19 things you must know about me

by renegademama

So I’ve been noticing that other mama bloggers often have an “about me” list – you know, little fun-facts about philosophies, approaches, overarching beliefs, etc. Some of them are really serious. The list might include things like: “I’m a natural birth advocate;” “I had a successful HBAC (homebirth after cesarean);” “I am a vegetarian;” “I kill animals for fun;” “I tandem nursed for 8 months;” “I defend my right to formula feed;” “I am a radical unschooler.” After reading these lists I decided that I need a list– a nice, clear, honest one about me and my family, so you can really get to know us, and quickly see where I stand on important issues. Because I do “stand” places. I do.

So here are the 19 things you must know about me.

1. I only practice positive discipline and gentle parenting techniques. Then, if those don’t work, I yell, bribe and make empty but intimidating threats until I get my way.

2. I am a staunch unswerving advocate of natural, unmedicated birth. For me. I don’t care how your baby exits your body.

3. My dream is to get a PhD in English Literature so I can sit in classrooms discussing deconstructionist theory with a bunch of hung-over 20-year-olds acting wildly interested, dropping Derrida quotes they really don’t understand, solely to earn participation points.

4. We eat natural, healthy, homemade foods exclusively. Unless we’re at Costco. Then we eat polish sausages and drink sodas (for one dollar and 50 freaking cents each I might add).

5. I have breastfed all three of my kids. This may be the only unquestionably positive thing I’ve done for them. Well that and introducing them to the Grateful Dead.

6. I used to think the purpose of a play date was to distract the children long enough that the parents could get a good buzz going through uninterrupted beer drinking.

7. I don’t drink anymore, possibly due to #6.

8. For reasons still unclear, I keep putting the cheese in the freezer after I make lunches in the morning.

9. If I had my way, I’d be a rampant cigarette smoker. But I don’t have my way. (I never have my way. Damn it.) Apparently they cause cancer. I know they’re disgusting, but I love them. I feel James Dean cool when I smoke them. These are not facts I will share with my children. And if they ever ask me, I will lie.

10. When my computer stalls, I bang on it.

11. When my kids stall, I don’t bang on them, but I want to.

12. My husband’s idea of “getting dressed up” is shaving his forearm so his tattoo shows up more clearly.

13. Speaking of tattoos, I have four. I want twenty. (See above re: not getting my way.) This is not because I’m cool, but rather because I got a small one a few years ago and now I can’t stop. I believe it’s a disease.

14. When I’m in a good mood I do interpretive dance moves around the house while singing 80s songs. When I’m in a bad mood I sit on the couch and yell at people.

15. I believe women should stop distancing themselves from one another due to differing “philosophies” and join together in one united front against men, who are obviously the problem.

16. No I don’t really think that.

17. When I hear things like “radical unschooling” the first thought that crosses my mind is “How is that radical? White trash meth addicts in the high Sierra have been doing that for years.” I can’t help those thoughts. They just come.

18. When I attempt to summarize myself in lists, the whole task almost immediately degenerates into random tidbits of useless information and I find myself reminded of why I don’t try to summarize myself ever, whether in list form or not, because how the hell can a person be bullet-listed, characterized in nice, neat one-liners? I mean how do I know what to include and what to leave out – what if I leave out the single, key piece of info that would complete your picture of me? More importantly, should I be honest? Who’s reading this list? Do I attempt to maintain my act or do I let you in on the chaos, the confusion, the contradictions of self and soul and philosophy? And even if I want to tell the truth, how do I do that? What is the truth? There is no truth. There are only variations of the story as “true” in my mind at that precise moment and situation and in a few more moments it won’t be true anymore and then we’ll be back to lies again.

19. I’m confused. I hate “about me” lists. I’m going back to cleaning the garage.

oh, I forgot the 20th thing: My kids are infinitely cooler than I am. Always.

Georgia’s home birth story

by renegademama

I’ve been meaning to finish this.

On August 4, 2010 I was four days past my due date and not digging it. I seemed to go into labor and then stop, every day for about two years. Or maybe that was weeks. I was done in a way only a 40+ week pregnant woman can be “done.” I met with my midwife and explained that my daily visualization techniques and heart-to-heart talks with my uterus were oddly ineffective and she was going to have to do something. She suggested castor oil, told me it would only work if my body is fully ready (so I shouldn’t get excited), and gave me a milkshake recipe I can’t wholeheartedly recommend.

