September 27, 2010

In Memory

I don't have a lot of words for today.

It's been one year since Jewelyn died after giving birth to her beautiful daughter Gabrielle. I have thought of her often over the past year, and yet I am no closer to understanding why this happened.

Today I am filled with sadness, but very similar to the way I felt one year ago, I am also filled to the brim with gratitude, for my husband, for the 15-month-old I have the pleasure of spending each day with, for the little life growing inside me, for my family, for my friends, for another day to enjoy this life that I've been given.

And that's all I've got. Sadness and gratitude, once again.

September 24, 2010

Gentle Advocacy

Because of my own experience with Charlie's birth, I have naturally slipped into the role of childbirth advocate. I post a lot of childbirth-related links on my FB page, and sometimes they generate good conversation between my friends and me. Of course, there is almost always at least one person who chimes in with a tried and true "all that matters is a healthy baby!" which always ends up in my explaining that while yes, a healthy baby does matter, so does the health of the mother. And by health, I mean emotional and mental as well as physical.

This is a very frustrating conversation for me to have. Usually the chimer-inner spouts out their "all that matters is a healthy baby" piece and never returns to hear what I have to say on the matter. That's their choice, of course, but it makes me sad that others are so willing to brush off the pain of another person as being somehow necessary or inevitable when it comes to childbirth. It's like American society at large just expects everything in childbirth to be hugely dramatic and painful and scary, so when someone acts as the voice of dissent, others are like, "Duh. You decided to have a baby. What did you expect?"

Another thing I severely dislike is when people say, "Well, I had a C-section/was induced/insert whatever other intervention here, and everything turned out fine and it was a wonderful experience! So not all C-sections/inductions/insert whatever other intervention here are bad." To this, I always respond like this: "Duh. Of course they're not all bad. That's not the point. The point is that intervention has become far too routine, and as a result birth has become a medicalized process when it doesn't necessarily need to be. I'm very glad you had a good experience with your C-section/induction/etc, but that doesn't mean that other people do." (I usually say the "Duh" part in my head.)

(It is my humble opinion that those who get defensive about their own births probably aren't as happy with them as they are letting on.)

I think it is quite possible that I annoy other people with my ideas about childbirth, and frankly, I don't care if I do. I have found something that I believe in so much that I would go to the ends of the earth to educate people about it, because I think it is that important. I always find myself in strange situations, though, especially when I read my friends' various status updates on their pregnancies. It seems like so many of them are induced, and I have no idea what to say except "Good luck!" Just about an hour ago, I found myself telling one of my Facebook friends that she didn't have to consent to induction if she didn't want to. And then I added the disclaimer that "oh, I'm not trying to push you into anything; I just want you to be aware of this." It's a hard line to walk because I want to be supportive while also letting them know that there are other options that don't end up with them being drugged up with Pitocin, only to end up being cut open at the end of the day.

The vast majority of these people will probably make it through their heavily augmented labor and delivery just fine, and if they have any disappointment or negative feelings about it, they will probably push them away or say, "Well, golly gee, I sure am glad that doctor was there to save my baby's life." And when it comes time for them to offer advice to other mothers-to-be, they will say, "Oh, I was induced/had a C-section/etc and it was just fine. Just get the epidural and it will all work out." And the cycle will continue.

I don't know how to be a part in breaking this cycle except to continue what I've been doing: gently advocating against it, and putting my own thoughts out there in the hopes that someone is listening. I certainly don't want to judge these mothers and their decisions, but at the same time, I want them to know that they have options, options that don't include taking everything their doctors say as gospel. I want women to believe in their bodies and know that if given enough time and support, in the vast majority of cases they could birth their babies just fine and just as nature intended. Instead there are a whole bunch of women out there who really believe that they can't birth a baby, and while I know that there are women who really can't, I also believe that most of these women are victims of a system that feels impenetrable.

And that is why I often find myself at odds with them, because I refuse to believe that women on the whole are broken. If we are broken, it's because we've been forced to that point, not because we inherently are. I don't know if I will ever find a perfectly balanced way of advocating for the rights of childbearing women, but to stop my advocacy now would feel like a betrayal of the very deep part of myself that felt so broken after Charlie was born. I really just want to be a part of the solution.

I don't have a good ending for this post - it kind of all fell out of me in the middle of the night - and perhaps the point is that this is an issue to which there will be no end to the need for advocacy and education. I really feel as though I was meant to be here, and that isn't something I take lightly - so there really is no chance that I will shut up about this anytime soon. And why should I? After all, my birth experience gave me my voice. It'd be a shame if I didn't use it.

