Monthly Archives: May 2011

treating your kids like somebody else’s.

I might get flamed, but I’m going to go ahead and say it: we use spanking as a form of discipline. When Tim and I made that parenting decision, we said we wanted it to be rare (only for serious offenses) and never done in anger. Well, that sounds nice on paper but over time what I started to realize was that I felt like I was spanking for everything and was also not staying totally calm when doing it. Also, I felt like yelling was accompanying the spanking, and in the end, it wasn’t very effective — Sam didn’t seem to be getting the message, I was getting increasingly frustrated and mad, and ultimately, I felt like my relationship with Sam was suffering. I didn’t like being around him, and I am pretty sure he didn’t like being around me.

I don’t think parents and kids always need to like each other, but as a whole I felt like the atmosphere of our home and family life was turning sour. There just wasn’t much peace or joy or even love. As a Christian mother who wants a home filled with fruits of the Spirit I knew that something needed to change.

So I started to think about discipline, and how I handled Sam. And I thought back to my babysitting days — how did I discipline (i.e. teach) the kids I was watching? I am sure I had to soothe tantrums and referee fights and say “no, you may not have 12 oranges for dinner” at some point during my babysitting career. So how did I handle those issues? Then it hit me: they weren’t my kids — so I wasn’t able to spank them or haul off and yell at them when they drove me nuts. I had to come up with other ways to discipline them simply because it was not within my authority to spank them or yell at them.

So, today I have been trying to treat Sam like he wasn’t my kid. I know that sounds odd but why is it okay to yell at your own kid but not someone elses? The fact is — it isn’t okay. Why do we treat our own kids worse than we would treat someone else’s kids?

So today I decided I would treat Sam like I was babysitting him. I couldn’t yell at him or spank him.

And you know what? Today went better. I felt like I needed to dig deeper and find creative ways to get him to do what I wanted him to do (or to stop doing what I didn’t want him to do) rather than just yell at him to stop or come here right this instant or whatever. I felt like he responded better to these tactics and that there was less tension between us as mother and child. And because there was less tension, he seemed more obedient and compliant because I was treating him kindly.

It also struck me that he isn’t my kid — he’s God’s kid. I have been called to love him and discipline him and raise him, but maybe I should treat him a little more like he’s Somebody else’s kid on a daily basis.

I don’t know if we’ll give up spanking altogether — but at least for now I don’t think it’s working for us. I can’t keep my cool and it’s just a little hypocritical to discipline my kid for throwing a fit when I respond to him by…throwing a fit.

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henry’s birth story….nearly 4 months after the fact.

I might have readers (like 2 of them) who aren’t friends with me on Facebook, and they might not know that Henry Joseph was born gently at home, into his Daddy’s hands, on 1/20/2011 at 7:10am. He weighed in at 6 lbs 8 oz (tiny! I know. But he was born at 38 weeks. If he had stayed in for another couple weeks, he probably would’ve been 7 and 1/2 lbs or something like that) and was 20 inches long. I posted a very rough birth story on Facebook, but I wanted to post a better version here (turns out it’s easier to type when one hand isn’t helping to position a nursing newborn).

