Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Parenting? I'm working on it.

I found out some good news today, and it reassured me in many ways. It seems a known problem caused by tongue tie is sleep depravation for the baby and their primary caregiver. Those of you that follow me on Facebook know that Dori has struggled with sleep since birth, and especially in the last month and a half, where he has been waking, almost without fail, hourly, night after night. For a while I thought it was comfort nursing. Anthony deployed a month ago, followed by the three of us getting the flu pretty severely, and no sooner was that over then Dori learned to crawl. I exhaustedly put off sleep training, hoping that once things settled things would get better.

And they didn't. Nightly he changed things up, between falling asleep easily at the breast, to wanting to be bounced/held to sleep, to allowing me to pat his back to sleep. I tentatively tried letting him cry, but thankfully gave up on that one quickly. He's a chronic face-scratcher and if left to his own devices would give himself bloody cuts no matter how I manicured his nails. Swaddling averted that, but then he would get hot and super sweaty...overall, there was just no safe way to do it. I strongly suspected he might be nursing for comfort, in which case letting him cry would be completely counter-intuitive. He just wants a snuggle and reassurance.

I am so glad I stuck with my gut on this one, in light of what I've learned. I've concluded that he's probably just hungry. He's eating enough to grow a little and stay healthy, but I think it's still alot of tough work for him, and he doesn't have the mouth muscle to nurse long enough to get a good dose of hind milk. I think he's essentially drinking enough to satisfy himself, and only gaining weight because he gets that one hour cat nap, then has the strength to nurse a little more and continues thus. This is the problem my little brother had as a tongue tied baby, although in his case it was far more severe, he was so tiny after four months and really struggling.

I've been re-evaluating my parenting skills with Ray as well. My patience with him was wearing oh so thin, and he was really exacerbating the problem by being very obstinate, constantly running away from me (usually out into the street/parking lot) when in stores, and in general just being ornery. My techniques with this were not only unsuccessful, they really disturbed me. I noticed when we first got married and got a puppy that I have a bit of a violent streak, and I'm still not sure where it came from, but coupled with my temper...I am so ashamed of the ways I yelled at and spanked that dog (one quick swat, but a smart one), and that I ended up treating my sweet, sweet boy the same way. Every time I would just hate myself and feel so guilty, and swear it would never happen again, and then he would do something and I'd find myself doing it all over again.

So I've really been digging in and examining why I do what I do, and how I can be better. I discovered that what was so enraging to me, was his lack of acknowledgment of my emotions (anger, generally) and that he wasn't equally distressed by the situation. I wanted to yell and scream until he reacted. When he would just go against my wishes without a hint of emotion, without even giving me any visible attitude, it drove me insane. I've begun reading a book called For Your Own Good, and it's a tough read. Tough in that good way, that makes you think, makes you feel. I am not even far enough in to have received any advice on what I should be doing, rather than what I should not (indeed, I'm not even sure the book offers any), but already I am seeing vast changes in myself and my interactions with Ray (and thusly, his interactions with me), and I hope those continue.

For example today, as we got in the car. (This being after I had to cajole and coax and wrestle him a bit to get him dressed.) I put Dori in, and Ray wandered about our yard and near the neighbors yard. He didn't go into the street, which is a plus, though he did pointedly walk along the very edge of the gutter. I called to him that it was time to go, and naturally, he giggled and took off. Before, I would have run after him, yelling, demanding he come back. I would catch him, and roughly sweep him into my arms, scolding him all the way to the car. Depending on if he struggled, I might sit him roughly in his seat and continue talking to him about how he MUST listen to me, as I strapped him in. (God I am so ashamed.)

Today, I just stood by the car. I reminded him that we needed to go, and calmly asked him to come get in the car. He continued running around, and I informed him that I wasn't going to chase him, because it wasn't a game. After a minute or so of him playing by himself while I waited, he shouted "coming!" and ran right to me. Once in the seat he started to struggle, diving to one side to make it impossible for me to buckle him. I found a toy car, and showed it to him. He wanted it immediately, and I held it out of his reach, saying that once he was buckled he could have it. He made a few more futile lunges for it, then settled into his seat and allowed me to buckle him. I gave him the car.

