Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Baby Stuff

I love shopping for baby stuff. You can have your Louise Vuitton and Prada shoes, I go gaga over soft organic blankets and tiny little mittens. I die when I hold teeny tiny little shoes in my hands and do not even get me started on the clever little items only admirable by a mom (juice box holders so that kids don't squeeze them all over themselves - GENIUS!) I think a reason why I want to have many children, is so that I never have to stop buying baby stuff (and also get to wear my adult ballet slippers to the mommy and me ballet classes - and yes, I would take my son to ballet).

I'm always on the look out for 'the' baby store. The store that has it all - and I come close often, but usually am disappointed by something.

I hate crowded stores. When I walk in to shop, I want to feel relaxed. I want a sales associate to be around IN CASE I have questions, but not to hover over me and ask me if I need help a bajillion times.

So, because I, like many, am a sucker for marketing - I love shopping online. Give your product a cutesy name like "Snuggle snaggle - the softest organic cotton blanket" and make it a super cute baby green color and my credit card will be pulled out faster than you can process it.

One of my favorite stores is Jamtots. It's where we got our daughter's lovely little cloth diapers, which I continue to love and rave about. It's where we purchased very practical and clever things. It's where I am shopping RIGHT NOW!

My husband, of course, being the practical person that he is calls it all baby crap. Even when I make him feel the organic cotton, rub it on his stubbly face, he is not charmed. I demonstrate snack traps where cheerios cannot fall out, but baby hands can still get them (omg, GENIUS), he is not faltered. He remains undeterred, by teeny tiny baby shoes (we have some already) or cute striped and heart socks that I only wish came in my size. And GASP, he even has the GALL to say "I don't think we need that". If a heart could be broken over something so materialistic, mine would lay at his feet shattered into a million pieces.

I may look like a wreck, tired and exhausted on any given day. But underneath my pale pallor and dry skin, I am glowing and beaming with happiness when I see my little girl in her bright red cloth diapers. I smile a secret smile when I put on said striped and heart socks. And when I wrap my newborn baby in a brand new super snuggly snaggle blanket, my heart will swell and burst with undeniable joy. Parading my children in super cute finds is my crux. But it is one that I wear proudly.

Keep your Mom of the Year trophy - I've got bum balm to buy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Please Don't Judge Me

I try very very hard to do the best I can in life. I think this is true of many of us. After we found out we were pregnant, I vowed to do the best I could to shape and mold this life into what I believed to be the best. My daughter is now 2, turning 3 in December. She is everything that I had ever imagined could exist in a human being (of 2) and more. She brings me joy, happiness, love, hope and faith in a better tomorrow.

My life has changed dramatically over the last 3 years. What once was a life with husband - free to do whatever we wanted (and do whatever we wanted we did), bringing a baby into the world brought on a whole new meaning to what responsibility meant. I took this on head first, as I felt ready to be a mom and ready for an entirely new chapter in my life. My husband, chose to ignore what was going on until the inevitable moment that baby arrived. I studied carefully everyday, learning more and more, and making qualified decisions, asking the right questions, and prepared for life with a new baby. My husband had a crash course in diaper changing, breastfeeding and baby products. Regardless of how we arrived at where we did, we both wanted the same things for our child. Only the best.

Figuring out what "only the best" meant, has been a journey full of wild and amazing discoveries. Sometimes only the best cost nothing. Hugs and kisses, giggles and cuddles - those things were free. Sometimes only the best cost more than I made in a year. Before she turned one, we had invested in an education fund to prepare for when she graduated from highschool 18 years later. Sometimes we disagreed on what was only the best, in which case, like lawyers we both argued (sometimes angrily and with harsh words) our cases. I won most of the time. Sometimes because he let me.

I've heard it all along, being a parent is hard work - and the work, it never ends. My own mother calls me to find out about my health, what I've been eating, and how I'm feeling all the time. When she comes to visit (or vice versa), she unfailingly tends and cares for me like she always has, for as long as I can remember (well, without the bathing). It's not that I want her to do it (okay, I do a little), but she wants to do it for me. She still worries about my life, like she did the day I was born. Like I did the day my little girl was born.

Even before she took her first little breaths, I was bombarded by decisions that would shape the course of my unborn child's life. Did that long weekend drinking binge cause fetal alchohol syndrome? I sleep on my stomach - did I crush the embryo? I haven't been taking folic acid! How much protein was enough protein? What vitamins are you suppose to take?

I was still at the clinic when these questions came to mind. And that was only in the first 35 seconds of finding out. So, when the tears of joy has ceased their flow, and I was armed with: No my drinking binge fest would not affect the baby - but I should stop drinking right now (I did). You can sleep on your tummy until it feels uncomfortable (I stopped right away, just in case). 2-3 servings of protien each day was sufficient (then I found out I hated chicken). You should start taking folic acid immediately - but a prenatal vitamin should supply enough - but don't take Materna - the most recommended and widely available prenatal supplement, this one (writing it down) is much better.

And so begun the journey of looking for 'only the best'. Materna, as it turns out - is in tablet form, which is formed so tightly by machinery, that the tablet has a hard time digesting in your stomach acid. Sometimes, it can stay in there for an extended period of time, releasing vitamins into your system at varying degrees and sometimes even overlapping, which has been shown to cause stomach upset and nausea. I bought this gel tablet recommended from my doctor, but launched an investigation that would change the course of my life forever.

