STORIES

Momma Love is about community building and the power of honest conversation. Let’s hear what matters to you and what the motherhood experience has really been like for you; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m sure you’re not alone.

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Playing Outside The Box- Another Beyond Mom LessonRandi Zinn

Parenting, I’ve learned is a process that requires vigilance with my own words and actions. I’ve realized that I need to constantly be aware of my own motivations when engaging with my son and steering his behavior. Let me tell you about a recent moment where I really stared at myself in the mirror:

We are upstate through the remaining weeks of summer and so there are more moments in which to slow down, play freely and frankly, hear myself think. Micah has a little play set complete with a slide, swings, and perfectly sized little sand box. We spend a lot of time there digging, laughing and playing make-believe. On this day, Micah took his oversized blue shovel and began to enthusiastically dig in the sand, but periodically would dump the sand into a heap outside of the sandbox.

“Leave the sand IN the sandbox, Micah,” I said. He continued to scoop and dump outside the box itself.

My voice rose as any parent will tell you naturally will happen when your child disregards you. “Micah! Don’t dump the sand outside the box!”

And just then, like a whisper, a heavenly breeze grazed my face and the sun warmed me in a way that gave me goose bumps. I looked ahead and feasted my eyes on The Hudson and watched a bunny hop just down the hill stopping to listen to nothing in particular.

Why was I telling my son to leave the sand in the box? I began to ask myself as my thoughts slowed down and my body relaxed. Here’s why (and some of these reasons seem completely silly and counter intuitive to my actual beliefs)

1- I didn’t want to have to buy more bags of sandbox sand.

2- I didn’t want to the sandbox area to look messy

3- I didn’t want to have more to clean up or re-organize

4- I wanted my son to learn to do things neatly

5- I wanted him to listen to me

6- I wanted him to understand that he needs to follow the “rules”

When I look over the above list I realize either how stupid or how limited these feelings are- and yet as a busy Mom I think we can all relate to them. But when I really think about what I want for my son I realize some very important facts:

1- I want him to feel free to be silly and get dirty, just like any child should

2- If buying more sand is my biggest expense, I’m really lucky

3- Cleaning up is part of being a Mom- get over it and let it be

4- Though I do want a well-behaved child, forcing him to constantly conform to living “inside the box” isn’t going to develop this very smart, little leader that I know my son is. He’s only going to figure out his own tipping point and discover his inherent creativity if I let him color outside the lines and dump sand outside the box.

It can be a rude awakening to listen to your own parental commands and to realize that you don’t like what you hear. But we are all human and sometimes we need a gentle breeze and warm sunbeam and a quiet day to recognize what it is we really want to say to our little ones.

Can you slow down and listen to the directions you give your children and ask yourself the motivation behind them? Are there moments that even though the “rules” may be a little broken, the greater lesson or development for your child is worth the extra “mess?” Even when your motivations are a little embarrassing or a little silly, own them and move toward a direction that is more aligned with your true desires for your child. This is, in every sense of the word, going Beyond Mom.

 

Letting Them FlyRachel ceder, New York, NY

My little boys zipped up their flight suits, strapped on their helmets and bounced eagerly with anticipation as they waited their turn to “fly.” We were at iFly, a skydiving simulation experience in California and at only 4 & 6 years old, I was a bit hesitant about letting them give this a try. The flight chamber is a huge, thunderous wind tunnel that you literally fall in to–an instructor is nearby to keep you steady and guide you in the wind current. All I could see in the moments leading up to our flight was my boys catapulting cartoon style up the wind tunnel, through the roof, gracefully descending-as if in slow motion-towards the In-and-Out Burger next door. But they were bound and determined to give this a try. That alone made me push my anxieties aside, spread on an encouraging happy face and give the thumbs up.

See, I believe in encouraging our kids to take risks–physical and mental ones. I believe there is so much to learn about oneself when we challenge and push ourselves to try new things, to overcome fears and to experience the ultimate outcomes of “putting ourselves out there” for good or for bad. My little guy was in fact VERY nervous and even began taking his flight suit off as our turn neared. He was conflicted about trying–eager to keep up with his big brother, yet clearly scared. Knowing nothing would come from pushing or forcing him to do it, I nonchalantly told him he could wait and watch. But I also took a moment to pull him aside and tell him “It’s scary to try new things. I bet your heart is beating fast and you may feel a little tingly in your tummy. That is okay! You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, but if you want to try it, Mommy will make sure you are safe.” That validation goes a long way. In fact I think I needed someone to tell me the same thing in those moments.

