A Bit of Sunshine

Please join us in welcoming Michele to Mama Might!

When my husband started graduate school a year and half ago, I remember standing in the door frame of our new apartment with my six month old in my arms as he left for school the first day. A feeling of dread washed over me as I realized that I was stuck in 650 square feet with a baby. I had nothing on my agenda. It was blank for not just for the day but for weeks.

After a few long days, I realized a few things. If I didn’t get out of bed, no one would care. If my house was a mess, no one would see it. If my hair didn’t get brushed or if lunch consisted of eating Cheerios out of the box, no one would ever know. There weren’t cookies brought over by neighbors. There were no lunch dates or play dates. I went to a few church activities but would come home in tears begging my husband to move. There was a little extra sting because even my sweet husband was busy with his new school. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t see what my life was like at home when he was gone (which was most of the time). I had a chronically sick, crying baby and nowhere to go.

I felt completely invisible.

Now, I’m not one to sit and mope. I’m a generally happy person and I believe that life is what you make of it. After six weeks of sitting around, I went and got a nanny job with the only requirement being that my baby could come with me. Over the next year, my daughter and I created a happy life. We worked in other people’s homes. We went to flea markets and the beach. She and I explored farmer’s markets and libraries on weekends. I set goals for myself, such as walking outside for at least thirty minutes a day and to get rid of any possession that I didn’t want to clean. Through my adventures and goals, my life turned into something that was uniquely created by me, and I was enjoying it.

The thing that I kept pushing in the back of my mind was we were not at home. It was still true that if our beds were not made and dishes had not been done, that no one would notice. If we did not go out of the house, no one would care or miss us. And while I was aware of it, decided that I was perfectly okay with that because I was happy.

Then one day this all changed. A lady advertized on Freecycle that she needed a blender. I had a blender that was only used for making milkshakes, and I thought, “Eh, why not, she can have it. I don’t like cleaning it anyway.” I emailed her back telling her that she could come pick it up the next day at 2:00 PM. I thought that would be a great time. My daughter and the baby I am currently watching in my home were both usually napping by then. It shouldn’t be a problem.

Famous last words, right? I think it’s needless to say, but the next day did not go according to plan. The little guy I was watching got his first teeth in that day and would not stop crying. My daughter took advantage of this and decided to do all the things that her toddler mind wanted to do that I never would let her. When I put her down for her nap, she put her feet up against the wall and kicked it repeatedly. At one point, I realized one of the thumps was a bit off rhythm, and I realized, “Oh! There is someone at the door.” It was the lady from Freecycle, and I had completely forgotten. I opened the door frazzled and ran to the kitchen, grabbed the blender, and shoved it in her arms. She was trying to thank me and explain that she needed it to can peaches. I forced a smile and told her that it was nap time and sent her on her way.

A few hours later when I regained a bit more control, I felt so embarrassed that I treated her that way! I was so rude. I set her a quick email apologizing and then forgot about the incident (probably as my toddler shoved a roll of toilet paper down the toilet).

Exactly two weeks later, there was a knock on the door. I was surprised to see the lady from Freecycle standing at the door again. She was standing at the door looking nervous. She said to me, “Michele, I brought this for you. Thanks so much for giving me your blender. I really needed it to can all the salsa from my garden.” She then gave me a bag telling me it was for my baby and then left.

I opened the bag and inside was a beautiful yellow blanket with a card. The card said, “Here’s a blanket I made for your daughter. I hope it brings a little sunshine to your day. I know how hard it is to be a mom, but what you are doing is important. Best regards.”

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I put down the card and sobbed. The feeling of validation and love I felt in that moment was overwhelming. Even now as I type this tears are falling from eyes when I think of the tenderness of that moment. This random stranger came to my home and for the few minutes she was there she got a glimpse of my lonelier part of motherhood. She saw the mess. She saw my wrinkled and stained shirt. She saw me trying to comfort an upset baby on my hip with my toddler in another room needing my attention. She saw me trying, and she decided to acknowledge me as a person. She even remembered my name.

I don’t know much about her, other than her name and email, but I often wonder if she’s a mother. I would love to know how she learned to be so perceptive and to reach out. I learned from her how much one gesture can feed another person’s soul. I made a new resolution that day to be more like her- to keep both eyes open and to not let fear get in the way of reaching out to people. After all, you never know who is feeling invisible and needs a little reassurance that they exist and are important.

