Thursday, July 23, 2009

Little Pretty Things

I love! It's become quite an addiction-- who can resist beautiful handmade pretties, especially when you have two little girls? My latest find was these two headbands from bohosoulchild, a spunky little accessories boutique. I couldn't resist posting a picture or two of my ladies modeling their fashionable new look.

Aren't they cute?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blogging Baby: My Sling Makes Me Brave

When my daughter River was about three weeks, her older sister Ember and I were in serious need of a change in routine. A walk to the playground was not going to cut it this time-- we needed to emerge from the New Baby Cave and do something radical. I took her to the beach. By myself.

How does a mother survive a trip to the ocean with a three year old and a three week old? I had a plan of action, plenty of snacks, extra pairs of underwear for everyone.... and I had my wrap sling. We came, we swam, we conquered. No one drowned or disappeared or lost a sandal. Cue the superhero music.

Now I am not one of those mothers who are blessed with organizational skills that make five star generals turn green with envy. I am...scattered...more often than I would like to admit and still learning how to properly keep my home, my kids, and my husband (who needs more care and feeding than he'd like to admit). I don't have a daily planner or a dry erase board with a week's worth of projects assigned to their neat, orderly boxes.

I do have a sling.

You see, wearing my baby makes me brave. With River tucked up on my chest, a modern day papoose, I feel that I can go anywhere or do anything. I can clean house! With a newborn! I can go to the beach in the middle of tourist season! I can go grocery shopping or clothes shopping without fear! I can even go to my local writer's group without worrying whether or not my baby will meltdown in the middle of the group reading. I have my baby sing and I have my breasts and that's all I need for a happy, secure little girl.

People tell me that River seems like such a "good" baby-- a term I have never liked because what mother wants to be told her baby is "bad"-- because she is so contented. She is pretty easy going but I don't think its just her disposition that makes people marvel at how peaceful she is. For most of her day, from the time we roll out of bed until the time we tuck in for the night, she is worn. We do everything together and the benefits are already obvious. She is bright and curious about her world. The prolonged periods of fussing I expected with an infant have never happened. Nursing usually solves her moments of unhappiness and when that doesn't work, a ride in the sling is like magic.

Sometimes I wonder how much "progress" helps us as mothers. At one time, everyone wore their children. Then we became more civilized-- supposedly-- and caring for young children became more and more like a battle...parents vs. the relentless demand for attention that comes with a newborn. Popular theories advise parents to "show their kids who's boss" and "let them cry it out" and are based in the assumption that a newborn is a manipulative little tyrant. Hold your baby and you'll ruin her for sure! This same logic encourages women to force their babies onto a nursing schedule and wean early because it is more convenient than prolonged breastfeeding.

These theorists forget that maybe babies just want to be held, that maybe the Creator designed them that way. My daughter Ember was worn much of the time and breastfed until she was two and a half, and she is nothing like the spoiled, clingy baby the "experts" said I would create by these practices. I look at River and see a beautiful peace that comes when she is in the sling and I know that this is how we were designed. It just fits. Instead of controlling my life, my babywearing allows me to include River in our daily routines, meeting her needs for comfort and security while still getting my work done. It makes me believe in myself as a mother-- that yes, I can love and nurture two children and still get the dishes done most of the time.

Babywearing makes me brave.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blogging Baby: Mothering Deconstructed

Tonight, I'm ripping apart a half-finished nightgown I was knitting for River. I started it a month or so before her birth, visions of a cherubic infant clad in an organic cotton sleeper dancing in my head. A serious pattern misstep led me to set the project aside and I've just now picked it up again. My first intention was to finish the project...until I held it up and realized it was long enough to cover two of River. The real baby-- the one in my arms-- looked quite different than the dream baby I saw while I was knitting.

Mothering is like that too these days.
I prayed for River for almost a year, carried her for nine months, and birthed her; I carry her next to my chest, over my heart, and give her milk that my own body has made-- even if it's three in the morning. But will I be a nominee for the Bad Mama awards if I admit that there are times-- daily-- when I miss life before this much-loved little tornado came into ours lives? While I couldn't imagine not having River, I find myself missing the days when life was routine and predictable. Everything fit into a pattern, like my knitting project. Now all of a sudden there's a newborn around and nothing is business as usual. Bedtimes, naptimes, housecleaning, cooking, bath times, play time....all have an added dimension of challenge. I find myself looking at this stage of mothering like I looked at my baby nightgown-- quite different from the mothering to which I had grown accustomed with Ember.

So I find myself ripping out those ideas too. I'm not the mother I was before River came. Instead of a mother of one, I am a mother of two. When I started to unravel the flawed nightgown, I was surprised at how much relief I felt. I was surrendering my idea of how things were supposed to be and accepting how they were so I could make something better. The same goes for mothering my two little ones. What worked before may not work now but that's where God's grace comes in. He sustains me, daily, while I put together a new pattern, one that fits the joys and challenges of our growing family. I don't know what the finished project will look like but I can rejoice in the process because it's not my work alone but His work in me that will bring us to what He meant for my home to be.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Blogging Baby: Wild Horses

If you were to ask me what my strongest emotions were during the first two weeks of River's life, I would say wonder and gratefulness and joy. I would also say grief.

