Monday, April 21, 2014

An Easter Picnic

This year the girls and I were able to attend Andrew's family Easter Picnic. We have never been close enough to go for the weekend, but this year living in Austin we were able to ride along with my mother and father-in law. With Andrew being in leadership at Whole Foods, he had to work Easter weekend. I was sad he couldn't come, but glad we had the opportunity.

We went to a ranch about an hour south (maybe southwest?) of Austin. I was mostly just along for the ride, sitting in the backset between carseats. Rosemary feel asleep almost immediately and Blanche talked almost without taking a breath for the first half. Taking road trips with a two year old is pretty funny. Blanche saw all the Texas wildflowers along the highway. She wanted to get out and pick them. So she just pretended to grab them along the way. We also starting talking about when we went to Corpus, and then Blanche started talking about how she wanted to go to the beach. It took Gigi's help to get her mind off the idea of heading the beach that day. However, when we did arrive I think Blanche was fine about where we were.

Showpa opened the huge gates to the Texas ranch that we were on. Gigi drove the car inside. Blanche cried not to leave Showpa. Within ten minutes of being out of the car Blanche was exploring the land and looking at the water with her Showpa and cousin Jonathan. It is so cute to hear her say, "You come too Jonathan?" They really are little friends.

I am now at the point of recognizing quite a few faces when it comes to Andrew's family. These are all the cousins of Andrew's moms. So, there are multiple families and I still have a long way to go before remembering who belongs to who. Maybe I will ask Andrew's mom to write out a family tree for me. Either way, it doesn't matter if I remember them. Each one always comes up to me with a warm smile. That's why I wasn't afraid of being shy or unwelcome coming to a reunion without my true link to the family. They all came up, "Jeran! We are so glad you could come! I hoped you would still come even though Andrew had to work." I felt so welcomed.

One of my favorite parts of our afternoon at the ranch was Blanche and her cousins hunting for Easter eggs. This was Blanche's first Easter egg hunt. I was curious what she would think. Last week Blanche and I had been at Hobby Lobby and I remembered that we needed to buy Easter eggs. I told her about how we would put candy inside and then hide the eggs, and she would find them. Her response and memory about this all last week made it seem like she had done this multiple times. "I put candy in my eggs. Then hide them and find them!" She kept exclaiming. On our way home from the craft store after buying the eggs, I told her Easter was about Jesus. I have not come to the point where I explain a lot to Blanche unless she asks, but I figured if we were buying eggs I wanted her to know what we were celebrating. I asked her if she remembered celebrating Christmas and that it was Jesus's birthday. Yes she said. Then I told her well, Jesus died. Blanche gasped from her little carseat. Then I told her that he died because he loved us and we celebrate because he came back! She was very excited.

The egg hunt made me laugh. Jonathan was very into finding the eggs. But he was always willing to share. He would put some in his basket and some in Blanche's. Blanche had grabbed a few eggs but began to loose interest. I showed her that there was chocolate in them. That may have been a mistake. She then wanted to eat the candy she had "now." All of the sudden I had the kid that was leaving behind empty Easter eggs and taking out the candy. I kept telling her one more piece and then she was done. She kept finding more. She also continued helping herself to the popcorn machine after figuring out how to slide her hand through the bottom.

I think Blanche truly celebrated. At the start of the day I let Blanche share a little bit of frozen strawberry lemonade with me. From then on, any red slushy drink with a straw was Blanche's according to Blanche. While we were loading up Blanche was tiredly walking through the parking lot. Her dress was covered in dirt and chocolate. She almost seemed a little drunk from all the candy and excitement. I asked Andrew's mom, "Where did she get that slushy?" "I don't know, she had it when I found her. " she replied. We loaded Blanche into the car letting her have "one more sip." She was asleep before we got off the dirt road.

Last night Andrew and I laid in bed and talked a bit about our days. He had worked Easter Sunday as well. I told him I liked going to church but never really feel a hundred percent like I belong there. I also told him apparently it is now politically correct to not assume everyone is celebrating Easter. I had thought that was the only holiday that landed on that day. I am not naive enough to believe that everyone believes in Jesus. I just thought the people that did not still celebrated with the Easter bunny. Sort of like Christmas and Santa Clause. Our neighbors were hitting a bunny shaped piƱata outside when we got home. They were yelling things like, "Hit that bitch!" You know, in front of my two year old. I think they were celebrating Easter, but not the same thing we were. Andrew said he had a co worker saying, "Happy Holidays" even though all of Whole Foods candy had Easter bunnies.

