A Birthday, an Anniversary

Ten years ago yesterday, my husband and I went to our 37-week check up to find out that we were going to the hospital to be induced due to pre-eclampsia.  I was huge and swollen but felt fine.  I wouldn’t be going back to class, though.  (I was still in college at the time.)

Ten years ago this evening, around 7:45 to be more accurate, our baby girl was born in the hospital, and I morphed from a pregnant mama into a mom — drugged, clueless, bewildered.  I had just done the hardest thing ever, experienced the greatest pain ever, was in the hospital for the first time in my life as a bed-ridden patient, and now I was responsible for a baby I couldn’t even see or care for properly.  It may be easy to understand now why I work closely with pregnant mamas and support other mothers.

I teach Bradley classes to help all who want to be healthy and know about the process, all who don’t want to walk into their birthing situations not knowing what’s going on.  I serve as a doula selfishly because it is a window into a sacrament of life, in my opinion, but I also sacrifice my time to help others have a more calm, peaceful, empowered birth.  I hope to advocate for mothers, to help them when they feel they need it.  In my ten years as a mother, I have learned these things can make all the difference.  All these things help mothers in their role, in their lives.

Being pregnant and mothering is not always easy.  It’s hard, frustrating and exhillarating all in a day, with windows of peace of calm (and not always just when the kids are sleeping, though that helps).  Time is our best teacher.  We cannot always go up to a woman and tell her the things that will make her “job” as mother easier.  I don’t know that I would have listened and heeded such advice.  Many of us have to experience it for ourselves, learn in our own time.

So on this, my daughter’s tenth birthday, I also celebrate the anniversary of my motherhood and revel in all the lessons I’ve learned along the way, a few of which I share on this blog, most of which I’ve either internalized or will experience again and again until at last I truly learn what it is I need to know.  I’ll always be learning.  Whether we have one child or four (or heaven help you if you have more!), we will never fully know or understand everything.

As I kiss the kids good-night I always wish them peace and love and hope that when it’s their turn to be parents, they will know more than I.  We do the best we can with what we have, which may sound cliche, but it’s true.

We didn’t plan the timing of our first child, whose birth was also induced, but maybe that’s what I needed to become the mother I am.  Maybe I needed the divine intervention because Lord knows if I knew what I would be getting into, I may not have been humble enough to choose this route!

Blessings and gratitude to my eldest child and to all us mothers who should celebrate our motherhood daily if for nothing else than for the fact that we are doing our best.  The rest is out of our hands.  Here’s to the decades to come.


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Time Off?

I knew I would be going with the kids and my mother-in-law on a little vacation, but I expected to take some work with me.  I did take my laptop and some paper work I need to do.  But wouldn’t you know it.  I couldn’t get the wireless to work, and by the end of the day I was nearly too tired to think clearly.

Sometimes you have to take time off for what it is. TIME OFF.

Of course, my maternal on-duty sign is stuck in the
position; that’s to be
expected.  After all, the vacation was something more for the kids — amusement park, go carts, bumper boats, too much sugar.  Summer vacations are usually for kids, designed to give them something to look forward to and to have something to say they did this summer when they go back to school.  In the next couple of years, I hope to do something a little less conventional and a lot more memorable.

My time off came in the form of not having time or energy to put toward my external commitments.  No blogging, no e-mailing, no calling, no writing, no organizing, no cleaning, and no cooking (well, those last two fall under the maternal hat and the break from which I am grateful!).  I gave my kids nearly 100% of my attention, and I notice that while they didn’t act much differently, by the end of the day and the end of the vacation, I notice a difference.

I’m the type of mother that has to do more than just mother my children.  My commitments also lie outside my family and mostly nurture myself.  Call me selfish if you will.  I’m okay with that, especially if it means that during the time I am focused on my kids it makes me a better quality mother.  Consider your commitments, the quality of your mothering.  What makes you a better mother?  Do you need time to step back and evaluate?  What best rejuvenates and nurtures you?

So, after a bit of time away, I come back to my laptop, my pile of notebooks and am ready to get re-centered and aligned.  I have some organizing to do today . . . after the phone calls, grocery shopping, lunch and vet visit, of course, yet before an evening meeting.

