Friday, January 30, 2015

One of those women

I am one of those women.

You know the ones.

The ones that society pretty much ignores until something catastrophic happens and we end up on the news, the stories where everyone wonders what went wrong.

The ones that other people constantly tell to be happy, to enjoy this time, to just think positive, to be grateful for what we have.

The ones that make other people uncomfortable.

The ones that other people don't understand.

The ones that struggle enough with an internal dialogue, so much that the words of others just serve to reinforce what the voices in our heads are saying to us.

The ones misunderstood even by our doctors, the doctors that might ask us one time if we're okay as a passing part of an exam, usually in the same manner that they ask if we're still taking our vitamins as if that's good enough.

I'm one of those women fighting post partum depression every single day.

I'm one of those women that people condemn when something terrible happens, when they interview those closest to us and they all say that they had no idea that things were this bad or that there was no sign or that everything seemed fine from the outside.

They use words like crazy. Like homicidal. Like monster.

They don't know what it's like to be in my head.

There are women, so many women, just like me out there, fighting this beast back with a dull blade, exhausted and worn down. There is so little help out there, even less compassion and sympathy. What there is in ample supply is judgment.

She should have done this, she should have felt this. How could she (insert whatever here)?

I'd never do ______.

Our society is one that places the most extreme demands and expectations on mothers to be perfect at every single aspect of motherhood, from even before conception all the way through until our children are grown and raised. We have these impossible demands, these requirements that society imposes on us. To eat perfectly, to be pregnant ideally, to not suffer complications, to labor beautifully, to deliver naturally, to breastfeed easily, to bond immediately, to nurture constantly.

And we're all supposed to do it without help.

Without failing.

Without breaking under the pressure.

As much as this society of ours demands of us, places these unattainable expectations upon our shoulders, it expects us to be able to meet them almost always alone.

We don't support women the way that we should. We don't support new mothers. We schedule one postpartum visit six weeks after delivery and declare her healed just because the physical vessel has recovered.

What calls itself support out there is often judgment in disguise. Spend any time with any new group of moms and you'll know just what I mean. Instead of supporting one another, we are arguing, debating, judging, wagging fingers at each other, declaring what we would do in their shoes, insisting that we are right and they are wrong.

It isn't just society failing us, no.

We, as mothers, are failing each other.

Those of you out there who don't struggle with post partum mental conditions may be able to weather it, to let the words spoken by others to roll off your skin a little more easily.

Those of us who do struggle though, we may not always be able to do that. Our arms are tired from holding up the shield all the time. We are weary. We feel so alone. The words, they bite.

And we're afraid to talk to you about it, all you other mothers, because we're afraid you will judge us even more.

The ugly truth is that we only ever see maternal mental health in the news, on television, when it has reached a point of critical mass, when something horrific has happened.

That mother, the one being called a monster now, she needed help months or years prior. She needed a village, but what she got instead was a raging mob after the fact.

The portrayals on television, in movies, the stories of crisis in the news, they mislead. They paint an unfair picture of those of us who struggle because they only ever show the worst case scenario down the road. They don't show the mother who hasn't showered in three days, the one who stares at her screaming newborn across the room because she doesn't know how to make the baby stop crying. They don't show the woman curled up in a ball on the shower floor. They don't show the woman giving every reason under the sun to avoid leaving her house, justifying her isolation because she just can't do it. They don't show the woman who wants to tell her doctor that something is wrong, but holds back in that moment out of fear.

We need to do better, as a society, as women, as mothers. We need to take better care of ourselves and each other.

To do that, we need to admit that this happens far more often than most people realize. Then we need to confront the fact that most of what we believe about post partum depression is wrong. We need to understand that the images we are fed are misleading.

Postpartum depression looks like me.


We need to have an open dialogue about these conditions, what they are really like for most of us, instead of only believing that they need to be addressed when we go off the rails. We need to be supported instead of judged, and we need it long before it gets to that point.

We need to not be fed misinformation on the screen, misinformation that only serves to perpetuate the stigma.

There are far more of us crying on the floor in the shower than there ever will be who end up in those horrific news stories. We need a society that understands that, that doesn't think the extremes are indicative of what most of us experience, that doesn't judge us and call us names. We need a society that encourages us to get the help that we need, that encourages all women to speak out about the battles they fight, that doesn't make us believe we have to do this alone.

My name is Kelly. I am a mother of five. I have post partum depression. I struggle every single day.

I am one of those women.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Can We Not?

I'm in a weird place. I should just tell you that right from the beginning here. There's so very much going on inside my head right now. As my daughter would say, you don't even want to know because it's scary in there.

I'm struggling with post partum depression but even more so with anxiety right now. I am at a point where I'm barely leaving the house and I'm completely okay with that...which is more concerning than anything else honestly.

I like it here in my cave.

I'm not writing much these days for a few reasons. The main reason is that I'm just too busy with everything involved with taking care of a newborn again. Since I know that he is my last one, I'm really sitting with it, all of it. Drinking it in, the good, the bad and the ugly, because I know that I'll never be here again. He wants me to just hold him while he cries sometimes, and I get that.

Sometimes I just want someone to hold me while I cry.

Here's this. For no reason other than it makes me happy.
I'm busy and distracted, sure, but it's more than that. I'm questioning why I'm writing these days, wondering what the point of this all is. It doesn't help that it's tax time, the time of year when I get the inevitable "how much did you make writing last year?" question that reminds me just how little this profession pays at times.

I need to work on my books.

