Parenting lesson #29: You will catch yourself in a “Do as I say, not as I do” moment

Quiet and alone.  That’s what I want to be.  It’s just another way that parenthood has changed me.  Four years ago, I scored 100% extroverted on the Myers-Briggs test.  Now I get energized by peace and quiet.  I want to pee alone and I can’t even do that.  This morning, by the time I was shoving food into my mouth, I wanted nothing more than to eat alone.  (It was “one of those mornings.”)  But alas, alone is not my reality.

This morning, Zach finished his blueberries quickly, and began to whine and point at Eliza’s.  Because he still only says about ten words, and blueberries is not one of them, whining and pointing is his main way of communicating exactly what he wants.  She understood immediately, and in a high-pitched voice, said, “Oh, Zach, you want some blueberries?  Okay, here you can have two.”  And she handed them over.  It was a melt-my-heart moment.  She was so loving, so giving, so cute in that instant!  I welled with pride, thinking to myself, “All my work is paying off.  She is turning into someone who wants to give and share.”  I patted myself on the back.

Not 10 minutes later, I was barking at her to occupy herself so I could finally eat something because I was hungry.  I poured myself a meager bowl of Raisin Bran, emptying the bag’s contents and realizing it wasn’t quite the amount I had hoped for.  I added my milk, plopped on the living room couch, and instantly had a visitor.  Eliza jumped beside me, opened her mouth to indicate she wanted some, and said, “Mommy, can I have some?”  And I said, with an attitude, “Eliza, you had your breakfast.  I didn’t get eggs and fruit like you did, I have this cereal.  This is mine.  I’m not going to give you any.”

Whoops.  Instantly my heart sank as I realized how selfish I was being.  I, the one who wants so much to teach my children to put others first and to share what they have, was refusing a bite of bran cereal (BRAN CEREAL!) to my 3-year-old.  And just 10 minutes after I watched her share her coveted blueberries.

I was so embarrassed.  I changed my attitude and said, “You know what?  I’ll share with you.  I’d love to share,” or something like that.  I probably gave her 4 bites of my 15 bites of cereal.  And she said, “We always share our food, right mommy?”  And I said, “Right.”

Getting married really shows you how ugly you can be, but having children magnifies it ten-fold.  When you watch your toddlers pointing their fingers at their friends while yelling at them to do this or that, you realize they learned it from … somewhere.  (Yes, YOU.)  It is humbling and revealing and amazing.  And yes, now that I’m having a quiet and alone moment because both kids are napping, I can see clearly enough to realize this is a good thing.  I know I’ll be ready for the wild and crazy, extroverted afternoon.  It beckons now – Zach just woke up!

Parenting lesson # 23: Your kids learn to talk by repeating what you say.

Teaching your kids to talk is a double-edged sword.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve already been embarrassed by what Eliza has said, mostly because it’s so obvious she’s repeating something she learned from me.  Something bad.  And it only seems to be getting worse.

Luckily for me, there haven’t been any recent instances of her saying “dammit!” like she learned about a year ago.  I taught myself not to say that word.  No, now she is much more into poop.

We’re trying to train her that “poop” talk is not funny, but somehow, especially with her friends, it is the funniest word she knows.  They will sit and giggle and just say it over and over and over.  It doesn’t help that yesterday, she was playing and just kept saying, “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap” when she couldn’t get things to go her way.  I instantly knew she must have heard me say that (apparently it is my replacement for “dammit”).  It was such an ironic moment because I keep trying to tell her not to use potty talk, but I do it obviously often enough for her to pick up the word and its proper usage (though I don’t think she knows that crap is a worse form of the word poop.  Yet.)

It’s the classic lesson of “do as I say, not as I do.”  It’s often funny to hear your kids repeat the not-so-great things you say, but it’s also scary.  It’s like every sentence you speak goes on the record and could be repeated at any moment (most likely when it would be the most mortifying).  So, now I can add “crap” to my list of no-no words.  I’m quickly running out of options.  Maybe I’ll start saying “drat” or make up a word, like, “snaggle!”  I need to come up with something before I fall on my proverbial “double-edged” sword.

Parenting lesson #1: Your birth plan is to get the baby out

Still able to smile after all my plans failed

At some point during pregnancy, someone or some book or some article tells you to think through your “birth plan” and write it out for your doctors.  After having two kids, I can honestly say the best advice I have is this: do not spend a lot of time planning out an event that is by nature entirely unpredictable.  I mean, the term itself is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp.

Sure, it’s good to have an idea of what you want so you can sign up for the right classes or anesthesiologist, and it’s good to weigh health risks of certain interventions and procedures.  But I didn’t understand the ridiculousness of my 3-page (typed!) plan until way after my episiotomy and tear scars had healed.  So I learned from my lesson, and with Zach, I told my OB that my birth plan was to get him out (safely).

