Thursday, August 5, 2010

The 3rd Child Dilemma

So whenever my life seems to reach a state of ease and lightness, inevitably I feel the need to do something to stir it up again. I cannot figure out the motivation for this, other than I guess it is human nature. At this point in my life, I don't really have any further career aspirations. I am not sure if I still want to be a midwife and if I do- I am sure it is not at this point in my life. My current job helps pay the bills, allows me to be the kind of mom I want to be, and I do occasionally feel I get to touch peoples lives. So with no career aspirations, what keeps coming up for me as a repetitive thought is whether or not to have a third child. I am completely bipolar on this topic either emphatically stating ABSOLUTELY NOT, or conversely thinking it would be fun to do it again. No matter what I tell myself I think about it though, it is always there simmering in the background. Everything that happens in my life gets reviewed under the filter of "with a third child" this would have happened, or this siutation would have been handled this way.

In a perfect world, I would love to have another baby. If I could guarantee I would not have the same emotional issues I did last time. If I could be assured that I have enough time and love to give to the two amazing boys I already have in addition to another DEMANDING person. If I was able to be a little more flexible with my job and get more family time. If we had more money, less of a copay, another bedroom, and the list goes on.

I tend to get sucked in to the romance of having another baby- when having been through it twice, I know better. It is nothing but the hardest most labor intensive work on top of getting NO sleep and having your crazy person hormones raging. Don't get me wrong, there are some random incidences of sheer joy thrown in to keep us mothers from running away screaming to the mountains to live in a tent alone.

The amazing thing that came out of my "troubles" after having Ryan is a desire to become a spiritual seeker. I feel that I am on the brink of finding a way to flow with life and surrender to the inevitability of hard times. I am learning how not to add more pain to my life by struggling against the flow. I am even to a place where I can be thankful for hard times as those are the times when growth is possible. Being a mom has been the most useful tool for this as there are many times when I get to practice my skills. What I have learned makes me think that maybe just maybe, I could handle having another child- and not only that, but maybe I could even enjoy having a newborn again...

There are days as a mother where I feel fulfilled and in awe. Grateful and honored that I was chosen to care for these amazing little souls. I have SUCH a desire to help these people become whole and suffer as little as possible. When you really get down to it, it is a humbling and FRIGHTENING experience. I have other days when all I want to do is sit down at the computer and finish balancing the checkbook which should take about 5 minutes and I get interrupted 5 times- "Mommy can I have my next breakfast", "Potty please mommy", boys fighting- mommy has to intervene, someones mouth needs to be wiped, someone needs help with a toy. These are the times when I get impatient and snippy, I just need 5 minutes!!! These days I think, "HOW can I possibly have another child?!"

There are so many reasons NOT to have a third child- all stemming from fear. What if the next baby wasn't healthy and I had to devote all of my time to him/her and the other two get neglected. I worry about making Ryan a middle child. What if I did have anxiety issues after having the next baby. How will we fit 3 teenagers in our house, how will we SURVIVE with 3 teenagers. Are we pushing our luck by having a 3rd when we have already been blessed with 2 healthy wonderful children? How can I go through the FEAR of having a baby again- vaccines and illness. How can I go through pregnancy again?

On paper, there is really no discussion- the cons list is pretty big! So what is it in me that keeps bringing it up? Is it a biological desire to procreate (akin to why men think about sex so much), is it spirit urging me to have another. Is it a power trip that I just think it is so cool that Erik and I can make a person that the idea is just too intoxicating to pass up? Is it the tiny knock of another soul asking to come through Erik and me? It is so hard to know. When I look into the faces of Reid and Ryan how can I feel anything but amazement. Of course all of that torture was worth it!! The difficulty of the job is mirrored on the other side by how joyful and amazing it all is. All the terror, frustration, and heartache you have as a parent is repaid when you feel two little arms around your neck or when you hear "wuv you mommy". And despite how it feels when you are immersed in dirty diapers, screaming, and puke, it really does FLY by. As I sit here looking at my child who will be 5 in a few short months and my BABY who will be 3 in 6 months it is hard to figure out where the time went.

