Saturday, February 18, 2012

Unconditional Love...Ponderings on Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves... Part ONE

"Parenting is a path of maturation and growth if we dare to learn more and teach less."
~Naomi Aldort

I have been working my way through the book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy by Naomi Aldort

I gotta say, this book is challenging my socks off. I am only a few chapters into the book and I have been humbled and challenged. I struggle with feelings. I have had a LOT of growth over the last 5 years. I have gone from a very emotionally constipated person, to some one who can generally accept all my feelings (small and nice, big and ugly) with maturity. But it's a slow process, and I generally need some time to work them out internally. I still struggle in the heat of the moment, especially if other people are having a lot of feelings too.

Which leads me to my children... Their feelings overwhelm me. I am not making excuses for myself, but I can see from a logical side why this is, personality. One of the unique things about my personality type (MyersBriggs: INFj) is that I can be an emotional sponge. Some might say God gave me an extra giant dose of empathy...I literally feel what they feel. When they get sick, I physically feel their pain (or nausea, or aches). When they have big feelings, and I am in a place where I haven't taken enough time for myself to process and work out some "backed up" feelings of my own...When I am already struggling to work every thing out, or at least do damage control, I can't handle what they are feeling. I almost feel a bit of panic, like it's personal. They are dumping more on me! I don't want to know! I want it to stop NOW!! And I don't mean maybe. I shut down my empathy mode completely and become hard. In order to protect myself my main emotion becomes anger. Often times I just lose it, I get loud. I try to scare them (not on purpose, but when I step away this is essentially what I'm doing!) I demand that they stop feeling. STOP!!! I can't handle your feelings, I can't handle MINE right now- I don't like them. And those noises you are making are HORRIFIC. CUT IT OUT!!!!!!!
It's every thing I didn't want for my children. I want to raise emotionally healthy adults. People who know how to accept and handle their feelings appropriately. Adults who don't "stuff" and ignore their feelings until they are so constipated that they lose it.

I'm not really accomplishing  that goal right now. At all.

And with two (well...three but she's a bitty yet!) VERY passionate, strongly individual, and extremely emotional girls...We have a LOT, and I mean a LOT, of feelings flying around in an hour..Let alone a day!
  I'm not going to defend myself here, or explain away bad parenting. Let's just say- there is grace- and I want to make changes.

Which leads to me lessons I'm learning from having a newborn in the house.
This peanut feels a lot. Even in her sleep her face is the full spectrum of expressions...When she's in light sleep grimaces, smiles, frowns, scowls, and pouty lips all run across her face in the matter of seconds.

I don't get angry at her for crying. I love to make her feel safe and happy. I can't make her stop her feelings, even if I wanted to! She is what she is, and it's a joy to hold her and take care of her. And even when she's upset and I can't help her- it's frustrating, but I never feel angry or like I'm doing some thing wrong (it's nice to be a 3rd time Mom! I like how much more relaxed I am...Just sayin).

But when she's up at 4a.m. crying because she is a bit gassy and needs to poop (hey, every body does it!) and I can't make it happen. I'm at peace, I'm tired, and wish I could do it for her...But I'm at peace. When did I lose that? When did I lose that unconditional love for my older two?

And what steps do I need to take to get it back?

And that's where I'm being challenged. Over the next several posts I'd like to explore practical ways that this is playing out (internally and externally) in my life.

More to come in Part TWO

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Potpartum Recovery; Third Time Around the Block...

I can't believe Piper is a week old! This past week has been my favorite. Don't get me wrong... I'm sore. My stomach muscles ache, after pains have been intense (they say they get harder with every baby, it's true...whoa!), and my goodness- milk coming in- my body doesn't joke around! As my wonderful husband put it, "I wouldn't want to ship those things!" (yes, he works in shipping and receiving...his idea of a joke...He's lucky I actually found that both horrifying and funny). This week has been kind of: a new pain every day. But oh my goodness, I've been enjoying it.

One of the things that was really important to me this time was recovery. Getting time to let my body recover and REALLY rest.

My first baby: a cesarean birth... Followed abruptly 3 days pp by a horrific cold and sore throat. Ryan returned to work a few days after we left the hospital ...And I was alone, with a newborn, and a cold, and a giant ugly stapled and bruise horribly painful belly. And stairs: lots of stairs. Add to that gall bladder attacks keeping me up all night every night for weeks and weeks (barfing on a cesarean incision: Horrible doesn't even start to describe...Why weeks and weeks? I thought I had developed reflux... went on meds for reflux...The pain [thanks to the pregnancy shifting things] wasn't presenting in the "gall bladder" area of my and learn).  But the pregnancy had been so miserable I just wanted to get back to normal... I was out shopping at Target 4 days postpartum... I landed myself in the hospital for a week 10 weeks in because I was taking such rotten care of myself. My liver was failing and I had to have 2 surgeries.  Oh, and I caught the flu there. Coughing (with the flu!) on both a fairly fresh c/s incision and on 4 new (laproscopic, but still) incisions on my abdomen. HELL.
3 weeks later I was travelling and bowling...By 6 mos out I was BURNT OUT. By 12 mos postpartum, I was beyond burnt out and 2 months pregnant with #2.

