It’s OK to Look it Up in My Gut Instead of a Book

Melody, today’s guest post author is a new mom to a very cute four month old and very dear friend (met through a google search that led her to this blog).  She’s not yet a blogger, but she is a fabulous mom, wife, educator, and writer. Here, she shares the secret, that she learned early on, of how to be a better mom: trusting your gut. Enjoy!

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That’s where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. Now, I know some of you are going to say, “I did look it up, and that’s not true.” That’s ‘cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.    -Stephen Colbert, White House Correspondents’ Dinner, 2006

Of course, Stephen Colbert’s logic doesn’t work with facts, but it’s become an incredibly useful mantra for me as a new parent. My daughter just turned 4 months old. I prepared for her arrival by reading lots of books about pregnancy, birth, infant care, and even stuff about the toddler years, just for good measure. What I should have spent more time figuring out was how to look stuff up in my gut.

So I read all these books looking for what’s “normal” about sleep, feeding, illnesses, development—you name it. Because I was nervous and eager to learn how to be a good mom, I read everything about what to expect with an infant. Turns out that I read too much about what’s “normal” and so everything my daughter did ended up seeming weird.

She never seemed to fall within any average.

She was never “on time” with her development or her sleep or her milestones.

Looking back, of course, I realize I had a perfect baby with an easy disposition that I should have enjoyed more. But at the time, in my haze of fear, anxiety, sleep deprivation, irrational spousal aggravation, and newly shredded self-esteem, I was convinced that my daughter was off the mark, and that it was, of course, my fault. Deep down, I think I knew she was OK, but I let my head convince me otherwise.

Head v. Gut

When I got pregnant, everyone told me I would feel so in tune with my body, that I would be awash in maternal instincts, that all I had to do was listen to my body and it would know what to do. It sounded so easy that I was confused and beyond frustrated when I couldn’t. Then I realized that women are taught their entire lives not to listen to their bodies, or their inner voice. The lessons are everywhere. Don’t eat, even though you’re hungry. Keep working, even though you’re exhausted. Don’t speak up, even though you’re angry. Don’t tell the truth, because it your feelings aren’t as important as someone else’s. It’s a wonder that by the time we’re adults, we’re left with any gut feelings at all.

But, I’m a woman who’s learning to trust her gut.

Our doctor told us that babies don’t start teething until 6 months. At 4 months, however, B started drooling incessantly, biting everything, fussing, and waking 4 times a night. “I know it’s too early for this, but let’s just see,” I said as I grabbed a teething ring in Target. She chomped away happily, and offering it during a fuss calmed her down. She was teething, and I knew it!

Other than teething, another gut testing challenge of ours is sleep. She naps for maybe 30 minutes at a time and seems tired all the time. To help matters, we’re trying a routine, and it seems to be working. I don’t know precisely why, but it is…working.

Back when I was 7 months pregnant, I met a woman who, in talking about her motherhood challenges, said this: “When I finally decided that I would just look at my kid to figure out what she needed, I discovered that I did know what to do after all.” 

I didn’t realize then how much her words would stick, and how right she was. Over the past few months, I’ve looked at B more, listened to her more. And, as a result, my instincts are getting better.

Of course, they still get challenged all the time by experts and other parents, but mostly by my own insecurities. Nothing like motherhood fills me with such intense contradictions of thought and feeling. Nothing else in the world makes me feel so powerful and so helpless at the same time. I have much to learn about my daughter’s coming months and years. I’ll certainly be checking with books and experts to guide us through. I’ll remember to check with myself too.

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What lessons have you learned (perhaps the hard way) by trusting your gut when it comes to your children, parenting, or motherhood? 

“In order for you to grow, I must let go”

 My daughter is now at an age where she can enjoy indoor and outdoor playgrounds. She enjoys playing with other children, looking at other children, and showing me (I think) that she can do things on her own.

And, I’m at an age in my motherhood where I’ve, finally, come to really be okay with this stage.

At one time, I feared becoming a helicopter parent. I feared the unknown that existed outside of my parental control over her childhood, her life.

I feared the world. 

But now, now I’ve come to accept that bumps and bruises, tears, unknowns, dirty dresses, and, sometimes, rude children all come with the territory of childhood.

I’ve come to accept my own limitations in parenting and the limitations of the perfect bubble that I so wanted to create for my precious girl within this world. 

I still carry around a hand sanitizer pump in the front of my purse pocket, face and hand wipes in her diaper bag, and hover closely (at least more closely than some of the other parents) to her as she makes her way through crowds of children, sometimes, twice her size at playgrounds, but I’ve learned to mostly let go.

I’ve learned to step back, to be more of an observer to her world, to her social relationships, to her new-found self than an overbearing participant.

I let go because this is what my daughter wants. She needs my hand to hold at some times, but not all the time. She can do some things on her own.  Often, when doing those things on her own and with other children, she’ll look back to me as if to say, “See, mommy. It’s okay. I can do this.” She looks back at me as if she needs to know, to see in my eyes, that I trust that she will be okay.

And, I do. “I trust that you’ll be okay without me,” I say each time.

I let go because this is what she, seems, to need. She’s not a teenager, yet, but a toddler testing the boundaries of her very young world. She’s not, I must remind myself, the baby that I once could cradle within the confines of my lap to soothe.

It (or letting go is) is what I needed, too.

