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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

I’ve got a confession to make. When I first discovered that Miguel and I were pregnant, I was a tiny bit apprehensive. Okay, I was worried. It’s not that I didn’t want to have kids, I have always wanted a family. Both Miguel and I love being around children, and before Max was even a glimmer in our eyes, we spent way too much time wondering what parenthood and our kid(s) might look like.  But when the moment of truth came, and I saw that little positive sign on the fourth white test stick, I got scared. I felt this fear that I’d lose myself, that I’d never be able to attain my career goals, that my time for me and only me (the redheaded, only-child Leo) was over.
I had nightmares of myself as a future burnt-out mom: tired, with bags under my eyes, ragged hair and schlumpy sweatpants, screaming at my toddler(s) to pipe down because I couldn’t hear my telenovela. Voices of moms I knew echoed through my head, “My husband and I NEVER go out anymore…The movies? You mean, go see a film in the theater?! HA!” I had daydreams of myself mopping the floor in tears awaiting rescue from a Rosie the Riveter type – a superheroine who’d whisk me away to the wonderful world of the working woman.

I lost sleep, fretting, making lists in my mind of what I could do to avoid this awful fate. Then it dawned on me. I’ll just flee South, where family and string cheese and warm weather await. Where I’ll have help and love and unconditional support everyday. Where I’ll be able to avoid the question on the tip of every New Yorker’s tongue,  “So, what are you working on these days?”

And that’s exactly what I did.

I took one last freelance gig, made some money and took off indefinitely.  When I arrived in Oaxaca, I didn’t know what was ahead of me or when I would be working next. And it didn’t matter. It was all about family now. (I wonder if this is what First Lady Michelle Obama felt like when she left her law career behind and stepped ever-so-gracefully into the role of White HouseWife and Mother extraordinaire.)

And so, for the past four and a half months, I’ve been immersed in the work of being a mother. Multitasking, nurturing, feeding, teaching. I can’t begin to explain how fortunate I feel to have the chance to do this. My kid is laughing belly laughs, rolling over and sucking two thumbs at a time – and I’ve been lucky enough to witness and relish every minute of it.  Until now.

Last week marked my first official week back to work. I’m teaching two media production courses (in Spanish!) at La Universidad Mesoamericana. I’ve also recently started shooting a few social interest documentary projects that just might end up developing into something bigger. It feels good to be working again. And each time I kiss my son goodbye and head out to class or a shoot, I realize how silly I was to have thought that having a baby would have meant the end of me.

I never lost myself.  My son is an addition to my life – a wonderful one.  I do spend tons of time taking care of him, but I’m still able to blow dry my hair, go out on mini-dates with my husband and find time for me and my career. If anything, I’ve found that the little guy has been a real inspiration for me to keep pushing forward. Now it’s not only about me and my ego – following my dreams is modeling good behavior.

Slumdog MillionaireLooking back on those first days of my pregnancy, I remember the moment when worry started to wane in favor of joy. I was (where else?) at the movies, watching Slumdog Millionaire by myself – well, with baby actually. During the previews, I sent Miguel a text message, the first one from the both of us. I also promised my son that this was the first of many movies, not excluding my own, that I would be happy to take him to see on the big screen.

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Okay so, this being a mom thing – I really love it. I mean, I love my kid more than life itself – he’s amazing. No, really, he’s AMAZING.  He comes to parties, art-openings, out to swank restaurants and just chills. I simply throw him in the sling and we’re off. I’ve chatted with numerous Mamas and have been told that this is not the norm for many two month olds, so I feel really lucky. Some people think I’m crazy to take him out with me wherever, whenever, passing him around like a hot potato – but he doesn’t make a fuss and it works for us.  As long as Maxwell is fed, changed and not in the same place or position for too long, he’s super tranquilo. I appreciate that he’s down to come out. And I know it won’t last forever, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

I know that in a few months, he’ll hit that super-Neanderthal baby stage, when he starts crawling and teething and putting everything on Earth in his mouth, and we may end up a bit more homebound, just because it’ll be easier.  And as much as I love going about my life and taking my kid along, I’m surprised at the ease with which I’ve come to appreciate the “stay at home mom” thing.  I can’t believe it, but I don’t mind being home as much as I thought I would.

