Friday, May 30, 2008

Great Expectations

The negative (skip to the positive section below unless you're having a downer day)

These days I spend a lot of my time being dragged around by Emerson as he practices walking - he directs me by holding on to one finger and I am forced to retrace whatever 20 feet or so of sidewalk/grass he happens to be obsessed with that day. Or we walk around the block while he tries to explore everyone's front porch (he has a thing for stairs) and I desperately try to pull him away from walking up to strangers' houses. The point being that I have way too much time to think about how insipid motherhood can be.

Before Emerson was born, I imagined by this point in his development I would be delighting in the new things he would be learning every day and I would enjoy taking him on excursions to festivals, museums, parades, etc. I would be teaching him sign language and French, showing him to great works of art, and promoting his budding music skills. Instead, I spend my days begging him to walk and talk on his own. Just a single word - doggie, baba, shit for all I care - just any word!! He could care less about the events we take him to, which I'm sure has a lot to do with vision, but I keep hoping at least the colors and sounds and movement will interest him. He'd rather practice walking.

During pregnancy, even hearing the phrase "developmental delays" sent a shiver down my spine, so having it come true has been.....well, in ministry we call it "exploring our learning edges." In life I call it just plain crappy. I have been thinking a lot lately about why this problem bothers me so much - much more than the average person. The psychoanalyst part of me thinks it must be related to my type-A personality and growing up in a state who's mascot is a hive of busy bees. We Utahns still haven't gotten over our Mormon pioneer ethic of achievement and working until you drop (or until the Second-Coming, whichever comes first).

There is another part of it besides my impatient personality, though. A lot of other parents whose children did things early or on-time keep feeding us the same line: Don't worry, he'll be walking/talking before you know it, then you'll look back and wonder why you ever wanted him to do it!

Don't get me wrong - I miss those days when we could stick him on a blanket and he would be happy and stationary just as much as anyone. But I think people don't realize that even though his other areas of development are behind, his cognitive development is not. This means that when he turned 6 or so months old, he had the same drive and frustration about moving independently as his same-age friends. The difference is that his friends mastered crawling within a couple months, while it took him 6 months. The same goes for walking and talking - he's frustrated, we are frustrated, and this has been going on for another 6 months with no immediate end in sight.

Trust me, I have never wanted to go back to his pre-crawling days, and I promise you I will feel the same way when he masters the other major skills!

The positive

Ok, enough venting. Although Emerson's progress is not what we hoped, we do try to take comfort in some of the things he has picked up over the past few months. Such as:

- Dancing (this milestone was slow in coming too, but now that he's caught on, he dances to EVERYTHING. His favorite is turning on the clock radio by our bed first thing in the morning and rocking out to 80s-90s music).
- Pretending (with a little pushing, he will now pretend to feed a doll, brush our hair, "share" his crackers with me, etc. Not engaging in pretend play is an autism red flag, so his development in this area has been reassuring).
- Some sign language.
- Fake coughing (he picked this one up out of nowhere. He even covers his mouth ever so politely!)
- Throwing a ball...and anything else he can get airborne (unfortunately he also learned that he can throw objects at the dog's face to get her to leave him alone. We're going to have to work on curbing that one.)
- Climbing on all the furniture (the kid won't stand, but he'll dive head first off a chair!)
- And finally, eating everything in sight.

So we are enjoying these new things and mostly enjoying his very funny, unique personality that shines through more every day. We are going to Utah in another week and grandma and grandpa always get him to do new things, so I'm looking forward to that too.

As frustrated as I get most days, I am doing my best to keep perspective on what's ultimately important: having healthy and happy children. A friend's recent blog post about her nightmare experience in the hospital with an incredibly sick toddler and a dream I had about losing this second baby have reminded me of just how precious life really is.....even if things aren't turning out exactly as you expect them to.

Pregnancy Brain Moment #131

Today I opened the knife drawer and discovered a $5 bag of organic cheese inside. Then I remembered that the day before I pulled out a knife to open the bag of cheese and apparently decided to put the cheese away instead of the knife.

Does anyone know how long cheese can stay out before going bad? I mean, $5 is a lot for muenster!