Grief? Wait, this is coming from the mama who experienced an amazing birth followed by recovery so speedy that I went to a play at my sister's church two days after the baby was born. This is coming from a mama whose newborn slept for three hours stretches at night almost immediately and is content to nurse and ride around in the sling during the day. Why would I grieve in this profusion of blessing?

In a nutshell, heart expansion hurts. Like my belly grew and stretched during the nine months I carried the baby, now my heart must grow and stretch from loving one to loving two. Ember captured my heart completely from the moment I pushed her out...I had no idea how much one human being could love another. For three years, we have been two stars in the same orbit, Mama and Baby. When I held River, that same tenderness and caring surged through me but at the same time came an ache. I knew that my relationship with Ember would forever be changed-- for the better, yes, but not without thorny places. For many of these early days I've felt as if I was between two wild horses. My love for Ember and my love for River pulled at me constantly....the intense demands of a newborn matched against a toddler's desire for attention and affection. Even though Ember loves her baby sister, the process of learning to share Mommy hasn't always been easy for both of us. She's stretching too.

Now that River has been around for three weeks, the growing pains are easing. There are still moments when the grief-ache returns, when I miss the time when I could give Ember my attention exclusively, but I know that she needs this transition. Part of bringing her up into maturity is teaching her how to share Mommy's love with her siblings and how to put another person's needs ahead of her own. Her sacrifices look different than mine-- she has to give up some lap time and wait longer to get a snack or a juice-- but they are no less significant.

And then there are the times when I get glimpses of what our family will become, when Ember and River are both content and peaceful. I lean back to enjoy the moment with my little ones and know that even wild horses learn to run together.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blogging Baby: A Well-Used Minivan

Our normal-- perhaps at times mundane-- lives are occasionally punctuated by moments of brilliance, of sacred and profound beauty and jaw-dropping amazement. Pushing Ember out and holding her in my arms was such a moment; the birth of my second daughter River was another, though in a startlingly different way.

River Lynn McSpadden came into the world at 6:20 a.m on June our minivan.
Yes, the minivan. In the driveway.

Everyone-- the midwives, my doula, myself-- expected me to go over my due date by at least a week since I went over with Ember. The contractions I felt at night on June 11th were identical to the practice contractions I'd been having for weeks, so I went to bed as usual. I woke a few hours later when the contractions continued and decided to take a bath to see if that stopped things. Nope. I was still skeptical that I was in labor so I spent the next few hours walking, dozing, sitting in the rocking chair. The contractions remained mild-- to me-- and were five to seven minutes apart, which made me think I had a while.

At 4:45, the intensity had increased a little and I woke Josh to tell him I was calling our doula to get final confirmation that I was in labor. I explained to her what was going on and she confirmed that I was in early labor and most likely had a while to go because the contractions weren't that strong. She suggested I eat some watermelon and brew some red raspberry leaf tea to get things going. We called my Mom to come get Ember, who had been such a big girl during my labor. She would hold my hand and remind me to use my "special breathing" and she'd rub my back during contractions. A future midwife indeed!

After Ember was gone, the contractions began to intensify quickly and we called our doula back to tell her that we were headed for the birth center.

We never made it out the door. Because we hadn't anticipated to actually go into labor on my due date, we had nothing packed. My poor husband was rushing around the house trying to find the number for the midwives, clothes for both of us, a bag to take to the hospital....all while I was in the bathroom hollering my way through transition. The contractions were incredibly strong and at the same time I felt a pushing sensation so intense it was practically subconscious. It seemed my body was pushing on its own without my brain telling it to do anything.

Shortly after 6 am, we gave up packing and just tried to get me to the car. My mother-- who had come by with watermelon-- dialed 911 for a police escort so we could get to the hospital more quickly. River had other plans. We were halfway down the sidewalk when I felt her crown. I reached down and held her head, and told Josh the baby's coming. He said "I know, we have to get to the hospital". I said "No, the baby's coming now"

He managed to get me to the minivan, where I knelt on the seat to deliver the head. He helped me get my clothes off just in time to deliver her shoulders. She slid right out and my husband caught our beautiful baby girl. He cleared her airways and got her breathing-- and crying-- and we moved the umbilical cord, which was very loosely around her neck. He wrapped her in whatever we could find and handed her to me to nurse for the first time. She latched right on and our journey as mother and daughter began.

Few other times in my life have been so sacred.

Josh is my hero-- I don't know many guys who could deliver a baby in their driveway without so much as breaking a sweat. The Lord blessed us with a rare gift--catching our daughter together-- and I thank Him for safely bringing River into the world.

And yes, we did have the minivan cleaned.