Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Schooling at home - relaxed and fun!

Some days this homeschooling thing just works. Today was so relaxed and yet I felt like we were doing exactly what we should be doing!

Here's what my 7-year-old did today:
Here she is, holding her treasure map and chest
  • spent about 45 minutes writing a list of all the chapter books she has read this year (mostly consisting of offerings from the Rainbow Fairy, Magic Tree House, Little House on the Prairie and American Girl series)
  • Doing this made her want to read, so she sat down for about 1 1/2 hours re-reading Little House in the Big Woods. 
  • After lunch, she spent an hour on her Singapore Math work doing story problems and graph-reading - mostly simple addition and subtraction. This is a huge success as she doesn't really enjoy math and I haven't pushed her. She's young.
  • We moved on to painting on large sheets of paper with little sis. 
  • Then, it was time for her monthly  Magic Tree House online book club. She has a great time chatting with the other kids from around the country and learning more about the historical context of the books.
She's happy. I'm happy. Progress was made. Good day!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Birth was Mine.

Dear Dr. G,

Today I celebrate my son's second birthday. There are many who were present on that special day who will reach out with loving memories of his entrance to the world.

You, however, wouldn't know me if we passed on the street.

Eye contact wouldn't make a difference. You stood at the end of my bed, arms crossed, eyes on clipboard, stance rigid - as you observed me lying on the bed relaxing through body-wracking contractions. Rather than kneel down to speak to me, you stood and announced that I needed to have a test because you didn't have the piece of paper you needed [to cover your ass].

I could say hello, but you wouldn't recognize my voice - you never heard it. As I calmly and politely (yes, witnesses will attest!) noted your concern and stated that there simply wasn't time - baby was arriving within the half-hour - so I would decline the test, you shifted your weight and played the age card: my 42-year-old body couldn't possibly have produced a placenta strong enough to bear baby through those last minutes. My baby and I completed another full-on contraction and then reasserted "Thanks, but no thanks." In my head, I affirmed myself: The decision is mine. The responsibility is mine. This. birth. is. mine.

I'm not sure you would even get a pang of remembrance if we started a conversation today. My husband couldn't be there. I was alone. And vulnerable. Yet you continued to bully me by turning to the staff and announcing "She can't give birth in that bed. Move her to a birthing bed so that when this baby has shoulder dystocia due to gestational diabetes, we can get it out." And, with that, you stormed out.

Wow, you didn't like my file, did you, Dr. G? 42-years-old, no ultrasound, no diabetes screen...who did I think I was, right?

Well, I know who I was. And am. I am a mother, taking responsibility for myself and the well-being of my children. This looks different for everyone. For me that day, it looked like seeing that birth to completion without pausing in fear to take a detour.

My issue with you is not that I knew that Isaac was fine and that the test was unnecessary - I didn't know that!; rather, my grief is that, when faced with a patient who made an informed choice that differed from your bent, you chose to abandon your mandate to "First, do no harm" and set out to inflict emotional and mental pain stemming from your own frustration. The choice was mine to make.

While your staff moved furniture around, I proceeded to transition to second stage labor in the tub, then returned to my bed (not the one you prescribed me) and pushed out a beautiful boy in seven minutes. Just letting you know, because you didn't bother to check in afterward.

I may sound angry, but I'm not. I actually want to thank you.

Because of this experience, I will be sure to teach my students how to advocate for themselves. Don't worry: I do not despise medical professionals. On the contrary, I appreciate deeply the work of doctors and nurses. All three of my babies were born in hospital settings with no drugs and no interventions of any kind. This worked for our family. It was only in this third birth that I had a negative interaction, so I have a balanced view. I simply need to be sure that when that single mom or young couple venture into your hospital, that they are prepared to discuss and, perhaps, disagree in order to have the birth they want and feel is safest for their family.

Because Isaac's birth story will always have a bit of wounding tied into it, I will never take for granted that everyone has a happy story. May I be a compassionate listener and supportive ear for every woman-sister with whom I am lucky enough to share birth!

And, I assure you that every June 4th I will offer up a prayer for your work, your very important work, that you will be touched by birth, that you will remember that your patients are women and not simply charts, so that you can be remembered fondly on the most important day of countless families' lives.

I will never mail this letter to you. It's not for you, anyway. It is what I tell my students and friends: the honoring of the events around the sacred arrival of a precious babe, whatever they are.

Somehow the imperfect becomes perfect when framed in love and acceptance.

Moving on,
Rebekah Labell

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Day Spent with Friends

Today some people I love helped put me back together. I truly was falling apart this morning after a challenging week. Saying goodbye to Evan was even more difficult for our family than in January - mostly because we won't see him again until sometime in 2012, most likely. The reality of that set in last week and the vibe in our house has been heavy since Wednesday.

After managing a broken closet door in the girls' room, cleaning up two potty accidents by Anna, and finding a load of dark, wet clothes in the washer that had been washed with someone's pocket tissues (oy!), the kids and I headed down to our congregation for Saturday services this morning. I was trying to sort out what answer I would give when people came at me with the inevitable "How are you?"...So many responses: "Fine", with either an air of sincerity or lack thereof; the surprising "Why do you ask?", sure to make them feel foolish for daring to care; the defensive " fine, thanks, why shouldn't I be?" while avoiding eye contact, just to help me feel more sorry for myself as I alienate a well-wisher; or, there's the one I had the audacity to use: the honest response (gasp): "You know, it's been a tough week. I'm having a difficult time today."

