And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mommy and Me

As my belly has expanded by leaps and bounds in the last few weeks I have realized that motherhood begins with such sacrifice. As an active women I have hard time feeling my body become increasingly taxed by activities that never would have caused my body any exertion before. Stretches that wouldn’t have stretched before are now a strain on tight muscles. Walks that would’ve felt like nothing are tiring now. Running is an absolute impossibility. We begin this process of motherhood by giving of our very bodies.
I helped Scott with the beginning of a camp training this weekend; during this I thought through aspects of leadership again. At one point self-care was brought up, the process of taking care of yourself first before you take care of others. I learned self care in a very real way on my first backpacking trip. The trip took place in Wisconsin in May and was subjected to oft felt Midwestern spring weather patterns, constant rain and a surprise snow storm. I was sopping wet from the waist down for eleven days straight. When we would get into camp everyone would just start setting up camp, I finally had the courage to take a break and change my sopping wet clothes so I could better move, gather firewood, set up tents, and cook dinner. If I changed clothes and took the five minutes to rejuvenate I could take better care of myself and the people around me. Right now my fairly low maintenance body has become high maintenance. If I don’t drink enough water I suffer, if I don’t eat well I suffer, if I don’t properly rest I suffer, if I don’t exercise my body (in gentle ways that I used to call old lady exercise) my body really starts to fall apart. My non-pregnant body is used to being deprived of food, water, sleep, pushed to all kinds of crazy excesses in sport and now I can do none of that. Presently the three flights of stairs up to my class winds me, probably because my heart is presently turned on sits side, but from a woman who likes to climb mountains this is a hard weakness to feel. Right now to best take care of my impending child I need to just take proper care of myself. I think this is the first lesson of parenthood, so take proper care of your child you must first take care of yourself.
Prior to my marriage I looked upon the bonds of matrimony as an institution that would only take me further from myself, that once I married my life would stop. Once I said ‘I do’ my waist would expand, I would stop traveling, and no longer be able to pursue my career because my husband’s everything would come first. I would pick up his nightly nacho habits, we would no longer be able to afford travel, and we would make all decisions based on the advancement of his career because, after all, aren’t I just going to get pregnant and quit work? I have traveled more since I have been married, and have gone farther in my career than I ever did on my own. There have been some un accounted for weight fluctuations, but I won’t blame Scott. I have felt that my impending motherhood was going to provide the same kind of death to my life; in the same places and in other’s as well. I have seen mothers stop exercising, stop interacting with their husband (unless it was about the baby), stop eating well, stop their career, stop their education, and stop interacting with their friends (unless those friends had kids). I have also seen all of these ‘sacrifices’ looked on as virtuous, because doesn’t the child come first?
But if pregnancy prepares me for motherhood by taking good care of myself and therefore the child, why do I feel like that our society expects me to give up everything that gives me life and keeps me sane? Why does it expect me to stop my job, which provides income and helps others, and start recording every minutiae of my child’s life in a scrapbook? Why does it expect me to stop exercising and start making kid-friendly, shaped like a lady bug, snacks? Why does it ask me to stop making art and start making homemade wrapping paper? Why does it tell me that I won’t be able to hike, which is free, but I should be able to afford a gym with daycare?
I read one article in a Parenting magazine about how to take care of your child in the ‘witching hours,’ those hours between school and dinner. One suggestion was to make peanut butter and jelly sushi: flatten bread, spread with peanut butter and jelly and then roll it up and I was to give this to child twenty minutes before dinner. Why would I waste the time to make an elaborate snack right before dinner when I could be making dinner? The schedule for this article had me dancing on my head in some ridiculous way every fifteen minutes, when am I supposed to make dinner? Where does this madness stop? When can highly educated women expect to stop running circles around the perceived demands of a small child and make real decisions? Will my child feel more loved because I quit work and spent all day making faux-sushi? Will my child become a contributing member of society because I stopped painting and hand decorated all their Christmas presents and those of my thirty person family? Will my children score better on their SATs because I stopped exercising and started going to every ‘Mommy and Me’ class available? Yet every woman’s magazine I pick up aimed at women in my time of life tells me that these things are necessary for a healthy child.
I was raised by a single mom. I didn’t get shuttled to hours and hours of sports practices. Would I be more confident if I did? Probably, but it didn’t happen so why dwell on it. I was a latch key kid, I did watch many clandestine hours of afterschool television when I should’ve been doing homework, (if you’re reading this Mom I’m sure you knew or aren’t surprised, our garage door was really loud) would my time have been better spent in piano lessons, maybe, but it didn’t happen so why dwell on it? I tell you what did happen because of my upbringing that I didn’t see happen with my friends who were shuttled to and from lessons and made all kinds of personalized snacks, I entered college being able to cook and clean almost anything. I remember going to school with people who couldn’t use a mop or a vacuum cleaner or an ATM or fry an egg. I am not a picky eater; my mom wasn’t going to short order cook all kinds of specialized crap just because I didn’t like it or wanted something else.
So how do I balance this? How do I take care of myself, and take care of my child and still get to enjoy time with my husband? How do I raise an independent child that still has the opportunity to be on a few soccer leagues? How do I keep my career, keep exercising, and keep my sanity without folding to all the Martha Stewart crap that American culture tells me I have to do to be a good mother? How do I take care of myself without turning into Oprah?
I think I start with knowing who I am and what I am willing to spend my time on. I love food, food is a bit of a hobby of mine, my children will be well fed at mealtimes. I am not willing to spend my time making special snacks, they can have a normal peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A one minute prep time for snack means I love you and want to meet your needs just as much as a ten minute masterpiece. I think I have to ask myself continually what are the long term effects of the things I choose to do with them and the things I choose to keep for myself. What does this mean for the eternal? What does it take to raise a well-loved cherished child and still use my god-given gifts to the best of what God has intended them for?