MicheleMichele is a stay-at-home mom of an almost two year old in Princeton, NJ. She spends her time figuring out how to live a fulfilling life while her husband goes to graduate school. Some of her current interests are trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, Futurama, RIE parenting, and Waldorf schooling. She is on a first name basis with her local librarians and cupcake bakers and can be found reading some random non-fiction on the children’s floor on Thursdays afternoons. You can read more of her life at her own blog, Aisle 11.

 

Back to School

“But Mommy maybe my new teacher won’t love me like you and Daddy do.”

My heart, already sore, was starting to throb with the unexpected pain of sending my four year old off to primary last week.  He is so young, so small, so innocent, and so vulnerable.  He looked like a baby standing beside the older kids at his bus-stop in his new clothes, bright, white size-nine sneakers, and Super Mario back-pack, which looked as though it weighed more than he did.

As we stood at the bus stop, waiting for the much-anticipated moment when my oldest baby would go somewhere without one of his parents for the first time, this was the burning worry on my child’s mind:  Will I be loved?

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Any teacher, or for that matter anyone who works with children on a daily basis, would say that they love their students.  I can say with conviction that I love mine.  Not because they are easy to be around.  Not because they are easy to teach.  Not because they offer me love in return.  I love them because they are worthy of being loved.  Inside each child I teach is untapped, and often unrealized, potential for greatness.  Each of them was born to do something incredible.  Each of the lives represented in my classroom every year have a purpose.   As their teacher I have a unique and awesome opportunity to help them discover what they were put on this earth to do.  And I endeavour to do this by loving them in a way that, hopefully, says: “You are worth spending time with.  You are worth spending time on.  I love you because you have value.”

Last Wednesday, my son was thinking about many different things.  I find it incredible that the words he actually spoke in that moment articulated the fear we all have when faced with change, new challenges, and moments of vulnerability:  Will I be loved?

This past week many of you, like me, stood at bus-stops, holding small hands, comforting small hearts.  Many of you had to peel little arms from around your neck and allow a teacher you had never met before, to lead your child into an unfamiliar room, full of children they had never seen.  Maybe some of you felt a different kind of pain mixed with pride as your confident, smiling child ran towards their friends on the playground, calling “Bye, Mom!” over their shoulder on their first day of school.  Maybe some of you sent the last of your babies off and then spent the first of what seemed like a very long, very quiet day alone in the house that used to be noisy and busy.  Maybe some of you, like me, questioned your value as a mother now that your child would be loved by someone else for most of their waking hours.  Maybe some of you even drove many kilometres with a loaded mini-van full of lamps, extra blankets, groceries, twenty-seven pairs of shoes, and four suitcases to help your somehow grown up baby move into her very first dorm room and then hugged your girl goodbye before driving back to a house that may never hold her again, except for Christmas and summer vacations.

Like our children, as school begins, we mothers are often faced with changes and new situations where we have to confront thoughts and feelings we would rather not deal with.  As we begin to navigate our way through a new school year alongside our children, there will be moments where we too will be asking the same question that burns in the hearts of our babies, both very young and not-quite-so-young.  As we all move forward, and as we continue to evolve into the moms our children need for this new season in life, I want you to know that you have value, just as you are.  Like our children, we all have the potential for greatness within us.  Like them, we have a purpose.  Like them, we are loved.

I am confident that my son’s teacher loves him and understands that he has value.  I am also confident that she will do everything she can to communicate those things to him over the course of this school year.  I am also confident that my son will sense her love for him and the other children in his class, and when he realizes he is loved, he will thrive in an environment that once struck fear into his four year old heart.  And I am equally confident that as I move into this next season of motherhood, that a Teacher who loves me more than I can fathom is waiting to guide me along my new path.  And I know that, with time, I too will thrive.

My True Love Letter

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world…Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

My husband has never written me a love letter.

Over the ten years that we have been a couple, nine of which we have spent as husband and wife, I have never received a love letter from him.  He has purchased beautiful cards on (almost) every birthday, anniversary, mother’s day, and Christmas we have shared.  Most of them have brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.  Many have made me smile, and a couple of them have made me laugh out loud.  Some of them have been short, sweet, and simple in their delivery of a loving message and some have covered three sides of card-stock with words so beautiful that I can’t believe they are meant for me.   Although I do not doubt that my husband has chosen these cards deliberately and with great care, they are nonetheless cards filled with words written by someone other than the man giving them to me.

