Temper tantrums & Teaparties

I got Casey to fall asleep for a nap today ALL BY HIMSELF.  That is a big win around here. There was a little yelling, some wall kicking and his pillow definitely got thrown across the room as he stood on his bed screaming.  There was a lot of me sitting in the rocking chair with the baby (who was also crying) while I gently coaxed him to lay down and pull his cover over himself and in a calm, quit voice told him I would lay down with him when I didn’t hear any screaming.  Finally, I managed to put the baby down for half a second while I molded my body around Casey’s as he lay, now exhausted, under his blanket, and held him, whispering how important it was that he learn to fall asleep by himself and how proud I was of how helpful he’d been all morning.  Then Cameron started up again and  I told him I would come back in his room once I found a toy for the baby. “Ok, mama” he said in his soft baby voice.

I listened on the monitor for a long time while I walked around the house with Cameron and here we are two hours later and he’s still sleeping.  He needs it.  We’ve been batting around the stomach flu over here and it’s been a topsy-turvy couple of days and nights.  Parenting with a fever is no fun.  Thank god for family, who took Casey for a few hours Monday while I slept off some of my illness.

Someone asked me recently, in an email, how I manage temper tantrums, especially the increase that have flared up since bringing another baby into the mix. Honestly?  It’s different every time.  Sometimes there is a lot of yelling from both of us.  Sometimes things get thrown, doors get slammed.  Sometimes I have to leave the room or lock him or I into a room so that we can both calm down.  Sometimes, I get down on his level and there is a lot of hugging and holding and just letting him “get all his angry and sad out.”  Most of the time I just try to wait it out, talk him through it, be reasonable (even when he is completely unreasonable), take deep breaths.  I don’t mind that he sees me get mad or frustrated.  I do apologize when my temper flares and I don’t feel it was really justified.  I don’t spank but I have swatted his butt a few times when he has done something truly horrendous or scary- like when he ran away down the street and then darted across the street and then did the same thing on the other side of the street, crossing it twice without a thought and making my heart pretty much take up residence in the top of my throat.  I was so scared I could hardly breathe, let alone speak, and a swat on the butt and a tremendous hug was all I could manage to get my point across.

It’s hard for a toddler to adjust to sharing their parents attention with another child.  It’s difficult for the parent to have to divide their attention in a way that makes everyone happy.  At 3 months, things are beginning to level out.  I try to incorporate Casey into everything I have to do with Cameron: diaper changes, baths, picking out clothes. Sometimes he really wants to help, sometimes he could care less.

I tell him all the time that I understand that it’s hard for him “when mommy has to give her attention to Cameron but you are wanting me to play with you.”  He nods his head. Sometimes he starts to cry.

But now there are beginning to be more moments when I’m holding Cameron, burping him on my lap and Casey passes by and gently caresses his hair.  Moment’s when we are sitting on the couch in the morning watching Cartoons and Casey spontaneously looks at me and says “Cameron is the best isn’t he?”  It makes me feel all warm and teary inside as I just nod and say that he is, “and so are you sweetheart.”

The other day, Casey had a tea party for his teddy bear and a doll that was mine when I was a child.  He really wanted Cameron to join but I told him Cameron couldn’t really sit at the table. “That’s ok.  You can sit at the table and he can have your otherside (his term for breastfeeding) so he gets big and strong like me and then we can both have a tea party right?”

Absolutely my boy.  You’re absolutely right.

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Brothers, chillin

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Sometimes I tell him he’s being too rough and sometimes I let him just hug it out. 

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Sweet Baby boy ūüôā

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5 am

I thought about getting up, fixing the TV so I could watch the early morning news, making coffee, using the bathroom.  Instead, I lay there, relishing the 8.5 pound bundle sleeping on my chest.  I leaned in for the thousandth time just to smell the top of his head.  I closed my eyes and rested my hands on him, one on his back, the other cradling his bottom, and I just felt him breathe.  That natural rhythm of breath that comes so simply to babies, to children, before they are burdened.. before they forget to breathe.