But I have the attention span of a gnat right now. I can't focus on anything. Throw in all the uncertainty going on in my life right now, and it's a wonder that I get a shower on the days that I do.

The baby has taken to insisting that he hold my hand when he is nursing, which I am fine with. It's sweet and lovely and is firmly rooting our bond even more. It just makes it even less likely that I can ever be online because I used to scan Facebook and update my page when he was nursing.

In the few moments I've had to actually read anything online (because there's no way I have time to write most days), I've just wanted to throw things. So many of the stories and blog posts and articles I'm seeing make me angry. Some of them hurt in ways that I haven't even fully identified.

There's this epidemic of mommy wars posts again, some of which is being perpetuated by the measles outbreak currently happening. I'll save you my long diatribe on the subject, but suffice to say that my children (even the one who reacts to vaccines) are fully vaccinated, that herd immunity is actually a thing, that the fact that immunized people can still contract disease doesn't imply that the vaccines don't work, that measles can have some devastating side effects, that there are children out there who rely on herd immunity for protection because they cannot be immunized (like my youngest child who is too young, like cancer patients, like children with allergies to components, like kids with autoimmune disorders). I have a long background in patient advocacy and autonomy, but I've also studied public health and epidemiology. Sometimes your health isn't just about you or your children or your family. Period.

Anyway, the mommy wars are in full swing again. Normally, I can tune them out pretty well, but since I'm right in the thick of PPD, it's rattling my cage. I'm sick to death of these posts about what we should do and how we should feel and how we should parent. I'm sick to death of people chastising others for doing things differently. I'm sick of women declaring in one breath that they support all mothers, but in the next insulting some of them categorically. I'm sick to death of people believing that their opinions should rightfully be imposed on other people.

No, we aren't all going to be happy all the time.

No, we aren't all going to have this glorious maternal instinct thing kick in immediately.

No, we aren't all going to bond with our babies instantly.

No, we aren't all going to.

Stop acting like we're supposed to, like we've somehow failed if we don't.

There is a fundamental difference between sharing your story and your experiences and your anecdotes and what worked for your family and acting as though any of that should hold relevance for others. Just because something worked for you does not under any circumstances mean that it would be the right choice for someone else.

It's not about you.

I promise.

Stop telling me how I should or shouldn't feel about every single goddamn aspect of parenting.

Can we not insist that other mothers mother the way we do?

There was a post last week or the week before that kept floating by my newsfeed about the relationship that mothers have with their adult children. I saw it shared more than once, and I finally gave in and read it. It was one of those posts that you could just tell was complete and utter bullshit, but then I'd guess you'd only be able to see that if you'd lived through something similar.

Essentially, it was written by the mother of adult children who've distanced themselves from her. About how she tried, how she did her best, how she doesn't understand why they won't talk to her.

Huh.

I have some ideas.

Those who haven't been through this shit seem to believe that the choice to cut someone out of your life, particularly your mother, is a decision that anyone can arrive at lightly and arbitrarily. That is most certainly not the case. I know because I lived it. I was put in the position, by my mother, of having to choose between my children and her. I wasn't there of my own volition, I didn't want to be there, I wish I'd never been there. I wish I had an uncomplicated and happy relationship with her rife with adequate boundaries and unconditional love and the things that parent/child duos are supposed to have.

I didn't get that.

A lot of us didn't.

Don't insist that I'm somehow damaged or flawed or at fault for the circumstances of that relationship. We're born into the families we are born into, we don't get to choose that, just like we don't get to choose the mental illnesses that run through our family trees, we don't get to choose whether someone is a narcissist or borderline. We don't.

How about this? How about instead of categorically agreeing with clearly slanted posts such as that one, the one written by the mother who just couldn't fathom why her kids had cut her out, how about we give them the benefit of the doubt for at least a moment? How about we recognize that we're only getting one side of a story?

Says the girl who has been disowned by half her family because of this exact kind of situation in which no benefit of the doubt was ever extended.

Life isn't simple. It's rarely ever black and white, but shades of gray make people uncomfortable. It's easier to vilify others. It's easier to say that what we know is true and right and what others do or think is wrong.

It's just unfair and inaccurate.

Can we not make assumptions about people based on one version of a tale?

Can you tell that I'm sick of feeling like I need to defend myself?

I am.

And maybe that's why I'm okay with not writing right now.

Speaking of which, I'm being paged. The baby needs me...and right now, I need that.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Four Minute Lifetime

Heh. This should be interesting.

I've been intrigued by this article published recently about how there appear to be a set of questions, that when asked to someone else, can make someone fall in love with you.

I decided to go through the questions on my Facebook page, and you can see some of the answers if you head on over there. One of them requires a person to tell the other (presumably a stranger, or at least someone you aren't currently romantically involved with) person as much as you can about your life story in four minutes.

Since the online platform isn't conducive to speaking directly to people (and lord knows I'm not making a video right now), I figured this was the best way to do it.



So. My life story. In four minutes.

I was born in Southern California in 1977, exactly 11 months after my parents were married, on my due date. I was named after Jaclyn Smith's character on Charlie's Angels. My brother arrived the following year. We had a dog named Starsky and a cat named Hutch because clearly my parents liked to watch a lot of TV. 

My room was painted Kelly green and my favorite toy was Kermit the Frog. I dressed him up like a baby and refused to play with dolls like a normal kid. I was reading at 2 years old and skipped first grade. They wanted me to advance faster but my parents refused because they wanted me to be normal (insert maniacal laughter here).