I decided to have a midwife instead of an OB/GYN. There were many reasons for this but they were secured when I attempted to make an appointment to see the OB/GYN in a maternity clinic. They always seemed rushed, even the receptionists. They were busy - and on my very first appointment, where I was beside myself with excitement, she spent less than 10 minutes with me. I joke about how she was still giving me an internal exam while one foot was already out the door. I had registered with a midwife that was only a couple of blocks away and was waiting to hear about whether they would take me as a patient, and luckily, before my next appointment with the OB/GYN, I was accepted.

The difference was like night and day. The appointments were up to one hour - so long as I needed it. It was gentle and caring and I developed a bond and relationship with my midwife. She cared about me, and in time, I cared about her. She let me linger to hear the baby's heart beat each time. We discussed everything from baby names to birth control after - vaccinations, circumcisions, cloth diapers, organic food. She gave me sound advice - not just 'do this cuz I said' but enabled me to come to my own decisions with available information out there. I had my own forum to discuss my hopes, fears, dreams and desires for the pregnancy, birth and the baby. She made me feel completely safe and I trusted her to do the best by me. She was open and told me about the decisions she arrived at, careful not to be biased - and directed me towards books and reading material so that I would make my own conclusions. She gave me medical studies, statistics and never dismissed any concern of mine, including all of the superficial ones (my skin was so terrible). At each and every single appointment she asked me about my emotional wellbeing. How was I feeling? Was I overwhelmed. She really cared. She wasn't just a midwife, she was a Nautropath. She gave me alternatives when everyone said there were none. She gave me the greatest gift of all: she empowered me.

I could have easily ignored what she presented. Except that life gives you what you can handle, and in time, these skills that had been enabled would truly stand the test of parenthood. The trials and tribulations I experienced in pregnancy, in birth and as a mother would rely so heavily on looking for alternatives, exploring options and being the sole champion for the health and welfare of my baby. We would be challenged in so many ways - personal battles that would sometimes tear my very soul to shreds. I almost gave up on breastfeeding because at 6 weeks I was still in an incredible amount of pain (yeast infection and mastitis in the breasts - but I ended up breastfeeding until 18 months). I battled many - doctors, pediatricians, nurses and the like. I researched and learned, I gained my ground. And I found an incredible doctor who listened to what I said, and fit my beliefs and goals into the medicine that he knew. I learned how to cope with, handle and eventually clear eczema (which would be repeated everytime she was ill or ate something she was highly allergic to).

My little girl has never had a diaper rash. But she's been in the hosptial 2 times in her 2 years of life. She's never had a true ear infection, but she has had severe eczema over 100% of her body. She's been so sick she lost 3 pounds off of her 20 pound frame. But she has recovered so beautifully and so well, and I know deep within me, it is all because of the decisions that we made through the information that we gathered, because we seek 'only the best'.

Through all of these challenges, through this life, through it all - I have tried to keep a very open mind and open heart to everything. That isn't to say that I have not been kept up at night, sweating and in a panic about how to keep my darling safe. Sometimes, the paranoia can eat away at me and I find myself asking my husband for things that don't even exist (can't we get an alarm system with lasers that actually delivers a small shock of electrical current if someone does try to enter the house?).

In the last 2.5 years of having my little girl in my life. I have experienced a happiness that you just don't feel when you haven't had a child. I'm not trashing non-breeders. It is a very simple truth. The love of a child - the love for that child - is not equalled in anything. At least not to me - and I'm wise enough to understand that this is different for everyone.

It is this love that drives you to do the best you can as a parent. It is this love that keeps your pregnant self awake telling stories to a sad little girl that can't fall asleep. Or to keep carrying said toddler even though you are already carrying an extra 20 pounds. Or to purchase, cook, freeze and reheat organic food that you yourself have so lovingly (and time consumingly) made. Everyone's love is different, because everyone has made decisions based on what they know, information they've gathered and have come to conclusions that work with their lifestyle, family goals and beliefs. I do not judge you - because we all have choice. And I do not force my beliefs or findings on you - although I am a source of information for any who seek it. I realized long ago that - people will only change if they want to. And who do I think I am for wanting to change anyone. Even as a non-Christian (I'm Buddhist, my husband Catholic), I know from going to church that God gave people free choice. What I do push always is... gather your information, so that the choice you make - is informed. Not just a trend. Not just someone says. But backed up with proof that makes you able to sleep at night.

There are many decisions that we've made as a family for our children. Not everyone agrees with me. That's okay. I'm not making the decision for your family, so please do not make a decision for mine. Do not tell me what you think is best for my child, when you don't know my child or me. Do not tell me that you know more than me about what is best for my child because of what you've read. Please do not tell me that you know what I am doing, or even guess at the underlying reasons behind my actions. Just because I am not raising my children exactly the way you are raising your children does not mean anything except we are raising our children differently. No one is right, no one is wrong. Children are different and it is up to us parents to not pigeonhole them, but make decisions on a case to case basis, based on each child's needs and abilities.

And please, above all, please don't judge me. Just know, like I know of you, that I'm doing the best for my children the best way I know how.