I lay on the couch with him on my chest and stared at the ceiling, feeling the parts of me that ached with exhaustion and the relentless reframing that happens from constantly accommodating the needs of an infant and a toddler. ¬†There’s the nursing, the burping, the constant carrying (of both kids), playing on the floor, playing outside, pushing a stroller, getting up and down and up and down again and again, during the day, during playtime, bath time, dinner, at night. ¬†My body aches. ¬†Hips, knees, ankles, the back of my skull, my jaw; aches that only the passing of time and hours of yoga will heal.

Meanwhile, my husband gets less of me for now.  A smile as he walks out of his office during the day, tales of our adventures during dinner, the offer of a cup of coffee in the morning and the last bit of my energy to engage in conversation at night before I cannot keep my eyes open any longer, a passing touch, just the fluttering of my fingers against his arm or his chest as I drift off to sleep.  Then of course the muttering at night or in the early hours of morning as I pace the floor and manage the needs of a cranky toddler before I have my first cup of coffee.  One day he will get me back, one day soon we will laugh about these days and miss them and get to watch our shows at night again.

But for now, I’m going to continue to try to appreciate every moment of this sleep deprived time, remind myself that it won’t last forever and will be over too soon. ¬†Try to breathe more simply, more deeply, in an attempt to call upon that hidden reserve of patience I know must exist within me somewhere. ¬†And mornings like this, I will lay here and study the ceiling and linger as long as I can in chest time with this new baby boy; smell his head and feel his heart beat, match his breath and pat his back and ignore all else until¬†day breaks and I am required to drag my weary body once more into the light.

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Cameron’s birth story.

Disclaimer:  This is long and fairly unedited.  Also, I am a strong advocate of natural birth and it is what I have strived for during both my pregnancies and subsequent births.  However, as long as women are informed about all their choices and what they are entitled to during labor, birth and delivery,  I think each woman has the right to make her own decision about what is right for her without fear of judgement or shame.  Every woman has the right to her own birth story.  This is mine. 

On the morning that Cameron was born, I took Casey to story time at the library. ¬†I felt some minor cramping in my lower abdomen and a few sporadic, short contractions throughout the morning but nothing that made me think we would be having a baby that day. ¬†When we got home from story time, we played for a bit and took a walk in the stroller. I had a few minor contractions as we played and walked, 15 minutes apart but not continuously. ¬†I didn’t think much of those either except to shower and try and rest a bit while Casey napped. ¬†But when I sat down to rest everything seemed to stop and I felt¬†restless. ¬†I needed to move.

When Casey woke up from his nap, I convinced him to take another long walk with me in the stroller.  I let him watch videos as we walked.  It was a beautiful, fall day.  The leaves were turning stunning colors of gold, red, and orange and the sun was warm as we meandered through the blocks around our house.  I was having fairly steady contractions every 10-15 minutes but they only lasted about 30 seconds and I was able to continue to walk through them, breathing deeply and occasionally leaning over the stroller handles to ease my lower back.

We got home around 5 and I puttered around for a bit. ¬†When Alex came out of his office at 5:30, I told him that we should see if his mom could watch Casey tonight just in case. ¬†I still wasn’t convinced that this was the real thing but “just in case it isn’t a false alarm” I thought it would be easier to plan ahead to have Casey stay the night with Nana and Papa. (Who would have thought we would have a baby in our arms in less than 3 hours?!?!)

I continued to walk around, playing trucks with Casey, clearing out the dishes from the sink, picking up and generally working through each contraction. ¬†At 6 I began having steady contractions every 5 minutes. ¬†It still felt good to walk and Casey held my hand as we walked in circles around the house. ¬†Other times, I felt best leaning against my birthing ball for support of getting down on my hands and knees. ¬†At one point, I was on hands and knees vocalizing a low “ooooh” as the contraction washed over me and Casey got down on his hands and knees and “oooh”ed with me…moral support at its finest.

