Archive for the ‘things people say’ Category

and again with the motherhood angst

December 19, 2011

I read this lovely post from Stirrup Queens last night (or was it this morning?) and what is sticking with me, along with the metaphor of the Y representing the choices we make daily, was the phrase “they have all the tools.” Now that her children are in school, and she releases them each day into the world, she has to trust that she has given them the tools they need to navigate and manage that world and the people they will encounter in it.

It terrifies me, this responsibility to stock their toolbox. In some ways it is simple and obvious, and having two children means that we have a daily arena for teaching things like not hitting, and sharing, and taking turns, and acknowledging and honoring the humanity of the other (although we could achieve this also if we had a singleton by creating social situations where she was forced to interact with other children her age). But I am so afraid that I’m missing something big and huge and important that will become clear only further down the road as they descend into truancy and delinquency – or just simply unhappiness and self-hatred.

When my parents dropped my sister off at college, I went with my mom to a prayer meeting for parents that was scheduled as part of the orientation activities (yes, it was that kind of college) and my mom broke down in tears during the small-group sharing part, suddenly feeling that terror, that fear of having failed her daughter and it now being too late to make it right.

One time recently (maybe even last year) my sister said of our mother, “she’s been hurting me my whole life, why should it be any different now?”

During our hesitation before TTC, I thought about this a lot – I saw the tremendous conflict and pain between my sister and my mother, between my SIL and her parents – and I had to wonder whether having children was worth the risk. What if it should come to this, with my own children? This distance, this pain, this horrifying power and ability to wound each other to the core?

I think this fear has shaped my parenting style a lot. I err on the side of indulgence, rather than discipline. I know this is not always what is best for them. I don’t limit screen time as much as I should. I give in to too many of my toddler’s demands – or perhaps I should say commands – like when she doesn’t want any of us to stand and join in the singing at church, for example. I know that I shouldn’t let her control me, but sometimes I do. Of course there are non-negotiables – like holding my hand when crossing the street, or getting her hair washed, brushing teeth, and the aforementioned not hitting or pushing her brother.

When I was in grad school the first time, in 1999, it was a year after my cousin had committed suicide, and because I felt like I hadn’t done enough to help him during life I volunteered as a crisis counselor for a suicide prevention hotline. It was one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done. A major component of our training was on reflective listening, and it stuck in my mind when one of the trainers mentioned that this skill had made her relationship with her teenaged children much better. Her ability to reflect back to them what they were feeling diffused tension and opened the door to communication. So I try to do that with our children, and I think it helps them a lot, to understand and release their emotions. I remember what someone said to me once (was it my therapist?) that emotional needs that are ignored or suppressed will never go away – they’ll just come back, sometimes in difficult or even dangerous ways. I’ve also been holding in my mind what Lori said in an interview about being in the moment, about feeling and releasing the emotion over and over again, and how physical movement can help in this process as well. So this is a big part of what I try to do as a mother – build up their emotional health and their tools for coping with strong emotions in healthy ways. So it’s frustrating when my MIL tells my daughter “Now don’t get mad,” or “don’t cry,” because, well, I think this is actually pretty harmful. I tell Illyria, “it’s ok to be mad, but you can’t hit your brother.” Usually then she requests to go to another room and “have a little talk” with me or another caregiver – it’s her way now of removing herself from the situation that’s frustrating or stressing her out. So we go away, and talk about sharing, or about whatever pissed her off, or just play for awhile in a different space, until she’s ready to go back and try again.

I long to be the kind of mom whose house is a haven of clean and tidy peace and serenity, who has Montessori-ed her home, who can make cake pops, who just generally seems to be competent and well-organized (Raspberry Chip, I’d link to you but you’re PWP!). I’m just not that kind of mom. I’m too overwhelmed by the quotidian. And I think I set the bar too low.

I’m gonna rock at homework help someday though.

