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A Meaningful Narrative – The Challenges and Pleasures of Secular Parenting

3 Apr

My son is nearing four now, what an incredible age! When allowed to freely explore, ask questions, and wonder about life – this is an age of outstanding discoveries, of vital first impressions of the world, of discovering who is trustworthy, what is permitted, where one can go and where doors are shut.

I have two strong guidelines in my parenting, that have been guiding me from the day I brought my Boy back home from the hospital. Be authentic. Tell the truth. There is a lot more of course. I try to listen to him, I mean really listen, as much as I can. I try to set boundaries where they are necessary, I try to support his urges to be independent and guide him and be supportive, and not lose my patience and maintain composure, even if he throws a fit because his sunny-side-up is leaking and now he won’t eat it.

But I honestly believe, if I’m authentic, if Mom-Me, is not an entirely different person from Professional-Me, and Intellectual-Me, and Friend-Me, and Lover-Me, then I’m doing something right. So I tell my son about my day when I come back from school. He listens, and then he tells me about his day at preschool. I joke around with him, because I can be silly like that sometimes. I say I’m sorry when I make a mistake. And I tell him the truth, or a version of the truth that he can take in, when he asks me the big questions, when he wants to know how life begins and what happens when it ends.

Yes, he’s not even four yet. But my son has already asked if everyone dies, and if I’ll die one day. I couldn’t tell him some ridiculous story. A part of me wanted to go with the heaven-story. It’s a good one, really. It comforted me when I was younger. But I didn’t. I said we live forever in the hearts of those who love us. It’s a good narrative. It’s as close as I could get to where I really am vs the death thing. He accepted my narrative the way only four-year-olds can, absorbing it, inscribing it into his own narrative, into the truths that he will now grow up with.

Now he knows, because he asked and I answered, that the male and female bodies fit together perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, that the sperm and the egg yearn to unite and form a baby. That they have to wait for love, because only when a man and a woman love one another, can they unite to form life. He knows that I think it’s a miracle. And so he finds if miraculous as well. And it is, isn’t it? He is too young to feel confused about it. Too young to be weirded out. The narrative I chose to deliver has now become one more truth that he will measure future stories about sex, love and child bearing against.

“How does the baby come out?” He asked.

“A woman body is amazing,” I said with wonder. “It widens for the baby to come out from between her legs. They in narrows again.”

“Really? It can do that?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Isn’t it amazing?”

 

 

 

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That Girl

2 Dec

disclaimer

I’ve been reluctant to post about this, because I’ve been reluctant to admit it, but – we’re in therapy again. BD and I, trying to work things out, with the hopes of reuniting and giving our little boy the family we want so much for him to have.

I haven’t really talked much about it, I let almost everyone around me just assume that we’re separated, and on the way to a divorce (I bet they’re wondering what’s taking us so long). The few friends I have told, received the news followed by giant all-caps disclaimers: IT PROBABLY WON’T WORK OUT. NO POINT OF GETTING MY HOPES UP. WE MIGHT AS WELL GIVE IT A TRY, BUT, YOU KNOW, I DON’T REALLY THINK IT’S GOING ANYWHERE.

We have a good therapist. She’s practical and gets to the point quickly, which is good. And things are going well, I guess. We’re discussing moving in together for a trial period in a month or so. If this works out, it’ll be great. I mean, just think of the convenience: First off, having a live-in partner helping me raise my boy, and having that live-in incidentally be his father! There’s the little things – taking out the trash without worrying about leaving Baby at home. Going to the bathroom and, drumroll… Closing the door! Having someone to eat dinner with and spoon with at night. And then, there’s being able to have sex whenever I want, without it becoming a huge project. Only for that to become a consideration, we need to actually have sex, which we’re not, at all. God I miss sex. Sex is the best.

So now I have some down time, since the holidays have provided a short break from work, and BD went on yet another one of his business trips. Time to myself and I have no idea what to do with it. I’ve become so used to working nonstop, I kind of want to work though my vacation, and I can – it’s not that I don’t have stuff to do, I just don’t think that would be smart. I really need a time out.

After taking Baby to daycare this morning I went running, which always makes me feel powerful and sexy and I haven’t done it in a really long time. My running music is horribly outdated, but I haven’t listened to it so long that even Thrift Shop didn’t get on my nerves. When I came back home, feeling energized, I took a nice long shower and was suddenly overwhelmed with memories, little fragments of a winter day, almost a year ago, January 22nd, the day that marks my biographical birthday, the day New Me was born. As the water rushed over my hair, my face, my body, I felt a tingle in my toes as I caught a glimpse of a head of auburn curls, enormous brown eyes and strong arms that used to crush me to pieces and make me feel alive.

