Monday, July 23, 2007

Third Month

The third time is the charm, that is what they say. It is passing quickly, boys, and this third month has taught me an important lesson. It is one of Instinct. We are so conditioned in this day and age to forget, ignore, shun or avoid Instinct. I, usually one who feels attuned to this side of myself, fell into the trap. You know the one (or if I can help it you won’t have to know), it is that voice of our current culture, the one that says it knows best.

You see, it started with those dang baby magazines, with splashy ads and made up mommies, with tidbits of advice and catchy articles about how to make baby sleep. The message was that this parenting thing could be handled by perusing a scant 40 page mag on a monthly basis and, of course, getting the latest thing to help baby along. The glossiness of it all is so well packaged these days, you almost believe it. Not to sound too cynical, but these mags are better left in the waiting room at the O.B.’s. Wouldn’t you know Mama brought them all home. To my credit, I did not keep them all, just tore out the pages of the cutest stuff.

Well, then we moved on to the well-meaning books putting forth theories on the ‘right’ way to raise a baby. They claim there is a way to create the happiest, cutest, calmest, smartest baby there could be. Oh, the books, they mean well, each author has walked the path of parenthood and has something to say, some sage advice that works, really works. They forget they base their work on their own personal instinct that bears their unique shape, form, and flavor of life. I cannot say that their methods do not work, but I cannot say that their methods do. I did not even know I was looking for an instruction manual until I picked up these books. I remember reading them before thinking, “This is so great! All I have to do is this and all will go well.” Such naiveté, to think raising a baby could be encompassed in a book.

And then there is the Tribe. The Tribe that gathers when a new life comes here to us. This Tribe can be close family or it can be that random person in Costco. The people out there with words and words that tell you true to form every thing that went well and every thing that did not, every tip tried and every tip that failed for them. And the Tribe means so well, usually. They do not hear what they say when they say, “Oh, twins, that must be so hard. I cannot imagine. Etc, etc…“ or the comments of “Double trouble” or “Just you wait…“. The Tribe loves to talk and, at times, they hear not what they say.

The occasional whisper of ‘You will know what is right’ is voiced, but it can drown in the sea of advice, articles and information. It can be swept away by a culture of fear that tells you not to raise a clingy child, put a baby on their belly or touch the world out there without then sterilizing yourself before coming to your baby. Those whispers can be drowned by the swirls of thought that race round the mind saying, “I am not doing this right, I am fucking up something, I cannot do this, I do not know how.”

And then it can all be silenced by taking a deep breath and focusing…on your eyes, your softest cheek ever, the limbs that are growing and changing into sturdy little plump deliciousness that Mama gets to gobble on whenever she wants. And the breathlessness stops, and the breathing from the heart begins.

Books may say you are ‘Touchy’ or ‘Spirited’, but you are Mason to me, a person not a personality. I know you better each day. I know there are days when nap means Mama next to you with your hand clutching the neck of my shirt and your feet buried into the tummy with the soft stretched skin that once held you. There are days when you can lay and move for what seems forever, waving your tiny arms, white fisted at the ends, looking like you are driving a race car (as coined by a flickr viewer), giggling and chuckling and cooing away. And the ever-seeking of the thumb now, I watch as you get it, lose it, get it again and I see real consternation in your facial expression. And like your Mama, you smile all the time, whether you want to or not. I see it already, that you will walk like me through life, with that smile. It is not fake, but in some ways obligatory.

Books may say you are “Grouchy’ or ‘Sensitive’ but you are Owen to me. You can chill, kid, you have the gift of stillness. You prefer to be in a C shape, whether lateral or backward, but all led by the whopping weight of a head that must contain the brains of a future Einstein. You are fascinated by shadow, light, windows and the occasional blank ceiling that I think you paint in your own mind. We speculate that a career in architecture may be in your future, that is how taken you appear with the structure of every room you visit. You cannot be commanded in any way, if the wall behind me is lit up, you will prefer it over any goo-goo or giggles. But when you do talk to us, it is in all seriousness, as if you bestow words of wisdom with your babbles. And you are babbling now, the cooing becomes less each day.

And at this point I have to mention the ceiling fan. When you are grown I am sure we will refer to ‘Fan’tasia…your first girlfriend and you will wonder what we speak of. Your crazy parents are referring to the Mission style ceiling fan (currently sans electrical wiring) that graces the Front room, aka New Baby Central since moving you out of Daddy and Mama’s room. Ah, Fanny, how she fascinates you with her sleek dark arms extended and her iridescent glass winking down on you. How your gazes linger on her, we are quite unable to tear your attention away at times. You lay at her feet and smile and flirt, hence the reference to her as your girlfriend. I wonder if her lines are now etched in your little mind’s eyes, your first lesson in geometric shapes. We wonder what you will do on the day we finish her installation and those wonderful dark arms start spinning. Will it delight or confuse, or a little of both? This silly speculation is actually part of a bigger thing, the development of your minds. We witness daily the changes occurring in your ability to take in the environment. It is such an honor to observe and facilitate this, your perception and relationship to this world. The privilege and responsibility of parenting you two does not sit lightly on us, but is does sit easily.