The thing is – my mom didn’t TRY to make mistakes. She didn’t set out to hurt my sister. My MIL doesn’t hate her daughter, she loves her. They both did what they thought was right; they did their level best. I don’t fully understand what went wrong, why my sister and my sister-in-law have felt compelled at different times to put as much physical and emotional distance between themselves and their parents as possible, and why for each of them in different ways this seemed to be a move for self-preservation. So how can I know that I’m not going to end up in their position someday?



December 16, 2011

This wouldn’t be Project Progeny without a little good-natured complaining about my in-laws. After all, isn’t that what anonymous blogs are for?

I couch this complaint with gratitude, because they have truly been a godsend. They have made the 18-hour journey here twice now, at the advanced age of 70+, to enjoy the company of my children. They help around the house – my MIL takes care of the laundry, my FIL does the dishes, and between the two of them they entertain the kids from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. They shower them with gifts – but not too many – and always check with us beforehand about what they want to give them. They compliment me constantly about what a great person I am – for example, I asked my MIL yesterday (somewhat tongue in cheek) if she’s figured out yet why God gave her Gimli as a son, and she said, “well, because he brought us you!” That was just really sweet.

So it’s not actually that hard to tamp down my annoyance when she not-so-subtly does her passive-aggressive thing, like recently she’s been dropping hints about weaning Oz. I have no plans to wean Oz. I’d love to continue nursing him as long as he wants. I love that my milk is something only I can give him, and I get the feeling that he’s just as pleased that my milk is only for him – one of the few things he doesn’t have to share with anybody else! I don’t want to have any more babies, so this is the end of the line for me. I have enjoyed breastfeeding by and large and I’m not in a hurry to give it up. But he’s 17 months old now, and starting to talk, and I’ve observed that two things make most Americans (including my husband) very uncomfortable: continuing to breastfeed a child who can talk, and continuing to breastfeed a child who may be able to remember breastfeeding when he’s older. My opinion is that culturally Americans view breasts in a highly, highly sexualized way, but it doesn’t have to be that way – there are plenty of cultural contexts where breasts are no more sexual than bottles. Or udders. They are a milk delivery system, period. Children won’t see or experience breasts as sexual objects unless or until they are taught to do so!

So I guess I’m not surprised that she keeps bringing up the nursing question – “Are you thinking about weaning? Maybe he’d sleep better at night if he wasn’t nursing. It would free you up a lot! I’m sure he’d get used to cow’s milk quickly if that was the only thing he was getting.” On constant loop/repeat.

I wish she’d let it go. It’s not really any of her business. But she’s invested in the kids, in their upbringing, in our well-being as a family. She hasn’t quite intimated that she thinks I’m harming him by continuing to breastfeed… but I have a feeling that will come eventually.

Maybe he’ll lose interest on his own. Maybe I’ll get tired of it before he does and change my tune. But really, it’s between me and Oscar and I’d like to keep it that way.

sleep update

November 9, 2011

Since we played musical beds, and started using a musical alarm, things are much improved. For several nights Gimli has not had to go in to Oscar at all, not even once, and a few times O has slept until 6 a.m.!

On the other hand, my rude neighbor accosted me in the grocery store AGAIN to complain about Oz’s crying, and again I didn’t understand everything she said, but I think she was saying something about my babysitter… whom I absolutely adore… I have concluded, though, that the child she’s been hearing crying can’t be Oscar, because he simply has not been crying at night. Sometimes he’ll cry when I leave for work, or the inevitable fights with his sister, but good lord that is NORMAL. He cries a normal amount for a young toddler. I think my neighbor is mean, rude, and also confused. There are times I’ve been home and thought I heard Oz crying and when I checked it turned out to be a child somewhere down the street, so it’s not a far reach to suppose my neighbor might be making the same mistake.

I just wish she wouldn’t accost me in the grocery store in front of a bunch of people where I get all tongue-tied and and ashamed.


August 8, 2008

It seems like becoming a grandmother has made my MIL more conscious of her mortality.  By the third week she was musing that she’d not likely live to see little V. get married: “when she turns 20, I’ll be 88…” – much less live to see her great-grandchildren.  But really, how many of us have had the opportunity to meet our great-grandparents?  I met one great-grandmother, Rosa, a Quechua woman who wore her hair in two long braids, along with the traditional Andean skirt.  But I barely remember the meeting; it could even be that what I actually remember is the photograph of her.  I must have been 3 or 4 years old.  And how many of my grandparents made it to my wedding?  Zero.  How many of T’s?  One. 

