Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eastern Market Baby Mittens

Here's the pattern for my Eastern Market Baby Mittens (finally!). I first mentioned them when my three-year-old was but a wee babe, here. I was hoping to have this up ages ago, but life took over and ... well, it's here now. Enjoy.

Please note: These mittens are intentionally quite long so as to be able to stuff them under a jacket and keep them on the baby's arm but can also be cuffed. Please reproduce only for personal use.

Yarn: Karabella Aurora 8: 1 skein MC, 1 skein CC.

Needles: US size 8 DPNs, or size needed to obtain gauge

Guage: 4 st/inch (holding 2 strands together throughout)

Size: Approx 6-12 months

Holding 2 strands of MC together (one from each end of skein), cast 20 stitches on dpns. Join and work in the round a 1x1 rib for 5 rows, switch to CC color for 2 rows, then switch back to MC. Repeat until you have 3 sets of 2 CC rows, then work 5 more rows of rib in MC. You should have 20 rows of ribbing.

Alternatively, you can do 2 stripes in various widths, or skip the striping all together and knit a mottled version using 1 strand of MC and 1 strand of CC throughout.

At this point, work MC in stockinette stitch until piece measures approximately 8 inches.

Next row: *k2, k2tog; repeat from * until end of row.
Next row: *k1, k2tog; repeat from * until end of row.
Next row: *k2tog; repeat from * until end of row.
Next row: k2tog, k1, k2tog; cut yarn, leaving approx 6 inches of tail. Thread onto darning needle and pull yarn through remaining 3 stitches and pull tight to a point. Then pull yarn through the top of the mitt, flattening point somewhat.

Weave in ends and block.

Disclaimer: I'm finishing up the details of these a bit after the fact, so if to get gauge you need a needle size much different than what I wrote or if something else seems wonky, let me know. I'm pretty sure I'm right, but sometimes "Mommy Brain" strikes when you least expect it...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Journey to Homebirth, Part II: Ani's Birth (B)

Throughout labor, I had very little concept of time. At one point Kat came to tell me she was going home to nurse her little one. I found it a bit odd since she'd only just arrived, but figured she just hadn't had a chance to do so before leaving home. When she got back it seemed she'd only been gone for a few contractions but as they were coming on fast, I imagine she'd been gone for more than just a few. A little while later Keith asked me what time I thought it was; I said maybe 11am, he answered that it was after 5 in the evening. Later, someone said that Mairi, Erin and Kat were betting on whether the baby would come that day; I thought this very odd to be betting so early in the evening and didn't entirely appreciate the implication that I'd be laboring that many more hours. After all, it had only just gotten dark. I didn't realize it was so late - nearly 10 or 11pm at that point.

Eventually, I started feeling pushy. My body pushed a few times on it's own, surprising me. Mairi checked me again but I was only 8cm so she said to try not to push too hard, just enough to relieve a little pressure; I couldn't help it though, my body was taking over. I remember pushing a few times and crying out that I couldn't not push. She said that was OK, to let my body do its thing. The baby must have been making a big move at that point because I only remember that lasting a little while; after a few involuntary pushes, I was pushing only lightly on my own.

The next time I was checked, I was dilated to ten and given the all clear to push. I was eager to do so, but don't specifically remember having an urge to push at that point. At the suggestion of the midwives I got out of the tub and moved to the bed. I started out pushing on my knees, draped over the birth ball but the baby was positioned forward in my pelvis with lots of room towards the back, so Mairi and Erin suggested I lay down. They acknowledged it's not usually the best position but in my case it would help utilize the extra space toward my back. So I lay down against Keith and pushed...and pushed...and pushed. My contractions were odd at that point: I would have one big one, then another smaller one just behind it, then a bit of a lull. The pattern surprised the others; I remember Erin and Keith both asking me, "Another one, already?" several times.

