Monday, January 18, 2010

Adventures in Co-Mothering

Amid the chaos of 5 children under 4 I coudln't help but notice the way mothers are like soldiers. I put this together after watching the Hurt Locker, a film about a squad of soldiers who diffuse bombs in Iraq. As the soldiers move through a building they move as one organism. They seem to be able to read each others moves and respond accordingly. They're doesn't have to be any verbal confirmation of goal, they are well trained and know what needs to be done so when one sees the other do one part of the task at hand, he jumps right in and does the rest.
My friend Fergy and I are becoming like this. I have two children and she has three. Our oldest ones are exactly a week apart and we've know each other since before they were born. We know each other well enough to be able to read what the other needs most of the time. When the Pudding is screaming that she doesn't want to go, Fergy is packing up my diaper bag and hanging it on my shoulder while I frog march Pudding out the door. When Fergy is wrangeling her two boys into hats, coats and mittens, I rock her baby. When one child pushes another, one of us jumps in to comfort and the other to reprimand in one seamless action.
It helps that we've grown up as mothers together. We met in childbirth classes while we were both going through the shock and awe that is ones first pregnancy. When our babies were born, we adjusted to the life of a mom together and were able to learn so much from each other. We spent many afternoons walking our neighborhoods and checking to see what the other did for diaper rash and what kind of sleep schedule actually worked. We saw each other work through the conflict between the ideas we had about motherhood and its reality and we know which side won.
My message to all you mommies or mommies-to-be out there is to find a friend like this, someone to go through the struggle with. A war buddy, a traveling partner, someone who knows what you're going through and doesn't expect more than you can give because they are going through the same stuff. It has been invaluable to have a friend like this. She always says something to make me feel normal when I feel that I'm loosing my marbles and tells me I'm a good mom when things feel like they're unraveling. She knows how hard it is to loose the baby weight and how tough potty training can be and what a challenge it is to choose a preschool for your child. Not to mention how weird it is that we're old enough to be choosing preschools.
I am so grateful to have found someone to go through these trenches with so to all you future mummies out there, I wish you the same. Thanks Fergy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Houston...we have a problem

All of my life I've felt like a big girl. Most of that time I wasn't actually fat, just (quite literally) big boned. I'm tall, I have a large frame and next to the average woman I look like someone hit the zoom in button. Just like the average woman only everything is bigger.
When I was in my early twenties I worked very hard on becoming OK with this. I told myself that I was never going to be small and petite. I wasn't ever going to be a pin up but I could be attractive in my own way. I worked really hard at that but while I was starting to feel better about myself the numbers on the scale were ever so slowly creeping up.
One of the side effects of being a larger person is that you have to gain 10 to 15 pounds before you really notice it in your body. I'd see that my weight was up 6 lbs and not be too worried about it because I knew that if I skipped lunch and danced all night it would go away. That worked for a long time. But while I was busy ignoring the actual numbers on the scale, I was developing some deplorable eating habits.
I loved getting late night gyros at Mon Cheri in Georgetown after dancing and drinking all night with my friends. The place would be packed with fellow drinkers and lively conversation always ensued. All this over some greasy "Lamb" and a pita. I also fell in love with Mountain Dew and Cheesy Puffs from 7-11. This was cheep and when I was broke, it was occasionally my diner.
Then I met my husband, a man who loves to analyze the various distinctions between domestic Cheddar, who glories in a good Steak Au Poirve and spent years developing a pasta dish based on one at his favorite restaurant. He was a foodie and I knew how to cook, it was a match made in heaven.
So I started cooking for him and over the years I've gotten pretty good. I've developed a few of my own recipes and I know how to make things taste good. The problem is that the way to make things taste good is to add salt and fat, usually butter. Really, is there anything better than that combo right there? We went to a restaurant in New York called Prune and were served the lowly radish with butter and sea salt, it was a revelation. Butter and salt can make anything good.
As babies have come into our lives and I no longer have that "no one besides your mother will love you if you get too fat" voice in my head to spur me to occasional starvation, the weight has crept up further than I thought was possible. And now, with two kids constantly demanding to be fed I find myself no longer able to pass myself off as just "big boned."
What's worse is that my compulsion to eat is getting stronger and harder to hide. When I was on my own I could curl up with a box of donuts and a bottle of merlot without anyone noticing but now with a family I find myself turning my back on my kids while they eat lunch so that they won't see me scarf down a brownie.
My real addiction is Chic-fil-a. They have a drive through and people who speak English and say thank you for stopping at Chic-fil-a. They have sinfully delicious waffle fries and chicken fingers that are the awesome. I am disgusted with myself for pulling into the parking lot but I don't ever turn around and drive away.
And this brings me to my point. I've been saying that I want to loose weight for years but in truth that's not it. What I want to loose this year is the sick and twisted compulsion to eat, the urge to eat out of boredom , the urge to eat only things that will be bad for me. I want to loose the urge to self-destruct.
To that end I have decided to join Overeaters Anonymous when we get back from Wisconsin. They don't have a meeting that I can get to before the trip or I would do it then but better late than never I guess. This year I am deciding to confront my food and body issues in a way that I have never really done before. In admitting that this is something that needs fixing rather a simple opting out of the skinny olympics, I hope to finally get this monkey off my back and go back to simply being big boned.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thrill Issues

