivolous person, looking back at me. Nora. She cried only for food and cold – no sense in making a fuss otherwise – and was as content as could be once full and warm. Nora. And yet, such a delicate little face, a halo of silky filaments, a little beauty completely unaware of a world falling in love with her, and acting accordingly. My Nora. Welcome to the world, little one.

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38w6d: long, closed, contemplative

Yesterday, at the OB’s office, there was a moment where I felt less like an expectant mother and more like my purse – the ob rummaging through me to find a cellphone, or in this case, a cervix. What she found was long, quiet and closed – not unlike my cellphone by the time I find it. No sign of labor, or of the tenant’s plans for moving day.

After some earlier emotional arguments at home, this news was a little less than welcome. I had whispered to her that this would be a great day to come out, that Mommy had already driven to the hospital, she had the keys and her baby bag in the back seat, and we could get this squared away in no time. Just mommy and baby.  But in a disturbingly familiar display of stubbornness (wow, does that spelling look wrong), she has decided to prove all qualified and certified medical professionals completely wrong. “I won’t make it to term? Well, induce THIS.”

Admittedly, the stress of my mother’s visit is a contributor to her reticence to exit. My mother came to “help”, but she is a rather frail 79 who has nearly lost her hearing completely and refuses to wear a hearing aid. Parenting issues and flashbacks abound. I had thought I was big enough to follow through on letting her come – she is doing this as much for herself as for me – but I’m faced with the ugly reality of my rather unforgivable smallness. (Don’t tell me I’m not. This is not false modesty.)

So self-directed trips alone to the hospital give me time to be with little one, and with my son, focused on things that matter to me. I can reassure myself that I won’t be in housewifery exile forever, though the economic conditions of this region may conspire to make that feel like the reality. I’m quietly excited both for her arrival, her growth, and a new real job. I’m better prepared for what will mostly be a solitary parenting experience, regardless of marriage license and/or marital status. I line up documents and questionnaires, prepare for sleeping places and nursing stations throughout the house, pry out of H whatever it was I last did to piss him off so he’ll drop the silent treatment, and get familiar with 42, mother of two.

The catch is how to get everything else done smoothly, incurring the fewest number of complaints, while allowing myself the space and brain function to imagine and execute the next steps so important to take. If I get 6 hours a night, I think I can pull it off.

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