The risks and rewards of motherhood

 

When my daughter was born, the first, strongest emotion I felt was crushing anxiety. A worrier by nature, I should have expected that the love and responsibility I felt for this new soul would manifest itself in a sudden surge of worry.

I worried about everything. I worried about whether she was eating enough, being held enough, having enough developmentally enriching experiences. I worried about the world she was going to grow up in, and the kind of people she would meet along the way.

My heightened stress was primed during the pregnancy, which was considered risky due to the higher-than-average possibility our child would be born with spina bifida or other spinal abnormalities. But in spite of the risk and the worries, my husband and I welcomed a perfectly healthy baby into the world. A healthy baby who never slept.

The first couple of years are a blur due to extreme sleep deprivation, but I do have a fuzzy memory of asking the pediatrician at one point – or perhaps at every single checkup – whether it was really OK for my daughter to sleep only 20 minutes at a time every two hours. I may also have inquired about baby sleeping pills. He chuckled that she was growing steadily and developing normally, so I shouldn’t worry about it. Some babies just don’t need much sleep.

My daughter is 12 now, on the cusp of becoming a teenager, and she still doesn’t need much sleep. On school nights, she’s up with her dad and me until almost 10 p.m.

This time together each night has been a saving grace since we welcomed her little brother into our household; he conks out hours earlier, leaving the rest of us to enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet.

That’s right: I signed up for a second child – and double the worry.

And my son certainly gives me plenty to worry about. He is a gung-ho risk-taker who once dived, head-first, off that train in the children’s play area in the mall. And off the top bunk in his sister’s room. And from the pine tree in the back yard. I may never understand his enduring need to jump off of things – or why he so often softened his landings with his head.

He also had chronic ear infections when he was younger, until we had ear tubes put in, and now he keeps finding ways to break off pieces of the braces on his teeth (a first for the orthodontist).

Aside from the usual parental worries, I share a lot of the same concerns as other parents of adopted children. We didn’t meet my son until he was 4 ½ years old, and he had had a pretty rough life before then. Reading his file for the first time, there was a lot in there to worry a parent. And of course I worried about how he would fit in with our family, and whether we could be the kind of parents he needed, and most of all, how our daughter might be affected.

There were many, many things to worry about, and I worried about all of them. Now that my son is about to turn 10, I find that a lot of those old anxieties have faded – only to be replaced with new ones. It seems there’s always something to worry about.

There are no guarantees in life, and nobody can know what the future will bring. These are the clichés that haunt parents who only want some assurance that our children will grow up healthy, happy and safe, but who know all too well that sickness, sadness and death can strike at any moment.

It probably doesn’t help that I work at a newspaper. For me, there’s no escaping the news about North Korea’s latest missile test, or the most recent air pollution study, or the child molester who was just released from jail. I’m sometimes the only person to read some of the worst of the profanity-ridden, mean-spirited letters to the editor – letters written by people who live right here in our community – that never make it to print.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Just how crazy are we parents, to bring children into this crazy world? And why on earth would we want to make ourselves even crazier by going through the agonizing process of foster care and adoption?

I struggle to explain my reasoning every few months or so, when my husband and I speak to panels of prospective foster parents for the Dan Fox Family Care Program, the amazing local organization that matched us with our amazing son and which continues to support us in so many important ways. We try to simultaneously warn these foster-parents-to-be about all the heartbreaking things they will probably experience, including the possibility that their foster child will be reunited with his or her birth family, while still encouraging them to go for it anyway.

But why? Why would anyone sign up for that?

Well, why not. Why not accept a little less security, in order to give a child a little more security? Why not gamble on your own heartbreak, to improve the odds that a child’s heart won’t be broken?

Isn’t that what parents do?

I know well enough that no parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. But if we are willing to work at it, and if we are willing to ask for help when we need it, and if we are very lucky, we might find that the rewards of parenthood are somehow worth the risks. Because it’s our children who will reap those rewards.

And knowing that helps ease this mom’s worried mind. A little.

No Comments »

Advertisement

All the moms on Mother’s Day

As Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking more often about how much I appreciate all the moms in my life. They have each given me so much, and Mother’s Day offers an opportunity to give back – if I could think of something fitting to give them.

My mom doesn’t much care for gifts – never has. As a mom myself, I can understand. There’s nothing – no products or gift certificates or even hand-made keepsakes – I’d rather have than the things I get every day from being with my kiddos: playtime in the sunshine, bouquets of dandelions, observations about the world from a new perspective.