September 20, 2010

I didn't write a 9/11 post.

I wanted to, but I ultimately couldn't.

And here's why.

I find the state of the nation to be completely depressing. I find the level of intolerance disgusting.

I am tired of the lack of empathy and compassion. I am tired of only one set of feelings and experiences being valid.

I find it hard to believe that things are going to get better. And yet I still have that ridiculous hope that I cling to day after day. Because I still believe that people are mostly good - just horribly shortsighted, misinformed, and misguided.

And that's really all I've got to say on this subject on this Monday at 3 AM, when hope and anger keep me awake.

Have a good one.

September 16, 2010

Happy Accidents

I was sorting through some photos from this past weekend, and I came across this one:


It's so technically wrong, but those kind are often my favorite. Everything else about it is so right.

I enjoy the art of photography immensely. It's still something I'd like to improve on and learn more about, but a few weeks ago I finally had the courage to say out loud that I am okay with not pursuing photography as a possible career, as a way to make money. I think I've been pushing myself to "do something" with it, and with that came tons of pressure. I don't want the pressure. I want things to unfold as they are supposed to, unforced.

So I've gone back to taking pictures solely for the sake of enjoyment. If people want me to take pictures for them, I am happy to do so. But gone is the pressure to start a business, to create a blog, to network, to perform well. This way I can make mistakes; I can be an amateur; I can photograph what I want to.

I suppose someday I might want to make my love of photography into a career (never say never, after all), but until that day comes, I am content with photography for its own sake. And wouldn't you know it, saying that makes me feel so incredibly free.

September 14, 2010

The Mind's Dark Places

Last night I woke up for my usual middle-of-the-night stumble to the restroom. My insomnia has gotten much better - I have even slept through the night a couple of times! But I do usually wake up at least once or twice for some reason or another, usually having to do with my own need to pee, the cats, or Charlie. I am usually good about falling back to sleep pretty quickly, but last night I was up for a couple of hours.

I decided to work on organizing the photos on my computer, because they are such a mess. I found myself in the Charlie's First Year folder on my desktop, rooting around through all the videos I shot. Here's one I found, when he was not even two weeks old:

This video kills me. I sat and watched it in the dark, smiling like a dope but with tears in my eyes. If there's any advice I had to give to new parents, it's to buy a video camera and take lots of footage of your baby. (Not to mention a good camera, so you can take lots of pictures.) They grow so fast that it's almost shocking to go back and see their little mannerisms and expressions and cries. But I can tell you one thing, that you will never regret spending that money, and you'll never regret taking a minute or two to shoot a video or take a photo.

I'm in full-on nesting mode, working like crazy on getting the house organized and clean and ready for Burt Reynolds. I'm trying to balance that with preparing for his birth and spending good quality time with Charlie and getting enough rest and hanging out with Roy and being social. The days are busy and they pass like raindrops. one right after the other. At night, when things finally settle down and are quiet, I often find myself close to tears. The thought of another baby to hold and love fills me with so much happiness, and when I think of all the things I want to do with him, I am so excited, so full of love for this little one that I have yet to meet.

And then that is followed by the immense sorrow I feel at not being the mother I wanted to be for Charlie for most of his first year, for being so terribly sad all that time, for not being able to breastfeed, for not being able to bond quickly, for being afraid of him when all he really needed was for me to love him. And love him I did, I do, it just seems as though I could have been better at it. I could have been more there instead of off in my own head trying to deal with everything that happened.

I'm scared of the same thing happening with Burt Reynolds. And still grieving so helplessly over the way I became a mother. My hope is that years down the road, I will be able to take an honest look at it all and forgive myself and know, really know, that I did the best I could.

September 13, 2010

It's So Easy Being Green

I am a true environmentalist. I really am one of those people who feels that the earth does not belong to us - we belong to the earth. I am passionate about finding ways to adjust our lifestyle so that it's more earth-friendly. I don't expect perfection from myself - it's going to take me a long time to get to where I want to be.

But when I find a new green thing to do, I must confess that I get really excited.

First up, my dilemma about wrapping paper and gift bags with tissue paper. We always reuse what we get, but storing it takes up a lot of room. We had one of these things, which was very handy, but as we began to work on uncluttering our house, we just couldn't find a good place for it. So we sold it at our yard sale this past Saturday, along with all the wrapping paper in it, and made some lady very happy.

So on Sunday, when I had a gift to wrap for a birthday party, I did it differently: I used fabric. I had some leftover from making Charlie's quilt, so I cut out a piece, placed the present inside, gathered all the edges in, and tied it up with a cute piece of scrap fabric. If I were super duper crafty and gave myself a ton of time to do this, I would have probably made it all a little neater. However, I had a kid who was very interested in my rotary cutter crawling all over me at the time, so nothing else needs to be said.

