Tagged family

A fresh look at philanthropy for the overworked parent

For the Love of Humankind: A Bit of Sanity for the Overworked Parent

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Philanthropy – a word from Greek origin that translates to “ for the love of mankind”.

A fresh look at philanthropy for the overworked parent

Philanthropists are generous, donating time and/or money where profit is not a motive. This idea, though still at the core of philanthropy, is evolving. Everyday people use their buying power to effect change when they support organizations that ‘give back’, are local (less environmental impact), support fair-trade, etc. I call it ‘conscious consumerism’ and you see it everywhere these days. Many businesses have it built into their philosophy where employees are paid to donate time for a cause, where corporate sponsorship, business-lead fundraising (think of 5km runs for cancer, walks for muscular dystrophy etc.) are the norm. So how does this relate to parenting?

It comes down to mindset. Who comes to mind when you think of a philanthropist? You may think of Andrew Carnegie for which Carnegie Hall in New York City is named, or Bill Gates and his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Both Carnegie and Gates were wise businessmen, set on amassing fortunes often before their generous spirit was sparked. The kind of philanthropy they and many who amass millions are associated with comes with brand or name recognition, and there’s nothing wrong with that, often a name helps attract and initiates further generosity, which is great. Carnegie believed his purpose (and that of industrialists) was to first accumulate wealth and to follow that by distributing the wealth to benevolent causes. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffet launched the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy. Though I have certain issues with the Gates Foundation (why not make computers that don’t become obsolete is what many argue and I would agree), the Foundation does amazing work in so many fields across the globe. But what about your neighbor, who picks up two other kids from your street afterschool and looks after them, free of charge, until thier working parents come home? Take a look in the mirror. What about you?

Since working on a book on philanthropy with Gena Rotstein of Dexterity Ventures (www.dexterityventures.ca) how I look at philanthropy and the work I do as a parent has been changing. I would’ve never thought myself a philanthropist before. Sure, I’ve donated dollars to support friends and colleagues in their donation pledges and I’ve run in a number of charity runs, but that wasn’t philanthropy, or so I though. It counts of course, but in my mind that wasn’t real philanthropy. The writing I’ve been doing with Gena Rotstein has been about actualizing what philanthropy can glean from a business – asking questions, having a goal and strong vision, being accountable – these are just a few business applications that are reshaping the landscape of philanthropy and have reshaped how I began to look at parenting as a kind of philanthropy. I’m donating LOTS of time and energy to raising a decent human being – one who is courteous, mindful, respectful, brave, thoughtful, inquisitive, playful, and innovative. This is not for personal gains alone. My son is going to outlive me of course, but before that his outreach is going to extend way beyond my personal world. Am I parenting so I can boast that he has manners and gets good grades? Not at all.

When you think about, it’s not a stretch, to see that when we engage in mindful parenting (and yes, that clause is important because I don’t think it’s applicable always, like when I let the TV run, I’m not being mindful though that’s ok too), aren’t we doing so “for the love of humankind?”

I’m not suggesting anything beyond opening up our minds to what parenting is. That in those tough moments when things don’t seem to being going right, when he’s not listening, when you are pressed for time and struggling to find patience to be kind when your kid is shouting no at you and you strive to look beyond the scene playing out in front of you. Think of me. Think of your neighbours. Think of your children’s future acquaintances. Go beyond that scene, take a breath and then respond. What happens when you think, this is not about me, or him, but how can I act here, now, that will change our future interactions for the better? This is philanthropy at it’s core – generating time, a huge dose of patience to practice asking how your actions can move beyond solving the immediate to solving the immediate AND effecting change in the future. Sounds pretty great doesn’t it? You act in a way that gets you out of a bind but is also generous to everyone else around you by engaging with your child in a way that suggests accountable actions (both yours and his) in the future. It’s a pretty great investment. It’s hard to see it like that sometimes, but it’s helped me in some of those moments and I offer it here, as possibly helping you step beyond a tense scene for a great cause: for you, your child, for me. For the love of humankind.

 

*For more doses of the philanthropist mindset Kim is starting a Daily Donation on her blog WhiteSpaceBlackArt.com where you can find generous spirit motivators useful to parents and non-parents alike and information on various charities doing work in all realms of outreach that have to do with our future: children.

 

Great ideas for putting the phone down and being present with your kids.

