mothering, a tribute to the cause – (lulu)

This time of the year is all about honoring mothers. Over the next two weeks, we have International Bereaved Mothers Day (May 5), Birth Mother’s Day (May 11), Mother’s Day (May 12), and Step Mother’s Day (May 19). In recognition of this, we will be featuring a different post every day this week from a PAIL reader who has volunteered to share her thoughts about mothering. We hope you enjoy reading everyone’s posts this week! 

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On the first year. (or the first 11 months and one week)

There was a bump on my belly. And then, there was a baby in my arms.

There was a hospital stay. Hushed whispers of amazement. Two shell-shocked parents afraid to sleep, certain that this dream would be stolen in the night.

There was exhaustion. Waking, startled, to the almost silent sound of a pacifier escaping a tiny mouth. Days blended into nights that somehow turned back into days. Hours spent sitting, lying, walking with a baby on our chests, comforting us as we comforted him. He’s still here, he’s still safe. We’re still here, we’re still safe.

There were tears and abundant caution; concern about perfectly normal things; the smell of milk on my clothes, my sheets, his breath. Tickling his chin to keep him awake as he nursed.

There was constant swaddling, peering over the edge of the bassinet to find him asleep, peaceful, perfect. There was waking, crying, nursing, sleeping, and more waking. Diapers, diapers, diapers. Tiny nightgowns that swallowed his twiggy legs. Arms that stretched long in the morning, free from the swaddle at last.

There were huge, beautiful blue eyes that looked at me in the middle of the night, demanding an explanation.

There was daycare. Hugging a bit too tight in the morning, swooping in every afternoon to carry him home. Sneaking out of work ten minutes early because I just couldn’t wait any longer. Stealing time between dinner, bath, and bedtime. Pushing back bedtime  because it wasn’t enough.

There were baths. Skin unbelievably soft and smooth, wrapped up in a warm towel and carried upstairs for pajamas. Clean, sweet, perfect.

There was tummy time, learning to roll over while I watched, cheering him on. There was sitting up, toppling over, sitting up, toppling over. And then there was just…sitting up.

There was a swing, and then there wasn’t. There was a bassinet, and then there was a crib. There were a thousand little markers of gradually growing older, all of which felt like a pinprick to my heart, or a sledgehammer, depending on the day.

There was a day he scooted forward and had no idea how he did it. And quickly, learned to do it again. Pulling himself across the floor on his arms. Determinedly reaching toys, dogs and parents, until the day he took off at the speed of light.

There was a hand on the edge of the couch and then slowly, a forehead, a pair of eyes, a nose, and a mischievous grin as he pulled himself up to stand.

There was never much hair.

There were fruits and vegetables to eat, Cheerios. There was nursing, then there were bottles, then sippy cups. There were naps; oh, so many naps – naps in bed with me on the weekends: stolen moments of pure delight, waking up on a Saturday afternoon with his sweet cheek resting against mine.

There were tears of joy in the small moments: the first time he turned the page for me while we were reading a book, the first time he reached for me, the first time he stood up in his crib.

There was the first night I woke up to my alarm – my alarm! – and he had slept through. There was rejoicing on that day, yes there was.

There were hours spent exploring the word. In grocery store carts, car seats, high chairs, a stroller. There were giggles – oh so many giggles! The bubbling music of happiness that makes my heart sing.

There were teeth, poking their painful way so slowly up through gums. There were early morning moments of sleep stolen in mommy’s arms, the only way to get comfortable despite the pain. There were trips to the doctor, plaintive looks from stranger to parent, and finally medicine to make it better.

There were books to read, songs to sing, animals to love. Dog ears to pull, rattles to shake, belly buttons to find hidden under shirts. There were increasingly more corners of the house to discover — many items, newly reachable, to be yanked off of tabletops. There was so much dog food to eat!

There were trips to the park. There was sunshine, swinging, and crawling around on grass. There were first steps, on Easter Sunday. Staggering, clumsy steps into my arms. There were many false starts and half-steps that ended in falling on a fluffy bum. And then there was walking, pure and simple.

There were a million moments that made up the first year. There were tears and shrieks of delight. There were lessons to learn, and we learned them together, through trial and error.

Only two people may have come close to learning as much as he has in the past year: his parents.

There was a dream. There was a baby.

Now there’s a boy.

Lulu of And Now, Let the Wild Rumpus Start! in her own words:

When my son, Alexander, was born, I had no idea the joy that awaited me. I have never been as happy in my life as I have been since May 15, 2012. I honestly can’t believe I get to be his mommy.

Learning about motherhood is a difficult journey with a lot of ups and downs. My infertility experience continues to shape me in many ways, making me at once more grateful for the joys of motherhood and also more apt to guilt myself when things are difficult.

We are not done building our family, but for now we are not trying to conceive. But our story continues. We’ll see where the future takes us.

This text was originally posted here on Wild Rumpus.

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news item: post-adoption depression

If there were a ranking of topics that don’t get talked about enough “post-adoption depression” would probably win for least talked about, even least recognized, topic. My only knowledge of the topic comes from when we fostered a newborn for a year. A few weeks after bringing her home from the NICU I began to lose my appetite, worry constantly, and run ‘worst-case scenarios’ in my head. I started wondering if foster parents to infants could go through the same hormonal changes a biological parent could. The answer, according to my google searches, was yes, due to the sleep deprivation and increased worry of caring for a child that is not your own with an uncertain future. I remember telling my husband that I felt like my hormones were “out of whack.” After a few weeks things stabilized, I never got worse, and so I never really gave it much more thought.

Adoptive parents, (and I admit I have had this view in the past), are often viewed as those ‘lucky ones’ who had the resources to go and ‘rescue’ a baby from a certain dire fate. When they come home with their baby it is joyous, a sense:

 that the adoptive parents are the ‘winners,’ as compared to the birth parents, who relinquished the child, and the child himself … There is this unspoken message that the adoptive parents are coming out [ahead] of all in the adoption triad, [so] there can be a stigma when you, the adoptive parent, struggle in your new role. This was your life goal, people say to adoptive parents. This was what you wanted.”

Another factor that can contribute to the development of post-adoption depression is the ever-present worry of being watched by your social worker. Once you bring your baby home, you are still being evaluated and they can decide to take the baby from you. A factor for any type of depression is living in a constant state of fear. Add that to a new child who doesn’t know you and isn’t fully bonded to you yet, sleep deprivation, and society’s expectations that adoptive parents don’t need as much help as biological parents, and it adds up to post-adoption depression. I’m actually surprised that the rates are not higher than the reported “18 and 26 percent.”

Regardless of how you came to be a parent, parenting is hard and postpartum depression and post-adoption depression are very real things that need to be talked about. We hope you’ll read My Post-adoption Depression and we’d love to hear what you have to say on the topic. Thank you to Hakiva for sharing this article with us.

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PAIL headshotChandra is a Mom and Foster Mom. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology and is particularly interested in the theology of infertility. Chandra grew up in the Northeast but she and her husband are raising their daughter in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana. She has 3 chickens that drive her crazy, a huge garden, and a penchant for bacon. She occasionally attempts to make sense of all those things, and more, over at her blog, MetholicBlog. She also shares embarrassing stories about her husband and unicorns.

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