Most of my prenatal clients have dreamy, lofty goals for their little ones. You can see it clearly as mama holds her belly when she walks around a tight corner, or when she instinctively responds to a kick or internal prod. When mamas drift into savasana, I can see them swim away into the daydreamy world of what their baby will be like.
This is an experience of unconditional love that I get to see on a daily basis. When mamas return to Mom & Me with their babies, I get to see baby gaze back with dreamy milk-drunk eyes with a big "THANK YOU."
I also hear about wobbly pelvic girdles, stretch marks, and having to pee 18 times a night. Or baby waking more than sleeping, spitting up at inopportune times, and "draining the life out of me." But that's not my focus tonight, kittens.
My focus is our instinctive capacity to love this little beast, and our drive to care for it no matter what. Despite the blowout diapers, fatigue, razor sharp baby nails, and the high-pitched screams of terror we return to a state of infatuation with this little perfect nugget.
My request, my plea, my wish for the world, is that we all retain that sense of love for our babies, no matter what. Regardless of the turns life takes, the surprises that baby throws our way or the divergent nature of their path from what we have planned for them, let use love them unconditionally, forever.
"There are many paths up the mountain, but there is only one mountain." ~ Swami Kripalu
Borrowed from http://runningahospital.blogspot.com
Every time I do anything even remotely ingenious, dorky, or with the aid of a list, my father says, "Genes work!"
When I was younger, I was embarrassed by this, thinking that the comment was heavy on the "dorky" and light on the "ingenious" because my father shares my penchant for self-deprication. But as I've grown up a bit more, I realize that he's saying this as a compliment. He's proud of his achievement.
Biologically, scientifically speaking, we are a legitimate species if we can produce reproductively viable offspring. In plain-speak: we all want to be grandparents. I think this goes beyond weekends at grammy's, cookies and fishing. In fact, I think it goes far beyond biology.
While my father takes pride in passing along my genetic code, including my Lithuanian green eyes and my exceptionally long monkey toes, I believe that the true source of his pride lies in the things he taught me both explicitly (the genius of list-making and preparedness) and accidentally (geek-speak). Although he always threatens to write a memoir, my father isn't a big writer. He's a story teller. As am I (and I'm equally terrified to write anything actually significant).
Perhaps what scares me most about possibly becoming a parent, is the fact that I'll be sharing not only what I hope to share with my children (my world-class packing skills), but what I might inadvertently share (my irrational fears of news media, basketball, cats, and the body scan at the airport).
I believe that children pick and choose the best parts of their parents and other adults and emulate what they can. I also know that some darkness transfer is unavoidable. But I believe it is our duty to our species and our planet to leave things better than we found them. To weed through the muck and hand over a slightly better version of ourselves to the next generation.
Prepare to be an AWESOME Grandma/pa:
1. Identify the habits that you are least interested in sharing with your offspring. Perhaps there is some disordered eating behavior in your past or a love of slot machines. Consider getting professional help managing these issues, rather than hoping you will hide them from your children. Remember when your parents tried to hide things from you? Exactly. It doesn't work.
2. Get rid of the things you don't want your children to find. Perhaps there are some juicy love letters that you'd rather not share with your 13 year old. Get a safety deposit box or off site storage unit now.
3. Tidy your relationships with your partner, parents, siblings, and neighbors. Unless you want your toddler to call the crotchety neighbor "Mr. S#its," as you have, clean it up now.
4. Cultivate your quirks. Aside from their teen years, when they are most likely to harbor intergalactic parasites, your child has the potential to love even the weirdest things you do and consider them normal. Do you remember going to junior high and realizing that no one else had parents who wrote the date on everything coming into the house? Do you remember how normal your parents' behavior seemed to you?
5. Open yourself up to new ideas and foster a willingness to let your children change you. As a family, you'll get to create new norms and values.
What my baby looked like, except she had pants.
I was so excited when my parents came home from this hospital with my new baby brother (I was five years old and had had a baby of my own for years at that point, and thought it was about time my mom had one, too). As soon as he got home, I tried to share my expertise in baby handling, but was frequently informed that I was "too small" to hold the baby or that the baby was "too big" for me to carry around.