It took me about 37 seconds to get the ingredients, send the kids to my mom’s, and drink the milkshake (actually it was 6pm). By 9pm I was feeling contractions but tried to ignore them since they had faded out so many times before. By midnight they were still coming and I was having to walk around through them and breathe to manage the pain. I figured if I woke Mac up I’d jinx the whole deal, so I let him sleep until about 2am, when they were becoming pretty difficult to manage. He woke up and started filling the birthing tub and setting up various other things (heating receiving blankets, putting things out for the midwives, calling grandmothers, etc.). He was nervous and kept suggesting we call the midwives. I kept telling him “no” because I was still in denial that our baby was coming. My mom arrived around 4am. I got in the tub about 5am because the pain was really intense. About 3 minutes later I declared that the midwives could come, and they showed up about 5:45am. I labored in the tub and around the house, moaning and sighing through contractions, leaning on Mac, wondering in lucid moments why the hell I ever signed up for this again. At around 7:30am the contractions slowed way down (a sign I was moving to the pushing stage) and I started feeling the urge to push at the peak of each contraction.

This is when things really began to suck.

Now you must understand that with Ava and Rocket I pushed for about 15 minutes each. It was quick and easy (if such an ordeal could ever be “easy”). With this baby, though, I was pushing with all my might and nothing was happening. Just excruciating pain. Really, nothing was happening and I knew it. I kept trying but my attempts seemed ineffective and all the strength I could muster seemed wimpy in the face of what I was trying to do. I was genuinely terrified. This was not in the cards. I’m a super birthing machine. I really felt that I couldn’t do it and I shared this information with the midwife. She calmly informed me that I was the only one who could do it. I wanted to hit her in the face. The other midwife started mumbling something about breathing in light and love to my baby and I considered drowning her.

There are absolutely no words to describe the feeling of the two hours I spent trying to push that baby out. I just couldn’t do it. And yet I had to and I was trying so hard but it wasn’t enough but it had to be enough. But if the needed strength just isn’t there, what is one supposed to do? I can’t just make it materialize out of nowhere. The pain was so great I just wanted it to end but I could not make it end. I begged for relief. There was none.

Let’s take a little break so you can fully appreciate the humor in this little ordeal. You may have noticed that little word “home” in the title…yes, this was a planned home birth.  I had my other two kids in a hospital, with midwives, without drugs. My son was a water birth (I’ll tell that story some other time). I’ve had no traumatic hospital experiences…so why would I choose such a thing? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but mine are simple: I like to give birth without pain medication and without  intervention (if possible), and the easiest simplest way to do this is at home. But oh lord did I have some plans involving this birth. I had a vision. I’d been reading a lot of Ina May Gaskin (Spiritual Midwifery) and other hippie natural birth books – and Rocket’s birth was exactly like what they were talking about: calm, serene, painful but not excruciating, textbook progression – culminating in the quick birth of an 8 1/2 pound perfect, pink baby boy with an Apgar of 10. I figured that since I was at home, this birth would be even better, more intuitive, more beautiful and glorious. I saw myself cruising around with some angelic smile on my face, swaying softly to the music in my mind, the ancient rhythm of a thousand birthing women, my body whispering what to do and me like a graceful swan, dancing my baby out, as my older kids and husband watched peacefully, glancing at each other with little grins of happy, fascinated anticipation. It was all going to be very spiritual.

And it was, if growling and screaming the word “fuck” repeatedly and acting like a hyena on crack is spiritual.

Okay so anyway there I was, pushing and acting like a psycho with NO SUCCESS and I’m absolutely freaking out. Fits of yelling, fits of tears. Terror in my eyes. Veins popping out. I’m unhappy. My kids were absolutely horrified. Not my first priority. After two hours of this hell, I hit a wall. I realized that the only way out of this horrid situation was to do the one thing I was the most scared of. The one thing I couldn’t do. The midwife was right. I had to do it. So with the next contraction I got angry. I simply got insane. I roared and screamed and pushed with all the strength I had and all the strength I’ve never had and will never have. And I didn’t stop. I thought my body was tearing in half. But the midwife said she could see dark hair, then the forehead, ears, the head…and I became encouraged and kept working, really hard. A few moments later I felt the greatest relief of my life and I heard the midwives tell Mac “pick up your baby.” He had to find her in the cloudy water. A second later he lifted up the most beautiful little baby I’d ever seen. I was overcome with joy. My tears were of ecstasy. The cord was around her neck twice and she was blue, so they quickly rolled her over a couple times and we watched the miracle of her body flooding pink — from her chest out to her tiny fingers and toes. It was 9:28 in the morning .

Somebody asked me if it was a girl or boy — I looked and said with a smile “a girl, of course” (since I always new she was a girl, even without an ultrasound). I spent so many months trying to imagine her face, and I couldn’t see it, but the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew her perfectly. “Oh right, there you are.” I was in heaven. Elated.

everybody examining the baby - notice the swollen head...that's cause she came out all FUNKY

Turns out the baby was in a position that makes a natural delivery extremely difficult – essentially the wrong part of her head was presenting. The midwives explained that most women with a baby in that position end up with a Cesarean delivery, and that doctors would have told me it was “impossible” to vaginally deliver a baby in that position. Useful information AFTER THE FACT, huh? Plus she was ten pounds. Whoa. The midwives seemed genuinely impressed and I must admit I felt like something of a bad-ass. I suppose the battle of it ultimately made it the most “spiritual” of all my births – realizing that my body was failing me, being forced to pull from deep inside my soul, deeper than I had ever gone, to find a power I never knew I had. Doesn’t get much more spiritual than that. (well, in my opinion).

