Thursday, November 1, 2012

Postpartum Dreams (pt 2)



So….maybe you’re convinced enough in our need to up the support of postpartum families, and ready to start putting it into action.  Because, obviously, the only way to put belief into action is to start blessing others…well, and self-prepare.  ;-)

Wondering where to start?  Here’s a list of what I would love to see happen or at least be considered for every postpartum mama.  Much of the inspiration comes from friends, too, who shared what they would love in the ideal postpartum recovery.  I was almost surprised at how similar everyone’s ideal lists were to each others and to mine.  So while bearing in mind that every mama needs personal tailoring, I’d dare say a lot of this pretty well would bless most postpartum moms.

  1. Meals.  And not just for a week, but a full 6 weeks.  I think a pretty good balance/ideal would be daily for 2 weeks, and 3-4 times a week for the following 4 (but obviously, every mama would have her own preference- and nearly daily for 6 weeks would be awesome, too).  That’s approximately 28 meals total- which sounds like a lot as one person, but if a whole community banded together, is probably very doable with minimal effort from each person.  I really love Take Them A Meal for coordinating.  There's also Meal Baby, amongst others.  It does all the work for everyone, plus allows givers to make sure their meal is unique!
a)      Make sure you check on dietary needs as well as personal preferences, especially of children.  Picky kids really annoy me (just sayin’!), but setting personal prejudice aside, meals aren’t as helpful if the parents still have to make a separate meal for their kids.  Also, definitely check for allergies!  If you have the time to do so, consider too catering to their general health-level lifestyle.
b)      On the other hand, though, don’t let that intimidate you.  And unless there are actual dietary needs/restrictions (i.e. needing to stay on a GAPS diet or dealing with major side effects), even a typical healthy family would thoroughly enjoy Pizza Hut.
c)      Check on what the family prefers as far as drop-off time and visitors.  Is mom really tired and does she want to be mostly left alone so she can feel free to sleep when baby does?  Or is she lonely and desperate for a friend to come hang out for a while?  Either may be equally true, so know your mama or just ask.
d)      Obviously, be considerate and don’t take germs over.  If you have sick kids and still want to do a meal, consider dropping it on the porch.  It might not be as fun for you, but the new mama will be infinitely grateful!
e)      Remember that dinners aren’t the only meal people eat.  If you can invest the time, consider bringing some stuff for breakfasts or snacks….or lunch if you don’t think dinner will stretch into leftovers.  And again, feel free to let it just be a box of crackers and block of cheese, provided allergies/strict dietary  needs aren’t an issue.
  1. Offer to pick up groceries, especially if you’re already going to the store.  Ask if you can get anything and drop it off.  It’s really nice to not have to shop for a while, and not sending dad means more time he’s available.  A few family members got me a couple things a time or two, and it was really nice!  Especially for fresh produce, our main need that I couldn’t preplan for/pre-buy.
  2. Cleaning help.  For many women, I think this one needs some cultural expectations changed in order for it to be comfortable.  Nonetheless, it would be a pretty huge thing!  And while the house really can just wait for a while….sometimes it can be a stress-point.  I know it was for me, although Ben did a great job with it.  But when too much clutter piled up (going under Ben’s radar, since it doesn’t bother him), it would be so stressful for me to sit there staring at it, physically incapable of getting up and dealing with it myself.  I always felt bad asking for help with it, too.  If I didn’t have a helpful husband, it would’ve been an even bigger issue, since dishes and what-not wouldn’t have gotten done, either.  Also, with other children in the picture the 2nd time around, it became a lot harder for him to take care of everything.  He was trying to meet my needs since I was immobile, care for and spend time with Vivi, work, go to school (from home) and keep up with the house.  He’s awesome, but it was a lot!  So- I think it would be awesome if people offered to come do some basic cleaning once or twice a week.  Clean the bathroom, vacuum, perk the kitchen up, clean up toys, put away gifts, etc.  It could easily be divided between a few people.  If each person who came to visit spent 5-10 minutes helping with something, you could probably even maintain.  To get there, mamas need to be made to feel that it’s okay for you, the visitor, to walk into a messy house!
  3. Laundry.  There’s no way around the fact that it has to get done…or that it piles up really fast with a newborn.  (Remember changing outfits at every diaper change, which occurred every 1-1.5 hours around the clock?)  Offer to come over for a folding party.  Or to start/switch a load while you’re there dropping off a meal.  Or to take their laundry home with you and bring it back clean and folded.  After both kiddos, it was at least a few weeks before I could bend or kneel to switch laundry without causing severe pain plus backsliding in the recovery department.  Not to mention, it’s one of those few tasks that actually is difficult with a baby in front.  I would’ve been lost without Ben’s willingness to start and switch laundry for me, and bring it out by the couch where I could fold it.  Next time around, when he’s working outside the home, it’s definitely a department I might love more help in.  I remember a friend folding a basket of laundry that was sitting there when she came with a meal after Vivi.  After getting over the mortification (my house isn’t perfect!!!), it was really nice that she so sweetly just picked stuff up and folded it while we were chatting.  As a mama of 10, I guess she knew that sometimes it’s the little things.
  4. Some mamas voiced a desire for a live-in helper.  If you’re in a season of life that you could offer that, it could be a huge blessing.  I’m not sure I’d like having someone around all the time….but I know in the future (Ben working away) it probably will be almost-needed for help with toddler-lifting, etc., the first couple weeks.  Or at least to have someone come a few hours a day.  And some mamas would absolutely love having company around all the time, especially if they’re used to a highly-social pre-baby life.  J
  5. Other moms mentioned how nice it would be to have someone come hold the baby so they could take a shower, fix their hair, or whatever.  Or help provide the motivation to get out for a walk.  Self-care is important!  Especially if you’re parenting a “high-needs” (or is it just normal?!) baby or believe in giving your little one as much hands-on time as possible.  Awesome as it is, it does burn you out, too…especially if your baby is fussy inspite of your best efforts.  A shower can be your sanity-saver. I know it was for me with Vivi!  It also would’ve been impossible without Ben around to hold Vivi as a shower while she screamed by herself was not a valid (or relaxing) option for me.  A well-cared-for mama is much more nurturing and less stressed!  So remember- as a mama, and as someone helping a mama- care of the mother benefits everyone. 
  6. If she has older kids, consider doing something fun with them- bringing over a fun new toy (playdough, coloring stuff, or other economical things that would keep them occupied with minimal mess would be great!), take them out to a park or back to your house for a while, or play a game with them while you’re there.  I really loved the fact that every time my mother-in-law came over after Timothy’s birth, she made a point to play with Vivi.  Not only does it free mama up for a bit to enjoy her baby, it makes life extra-fun for the older kids to get some extra-special attention.  Their lives have been thrown out of whack, too…not in a bad way, but like everyone else, they could use some help adjusting, too!

For a list of 100 creative ways to bless a new mom, visit Lisa Jo and check out one of her most popular posts!  Not only does she discuss the basics, she delves into tons of creative ideas- many of them easy to fit into your schedule.