We filed into the chamber, me, my older son and my father in law. They revved up the fans and the chamber began to quake, rattling under the force of the wind. My older son began to shake his knees, eyes wide with surprise, and most likely a little fear. I myself started to feel my palms sweat, butterflies flittering in my stomach. Off FIL went, soaring awkwardly at first, but then finding his groove. When he finished, my older son hopped up, ready to go…I was honestly astonished at his sheer bravery and determination. I could see a mixture of anticipation and anxiety on his face, but he is never one to give up. In fact this child of mine–my first born–has been a competitor from day one, facing challenges head on, rising to meet new risks like they are old friends. Not coincidently, we’ve also been to the emergency room five times already in his short life.

And then…he flew. He trustfully leaned from the doorframe into the chamber with…only a mesh wire net to catch him below should he become unsteady. The instructor held him at first until he got into proper form, but once he did, he was soaring gracefully, like a bird. Arms spread wide and long, legs slightly bent at the knees, chin up. He bobbed and waved as the instructor guided him along, circling the chamber. We caught eyes and as we did, tears involuntarily sprang forth, along with whooping cheers and enthusiastic clapping. I couldn’t help myself. I was wild with pride, with disbelief…it was exhilaration tinged with a bit of fear, but thrilling nonetheless to see my boy flying. A smile spread wide across his face when we locked eyes and then, without warning, the instructor picked up HIS feet and off they went…up, up, up, high into the chamber where I had to crane my neck to see them circling above. Just as quickly, they were back down, and then up again. As predicted, my littlest guy soon joined us and took flight as well. It was unforgettable.

Over the years, I’ve seen my boys experience many physical firsts, obviously… First swim lesson, first time in the bouncy house, first water slide, and all were exciting and important milestones in their growing confidence and independence. But this experience of watching them take flight, of seeing them do something new and risky–something that even I hadn’t done before was truly meaningful. I was so proud, so appreciative for the opportunity to watch my boys experience something so unique and new. Confidence was bolstered that day. Their ability to rise to a challenge, to meet a risk head-on played out before my very eyes. It was a memorable day and something I know my boys will remember for a lifetime–as will I.

We hear it all the time as parents. We have to give our kids wings and let them fly in the figurative sense of the words. I don’t think I truly appreciated that sentiment, however, until I watched them literally soaring above my head–out of my protective reach, reaching new heights on their own terms. Fly my boys….Fly.

 

Holding my BreathAnna Zuzolo, New York City, NY

I always knew I wanted kids – just didn’t know when. I pushed it as far as I could and my husband and I decided to bite the bullet. I didn’t absolutely love being pregnant. I read all the books, followed all the rules and got through it with the genuine excitement and nervousness that comes with impending mommyhood. Until finally the day came – two days late. He came faster than anyone expected and before I knew it I was holding my first son. Holy sh*t was he cute. Like Benjamin Button cute. Once the chaos subsided and I had some room to breathe, it all came flooding in. The love, the fear, the insecurity, the need to protect this sweet little guy for the rest of his life. With the memories of my past life quickly fading, I embraced the role of mommabear. Then someone said to me “now you know how much your parents love you”. Oh boy. I felt terrible. Thinking about everything I put them through, I prayed for what went around to not come back around.

They were not easy parents to have as they were from a different culture. They raised us the best way they knew how but there weren’t many hugs or laughs or “I love you’s”. I was often reminded of what I couldn’t do and that I could do and be better but was rarely applauded for who I was and what I did accomplish. So I rebelled. A lot. Needless to say this experience did not give me great points of reference so I second-guessed every decision and wondered often if I was becoming them.

I have some great supporters who remind me how different I am whenever I need to hear it. No one greater than my son himself who ends every single day telling me how much he loves me, can’t wait to marry me and showers me with eskimo and butterfly kisses. As a working mother there are plenty of over-stressed cringe-worthy moments. I try to be as present and involved as possible. I want to address and validate his feelings. I want to be calm in tense moments (that’s a tough one). I want to hug and laugh and say I love you as often as possible. I want to be the opposite of what I experienced.

