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#sirtoby

As you have probably noticed, we have a new addition to our family! Yes, our kids have been blessed with a sweet little rescue that we named Toby. Once thought to be part Pug, I realize now that Sir Toby is undoubtably part Boston Terrier and part nervous Chihuahua. He truly is my third child. He requires just about as much attention, medication, and steady stream of food and water as my other two children do. Truly though, he is just about sweetest dog on the planet. He tolerates everything my kids throw at him (and in some cases I mean throw literally.) He happily puts up with being chased, covered, trapped, and even being carried around in my mother’s orange leather Michael Kors bag. He sometimes looks at me with a hint of desperation but I quickly remind him that his alternative could be sharing a kennel with six other dogs and only one food bowl. Then I encourage him to hide in the tub.

Recently this sweet hound had, what he would classify as a brush with death. It really was terrible. The poor thing was attacked by ground hornets and had a horrible reaction. He was bumpy, swollen, and just a total mess. In a ton of pain. I rushed him to the vet where he required a steroid treatment and narcotics for the pain. His recovery was slow. I guess at 16 pounds it takes a while for the pain medication to leave your system. Poor sweet, very drunk Toby.  At one point during his afternoon of recovery he woke up and immediately threw up on the floor. He attempted to walk a few steps and proceeded to pee in the den. Trying to squat, the sweet boy got stuck and ended up sitting in his own pee. See what I mean? Basically the same scenario with children.

If anyone has pets and if you have ever had to give them steroids, they can cause adverse reactions. For example, in our case, the medication caused Toby to have to potty….a lot. One evening I was home alone with the kids while Brian was at work. William was already sleeping and Audrey spent the evening playing with Toby. She was making tents with pillows and blankets and keeping him in there with her. One may call that playing, however, Toby would probably call it entrapment. Nonetheless, it was a peaceful evening.

At some point Toby came to visit me while I was in the bathroom. (What can I say, mommies have to potty, too.) He tapped his nails on the tile indicating that he had to go out. You couldn’t have come at a worse time! Tap, tap, tap the nails of a nervous Chihuahua. I knew he had to go out but in reality, I was not in a position to run to the back door. I’m not exactly sure what happened next except that while I was washing my hands Audrey came running into my room. “Mom, mom! I think Toby had an accident!” She guides me into her room where I saw something that literally sent me over the edge. I yelled for the dog.

Now, I have never spanked either of my children nor do I have the intention to ever do so. I know that as a practice, spanking not only doesn’t work, it is harmful. I have never even had the feeling or urge to spank my children but I understand now how it happens. Hitting anyone, animals included, as a form of punishment makes absolutely zero sense to me. It is not anywhere on my radar of logical next steps. What happened this evening can only be classified as, ‘losing my shit.’

What I found in Audrey’s room was that Toby peed on her bed. The worst of all dog accidents, I know. The greatest violation of the pet-owner relationship ever. Ever. My mind began to race. I panicked. What the hell is wrong with this dog? Why the hell is he now acting like a mean, vindictive cat? What does this mean for the future? Is this what we will have to face in the future? Is this who Toby really is? I was angry and scared and my mind was racing. Right there in her room, in front of Audrey, I grabbed the dog, shoved his face in the wet spot and hauled off and slapped the daylight out of his haunches. I then went to the back door to put him out. Of course, I opened the door, forgetting about the alarm,  and set it off. The alarm is now blaring, which scared  the ever-living crap out of William who was sound asleep.

The alarm is blaring, both kids are crying and my mind is spinning. What the hell just happened? And why do these things happen when I’m home alone?

I’m sure you think the wet bed is the worst part of this evening. No, no, no. Truly the bed was the easiest part to deal with. All of her bedding was pushed to the side so he only peed on the fitted sheet – all of her down was spared. I also have a quilted mattress pad on top of a plastic bed liner to cover her mattress. Clean up was really easy. I stripped it all down, threw it in the wash for the sanitary cycle and sprayed the liner with Lysol. Truly not much worse than the time William threw up in her bed.

After I was able to calm William and put him back to sleep I had to face Audrey. There she was standing in the den, her face wet with tears. Looking me straight in the face, through her tears she asked me, “Why did you hit Toby?” She buried her face in her hands. I could feel myself bristle, afraid of what she was going to say next. I knelt down by her and hugged her. She looked at me again and said, “We are supposed to give him a better life.”

Truth be told, I still tear up every time I think about this exchange with my daughter. Those were my words. I continually remind the kids that we are here to give Toby a better life – we rescued him from the shelter and now it’s our job to keep him safe, happy, and loved. How can I reconcile my message with my actions in front of my child? Part of me wanted to get all righteous and parenty with her and tell her that sometimes parents have to do things that kids don’t always understand, and blah, blah, blah. Instead, I opened up and exposed myself to her as a person, who also happens to be her mom, who makes mistakes. It was hard. Reeeaaallly hard.  I knew  that if I couldn’t show her that I make mistakes, too, how could she ever feel okay about making them herself?

It wasn’t until after things had settled down that the reality really sunk in. Remember the medication he was on? Remember the need to pee frequently? Remember the evening of play with a theme of trapping? Oh I felt worse than horrible. It all happened so fast and I realized that poor sweet Toby really did nothing wrong! He came to me but I couldn’t meet his needs right away. I’m certain he was taken away to a tent on her bed and barricaded with pillows. I’m certain he held it as long as he possibly could. I’m certain I spanked a sweet innocent dog!