*As a side note, I just have to say that although meals for 6 weeks didn’t happen ;-), I was blessed with very supportive people and more help than many women get.  My mom sent multiple meals my way (even if it was just leftovers, which were always yummy!), and one of my sisters-in-law also stopped in multiple times when she was in the neighborhood with extras from a dinner she’d made for her family, burritos and waffles for the freezer, etc.  My mother-in-law stopped over several times, and in addition to bringing dinner would also spruce up the kitchen if necessary or play with Vivi.  I loved that when she came over she’d always make a point of playing with Vivi.  She even took her to the park once so Ben, Timothy and I could nap!  Another SIL brought a meal and picked up some produce for me once.  My sister stayed with me overnight when Ben went on a family celebration trip while I still couldn’t lift Vivi…she treated me like a queen and scampered around keeping up with everything.  And additionally, we got a few (much appreciated and quickly devoured) meals from friends.  Postpartum season makes me starving, so hearty meals from others always tasted SO yummy!  Anyway- just have to throw that in for the awesome people in our lives!* 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Postpartum Dreams



I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a dream (surprise, surprise!)….of becoming a postpartum doula.  I don’t know if I ever will, officially (and if I do, I see it being down the road a ways), but an even bigger dream is to put postpartum doulas out of business.  (sorry, you wonderful group of people!)  It’s a dream to re-set howour whole culture thinks- how we view birth, motherhood, infancy, and thepostpartum mama.  It’s a dream to see new (whether they’re new for the 1st time or the 5th!) mothers pampered and cared for.  To have Super Woman expectations thrown away.  To see moms feel unburdened and freed- free to invest all their energy in bonding with their new little one and the rest of her family. 

We have so many expectations thrown on moms- and they aren’t just hurting mamas, they’re hurting our babies.  And that is most definitely a problem.  When it’s a big race to get back into your groove as quickly as possible, to be back to making all your meals within a few days, to be ½ expected to turn down any offers of help pretty quickly…it prohibits complete postpartum healing, it drains mama so she’s more prone to postpartum depression and (my biggest peeve) it means babies get thrust aside, tossed from one contraption to the next, so they don’t get in the way of normal life…of productivity, of being Super Mom.  (It’s no wonder companies like Graco thrive!)  Science has more to say all the time about how early-life experiences impact a baby for the rest of his life.  It’s looking likely, actually, that experiences we don’t remember might have a larger impact than ones that we don’t, for better or worse.

When a mama is free to enjoy her baby and other children, transitioning to a new family life can be truly beautiful and stress-free.  It can be a lovely time of bonding, of spending more time than ever with each of your children.  She can create a life-long impact on her baby as she touches, holds, and enjoys him. 

On the other side of the fence, I know what it feels like to be helpless; to let others do your work.  Part of it is my personality and that’s okay- I will always be the type of person who most appreciates a day where I accomplish something.  I love to be at work- it’s one of the reasons I love babywearing; so I can snuggle and move forward with my ideas and pursuits.  Provided we moderate ourselves so it doesn’t cause PP healing issues, I don’t think that’s a problem at all.  Nor is it a problem to sit back and enjoy your baby without worrying about a thing, if that’s your personality.  J  God’s blessed me with a natural check against doing too much- a long recovery period of not being able to move around.  It kind of forces the issue. 

But even if you’re a go-getter, high-energy, moving-type personality (me!), I still think it would be so helpful to have basic needs taken care of.  To know dinner wasn’t a problem, or maybe even that basic housework was done.  Then, if all the babes were having a good day, and you wanted to, you could tackle some extras, or a meal for the freezer.  Or you could use the energy to do fun stuff with your kiddos.  And if you were having a bad day?  If baby was up all night, having a fussy day, and mama was exhausted?  Well, then, no worries and no stress!  You can relax, take care of your family, and know that no one’s going to starve.

The transition into having a new baby around is hard.  And unless you’re super woman, I don’t think there’s any way around having stress involved if you’re expected to do everything for yourself from the get-go.  There’s just a learning curve to throwing another little person into the family-mix.  Not to mention, I think we forget how many hours are spent breastfeeding, changing diapers, and changing outfits in the early weeks.  (Does anyone else remember having to do a complete outfit change for you and the baby at least once in the night due to leaky boobs?!  I sure do, with both….because no matter how hard I tried, at some point I would fall asleep while nursing and hence not “close up shop”, complete with 3 nursing pads, which meant an uncontrolled letdown.)  Even if you’re doing great….it can feel overwhelming and you can wonder how you’re ever going to get anything done, besides going back and forth between changing the toddler and baby. 

But around 6-8 weeks, usually, a light switch-moment happens.  Suddenly everything gets so much easier (for most women).  Your baby might be nursing a little faster and leaking diapers a little less often.  You’re heading back to feeling pretty normalish (although full recovery from all the nutritional stores pregnancy/birth took out of you can take months more).  Baby’s gone through the 2 (typically) most difficult growth-spurts, and with 6 weeks under your belt, you’re starting to feel like you rock and can actually do this thing.  (You do rock, by the way.  Every mother does.)  Your other kiddos are adjusting well, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time in them and made the transition as smooth as possible (if not….you might still be facing a lot of issues).  Your hormones are starting to balance out again, which really makes everyone happy!  You are generally ready and capable to take back over the management of your home.  Relying on others for several weeks will in no way handicap you.  Those first several weeks have a lot to take in for you, your husband, your baby and your children.

Entry into the world would be so much more peaceful and loving for everyone involved if the postpartum season was a season of rest….figuratively (in a peaceful sense, where there aren’t any worries and are few have-to’s on the list) or literally (for those who can or have to sit still).  It would be better for everyone.  Babies would have a calmer pathway to learning the ropes of the world….dads wouldn’t feel so left out in the cold (or burdened by trying to do everything for their wife- I think we often forget about the transitions they go through, too!)….other children wouldn’t feel left out, either, as mama would have lots of time to shower snuggles on them….and mamas would be happier, more fulfilled people.  

And you know what?  It’s not even all about others stepping in and helping out, even though that’s a very huge and necessary part.  Another large portion is relaxing – or changing altogether – our expectations of new moms.  New moms need to feel like they’re doing an awesome job for burrowing themselves in their family for the first several weeks and nothing else.  Mamas need to know and understand that it’s not normal to be managing the house and getting everything done 1 week postpartum.  Women need to be educated about the damage that does for them and their little ones….and encouraged that investing in their baby’s lifelong emotional well-being is totally productive.  Women need to come to see it as okay to have a friend stop over and do their laundry or clean the toilets.

I have several friends that have recently stepped into the journey of motherhood.  And it’s hit them hard.  I can’t help but wonder why...or feel that our culture has a lot to do with it.  I would dare say in most cases it’s a mix of too many expectations on mama/not enough help and too many expectations on babies. 

That’s cause for a whole other article, but in a nutshell, we as a culture expect WAY too much out of babies.  We assume they’ll just fit into our old lifestyle and our plans.  We assume they’ll start sleeping through the night quickly, and that they can be thrown here and there and just be picked up to get fed and changed occasionally- sadly, a first-time mom once bluntly vented the latter expectations in not knowing why her (sick, feverish) baby was crying, seeing as how everything was taken care of.  That is so wrong in so many ways!  I have way too much to say to fit it all in here, so I’ll just say that babies are humans and yes, they do change your life.  If you don’t want your life interrupted, don’t have kids….it’s a pretty simple alternative with all the contraceptives out there.  But please don’t assume you can treat your baby like a piece of furniture and be doing everyone good.  Our culture has become so desensitized and I can only hope that as more research continues to show its face, we’ll start to see the damage we’ve done and are doing.  Babies need to be held and held and held.  They need to be loved, snuggled, soothed and walked.  They need to know you’re there- don’t forget that you aren’t the only one going through a major change!  Your baby was literally attached to you for 9 months, in a dark, warm place, right by your heart.  Being little doesn’t mean lack of awareness.