I was at a birth today. It was a beautiful, spiritual, life-affirming home birth and I felt so honored to share in it with this family. Another close friend has had a baby recently and these two other moms and I have been joking that in another few months I'll have to get pregnant or I'll break our string of babies. Between the three of us we've had at least one baby born every year since 2005. Since this baby just made it over the line into 2010, I think I'm off the hook until 2011 which is a good thing.
The Tyke just turned a year old on the 30th. He's a big, happy, healthy boy and he's working on being as independent as he can but he's still my baby. He still looks to me for comfort when the Pudding doesn't want to play with him. He loves the pudding and is devastated when she doesn't want to play. He still needs to be held for 30 minutes after every nap. He still needs to be the baby whenever life gets too overwhelming.
Lately I've been jonsing for a new baby. I hold my friends newborn in my arms and look down at that squished up little face and those blinky newborn eyes and I swear I can feel an ovary jump. I also love hanging out with my midwives and the only time I get to do that is when I'm pregnant. I love all the attention you get as a pregnant woman. People smile at you, wish you good luck, ask you how you're feeling. Some pregnant women hate that stuff but I eat it up.
I love the whole process of what your body does during pregnancy and birth. It's all so primal. You have to learn to listen to your body and do what it wants. You have to learn the process and get out of the way. You have to learn to take care of yourself so that lack of sleep, poor nutrition and fear don't get in the way of this awesome force of nature. I actually hate the experience of being pregnant. The weird joints and the big belly are not much fun to deal with but I love the process and I love birth.
I had a home birth with the Tyke and when I made it through that I felt like there was nothing I couldn't do. My body built a giant, perfect baby and got him out in once piece, what can life throw at me that I can't handle?
I'm missing the high of that experience. I think that's what it really is. I love babies and I love my kids and I want more but right now I know another baby just isn't the best idea. My baby needs to be the baby for a little while longer and I need to get to know who that little person is before we add to our little family. So as much as I may love the idea of having another one, now is not the season. I'm just going to have to find more births to attend to take care of my thrill issues.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Why I write

My brother, the Bear, sent me the sweetest message yesterday. I won't reveal all of it just now, only the really important part that illustrates my point in this post.
"I feel like because we don't see each other nearly enough that I started to lose touch of who you are... and though small, this piece of you really makes me feel more connected..."
This is one of the reasons I write. In our far flung family, it is difficult to maintain the relationships that are so important to us. I've become more aware of it as my children grow and I realize that their family is missing whole stages of their lives. The Bear hasn't seen the Pudding since she had just turned two. She's changed so much since then that I sometimes look back at her pictures and wonder how that girl became this one. Both are great in their way but this present version is much more challenging and stubborn. Sometimes I miss the one in the pictures.
My point is that this little outlet of mine isn't just an exercise in navel gazing or narcissism but rather a chance for those dear but not so near to share in the joys and tribulations of my family and feel more connected to us because of it.
There are other reasons of course. I like to think that someday I'll be a good writer, good enough to have someone else think so and pay me lots of money to do it. Practice makes perfect so here I practice.
This little blog is also a way to make new friends with those I never seem to get enough time with. The lovely and talented Nurse Betty and I have known each other, or at least of each other, for over 3 years but we are friends because our husbands are friends so they are always around taking up valuable conversation time. Nurse Betty now reads the blog (Hi Nurse Betty!) and so has a chance to get to know me without those pesky husbands getting in the way. : ) Someday I'll have a chance to return the favor.
Aside from connecting with family, making new friends and practicing the craft of writing I feel that I have a story to tell and a unique perspective on a common situation. By this I mean that my take on typical suburban motherhood is different from many other women's. I've seen what happens when the perfect family picture falls apart and what's more, I've done research and analysis on the impact that has on people like me who are trying to build families after their own has fallen apart. I write to let other women out there know that it is possible to conquer your past and do better than your history. It takes work and self examination and discipline but it is possible to do and if I can help other women to realize this, I will have accomplished my goal.
The last reason I write is because I am in the trenches. This job is hard and sometimes lonely. The buck always stops with mommy because she's the only one there most of the time. When your toddler has an accident, the cat gets sick and the baby pulls over the trash can, you are the only one around who will put it all back together and while you're doing this, you have to be sweet and keep a smile on your face so that your kids know you aren't mad at them. In most jobs you could yell or swear or be grumpy with your co-workers when the job gets tough but in this one, you can't. I put a humorous spin on things to make the frustration and angst seem lighter. Like a pressure cooker on the stove, this blog is my steam valve. I make it funny so I don't explode. And if all of you get a laugh out of it, well that's just gravy.