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Crazy Train

I’ve been meditating, contemplating, praying, journaling, painting… and asking the Universe to help me loosen up, see what is around me, and get some fulfilling, lucrative work going. A few weeks ago I just put it out there – I want to teach. I taught my last class at the university I adjunct at last fall, and it’s been crickets since then. With only a Master’s degree, I fall somewhere in between someone with a PhD and a janitor in qualifications. Enrollment has been down, so adjuncts at my school have been hurting. But on some level I tend to get caught up in the “good things happen because I’m doing it right” and “good things don’t happen because I’m doing it wrong” trap. A mental distortion I’m quick to point out in others but slow to recognize in myself.

Anyway, last Thursday the Universe ponied up and I got the call to teach a class for the fall. In a week and a half. That I had never taught before. Yikes. I’ve done this twice before, but usually with at least a month of lead time. Luckily, the topic is Marketing Communications, a field I spent a long time in and feel relatively comfortable with. That said, there are more complications. The first night of class is on the second day of my family vacation. So I need to figure out how to do an online class. Lots of boring but time-consuming logistical complexity entailed with that. Plus, the day after I get back from my vacation, I am supposed to do a training session at a non-profit in town on a completely unrelated topic and I’ve been kind of blocked up about how to approach it. So, now I have a week to figure all of this shit out. While maintaining my normal over-committed schedule and praying (please please Universe) that nobody in the family gets sick, including catching that 24 hour stomach bug from hell that is going around.

So, I’m writing in my blog. Procrastination is part of my process. No, really. I am also epically sleep deprived since my kid has decided 5:30am is a fine time to wake up, and I’m trying to wean off the sleeping pills I’ve been taking since she was born.

Do I sound stressed out? I’m a little stressed out. But I have to say, being stressed out about teaching a class is my favorite kind of stressed. My husband will attest that I’m a happier person when I’m teaching.

Meditation – I’ve been doing it consistently. I was really attached to the Shamatha form for a long time, but during a fit of crazy, I signed up for a 20 day yoga challenge, a 21 day meditation challenge, and a 28 day meditation challenge. The upshot of which meant exposing myself to a lot of styles I wasn’t so familiar with. Both meditation challenges were Vedanta based, so that was interesting. I’ve really just done Buddhist meditation, and they similar on the surface but different underneath. In a nutshell, it seems like Vedanta (and Kundalini Yoga) meditation are more about tuning into a universal frequency that is blissful and supportive. In the process, it is easier to accept what is going on in my body and mind with more compassion. Buddhist meditation is more about just sitting with and accepting the present moment, whether it’s blissful or painful or tired or happy. I think both are really valid, good practices. I tend to alternate between them, depending on what I need. If I’m keyed up and jittery, Shamatha is more helpful since I’m not going to be letting much in when I’m all armored up. But when I feel vulnerable or depressed (sometimes I call it porous), the practice of connecting to something greater can be (and has been) really powerful and healing.

Anyway, I could go on for a while but I think I had better crack open that syllabus and start figuring out what the hell I am doing. Have a blessed day!

The Experts

I’ve realized lately that when it comes to babies and kids there is a theory – endorsed or espoused by an expert with many letters after his/her name – for EVERYTHING. Remember how I bragged on Lillian’s excellent sleep? Well that lasted until just after she turned five months old and then fell apart. This was not unexpected, it often happens around then, but we certainly hoped we had dodged that bullet. Not so much.

So now her sleep is totally erratic. Some nights we get the old school 7-9 hours straight. Some nights there’s one extra wake up for nursing. Some nights she goes down fairly easily and some she wakes up every 20 minutes until midnight. Some nights she wants to nurse every hour or two. Did I mention I hate unpredictability? It makes me crazy. But here we are, trying to adapt .

