Wildling’s Birthday

Wildling made her screaming debut into our lives four years ago today.  I’d like to describe an easy labor and a quick birth and a sudden sweet bonding with a newborn snuggling against me, but Wildling was never easy.

She was born at 4:10 on a Sunday morning.  In most cases, that would mean labor would have started on a Saturday, but no, not for me. I went into labor on a Thursday evening.  Yes, Thursday to Sunday.  56 long hours.  I just remember timing contractions for days and hoping they’d get close enough together to go to the hospital and get epidural relief.  My contractions were agonizing and gut-wrenching, and ten to twelve minutes apart.  None of the tricks I read on-line worked to speed up labor, so I was basically bouncing on an exercise ball and watching Netflix and checking the time for hour after miserable hour.  As soon as the contractions hit 5 minutes apart, we called my doctor’s office and headed to the hospital.

I still didn’t get admitted right away – I was checked at triage and they made me walk for forty-five minutes to get more dilated, even though I really couldn’t and Will had to hold me up.  It was horrible.  But then finally, I was taken back to a room.  The nurse looked at my chart and said “I see you plan on having an epidural. When would you like that?” I was like, “ummm…I really wanted it on Thursday, but right now would be great!”

Will was so relieved when the epidural went in.  He hated seeing me in pain and knowing there was nothing he could do about it.  I was hooked up to a contraction monitor, so he was able to see electronic proof that the epidural took effect.  He was watching the monitor and told me a contraction was coming, and I couldn’t feel a thing.  Such a relief.  We were both able to rest and get a brief nap in, though I mostly just laid there with my eyes closed and thought about the baby I was about to meet.

When Wildling was born, she came out screaming.  Actually, she was screaming before she was born.  I had Will taking pictures to document the birth so that I could see what it looked like (don’t worry, I won’t post them ever), and we have an awesome shot of nothing being out but Wildling’s head and hand (because of course she had her arm up, she can’t make anything easy) and she is screaming.  She maintained that scream through the rest of the birth and her first forty-five minutes of life. She wanted everybody in the vicinity to know that she had been safe and snug and warm in my uterus and now she was none of those things and pretty damn mad about it.

Some people talk about feeling an instant connection with their child, how at the moment of birth there is this sudden intense bond.  A friend of mine who had two c-sections resents her birth experiences (even though they saved her life!) because she didn’t feel that sudden instant bond and she blamed the method of birth for costing her that feeling.  I didn’t feel it either.  What I felt was exhausted and overwhelmed and suddenly very unprepared.

I do remember though, the moment when I did feel that first burst of overprotective love, when my love and concern for my child overcame my exhausted brain fog and finally came to the surface.  It was a moment when everything changed: I had planned to put her in daycare at six weeks so I could go back to work, and that changed.  I had felt like I lacked maternal instincts, and that changed.  I had been afraid I wouldn’t know what to do to care for my child, and that changed because I suddenly realized it didn’t matter, that I was her mom and I could and would take care of her, and that no matter what I truly loved her.  I remember the exact moment that happened, and it was when the hospital pediatrician told us that he was calling in a cardiologist consult because there was something wrong with Wildling’s heart.

I never thought there’d be something wrong with my baby.  I did everything right both while trying to conceive and during pregnancy.  I took my vitamins.  I gave up alcohol.  I didn’t drink from plastic water bottles.  I avoided sushi. I stayed in shape.  I went to every doctor’s appointment.  I had numerous ultrasounds that came out fine.  I did everything that is supposed to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.  And it didn’t work.

We were very fortunate though.  An echo-cardiogram revealed that Wildling was born with two holes in her heart, but they eventually closed on their own. Heart problems run in my family.  Jack had a hole in his heart that didn’t close until sometime in elementary school.  I have cousins who have had to deal with worse heart problems in their children.  I am so relieved that Wildling’s problems were so minor.

But still, I remember that moment when they told me there was something wrong with my baby’s heart, and I remember the feeling of fierce protectiveness that rose up in me in response.  I just looked down at this tiny helpless newborn and that was the moment I knew she was completely mine and I was completely hers.

Happy birthday, my dear Wildling.  Love always, Mama.

