January 23, 2012

If Then

I don’t know if it’s my stubbornness, H’s stubbornness, the fact that she’s two, or perhaps I have seriously missed the parenting boat, but I feel like we are the only pair that can fight for going on 40 minutes now over asking her to sit on the potty before we turn on the TV.

She screams, “Sesame Street!” I say calmly, “You need to sit on the potty first.” Repeat.

Clearly not my kid. But you get the idea.

This fight is not and never was (really) about going to the bathroom. It’s about me asking her to do something and her doing it. The tantrum would have been the same if I’d asked her to wash her hands before we ate and she refused. It is far easier for me to just give up and let her watch Sesame Street. But, and here perhaps I’m overstating, I feel like that is the road to a spoiled child. If she screams and I give in, aren’t I teaching her that screaming is an effective method of getting her way?

Time has now past, and it’s past my bedtime, but I’m getting this down on paper anyway. It took an hour and five minutes before she sat on the potty. There was hitting; there was time out; there was crying; there were hugs. At no point did she finally relent. You know what happened? She got hungry. She calmed down enough to sit on my lap and recover slightly (while I started typing this actually), and she got hungry. We decided on a smoothie. I made her the smoothie and as she sucked down those first fruity, frosty sips, I stuck her ass on the pot. Shockingly, she did in fact have to pee. Funny, it had only been four hours since she last went.

Did I teach her that following Mom’s orders gets her what she wants? Probably not. Did I get my way? Yes. Was it fun? No. Will I be repeating this scenario in the near future, like tomorrow? Probably.

I’ve been surprised at how often I’ve struggled with deciding when I’m taking a stand for all that is good and pleasant and when I just get stuck in a bad situation and have dug myself a hole. I know that I am right in insisting that she wash her hands every single time she goes to the bathroom. Am I therefore also right in sometimes having to football hold her with one arm and wash writhing, protesting hands with the other? It’s happened. I’m not proud. But I know that she needs to wash. I know that it’s not negotiable, and I know that at some point, if I don’t make her wash, she’s going to put those hands in her or someone else’s (read mine) mouth. I console myself with the thought that at some point, she’ll decide it’s easier and faster to just wash her hands.

Some of you reading this may be surprised. “But Jamie,” you’re saying, “Your daughter is such a sweetheart.” And she is a sweetheart. She is also the single most stubborn person I’ve ever met. She’s always been this way. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve slapped clothes on a twisting, crying, screaming, banshee. Usually the only trigger is that I want to her to do something, like get changed, and she doesn’t want to do that thing.

A good friend once told me that as parents we have to say no an awful lot, so if we can say yes, if it’s not that big a deal, then why not? This has stuck with me, and there have been a number of interesting outfit and meal choices that have resulted. I strive to convince, connive, and only occasionally bribe her to do things my way. I much prefer for her to come along willingly. Before the meltdown in question, I had to play, “If you’re asleep, then I’ll just leave you here while I go to the store.” I got all the way to the garage door with my coat and purse before she “woke up.” Like a switch, she was ready to go. And that’s ok with me. A lot of the time, she plays along without the games. If every now and again I have to role play, fine.

This particular meltdown, however, was purely a struggle of wills. I’ve gotten into them with her before, obviously. I often find myself frustrated because does it really matter THAT much if she pees before Sesame Street? Probably not. But I always come back to the fact that it does matter, very much, that she do as I ask. This is even more important in light of the fact that I am often the only parent. It sounds horrible, but for all intents and purposes, this is a dictatorship, and I am Julius Caesar. When I’m the only one here, it’s a tenuous balance between letting things slide and letting behavior problems blossom.

For example, after the stress of the meltdown and the subsequent hour lag in TV watching, there really wasn’t time before bed to have a proper sit down dinner in the dining room. This is normally something I insist on. I can write an entirely separate post about the pros and cons of turning off Sesame Street at various points in the program and the subsequent level of tantrum that will result. Tonight, however, I was all tantrumed out, so we ate on the floor of the living room. If we eat 8 out of 10 dinners while Josh is gone in the dining room, I think we can spare the occasional “picnic.”