Thus, I thought it might be fun for my pregnant friends and readers to see some of my birth plan (I wouldn’t dare bore you with the whole thing) compared to how differently things actually went.  The best lesson childbirth gives you to prepare you for parenthood is how to deal with unpredictability.

“We would like to do all we can to have a natural delivery while keeping the baby’s health the priority.  We will attempt to labor at home until contractions are two minutes apart, but with the knowledge that pain management or other complications might send us to the hospital earlier.”  Natural it was not.  I don’t think I’d even call it vaginal because my rectum became so involved in the whole process.  I distinctly remember calling the OB number about six hours after my water broke and 12 hours into labor.  The on-call doctor called me back, and when I told her my contractions were erratic and 3-5 minutes apart but that I wanted to come into the hospital, she said, “that’s not part of your birth plan.”  I wanted to say, “It is now!”

“As much as possible, we would like privacy during our birth.  Once I’m in stage two of labor, we do not want anyone but us and the doula in the room.  Additionally, after the baby is born, we want an hour to ourselves (without the doula) before anyone else interrupts our time (aside from medical personnel when absolutely necessary).”  There were probably 6-12 people in-and-out of the delivery room during my nearly two hours of pushing.  I almost fainted, so I think there was a team there responsible for me and also a surgical specialist waiting, among others.  Once Eliza came out, a bunch of new faces appeared during my 40-minutes of getting sewn up, and I realized later they were interns and residents.  If you will deliver at a teaching hospital and don’t want anyone to, ahem, learn about va-jay-jays while staring at yours, there is most likely a way to prevent this if you ask for the right paperwork.

“We would like as much freedom of movement as possible and as much choice in birthing positions as feasible.  Thus, having intermittent electronic fetal monitoring and a saline or heparin lock IV are important to us so that we are as free as possible to improvise.”  I had lots of freedom until I got drugs.  Then I had no freedom.  For pushing, I was on my back with my legs up like you see in all the movies and lots of videos.  It makes it easy for the doctor to see, and let’s be honest, isn’t that what really matters?  (Can you sense the dripping sarcasm?)

Specific interventions:

Epidural – only administered between 5 and 8 cm dilation, and only under circumstances listed above.  I had been advised to get the epidural in that window because that would give it the least chance of slowing down my labor.  Although I got it at 5 cm, it slowed me down anyway.

Pitosin – only administered if there’s a question about the fetal heart rate, the baby is asynclitic (head turned to the side or posterior), or aphoditic (the baby is no longer getting good circulation from the umbilical cord).  I am not interested in having Pitosin administered to speed up stage 3 of labor.  I wasn’t interested in it but I got it anyway after I hadn’t made any progress for two hours.  We were approaching 20 hours since my water had broken and needed to get things moving.  It turned out Eliza was posterior anyway, and she just didn’t manage to turn on her way out.

vaginal exams – only as necessary.  Hey, what do you know, I found something else that went as planned.  I didn’t have very many of these.

Episiotomy – only if absolutely necessary and we would like to be asked about the decision.  I would definitely like to know what the doctor will do to help prepare my perineum.  The doctor, who was not my OB, did not ask.  I knew he was cutting me because my epidural had been turned off for pushing and I felt him snip me three times.

If you’ve gotten through to this point, I do want to say I hope I am not scaring (or scarring) you.  My labor with Zach was everything I could have dreamed of at less than two hours and completely natural.  The bottom line is despite my two very different experiences, both of my kids made their ways out of my womb and into this world healthily.  So try not to freak out about your “birth plan,” and concern yourself with more important things, like sleeping a lot and thinking through what to eat right now because food will never taste as good as it does when you’re pregnant.

Parenting lesson #27: the extent to which things go wrong is directly proportional to how unrealistic your expectations are

On the days when everything has to go right for your plans to work out, inevitably just about everything will go wrong.  And if I really think it through, most of the time it’s my fault for expecting too much of myself and my kids.

Yesterday, my plan for the day was to get up, run, shower, feed the kids and get ready, go to our 10 a.m. music class, then, assuming Zach was hanging in there, head to Chuck-e-Cheese’s to meet up with a friend, get home for naps and build my lasagna for dinner, then once they woke up, head to the mall to hit up Old Navy’s sale with my Groupon and Gymboree with my Gymbucks, and finally go to the grocery store to pick up essentials and dessert fruit before hosting our friend and her son for dinner.  (Lovely, Zach just spilled a bottle of hot pink nail polish on the floor.)

The day, of course, did not get off on the right foot because Zach had a nightmare and spent two-and-a-half hours awake before finally falling to sleep again.  Instead of sleeping in, he woke up ready for the day at 6:15 a.m.  I knew he would need a morning nap or we’d never make it.  So after the morning eat and get dressed routine, I put Zach to bed at 8:30 with my fingers crossed that he would fall asleep.  At 8:45 he was still making all kinds of noise, so I checked on him and discovered he had taken his large morning poop.  Great, now he could sleep.  Well, he didn’t fall asleep until 9:15.

