Monday, March 18, 2013

a quick grocery trip

I went to the store with all four kids for the first time. I had four things on my shopping list: milk, cottage cheese, orange juice and tilapia. Since Publix does not sell prepackaged ( read: cheap) tilapia, we went to Kroger.

Problem #1: the shopping carts now have a little plastic piece on the top part which does not allow one to hook the car seat. Now I had to put the car seat into the main basket and there was no place for food.

Problem #2: as soon as I did that, 3 yo threw a fit that she wanted to sit there too. I offered to put her in the top part, but she would have none of that. She was screaming, grabbing onto the wheel of the cart and hugging it, not allowing me to move.

Problem #3: now I was walking through the store with a screaming child attached to the cart and an extremely embarrassed 8 yo. I do not know if anyone was watching us, I tend to be oblivious/ignore those stares, but he must have been sensitive to the scene we were making.

Problem #4: there was no tilapia. At least I got perch and pollock. Maybe the kids will not notice.

Then we walked to the dairy case where I had to decide on whether to buy kosher for Pesach milk a week in advance and freeze it, or to wait till the end of the week and hope it will still be there. The orange juice was on sale, so I stocked up. As I was doing this, 3 yo settled in at the bottom of the cart. Then I turned around and saw that 6 yo was missing.

Problem #5: we were walking up and down the aisles, looking for 6 yo. First I assumed that he was just around the corner, but then he wasn't. Then I thought he might have gone to the restroom. Then we just paced the store. Just before showing up to the manager to page for him, I decided to check the book rack. There he was, sitting on the floor, reading "Is Camel a Mammal?" Heart attack averted.

Problem #6: self-checkout. For some reason, every item we scanned required an attendant. I was worried about losing yet another one of the kids, especially since 3 yo climbed out to help.

Bottom line: was this trip a disaster?

No, it was a learning experience. We had a groove for going to the store with just three, and now we need to find a neew groove for shopping with four. I need to work out car seat issue. Maybe I need to bring a baby wrap. Maybe I need two carts: one for the groceries and one for the kids. Maybe I need to put the carseat into snap-n-go and leave 8 yo in charge of the baby while pushing the grocery cart. Maybe I need an occupation for 3 yo which will make her feel important.

I am glad that we tried this out with a small list, this way there was less to lose. Te funny thing is, my husband said that he could get those groceries later, or my mother-in-law, but I thought that we all need to see what the shopping will be like in our neew configuration.

No, the trip was not a disaster, just a learning experience.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

when the going gets tough

This week, there were moments when I felt my kids would have been better off in school.

"Mommy, every time you yell at me, I feel like a go-go (knock-over toy) that was tipped over and died."

"Just ignore me, do not talk to me."

Grabbing frantically to my leg, yelling: "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!"

"Mommy, what's the agenda for today?"

And the baby, while still being quite easy, does not always get to nurse when he's ready because I might be in the middle of something with one of the other kids, like yelling at them to clean up this or brush their teeth or gosh darn figure out if they are done with lunch. Then he's yelling, too.

Last night, as I sat there nursing with a kvetchy baby who could not make up his mind whether to sleep or to eat or to take a pacifier, all the exhaustion of the past week kicked in. The thoughts crept in: maybe it would be better if the kids were in school. Maybe they need more structure than the free-for-all of unschooling that we are currently experiencing. Maybe I'm not letting them fully be, and instead transferring my stress onto them while in school they would have a professional teacher who would check his emotions and show pure empathy. Maybe they would have been treated better at school than the way they are getting treated at home.

I went to sleep like this, and in the morning voiced my concerns to my husband who last night was planning his flight to Chicago to take his medical boards and was trying to get tickets so that I would not have to spend a Shabbos alone. He said: "It's just one week. The rest of the weeks are fine." At first I protested internally, one week can do a lot of damage and, with Pesach and attendant stress coming, it is probably more than one bad week. But then I thought: would I really undo a lot of good work and good relationship by one bad week?