But it wasn’t SG I was remembering, it was me. Beautiful, sexy, strong, energetic, creative, vibrant, healthy, happy me. The girl who somehow survived the flood; the girl who camped out on the beach, sipping Breezers all day and returned home with her hair full of sand, and didn’t feel guilty for a minute for leaving her 7-month-old with his daddy; the girl who kissed a guy she never met at a club when she was 10 kilos heavier with post pregnancy weight, but felt hotter than she could ever feel these days; the girl who painted abstract crap and hung it on her wall shamelessly because it meant something to her, and started a blog and wrote 83 posts, consistently, every day, and then every week, and then every other week, but never stopped; the girl who, while raising a baby on her own managed to change her career around; the girl who fell in love, not only with a beautiful, free-spirited red-head, but with her brand new self.

I can’t go back now, I can’t. How could I ever give her up?

But I have. I am. I look back at that girl and I think I must have dreamt her. Just as I dreamt those enormous brown eyes that looked straight into my soul, and those big pouty lips that whispered “I love you” before they devoured me.

My ‘What Is’

15 Jun

bed

I opened my eyes this morning and saw that head on the pillow beside me, naked of those gorgeous red curls which have been chopped off mercilessly when we were apart. Sleeping with heavy eyelids, long auburn eyelashes resting on the top of his cheeks, and those enormous pouty lips slightly parted. It wasn’t a dream. He did come over last night, I did open the door to him in those sexy yet nonchalant pajamas. He did look at me for several long seconds and then pull me into a crushing, overwhelming embrace.

Life, I am slowly beginning to realize, is life. I know that seems trivial. One of the pre-Socratic philosophers, Parmenides, claimed that we can only speak and think of what is “for being is, but nothing is not.” This is my life, this is my what is. I am 32 years old, mother to an incredible one year old treasure, soon-to-be-divorced. I have a close friend, a beautiful, witty, unbelievably caring and giving person who’s putting on a hell of a fight with the big C and learning to allow people to be there for her, as she’s always been there for them.

This is my life. I have a steady job and a less than mediocre income. I have an accountant who flirts with me shamelessly every time we meet. I have a strong backbone and support system of friends and family who will always be there for me in times of trouble. I have great tits, even after breastfeeding, and my body will never be as tight as it used to be before childbirth, or as tight as it… has never been, frankly. But I’m learning to love it as is, to embrace its curves and lushness.

This is my life. I was in love once with a boy, so badly that I lost myself. I wrote a blog post about him and tagged it “rape” and then erased that word, but then edited it and tagged it again. And now I have an ex who wants to get back together, to whom I’m saying a strong, confident “NO”, which has been a long time coming, and a lover whom I’ve chosen to welcome back into my life, who pleasures me in ways I never realized were possible, to whom I’m choosing, for now, to say “YES”.

I don’t know what I want or where I want to go next, but I’m excited to find out.

This is my life. This is my what is. And I love it, even when I hate it. I love its twists and turns, I cherish its gifts, I embrace its painful lessons. I want to feel and experience everything it has to offer me, for as long as it’s offering.

Free

14 Jun

birds on branch

It was Baby’s first birthday the other week, and a cause for celebration and delight. Yep. We made it through our first year as mom and son, and not only made it, we rocked. My gorgeous boy is starting to walk now. He has four teeth. He’s eating solids like a pro. He talks the sweetist gibberish you’ve ever heard. He calls me ‘maaaa’. He expresses affection by hugging me, pulling at my clothes and licking my face.

We make a great team, him and I. Who said families can’t have just two people in them? He does have a dad, and they’ve fallen into a routine of visitations that pleases me and gives me some time off, which completely transforms my week. But our core family for now is just us. And we’re doing splendidly.

We have excellent communication. Yes, I do realize he’s one. But he expresses himself beautifully using the limited tools at his disposal, and I manage to understand him most of the time. He’s patient, and “explains” himself again if I misinterpret his mumbles, squeals and growls. He knows that no matter what I will always listen to him, and be there for him, and he seems to have almost no fear of anything, which I find remarkable. I try to be a role model to him. I try to always tell him the truth about everything, even though sometimes it’s a version of the truth, tailored especially for him. I still have to figure out what I’m goiong to tell him about his dad and I when he’s old enough to ask.

