Diaper nostalgia

Effie2 (2)I thought I kept my car clean and tidy…until my husband walked in the door, waved a diaper in the air and said, “Hey, look what I found in the trunk!” It was quite a surprise — with our kids being 10 and 7 years old, the diaper era is long gone for us.

I placed the diaper on the kitchen counter. I stared at it and felt a sense of relief and a hint of joy. Memories started to flood my mind, and I thought, Boy, how I don’t miss those diapers. How I don’t miss the sleepless nights. I used to joke around and say that my babies had a unique “no sleep” gene. It was a period of five years that my nights were occupied by breastfeeding, changing diapers, rocking babies, monitoring fever, cleaning vomit and such — basically, constant interrupted sleep.

I then felt a tug in my tummy and other memories started to stream into my mind: Aww…how I miss the warmth of their little bodies next to mine. How I miss opening my eyes in the morning to the sight of their beautiful, peaceful faces. How I miss their sweet baby scent, their glowing smiles and their innocence. How I miss the monumental milestones that engulf a parent’s heart with pride and joy.

A few days earlier, my husband and I went on a rare road trip with just the two of us. After about an hour of an unusual quiet drive, he looked at me and said with a tone of concern in his voice, “Wow, soon the kids will not want to spend the weekends with us. What are we going to do?” It was a startling realization. I replied that I didn’t know and added that we will figure it out and maybe we should just do what we used to do before we had kids.

A part of me felt a sense of liberation. My husband and I made countless memories traveling and exploring away in our pre-kids days. Recapturing those days sounded appealing.  Another part of me felt very sad and nostalgic: I couldn’t imagine our weekends not revolving around our kids. I could only imagine how much I will miss their constant presence.

A few days later, I found myself staring at the long lost diaper. It was a stark reminder that the only constant in life is change. It is the essence of life. Clearly, we witness our kids grow, develop and change right in front of our eyes. The challenges, the rewards and the joys of parenthood never cease to exist. They only change.

Today, with the exception of infrequent nights occupied with worry or our nocturnal pets keeping us up, our nights are quiet and restful. Gone are the sleepless nights, the separation anxiety and what at times felt like suffocating dependency. Nowadays, hovering around are challenges of a different kind: Discipline, sibling bickering and school. Today’s priceless rewards include: observing our kids become independent and confident beings, watching them foster their own unique personalities and forge strong friendships, and most of all, I marvel at their ability to face their own challenges, strive and overcome.

Every age and every stage bring a unique set of challenges and blessings. Much like a rose, with all its beauty and blossom, it has thorns. I am facing the challenges comforted by knowing that they too will pass. I am experiencing the blessings and rewards recognizing that they will likely be nostalgic in the future.

The one constant frame is the unconditional commitment and love that comes with the role of being a parent. And, possibly if I can embrace it all, I can endure and treasure the present as well as the future with all that it has to offer.

All of this…is motherhood

yvette lambBefore my son arrived, I didn’t really understand or even think about what becoming a mother would mean. I wanted to be one, but I didn’t know that once my child was here, for me there would be no separation between the person I have always been and the one I became. The line between being me and being a mother blurred almost as soon as I met him, and from there, there was no going back.

It wasn’t just about love, either. There’s this unbreakable, unshakeable bond of course. But there are worries, too, plus an achingly overwhelming desire to protect him, and a physical pain when I cannot.

And at times I have felt overwhelmed by this — who was I now? How had my priorities in life changed so hugely? What was left of me?

People are out changing the world while I’m lost in our little one, and I sometimes wondered if this was okay…if I was important enough?

Yes, it is…yes, I am.

There are many ways to define motherhood, to describe it. For me, capturing each and every grain felt important, because being a mother and loving your child can feel so extraordinary…insignificant…tiny…and huge. To me, all of this…is motherhood:

It is early rising and midnight waking. It is wiping noses and kissing bumps. It is the park in all seasons. It is water, sand and crayons. It is traveling heavy and never “nipping out.” It is laughter — so much laughter.