The thing is, MIL’s older sister, who is still active and mentally acute, has any number of great-grandchildren.  I think that for all these years it has really rankled MIL to have to ooh and ah over her sister’s multiplying descendants.  Now it’s her turn, and she wants it all…

A couple times she asked in quick succession, how old was I when T and I got married?  And how long have we been married?  And how old am I now?  In my hypersensitivity, I interpret this line of questions to be about “why did you wait so long to have kids?”  (We are in the closet about our struggles to conceive).  T, on the other hand, takes it as her wondering whether there might be more where this one came from. 

It’s made me think a lot about what it means to be a grandparent. 

My ILs are away for two weeks and DAMN I miss the help.  I really really should not complain about them so much.  This here blog, though, is kind of the one spacewhere I do.

Taking the Bump to Church

March 24, 2008

T. and I had to laugh at ourselves yesterday – we went to church for the first time since Christmas, and even though the service started 45 minutes later than usual, we were still 10 minutes late. We had to sit on folding chairs in the aisle because the church was so full.

The day before, I was feeling self-conscious about bringing my bump to church – so T. suggested we wear T-shirts printed with the words, “Yes we had sex. But only once. And we didn’t like it.” A friend who is a single mom told me, “just enjoy it. I never was able to enjoy being pregnant because it was such an awful situation.” So I did. (Critter loved the singing, as always) 🙂 Only one person said, after the congratulations, “What took you so long?”

The youth pastor told us that there are 7 babies expected in the congregation this year. Of course that makes you happy, I thought. Keeps you employed! When did I become so cynical?

During the service, a lot of the songs we sang were ones I had learned at the church I went to during college – probably the one church I’ve ever attended that I participated in without reservations, without holding anything back. Singing the same songs yesterday peeled back part of my heart and exposed something raw and tender, and I didn’t try to stop the tears that slid down to drip from my chin. I thought about my late BIL, as we sang of resurrection. When my sister scattered his ashes on the beach in Hawaii, she saw a sea turtle surfing the waves nearby, and felt him near. What I have lost these ten years gone is the ability to find my rest in God, or in the idea of God – to find solace or consolation in that trust that I once had in him.

Driving back to NY in the afternoon, that rawness remained near the surface. My mind wandered back over other losses and griefs, though not (come to think of it) infertility. I guess it was a bit of emotional housecleaning.

Well, back to the weekly routine – I should get ready for class.

20 weeks!

January 16, 2008

Halfway there! I’m not showing as much as I thought I would be at this point; could be the retroverted uterus I guess. But lots of kicking. This morning though I woke up from a bad dream of blood on the TP – so I had hot chocolate for breakfast to provoke kicking.

We’re in VA for a few days and evidently word has gotten around; T. says people keep coming up to him with congratulations. What throws him, he said, is when they say “good job!” He finally came up with a pretty good comeback: “Couldn’t have done it without Elizabeth!” 🙂

Two things

November 25, 2007

1. My in-laws stopped by for brunch today on their way back South; MIL asked me, apropos of nothing, “so are you going to have a natural birth?”

I said “I have noooo idea.” (Thinking: Geez, woman, that’s a long ways away – don’t count your proverbial chickens!)

“I mean,” she went on, “is T. going to be there with you, helping you breathe and telling you what to do?”

“He’d better not be telling me what to do!” I said, for a laugh. She went on then to reminisce about her own experiences of childbirth etc.

I have to figure out how to deflect these questions. I really don’t feel comfortable discussing the matter with her, particularly in front of my FIL. My plan from here on out is to turn it around: “What do you think, based on your own experiences?” and prepare to hear many a gory tale. I’m much better at listening than disclosure. Plus, people like being asked for their opinion.

