Posted by: Mother Ruckus | September 18, 2009

Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mother

Hold on, momtourage!  If you did a quick skim of my list and said, “I told her that!”  I realize you warned me about all the following, but hearing and knowing are two entirely different things.  As for much of motherhood, I had to experience it to believe it. 

  1. I’d never sleep again.  In the rare occasion I actually do sleep, I’ll wake up next to a laughing baby (like this morning), spend a few moments in bliss thinking it’s the best way to start a day until I smell something raunchy and look down to find the baby, the sheets, and my bare leg covered in shit.  No wonder he was laughing.  Damn cloth diapers. 
  2. “Baby Blues” should be renamed to “Get the F*ck Away From Me Haven’t You Done Enough Already I’m So Sorry I Love You More Than Anything I Don’t Know What I Would Do Without You Please Don’t Ever Leave Me I Couldn’t Raise this Baby by Myself Blues.”  
  3. My hair would fall out.  My hairdresser, S.P., said my hair would fall out after giving birth.  I listened politely but knew only women with poor nutrition had their hair fall out.  Mine would be just fine.  Of course, I was wrong.  I’m still taking the huge, horse pill vitamins with DHA, iron, and all the rest, and my hair is falling out in clumps.   
  4. Everyone and anyone – even strangers would give unsolicited advice on how to raise my child.  No two people agree on the correct way, but all advice will presume I’m doing something wrong as a parent.    
  5. I’d have to choose between eating and showering.  Showering used to win this contest early on when I was concerned about doing the right thing, but now I say, “Screw personal hygiene – give me some grub!”   
  6. The tendonitis in my wrist I experienced from ninth grade gymnastics would flare up again after holding a fifteen-pound baby most of the day. 
  7. Sleep when the baby sleeps is the dumbest advice I’d ever hear.  I agree with Dooce on this one.  I’d never get to eat OR shower if I slept every time he slept. 
  8. All authors of books about how to raise children should be locked in a room together until they reach the consensus, their books are b.s.  Every book I pick up seems to contradict the last book and each one is based on research and scientific data and blah, blah, blah. 
  9. I’d dance naked in my bedroom entertaining a four month old while trying to dress after a shower that was cut excessively short by a baby who decided he wanted to fake me out with a ten-minute nap.  Dancing naked in the bedroom should definitely be postponed until a lighter weight is reached and National Geographic don’t bounce like beach balls on a trampoline. 
  10. My heart would explode from the love I feel for my precious baby.  When I was pregnant, a friend of mine told me, “You have no idea how much you’ll love your baby.”  She said, “Imagine how much you love your husband.  Now multiply that by infinity and you’ll come close to how much you’ll love your infant.”  I knew she had to be crazy, because all the books talk about how important it is to put your husband before your baby.  They say you have to place your relationship with your spouse above everything else, because without a strong marital bond, you won’t be good parents… I love Big like mad.  He’s my life partner, my best friend, my companion, and I can’t imagine life without him.  For those reasons, I’m not going to compare my love.  I will say the love I feel for Li’l Man is overwhelming.  He’s such a small, precious being completely reliant on me for his every need – how can I help but love him incomprehensibly? 
Li'l Man in hand knit hat by Auntie

Li'l Man in hand knit hat by Auntie

Posted by: Mother Ruckus | September 12, 2009

Cornhole

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Love the Midwest!  On a recent drive in rural Wisconsin, I saw this sign alongside the road.  It caught my eye and made me think of cornholes. 

I couldn’t listen to the radio because I had just put Li’l Man to sleep by swinging his twenty-pound car seat for seventeen consecutive minutes outside the vehicle. 

 

With the latest advances in technology, you would think they could invent a car seat that weighed less than a stuffed pig!  I know he should be able to fall asleep on his own; we’re working on it!  But when I’m alone in the car with a crying baby, I’ll do almost anything to get him to sleep, even stopping on a side road and breaking my back with the thirty-pound car seat.  (It gets heavier as I swing it, so it might as well get heavier as I write about it). 

A man in a blue pick-up truck pulled up and asked if everything was okay.  I don’t think everything has been okay since my uterus grew forty times its normal size, but I’ll probably manage the car seat and baby. 

Where was I?  Oh, yes, cornholes.  For those of you not familiar with the art of the Cornhole game, check it out on Wikipedia.  It’s a highly sophisticated sport that uses progressive terminology such as, “hooker, double deuce, gusher, dirty bag, cow pie, back door, and cornfusion.”  Only in corn country could you find hand crafted Cornhole boards made to order.

What’s your favorite part of the Midwest?