Ring the alarm: The Phone is on

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I’m calling it CPADD – cell phone attention deficit disorder and I’m guilty of it. Are you?

I like to think I am pretty good at being present. I’m a good listener. I can shut the world out and focus on a task. I play with my son. I do yoga. I read. Books and articles start to end. I do breathing exercises while sitting in heinous traffic jams.

So why can’t I put down the phone when I’m at home? Why do I need to bring it to the park? It has a camera right? For safety, ah ha. Why do I need to have my phone in my line of vision for 80% of my day?

Great ideas for putting the phone down and being present with your kids.

 

In my city, using a cell phone while driving is illegal. Distracted driving comes with a fine of $400, a potential court fee, a potential fine of $1000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket and three demerit points applied to your driver’s record (we have a total of 6 points). Our governing bodies have had to police hand held use in vehicles yet every day you can see people using their phones in their car. What is it about our nature to want to be everywhere all the time? Why do we feel the need to respond to emails/texts/call immediately? What is it about the present that is so daunting that we need to escape it?

Something that resonates with me from my travels in Northern Canada is the idea of sitting silence. To paraphrase a dear friend of mine, Paul Andrew, “learning to sit in silence and be with yourself is a great challenge, but offers great rewards.”

We all have tasks and needs that require our attention, of course. But since I’m not in a profession that demand that I be ‘on call’, why can’t I put away my phone when I’m parenting my son? Why can’t I be present in extended moments of time with the people I’m closest to?

Since I’m the only one who can change my CPADD as I’ve yet to hear of a law for distracted parenting, I’m putting myself on a challenge and calling out to others who want to join me in opening even just a small part of the day to be cell-phone free. There’s a basket that sits in our front hallway that acts as a catch all for keys, mail, lip balm, sunglasses. And it’s now officially been made my free zone. The place where I drop my phone when I get home that allows for two things: one, my phone has a place to be out of my sight and reach and two, I can be present with my family for the precious hours in the day we have together.

It’s a challenge, for sure. But just when the urge to reach out and see what is going on ‘out there’ creeps in, I tune in to a softer inner voice, that of Paul reminding me of the rewards to sitting silence. Of being present, of parenting as best I can, in play and in guiding, in the sound of wind or music or laughter and tears in the playground or at home that need nothing more then my acknowledgment and being. Hands free.

How to help your kids find joy everyday.

Joy in the Journey

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I have long marveled at how my own two children approach life in so different a manner. One, is enthusiastic when giving gifts and eager to show the recipient the gift they picked out. This child is also the one that squealed with joy at a new dress her grandmother got her and said “I have wanted this for my whole life, thank you!” The other child is less joyful in giving and less grateful in receiving.

How to help your kids find joy everyday.

So, if they are being raised the same, it must be based more internally. I pondered gratitude and how to get my children to see the joy around them and cultivate that for others. It is going to be our fall project. I want to daily highlight the things we are grateful for, but not just list them of in a sanctimonious way. I think to truly be more grateful, you have to find the joy in the little things. Not every day brings celebrations, cake and presents, yet I am grateful for each day none the less. My children do have advantages in life that others do not and I want them to notice the difference and to be called to action. This fall our family will undertake to find more joy in the simple little things in life, and to cultivate joy in others’ lives.

Our habit at the dinner table is to share highs and lows or a favorite thing from the day. I love to hear the highlights of my family and what they remember at the end of the day. I plan to help us recognized our joy filled experiences at that time and to plan out how we can inspire others.

As with all new endeavors I am not sure how this will go, but I will see what we have learned next by month. Maybe we will be experts in spreading joy, and recognizing our own abundance!

Our first steps into homeschooling

Homeschool: Into The Great Wide Open

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What is the ideal learning environment for your kids?

Is it the best public school tax dollars can buy? Is it a private school that keeps you broke but your kids engaged? What about a puddle of mud, 4 sticks, and no worries of how dirty you child will get?

IMG_4794

If you’re a parent, then chances are, you’ve stressed about your child’s education. What teacher will my kid get? Will there be a behavior chart? What in the world will I have to deal with to pick up my kids everyday?

We all have our different take on school, that’s why there are so many options, because, let’s face it, kids learn in different ways, so experiences can be quite different, even for 2 kids at the same school.