Here's the finished product.

Super cute, and super simple! Plus, the green factor is wonderful: no wrapping paper that will be thrown away, a piece of fabric that is more likely to be reused, and less fabric in my growing stash. I'm not sure what I will do when I run out of fabric, but I'm sure I will think of something.

Now allow me to sing the praises of Craigslist. It's not always easy to deal with people through that site. So many of them are flakes or lowballers. It's annoying. But if you can hang in there, you can find someone good to work with to get what you want.

Last week, the temperature here dropped enough for Charlie to need some warmer clothes in the mornings and evenings. We had a few things, but not nearly enough. So I started asking around for recommendations for good consignment stores in the area (and even visited one). I also started looking through Craigslist to see if I could find anyone selling a big lot of baby/toddler clothes. I hit the jackpot on Saturday night, and we made arrangements for Sunday for us to come pick through her son's old clothes.

Here's what we scored.

You probably can't tell the sheer volume and quality of the clothes we got, so let me break it down for you. (Everything we got ranges from newborn sizes all the way up to 3T.)

6 pairs of shoes
3 pairs of socks
9 jackets
3 pairs of overalls
12 pajama sets/sleepers
4 pairs of jeans
1 pair of swim trunks
6 gowns (similar to sleepers, and supposedly good for newborns)
18 long sleeve shirts
6 pairs of pants
3 short sleeve onesies
4 long sleeve onesies
20 short sleeve shirts
2 sleep sacks
13 pairs of shorts

That's 110 pieces, if I added correctly, and we paid $120. Everything is in great shape (some new with tags), and the brands are incredible (think Robeez, Baby Gap, Gymboree, Old Navy, Airwalk, Puma, Chuck Taylor, New Balance, Carter's, Circo, etc). STEAL.

Now, 110 items of clothing may seem excessive, I realize. But the majority of them will outfit both boys up into the 3T sizes, and I think that's awesome. I'm sure that some things may end up being the wrong season/size for one boy, but I'm sure they'll end up being the right season/size for the other.

Green factor: HUGE. Buying used means that we are not contributing to the demand for new things. We're putting something to use that was no longer being used - less potential for it all to end up in a landfill. We're also putting money back in the pockets of actual people, as opposed to some huge corporation that has money coming out its ass (and probably shoddy business practices as well). And let's not forget how cost effective it can be to buy something used. I haven't really crunched the numbers, but I'm pretty sure that the six pairs of shoes alone would have gotten us close to spending $120 if we were paying retail.

So there you have it, our latest green adventures. We agreed months ago that if we needed something, we'd try to buy it used/secondhand (unless it comes from a mom and pop store/site), and we have been mostly good about it. I did buy the boys a few things at Target a month or so ago, and I felt so guilty about it. Live and learn, I say.

Or maybe I should rephrase that to live, learn, and go green. There's only one Earth, so we might as well take care of her.

September 9, 2010

32 Weeks

32 weeks pregnant today!

I've been working on my birth plan. I'm actually writing two, one for the birth center (which will be easy) and one in case of transfer to the hospital. The latter is not so easy; it's more of an emotional challenge to write it, actually. Every time I think about Burt Reynolds' birth, it is so easy for me to visualize it happening the way I want it: peacefully and with minimal intervention. To go in the other direction is quite painful, but in the end I know it's for the best - because if I do end up needing to transfer to the hospital for a C-section, I would rather be prepared so that the experience will be better than the first time.

Anyway, here's hoping that writing this C-section birth plan is just a formality and that I'll get my awesome VBAC at the birth center. And if that doesn't happen, well, let's hope that my second C-section will be wonderful, because I do believe they can be. Honestly, my biggest fear is not another C-section (I mean, obviously I would rather avoid it), but it's being put under general anesthesia for it. I can't miss another one of my baby's births. I just can't.

In other news, I went consignment store shopping earlier in the week, and the proprietor of the store is also an L&D nurse. We had a really nice discussion, and although she wasn't very well versed on VBAC, I thought she had some valuable insights, such as:

"I wish more women would stop and think before getting the epidural. I don't think they really realize the risks that are involved."


"It's a shame that OBs have to practice defensive medicine."


"If women could just move around more during birth, things would go a lot better."

It was odd (and refreshing!) to hear this out of the mouth of a medical professional. I really enjoyed talking with her and found it sad that she doesn't teach birthing classes anymore due to poor attendance. (Why attend when you can just get the epidural? Sigh.)