Posted by: Mother Ruckus | September 2, 2009

Sleeping Through the Night

Is he sleeping through the night yet?

If I had a ten dollars for every time someone asked me this question, I wouldn’t go on unemployment.  Why does everyone ask this question when discussing Li’l Man?  Do I receive some sort of mommy reward when he does?  Will I be asked to join a secret society called Mommies with Babies Sleeping through the Night?  Why is it interesting conversation to discuss the sleeping habits of the very young? 

I’ve been pondering these questions the last several days.  Big Man is well aware of my brooding; we exchange humorous glances every time we’re asked this question in public.  Unfortunately the inside joke lost its novelty for Big Man, he suggests I blog about it.  A nice way to say, “Honey, let’s move on to a new baby topic like when is the babysitter coming over to give us date night?”  A topic inexhaustible by most husbands, I’m sure.    

Perhaps you’re reading this thinking, “Shoot!  I’ve asked her that question!”  Don’t worry, so has everyone else.  I’m certainly not offended; I merely want to understand the fixation and figure out a creative answer.  I’m sick of my standard reply; just as I was sick of answering when pregnant, “No, I’m not having twins, I’m just especially big.” 

I’m hoping to construct a reply that wards off the glut of advice that typically follows a question like this.  Often I hear, “Oh, my baby slept through the night when she was two weeks old.”  “Have you tried this?  Or that?”  All of which implies that I’m doing something wrong as a parent or something is wrong with my baby.  How dare they! 

In my defense, Meredith Small, author of Our Babies, Ourselves,demonstrates through her research, it’s not biologically natural for infants to sleep through the night just as it’s not natural for babies to start walking minutes after birth (as many mammal babies do).  She explains the American concern with infants sleeping through the night comes from the western cultural obsession for making children independent. 

Don’t get me wrong – I want Li’l Man to grow up independent, and I would love a full night’s rest; I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.  I’m not willing to feed him cereal in his bottle, supplement with formula, or try any of the other gazillion suggestions given to me by well-meaning folk.  As long as he’s healthy, I’m not concerned.   

What do you think?  Next time I’m asked this question, should I reply,

“He sleeps like a natural baby – tosses and turns and wakes every few hours.”  Or

“Let’s talk about something a little more interesting like the habits of his bowels.”  Or

Should I alter Joey Tribbiani’s standard pick-up line and in a New York accent ask, “How YOU sleeping?”

Posted by: Mother Ruckus | August 26, 2009

The Magical Belly Button Jellybean

I’ve been working on a different post this week, but with my dad having surgery tomorrow, it doesn’t seem right.  Instead, I thought I’d write about what’s on my mind - my dad. 

A running joke in my family is I’ve married my father, not because Big Man and Dad bought matching Carhartt pants from Farm and Fleet without realizing it, but because Big Man’s sense of humor is very similar to Dad’s.  Perhaps that’s why I love them both so much -they make me laugh and laugh.  One of the funniest memories I have of Dad is the Magical Belly Button Jellybean. 

As an adult, I wonder how this family tradition began.  Some families anticipate money from the Tooth Fairy.  Others put their shoes out for Saint Nicholas Day.  My family celebrates the Magical Belly Button Jellybean. 

Easter is a special holiday for Christians.  They celebrate the risen Christ with singing, Easter baskets, family get-togethers, and rich food.  That isn’t quite enough for our Christian family.  Oh, no.  We have created our own unique Easter ritual. 

I can see it now.  Dad lying on his back in the middle of the living room floor relaxing after the morning chores (the livestock still need to eat on Easter).  His head propped on a pillow; his shirt off as he’s just finished showering and hasn’t yet dressed for church.  My older brother by nine years announcing to the rest of the family, “It’s time!  It’s time!” 

My two older sisters and I join my brother on the carpet surrounding Dad.  We sit on our knees with anticipation.  My mother takes a break from the kitchen long enough to stand above us in her robe, dishtowel over her shoulder, and smile. 

I worry, “What if it doesn’t happen this year?  What if the magic is gone?”  My oldest sister assures me that all we need is to believe.  Everyone stares at Dad’s belly button.  Nothing.  I lean in a little closer, shut one eye, and gaze intently at the fuzz inside my father’s navel.  Still nothing.  Sis starts to cheer on Dad, “Come on, Dad!  You can do it!  Concentrate!” 

We all join her effort at encouraging the magic, “You can do it, Dad!  Focus!  We believe!” 

The voices crescendo as we witness Dad strain under obvious concerted effort.  He lifts his head off the pillow, closes his eyes, and wrinkles his forehead.  Suddenly the family erupts into exuberant screams.  My parents laugh hard enough to bring water to their eyes.  My sisters and I jump off the floor to dance around Dad, “YEAH!  IT HAPPENED!   IT’S MAGIC!  IT’S EASTER MAGIC!” 