My wife and I want our kids to have access to nature and lots of it. We want them to have a sense of wonderment attached to their learning, and we want the kids (especially my son) to be encouraged to move and play to learn, and not sit in a chair. And we wanted to see it all from our backyard. So, our answer became clear, we could homeschool, or as my wife prefers to call it: “home based learning and exploration.”

Now, I was homeschooled in high school, and I just needed to finish my reading assignment before an upcoming rerun of Chips, or complete my ethics workbook in time to watch Maury Povich (you laugh, but it’s true). So – not exactly a challenging, or inspiring atmosphere, so you can understand my slight hesitation when my wife proposed the idea of homeschool to me (“What? Why? Are you crazy?”)

But there’s nothing like coming home from work to my kids like this:

 

I am now a believer, seeing how homeschool can look.

We are only providing instruction to our kids based on their interests, so they are always enthused about learning, and any and all learning opportunities are child led. We are constantly challenging ourselves to encourage our kids to extend an idea, or use something in a different way.

As my wife and I are both educators, we understand that teaching children is never a one-size-fits-all situation, and our kids are vastly different and we try to honor that by presenting them each with provocations that learn toward their individual strengths.

For example, our son NEEDS rich sensory experiences like a duck needs water. So in our environment, we provide him with meaningful sensory experiences. Practicing scooping and measuring flour, whisking bubbles, pouring water into different containers, drawing with chalk pastels, painting, manipulating clay all meet his need for in depth tactile experiences while providing practical life applications and creative expression and problem solving. (pictures)

If you are interested in homeschooling, here are some tips:

  1. Designate an area in your home for learning (we renovated our backyard patio into a classroom, but it could be as simple as designating a corner of a dining room – a clearly defined space relaxes the children by letting them know they have a space of their own, where they can have freedom within limits.)
  2. Develop and (continue to) hone your patience. You will need it. Lots of it. Truckloads. I firmly believe that no child will test your patience like your own child; and your kids definitely know this.
  3. Refrain from answering their questions with answers. Answer questions with more questions. Shoot for open-ended questions to bring out their own ideas and their train of thought. There are no wrong answers. Google is here to stay. We are no longer teaching facts and figures to our children, we’re teaching them how to think for themselves.
  4. Plan daily instead of long term, using your observations of what they are into, and let their questions guide where you go next.
  5. Observe, observe, observe. Take notes. Look deeper. Keep asking questions of yourself and how you can better facilitate your child’s experience. This is so, so, so important and should serve as your very own individualized pedagogy for your own children’s education.
  6. Give your child lots of social opportunities. sports, gymnastics, dance, horseback riding!, ice skating!, art classes, these are very important things. Giving your children experiences of their own is important for their confidence and development. Homeschooling takes much less time of the day than traditional school giving plenty of time for unstructured play AND extracurriculars. Win!
  7. Find or create a community of likeminded parents that you can draw upon and share with. Don’t go it alone.
  8. Find experts within the community that can teach classes (authentic art classes, Spanish, etc.)
  9. Be flexible. It may not be for your kid every year. Follow their lead. I do plan on taking my son to my wonderful Pre-K school next year, if I can.  I feel like the whole child philosophy at my school and nature/nurture components are just perfectly in line with our own philosophy, so yes, I do hope to take him to my school next year, provided that is still a good fit for him.
  10. Give up the TV during school time.  Facebook too. And screens, as much as you can. Just be present for your kids.
  11. Extended recess everyday. There’s no such thing as too much outdoor time. Ever.

 

Coming to Terms with ADHD

Coming to Terms with ADHD

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Okay. I’ll admit it. Prior to having children, I didn’t really believe in ADHD.

Coming to Terms with ADHD

I thought that ADHD was either grossly over-diagnosed or that it was simply children’s reactions to being placed in unnatural environments with unrealistic and developmentally inappropriate expectations. After all, many schools limit recess time to 20 minutes a day. Under the pressure of testing, public schools have largely pushed academic learning and a more sedentary lifestyle on children at younger and younger ages. At home, children spend less time playing outside and more time indoors watching television or playing video games. In my naïve view, children, deprived of an outlet for their energy, would naturally act out.

