As of this Thursday I’ve been so honored to have experienced nine years on this bouyant planet as mama. As mentioned, Halloween is the kickstart to the birthday season in these parts. I’ve been in ‘full-on party planning’ mode while simultaneously in ‘being home alone without Craig’ mode (he was away on a climbing trip) and tending to two sick kids!
Thank goodness he’s home now! The kids are back to their rosy-cheeked, healthy specimen ways and I can resume my regular latte drinking schedule. (I need to cut back when the kids are illin, otherwise I get way too anxious.)
One thing I love about living in this part of the world is that while I was out and about on Wednesday and mentioning that it’s Edie’s birthday, all the women would say:
Awwww… Happy Birthing Day!
Is that a universal thing? Don’t tell me if it is. I like to think it’s a phenomenon unique to our little hippie town. And I notice that I can’t help but to say it too when the opportunity presents itself. The moment of becoming a mother is such a powerful entry way to another level of consciousness and a path of intense life lessons that never cease coming — a stretching of your heart’s capacity that never deflates back to normal.
So in honor of my first babe’s special day, I present to you my 9 lessons learned since her first spin around the sun:
1. The bliss begins here…
There is a genius in the pre-birthing day process. I like to attribute this to a concoction that I can’t quite pin down, but that I believe is two parts hormones, one part magic and one part ancestral wisdom infused solidly into our DNA.
All pregnancies are different. I was super lucky to have pretty few incidences of morning sickness. I felt pretty carsick for the first two months, but then I slapped myself on the forehead and realized that what I was experiencing was caffeine withdrawal. Once I was back on the juice, I was my ‘old (33 with Edie), able to form complete sentences’ self again.
But the hormones caused interesting side effects that I experienced with both pregnancies.
There was the carpal tunnel syndrome, which rendered me unable to knit for six month. Wah. Acute snoring, which Craig found not so cute. And the cravings! This was by far the greatest turn on from the hormone flooding. I listened to and obeyed the cravings wholeheartedly. I ate, seriously, six ears of corn in the summer with Edie. And discovered later that it’s actually high in folic acid. Pretty cool, no?
And the ancestral wisdom bit? I had a few cool dreams during pregnancy that were super realistic about giving birth. In one, there I was in a circle with a bunch of mamas and we were all sitting in La-Z-Boy recliners. Then we would take turns giving birth. But first we would recline of course. And no, the recliners didn’t have stirrups. But it felt so real in a way. And then, when I finally gave birth for real…
2. Birthing is just like parenting.
When I finally gave birth for real, I had this massive sense of déjà vu. It felt exactly like I dreamt it would. In the moment when Edie dropped into the world on that auspicious Sunday morning, I felt that thousands of generations that were successful in giving birth were standing with us in our living room. It was an incredibly long labour, but I never felt scared.
I felt watched over by 100,000 angels.
(I was listening to bliss when Edie was born. The perfect soundtrack to giving birth, Mama!)
In life, there are so many parallels to giving birth that I can’t stop saying, “It’s just like giving birth.” The funny thing is that before we had kids, Craig and I got into slack lining, because we were immature thirty-year olds like that. And our little joke was that everything’s just like slack lining.
Nope, we were wrong. Everything’s just like giving birth.
The trick is to stay open to the moment and relax your jaw, breathe into the sensations and witness the intensity ebb away. Then breathe again. This too shall pass. If you do that a lot on this parenting journey, it seems to help.
3. Babies are just like horses.
My mom came out to visit for the first time when Edie was about 1 month old. I was certain that I had most of the ins and outs of mamahood figured out. (Ha!) However, we were starting to get a little freaked out about how to contend with her acting up right before bedtime (Edie – not my mom).
So my mom scooped her up in her arms when she was doing her pre-sleep fuss and, sure enough, she settled super quick like she took some elegant medieval potion. I remember asking my mom what she did. And she told me in her Pirate/Peruvian accent:
Kahhhtee… babies are like horses. They can smell your fear.
I love that tidbit and it has served me well over the years.
It has come in handy when taking on the role of the benevolent dictator that Kim John Payne (author of Simplicity Parenting) speaks of. Stand centered and the kids pick up on who’s wearing the (yoga) pants in the family… me! Plus, this mindset comes in handy when puppy training or testing to see if your cow’s in heat or not.
4. Mama needs her ladies.
And all types of ladies! Her old school ladies, her knit night ladies, her business mastermind ladies, her cry ladies… (I have a shortlist of three I call when the waterworks start up.) …her kids’ friends’ mama ladies and finally, her special lady.
