Channeling some Aesop

Recently I’ve been musing over the Aesop’s Fable of City Mouse, Country Mouse. If you’ve never heard it, essentially two mice living in different habitats switch living spaces for a bit so they can experience life a different way than what’s become routine and ordinary for them. In the end, they discover that they’re better off staying in their own homes, and they appreciate it more. Something like that. In my mind, I’ve been applying it to mothering situations. The working mom and the stay-at-home mom, and the idea that we’re all susceptible to the idea of the grass is always greener somewhere else.

Because of teaching, I’ve gotten a taste of both since Birdy has been born. I went back to work, but I’ve gotten the summer to be with her. Today starts my last week of being with her, and it’s bittersweet.

There have absolutely been times this summer when I’ve felt so stir-crazy. When as much as I love Birdy, I’ve been weary of how much she needs me all day long. When I’ve been desperate for some adult interaction. Being a stay-at-home parent is HARD. Anyone who says otherwise is likely sugarcoating the truth and/or has never actually done it. It’s beautiful, but it’s difficult. It can feel isolating and emotionally draining, and just from my brief time in the parenting world, it seems like the stay-at-home parent doesn’t get nearly as much credit as they should. To those of you who do this 24-7/365, I have so much respect for you.

Even before I got pregnant, with Charlie and with Birdy, I knew I would be a working mom. I knew that teaching was a part of me, a calling rather than a job, and I knew I wouldn’t give it up. I also knew that I would be a happier mom, a better mom, if I continued to pursue that passion and show my kids what that looked like. And now, a week away from returning to work, there’s a part of me that’s truly looking forward to it.

But despite that, and despite the moments this summer where I’ve been exhausted by being a stay-at-home mom, there is also a part of me that wishes I could continue to stay at home with her.  Because I wouldn’t trade a moment of the summer we’ve had together. I love that I’ve had this time to get to know her more, to continue to bond, to have her smile and laugh, learn to roll over and blow raspberries, have baby babble conversations with her, see her get adorably messy as we began to try baby food, to find her amazing feet, to feel the sweet weight of her on my chest as she succumbs to sleep. Getting to marvel at her exploring her world has been such a gift.

And so enter the thoughts of the city mouse and the country mouse — the idea of living life from another side. But I come to the same conclusion the fable does (well, ish); that my life is best lived with the way it is — as it pertains to working or staying at home. Best for our family. So while looking forward to rejoining the ranks of the working parents, I’ll always be grateful that my work allows me to be a SAHM for two months a year.

Sorry not sorry

After Birdy was born, there were a whole host of things I felt guilty about. This was before we realized she was dealing with colic and I was dealing with PPD/PPA, but at the time, it was just so. much. guilt. I felt awful that as much as I loved her I just wanted her to stop crying. That I wanted to be able to put her down. That I craved sleep above almost all else. That I missed the relationship I used to have with Hubs, because I just couldn’t give him the same attention that I gave Birdy. That I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from being super-vigilant all the time because I was so worried something would happen and we would still lose her (ahem, PPA). That I couldn’t do it all, that I needed help, that I was already failing at being her mother (thanks, PPD). And on and on and on.

It seemed like, and still seems like, the only things I didn’t feel guilty about, didn’t feel the need to apologize for, were the things society at large kind of passively aggressively tells new mothers they should feel bad about.

Namely, for me, the big two of how I gave birth and how I provided nourishment.

I decided very early on in my pregnancy that I wouldn’t be breastfeeding. It’s my body, it’s my choice, and I shouldn’t have to defend it, but I did have my reasons and had they asked I would have had no problem laying it out for them. I’m about to get all kinds of personal, so brace yourself: my nipples have always been extremely sensitive. I mean to the extent that often during our adulting I have to declare them off limits to Hubs, and that an accidental graze can be painful. So I knew that breastfeeding would be an awful experience for me. I knew I would dread it. And I also knew that Birdy would be able to feel my dread and I didn’t want feeding her to be a negative experience for either one of us — that wouldn’t allow for a lovely bonding experience at all. I know all the benefits of breast milk for an infant, but I also know that many infants have been formula fed due to choice or circumstance and turned out just fine. Like me. So I did my research and found a formula that I thought would be best for Birdy as far as nutrients, development, digestion, etc. and that’s what I went with. But oh lordy the looks I got when I said “no” to the question of are-you-breastfeeding in the hospital. It was a lot. Multiple times a day. Even in my haze I wanted to ask, “Isn’t this on my chart? Shouldn’t somebody have written down that I said no a bajillion times already?” A part of me thought that maybe they believed if enough people continued to question me I’d break down and do what they wanted.

But I didn’t, and Birdy is doing very well in her development. Sorry, not sorry.

Birdy was breech most of the pregnancy, but flipped about a month before she was born. After the Spectacular Failure of the induction (more detailed post on that to come), the medical team wanted me to wait two weeks and then try another induction. I refused and asked for other options, knowing the hospital was very proud of their low C-section rate and didn’t really want to go that route if they didn’t have to, and also knowing that that’s what they were going to damn well give me. The thing was, even though they said Birdy was doing just fine to sit tight and wait it out another two weeks, even though they were the medical professionals, they weren’t me or Birdy and they didn’t experience the induction the way we did. No matter what their tests said, I knew the induction was rough on her, and knew it was rough on me, and I wasn’t doing that to us again. I know a C-section is major surgery, I understand it comes with risks, but at that point I truly felt it was the safest way to get Birdy delivered. I was terrified that we would wait too long and we’d lose her before she could be born. I didn’t want her birth to turn into an emergency situation where we ended up having to get an emergency C-section anyway, I much preferred we prepare for it ahead of time. I felt like people were acting as though “C-section” was a dirty word, something that if it had to be uttered aloud, needed to be whispered or mumbled (which is exactly how the doctor presented me with the option after I nixed induction number two).

As it turns out, the doctor who did my C-section (different one from earlier) said during the procedure that it was probably a good thing I’d gone that route. So, sorry, not sorry.

New mamas (and in general, anyone at all, really), it’s okay to trust your gut and stick to your guns. As a neighbor said to me when I was very carefully trying to recount all this, “they may know the medicine, but you know your body”.