Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Momus Interruptus

The title speaks for itself, wouldn’t you say? I can’t speak for mothers who work outside the home (I imagine it‘s much worse for you), but in my stay-at-home mom house, I’m in a constant state of Momus Interruptus. I don’t get three steps away before I’m asked for something: juice, to replay Clifford “one more time” (by my two year old who thinks one more time means over and over), or to come here and sit with us (by my husband who just wants the three of us to be together at the end of the day). Momus interruptus is the reason I rarely finish a task once I’ve begun it. I have 10 projects started waiting for the odd block of uninterrupted time.

I find myself resenting the interruptions, especially when I’m trying to write. It’s so difficult to complete a paragraph when I can’t even complete a thought without saying, “No, you may not open Daddy’s guitar case.” or “Please step away from the electrical outlet!” When the writing bug bites, I have to sit down as quickly as the thoughts come for fear of losing the whole idea. You may say, write the idea down for later. No problem. I’ll just see if I can track down a pen, some paper that doesn’t contain a grocery list or yesterday’s Jeopardy scores (I gotta have some fun) before being asked, “May I please have a harshmallow?” When I’ve located said implements I often end up writing down whatever cute thing Rafe just said (harshmallow is one of my favorites!) and putting in his baby book - which is so much more important than some Mommy essay anyway.

Then comes the guilt! I find myself feeling bad for the times I tell my son or husband, “Just a minute…” I apparently say it so often now that Rafe picked it up and chooses to use it at the most inopportune times, like when I say, “Please step away from the electrical outlet!”

The rub of it all is that a balance must exist between what’s acutely important and what must be done for sanity’s sake. Sitting on the couch watching Clifford with my baby who’s so quickly morphing into a boy, that‘s acutely important. Playing trains with him when his mind is working at warp speed and he’s imagining a whole world before my very eyes, also acutely important. The “stuff” that I must do for sanity’s sake, is, say, sweeping the grit off the floor after we’ve been in and out a dozen times because it sets my teeth on edge, or going around to pick up the sippy cups that appear in the oddest places so that a top can be found for milk at 6:30 a.m. Because I must accomplish at least a few of those tasks each day, I try to utilize Rafe’s nap time for something other than my own nap. This isn’t easy because my writing is usually relegated to the after midnight slot and my little alarm clock is full-speed ahead bright and early.

I do, however, have to boast that I have the most wonderful (and blessedly retired) mother-in-law in the entire world who delights in Rafe spending the night with them at least one night during the week. My own dear mother is always happy to have him sleep over with them on the weekends. The support helps me catch up with the mundane but necessary.

It‘s so cliché to say, but there just isn’t enough time in a day to get done all the things you want to do and all the things you have to do. My heart chooses the acutely important while my mind chooses the necessary, and never the twain shall meet, so to speak. My stress levels when the necessaries are lacking make the acutely important harder to enjoy! It’s easy to be sentimental and say, I’ll worry about the chores later. That’s all fine and good until someone doesn’t have a clean towel or underwear. My daily prayer is that I can strike the balance of being available for the important while doing enough necessary for all of us to leave the house clothed tomorrow. And while I’m at it, I’ll ask God to help me remember to scoop up all the acutely important moments I can.

In that spirit, two of my favorite poems on this subject come to mind. I think I’ll print them and put them on the fridge to help me relax and remember what’s truly “necessary”.

My dishes went unwashed today, I didn’t make the bed.
I took her hand and followed where her eager footsteps led.
Her little singsong voice I heard, her thoughts I understood.
My kitchen wasn’t mopped today, but life was rich and good.
That my house was neglected, that I didn’t sweep the stairs,
In twenty years no one on earth will know or even care.
But that I helped my daughter into a joyful woman grow,
In twenty years the whole wide world may look and see and know.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait ‘til tomorrow
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep I’m rocking my baby,
and babies don’t keep.
Author Unknown

Thursday, January 8, 2009

One Big Boob

As seen in Valley Babies Magazine
October/November 2008

So you’re breastfeeding. Do you ever feel like all you are is one big boob? Your baby wants them, your husband wants them for an entirely different reason, and even though the boobs are attached to you, they betray you at every turn: they leak, they grow at alarming speeds, and just keep ‘em full for a couple hours too long, and they turn to stone.

The Issues

My choice to breastfeed was based on the well-being of my baby. I was terrified before and after he was born that he wouldn’t take well to nursing, and that I wouldn’t have enough for him. As my friend’s pediatrician tells her in heavily accented English, “You don’t worry for that!” I needn’t have worried on either count. On the contrary, Rafe had no problems, and when the milk came, it did so in abundance.

What I never imagined was that the choice to breastfeed would have such an impact on my well-being. When Rafe was around 6 weeks old, I began to experience postpartum depression. I believe if I had not been breastfeeding, I would have totally disconnected from him. I dreaded him, feared caring for him. My husband would send me out to shop, or to drive, or to exercise, or to listen to music, but when it was time to feed the baby, I had to come back home. While, at the time, I didn’t relish the idea of coming back home to a colicky baby, for a few minutes during and after the feeding, I felt relief from my symptoms. Of course, there’s a biological reason for this. God doesn’t fool around with his planning. For me, nursing kept me from running away from my responsibility as a mother. Make no mistake, I did ask for and receive medical and pharmaceutical help for postpartum depression, but nursing played a part in my recovery.

Modesty (or lack there-of):
What’s funny to me is what happens to your modesty when you’re breastfeeding. As a young teen, I didn’t want my bras hung to dry on a rack where my dad might see them. However, the modesty issue became a non-issue when I began to breastfeed. I didn’t go bare boobed directly in front of the men in my family, but I sure covered with a blanket and fed Rafe in the same room with everyone when I didn’t feel like missing the conversation. One of my sisters-in-law was the same. I’ll always remember after my nephew was born how careful my father was to knock and announce his arrival to a room, having gotten an accidental eyeful early on. It became a joke to make sure she wasn’t topless when visitors arrived.

And let’s not forget the pumping. I had an electric pump with a special bra that let me pump hands-free. I usually did this in front of the television. Without fail, someone came to the door while I was pumping, and I had to disentangle myself from the contraption and “get decent".

A dear teacher friend of mine was pumping in her locked classroom during her planning period when she was surprised by the custodian who unlocked the door to clean the room. For her, there wasn’t time to “get decent”. She was embarrassed, but mommy immodesty goes a long way in saving face in a situation like that. I’ll bet that custodian never unlocked her classroom door again!

I was sad when I began to wean my son from the breast. The last feeding time that I dropped was the bed-time one. The calming effect at the end of the day wasn’t just for the baby. You breastfeeding moms know the prolactin is fast-actin’! The bond lasts far beyond the actual nursing, and the “miracle of God’s perfect plan” moments far outshone the “one big boob” moments for me.

So if you’ve braved the wilds of breastfeeding, for however long, I raise my glass to you, and say, “Cherish your little one‘s babyhood, and cherish your firm breasts. Neither will last forever! Here’s to you.”