Sometimes I’m the quintessential Mexican Mama. I spend entire days cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and listening to talk radio. I’ve officially come in contact with my inner Donna Reed. And it’s easy to do that here – in a place where being a mother is looked at as a given, a good thing, a priority.

Also, the fact that I’m a mom makes me feel more integrated, more part of the community here. Before, I was just a Gringa, an outsider, a tourist. Then when I was pregnant with a half-Mexican kid, I gained some more clout. Now, with a babe in a rebozo, strolling through the market, I realize that I’m part of a club, the not-so-secret society of Mexican Mothers.  I was thrilled to discover I was automatically a member of this club, but it turns out there’s some hazing involved. There are some very specific rules that MUST be followed, and unfortunately, I never got the handbook, so I get reminders, suggestions and advice in all forms at least once a day…

For instance, just in case I don’t know, or I might have forgotten, Oaxacan friends, family members and perfect strangers consistently remind me of the most basic thing: CUIDARLO! Take CARE of your baby!  How old is he? Wow! So little! Be careful with him on the street!  Then rules get more specific (sometimes insistent) often having to do with climate concerns. Cover him up! Put a hat on him. A winter hat! And don’t forget the socks! Isn’t he cold? (It’s 77 degrees.) Isn’t it a little late for him to be out? (It’s 7:45pm) Isn’t he a bit squished in that sling you have him in? (Noooo.) You’re not going to bring him into the KITCHEN, are you? (Huh?) If he’s exposed to the smell of food, he’ll get swollen glands! (Hmmm. I’ll take it into consideration.)  Where’s his red string? (Red string?) He needs a piece of red string on him to ward off the evil eye. (Oh, right! I’m on it.)  And are you drinking your Atole?

Let me pause here on the Atole bit. Rewind to when I was 8 months pregnant. Everyone and their mother told me that in order for my milk to come in, I should drink Atole. Atole is kind of like a cream corn soupy porridge, but without that perfect sweet-salt-cream combination. It’s this THICK, hot, grainy, maiz based beverage which I liken to the gruel that made Oliver Twist get out of his chair and demand “Food glorious Food.”   Sorry, ladies who love it. I know it’s supposed to increase your milk supply immensely, and I do feel bad about offending the Mexican corn goddess, but YUCK! And if I had a dime for how many women have told me that I need to drink Atole, I’d be living on a beachfront property in Puerto Escondido right about now. (By the way – my milk supply – out of control. I’m a fountain over here, no Atole necessary.)

Okay, glad I got all that out. Enough kvetching. I’ve known for a long time that Mexico, like everywhere, has its own idiosyncracies. Yes, it is sometimes challenging to be discovering motherhood a world away from my darling NYC, (where it really is freezing but nobody would dare tell me to cover up my kid). But it’s actually comforting to know that so many people are genuinely concerned for the well-being of my son. In the end, being in Oaxaca reminds me that the old adage – it takes a village to raise a child – is still in effect… I’m glad I’m here to witness and be a part of it.