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Birthday Depression

I find birthdays to be depressing.  It’s not about getting one year older – I know that’s much better than the alternative.  I think it’s just that I’ve always wanted to be made to feel special on my birthday, and that so rarely happens.

My best birthday in the recent past was when I was pregnant with Wildling.  It was two weeks from my due date, and one week from her actual birth, though of course we didn’t know that at the time.  Will booked a maternity photo shoot for me, because he knew I was sad about not having many pregnancy pictures (incidentally, that was his fault – seriously man, pick up the camera!).  After the photo shoot, he took me to a day spa for a foot treatment that included not only a foot massage but a scalp and shoulder massage while my feet soaked.  And then after that we had a nice dinner at a seafood restaurant. It was wonderful and happy and special.  That was probably my best birthday ever.

Last year my birthday was terrible.  I was only a couple of weeks postpartum, and I had terrible painful mastitis (that’s a boob infection, for those of you who haven’t heard of that).  I was still kind of sore and bleeding from the birth, every time I nursed Mellow I wanted to scream in pain, and I was on antibiotics.  Will tried to make things nice and made arrangements for us to go out to dinner with some friends. He asked where I wanted to eat and I told him it was my birthday,  I didn’t want to have to make those decisions.  So he picked. And he picked a burger and wine place.  I do love wine, but as Will knew very well, I was on heavy doses of prescription antibiotics and wasn’t allowed to drink.  And as Will also knew very well, I haven’t eaten red meat in over twenty years and I have no interest in burgers. And as Will also knew, I’m allergic to cumin, which is apparently the primary ingredient in both the veggie and turkey burgers at this restaurant.  Like I said, I just want to feel special on my birthday, and picking a dinner place where I can only consume french fries and water is certainly not the way to make me feel loved in any way.

My birthday was last week.  The in-laws watched the kids and Will and I went out for dinner (which was delicious!) and drinks.  But it was just another night out. Nothing special about it.  For a present, he bought me a pair of pants that don’t fit, so I have to take them to get hemmed.  Yay.  I shouldn’t be disappointed about that, but we had a talk about this specific pair of pants when he got the same ones in a different color for my Mother’s Day present and I said I needed a petite size.  Did he listen and forget? I don’t know. Maybe he’s as distracted as I am by the utter insanity of parenting Wildling.

I know the origins of my birthday depression, and I do so wish I could overcome it.  When I was ten or eleven, my parents got me a scooter for my birthday (picture an ’80’s version of a razor scooter, not motor scooter). It was red and white, and I loved it.  But I remember scooting around in circles in the driveway, alone, and feeling cold and a bit sad.  The sky was dark and cloudy, and there was a chill fall breeze.  I remember that day so clearly, and the feeling of loneliness, and I remember thinking ‘this is how my birthday is always going to be: dismal and lonely.’  I think that’s why I want to feel special on my birthday.  I want to be able to tell that ten-year-old girl inside of me that she was wrong and I can find happiness and I don’t have to be that sad unloved child anymore.  I want to be able to tell her that, but I can’t, because she comes out every year and depresses me all over again.

Vocabulary Lessons are Genetic

There’s this thing Will does that’s kind of annoying: he sometimes mumbles when he talks. That’s really not so bad, except when I ask him what he just said, and he doesn’t seem to realize he mumbled, so instead he assumes I’m some kind of idiot and he needs to explain basic vocabulary.

Example for clarification purposes:

Will: There’s something wrong with the A/C in the mumble mumble.
Me: The what?
Will: (in a tone implying that he’s never met anyone so stupid) That’s the kind of car we have. Subaru is the brand. So I’m talking about the Subaru Outback – you know, the car? That you drive? It’s called a Subaru Outback? There’s something wrong with the A/C.
Me: I know Subaru is a brand asshole, I know what our car is, I just didn’t hear you!

This happens frequently, and Will feels the need to lecture me on the definitions of the words he uses rather than just repeating them in a coherent manner.

And it turns out, this annoying quirk might be genetic.

True story:

Wildling: I frightened Mellow!
Me: You what? (meaning, what, why did you do that?)
Wildling: (in an annoyed and explanatory tone) It means I made her scared. I frightened her.