Some of my mama friends have had to contend with this all along, for others it’s more recent. But most of us are now having to take another look at the dreaded “sleep training” and making decisions about how to help our kids sleep. Some experts say that the only way to make sure your kid will have good sleep for the rest of his life (and do well in school, make money, and marry doctor) is if you let them cry it out. There’s a bunch of different names for this but they all amount to letting you kid scream alone in their room until they eventually put themselves to sleep. There are gentler and not so gentle versions of this.  The first book David and I read on sleep espoused a not so gentle version, and claimed the payoff would be a gloriously easy to sleep and nap child. David pretty much bought into it, I was on the fence. I spend a lot of time on the fence these days. I should check for splinters.

Anyway, there are also books out there that claim that letting your kid scream her head off in a dark room with no idea if you will ever show up might be a wee bit damaging psychologically, and some studies have shown it dumps a lot of chemicals into their bodies that can have bad effects on their emotional development. So basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That pretty much sums up the parenting experience. There are so many experts out there who tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, and mostly contradict each other and expect us to ignore our own intuitions and judgment. It’s maddening. It makes me mad. It reminds me a lot of when I was an opera singer. My teacher would say one thing, my coach another, and if I pointed out that it was contradictory they would claim it wasn’t and try to blame me for not understanding. There’s a reason I’m not an opera singer any more…

Recently I’ve come to realize that we all cherry pick the research/experts that resonate with our own beliefs and values the most. At least I know I’m doing it. What I wish is that I wasn’t so insecure about my parenting abilities that I need an endorsement to take care of my kid the way I think is best.

David and I tried a bit of crying it out and concluded it was not what we wanted for Lillian. The “you’re ruining your child’s life” arguments on both sides are less concerning to us than what are we doing to her now? Is there a compelling reason to put her through that kind of emotional pain, other than it speeding up the amount of time it will take for her to learn to put herself to sleep? Not that we could find. She’s a happy kid and we don’t really want to fuck with that.  Now talk to us in a month and if she’s still waking up at all hours we may change our tune entirely. But seriously, why do I need an endorsement to figure out what is best for my kid? I know her better than anyone else in the world. I’m the goddamned expert.

And on to round 2 of poo. We took Lillian to see an expert on gastric issues. We think. This guy has a waiting list a mile long and works a lot with kids with food intolerance issues. But I didn’t do a lot of advanced research on him because I was going on a friend’s recommendation. Whoops.

He talked a lot of smack about “our society” and “basic science” to justify the test he’s having us do to find what Lillian is sensitive to. He gives this blood test called an IGGe4 thingy to David, because supposedly his food sensitivities dictate Lillian’s for the first part of her life. But then I did some research on this test, and it turns out that while one study showed some improvement for IBS patients who cut foods out according to the results, a more in-depth study showed no correlation between the test results and real food sensitivity. The doctor also used some phraseology I tend to get a little suspicious of, claiming that food sensitivity can cause brain fog and inflammation. Er, what? Very not sold. Possibly not even on the fence.

I made this appointment for Lillian after she had a week-long reaction to what I thought was one dose of dairy, but turned out to be a week  of exposure to soy. We know for damn sure that she has a problem with soy. Which is what we had trouble convincing our original pediatrician of in the beginning.

Anyway, we’ve decided that if the test results come back and are intuitive – if they at least confirm some of what we already know – then we’ll take them into consideration. But if they’re all over the map and the doc is really dogmatic about his interpretation I think we’re going to move the hell on. We have an appointment with Lillian’s new pediatrician next week, so I’ll be curious what she has to say.

I guess the point of all this is that as an insecure and at least mildly terrified new parent, you have to sort through all this fucking information when it really makes the most sense to get to know and trust your intuition. I have far more information on my child than anyone else possibly could. Sorting through that information and looking for patterns and correlations is my job. Unless something an expert is espousing really jives with what I already know, it’s probably bunk, or at least inapplicable.

It’s been really hard to get to the point where I can see myself as the expert instead of anyone and everyone else, but I think it’s the only way I can take the best care of Lillian. I have a big brain, a lot of strong instincts, and I love my child profoundly. Pair that with David’s intelligence, love, and protectiveness of  Lillian and we make a pretty good team. I wish I trusted that more and wasted a lot less time on feeling insecure and fearful.

More stories from the rabbit hole

Four months!

Four months old!