It is so hard to do this.  It is risky. But, today, it paid off. I was allowed to feel crappy, express it, and was even encouraged to stop pressuring myself to feel better right away. That kind of support will get the kids and me through this next year, for sure.

I love that, at this point in my life, I have some relationships that have enough history to allow for the occasional negative exchange. These people see me not for every changing mood but for the general "trajectory of my life" (to quote an idea from our Rabbi). They know that, while I may be down a bit now, I will give back when I can and will not be down for long. They trust me and they love me and they allow me to have bad days without jeopardizing the friendships.

The God I follow and love does that, too. He stands by me and waits for me to come back to a place where I can continue growing and changing and learning, patiently allowing me to experience pain and even wallow in it sometimes.

I hope I can be this kind of friend to my friends and parent to my kids.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Priorities: Easier Set than Lived

Without Hubby here, I'm alone with my thoughts at the end of the day. Sometimes it's a happy place to be - other times not so much. A little analysis (overthink much?) has revealed that the nights I'm not so pleased with my day and my self are those fraught with parenting angst: lack of peace and connection with my kids. (Interestingly, I am NOT tormented by dirty floors and piles of laundry when I've had a good day playing and learning with the children.)

Conclusion: Being a great mom is really the thing that matters most to me.
Question: Why do I still struggle with putting that role first?

Yesterday, I had to juggle nursing sick kids with preparing for two couples to visit for dinner and a reunion from their childbirth class - introducing each other and me to their new little tykes. I had a babysitter coming to help out with the kids while I cleaned and cooked. After dinner, the couples and I were heading out to the local chiropractor's office to my Sunday night class and I needed to prep that class, too.

I challenged myself to spend only 2 hours on the cleaning, class prep and dinner prep for the evening, which was to begin at 4:30 pm. (In the past, I have given myself all day to get ready for these things.) That meant I couldn't start working on related tasks until 1 pm (finishing @ 3 pm, then picking up my sitter, and coming home for the event).

I remember my boss, the then-President of New England Conservatory of Music, telling me that, although he had intended to spend a certain amount of time on his inauguration speech, he had fallen quite short of that goal. He said, however, that "I spend whatever time I have, really, to get the same result." Sometimes we just need to do what we can do in the time we actually have. More time spent does not always equal better result.

So, yesterday morning, I ate french toast with my children, played a game, danced with them, finally found a "secret hiding place" for Simone to call her own, prepped this week's home school lessons, did some laundry and made a choice to let the childbirthing reunion/class extravaganza take place with only two hours of prep with the idea that it would be "just fine". Guess what? It was.

And, better than that:  I'm not exhausted today and can continue to connect with my kids. Which is my priority. Amen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Who Does The To-Do List Work For?

So, I love to-do lists. I mean, I really love them. Basically, if I'm upset about anything at all, "making a to-do list" would be one of the top three cures for my angst. I've learned, however, that there are different uses for lists and that it's important to remember: The List Works for ME! I do NOT work for the List! Seriously, if you use a list correctly, it's a comforting friend and aid. But, give it too much power, and you're done.

Case in point:  We've been without Daddy for just over two weeks now. At three weeks, two days, we will officially enter the "longest time we've been without Daddy" zone. Already, my girls are asking when he'll be back; and I'm ready, too. But, we're just beginning. This is stressful and I'm getting tired, cranky, and negative. Solution? Among many things, make a to-do list. Write it all down. And then stand on top of it and look down on it and say "I'm in charge, list! I'll do what I want and need to do and that's it!"

Sometimes I write my list in order of priority of task. Sometimes I just "vomit" onto the paper all the things that are rattling in my head that "need" to be done....and then I alphabetize them for fun. Sometimes I categorize them by area of life or person that they pertain to.  And then, when I'm through being stressed, pissed, sad, and angry, I do a few things on the list, feel better and eventually throw the list away.

It's not really about finishing the list, I've learned. It's about knowing that it's there if I need it. Sometimes it's just comforting to have my life reduced to an oblong piece of paper  - before I go back to living for real.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Got Presence?

My little boy has it. I think it's the thing that makes us giggle with delight when we look at babies - it's PRESENCE - that innate sense that one is important and has a role to play in the world. With babies, it's uninhibited and pure. They haven't had anyone tell them otherwise. They haven't experienced those feelings of doubt and insecurity. No one has ever said anything to them indicating that they are other than the center of the universe. So, they smile and gaze and look pretty darn content with themselves - and we older, scarred wiser, mature folks marvel.

Simone commented on some baby pictures of herself the other day "I wish I were a baby again. I think I was an angel flying around God." Maybe that's why kids are so confident. They are fresh from Heaven. Oh, I hope I can help them keep that glow as long as possible...and maybe I can put on some of that "fresh from Heaven" sparkle today, along with the over-40 face cream and tummy-toning lotion!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Enjoy it!

I just had this flash of excitement and appreciation thinking about enjoying life with my little kids. This is a challenging time of life, but it's so uniquely fun! My girls have new chore charts and Simone, my oldest, is thrilled with it. She actually shouted "My chore chart is the funnest thing ever!" tonight. I can't believe how she's running around tidying things up and being ultra-responsible these last couple of days. I think she's going to earn a new Leapster cartridge before I know it.

Seriously, though, I have the rest of my life to work on the to-do list. Getting up every day and enjoying these moments with my kiddos will NOT last forever. Listening to them, learning to "keep the chore chart fun"  - that's what matters.