Pushing was much harder than I thought it would be and I never quite got the hang of it. Mairi and Erin switched off helping me, pushing down on the area I needed to focus on, trying to direct me to push in a way that would make the most progress. I tried, but the only times I got reassurance that I was doing it correctly was when my body took over and the pushing became involuntary. I would start pushing when a contraction came and then my body would take over, pushing for me, then Mairi or Erin would cheer, "Yes, that's it!" At some point there was a small flurry of activity and I noticed everyone talking in hushed tones. Somehow I figured out that they'd seen meconium and though they didn't mention it to me at the time I was concerned and knew I needed to keep pushing hard and get the baby out as quickly as I could.

Three hours into pushing and the head was finally crowning; Mairi urged me to look at the mirror they were holding in place and see the little tuft of dark hair peeking out, to reach down and touch her head. I did, but only briefly. I was too focused on pushing and just wanted to get this done. No more distractions. Finally, Mairi said, "One more push and you're gonna see your baby!" I gave one more huge push, straining with everything I had, and felt something burst out. The way I remember it, she came out all at once, but we have pictures with just her head out, so it must have been two pushes at least. I felt her body slip out and Mairi called for me to look down and see my baby. I hadn't realized I was done and was a bit surprised that she was out.

Then she was in my arms, on my chest. I looked at my beautiful baby, speechless. I think I said something along the lines of "My baby" and then "I did it." "Yes, you did!" everyone cheered. Everyone helped me sit up a bit and take off my top so as to get skin-to-skin with my baby. They rubbed her off a bit and covered her up. I lay there with her for what seemed like hours, Keith next to us, both of adoring our new little girl.

The feeling of holding my just-born baby, covered in vernix and with beet red skin (which lasted for days), was like nothing I've ever experienced. I could not take my eyes off her. She was a gorgeous, dark-haired bundle of perfection. She lay in my arms, awake and content to look around and take in this new world. They made no attempts to take her away and even let me hold her while I pushed out the placenta (which they lay next to us, Ani still connected) and they stitched me up, saying it actually was more comfortable for mom if the baby was in her arms. I had to lay on my back for the stitches and Erin helped me get her in just the right position for nursing. She latched on right away, suckling eagerly.

Eventually Keith cut the umbilical cord and they took her and cleaned her up (she had several meconium poops in the first hour or two - apparently there was a lot in there, hence the meconium before birth; she had no side effects from this, however) and weighed her (8lbs, 4oz and probably closer to 8, 8 before the meconium!). I got up and showered and ate and Keith held her then for the first time.

In the end I labored for 20 1/2 hours, including 3 1/2 hours of pushing. Mairi and Erin thought Ani was probably posterior, explaining the long labor; they'd seen her move her head around quite a bit as I was pushing and thought she'd turned at the last possible minute. Mairi told me that from the time I'd questioned whether I could go on - at 6 cm - to the time Ani was born was 7 hours.

It was a long, intense labor. But the result - a beautiful, alert daughter, a birth high uninhibited by drugs or unnecessary time away from my baby, being the first to hold her, just moments after her birth, seeing my firstborn hours afterward and introducing her to her sister, recouperating in our bed surrounded by family - was amazing. Letting my body work in the way it was meant to and experiencing the full effects of the birth and birth and postpartum hormones led to such a feeling of peace and contentment. Even in the new-baby-no-sleep days following Ani's birth, I was so happy to be a new mom and to spend my days caring for her. Gaining the knowledge that my body is not faulty and can birth a baby and feed her without complications was incredibly empowering. Learning that I can birth a baby that is almost 1 1/2lbs bigger than the baby born by ceasarean was incredibly healing. It also showed me that the research I'd done that led me to choose homebirth was on target and that I was right to make the decisions I did. (Look for more on this research in the next blog post of this series.)

The following days were somewhat of a challenge to physically heal as I did have a tear that did not heal well at first and my hips, especially, were incredibly sore for a few days. Expecting to be able to jump right out of bed and go about my day after a homebirth, I was a bit surprised by the recovery time I needed. But the time I got to spend in bed bonding with my daughter was a complete and total blessing. In one post-birth checkup a couple weeks after the birth, Mairi told me I looked "serene". Though I didn't and don't always feel that way, I do believe this experience, this birth of my second daughter, has resulted in my own rebirth and an underlying serenity that was not there prior to Ani's birth. I know now just what I'm capable of, what I can do, if I just give myself the chance and insist that others do the same.

