February 19, 2015

I'm Still Alive and They Will Be Fine.

It was New Year's Eve last year. I received the best, most important, most profound piece of advice I would receive on my journey into motherhood. I was about 3 weeks pregnant, I had only known for 5 days and we were having lobster and prime rib for dinner to celebrate.

When CJ started cooking I immediately started thinking about the one thing I knew about being pregnant - you couldn't eat fish. No, it was that you had to avoid certain fish that contained high levels of mercury. Did lobster have mercury? I also knew meat must be cooked all the way through. But CJ says it will be awful if it's more than medium. Do I not eat it or make him cook my portion longer? It was almost time to eat and here I was terrified that eating the wrong thing could possibly harm my baby (I had NO idea there were two then) so I contemplated making a sandwich (ironically it would have been turkey which I later learned I probably should have avoided too).

Instead, I called my mom. I knew for a fact she ate lobster and red meat while pregnant. There's a picture of her enjoying a huge lobster two weeks before my sister was born. She told me I was fine, to eat my dinner and enjoy my New Year's Eve. She reminded me that the body does amazing things to protect the baby and the risks were pretty low and only from the meat so to just make sure it was cooked all the way through. And then she said the thing that became my mantra through my pregnancy:

"Maigen, I did it all when I was pregnant. I smoked, I drank, I ate meat and lobster, hell I even swore and you're still alive! He/She is going to be fine!"

She will kill me if she ever reads that I wrote all that but it immediately broke me out of the panic and worry I was feeling and put me at ease for at least the rest of the night.

Yes, she did all those things and while I'm no model citizen I am pretty awesome. And super smart. And not half bad looking either.  She wasn't a heavy smoker, she had a few beers once or twice, she definitely ate meat that wasn't "cooked all the way" as well as tons of tuna fish, clams and mussels. She didn't have ultrasounds or take prenatal vitamins for months before conceiving and every day after. It was 1984, she was 22 and the first of her friends to have a baby. Her life and pregnancy experiences were so vastly different from what mine were and I think she was the lucky one. She never once thought of the things I did and what do you know, I survived. Hell, two of us did. And only 14 months apart at that.

It's true that how we were raised was so much more important than what happened to us in those nine months, well 8.5 for me, 9.5 for my sister or we would have only been 12.5 months apart. I even came a few weeks early and, again, I'm pretty awesome. She raised me to be awesome. My mom and dad are amazing parents who worked their asses off to produce good, kind, thoughtful, respectful and smart humans, all while keeping us alive despite not knowing much of anything about kids. They did all this despite not having a clue, not taking the precautions we take, not flooding their minds daily with the what-ifs and how comes of baby books and the personal anecdotes of every person with an internet connection. That's my downfall, the constant connection to facebook, blogs and google. They make me second guess everything I do know and fill my head with things that I do not need to know. My parents had exactly one thing to help them, besides each other - their own parents. Sure, they had lots of family and friends for support but most of them didn't have children yet. Somehow, we survived. We thrived, even. We made it through things that new parents my age would never even consider. Most of which happened after I fought my way to be here two weeks early with over 18 hours of labor (so sorry mom). Red meat and lobster don't even scratch the surface of the "risky" things I survived in utero and in childhood, at least according to the interwebs, that is. And yet that's my barometer, my education, my knowledge base. The internet.

I still do it to this day. Look at my most recent google history from the last 24 hours:

"natural teething remedies"
"symptoms of teething"
"baby will not sleep"
"kinderpack baby carrier"
"can I feed my six month olds steel cut oats"
"is it safe for my baby to spoon feed herself" (because that's all they want to do, no blw, no me feeding them, just them feeding themselves. are they weird? no, see, I'm doing it again!)
"six month old twins do not sleep!"
"organic baby puree ideas"
"twin baby talent scout" (will get to that one later!)

It's insane how much I care about other people's experiences and opinions. I drive myself crazy worrying about if I'm not talking to them enough or if I'm not letting them have a chance to talk, or I'm not stimulating them enough or am I not giving them enough independent time, am I killing their guts by feeding them at six months or preventing allergies later in life as long as they're still ebf? Should they be crawling? Should we space out vaccines? Is it weird they each have two teeth but just learned to roll? Holy hell, the struggle is real, but I've finally realized it really doesn't have to be.

Enough. I'm saying enough of this crap filling my mind and my days. Whether I need to delete facebook or just leave these "support" groups I'm not sure. I do know that I'm done choosing sides and associating with bad behavior. No more remaining part of a community because I feel like I should belong, especially when they judge other moms. I don't adhere to any one parenting style, ever, so why try to label myself (note to self, maybe change the about section of this blog)? It's exhausting, not helpful and potentially damaging. No more, "know better, do better." It's not my job for you to know, it's yours. But at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what either of us does. Because they will survive. They will be fine.