Now, I know I’ve got some red string around here somewhere…

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Labor Day has taken on a completely new meaning for me this year. I’m four weeks away from my due date (more or less) and taking all necessary steps to prepare myself to have our kid at home.
Yep, you heard it here, I’m going to join the ranks of indigenous women all over the planet (and a very small percentage of modern ladies, not to mention celebs – Ani Difranco,  http://www.mindful-mama.com/media/p/26.aspx   Demi Moore, and Meryl Streep  http://www.merylstreeponline.net/healthy.html ) and go for it in the comfort of my own casa.
Miguel and our two amazing midwives, Cristina and Araceli will be here with me.  We’ve got a massive tub or (tina) coming, in case I want to give birth in water.  We’ve got an OBGYN whom I’ve already had check ups with (and worked with) who has worked with the midwives before and is considered our backup.  (He´ll be able to attend me either at a clinic or at the Civil Hospital (2 minutes away) “por si las moscas” – just in case.) 
So, against the advice of about 72% of friends and friends of friends who have given birth, I’ve opted to not be in a hospital or clinic, and to go it natural – no drugs available.  No epidural, no Demerol, nothing to even take the edge off.   
What do I hope to achieve by doing this? Well, first of all, I want to say for the record that I don´t have anything to prove. In the end, all Miguel and I want is to have a healthy baby.  But I do want to experience my son´s birth in the most organic way possible.  
Why a home birth? It´s pretty simple for me. Some women feel comfortable in hospitals with technology all around them at the ready, and that´s what they need.  Personally, hospitals don´t make me feel safe, they make me feel like an outsider, intimidated, and sometimes even frightened. 
When I am experiencing the most intensely profound and intimate moment of my life, I don´t want to be bathed in flourescent light, surrounded by people who I have never met before.  (This inevitably happens in most all Mexican hospitals.)  Being at home in my own space, in the company of my amazing partner and two women who have delivered hundreds of babies gives me confidence. 
Why no drugs? I´ve heard all sorts of stories, “Go for the Epidrual, girlfriend!  It´s sweet relief!” or  “You´re nuts if you want to go through that pain. It´s not necessary!”   But others have said they have felt completely “cut off” from the experience.   I don´t wnat to be cut off from the experience. In the end, a home birth choice equals no access to such drugs.  

And so the last weekend of summer is upon us.  I can imagine all of my Brooklyn friends making plans for the long weekend, some choosing to escape the city for the quiet of a B&B on the Hudson, others keeping it local – fireworks, frisbee, a Prospect Park BBQ.  But for me, Labor Day has taken on completely new meaning this year. Four weeks away from our due date, Miguel and I are spending the weekend ticking off things on a long list of preparations for our home birth. 

Yep, you heard it here, I’m going to join the ranks of indigenous women all over the planet (not to mention celebs like Ani DifrancoRicki Lake, & Demi Moore) and go for it in the comfort of my own casita.

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    demi moore pregnant vanity fairricki_lake_your_best_birth3

Miguel and I have chosen Cristina and Araceli, two well-respected, seasoned midwives (who happen to run their own Oaxacan midwifery school) to be with us on our day. We’ve got a massive tub coming, in case I want to give birth in water. We’ve got a progressive OBGYN whom I trust as our backup.  I’ve already had check ups with him, and even produced a video with him about “the humanization of childbirth” in Oaxaca. He knows our midwives and will be able to attend me either at a clinic or at the Civil Hospital (2 minutes away) “por si las moscas” – just in case. 

So, against the advice of about 72% of friends (and friends of friends) who have given birth, I’ve opted to NOT be in a hospital or clinic, and to go it natural – no drugs available.  No epidural, no Demerol, nothing to take the edge off.   Some people think I’m nuts.  I´ve heard it all, “Go for the Epidural, girlfriend!  It´s sweet relief!” or  “You´re crazy if you want to go through all that pain! In this day and age, it´s not necessary!”   But then there are others who have gotten the shot, and have said they have felt completely “cut off” or “detached” from the experience.  I don´t want to risk being cut off from the experience. Regardless, by having chosen two midwives who only attend home births, I’ve opted out of the drug possibility, and I’m at peace with that. 

Okay, so why a home birth? It´s pretty simple for me. Some women feel comfortable in hospitals with technology all around them, and that´s what they need.  Personally, hospitals don´t make me feel safe, they make me feel like an outsider, intimidated, and sometimes even frightened. 

When I am experiencing what I imagine will be the most intensely profound and intimate moment of my life, I don´t want to be bathed in blue flourescent light, with people I’ve never met before checking out my vulva UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.  What I do want is to be able to connect with my husband, switch positions, drink water, and focus.  I want to let the process happen naturally.  If I arrive at 24 or 48 hours and the babe still isn’t ready to come out, then he’s not ready, but I don’t want to be told that I need to be induced, cut, pushed along or given a Cesarian, just because things are taking longer than modern medicine says they should.  (If I go to any Mexican hospital, the aforementioned things are very likely to happen as Oaxaca has an 80% rate of Cesarian. To put that in perspective, in Japan there is a 10% rate of Cesarian.) But I digress. All I know is, being at home, in my own space, in the company of my amazing partner and two women who have delivered hundreds of babies is going to make the process of laboring easier for me. Punto.  