The kids are being just what they are: kids. At least they are expressing themselves, so I can know what their needs and concerns are and can meet them. They trust me enough to voice what they feel instead of keeping it bottled inside because Mommy would get upset. They are also testing the boundaries: will Mommy still love me if I cross this line? Will she pass the test or fail? And as I fail (major screaming and freak-out at both boys yesterday), today is a new day to start over, calmly.

I know that some can bristle at the honesty here. We are so enamored with the idea of motherhood as sainthood, that when the realities of life come through, we assume that it is the end of the world. It should not be talked about, only good things. The screaming, the losing it, the craziness are all swept under the rug. Only marvelous coping (which happened last week), not the yucky parts.

To all mothers out there having a bad day or a bad week or a bad spell: we all go through it. You are not a bad mother, just a bit frazzled at the time. Take a deep breath, and start all over again. Your kids will not hold it against you.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

just perfect

The baby is nursing round the clock and I never have a break.
The baby is too sleepy to nurse and I have to wake him up and make him mad just to latch on.
The baby cries and cries and it's driving me insane.
The baby poops in the middle of feedings and I have to change him and then he poops at the end and leaks out and I have to change him again.
There is no time to get anything done.
I have no "me" time.

Life with a newborn has its challenges. Yet when my 8 yo was asked what does he think about his new brother, he said: "He's perfect, just perfect!" Not that he keeps mom busy all the time, that he cries, that all the attention is focused on the baby and not me, not that I have to walk around quieter now and not drum when I want, but that he's perfect.

Last night, as I was up nursing yet again, I thought more about my son's reply. What if instead complaining about all the challenges that come with a small baby in the house, we treat him (and the challenges) as perfect?

The baby is nursing round the clock? He's building up milk supply, so that later nursings will be quicker and he will sleep for a longer stretch.

The baby is too sleepy to nurse? Nobody gave him nursing lessons and he has to learn on his own. He cannot have things explained to him, yet he's learning. I can be a patient teacher.

The baby cries and cries? He's voicing a need, and learning to communicate. I need to tune in.

The baby poops constantly? Thank G-d his intestines are working and he can digest, so he can grow.

There is no time to get anything done? With my first, very early on, I realized that everything done for a baby is chesed (kindness). All of those hours spent visiting the sick, bringing dinner to a neighbor, helping someone else? Lucky me! I can spend them on my very own child, taking care of his needs!

No "me" time. The other day I was taking the baby out for a walk. The big kids were at a sleepover with grandma. I hadn't done this since my oldest was the baby. I remember feeling then that a good mommy takes her kid out for a walk. I remember worrying whether he will continue sleeping once I get home so I can do something by myself. I remember worrying how long the nursings are taking, and whether there will be a break. This time, just walking on a beautiful morning, birds chirping, and being left alone with my own thoughts felt like "me" time. Sitting on a couch nursing and reading a magazine is definitely "me" time. It is all a matter of perspective.

I am so lucky that G-d blessed us with this perfect baby.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

on natural childbirth

This has nothing to do with homeschooling, but this is something I just did, and I am passionate about, so if this is not your thing, feel free to skip reading.

I gave birth to my fourth this past Friday. It's a boy! He was born on Friday morning in a very natural-birth friendly hospital. This birth experience was the closest to what I wanted ever since I got into natural childbirth. In fact, I think, this was pretty much it. I wanted a hospital setting, just in case anything goes wrong, but I also wanted a hands-off approach. I wanted to be supported during labor, but not have anyone speak for me. I wanted freedom to move around and to choose the positions which were most comfortable. I wanted to wear my own clothes. I wanted to be surrounded by people who have seen birth without interventions, and who believed that it was possible.

I am so happy that I got all of those. I am also grateful that this is my fourth baby, and by now I had no fear of giving birth. I trusted that my body could gestate this baby and that giving birth to him would not be traumatic to either one of us. I knew that I could do it, but it would be hard work. I did not think that giving birth is the most painful experience of my life, just one of the hardest.