Ani Kathryn Nelson was born at 1:21am on November 7, 2009. She weighed 8lbs, 4oz and was 21 1/4 inches long. Her middle name, Kathryn, honors our doula and friend, Kathryn (Kat) Haines, without whom I may never have know HBAC is possible. Ani was born with dark hair and a darker complexion than Aria's but has her sister's eyes.

Journey to Homebirth, Part II: Ani's Birth (A)

This is the second installment in my Journey to Homebirth series. Part 3 will explore the research I did and emotional journey I took in order to choose a homebirth VBAC for the birth of my second baby. As Ani just turned 9 months old, I wanted to post her birth story (finally!) now.

I awoke at 5am to two contractions. I'd been having Braxton-Hicks for months and contractions throughout the day and night for days, though, so while they got my attention I didn't immediately think anything of it. I started to get out of bed, intending to make yet another way-too-early-in-the morning trip to the bathroom, and felt a gush as my water broke. I woke up Keith and asked for a towel, trying to make sure our not-yet-protected mattress was kept dry. He jumped up, excited, and ran to get the towel. After making it to the bathroom, I walked around a bit, restless. I was having contractions but they were quite manageable and coming only every 5-7 minutes or so. As it was so early we waited a bit to call anyone and stayed in our bedroom, trying not to wake Aria (in bed with us) or my mom, who was in the next room. When Aria did wake up we spent a few quiet moments with her, enjoying our last morning as a family of three.

At 7am we called one of my midwives, Mairi, and my doula/birth assistant, Kat, letting them know what was going on. At that point everything felt quite manageable on our own. Mairi decided to come by in a bit, just to check on me and to let Erin, my other midwife, know what was going on. We told Kat she could stay home as we were expecting Mairi to just come by for a few minutes and then to leave again until later in the day and didn't want people to hang around, bored and away from their families, in our small apartment. I walked around a bit doing general morning stuff, getting some water and some breakfast. My mom congratulated me, which caught me a bit off guard at the time. I don't think it had yet sunk in that the baby was really coming; I was thinking more about the journey ahead. I should have finished packing Aria's bag for my mom to take and made sure she knew where it was, but I still believed I had lots of time and would be involved in getting her ready to leave when the time came. I think I was also starting a turn inward that I didn't even know I was making. Labor was getting more intense quickly and I was already more inside my head than I realized. An hour later contractions were coming every 4 minutes and felt like they were double peaking, taking more of my concentration to get through. I asked Keith to text Kat and let her know. She texted back right away and headed over.

Kat arrived first, I believe. We chatted a bit, a sudden lull in my contractions that made me embarrassed for having called her. They picked up again shortly, however, and I settled into the bedroom, the room I had always pictured as most comforting for labor. I leaned against the bed during contractions. Keith brought me a doll of Aria's - a big-eyed, brightly-colored Powerpuff girl - joking that it could help me. Surprisingly, I became attached to it, a piece of my beloved first daughter and a good memory, asking him not to move it for several contractions.

Mairi and Erin arrived soon, one after the other. They set up and took turns observing me, adopting a hands-off approach that allowed Keith and I to work together with few distractions. Kat became a messenger of sorts, staying with us during the labor and relaying information to them when needed. Poor Erin was nursing a broken foot, the result of a Vespa accident, and stayed in our living room as much as possible, listening and resting until she was needed, propping her foot up while she could. Giving us space, however, did not diminish our midwives level of care in any way. The layout of our small apartment meant they could hear everything, including the heartbeat each time Kat administered the doppler. The nook we used for the birth tub created a nest of sorts for me but allowed Mairi and Erin to stand back and observe and discuss without breaking my concentration at all. I felt at all times guided, supported and cared for while also being given the freedom to test my body's strength and the privacy to deal with each wave in the way that felt best for me.