And so we return to the idea of Instinct. Because we all have it, maybe some more than others, maybe some listen to it better than others. With the encouragement of Tim and my Mom (who has successfully raised 8 children, I might add) I have tried to drop the expectation/anticipation/desire to have you both fit into a program and just started to listen to your needs as you develop into the individuals that you are and will be. I have begun to loosen my hold on the conviction that a short nap will result in stunted growth, to relax when you need me to hold you more on certain days, and to just stop wishing you would sleep through the night. Who needs sleep anyway, especially consecutive sleep of more than two hours? Overrated. I also folded and we ordered satellite TV (first time in years in our home) because I have only enough attention for 30 minute home shows and I absolutely love Little People, Big World.

Because of these decisions, the breathlessness has stopped being a factor. I have found time to perform a Sun Salutation without regretting the time it is taking up. I have been able to sleep without mindless worries racing around the cranium. I think in other societies there was a circle of wisdom that was shared in the raising of their children, there was a wealth of information and experience that was shared and modeled directly, generationally. In our day, with the lack of extended family, the dearth of shared space and lives, we grasp at anything that will help us do this right. Magazines, books and passing advice is what is readily available, sometimes the only thing new parents have. But I have access to some of the greatest support and experience right here, in my own home. I have learned this month to trust that…trust Me more, listen carefully to the Instinct and listen carefully to my sons and their requests to be; be helped, be heard, just be. It does not mean I will do it any better than any other Mama out there, but I will do it with a guidance I felt lacking before because I was not listening to my Self.

I want to promise you both that I will try to stay in this, this new listening. That I will recall to breathe when things go haywire, when I cannot please you both at the same time, when I cannot get ‘things’ done. I want to promise to rest enough to come to you ready. I will try. And we will all be just fine.

Mama loves you, my baby boys. Every bit of this becomes more poignant as I realize that the time passing now will never be again. Onward to month four, let us see what it holds.


Sharon said...

The one thing I cling to this time around is that I am the mom, I know my kids, I know what is right for us. You feed your babes, you sleep with your babes, you know their personality, their likes and dislikes, what makes them smile and what makes them cry. You are MOM, you know best. I am so glad that you have begun to trust your instinct as will be much happier and more at peace with yourself.

The boys continue to grow more and more beautiful (ok handsome) each day. They look so healthy and must be doing something right :)

Zonnah said...

I really enjoy reading your blog and am happy to see things are getting easier. :)

kaitlyn said...

quit making me all weepy ;)

Bea said...

You are so right, and this has been a hard lesson for me to learn and one I need to continue learning. For boys like ours, I need to learn to ignore the voices that say I'm spoiling Robby by holding him a lot and letting him sleep with us in the bed. I also need to take each day on it's own and not expect every day, naps, etc., to be the same and to learn to go with the flow. The one indisputable lesson I've learned is that no two babies are alike, and while some babies may sleep through the night early on, that's not the norm. I've also learned that it's just best for me to listen to what I think is the best for MY baby, and to not try to mold you into what people think you should be. You're doing a great job, keep it up! Even at 7.5 months I see the fruits of my efforts early on and it will just get better and better (with some really tough days in between). For those days that are really hard I let Robby fall asleep next to me, then I scoot down so we are face to face, and I just breathe when he breathes and enjoy watching him sleep, it's a great cure for frustration and tiredness.

jennifer said...

*love* every word of this post. been there (our twins are now 2 1/2 and my daily inspiration). breathe it all in and continue your sun salutations :-)

Blythe said...

When Theo was smaller, I learned to appreciate the first time in my life that I could fall asleep any time, anywhere, no matter how loud/bright/warm/cold it was. Now that he is sleeping longer, I don't fall asleep so quickly!

Your boys are gorgeous and you're a thoughtful mom. I think we're learning that one of the best parts of parenthood is anticipating what they're going to teach us next...

Gabrielle said...

I love your writing, and I'm sure your little ones will treasure these messages of love and wisdom as they grow older. It is so easy to get caught up in the magazines and books, and to assume there is a right way to parent, as if all babies come from a single mould - I agree that it is much more important to find your own rhythm and truth in your relationship with your bubs - you express it so well.