Tuesday, December 21, 2010

That Kid's Mom

Quirky. Gifted. Highly Gifted. Twice Exceptional. A Handful. Hyper.  Distractible. Bright. High Energy. Intense. Funny. Sensory Integration Disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder. Highly Sensitive. Fine Motor Delay.

Some combination of the above labels would likely be used by the public education system in order to classify and process my oldest son. He's kind of hard to pin down, but you know him when you see him. Most classes have a kid like him. He's the one that can't sit still. He's the one pretending his markers are rockets and creating an elaborate story with sound effects while the rest of the class is drawing shapes like they're supposed to. He's the one that won't paint because 1) he can't do the representational drawings at the level of his classmates and he doesn't want to fail and 2) he doesn't want to get his hands dirty.

And he's the kid that eats his shirt during the holiday concert.

Though we homeschool, we send Henry to a one-day-a-week homeschool enrichment program so that he gets to participate in things like choir and school concerts.

Last week we packed up the family, including one week old baby Thomas, and headed over to see Henry's choir debut. His music teacher had emailed me a few days earlier to let me know that Henry hadn't seemed to want to participate in the concert during the dress rehearsal. Henry and I had been talking about it. He seemed excited, and so I continued to talk it up as something that was going to be great.

When I arrived at the school with his white concert shirt, he, predictably, refused to wear it. That was fine with everyone. He could wear his favorite "blue stripey" shirt - the one shirt he'll wear even if we're at home. (Generally, at home he wears jammies.) We all just wanted him to perform.

Henry insisted that I sit with him and his class while he waited for his turn on stage. I sat holding his hand. We talked about the butterflies in his tummy. We talked about how the big kids were nervous too. We talked about how much fun the party would be after he performed. We talked about how awesome he was going to feel after he did something hard.

He told me he was going to "screw up all the courage" he could and go up there on stage. And he did. Because he was one of the smaller kids, and because he insisted on standing with his best friends (naturally), he ended up front and center on the stage. A blue-shirted kid in a sea of white shirts.

The concert began with his little friend waving a prop in his face. He konked her on the head. Then, during most of the first song, he stared blankly into space. But then he came to life - singing his little heart out and toying with his blue stripey shirt. Then he was chewing on his blue stripey shirt.

And then, somehow, he managed to work the stretched out, saliva soaked collar of that blue stripey shirt down over both shoulders. For a few suspenseful seconds I sat laughing but terrified of what would come next. His music teacher turned to me with a big smile and big "oh my God!" eyes. I just sat laughing.

I sat there thinking, "That's my son. I'm 'that kid's' mom." It made me smile. It made me feel tremendously blessed. It came to me that God has given me this particular child to raise. It was no accident. I am meant to be his mom. He is meant to be my kid. We are meant to learn from each other things that we could not learn from anyone else.

As I sat pondering what, precisely, I was supposed to be learning from this particular incident, Henry's shirt returned to it's proper location and the kids began singing that ridiculous "skidamarink a dink a dink" song. When they got to the "IIIIIII Loooooove You!" line, my little boy turned his entire body to where I was sitting, looked me right in the eye, and pointed right at me. If you are a mother, or you know me at all, I don't have to tell you that I cried. At that moment, I was the proudest, happiest momma on the planet. Yes sir, that's my baby! He eats his shirt, he undresses during concerts, and he. loves. me.

I was so proud of him for screwing up his courage and doing something so hard. I was so proud of me for finding the humor in the shirt-eating strip-tease, rather than being embarrassed by it. I was proud of my husband for also rolling with it rather than cringing at a public reminder of his own childhood awkwardness. And I was so happy to know that my son loves me. That he loved me in that moment because I was there to support him through something hard. Loved me because I helped him do something he was proud of doing.

And he was quite proud of himself. He talked about how much he loved singing and how he's going to do lots of concerts. He asked his dad to be in a choir with him so they could do concerts together.

It was a great day for our family. One that drove home the rewards of doing something hard and of loving each other unconditionally. It's not always easy being "that kid's" mom, but the joy that comes in the good moments is worth all the struggle.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Placenta Encapsulation - Turning your placenta into medicine

If you met me at the park I'd seem normal enough. I'd probably be dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and some kick-ass Dansko boots I paid too much for - as opposed to, say, a broomstick skirt and Birkenstocks. I'm no fashion plate, but I wear makeup. I shave my legs and my armpits. You probably wouldn't immediately suspect that, in the secret recesses of my little house in the city, I write blog posts about the magic and miracles of placenta medicine.

At some point, I turned into a closet hippie. I'm sitting here in my little post partum nest, high on the hormones from my placenta, having just rubbed my breast milk on my baby's bottom to soothe his little diaper rash. This is the same breast milk I expressed to give to my five year old in hopes it will speed his recovery from his cold. And as I sit here I can't help but be overwhelmed by the amazing power of a mother's body to heal and nourish and protect her children and herself.

But I still look normal.

I'm not sure when or where I first heard the idea of placenta medicine, but at some point after the birth of my second child I was introduced to the idea that consuming the placenta either as food, or in the form of medicine, could replenish nutrients and hormones lost during the birth process.

The Fruit of the Womb web site has this to say about placenta encapsulation:
Over 80% of mothers suffer from the “baby blues” starting in the first weeks after giving birth. Studies show that the placenta is extremely nutrient rich, high in iron, protein, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6 and of course, your own natural hormones. Your placenta is perfectly made for you, by you. Experts agree that the placenta retains hormones, and thus reintroducing them to your system may ease hormonal fluctuations.