As time went on Aria became more of a distraction, hyper and concerned about the goings-on and wanting to come and check on me every few minutes. I needed the freedom to not worry about her and to concentrate on myself and asked someone to make sure she stayed out of the bedroom. Sometime later I saw my mom usher her out the door; neither Keith nor I were sure of where they were going but knew the plan was for my mom to check into the hotel next door, so we were not too concerned. We also figured they would stop by sometime; in the end, though, we would not see her again until the baby was born. Believing we wanted Aria out of the apartment right away, my mom had rushed to get out the door before she was able to get Aria's things from us. It worked out and they were fine, but I felt badly that my poor planning had left them both high and dry without the bag of special toys and the list of local activities they could busy themselves with that I had prepared.

Keith had been filling up the birth tub since early morning and after contracting a while leaning on the bed focusing on Aria's Powerpuff girl or draping myself over a birth ball on the bed I was eager to move into it. I pulled my clothes off, keeping only a nursing bra on and earning the comment from Kat that she knew I was in real labor because I wasn't concerned with my nakedness. If I had been, she would've come too early. The tub was a godsend, worth every penny. It was where I would spend most of my labor. When I had to get out to go to the bathroom or move around I was not nearly as comfortable; the toilet was excruciating and other areas and positions just not as relaxing as the tub.

The first time I remember decelerations being an issue was when I had been in the tub for a short time. Kat looked for the baby's heart rate with the doppler but had trouble finding it because the baby was moving so much. When she did catch it for a moment, it was much slower than normal. She checked in with Mairi and Erin, who had been listening from their vantage point in the next room. Concerned, they came in to listen again; Mairi too had a hard time finding the heartbeat but Erin found it almost immediately. They had me change positions and the heart rate came back up. Throughout my labor this was the pattern, the baby's heart rate continually fluxuated and they monitored us both closely, changing my positioning and pulling me out of the tub at times to ensure she had the space she needed and didn't get too warm. And throughout labor, Erin had the magic touch, finding the baby's heartbeat instantaneously, even as she was doing somersaults in my belly.

My favorite labor position was leaning forward against the side of the tub, my arms and head draped over the top. Kat put a towel over the top so I could lay there comfortably; I held Keith's hand and during contractions pushed my forehead into his. I didn't realize how hard I was pushing until the next day, when I had a bruise on my forehead and rugburns on my chin from the towel.

At some point Kat brought me a washcloth scented with lemon aromatherapy drops. Between contractions I breathed in the delicious scent. I am normally very sensitive to scents and fragrances and have lots of allergies but during both pregnancies I've been obsessed with citrus. When pregnant I eat lemons by the slice, if not whole, wash my hair with grapefruit shampoo and clean the floors with lemon cleaner. I simply cannot get enough. Kat knew this about me and went out of her way to find the perfectly scented oil for my labor. Keith said later that I had a vice grip on that cloth. Once in my hands, I did not let this go for many hours; somehow breathing this in renewed my strength and resolve and concentration for the next wave to hit. It relaxed and energized me simultaneously.

Towards early evening, Mairi checked me for the first time and found I was at 6cm. "Is that IT?!?" I cried, frustrated. Mairi tried to reassure me, telling me that I was making progress, but there was a nagging at the back of my mind, reminding me that was where I'd gotten stuck during Aria's birth. I was aware of the continuing decels and kept asking "Is she OK?" I was starting to question whether I could do this. "I don't know, I don't know," I said to Mairi, unable to form a more eloquent thought or statement. Her response to my doubt got me through the rest of labor and the birth, still hours ahead of me: "You don't have to know whether you can make it through the rest of labor. All you have to know is whether you can make it through the next contraction." With a renewed sense of strength I refocused. I could make it through one more. Taking them one at a time I continued to make slow progress; I still doubted myself a bit, but knew I had a good team and lots of support and after each contraction I knew I had one more left in me. I could do this.