My kids are have been bottle fed and breast fed. I've contemplated CIO and I nurse them to sleep sometimes. They have co-slept and crib slept. We cloth diaper all day and use disposables at night. Somedays they cry alone more often than I'd like and sometimes they get worn all day long. We vaccinate, they've had formula, we kept our cats, they have a jumper and sometimes my six month olds watch tv even though I'm fully aware of the "risks."

I drink wine, smoke a few cigarettes, ate some lunch meat and tuna while pregnant and yes, I even swore. Because of what I read (online!) while pregnant I avoided sushi, coffee, beer and subs (because apparently I was just anti the good stuff) for fears that they would undoubtedly cause a miscarriage or pre-term labor (ha, joke's on me, I went at 35 weeks anyways!). I might try to limit my mercury intake by not eating too much fish but I love tuna. And salmon. And sushi. So much sushi now. I break rules every single day that I have arbitrarily set for myself and then I beat myself up after. And yet, at the end of the day they're the happiest, healthiest six month old identical twins named Juliette and Vivienne that I know (see, no comparisons anymore). No matter what I've done, as long as I'm not hurting them, they're fine.

So yeah, I'm over it. I've already unfollowed a few friends and groups on facebook that felt toxic and more are to come. I am choosing to spend my energy learning more about RIE and Mindful Parenting practices, mixed with what I know, for our next few years as well as researching my Montessori/Waldorf/Homeschooling/Whatever educational plan for the future. If that doesn't work then I'll reassess and go from there. I just want to be the best parent I can be by following my heart and my gut and the advice of every woman I'm close to, whether they're a mom or not, based on real connection and commonalities, not based on what dr. google or facebook says. I am choosing this over the world we are unfortunate enough to have children in, the world of facebook, the alpha parent and other "mommy" hang out spots (kind of like this one..but not really) that espouse ideas and stories and make you think and wonder and, ultimately, worry. We create an unnecessary anxiety simply by existing because there is no denying the old adage: misery loves company (and parenting is a bitch). But if you're looking on the bright side (which I'm getting to): it also takes a village.

That is the upside to this culture.  It takes a village and we have each other! How freaking lucky are we, compared to our own moms, that we have access to so many women, with so many experiences, every day right at our fingertips?

We have a wealth of knowledge to draw from. I know my mom would have preferred to have someone, anyone, other than her own mother and MIL to relate to and talk while pregnant and raising us. We can just do a quick google search or post in a facebook group and boom we get a hundred likes as well as the "so been there" or "I'm so sorry, how can I help?" comments. Sadly, we also get the judgement and the fear mongering and "facts" and "opinions" (I swear to God half the population does not actually know the definition of those two words) of the masses. We are ridiculed and berated, told we are wrong, that our children are unsafe or unhealthy or, most horribly that we do not care about our babies or their futures. It's awful and it's the opposite of a community. Wait, this is the stuff that I'm sick of.. so it begs the question: do we really need these connections bad enough to put up with all this bullshit?

YES. Of course we do. It's awesome to connect with someone, to make a friend who totally gets you and understands. It feels SO good to find a blog that totally speaks to your soul and you feel like the writer is your long lost second sister (lookin' at you Renegade Mothering, Scary Mommy and Mommy Shorts). So I say let's do that instead. If you can't be someone's friend online because you don't agree, just leave them the hell alone like you would in real life! Stop the educating and the soap box speeches hiding behind the guise of "my opinion", stop the judging of things you just don't understand and please, stop the insulting. If you're calling someone stupid or an unfit or awful mother based on a deliberate and perfectly safe choice she made (read: it didn't/won't for sure kill her or her child) then please leave the internet forever. The world, motherhood and our children will truly be better for it, I promise you.

Again, think about this: Thirty one years ago everyone told my mother to put me on my belly to sleep, not to breastfeed me, to give me cereal at 4 months, gave me antibiotics for everything and I'm not entirely sure I rear-faced for more than six or seven months (*I'm not saying you should do those things, but I'm not not saying you should either). Nowadays my own mom would be bitch slapped by many of many of these "groups" that I belong to and probably made to think she had actually killed me despite that fact that I am here and I am pretty amazing.

So that's the end. I'm done. I will still write here, soon enough, but I'm feeling pretty anti-the internet and "the parenting culture" as I've taken to calling it these days so I think I'm going to immerse myself in my genealogy research instead and enjoy the 2 hours of baby-free-time I get a day (don't worry, it's spread out in 20 minute spurts so I don't really have time to blog either). Maybe I'll give it all up for lent? Probably not though.

Until then, keep up the good work all you amazing Mamas out there, don't let the bitches get you down. Or the google. Or the facebook algorithm that reminds you every day that you're doing it all wrong. You got this!


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