9 lbs, 14 ounces, 21 inches long

So our baby girl was born and she was lovely and we all crawled into our bed and cuddled. And I had my perfect home birth. They examined and weighed her right in my room.  We sang happy birthday to her,  dressed her after a few hours, spent hours examining and kissing her perfect little self. In fact we’ve been doing just that ever since.

happy birthday little one

Sweet baby Georgia, welcome.

29 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | February 13, 2011

dude, Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven over this shit

by renegademama

I usually only feel sorry for myself on Sundays, but today is clearly an exception. I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. In fact, my life is so good that if anything actually bad happened to me, I’d probably combust spontaneously due to shock and confusion. Today is just one of those days when I fail to find meaning in motherhood and the whole exercise just feels long and monotonous and silly and boring and I don’t find it deep or joyous or wonderful or even fun and what I want is for my life to be about me again. Just me.

I’m aware that what’s in it for me? is not an effective mothering principle, but I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m too selfish for motherhood. Sometimes (like right now) my selfishness catches up with me and I find myself seriously wondering if anybody would notice if I just ducked the hell out – moved to the Caribbean and started over, when nobody was looking.

Do you ever feel like a mouse running on a wheel?

I do. But more like a mouse with amnesia. Or an idiot mouse. A mouse who looks up at the wheel ahead of him, fixates on one spot and says “as soon as I get there, things are going to be different,” forgetting that he’s already been there, that it’s all the damn same and no matter how promising it looks, once he gets to that spot, he’ll look around and realize not a goddamn thing has changed. New day. Same wheel. And he’s still a mouse. And this is still his wheel. Things won’t be different, not tomorrow. Or in a year.

I’m not fulfilled. There’s so much undone and incomplete and this isn’t all of me. It just isn’t. It’s not enough. There was going to be more. It wasn’t long ago when I was sure there was going to be more.

The other day I was talking to Ava about working hard and focusing and not fucking up your life and I realized I was giving her the “don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made” speech. How is it that my mistakes have been made? I want to go back to my early twenties, when I was still actively making my mistakes rather than reflecting on them morbidly. When did I reach the other side, where my parents and old people live?

When did my dreams fade into helping my kids realize theirs?

When did my life become so damn defined?

When the hell did I grow up?

And why am I not where or who or what I envisioned when I was a little girl and my mother told me not to make the mistakes she made. And I looked at her with pity, a hint of disgust and the ever-present there’s-my-mama adoration, 100% fully convinced that it would never be me because I’m learning from her and how is it that people ever just screw up their lives anyway? I mean shit, it’s all so simple when you’re nine or twelve or sixteen or twenty-three. And you’re young and beautiful and FREE and you’ll never be too old to change things, redirect, make a new plan.

I’m not even old. I’ll be 32 next month.

But I’m old enough to know that life crashes forward in wild hideous abandon, whether or not I’m paying attention. And damnit sometimes I just feel STUCK– watching the world roll by and me, on my wheel, trying desperately to get to some spot that doesn’t exist, where my dreams are realized and I’m the person I always wanted to be. But there are kids to raise and babies to nurse and mortgage to pay and weight to lose and there’s fear and I’m so tired and I should just be happy serving these children. But I’m not. Not always.

Today I got to work and my colleague for some reason told me about the day the chaplains came to her house to tell her that her son had been killed. As if she knew I was feeling sorry for myself, even though I was doing so silently, in my characteristically immature self-centered way.

And I feel like a shithead for complaining.

At the same time I hear Langhorne Slim singing to me, his words like a banner across my mind: “I’ve had it better than some and i know that i shouldn’t complain – though my grandfather told me once that all pain hurts the same.”

Ah, fuck it. I’m going to bed. It will be better tomorrow.

11 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | February 9, 2011

this is my laundry pile

by renegademama

This is not an unusual laundry pile, nor is it a staged or manipulated one. It isn’t even a complete laundry pile (1/2 the bedroom hampers are still full). It is simply the laundry pile, and it lives, constantly, unchanging and sure as the setting sun, in my hallway.

 How is a person to survive in these conditions?

These are subhuman conditions. I need a servant. Or, and I’m open to either option, I need my kids to stop wearing clothes, or actually doing anything at all, especially playing. Or going to school. While they may seem necessary, I’m growing more and more convinced that these events are actually just cleverly disguised attempts to thwart my mental health and seriously mess with my feng shui.