2. Today I went shopping and bought 4 pairs of pants and 4 tops. I totally scored at the thrift store, I’m so happy! Nice warm pants to wear that aren’t sweats! Yay! Most of the stuff is too big at this point but I’m looking forward to wearing it after New Year’s. Assuming all goes well until then.


November 24, 2007

I love national holidays. You can sleep until noon, and still get so much work done! Not that I’m a workaholic*, I’m just behind.

My in-laws were here yesterday; the first thing my MIL said as she came in the door was “how’s my grandbaby doing?” It’s amusing now, but I suspect it’s going to get old quickly. One advantage of being among the last of your friends to spawn is that you hear all these stories and cautionary tales ahead of time. So the proprietory nature of the comment came as no surprise. I didn’t really know how to answer so I just thrust the latest u/s pictures at her.

The last thing she said as they headed out the door was “take good care of my grandbaby!” while patting my belly (which I HATE – but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was actually patting my guts, as the uterus is a lot lower down at this point …) Um… ok! I was planning to smoke crack all weekend, but since it’s your grandbaby, I guess I won’t, after all.

Actually, I really do get it. I haven’t been reading kinship studies up the wazoo all semester for nothing. A grandchild is not only an acquisition, it also causes a change in status for the nascent grandparents – but one that is bestowed upon them, rather than one they can achieve for themselves. Therefore, they find it all the more necessary to verbalize the claim in order to reinforce it since it is otherwise somewhat immaterial.

It’s a little annoying. Suddenly I’m just the passive vessel for the family spawn. And really, though, I am thankful for that, too.

*As my sister is fond of asking, what the heck is “workahol”? (If an alcaholic is someone addicted to alcohol, then a workaholic must be addicted to workahol…)

Another Milestone

September 3, 2007

It must happen to everyone sooner or later; someone you know IRL finds your blog. I got an e-mail today from an unexpected reader, which provoked a wonderful exchange of “I’ve got what you want and believe me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” going both ways. This exchange made me smile, because it was so brutally honest. And real. I promised not to disclose the contents of the conversation though.

Best advice ever: gain 20 lbs! (Nicole Richie, anybody?)


August 31, 2007

So when I dashed into the pharmacy to pick up my Clmid, this is what ensued:

I lean forward to sign the electronic tablet that says I have declined to be counseled about this prescription. As I pick up the stylus, the smiling male pharmacist says, “think positive, sometimes that thing doesn’t work too well.”

“Think positive,” I mutter as I scribble my name. But wait – there’s more.

Smiling Male Pharmacist: So you know the protocol for these, right?

Me (starting to feel the tears rise): Yes, it’s my third time through this.

SMP: Well, I just think it’s a good thing when good people really want to be parents. So many people just aren’t ready, or they’re really young, or they don’t know what they’re doing and all of a sudden they have kids and they just don’t raise them well.

Me: Uh-huh. [I pick up the paper bag with the pill bottle inside and stare at it without seeing.]

SMP: I think it’s wonderful when people adopt, you know, those poor kids get to come to America, where there’s just so much abundance! You can sign them up for any kind of services, you know, that kid never has to play the Lotto cause he already won the jackpot!

Me: Uh-huh. [I’m folding the top of the bag over, creasing it carefully in a very straight line.]

SMP: You know I had these friends who were having trouble, and I told them “just relaaaax! If it’s meant to be it’ll just happen.” And you know once they stopped trying so hard, it happened! And then they couldn’t stop! They were like, “how do you stop? We’re going to end up with 8 or 12 kids!” It was like once the dam broke, the floodgates just opened up!

Me: Wow. [fold, unfold, refold. Repeat.]

SMP: You know what I’m going to do, I’m going to pray for you.

Me: Thank you. [I flee to the wine shop resolving to switch pharmacies at the earliest possible opportunity.]

In a really strange way, though, and after two big glasses of wine at dinner, I am delighted with this exchange. It was just too perfect. It was like someone handed him the list of “things NOT to say to an infertile person” and he just read right through it like a manifesto. It was so completely surreal and bizarre that in a way it was completely wonderful.

Hurray for hormones, you never know when you’re going to hit the upswing!