All in a day’s work for a stay-at-home-mom.

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Mommy Dearest . . . Your Greatest Fear

When I was younger, my mom didn’t like to be called mother.  She said it reminded her of Mommie Dearest.  It makes me smile now, not because it’s funny but because I truly understand.  Not everyone can relate, but I know there are many who can.  A mother’s greatest fear can be that of harboring anger toward her children, being out of control, going off in a fit of rage against those she loves most dearly.

Fortunately here in the States, we have Social Services to help children in violent situations.  Fortunately the number of counselors and psychologists abound, as well as help lines and forums.  But most of these come around after the action has been done.  Shouldn’t we be focused on prevention?

We’re still on summer break, of course, and my kids are testing my patience daily.  While I’m not about to reach for a wire hanger, there are times when I wonder about it’s effectiveness.  Why do I even have to wonder?  Why do I get to a point of seeming desperation?  What does it take to get some cooperation?

Then I remember why my children are my children.  They are my teachers, too.  They show me the side of myself that I do not see or will not see.  Each time I reach out to them with compassion instead of yelling at them in anger, I’ve taken another step, set another positive example.  Each time I do act in anger, I take two steps back, for now they have a negative example which seems to make a greater impression than the positive ones.  Now I will have to face the consequence of them using the same behavior with others.  (Of course, I’m not about to take accountability for all their actions; I really don’t know where this stuff comes from sometimes!) Such great mirrors children are.  They’re here to help us learn, and the best way to learn is to practice.

I would like to say that I’ve completed the practice sessions and that it’s all smooth sailing now, but that isn’t the case. The good news is that I am aware of what is going on, I am conscious of our behaviors and tendencies.  I can see them building, see them coming.  It’s a good place to practice mindfulness.

This is a side of parenting that a lot of people don’t talk about it open conversation.  It’s a darker side, I suppose, because it’s a darker side of human nature.  But our true nature is not to hurt others in any way, shape or form.  We are here to love and support each other, and I believe that with our children, this should be most obvious.  Perhaps that’s why it can be the hardest, because it is so simple.

Remember that what hurts a child doesn’t have to be given with force.  Glaring, ignoring, degrading, humiliating are all hurtful.  One or two words.

Love yourself truly, wholly, deeply, and then pour forth that love to others.  Your children will love you for it, and you will be the dearest mommy in the world . . . you already are.

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Cleansing from a Mother’s Perspective

lemons_yellow_fruit_240661_tn.jpgToday marks Day 1 of my Master Cleanse.  I promise I won’t carry on about it, but if I need an outlet, I might add some in the comments sections here.  I mentioned before that I was considering a cleanse.  My body has been giving me cues that I need to do something.  Just as with my house, I need a drastic makeover . . . or, rather, a start-over.

The most challenging part will be cooking for the family while I drink my “lemonade,” preparing snacks while I drink water, facing meal times with my glass and watching the rest of my family eat.  To get everyone to the table, we have to sit together.  Chaos ensues if one person gets up.  (Think of The Breakfast Club — “If he gets up, we’ll all get up.  It’ll be anarchy!”)

Sometimes we have to take drastic measures for our benefit.  My kids have lost all their toys before and got back only half.  They never missed the other half.  I need to seriously consider my personal habits and decide which I need to keep and which need to go.  I need to do the same for all the stuff hidden in my kitchen cabinets.

In the end, I’ll have a new perspective and a new lesson learned.  In the meantime, I’ll have lots of time to do other things while I’m trying not to think about food.

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A Mother’s Zen Garden


Standing at the edge of the sand, one dares not disturb the serenity of a Japanese rock garden.  God knows how long it took to rake it just so, and the monks probably had a time of it to keep their robes hiked up or the sand out of the hem.  Then again, they were probably just there.  the sand was just where it would be, too.  Everything would be just as it is, which is just as it should be.

My “rock garden” takes at least two hours to complete.  On a small scale, it’s just the floor.  A bigger experience is the whole house.  I have to clean it, hopefully regularly, for before long the dog and cat hair is clumping up, the juice spots are collecting dirt and even my socks stick with every step.  So, I grab my tools and set to work, creating a masterpiece that satisfies my body (especially my feet) and my soul.