A little while later, Keith left the room for a few moments to grab a sandwich; when he came back he said he'd talked with Mairi and reminded her that I'd gotten stuck at six with Aria. She said she'd wished she'd remembered, that I was almost a 7, but she didn't want to get my hopes too high. Hearing that I was pushing past six, even a little, helped my confidence. My body was working, if slowly.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The 2010 Knitting Olympics

Tonight is the opening ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Simultaneously around the globe begins another Olympics - the 2010 Knitting Olympics, hosted by the Yarn Harlot. In 2006, I learned about this too late and followed it from afar, but this year I'm very happy to say that I'm a part of it. I've signed up and have my yarn and needles ready to go. Though no longer what I'd consider a novice knitter, the project I've chosen is itself quite simple. I'm planning to knit each girl a pair of baby legwarmers, coming up with the pattern on my own. If I finish before the closing ceremonies, I plan to continue to knit a bit each night, finishing/starting projects that have languished the past year or so. The challenge then is not the project itself, but to find some time each night to knit, something that has been in very short supply in the past year. Until Little A was born, I had not found any time at all to knit in months and months...and months; in the weeks after her birth I finally worked the needles on a hemp sweater I started long ago for Big A - and which she has long since outgrown - and was reminded of just how much I love it and how much I need to make time to do something creative. My recovery progressed, though, Keith went back to work and I was suddenly very busy again, now juggling two babies. Knitting fell by the wayside once again. So the true challenge during this Knitting Olympics in not the pattern. The challenge is to dedicate a little time each night to myself, nurturing my creativity and my soul. At the end, hopefully, the girls will each have a pair of sweet baby legwarmers but I'll have something even better, memories of some peaceful moments with my thoughts, some yarn and a bit of time for the artist within to resurface, just a little.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Journey to Homebirth, Part I: Aria's Birth Story (A)

This is the beginning of a series of posts detailing my daughters' birth stories and the way each has changed me and my life for the better.

Aria Grace Nelson arrived into our lives at 7:45pm on May 12, 2007. She weighed 6lbs, 15.7 oz and was 20 3/4 inches long. She was born with eyes of gray blue, the colour of the sea on a rainy day, and auburn hair that shimmered and glistened in the sun, traits that she's held onto to this day. She was and is beautiful and every moment with her is awesome and a blessing.

I was induced on the morning of the 12th, one day after my due date, a strong recommendation by my midwife based on my 40-week ultrasound which estimated the size of the baby to be over 9lbs. My midwife was adamant that should we wait to go into labor on our own, the baby would be even bigger and the vaginal, natural birth I wanted would be impossible. We questioned the accuracy of the ultrasound but she assured us that the radiologists at this particular office were superb and rarely off by more than a pound. Be induced or be prepared for a c-section. Those were our choices. 

As I was already 80% effaced and dilated to 2-3cm, I did not need to go in the night before for the typical Cervadil treatment. So I checked into the hospital at 7am Saturday and Pitocin was started by 9am. Nurses came in every few minutes to up the dosage, despite telling me they'd start me slowly and gradually. Once a nurse came in, upped the dosage and left and not 5 minutes later another nurse came in and upped it some more. I questioned this, still thinking we were going to start off slowly and let my body take over, but she said, "that's what you're here for; might as well get things going."

This being the pattern, my contractions got pretty strong, pretty quickly. A short time into the induction, during one of my many dilation checks, my midwife asked to break my water. I didn't want it and hesitated, but she assured me it would help move things along. I agreed, with some reservations I couldn't quite put into words.

Contractions continued to intensify and I used the breathing techniques learned in one of the hospital's birth classes and the rocking of either a birth ball or rocking chair to silently deal with them. Over the course of several hours I progressed to 6cm then dilation (not contractions) stopped for about an hour. Convinced I was stalled, my midwife said an epidural was key to going forward, that I needed to relax and the medication would help me do so. At that point, my contractions were getting very intense, double-peaking and bouncing off the monitor tape. I was still trying to use my breathing techniques, but they were failing to help with this new level of contractions and I started to whimper instead, feeling overwhelmed, not sure how to handle what was happening to my body. At a vulnerable place and with the knowledge that other pregnant friends had been helped by epidurals when they stalled, I agreed. But as the epidural was being placed, I broke down crying, not from relief, but from a sense that things were not going as I'd hoped.

