Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guilt is a Funny Thing, or is it?

Guilt is a funny thing even though it doesn't typically make you laugh. Although I know others that laugh at your actions which caused you to feel guilt in the first place but when I say guilt is a funny thing you know what I mean.

There are so many types of guilt that we experience. There's the dieter that feels guilty about eating that third slice of pizza, the husband that gets up in the middle of the night to sneak a cookie so his spouse can't give him the look that will make him feel guilty. And so many other types of guilt.

But these days most of what I experience is guilt in relation to my daughter and my family. And when I talk about family in this case I also mean my dogs.

We had three dogs before McKenzie was born, two dogs that lived in the house with us and one mean dog that is limited to the yard. During my pregnancy when my husband brought home, Cooper a.k.a Scoop Scoop, I groaned thinking I'm five months pregnant and you're giving me a five week old puppy. All I could think about was by the time I got the puppy house trained I'd be changing diapers on our baby.

But no one had ever given me a puppy before. And of course he looked at me with those puppy dog eyes, with a shiny red ribbon on his neck and the dozen roses in my husband's arms and there it was "guilt." If I had said no this is a bad time and a puppy is not what we need right now then I would have felt guilty for sending him off and wondering if he found a good home.

So because our yard dog, Casey, is older and has grown mean we had to do something so that Cooper wouldn't be tortured by the mean dog. The solution meant Casey would be banished to her own section of the backyard. Calm down, she isn't chained up, she has more room than a typical run and the other two dogs can get in and out of that area at their leisure, so she also has playmates. And in reality knowing we would soon have a child's safety to be concerned with we were considering having her put down. But neither my husband or I could stand that idea and didn't think we could handle the guilt from that decision.

Now then we bring McKenzie home and we have these two very affectionate, very lovable but large dogs living in the house. I was adamant they would continue to be inside dogs that could snuggle on the couch, hang out in our bedroom and continue life as they knew it pre-baby. Yeah, right. Since McKenzie has been home the dogs spend 80% of their time outdoors. And while we still love them very much and show them attention as time allows, I feel guilty that we've changed their lives. But I'm not sure they care, when they're inside they get to play with McKenzie, we give them more treats than usual and at times they probably get away with more and of course that's so we don't feel guilty about changing their circumstances.

And then I have the guilt that is associated with McKenzie. This is the type of guilt I'm sure all mommies experience at some point in their lives. And I have to wonder do the Dads also feel this guilt? If I was guessing or betting I'd say probably not.

Last night when my husband came home from work it was already a little after 7PM and I wanted to take a shower and unwind a little bit. So I was off to the bedroom for a shower and some time to myself...BUT does alone time or "me time" really exist anymore once you're a Mom? And notice I said "once you're a mom" not after you become parents, because again I don't think this something that affects Dads.

So afterwards I walk back into the living room to get some water and my little girl makes a beeline for me. Before I know it she's hanging onto my leg wanting to be picked up and held, entertained, acknowledged. My first thought is to hand her off to her Dad so I can go abck into the bedroom find a program I enjoy and watch it while thumbign through a magazine ALONE. But as she's tugging on my leg I'm struck with guilt. Am I a bad parent for wanting some time to myself? Did I sign away all of my free time for the next 18 years because I'm a parent and I want to be a good one.

During the day if I'm checking my e-mail while McKenzie is playing should I feel guilty that I'm not down on the floor playing and teaching and cuddling. On Labor Day I decided to get out of the house alone. I left father and daughter in front of the television as I headed out with no specific destination in mind. When I ended up in Rice Village, I was so ecstatic that there weren't very many people out. I could window shop, enjoy some fresh air and just chill without a lot of noise or crowds. And as I was walking along past stores and in stores it seemed that everything I looked at was with McKenzie in mind.

It was so great to get out of the house and be able to hang out without a stroller or a diaper bag or a feeding schedule. As a matter of fact I was gone for quite some time before realizing I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch and it was late afternoon. So as I glance at my phone and see no missed calls, no text messages and no voicemails....I wonder how's my family, what are they doing?