See? It’s genetic. Wildling got his face and his brain.

Shampoo failures

Are you familiar with the concept of frequency illusion? Basically it’s the idea that while we think the frequency of something is increasing, it’s only because we notice it more. An example often used is that when you get pregnant (or are trying to) you suddenly see pregnant women and babies everywhere. It’s not that there are more of them, it’s just that you’re paying more attention to their existence. Frequency illusion is what led me to decide that everyone makes their own shampoo and I was the last sucker paying money for fancy bottles of it in a store, and that led me to a terrible failed experiment.

There are probably fifty or so people who actually make their own shampoo, and every single one of them has written a blog post, plus they all comment on each others posts, so it seems like there are just millions of them sitting around with nice clean chemical-free hair smelling faintly of essential oils and superiority.

I try to eliminate unnecessary chemicals from my daily life, both for environmental and health reasons, so of course I thought maybe I would be better off without some of the unpronounceable ingredients in my store bought shampoo. After copious research (ie an hour or so), I decided that I’d make my own with coconut milk, aloe vera gel, a little bit of almond oil, and some essential oils for scent. It took two days to gather the ingredients, because pure coconut milk is apparently hard to find and I didn’t feel like making my own.

My first mistake was my choice of essential oils. I went with sweet orange, because I am allergic to the lavender that so many of my online inspirations used and I didn’t like smell of the recommended rosemary oil. Unfortunately, sweet orange mixed with coconut milk and aloe vera smells a little bit like someone threw up a bunch of citrus.

My second mistake was actually using the shampoo and making my family use it too. I had read that there is an adjustment period, and we could expect greasy hair for a few days. After three uses I found myself wondering if I should explain to Wildling’s teachers that we were experimenting with shampoo, she wasn’t just a greasy unkempt mess. I ended up in a perpetual slicked-back ponytail. Mellow, who has a surprising amount of hair for a baby, looked greasy and dirty. Will was fine – his hair is short and thick, and while it took on a bit of a sheen, it looked perfectly stylish with his haircut.

After a week of grease, I again sought information online and learned that spritzing apple cider vinegar on one’s hair after shampooing and letting it sit for awhile before rinsing would eliminate the grease.

Mistake three: falling for the apple cider vinegar (or ACV as the DIY shampooers call it) mythology. First off, that stuff stinks. I had to hold my breathe to spray it on my hair, and I swear I kept smelling it all day. Secondly, we only had one spray bottle, and it’s the one we use to wet cloth wipes when we change Mellow’s diaper, so during the course of this horrible experiment we had to keep running to the bathroom to wet the wipes in the sink instead, and of course we’d never remember until we had a naked pee soaked baby lying on the changing table. And we all know we can’t leave her there unattended.

And the ACV didn’t work anyway, so now my hair was greasy and smelly.

I considered continuing the experiment, because the frequency illusion showed me that practically everyone in the whole world was doing it, and if it worked for them, shouldn’t it work for me? Plus, I’m a sucker for the bandwagon effect, and I wanted to fit in with all these awesome online strangers with whom I will probably never interact. But fortunately, Will is persuasive, and we had a formal event that we had to attend with my colleagues, and I’m not going to network in a nice dress with a grease stain on the shoulders caused by my lank and nasty hair.

I gave in and purchased shampoo from a store. But I might make Will use the other 16 oz of citrus-vomit scented failure currently taking up too much space in the fridge.

My Blogging 101 intro

I’ve signed up for another online writing course, hoping to get more inspiration and practice. It starts today, so those of you who have read my blog before may want to skip this post, as I introduce myself and my blog to my online classmates.

My pseudonym is Melinda, and I mostly write about my kids. Why? Because right now they are most of what occupies my time and my mind. Wildling turns four soon, and she is a handful. She’s a wonderful, amazing, gifted child, but with a sensitive disposition and startling emotional fragility, plus she has an energy level roughly equivalent to a roomful of caffeinated kindergartners. My baby Mellow came about her blog nickname honestly. She is calm (until Wildling tries to take something away, then she screeches in much the same way I imagine a baby pterodactyl would have screeched when under attack), and she is quiet and fast and an excellent climber with no sense of self-preservation.

