Monday, June 21, 2010

Not the nanny

My mom got us a jogging stroller this weekend (nearly new at a garage sale: $30!!!) so Benjamin and I decided to try it out this morning. When I wheeled it out to the car, I thought, "I may never get it folded up to put in the car!" But, to my surprise, it folded up easily...with one hand! I think only a mother can appreciate how happy that made me.

On the way to ACU, I realized that I forgot my cell phone with which to call the friend I usually walk with. So it was just the two of us--Benjamin and me. The new stroller was smooth as butter and Benjamin was asleep before I had walked a quarter of a mile. The path was especially lovely today, fragrant with the blossoms of various trees, and breezy in the ample shade. When we passed the fountain lake (just a big pond with a fountain, but just wonderful), a wonderful cool breeze off of the water reminded me forcibly of summers at the beach as a child. I closed my eyes and imagined I was standing with my feet in the surf, breathing in the fresh ocean air. My heart was so full. When I breathed out, it was with a prayer of thanks. With every blossomy tree I passed, I thought of the poem I've loved since high school: There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background/From blossom to blossom to sweet impossible blossom. When we neared the car at the end of two miles, it was getting too hot to continue for another two but Benjamin was still asleep. So I stopped in the shade and drank water while the wind rocked the stroller and showered us with tiny crepe myrtle flowers.

When I saw Benjamin starting to stir, I pushed the stroller the rest of the way to the car and turned it on to get the air conditioner running. By now it was really very hot out. I strapped him in the carseat and gave him a box of raisins. Then I went to fold up the stroller. I pulled on the handle. Nothing happend. I stepped on the lever. Nothing happened. I pulled and stepped simultaneously. Nothing happened. I started to sweat in earnest. I tugged and pulled and pushed and scratched my head and held my tongue just so. But still, the stroller didn't budge. At one point I managed to get it folded about a fourth of the way and tried to stuff it in the car that way, but it wouldn't fit. I dragged it back down to the concrete and started over. I don't know how long I fought with that stroller before I swallowed the giant lump of my pride and waved over some mamas who were walking the path with their children. "Do either of you know how to fold a jogging stroller?" I begged. They didn't know but offered to try. The three of us tugged and examined and pulled and pushed and stepped.

Then one of the ladies looked up at me and said, "Are you the nanny? They didn't tell you how to do it?"

No, I'm not the nanny. I'm the mommy. The mommy who has no idea what she's doing. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. "It's a new stroller," I said. "I haven't used it before." They understood. They had been there too. Although they had fought with strollers in their own garages, not in university parking lots. I told them how it had folded up so handily just an hour ago. Then I took a deep breath and gave it one last best try.

It folded up easily. With one hand and one foot.

The three of us cheered. Benjamin was almost finished with his raisins. The other ladies' children were rolling up on their skate boards to say that they wanted to go watch the football players now, that they had promised they could watch the football players. We all sighed and smiled and understood each other.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Third Little Goodbye

Motherhood is made up of many little goodbyes. Today marks our third.

The first little goodbye was when he left my womb. We had been inseparable for nine months and I knew his every little move, gloried in his kicks, rolls and stretches. He heard my steady, slow heartbeat as his constant lullaby and I revelled in the times when I could hear his rapid, growing heartbeat through a monitor at the doctor's office. Then he was born in a wonderful "Hello world!" that was also a "Goodbye sweet womb." The first little goodbye.

The next little goodbye was when he moved into his own crib. When we brought him home from the hospital, he slept feet from me in a beautiful round bassinet. If he wimpered in his sleep, I heard and answered. If he scooted over, I saw and marvelled. If he wiggled his feet out of his swaddling, I giggled and snapped a picture. But he grew too big for the bassinet and, at two months, we moved him into his crib in the room just down the hall. He sleeps better there. So do we. But it was the second little goodbye.

And, now, with tears filling my eyes I will tell you about the third little goodbye. When he was two days old, my milk came in. We worked hard those first few days to learn the beautiful rhythm of nursing. I would stroke his jaw with my finger until he opened his mouth wide as a baby bird's beak, then we would connect in a wonderful bond of mother and baby. He would drink as his eyes rolled back in his head and I would just watch him. At first, it seemed to take him forever to complete a feeding. I would read memoirs of other mothers, check email, blog, or write thank-you notes while he nursed, balancing his tiny body on the nursing pillow. Then, as he grew bigger, he also nursed faster and wiggled around more. He would open his astonishingly blue eyes wide and look at me while he nursed, then pull away and smile with a satisfied sigh that drew a proud smile from my own lips. For a while, he even had a little white milk-blister right in the middle of his top lip. After a time, we learned our favorite nursing position--side-lying. If he woke in the night, Jon would bring him to me in our bed and he would lay beside me, tummy to tummy, and nurse until he was finished. I could just lie in the dark, listening to the quiet gulping and feeling his warm baby skin against me. Sometimes I'd doze in and out of sleep. When he finished, I'd carry him back to his own crib where he'd stretch and roll over to his tummy to dream sweetly. At bedtime, I'd nurse him in the rocking chair that was Mumsie's and mom's and now mine. I'd nurse and Jon would pray over us. Then I'd carry Benjamin to his crib and lay him down with a kiss on the cheek. Last night, at 8:22pm, we did this for the last time. When he woke up this morning at 6:00am, instead of bringing him to me to nurse, Jon took him to the living room and gave him a cup of whole milk. The extruciating thing is that he didn't seem to mind the difference. Tonight, while I am at Bible study, Jon will put him to bed. For the rest of this week, we will follow a new routine. Jon will put him to bed and get him up in the morning. We are confident that, after one week, he will not remember the ritual that sustained his life for nearly sixteen months. He will not miss it. I will be able to give him a cup or bottle of milk without him tugging at my shirt. And it will never be a part of his permanent store of memories, which is as it should be. But I will never forget the joy and frustration and freedom and slavery of breastfeeding my baby. So far, the third little goodbye is the hardest.

I know that there will be other goodbyes. Sooner than I think, he will go to kindergarten and then junior high and then high school. He will someday leave my car for his own wheels. He will graduate from high school and move on to college. He will leave our home. He will make his own. Motherhood is a whole series of little and big goodbyes. We know this when we sign on for the job. Without the goodbyes, our little birds would never soar. And I want him to soar high. But perhaps no one will think too harshly of me if I just cry just for a little while now while he's napping.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Wonder Years: Mommy's Unite!

I read this post today and could not agree more with every thing she says. MOPS saved my life this past year, saved me from the loneliness that came from leaving a job where I daily interacted with dozens of other women to one where I daily interacted with an infant boy. It was a much bigger adjustment than I realized. MOPS became the best place for me to go and not feel embarrassed or judged about how I did anything parenting related, the best place to hear someone say, "You're doing a great job," and the best place to find someone else to pray for just to get me out of my own head. Anyway, especially if you are a mom, read this post and then "Get thee to a MOPS group!"

The Wonder Years: Mommy's Unite!

In Abilene, you can get thee to my MOPS group at Highland Church of Christ. Send me a message and I'll get you hooked up.