I am actually feeling a lot better these days. I know the hormones are starting to subside because I don’t break into a sweat every time I get stressed out. I still get kind of hot at night, but nothing like it was. And oh yeah, I don’t have a mental breakdown every day or so. That part is key. I still get grouchy, and defensive, and worried, and exhausted, (just ask David!) but I don’t hit the red zone nearly as easily.

So now I can reflect on some of the madness that has been the last 4 months and think about writing more about it. Here’s a tale of self-inflicted crazy from the crazy archives.

When Lillian was about 4 weeks old, I had the really bad idea to weigh her on the bathroom scale. And the scale said she was only 7 lbs, way too low for where she should be. To rewind – she had come in at the 10th percentile for weight and her doctor had warned us it couldn’t go below that, so I was paranoid. She had also lost too much weight when she came home from the hospital, and that was really scary. Also, breast feeding is hard in that respect because you really have no idea how much food your kid is getting. And a friend of mine had had supply problems and her baby was having a hard time gaining weight. Another friend’s newborn had ended up in NICU because she had issues relating to low birth weight. How does all this apply to this situation? Er, it doesn’t really, I was just paranoid.

Anyhoo, I freaked the hell out. Freaked. Out. I was convinced that Lillian was dangerously underweight, dehydrated, sickly, and on the brink of being taken from me and stuck in NICU. (At this point I was seriously sleep-deprived as well.) David didn’t want me taking her to the doctor or calling the lactation consultant and further indulging my panic – he was sure she was just fine. But I got so wigged I did end up calling the lactation consultant. She came later in the week, weighed Lillian, and determined that she was in fact 7lbs 12oz, a very respectable weight gain since her previous appointment. Doh.

The freaky thing was I managed to convince myself so completely that something was seriously wrong when it wasn’t. A freakier thing was how my fear of Lillian not gaining weight and somehow getting “in trouble” for it was really an inversion of my own feelings about my body. I’ve always hated the scale, and while my self-esteem is usually pretty good these days, as is my fitness, I’ve still avoided the doctor because I don’t want a supposed authority figure to tell me I’m wrong or defective in some way. But since I had the baby I haven’t really given a crap about that so much. So here we have a perfect example of how my own issues can be passed on to my kid unconsciously if I’m not careful. Do I want Lillian to worry about weighing too much or too little as she gets older? Nooooooo. I just want her to feel as comfortable and happy in her body as possible. Is it her job to take on my feelings about my body? Oh Jesus no.

Sometimes I still worry. Lillian is smaller than most of the babies in our play group and I have a tendency to compare a bit too much. But I just look at my anxiety and say, “Well, that’s just my old friend Anxiety in another costume, and it doesn’t have any more to do with reality (or with Lillian) than last time when I was fixated on something else.”  It eventually works when paired with some fresh air, or meditation, or a good nights’ sleep. And Lillian is awesome; she’s active and happy and I love her chubby thighs and cheeks. I may be a worrier, but I make good, well-thought out decisions for myself and her.  I have no intention of letting my own crap influence those decisions or how Lillian perceives herself as she becomes more self-aware.

I’ve also talked to a lot more parents since the early days and realized that the milestone/percentage tracking thing is a bunch of bullshit. My kid is not a demographic. She’s an individual and she may be smaller or bigger at any given time depending on her activity level, growth spurts, sleep, eating schedule, and basic genetic makeup. I understand that tracking her growth over time can show trends and give us an idea if there are problems, but it seems just ludicrous how much attention is paid to this stuff in the first few months. Her doctor warned us that she had to stay in the same percentile (or go up) at her first appointment. What the hell? She’s going to be smaller sometimes and bigger sometimes. What about when she starts solids and her calorie intake drops for a while? What if her growth slows down for a little while? Should we really have to look at all this stuff with a magnifying glass before it can ever indicate anything? It turns out I know a lot of people whose kids were in low percentiles (myself included) and turned out just fine. And anyone who sees Lillian can tell she’s thriving, so the growth charts (and our pediatrician who I’m about to fire anyway – story coming soon) can just suck it.