I have every card I have ever received from him.  I keep them in a clear plastic tote next to our filing cabinet, and the fire-safe box that holds important documents, the kids’ ultra-sound photos, our wedding video, and three tiny wisps of baby hair in varying shades of brown.

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I have hinted at the idea of a love letter at various times over the decade we have spent by each others’ side.  I wrote one to him in hopes that he would write one back.  I have come right out and asked him to write me a letter.  He has yet to pick up a pen, sit down with a sheet of paper, and put his feelings for me into words that I can read over and over again and cherish in a special box for the rest of my life.  He has never written me a love letter.

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He has spent hundreds of hours transforming the woods that pressed against our house, making me feel isolated and anxious, into a gorgeous yard where I feel relaxed and truly home.

He has held my hand at funerals, gotten out of his seat to find a tissue, and then helped me wipe my tears so my mascara doesn’t smear.

He has gone out for Honey Nut Cheerios, in his pyjamas, at eleven o’clock at night.  Without a single disparaging comment directed towards his very pregnant, and very unreasonable, wife.

He has stood by my bedside, holding my hand, offering sips of water, tracking down pink popsicles, and whispering words that kept me calm and helped me focus three times as I laboured babies into our lives.

He has tucked our boys into bed at night so gently and sweetly that I have stood in the hallway outside their door with tears in my eyes from the joy of having a man like him as the father of my children.

He has called out a sweet greeting to our tiny daughter as I bring her down the stairs and into the kitchen where he has been making breakfast for the boys, every morning since she’s been born.

He has thoughtfully offered insight after listening to millions of my words, tumbling out of my mouth at mach speed, more times than I care to remember.  He has held me and said, “I understand”, more times than I can count.

He has forgiven me over and over and over and over.

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He is kind.  He is not jealous.  He never thinks of himself.  He does not get angry.  He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He has come home to me every single day for ten years.

He has never written me a love letter.

Instead, my husband has given me his whole life.  Every choice he makes is largely driven by his decision to love and provide for us.

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Every time he wipes up a milk spill, every time he offers me a smile at the end of a long day, every arm tossed over my shoulders in the middle of the night, every cold, dark trip to the emergency room with a feverish child, every financial sacrifice he makes for the sake of our future, every piece of toast he gets up to butter so I can have ten more minutes in bed, every phone call I get from him while he’s at work, every flower he sends to me from the backyard in the hands of one of our sons, every time he drives our loaded mini-van to church on Sunday morning, every time he kisses us goodnight, every time he laughs with me after a rough week, he adds to the manuscript he has been working on since the day he asked me to share his life with him.

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His life is the love letter he writes to me every single day.  And when I take the time to read it, it changes me from a woman who longs for words written on paper, to a woman who knows what it means to read love in every act, every step, every moment of a life lived together.

**Shout out to Lisa-Jo Baker for writing the beautiful post that was my inspiration for this one!**

Reflection on the First Year

Please join us in welcoming Chelsea to Mama Might!

Just over a year ago I left my job to begin my maternity leave.  Waiting for the arrival of my daughter was both exciting and torturous… I have always struggled with patience!  What made the whole experience even more amazing was that I would have a year off to spend time enjoying my new family of 3 (4 with the family pooch).  I had all kinds of plans and ideas about what I would accomplish while I was at home.  The gardens would be beautiful, the house spotless. I would have a chance to do all kinds of crafty projects and cook more nutritious, homemade meals.  I was going to get in shape.  I would indulge in terrible books and bad romantic comedies!

My daughter was born on her due date (punctual like her mama!).  It was the most incredible day of my life.  We felt blessed, happy, relieved and terrified all at once.  We were lucky enough to be working with a fantastic team of midwives so we were able to head home from the hospital a few hours after her birth.  We were all exhausted and despite the first-night-at-home anxiety, we got a much needed night of sleep.  As it turns out, it was really the only “peaceful” night in our house for the next six months.