What do I hope to achieve by going this route? Well, first of all, I want to say for the record that I don´t have anything to prove. In the end, all Miguel and I want is to have a healthy baby. We know we have to be open to the possibility that things could take an unexpected turn. (This is why our backup plan is so elaborate.)  That said, I do have (and will retain) the hope that I will be able to experience my son´s birth in the most organic way possible. 

The whole experience of being pregnant, educating myself and making choices has been a challenging and wonderfully insightful process for me. The only thing I can say I have learned for certain is that each woman I meet has her own set of beliefs, ideas, needs, and hopes for her labor and delivery experience.  So, hey, if you’re one of the 216,000 women who is going to give birth on the same day as I am, and you believe you need a shot, get the shot. If you don’t think you can bare the pain and want to schedule your Cesarian for next Tuesday, schedule your Cesarian for next Tuesday.  I’m gonna try my hardest to have a natural home birth with midwives, the way women have been doing it for centuries.  

This is what I wish for my Labor Day.  

 

 

Curious about how I made my choice?  Check out INA MAY’s Guide to Childbirth.

 

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I think it’s safe to say that approximately 32.6% of my decision to move to Oaxaca was based on the fact that we’d be living around the corner from my one-of-a-kind mother-in-law, Carmelita. Not only is she the most outgoing, entertaining, happy-go-lucky Oaxaqueña I have ever met, she’s also retired and DYING for a new grandkid (her other three grandkids are 7, 13, & 15.) On top of this, she loves me to death.

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Every time I go over to her house she has some wonderful little surprise for me. For instance, yesterday, Miguel and I decided we would lunch with the folks, and when we called them to let them know we’d be coming over, Mama asked us what we wanted to eat. I said “Tinga!” (Tinga is a delicious chicken tomato onion stew goulash that you eat with tortillas.)  Of course it takes about two hours to make Tinga, and since we called them right before lunch, it wouldn’t have been possible yesterday. Fast forward to today, just before lunch, Carmelita calls us to let us know that (SURPRISE!!) my Tinga is ready and waiting for me. And that’s only the half of it.  For real…

What, it´s too hot in here, Miranda? Oh, let me get you a fan… You’re thirsty? Oh, let me get you a lemonade… You’re not feeling so well? Let me rub your back. You want to go to Yoga? Let me pay for that. You want to use cloth diapers? Oh, no problem – I’ve already bought the material and sewed 50 for you… I know it sounds like I´m a spoiled brat, but, well, I am. And I am loving every minute of it.

carmelita and me.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I feel a little guilty and have to put the brakes on, like when she “steps in” while I´m doing my laundry and wants to finish it for me. Or when she IRONS the baby clothes. (Seriously, who IRONS baby clothes? Totally unnecessary.) But it’s the love that I can see in her eyes, when I walk in the door, when she gives me a big hug and rubs my belly, that makes me feel unbelievably blessed. There’s just something so wonderful about having a motherly woman doing motherly things for you in such an unconditional way. I think that this is one of the reasons I´m supposed to be here now- to be on the receiving end, to know and feel what it’s like, and to really understand what it is that I will one day offer my own child. 

Everyday in her actions, Carmelita teaches me another lesson about offering up unconditional motherly love.

Last week, she told Miguel and I that we’ll have to get a petate soon (this is basically a straw mat that you put on the floor) because she will be sleeping over a few times a week after the baby comes so that she can help us. Really? A 58 year old woman (who lives 5 minutes away) is volunteering to sleep on a straw mat on the floor so that she can wake up to baby’s cries and help us do dishes, clean the house, cook and change dirty diapers?  Now, that’s love.  Unconditional, motherly love.

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