Tuesday, February 25, 2014

dear ellery

sweet child,

there are so many things i want for you.  there are so many things i pray for you.  as your mother, i want to protect you from every hurtful thing, and i want to give you every wonderful thing.  sometimes i hope you like dance, because i intend to enroll you in dance classes at the soonest possible moment.  but then i remind myself that i must accept that you will be who you were created to be, and that may involve interests that are completely different from my own.  my job is to help you become the unique person God created you to be, and i pray daily that i can stay out of God's way and never inhibit your growth.

but sweet daughter, there is one thing i pray so much.  i pray you are kind.  there are so many lonely people in the world, and i want you to be the one to open your arms to them and welcome them.  i want you to sit by the person in your class who smells a little funny, or to be the one to stand up to the mean girls who pick on another little girl because her clothes aren't as nice.  i'm afraid i wasn't very good at that when i was growing up, and i am not very good at it now.  i'm sure if i analyze myself enough, i'll discover that my strong desire for you to be kind is linked to my guilt that perhaps i am not kind enough, so i feel i can make restitution for that by raising you to be extra nice.  i know my example to you is huge, so i promise to start practicing more kindness now, so that, for you, it becomes second nature.

people comment all the time on how friendly you are.  in restaurants, at the grocery store, at church, you smile at everyone you see.  don't lose that, ellery.  keep smiling at everyone.  never stop smiling at people just because they have different color skin than you.  keep smiling at everyone, regardless of how well-off they appear to be.  smile at those who look grumpy, because they probably need your smiles the most.

and be everyone's friend.  don't seek out the ones who can offer you the most from friendship, but seek out those who need a friend.  ultimately, our aim in this life is to become more like jesus, and jesus wasn't impressed by the popular people of his time.  he sought out those whom society rejected.  that's what i want to teach you to do as well.

i don't care if you're the prettiest, or the smartest, or if you're the best dancer in your ballet class.  but i do hope you're the kindest.  and i hope your sweet spirit inspires others to be kind, too.

and on an unrelated note, this is why we got a costco membership - to be able to purchase a huge stuffed chicken for our daughter.  she loves this thing, and cuddles it constantly.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

on parenting and being a little pissed off

there's an article floating around the interwebs right now written by a mom who blames herself for her son's autism.  she lists all the things she did wrong that she believed contributed to his diagnosis, and says she'll never forgive herself for what she's done to her kid.

the article makes me angry.  i'm not even going to link to it here because i don't want any of my young mama friends or soon-to-be mama friends to read it.  if you run across it, i advise against reading it, especially if you are in either of those two categories.

i understand the reason she wrote the article.  she believes she's educating people, or perhaps that by sharing her story, she will prevent another mom from making those mistakes and possibly save future kids from having autism.  i think she wrote it out of guilt, and a little bit out of self-pity.  i totally get that.  and i think educating others is a really great thing to do.  but the article doesn't promote education.  it promotes fear and guilt.  and fear and guilt are the last thing pregnant women and moms need in their lives.

because i remember being pregnant.  it was terrifying.  the moment i found out i was carrying a child, i was in a hot bath, which isn't surprising, considering i spend any free time i have soaking in a hot bath.  i immediately jumped out of the tub for fear that the hot water was cooking my baby.  i began to agonize over the one margarita i had a few days before while celebrating a friend's birthday on a houseboat on lake shasta.  had i given my baby permanent brain damage from that one glass of alcohol?  once i had a salad with blue cheese dressing and called my midwife in a panic, certain that the single salad would result in a miscarriage or stillbirth.  and let's not talk about the devastation i felt when i discovered i had gestational diabetes.  because of my stupid genetics, if my baby even survived the pregnancy, she'd probably develop diabetes or become obese later in life.  and it was all my fault.

if you're a mom and you have a pulse, you've probably experienced some sort of anxiety, either during pregnancy or after your baby was born.  you've probably also experienced some form of guilt or fear that you aren't doing everything completely right for your child.  being given the responsibility of another life is overwhelming.  i know that i have to be my daughter's advocate when it comes to her well-being and medical care because she's too little to do it herself.