Okay, back on topic.  Regardless of cause (and sometimes, families get blessed with a really high-needs baby), it just seems to me, in looking around, that postpartum and adjustments to a little one are way harder than they should be.  Which is where I think it would be so awesome if more people would catch my vision and we could all work together to make a difference.  Although postpartum depression (PPD) is hormone triggered, I also believe we’d see huge drops in rates.  Though hormone triggered, PPD occurs most often in situations with no support and a lot of expectations.  Mamas need emotional encouragement and physical help.  And Daddies….lets not forget them.  I truly believe that supporting and mothering mothers more would have a huge (and positive!) impact on dads.  It would free them up in so many ways, and make the adjustments easier on them, too.

I hold a pretty passionate belief in preparing yourself for the postpartum season.  (I'm sure some of it's my personality which can't help but agree with Napoleon when he says (paraphrased) "If you want something done well, do it yourself.")  I’ve written fairly elaborately about what I like to do to prep the house and freezer.  And that helps hugely in achieving the postpartum season I want, without relying on others.  I still think it’s important, because obviously, our culture has many years, perhaps decades, before they’ll be ready to make a 180* and start mothering mothers to the fullest extent that they need.  In the meanwhile…joining forces between doing our own prep/encouraging others to do so and offering/receiving help afterwards (and, of course, continuing to spread the vision!) can help make strides.

And maybe someday….we’ll see change in a major way.  For today, I’m looking for ways to implement what I believe on the small scale one person can….and to share my vision, so others can catch it.  

Would you like to see changes in the postpartum world?  What are you doing to make it happen?

Monday, September 3, 2012

For my baby boy who's growing up....




Dear, sweet, 10 month old baby, Timothy,

No one prepared me.  No one told me how much I would adore this “9 month phase”.  That phase everyone talks about, when you suddenly realize how independent you’ve become with all your crawling, and come back to home base a bit more- wanting to be held, not letting me leave the room without you, and so forth.  But baby boy, I do.  My heart melts every time you crawl across the living room as fast as can be.  The way you give up and begin to cry if you’re not getting to me fast enough.  The way you burst into a smile when I get you, or you reach me.  The way you tug at my legs and try to pull up.  It all takes my breath away.  I love how big you’re getting….but I love the reminder that I’m still your home base- that you still aren’t quite big enough to tackle the world on your own.  I love how much babywearing we get to do again, since you don’t like me to leave the room without you.  I love the way you nestle into my back oh-so-happily (after, of course, arching as I try to get you on there….can’t break old habits!) in the wrap or Kanga.  I love watching you grow up- the way you’re starting to pull yourself up to stuff – and the way you find the tiniest things on the floor.  I love how you look at objects from every angle, holding them in every position in your hands whose coordination are getting pretty good.  I love how you adore Vivi, and look for her when she isn’t in the room.  I love how you play with her and follow her around, and get SO happy when she gives you attention- which is often, because the love is mutual.  You two make me so thankful you have each other.

Love,
Mama

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Grace for Parents a Generation Up


My generation provides a lot of perfect examples of how the homeschool movement has flopped.  Sad, but true.  It doesn’t make me think homeschooling’s bad (we’re planning on doing it, after all!), but there are definitely some major pitfalls- especially with “the movement”.  The biggest thing that bothers me – the biggest failure in my opinion – are all the legalistic, controlling parents.  It’s the kids who aren’t allowed to think for themselves….it’s the young adults who have to either live under the chains of their parents, or break away entirely.  And I sit back wondering, “What the heck are those parents thinking?”  Considering that it’s a very common thing, I guess most parents don’t actually mean to. 

But today….I was thinking a little bit about what parents in general, and specifically homeschool parents, go through.  They’re still wronging their kids…but I could see why.  You pour everything you have into your kids…and you want it all to turn out okay.  You have an idea of what “okay” is.  You make the choices you do because they seem like the best to make.  You’ve thought through why you believe what you do, and are certain it’s right.  So, whether consciously or subconsciously, I bet most parents want their kids to make the same decision.  The intensity level is probably increased for most homeschoolers, because you’re investing that much more of your life in your kids.

(I do realize there are more malicious reasons, as well, on the parts of some parents…  And, I also realize the homeschool movement has done some good things, and has some success stories.)

We were joking at a babywearing meeting recently….about “forcing” kids and kids-in-law to babywear.  About what we might have to say to a kid who thought otherwise. 

I thought about how hard it would be to have a son marry some girl who was adamant about plastic parenting and using cry it out.  Or worse, having one of my kids – my flesh and blood – adamantly supporting it.  About standing by as my grandbabies suffered the side effects of cry it out, BabyWise life, etc.  I’m passionate about the way I parent our kids.  I research and read, and observe in real life.  I know – from research and real life observances – what cry it out does to babies.  I know it causes irreparable damage.  I know what kind of irreparable damage occurs when babies spend a substantial amount of time in car seats, cribs, and other contraptions.  I’m learning what kind of irreparable damage occurs in a punitive-based parenting style.  God’s been gracious enough to show specifically how damaging that would’ve been for Vivi, before the damage was done.  Did you catch that word- irreparable?  As in, permanent?  My grandbabies suffering permanent damage because my kids don’t parent “right”?  And me just watching? 

Ummmm…..no thanks?

And I remembered.  No expectations.  That’s what we want for ourselves; it’s what we want for our kids, too.  We give grace to our peers, and we give grace to our kids now.  We “allow” our friends and relatives to parent the way they see fit.  Someday, I’m going to have to give grace to let our kids lead their adult lives- including choosing how they parent.  Even if they don’t embrace my passions.  I’ll have to give grace, and trust to God He has a plan for each of their lives.

Because even uglier than the idea of cry it out being used for my grandbabies…is the idea of holding my children in bondage with my expectations.  The idea of them feeling the need to cut ties all together…or parenting in a certain way just to please me- just because it’s what I believe, not because it’s what they believe.  Even uglier is refusing to extend to my babies the very thing I strive to extend to everyone else in my life.

I see now- as my areas of passion are touched on- that it may not be easy.  But it is my goal.  And with God’s help, we’ll conquer.  I still hope that they’ll parent to the best of their ability- and yes, I hope that includes parenting instinctively.  But, our children will be free….and greater even than the legacy of parenting instinctively, we’ll share a legacy of grace and freedom.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Greatest Dream.....


I love it when God gives clear direction and re-sparks your passion for an area of life.  For me, that happened with motherhood recently.