I write because it gives me a creative outlet. I initially started this blog with the intention of using it as a bit of a brain purge, with a goal of writing a minimum of five minutes a day. That worked for awhile, and I think it helped me mentally. But I’ve slowed down on my posting, partly because in an attempt to get enough sleep I’ve stopped using all electronics devices after 10:00pm, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I find that when I do write more, I get more other things done as well. Maybe having a bit of an outlet here gives me more focus in other areas as well.

I write publicly rather than in a private journal because, quite frankly, I’m lonely and I like the interaction with strangers. I’ve got my husband to talk to, but I’m self-employed so I don’t have co-workers and, as a part-time stay at home mom, I find that most of my interactions with others are trivial and unsatisfying. As an example, I took Mellow to a playgroup at the library today. I do have a couple of women I chat with there, but the sum total of the rest of my social interactions go like this:

Person: Oh, your baby is so cute. How old is she?
Me: She just turned one. How old is your baby?
Person: S/he is XXX months.
Me: Oh, s/he is so big/cute/smiley/whatever.

Sometimes there’s a variation, because someone asks a question like “Does she sleep through the night?” or “How many teeth does she have?” and there’s a minor conversation about those pressing issues.

I don’t write about work here, because I’m an attorney and my work is confidential. I occasionally talk about other things, like my hobbies (knitting, crocheting, other crafts), my eating habits (we follow a semi-confusing plant based vegan-at-home otherwise flexitarian diet), things from my childhood, and sometimes just my personal reflections on an issue. Basically, whatever I feel like writing.

If you’re interested in reading more, here are some examples of previous posts that I think represent this blog: Mellow’s Magic Super Powers, Toddler translation errors, Forty-Five minutes of life with Wildling, First Steps, We’re rich in every way that matters (it’s not about money).

A Spirited Child

What’s that Shakespeare quote? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet? I respectfully disagree. If we called roses ‘hell-stink-fart flowers,’ then they certainly wouldn’t smell as sweet. Kids would dare each other to sniff them and nobody would exchange hell-stink-fart flowers on Valentine’s Day. Our minds would interpret the smells in our nostrils as something disgusting rather than something sweet.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. No, not the smell of hell-stink-fart flowers. The importance of what we call things. Specifically, I’m thinking of it in the context of how we describe Wildling.

When Wildling was a baby and I was desperate and sleep deprived and wondering why this child cried anytime she and I were not in physical proximity and why she simply wouldn’t sleep and what was I doing wrong, I came across descriptions of ‘high needs babies.’ It was like a lightbulb went off. There was nothing wrong with Wildling, she was just a high needs baby.

But I don’t like that term, not really. It sounds too much like co-opting ‘special needs.’ I don’t want to compare raising Wildling to raising a special needs child, and I think if I call her ‘high needs’ it gets misinterpreted.

Lately I’ve been reading two books, going back and forth between them. One is The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron; the other is Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

Both books (to me anyway, and full disclosure, I’m only abut halfway through each of them and have to renew them from the library yet again) seem to be talking about the same subset of children.

But what is Wildling? Is she ‘highly sensitive,’ or is she ‘spirited?’ And here’s where names matter: I’m going to call her spirited. If I say she’s highly sensitive, that has negative connotations (to me, anyway). I wasn’t raised in a sensitive household. Sensitivity was considered a weakness. Haven’t we all heard people say ‘stop being so sensitive’ to someone whose feelings were just hurt? If I tell people, like teachers or family members or the general blog reading public, that Wildling is ‘highly sensitive,’ how will that be interpreted? I know it’s probably wrong, but instinctively I think people will ignore her needs or dismiss her concerns because the word ‘sensitive’ is in there. It’s easy to say ‘oh, she’s just being sensitive, ignore her.’

On the other hand, calling her ‘spirited’ makes her sound energetic and fun. Sure, she’s having a mental breakdown and screaming her damn head off because Mellow got too close to a toy Wildling thought she might want to use sometime in the next week, of course she’s acting like that, she’s so spirited! It’s a lively and fun description. She’s spirited. With that name, she’s the same kid, but in less whiny more exciting packaging.