My mother-in-law is a cherished friend, someone who has always offered love and support and pictures of her latest creative projects. Although she lives 2,500 miles away in Alaska, I feel like we grow closer all the time.

My son’s birth mom already gave me the greatest gift a mom can give by supporting our adoption. It was the most brave, selfless act I have ever witnessed in my life, and a source of inspiration for me every day. It just so happens that Mother’s Day arrives shortly before my son’s birthday. Where would I be without these two people? How much emptier would my life be without my son – his mother’s gift?

No, I don’t really need anything more for Mother’s Day.

Well, a nap would be nice.

 

No Comments »

Happy Mother’s Day!

As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I see picture after picture of smiling babies and children.

That is not the picture I have to post. Instead, it is of an 8-month-old screaming so vehemently that we left church early and scurried home.

Normally, I would have fed her at church and she would have calmed down and I would have had a chance to hear part of the sermon.

At the risk of sounding petulant, today, a day to celebrate me, I wore a dress I can’t breastfeed in just because it makes me feel pretty. I knew I was taking a chance, but I fed her before we left and church is only an hour and a half.

Baby Girl missed nap, too.

Hence, the combination of factors that led to a hysterically upset child and me, alternately laughing and crying, walking home as quickly as possible as people out and about curiously watched the spectacle that was us.

As soon as we walked into our house, the tears stopped. She ate and fell asleep cradled in my arms. Peaceful and beautiful.

THIS is motherhood.

Hectic, demanding, frustrating, emotionally and physically exhausting.

And then a moment of tranquility as she sleeps. And then a moment when her smile makes my heart burst. And then a moment of determination when I think I can’t give any more of myself and I do and am rewarded with another of her smiles that gives a piece back to me.

THIS is motherhood.

No Comments »

Calling all kids, young and old

Sunday is Mother’s Day and we need your help celebrating.

We’re compiling a photo album of readers’ favorite pictures of mom, either by herself or with her kiddos.

Email your photos to anne.cruikshank@lee.net, along with names and any other information you would like to share about when and where the photo was snapped.

Photos will go up online this week!

No Comments »

New Mother’s Day

This blog was born on Mother’s Day 2009. That was before both my kids started “real” school – heck, before I even had two kids. Over the years it’s featured the occasional guest post – most notably from Sherry Devlin (who’s now a grandmother!) at the Missoulian and Kathleen Clary Miller (also a grandmother!) out in Ninemile.

Just a few weeks back, Missoulian reporter Alice Miller switched beats and started covering childhood and K-12 education for the newspaper. So she would already have been a perfect addition to this blog – but then one day she brought a bunch of baby-themed cookies to the newsroom meeting and confirmed that she is preggers. And that clinched it.

A good thing, too, because I’m enjoying Alice’s posts just as much as Missoula Mom readers probably are – maybe even more. I so look forward to following along on her journey toward becoming a mom, and everything that follows.

So, Alice:

Thank you for joining Missoula Mom. I’m so happy you’re blogging with me!

Congratulations on your little bundle. It’s going to be amazing.

And happy Mother’s Day!

No Comments »

Mothers = survival (and adventure buddies)

Mothers, Greg Tollefson writes in this week’s column, are responsible for our survival, which can be uncertain at times in the Montana wilderness. His mom often reminded him of safety and made sure he was always well prepared before heading off.

And it was Mom who tended the blisters and sprains, poured salve on the sunburns and scrapes, and mended and replaced the tattered clothing.

His mom was adventurous herself, but turned in her compass after having children.

To be sure, there was a time when her wanderings were farther, wider and more adventurous. … Somehow though, after the war, and with the coming of family, she left that behind her and did her adventuring vicariously through her children. It was expected in those days.

Now, moms have different expectations.

Today’s children get to share the exhilaration of the wild with their mothers. These days, when a mom exhorts her children to tie on their life jackets, as often as not, she ties her own on, too. Then she takes the oars.

Greg’s musing made me think back on all the times my mom shared in adventure with us. Some of my fondest memories are from the canoe or inner tubes on the New River, or while avoiding fiberglass splinters on the crab boat as we dangled weighted lines into White Point Creek.