I’m a dreamer and achiever, and I’ve wondered for a long time about how to share my passion for babywearing with other people…how to help more moms, especially in my area- but anywhere in general, too.  I’m also an entrepreneur at heart, so I’ve been tossing around the idea of becoming a vendor for some of my favorite carriers, setting up a website, seeing if I could speak at some MOPS groups or something, and so forth.  It was an exciting prospect- there would be so many awesome angles to it.  But after looking into what all I needed to start out, and starting to make heads and tails of the government stuff, and then figuring out how much money I would need to “borrow” from Ben….and doing lots and lots of dreaming…I started trying to figure out realistically how much time it would require- for starting up, and as I grew – and whether or not that would effect my family.  I’m still not sure how much time I’d need per week….but I’ve no doubt that it would be quite a bit, especially in the start up phase.  Yeah, I could do it….but, especially if we were to have another little one, there’s no way I could do it without taking from my family.  Taking from time with my babies, taking from time as wife, taking from preparing healthy and creative meals, taking from the home.  I considered the possibility ofusing NFP for a brief season so I could get things rolling without taking time away from everyone who needs me, and waiting a while before having another baby, since Ben was very supportive of whatever direction I chose. 

I didn’t feel like there was one clearly right or wrong way, which felt strange.  Because the thing is, I no longer have super clear ideas about family size, patriarchy, etc.  I no longer feel it’s wrong for a woman to pursue dreams beyond being a wife and mom.  But figuring out how life works, and what’s right for each situation can sometimes feel confusing- because there isn’t one across the board decision.  My decision isn’t better than the next woman’s.  It’s just the right one for me.  Even though I no longer feel chained (not that I ever felt chained by it, because it fits me personally…but adhered in a legalistic way?  yes.) by patriarchy and man-made ideas of gender roles and functions.

So I prayed about it….and God responded with such clarity, it’s sparked a new passion for life and my role as a wife and mom.  It’s the awesome part of a personal relationship with Father, instead of a rule book.  Though I’ll be honest- that kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday for me.  Usually, I feel like I’m just plodding along.

The answer was no.  Or at least, not now.  But this time….not because it would be wrong to pursue it, but because it isn’t my biggest dream.  I have lots of dreams and ideas, and they just can’t all fit together.  There’s picking and choosing involved.  For me?  I choose being a mom. 

God reminded me that being a mother is my biggest, most beautiful dream.  Right now is the only fertile season of my life.  If I choose to put that on hold just so I can pursue something else – something I could pursue anytime – I’m going to really regret it in 25-30 years.  I have a love affair with babies…and I’m a long ways from ready to not have one around.  I wouldn’t be able to choose not to- I know myself too well.  I would regret putting time into the business that would take from Ben and the kids.  I would regret splitting my time in more directions than I can keep up with.  What I’ll never regret, though, is putting the business on hold for 25-30 years, and delving headfirst into this beautiful, life-changing, world-changing dream of being a mother.  I’ll never regret having another baby to hold, or saving time for my older kids.  I’ll never regret homeschooling or being involved in my kids’ lives in a huge way.  I’ll never regret sleepless nights and snuggly days.  I’ll never regret pregnancies and the wear and tear.  I’ll never regret the effort to bring a baby into the world.  This life….I’ll never regret. 

I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was 3.  That’s as far back as I can remember…it’s my deepest, greatest and oldest dream.  For me, it’s one of the greatest things life has to offer.  I’m honored and grateful that God chose to fulfill that dream for me.  The thing I love about God speaking to me, instead of adhering to some guy’s rules is that reminder.  I choose being a mom, not because I’m better than someone else, but because it’s my greatest desire.

So here I am…just a mom, loving life.  Holding my babies, parenting instinctually, and putting my family first.  Loving every minute of it.  And maybe in 30 years, that business will take a leap.  Maybe by then, with many years of experience, I’ll have something truly unique and special to offer people.  And it would be a way to stay in touch with babywearing when my babies are all grown up.  In the meanwhile, we’ll keep sharing the babywearing love as opportunities come up- and maybe see about speaking at MOPS or other events if the occasion arises.  But most of all, in the meanwhile….I’ll be here, a mom.    

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Finding Art in Babywearing


Ben pointed out to me recently how much of an art babywearing is.  As someone for whom babywearing is not only something that works for us, but a passion and even a hobby, that idea appealed very much to me.  We were walking and I noted that though my Kozy Carrier mei tai just wasn’t working for Timothy on the way to the park, it worked fine for Vivi on the way back. 

It’s really rather beautiful how unique and individual babywearing is.  I’ve long believed different carriers work for different women.  But I’ve learned since just how much the baby has to do with it as well.  Not only their carrying preferences, but how they’re built, how big they are, etc.  Most of the carriers that worked well for Vivi and I haven’t been favorites with Timothy.  There’s an aspect to knowing my babies and finding something that works for Timothy and I….and Vivi and I….and Ben and Vivi…and so forth.  It’s creating music- each “couple” producing something different, but equally beautiful.

It’s a little frustrating in helping share the babywearing love, of course, because so many moms try a carrier (usually a B’jorn or equally un-ergonomic carrier) discover it’s thoroughly uncomfortable and decide they simply can’t babywear.  Or many moms can’t afford to explore and find what works well for them….or aren’t interested enough to put the effort into trying to do it economically or at all.  Babywearing’s rare enough that the artful side can be frustrating for mamas and make it more difficult to spread babywearing love.  But….

It’s beautiful and rich and rewarding when you find just the right way to be close to your little one.  It’s special to have a favorite carrier for Timothy and I….and fond memories of different ones for Vivi at the same age.  It’s rewarding to search and try and find something we both love.  And since I don’t create art on paper…babywearing is my masterpiece.  It’s what I put my creative energy into.  Though it doesn’t fill our walls with rich colors, or our home with notes of music…it fills our lives with beauty of the richest sort.  Our walls echo with laughter.  The corners of the room watch as beautiful, unforgettable snuggles take place.  As rough days are smoothed out.  We explore the great world together.  We laugh, snuggle, and are soothed to sleep.  Yes….this is my music.

And so, I’ll keep learning to dance better- for there’s always room for improvement, and just when you think you’ve got a hold of something, a change occurs.  Because my family’s worth it…and because this is what I love.  And when my arms aren’t big enough to hold my children – my babies – anymore….I’ll learn new dances.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Heart of Attachment Parenting

I’ve been pondering parenting a lot, lately.  There’s the mom guilt that’s crept into a few areas of life here and there...but which I haven't dealt with lately (well, except for when I do utterly fail, which happens often enough), except thinking sometimes I should be feeling guilty.  And I’m reading Spirit-Led Parenting, which has been a really excellent book.  Very encouraging for moms of all walks….good encouragement to leave behind pressure and criticism on all sides of the mommy wars.  Then I read this really excellent article, The Face of Attachment Parenting.  And it all sort of clicked again for me….in a crystal-clear, slightly new way.

Attachment parenting isn’t about the methods.  Attachment parenting is a heart thing.  It’s the way my heart is in-tune with my children’s hearts.  It’s the way we’re…ahem….attached.  It’s about meeting each of my kids’ individual needs.  It’s about being involved in their lives.

Co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding, and many other practices connected to attachment parenting help me achieve that.  But they just aren’t it.  That revelation brings a bit of freedom with it….freedom to parent the way each of my kids need – freedom to be imperfect and still make it through this journey – freedom to give my kids my very best, even though that isn’t perfection. 