Just in reading bits of this book, and taking the time to understand a little better how my treatment really does affect him, and makes him feel, has done wonders for my patience. Things that before would have me hollering and beyond frustrated, don't phase me. I calmly assess the situation, and act as gently as possible while still getting the same point across, without bullying him and scaring him. I am working on accepting him as he is, strong will and all. I hit a point in Dori's pregnancy when I realized I had not fully allowed myself to love this new baby. That I was afraid I might not like him. And I realized it was silly to worry about, that in a family, you don't LIKE each other all the time. You don't get along hunkey dorey every moment of the day, but you still love each other. I resolved then to love Dori no matter what, and our bond blossomed in that moment. For the first time I really felt connected to that little man.

I am re-finding that connection with Ray. I am going back to the basics, and loving him as is, and spending less time trying to mold him into something he's not. So if you see a little boy with wild blonde hair, running through a store happily shrieking, do not think less of his mama for not howling after him, scolding him up one side and down the other for not listening. I'm just working on working WITH him, on his terms, in ways that are gentle to his vulnerable little self.

(Again, I highly highly recommend this book to everyone with a pulse, current parent of small children, adult children, or having ever been a child themselves.)

(Edit: This is not a judgement on anyones parenting techniques, what works for one will not work for another. It just became clear to me that what I was doing was not working at all, and could be hurting as well, and needed a change.)

Friday, 16 April 2010

For the sake of some clarity

I guess there has been concern over my addition to . I've received some worry and honestly, it annoys me. (Anthony, Shanna, you're off the hook as we already talked a bit and I get where you're coming from and I think you understand what's going on.) I am not in some deep dark place of woe over Ray's birth. And if I was? It's not anyones place to dig me out. Unless of course it's really affecting my quality of life or ability to cope with life. Which it isn't.

It made me feel guilty for posting on the site. It made me feel like I shouldn't feel what I do. And honestly? It was a writing assignment. It's like, four paragraphs. There is no way I can sum up the width and breadth of my feelings on this matter in those many words! I don't think there are enough words in the universe. I took a picture of my scar, sat down and looked at it while considering the questions posed by the site, and the words poured out. It was energizing and a bit cathartic, I had not even realized some of these things were still hiding in there until they came pouring out through my fingertips and my tears.

I think I've felt unconsciously pressured, since my VBAC, to be All Better. But a VBAC is not a bandaid or a magical cure all. Were some things healed? Sure. Some questions were answered. I will admit with a bit of a red face that part of my rush for another child was to get it "right". (There were many other reasons of course, Dori has always been desired on his own merits, and we have always wanted kids somewhat close in age.) But along the way I conquered alot of my demons, learned more about Ray's birth, and in some ways, put it behind me. By the time Dori's birth was imminent, it was about HIS birth, and there was not a thought of somehow fixing Ray's birth, only not repeating the same mistakes, and overall achieving a happier, healthier birth for us all. The VBAC was a great birth, but it was really the pregnancy itself that pushed me to process, to grow, to confront my fears and examine my feelings in real depth.

Since I've been reading, I've been doing alot of thinking. Alot of the other stories have elements of truth for me. It's a many-faceted experience in my minds eye. There you can find women who are triumphant, who have wrung positivity out of negativity, still feel the anguish and relish in the joy of their children. I read them and go "No wait, I feel that too!". And what I wrote, is not true all the time. But it is Truth, if that makes sense. I realized after writing it that it's not entirely factual at this time (I lift my flab and poke at my scar almost every time I go to the bathroom now, but only a year ago I NEVER touched it willingly. My midwives urged me to massage it with oil or lotion and I fearfully heeded their advice) but it once was. These were the words that wanted to be written. They do not speak of the rage, the disappointment, the guilt, the sorrow, the shame, the passion and the purpose in their entirety.