I'm off to see if the knife ended up in the cheese drawer....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Today I was reading Wood's blog post about being able to wear nice clothes and high heels again after the birth of her second child. It struck me that I have not felt truly beautiful in a non-motherly way for a long, long time. There was one night back at Christmas time when my parents took Emerson while Robbie and I went on a date. But by halfway through the night we were so frustrated by our inability to get a buzz off Utah's watered-down alcohol and our inability to find much to do in downtown Salt Lake City, that I completely forgot about feeling feminine.

I always figured women's looks went downhill after becoming mothers because they just gave up. Little did I know that it is actually a much slower - and more insidious - process. It begins with pregnancy, when your rapidly changing shape makes it difficult to find anything that fits well, much less be considered fashionable. The first pregnancy I ended up wearing loaned maternity clothes that I never would've been caught dead in otherwise. This time at least hasn't been quite as bad since the new style trend is empire waists and baggy dresses (why all these teenage girls WANT to look pregnant is beyond me). But slowly, and surely, your standards for your wardrobe begin to drop.

Next comes acne, stretch marks, either dry eczema or an oily sheen (pregnancy "glow" my ass!), only the most comfortable shoes, and eventually the ever-sexy waddle walk. When I was pregnant with Emerson, I also scratched my cornea when sand got into my eye. Since pregnancy makes your eyes change shape slightly, but frequently, I have never been able to wear contacts for more than a few hours without them re-scratching the old wound and incurring another infection. Thus came glasses.

After pregnancy your body is still constantly changing shape and reacting to the hormones of breastfeeding, so things don't improve much. Plus you get to add the spit up that decorates every shirt, leaving you smelling like sour milk all day. Not to mention the poop, pee and eventually mashed food that is splattered on your hair and clothes. (For those non-parents out there who think I'm exaggerating, I can assure you that even as I write this, my pj's are sprinkled with yogurt from breakfast and poopy water from when Emerson decided that the bathtub worked just as well as his diaper.)

My one pride and joy is that I do manage to shower and get dressed (eventually) every single day. My hair may go three times longer than it should without a haircut because I ran out of time to make an appointment, and I often get to the end of the day before realizing I forgot to put on makeup, but at least for twenty glorious minutes I am clean.

I have vowed that someday in the far future when this second baby is weaned and my hormone-raging days are officially over (until menopause anyway), I am going to get Lasik surgery, a decent haircut, squeeze myself back into my tightest clothes, put on my most uncomfortable pair of shoes, wear full make-up, and enjoy feeling completely and totally non-motherly.

In the meantime, I'm yet another mother who gave up.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Tribute to My Mom

In the past 16 months of motherhood, I’ve experienced the highest and the lowest moments of my life. I’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot, been overwhelmed with love and been overwhelmed by the urge to scream at the top of my lungs. Through all of this, my understanding and appreciation of my own mother has grown immensely.

I’ve always known I had it pretty good in the parents department, but as my mom has listened to my venting this past year, she has been sympathetic by sharing stories that make Olympic athletes look like wimps.

So to honor my mother this Mother’s Day, I’d like to honor all the things she’s done over the years that don’t typically make it into Hallmark greeting cards:

Like most Utahns (especially in the 70s), my parents got married young and started a family soon after. As mentioned in a previous post, my mom spent much of her pregnancy with my sister either throwing up constantly or lying half-comatose on a pea green bean bag.

My sister was born with lactose intolerance, but since no one knew this back then and no one supported my mom in breastfeeding, the formula caused her to projectile vomit almost every time she ate. She was also constantly crying for three straight months. My mom was determined to be a successful young parent, so the few hours that my sister did sleep, she cooked and cleaned instead of resting herself. She was so frazzled by the time my dad got home from his long hours at work that every night she immediately ran to the local payphone (they lived in an apartment with no phone) to call my grandma crying. My grandmother – being my grandmother – never once offered to help babysit, even though she lived mere minutes away.

When my mom got pregnant with my older brother, she sensed something was wrong early on, but no one would tell her anything (the doctor told my grandmother and they agreed to keep it a secret). My brother was born with a rare recessive genetic disorder called Ellis Van Crefeld syndrome, causing him a variety of health problems. The most extreme was a heart condition that required open-heart surgery at 8 days old. Unfortunately, doctors didn’t know much about anesthesia for babies back then, so he went into shock and passed away during the procedure. As any parents knows or can imagine, there isn’t a word for the kind of pain that comes with losing a child.