No matter how I try to balance it though, I just come back to the central question. Am I right to enforce rules that an adult would see as ultimately trivial for the sake of maintaining dominance? Am I sending the message that Mom is the boss? Or am I creating an adversarial relationship that will only lead to more tantrums? Or am I over-analyzing normal two-year-old behavior?

I’m reaching out to you, dear reader. I’m hoping that perhaps you’ve been there. Or perhaps you are there right now. Where do you draw the line? When is it ok to make a stand? When do you find yourself becoming ridiculous? How do you gracefully back out?

And when does the logic of, “If you’d done it when I asked, we’d already be watching Elmo’s World,” kick in?

January 17, 2012

Informed Birthing

I am very opinionated when it comes to child birth. That’s something I will make no bones about. Over the course of the two and half years since I had H, I’ve felt like some people have taken my zeal for the subject in the wrong way. I’ve started feeling a bit like a leper. That won’t do.

This was taken literally 14 minutes after H was born. Best day of my life so far.

First and foremost, no matter what my thoughts or opinions, all I want for anyone is to have a healthy baby. I ultimately do not care how your baby arrives. It could come via FedEx for all I care. As long as everyone’s healthy and happy, it doesn’t really matter. Also, it’s YOUR body. Do with it what you want.

To back up a few steps, let me share how it came to be that I had H at home. It all started because epidurals, personally, weird me out. The thought of a needle going in my spine gives me the willies. And I don’t mind needles. I can watch while they draw my blood. I’ve seen open heart surgery from the gallery. But the needle in the spine weirds me out. Epidurals being effectively eliminated, that left me with natural child birth.

A lot of your opinions of child birth, I think, come from what you’ve heard your mom say while you were growing up. My mom happens to be one of those women we all hate. She had my brother in four hours and me in two. Natural child birth for both. She pushed me out so fast that both my shoulders popped out at once, and I broke my collarbone. Hearing those stories as I grew up led me to believe that child birth was nothing to be afraid of and that it was a normal, good thing to do. Josh is a wonderful, supportive husband, so he was good with whatever I wanted to do.

About halfway through my pregnancy I decided we should take a birth class. I had heard of Bradley from a few friends, and there was a class in Charleston. Really the choices in birth classes went 4 weeks at the hospital and the last week was a hospital tour (we were moving and wouldn’t deliver there, so only 3 weeks would be helpful) or 12 weeks for Bradley. I figured that I’d learn more in 12 weeks. The Bradley Method, briefly, is a course in natural child birth that focuses on different coping techniques and where the husband figures prominently as a coach for the mom.

Until I took Bradley all I had read was What to Expect. During that class I started doing a lot more reading from the teacher’s personal library and learning from the class itself. Bottom line: I got educated. I learned about birth, nutrition, complications, coping measures, and breastfeeding basics. My belief that natural birth was a good thing was reinforced and grew in complexity. I came to understand how my body could do such a miraculous thing as grow a baby and deliver it to the world. I learned about the natural processes involved. I grew firm in my belief that I had made a good choice.

When we came to Dover it was a significant downgrade in birthing options. Charleston has five hospitals and a birth center. Dover has one hospital. We had been connected with a midwife here through our Bradley instructor. I asked for advice finding an OB friendly toward natural child birth. At the time, that list was pretty much non-existent. When we toured the hospital, the nurse was incredibly condescending, dismissed the thought of a birth plan and natural child birth, and told me not to feel bad when I caved and got drugs, because everybody did. And they have a c-section rate of 30%. That might be the national average, but it’s way too high for my comfort level. No one will ever get me to believe that one in three women is incapable of delivering a child. The species could not have survived thousands of years if that were the case.

You may recall me saying that I am highly opinionated. This attitude would not work for me. Josh and I did a lot of soul searching. We were extremely concerned that the hospital experience here would be negative for us and that we would spend a lot of time fighting with the staff. We live very close to the hospital and had huge confidence in the midwives we had met. We decided to try the homebirth.

I won’t go into the whole birth story and add a few more pages to this long post, but suffice to say, it was one of the most rewarding, beautiful experiences of my life. It was not without pain. I remember early on saying to Josh, “This is why women get epidurals.” But I never felt like I couldn’t do it. I pushed for two hours. (For me pushing didn’t hurt. It was pressure, but it felt almost good.) When that tiny girl was born I felt like I could take over the world. Giving birth is the single most empowering moment of my life.