---

Sometimes, knowing too much can feel overwhelming.  I’ve read the research and I know how good babywearing is for my babies.  So….I wear them a lot- and for other reasons as well.  I wear them while we do housework and cook and go on walks….basically, anytime I’m moving.  But sometimes, I’m exhausted…like during our 2-day zoo trip when I had a few points of being quite happy to let him ride in the stroller or pass him to Ben and let Vivi walk.  He recently growth-spurted, bringing him up to 25 lbs.  I think my back’s finally starting to catch up, but it’s taken a while….I need to start working on some exercises to strengthen my core so I can keep up- but I said that several days ago, and it’s still just a thought.  Or there’s the way some activities are becoming difficult (dare I say impossible?) with him on the front….or that some days I feel like just wearing him takes all my energy and combining that with caring for a tired toddler and getting anything done feels like torture.  So I put Timothy on the floor to play while I’m cooking, or in his saucer.  And while the one side of me feels like it’s working for all of us because he knows I’m right there, he’s having a good time, and Vivi’s enjoying either playing with him or being worn….there’s another side of me that knows just how good babywearing is for babies.  I race the research through my mind, recalling how good every extra hour of physical contact is for baby. 

But then I remember….the articles are written to a hands-off culture.  A culture where baby goes from one contraption to the next, and sometimes doesn’t even get held for feedings.  It really isn’t addressing a situation where baby is worn several hours a day and held/played with for a good many more.  And truly- I haven’t felt guilty lately.  Only like maybe I should feel guilty because, well- remember what the research says?!    

And then it all came full circle as I started piecing together my thoughts on AP and I realized- babywearing is a special and helpful tool.  But it isn’t attachment parenting itself.  I use it to meet my baby and toddler’s needs….but if they don’t need it around the clock and I need a break, that’s okay.  Phew.  I’m not a failure on that account, at least.

--- 

Or there’s breastfeeding.  And mom’s who don’t breastfeed can still be attachment parents.  I still clearly remember being super excited to meet a new friend with the common ground of babywearing.  She came over and we shared carriers and swapped stories.  And then her son got hungry….so she pulled out a bottle.  And my mind started pursuing a lot of less-than-graceful thoughts.  I mean, really….I thought she was an attachment mom; she’s so into babywearing.  Lucky for me, I didn’t voice my thoughts….and soon, I was repenting them.  And wondering all over again why I can’t just have grace for people.  Because she started to share….her 9 month, hellish journey of trying everything to be able to nurse her little guy….with no success.  The doctor visits, the lactation consultants, the herbs, drugs and oatmeal.  And it still wasn’t working.  She shared her joy in the fact that he still enjoyed comfort nursing at home….and the pain of not being able to do something she’d dreamed of doing.  (if you’re reading this…I’m truly sorry for my initial thoughts.  And I’m beyond grateful for you and our friendship!  I admire you, and the love you give your babies, more than you can imagine!)  And I couldn’t help but think about how much more pain I could’ve heaped on a mom who was just doing what was best for her baby given the circumstances.  A good and beautiful mom, fully attached to her baby.  She’s given me a totally different perspective on breastfeeding….helped me to remember, when I meet a bottle-feeding mom that maybe it wasn’t her choice.  And that even if it was….I don’t know the whole story.  I've learned to wait and listen before assessing.   

---

The examples and specific scenarios could go on.  You know all the pet attachment parenting stuff….no pacifiers, co-sleeping, etc., etc.  Most (maybe all J) of them we adhere to more or less….we probably “model” AP pretty well, because it works well for us and it’s meeting our babies’ needs …but I’m not touching my babies all day.  They play together and I even enjoy bathroom trips semi-alone on occasion.  We balance it to make it work for us.  Which means at most meals, Timothy sits in his saucer next to us now, because he’s become impossibly grabby….and it’s even kind of fun eating with two hands. 

I’ve learned we can hold too tightly to our pre-conceived ideas on both extremes of the spectrum.  Just as an “Ezzoite” may hold so tightly to what they’ve been taught they can’t see how much harm they’re dishing their baby….I too, could be in danger of holding too tightly to the ideals I’ve built.  If the ideals are the idol- if I’m not carefully weighing what each baby needs, but rather how does this line up with AP?, my perspective isn’t in the right place, and I could be harming my babies just as much as I would via Ezzo.  I want to be an extreme mom….but rather than being the perfect AP mom, I want to be extreme in the realm of seeking our kids’ needs, each individually, taking into account what’s best for each individual.  It’ll mean different newborn parenting, different training, different discipline for each child.  Because my kids are more important than being able to be a perfect APer. 

As Ben compared it so well….it’s the same way Christianity isn’t about going to church.  And if it is- we have a big problem.  If attachment parenting is about the methods….we have a problem.  AP should give us the freedom to abundantly meet our children’s needs.  The freedom to be attached and engaged with our children.  It’ll look different with each baby/child.  I love this line from the above mentioned article: “Attachment parenting grows up. And that doesn't mean nursing while standing on a stool. It means that mother and child grow together. It means that when it's not so simple anymore and all their needs can't be met by stopping to nurse, we still listen. And listen. And listen. We watch over three hundred dances because somewhere in there, our teenager is in three of them and she cares about the other 297.”

The thing is, my babies and I and Ben are very attached to and in tune with each other.  As Vivi’s grown older and more exploratory, I’m still the home base she comes to when the world’s just too much for her.  We love and understand each other.  Ben plays a key role in all our lives.  And while it is, in large part, attachment parenting and its tools that’s brought us here, the fact we love, understand and are attached to each other is what counts.  It’s who I am and how I’m defined….much as I love babywearing and all the other works. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Open Letter...to all moms

(Did you notice I finally have a subscribe-by-email button up?  Take advantage of it!  :-))

I originally wrote this on a friend’s FB wall a few months ago, in response to a woman who attacked her for being excited about cloth diapering prior to giving birth to her first.  Yes…as in, attacked her for personal excitement over her personal decision- not for trying to bang it in that’s the best route for every baby.  She was criticized as being na├»ve and told that she’d “see” soon enough.  That it’s easy to think you know what you’re going to do beforehand….but when reality hits- bwahaha…better watch out, because mothering is awful!  I’ve seen that attitude a lot; I’ve encountered it first-hand a lot of times through my journey…and it drives me nuts.  Seeing a young and energetic friend so degraded for her joyful anticipation drove me to my limit. 

I finally addressed the attitude head-on, and after an evening of praying and writing…this is what I came up with.  I thought I’d share it here, because really, it’s an open letter to all mothers.  It’s to all the new moms who don’t know what they have ahead….to all the seasoned moms who feel it’s necessary to give other moms an education…to the judgemental moms, and to the judged.  It’s for all of us, because when all’s said and done….we’re all moms.  And I’m pretty sure that matters a lot more than a lot of other things.

~~

I have no desire to degrade your decision- or you as a mom.  The thing is, as a young mom myself, I've been so frustrated by all the people that feel the need to tell me- and other moms- what "reality" is.  In the name of "reality" all I hear, all the time, is negativism.  It doesn't particularly bother my personality, but for a lot of women, it could be really discouraging/scary.  Reality's good...but I think we could present reality more positively than it often is.  For instance- tell a mom you were surprised at how busy one baby kept you...but that you found, say, babywearing to be a really helpful tool.  Or to remember on the hard days that nurturing life is what counts the most.  I didn't get comments like that.  Instead, I heard lots of the "you just wait and see" type, similar to your (comment) or things like, "Well, your (attachment parenting) ideals are fine and everything, but when you have 2, you're going to need a baby swing."

Reality is good.  But we can present reality positively.  Reality is hard....but it doesn't have to be ugly, miserable and negative.  Hard can be positive and beautiful!  We can find ways to express the difficult without tearing down other moms or slashing their ideals/goals. 