Do you know what it’s like to be so overly concerned with your child’s well being that it’s paralyzing? 
When I use the word “paralyzing,” I mean in the sense that you are mentally unwilling to do most things, things that you’ve heard in the news or experienced yourself, because of the possibility of hurt, pain, despair, and germs.

No? Well, it’s exhausting.

I can’t protect my daughter from everything, the scenes from the indoor and outdoor playground that we frequent are teaching me that very important lesson in parenting.

I can’t catch her every time that she falls, or stand in the way of the three-year old who decides to push her because she’s a “baby.” But, I can always be there to put neon colored Band-Aids on her scraped knees, to be her mom, and I am always there, always watching, amazed most often by her ability to be her own little person. 

I can’t (and don’t want to) live in fear. 

Parenting, it seems is a test, the greatest test in trusting that the universe will not swallow our most precious possessions alive, isn’t it? It’s test in trusting that there’s something greater that’s protecting our children, that everything will be okay.

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What tests in “letting go” are you facing with your children? How do you get through those tests?

My IT Guy (I’m moving)

I have finally mustered the guts and found the time to make the move over to WordPress and I’m going it, alone. Like the mismatched cabinet safety locks that are poorly installed in my Kitchen and the uneven picture hanging above my bed, this blog has officially become my DIY “project” (but this time, I’m doing things right. Ha!)

I know, this is big, and possibly insane, but that’s (I’d like to believe) beyond the point! I’m doing this big thing because I want to learn, because I want the sweet sense of satisfaction of knowing that I did it, that, and, well, I’m horribly cheap. And while I am doing most of the heavy lifting, I do have some help, namely from a trusty book recommended by Kate of the Mommy Monologues and my husband, my IT Guy.Image result for blogging

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that my husband works in the IT industry, but he does. And for any woman out there (or man) who has a significant other working in that industry, you know that it’s tough. Long and often unreasonable hours, untenable work schedules, attached to the skull Blackberries, and lots and lots of urgent matters are what make up that industry, I think.

Having kids and being married to someone in the IT industry (particularly those in programming or networking or other 24/7 fields) is a challenge, but there are also benefits if you call yourself a blogger, namely that you always have someone who can provide you with real-time, free help-desk support on your blog or any other possibly stupid and ridiculously simple (like opening files off a FTP site. Yep. That was one of my questions at 1 AM last night when my mirrored site crashed) technical matter that may be troubling you.

The help you receive from an IT spouse (and you can probably imagine this to be true if you’ve ever had to work with an IT person) is, well, unique, too. These people, these IT people of which my husband belongs, take their craft very, very serious, so you have to tread delicately, oh, non-IT one, in dealing with them. All explanations are FULL explanations on any given topic, all questions are approached with a degree of skepticism, and all problems can and WILL be solved.

It’s truly an interesting thing being the wife of an IT guy, my IT guy.

I could go on longer about, but I’ll save that for another time.

It’s Father’s Day so my husband has planned a nice afternoon of us sitting on the couch watching movies. I know. So fun.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there.

Any one else out there conquering any DIY projects at this time? What are you working on? Oh, and is there any one with a spouse or significant other in IT? Can you relate? We need a support group, right?

How do you really prepare for another baby?

With the baby moving more, finding out that we’re having a girl, and more random strangers outright assuming that the growing bulge in my midsection is a baby, this pregnancy has become more and more real.

And this has been scary, at times.

At times, and in the course of the day when I’m just attending to my everyday responsibilities as a mom, wife, and human being, I’ll get any of the above reminders and that will send in the chain of “I’m-really-really-not-ready” thoughts, thoughts like:

She (Nya) isn’t potty trained. I haven’t even read anything on potty training? Should I have by this point? What about a big girl bed? Do we need one? Is she ready” What about strollers? Will we sell our old ones? What about the nighttime routine? What if my husband works late and I’m stuck pulling double duty? Two girls. What if they (the two girls) develop a sibling rivalry? How will I find the time to write? What if I can’t write anymore? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Like distracting background music in an elevator filled with people carrying on their own conversations, these thoughts go on and on, or until something more pressing comes up like Nya putting the leftovers from her lunch in the air vent, using her boogers to “paint” the walls,” or something along those lines.

These thoughts are the reason for the urgency in my voice when talking to my husband about where we should be in terms of preparing for this baby.

“Do you get that in a few months, we’re having another baby?!?” I would say amidst, often, an unrelated conversation on something else, something like a cable bill or whether I put gas in the SUV.

To this, I get a pause, shocked facial expression then an, “Uhhh. Yeah. What’s there to worry about?”

“What’s there to worry about?!?” WE’RE HAVING ANOTHER BABY!” I’d say to him and the rest of universe who, it seemed, wasn’t panicking along with me.

These thoughts, these frustrating conversations with my husband, have increased in the past few weeks, but, at the moment, I feel at ease. 

Yes, at the moment, as in the moment that I am writing this, I feel at ease with the thought that in a few months (I’ll be 24 weeks on this Thursday) a new baby will be joining our family and that we will, as we have in the past 16 months, make things work.

In these next months, I like to believe that we’ll have a stroller, have figured out what to do about Nya’s sleeping arrangements and potty training, but we may not, and that’s okay.

At this point, or in this moment, that which is keeping me sane is focusing most on my day-to-day reality and doing what I can for the future when I can. 

This past weekend, we began looking at baby names and narrowing down the list of possible double strollers. These are just small steps, but we’re getting there, slowly, but surely.

What things did you do (or are you doing, if you’re now pregnant) to prepare for baby #2? How was your preparation for #2 different from #1?