Two kids for our family was a given. We both came from families with 2 siblings. The world is made for families of 4, There are logistical ramifications for having a family of 5. If we decide to have a third it will feel like jumping out of an airplane- you are pretty sure everything will be okay- afterall people do it all the time, but you are still praying like hell for that paracute to open. It would make a most intense twist in my spiritual journey, that is FOR sure.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mommy Needs a Time Out!!

I saw a great commercial where a mother storms past her misbehaving children and shouts "Somebody needs a time out!!", she proceeds to go into her own room and slam the door.

I have come to realize that the relationship that is of primary importance to me is the one with myself. I cannot be expected to be the best I can be for others if I am not nurturing my body and spirit. While parenting is very rewarding at times, most of the time it is about giving of yourself and not receiving. It takes a lot of work (and may not even be possible) to not let parenting drain you of all of your energy. There is definitely value and character building in this as well though, so I think it serves a purpose. How though, do you work in some me-time at a time in your life where you can't even take 5 minutes in the bathroom to poop without a little person coming to search for you? When you do carve out a bit of time for yourself, how best should you use that? I have been known to waste HOURS on my computer accomplishing nothing but wasting my minutes away. Sometimes you need this too!! I know though, I feel much more fulfilled when I use my time in a productive manner.

I have fortunately been lucky that both of my children have been good nappers (not good night sleepers but that is another story). As soon as possible, I tried to make their naps at the same time in the afternoon. I LIVE for that hour or two in the afternoon when the house is silent, the children are contained, and I can do whatever I want!! I try NOT to do housework during that time for a couple of reasons. A. I need to recharge my batteries after being with the little boys all morning. B. I think it is good to involve my kids in housework and as an added bonus they like "helping".

Reid, my 4 year-old is reaching a point where he doesn't always NEED a nap. He still gets 2 hours in his room and it is his choice whether he sleeps or not. We all need a break from each other by the afternoon. I like that I know he has 2 hours of down-time with no TV or craziness. I also like knowing that he made the decision whether or not to sleep. Surprisingly, he still usually sleeps.

In the past few months, I have also developed another strategy. This is something I would have NEVER thought possible, but I actually try to get up and showered BEFORE the kids get up. There is a lot to be said for the first sounds you hear when you wake up not being "mommy I want..." For a while I had a great thing going with my neighbor. We would walk almost every weekday morning. That made me HAPPY!! I was able to start the day out with peace, exercise, and adult conversation. Plus adding someone else in the mix guaranteed that I would actually get up and not fall prey to the lure of more sleep that tends to happen when I only have to answer to myself. Getting out of bed early in the morning is almost torture, but once I am up I am always grateful to myself.

Exercise is a HUGE one, and one that helped keep me sane in my worst times. I would put Eckhart Tolle on my IPod and walk for 30-45 minutes around my neighborhood. I can tell my anxiety is waning now because I don't HAVE to exercise to feel in control of my sanity. I have always been lucky to be thin, so have never had weight as a huge motivating factor to exercise. Now that I have realized how amazing I feel after a good walk though, I am drawn to it. I am greatly looking forward to daylight savings time in a couple of weeks when I can get an evening walk in before dark!! My other favorite form of exercise is yoga. I am looking forward to the fall when both boys are in school so I can pick that up again. There is something amazing in that yoga somehow manages to work you out and relax you.

Another thing I have started doing to try to get quality time with myself is meditating. I put the kids down for their nap and I go into my room and set a timer for 21 minutes. I sit on a pillow and try not to fall asleep, since that is what my body thinks it should do when I stop moving!! I researched meditation a lot because I had a hard time finding how to do it. The simple answer is, just sit down and try to stay present by focusing on your breathing. This is impossible, so the goal is to catch yourself when you start thinking and be aware of it. I have really been pleased with the results from adding this into my day. We are so bombarded with images and activity all day that we have forgotten how to just sit and be. We ALL have attention deficit disorder it is no wonder that our kids also do!! To me meditation organizes my brain a bit, allows me to be aware of the thoughts that are circulating, and when I stand up I am more clear-headed and peaceful. I will warn you though, 20 minutes seems like 3 hours sometimes!!!