But this, too, shall pass.  The animals and children will come, my effort disappear and the chore will reappear on next month’s (if I’m lucky) to-do list. If I can do it with joy and fully participate in those fleeting moments of cleanliness, I will be doing well.  If I can honestly and sincerely welcome the dog, cat, children, everyone and everything else to destroy my masterpiece, I will be doing even better.  It’s about time to give it another try.

* * *

I would feel amiss if I didn’t share a blog (Zen Habits) from which a fellow parent shares advice and tips, all with the right intention of helping you mindfully simplify your life and increase your productivity.  I’m still exploring the knowledge archived there and encourage you to indulge.  My husband particularly likes the Dad perspective Zen Habits offers.

* * *

Photo by tiarescott, found at EveryStockPhoto.com,shared under Creative Commons license.

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As mothers we receive lots of things.  The bills, the colds, the art projects, our friends’ recipes, hugs and kisses and each other’s support, if we’re fortunate enough to have a network.  There are all kinds of material and immaterial “things” we take in all day long.  I wonder if that might be one reason moms are usually so generous, volunteering in multiple and diverse ways.

But think of a time when you were really looking forward to something.  A care package from a distant friend?  A tax refund?  Your kids from camp?  How about waiting for a baby’s conception?  News that the tumor was benign?

There’s a tremendous relief, joy and lightheartedness at the arrival, isn’t there?  I want to find a way to incorporate every part of my day as something to be received graciously.  I want to be joyful when I pick up my kids from school rather than seeing it as another errand.  Perhaps all I need to do is be mindfully present, and the joy will lie therein.  Easily said, right?

But what about receiving the overdrafts, the malignant tumor, the death we hadn’t prepared for?  Will receiving those mindfully make them less worse?  As humans, I suppose it’s our lot in life to “take the good, . . . take the bad.”  (My 80s-t.v.- influenced mind plays “The Facts of Life” theme song in my head.)  As mothers it seems we have a significant influence on how our family faces each moment.  How many of us have weathered the storm with an assuring hug and comforting words even as our own stomachs turned and hearts raced?  Of course, I don’t just mean thunderstorms.

Mother, father, man or woman, we don’t always have a choice about what we are receiving, but we can choose how we receive it.  We are, after all, setting an example for our children and all those in our presence.  I can’t help but think that we need to be humble and gracious when receiving life’s blessings, and when faced with tribulations, we can all hope to be honest and strong.  A network of support never hurts, either.

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A Bath to Remember

The healing qualities of water are probably innumerable.  A bath itself soothes the muscles and calms the spirit.  I don’t give myself enough baths, though we were excited to have a large tub in our house when we bought it three years ago.  There is one bath that I have taken here that I hope never to forget.

We were blessed to have a wonderful home birth for our fourth child, a baby girl.  Everything went like we had hoped it would — never underestimate the power of visualization . . . and it never hurts to be specific!  Our team of midwives worked swiftly and quietly, their headlamps cutting through the dark; I can’t imagine birthing with a better group of women.  No one can over-emphasize the importance of a good birth team.  Not only should you share your birth philosophy, you should respect and admire each other.  I think that’s an element not everyone knows about, but I digress . . .   We had a beautiful home birth followed by something almost as awesome.  The babe and I shared an herb bath.
The midwives prepared the herbs and drew the water.  They helped me into the tub, and after I got comfortable, they presented me my child.  We covered her with a towel, washcloth and hat, and I poured water over her to keep her warm.  It was quiet as mornings can be, except for the water moving with my motions or the soothing voices of the midwives.  I whispered to our new child.  I blessed her.  I wondered what secrets she knew.  I kissed her.  I loved her.  Then I held her close again against my breast.

The midwives joined me in the room, sitting around the tub like ladies in waiting, though our lady had arrived.  Now we could be still and enjoy.  I thanked them.  One midwife noted the sun — it’s light looked like hydrangeas as it was shaped by the glass blocks behind the curtain.  She had taken pictures for me of the baby’s first bath.  There were also candles lit, and time seemed to be still, too, for these precious moments.