After a few weeks, this became rather tiresome. While my parents made a concerted effort to keep me in the loop, I remember feeling sad that I now had to share my adoring audience with a baby who, unlike my baby, cried, pooped, and did not go into the bath with me. Two particular memories bring me back to this trying time:
The Apocalyptic Meltdown: Immediately after his baptism, we opened the family home to (what felt like) three thousand of our closest friends. They all introduced themselves to me and immediately asked "How do you like your new baby brother?" I was a mostly polite child, and I liked when people talked with me, so I was kind and generous for the first 1,500 visitors. But the turning point came about an hour into the party (and before cake, if there was any cake) when I announced to the room that, "If one more person asks me how I like my new baby brother I'm going to my room and never coming out." You know how this ends.
The Great Escape: A few weeks later, my mother on her last nerve and I on mine, I decided to illustrate my maturity and acrobatic strength and agility by scaling my brother's crib, removing him, and carrying him about 100 feet around the house and into the kitchen. When my mother tells this story, she says I "... missed hitting his head on the edge of the kitchen doorway by an eighth of an inch."
In all fairness, everyone was right. I was a very small five year old, and he was a BIG baby. But no one anticipated the sheer force of my will.
Tips for Keeping the Big Sibling from Absconding with the Baby
Use your words. Tell the big sibling about how things will change with the new baby. This implies that you have a plan, which you should (separate post to follow about this).
Prepare your friends. Encourage (or demand that) your friends and relatives greet the older child first when they come to see the baby. They don't need to bring a toy for the older child, but suggest that they plan to spend five minutes with the older sibling and then either have the older child introduce them to the baby, or have them break the conversation and move along. You're also training your older child to be great at cocktail parties!
Practice with a puppy. (don't actually get a new puppy in the same year that you are welcoming a new baby into the house) Find a friend who has a newer baby animal that you can go and visit with your older child. Practice sitting quietly, perhaps on an adult's lap, and learning how to hold and be gentle with the puppy. This sets the stage for how you will later allow the older child to hold the baby (on an adult's lap, being gentle).
Schedule special time. Baby gets lots of attention, particularly in the first six weeks. If you can utilize the services of a postpartum doula to give mom respite, then she can have special time with the older child. Same is true for her partner. Also be sure to schedule baby holding time if the child wants to hold the baby.
Stock up on bribes. I don't recommend rewarding anyone with food, but this is a good time to bring in some special new toys or books for the older child. Regardless of the older child's gender, you might introduce a baby doll with all of the fixin's like diapers, bottles, nap blankets, and changes of clothes. If you are looking for other toys, I recommend those that make no noise, require no batteries, and are easy to enjoy alone. Building toys, puzzles, books, and art supplies are great options.
Zoo shoes by Tilly Whistle
Last week during prenatal yoga we went around the room and had an even count: two expecting boys, two expecting girls, and two expecting surprises. This is the only situation where I've seen neutrality well received.
Another example, my BFF makes these incredible hand-made baby shoes and sometimes I accompany her to markets. People coo at the shoes and offer their praise and disbelief that such shoes even exist. Sometimes they confess they don't know anyone who is expecting, and sometimes they have a specific baby in mind. And sometimes, we get the vicious "My sister/co-worker/postal worker won't tell me what she's having?! She wants it to be a surprise?! Doesn't she know that the suspense is killing me???"
I understand that in the context of baby shoes, gender might be slightly relevant (although there are always numerous gender neutral options on the table). However, outside of this I wonder how and why we get so tied to the gender of the baby.
Tips for Mamas-to-be
Stand your ground. Unless you are the Queen of England, the monarchy does not rest on the gender of your offspring. Feel free to point this out.
Be kind to your fellow pregnant mamas who make a different choice. Some women desperately want to know, and that is their business. In the world of parenting, everyone is different, so this is a great practice point.
Meet your partner halfway. If your partner wants to know, s/he should get to speak their mind. Understand that they might be a little jealous that you get to make so many executive decisions. If you're in a partnership, be a good partner.
Tips for Your Friends on a Gender Bender
Focus on how you will treat the baby, regardless of gender. What is the same? 99% of the baby's needs will be identical regardless of gender, so focus on gender neutral or useful gifts that don't rely on gender, like silverware, car seats, and college funds.
Imagine all the things you will want to do with the new baby. Teach them to fish? Catch a football? Bake cakes? Pee outside? Maybe you think there is a gender bias in these activities, and you want plenty of time to change your perspective. Instead, make a full list of what you would do with a girl baby and a full list of what you would do with a boy baby. And then, do both.
Help others see the light. If there are others in your family or friend group who are still hell-bent on knowing, take them out for a drink and get all of the grousing over with. Help them to focus on the shared qualities. Remind them that this baby will not have the opportunity to rule the land based on genitals, but based on an electoral college (and redirect to a fun political debate instead!).
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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