I got kicked out of Catholic school in the fourth grade and went to a school for gifted and talented kids after that. I was marginally less bored, but only got more awkward. I loathed junior high school until I found a group of friends that accepted me. I screwed that up, then mostly hated high school until I met the guy who would become my husband someday in driver's ed class in 10th grade.

We went to different colleges in different cities but managed to stay together and got married right after graduation. I finished law school even though I should have dropped out after he was diagnosed with cancer and I lost the first baby because my priorities had been irreversibly changed. I have a mountain (literally) of debt that I will probably carry to my grave as a result. My worst decision ever was staying in school.

My son was born three days after I graduated from law school and I'm out of time.

HEY! I got pretty far and probably told you some things you didn't know. And I type fast...lol.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the RSVP edition

There's kind of a lot this week, you guys. I posted the weekly TTPMOT rant on my Facebook page this week, as I've done for....at this point....years now, and had to add a disclaimer about how it's okay for people to vent and to let them without criticizing them, that venting is healthy as long as it isn't all you do. Really?

Yes, really. I had to add that little disclaimer because it seems that every week lately when I post that thread on the great book of face, someone has to tell me that it's stupid to vent or has to give someone crap for what they are whining about or has to tell everyone to think positive or has to try and one-up whatever everyone else is dealing with and claim that no one else has real problems because they have to deal with ______ (fill in the blank).

Jaysus, people. Everything is relative. What might be minuscule for you might be overwhelming for someone else.

Anyhow, on to the things pissing me off....other than that, obvs.


Taking Dignity Away
Last week a church here in Colorado made nationwide news, and not for a good reason. Vanessa Collier passed away and her family arranged to have her funeral at the church. As people began to file into the church for the service, the church abruptly said that they wouldn't be able to hold the services there and moved the funeral across the street to a funeral home.

The reason? Vanessa was a lesbian and her family intended to show a video photo montage that included images of her and her partner. The church had asked the family to remove the images and they refused, saying that they weren't about to edit her life.

This story makes me sick to my stomach. This woman was used to make a point in her death, and that's just wrong. I'm so sick of people using religion as a weapon against others, even in their death.

The Price of Friendship
In this week's edition of adults fucking things up for their kids, we have this story. A mother, pissed off that a father had rsvp'd to her child's party but didn't come, elected to send him an invoice. A bill. For non-attendance. They refused to pay and now the mother is actually threatening to take them to small claims court.

I so wish I was kidding.

There are so very many things wrong with this whole jacked up situation, but let me see if I can summarize my feelings on the matter.

First, no one owes you a damn thing. No one owes your kid a damn thing. If you're so hard up for birthday party funds that you are billing people who don't show, maybe you should re-evaluate your birthday party budget.

Second, people not rsvp'ing to parties is annoying, yes. Sometimes people say they are coming but end up not being able to make it for one reason or another. Shit happens.

Third, you've officially made it almost impossible for your kid to have normal friends because all the parents in a 50 mile radius of you will be leery as hell, and for good reason.

When did society become one so deep rooted in entitlement? For fucks sake.

Jury Selection Begins Today
Jury selection in the James Holmes trial begins today, and the whole thing is unnecessary. A plea deal has been on the table for a good long time now, one that the prosecutor refused. Holmes was willing to plead guilty and be sentenced to life in prison. His only stipulation was that the death penalty be taken off the table.

The prosecutor refused.

The state of Colorado is damn close to ending the use of the death penalty as it is. It is rarely ever used, and the cases where it has been applied aren't without ample controversy. It costs more to put a convict to death than to house them for the rest of their lives, as much as some people refuse to believe that truth.

Look, I used to freaking work for the District Attorney in Los Angeles. I'm all in favor of justice. What I'm not in favor of, though, are misplaced attempts to seek justice, especially when they appear politically motivated. 

Holmes will never be put to death by the state, that much I can guarantee you. He's willing to just take life. Instead, the DA is pursuing the death penalty in a case that is certain to cost the state millions and millions of dollars to prosecute. No conviction is guaranteed at trial, especially since he is claiming insanity. Jurors will be asked to serve for months. The entire situation will be rehashed in that court room over and over again, forcing all the families to relive the events of that day.

Instead, because of an ill-advised insistence that seeking the death penalty is the only acceptable means to justice, we'll be wasting a ton of money.

American Sniper
I haven't read the book. I haven't seen the movie.

I'm not here to opine on either.

I'm disappointed that the response to the movie has divided people even more in this country, that it seems to have bolstered this belief that certain ethnic groups, certain nationalities, certain religions are inherently evil somehow.

I wish, oh how I wish, that the movie hadn't just attempted to humanize one man, to simplify him in order to solidify his persona as a hero. He was far more complicated and some of those complications should disturb us.

More than that, I wish people were talking about military mental health right now, about the PTSD that killed him, about how little we seem to care about soldiers when they return home, about the fact that it is possible to both support soldiers and be opposed to the wars they fight and die in.

There is an opportunity to do good here. We should be doing that instead of arguing.

Monday, January 19, 2015

30 Days of Quotes about Life - Martin Luther King, Jr.

If ever you needed evidence of my inability to finish things, just look at one of my post series for evidence. The quote series is one of my personal favorites, though it seems to be hit or miss when it comes to my readers. Some of you love this stuff. Some of you can't stand it. 

I get that. Really, I do. 

I pick the quotes I pick for my own set of reasons, most of which totally depend on the place I'm at mentally on any given day.

The quote I am choosing today is one chosen for a fairly obvious reason. It's Martin Luther King, Jr. day. It only makes sense to focus on the wisdom of his words today.