Sitting in Dad’s belly button is a solitary, black jellybean.

Me circa the time of believing in the Magical Belly Button Jellybean

Me circa the time of believing in the Magical Belly Button Jellybean

Posted by: Mother Ruckus | August 17, 2009

Should’ve Bought a New Dress

To all women who gained the recommended 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, stop reading and go have a cheeseburger and chocolate malt.  To all normal moms who flew by the 35-pound mark, this post is for you. 

From a very young age, our culture teaches us we must be thin to be attractive women.  We spend countless hours obsessing over diet and exercise to obtain the unrealistic Barbie doll physique.  It’s no surprise the one time in our lives we’re told to gain weight, we get a little carried away.  This, of course, heightens the post-partum challenge to lose the baby fat and fit into regular clothes – all while managing the new, overwhelming role of motherhood including maintaining an adequate milk supply.  AHHH!!! 

At a recent wedding shower I attended, a new mom showed off her amazing feat of fitting into her pre-pregnancy jeans with her daughter just 4 days old.  Incredible?  Her daughter weighed four pounds two ounces.  I wasn’t the slightest bit envious- I’ll not complain about my extra weight if it means Li’l Man is a healthy size.  On second thought, I’ll keep a reasonable perspective while I complain just a little.

I’ve heard from my momtourage, “It takes nine months to gain the weight, so allow nine months to lose the weight.”  It’s difficult to hear them say this when they’re talking out their size two asses.  (K, if you’re still reading this, please refer to paragraph one.  Seriously, you should learn to like ice cream).

Now the real dilemma- how long do we wear yoga pants, stretchy shorts, and town gowns before buying genuine clothes?  Veteran moms, help me out with this answer!  Big Man has been telling me for months to go out and buy some things that fit.  My problem is I’m delusional enough to think that in just a week or two, I’ll fit into my old outfits.  This leads to my most recent humiliating occurrence. 

Our family and friends celebrated Li’l Man’s baptism last weekend.  Big and I had many harried days and nights leading up to this event preparing the house for the grand luncheon.  He painted the gutters and finished making beer.  I scrubbed floors and dusted the blinds.  He edged the lawn and drank a beer.  I cleaned ceiling fans and planted flowers.  He took out his suit and bought new shoes.  I screamed profanities and tore apart my closet trying on every dress I own.  (I really just thought profanities because I didn’t want to wake the baby). 

In desperation, I called my mother hoping for some wise advice on what to wear – as if she can help me a hundred miles away!  Her only words of wisdom were, “Whatever you do, don’t let your boobs hang out at church.  That’s just tacky.” 

Thanks, Mom.  That ruled out the cute, empire-waist sundress. My only option was a black and white dress I bought last fall to wear during the parent open house.  I tried it on for Big that night and asked, “Is it okay?  It’s a teacher dress, so I feel kind of matronly.” 

He assured me it wasn’t matronly, but offered to stay with Li’l Man so I could run to the outlet mall.  What kind of mixed message is that?  I love your new haircut, honey, but if you want to wear a wig, go ahead.  It was 8:30 the night before the baptism.  I called the store and they closed at nine.  I could have made a mad dash there and gambled they’d have something in my size and decent (covering the ta-tas), but Li’l Man was due to wake up hungry any minute.  The only spare breast milk in the house sat in the freezer.  I opted to stay home and make peace with the teacher dress. 

The great day arrived.  Big and I enjoyed an accomplished moment in the car when amazingly we arrived early to church.  “Ha!  We pulled it off – everything is prepared and ready to go!”  I walked confidently into the church holding Li’l Man.  My hair was curled, my heels high, and my face glowing (yes, I even applied make-up).  I felt on top of the world… until I saw my mom wearing a dress with the same, exact fabric as my own.  See the picture below. 

           

           

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Little Man’s Baptism
Posted by: Mother Ruckus | July 31, 2009

Shots with No Tears! Honest!

Ah-ha!  I just discovered the secret to vaccinating Little Man without the dreaded wailing.  Yesterday, I took him in for his three-month TDaP shot and Rotavirus vaccination, and he didn’t shed a single tear! 

Want to know my secret? 

The first round of shots proved horrific.  My momtourage had warned me of the atrocity, but nothing prepared me for what happened.  (Is this a motherhood theme?  No matter what the mom-to-be reads or learns, nothing fully prepares her for the actual experience.)  Luckily, I had brought the Big Man for emotional support.  He didn’t quite understand the hype, but after two months of post-partum, emotional outbursts he learned to say, “Yes, beautiful,” when asked a question. 