The news media often corroborates this notion that ADHD is either a product of our current society or a syndrome invented by the pharmaceutical industry rather than a true neurological difference. In a 2014 Guardian article, Dr. Bruce Perry claimed that ADHD was not a real disease. “Part of what happens,” he A mom who confronted her ADHD skepticism.stated, “is if you have an anxious, overwhelmed parent, that is contagious. When a child is struggling, the adults around them are easily disregulated too. This negative feedback process between the frustrated teacher or parent and disregulated child can escalate out of control.” In the Psychological Today article, “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD,” Marilyn Wedge discusses how French psychiatrists, unlike their colleagues in the U.S., view ADHD as having social/emotional causes rather than neuro-biological ones. As a result, the French treat ADHD through psychotherapy rather than medicine. Other articles point to diet as a cause for hyperactive behavior. Many commenters on blogs or editorials view ADHD as the product of an undisciplined generation of children. They claim that if parents simply disciplined their children more or spanked them, then those children wouldn’t act so out of control. Finally, even psychologists, who believe in ADHD, question the dramatic increase in the number of children diagnosed with the syndrome after pharmaceutical companies began heavily advertising ADHD medications on television, radio or in magazines.

Thus, I too questioned the prevalence of ADHD. I viewed the syndrome as more of a behavioral problem than something stemming from neuro-biological differences. Then, I had my son, Sam. He was a happy, fat, wonderful baby (of course, all babies are wonderful). I breastfed him until he was over a year old. When he started eating solids, we limited sugar and fed him primarily whole foods. Except for plane or car trips, we didn’t allow him to watch television or play video games. Because we live in a moderate climate, he played outside almost every day. Yet, at 22 months, my son, like most toddlers, started having behavioral difficulties. Unlike most toddlers, my son didn’t grow out of many of the challenging behaviors, and those challenging behaviors seemed more extreme than those in other children. I attributed his behavior to the terrible twos and threes. Because I also blamed myself for Sam’s behavior, I read almost any kind of parenting book available about strong-willed and spirited children. However, none of the advice I read in therapists’ books really worked with my son. When Sam was four years old, I had an easier time parenting him, but he was still more challenging to raise than my younger son. Most people described him as having a lot of energy.

A mom facing her ADHD skepticism.After a tumultuous first semester in a traditional kindergarten, which I documented in my first blog post, I decided to take Sam to a specialist. After two days of extensive testing, including brain scans, the neuropsychologist diagnosed Sam with ADHD. In our follow-up appointment, the neuropsychologist spent over an hour describing how ADHD affects a child’s executive functions and how the frontal lobe develops differently in children with ADHD. My husband, who also attended the meeting, said that the neuropsychologist could have been describing him as a child. However, because psychologists did not diagnose children as having ADHD at the time, my husband was simply called “stupid”, “bad”, or “un-teachable.” My husband, who completed a master’s degree in his second language, obviously does not have any cognitive deficits. However, he does have problems with following directions, planning activities, listening, sitting still and solving problems. He has many strengths, but he also probably has undiagnosed ADHD. In some instances, ADHD helps him to hyper-focus on things he likes to do, but it also hinders his abilities in other areas.

Listening to the neuropsychologist, I also began to think about my mother’s first cousin, who was always described as a “wild child.” I only knew him as an adult, but he had boundless energy, couldn’t sit still, talked very loudly and with a lot of profanity, and slept very little. He was also a very intelligent, sweet and caring man, who became a wonderful father, husband, entrepreneur, and outdoorsman. His path to adulthood was not easy, and he had a very strained relationship with his parents throughout his adolescence and early adulthood. I started thinking about all the children, who were deemed troublemakers as young children, and the effect that those labels had on them. Even though people sometimes claim ADHD didn’t exist when they were children, kids with ADHD-like behaviors and neurological differences have always existed. Parents and teachers just didn’t have the tools to deal with the behaviors. I don’t think any child wins when that child has been pigeon-holed as a bad child at an early age. That kind of labeling only exacerbates situations rather than ameliorates them.

Finally, ADHD affects so much more than a child’s ability to sit still in class. My own son, when interested in a topic, can sit still for hours or hyper-focus (also a symptom of his ADHD). He can listen to audio-books for hours, build elaborate lego creations, and draw. However, during hyper-focus, he cannot pay attention to anything else but the task at hand. Unless you touch him on the shoulder and look him in the eye, he won’t hear his name being called. He also won’t stop what he is doing to go to the bathroom. At school, he has difficulty sitting criss-cross applesauce in a group, walking silently in a line, concentrating in a normal-sized classroom of 22 children, and following multi-step instructions. His ADHD affects his visual tracking and focus. His optometrist told me that whereas only 5% of the population has problems with visual tracking and acuity, 80% of her patients with visual tracking problems also have ADHD. Other studies show that children with ADHD concentrate better when they move, as opposed to neuro-typical children who become distracted by movement. In short, children with ADHD are simply wired differently.