We held a conversation, the midwives and I, about community and motherhood.  I can’t remember everything that was said, but I do remember that I was glad to share this time in my life with them.  I’ll happily tell my daughter how blessed she was from the beginning.  Our conversation grew quiet, and the water became cool.  I knew then that the bath was a part of the birth, too, cleansing and healing, brief and beautiful, momentary.

It would be easy to think I had dreamt it, but it happened, in all its quiet glory and grace.  I have pictures to prove it.


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Put Beauty on Your List

A few years ago I realized I really shouldn’t spend so much money on make-up.  In actuality, I didn’t have the money to spend anyway and felt it was one of those places to cinch the budget a little tighter.  Then we had our third child, and suddenly I felt like I needed to beautify myself.  I bought hot rollers to curl my long hair, and I spent about $50 on make-up.  Less than a month later, I had cut all my hair and was using less than half of the products I had bought.  Lesson:  don’t shop with the hormones flaring!

So, another few years have passed, another child, another haircut, and now I’m hearing these ads on the radio.  “Eighty percent of moms admit to letting themselves go,” say the ads.  Apparently a beauty company conducted a survey and have partnered with our local mega store chain to convince us mothers that we really need “to put beauty on our list” of things to do.  I agree . . . in a way.

Self-care is one of the greatest assets a mother can have.  A bubble bath, some chocolate, great music, a clean house, a favorite outfit — whatever works for you and keeps you from feeling like you’re on the edge.  “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” was a great quote from my uprearing that I’ve brought into our household.  Mothers do have a stressful job, and like everything else, we have to have coping mechanisms.  If taking the ad’s advice and buying some Brand S body products will do it for you, go for it.  Maybe my Walgreen’s splurge a few years ago kept me from going into postpartum depression.  Seventy bucks is cheaper than therapy and make-up less addictive than drugs.

I don’t mean to sound flippant about this.  Many women feel they are beautiful when they have make-up on.  I like to apply some powder, blush and liner when I’m going out for a special occasion, too.  But I know that’s just for me.  I feel a little more “dressed up.”  On every day occasions, I get to ask myself every morning if I feel beautiful.  Sometimes I have to tell myself, nearly remind myself that I am a beautiful woman.  I smile to myself in the mirror.  Why do I feel so surprised when people say I have a beautiful smile or that I have a wonderful energy or such a beautiful face?  Inner beauty is a hard thing to disguise and is the cheapest blemish remover I know.

Do put beauty on your list.  Find your beauty and how best to nurture yourself so it will glow so brightly you couldn’t hide it if you wanted to.  A shower daily is nice, too, but we didn’t need a radio ad to remind us of that one.  Lesson:  stick to listening to NPR.

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I’m Not a Loser

Some things you hope your kids will never learn or say, and yet it comes eventually.  From goodness knows where, my older son learned to call himself and others losers.  I thought we caught and corrected this but apparently not before our three-year-old son latched onto it.
the_look.jpg Now, when his will is being challenged or you stand between him and what his heart desires, you’re called a “loser” and are told he’ll do it himself.  I praise his self reliance in my heart of hearts, but I have to tell him I’m not a loser even before I go into explanation why we don’t call each other such.

Why do I have to defend myself so quickly?  It’s like I have to assure myself I’m not one before I can continue my role as a legitimate mother.  How easily my authority is compromised, my esteem crumpled.  After all, the insult is coming from an aggravated 3-year-old’s temper tantrum.  It just goes to show that I need as much morale boosting as possible.  As a full-time mom, I’m not paid monetarily.  I rely on my husband’s salary, I might feel guilty spending $30 for a haircut, and I don’t want to ask for help because, after all, I’m home all day (even though it may just happen once a week).  My kids make up part of my support group, so when a part of that lets me down, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt.

I need to be strong.  I AM strong.  I am a winner, a champion to my kids and to the maternal world.  You mothers who work in the home and out, also managing the household, are champions two-fold.  I’m doing my best on most days.  I’ve given birth to four (large) babies.  There’s not much I can’t handle.  Stick and stones may break my bones . . . but I won’t let the words break my spirit.  I am a wonderful mother.  I am a beautiful woman, and I have four lovely children who say the darnedest things.

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