Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Finding my Mothering App

I had a conversation with my ever wise friend, Danielle, a couple years back that changed my life. As we were talking about feeding infants and teaching kids to sleep she said, "You know, it's always helpful to talk to other mothers about things, and parenting books certainly have merit, but I feel like a lot of moms worry so much about 'what the experts say' that they ignore their own maternal instincts and intuition. You can know your own children and how to take care of them."

That conversation has played over and over in my mind. When I became a mother nothing about it felt natural or instinctive, like I thought it would. I wondered if I really could tap into that motherly intuition Danielle seemed to have so easily. I have worked to build that maternal sense. It seems to be a few parts logic mixed with a few parts experience, all carried by a higher power that is not my own.

In the last week it has become all the more real to me.

Exhibit A:

About ten days ago Roger brought home RSV and shared it with the baby, who I'd been working desperately to protect from sickness. He gave some to me, too. I watched it the first day, calling my nurse practitioner s-i-l, Jill, for advice. By the second day I was terrified. Sometimes it seemed like he could hardly get a breath. As I watched his chest and neck suck in, I reached for the phone and made a quick appointment with the doctor. At the appointment the doctor gave me two choices: admit him to the hospital or take him home and care for him. With her instructions, I felt confident I could care for him at home. But oh. It was miserable. My husband had to leave town, so I took my camp of sickies to my parents' home. My mom cared for Rog, who woke up in coughing fits each night, and my job was the baby. The first couple of nights I slept ten minutes at a time, waking up in a panic each time the baby snorted or gasped for air. I would tear the snaps on his sleeper open to check his chest. My throat was sore, I couldn't breathe, my head felt like it was going to explode. And I was terrified that if I actually went to sleep, I would wake up to find a dead baby. These were long days and even longer nights.

Then one afternoon everything changed. I fed the baby, sucked out his nose with the bulb syringe to ensure he had clear air passage, snuggled him up, and left him napping in the warm safety of my parents' den. I fed the big boys lunch, chatted with my mom, and took a shower, checking on the baby every now and then. As I watched him breathe and sleep soundly, my irrational behavior and morbid fears vanished as I realized that if I could leave him to nap in the day, I could sleep while he slept at night. If he was fed and his nose was clear, I knew he would be OK. I knew. And I trusted.

Now, several days, doctor appointments, doses of amoxicillin (ear infections all around), and prayers later, we are each on the mend. (Hallelujah!)

Exhibit B:

Yesterday morning I handed Rog a babybel cheese in the kitchen, then ran up to Blaine's room to help him get dressed for pre-school. It couldn't have been more than three minutes to help him choose his black corduroys and striped sweater. I came down stairs to see the cheese broken on the kitchen floor and the front door swung wide open. And I knew Rog was gone. When Roger gets hurt he runs to the next room to throw a fit instead of into my arms. That's his brand of tantrum. Obviously the cheese had broken and he'd gotten mad and run (and this time not just into the next room.)

I raced outside (grateful I was dressed to drive B to pre-school instead of in my typical morning half nudity). In the rain, I ran down one side of the sidewalk and turned the corner. No Roger. I ran down the other side. No Roger. We hopped in the van while I started scrolling through my phone and calling every neighbor I could. No one answered. I drove like mad around my little neighborhood searching for my little blonde. "Pray!" I ordered Blaine. Had he run to the park? To my neighbor Melanie's? He was nowhere. I started to panic. In my small-town neighborhood I was confident he wasn't kidnapped at 9 o'clock on a Tuesday morning. But when Roger's throwing a fit, he's not thinking very clearly, and I knew my greatest fear of a child getting hit by a car was entirely feasible this morning. I drove up to Talent Avenue, the main drag in our little city. No Roger. I drove back through our neighborhood. Where was he? I finally got a hold of Taylor and plead, "What should I do?!" I considered calling the police. He advised me to try a few more minutes. I hung up the phone and stopped at the intersection. My mothering voice told the crazy person in my head to stop panicking and focus. I calmed myself. I thought a prayer. I channeled my inner mother. He's gone farther she said. I knew I needed to cross this street and drive over into the next neighborhood. Halfway down the street, there they were. A man and a woman, carrying a child. My eyes filled with tears, I slammed on my brakes and ran to them. "That's my boy," I sobbed!

{The rest of the story is that these nice people had called the police, who, when they arrived, looked at me like I was a total ignoramus when they saw how far my pajama-clad, barefooted boy had run in the rain, and asked me why I didn't have an alarm on my door (who has an alarm on their door?!). It was awesome. I was just glad to have my boy back. He got a firm talking to that lasted pretty much all day. And on Saturday's to do list: install a high lock on the front door. OK and probably an alarm, too. Boy am I feeling like a shmuck.}

The jury is still out on what was scarier--listening to an infant struggle for air or searching the streets for my runaway boy. But I can tell you this: in each instance, once I found my center and channeled those mother instincts, we prevailed (and thank the holy heavens disaster hadn't struck yet when we did). You can call it intuition. You can call it your gut. I like to think of it as the mothering application of the Holy Spirit. I don't think it matters what you call it. But it is real. And it is power. Thank you, Danielle, for teaching me to find mine.



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