Placenta pills are believed to:
- diminish “baby blues"
- increase breast milk production
- help the uterus to contract down and therefore lessens postpartum bleeding
- ease fatigue
- contain your own natural hormones
- balance your system
- replenish nutrients lost during childbirth
- increase energy levels
- ease your postpartum transition
Although current formal research on human placentophagy does not exist, what we do know is that women who take placenta capsules report fewer emotional issues, have more energy and tend to enjoy a faster, more pleasant postpartum recovery.
After two bouts of post partum depression, I was willing to try anything to prevent a third round. I want to enjoy my baby's infancy, not spend it in a cloud of anxiety and tears. I figured I don't have anything to lose. There are no side effects to consuming your placenta, and the more I read about it the more it seems like something everyone should do. I'm ready to scream from the roof tops "don't throw out your placenta! Don't feed it to a tree! Take it back into you and let it nourish and heal you! You are worth it!"

I called the ladies at Fruit of the Womb and within hours they had picked up the placenta from my mom's house. They returned it to me 24 hours later with a beautiful print of my placenta, a lovely umbilical cord keepsake, and about 100 placenta pills. The directions are to take 1-3 capsules, 1-3 times a day. "Listen to your body," the label says, "you'll know what you need."

Photo from Fruit of the Womb

I opened the pretty little jar and was, admittedly, a bit put off by the smell. My husband claims he can't smell it, but, honestly it makes me gag. No matter. I quickly popped three pills in my mouth. I figured, with my history, 3 pills, 3 times a day would be the right dose. Within about half an hour, I felt a little. . . stoned. It was nuts. I wasn't expecting to feel anything - except maybe not depressed. But I felt really calm and peaceful and a little. . . zoned out. And my lips felt a little . . . funny. Now, I just gave birth so it's been awhile since I've consumed more than a few sips of alcohol at a time, but after some reflection I realized I felt like I'd just had a big glass of wine. Huh. Maybe the maximum dose is overkill. My plan now is to take one in the morning, two in the afternoon and three when I'm ready for bed.

We'll see how things go. I'm optimistic. Which for me, post partum, is a rare thing indeed.

If you want to learn more about placenta medicine, visit the Fruit of the Womb web site and blog. You may not be as motivated as I was to read the whole blog, but it's fascinating and worth the time. And if you're interested in placenta encapsulation and you're not in the Denver Metro area, the ladies at Fruit of the Womb have put together a great directory of service providers throughout the country.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baby's Here!

So little Thomas has made his arrival and I have tons and tons and tons I want to write about. All in good time. I keep thinking about how things are different the third time around. And how much easier it all is in so many ways.

My brother is getting ready to have his first baby, and I keep thinking of things I want to share with him to help make his first time easier than mine was. Of course, I don't want to sound like the obnoxious know-it-all mom. I know I still have a ton to learn. But there are things I know now that I didn't know the first time that are making things a bit easier and more fun.

Tonight, I just wanted to share one little tidbit that makes having a newborn more interesting.

Did you know that babies can control their tongues from birth? And that they will try to imitate you if you stick your tongue out at them? Give it a try. When your baby  is in a state of "quiet alertness" - that means he's awake and wide-eyed and still - look him in the eye, and slowly slowly stick your tongue out at him. And then wait. See what happens. Chances are you'll see his little tongue poke out of his mouth. You just had your first two-way conversation with your baby!

My mama always told us that sticking your tongue out at someone means "I love you." In this case, she was right!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Still Pregnant

Yup. Thought yesterday was going to be the day. Cooked some more. Cleaned some more. Payed the bills. Had contractions all day. Marveled at my perfect children. (Seriously, the 5 year old played happily with his action figures by himself while his sister took a 3 hour nap. When does that ever happen?) Woke up this morning still pregnant. Oh well.

The readings at Mass last Sunday seemed particularly appropriate to this period of waiting. Of course, it was the first Sunday of Advent, and Advent is, after all, all about waiting. Specifically, even, about waiting for a baby to arrive. This passage from Matthew really spoke to me:
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
The anticipation, the excitement, the need to be prepared. My mother keeps telling me I need to rest, but I'm not tired. I feel almost manic. I figure no matter how much rest I get now, I'm still going to be exhausted once the baby is born. And I want to be able to rest and snuggle with him as much as possible when he gets here. And I'm getting plenty of sleep at night, so I'm not running myself ragged.

But I am tackling chores that I know won't get done for many more months. Not because I feel like I have to, but because I want to. Like scrubbing out my kitchen trash can. I couldn't tell you the last time I did that. It's not something that I sit around thinking I need to do. But I saw it needed to be done, and I had the time, energy and inclination to do it, so I did.

I really am excited to meet this little guy. The two children I have met are so different from each other and so wonderful in their unique ways. I can't wait to get to know this little one too. I can't wait to see how he fits into the family and how his siblings respond to him. I can't wait to smell him, and snuggle him, and nurse him, and hold him while he sleeps. I can't wait to sit with him by the fire while we celebrate Christmas in those magical newborn days. I can't wait to be surrounded by the wonder of a tiny new life at a time when the whole world is celebrating the birth of Our Savior. Perhaps I'll be blessed with some sense of the awe Mary must have felt on that first Christmas.