The nurse instructed me to lay Little Man on the cold, sterile examining table.  At that point, I let Big Man take over; I had to look away.  Through half-closed eyes, I watched in horror as the nurse roughly grabbed his ankles, forced his fragile, teeny legs straight down, and stuck a needle the size of my big toe in each thigh.  Little Man acted accordingly, he screamed like a piglet being laid on by his 600-pound mother. 

Therefore, yesterday morning, I was determined to take action.  (I’m on the team that believes if something isn’t suitable, then I can find a way to change it – or manipulate it at the very least).  I remembered something I read about a sugar solution used in hospitals to calm crying babies.  Just then, I recalled Little Man’s circumcision.  (How many violent acts must a baby endure?  More on that topic to come!)  The nurse had asked me for a pacifier to dip in sugar water, so she could calm him with it during his penis mutilation. 

A pacifier in sugar water – that’s the answer!  Of course, I couldn’t proceed without consulting my twelve books on child rearing.  To my dismay, every one of them specifically forbade dipping pacifiers in sugar water.  They said an infant couldn’t digest anything but breast milk or formula, blah, blah, blah.  The hospitals do it, why can’t we? 

Call me a rebel, but I heated some water in a saucepan, dissolved a few spoonfuls of sugar, and dipped away!  An hour later, when the burly nurse stuck Little Man, I popped that candy-coated binkie into his open mouth and beamed with pride for my ingenuity.  Not a single tear! 

Too bad, I didn’t have the sugar water later that day when I accidentally scraped his poor little nose.  He cried hard for a good fifteen minutes.  Shows how smart I really am- avoid major disaster at the doctor’s office only to create my own calamity at home!

Posted by: Mother Ruckus | July 16, 2009

Taking Charge of My Fertility

Yesterday, I sent a friend a copy of the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler.  It began my journey toward motherhood, and I have recommended it to all my friends who are “trying to get pregnant.”  If only I had known, taking charge of my fertility would mean losing control of every other aspect of my life.

Take my body for example of “lost control.”  I look in the mirror before stepping in the shower, allow several moments for the initial shock to wear off, and wonder, “What the heck happened?”  I remember before taking charge of my fertility, my hubby fondly referring to my breasts as “the twins” or “the girls” or “the fun bags.”  Now he calls them “National Geographic.”

Prior to the stretch marks and stretched mammalian protuberances, I had successful control of the oral English language.  As an elementary teacher and former public speaker, I was well versed in the practice of articulating my thoughts while calculating my word choice.  Two days ago, to the teen clerk who was helping me carry out a case of wine to my car, I said in my stupidest mommy talking to baby voice, “Might be stormy.”

No need to explain why I was buying a case of wine.

Wasn’t it just yesterday, I drove my white jeep with the top down, soaked up the sun, and sang along to Kid Rock?  Oh no, yesterday I drove my standard, silver, mom-mobile SUV, and sang along to Ny Fitiavako an’I Mama off the World Playground Dreamland c.d.  I didn’t know what I was singing nor what I was doing at the time, because all I could think was, “If the baby’s crying over the music playing, then volume 20 can’t be damaging his ears- right?”

Preceding total fertility control, I couldn’t have enough fun in the marital bed.  After all, that’s where most babies are made!  As of late, the only action my husband receives is when I ask to compare his organ to my son’s because I’m sure the surgeon screwed up his circumcision, (my son’s circ. – not my husband’s). A purple penis is not normal!

Recently, I ventured out of the house to Target with baby in tow.  I felt rather accomplished to be traveling across town after showering and washing my hair (a feat that may seem small to you less in control of your fertility).  How exhilarating I felt to have a clean scalp and non-foul smelling pits.  My legs weren’t shaved, but hey, I wasn’t trying for a perfect score!  “Was the baby falling asleep in the car rather than screaming?  Oh, this is my lucky day!”

Walking on cloud nine into Target, I noticed a mom and daughter staring at me from across the parking lot.  Brought down to earth I panicked, “What now, are National Geographic leaking?”  Upon closer review, I recognized them as a former student and her mother.  With a lump in my now flabby tummy, I realized they didn’t recognize me with 20 extra pounds, no make-up, and frizzy hair pulled back.  Suddenly, clean hair didn’t feel like something to brag about.  With an injured ego, I lugged my now-awake 2 month old into the cart, smiled down at him and in my best mommy voice said, “What’s that you say?  Don’t worry, Mommy.  Britney was a dim student, anyway.”

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