This is not to say that other births could not be empowering as well. But I can only speak from my experience. So you see, I have done my research on birth. I loved my natural birth. I love the whole she-bang so much that I have serious plans to get two more advanced degrees so I can be a certified nurse midwife when Josh retires.

I will never ask that you agree with me. I will never ask that you go along with me just for the sake of going along or because you think I know best. All I ask is that, whatever decision you make regarding your birth, inform yourself.

I have several friends who wanted dearly to have natural births and didn’t. I don’t judge them. I love them. No one but you is in your skin. No one but you knows when enough is enough.

At the same time, if you tell me that you’re getting induced before your due date for a non-medical reason, because I care about people and want what’s best for them, I might tell you that pre-term inductions lead to a higher c-section rate than waiting to go on your own. I’m going to tell you that because it’s the truth. One of my quirks is that I am terrible at deceit. But you are a big girl. You can ignore me. And guess what? We’ll still be friends. If after that you have a c-section, I will not sit around and judge you. I will be sad for you because c-sections are harder to recover from, because you missed out on something I consider to be very meaningful, because things didn’t go the way you wanted and that’s a sad thing. I think that’s called compassion.

In closing, I ask you, how much time while you are/were pregnant did you spend researching cribs, strollers, car seats, diapers, formula, or bottles? How much time was spent decorating the baby’s room? I know the hours and hours and hours I spent. Now, how much time did you spend thinking about your birth and your body during your birth? Before you went to the hospital, did you know what machines they might hook you up to? Had you talked to your doctor about possible side effects of epidurals? (They are not without side effects.) Car seats, strollers, cribs, and all are important, don’t get me wrong. Yet, so many women completely ignore the birth, thinking that between nature and doctors it will all be taken care of. But you, you are the driving force. You can and should have control of your own birth, whatever form it takes.

Don’t give up your power. Don’t let someone else tell you what is right or best. Take the time to educate yourself. Know that whatever decision you make, whatever curve ball life throws you, that you are making the informed choice. That’s all I want for anyone.

January 12, 2012

The Bible - Part II

It’s been a while since I posted on my Bible progress. Never fear; I have not been slacking. I just finished what is labeled as the Historical Books in my Bible: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.

Very briefly, this part of the Bible tells about the time from the death of Moses, through the split of Israel into two kingdoms, through the downfall of Israel and the peoples’ capture by King Nebuchadnezzar, to the return of the Jews to Israel and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Phew!

These books really are historical. They are also a little repetitive, so I read about the same events a couple of times. When you’re reading it from the comfort of your 21st century bedroom it’s hard to see why the kings kept ignoring God’s will when every time they did really bad things happened. Then somebody would reform and really good things would happen. Then that person’s son would be all, “Things are great! I don’t need God.” Then bad things would happen again.

I found it sort of interesting that after the detail with which we went over the rule of every king, the time the Jews were in captivity in Babylon was skipped over. We don’t really catch up with them until God relents and sends them back. I wonder if this will be touched on in some other part of the Bible, or if maybe during this time the Jews were so scattered that nothing really was written.

Considering how bad a job the Jews did following the rules set down by Moses, it’s sort of amazing that there are any Jews even left by the time they come back to Jerusalem. Even at that point, Ezra and Nehemiah do a lot of house cleaning and get rid of foreign wives and such. (I thought that was rather harsh. Couldn’t they convert?) Perhaps it shows that God is very patient.

The Book of Esther actually made me a little sad because I felt like it was a foreshadowing of all the hate and genocide that would be directed at the Jews for centuries to come. It seems like they are one group that just attracts hate. One religion book I read suggested that it’s because the Jewish faith creates tightly knit groups that tend to be economically successful and also exclusive. They are looked on with jealous eyes by the majority. Whatever the case, I was glad they were spared and then immediately saddened that they took the opportunity to kill 75,000 people. Very Old Testament of them.

I’m now up to the Poetical and Wisdom Books: Psalms, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. These seem like they might be slightly more exciting.

As always, I fully admit to being a Bible novice and gladly welcome any advice or explanations if I’ve missed something.

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