Monday, April 29, 2013

Dealing with Parenting Advice (aka Everyone's an Expert)

I have watched a lot of other people's kids. My dad insisted that I start paying for certain unnecessary teenagery things back when I was thirteen. Between those pesky child labor laws and the fact that I lived in Teeny Tiny Middle of Nowhere Montana, there weren't a lot of options. So I started babysitting.

I started small: my little brother's friends, neighbor kids. After a couple years, I was in charge of the children's room during Sunday service at the Methodist church and was the go-to sitter for the preschool (they had parent meetings and I was left with 15-20 four year olds...that's a great training program for either a crisis intervention specialist or a zoo keeper). By the end of high school, I had nannied for two different families over three different summers. Since then, I have babysat off and on, usually as favors to friends and family, and across one summer between getting my PhD and starting my real job because I apparently hate free time.

In summary, I have a lot of experience with kids. I should addend that to specify that I have a lot of experience with kids between 5 months and whatever age you want to use as a cutoff for 'kids.' (When I volunteered with the high school drama team this past fall, there were times I was basically babysitting 17 year olds.) I haven't spent too much time actually keeping a newborn alive, so that should be new and exciting *translation: exhausting and poop covered.*

Of course, this hasn't stopped anyone from giving me parenting advice. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not very good at accepting advice. Or even listening to advice. I put little stock into one person's idiosyncratic experiences, preferring to mix and match and also research. This is why I find listening to parenting advice to be extremely annoying. Sadly, today most parents have had little to no experience with children before having their own (I'm not judging, I've just seen the kind of panic this can lead to once their own arrives). Also, if you corner them, you can get most to admit that they don't really like children, they just like their own children.

Let me take a moment to say that I am not the authority on children. I know I have and will get frustrated, make mistakes, etc., etc., humility, etc. That said, I have been in a position to see how different parenting styles works with some kids, and how that same parenting approach can totally backfire for other kids (usually the first kid's sibling). It's like kids are little people with individual personalities and perspectives and shit. Crazy!

That said, I find most of the advice to be given in a very condescending manner. I know people assume that their experiences are shared by all, I've read that research, but it's ridiculous to think that everyone is approaching becoming a parent from the same place. And, honestly, it's insulting when you assume I've never prepared a bottle, fought an infant over a sleep routine, changed a diaper, or been followed into the bathroom by a toddler. As a sitter, I did get the benefit of going home at the end of the day (except for those two summers when I was a live-in nanny), but I had to handle all the behavioral issues without being able to even raise my voice, because they were never my kids. Yelling at someone else's kids is a no-no, for those of you who haven't been paid to keep other people's children alive.

Also, just because something did or didn't work for you and your child doesn't mean I will have the same experience. Again, there is that whole individuality thing.

"Seriously, it worked great for us!" (source)

But the worst aspect is this: if I choose to do something differently, that isn't passing judgment on you. This has nothing to do with you. This is about me and my family so stop sputtering and getting offended. [I've apparently been holding that one in for a while, sorry.]

Having said all that, in addition to having experience with kids, I have experience with adults, too. And I know that the advice isn't going to stop. I have years and years of advice to look forward to (I am so excited, I just threw up in my mouth). So this is my new strategy: I ask about something very specific that I don't know about or that will never apply to me. That way, the advice-giver can heap advice my way and I don't feel the urge to contradict them by pointing out that research has found the exact opposite to be true, or that I've had to use that same strategy in a dozen different households and it usually backfires. I don't know if this plan will work long-term, but the short-term effects have proven to be very good for my mood.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making a Baby: Moving into the home stretch

Part of my brain is in a coma and all I want to do is snuggle on the couch and read the second Harry Potter book (approximately once a year I read all the Harry Potter series because I DON'T KNOW, that's why).

Monday was a busy day filled with baby. We had an OB appointment where it was once again announced that I am having a fabulous pregnancy and am the epitome of a healthy pregnant woman with a healthy, kicky fetus. Also, it turns out I am still small, have no more room for a baby, but I was assured that he'll make room. Awesome.

