Archive for September, 2011

Sep 19 2011

Your anxiety is funny to your mom, and could be the internet’s fault.

This Sunday, The Man and I followed our usual routine. We went to church, and then afterwards we did our family visits, starting with my Grandma. My Mom happened to also be visiting Grandma that day, which was a great treat and also pretty convenient since I’d brought the ultrasound pics (which apparently I’d forgotten to show to anyone, whoops). I was also glad to see my mother, because I sort of wanted to sound her out on the anxiety I’ve been feeling lately. So, sometime before we ate lunch, when she asked me how I was feeling, I told her: “I feel fine, physically, but I guess I’ve been pretty anxious lately.” She asked me what I was so anxious about, and I said something along the lines of, “I’m anxious about having a baby. You know, how my life is going to change.” She gave me a bewildered look and asked why I’d be anxious about that. “Because…my life has been a certain way for like, ten years. And now it’s going to all be different.”

And that’s when my mother and my grandmother, my role models, my loving supporters, LAUGHED AT ME.

Grandma said, “Well, it IS going to all be different.” Mom chimed in with, “Your life will only be as different as you allow it to be. You can take babies anywhere. You can do almost anything you do now with a baby. You and The Man are lucky. You’re older. You don’t go out and party. You won’t have that issue where you’re 19 years old and all of your friends are heading out to the bar on Friday night, and you’re at home with a baby, wanting to go party.” She continued, “Besides that, if you ever get to a point where you just have to get away from the baby for awhile, you have a lot of people who will give you a night off. You can leave him with me.” (Just as a little background, my mother had my sister when she was 19, and at that time, the US drinking age was 18 instead of 21 as it is now. She was also living in California with my dad, and their entire family lived in Michigan.)

I stopped talking about it at that point, because I was starting to get a serious case of teenage-level, “no one understands me” resentment. As we were heading out to our next stop (The Man’s parents’), Mom hugged me and said “Stop worrying. Everything is going to be fine.”

We headed on to The Man’s parents’ house, where I ended up spending some alone time with one of my sisters-in-law, who has four kids of her own. While we were talking, I brought up the fact that I had been feeling really anxious about impending life changes, and she kind of laughed and said, “I remember feeling that way. I think everyone does. You have no idea what’s coming and there is no going back. I remember thinking what if I’ve made a big mistake?

Later that evening, at home, I started thinking about the differences in response I’d gotten from Mom and Grandma and the one I’d gotten from my SIL. Was it just that SIL was closer to the time before she’d had her first child, so she remembered more clearly what it was like? Or was it that Mom and Grandma genuinely had no idea what I was talking about? And if it was the second one, what caused the change between the generations? I’m inclined to blame the internet. Well, the internet and the VAST AMOUNT of parenting literature that’s available to new parents these days.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m very grateful that there are books and web sites out there to help me learn how to be a better mom. I don’t currently know anything about sleep training or breastfeeding, but I’m looking forward to reading a couple of books that friends have recommended and I love the YouTube videos I’ve found about swaddling. However, for every sensible, soothing blog or site I’ve found written by a new mom, there is another one waiting in the wings to bombard me with The Best Way to do something, telling me that if I don’t spend 80% of my day actively engaging with my child then I am a neglectful parent, and also that my marriage is going to go directly to Hell and there’s not much I can do about it. With all of this information, much of it contradictory, is it surprising that New Mom Anxiety is a common trait among the Internet Generation? Even the “amateurs” get in on the act: Go to any Parenting question on Yahoo! Answers and see if you can find one that doesn’t have a woman on it who is obviously jockeying for valedictorian of mommyhood (or at least is trolling to make the other mom’s feel bad).

Let me give you an example. The major source of my anxiety is that I can clearly picture myself bored out of my mind, sitting on the floor eight hours a day, dangling a rattle, or (in a year or so) playing with cars and trains. I never have time to read, or look on the internet, or even clean the house. I turned to Google and asked “How much of your day is spent entertaining your child?” I found a couple of different web sites with a question/answer format, and the vast majority of moms said something along the lines of “I try to make sure I spend about 30-45 minutes in the morning and then again in the afternoon/evening actively playing with my child.” (This number did not include things like talking during change times, feeding times, etc. We are talking actually get down on the floor and do nothing but play.) BUT THEN there were always one or two moms who say “I spend the majority of my time playing with my child. I want to seize every moment because I know the time goes so fast.” It’s these types of things that make me break out into a cold sweat. It’s those bars that are set so high that I don’t know if I even want to try to reach them. I don’t want to be a person who spends all day engaged in playing with a child. That doesn’t sound fulfilling to me; it barely sounds like a life.