 Mixed with the dirty (and clean) clothes in the laundry pile you will find the following items:

  1. Plastic bags, tied shut, holding dirty cloth diapers of varying age and intensity in terms of aroma, and their covers.
  2. New clothing, packaged. (Kids keep growing, requiring new items. I buy these items, bring them in from the car and chuck them into the laundry pile, where I’m sure I’ll get to them very soon, but don’t.)
  3. String, rope, and/or bungee cords. The laundry pile lives outside Rocket’s room. Rocket spends a seemingly inordinate amount of time tying things together using rope, string and/or bungee cords that he has hunted down throughout the house, eventually depositing them outside his door, on the way to his room for a time-out, which he earned for tying his sisters feet together. I’ve found that twine washes nicely.
  4. Rocks, driftwood, nails, screws and Legos. I don’t know why these things are in the laundry pile. They just are. All the time.

Here’s the problem with the laundry pile: even if it’s off the floor and may seem gone, it’s not actually gone. It has simply recreated itself elsewhere, hiding deceptively in hampers rather than mocking me openly in the hallway.

 Screw you, laundry pile. I hate you and your wily antics.

 You will not defeat me.

 Well, you might.

 But not today, cause I’m pretty sure it’s Mac’s turn to do the damn laundry.

I don't lie.

top 10 most irritating parenting expressions

by renegademama

This has been a long time coming…my list (and analysis) of the top ten most annoying things people say in regards to child-rearing, not in order. While it bothers me to hear other people saying these things, it’s vastly more disturbing when they exit my own mouth.

1. “Natural parenting” – I’m not sure what “unnatural parenting” is, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing it.

2. “Sleep training” – You can train a dog to sit. You can train a person to drive tanks and shoot people. You can even train a voice. But you can’t train sleep. Sleep comes or it doesn’t. You can encourage it or deter it, perhaps, or even lure it…but you can’t just “train” it.

3. “Eco-attachment parenting” – This expression is so pretentious only a complete asshole would utter it. I have a picture of her in my mind. She’s the parent who’s so detached from reality she doesn’t realize her own privilege, as she drives her Prius to her apartment in the Marina District after shopping at Whole Foods (while breastfeeding in the Ergo) and picking up her older kid (who incidentally wears only organic bamboo clothing) from the local Waldorf, where she meets her husband, who makes at least $900,000/year, allowing her to stay home, where she makes gluten-free whole wheat muffins with goat milk and judges the hell out of the imbeciles who feed Costco food to misbehaving, Old-Navy clad hoodlums attending public schools, playing with toys made in China and gallivanting around town in a hand-me-down, gas-guzzling non-hybrid mini-van.

4. “Baby schedule” – I believe this term was created with the sole purpose of making mothers feel inadequate. I have yet to meet a baby who adheres to any schedule, whether it’s logged in an Excel spreadsheet or not. Put this shit OUT of your head, mothers, I tell you! Screw baby schedules and the bastard who thinks they’re possible!

5. “High-needs child” – Is there a low-needs one? If so, I’m putting mine back and demanding that model.

6. “Orgasmic birth” – Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this little number. The hippie natural birth people came up with a video called “Orgasmic Birth,” featuring a woman who appears to be having an extremely enjoyable birth experience in a tub in her backyard. As a woman who’s had three unmedicated births, one of which was at home, with a midwife, in a tub, I hereby declare that the orgasmic birth lady is a fucking liar.

7. “Informed parenting” – This means you read a lot of books, listen to a lot of ‘experts,’ research all theories and philosophies until you’ve read so much and heard so much that it all begins to contradict itself, but you persevere because one must be informed! so you decide on and deploy a tactic, finally convinced you’ve chosen the right approach, at which time a new study comes out blowing it right out of the water (explaining that it actually causes autism, attention deficit disorder, AND diabetes). You continue like this for one year, or until you realize that ‘informed parenting’ is a fleeting, silly myth created by people who’ve never had children. Then you give up, and, like the rest of us, resort to trusting your gut and hoping for the best.

8. “Developmental toys” – Quick. Let me run out and buy the latest educational age-appropriate $45.00 Lamaze toy so my baby will “develop” properly, even though everybody knows the best baby toys haven’t changed for generations and they are as follows: the tag on a blanket, a spatula, a cardboard box, dirty car keys, and whatever choke-inducing item she just discovered on the carpet.

9. “Tummy time” – Another conspiracy. Total lose-lose. Either the baby flatly refuses his “30 minutes of daily tummy time,” resulting in a guilt-ridden mama sure her son will never evolve, or alternatively, the baby tolerates tummy time happily, causing the even more horrific event of early crawling.

10. “Play date” – I don’t know why this one annoys me. I say it all the time. Some things are just too damn cute I guess.

uh-huh.