It is a shift in your relationship. It is rare evenings out. It is talking in yawns and gestures. It is discussing diaper rash, weaning and sippy cups — with gusto. It is toys in the living room and a prayer for more sleep. It is different than expected and more than you hoped.

It is making sacrifices. It is rushing home for bedtime. It is another trip to the doctor. It is potty training and battles with medicine. It is making mistakes, then making them again. It is guilt — so much guilt.

It is living all over. It is excitement at planes…and diggers…and dogs. It is hours in the garden. It is a tantrum at the store. It is forgetting half of what you knew. It is learning so much. It is feeling clueless. It is guess work. It is crossing your fingers.

It is milk and laundry — more, more, more. It is overwhelming, amazing, heart filling. It is nursery rhymes and counting. It is please and thank you. It is the same book again, again, again. It is the everyday. It is the mundane. It is the extraordinary.

It is cuddles in the dark and company in the bathroom. It is a smile. It is home. It is discovering strengths and recognizing weaknesses. It is persistence. It is holding your breath. It is victories. It is losses. It is holding on…and letting go.

It is changing priorities, a shift in perspective. It is odd socks, smiles and worry. It is a million photographs. It is crying and screaming. It is giggles and soft snores. It is losing you and searching again — new, old, different, the same.

It is slow walks in the sunshine and splashing in the rain. It is moments of pure happiness…the highest of highs. It is consuming…bewildering. It is making a mess. It is new friendships and resealed bonds. It is finally understanding your parents. It is marks on the walls and stains on the sofa. It is rejected dinners. It is love. It is love.

It is long days and short years. It is exhausting. It is exhilarating. It is everything.

All of this…is motherhood.

The marvel of motherhood

me and pThe Friday just before Mother’s Day, I was going about my daily business and realized I hadn’t looked at my phone for awhile. As I went to grab it, I saw a screen filled with missed calls and text messages. I scanned it for any pertinent information, and my heart dropped as I saw the words: Your Mom is in the Emergency Room. Please call.

Editor’s note: As part of Attachment Parenting International‘s celebration of Mother’s Day, APtly Said published a special “Inspired Mothers” series May 11-17. Sandy was so excited to join in the project when she had a family emergency, as she explains in her post today. API is grateful for her belated contribution, and we hope you find it inspiring, too.

In that moment, every memory of my mom shuffled through my brain — everything she ever sacrificed for us, everything she never experienced, everything she justified living without to be our mom. In that moment, I realized once again how powerful and important the role of a Mother is in each of our lives.

My heart expands each day as I look around and witness the miraculous power of men and women raising little human beings. I consciously breathe in the significance of each person I pass by. I observe the Mothers, the Fathers, the Children.

I feel tenderness and empathy as I contemplate each of you. I thoughtfully consider the whole family cycle and everything in between: the extraordinary, undeniable love that either existed as we were created, or did not…the feelings each person had in making the decision to create another life or living with the fact that the decision wasn’t yours.

We are each the product of a mother and a father. We were born. We may be raised by a mother and a father, a mother and a mother, or a father and a father. However we came to be, however we were brought up and nurtured, we are here.

The process of conception to birth is unlike any miracle I’ve ever witnessed or experienced. Although we may not quite comprehend the marvel that a precious life is growing within our bodies, everything changes the moment we first see the eyes of our child. Everything changed for me. In that moment, I knew my purpose was much bigger than what I had ever known it to be. I knew this new role I was being given would fulfill me in ways no one could have prepared me for.

As I walk around and continue to ponder your depth — your soul — I question if you ever lost a life growing inside of you, at birth, soon after or ever. I am crying as I write this, because I have dear friends in my life who have. I cannot write about the beautiful, precious gift of motherhood and exclude the dear, courageous women who have lost a child. I know there are no words I can offer. I can only tell you that I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry. I truly embrace and cherish each and every moment I am given, and I know you do, too.

Although I may be emotionally and intellectually aware of how invaluable these moments are, this doesn’t mean I don’t question if I am doing all I can to live my true happiness, my true purpose. I am trying to find my way each day. I feel everything. I let the joy, the pain, the fear, the love, all of it, become a part of me…and I allow it to guide me as I continue to take each new step forward.