A few things I did to prepare myself.

Read, read, read. With my first, I read "What to Expect When You are Expecting", and ended up with all the interventions which are so casually mentioned there. I recommend all Ina May books, starting with "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth". Watch The Business of Being Born to get a feel for the alternatives. Trace the development of current childbirth practices through Pushed and Birth Day. Find out what midwives really do in Baby Catcher. See the natural childbirth through a frum perspective in Labor of Love. I got most of these through my library, so if it's not your thing, you can always return it.

Take in positive birth stories. Read about them, listen to them, seek them out. My grandmother lost one of her babies in childbirth (carbon monoxide poisoning from a wood-burning stove) and she proceeded to tell me the story in great detail when I was just a few months' pregnant with my first. She was still shaking and crying, fifty years later. My mother did not have such a good birth story either, especially since it emphasized me choosing to get born prematurely, and me shooting out of her and tearing her up. That hang-up came out in this labor: when it came time to push, I lost it. I kept going through my mind, telling myself that I have to get this baby out, and then feeling that I am pulling back instead of pushing. I kept searching myself for what is preventing me to embrace what I have to do here. I felt that nobody is catching the baby, that the baby will "shoot out" (this is after three kids who definitely did not "shoot out" and neither did this one!). Afterwards, my husband was saying how interesting it was that this was my concern, but now I realize that some part of my brain got branded with this horrible possibility that a baby can "shoot out" and rip his mother. So I tried exposing myself to positive stories as much as possible, people relishing the experience, women trusting their bodies, having fun with their pregnancies, feeling empowered by childbirth rather than defeated.

Do psychological cleansing. For that I recommend "Birthing From Within". Yes, some of the ideas might be kooky, but the principle that psychology profoundly affects how one perceives childbirth is worth exploring. It also allows to zero in on what the hang-ups one might be having about childbirth, what one assumes it will be like, and what can be done to work through them. I liked the idea of birth art. In fact, this time around about a week before I gave birth I got this image into my head. I am not an artist, in fact, I paint so infrequently that when I finally sat down to execute the picture, I discovered that a bunch of my acrylics have dried out. Nevertheless, the picture was gestating in me, so to speak, and one I completed it, I went into labor the next day. I used it during labor and it helped me focus.

Create affirmations. I had a few for myself (wow, this was a good contraction, it is helping me open up; I can ride this one; my body is meant to do this) and a few as a pep talk to the baby ( c'mon baby, come on out; I want to to meet you). When I was pregnant with my second, I created a set of cue cards in Powerpoint, and I browsed through them in labor to see which ones spoke to me. Again, there was a lot of psychological prep beforehand.

Research what's safe. This is where it is important to separate fact from fiction and to realize where one's wishes might contradict reality. For example, during the last two pregnancies, I had low platelet count towards the end. It was not too low, but I was notified that if I wanted an epidural, it might be an issue. Thankfully, I did not want an epidural, so that was not a concern. I ate and drank during labor (water, tea, juice, crackers, toffee which I made as my labor was getting started and we brought it to the hospital to nurses' desk). I went to the bathroom often so that my full bladder would not get in the way. I skipped an IV and even a Hep Loc (IV access) this time.

Get support. I hired a doula, who was essential this whole experience  She walked with me, squeezed my hips during contractions  talked me through transition, kept me focused, suggested breathing patterns when the going got tough, fetched pillows, water, washcloths etc. She was the calming presence that I craved. I am usually a do-it-alone kind of gal, but for labor, she was the steady support that I needed.

Expect the unexpected. I have a birth plan. I created it with my second, tweaked it with my third, and... forgot it at home with my fourth! I was just ready to go with the flow, let happen whatever happens, and not expect things to go one way or another.  In order to give birth, one has to let loose, let go, and for me, the meticulous planner, this was the ultimate letting go. Thankfully, the hospital was so laid-back, that it did not matter that we had no birth plan; they have seen it all, and just let me be.