Mommy no-nos

Here’s a list of things I cannot eat while pregnant:
1. Alcohol: May cause fetal alcohol syndrome.
2. Caffeine: coffee, chocolate, tea, green tea, soda, etc. In a study they found that women that who ingested 6-8 cups of coffee a day had a higher risk of miscarriage and had lower birth weight babies. So they recommend you drink under 200mg a day, a cup of coffee has about 170mg of caffeine in it.
3. Lunchmeat: may have a bacteria that causes a harzardous bacterial infection.
4. Soft cheeses like brie, camembert, and feta: made with unpasteurized milk that may have bacteria that causes hazardous bacterial infections.
5. Sushi: it might make me sick, read give me food poisoning (for the record I have never gotten sick off of sushi). One source I read said that there could be parasites that can cross over the placenta and harm the baby, the very next source said that parasites cannot cross over the placenta. Do women in Japan stop eating sushi when they’re pregnant?
6. Tuna: I should avoid tuna steaks because they have too much mercury in them, might damage my baby’s nervous system. But I should eat canned tuna to get omega-3’s, but only 6 oz. a week.
7. Sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and stevia: all sugar substitutes and since some cause cancer in lab rats I shouldn’t eat them or only in moderation.
8. Herbal tea: since we haven’t done lots of conclusive studies on herbs that are used in teas I should either cut them out or not use them at all. I also found conflicting information on herbs; one source would say that hibiscus was unsafe and the very next would say that it is just fine (by the way hibiscus is in every red hued herbal tea out there, very hard to avoid), I had the same thing occur with lemongrass, red raspberry leaf, fennel, and peppermint.
9. I should buy organic foods: by the way there has been no conclusive study done that show that organic foods are actually better for you.
10. Uncooked eggs or meat: say goodbye to runny yolks and medium rare.
11. Afalfa and other sprouts: may have bacteria.
12. Meats that have nitrates in them.
I think that’s all I think of right now.