So yeah. Here I am, 32 weeks pregnant, writing my birth plan, getting ready. Things are moving right along. It'll be interesting to see what the next two months or so bring. At the very least, we'll be welcoming our second baby boy. As far as how he's brought into the world, we're doing everything we can to make it the way we want. In the end, though, we'll do what it takes to get him here safely.

September 8, 2010

Charlie and the Purple Crayon/15 Months Old

Charlie seems to be learning something new every day. I really think this age is the best one yet. We've got new words: "woof" and "shoes" and "CD." Oh, and "shit." Yes, Charlie said "shit" the other day, a particularly shitty day (pun quite intended), a day in which I had to take him to the doctor to deal with diaper rash so bad that his butt was bleeding. And the cause? Too much shitting.

It was also a day in which I had to think hard about changing my vocabulary. I do like a good F bomb every now and then. And apparently an S bomb, too.


The other day Charlie was sitting in his highchair for breakfast and all of a sudden, I heard him quietly singing, "E-I-E-I-O." Up until that point, he'd only made it to "E-I-E-I," so this was very exciting.

Equally exciting? The fact that Charlie seems to have become more attached to me than ever. He'll spend good amounts of time sitting on my lap, usually playing with his little brother, and he checks in quite regularly in social situations. I love the feeling of being needed, especially because we're down to less than two months until my guess date - and I want to soak in my time with my first boy as much as I can.

All of that, though, has paved the way for some truly challenging behavior, namely lots of crying, whining, and tantrumming. He really just wants my attention all. the. time. and what can I say? When he's thrown his twentieth tantrum of the day, my patience gets tested. I have learned that I am much more patient than I give myself credit for.

So we are trying new activities as a way to keep those toddler demons at bay. Like coloring.

We bought Charlie a set of fat crayons and a big pad of drawing paper, and so far all he's really done is rip up the paper and suck on the crayons and carry both around the house. No matter, though, because I know lots of masterpieces are in his future, whenever he's ready.

Another fun activity is playing hide and seek, the modified version. Charlie loves hiding behind the glider in his room, and he is delighted when we find him and chase him around. Sitting and rolling around on the couch is equally delightful. And walking around the house naked is pretty much the best thing ever.

No, I take that back. The best thing ever is being this little guy's parent. Yes, this is a difficult age. But at the end of the day, when he's asleep in his crib, I find myself missing him, my blonde-headed Mr. Attitude, my scowly Mr. Happy, my little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I'm content to let him sleep on, though, to head out to the porch to sip on my O'Doul's, to enjoy watching an episode of Dexter with my husband, because those moments are equally as important to soak up before it all starts again tomorrow.

Happy 15 months, Charlie. You're the best damn darn thing that ever happened to us.

September 6, 2010

Baby Gear Lust

I'm not nearly as concerned with baby stuff as I was the first time around. But I do have my little obsessions: bags and strollers. I have revisited those obsessions from time to time throughout this pregnancy. I'm in big time revisit mode right now.

I've been dropping in on the Ju-Ju-Be website for quite awhile now. Just drooling. I've always heard good things about their products, but once they introduced their new bag and their Shadow Waltz print, my lust for a JJB bag really kicked in. There are three of their bags I would love to have.

See those two bags in front? I want those, and in that print. The one on the left as an everyday bag for two in diapers, and the one on the right as a more heavy duty bag for day trips and the like. And actually, I could forgo the bigger bag.

I also want this, as my fun bag:

I was not into Ju-Ju-Be's Earth Leather collection until I saw it in person. Wow. I really had to tear myself away from that bag. Oddly, it's not a style I'd normally go for at all. But I love it!

I also love this bag from Etsy seller Kinies:

I love it a whole lot, and I think about it all the time. I honestly don't know how well it would do as a diaper bag. In all reality, I do so much better with backpack-style diaper bags.

We already have several diaper bags, but none of them are ideal for two in big, fluffy, cloth diapers. Still, I have promised myself that we won't get a new bag until we get rid of one (or more) that we already have. That's our new rule. For every new thing that comes into this house, an old thing takes a hike.

And then there's the stroller issue.

I have no idea if we should get a double stroller. The ones I like are expensive as hell, because apparently when it comes to strollers, I like 'em fancy or something. Actually, I really just like good quality strollers, which means that I have no desire to purchase some big piece of toxic plastic.