Our perfect and beautiful daughter fit the textbook definition of colic.  She cried, and she cried, and she cried.  Before she was born we decided that we were not going to give our daughter a pacifier until after breastfeeding was well established.  By day two we were desperately trying to get her to take it, anything to soothe her and stop the crying and screaming.  We went into new parent problem-solving mode.  We had read so many pregnancy and baby books, surely we could figure this out.  We tried swaddling, rocking, shushing, breastfeeding, swinging, cuddling, massage, white noise and chiropractic.  We blamed it on milk supply and gas and acid reflux and  teething. I eliminated caffeine, dairy and chocolate from my diet in case that was the cause.  No matter what we tried we most certainly did not have the happiest baby on the block.  In fact, we spent most of last summer with the windows sealed shut so that neighbours wouldn’t be bothered.  Within a couple of weeks the daytime crying had decreased but evenings remained very difficult.  Without fail the crying would begin at 5pm and carry on until 11pm each day.  While the other new moms that I met had babies who were already sleeping through the night at 6 weeks, my daughter was waking up (at least) once every hour.  I gave up sleeping in bed and decided that camping on the couch was much less frustrating.  I came to accept that exhaustion was the new normal.  I had a more difficult time accepting that I could no longer drink coffee to try to balance myself out!  I remember thinking that my husband and I would never be able to eat dinner together again—who would hold the crying baby?

Thankfully, around 3-4 months things began to improve.  Slowly but surely the tears were replaced by happy baby giggles and gibberish.  We were even able to spend time together as a couple when she would go to bed.  It was still a long time before my daughter slept through the night but she began to wake less frequently.  With each and every milestone we were overwhelmed by a sense of pride.  It was incredible to watch as our daughter developed more and more personality each day.  We were in love from the moment we met her, now we were having fun too.

We recently celebrated our daughter’s first birthday.  My garden is overgrown with weeds, my house is rarely as clean as I would like and my craft room has been turned into a storage area.  I have tried out 5 new recipes (only because I committed to do so for my blog), and read exactly zero new books.  I am proud to say that I did accomplish my health and fitness goals!  I look back and I wonder how my husband and I managed to get through the first six months.  I have no doubt that it was the most difficult (and rewarding) thing that either of us have ever accomplished.  I am so grateful that our friends and family were there for us.  They provided us with words of encouragement, visits, the occasional dinner and oatmeal cookies!  My daughter is now a happy, confident, and determined toddler.  She is also a great sleeper, something that I never could have imagined a year ago!  If you have are the new parents of a “cry baby”, hold on.  I promise you that you are in for more fun than you can imagine!  Be patient, ask for help and give yourself a break from time to time.  Soon you too will be celebrating your child’s first birthday and as difficult as things may seem you will look back on these times and miss them.

ChelseaChelsea Bastien is the mom of a sweet, funny and adventurous toddler.  She is happily married and living in Ottawa, ON.  She is passionate about health and fitness and is currently pursuing a career as a personal trainer.  Follow her blog at www.labfitness.tumblr.com

A Life of Questions?

Have you ever had a question about parenting?  Not like, “Which diapers should I be using?” or “At what point do you take a feverish child to the ER?”  No, no.  I am talking more along the lines of:  “What ever gave me the idea that I could do this?”

Mama, I.have.been.there.  Depending on the day, I am still there.  There was even a time in my not-so-distant past where nearly every waking thought ran along these lines:  Should I stay home?  Should I work full-time?  Should I work part-time?  Should I home-school?  Should I put them in French immersion? Should we be eating better?  Should we get rid of the TV?  Do I read to them enough?  Do I do enough crafts with them?  Should we be practicing printing more?  Should we be practicing math skills more?  Should I be speaking more French with them?  Do I worry too much?  Do I worry enough?  Should we be reading more Bible stories?  Should we be praying with them more often?  Am I being an example of good behavior?  Am I meeting their needs?  Am I smart enough?  Patient enough?  Firm enough?  Loving enough?  Creative enough?  Entertaining enough?  Tender enough?  Nurturing enough?  Attentive enough?  Funny enough?  Wise enough?

 

Can I do this?

 

Am I enough?

A rare moment where I believe we are reading "enough" for one day! ;)

A rare moment where I believe we are reading “enough” for one day! 😉

The truth is that I am a far-from-perfect mother who struggles on a daily basis to reconcile the mother I am with the mother I feel I “should be.”  I have, and oftentimes still do, wrestle with feelings of inadequacy.  I compare myself to other moms.  I have denied the existence of my own gifts.  I have been lost in the box of what God has called someone else to be, instead of embracing who I am.  And I have failed to live up to my own expectations.  I have constantly questioned the purpose behind the plan, or if there even is a plan.  It is only now, after having failed miserably to succeed as someone I am not, drowning in questions with no answers in sight, that I am able to see that my idea of success was inherently flawed to begin with.  I now realize that many of the things I believed I had to be to qualify as a good mom are actually meaningless, and that there is no one better equipped to raise my children than I am, because I have been chosen as their mother by the One who never makes mistakes and never leaves me without answers.  So I say: I will no longer live in a way that produces questions without answers.  I can do this.  I am enough.  And so are you.