Would I learn?

I thought I had. But I hadn't.

 With Friendly, my first vaginal birth, OIYE. Imagine giving birth for the first time, and having a 1 year old to take care of. While Ryan was home for the first week and my Mom was around the second week- at least part of the time. I was just not in a great place recovery wise. I was up and around with in a day or two- my bleeding was extremely heavy... I felt very alone and isolated. It took me MONTHS to feel recovered, especially down there. And I hadn't torn (though Friendly had left a giant "skid mark" up internally - probably from her hand coming down)!

After that experience I promised myself, never again...My body deserves rest after that hard work. I deserve to be alone to process and prepare for the intense weeks ahead (aka when real life returns and we start to find the "new normal").

I insisted (and my husband fully supports) that I get 2 weeks to lay in bed and rest and recover.
This first week has been heavenly... I have done nothing but lay in bed and nurse my baby...and also hang out with my bigger kiddos.

Next week will be a bit more patchy as Ryan has to get some hours in at work. My Mom will be filling in where he has to be gone... And I might have to kind of ease into real  life a bit more...But I intend to soak up the rest and bed-time until then.

I know this isn't an option for most Mama's today... And I know culturally people ask me 'WHY?'...Others say "pregnancy isn't a disease, women squat in the field- give birth - and head right back to work all the time."

And you know what- after giving birth to Piper: I can see how that is possible. I feel fantastic...Okay, I'm sore...But if I had to go back to harvesting a field- I could do it.

But I also feel like, sure that happens- but is it BEST? I know I'm not under Old Testament Law, but I think it's very interesting how big and strict of a guide line God laid out for His people when it comes to the postpartum period: He said Boy: 33 days of rest. Girl: 66 days of rest.

During this time the women, from what I undertand, were to be cared for and kept off in her tent, any one who touched her was also ceremonially unclean for a certain numbers of days. I don't know a ton about it...I'd be very interested to hear more in how this was practically carried out. And obviously that isn't necessary anymore. But I think there is some thing to be said for how God views this special time: birth is hard work and women not only need, but deserve, rest. A time where she isn't required (she's not allowed!) to be places or running around. He built it into their very culture. 

All that to say, I feel great...And I have had to be intentional with this time to stay down even (despite minor aches and soreness) when I feel good. This is my personal conviction. My instincts are screaming: your body deserves this investment. I can't literally take 66 days to "lay in my tent". But I'm going to take 14-18days and lay low. I will ignore the mess, I will not cook every day (or at all, right now), I will let my children run around half naked and watch TV as much as they like. I will allow the laundry to remain in unfolded piles- at least it's clean! I will shield my eyes from messes, I will ask for help when they get to be too much, and I embrace this season with a newborn.  I was in a sleep deprived and very bad place with my last two babies. My family suffers when I am not at my best... They do not suffer when I say "I need this time, what can we do to meet every ones needs?"...And that will look different day to day...It will definitely mean a lot of me parenting from a seated or reclined position.

I was afraid of appearing weak with my other two babies... Of looking like birth was too hard for me...Like I couldn't bounce back. And you know what? Birth IS hard for me...I (in the past) haven't bounced back well... Sure, I can't wait to get back to chasing after my kids (after months of being super pregnant, holidays, laboring for weeks - I miss the old "us"ness), to going to parks and on adventures, to feeling normal and "back to normal"...I can't wait for every thing to get back to normal. But to really go into the next new (big) season of my life: I need to set this intention. I deserve to rest. To lay in bed nursing my new baby and watching netflix and reading. I deserve this time- after doing the biggest hardest thing a human can do: build a baby in less than a year: and then birth it!): I deserve rest...I need to prepare.

And so I am.

She said it best when it comes to postpartum recovery. over at The Leaky B@@b: A Time To Heal

I look back at my first two babies and I feel sad...I wish I had some one tell me to "chill out...relax...the cleaning, laundry, projects, and running around can wait...BE with your baby, they grow SO fast...And your body needs the rest NOW...This isn't a sprint! Baby's first year is a marathon of work."
we're just a little in love!!
I am embracing this time with Piper...Even when the trash is overflowing, or the sink is full of dirty dishes (life happens!)...I am going to walk away...And snuggle and sniff my newborn, and read books and snuggle my big babies and really be present ...Really  try and be super present..Because I'll blink and it will be passed...Really.

I'm just going to chill out.