A little bit later I'm driving home and see a clearance sale at a famous baby store so I pull into the parking lot and head inside. Twenty minutes later I'm leaving the store with a handful of books for McKenzie. Back on the road again and I see a brand new Target and my first thought is, I need to stop and see if they have the ride-on toy I've been trying to find for MC. So I go inside but the ride-on toy, vitamins for MC and few other small things all for MC. And as I pull into the drive-way and take inventory of the packages that need to be carried inside I realize everything I bought was for my little girl. And I start laughing because while I felt like I was being a bad person for wanting to have some "me" time that in reality the entire day was about MC, I just didn't have her with me.

So maybe guilt is both positive and negative, funny and yet not so much. When you feel guilty about spending more than you should have on a purchase maybe it encourages you or forces you to cut back in other areas. And when you feel guilty because you cheated on your diet it could be a motivator to work out harder or to make a lifestyle change. I don't know. I just know that everyone feels guilty about one thing or another and maybe if you or they take a closer look they'll realize its kind of funny.

And I also know that when I take time out for myself that its a positive for both me and my family. Because afterwards I feel refreshed and make an effort to make the time I have with my daughter, my husband or my dogs a little more special.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't You Worry Your Pretty Little Head!

So if you were raised in the south then you've probably heard someone say, "Don't you worry your pretty little head." Or when something has happened you hear, "Bless her heart."

I'm a Mom, what do you mean don't worry? There are some things in life you never forget. I remember the first time McKenzie rolled off of the couch. I'm sure my heart stopped for a second, I wasn't breathing and was on the verge of panic until I saw that she was alright. And from that moment on as she became able to move more, start crawling and now walking it seems like even the most child-proofed environment is a war zone of sorts.

There's the coffee table where she can bump her head, the toy she likes to carry around with her that when is dropped on her foot scares us both. The dogs we have that love MC and love to play with her but that I'm always staring at wondering if this will be the time they decide to play too rough. And sometimes when the dogs get too excited that run right past her knocking her over and while she's fine, am I?

So yes its a known fact that people teasingly call me a worrier. And I'll admit there are some things you just have to let take their course. But as a Mom I don't think that worrying is a bad thing as long as it doesn't consume you and you can still let a kid be a kid.

But as I look at today's environment and the dangers that didn't exist when I was a kid, I wonder where do I draw the line? How do I let my little girl be a normal child that enjoys her life when we also need to take so many precautions?

Today we have bird flu, swine flu, seasonal flu, autism that many say is caused by vaccinations, lead paint on our children's toys, stranger danger, cancer, exposing them to too much violence or too much television, obesity and every other illness that lurks in the shadows of our environments.

As my little girl began to crawl and bump into things I joked that it would be easier to bubble wrap her or just fence her in a large area where she could be safe. Calm down, it was a joke, and you have to understand my sense of humor. But this weekend as she was getting a bath and she slipped and bumper her head before it could be prevented...I wonder. Can I baby proof the walls of the tub? Wrap the tub in waterproof Styrofoam so she's safe? ( And no I don't think that product exists)

I've tried to be a little more laid back after having McKenzie and not to go overboard with things. When she got her first cold we didn't call the doctor, we rode it out at home. And when she runs a low grade fever I attribute it to teething and check her temperature every 4-6 hours. We have hand sanitizer in the house, car and diaper bag that I use after we've been to the store or another crowded area. I don't keep a mask on MC like Michael Jackson did on his children, but I do take what I consider normal precautions. We use a highchair cover and shopping cover when shopping/eating out. And I try not to let her drink or eat after me in case I'm sick and don't realize it.

Now with all that being said, my baby girl became sick two weeks ago on a Friday afternoon. We took her to the pediatrician (she had a fever of 103.6 and a few random spots) and they tested her for strep and the flu and sent us home saying its just a virus. So home we went and I relaxed knowing the doctor wasn't worried and kids get viruses. As the weekend went by she seemed to be getting weaker and by Monday the fever was high again and she was listless. We went straight to the ER. After more flu/strep tests, a chest X-ray and blood work she had a spinal tap and we learned our "baby" had bacterial meningitis. Those are probably the toughest and scariest words I've heard since having MC a year ago.