I've done so in the past, choosing my personal favorite of his quotes the last time I wrote in this series. You can find that post here, where I discuss the following quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

Today, I'll choose another. There are so many.

This one.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 



I've been thinking about this quote a lot lately, for a few reasons. On SNL this weekend, they did a skit about MLK and what he'd think about activism and protest, about his legacy and the progress we've made. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is. 



Comedy has a way of telling so many truths. 

I wonder what he'd think if he was here to see our society today. I can't help but think he'd be disappointed. 

Anyhow, on to this particular quote.

His words sting a bit because they hold so much truth in them, truths that have been revealed many times in the recent past.

This quote is one that captures so many of my personal motivations in life, why I do what I do, especially with this particular platform. I talk about the things that other people would often prefer I didn't. I discuss topics that many would rather ignore. I shine the light on the ugly truths. I point out injustices, urge people to see things from a different perspective than their own. Even when it's wildly unpopular. Even when my doing so carries consequences.

I do it because silence is dangerous. 

Silence is dangerous because of how powerful it is. 

If we stop standing up for what we believe is right and fair and true in this world, if we allow our voices to be silenced, if we stop advocating because it's too hard or will invite criticism or whatever our reasons are...who will then do it?

Having opinions and expressing them publicly opens people up to attacks and criticism, for sure. There are times that I really do struggle with pressing that publish button, but I almost always do it because I feel like I have to, like I am morally compelled to do it. 

In this current environment, one where those on the fringes attack anyone who disagrees, we need to remember that fairness and justice generally lie somewhere in the middle.

The voice of reason cannot be heard if it never speaks. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

just about perfect

I had a small epiphany today, as I was lying in bed nursing him, my last child. His bright blue eyes staring up at me, his latch interrupting every so often to coo at me and smile as the milk drips from the corner of his mouth.


Our love, our relationship is just about perfect right now.

It is.

I'm tired and worn out at times, touched out and exhausted. Thanks to his reflux, we both usually smell at least faintly like curdled milk. There are times that I want nothing more in the world to just be untouched and left alone to sleep or just exist in my own space for a moment. There are times that he wants nothing in the world more than for me to just hold him while he cries.

It's draining.

And yet, it's simple.

This is as easy as it is ever going to be between us. He cries and I can interpret what he needs. I can calm him with just my voice. He folds up just so in the crook of my neck and falls asleep.

It's just about perfect the way it is right now in this moment.

And I know that it won't stay that way.

I know because I've done this before. I've had these babies who consumed all my time and energy when they were this little, but then grew up and away from me. I've had the sweet little voices rage at me, been told they hated me.

There have been times, so many times that I wondered what I am doing wrong, that I've thought that I'm failing them terribly as a mother. There have been the late nights filled with worry, the moments in parked cars where I broke down in heaving sobs.

The parent child relationship doesn't get easier from here.

I know because my own relationship with my parents only grew more and more complicated as I grew older.

Eventually, with my father, things grew simple again, especially once he knew he was dying. For some people, but not all people, facing mortality has that effect. It makes you discard with all the trivialities, with all the impediments to the relationships you want to have. It makes it simple again. It did for us, and for that, I am grateful.

With my mother, that was never the case. Our interactions only ever grew exponentially more complicated until one day when she was just gone.

A part of my soul believes, and needs to believe, that she and I were this simple back then, that we were this connected, that our relationship was just about perfect once long ago.

At least I want to believe that.

Believing that soothes my soul.

I know that this time I have with him, my last, is borrowed. I know it is fleeting.

I know that time will pass faster than I wish for it to. I know that I will blink and he will be as tall as I am, reaching his arms out towards adolescence. I know this because I've blinked before.

I am fortunate to have the wisdom of my prior mothering journeys to calm the doubt, to allay my fears to some degree. I feel more at ease with the mechanics of it all because I've been here before. There are perks to being a veteran mother. I long ago learned to trust my instincts, and once you do that, mothering is less encumbered.

I can just soak in the moments instead, with him, my last baby.

Things won't stay this simple for long, I know this much is true. Right now, it's just about perfect, and I'm breathing it in deep for as long as I can.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the past is watching edition....

I has the sads today.

Sometimes it just happens.

I learned a while back that I have to let myself have these moments so they don't fester in the deep dark recesses of my brain.

I hate the middle of January, and I hate it right on through mid February. There are so many days on the calendar between now and then that hold memories of losses, of people gone, of the one I never met.

It's probably a good thing that this sequence of days falls this time of year, because I can just hibernate in my cave until it passes.

Anyway, it's Tuesday. Let's get angry.


Mental Illness
I hate mental illness. I really do. I hate all the things I struggle with, I hate why so many of them developed. I had one of those good, cleansing ugly cries in the shower today. Some of you might know what I am talking about.

You know...those moments where you know on some level that you wouldn't have all the wisdom you do, you wouldn't be who you are now if not for all the shitty things you've been through in the past. You know that, but then sometimes the enormity of it all catches up to you and you want to wish at least some of it away. You start negotiating with your past about which pieces of wisdom you'd voluntarily forgo having if it meant that you didn't have to remember this or that or the other thing.

So then after you cry it out in the shower, you confront the crappy reality that is this life and take a deep breath, then get out of the shower all pruned over and wrinkly and put on your eyeliner so that no one knows you've been ugly crying.

That.