Within it all, we find ourselves. We lose ourselves. We grow. We change. We live. We love. We know the answers, yet we question so much. We want to do our best, be our best. We don’t want to make the same mistakes others did before us.

My mom is much better today. The emergency thankfully has passed. She has endured more than I can explain, and she is still here. As I spend time in hospitals and share my love with those who continue to suffer, I will continue to treasure every moment I have with her…with the ones I love deeply…with myself. Many lose the battle. Many are given more time. This is our time. I know this, and I want to live it.

I know loss. I know you do, too. My heart and love are with you. May the things that have caused us pain give us strength. This is my wish for each of us.

Wishing you a belated and Happy Mother’s Day, every day.

sandy-signature

Transformed by their love

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

I am humbled by the love I see in my children’s eyes, by their desire to show me who they are again and again. “Look, Mom, look at me!” they say with their words and with their bright faces turned to catch my eyes.

I have been transformed by their love.

I have been softened by their unwavering sureness of our bond. I have learned to forgive myself so that I can be forgiving. I have learned to be patient with myself so that I can be patient with them. I have learned to value the process over the product because of them. I have learned to live in this moment right now — full of joy or tears or peals of laughter — because of them.

I have been transformed by their love.

I have worked to let go of old fears because of them. I have worked to resolve my anger because of them. I have learned to communicate my feelings because of them. I have delved into my creativity because of them. I have let myself be loved truly, deeply and without measure.

I have been transformed by their love.

Messy motherhood

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

Growing up, I was one of four kids. Three of us were triplets. My mom did home daycare, and at any given time, we could have up to eight other children in the house. We lived in a four-bedroom home — well, three bedrooms with a converted garage. Space was limited…

…Love was not.

With a house as full as ours, we generated a lot of clutter. I remember, when I was young, having a difficult time sleeping if my room was not in order. As long as I could see the floor, I felt like I had enough space and my room was clean enough that I could relax, thanks to my mom that always got help from  a Dubai’s Trusted Agency.

I was not the cleanest child, but I liked things to have their place. I never fully understood the trials my mom had to go through to keep our household simply functional — that is until grew up and had a home of my own. Now, my childhood home sure wouldn’t be winning a spot of the cover of Better Homes & Gardens, but you better believe my momma worked hard making sure we had clean clothes, comfy beds, good food and space to play.

When my husband and I bought our first home, we had been married for just over a year. I vowed to make that home shine. Every inch of my house was going to be perfectly planned, color-coordinated and sparkly clean.

I did OK, and by OK, I mean I vacuumed when company came over, I kept the bathrooms clean enough and I made sure our laundry basket never overflowed, or if it did, I just dumped it in the basement laundry room. One weekend a month, I would spend all-day Saturday scrubbing the floors and really giving the house a good, deep clean.

I expected to feel a sense of accomplishment or a blossoming sense of happiness. After all, wasn’t this what I always wanted — a clean house? What I really felt was fatigued and mildly irritated that even with all this hard work, the house was just going to be dirty again in a day or two. Dirt seems to follow me.

Life is messy! And so is motherhood.

When my husband and I had our first child, I felt overwhelmed with trying to keep the house clean and the baby content. My first baby was rather difficult. I was a nervous mom, and she was therefore a nervous baby. In time, I came to realize that a clean house wasn’t going to make me happy. It never really had. What did make me happy was caring for my family.

I had confused caring for my family with being their maid. It wasn’t doing any of us any favors.

I stopped caring if my house was showroom-ready and decided instead to be content with happily lived-in. I spent more time playing and less time worrying. Now, of course, I don’t want my family living in filth, so I keep up with the dishes and make sure laundry is regularly done even if it does sit waiting to be folded for half the week. I vacuum up the dog hair and am very well known for my far-reaching talent with a bottle of Febreeze and a can of Lysol.

Things have their place in our house, but if they sometimes have trouble finding their way back there, it’s not the end of the world.