Last time on the show, I shared how Kat‘s the virtual ‘Jennifer Aniston to my Courtney Cox’ avatar. However, live in-person (kinda), Cheechum is my special lady (up there in the photo).
We met when our girls were just about 2 months old and it was the same cheesy movie montage like when I first saw Craig. Whoever I was talking to in the crowded room at this attachment parenting playgroup, I pushed them away with my hand on their face as soon as I noticed her for the first time. We’ve been connected to the cheekbone ever since.
It’s a long distance thing now. (That’s the ‘kinda’ bit mentioned earlier.) Now it’s usually the phone that’s connecting our cheekbones, but holy smokes, it’s such a blessing to have a mama to share all these milestones, frustrations, celebrations, commiserations, food cravings and, if you’re lucky, pregnancies with. (We were also pregnant with our boys at the same time!)
5. The ‘Wearing Matching Outfit Window’ is heartbreakingly small.
I remember the day I told my mom to stop it.
She’d make me and herself matchy-match outfits and I remember loving that. In particular this yellow ‘corduroy culottes and vest with red buttons and rick rack’ number. But the incident that pushed me over the edge was when someone asked her if my brother and I were twins. I don’t know why that offended me so much.
I haven’t pursued dressing us up matchy-match in a while, but I know that Craig points it out to Kale when I do it. He calls him Mother Boy in front of me and tells me to be careful.
Lesson learned: Dress them up as you wish today if you can.
6. Like your yoni, your heart stretches.
This is a sister lesson of lesson #2 (with the birthing experience and all), and it’s so true.
Becoming a mama feels like all the beauty and good in the world is dialed up — like using the tool in photo editing programs that gives your images a healthy color boost. But then, the same is true for the horror and injustice out there.
To be honest, I was on the fence whether I wanted a second babe or not. I did it for the love of Craig, because he was totally into it (and Valentine’s only happens once a year after all).
It felt to me that my heart was already stretched to the max and if it got any bigger, it might rip.
I thought it would feel too vulnerable and exposed to the sadness. It might explode because of all the beauty.
I was half right.
It explodes every day, but, like my yoni, it comes back to normal, for the most part, after each episode.
7. A hands-on dad is the Hottest Thing Ever.
When we were dating, I noticed that Craig would get pretty excited whenever there were babies or small kids around. He LOVES holding babies. That was pretty attractive. Especially since I didn’t like holding babies, because it reminded me too much of when I used to babysit. When I was holding a baby, it meant I wasn’t able to watch TV and raid the fridge.
So yeah, hands down, hottest thing ever. With the exception of the more advanced maneuver of hands on/shirts off.
8. The kids stuff’s super important.
So many times over the last nine years, I felt that aspects of my growing up were healed by diving into and wading around my kids’ ocean of bliss (aka childhood).
I don’t just mean the therapeutic and brain-synapse-building aspects of open-ended play… (I’m usually cooking, sewing or eating bon bons when that fun’s going on.) …but also the given that life needs to be slowed down in order to really drink in the present moment and all the life vitamins and minerals that regular practice has to offer.
I remember spending hours on the couch for the first few months (okay, fine, years) taking several pauses in the day to nurse. I loved just sitting there doing nothing. Interestingly enough, right after Kale was weaned I wanted a puppy (a ‘weaner’ dog no less).
I’m always half joking that I don’t play with my kids, but I do challenge myself occasionally to play a board game with them, draw alongside them or have a cup of air tea. I tell them I can only stay for five minutes, but I always linger for more.
So many layers of adulthood to not only heal, but the déjà vu experience of visiting this land of never-never reminds me of the importance of slowing down and savoring all our blessings.
9. Don’t take it too seriously.
I found this to be a great go to tool in the sometimes tricky terrain of disciplining or comforting an upset child. I try to make to make them laugh. I find mimicking them a good place to start. But this can be delicate. Sometimes it exasperates the situation, so use your funny bone’s judgment.
But disappointments come to these munchkins over and over again. They have a fever for their much anticipated birthday party (yep, my poor little girl this year) or their sister won’t help them make a quiver for his arrows right now.
These are the prime moments to remind them of their blessings, exercise your improv muscles to diffuse the situation or simply throw in an eighties hip hop album to show them how mama can make her back bone slide.
It’s an ongoing practice, this parenting stuff. And the lessons, and their surprise tests, come rolling in every day. I’d love to hear some of your lessons learned over on my facebook page.
But seriously, happy birthday my sweet little girl! I learn so much from you and the goodness you share with the world every day. Mama loves you!!!!