As the anethesiologist inserted the needle into my spine, I felt a painful twinge under my ribs. It went away quickly and the meds started to kick in. The anesthesiologist, nurse and my midwife left the room, convinced I was taken care of for the time being. Moments later I was in horrible pain, not from the contractions, but from something else - in the same spot I'd felt that painful twinge. I asked Keith to go get help; the pain was so much worse than any contraction. My midwife and the nurse rushed back in and started checking things out. The pain got worse and I started vomiting; the staff brought ice/warming packs, checked my urine for signs of liver failure and the anesthesiologist rechecked the epidural. When I asked him what was causing the pain, however, he said, "Labor?" like I was the biggest idiot on the planet. The fact that the pain was not in the same place as my contractions and that I hadn't had anything similar until he placed the epidural apparently didn't matter. He said everything looked good and he couldn't redo it or move it at that point.

So, labor went on. I no longer felt the contractions but as I was throwing up and in tremendous pain I never relaxed and never dilated any further. Around 7pm, both the midwife and supervising doctor examined me and the doctor "strongly recommended" an immediate c-section. If we waited, he said, we would start to see distress in the baby. I hesitated again; was this the right thing to do? Keith and I were scared by the doctor's words, the possibility that the baby could be in danger. We felt there really was no other choice. We agreed to the section and the doctor and midwife both rushed out of the room to prepare for surgery. It was all happening so fast. I began to second-guess our decision. "Wait. My mom was in labor for more than 24hrs; why are we doing this so fast?" I asked the nurse. She could only explain that doctors like to see a certain progression during labor and that I wasn't meeting that goal. I wasn't reassured, but didn't know what else to do. They began to prep me and Keith for surgery.

In a short time I was wheeled into the OR for the section and the anesthesiologist moved the epidural so that the spot the pain was in was covered. The pain went away as my arms numbed and my ability to breathe began to feel restricted. I told him as much but as long as I could talk, he said, I was fine.

The surgery itself went well. Aria was out fast and she gave a couple of short cries, then one long one. She was taken to a table within my eye line and her exam was done so that I could see her even as they continued to work on me. When I turned my head, though, I felt like I was going to pass out, so I couldn't watch her for long. Keith was sitting by my head through it all and told me what he could see during her exam. Soon they placed her in his arms and it was love at first sight, the proud papa and our new little girl establishing what continues to this day to be a very strong bond.

While Keith held Aria, they continued to work on me. I was pretty out of it and still feeling odd but my midwife talked me through it, letting me know when a sensitive area was being worked on and helping me stay calm when I felt I couldn't breathe well. They finished with me about 20 or so minutes (I think) after Aria was delivered and Keith wheeled her in her bassinet to my room. I attempted to breastfeed but my arms were numb, especially my left arm (I'm left-handed), and even with the help of the nurses it was nearly impossible. She was interested but didn't fully latch on and I couldn't help her. They placed her on my lap and took a picture. I looked so tired and as drugged up as I felt but I was happy our daughter had arrived safely.

Keith's brother and sister-in-law were the first to visit, having arrived at the hospital during my labor. They came in and watched Aria's one hour exam and held their new niece. We made some calls, announcing our little one's arrival, Keith doing most of the talking. Slowly, the feeling in my arms returned and I finally felt strong enough to trust myself to hold her. Leslie (sister-in-law) placed Aria in my arms and I  felt the weight of her there for the first time, more than two hours after her birth. She was breathtaking.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Announcing Ani Kathryn Nelson!

Ani Kathryn Nelson
Born November 7, 2009 at 1:21am
8lbs, 4oz
21 1/4 inches

Proud Daddy holding Ani for the first time.

Mama & Ani a few hours after Ani's birth.

Aria & Ani
November 15, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

37 1/2 Weeks

This is what I look like this week, at 37 1/2 weeks pregnant. However big I look, I guarantee you I feel bigger. I have very regular Braxton-Hicks contractions (sooo not "false" contractions, let me tell you), skin so itchy and raw that I can't sleep, and lots of pressure and soreness in places I won't mention or describe. I am a poster-child for the pregger waddle and move at a rate of speed not unlike that of a turtle, and that's when I'm booking it. God forbid I make the mistake of getting down on the floor; getting up again is a struggle of mammoth proportions. My hands are swollen, my feet are flat. I'm done. Aria's Itsy Bitsy Yoga instructor told me that the mark of readiness for labor is when 30hrs of it starts to sound good. Bring it on, I say. Let's get this party started. Whenever this little lady is ready to make her appearance, I'm happy to have her and the sooner, the better.