I once described Wildling to a friend of mine as ‘brilliant, but fragile.’ She heard it as ‘brilliantly fragile,’ and told me it was the best description of Wildling that she had ever heard. Wildling is fragile, emotionally. She can’t handle change. She can’t handle deviations from her plan, even when she hasn’t shared her internal plan with anyone. But if I describe her like that, it changes perceptions of her. Will she break, shatter into a million pieces if something doesn’t meet her needs/expectations? Yes. But if I say that she’s fragile, how will she be treated? If I tell her she’s fragile, how will she internalize it? Weak? Brittle? In danger of shattering and not being able to repair herself?

Kids internalize what we call them, and others will treat them accordingly. I don’t want people treating Wildling like she’s highly sensitive or fragile. I want them to smile at her great spirit instead.

So that’s how I’m going to talk about her. She’s spirited, brilliant, clever, and determined. She’s energetic, strong-willed, and focused. She’s Wildling.

Parenting tips from Mellow’s Mom

People ask me for parenting advice sometimes. I’m not sure why, since I’m usually the one carrying a screaming kid out of a public place, and I certainly wouldn’t want advice from me.  It would be different though, if Mellow were my first born.  I would have had awesome advice to give to my fellow struggling new parents.  Observe:

Question:  Dear Melinda, my child is a picky eater. I can’t get her to try new foods. What should I do?

Answer: Have you tried offering her the food? That always works for me.  Just hold it out to her, she should eat it.

Question: Dear Melinda, I’m trying to get my baby to sleep through the night. What should I do?

Answer: Trying laying her down.  If she is in a horizontal position, she should sleep just fine.

Question: But what if she wakes up in the middle of the night?

Answer: A simple pat on the back and a soft whisper of ‘go back to sleep’ should do the trick.

Question: Dear Melinda, oh potty training guru, my child has terrible poop blowouts that get all over the place. What should I do? I’m so tired of cleaning poop off her clothes.

Answer: I’m so glad you asked.  There’s a simple fix: when your child gives off signals that they want to do their once daily poop, just put them on the potty.  Easy as pie.  Of course, you’ll have to clean out the potty, but that’s not so bad.

Question: Dear Melinda, teething is horrible.  My baby cries so much and seems to be in pain. How can I help her?

Answer: Have you tried picking her up? That’s my go-to move.

As you know, however, Wildling was born first.

Question:  Dear Melinda, my child is a picky eater. I can’t get her to try new foods. What should I do?

Answer: Find something she likes. Anything.  If she likes one food at all, feed her that. All the time.  Soon you’ll end up with a toddler who eats nothing but cold pasta with garlic salt on it, but that’s ok, because at least you know she’s eating something.

Question: Dear Melinda, I’m trying to get my baby to sleep through the night. What should I do?

Answer: I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with this concept.  Can’t help. S-l-e-e-p?  Even if I sound it out, I don’t recognize that word.

Question: But what if she wakes up in the middle of the night?

Answer: Do you mean the exact middle of the night? And do you mean that’s the only time she wakes? Give her effusive praise for not waking up every hour-and-a-half.  Tell her you love her and beg her to repeat the behavior sometime, anytime, please please please, even one more time.

Question: Dear Melinda, oh potty training guru, my child has terrible poop blowouts that get all over the place. What should I do? I’m so tired of cleaning poop off her clothes.

Answer: Hey, this one I can get.  Let her run around in a diaper.  Watch carefully – when she heads for the corner of the living room that you should designate ‘poop corner,’ wait for her to finish, and clean her right away. The freshest messes are the easiest.

Question: Dear Melinda, teething is horrible.  My baby cries so much and seems to be in pain. How can I help her?

Answer: If you breastfeed, you need to come up with a way to keep your boob permanently lodged in her mouth.  That’s the only way. If you don’t breastfeed, I guess stick a boob in her mouth anyway? She just needs something big and soft to gnaw on.  Ignore the pain.  It’s better than the alternative, which is constant screaming, flailing, and never sleeping again.