In a way, my son has become my source of confidence. It’s amazing how resilient these little guys are. They are happy to move on, to love and to be loved. He is proof that the cycle is breakable and, unwittingly, gives me strength to be a better version of myself. If he only understood the great power he holds at his ripe young age!? I try to catch myself as often as possible and remember back to the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy moments in my childhood so I can use them as a tool.

My son is now 4.5 and has a delicious 1.5 year old brother who is very lucky to be my second child. I’d like to think I am a good mother – I jump though lots of hoops and try to help my children grow into thoughtful and productive members of society (whatever that means at their ages). I guess I can only cross my fingers and wait and see… like the rest of us.

 

Feeding My Babies with Love and PatienceSeattle, WA

Hi Ali, Thanks for letting us share our stories!

I have the sweetest pictures of my son Tristan nursing. I love how they capture the intimacy and joy of our breastfeeding relationship. Tristan is curled into me and my arms are lovingly draped around him. Even though he’s sleepy, his blue eyes look around curiously. The pictures were taken on a gorgeous summer evening by a talented portrait photographer. They are priceless to me. I am so grateful to have them as a reminder of the special bond that Tristan and I share. Yet sometimes when I look at the pictures, I feel the anguish of momma guilt.

Tristan has an older brother. His name is Tyler and he’s my firstborn. He’s the one that made me a momma. I tried to breastfeed Tyler, but it didn’t work out. He was on formula by the time we left the hospital and I stopped nursing him when he was a month old. My guilt is not about my failure to breastfeed him. I know that it was a decision made out of exhaustion and I believe that it was the right thing for us to do.

I feel guilty because I don’t have any beautiful pictures of me bottle feeding Tyler. I hardly have any pictures of me feeding him at all and yet feeding Tyler was, at least as much, if not more, of an accomplishment. Nursing Tristan well into toddlerhood is mostly the result of luck and perseverance. Somehow it just worked. Feeding Tyler, however, was a challenge from the start. Tyler had acid reflux and, quite honestly, it was awful. He was my little bundle of misery.

We tried different medications, but nothing really helped. Tyler was in pain and cried a lot. His immature digestive system caused him to throw up formula along with stomach acid on a regular basis. Feedings were hard. He would arch his back in discomfort. In order for him to gain weight, I fed him twice as often and half as much. It was grueling but it also united us. I tried to make him as comfortable as I could and was fiercely  protective of my little boy.

Thinking back to all those hours I spend bottle feeding Tyler, I can’t help but feel that it was just as beautiful and loving as it is to nurse Tristan. Bottle feeding is part of our story. There were days that I fed him with tears in my eyes as he struggled to keep his formula down. And then there were days that I walked up and down the block just to keep him upright and comfortable. Me and Tyler; we are bonded forever.

I wish I had some beautiful photographs to remember this period by. Yet, the lack of pictures doesn’t make the time I spent feeding Tyler any less meaningful or real. I fed both my babies with love and patience; one was given a bottle and the other is still nursing at age three. I love both my children with a passion and that is something worth remembering.
(Martine Zoer lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and children. She is the creator of  Baby Loves Milk: encouragement cards that celebrate the unique bond between moms and their babies whether breast- or bottle feeding. For more information, please visit  www.babylovesmilk.etsy.com or www.facebook.com/BabyLovesMilk.)

 

Once Upon a Time in Labor and DeliveryTess Allen, Ventura, CA

There I was, 7 months pregnant, in a class with metal folding chairs and all sorts of pregnant women listening to a teacher tell us about what childbirth is supposed to be like.

She taught us to wait until our contractions were 5 minutes or less before going to the hospital. She told us to bring snacks because we would need the sustenance to perform this great feat. She implored us to get a ‘labor candle’ and light it when we started to go into labor, play soft music, and spend the last few pregnant hours with our partners, enjoying the experience. She gave us a form to track and grid our contractions. She taught us body positions for delivery and she taught our partners massage for laboring mothers. She begged us to ‘go natural’ – “just say no to epidurals”. She taught us to walk the floor to help our bodies process each contraction and to breathe with the pain. She taught us to treat the moments as sacred, and to be PRESENT.