I am not just masochistically digging up difficult feelings. They find me and give me opportunities to heal, mend, and mourn. I try to keep my finger close to the throbbing pulse of the birth-blogging world, and when something jumps out at me that I can lend my voice to, I do so.

I am healed, I am healing, I am changing, I am re-discovering, I am mourning, I am rejoicing, I am determined, I am helpless. There is so much to be done to mend birth in our country, and I will not stop shouting about the good, the bad, and the scarred as long as I live. :)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Contrast and Compare

Rixa posted about contrasting labor/birth pictures, and I thought I would add my own in as they are very very different! Most notably, she linked to a few posts contrasting the difference in the mothers, after a traumatic birth, versus a victorious birth. Here we go!

Laboring with Ray. I want to say this is on pitocin, but before they broke my water. Things are unpleasant, but not killer at this point. Still? Not pleased being induced, and this is already the second day in. Note the distance between us. (Later on I got closer and clutched onto him, but for most of it it was more like this.)

In the pool with Dori, only a few short hours into active labor, and they have all my attention. But in between, I laughed and chatted and had fun.
This is the first time I held Ray, nearly an hour after his birth. He had been bathed, his eyes filled with goop, and wrapped head to toe. Even though we were both healthy with no complications, we were kept apart for that first hour while I shivered and tried to wiggle my toes and chatted with the less than interested corpsman who was hanging around to make sure I didn't die.
The first time I held Dori, before anyone else. Covered in our birth goo, he didn't get a bath for at least a week! He smelled so amazing. My eyes are closed thanks to me blinking from the flash, but I'm pretty sure that's a bit of a smile. :)

I look tired and stunned. Ray is miles from my face.

Honestly, there is no pic in the immediate postpartum with me looking away from him. I know that I glanced away to see Anthony, and Ray, when they met him, but that was it.

Sleeping, a few hours later. Maybe even the next day. The nurses had found him sleeping on me (supported by the boppy) and me dozing as well and apparently that just would not do.

The only place Dori would settle down to sleep.

Obviously I don't love one boy more than the other. But there is no mistaking how the difference in birth affected our first days together and my feelings about myself. When Ray first came out and gave his first cry, it was ear piercing. Heart wrenching. He just kept shrieking and shrieking, the OB and OR techs could barely speak and be heard over him. In the months that followed, with shots, hunger, gas, colds, circumcision (sadly), he NEVER again cried that way. NEVER.

Dori gave a few quiet little squawks and just started looking around. People say I was brave to do it at home, but I can't fathom being in the hospital and enduring that again. If there was no other way, because of health issues for me or the baby, then I would. But when we're both healthy? HELL. NO. I have experienced birth when it is just that, birth. Without a big fuss and to do, without urgency and drama and poking and prodding and fiddling and adjusting and MANAGING. Birth is not perfect, and inherently there is a level of danger. But there is danger everywhere in life, and babies and mommies can die in the hospital too. It is NEVER a sure thing. There are more studies out all the time reiterating what we have found to be true, that in a low-risk, normal birth, being home is at least as safe as the hospital, and in some cases, safer.

It can still be challenging, difficult and overwhelming, without being traumatic. In the hospital, I was actually treated pretty well. There were only one or two nurses I had any issue with, and they were more annoying than anything else. No one mistreated me. It was a normal, average, common hospital birth. And that, to me, is terrifying, because it was long, excruciating, discouraging, harrowing, and yes, traumatic. (No, I thankfully do not have ptsd, but there are many moms that do) While I loved my baby, and bonded well with him, there was a disconnect. My mind and my body had trouble registering that 1. I was no longer pregnant and 2. This was the same baby that had been inside me nearly 10 months. I gotta say, I never felt that way with Dori. To this day, I have trouble connecting Ray Outside with Ray Inside. With Dori, it was not even a first meeting, it was oh, nice to see you today! This was DEFINITELY the same baby I had been lugging around all summer!

So anyway, I ramble. It's been a while since I posted about this stuff. It's still simmering and cooking in the back of my mind. It's not all consuming, not even really distressing, just something I'm still processing and understanding, drawing strength and self-knowledge from.