Well, a little over a year has passed since my beautiful boy was born, and that makes it about 9 months since the separation. My desicion has finally been made, and this time I feel very confident. I told BD that I didn’t want to continue therapy. I told him I wanted a divorce. Not an easy conversation, as he was very persistant and asked me to reconsider again and again, just as before. Only this time I was equipped with new knowledge, a realization that it doesn’t matter if BD accepts, agrees or even understands my point of view. I realize now that I’ve been having such a hard time cutting loose from him, because for some reason I thought I needed him to understand why, to agree with me. The realization that I don’t need that has finally set me free.

Happy. In command. Empowered. Capable. Strong. Optimistic. Excited. Good things are coming and my arms are wide open to welcome them into my life. What a beautiful day, I told Baby this morning  on the way to daycare. The sky is clear, the birds are chirping, there are so many beautiful things for us to see, we just have to open your eyes and look.

Birthdays

14 Apr

birth of venus

I’m only 32 and I already have three separate friends who hate birthdays. B doesn’t like to be reminded of her age. R and N simply think birthdays are meaningless, since age doesn’t mean anything. R says it’s just another way for people to compare themselves to their peers. He’s 38, when’s he going to settle down already? You know, she should start thinking about children already, at her age. When I was 30 I had a career and two children, not that there’s anything wrong with waiting tables, but you know, there is. N criticizes how people wait for their birthday to do things they love. He thinks every day should be a celebration of us living the life we want to live.

All this is fine, and true. The competition thing, the living each day to its fullest. But let me just say this – I love my birthday! And I think my friends are sort of missing the point.

1. Birthdays are a very good excuse to be completely narcissistic, not give a shit about anyone else, and do stuff that you love and never find time for.

2. You get presents on your birthday, and presents are awesome! I fucking love presents.

3. Birthdays are not a celebration of how old you are, but a celebration that you ARE. If it weren’t for that crazy morning, 32 years ago, when my mom gave birth to me in a hospital room with five other women, and my dad rode his bike all around town shouting at strangers, I have a girl! I’m a dad! If it weren’t for that, I would not exist. I would not think, or believe, or love, or create, or become a parent myself. I would not ache, or break, or pick up the pieces of my life and start over. I would not be. And that’s what my birthday is to me, it’s a celebration of my life, with its peeks and its slopes, with its joy and its misery.

Many years ago, before I met BD, before I became, well, me, I had a really bad year. It was the year my heart was broken, my trust violated, my body taken advantage of. It was the year I stopped believing in god, and love, and happiness, and became an existentialist without really knowing what that meant. And most significantly, it was the year that I became I comfortably numb. So much shit was going on in my life, that it was too much to handle. So I didn’t. I just shut everything and everyone out. I went through the motions of life without laughing or crying, without feeling. Today, looking back at those days of numbness, I realize that there is yet another thing I celebrate every year on my birthday. I celebrate feeling! I embrace the pain and pleasures of life and I know that as long as I can feel, I exist.

And as long as I exist, I intend to celebrate my life. I feel lucky – to have loved, to have married, to have become a mother, to have been betrayed, to have recovered. I know that my heart may be broken in the future, but I still choose to love. I know that my trust may be violated in the future, but I still choose to trust.

Happy birthday, me. You’re doing great.

You live, you learn, you love you learn, you cry, you learn, you lose, you learn…

Sicko and the Jeans

19 Jan

jeansSicko is the name and fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans is the game.

I’ve been sick this week, really violently ill the way only bad food poisoning or a stomach flu can get you. I’m talking puking all over the place and crawling to the bathroom on all fours because you’re too weak to walk.

It started Wednesday night with some nausea, followed by me puking my guts out on Thursday morning, but clever girl that I am, I still went to work, because it’s just a bit of food poisoning right? All along, I was seriously wondering if I could be pregnant again? Hmm, not likely, but it has happened once in history before. Well, Maria and the holy ghost aside, this was not pregnancy nausea, unless I was hosting a vampire baby in my uterus like Bella Swan in Twilight. Shit. Did I just reveal that I’ve seen the movies? I hated them for the record. But had to keep watching. One of those things.

Anyway, I left early, somehow managed to drive home, which was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had. All along I was counting the minutes. Without traffic it takes me exactly 15 minutes to get home and I knew there would be parking in the middle of the day. So I was speaking to myself out loud, which lately I’ve found to have a powerful effect on me: Keep it together. 10 more minutes. Check your rearview mirrors. Good. Red light. Stop. Go. Turn left. Slowly. Now out of the car. Turn the key. Up the stairs.