If you've ever doubted an ADHD diagnosis, read this.

In many ways, I am grateful for the ADHD diagnosis, because there are a lot of research-based methods proven to help children with ADHD. I also realize how mistaken I was. All of the things that I thought might cause ADHD (schools with limited recess and emphasizing rote learning, poor diet, excessive screen time, lack of outdoor time, etc.) were not present in my son’s life. Yet, my son still had ADHD. When we moved my son to a wonderful school with an hour and a half recess, project-based education, small student-teacher ratios, and tactile learning, my son’s ADHD didn’t disappear.  He still struggled. However, the teachers at this school were willing to implement accommodations to help him succeed.

As far as parenting, my husband and I have attended lectures and therapy sessions to learn how to parent our son better. Because psychologists have been studying ADHD for over 50 years, we have benefited from their research and findings. My son is a creative, sweet, thoughtful, passionate, energetic and smart little boy. Like my husband, ADHD both helps him in some areas and hinders his abilities in others. I would much rather live in a society that gave these kids the tools to succeed than a society that penalized these children for being different. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that scientists blamed autism on the autistic child’s “frigid” mother. As for the claim that French children don’t get ADHD, research reveals that approximately 3 to 5% of French children have ADHD just like the rest of the world. ADHD may still be over-diagnosed in the United States, but I think the next generation would benefit much more from a society that helps kids with learning differences succeed. No one wins in a society that refuses to accept the fact that some kids are wired differently and may need different tools and accommodations at home and in the classroom.

Helpful Links

ADHD Resources from the CDC

ADHD Myths

ADHD Blogs

Collaborative and Proactive Discipline

 

 

Is Dinner Ready Yet?

Is dinner ready yet? I’m STARVING!!!

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Is Dinner Ready Yet?

It’s 5:30 – pick-up time at daycare.  I am – quickly – learning about the kids’ day from their teachers, collecting their things, and trying to ward off melt downs.  Why so quickly? Because, with or without the meltdowns, I know the kids are hungry. And if they’re not absolutely STARVING now, they will be by the time we get home.  In the car, the dinner menu is socialized with the kids to avoid a huge “I don’t like that!” meltdown at the table.  (I’ve noticed that it’s helpful to do this when they are buckled up and stationary.)  Luckily, the 2 year old lets her 5 year old brother do most of the what’s-for-dinner whining.

Hungry little monster
Image Credit: http://ivan-bliznak.deviantart.com/art/Monster-Hungry-209060090

But the real challenge lays ahead.  At home, my goal is to make a tasty and healthy dinner as quickly as possible.  And to keep the kids from turning so hangry they won’t eat a bite of it.   If I’m really on top of my game, I can get dinner done in 30 minutes.  Most of the time, though, I’m looking at 40 – 45 minutes.

I’ve tried strategies to be more efficient; most of them don’t work for me.  For example:

  • Meal plan & prep on Sunday.  My husband and I both work during the week. Our weekends are spent with our kids and catching up on sleep.  The last thing I’m motivated to do on Sunday is meal prep for the coming week.   I’m lucky if I make it to the grocery store and have a general idea of upcoming meals.
  • Freezer meals.  I make some freezer meals, but opportunistically.  If I’m making a time consuming casserole, I’ll double the recipe & put one in the freezer for later.  Or I’ll buy an extra big package of meat, use some, and marinate the rest in the freezer.  My biggest challenge in using a frozen casserole is remembering to take it out of the freezer the night before.
  • Crock pot meals.  I’ll use the crock pot on days I work from home.  But when I go to the office, I don’t have enough time in the morning to put it together and my day is too long for even the most forgiving of crock-pot recipes.  By the time we get home, dinner is a soggy, overcooked, unappetizing mess.