Posturing and Terrorism
There are so many things about the past few weeks in this arena that I could never hope to discuss them all, so I'm honestly not going to even try. I'm not CNN or BBC or Al Jazeera or any other news outlet. I hope that you all seek out news sources, I hope that you don't just rely on any one place for your information because reality is that you can't anymore. News agencies pick and choose, spin and slant what they tell us. It's hard to know what is real these days, discern between the truth and the smoke and mirrors.

Anyway, I have a few general points that I want to make, then we'll be moving on.

First, if we're going to protect speech, we need to protect all speech...even and especially the things we don't like. That means that you have to support your enemy's right to say what they want if you want your rights protected too. There are very few limits on the freedom of speech in this country, at least as far as the amendment is concerned...but that applies in so many fewer instances than most people understand. The major networks, the major internet pages, the social networks...they all (it seems anymore) engage in their own forms of censorship. It's not technically a first amendment issue if the government isn't involved. I oppose censorship...and I understand that while you might have the freedom to say what you wish, you cannot expect to insulate yourself from the effects of that speech.

Second, to piggyback on my first point, we need to stop with the sweeping generalizations and demonization of certain groups of people. I'm sick to death of hearing about the color of the skin of a terrorist or the religion they believe in. The media is perpetuating this us versus them mentality. Terror comes from all places in the world and has at least at one point or another been rooted in all major religions. The current climate is flirting dangerously with the sentiments of the past...imagined superiority, categorical perceived dangers and so on. Tread lightly, world. The past is watching.

Third, we need to stop with the goddamn unchecked emotional responses to everything. We need to replace this immediate outrage everyone seems hell bent on with a little bit of time and thought and reason and rationality.

Fourth, I believe that the US should have had a representative there in Paris...but those who are faulting the administration for our absence would have lashed out at the President if we had sent someone. The guy can't win. Period. He's literally damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Seriously. At this point, Obama could pull a page out of the most conservative GOP handbook and run it play by play and they'd still be grabbing their pitchforks, condemning him on cable news.

All the other stuff
There are a few other things that I intended to include today, but I think I'll be devoting entire posts to them, hopefully this week. One of the subjects I'll be talking about is the issue of parent and child autonomy when it comes to medical decision making, from a legal and ethical standpoint.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Attachment Parenting as Children Grow Up

Attachment Parenting is one of the concepts in the world of parenthood that elicits the biggest emotional response. Just the mere mention of the phrase tends to be a conversation starter, and it seems inevitable that someone will eventually get upset about something, take something personally, get offended and get angry.

Ironic, considering that the whole point of attachment parenting is to be gentle.

I was asked to write about what attachment parenting looks like as children get older, which I will in a bit here, but I first wanted to say a few things more generally.

First, I don't usually refer to myself as an attachment parent even though I absolutely am one. I don't use the phrase for a few reasons. I detest labels in general and I try to avoid using them in regards to parenting even more than ordinary because of the divisiveness.

Second, I don't necessarily think that anyone needs to adhere to all the ideas of AP to be an attachment parent, if that makes sense. I don't believe for one second that AP is a contest where the parents who can check off the most boxes of compliance wins. I look at it more as a whole approach to parenting, which may or may not mean that certain aspects of it fit in to one family lifestyle. The exclusion of some aspects doesn't negate the rest, doesn't mean they don't use the AP approach.

There are some people who believe that the only way to AP is completely, that if you aren't breastfeeding, cloth diapering, co-sleeping and babywearing you aren't AP. I disagree. While there are certainly parents who do all those things, myself included, they aren't required.

There's not a test.

This is not a contest.

You have to do what works for you and your child and your family unit in your circumstances. Period.

With all that said, I wanted to talk about what AP really is, versus this belief that it's just about breastfeeding and co-sleeping. AP is about fostering a strong parent/child connection more than anything else. It's about laying a firm foundation of trust and support. It's about making sure that the child feels safe and that their needs are addressed. It's about taking cues from them, waiting for them to be ready for new experiences and nurturing them along the way.

There are many who criticize AP, claiming that it creates children who are overly dependent on their parents or that it is too permissive of an approach. Some claim that it makes kids clingy, that it gives them too much control over the family unit. Some say it places too many demands on the parents.

I tend to take sweeping criticisms of anything with a grain of salt. There are degrees to every aspect of AP, just as there are to any parenting approach. While some families may utilize every aspect of AP to an extreme, most don't. Most take what works and use it how it best suits their family, discarding the rest. It's going to look a little different in every house. In fact, there are probably a good portion of parents out there that use AP strategies, but don't even realize that there is a label for it.

Some of this stuff is just instinct driven. In fact, I would argue that most of it is.

Instinct has never been tied to a clock or a calendar.

When you look at the actual intentions of AP, it's fairly easy to see how they'd apply to older kids as well as infants, just as it is fairly easy to see how there is no requirement of strict adherence to any one portion. For example, it's absolutely possible to bottle feed a child and still use this approach - one that relies on feeding cues from the child, nurtures healthy choices, promotes bonding. It's absolutely possible to AP in separate sleeping spaces. And so on.

Without getting into every nuance and aspect of AP, I wanted to just write a little bit about what we have done and do, and why we've chosen to parent our children this way.

When I say "we", I mean my husband and myself, united as a team in this approach. There have been times that we've been met with opposition from friends or family members about some of our choices, and it's been important to us that we are on the same page.