The truth is that when you became a mother it was not an accident, a mistake, a random event, or a coincidence that you ended up with your specific child or children.  They are with you, here and now, for a purpose.  You are their mother because no one else could be.  They are your children because they need to learn something that only you can teach them.  They are calling out for something that only you can offer.  You have a gift, or maybe even many gifts, that God has given you in order to mother them in the exact way that they require. When you accept that, how can you fail?

Worrying about things like which soccer team my kids play on and how many grams of sugar they consume on a daily basis will never get me the answers I am looking for, as a mother.  I have arrived at the point where I now realize that “things” and activities are good, and time spent with my children is always time well-spent.  However, if my focus and motivation for providing things, planning activities, and spending time is to convince myself, and those around me, that I am worthy of the title “Good Mom”, then the reality is that I will fail my children.  No amount of, or even LACK of, primary-readiness worksheets, French immersion registrations, Pinterest crafts, Bible stories, or worry will ever transform me into the mom God calls me to be, or my kids into the human beings He has called them to be.  If my goal is to turn out good kids that will in turn make me look good, I may impress a few human beings along the way, but that’s where it will end and that is not enough.

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It is so hard to be a mom, no matter how your family has been called to operate.  It is even harder to be a good mom, and entirely impossible to be a perfect one.  In fact I have discovered only one perfect parent in all of history, and He did not concern Himself with what other parents thought of Him, nor did He lie to Himself about what was truly important.  Likewise, I have discovered only one perfect child, and He was not in French immersion, nor did he play hockey 6 days a week (although, He probably did wear cloth diapers).  Instead He watched His Father, and by doing so learned how to live in such a way that His purpose was fully realized.  Who could ask for more than that for their children?  I know that it is not my job to be what other human beings consider to be perfect or to produce perfect kids, and that even if it were possible to accomplish such a thing, it would still not be enough if in the end they never discover their true purpose.  I now know that it is my job to teach my children to watch their Father, and I can only do that by watching Him myself.

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love.” -Ephesians 5:1-2

A life of love.  So simple!!  Not a life of things.  Not a life of accolades.  Not a life of human approval.  Not a life spent worrying myself and my kids to death over details that don’t give us what we need.  Not a life spent in hopeless pursuit of an ever-shifting definition of perfection.  Not a life of questions with no answers.

A life of love.  To me this means a life spent watching what is good, doing what is good, teaching my children what is good, keeping company with and learning from God, and then living the rest of my life loving the people God has called me to, trusting that my children will learn to do the same, in whichever way this is meant to look.

A life of questions?  No, thank you.  Mama, I promise that my life will never be perfect.  Neither will yours.  I will never be you, and you will never be me.  But I believe with all my heart when we each strive to live our individual lives with love that points our children to their Father, that our lives of questions will become lives of answers.

My Breastfeeding Story

**Please join us in welcoming Jenn to Mama Might**

In the three months since becoming a mother, the one thing I’ve learned is that everyone has an opinion about every issue surrounding how to raise my child. They have very strong opinions. Not only do they readily share their opinions, but they make you feel like you are going to ruin your child’s life if you don’t adhere to the same philosophy as they do. This was manifest in my life as a mom when it came to the issue of breastfeeding.

My husband and I have been married for seven years, waiting until a few months ago to have our first child. This means that most of our friends and family members already have children and have “tried and tested” methods for raising them. Leading up to delivery, we attended the prenatal classes together. I read every book and blog I could find on labour, delivery, the first weeks and especially breastfeeding. I was prepped. I was ready. I knew what to do.

Little Man had to be evicted five days after my due date. He was just shy of seven pounds and because of the drugs in my body, he was a very sleepy and reluctant latcher. The nurses and I tried for the first 12 hours to get him to drink, but he kept falling asleep. They checked his blood sugars, but he was fine so we didn’t worry. He had dropped 11 ounces before we left the hospital.

When we got home, I was not prepared for the hormones and exhaustion that took over my life. Besides dealing with the trauma my body had just endured, I was trying to nurse this little infant. Pushing through the pain and cracks, I kept asking everyone, “Is this normal? Should I dread every time he needs to be fed?” But we pressed on.