I actually find it funny that often times when I suggest a play date with some friends of mine, they ask if we can have it at my house. “You don’t mind the mess,” they say. It’s true. I think nothing of giving the kids a bowl of dry ingredients like rice, beans and pasta and filling a pot with water so they can make soup. I don’t mind them baking cookies and decorating with sprinkles, even if the majority of them end up the floor. I don’t mind them painting the bathroom walls — tile, of course — with colored shaving cream. We love to make jewelry, paint pictures and play with play dough. We like to do all kinds of science experiments and pretty much do anything messy. Check out these argyle jewellers in Brisbane like this on this website.

My daughter and I went to a play date one time where each child could only have one toy out at a time. Snack had to be eaten quietly at the table and feet had to be thoroughly cleaned before walking on the carpet. We both left there feeling anxious and nervous. Kids are messy, not because they want to make life difficult, but because they are exploring all that life has to offer.

My home is lived in. My home is loved in. And my home is where memories are made.

So this year’s Mother’s Day, I thanked my momma for making life fun. Thank you for a happy childhood full of memories. And thank you for teaching me that a lived-in, and sometimes messy, home is a happy home.

Motherhood is a gift

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

The road to forming your family through adoption, and thus becoming a mother, can be long.

Various interviews, paperwork, letters of reference and physician referrals that are required before you are considered eligible can make the process of becoming a parent seem tedious. As you wait and yearn to care for a child, it can become difficult to see other couples and families receive referrals or become matched. At times, the wait may seem unbearable.

Yet, you still need to prepare physically and emotionally and be ready for your little one to arrive. So, like any parents anxious to build their family, you turn to blogs, books, anything that will give you a glimpse of what a family formed through adoption looks and feels like. You decide upon things like cosleeping or nursery, bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, open or closed adoption.

While waiting to grow our family, my husband and I researched it all. Yet, no matter how many books we read or blogs we followed, nothing could have prepared us for that moment: sitting across from this woman, seeing both the pain and joy in her eyes, watching her hold our son.

Up until this moment, preparing to meet our son, I had been focusing on how to care for a baby, not how to emotionally connect with my son and the woman who gave him life and love — his birth mother.

As I watched her and heard the palpable mix of loss and love in her voice, I learned more than a blog or book could ever teach me. My husband and I left this conversation with our son’s birth mother with a seemingly conflicting sense of sadness and loss but also joy. We renewed our determination to provide both of our sons with greater security, tangible love and a concrete sense of confidence in themselves, knowing they are loved beyond measure. I learned the love of a birth mother and how that love would transform our sons’ lives and ultimately encourage me to be a better mother myself.

The love of a birth mother is at times sacrificial and gives life and possibility, not only to the precious life brought into this world but also to the adopting mother and family. This love allowed me to experience motherhood, to see my children’s first smiles and hear their first laughs, to hold my boys close and dry away tears, and to receive unconditional love from two wonderful beings. It encourages me to seek everyday moments of connection through activities, such as light saber battles and family football games, strengthening the bonds that I have with my sons.

The knowledge of this first love sparks honest and empathetic conversation within our family. When my older son asks, “Where did my baby brother come from?” I am able to openly tell him a story of a woman who loved his baby brother and carried him in her belly, ultimately allowing us to grow our family, just like his own birth mother did before he was born. Responding sensitively with empathy and love as we talk about their birth mothers, or first families, allows me to build trust with my sons, sharing in their developing emotions.

On this year’s Mother’s Day, I celebrated more than being a mom myself and being blessed with a compassionate mother and caring grandmothers. I’m celebrating the courageous women — the other mothers — who granted me the amazing gift of becoming a mom.

Babies becoming big kids

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

Last week, my husband and I went out to dinner and a movie, while my mom put our toddler to bed.  To many families, this might not be a big deal, but no one other than me had ever put her to bed before. My mom let her stay up an hour past her usual bedtime, so my husband and I drove around until my mom texted us that our daughter was asleep and we could come in.