Even though I’ve moved 2,000 miles away, the confidence she instilled in me to try new things and chase the horizon is the same and has enabled me to whole-heartedly embrace Montana and all the adventure it provides.

Sometimes, we still have adventures together and I love sharing this Big Sky with her, whether it’s in the snow …

MomAndMeLoloPeak

… or sunshine …

MomAndMeYellowstone

I only wish we got to venture off together more often.

Make sure to read Greg’s full column here.

No Comments »

Mother’s Day laughter and tears

First, the laughter – an editorial cartoon – then the tears – from the latest column by syndicated columnist Connie Schultz.

Mother's Day 2011

Hey, Mom: When Will I Stop Missing You?

By CONNIE SCHULTZ

If I could snap my fingers and travel back in time, I’d be 11-year-old me standing on third base in the field behind our house, cupping my hands around my mouth and yelling for Mom to hit me home.

My mother, like most mothers, was all about coming through for her kids.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments »

Certain politicians get thanks from moms for Mother’s Day

A group of about 20 moms and their kids – a stroller brigade – strolled along the street between Missoula’s Public Library and Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus’ Missoula offices earlier today.

Stroller brigadeHere’s why: They were showing their support for strong federal clean air protections, and wanted to thank the senators for their support of stronger Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The full news release on the event is available below.

But as they say: Wait, there’s more!

Montana Women Vote is also encouraging folks to thank their favorite state politicians now that the 2011 legislative session has come to a close.

“As this challenging Montana legislative session has come to an end, we can all be grateful to the brave and tireless legislators who stood and advocated for issues important to women and families,” says the notice sent out by Montana Women Vote.

The note includes a link to a Mother’s Day card you can print out, write on and send to an elected official of your choice. It reads, “Thank you from all the mothers, fathers, children and grandchildren for your hard work for the future of Montana. Your mama would be proud.”

The folks at Montana Women Vote, thorough people that they are, also include handy links to a complete list of Montana legislator addresses, and a list of other statewide elected officials’ addresses.

If one of your favorite state legislators happens to be Missoula Democrat Carol Williams, the first female Senate Majority Leader in Montana history, then you will be delighted with this coming Sunday’s guest column. It’s also about certain congressional delegates and the Clean Air Act.

But, dear readers, I won’t make you wait to read the opinion piece by Williams, a mother of three and grandmother of three. Here’s a special sneak peek for your reading pleasure, following the news release about the stroller brigade.

Read the rest of this entry »

12 Comments »

Start your Mother’s Day early at the annual Mother’s Day Eve Bash in Missoula!

Sick of Mother’s Day stuff yet? Nah, neither am I.

I continue to dip my attention into the constant stream of Mother’s Day retail trends, and come back dripping with information like this:

How do consumers show their love and appreciation for mom? Typically it’s a nice brunch, some flowers or maybe a homemade meal shared with the family. This year, mom is getting an iPad. Maybe even a diamond necklace.  NRF’s latest Mother’s Day survey found that the average person will spend $140 on mom, with the biggest chunk of that going to luxurious items such as jewelry and consumer electronics. Those looking for more creative ways to spoil mom will seek out gardening tools, kitchenware and even spa treatments.

Well. What to say to that.

Missoula gives something even better than diamonds and electronics to its moms each year on the night before Mother’s Day: The Mother’s Day Eve Bash. The brainchild of Missoula mom Elke Govertsen, the bash has undeniably grown over the years.

Moms who show up at Peak Heath & Wellness this Saturday between the hours of 7 and 11 p.m. can expect to be greeted at the door with a goody bag before moving on to enjoy “Yoga, pampering, wine, and celebrating another year of mothering,” according to the Mamalode website.

Mamalode? Oh, that’s just Elke Govertsen’s OTHER hugely successful brainchild. It’s this magazine and website “for the whole mother.” And it, of course, has a ton more information about the Mother’s Day Eve Bash. Check out that info here.

And I’ll see you there!

No Comments »

Many moms to spend Mother’s Day reading at a restaurant?

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, there’s a ton of Mother’s Day trend stories out there. I came across one that says Mother’s Day is THE most popular day of the year to dine out – even ahead of Valentine’s Day.

And I came across another that predicts more people will be buying their moms a Mother’s Day gadget such as a smartphone or e-reader.

What do you get when you put these two trends together? I suspect more moms will be fiddling with their techno gadgets under the dinner table this Sunday.

1 Comment »