We started taking him in for his Well-Baby check ups about a week after he was born, going every few days to monitor his progress. By the time he was three weeks old, the nurse was getting concerned that he hadn’t gained enough weight. He wasn’t back to his birth-weight yet. She said they would give us a few more days and he may need to be given formula. I cried on the nurse. I felt so ashamed and disappointed. Mostly in myself. I thought that there was something more I should have done. What was wrong with me as a woman and a mother that my body couldn’t give my baby what he needed? I tried following the advice of the nurse to the letter: drink more, rest with your feet up, wake him every two hours no matter what, and do everything you can to keep him awake while he eats.

I went to meet with the local lactation consultants. They watched me feed my son, gave me a few suggestions about positioning, but told me that we were doing great together. They urged me not to fret and to continue doing what we were doing. They really frowned on “giving up” on breastfeeding by “giving in” to formula. Later that week, we were attending a breastfeeding support group meeting when my phone rang. The pediatrician told our nurse that he would really like us to try formula, at least for a few days, so they could rule out other health related causes. I was devastated by this recommendation.

I felt like there was no way to win. Every path I chose had someone nay-saying, frowning and clucking their tongues about my choice. Oh, and on top of everything else, my husband left to be away for work in the middle of all of this. I talked to him and we decided to listen to the medical professionals and do what we felt was best for our son. Nay-sayers be darned!

So I would breast feed him as usual, then I would offer him formula in a bottle. That first bottle he gulped down almost two ounces. I will admit that I cried, feeling like I must have been starving him if he was that hungry right after drinking from my supply. He started out only taking between a half ounce and two ounces at every feeding. He then started crying after he breastfed, looking for more, until I gave him the bottle. I started to believe that I was insufficient and he would always need more than I could give. BUT at least he was still getting the benefits of breast milk.

After five days, we went back to the nurse and he had gained over a pound! We were all flabbergasted! We continued in this way for another week and he gained another pound! The nurse couldn’t believe it. At that point, he had reached his milestones, so we started giving him the bottles every second feeding or so. He continued to gain, so we eventually stopped giving them to him at all.

I am proud to say that we are back to exclusively breast feeding. He has more than doubled his birth-weight at three months of age (which is the six month growth milestone). He is a happy, healthy, growing boy. He didn’t reject the breast because of the bottles. My milk supply didn’t dry up. He is not scarred for life. It is actually very convenient that he will take the formula now from someone else when I need to be away.

I share this because I know a lot of women go through the same situation. This is especially true of babies with low birth weights or who were born prematurely. The doctor figures my son was getting too tired while breastfeeding and stopped eating before he was full enough. This was enough to satisfy his thirst, but not to gain enough weight.

The moral of the story is: don’t let anyone else shame you into doing something that goes against your instincts. First time mothers often doubt our intuition for our children because we feel that we do not have the expertise that experience gives. However true this may be, please learn from my story that doing what is best for your baby is never wrong. Every mom is different. Every child is different.  What works for one, may not work for another. God designed us to be the mother of that particular child and has equipped us to handle any situation. Even if we doubt ourselves sometimes. As someone pointed out to me, on graduation day, you will not be able to tell which student on that stage was breastfed and which one wasn’t.

Jenn and her little man :)

Jenn and her little man 🙂

Jenn married her high school sweetheart seven years ago. She and Scott just had their first child in March. They live on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, where Jenn is an elementary school teacher.

The Truth About Poop (And Other Gross Things Your Kids Will Do)

As a mommy of three with more than my fair share of experience in the not-so-widely-publicized toilet-related aspects of Motherhood, I feel it is my duty to provide you, the naïve and childless public, with some little known facts about the future that many of you think you want.  I believe that us parents have a responsibility to educate those of you who may be considering joining our ranks concerning the biohazards of rearing a small human into adulthood.  Ideally, this would be done generationally whereby parents would pass the knowledge they’ve gained during their own experiences on to their children.  I think we all know that it doesn’t always go that way though, does it?  (By the way, thanks for that, Mom.  Marching confidently into this parenting-gig only to have feces flung at the rose-colored glasses you provided was awesome.)