A few years later, my mom decided she wanted to have another baby even though she knew there was a 25% chance it would have the syndrome. My father was terrified, but the moment she got pregnant with me, she had an instinct that everything was going to be ok.

My parents now had two kids and only one income, so mom did everything she could to save money. She sewed most of our clothes and handmade many of our gifts; she canned enough food to last until the Second-Coming, she made her own dryer sheets, helped my dad raise rabbits in our backyard for meat and to sell (yes, so illegal and so white-trash); tended a full garden; kept a composting bin; and never bought anything new for herself.

My mom also made sure every holiday and birthday was special for us. Even now that we are adults, my mom still throws joint birthday parties for me and my sister (we were both born in December) complete with homemade invitations, balloons, streamers and our favorite home-cooked meal. For Christmas we always got to decorate home-made gingerbread cookies, leave lettuce out for the reindeer, open stockings full of our favorite treats, and then my exhausted parents loaded up the car with presents so we could make the rounds to all the relatives.

On Thanksgiving she spent days cooking and preparing for the big meal, made little paper turkeys to hold dinner mints and tried her best to run interference with my grandmother. Even on Easter she stayed up all night writing age-appropriate clues, hiding eggs and little presents, and making Easter baskets.

Finally, there were the millions of little things she did every day: she stayed up late gluing together school projects; attended countless (and doubtless painful) softball games, recitals and school plays; she braided hair; shopped for prom dresses; planned vacations; kept the house spotless despite the fact that we teased her mercilessly for being OCD; lost sleep over our bad boyfriend choices; lost sleep over our career choices; and now loses sleep over the grandkids.

I’m not sure how she functioned so well for so many years on so little sleep, but all I can say now is….thanks mom.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

More Videos

Ok, we've gone a tad video crazy. But we've downloaded a couple more from this past month or so. The others are under 15-18 months.

Here We Go Again!

If you haven't already heard the news, we are expecting baby part deux (the final act) early November! Just another month until we find out the gender (think girly thoughts for me), but in the meantime everything has been going well. It seemed every day dragged by with Emerson and we couldn't wait until he was born. This time we know what to expect, so 9 months seems to by flying by WAY too fast!!

I'm about 14.5 weeks right now, but I' m posting a blog from the first trimester. Warning - if you are very squeamish, you might want to skip this!

Like any good parent, my mom provided us with birth control by telling stories about how she spent most of her pregnancies (except with me – I was the good kid) hurling her guts out in unusual places. One story I remember well was when she threw up in a drinking fountain. This gave me the distinct impression that morning sickness, or all day sickness in her case, made you spontaneously throw up with little warning.

So when I got pregnant the first two times, I waited for the onslaught to set in any minute….but it never did. I got a little nauseous and extremely bitchy if I didn’t eat pronto (imagine the girl in the Exorcist), but never so much as a dry heave. I figured I must be one of those lucky women who just don’t get sick during pregnancy.

Or so I thought. This pregnancy has been very different from the beginning. I’m more exhausted than before, achier, I’m expanding at twice the speed, and I’m definitely more nauseous. I’ve only thrown up once, but I wish I could more - just to get temporary relief.

The worse thing for me about being this nauseous is that I become fixated on throwing up. All I can think about are synonyms for throwing up (of which there are many) or I conjure up images and feelings from past experiences. It’s as if I’m trying to push myself over the edge. I remember being sick with the stomach flu once and just lying in bed reenacting over and over the scene from “Wayne’s World” in which he lists many of those vivid synonyms. If I remember correctly, that eventually did the trick.

My mom has been trying to console me by saying it must be a girl because girls make you sicker. Robbie is trying to freak me out by saying it must be twins (not that twins are bad for patient moms like my friend Bethany, but they would be a bad idea for me!). And I am just trying to focus on the second trimester when it will hopefully come to an end.

In the meantime, I’m off to eat something that won’t make me gag – like the ice cream and jar of olives Robbie just bought me. Good man.