Then we ran errands before our Bringing Baby Home Class. This class is provided by a labor and delivery nurse from the hospital. She had a British accent, which made it more tolerable when she said blatantly incorrect or outdated things, like "newborns sometimes have swollen breasts and genitals because of excess fluid," rather than the correct answer, which is that baby's have been exposed to mommy's hormones. I was very proud of myself when I did not correct her and usually didn't whisper the correct answer to R. Usually.

On the bright side, we learned more about the specific hospital procedures we can expect during and after delivery. Also, R finally understands just how much the baby affects me because I have no torso. Oh comparison, you are a heartless bitch. You see, one of the women (honestly, she was probably 10 years younger than me and I wanted to be like: WHY are you doing this now?? Because she specifically said it was planned and her husband, who was an outstanding example of humanity and had courteously placed his nametag over his penis, making me wonder if he had nicknamed his genitals Collin, agreed wholeheartedly...but I digress) is due in less than 2 weeks and her long torso has almost hidden the baby. Seriously, her belly looked like mine did 10 weeks ago. After the class R kept repeating, "Really, she's due at the beginning of May?? Really?," and then he would stare meaningfully at my monstrous belly that was swaying and bucking because the baby did not stop kicking me all day Monday.

Next, we met with a pediatrician, who, thankfully, is awesome and we feel perfectly fine letting her stab our baby with needles for the next several years. So that finally got crossed off the list.

The following day (yesterday, in case you need reminding like I do) was filled with work-related madness. There's been some uncertainty about whether I will have much work to do next month. Basically, my schedule was cleared so I could write yet another grant, but the grant hasn't come out yet and now we have to worry about me having enough time to complete it before the baby arrives. Part of me is REALLY excited about the possibility of not working. I could read and relax and browse Etsy! Part of me, the part that also likes money and knows I need to avoid Etsy, is worried that I will drive myself crazy if I don't keep busy. After all, there isn't a lot left to do to get ready for our kicky monster (see what I did there? I made myself laugh. Yep, that's how tired I am).

R is terrified that if I'm not busy I will come up with a gazillion things for him to do. He's really afraid I'll want him to repaint the livingroom. Honestly, he should stop using that as an example, because it's giving me ideas.

Anyway, I'm still pregnant. Am starting to get super tired and run down. Heartburn and bathroom trips are seriously cutting into my sleep, and there's probably something else, but I forget.

I am so ready to have this baby.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's my blog and I still have no control

If you look to the right of your screen, you'll see the blog posts that I have written that have gotten the most attention. I am always tempted to remove this selection from the home page. They irk me, though I simultaneously find their presence amusing. You see, these are not the posts that I think are the best. They are not the funniest, the most informative, the most insightful, or representative of my best writing (the bar is low on that one, I know). In other words, they are not the posts I would have chosen.

I've decided it's a metaphor for life. You make the most out of what you have, try to carefully craft the world around you, but ultimately you get what you get. You can't force people to base their impressions of you on the events you'd prefer - IF ONLY, RIGHT?!? If I had control over that, one of my good friends would stop telling people that the first thing he ever heard me say was, "I want vodka!" After 16 years, that story has slowly shifted from amusing to embarrassing. Especially when he makes sure people understand that I was 15 at the time.

Great. See what I just did there? Now all of you first time readers, all one or two of you, have just had your impressions of me tainted by that stupid story. Even if I told you about the time my friend and I used a week's worth of lunch money to buy food and blankets for the homeless guy sleeping under the local bridge in Montana in the winter*, you'll still remember the vodka thing. Which is exactly the point I'm trying to make. You see, the Internet takes the way we form impressions and exaggerates certain aspects of the process. You can't see me, you don't hear how I emphasize these words. Instead, you get to read them in the way you see fit. I can only lay them out and hope that you appreciate them.

*That's a good story. Expect a detailed account soon.

The way I sound in your head? Yeah, I doubt I actually sound like that. And unless your imagining me gesticulating wildly as I "talk", then you've got that wrong too. I bet I'm a lot more like a cartoon character than you think. Just keep that in mind if you decide to read through those popular posts, maybe that will improve them a bit.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My world in a diaper, I mean nutshell.

There's got to be stuff to talk about that isn't baby-related*. Like how it's spring, which means crazy weather that somehow shocks people every year by being crazy and unpredictable. It's almost as if spring is a transitional season or something.