And yes- because I didn't listen to all the voices, I've had to eat my own words a time or two.  I bet seasoned moms have gotten a kick out of it and I got a lesson in humility.  But far better that than to have listened and set myself up for misery. 

I don't understand why so many moms choose to be so negative about young moms' ambitions/dreams.  I've wondered before if it has anything to do (at least sometimes) with personal insecurites and guilt...and all the pressure that gets put on moms.  Maybe it's because of the dog-eat-dog society moms have built, and all the pressure they get to be everything (WHAT? you don't let your kids finger paint everyday?  You SPANK?  You DON'T spank?  You don't cook everything from scratch? You sinner.).  There's always one more thing we aren't doing, one more person who appears to have it all together or has gone that "step further".  So, overwhelmed, they desperately hope that everyone else fails, too.  And that comes out in negativism and seems an attempt to scare other moms.  I really don't know, I'm just taking a stab in the dark (well, not totally....from conversations and working through friendships, I've gathered as much from some).  And in light of that- I don't want to heap guilt on older moms, either.  I don't want you to feel guilty anymore than I want S---- to feel discouraged and torn down.  But the negativism has got to stop somewhere.  I've never shared my frustration directly with someone before, so I hope it comes across the right way.  Telling other moms they're just going to screw up and that they'll get a good dose of reality soon enough doesn't help the new mom and it doesn't help the "wiser" mom to parent better either.  All the comparisons and everything else....it just needs to be tossed out.  Altogether. 

I think we moms need balance.  We need honesty- so very badly- and permission to be honest.  We also need positive, uplifting encouragement.  We need to be told that our ideals are beautiful.  That we're beautiful and reaching for the highest goals in our journey is beautiful.  That mothering is worth it.  That sleepless nights don't last forever.  We need others to share the beautiful moments in their journey....the sweet memories of tandem nursing, the times when their little one is just too precious to pull your eyes off....  And, on the other hand, we need a safe place- to be honest when life isn't roses.  A place where we can feel vulnerable and weak, and discover that every mom's been there, too.  Tearing down a new mom's dreams, though, isn't going to make you that safe harbor anyway- it just isolates us from each other- it either sets up a new mom for failure, or encourages her to disengage, to make it on her own.  We don't need to scare other moms....we just need honesty.  To be able to say, "I love my kids....but today, I'm really struggling.  I really just want my own body for 5 minutes!"  And if other moms, instead of wondering what the heck is wrong with her (or, worse, going on the "I told you so"), could say, "yeah, been there too.  Thankfully, it doesn't last long!  You'll get through- I'm here with you!"

Wouldn't that be beautiful?  I know I'm still working on my journey to achieving that.  I still have a lot of work ahead of me- I'm a rather bold, confident, say-it-like-it-is personality.  My personality has positives and negatives....I'm definitely still working on flooding grace. 

If we could all just forget our differences.  Feel adequate in our mothering because of the encouragement we're receiving, rather than because we've found ways to bring people down.  If we could remember that each mom is doing her best in her season (season!  that's a whole nother aspect to a lot of parenting choices....like cloth diapering).  That each mom is making educated decisions....and that even if you, say, don't attachment parent, you are still trying to do what you think is absolutely best.  And if, even though I disagree, I could appreciate you for that, and encourage you on the difficult days anyway. 

I want all moms to feel safe and secure.  I want them to feel confident in who they are as mothers.  And I want young, ambitious moms (all of us, actually) to be able to dream away and be encouraged and spurred on- to be given advice with love and encouragement...from other moms who are being encouraged and able to feel confident that way instead of via tearing others down. 

It's a difficult walk- but we could create community, and make it a beautiful one.  One that's not done alone, each mom desperately hoping she can be "good enough" or prove that she really can do it....or hope that someone else really can't.  Let's not walk it alone, and let’s not make it out to be scary and miserable just because we have rough days, when we KNOW it's beautiful.

Friday, April 27, 2012

An Excerpts From Timothy's Journal {just 'cause he's so cute}


 Hmmm....I originally turned the picture....and I didn't think that looked right, so I left it as is.  Then uploaded it, and I'm thinking I should've turned it.  Oh well.  The cheeks are big and the smile bigger no matter which way you look at it!

My sweet baby boy is 22 lbs and counting!  I love you, love you, love you!  And so does everyone else….you have THE most adorable smily expression.  You get so excited when someone looks/smiles at you that you grin ear-to-ear and throw your head back, squealing and giggling all the while.  So, so sweet!  You love interacting with people- even strangers at the park.  And you give me the most innocent smile when you’re supposed to be falling asleep.

--- 

Viviana loves playing with you, and you adore her.  She gets lots of toys out for you…and she loves going in to you when you wake up and laying next to you, laughing and talking together. 

--- 

You’re becoming quite the grabber!  You’re really good at grabbing stuff, even toys (‘cause we all know mommy’s stuff comes first!) and pulling them up to your mouth to check out.  You’re so cute exploring your world. 

--- 

It’s hard to get over your happy personality.  I wouldn’t even necessarily label you as super content (though much more so than Vivi) but just such a happy personality.  Doesn’t matter what’s going on or what time of the day….you always have a smile.  If you start to fuss on the floor, a smile lights your face as soon as I pick you up.  You just have this upward energy- a constant presence of joy.  Even when you wake up in the middle of the night from teething pain, you smile and laugh at me.  You snap out of a bad/crabby mood in an instant.  And such a chubby smile….I’m in love.  I’ve wondered if several aspects to your personality are all interrelated.  If it’s your upward energy/enthusiasm that causes you to not like to be still- you prefer that mommy’s always on the move when I’m holding/wearing you, you’re such a wiggler, and you love scooting around and rolling when on the floor.  It’ll be fun to see what you’re like as you grow older!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Excerpt From Vivi's Journal {the story of sleep continued}


...And my sweet baby is growing up….we’ve struggled with putting hours a day into getting you to sleep and back asleep since you were born.  And sometimes it’s become frustrating, and I looked forward to your being more independent in that department.  Sometimes I wished you would just fall asleep quicker so I could get on to the next thing- or so daddy wouldn’t have to spend the whole evening with you.  But now, you are changing- and it’s a bitter sweet change.  I’m happy to see my little sweetheart growing in her independence, changing and molding into a beautiful little lady.  And honestly, it’s convenient that it doesn’t take an hour to get you to sleep at night.  But it’s kind of sad to realize you’re no longer a baby….you’re growing up.  The past 5 nights in a row you’ve put yourself to sleep.  (Naps you still need me to stay with you, when they happen- which is about 4-5 days a week.)  We had recently started talking about trying to work towards getting you independent and after I nursed you in bed for 10 or so minutes, having daddy wait a few minutes before going in to see what you did.  5 nights ago on a particularly exhausted night, you fell asleep on your own.  Since then, we’ve been putting you to bed a bit late, making sure you’re really tired, so we can create a new pattern.  And every night, you’ve peacefully fallen asleep on your own.  One night, I heard you talking for a couple minutes…but you soon fell fast asleep.  Crazy.  Sleep has been such a journey with you, Little Love….to think that it’s taken another huge leap in becoming easier and more independent….I’m not quite sure what to do with it yet.  It makes me happy, and it makes me ache.  My baby isn’t a baby anymore….she’s growing up.  My heart feels ready to burst when I come in to bed each night, and see you curled up on your bed on the floor next to ours.  I’m so grateful for the journey….grateful for the opportunities every day to snuggle with and walk you.  Grateful we let you develop independence on your own.  Grateful we didn’t give up and try out cry-it-out (even though I was tempted a time or two).  Grateful daddy played such a huge role in it all.  Grateful you feel so secure, and that it was such a gentle, natural, sweet transition.  (well…assuming it was a transition and we’re in this for real!)  In spite of the challenges, I’ll always remember fondly the years in which I spent hours walking and nursing you….and daddy spent hours laying with you.  God gifted us with such a beautiful little girl, and Vivi, you’ve taught me so much and brightened my life in so many ways.  I love you, Viviana!...