Each holiday now that Blanche is becoming older we talk about how we want to celebrate. Andrew was talking about commercialism. I have never been too big on commercialism. I don't like people trying to tell me what to buy. I know I get sucked in sometimes, but I like to think of myself as much of an individual as possible. I was happy though to tell Andrew that Blanche had seemed to grab so much of the concept we wanted her to, almost on her own. She had partied with family, eaten her weight in candy, found eggs, went to her Gigi's church and then to her house for lunch. And by the end of the day Blanche exclaimed, "Jesus died! But he came back! He loves us!" Sometimes I love seeing the world through Blanche. She does not worry about being politically correct or if she is falling into consumerism. She is happy. She accepts the good of those around her and is excited to experience life. She is glad for someone as loving as Jesus. She is glad he came back.

Monday, April 14, 2014

When It Rains

Almost everyone feels a bit poetic when it rains. I guess I should be careful not too think of myself as too grand while I lay in bed nursing and watching the rain. Maybe rain feels cleansing. Last night our apartment felt hot and sticky, almost eighty degrees. By this morning the storm was almost here and our room was cold, all four of us snuggled under throws and afghans. Andrew got up for work just before seven and I was woken by Blanche who was probably cold but insisted I carry her to the living room. I think if you have to be carried out of bed you may not be ready to wake up, but I was in the middle of a disturbing dream when Blanche woke so I didn't mind. I had a dream that I was shot in the chest. There were scratch marks all over the walls and when the abulance came to get me my shooter was the paramedic. He had a scratch under his eye so I knew it was him. I often wonder why I have always had such intense and vivid dreams. I do not watch anything remotely dark because of this. In my dream I was loosing my hearing and slowly fading off, like a sleeping feeling but I knew I was dying.

For a period of time in college I went to a church that told me my dreams meant something. Sometimes I believe them. Sometimes I think it's my brain trying to process all of my emotions with a tired body. I do believe my brain can create symbolism. And I'm sure God could teach me through that.

Maybe my dream was intense because the past few days have felt emotionally intense. I am often a rollercoaster. I feel bad for Andrew. But now I know even though he doesn't enjoy riding the ride all the time, if there was never a drop or rush of adrienaline, it probably wouldn't feel like me. I think people like reading what I write because I am vunerable. I know the people reading along with my ups and downs of motherhood probably feel for me and also occassionally worry that I am depressed.  These last couple of days and even months I have been trying to sort through these things. I told Andrew yesterday that I think all of our big life changes hit me at once after Rosemary was born. And now I am looking for something familiar. And in ways, nothing is. It is all new at once. It makes me want to go back to anything familiar. Like living in Arkansas again or becoming a child again and living in our home with the pond in the backyard.

When Andrew and I moved to Texas there was so much unknown. And while we have come so far in some ways, we are just starting out. Thankfully Andrew's career is going well and progressing faster than we would have imagined. Now we have questions of  whether to buy or rent and where in this big place we want to live. I like to have a plan. I want more community and activities for Blanche that are easy for me to do with Rosemary. We also have to think of Andrews work commute and how far away we want to live from the city. In the midst of all of this I am trying to figure out what it is I want. I am happy we moved. I am glad Andrew has a career and is doing something he loves. I am just wondering if my priorities have changed. Or when they did.

Days like today I feel like it wasn't that long ago I was a senior in college. Once again the girls and I were in my room. Rosemary was playing in her crib and Blanche was building a cave with pillows like she does every day. I pulled out a journal of photos that I had on the bookshelf. I looked through Polaroids I had taken in Spain. When Andrew and I met I was giving away my possessions and about to graduate. I had plans to leave for India as soon as I could. And now, five years later I live in Texas with two kids. We are talking about buying a house. This is not undiscussed territory. I have student loans that we are paying off before thinking about doing anything based on support living. I now know as well that during the child bearing and young baby years I may not be physically or emotionally ready to live overseas. The truth is, now that I am married and having children, I don't feel this is the time to be overseas. Andrew has started a career with a company that gives something like sabbaticals and has trips to impoverished countries. I know our time will come. There are just days when I wonder how I have gotten where I am.

The other day Andrew and I were listening to NPR. We tuned in mid-story. By what we could gather, a woman wrote a whole novel based on the look a woman had in a painting. As the story was wrapping up Andrew said something along the lines of how this story and lady was crazy. I laughed because I was thinking the opposite. I loved it. The woman was talking about how people write and tell stories because it is engrained in humanity. We tell our stories to make sense of life. I had heard this before, but she was saying that we often write and like to read stories that have a beginning (a normal) and middle (conflict) and end (the new normal). We write like this to make sense of our lives and what happens to us. Humans like stories like this because it helps us process why we are here and what happens to us. I both loved and hated hearing this. Because it is basically how almost all my blog posts are written. I always have some new conflict or a new enlightenment from a conflict. And then I wrap it up and tie a little bow around it. The part of this radio story that inspired me though, was that the woman had apparently written an entire novel on this woman from the painting. I have no idea what the story was about or even what her face looked like. I loved that the lady said when she goes to look at this painting even today, after that whole experience of writing a novel and conclusion on the woman's face in that painting, she still is not sure she got it right. And she has trouble leaving the room. Maybe Andrew thought this part was ridiculous. I loved it though. I think she was saying the story was not as clean as she had made it. Maybe that is why she feels uncomfortable leaving the room.