So, what strategies work for me?  It’s not rocket science, but here are a few that I use:

  1. Set up the meal for quick cooking.  For example, I’ll use boneless, smaller chicken pieces that will cook quicker than a whole chicken or bone-in pieces.  If I want roasted potatoes, I’ll cut them up into inch-size pieces in order to speed cooking.
  2. Choose dishes you can cook at the same time.  So, if your oven isn’t large enough to cook a meatloaf and roast the potatoes at the same time, make boiled potatoes instead.
  3. Sequence your cooking.  Start each dish so they are (mostly) finished at the same time.  Start prepping the items that will take the longest first. I usually focus on the carbohydrates and protein.  If I want to marinate the chicken strips before sauteing them, I’ll immediately get them marinating.  Rice is always started dishes early; once it’s done, it can rest off the heat just fine until we’re ready to eat. Similarly, put a pot of water on to boil first.  I may wait to add the pasta, but at least the water will be ready.  And potatoes always get priority cooking treatment.  Veggies are almost always last, since they cook pretty quickly.
Hungry Toucan
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/florida_photo_guy/15664318563/in/photostream/

Even under the best of circumstances, I still need to do something to quell the rumblings in the two little people’s bellies.  Or distract them.  So, here’s what I do:

 

 

 

  1. Get them something to eat.  It seems obvious, but it took me a while to come to terms with this. You spend time making a homemade meal; the last thing you want is for your kids’ appetites to be ruined.  The key, I’ve found, is WHAT to eat.  I give them options that, if they do ruin their appetites, I won’t mind (so much). They are welcome to eat any of the raw veggies I’m prepping for dinner.  They can also grab a cheese stick out of the fridge.  This is their typical choice and I love it.  They can get it on their own and since neither are big fans of meat it helps them get enough protein.
  2. Distract them. The older one is now big enough to chew gum.  Giving him a stick to chew on the way home from school has cut the hangry whining by at least 80%.  Once we’re home, a short TV show is just the thing I need to keep them out of trouble until dinner is ready.  TV has it’s place in our home and this is it.

Hangry

If you need some new dinner ideas, here are a handful of quick dishes that are proven winners in our household.

  • Tacos (preferably on Tuesday, since the kids LOVE to say “It’s Taco Tuesday!”).  Leftover taco meat is usually used later on in a taco casserole.
  • Teriyaki chicken.  I use a store bought marinade to make life a little easier. This is one of the few meat proteins the kids will eat seconds of.
  • Macaroni and cheese.  If time is very short or I’m exhausted, the boxed version will do the trick. But really, homemade doesn’t take more than 30 minutes, we all like it better, and I usually have leftovers for lunches.
  • Chopped cucumber and tomato salad.  Sometimes I had chopped peppers. Olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar, S&P go on the table so we can all season it ourselves.  (If I have half a lemon, the kids LOVE squeezing the juice on themselves.)  The kids eat this salad up.
  • Quesadillas. I can turn these babies out faster than Ming Ming can say “This is se-wious!”.  Add some veggie sticks and you’ve got a meal.  The adult version has sauted veggies and black beans in the quesadilla.
  • Pasta with garlic, cannellini beans, parmesan cheese, and a smidgen of red pepper flakes. I often don’t serve a separate protein with this meal — just a nice veggie.  The kids love the cannellini beans, which always amazes me.

What are some of your proven winners?

A Birth Story

Of Miracles And Moments – A Birth Story

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A Birth Story

There you are Uma, my first glimpse of you, and of course you’re staring back at me.

Birth

(photo cred for all photos in this post except this one go to Jackie Willome Photography)

I found new love in this moment. I loved you instantly. In this moment, I have a ‘bright light’ moment, similar to what people describe when in a near death experience. You were the end of my tunnel. I wondered about the life you’ll lead. Geez, will you have to face a dustbowl drought, like I read about? Will you have a family of your own one day and experience the euphoria that I’m in? Will you spend years emulating your parents? Will you then spend years embarrassed by the sight of us? Whatever it is, whatever your challenges, your loves, your despair – all of it – you’re alive and it is all worth it. And finally, in this millisecond, I realize the struggle you’ve already made – to beat the odds – to be here with us to share this moment.

THE BIRTH STORY

(Part 1 – in which the birth is not discussed at all … YET)

All birth starts with conception, and yours is unique. No, I will never tell you the story of how your mother and I conceived you (any more than I just did), but go with me here. We had 2 kids- two wonderful kids- 2 kids that woke us up in all hours of the night as babies. 2 kids that we changed diapers for – (and not those “drop-em in a waste bucket and forget what you just saw” disposable diapers – but “shake-it-out and wash it” diapers).

