Sunday, June 3, 2012

What about me?

            Although no writer can write anything completely unbiased, I tried to keep most of my personal choices out of the "Are You Mom Enough" series.  I wanted you to think about yourself as you read those articles.  However, honesty and some self-disclosure are most people's expectations when they follow a blog writer as opposed to reading a national newspaper.
            Consider this entry as a way for you to get to know me a little better, not a means of comparing yourself to me.  Constant comparison can eat away at you.  The insecurities and self-doubts caused by my comparing myself to "perfect" moms touched my family more than my inadequacies themselves.
            Did I breastfeed or bottle feed?  Both.  My first pregnancy was twins.  The doctor said I should be able to produce enough milk to feed both of them.  I did not know if I believed him, and I did not know if I wanted to make that much of a commitment to basically nurse—in my opinion—24 hours a day, especially since I had a husband who was willing to help with the bottle feeding.  From the beginning we did both with the girls.  Sometimes they would both get nursed and bottle fed in one feeding.  Other times one would only get breastfed and the other only bottle fed; the next time, they reversed.  I tried both ways, but I don't honestly remember which we ended up doing the most.  One girl liked nursing better; the other, bottle feeding better.  However, they learned to deal with whatever they were given. 
            Although I like to think I breastfed them for three months, it may have actually been less than that.  If I had known more about breastfeeding, it would have been longer.  Less than a month after they were born I had to finish my last six weeks of my student teaching.  I didn't really have a place or time to pump, so I didn't.  That was a mistake.  Even if I didn't want to save it to take home, I should have relieved the pressure and kept my milk production even.  You live and learn.  We then went to total bottle feeding, which worked out fine and was not that difficult to maintain. 
My kids:  by birth, marriage, and grandchild
            The other five children came one at a time, so I planned to nurse them.  For the most part, breastfeeding was much easier, especially since I was willing to nurse anytime anywhere as long as I had a receiving blanket or something to use as a cover up. I nursed each one for about a year with breast milk being their only nourishment for the first six months.  However, I should have given them a bottle a little more often, because most of them never quite got used to one.  Although my children usually go where I go, I was away from one daughter for a whole day when she was a few months old.  I left bottles of expressed milk, but she would not take it at all, which meant she cried half the day.  She was older before I left her that long again.
            Did I feed on demand or on a schedule?  Pretty much I fed on demand.  I tried feeding more than one of my children on a schedule, but I didn't have a lot of luck.  The mom has to be committed to a schedule first, and that didn't happen.  However, I was not opposed to making them wait a little while if I didn't think they were really hungry (or were using me as a human pacifier) or if it was not a good time/place to feed them.
            Did I wear my babies?  I carried my children around a lot on my hips and got some nice biceps without having to work out.  (Sadly, the biceps went away completely since I don't carry my children around anymore.)  When the twins were babies, I laid them on blankets on the front room floor, in a playpen, or propped up in their high chairs when they were older if I was in the kitchen.  My twin stroller did not have a "lay-them-down" option, which I used for other children even in the house when I got a different stroller.  With my second pregnancy, I bought a sling at a craft show where I had a booth.  I had the stroller with me, but she wanted to be held and her continual weight was killing my arms.  La Leche League was selling slings in the booth next to me.  I bought one.  I used it that day and other days at home and while out and about.  I really didn't use it that often, but when I did, I was glad I had it.
            Did I co-sleep with my children?  Basically for the first three months, I gradually eased my children from sleeping mostly with me to sleeping mostly in a bed by themselves in a room down the hall.  Even though I could probably hear them without it, I used a baby monitor to signal me for nighttime feedings.  As they got older, my husband taught them to need special attention before they went to sleep, but that's another story.  J  I know some parents who welcome their children to their bed at any time and at any age.  I know a set of parents that did not allow their children to step foot inside the parental bedroom at any time for any reason, but they were very responsive to their children's needs across the hall and would join them in their room when necessary.  Neither of those styles worked for me; we found our own niche.
            Did I begin with birth bonding?  I do not have a good handle on the meaning of "birth bonding."  Basically, for me, the birthing process of my children did not interfere with my bonding with my children.  Some things that happened with my twins in the delivery room with the doctor, some complications at that time, and my self-perception of the situation negatively contributed to my mental state as a mother—but it was an unusual circumstance (and one that contributed to the eight-year gap before my next pregnancy).
            I gave birth to six children vaginally, and the last was delivered by c-section.  Three of the labors were induced with pitocin, and two came on their own.  (Remember, the twins were one labor, and then there was the c-section.) All of my children came late, except the twins—but considering they were induced 8 days before their due date (because I had developed toxemia) you might as well consider them late.  For different reasons, I was allowed to hold only two of my babies in the delivery room. I absolutely loved holding and nursing them in the delivery room, but I bonded with my other children just as much as the ones I held right after delivery.  My deliveries were far from being anything like a whole family, at-home delivery, but guess what.  I did bond with my babies, and as a family we all bonded together beginning in the hospital.  Considering some of the complications I had, I am absolutely thankful for being in a medical facility.  I would not have all my children and would probably not be here myself if I had given some of those births elsewhere.
            Did I believe there was "language" in my babies crying?  Usually yes.  Sometimes I met their needs.  Sometimes they had colic and couldn't be calmed down despite my efforts, so I would just end up holding them (and maybe singing to them) while they cried.  Sometimes they were mad when they didn't get their way.  Then I let them cry a little and got back to them.  By then, they were glad to be held again and quit crying.
            Did I beware of baby trainers?  You know.  You listen to people.  If what you are doing doesn't seem to be working, you try what someone else tells you to do.  If that doesn't work or if you don't feel comfortable with it, you move on.  Were some of them "baby trainers"?  Yes.  Were some of them lovey, dovey airheads?  Yes.  Would I now choose to totally ignore some of them?  Yes.  You learn to glean out the good and discard the bad.
            Did I follow gentle discipline?  My kids would say, "No!"J  but they don't know the regular rigid physical punishment imposed by some parents.  Do I believe in spanking?  Yes.  (Oops, I probably just lost some followers.)  Correct spanking is not beating or abuse, and when applied correctly, it happens only for a few years.  Children need to be able to understand why they are getting "spanked," and corporal punishment is not used until they have the capability to understand the whole situation.  Then, most of the time, the "spanking" is only one swat on the butt.  Of course, this is only one of your tools or methods to discipline, train, and teach self-control and/or making good choices to your children.
            Strive to provide situations for your children to have successful behavior.  If you don't want them to get jelly on your tax return, then don't put your tax return on the kitchen table.
            Remember accidents are not disobedience.  If your child is walking through the living room and slips on a rug causing the floor lamp to hit and break your television screen, you are going to be upset, but the child should not be punished with words or actions.  It was an accident.
            This issue is a series of blogs in and of itself, but the point here is that whatever discipline plan you have, it must be administered with love.  As my children have gotten older, they have thanked me for disciplining them and teaching them self-control.  (Some of them are old enough to appreciate the big picture.)  J
            Of all your responsibilities as a parent, handling discipline can be the most stressful and frustrating and has the greatest need for balance, yet if you set the stage for proper behavior (and respect) in the younger years, the older years are so much better!  I even enjoy my children when they are teenagers.  Sadly, not all parents can say that.
            Did I find balance?  Really?  I'm still trying to find balance!  Finding balance is a constant effort.  When you stop working toward it, that's when you fall over into an extreme.  Hopefully this blog will touch your family by helping you critically examine issues and situations, so you can keep working on your balancing act.

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