Alex got off work around 6:15 and took Casey over to his mom’s house shortly after. ¬†I was having steady contractions and yet I still wasn’t convinced that this was the real thing! ¬†I felt like they should be stronger and longer even though they were coming so steadily. With Casey I labored at home throughout the night for 12 hours and it was a gradual increase in intensity and strength so I figured I had a while to go. ¬†Except I was feeling slightly nauseous and emotional. ¬†I cried as I watched Casey walk out to the car. ¬†In the back of my head it occurred to me that these were the things that happened when women were in transition (the nausea, the crying, thoughts of doubt) but I brushed that thought aside. ¬†Surely I wasn’t that far along.

While Alex was gone, I gathered our bags and everything else we would need by the back door, ready to be loaded into the car when we decided to be on our way. By 6:45 I had been having steady contractions for about 3 hours and they had increased to every 5 minutes over the past 40 minutes. ¬†In the next ten minutes they picked up to every 3 minutes and I was having to squat down, fall to my hands and knees or get into a doorway and hold onto one side as I let me body lean against the opposite side for support. ¬†It was at this point that I called the emergency number for the midwives. ¬†Alex came back in as I was talking to Suzanna, the midwife on call, and I had to hand the phone to him because I just couldn’t talk to her without starting to cry. ¬†She said it sounded like I was definitely in active labor and I could come in to monitor how baby was taking contractions or stay at home for a bit longer but, she emphasized, “it could happen quickly.” ¬†I told her I was inclined to stay at home for a bit longer but would call when we decided to come in.

By this time it was about 7:00.  I had three more contractions, each requiring me to lean against Alex or a wall for support.  During each one I told him we should go ahead and leave for the hospital and after each one I changed my mind that we should continue to wait for a bit.  Part of me still felt as if they should be lasting longer. We left the house at 7:09.

I had three contractions in the car in the ten minute ride to the hospital, two walking in after we parked. ¬†I tried to close my eyes and shield my face from the lights of the entrance as we stood at the desk getting checked in. ¬†I still was not convinced that I was close to having a baby and didn’t want anything to cause my labor to stall.

We got to triage and I managed to change into the hospital gown and give a urine sample, as requested, and then I hat two strong contractions. ¬†The second one left me on my hands and knees and I told Alex to “go get the nurse NOW!” ¬†It felt like forever by the time they returned and I told the nurse I was feeling a lot of pressure, as if I needed to push soon. ¬†I think she was surprised to find me on hands and knees (I heard her mention it a few times later on) and she immediately called in the resident intern, as the midwife had not arrived at the hospital yet. ¬†He asked if he could check me and finding my already dilated to 7 cm, they immediately moved me to a birthing suite. I refused a wheelchair and walked through the hall, into the birthing suite and crawled up onto the bed on my hands and knees. ¬†It was approximately 7:45, 7:50. They managed to get a monitor on me to listen to the baby’s heart beat. ¬†They asked if I still wanted them to fill the birthing tub, as I had originally planned for a water birth, and I nodded although I did not feel like moving off the bed or being in any position except my hands and knees. ¬†They asked if I wanted an IV and I refused because I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting still long enough for them to put it in. ¬†The intern came in with a second nurse and as they were getting everything ready, I was continuing to have strong contractions and feeling the need to push. ¬†The nurse, Kristin I think, was excellent, coaching me to pant through each contraction to keep from pushing and panting with me and rubbing my lower back and I worked through each one. The intern checked me again and finally the midwife arrived. “She’s at 9 cm and the baby’s head is right there,” I heard him tell her. ¬†Then I heard the words that every laboring mother loves hearing (words that make me tear up as I write this)- “Just a few more contractions and you’ll be holding your baby.” ¬†I panted through maybe 2 or 3 more contractions, resting my upper body on a pillow in between. ¬†I was still on my hands and knees on the bed. ¬†Alex sat next to me holding my hand.

And then Suzanna told me that with my next contraction I should just listen to my body and do what it told me, that it was ok to push.  And I did.  I pushed twice more before they told me to just hold my breath and bear down and then all of a sudden they were handing me this tiny, slippery baby boy up through my legs. He gave out a lusty cry even though the umbilical chord was wrapped loosely around his neck.  It was 8:16, an hour after we had arrived at the hospital.