You Know You're Very Pregnant When...

Facebook friends and those that read our family blog will have ready many of these already, but I thought I'd post here as well.

You know you're very pregnant when...

...your husband has to help you get your socks and shoes on b/c you can't reach your feet (bring back flip flop weather!).

...the maternity clothes start to get too small in the belly.

...the lady that makes your coffee and that you see at least a couple times a week and has your drink memorized says upon seeing you for the first time this week, "Wow, that baby is getting big."

...people at the local street festival stop in their tracks to say "You look like you were ready to pop yesterday!" and then you have to explain that you in fact have a few more weeks to go.

...people stop making eye contact, instead approaching you with eyes firmly affixed on your massive belly and the greeting, "Hi. Has your baby dropped yet?" lose your pen, look everywhere around you knowing you just had it, then stand up and see it fall out from under your big baby belly. Beware: This same thing can happen with cell phones, small toys and towards the end, the occasional book.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Creative Parenting

My yoga instructor, Carrie, recently told a story about her son. When he was a toddler she was working with him in the room, filling out paperwork and organizing checks - lots of checks. The phone rang and she took 5 steps away from the table, grabbed the phone and took 5 steps back. In that time her son had found the scissors she'd inadvertently left within her son's reach and cut up ALL the checks. I gasped when she told this story and immediately knew my reaction would have been an upset, shocked, "Aria! NO, NO, NO!". I would have grabbed the scissors away, not only frustrated but scared at her use and access to something so potentially dangerous. Carrie, though, chose to look at the situation in a different light - her son had used scissors for the first time and had handled them safely and efficiently. He didn't know that the paper he was cutting up was valuable, only that he'd done something new and different and was proud of it. She allowed him that moment of pride in himself and chose to be proud too.

Her point with this story was that we can all react to the unexpected by getting upset or angry or whatever, or...we can be creative and choose a different way to react. Until recently my creative parenting had been lacking quite a bit. I've been much more geared toward the upset reaction than anything else with the upheavals of late - moving plus being tired and emotional from the pregnancy, and my patience had been wearing very thin. Apart from that, I haven't been as creative with our activities since moving to the new area and have succumbed instead to using TV as entertainment for her and a chance to rest for me. When I came out of the bathroom a few weeks ago to find this, I had the perfect chance to react to the situation creatively. Alas, even as I thought to myself that this is what Carrie meant when she talked about creative parenting, I cried out in shock and disbelief at what I was seeing; I was not yet in a frame of mind to find that creative reaction within myself. In that moment Aria was so excited to paint and didn't realize the damage done. Conversely, I saw only the damage and not the artist before me. Once the moment passed, though, I saw that I had taken that excitement from her and instead made her feel bad...she apologized over and over that afternoon, breaking my heart a little more each time.

Since that moment I've tried to actively change both my thinking and my actions, not being so concerned with the mess but allowing her to explore new activities and materials. This is a challenge for me. Just today she was using markers for the first time in a long time and loving every minute of it; I sat by, watchful, thinking to myself what a mess they were and how she just got marker on her only good pair of pajamas. Still, I chose not to grab the markers and immediately undress her and try to get the marker out, as the voice within was urging me to do; instead I looked at how much fun she was having, took a deep breath and allowed her that experience and the mess that came with it and I did so in a manner that let the potential stress of that moment go. I'm trying to do this more and more and really, it's so much more fun, even if her wardrobe is needing replaced at a much faster rate.

So, I'm making prograss though there's still more to do. I'm trying to turn off the TV and draw or play or read with her, even when so tired but I need to come up with some new activities for us - break out the paints that stay hidden 95% of the time, but which she absolutely loves, and not be so concerned with the mess, get out of the house more - to the park or swimming. Granted, all of these are more challenging as I get more and more pregnant, but I want to focus on building up the girl in front of me - the love of my life that is so full of life and creativity and curiosity and so desperately wants interaction and new challenges and experiences - while we have this time alone. These moments are not to be wasted. I'll still be able to get ready for the new little one and if all is not done or there's a little extra mess, well, that's OK too.