And yet, new or expectant mothers are faced with these impossible goals all the time, and there is very little sympathy from the goal-setters when you fall short. No one wants to be judged “the bad mom”, or the mom who doesn’t like her child. But just try to say something like “I don’t really enjoy playing with children” on the internet, and you are sure to get at least one person coming at you with the judging-stick to give you a good wallop of guilt.

That leads me back to our moms (and grandmothers). Sure, they had older women to give them advice, and some resources like Dr. Spock, but I get the feeling that there was a lot less pressure in their days to raise your child perfectly or to make them the center of your existence. When Grandma tells me about her younger days, stories about her kids barely figure in, unless as a side note.  Like, if she talked about bowling on a league, she would say that Grandpa bowled on Tuesday while she stayed home with the kids, and then she bowled on Thursday while he stayed home with the kids. Having children for the baby boomers wasn’t so much a choice as just something that you did, and therefore there wasn’t a lot of talk about this huge life-choice you were making or the big shift in your day-to-day life. Everybody had kids. And since everybody also wanted to keep having fun with their friends and traveling and living their lives, they made it work. Does that mean that kids maybe didn’t get 5 hours of quality learning time every single day? Yes, but it also meant that parents didn’t attempt to totally eradicate their own identities in favor of developing their children’s.

After thinking about all of this, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to be the valedictorian of parenthood. I didn’t want to be the kind of woman who shucks off her previous life and just becomes Mommy. I want my child to know that he’s important to me, but that he’s not my entire life. I want my husband to know that I will remain the woman he married and fell in love with, and not become this person who is only concerned with whether or not Baby is getting enough exposure to various important stimuli. I want my child to learn how to entertain himself, how to solve his own problems, how to do his own chores, and how to live his own life. I want him to know that if he gets stuck, I will be glad to help him, but that he is intelligent enough to do many things on his own. I want him to experience the joy of losing himself in a book for hours, of diligently working on a picture, of concentrating on his newest creation. How can he do and learn all that if I’m constantly there with him? He can’t. And I won’t cripple him in that way.

I’m not going to tell anyone they are wrong for spending “a majority of their time” playing with their child. That is a choice every person has to make for themselves. However, I’m also not going to allow those people make me feel like a horrible person for not following an example that I cannot agree with.

(Sounds pretty brave, eh? We’ll see how I feel about the whole thing tomorrow. Ugh, hormones!)

6 responses so far

Sep 17 2011

Who you really are vs. who you thought you were (or wanted to be)

Published by under Introspection,Pregnancy,The Man

I had to come to a pretty obvious realization about myself today, and it made me think about all the different ways we perceive ourselves and actually lie to ourselves about who we are. There is a perception or belief that no one knows you better than you know yourself, but I’m not sure how accurate that is for a lot of us. We lie to ourselves ABOUT ourselves all the time. How many people do you know who were or are obviously suffering from depression but refuse to acknowledge it? Or alcoholism? Or they can’t face the fact that they suck at choosing romantic partners and perpetuate a cycle of failed relationships? Besides that, many of us spend our teen years convincing ourselves that we are so SPECIAL and DIFFERENT and MISUNDERSTOOD, when in reality, almost all of us were doing the same thing – anything we could just to stand out, even if what we were doing wasn’t what we were really in to. “Fake it until you make it”…but a  lot of people never get past the “fake it” stage and end up living a lie.

My “grand” realization about myself is that I am someone who would prefer that everything be on a schedule, and that I am most comfortable when I have a plan of action and there are little to no surprises lurking on the horizon. This is different from how I spent my teenage years and most of my 20s telling myself that I was: I liked spontaneity! I loved surprises! I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl! This is all, quite honestly, bull crap. If it wasn’t bull crap, I wouldn’t have spent close to two hours last night freaking out about my impending role as mother, a role I have absolutely no experience with and for which there is no map.