so i tried to stay active during pregnancy.  i was forced to eat right.  i did all i could to keep my blood sugar under control.  and then i was induced for two days before finally having a c-section. (by the way, the article points out pitocin and c-sections as major causes for autism, which also infuriated me.)  i mentioned in ellery's birth story, here and here, that i wanted a drug-free, natural birth, but  because of my diabetes, i ended up having a c-section.  and i'm sorry to disappoint all of you who believe doctors are evil and try to make people have c-sections, but my doctor actually tried to avoid it.  when sam and i approached her about it, she wanted to try one more day of pitocin and give my body one more chance to respond and go into labor.  she only agreed to it because of my diabetes, and the fact that the longer ellery was in the womb, the more dangerous it was for her.  once ellery was out and it was revealed how huge she was, my doctor and midwife and all the nurses agreed that the c-section was the right choice.  she was literally too big to drop into the birth canal, which was why my body didn't know it was supposed to go into labor.  if i'd tried it naturally, it would've either resulted in an emergency c-section, or worse.  this is also why i believe God had His hand on the entire situation.  he softened my heart toward having the surgery and allowed sam to be my advocate and fight for it, because that's what needed to happen.

here's what i've realized: people want to blame modern medicine.  and i get that.  the article mentions things like immunizations and antibiotics and acetaminophen being the cause of autism, and though these things can be potentially harmful, they have also been very beneficial.  we have to take the good along with the bad.  maybe our modern medicine is causing certain problems and conditions, but it has also saved lots of lives.  the rates of mortality for infants and laboring mothers have gone way down since 1950, as have diseases such as polio and smallpox.  i sincerely believe my c-section saved me and ellery from danger and possibly death.

and i'm speaking as someone who leans toward alternative medicine.  i go to a doctor's office that practices holistic, naturopathic medicine and acupuncture.  i use essential oils in place of medicine to cure ellery's issues.  i went to an office of midwives when i was pregnant, who only offer a single ultrasound during pregnancy, which is done no earlier than twenty weeks to check healthy anatomy.  (and yes, i tried to get it done before twenty weeks so we'd know the sex before christmas, but they were adamant about it being twenty weeks or later.)

i'm doing everything in my power to do what i believe is best for my daughter.  but guess what?  she might still get sick.  or she might get into a horrible accident.  there is only so much i can do to protect her, and i have to accept that.  i can make all the right decisions, which, according to the article includes avoiding modern medicine, and still, it may not be enough.  but that's because i'm human and imperfect and ellery isn't really mine anyway.  she's God's child, and i've simply been entrusted with her care.  God gave her to me and sam because He believed we would make the best parents for her.  it means i have to let go of that control, since i don't really have it anyway, and simply pray and pray and pray over my daughter.  it means i can slather sunscreen on her every moment of every day, and she may get skin cancer anyway, while girls who go to tanning booths every day remain cancer free.  and God may decide he wants her home sooner than i'm ready for.  though i pray that doesn't happen, and it's a fear i carry with me every day, i would simply go mad if i allowed articles like this one about autism to make me feel more scared or guilty than i already do.

so moms - keep doing what you're doing.  just do your best.  if you're the praying type (which i highly recommend being), pray over every decision you make regarding your child's care.  if you're pregnant, praise God for the life growing inside you.  praise Him for the miracle of conception, of birth, and that you're lucky enough to be a woman able to carry a child.  do not let fear or guilt spoil this special time, and recognize that God is the one in control anyway - not you.  and everyone, avoid passing judgment on parents who choose to do things differently than you.  perhaps that child is getting immunized because she will be traveling internationally, and it's the safest choice.  perhaps that other child is not getting immunized because he already has a weak immune system and the shots would be more of a risk than a benefit.  perhaps that mom did everything she could to breastfeed and it just didn't work.  perhaps that other mom is breastfeeding her two year-old because it's what that child needs.

and if you are a parent of a child with autism, i am in awe of you.  i had the wonderful opportunity to work with children with severe autism, and it remains one of the favorite jobs i've had.  those children were so special, so fun, and involved so much care.  i only spent part of my day with them, and i know it can be exhausting and overwhelming if your child has special needs of any kind.  do not feel guilty, or feel that you are to blame for your child's condition.  you are doing your best, as we all are.

*disclaimer: i think it's very important to educate yourself on the care of your child, especially involving big decisions that can affect his or her health.  what i dislike are sensational articles based mostly on a few studies, and not based on actual scientific fact.  we know for a fact that lots of exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer.  we don't know for a fact that getting an ultrasound can lead to autism.

end rant.