The thing with buying a double stroller is that you've spent a ton of money and then you're stuck with this huge monster of a stroller after the older kid outgrows it. Sure, we might have another kid, who could then share it with Burt Reynolds, but there's no guarantee that will happen. I've been telling myself that I can just wear Burt Reynolds and stick Charlie in the stroller. But I also know that as much as I love all of my baby carriers and would be lost without them, I would also be lost without a good stroller. The thing is, buying a double stroller means that we should probably hang onto our single, just in case we end up with only two kids. The thought of making such a huge purchase and then putting yet another thing in storage makes me want to cry.

Unless there's another solution.

Enter the Britax B Ready. I haven't seen this thing in person yet, but wow, it looks amazing. It's a single stroller much like the Maxi Cosi stroller we have now, but with the Britax you have the option to add a second seat. And then there are all the configurations that pretty much make my heart go pitter-pat.

What I love about this stroller is that it has so many options, and it's not some huge clunker of a stroller that's either really wide or really long. It looks really well-made as well. With a stroller like this, I would feel okay with selling the stroller we already have because this one can so easily be either a single or double.

What I hate about this stroller is that it costs $500 - and that doesn't include the second seat. Adding that in would be a whopping extra $200, so we're looking at spending $700 on a stroller. I die a little inside every time I think of spending that much on a stroller. Even a well-made, good-looking stroller made by a company with an excellent reputation. Yes, I'm still dying over here.

But before we make any major decisions, we want to see this little beauty in person to see how we really like it and if it will even fit in our trunk. That's another concern we have about purchasing a double stroller - will our little compact cars be able to accommodate it?

So, anyway. Those of you with two little ones, I'd love to hear from you, particularly those of you who have children of different ages. What'd you do when it came time to choose a stroller? What about a diaper bag? And what about a car? Not looking to upgrade our cars anytime soon, but I am really not a minivan gal - and it seems like I get pushed in that direction more and more each day.

September 1, 2010

Supermom Doesn't Live Here

Just today another mom asked me (on Facebook), "You have time to read?!" And I said something back about making the time to do the important things. And then another mom chimed in and told me she needed my secret.

So here it is, I guess.

I've mentioned before that we are in the middle of a huge house overhaul and mega lifestyle change. There are many reasons behind this: depression's leading us to see the world differently, preparations for a new baby, the need for simplicity, etc. But another reason is because I am sick of chaos. Sick of clutter. Sick of crap. Sick, mostly, of things not having a place. For the first year of Charlie's life, our emotional overload reflected itself in the state of our house. And once my mom left after her trip at the beginning of this summer, we began to take on the overload in earnest.

This whole summer has been one giant purge of our possessions. One big uncluttering process. We took our TV out of the house and put it in the garage. Then we sold it. We cleaned our office and garage, which were both in a horrible state. We went through boxes in the garage that hadn't been opened in at least two years. We started going through every nook and cranny in our house, every little pile of crap to be found, and we started making a home for all the stuff that didn't have a place. And if we looked at a pile of crap and said, "There's no room for this," out it went.

Our house is far from where I want it to be, but we have made huge progress in the last couple of months. And one thing that I have realized is that uncluttering is not something that you do once and never do again. It's a lifestyle. It requires that you really examine what you already have, what you want, and what you buy. Our consumer culture makes it difficult for anyone to downsize, minimalize, or unclutter, and we've had to actively fight against buying and keeping things we don't need. It's very, very difficult sometimes, and there have certainly been transgressions along the way. We become so emotionally attached to our belongings, but in the end, there is very little we need. My motto has become this:

If I don't love it and/or it hasn't been used in six months, it goes.

So here's where my "secret" comes in. Once you have less stuff, it's easier to clean your house and take care of your belongings. And when it's easier to clean your house and take care of your belongings, it takes less time. And when you spend less time cleaning your house and trying to pick around that pile of papers, you have more time and more energy to spend on the things you love. For me, those main things are spending time with my family and friends, writing, reading, and photography. And preparing for Burt Reynolds' birth, of course. And once I'm able to really exercise, I want to add fitness to that list.

So there it is. I'm not Supermom by any stretch of the imagination. I just refuse to believe that we need tons and tons of stuff to make us happy. I don't think kids need craploads of toys for entertainment or educational purposes. I don't believe that TV is essential. I don't think that a closet full of clothes will make us more beautiful. And I am a person who loves stuff. I love my Macbook, my books, my journals, my cameras, my memorabilia. I obviously don't believe in total deprivation, but if I walk into a clothing store and all of a sudden want to buy the same shirt in five different colors, I have to question that.

And really, just to drive home the point that I am not Supermom, I am a terrible housekeeper. I don't mind doing things like dishes and laundry, but when it comes to floors and stuff, forget it. Chances are, if the carpet needs to be vacuumed, you'll probably find me in bed reading a good book. Because I do have my priorities, after all.