On an aside: Ben and I are really loving having evenings together again!!!  When it takes an hour or so to get Viviana to sleep, we're usually both pretty zombie-ish by the time Ben gets out (esp. since he gets up super early every morning and I get up early).  All week we've had time together where we both feel more or less awake.  Cool!  Even though it is bittersweet...  The creative wife I've been wanting to be and haven't been very good at lately seems to be returning- hopefully to stay.  ;-)   

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gratefulness; or, the rare gift of an attachment-parent husband

Parenting instinctually is important to me.  Really, really important to me.  And I am so blessed to be married to a guy to whom it’s also important.  Ben is constantly encouraging me to follow my instincts, even when it isn’t an issue that feels like a big deal to him as a guy. 

There’s the fact that every night, we split ways for the first part of the night.  Because Timothy starts the night in a twin bed across the hall from us (so as not to disturb Vivi who’s on our floor), and I couldn’t feel comfortable leaving him in there alone, even with a monitor- and it wasn’t making sense to move/wake him to our room.  Mentally, I knew he would be fine and we were close by….but I just couldn’t make myself feel comfortable with that.  And unlike most guys, who’d just tell their wives that obviously the baby would be fine and someone would hear it, he said “I’ll sleep in the extra bed in there, and bring him to you when he wakes up.  It’s not a problem; I can sleep anywhere.”  He assured me that I should follow my instincts, and if I wasn’t comfortable leaving him alone, then one of us should be in there.  And it works for us…I don’t worry, we all fall asleep quickly, and by midnight, if not long before, we’re all in the same room/bed together.  (And as a side note, no, it doesn’t damage our marriage.  On the nights we all start in the same bed, we all still just fall asleep.  By the time we get there….we’re tired.   You can ask Ben if you don’t believe me…but we do get lots of snuggle time after kiddos go to bed and before we do!)

Or there’s calming my concerns about our kids’ development.  Not real concerns….I’m totally confident that they’re both developing normally, and are intelligent, active kids.  I’m also confident that the way we parent them is best for them and meeting their needs.  But at a few points, when I started to wonder if Timothy, like his big sis, would be “behind” kids developmentally, I suffered from brief self-doubt.  Is it really our parenting style that causes them to be behind?  Please, I don’t want to have to deal with explaining to people that yes, Timothy, too, is over a year and still not walking.  And um, yeah, no, babywearing isn’t hurting him.  Or….?  But Ben jumps in and reminds me of what the real focus is: What’s best for our kids?  So maybe because they’re with me so much they won’t move as soon, because they don’t need to.  Does it matter? Their emotional needs are being met; they’re being grounded in our love and growing up securely; they’re developing their muscles as they enjoy partaking in my life.  The golden standard isn’t what society tells me it is.  Just because the baby who’s left down for hours a day is crawling at 5 months, doesn’t mean that’s what everyone needs to shoot for.  And if Timothy’s 8 months before it happens…who cares?  He’s developing normally, and he’s SO happy, secure, and confident.  That’s what matters….and Ben reminds me. 

Or the way he’s encouraged my breastfeeding journey.  When I’ve gotten discouraged with nursing aversion issues with Vivi, he didn’t just say, “Well, then, why don’t you just wean her if you don’t like it?”  Instead, he sought to find out what my goals were, and how he could help me reach those goals.  At one point, that was taking over nighttime parenting so I could switch to just nursing during the day.  At other points, it’s just been encouraging me to keep on…and encouraging me that it’s okay and I’m not a bad mom to struggle with the hormonal baggage of tandem nursing.  But he never told me to quit crying about it, or reminded me that I “asked for it”. 

Ben lets me parent by instinct everyday…and as he supports my gut feelings, he also goes by his.  It’s a beautiful pattern- a beautiful way to parent together.  I love being so in sync with each other on our parenting journey!  I’m so thankful to have the rare gift of a husband who’s as passionate about natural parenting as I am…a husband who’s gung-ho for meeting our kids needs and parenting naturally, rather than putting me in a “choose me or them” position.  Together, we can seek what works best for everyone, instead of the pressure being put on me to choose between instinct and marriage, for instance.  I’m pretty confident I’ll never have to say, “Well, Ben really wanted (such and such), so we’re working on that.  It’s hard, but it’s what he wanted, so….I guess it’ll all work out.” 

Thank you, Ben, for supporting your crazy, passionate wife as we parent two awesome kids with plenty of challenges!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Transitioning to Two part 3

(Read Part 1 and Part Two if you missed them!)


-Balance your to-do lists, ambitions, and day-to-day household demands with a focus on your babies. They won’t be babies for long so enjoy them as much as possible. And don’t let other stuff become such an “idol” that you become stressed and frustrated with your loved ones. You probably will- I have- but make it a goal not to, anyway! :-)

You know the point about getting stuff done early in the day? I’ve had to sacrifice it a bit, lately…improvise our schedule. Because we’ve had gorgeous weather and I have a little girl who would live outside if she could! Certainly, it’s okay to tell her “no”, but I want to cultivate a love of the outdoors in her, and I know it’s healthy for all of us. So, while we do still get some stuff done in the mornings, there have been some days I’ve quit before it’s all done so we can enjoy an hour or two (or more) outside before naps…and then, if naps occur, I spend that time doing my usual stuff. That’s okay, too, because my babies are my priority…so as long as I’m not getting stressed, we’re all good.

Oh- and in your routines/schedules/to-do lists, make sure there’s lots of times allotted for interaction with your babies and general childcare. It’s amazing how much time you spend nursing and changing diapers, especially in the first couple months! There were days when it seemed like that was all I did, especially since Vivi was still nursing a lot at that point. It takes a lot of time…but before you know it, seasons will change!

-Babywear. Of course, I had to mention that one, right? It really is awesome for everyone involved, though. Babywearing the baby allows you to continue to interact with your toddler and/or tackle jobs. Babywearing the toddler while the baby sleeps down lets you get snuggle time in while playing catch up. It’s easier than finagling a double stroller, or trying to hold the baby while chasing the toddler at the park. You’re already stretched thin enough it can be hard to make all of your marks. Babywearing allows you to multi-task, and that always gets a thumbs-up!

Lots of moms mention how much babywearing soothes their fussy baby- that when baby’s fussy, they can pop them in and continue with what they were doing. I haven’t experienced that, but I’m pretty sure it happens, so there’s another benefit. Babywearing has greatly helped soothe my babies, it just requires concentrated effort, too. :-) But, with one who needed to be worn 24/7 and another who has gone through different periods of needing to be worn a lot, only sleeping while worn, only falling asleep while worn, etc., babywearing has definitely saved my hide, even if it hasn’t been as much the problem solver as it is for some mamas.