Now just to be clear, I am in no way suggesting I would have done things differently had I known “then” what I know now.  After all, I did decide to have two additional children after experiencing near-daily poopocalypses with my firstborn.  I’m just saying that a little “heads up” would have been nice.  It is however, too late for me.  You, however, still have time to mentally and physically prepare for the onslaught of stink about to assault your senses.  With that in mind I have decided to provide you with a few examples of some of the less-sanitary features of parenting.

Now before we even get into what your kids will do, let’s talk about something that you might do.  Ready for this?  You may poop during labour.  I’m just putting that out there immediately in case you were wondering how real I was planning to keep it here.  Now you know.  I imagine that you have probably recoiled from your laptop in disgust and are now frantically typing “Involuntary bowel movement during labour” into your favourite search engine hoping to call my bluff, but just stop it.  It’s true.  There is a risk, and there is practically nothing you can do about it other than to accept it as a possibility.  The good news is that you will probably be in so much pain that you won’t notice or care whether or not you’ve actually (*ahem*) “evacuated your bowels” during what you have always imagined would be a beautiful moment.  This and the fact that your husband, if he is anything like mine, will consistently deny that such a horrifyingly disgusting event ever took place, should be of some comfort to you after it’s all over.

The first time you see your child they will be covered in a ghastly layer of gook consisting of your blood, their pee and poop, amniotic fluid, and a de-LIGHT-ful waxy substance known as vernix.  Say THAT ten times without gagging.

Your baby will vomit directly into your mouth at least once.

Your child will urinate on you and your various belongings on a semi-regular basis for a period of time spanning several years.  Don’t let the fact that they are “potty-trained” tempt you to lower your guard, remove the plastic from the couch, or start leaving your purse unzipped.  Unless of course you find that the faint smell of ammonia on all your clothes helps to scare off unwanted visitors and other predators.

Your baby will spit up down the inside of your shirt, directly between your breasts, approximately eleventy million times.  They will usually wait for a time when you are already hot, sweaty, and far from home without access to a clean garment or running water.  Beware crowded, non-air-conditioned spaces like weddings, funerals, line-ups, and anywhere with the words “Fun Zone” in the title.

No matter what you encounter prior to this event, nothing will ever prepare you for the first “meat diaper”.

You will find things in the toilet for what will seem like the rest.of.your.life.  Things that have no earthly reason to be there will be floating (if you’re lucky) in the bowl like some sort of disgusting prize in a cereal box.  It will be your job to reach in and fish out the Lego Man, the slimy wad of Play Doh, your husband’s razor, your wedding earrings, and maybe even your makeup brushes.  You will need to do this immediately (no time for gloves!) because if you don’t you run the not-to-be-taken-lightly risk of the same little doofus that put the object there in the first place running in and flushing it, thereby ruining your septic system and the back yard in one fell swoop.

Oftentimes, your kids will smell so badly it will be offensive.  It will usually be poop-related, but not always.

You will also smell really bad a lot of the time.  It will usually be kid-related.  To cut back on the frequency of this occurrence don’t forget to wash your hands after the mandatory post-potty high-five.

No matter where you hide the box of tampons, your kids will not only find them but will remove their packaging and use them to decorate the Christmas tree.

You will find poop in strange places.  Like the closet, or the back deck.  Perhaps even in the laundry hamper.  No explanation will ever be forthcoming.  You will almost never find poop in the toilet because for awhile, flushing will be the one thing they do right every time.

You will know, down to the hour, exactly how long it takes for various foreign objects such as stickers, rubber bands, Lego Man’s arm, and pebbles to pass through a toddler’s digestive track.

Your child may one day create a shrine on their bedroom wall for prize boogers.  Despite being asked to wash the boogers off beforehand, your husband may decide to skip that all-important step, paint right over them, and in so doing preserve said boogers for all eternity.  (You’re welcome, future owners of my home.)

I can tell by your horrified cyber-silence that I should wrap this up now.  However in the interest of full disclosure you should know that I am not stopping because there is nothing left to say, but because I truly believe in the whole “just give the people only as much information as they can reasonably be expected to handle at one time” concept.

I trust that in the days, months, and years following the arrival of your own small, sticky, vernix-covered, milk-drinking, poo-factories (because we both know that despite what you have just read, you’re going to go ahead and do it anyways!) that you will think back on this moment with gratitude and thankfulness that at least you went in with your eyes open and a surplus of hand-sanitizer at the ready.  You’re going to need it since the amount of poop and bodily-fluids one small child is inexplicably able to produce is nothing short of supernatural.  They truly are miraculous!