Another aspect of my life I am trying to work on, is trying to find ways to tap into my creative side again. I picked up my guitar yesterday. I don't realize how much I miss my music until I pick it back up again. Music was my whole life for much of my younger years, so when I start playing guitar or singing it is like coming home (well it would be if I didn't need LOTS of practice!!). This is great because it is a way I can nurture myself but also involve my children. They also love music and I hope one day will play their own instruments.

Finally, I am trying to write as is obvious. Writing is very similar to meditation to me. It gets all the circulating thoughts out of the way and makes mental space, which is my goal!!It is my hope that I can write as therapy for myself, but also maybe something I write will help someone else which is an added bonus!

I think it is really easy to view nurturing ourselves as more work, but this work will pay off in the short term and in the long term. Ignore your messy house for a bit and take 20 minutes to just be.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Presence in Parenting

I have always considered myself as sane as sane can be. Sure I have issues and random elements of quirkiness that come up occasionally. I have been known to exhibit a little bit of OCD here and there- but overall I am just like everyone else right? Right, except what I am learning is, that we are all teetering on the edge of mental illness!!!

After I had my second child, all of my issues came to a big fat head. After running on a pretty consistent level of anxiety for my entire pregnancy over whether or not I would have a c-section, I was hit right smack in between the eyes with a postpartum anxiety disorder. Of course I didn't know that at the time. At the time my body was just overcome with fear and dread, stuck in a constant fight or flight response with nowhere to unload it. It took me a few days of being in the hospital diagnosed with preeclampsia to realize that my illness was not consistent with my diagnosis, I was just mentally sick, which to me was much, much worse.

I have continued to experience "episodes" of extreme anxiety. They are unpleasant to say the least, and bring with them a host of awful thoughts and moods. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. It has been a long 2 years of soul searching, pain, and suffering. Would I trade it? It's hard to say, I wish it hadn't been necessary in order to get me where I am today, but in truth, it has been the biggest blessing and teacher of my life.

Throughout this time, while I had a prescription in my posession, I resisted taking an antidepressant . I used an occasional medication to help me fall asleep. It seemed apparent though, even when the only thing I wanted was to be put out of my misery for a couple of days, that it was not the answer for me. It would MAYBE help control the symptoms, but it would not alleviate the cause. Plus, to me the potential side effects were scarier than my experiences. (I feel the need to say that this is MY experience, I do not condemn any woman for her choice to take medication).

My sons birth coincided with Oprah and Echkart Tolle doing weekly lessons on Tolle's book "A New Earth". What I learned from this helped save me from plunging into the deapths of despair or ending up in a mental hospital for a cool down session. I started to believe that I had the power to alter the patterns in my brain that caused me to spiral into these anxiety attacks. What I have learned is that your thoughts are more physiological than anything. You have NO control over your thinking 99% of the time and your thinking is what determines your moods. The whole key is to be present and be aware of everything happening at any given moment, including the thoughts swirling around in your mind. While it is not too terribly complex of an idea it is VERY hard to put into action.

2 years later as I sit here, I feel like my life is pretty much perfect. I still have my times when the negativity creeps in, but they are shorter and less pervasive. Now that my eyes are open to this notion of presence, I see it being taught everywhere and I believe that this is the secret to living a joyful and peaceful life. Presence is making me a better mother, a better wife, and a better nurse. I still have so far to go though, and the challenges of being a full-time mother give me lots of field training. No one really sits down and gives you a parenting manual because there isn't one right way to parent, but I believe you can be assured that if you are truly present you will be the best parent you can be.