Monthly Archives: December 2012

Response to Newtown

Hey Folks,
I wrote a piece in response to the Newtown shootings on another website.  You can read it there: http://itsconceivablenow.com/2012/12/23/mothers-response-newtown/.
Thanks,
Betsy

Advertisements

Papa

My son called his friend’s father ‘Papa’ and I freaked out.  You see, my boy loves other boys and men and is obsessed with facial hair and ‘boy parts’.  I don’t have facial hair or boy parts.  My boy called a man ‘Papa’ and I was suddenly picturing being rejected by my son in 11 years, when he is 13 and wanting to do boy things with other males.  Will he still love me, the mother who did not give birth to him but who is also not a boy?

When M was first starting to explore the world around him, he took a shine to remote controls.  We used to joke that he was a stereotypical male: remote controls, facial hair and breast milk were his favorites.  But now, that isn’t so funny because sometimes I worry that my femaleness will not be enough for him.   I am an athlete and hope that will give me some credit, but I have never mastered peeing standing up (plus his friends will tease him mercilessly if he has two mothers, one of whom pees standing up) and I don’t even own a T.V.  Yes, I know I am being overly dramatic and stereotyping, but these are the things I worry about.

When M called his friend’s dad ‘Papa’, I corrected him, “You call him Will.”*  Internally, I was screaming, “ YOU DON’T HAVE A DAD!” and “I AM SORRY I CAN’T BE THAT FOR YOU!” when all M was doing was repeating what his friend had said.  The reality of life is we can never be all things to all people.  That would be exhausting.  As a parent, I need to remember that, even if I had a penis, I couldn’t be everything to my son.  He will need other people to fill special places in his heart and in his life.  He will sometimes need other people more than he needs us, but he will always need us.  We are each other’s home.  I will try to keep remembering that when he is four and makes a fort for boys only or when he wants to go camping with his friends and their dads.  Home, female parts and all.

-Betsy

*Names have been to changed to protect the innocent.

Birth Day

My baby was born 2 years ago today.  There was snow on the ground along with a little falling from the sky.  I can still see S’s breath heavy in the cold as we slowly made our way up and down the block.  Her labor was long, with a few roadblocks, but after a little coaxing, M made his entrance into the world in our bed at our home around 6:30 a.m.

It was a long night and I don’t do well with sleep-deprivation.  I know it sounds terrible as the one who did not have to push that enormous thing out of my lady-parts, but I was exhausted that day.  I first met my son in the wee hours of the morning, so bleary eyed I could hardly make out his tiny features in the dim light.

As he emerged from the great beyond, I scooped him up and placed him on his Ima’s belly, momentarily not quite sure of what had just happened.  He was perfect with his odd shaped head and tiny newborn cries.  Perfect.

And I was desperate for sleep.  I was so tired that when the midwives and the doula abandoned us a mere three hours later, a kind of delirium set in making it impossible for me to even think about sleeping.  Three days later and still relatively sleepless, my body started breaking down.  I had severe chills and couldn’t stop shaking.  It took a friend coming over and forcing a sleep-aid down my throat for me to succumb to the underlying desperation for dreamland.

Looking back, I wonder about those first few days.  It was like something primal washed over me.  I felt like sleeping would mean not protecting my woman and my son.  Sleep would mean I, regardless of the presence of other people, would not be making food or changing diapers or swaddling or helping S to the bathroom.  In other words, the world might have just fallen apart if I slept for 4 hours.

I think some of that stems from the undeniable fact (ask S) that I am a control freak, not being able to delegate responsibilities or ask for help without feeling even a little bit like a failure.  I also think some of that was about the tumult that happens when one’s identity shifts suddenly after 33 years.  I think my body was feeling the disequilibrium, the newness of our new configuration and it was freaking out.

I was looking at my son playing his new guitar today, feeling a little sleepy from the night before.  The difference between now and then is that there is no more tumult.  We are like flat water with gentle ripples rather than the pre-hurricane ocean we were that night.  There is extreme beauty in both places, but tonight I am tired and need the calm.

The past two years have been amazing and so, so hard on many levels.  My boy is…beautiful.  Though time could slow down a bit, I am excited for all the next steps to come (like sleeping through the night…like all the way through the night…Mama’s still tired.)