At 9:45, I made the decision to wake him up and go to music class anyway.  As a caveat, the only way to explain this is to say I am my father’s daughter.  When I was a kid and McDonald’s had its 29-cent hamburgers and 39-cent cheeseburgers for a limited time and a 10 burger limit per person, my family would pile in our minivan, my mom would go through the drive thru, and my dad, older brother and I would each get in a separate line inside.  We would head home with 40 hamburgers and cheeseburgers to freeze.

So, back to my music class … this class is $25 for the two of them and 45-minutes long, and because I don’t like wasting money, I couldn’t imagine skipping it so little man could make up his missed nighttime sleep.

Off we went.  Of course, Zach couldn’t really be peeled off of me because he was a hot mess.  When I did put him down, he proceeded to throw a temper tantrum that consisted of lying face down on the dirty tile floor, pounding his fists on the ground and kicking his feet.  I left him there, but noticed he had brown stains on the back of his shorts.  I checked him and realized his diaper was leaking.  Let me begin by saying this was a complete mystery to me, seeing as he had already taken a huge dump, and he hadn’t leaked out of his diaper in this way since he was at best 3-months-old.  So of course you understand why I did not have spare clothes.  (When you’re prepared, you never need them.)  And my diapers and wipes were in the car.  I agonized for 10 minutes over what to do, whether to just hold him and wait it out until the end of class, or risk leaving Eliza inside alone and run to the car.  I finally decided to head to the car as the leakage escalated, so I indicated my situation to a friend so she could keep an eye on Eliza and left to decontaminate Zach.

While cleaning up the blowout, I noticed a man sitting in his car in the parking lot, talking on the phone.  It seemed strange.  So when I decided to leave my purse in the car to avoid having to carry it and my koala baby, I took my wallet out and hid it in the center console.  I went back into the class with Zach in only a diaper and t-shirt.  I’m generally beyond caring about judging, especially on this day in this moment.

We finished up class and it was 11:15 by the time we left.  I decided to take a detour to the mall then, because it was only a few blocks away and I figured I could find some pants for Zach in the same amount of time it would take to go home and get him fresh ones before heading to Chuck-e-Cheese’s.  So off we went.  For the 10 minutes we were in Old Navy shopping, Zach was a mess.  He didn’t want to stay in the stroller after I put some jeans on him to make sure they fit, and I figured at this point that he was not only tired, but also hungry as well.  So I was in a hurry.  I got to the checkout line, ready to get the heck out of there.  Everyone was staring at me, in part because they had to scan pants that Zach was wearing as I explained that he came in the store without any, and in part because he and Eliza were running around playing with balls.

I stuck my hand in my purse and did my usual wallet search, only to realize it was not there.  Instantly, my memory flashed back to the parking lot where I moved it to the center console to hide it.  My wallet was a 5-minute walk and elevator ride away in the car.  If you are a fan of the movie, “A Christmas Story,” that moment was sort of like when Ralphie drops his pan of  lug nuts while helping his dad change their flat tire.  “Ohhhhhh … fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuddddddgggggeeee.”

I smiled at the clerk, asked if he could hold my stuff, and took screaming Zach (in stolen pants, essentially) and questioning Eliza (“Mommy, where we going?  Where are my pants and fancy shoes?”) back to the car, realizing it was noon and there was really no way we were going to make it to Chuck-e-Cheese’s.  I finally made it back to Old Navy to pay for the stolen pants Zach and the few other things I wanted to buy.  I headed, defeated, to the food court and fed them.  They were actually a little better after eating, so I spent my Gymbucks (while Zach continued to fuss) and then booked it the heck out of the mall to get them home for much-needed naps.

The good news is that Zach didn’t fight his nap this time and Eliza wanted me to cuddle her.  I lay there thinking about the lasagna I needed to prep, but the thought drifted off as I succumbed to sleep.  An hour later I woke with Eliza in my arms and moved to my own bed, where I slept another hour until Zach woke me.

In the end, my friend came over early and brought what I needed to complete the lasagna.  I’m just out of some staple foods and we missed Chuck-e-Cheese’s.  But looking back, I know I had doomed myself from the start.  With the kids in tow, errands take exponentially more time with potty and diapering breaks, and pauses to explain why we’re not buying the Hello Kitty lunchbox at the checkout line.  And kids also don’t need seven activities planned to fill up their days.  Music class and Chuck-e-Cheese’s in one morning is a lot to ask of them.  Parenthood teaches you flexibility, because plans can only be so set when these little people are so needy.  And I also learned to be sure I always have spare clothes for both kids in the car.

Today I’m taking it much easier and I have only one social item on the agenda.  And it’s already a better day, as – knock on wood – the nail polish spill is the only mishap so far.