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.

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Parents of Multiples group forms

Ever feel like all the baby-care hacks are geared toward one baby at a time?

You’re not alone and to help families with multiples (i.e. twins, triplets) a new group has formed.

Missoula Parents of Multiples was formed by Emma Hunter and Cerisse Allen – both parents of twins and certified lactation consultants.

The group meets the first Thursday of each month from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Missoula Public Library. (Although Hunter said they are open to meeting at a different time if it will be easier for families to attend.) The gathering is a judgement-free zone for families to share experiences and support each other, Hunter said.

“I feel like you don’t realize until you have more than one baby what a large part of all of our available parenting advice is specifically geared toward one mom and one baby,” she said.

“It’s nice to be able to chat with people who have made it through the first year of two or what have you to be able to bounce ideas off of,” she said.

Especially when children are younger, it can be reassuring to see other moms and families handling the demands of multiples and still managing to enjoy them, she said, adding she and Allen became friends after bumping into each other when walking their children and then again through mutual friends.

Basic needs are the same for all babies, Hunter said.

“It’s just more relentless,” she said about caring for multiples.

“It’s just keeping up without really getting much of a break very often,” she added.

Being pregnant with and giving birth to multiples also presents challenges and moms can’t legally have a home or birth center birth experience. Cesarean sections also are more common and it’s not unusual to spend active labor in the operating room just in case, Hunter said.

Sometimes, moms have a vaginal delivery for the first baby and a c-section for the second, which means they recover from both types of delivery after, she said.

Neonatal intensive care unit stays also are more prevalent for multiples, she said.

“It seems like something most of the moms don’t really get an opportunity to talk about much but then given the opportunity they were eager to,” Hunter said about the first group meeting earlier this month.

“It seems like the desire to be kind of proactive and provide support in turn to someone going through a similar difficult situation is definitely there,” she added.

For more information, or to make suggestions about what meeting time would be best, find Missoula Parents of Multiples on Facebook.

 

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Mountain Home Montana celebrates 15 years

Since Mountain Home Montana began helping young mothers get off the streets and learn parenting and life skills, the organization has grown to include apartments and mental health services. Each year 45 families are helped through the program, and there’s a much longer waiting list.

Here’s more about the organization from their webpage:

We are a nonprofit in Missoula where young mothers between the ages 16-24 who are pregnant and/or parenting may access housing, supportive services, and mental health services.  We help these vulnerable young families with their basic needs, including safety, shelter, food, educational and employment opportunities, and access to mental health therapy and medical care.  Our organization utilizes best practices to provide individualized support and case management that teach our moms the parenting and life skills necessary for independent living!

Mountain Home Montana’s mission is to provide a safe, loving home where young mothers can discover their strengths and their children can experience the joys of childhood.

Community members have been invited to help Mountain Home celebrate their successes today from noon to 6:30 p.m. at 2606 South Ave. W. If you haven’t seen how the program has grown since it began as a three bedroom residence, now’s a good time.

If you can’t make it to the open house, you can learn more about what they do to help young families by attending a screening of “Gimme Shelter” at the Crystal Theater later this month.

The film screening is a fundraiser and will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Mountain Home workers and former clients. More here.

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Parenting fails

What are these? Jared asked this morning as he picked up a pile of flashcards.

I had pulled them out for a little light reading with Baby Girl and left them on the chair.

Jared, being a teacher and all, used some of the parent prompts on the back of the cards, which included how to say the object’s name in five languages.

Buh – nah – nuh, Jared sounded out.

Oh, that’s the English, he said, setting off peels of laughter from both of us.

Lately I’ve been feeling a little too serious about parenting and worrying that we’re not doing enough to promote Baby Girl’s development. This morning was a good reminder that we’re all just doing the best we can and sometimes it’s OK for our best to be flawed.

Laugh. Move on. Repeat.

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New arrival!

It was a dark and stormy night …

No really, it was dark and stormy in the wee hours of the morning when Baby Girl arrived three days late.

I would have told you about her sooner, but I’ve been too engrossed in staring adoringly at her to do much of anything else.

Despite not being sure about her for pretty much my entire pregnancy, I’ve discovered she’s brilliant and beautiful and perfect and all the things I didn’t expect her to be, like a sound sleeper.

I’m so relieved, Jared told me.

He made the comment as we were lying in bed one night talking about postpartum depression and how to recognize it. Considering that I had been slow to come around to pregnancy, let alone actually having a baby, he’s worried those less-than-enthusiastic sentiments will carry over now that Baby Girl’s here.

But it’s like a switch flipped, he said.

Tell you the truth, I’m relieved too. It took a false labor call after a fall for me to realize that I loved Baby Girl and even after that I wasn’t a fan of pregnancy.

However, I am a fan of motherhood.

