Friday, August 21, 2009

At Least I'm Not Octomom

Every day I feel like I'm the best mom in the world. And every day I feel like I'm the worst. Yesterday evening when I got in from work my sweet Ryder was happily playing on the floor while watching "How It's Made" on tv. What? He likes the colors. Don't judge. You know your kids are parked in front of the boob tube watching Elmo or Spongebob or :::shudder::: The Wiggles. Creepy. But my baby was excited to see me, babbling and smiling and drooling hello. Couldn't wait for me to pick him up so he attempted crawling to me. He can hump up on all fours and stick his butt in the air, scoot forward a little bit on his knees but other than that, no decent amount of forward motion. When he couldn't get to me, he bawled. Even though he was upset, it made me feel like a celebrity. Rock star mom!

Fast forward to bedtime. Ryder is tuckered out, has nursed to contentment and is snoring softly on my shoulder. Until I put him in his crib. Then the wailing begins. Loud wailing. So loud I wonder if the neighbors can hear it, and if so, will they be calling CPS? After an eternity of heartrending sobs (two minutes) I put my hand on Ryder's chest, patting and shushing him. He gives me a look that says "How could you, Mom? Why did you rip me away from the warmth of your body and the comfort of hearing your heartbeat?". I cave, pick him up. We repeat this scenario several more times until Ryder's exhausted from crying and passes out. I'm almost too exhausted to pour a Maker's Mark & water. Worst mother in the world.

In all seriousness, each day I soar between feeling ultra-confident in my parenting abilities and being despondent at how little I can do right. Every time I rejoice in some developmental goal met by Ryder there is a list in a baby book telling me all the things he should be able to do at his age, but isn't. Self doubt will kick in before I reach the end of the paragraph. Should I be doing more? What about baby signing? Reading to him? Speaking in Spanish as well as English and sign language?

And nursing goes hand in hand with my highs and lows. One day I'm making a decent amount of milk, the next day Ryder's getting a formula supplement. It's taken six months for me to finally be (almost) guilt free. I wish my body could support my baby's total dietary needs but it just doesn't make enough all the time. I'm satisfied that on most days I can produce just enough. It's happy, happy me when I come home with 11oz for Ryder's next day meals. No extra, but enough. We don't have bags of frozen milk in our freezer but my baby has had mainly breastmilk for six months. I'm good.

Another Austin mom who empathizes with my special brand of crazy when it comes to motherhood put it into perspective for me. "At least we aren't Octomom", said Chelsea. My worries come to a screeching halt when I compare myself to that trainwreck of a mother. Yup. Could be a whole lot worse.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Being a working mother

My Austin Mamas group had a discussion going on in email about being a working mother. Someone wrote a post with bullet points that really got me thinking. It's hard to be a working mother. Not to ignore that working fathers would love to have more one-on-one time with their children, but I don't have a man's point of view, so this is all me, all my perspective.

I get up, nurse Ryder and get ready for work. I spend 10 hours away, including commute time, excluding any additional errands that suck up more time. Upon arriving back at home, I nurse Ryder, talk to Jaime unless he's off to band practice or a gig, play with Ryder, eat dinner (rarely do I make dinner on weekdays anymore), possibly maybe throw a load of laundry in or fold clean clothes & put them away, play with Ryder, get him ready for bed, nurse him, put him down and then I might have a half hour of free time. I'd kill to have time to decompress/de-stress after work but the only down time between the paying job and the Mama job is my commute.

On Saturday mornings I make time for my half marathon training group. After that it's all about Ryder, somewhat about Jaime and a little bit about our house (making meals, mostly). I don't have much time just for me other than my training. I can't remember the last book I read at home. I know I was still pregnant. This is a HUGE departure from norm for me. I spent the last oh probably 35 years before Ryder as a daily reader.

I don't feel like life is in balance or that it is the way it should be. I feel guilty. Guilty at the time spent away from my child. Guilty for the the many meals that I don't cook. Guilty that Jaime and I don't have much in the way of quality time for each other. I'd love to go on a date with him. Soon. And I feel guilty in wishing he had a job that paid well enough for me to stay home with our son. Add a big ole heaping spoonfull of me feeling guilty that I didn't stay in school, get a degree and have a job that pays me better than my current salary and you've got a steaming tureen of guilt. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

It's hard to be a working mother. I'm sure stay-at-home-moms have their fare share of troubles, too. Sorry, I don't share your perspective, either. So this post is a me me me guilt trip.

What makes it all worthwhile is that in between my dragging ass in the mornings trying to get ready for work and succumbing to exhaustion at night, two very special things will happen. Both are magical and beautiful. It is when, in the midst of my craziness, my baby will look at me and smile, an amazing whole face smile and that is my moment, my shining moment of balance...and it's all worth it. I'll lose myself in that smile, with all its promise and love and sweetness. And the second thing is that I'll then turn to look at Jaime, the man who gave me this marvelous creature. It's then that I'm certain I, too, am smiling with my whole face while I thank him for our son.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Trapped intelligence: the baby package

I've discovered that my idea of a baby as a blank slate waiting to be filled is wrong. My role of a parent as teacher and holder of the keys to the universe is only partially right. Damned if I know how, but babies are intelligent all on their own. They're trapped intelligence, wrapped up in a baby package with few skills to communicate with us. But don't think their lack of speech means they aren't sentient. Oh no, this is like being an English-only American in a country that speaks zero English. We know we're smart but the guy behind the counter at the little store doesn't understand our hand gestures to mean "where do you stock the feminine hygeine products?".