-Betsy

Taking Stock

Maybe it’s because it was recently Thanksgiving and I was reflecting on what I’m grateful for, or maybe it’s because I have days more often than I like to admit where I feel frustrated with how much harder it is to actually live as the parent I want to be- whatever the reason- I have been taking stock in the last few days about my experience over the last 2.5+ years as a parent.  When my spouse was pregnant with our daughter I found myself, as the non-gestational parent, doing preparatory things that perhaps are commonplace if you’re not the one literally carrying the load… I made lists.  I know what inspiration feels like on a visceral level because I get this giddy feeling in my stomach and have this sense of openness and possibilities.  I had that feeling with this list.  It all centered around things I wanted to do with my not-yet-born kid once they were here in this world.  I spent so much time coming up with that list, and yet once my daughter actually was born, I was too consumed with, well, being a parent, to even remember that old list existed.  I nearly forgot about it until something having to do with gardening snagged a note in my mental roladex (did I really just reference that?  yes, I am the last standing person without a smart phone or ipad. whatevs).  Today, I am taking stock and bringing that list up to see the light of day.

Here are some of the items on it and my current thoughts about each one:

  • I wanted to garden with my child (should they be even remotely interested).  Not surprisingly, I haven’t been able to do this yet with my daughter, unless you count the child-size garden tools we bought her that she’s expressed very little interest in as a step in the right (or wrong) direction. I don’t feel too bad about this particular “to do” with her only being two and a half years old.  There’s time and my original visions of gardening with her in a sling nuzzled up against my chest while being exposed to the earth were perhaps a bit lofty.  I have friends who are amazing inspirations around this, actually sowing fields with bebe in tow, but they are full-time farmers, so it’s fair to say that they have a leg up on me.  Still, it’s good to have the reminder that this was a priority to me.  I think summer 2013 will be the first year my daughter is old enough to actually start that “children’s garden” I imagined with all her mis-matched, toddler picked out starter plants embedded in a plot of dark earth.  Farmer’s market here we come.  And this year I think I’ll actually make a raised bed like I’ve always wanted.  Yes, this summer it is.
  • I wanted to teach my child how to identify wild plants (especially medicinal and edible ones).  I am proud to say that at 2 years old my daughter can ID exactly four plants: chicory (the periwinkle flowers help and they’re featured in one of her books), red clover (her middle namesake and a family favorite), smart weed (which she loves to pick off and eat; it’s edible), and sedum (I have no idea why she remembers this one especially when there are tons of different varieties).  Check. I am one proud Mummy.
  • I wanted to expose my child to political activism.  Ok, I will admit that I feel like a bit of a failure on this front.  I’m not ripped up about it, it just didn’t shake out like how I pictured it. At least not yet anyhow. Unless you count that we have brought her to vote with us a couple of times, but somehow that doesn’t feel all that radical.  I wanted to be one of those parents who had their young one marching with them through the streets of DC protesting various social injustices, but so far that hasn’t happened.  We made two sincere attempts to go to the Occupy Wall Street protests last fall in NYC, but both times our entire family fell sick with colds.  The universe wasn’t having it and either were our immune systems.  Luckily there’s no shortage of things to protest.
  • I wanted to teach my child to know and love their body and be sex and body positive.  I am thrilled that our daughter knows the real names for her genitals, not referring to them as a “woo woo” or whatever other bizarre or inaccurate names people impart on them.  She calls her vulva a vulva and her labia, her labia (ok, we did call it her “babia”, pronounced “baby-uh” for a while… who could resist?).  She’s one cool kid.
  • I wanted to teach her to conserve resources.  I am still working on this one.  I don’t know that a 2 year old can really grasp why keeping the water turned on is not a totally awesome idea.  Fair enough.  Also, I’m not the best example with how much I drive my car and flip open the laptop.  work. in. progress.
  • I wanted to learn another language together, starting from a young age.  Maybe this is me putting my personal goal on my child.  Still, I can’t get that factoid from a Child Development class many moons ago out of my mind about how kids learn language most fluently before they are seven.  SEVEN!

I remember when my spouse was pregnant an old friend contacted me and said something like, “remember, you are going to have all these ideals that you’re going to want to live up to when you’re a parent and some of them aren’t going to happen… give yourself a break, it’s hard to know what parenting will really be like before you’re doing it.”  I still want to try to uphold many of my values and ideals, but damn if she didn’t have a good point.  Parenting is hard.  Like really, really hard.  And I do the best I can with the resources I have and sometimes it’s not me I see in that old list, but a projection of some me I want to be.  When I got that giddy feeling it wasn’t about trying to craft something that would be a tool for self-judgment if I couldn’t check each box, it was about things that excite me because I want to share them with my child… I want to show her the world and all the beauty in it. So maybe the list needs a little updating, some revisions inserted with a healthy dose of parental compassion… I think I’ll put that at the top of my list and go from there.

– Charlotte