He was born on a Thursday morning, but his story starts the Sunday before that, when I got desperately ill. Fever, chills, coughing fits, general grossness. Then Tim and Sam got sick, too. We were a fun bunch for a few days. Tuesday (1/18) was Sam’s birthday, and the three of us spent it together in our big bed just snuggling and feeling terrible. I started having some low contractions that felt like the real deal at some point — I chalked it up to being dehydrated a little, and maybe the coughing causing contractions. I had an appointment with my (wonderful!!!) midwife on Wednesday and I told her about the contractions. She said they were just warm-up contractions as my body got ready for real labor. They weren’t powerful or getting closer together or anything, but they did feel like real labor contractions and not just the tightening, Braxton-Hicks contractions. After my appointment I was still feeling so so sick so I went home and took a nap. I woke up around 7:30 because the contractions were getting stronger and they woke me up. A lovely family from our small group graciously brought us a meal that night because being sick and hugely pregnant sucks, but being sick and hugely pregnant and having to cook and feed a sick family sucks worse. I was hungry for the first time in days, so I had two big bowls of potato soup and some salad.  As the evening progressed the prelabor contractions I was having got longer and stronger. I was needing to breathe through them, so out of curiosity I started timing them with ContractionMaster. They weren’t getting closer together for forming a pattern, but they were consistently 1 minute 40 seconds long. Tim was working to set up the birth pool because my midwife suggested I try to soak in the tub for a while to relax. I had a question about the tub so I Facebooked her, and mentioned that my contractions were around 1:40 long. She called me at 10pm and we talked about these contractions. At no point did it occur to me that these were real labor contractions (I’m a little slow, I guess). I was just hoping they’d stop so I could get some rest so I could get better. She gave me some suggestions to help me relax and to get the contractions to stop, including the birth tub. Tim ran out to buy a bottle of wine while I soaked in the tub. The water was sort of lukewarm at best because we didn’t have the right attachment to fill up the tub and we ran out of hot water before the tub was full. I had some wine and finally gave up on the tub and went to bed around 11:30. I was getting frustrated because these contractions were really starting to hurt. If these were just prelabor, I didn’t feel like I was handling them very well. How was I going to handle real labor? I was also frustrated because I was so sick and I wanted desperately to sleep but every time I’d start to drift off I’d have another doozy of a contraction and it would wake me up. You know, if the coughing wasn’t keeping me up. I also felt bad for Tim because he had a 102 degree fever and needed rest too but I could no longer handle the contractions without his coaching. They were intense, long, and felt like they were double-peaking. Around 2am I asked him to call my midwife again. He started timing contractions and they were 2 minutes long but anywhere from 9 to 16 minutes apart. There was no pattern or getting closer together. But I could no longer lie down during the contractions. It made them hurt so much worse (no wonder women strapped to a hospital bed beg for an epidural! I would’ve, too). The only thing that helped the contractions was swaying and rocking my hips, almost in a belly dancing fashion. Every time a contraction would hit I’d get out of bed and just rock my hips. My midwife said this sounded like maybe the real thing, so I called my mom and asked her to come get Sam. I didn’t think I was in real labor, but I knew that I wasn’t getting any rest and Tim wasn’t either, so I needed someone to watch Sam so we could sleep and hopefully get better the next day. My mom agreed to come get Sam, but she was sick with the same cold thing that we all had, too. Once she arrived I asked her to stay up with me for a while and time contractions while Tim got an hour or so of unbroken sleep. If this was real labor, I needed my poor, feverish sicky “coach” to be able to support me through labor. My mom reluctantly agreed (I don’t think she thought I was really in labor, plus she didn’t feel too hot herself) and I was kind of mad at her. But, I was probably in transition.  I moved out to the couch so Tim could sleep in the bedroom. Every time a contraction came I’d tell my mom to start timing and then just get up rock my hips. At some point I felt vaguely nauseated.  Around 4am I started feeling vaguely pushy, but the contractions were still not in any pattern — anywhere from 7 to 13 minutes apart. I had my mom get Sam up and leave at this point, and made Tim call my midwife again. She said she’d come right away. It’s a good thing she lives only about 10 minutes away from me! Around 5:30 my midwife arrived and asked if I wanted to be checked. I said sure, but I honestly thought she’d tell me that I was 1 to 2 cm and that I still had a long way to go. Imagine my surprise when she said I was almost fully dilated and effaced, with just a stretchy anterior lip.  The contractions slowed down at this point — the “rest and be thankful” stage, as Ina May calls it — so I just chatted with Tim and my midwife. I had a few more contractions but they didn’t really make me feel an uncontrollable urge to push. So I just waited. Finally I did feel like pushing and it actually felt pretty good to push. I had Tim press really hard on my hip bones during contractions because that felt better. At some point it hurt worse when he did that so I had him stop. When Henry started to crown I started to freak out a little. I said, ‘oh, it hurts!” and “I’m scared!” and prayed in earnest “Jesus, help me please.” The other midwife there to assist my midwife, and Tim, just gently encouraged me and prayed with and for me. I knew that pushing wouldn’t make the pain stop, so I just kept pushing. I didn’t push for very long — Tim says maybe 15 or 20 minutes — and then at 7:10am Henry Joseph was born. My first thought was oh, he’s tiny. Compared to Sam, I knew Henry would be lucky to break 7 lbs. Tim and I just cried and thanked God and fell in love with our little boy. We tried to get him to latch while we waited for the placenta to be born. My placenta was small and not in great shape — maybe the stress from being sick made my body preserve my other organs at the expense of my placenta, so I went into labor? I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting a small 38 weeker.

Having a home birth was amazing. I can’t imagine doing it any other way, even a birth center birth. I think being in a comfortable environment where I was free to do what I needed to do (like get up and rock my hips at will, etc) really diminished the discomfort of labor.  In a way it really was easy — there were parts that were difficult (see: being sick with the bubonic plague, crowning) but compared to Sam’s birth it was just so much easier. And my recovery has been easier, too.  I feel empowered and strong. I feel love for my sweet family of 4 and I feel equipped and capable of raising my two sweet boys.  The oxytocin rush you get right after you give birth is like…trippy. It’s such an emotional, strong, incredible feeling. I guess increasing pain in childbirth is part of the fall (according to Genesis) but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t also give us so much grace in birth. And that amazing cocktail of love hormones is pretty great.

Birth is worth the pain. Having had two natural births I can tell you that it is worth it.  The pain serves a purpose — it’s not senseless pain. It’s pain that can be understood, and is in that way able to be conquered. It can’t be bigger or more powerful than you because it is you.  You hit a wall of self-doubt but then you just take control and it’s exhilarating. I really believe it’s worth it.