That’s not to say I’ve been all smiles. I’ve cried and given myself hugs and pep talks a few times. Per our discussion about postpartum depression, I tell Jared about the bad along with the good instead of plastering a false smile on my face, and to his credit he listens.

It’s overwhelming, suddenly having a little human to care for, especially one who can’t tell you what she needs. It’s particularly overwhelming when she won’t stop crying no matter what you try.

The doctors say all we have to do is feed her and change her diaper, but those basics don’t always cover it.

There are all the little things, like what bath water temperature she likes best and how long she’ll stand being in the swing before she wants to be held again. And what song will lull her back to sleep after she wakes in a fury at 3 a.m. (I’m pretty sure Jared sang her every song he knows, with the Griz fight song thrown in several times for good measure. The next morning Jared’s footprints were still visible in the carpet where he had stood.)

The most difficult thing for me, though, has been learning to be less controlling.

I am not super human. If I want to have energy to be kind to Jared when he gets home from work or the patience to withstand Baby Girl’s crying spells and to enjoy the moments when she’s adorable, other things must be ignored.

There is no schedule anymore. If Baby Girl sleeps, I sleep. Forget those chocolate chip cookies I was going to make or my plan to mop the floor.

Even with all the adjustments, conquering the learning curve is worth it to have Baby Girl. Like I said, she’s brilliant and beautiful and perfect.

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Montanan writes ‘disgusting’ new parenting book

A while back, the Missoulian featured a regular columnist from Dillon named Joe Barnhart, who offered a humorous take on … a lot of different topics.

Barnhart has spent the past several months focusing on the topic of parenting. Specifically, he’s been working on a parenting book for those of us who could use an escape from the overly serious how-to-raise-a-perfect-child tomes parents are usually subjected to.

The result of his hard work: “Parenting Made Disgustingly Easy.”

Barnhart book

I was lucky enough to get to get a signed copy for helping to edit this “practically worthless guide for raising little people,” as the cover describes its contents. While I tried to focus on misplaced commas and misspelled words, I have to admit that I kept breaking into fits of giggles.

Chapter titles like “Taming the Beast” and “Grandparents: Choose Wisely!” give readers a good idea of what they’re in store for.

Looking for a daycare? Make sure the facility teaches “A foreign language such as Spanish, Metric, or sign gestures appropriate for customers who bellyache about the cost of repairs.”

Considering your discipline options? You’ll want to learn about “time out,” “reverse time out” and my favorite, “double reverse time out.”

If you can’t find a copy of “Parenting Made Disgustingly Easy” at your local book store, go to Barnhart’s website, www.lifestooserious.com, and order one there.

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Prescription Drug Misuse Awareness Week

Did you know that the average age kids start misusing prescription drugs is 12? Or that 300 Montanans died last year because of prescription drug misuse?

Striking.

Missoula Underage Substance Abuse Prevention and The Missoula Forum for Children & Youth are shining the light on prescription drug misuse and abuse this week with several events, including a summit and a community conversation.

Already MUSAP, along with several other organizations, is working to prevent the prescription drug abuse epidemic from growing and has put out a Parent Resource Guide, which is chock-full of tips on how to talk to kids about prescription drugs, alcohol and more.

The guide is intended to be used frequently, said Brandee Tyree, MUSAP’s coordinator.

Feedback from the community has been mixed about the guide, but overall positive, Tyree said.

Some parents tell her, “Gee, thanks for giving me something else to worry about,” she said.

But, knowing what issues kids are facing, how to talk to them about the issues and doing so continually ultimately leads to a healthier, safer community.

See the resource guide here.

And if you want to share thoughts on prescription drug abuse issues, go to the Safeguard our Kids, Safeguard our Prescriptions community conversation from 7 to 8:30 p.m. tonight at the City Life Community Center, 1515 Fairview Ave.

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Random love notes

Usually, Landon is awake and making loud noises long before I’m ready for him to get up in the morning. Sometimes – not often but definitely sometimes – he’s a real crank when he first gets out of bed.

And sometimes he’s overflowing with niceness.

He wrote this for me this morning:

Random love

It says: “Mom I love you so much. You are a pretty good baker. Love, Landon.”

Darn right I’m a pretty good baker. And a very lucky mom.

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Peace and (too) quiet

When my daughter is quiet for long periods of time, there’s this deep sense of peace.

When my son is quiet for long periods of time, though, it’s rapidly escalating anxiety. I keep jumping up to check on him at shorter and shorter intervals. We’re down to every 45 seconds or so.

He’s just playing with Legos.

Yup, still playing with Legos.

But now?

Oh – sure enough, still playing with Legos …

What about NOW?

 

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How to raise a charitable child + generationOn’s campaign to raise $1 million worth of donated toys

Here’s a double-decker of a post for those of you who try to encourage your kiddos to volunteer and be charitable individuals.

I got this message just this morning, but the content starts back before Thanksgiving. ‘Tis the season for such things.

Enjoy!

Read the rest of this entry »

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