To be honest, we thought another kid would be beyond our capabilities.

We were even using birth control – let’s be honest here – we were using one of THE MOST effective types of birth control on the market – 99.6% effective…apparently. That’s a percentage you sleep easy with, that percentage is why I don’t play the lottery.

See – I told you that you were unique. I guess all of that didn’t matter – not the diapers, not the birth control, not the percentage. What mattered was love – and we had that in abundance.
The day was July 7, 2014, the day we found out about you. Two days earlier, we had just had a dance off karaoke party with friends. I had literally sprained my ankle whilst singing Def Leppard (you will need to Wikipedia this pop-culture reference). Despite the injury, you need to know this about your dad: I rocked on. I sprained my ankle on the first song – and rocked on all the night long – for your mom – for her birthday.

So 2 days later, .04% (the chance of pregnancy) would come down to a Walgreens test, when Alissa had this weird feeling -that she had felt 2 times before. But I thought Alis was impregnable. Point-four percent (.04%) – surely we’re not that .04%. Surely, nobody is actually that .04%. Surely, that number is just representing scientific error and weird anomalies once every decade or so. Surely. Surely- POSITIVE.

I’m not saying I didn’t struggle. This was a process – and don’t worry – you do win my heart. You have that Rocky moment – that Say Anything moment – you do ‘get the girl,’ don’t worry, you get there.

During your gestational period, the kids and I spoke at length – I think Asher thought you were a bad taco that mom ate that was making her stomach ache. We had a very loving, very healthy pregnancy. We sang to you, talked to you and kissed you (as best we could).

THE BIRTH

(Part 2 – the real birth story)

So 9 months had passed. I would say uneventfully, but it wasn’t so uneventful. We loved you already. We had traveled a long way from that .04% – a universe away, as we eagerly awaited your arrival.

The night you were born, Asher had awoken in the night, as he is prone to doing. I comforted him, and ended up falling asleep on his bed. Around midnight Alissa wakes me up in a rush, I see that she is having serious contractions- because she couldn’t talk to me in complete sentences. She quickly shouted some brief commands and rushed off to get a firm grip on something before the next contraction. I knew this was it, the day we had been waiting for. Alissa rushed to the couch and had more contractions, texting our midwife Robin, and friends and doulas, Rachel and Beth.

I wanted, fool heartedly, to add some air to the birthing pool after hearing Alis tell the midwife that she wanted to labor in the tub. I was still in some form of REM sleep as I got out the air compressor (dolphins turn off half their brain and still swim as they sleep, I was in this dolphin state.) Somehow got the tip stuck inside the air hole of the birth tub, when I took off the compressor, the tub deflated to near nothing – it was a crumpled mess of what we needed, of what it was just a moment ago. I looked at Alissa, and she noticed the sad state of affairs in the midst of another contraction, (I still haven’t had the cajones to ask her what she was thinking as she glanced at me and a very well deflated tub.) I immediately problem solved – I grabbed the biggest pair of pliers in the house/ neighborhood/North Central part of town and I yanked it out and fixed my mess up. Who knows how many contractions I missed. DoulaBeth entered and comforted Alissa, then DoulaRachel showed up, and MidwifeRobin arrived shortly thereafter. Alissa asked if she could get in the tub to labor – MidwifeRobin wanted to examine first. I texted our amazing PhotographerJackie and told her that I would contact her soon if MidwifeRobin felt the baby was coming soon.  We had not yet asked Jackie to make her way to us, though we knew she was a good 45 minutes away, we didn’t want her to arrive too early.

Minutes later, MidwifeRobin checks and stops immediately and says “It’s time, the baby’s right here.” Alissa begs for clarification. “The baby is right here, this is her head.” And just then PhotographerJackie (did I say she was amazing?) came through the door, and just started snapping pictures. 6 minutes, 6 beautiful minutes, 6 precious minutes later, you were here and I had that ‘bright light’ moment. You were born in still fully in your amniotic sac. This is called en caul – just like 1 in 80,000 other babies are born. You always loved those long odds.

This is what followed:

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Thank you Uma – thank you for fighting the odds. Thank you for being born. Thank you for completing our family.