Tell me that this isn't sexy.
I dare you.
Before our oldest child was born, we read all the books, trying to be as prepared as possible. I planned to try and breastfeed, but didn't really have strong opinions about it either way. I was not breastfed, no one in my family nursed and the expectation was that we would bottle feed. That changed, in all honesty, mostly because our son was born premature. In the NICU it is hard not to feel powerless as a parent when your child is connected to machines to keep them alive. I couldn't do anything to help him, I couldn't even hold him. But I could start pumping. I could make milk for him. My motivation to nurse grew with each day he was in there. It was not an easy process, but by the time he was discharged, I was committed to make it work.

The oldest weaned at just over a year old, mostly because he was just busy and uninterested, but also because I succumbed to pressure from family to transition him away from it. They kept telling me he was too old, and eventually I gave up. By the time his sister arrived, I had become more resolute in my determination. She nursed until she was just over 2, weaning while I was pregnant with her sister. The next two nursed for over 3 years each. This baby will, in all likelihood, nurse for at least that long as well.

If anyone out there reading has criticism for me about extended breastfeeding, just know that I stopped caring what anyone else thinks about that a long time ago. The WHO recommends two years. The norm around the world is to nurse well into toddlerhood. For whatever reason in this country, people have a distorted view of breastfeeding as some kind of sexualized practice, which it is not. It's providing nourishment and comfort to a child, nothing more, nothing less.

As for our sleep arrangements, it's a loaded issue. Pediatricians have wagged their fingers at parents for well over a generation now, telling us that if we sleep with our children, they can die of SIDS...which isn't exactly true. In fact, the opposite has been found to be true. Co-sleeping and nursing is actually protective. What is dangerous is when parents co-sleep in unsafe ways. Instead of telling parents not to do it, the medical community should be educating parents about how to do it safely. 

Not everyone can or should co-sleep. It doesn't work for all families. Some kids need their own space, some parents do. Whatever works for your family, works. As long as everyone is comfortable and sleeping, that's really all that should matter.

When we were new parents, we tried desperately to follow the rules. We always tried to put the baby back in the crib, which only resulted in frustrating sleepless nights. We even attempted sleep training once, mostly because we felt like we were supposed to do it. Neither of us could go through with it.

It was just easier to have them sleep with us.

As they have aged, the kids sleep away from us almost all the time unless someone is sick or has a nightmare. They all are known to snuggle up with us in the morning, though. You'd be surprised how many warm bodies can fit in a queen sized bed. These days, some of our best conversations take place on lazy weekend mornings, cuddled in there together.

We were told by everyone it seemed that we were spoiling the kids, that they'd never be able to sleep alone, that we'd never get them out of our room, that we'd never have time for intimacy. Lots of "nevers". None of those things came to fruition.

Attachment parenting looks a little different with older kids, for sure, but the basic ideas still exist. Here is some of what we do.

We engage with the kids in their activities with intention. What I mean by that is that we take a personal role in the things they are interested in, whether it is leading scouts, coaching a sports team or taking up a new hobby to share it with them. We strive to understand whatever it is they are interested in, even and especially when it isn't something we already enjoy doing.

We have always focused on the importance of family dinners. We often cook together too. This gets harder and harder to do as they get older and are involved in more sports and other activities, but we make a point to eat dinner together at the table as frequently as possible. No television, no phones, no electronic devices allowed at the table.

We have family game nights. We do this pretty often and rotate who gets to choose which games we play. They all have different favorites, they all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the games. Many of the games we play are cooperative ones, requiring teamwork among the players. (If you are interested, some of the ones we play most frequently are Forbidden Island, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Flash Point and Betrayal at House on the Hill) We've found that these type of games are excellent for developing team strategies, cooperation and building relationships among the kids as they learn about each others abilities.

We choose the books and movies and stories that our children are exposed to with intention. We don't generally censor much around here, within reason, and we use the media as a jumping off point for conversations. We don't shy away from difficult subjects, we talk about them instead. Every so often, something the kids will say will blow me out of the water a bit as a result. We watched Braveheart with them for the first time a few weeks ago, and they all made observations about torture and execution, about the unfairness of what transpired. They questioned whether things like that still happen today.

We talk to them about difficult subjects. When there was recently a series of suicides locally, we discussed depression with them, we talked about being a supportive friend, we talked about making sure that they know where to go for help. As a parent, often our guts tell us to shield them from the ugly truths about life, but we know we aren't doing them any favors if we try to do that. We want them instead to know that they can come to us with anything, that we will always be here.

We embrace who they are. We don't try to push them to the activities or classes or interests we wish for them. We hold back, let them explore what they are interested in and support them. When they fall out of love with something, we have them honor any commitments made, then allow them to bow out and try something new. We don't tease them for their interests, we don't mock the things they like. We may not always understand it, but we try.

We make sure that each of us as parents has special time with each of them apart and away from the other members of the family. It can get complicated and difficult to do this with as many kids as we have, but in some ways it makes it even more important that we do it. Even something as simple and mundane as a trip to the hardware store can become a special treat (especially when you're a six year old boy).

We pay attention to their comfort zones. They are all different in this respect. Some of them are social butterflies always ready for new experiences, some of them are more restrained and cautious. We don't push anyone to do anything they aren't ready for, and when they are ready, if they need us to wait in the wings, we do it. Especially with the older kids, sometimes all they need is to know you're there, even if they don't "need" you. There is a quote somewhere about how 90% of life is just showing up. The same could easily be said for parenting teenagers. Sometimes they just need to know that if they glance around the room, you'll be looking back at them.

We have special phrases and messages that we say to one another. We have nicknames for the kids that generally are only used at home, and done so with affection. We kiss everyone goodnight, we hug, we cuddle on the couch. With this many people around, you're bound to always be touching someone in this house.