The sitter opened the door and I thanked god that the sitter was my sister. I gave Baby a pat on the head and the biggest smile I could manage and said: Mommy’s very tired. She has to go to sleep now. Stripped and got into bed and my sister brought a glass of water and some pain killers. That was at noon. The next time I could get out of bed was the following morning. My mother came in to take Baby for the night, and I lay in bed crying that he must be mad at me for sending him away (to his loving grandparents, I know it’s stupid).

That night was one of the worst nights in my life, seriously. And I used the speaking out loud technique again, which actually helped. This time I said to myself: After all you’ve been through these seven months, childbirth, recovery, caring for an infant, being left by your husband, changing jobs, dealing with your past, seriously. This is just a stomach bug. It’s not going to kill you.
The next day was Friday and BD took Baby for the night, and I ate for the first time since Wednesday. Slowly, I gained some strength back and here I am, finally functioning and Baby will be home soon. I just can’t wait to see him! I miss him so very much.

Let me just say, that this was the first time in my life that I’ve been sick and alone, with no one to make me tea or just ask if I need anything. It sucked big time. I realize that I’ve been very spoiled this way, always having someone to care for me. I went straight from my parents home, to “our” home, and now, husbandless, Baby gone for the night, here I was alone with my thoughts, and many hours in bed to contemplate and cry. I’m really glad that’s over.

And this brings me to the Jeans with a capital J. Yes, those Jeans that I had figured would fit about a month back but could barely get the top button closed. Well, there is apparently one very small upside to being so sick. The Jeans fit.

So now that I’m done being sick (hopefully) I think next weekend, Sicko and the Jeans are going dancing.

Bubble Bath and Contemplation

12 Jan

bath

My friend B told me I was brave for writing this blog so candidly. I was going to argue with her and say it didn’t count, since I was hiding behind a nickname and an email account that I had set up specifically for the purpose of this blog, but then I remembered that I was trying to stop arguing with people who gave me compliments, so I just said thank you and shut up. Well B, I’m taking things to another level with this one, because the topic of today’s post is my body, and why it rocks.

Once a day, I like to turn the heat up in Baby’s room, take his clothes off and let him play naked in his bed. He LOVES it. He can keep busy for a good 30 minutes, just looking at himself in wonder. He kicks with joy, grabs his foot and puts it in his mouth. He rolls from tummy to back, from back to tummy, examines his hands with pleasure. He loves his body, and why shouldn’t he? It’s perfect. It’s a perfect body because it functions perfectly. It can do stuff. He’s amazed at the movements he’s capable of producing. He’s mesmerized by his toes, watching them twitch as he tries to grab them.

Thirty years from now, I imagine him checking himself out in the mirror after a shower, or maybe having been with a girl, and I wonder if he’ll stand there, looking at his body in awe, thinking to himself – Damn, I’m fine! He is a boy, so that may mean slightly fewer body image issues, and still… As adults, so many of us, men and women, hate our bodies, think that they are inadequate, unattractive, faulty.

Here I was last night, taking a nice long candle lit bubble bath, and I looked at my body, at my curves, at my thighs, which I’ve always despised, my belly, which hasn’t exactly returned to form since the pregnancy, my breasts which, is seems, used to be a little perkier, my feet which I’ve always thought were oversized, and as I was relaxing in the warm soapy water, I suddenly felt uncomfortable, and I covered myself up with suds, because I didn’t really want to have to look at myself.

I closed me eyes, and took a deep breath, and I thought about my body, and what it can do. My body can run, not long distances and not very fast, but it can run, and more than that, it can learn to do things that are difficult for it to do. I couldn’t run 500 meters  a couple of months ago, and the other day I ran 3 kilometers.

What else? My body can work around the house, it can carry groceries and wash dishes. It can drive a car, and go to work, and my face can smile and my mouth can talk and laugh, and my nose can smell a cake baking in the oven, and my eyes can cry when I’m chopping an onion, or when I’m not.

My body can  wrap itself around another body, it can give and receive immense pleasure.

My uterus can conceive a baby and carry it inside me and feed it and take care of all its needs for nine months. My belly can grow and expand to five times its size and then shrink back to (almost) what it used to be. My body can tell when it’s time for the baby to come out, and it can create contractions and push and expand in places I didn’t know could expand and bring a human being into the world, and my breasts, on their own, without consulting me, can start squirting milk all over the place, to feed the little one.

With all these miracles that my body can conjure, how could I possibly not respect it, how could I not be appreciative of it? How could I not love it?

With this in my mind, I wiped the suds off my belly and breasts and examined myself, and I thought to myself: this is nice. A nice, feminine, curvy body, beautiful with its imperfections. A little plump, a little saggy, but proportional, functional, enjoyable.