The next hour was a blur. ¬†Movement all around me but my eyes were only on Cameron. Cameron Alexander Claeys, who made us wait a full 41 weeks and then arrived in a flurry. ¬†I am still in shock at how quickly his birth happened, even sitting here five days later. ¬†This is just the story of his birth but the actual processing of it will take a while. ¬†It was so different from Casey’s birth, so different then anything I had expected. It was so fast! I knew more this time about what was actually happening during the birthing process and this birth felt much more controlled then my first. ¬†I was acutely aware of feeling each moment, visualizing him moving down the birthing canal, seeing in my mind’s eye what my body was doing and what it needed to do with each contraction, each push.

By all accounts, the speed of this birth should have left me breathless and dizzy. ¬†Instead, I found myself feeling calm and energized as Alex and I held our second son for the first time. ¬†Shortly after he was born, as we were taking the first pictures, Alex looked at his phone and said “The last message I have from my mom says to let her know when we go to the hospital.” ¬†I looked at him and laughed. ¬†“Well, let’s send her the first picture!”

I was surprised at how good I felt over the next few days in the hospital, especially in terms of my overall energy and pain levels.¬†This doesn’t mean it has been easy. ¬†I am still healing. ¬†My body is still in shock from transitioning from being pregnant to not pregnant so quickly. ¬†My hormones dropped quickly after we arrived back home and they are still up and down. I don’t like to sit still but I know that it is important to give myself time, to take care to meet my emotional and physical needs if I am to be good mother to both a toddler and a newborn.

The past few days have been a roller coaster of emotions as we begin to settle in as a family of four, build new relationships, find new routines.  The reality of parenting a toddler and an infant has hit me heavily some moments leaving me tearful and crept up on me gently in others, filling me with breathless warmth.  Each day, each moment brings a new challenge to be faced, problem to be solved.

There is more to learn, more to say but that’s it for now. ¬†Thanks for reading and if you made it this far, you deserve these sweet baby pictures.

Looking Out & Looking In

My eyes open too early on this clear inviting morning.
The day stretches out in front of me, long with possibility.

When he stirs I can hear it, so attuned to his atomic movement have I become.
He’s a creature of habit, like his dad. Like me. But the summer sun brings freedom and a yearning to break the mold; a search for whimsy and adventure.

He wakes in my arms every morning and when we walk into the living room, we throw the curtains open wide, one:

“Good morning outside!”
by one:
“I love you outside!”

This has become a daily tradition, one which makes the day, and my heart, burst open.

We have always liked to rest across the back of our big blue sofa and watch the world out of our wide, front window. We watch the cars go by and keep an eye out for trucks and buses so that we can race out the front door and chase them down the street. We watch the rain fall and the snow flakes as they float by. We watch the birds and the tiny chipmunks and we bang on the glass to scare the squirrels away from our bird feeders. In the spring and summer, we look each morning to see what has bloomed, to check the process of our small front garden as it grows.

When I am alone, I stare out this window, always the same view, always different. I daydream and write and plan and list and let my mind and my heart wander, allow my soul to escape for a bit.

Sometimes neighbors pass by and we wave, caught amidst our reverie.

It has become our own private aperture to the world. These days, we watch and wait and prepare for our future expansion, loitering among the cushions, hiding behind the pillows, snuggling under blankets. The view outside may remain the same but inside our own private sanctuary continues to grow and change and gain. We may be looking out our window but more often then not, as we gaze at this stationary and changing world, we find ourselves looking in.

Playing House

babyboychalk2.jpgHow do we find ourselves here, playing at being adults?  When the freedom of the swings still beckons; the wind catches us just right, making us wonder at Neverland.

Did someone forget to give me my manual? Who flipped the switch without alerting me and when? I wake early and stand confused in the living room, taking in the house, the family it holds- my house, my family.  I forget in odd moments that I am now the mother, wife, teacher, the culpable one. Plodding into the bathroom I am often startled by my reflection.  The familiarity of my features now bears the veil of responsibility; the map of our daily life etched into the supple skin above my brow and around my lips. I wonder if others can look beyond the dewey, sleep-deprived exterior and see the secrets I keep inside. Do they see the child behind my eyes?  The girl who still lays in the grass staring at shapes in the clouds, who imagines herself as the heroin of some unsung fantasy?   Can they sense the confusion and bewilderment that often underlies the confident exterior I dress in when I leave the house?