And for the week we were in the hospital watching MC go from listless and very ill to sitting up, then standing and playing I spent almost every minute wondering what could I have done better?, was there a way I could have prevented this? I'm a SAHM with my little girl every day of the week. We don't go out very often, she's rarely in close contact with other children, no MDO, no sharing pacifiers, eating utensils etc. Was it my fault?

Now we're home and I feel certain that it wasn't my fault but rather just one of those random things that occurs in life for no apparent reason. And as I'm so very grateful that my little girl is home and seems to have escaped this disease with little lasting effects I think about how fortunate we were and now how do I keep her safer?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things I've Learned

So many people tell you about the many hats you have to wear once you've become a mom but they don't necessarily detail the experiences you'll need when wearing those hats. From day one of my life with my baby and that includes the gestation period while I was experiencing the "joys of pregnancy" okay so if you detected some sarcasm there you'd be correct.

Now don't get me wrong, I loved being pregnant from the standpoint that we were having our first child, bringing a new life into the world and all of the other cliches you've previously heard. But there's nothing joyful about morning sickness and even when I told myself that the books said this meant my child was developing and was healthy it was still impossible to enjoy vomiting throughout the day for the first three months. So from the time I learned I was pregnant, I think I wore several hats, selflessness-the hat worn when you realize that life has changed and from now on the decisions I made weren't just about me, what I ate, when I rested, etc. all impacted this precious future life.

Patience-this hat is worn off and on while you're pregnant and then pretty much becomes a permanent accessory after your baby arrives. First, I was patient while we waited to learn the sex, then patient while going through the first trimester and morning sickness, patient waiting on the other two trimesters to come and go so my body could return to normal.

Optimism-this hat is also worn throughout pregnancy and into parenthood. You're optimistic everything is okay and the baby is healthy. You're optimistic that you are not as big as a bus and while you may be a house you are a small house that is beautiful. Then as you bring your baby home you're optimistic that he/she will sleep soundly so that you may also rest. You're optimistic that you have the perfect child and all of the articles you've been reading about how to handle meltdowns, battle bedtimes, etc. will not apply to your child.

Wisdom-this is a confusing hat. I went into the hospital to deliver my little girl with as much knowledge as I felt I could absorb. I read up on everything, subscribed to almost every baby and parenting magazine on the market, researched every major purchase we made even down to the swing and other toys. I knew what to expect during labor and delivery, had the nursery ready from month six and felt like was prepared to be a "Mom". What I didn't know was that when you leave the hospital with your child you only come out with as much knowledge as you entered with...I came home and expected to be Mrs. Cleaver. I thought now that I'm a parent I should know how to sew, what each and every cry means, how to breastfeed without any problems, would and should be capable of preparing gourmet meals for my family each and every evening while also baking so my house smelled wonderful when my husband returned from work. This led to some major disappointment for me, since I came home and was exhausted.

Breastfeeding was not easy, it was not natural for me and I was tormented with the thoughts and feelings that this would be my first but not last failure as a parent. I wasn't able to stay awake long enough to cook let alone to have the energy to prepare something as simple as a sandwich. My head was so muddled that when my husband showed me the art to swaddling our little girl I thought he was trying to teach me how to make a quilt. I just couldn't process anything. And when the post-part um hit that was the last straw. I felt like I was never meant to be any one's parent and how awful it would be for my little girl to have me as a mom.

A lot of these experiences are now in the past for me. My little girl, McKenzie, turned one last Sunday. She turned one while in the hospital recovering from bacterial meningitis. Looking back this was our worst experience, this was the most terrifying nightmare. So what McKenzie was bottle fed and I couldn't swaddle her the way her dad did. We have the most precious gift a little girl that is returning to a healthy toddler.

And at the end of the day, having bought her the best stroller won't matter, the fact that I don't cook gourmet meals or bake everyday isn't important but the time that I spend with my little girl playing, reading to her, holding her in my arms is so much more important that anything else that I did or didn't do as a new mom.