Huh.

My labor was nothing like what I was taught. I went from 16 minute contractions to 1.5 minutes in a matter of an hour, my body distressed, and my blood pressure near stroke levels. I was preeclamptic and progressing quickly.

I didn’t get to light my candle because we rushed to the hospital on a misty night in November, listening to AC/DC screech “Shook Me All Night Long.” We laughed because it wasn’t ironic, but we also laughed because we didn’t know the gravity of the situation until we got to the delivery room.

I didn’t get to walk it off or massage or even the chance to deny medication. I was flat on my back, 4 different IV drip bags filtering into one needle in my arm, a baby monitor on my belly, a heart monitor on my finger, and an epidural in my back to help provide the narcotics needed to keep my blood pressure down. Eventually, the baby monitor on my belly proved useless and they had to put a tiny wire into the top of my baby’s head before I was even 7cm dilated to monitor her more closely.

The only thing I was present to was the phrase, “DON’T DIE”.

In my mind, I chanted it to my baby, and then to myself, over and over. There was no ‘sweet moments of labor’, no ‘this moment is sacred’. There was only survival. And we did survive.

Those first weeks after delivery, I felt ripped off. Why didn’t this go the way it was supposed to? I was angry with my body, felt ashamed that I didn’t do it ‘right’, guilty that maybe I did (or didn’t do) something that made this happen, sad beyond belief that I might never have the chance to have that storybook delivery I dreamt of.

Four years have gone by, and my emotions are a bit tempered. I no longer look back with anger, but still feel twinges of ‘hey – I was ripped off’ throughout my memories. The storybook delivery was more like a triumphant battle legend, but we’re here, we’re healthy, and we move on.

When I look back on that day, I know that it had moments of complete wonder – and the magic was there. It was. Like the look on my partner’s face when he saw the baby’s head crowning. I’ll never forget that. And the tone of his voice after 3 hours of pushing, keeping me going like a well-seasoned coach to his athletic prodigy. Like the fact that my brother, who lives out of state, just happened to be working about 90 minutes away and was able to be with us. He thought he would be walking into a post-partum room, able to hold his new niece. Instead, he became my ‘ice chip man’ – and after 36 hours with no food, he WAS my favorite person in the room! Like my friend, my Spirit Sister, there with my partner through the whole ordeal – giving me encouragement and assuring me that the baby was okay. When it was determined that I needed help getting the baby out and I had to choose between forceps and suction, she told me it would be just fine, and it was.

I remember telling my partner weeks before that I planned to laugh through the labor and delivery, and we actually found moments that were utterly hilarious. Whether we were so far gone emotionally or physically that we just didn’t have a grip on things in the moment, I guess I’ll never know. But we did laugh.

And I get a lump in my throat when I remember that earliest of the morning when everyone had gone and it was just André slumped over and snoring in a chair, me still hooked up to medication and in bed, and Nurse Jennifer with my new baby girl. Nurse Jennifer had been there when we started the whole process 36 hours ago and was there for her next shift when my daughter was born. She came to me with a grin and said, “May I give your daughter her first bath?” I remember the dark room and the glow of the light over the bathing area and this tiny little miracle screaming her head off while her hair was being washed and feeling grateful beyond measure for Nurse Jennifer. And yes, even that seems like a moment of beauty to me now.

So, this is life.

We expect the storybook and we serve up the battle cry and we do the best we can with what we have.

What I’ve learned is to remember that the delight and wonder are there, even in the hardest moments: At the emergency room, holding my daughter’s hand while she gets her chin stitched up and showing her my chin scar from childhood stitches. Catching her in her first big lie and outwardly showing disappointment while inwardly smiling that we have reached THIS milestone. Teaching her about death and giving her the opportunity to say goodbye to her grandmother. Teaching her about life and giving her the chance to say hello to a friend’s new baby. Holding her as she cries, heartbroken, when her favorite toy won’t play its music anymore, reminding us both that we must love when love is present because time does, indeed, flee us when given the chance.

And when my life is nearing its end, I will know that although there was very little ‘storybook’, there was more magic and truth and wonder than I could have ever imagined.
And I will smile because that is my legacy.