One day,  not too long ago, we were discussing homework assignments and boys and parties and then all of a sudden the talk turned to baby games, diaper rash cures and breastfeeding.  I much prefer these latter conversations.  I am more relaxed in my brain and body then my teenage self could ever claim to be.  I would rather share gardening tips and recipes then worry about reputations and hallway chatter.  Still, I wonder: How did this happen right under our noses?

I don’t find my role a burden. ¬†The¬† weight of responsibility does not hang too heavy on my shoulders. ¬†Instead, I am lifted by the magnitude of it all; held aloft by the outstretched hand of a steady partner as we fly, soaring on the sight of a delighted grin as we are swept through a carwash or come across a train passing us in the dark. ¬†I shiver at the sheer joy I feel from the movements inside of me; baffled and exalted by the fullness I felt when she uttered the phrase “your boys.”

There are still moments when the light reflected from a dew drop startles me into waking, as if I have been asleep for a long time but I find myself enchanted and fulfilled from the life I find myself in. ¬†At times¬†I become overwhelmed by the unknowns that lurk ahead of us but most days I am too busy to dwell on such things. ¬†Instead, I am excited by the changes that are headed our way and find myself becoming nostalgic as the summer intensifies. ¬†A simple answer to my queries about breakfast: “How about…pancakes,” reminds me that this will be my last summer as a mother to a¬†single¬†child. ¬†Trips to the park seem easier these days, as I imagine similar outings next summer with two boys in tow. ¬†Our family is growing and my heart becomes engorged as it swells and takes it all in.

But I still check my mail everyday, wondering if someone simply forgot to send me my manual.

From Lack to Love: Finding abundance in the everyday.

The idea of lack has been popping up for me a lot lately; the idea that we focus overly much on what we lack, that we are always trying to fill a void based on the notion that we are missing something or need more. So often we see ourselves as lacking- lacking time, money, education, resources, patience, ability, friendship, love- when in reality it is the realization that we already have everything we need, that will bring us true peace. It’s not that easy, I know.

One day last week, I organized my tupperware drawer. This was a task I have approached with a lack mentality for months. I lacked the time or energy or tools needed to tackle the drawer. I made a conscious effort to avert my eyes and when I did need to go into the drawer, I did so with a sense of shame, apprehension and utter disappointment. I was avoiding dealing with this problem area at all costs because¬†I didn’t want to sit with these feelings. I watched as the drawer slowly imploded into a mismatched mess.

Finally, I said “no more.” I realized that I was really just trapping myself into this lack mentality by creating this pattern of avoidance and shame. The only way to escape was to realize that I wasn’t lacking for anything. I had all the tools and all the time I needed to fix such a¬†simple problem. So I did. I spent about twenty minutes emptying the drawer and matching up all the tupperware bottoms with their lids. I was left with a large pile of loose lids…it seems some tiny person has somehow squirreled their counterparts away over the last year or so.

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See exhibit A

It was a small victory but it was a victory nonetheless. Instead of choosing to continue the cycle of lack, I chose to view the task with love and a sense of abundance. I want to fill my home with love and care and to do this means to put these thoughts into every corner and every drawer, especially¬†the junk drawers and dark, cobwebbed corners we try so hard to ignore and hide. Let’s choose abundance instead: an abundance of time to love, to create, to spend time with, to simply sit and breathe and smile.

That day, from a lack perspective, the only thing I accomplished was organizing this one drawer. But I chose abundance and from an abundant perspective, I completed something I had put off for months. I turned a space that had previously filled me with apprehension and shame into a space that fills me with pride and a sense of peace and order. From an abundant perspective I now have way more time to sit and play, to read, to color with crayons, stack blocks, crash cars; more time to spend in joy with the people that matter the most. Because right now, right here- I have everything I need.
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