Or the government. Nothing's getting accomplished. Inter- and intra-party fighting. All. The. Time. What is with that??

Or...I don't know. I'm having a hard time thinking about anything else because the baby is always kicking me.

As his arrival gets closer, I am really finding it harder and harder to think about anything else. It's not just the excitement of finally getting to hold the little guy, though there is plenty of that. My physical condition (lack of space to do essential things like breath and digest food, the ever-present need to pee, waddling, a fairly inflexible torso, and sporadic fetal kicks/rolls/elbows/hiccups/thrashing) kind of forces the fact to the front of my mind.

All our free time is spent preparing for the baby. Birthing classes, cloth diapering classes, infant CPR, baby registries, baby shower, hospital tour, doctors' appointments, making food ahead for when the baby is here...we could almost be a really bad reality TV show. "What happens when you take two chronically over-prepared people and point out that their first baby will be here in less than two months? Watch as the hilarity ensues!" Except it would be pretty boring - though thoroughly informative - as we make check lists and research different types of reusable wipes (anyone have strong opinions on fleece vs cotton? Besides the 1,100 people who left discrepant reviews online, I mean).

Also, it's all anyone wants to talk about. Two-thirds of the population I interact with brings it up directly and the other third stares. SO, it's not really my fault.

Still, I feel like I should be able to come up with something. Not just for this blog, but for my life, which has become very baby-centric and the little guy isn't even here yet. I mean, how many times can I marvel over the same tiny little socks? How many more final touches can I put on the nursery? (For the record, I have not only done these two paintings, I have made curtains, a mobile, hung several things, had R paint the nightstand, and framed/matted a batik print, in addition to the sorting and organizing that goes on continuously. I won't even discuss the organization and rearranging that is occurring elsewhere in the house.) Yet, such a life altering change is coming our way, and we are so excited for it that it seems impossible to ignore, even for a moment.

Any other pregnant women experiencing this?

*I wrote the majority of this post before the Boston marathon bombing occurred. This event is unfathomable to most of us and the level of pain and panic that it has caused is nothing to skim over. I am deeply sorry for the devastation brought to so many lives. I chose to continue this post in the vein in which it was started, however, because a pregnant woman can only focus so much on tragedy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Making a Baby: Weeks 29, 30, & 31

I am so sorry to have kept you waiting (C'mon, I know you've just been sitting in front of your computer hitting 'refresh' over and over in hopes that I would get around to posting something. Don't try and deny it.). But you see, I had a big, important grant due and then I took the rest of the week off. I could do that because I've been working more than full-time for the last two months thanks to that grant. And also, I wanted to get away from the computer. Darned real world interfering with my Internet babble.

Anywho, the belly is still expanding. The baby is bigger and pokier than ever. As I write this I have two horribly painful spots on my swollen abdomen - I'm guessing they are an elbow and a knee, though it's possible the latter is a foot. I also get the occasional fetal fist of fury, usually when I am trying to sleep.

The little guy's waking and sleeping patterns are more pronounced. Fortunately, he seems to sleep through the night. Just some squirming and then back to sleep. Admittedly, there are times he'll be awake for an hour or more at night, practicing his karate, but I count myself lucky that I can still get decent sleep. During the day, he can be awake for 2 or more hours at a time. Those are very active hours, filled with unexpected pressure, poking, and thrashing.

I feel like this should read more like a diary entry in a horror movie, something like this: The sudden pains continue to increase in intensity. I never know when they will strike. There are frequent, visible movements in my stomach. Bulging, pulsing, jittering movements. I fear what the future holds. (Of course this should be read dramatically by a teenage girl while creepy music swells and ebbs.)

In all seriousness, the baby's movements can go from "awww" to "OUCH!" in .02 milliseconds. Also, he has the ability to instantly cause heartburn or asphyxiation (or both simultaneously!) by shoving up into my diaphragm. It's kind of his super power.

I really can't differentiate between weeks at this point. Just more of the same: getting heavy, more easily winded all the time, outgrowing ALL THE THINGS, jabbing/kicking/hitting getting crazier, heartburn, rib pain, and being stared at by everyone every time I leave my house. Here are some belly pics.. Enjoy my growing hugeness or else I will eat you.

Week 29
Week 30

Week 31