I sort of feel like this post was like that uncomfortable feeling. I have been writing on and off on my phone as I have had time today. To be honest I hate the way I am having to do things. I feel like I am always ignoring Blanche as I work to get Rosemary to sleep. And Rosemary is a sweet and good baby, but she rarely stays asleep for long out of the baby sling. I feel even more unable to play with Blanche while I am wearing a baby. I figured today though that if Blanche was going to watch tv anyways, while I walked Rosemary to sleep, I might as well be typing on my phone. One of the hardest parts of motherhood and isolation for me is an overactive and underused mind. I think that is why I write. Maybe this post was less of the beginning, middle, and end type of story. We are taught in grade school that all stories and even life is like this. I guess that is why I have a tendency to wrap things up nicely.

Friday, April 11, 2014

College vs. Motherhood

Sometimes I still wish I was in college. I guess we all have to grow up eventually though. That is what is so awesome about college. You are almost grown up but not quite. I had my own schedule and all of my focus each and every day was basically me. My classes, my education, my meals, my friends, my time. Oh how marvelous it was. It is hard to even see it at the time. Although I do remember having such a feeling of freedom after leaving home. I remember my cousin who was my roommate freshman year cried when my parents left. I did not cry. I was too excited to cry.

There are days like today when I look at the bookshelves in the bedroom that belongs to Andrew and me. The room is full of two beds on the floor and a crib as well. Our bedroom tells the immediate story that we are parents, and that we obviously value our sleep enough to have our children right next to us all night. But our bookshelves tell a different story. A story of hobbies collected. All the things Andrew and I would love to do and learn. When we have time. Today I stared at a few gardening and composting books near the floor as I played "beach" with Blanche and held Rosemary in my arms. I do not want to wish away this time. I love that Blanche tells me there is a baby shark in her bucket. Two actually. Then she is a baby shark and will "pretend to lick me." (She gets the licking from lions and other animals, but apparently crabs and sharks also lick)  Rosemary coos in awe of her big sister. These moments are the grand ones. But what about those other things, like making art and growing plants? Will it ever feel like college again? Will Andrew always have to use every second of his time off either recovering or helping me?

Today I am laying in bed typing this on my phone.  I lay in a sprawled out fashion, Rosemary nursing on and off, on and off. Blanche coughing just as frequently. That's why I'm not leaving the bed. Because I know they will both sleep way longer if I stay. When it was just me and Blanche a situation like this would have left me frustrated. Longing for coffee and a couple of hours alone. But now, I just decide to write on my phone. Sometimes laying here alone with my thoughts is a treat compared to the needs of the day.

My pregnant friend text me while I was laying here. We started talking about how weird it is to see our bodies grow and stretch with a baby growing inside. She admitted she had fears of her body changing. I replied, "And I always feel the same way! I think ugh Andrew must be grossed out by coming home to my saggy boobs and body. I am covered in milk and spit up. I am in my pjs and no make up. But then the other day he looked at me so sweetly and said 'sometimes I look at you and just can't believe you are mine.' Having your husband's children will make him love you more than he ever knew he could.

She said I made her cry. I almost made myself cry. So much of the day is me trying to survive. It sounds dramatic but it feels that way when I am just trying to do one thing at a time. Diapers, nursing, playing, lunch, nursing, nap... By naptime both girls were laying on the bed screaming. Naptime is not as smooth without tandem nursing. But I have more sanity. And I needed that. Finally, when both girls are asleep, I am able to reach out to someone who is about to be a mother. I can comfort the both of us in the truths that I know.

I posted the first picture today with part of a quote that I read yesterday. "You will never be this loved again." The second picture is one I sent my pregnant friend of my stomach at two and half months postpardum. I told her it always looks better laying down. And when I sent that picture it was so liberating. To realize that although I never love my body right after having a baby that it was still beautiful. Because that small little baby beside it was made in there. And I am powerful as a mother and woman, even if I do not match the stereotypes of our selfish culture. It led me to tell this friend, "Motherhood is the most insanely beautiful and messy thing you will ever do."