My son and I communicate in several ways. Of course there's the usual crying, which is actually multiple types of cries meaning different things. The hungry cry. The look-at-me-look-at-me cry. The bored cry. The fussy cry. And there's different categories of laughter, too, depending on the situation. Daddy gets more belly laughs than I do because he can make funnier noises. My baby uses his hands and his feet now, to get his point across. Don't want to be held closely? He'll push with arms and legs away from me. Want to be closer? He leans in, grabs a fistful of hair and rubs his face into my shoulder or chest.

But the communication that strikes me the deepest isn't verbal. It's the times when my baby is quiet, nursing or not, and he'll stare deeply into my eyes. I look back into the depths of his and marvel at how gorgeous he is, how pure and innocent. We'll gaze, unblinking, savoring the moment and the bond and then he'll smile. And oh, what a smile! That smile will bloom on his face like a swiftly opening morning glory flower, lighting up his features as if they were sun-kissed, with eyes sparkling. It shocks me, the swiftness of the smile, and I feel as if there is an electrical current running from my heart outside my body to this amazing little creature. The unbridaled, unconditional love he has for me shines through that smile in a way that I can only hope will never be lost. And that years later during expected less fun parts of parenthood, I know these smiles will sustain me.

My explanation of these magical moments is feeble, at best. It's hard to put it into words. But the intelligence and love I see in my son's eyes at that moment when he moves from seriousness to joy tells me that beyond a shadow of a doubt there is an intelligent being inside that tiny little body. There is a sharp mind locked behind a temporary communication barrier. I have to wonder, is it all about teaching a child about the world or is it the child teaching us about himself that's important?

Monday, August 03, 2009

My weekend: Miles walking, cupcakes & no sleep

Here's my weekend in one sentence: I got next to no sleep but I did walk 5 miles before emcee'ing the Cupcake Smackdown. To break it down, I'll address each part with the most important one first.

How the hell do I get Ryder to go to sleep? This kid is either a developing superhero who's power is never needing sleep or else he's been put on earth to be a torture device. Seriously, have a Guantanamo POW babysit for a weekend and in no time we'll not only know where to find Bin Laden, we'll have his cell phone number AND we'll know who killed JFK. Ryder's ability to stay awake has resulted in severe sleep deprivation for both Mommy & Daddy. Sanity must be saved. We tried the "cry it out" method. He'll scream until he's hoarse, pause for a moment and resume screaming. He is a happy boy unless you try to put him down for a nap. Then my sweet, playful babe turns into a hellspawn demonseed. He's perfectly content to live on a total of 6 hours of sleep per night while we are struggling to survive. Oh, but he'll nap if you're holding him. Only if you're holding him. The moment his back hits the bed, the couch, the quilt on the floor he's wide eyed and good to go. If he wants to continue sleeping, he'll cry voraciously until you pick him up again. Then he'll sleep 5 more minutes. Arrgggh!!! I want to burn my copy of On Becoming Babywise because it's been no help at all.

A much nicer part of my weekend was spent emceeing the Cupcake Smackdown 1.0. I was slated to be a judge but got pressed into emcee duties instead. My waistline thanks the organizer of the Smackdown for that good decision. I did eat one cupcake, a french toast one. It was frosted with either maple syrup flavored buttercream or perhaps a light cream cheese frosting and topped with candied bacon. Bacon!! I'm totally making these at home once we finish moving my kitchen stuff from storage. Need my blender for the frosting. The Smackdown was a huge success with approximately 1,000 folks attending. Exhausting and fun. You can see me, in a red shirt, standing on the stage in front of the windows in the very full bar in a pic on the blog Foodie is the New Forty. There's also a pic of the french toast cupcake.

I'm still training for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in San Antonio. Not sure how I'll come up with the money for the entry fee. It's $90 until the end of the month when it goes up to $95. I just don't have an extra almost hundred bucks in the budget. At any rate, I did 5 miles with my more-faithful-than-me workout partner Stephanie Delk. Stephanie rocks, in more ways than one (follow the link to her website). She keeps me going when I'd like to lay down on the sidewalk or catch a cab. Or a bus. Or commandeer a private car by pretending my water bottle is a large grenade, anything so that I don't have to finish our route. It was humid and hot on Saturday morning and I was ticked that my heart rate monitor stopped working. Or at least we think it did, since it kept giving me a reading of 238 yet I was still upright, mobile and conscious.

Next weekend I have no plans. I'm going to try to keep it that way, too.