-While we’re on the subject, consider tandem wearing! If you’re already well-acquainted with babywearing, the idea of wearing both kiddos probably won’t sound foreign or extreme to you at all! :-) If you’re totally new to babywearing, you should read some of my informational posts and jump in- and it’s okay to start with just one.

Tandem wearing was awesome during the first 2-3 months. Since then, I’ve only done it on occasion, when Vivi’s having one of those days where she just needs up. Timothy’s settled into taking naps in a bed at different points, so I often just wear Vivi when he’s down on those days, too.

But the first few months. Totally effected how smoothly our transition went. It was so healthy for all of us! I tandem wore daily from as soon as I could handle the weight for the first couple months. Usually we went for a tandem walk for 20-30 minutes. Usually at a time when Vivi needed me desperately, Timothy was fussy and I was having a nervous break down because oh my gosh, the house is messy. Tandem wearing meant that everyone got to feel the skin they desperately needed; getting outside got me away from what was stressing me and allowed me to re-evaluate my priorities while enjoying two content kiddos.

It really helped Vivi to know she wasn’t replaced, and that she still had as much access to me as needed. Even if you decide not to tandem wear, I strongly recommend staying open to continuing to wear your toddler- it’s definitely blessed us!

-While we’re tucking about being weird, tandem nursing was another huge transition help. I already shared in detail about our journey and the joys and challenges here. Tandem nursing helped us immensely with the replaced feeling, too, as well as being another way to calm everybody down and give everyone a piece of me- while getting away from the stuff I was working on. Breastfeeding Vivi has allowed us to carry on a special relationship, as we make certain times of the day that are just for us- or to tandem, if Timothy’s around. She loves it! We don’t tandem as often anymore, since Vivi’s main nursing sessions are at sleep times or quick sips when she gets hurt, but during the first few months, again, we did. Vivi wanted to nurse almost every time Timothy did, so I let her. She did consume less “real” food for a while, but never lost interest in food altogether, so we were good with it. In the meanwhile, I ate like a horse. I was a little afraid of “tandem” tandem…because from what people said, I thought maybe it would be harder than it looked. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. Vivi’s old enough to get herself latched on however she has to, and Timothy’s pretty flexible, too. I won’t say every time’s been perfectly comfortable…plenty of times when kiddos were just popped on, it wasn’t the greatest for my back or nipples, or something….but it always worked. Now, Vivi always brings me a pillow when she wants to nurse with Timothy- so cute!

-Laugh. Because there are so many beautiful things- so many funny things- so many wondrous things- and you’re going to forget them so fast. But if you make time to enjoy them, they’ll be forever imprinted in your memory. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back on the little years and just remember all the hard times. It’s okay to remember them, to help other mamas get through them. But I want those memories to be sprinkled with so many laughing ones that I’d like to go back. And so far, that’s true. I haven’t been perfect, there’s days I wish I could change. But I have so many hilarious memories and beautiful memories. I wish I could remember them more clearly; they all fade so fast. What I do know, and will remember in the years to come is, we’re having a great time. Through the ups and downs, life is good.

-Summing up a few things I hit on somewhat in the above: remove yourself from stressful situations to give kiddos touch time and ensure your toddler (and baby, for that matter, but that’s less likely) is getting enough of you. That’s why tandem wearing and nursing worked so well for us. It might not for you- your toddler might not be interested in nursing at all, for instance. The real message is, make time to meet those needs. Take time to get away from a stressful situation before it boils over. Take time for both your little ones. It’ll make a huge difference in everyone!

-Evaluate causes of toddler’s misbehaviors. For instance, general transitions, lack of sleep (related to transitions?), not getting enough of you, feeling overwhelmed or displaced, being hungry or thirsty, etc.

As a parent heading in a direction of “gentle parenting” (so to speak), I believe many misbehaviors are connected to a deeper root problem. One that might be easily solved, and possibly isn’t even the child’s fault. I know that isn’t always the case…for instance, Vivi’s done a lot more limit-testing lately, and it’s seemed to stem from growing up- gaining maturity, discovering the world and her own mind, and seeing what she can and can’t make happen. As best as I can tell, it isn’t because of a need that isn’t being met…although at the same time, I don’t feel like it’s exactly purposeful badness, either.

I had a lot of issues with Vivi the first couple months after Timothy was born, and it was obvious that they were generally related to the transitions in some form or other. Knowing that helped me to be more patient (and less despairing!) in dealing with her. For instance: she would purposely defy me, all the time, especially when I couldn’t get up to remove her. But I knew it was just an outlet for all the confusion with the new changes. Another example: she went through a streak of purposely hitting Timothy. Now she’s an angelic older sister, except when she’s tired- and then she’ll purposely try to hit him- but only if I’m in the room to see it. It’s a pretty good key she’s over tired, and it’s time for bed!

Seek to understand your toddler, and the potential changes they’re working through. Remember, they don’t have the social knowledge to know how to let out their feelings!

-Take care of yourself- especially remember to eat and drink enough! A friend of mine has mentioned before that sometimes when she feels exhausted, and consequently overwhelmed, spending a few minutes drinking a couple of huge glasses of water makes a big difference. Suddenly, she feels energized and ready to conquer again! I haven’t noticed it to such a drastic degree, but in smaller ones, yes. It’s important to take care of yourself, mama! I’m easily headache prone if I don’t drink enough…and not eating enough can fall into the same category. If you’re nursing- and especially if you’re tandem nursing- you have to eat. A lot. It takes a lot of food to keep everyone running.

Don’t be afraid to allow time for you, too. Sometimes a shower or something simple enables you to be a much more joyful mommy.

-Prepare your home and kitchen before #2 arrives! I blog about some of the ways I prepared here. Having a head start on your home- like meals in the freezer, deep cleaning done, and regular cleaning kept up on- will put you off to a great start!

-Stop….and drink it all in. Oh, drink, Mama. Because life is beautiful, and yet fleeting.

-Allow grace. Grace for you. For your husband. For your babies. For your home. Grace to cover not getting it all done, not being all, not holding it all together, loosing your cool. Grace to cover your toddler on his tantrum-laden day, your growth-spurting baby. Grace for your husband and the needs that seem so obvious to you, but which he simply doesn’t see. Grace for other moms who don’t quite have it all together either.

If only I was better at putting it into practice- all of it….life would be much more beautiful!

-It’s okay to use cheats. There were certain things I decided I would cheat on the first couple months to make life easier. One specific one that stands clear in my memory (because I agonized over it for days before deciding! :-)) is store bought dressing. I figured if I just bought dressing and didn’t have that one extra step, we’d be likely to keep eating salads. Somehow…it just feels like so much more to make dressing. So for two months, we ate store bought dressing. We made through, all alive and all in one piece (so far!)….and less stressed for it.

Depending on what your lifestyle is (how much you cook from scratch, etc.), figure out what you can compromise on for a while, and run with it. I have a hard time with this one….feeling like, if I know something’s not as good for us, why would I feed it to us? But I’m aware….that stress isn’t good for us either. If it’s choosing between store bought dressing and stress- I’m for the dressing all the way.

~*~

Well…that sums it up- for now! Long and rambly, like everything I write. ;-) Rock on, Mamas!