Monday, February 10, 2014

two days, juxtaposed

yesterday was the type of day that needs to be documented.

ellery woke around 6:30, so i went into her room to nurse her.  she nearly fell back to sleep, clutching my shirt, and i knew she wasn't quite ready to be awake for the day.  so we sat in the dark room, her noise machine still humming softly, and she jabbered at me a bit.  her sweet head kept falling against my shoulder, and she would re-position herself, turning her head from left to right, until finally her breathing became even and deep.  she snuggled in and slept, and i snagged a fleece blanket from next to her crib and draped it over both of us.  and i was in heaven.  parents, is there anything better than when your baby falls asleep on you?  it happens so rarely these days that when it does, i simply enjoy it.

i couldn't fall back to sleep myself, even though our glider is ridiculously comfortable, so my mind wandered, and i prayed for the sleeping child, and for any future children we may one day have, and for our families.  and that quiet, simple time was easily the best way i could have started my day.

ellery's hair is getting thicker, but is still baby soft, and it's started to curl a bit when it's damp.  she's getting longer, and though she still fit on my lap, she felt more like a toddler draped across me than a newborn, which is so bizarre.  she slept with her hands clenched in little fists, and at one point she woke up, grabbed the blanket and pulled it over her shoulders, and snuggled back against me to sleep.  i couldn't help but think it was such a big girl thing to do, such a non-baby thing, and that made me want to pause this time and remember it forever.  it just keeps getting more and more rich, being a parent, and i refuse to believe that it won't keep getting better and better.  i know there will be hard times, but i want to look on the bright side and be grateful for the gift of each day being a mother.

she finally woke around 9, so we went back into my room.  ellery got excited when she saw sam, and crawled over to him and gently patted his arm.  he woke and smiled at her, and we three lounged and talked and laughed for a little while before i asked sam to take us to breakfast.  there is still a thick layer of white snow covering our town, and for some reason, brunch seemed like the right idea.

we drove past a few restaurants before finally finding one that was open - the sassy onion.  and let me tell you, the sassy onion has a new fan for life.  first because they were open on a snow day, when every other restaurant was closed, and second because they have a full gluten-free menu.  i happily noshed on gluten-free pancakes, bacon, and eggs.  the waitress asked if we could leave ellery with her, because she seemed to be such a happy baby.  and yes, she is definitely a happy baby.  she doesn't like being tired, or hungry, but otherwise she's very happy and friendly.

we came home and ellery took a nearly three-hour nap.  after two hours, i began growing concerned, but i kept checking the monitor and she was sleeping peacefully.  sam and i were able to relax and just enjoy each other's company, which doesn't happen often since he has been working so much.  then the baby woke and sam watched her while i baked cookies.

we took the still-warm cookies over to kari's house, where we meet with our old community group on sunday nights.  i say old community group because it was the group from the church that we all used to attend, but really, it's still a community group.  we're no longer affiliated with a church, but we are definitely a community, in the best sense of the word.  some day i'll write more about this special group and how grateful we are for them.  we enjoyed pot roast and laughed and watched the olympics.

and then we came home to put ellery to bed and i developed a migraine, because of course, no day is perfect.

it felt like a real gift, yesterday, like God was blessing us with this small moment in time.  i want to hold on to it and i don't want to forget it.  i felt like it was particularly important to write it down today, because today is sort of the opposite.

sam left for work around 5 am and has had a hellish day at work.  snow is fun for lots of people, but lots of other people get into accidents because salem isn't prepared for this much snow and the roads haven't been plowed.  naturally, it makes for a very hectic day for my sweet husband, who manages a car rental office, and many more people than usual need cars.  and today ellery has had such a hard time napping, and getting her to sleep has been more difficult than it has been in over two months.  and our house is a complete disaster, because being snowed in apparently means i no longer need to keep up with dishes or laundry or vacuuming.  and the snow is melting, and turning into that disgusting, brown slush that everyone who likes snow seems to forget about.  (i think the brown slush is perhaps the main reason i dislike snow.)

so today, when i'm drowning in housework, i'll remember our time with friends last night.  and when ellery screams at me and throws her paci across the room in defiance, i'll remember the way her soft head felt nestled against my neck, and the hilarious bedhead she had when she woke.  and tonight when sam gets home from work, i'll thank him for how hard he works to provide for us, and for taking us to breakfast yesterday, and i'll remember how cute it was when he was helping ellery take a drink of water.  because i think God gives us nearly-perfect days so that we can recall them when life is not so perfect.  and the memories we made can be savored until the next really sweet day comes along.