We are so in love with our sweet Henry. It’s been almost 4 months now and his birthday remains one of the best days of my life, not just because he was born that day but because his birth was one of the best things that I’ve ever done.  I love his dimples and his big grins and his giggles. I love his elbow dimples and his fat rolls on his leg — he may have been tiny at birth but he’s definitely made up for lost time as far as eating goes. I just can’t imagine our family without him in it.

God is good!

a sleep post.

If you’ve read this blog at all or know me in real life, you probably know that sleep during Sam’s first year was crazy. I am convinced, now that Henry is in our lives, that sleep is more a personality issue than a parenting issue. As a new, insecure, first-time mom though, I definitely had moments where I doubted everything, and where I wondered if I was doing everything wrong. Why would he only sleep touching me? Why would he only nurse to sleep? Why did he wake up so often? What was I doing wrong?

In my heart of hearts I knew I was doing what I needed to do to love him well by choosing to co-sleep and nurse on demand all night long. But I also felt judged and confused when people would insinuate (or flat-out state) that if I would just put him in his crib across the hall and let him scream at 4 months old, he’d sleep, or if I just weaned him he’d sleep longer.

Then my second kid came along.

I have not done anything different. I still nurse on demand, let him nurse to sleep if he wants to, and we co-sleep.

Yet this child sleeps easily. He sleeps long. He doesn’t LIKE to nurse to sleep usually. If he’s tired and not hungry, he will CRY if I try to nurse him. I can put him in his swing and he will go to sleep. Sometimes if he is over-tired he will fuss a little, but for approximately 45 seconds before passing out. And he never really gets worked up, he just fusses a little. He can enter a light stage of sleep, stir a little, and then re-settle himself.

Sam would work himself into a frenzy so quickly and would wake up every time he entered a light stage of sleep. It was just how he was. Even now, at almost 28 months, he still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes. Last night he woke up and asked where his peanut butter sandwich was. (I think we may have a sleepwalker when he’s not in a crib anymore. We shall see).  As an infant he would never just stir a little and re-settle and go back to sleep. We’d try and he’d just get more and more upset.

Here is a fascinating post I read when Sam was a baby that I think explains my kids pretty well.  Sam was a tension-builder when he would cry. He still is. He will have a total freaking meltdown and will get more and more worked up. We are working on teaching himself some coping mechanisms to help himself regain control when he’s losing it, like taking deep breaths, etc. Now he will come up to me when he is upset and say tearfully,  “Mommy, I need to take deep breaths.” And I will coach him through a few.

But what the article says about tension-releasers is totally my Henry:

A kid who releases tension by crying will not always nurse or be rocked down to sleep. It may happen sometimes, but often times the kid will get progressively more active and jittery, almost manic, as the nursing or rocking session goes on. He or she may cry during the rocking/nursing, and not settle down in a few seconds. It’s almost as if the kid wants to cry. If you leave the child alone, the child will wail initially (for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes), but then settle down to a fuss or whimper, and will soon fall asleep. A child who releases tension from crying will often wake up happy and refreshed, and will play alone in the bed, co-sleeper, or crib for awhile before you come to get them.

It’s so true. I will try to rock/bounce him to sleep, or nurse him to sleep, and he will fuss and cry until I put him in his swing where he will fuss for maybe 1 minute longer and then pass out. He is content to be not in my arms or at my breast every second of every day.

Maybe I am just more laid-back this time around, too. Part of the issue with Sam was that I had no idea when or if things would get better (or worse). I had no frame of reference. With Henry I know that there will be good nights and there will be bad nights, but eventually we’ll all sleep. It’s not quite the all-consuming obsession like it was when Sam was a baby.

I do think a big part of it is just their personalities though. Even in the womb they were different. Sam was Kickpuncher:Reborn (that’s for all you Community fans) and Henry was much more mellow. Those traits have carried over to life as air-breathers, too.

Then there’s some other stuff, too. Henry is intact and Sam was circ’d. I believe he was often in residual pain from that completely unneccessary surgery and that affected his ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. I also think that because he is a sensitive, intuitive, sweet boy that he was psychologically damaged from his circumcision. He had night terrors as a older baby and young toddler, and now that he is verbal, he sometimes has bad dreams but is not able to tell me what the dreams were about, but is very shaken up. I believe these are also after-effects of his circumcision.

I’m sorry, Sam. I wish I had known….

Sam was also fully-vaccinated for the majority of his first year. I have also wondered if his sleep issues were related to a reaction to his vaccines. He slept 6-7 hours at a time as a 7 week old, and his sleep went dramatically downhill after he was vaccinated at his 2 month wbv.

But he probably started teething around 8 weeks or so, too, because he had two teeth on his 5 month birthday. So it could’ve been that, too.

Anyway, I say all that to say this: sleep is totally a personality thing. I am convinced.