We set high expectations for them, but those expectations are based on their individual abilities. We don't expect or demand the same things from all the kids because they are all different people. What works for one won't work for another. What is a reasonable goal for one might be unattainable for another. We stay flexible, and we let them screw up. We just help fix it afterwards.

I am sure that there are other points I'm intending to make here but am missing, but it seems I've already written a very long post about this. If any of you have specific questions or would like to add something, please feel free to do so in the comments.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the catching up edition

It's been three weeks since I wrote a rant here, so brace yourselves. I have some catching up to do. There's a lot to cover.


The $200,000 British Baby Bill
A British couple came here on vacation, their last big trip before their baby was due this Spring, something that many couples choose to do before everything changes with the addition of a newborn. As babies sometimes do, though, the baby opted to arrive much earlier than planned and was born here in the United States instead of back home. The couple was told that the baby would have to spend several months in the hospital, and that the bills would likely be well over $200,000 when all was said and done.

The story made headlines, many of which were actually a bit misleading. The actual financial issue for their specific situation has been settled, apparently, but there is a piece of it all that seems to be missing from the dialogues going on. While most people seem to be worried about the supposed injustice of having a baby on foreign soil and being expected to pay for it, there is a much bigger issue here - the fact that thousands of families here in the United States declare bankruptcy every year because of medical bills.

Even the so-called not for profit hospitals are pursuing patients relentlessly for payment of bills that could be discharged, that arguably should be discharged, that are supposed to be discharged as part of their agreement with the IRS to provide charity care in exchange for their tax exempt status.

We need to talk about that.

Our system is broken. This couple, had they been back home, would have had the delivery and the stay paid for by the government provided insurance. That system, unlike ours, is one of universal health care.

We labor under a delusion here that the free market is the best way to deliver something essential to survival. We fall for the lie that profit incentives can be trusted when it comes to life or death situations. We imagine a world where individuals are adequately risk averse and carry (and can afford) the insurance that they need. We know all too well that medical care is too damned expensive, that some people just simply cannot afford it, but still insist that the system is better than one where everyone would be covered automatically.

Anyway, I could go on forever about this. But I won't. Because there is other stuff to rant about today. Besides, I'm far more concerned with the citizens who live here being hounded to death over hospital bills than I ever will be with one family who accidentally had a baby while on vacation.

The Lady at the Health Food Store
A few days ago, a friend posted this link on my page and asked me to write about it. Fine. I'll be your Huckleberry. Basically, the article is about a woman shopping in a health food store while being ridiculed by another shopper for being overweight.

If you read the post, which you should, you'll see what all happened and how she responded.

Things like this piss me off. SO MUCH.

They piss me off because I've been there. I've been mocked, made fun of by an oblivious asshole who seemed to think that just because I carry a few more pounds on my frame than she believed that I should made me fair game, an easy target. I may be fat, but I'm not deaf.

I can lose the weight, but you'll always be an asshole.

In my particular situation, I was pointed out as an example of "bad" fat by a mother to her child. How sweet.

What that bitch didn't realize was that I'd finally made my trek out to the pool that morning for the first time in months after losing my first child. I was overweight to begin with, I had gained weight while I was pregnant, and I had gained in the months afterwards too. I was struggling just to function. I was mourning. I was deep in the thick of trying to get pregnant again, every month another reminder that it wasn't working.

I was a mess. A fat mess. But for some godforsaken reason, I decided to go to the pool that morning to lay in the sun, just to have her make fun of me, use me as an example to her 6 or 7 year old daughter.

This. This is why I hate humans sometimes.

It's been 14 years and it still hurts.

Don't make fun of people. Don't judge what you don't know. Don't believe for one second that someone's physical appearance is all you need to know to understand their situation. Don't use strangers as lessons for your children. Don't believe that the number on a scale is somehow equivalent to your worth as a person. Just don't.

The Thin Blue Line
I've been wanting to write about this for weeks, but haven't. I haven't for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I have many friends and family members in law enforcement. I worked for the district attorney. I fully support law enforcement and fully believe that the vast majority of people working in it are good, honest people doing the best they can in a dangerous profession. Having said that, the NYPD officers turning their backs on the Mayor, refusing to do their jobs...it just pisses me off.

Yes, those who work in this profession risk their lives every single day. Yes, they are being unfairly targeted right now. Yes, there were two officers killed in NYC just for wearing the uniform.

No one is questioning any of that.

Police work is hard work. Dangerous work.

To believe though that those deaths are the fault of the mayor, or the president, or anyone protesting is wrong. The mayor has mixed race children, and it's well within his rights as a parent to be concerned about profiling. Profiling very much so exists. To wave it off, to say it doesn't, to dismiss it is perpetrating the injustice.

Professionals should act like it, and I believe that law enforcement is a profession. If some within the profession are acting in ways unbecoming to the profession, that needs to be addressed. You don't see every other doctor in the country automatically running to the defense of those who commit malpractice, demanding that society turn a blind eye. The other doctors don't summarily refuse to do their job.

No. They don't. When someone in your profession screws up, you should want it to be dealt with. You should want others in your profession to operate at the highest standards. You should want them to be fair and just and treat others equally, and you should want all those things because their failings reflect on the entire profession.


It isn't just the solidarity of the officers standing in the way of progress here, it's the media as well. The media is implying that every interaction between officers and civilians is racially motivated now, as the direct result of the unsettled nature of police interaction, even when it isn't at all. Just yesterday, two officers were shot at during the pursuit of a robbery suspect. That's the danger of doing the job, not anything related to race.