For the last week or more, I have been obsessing about this article I found a couple of months ago. It was a nice breakdown of a typical day caring for a baby, broken into 30-60 minute blocks. It seemed to cover all the bases and I remember thinking it was a pretty logical and sensible schedule. And then, I didn’t bookmark it. I’ve been trying to find it ever since, off and on, with no luck. Last night, after I got home from a fun night crafting with Special Op B, I was laying in bed and I got hit by an overwhelming anxiety attack. It was a doozy, and it was all because I started thinking about how I have no idea what I’m supposed to DO all day with a baby. Will I hate it? Will I resent the baby? Will the day just drag and drag and I will be sitting at home, alone with this BABY, staring at him and thinking OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE? I ended up rousing The Man and telling him everything I was thinking about, and letting him reassure me and tell me that it wasn’t going to be like what I thought, and things were going to be fine. It really helped, but this morning I was still back on Google, trying to find that article. Then I got the brilliant idea to look through  my search history, and I found the magic search string I had been trying to rediscover this whole week. Up popped the article! I immediately bookmarked it, copied the whole thing to Word and saved it to my computer, and felt an enormous sense of relief. I had a plan! Granted, it might not be the exact plan I would end up following, but it was a great start point. It left me in little doubt of what my days may end up being like, and it didn’t look too daunting at all. It looked…doable.

And that’s when I realized that all of the anxiety I’ve been experiencing had basically vanished because I found some stupid web page on the internet that told me what to do with my baby all day. And THEN I realized that my anxiety was all because I do not like surprises. I do not like the unknown. I do not like not having a road map, no matter how vague it is. I want to see ahead and prepare for pitfalls. I am Pamela Planner, and if I don’t have my plan, then I am Una Unhappy. Or, more specifically, Annie Anxiety.

My teenage self would be horrified.

(In case you are curious, or experiencing a freak out on the same topic, here is the magical article I spent so long looking for.)

7 responses so far

Sep 14 2011

Is that a compliment?

Published by under Pregnancy,Snippets

I went to the Motherhood Maternity outlet yesterday because I only had one pair of maternity jeans (graciously purchased for my by one of my sisters-in-law), and I need at least two wearable pairs of jeans in order to function. I walked in the door, and I was the only one in the store, except for the sales person, who was a woman. This sales person immediately came over to me and launched into a monologue about the store, the clothes, the styles, the fits, the features, etc. I literally could not get a word in other than “Yes” or “No”. Eventually, she asked what I was looking for and I told her I needed a pair of jeans. Then she asked what my pre-pregnancy size was. When I told her, she gave me a VERY obvious once over and asked in disbelief “Really?” I must have given her quite a look, because she qualified, “You don’t look like you should be in that big of a size.” I kept my mouth shut, but what I really wanted to say was “Honey, just because I have a waist doesn’t mean I don’t also have a big, fat ass” and then sticking it out and making various white people shout.

As a side note, I tried on four pairs of jeans at Motherhood. Two were WAY too long. There were at least four inches of material tucked under my feet, and they were the “regular” length. One was EIGHTY DOLLARS. I mean to say, Good Lord. Lucky for me, the last pair was dark rinse, boot cut, and maybe only an inch too long. Also, reasonably priced. I guess the lesson is, make sure you try on your maternity pants, because they are not all formed or priced the same.

3 responses so far

Sep 13 2011

It’s a boy!

Published by under Pregnancy

We found out yesterday in our Level 2 ultrasound that we are having a son. His name is Asher Martin. “Martin” is both my dad’s first name and The Man’s middle name, so it is a good pick, family-wise. Asher comes from the Bible and means “happy” in Hebrew. Asher was one of the twelve sons of Jacob who ended up being one of the leaders of twelve tribes of Israel. His mother was Zilpah, a  handmaid of Leah (Jacob’s first wife). Asher was born to Zilpah but was counted as a son of Leah, since Leah was actually a wife and Zilpah only a concubine.

“Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. And Leah said, ‘Happy am I! For the women will call me happy’; so she named him Asher.” Genesis 30:12-13

The ultrasound also showed that, as far as they could tell, everything looks normal. Of course, they can’t detect every possible birth defect (the doctor mentioned the one that most often goes undetected is a small hole in the heart), but they could see that he doesn’t have a cleft lip, he has the right number of limbs and digits, and the back of his neck is inconsistent with Down’s Syndrome. His spine looked well formed and clear of spina bifida.

We got a BOATLOAD of ultrasound pics, including a pretty freaky one that just looks like a skull. We did get a couple of the 3D pictures, but it’s hard to tell anything, and also, he’s only 19 weeks old, so he still kind of looks like an alien.

3 responses so far

Sep 08 2011

Conversation while shopping for a new front door.

Published by under Snippets,The Man

The Man: Did we decide we didn’t like this one?

Me: No, but…it’s $500.

The Man: I hate it. Get it out of here!

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