The guilt lingered for some time. Thankfully both Audrey and Toby recovered very, very quickly. I, on the other hand had wounds that were slow to heal.  For days I felt guilt not only for the dog but for literally loosing it in front of my child. I showered Toby with treats and even (without Brian knowing) let him snuggle with me in our bed the next evening. Audrey and I talked more about it and I assured her that Toby was okay and that together we were going to give him a long, happy, loving life.

Vulnerability is a tough thing folks. It’s really, really hard to expose ourselves as humans who are not always perfect. For some reason it’s even harder to expose ourselves to our children. I don’t know if it’s embarrassment or if  we are afraid of what they will think of us. I just know that really showing up, being seen for who I am, good and bad is important for my children.

So yes! Let the shroud of mystery be pulled away. The truth must be told.  Although many of us still hold it to be the mystery of all ages, but yes, in fact mommies do have to potty and, alas! They sometimes make mistakes, too.

Happy Mothering,

Melanie

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Sharing the Unshared

When I first found out I was pregnant I was thrilled. The pink line on the test stick was faint, but it was a line. My husband was cautiously excited, the idea of actually having a baby was a bit more frightening to him than me. Anyway, I was over the moon. I couldn’t wait for the time to tell family and friends, and of course I could not wait to start showing! Once I was far along enough to talk about my pregnancy, I found I was opened up to a wide variety of advice, thoughts, and unsolicited opinions. What got me the most was story after story from women talking about how the love was immediate for their baby as soon as she or he was born. They would tell me how the moment the baby was laid on their chest they were overwhelmed with emotions of love, joy, and happiness. (Can you hear the bells ringing right about now?) These stories of immediate love gave me visions of doves flying over head, cupid wings, and pure ecstasy!

Well….it wasn’t quite like that. The moment my baby girl was placed on my chest my first thought was that she looked just like my mother-in-law. Don’t get me wrong, my mother-in-law is a lovely woman but my baby girl was supposed to look like me! I was exhausted. My labor lasted sixteen hours only about twelve of which my epidural actually worked. I threw up several times and once I hit transition all I could do was cry and ask to go home. I was a mess. So when she was born I didn’t feel ready – I didn’t feel ready to mother. I felt ready to nap! Of course I nursed her and she was a champ. At one hour old she latched on and never looked back. Cluster fed every ten minutes for the first twelve hours and never let me so much as blink. If she wasn’t nursing she was crying. I lost any ability to think, therefore I neglected to check her diaper. I couldn’t figure out why she was crying until I opened up a poop diaper! What was I thinking? Obviously I wasn’t thinking that newborns do actually poop and pee. Wasn’t I paying attention in my newborn class?? I wasn’t feeling that connection or bond that I was told should happen immediately. In a loving attempt to gently place her back in the bassinet, I basically dropped her in. I was mortified! That did me in. What kind of mother am I going to be? I was not enjoying this at all. There were no doves, no music, and no ecstasy at all.

I had few people to talk to about it. Who was I going to tell this to and what would I tell them? That I’m not enjoying this mothering gig? I was only one day into it! My mother was there but could barely get past the idea that the hospital we were in did not have a well baby nursery. “You mean you can’t send her away for a break?” She was horrified. While Mom was supportive but there was still a distance in her ability to relate. When my mother had her first child 38 years ago things were very different. She recalls having a terrible labor – back labor, vomiting, you name it. Since she was not progressing, her doctor sent her for an x-ray. Yes, an x-ray. They actually conducted an x-ray on a pregnant woman, on purpose! Needless to say, they found my brother to be breach so a c-section was ordered. When my mother woke up the next day, my brother was brought to her wrapped tightly in a blanket. Swaddled, as we say today. A baby burrito. For the next five days, my brother was brought to my mom only when she was ready to have him, to feed him or just to visit. But, if she was napping, bathing, etc. he stayed in the nursery. She recalls the fact that not once single time during her stay in the hospital did she ever unwrap my brother! She never had to change his diaper! She laughs at how she never looked to see if he had all ten fingers and toes! What’s even funnier is that other women her age have the exact same experience! No one wanted to undo their baby and run the risk of upsetting the nurses! How times have changed….For her it was a wonderful experience…mothering on her time. So for her to empathize with me was a challenge. It was also impossible for me to share what I was feeling because of the shame I was feeling for not being blissfully happy! I was supposed to be in baby bliss but I wasn’t.

Of course, over the next few days the fog of exhaustion and delirium wore off and I felt more and more ready to mother. As I began to gain confidence and strength, I took the risk and actually shared some of my experiences with others. I was honest and said that I wasn’t exactly over the moon in love when she was first born. I admitted how I wanted to roll her bassinet right into the bathroom and close the door. Instead of negative reactions, people actually laughed and responded in a positive way. Some even hinted at a “me, too” response.

I have since made it a point to share with my pregnant friends the things that most people don’t share. I tell them the truth that it may not be as blissful as we think and want it to be. I think in many ways I set myself up assuming that it would be heaven-like. Well, it’s not. Child birth is hard, exhausting, emotionally draining to say the least. You have to make this gigantic leap from woman to mother and accept the extraordinary responsibilities that come with it all in the time it takes for the baby’s head to crown. That’s really hard to do after labor and all of the fun things you get to experience after the baby is born!

So, maybe it’s just me but for those whose child birth experiences were picture perfect, good for them. Is it just me? I can’t possibly be the only one whose journey into motherhood was filled with trepidation and stumbles. I just want to tell others that it is okay! It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be your experience. Wanting to roll her into the bathroom hasn’t in any way impacted the connection with my daughter. In fact, I will certainly tell her my story when she is ready to have a baby. It happens! My love for my daughter has grown each day and of course today there is a love like no other.

Happy Mothering!

Melanie