Instead of saying that two officers were fired on while pursuing a suspect, though, the early reports by the media just said two officers were fired upon, leaving the biases of the populace to fill in the blanks. It's wrong. Period. It only adds fuel to the fire and it needs to stop.

Monday, January 5, 2015

where my mind is.

I haven't written anything in a few weeks. Ordinarily, this would upset me, my lack of focus and organization and diligence. Normally, I'd be beating myself up about not coming here and honing my craft.

I promised myself nearly six years ago when I began this writing journey that I would write every day for at least an hour.

I kept that promise for a while.

I kept it even when I refused to let myself write the only words that wanted out of my head.

I kept it even when writing was excruciating.

I kept it even when I was attacked for what I wrote.

Until I didn't.

Until life told me that it was okay to take a break, that sometimes I needed the space, that there was as much therapy in not writing sometimes as there is in doing it.

This break, it hasn't bothered me.

Perhaps that is because I'm just in a different place now. I still have those looming goals, the books left unfinished. I'll be trying to make my way back to them soon. I stopped working on them over a year ago for much the same reason that I stopped going to therapy (at the behest of my therapist, mind you). The reason?

It was too emotionally draining to keep doing it. 

I needed to focus on my health and my happiness, and I needed to not revisit the places from where those stories came for a while.

Instead, I focused on the blog. On photography. On other things. I made new commitments to writing for others.

I did all that until the newest member of my family arrived and changed things even more. That's the funny thing about children. They all change everything. Each and every one of them.

Yes, the mechanics of parenting get easier. The skill set involved is well honed in my house. The addition of a newborn didn't require me to learn new things per se, but it required me to learn him.

He is as unique and special and different as they all are. He's changed the dynamics of every relationship in the house. His needs and his wants are different than any of the rest of us.

Their interactions, the ones between him and the rest of the kids, between him and my husband, all vastly different than anything we've ever experienced before.

Even my interactions with him feel different.

You would think that having done this as many times as we have, there wouldn't be much change.

I thought there wouldn't be this much change.

I was wrong.

One of the great many things he has changed is my relationship towards writing. I don't get much time to even touch the computer these days. When I do have time, I'm usually unloading all the thoughts that have been backing up in my brain for however long since I was last able to let them out. To me, it comes across as messy and disorganized.

But I don't have time to edit, so I don't.

That used to bother me.

It doesn't so much anymore.

I'm at this place in life where I'm really just that comfortable in my own skin, in this persona of mine. This is me, take me or leave me, imperfections and all.

One of the reasons that I've been content not to write lately is that I'm spending a lot of time in my head. Every so often, the past rears up on its hind legs and reminds me that it is there. I have so many things to contend with, so many different types of issues, it gets to be overwhelming.

The PTSD, it comes frequently. This time of year is hard for me in that department because it holds so many days of relevance. I'm in a much, much better place with it all these days. The memories aren't as vivid. The nightmares haven't come back. The insomnia, for the most part, stays away. The triggers, though, they are there, even if they aren't as crippling and disabling as they once were.

The PPD, it lingers. It's nothing compared to what I battled before, but it's there. Every so often the intrusive thoughts sneak in. They leave almost as fast as they come though, and I've not obsessed about them at all...which is something for which I am so very grateful.

My anxiety isn't so bad, though there is a piece of it mixing in with the PPD. The irrational fears that I know are irrational but haunt me anyway. I know they aren't something that I should be occupying my energy with, I do. The thing about anxiety though (as with any mental health condition), the thing that people who don't struggle don't understand, is that it's not rational.

It's not rational.

I know that. 

It doesn't matter, it happens anyway.

I can't just not worry about things. I'm not built that way. If I could just wish it away, just stop doing it, don't you think I would?

Hell, that could be said about a lot of things in my life.

I haven't written since before Christmas. It was probably better that I didn't. The few times that I tapped into my emotions over the holidays, I retreated into my personal cave and stayed there a while.

I miss my parents. I miss them in ways that I never anticipated.

I envy those who still have parents. I envy those who still have grandparents. I hate that I envy them. I want to tell them to value this time instead of complaining, instead of whining about how hard the holidays are dealing with them. I want to tell them to make amends, to make compromises, to forgive, to let the past go. I want to tell them that it's okay to set firm boundaries if necessary to protect themselves, but not to let go of the love. I want to, but I don't.

I don't want to impose my experience on others. So I don't.

I just miss my parents. Quietly.

I miss so much about the way that my life once was.

I try though, I try so hard not to stay there, in the past. Because I can't. I have to live right now.

And right now, I don't have time for this very often.

Somewhere out there, my father is proud of me for recognizing that I can't do everything and for setting my priorities up so that the present is the most important, the main focus. All he ever wanted was for me to live in the present.

I just wish I had learned that lesson before he was gone.

A few days ago, one of my older children was teasing me for taking so many pictures of the baby. I know why I do it.

I do it because I want to capture this time as much as I can. I know it won't last long. I know that PPD can mess with my memories, so I am trying to catalogue them just in case. Document them.

Because I have to.

On top of that, I know he is my last.

I have said that before, but this time I know for sure.

And I know that no matter how tired or worn out or exhausted I may be, that I will miss this.

I will.

As a result, I might not be around here as much. When I am, my words might not make sense. The little time I get to write might be best spent on my books, so that's where I might be.

Or I might just be spending the day staring at him, my last baby.


And I am okay with that.

I hope you are too.

xo

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