And I believe it with all my heart.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Weaning Blanche

By the title alone it is hard to put into words all that I would like to say. A breastfeeding and nursing relationship is such a small part of the overall picture of motherhood and raising a child. But at the same time, it can feel like everything. When Blanche was first born it was all we did. Even now with Rosemary there is a lot of diaper changing, baby wearing, little coos and smiles, but what I would say I feel like I do the most is nurse. That milk is her source of life for the first several months. I can already tell though that Rosemary is not as intense about nursing as Blanche. A lot of the time, being use to Blanche, I try and overfeed Rosemary. And then Rosemary tells me very clearly that is not what she wants. She cries like she is saying, "I am not hungry! Put me to sleep I am tired!" I feel like she looks at me like I am little crazy, and I try and tell her that it was her older sister Blanche that paved the way for my thinking that milk will solve any problem. It sure did with Blanche.

Things were actually made pretty easy by Blanche's desire to sooth almost any pain by nursing. I could feed her, comfort her, and many times put her right to sleep every time I nursed her for the first year of life. By a year old I could not have imagined weaning Blanche. She still seemed so little. She also disliked baby food, so I knew she would need more than just solid foods. I figured human milk would be a better fit than trying to get her to drink any other type of milk. I have my ideas on why Blanche was so intense on nursing. It actually makes me a little sad. When Blanche was only a few hours old and was so sick with ABO incompatibility, she had to remain under the bill lights unless she was being fed. Sometimes the nurses didn't even pick her up to feed her because they hoped the lights could continue to push down her bilirubin so she could go home. I was recovering from pre eclampsia and suffering from high blood pressure and toxemia. I was getting up in the night to pump, rushing to the hospital at six am with milk. I could hear Blanche's little cries as she waited in the nursery. I would come around the corner flustered, the nurse saying happily, "Oh we are snacking mom. This one is hungry." As the nurse would be giving Blanche bits of formula to stretch her until I could come. It was awful. I think I had decided in those days that I would lay in bed and hold my baby and nurse her as much as she wanted for as long as she wanted. I wanted to make up for all those hours at the beginning of her life that I didn't get to.

So, this is much more than a weaning story. This is the story of Blanche and me. An element to our relationship that has been there from day one. Until this week. Blanche will be two and half this month. I nursed her through my entire pregnancy with extreme agitation. I had hoped the agitation would leave once I had a full supply of milk again. But it didn't. I had hoped Blanche would feel welcomed being able to still nurse occasionally with Rosemary, but at times it seemed to be a competition. There are so many elements to this messy extended nursing story. The main point was that I was so exhausted and over touched that I was not being the mother I wanted to be to Blanche. I was yelling at her at bed time because she was driving me nuts. Blanche seemed confused at boundaries and was starting to reverse back in the ways she had already begun to wean. Our family was waking up at five am to complete meltdowns and requests to nurse. Andrew and I were becoming short with each other during those times. All of the sudden I realized the good I was trying to do was no longer good, and it had to end.

So thats what we did. Now knowing Blanche as well as I do, I knew I just had to stop all together. I let her nurse one last time on Sunday morning. She was born on a Sunday morning. It was not some elaborate and sentimental plan. I didn't have a special speech or weaning book. We were just done. And I couldn't think about it too much. We just were. Maybe my last post was the start of what was to come. Blanche was growing up.

It has actually went much better this week than I could of ever have imagined. I was so tired and frustrated though that I was willing to walk through a full week or two of meltdowns to be finished. Blanche has really only had a few rough times though. I am learning that there are certain things that must be done to help this transition. For example, I have to be the one getting up with her in the morning. She misses me and needs me. I have also learned these last few months when putting Blanche to bed if she hadn't nursed to sleep that Blanche needs to be completely relaxed to fall asleep. I learned this from myself. If I have any type of elevated emotion whether its excitement, frustration, anger, fear... it takes me so long to fall asleep. I finally saw that Blanche is the exact same way. That is why Blanche was never able to fuss or cry and fall asleep on her own. She would just work herself into a complete meltdown to the point of throwing up. So, bedtime requires a lot of patience and calm and loving gestures. Blanche fell asleep in around twenty minutes last night for bed and is taking her first nap at home (not in the car) without nursing to sleep. We are working on things. Blanche and I are growing in our relationship. We are both learning new ways to love.

The first picture above is one of several shots Andrew took one day while I was nursing Blanche. You can see the rest of them here. I stopped nursing Blanche because I wanted to remember back to our nursing relationship like this. It is hard to hear a little voice in the early hours saying, "nurse me" and to say no. But I am realizing that so much of this request is "I miss you mama." Getting up with Blanche in the earlier hours while my newborn is still sleeping is not easy, but I know it is best.

The second picture is Blanche riding the train at the mall with her daddy after her first night without milk. Gigi offered to buy her a ticket if she could make it through the night. I love this picture.