Things that I am not supposed to do while pregnant:
1. Take hot baths or hot showers: might overheat and cook the fetus or make my skin itchier than it already is.
2. Hiking on uneven terrain: have these people even been hiking before?
3. Bike or walk on uneven terrain: might trip. Apparently anything but pavement is very bad for me. Have they considered that most of the world is unpaved?
4. Biking on wet pavement, bumpy roads or winding paths.
5. Sitting too long.
6. Standing too long.
7. Dye my hair.
8. Use perfumed anything.
9. Smoke.
10. No more skiing or snowboarding or ice-skating until the kids out of the womb.
11. Wear sandals or high heels, I should stick to 2-inch wide chunky heels. Or tennis shoes because those are always okay for Americans. We do love our athletic footwear.
12. Lying on my back.
13. I should never lift more than 12 lb. weights. Never mind that I can chest fly 20 lbs. but once I am pregnant I need to stop that dangerous activity.
14. Horse back-riding. Didn’t Mary ride a donkey into Bethlehem? So irresponsible, what were they thinking?
15. High altitude.
16. Rock climbing.
17. Contact sports.
18. Gaining too much weight.
19. Not gaining enough weight.
Wrap me in bubble wrap and stick me in a room with a bowl of fruit. But wait, the bubble wrap might make me too hot. And the fruit should be organic, washed properly and not too old….
The other day we were at a friend’s house enjoying barbecue and conversation and I made a comment about something I’m not supposed to eat and the two fresh faced right out of college girls looked at me and eagerly asked what restrictions do I have. I threw back my head and cackled and started regaling them with the horrors of pregnancy diets. My friend, Muhia, and father of two laughed and said, ‘Welcome to parenting.’ He then began to talk about how you sleep your babies. He said his children were the old model and you had to lay them on their bellies or else they would choke and die, and now these new models have to be slept on the back or they suffocate and die of SIDS. But if you lie them on their back they may develop a flat head. Unbeknownst to Muhia earlier that week I had just sat Scott down and asked him what he thought on whether or not we should sleep our child on their back or belly. We reached no conclusions.
My grandmother smoked through all her pregnancies, and had three healthy babies. My mother slept us all on our stomachs, and we didn’t die. I’m sure she also put back a few cans of tuna and took some really hot showers. Still she didn’t kill any of her children and all of our nervous systems work just fine.
Well all this to say I still put down my one allotted cup of glorious black coffee, brewed so strong I am sure that my child already has hair on his or her chest. I walk on uneven terrain (I live in Africa for pete’s sake), and I’m a little cavalier about washing my vegetables. I guess I just need to break rules and live on the edge. Damn my stinking rebel streak.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Harbingers of Adulthood

Harbingers of Adulthood

One of my fellow teachers here at Rosslyn has gone back and forth between Michigan and Kenya a few times. This last time on their way back to Kenya her kids asked her what she was most looking forward to here in Kenya, her response, ‘Househelp.’ Labor is inexpensive here and most westerners employ people in the interest of providing a job and having some help doing tasks that take monumentally more time here than at home. Our househelp is named Mary, and she is wonderful, I don’t think she has any idea how much easier she makes my life. Anyway my co-workers couldn’t believe their mother’s response; they thought she would say, the animals or the mangoes or something else. I laughed because I totally understand their mom, and this is such a juxtaposition of adulthood and childhood.
Every now and then something hits me on the head and makes me think, ‘Oh, I am all grown-up.’ Here are some of those things:

1. Christmas or your birthday comes around and you can’t think of anything you want.
2. Or your Dad asks you what you want and all you can think is, ‘sheets.’
3. It’s two weeks to your birthday and a friends asks you want to do and you don’t know because you didn’t even realize that your birthday was coming up.
4. You wake up before your alarm clock and you consider getting up because you can get a few more things done.
5. You can’t, actually can’t, sleep in past 8am, unless sick or pregnant.
6. You see college age girl your first thought is, ‘she doesn’t even have hips yet.’
7. You would rather rent it from blockbuster.
8. You feel guilty when you let other people do more work for you.
9. You look at pictures of yourself in college and high school and think, ‘I was skinny, what was I thinking?’
10. You get excited when you think about organizing a new part of your house.
11. It’s almost as much fun shopping for someone else as it is shopping for yourself.
12. You’ve decided it doesn’t matter what’s trendy, what’s trendy is what doesn’t make your butt look big.
13. You actually know what colors look good on you.
14. You do think actresses and models look too damn skinny.
15. You see a handsome man on the street and instead of being attracted to him you think, ‘Yeah, but can he cook?’ Or, ‘That’s nice, pretty doesn’t change a diaper at 3am.’
16. A night out with the girls still gets you home by eight or nine.