While we drove, I cried. Was my daughter upset? (She wasn’t.) Was she asking for me? (She did, and accepted my mom’s explanation that Mommy and Daddy would be there when she woke up.)  Did she still need me?

Of course she does, she’s 2 years old. But she certainly doesn’t need me as much as she used to.

That’s the paradox of mothering young children: When they need you relentlessly, you long for a break. But when they suddenly don’t need you for something, it leaves a void.

On our way home, my husband and I talked about our daughter starting preschool next fall. We’ll have a new baby by then, and I’m sure I will be thankful for the time to focus on just one kid. But I will miss her. And it bothers me that I won’t be there to see what she’s interested in that day or to kiss her better if she falls on the playground.

When I told my friends about my mom’s success getting our daughter to sleep, they all said how wonderful it is that I now have some extra freedom. They also empathized with my mixed feelings about it.

Truly, I love watching my daughter become more and more independent as she grows. If she wasn’t playing happily by herself right now, I couldn’t be writing this post. Now that she doesn’t need me to fall asleep, I can go out and not worry about being back by 7 p.m.

Freedom is wonderful, and I find it far preferable to being needed constantly. But as our children need us less, it’s hard not to imagine the day when they won’t need us at all. This, of course, is the goal of parenting, and our children’s separation from us is healthy. But that doesn’t mean it is easy. If I’m smart, like my parents, I will fill that stage of life with travel, hobbies and time with friends.

In the meantime, I will try to value the moments my children do need me, even when it leaves me exhausted and irritated — because mothering young children is relentless, but it is also temporary. One day in the future, I will sleep until noon and fill my day with activities of my own choosing. But for now I will read a book about Elmo making a pizza, for the 25th time, knowing that one day I won’t have to.

And while I probably won’t miss Elmo’s culinary adventures, I will miss cuddling on the couch while I read about them.

A mother’s love story

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

As this year’s Mother’s Day was approaching, I found that I was thrilled to spend time with my kids. I actively left the day free of scheduled activities so that we could be fully engaged together doing whatever came up that we enjoy. But with this excitement, there was also a touch of grief and sadness as I recognized that last year my mother passed away just a few days after Mother’s Day.

I didn’t always have the best relationship with my mother, as there were many challenges. My mother had a mental illness that kept her emotionally unavailable at times. Her symptoms often caused strain and hardships, and her ability to parent me was impacted.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was terrified as I didn’t want to parent in the same way I had experienced from my childhood. A few months after giving birth to my oldest daughter, I found my way to API. I was tremendously relieved to find an organization that offered language around what I was doing instinctively. I knew I needed to know more about each of API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. I wanted to learn as much as possible, because I understood that I was stepping into unknown territory.

My parents did the best they could with the information they had at the time. My mother shared her love with me the only way she knew how and the only way her mind and body would allow her to.

Finding my way to API was a gift in that I was now given the opportunity to gather information that was not available to my parents. I could raise my children within an attached framework, while also sharing with my parents the knowledge I was absorbing. As I became more confident in my parenting skills, I was able to express to my mother the many reasons why I was doing what I was doing with my daughters. She began to understand and would often share how she wished she had this information when I was a baby.

She would comment to me on how lovely my daughters were and how they were growing up into beautiful, young ladies. She knew that I held a connection with my daughters that we did not share, and I could feel her sadness around this grief — her wishing things could have been different when she was a young mother.

lisa feiertag her motherMy mother’s death has allowed me insight into who she was as a person and why she did things the way she did. I have found that even the things I thought were unfair or done differently than I would have liked were also being held with as much love as she could offer in that moment. Her love was shown in many different ways.

As I sat with my mother in May of 2014, I asked her what she wanted her family to know after she passed. She began by telling me a brief story about each of her siblings, my father, my brothers, my sister and me, but she stopped herself before she could finish and she looked at me. She told me to forget all those stories and to forget everything she mentioned. She told me to tell everyone that the only thing that mattered was love and that, no matter what had happened in the past, she loved each and every one of us.

It was in that moment that I knew my mother loved me.

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