Crafty Momma

Crafty Momma

Apparently, there’s a trend in the birth world that I find a little disturbing…

Pregnant women are going online to get ideas about how to create impressive Gift Baskets to give to their L&D Nurses on the day that they give birth.

Now, don’t get me wrong! I ADORE Labor & Delivery nurses – they are the front line of support and care in a hospital birth and I know first-hand how hard they work to provide families with a positive birth experience. So it’s not the gratitude that I take issue with at all. And I hope it goes without saying that your nurses are 100% committed to helping you, your partner and your baby have a healthy birth – gift, or no gift!

However, if after the birth of your baby, you feel compelled to acknowledge your nurses role in this awesome event, then by all means – thank them. But thank them in ways that are heartfelt and meaningful – to you.

I’m sure that nurses enjoy receiving coffee cards, candy, donuts (or any of the other gift basket ideas that you can find on Pinterest for this specific purpose!)… but they might appreciate hearing what they did specifically to help make your birth experience positive even more.

Nurses, like most other professionals, strive to improve in how they do their jobs. And nurses, like most other professionals, don’t get to hear the good stuff (positive feedback) as often as they should. It’s usually when something doesn’t go well that they get an earful! And while this information might be instructive, it can also make their job more challenging.

If you feel like your nurses did an amazing job, take the time to write down their names before you leave the hospital. And once you feel settled in with your baby (days, weeks, months later – it doesn’t really matter!) send a note of gratitude addressed to the nurse manager of the hospital where you delivered your baby and mention your nurse by name.

Provide those important details about what she did and how she made you feel on one of the most important days of your life. If you had to make some decisions that were really difficult for you, what did she say or do as the circumstances of your birth changed that made it okay for you? What was it about her demeanor or her personality that you and your partner appreciated the most?

This letter of appreciation can have far greater impact than a gift basket of candy ever could! The nurse will be recognized on the unit for her care and attention to you and your new family and this will likely encourage others to do more of the same. It will become part of her professional file, referenced at her annual review and this can positively impact the trajectory of her professional career, as well.

But, really, why am I not in full support of the L&D Nurse Gift Basket idea? Because, honestly, it is a really nice thing to do.

I’m concerned that this may mark the moment many women start to feel pressured by some of the expectations that go along with what it means to “become a mother.” (Duh, duh, duh!)

Is it possible that this is where the pressure to “curate” your baby’s life moment-to-moment begins? Does this curation of childhood come with the job? Are you a crappy Momma if you don’t bring in an elaborate L&D Nurse Gift Basket?

I want to make sure that those women for whom gift baskets, and scrapbooks are a part of who you are do not in any way feel judged. I have many friends for whom this would be a natural extension of how they operate in the world. Whipping together a basket of goodies or lovingly creating yearly scrapbooks that capture pictures and detailed descriptions of their children’s major milestones is a joy for them to create! They have the time, energy, desire and inclination to take these projects on. These activities and projects are some of the things that feed them creatively as women. Please hear me say this: You are amazing!

No, this is a post for those of us (ahem!) who might not be the world’s most crafty. Those of us who would seriously be lost in a Michael’s store. Those of us who might not have the time, energy, and absolutely no desire or inclination to take on these projects – but maybe feel an intense pressure that this is part of what it means to be a mother.

Calm down and take some deep breaths. Because you know what? These kinds of projects are not prerequisites to be being a Momma. And please hear me say this: You are ALSO amazing!

I’m the fourth out of six kids in my family. I can remember the first time I compared my baby book with my brother Jeff’s (he’s the oldest). I’ll admit it – at the ripe old age of about eight, I kind of felt ripped off! My brother’s book had pictures throughout, and there were statements about his important “firsts” and all of the blank spaces for information – where he was born, what time he came into the world, who his doctor was, blah, blah blah – were all filled in. My book only had a few copies of the same baby picture and a wrinkled copy of my birth certificate shoved in between some pages in the middle.

But now, as a mother to four of my own, I’m not the least bit upset about the baby book situation. I get it. I understand completely. I am, in a lot of ways, my mother. And while I’d like to claim it’s in all the ways that she’s fabulous in this role, for the purposes of this post I’ll concentrate on one fact: she was not the greatest curator of our childhood. Not in the way that involved beautifully created scrapbooks or completely filled in baby books.

And guess what? Neither am I. 

I rarely take pictures of my kiddos. If I do, I might post them on Facebook – but more often than not, I don’t even do that! The pictures live in my phone. (And they’re usually not very good anyway…)

Instead, I have a big cardboard box in my kitchen that I throw things into that I think might be worthy of keeping for posterity: drawings, funny homework pages, poems and other writing projects, awards, certificates, etc. About once a year I go through the box – and immediately recycle at least half of it. Only the things that still resonate with me or best represent my kiddos’ past year get to stay – everything else goes.

My kids don’t know this, but I have four big tupperware storage bins downstairs in the basement. The best of the best gets transferred from the cardboard box in the kitchen to their individual bins in the basement. (This is an idea that I stole from my own Mom and it suits me just fine.) When my kids turn 21, I will go through each of their bins and place only those things that have stood the real test of time into their “21 Book.”

This I can do. This is not too much for me. This will be a gift to put together as my children are becoming adults – and I look forward to giving it to them.

I can promise you that it won’t be fancy. I won’t be using scissors that make cuts in different patterns. I won’t be using any stickers or bubble letters, or decorate each page with color-coded borders. It will be a big-ass binder full of “stuff” that they can look through with their own children someday – laughing about their outdated hairstyles and fashion, feeling proud of their accomplishments, enjoying their kid print and art.

The pressure to raise an infant into adulthood as a fully developed human being is huge, my friends.

The curation of this childhood adds a whole other layer of pressure that can be unbearable at times – and if it starts at your baby’s birth, imagine how it might feel to curate their first birthday, the holidays… And later on, school spirit days and science projects!

If you’re like me, and crafting projects are not your thing, know that it never has to be.

Mommas come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, abilities – and levels of craftiness. If you don’t feel compelled to bring a gift basket with you to your birth, don’t do it.

I can tell you that when I bumped into one of my nurses months after my daughter’s birth, fumbling over my words of appreciation about her kindness and caring that helped me so much at the start of my journey as a new mother, her smile let me know that she appreciated my gratitude just as much (or even more as far as my non-crafty mind wishes to believe!) as a big gift basket of goodies.

How about you? Are you someone for whom the gifts basket idea really resonates? And if so, what did/will you create for the birth of your baby? If you’re like me, does this post help lessen the pressure to be “The Crafty Momma?” Are you breathing a little bit easier knowing you don’t have to be all that? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea. Thanks for sharing and commenting.

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Letting Go

Driver's Ed

I just got back from taking my “baby” to get her driver’s permit. She passed! And now I have to decide what emotion I’m feeling after paying the $32.50 that was required for her to smile for a photo that allows her to legally get behind the wheel of an automobile. Is it pride? Fear? Sadness?

Wistfulness might be the closest to what I’m feeling, but not in a melancholy or regretful way – wistful, as in reflective.

I have raised my “baby” to grow up to be an independent, young woman. And to be honest, I was shocked that she’d waited this long to take the test – an accurate picture of how different it is growing up in Portland, Oregon rather than Indianapolis, Indiana. Portland, as you may have heard in any number of magazines, is one of the easiest places in the world to get around without ever needing to know how to drive. We have several ways of getting from point A to point B. Our Tri-met system includes busses with routes all over the city and beyond, The Streetcar, The Max, and more bike lanes than almost anywhere else in the country. Indianapolis, on the other hand, was a place where to take a bus from where I lived, I’d have to drive to find a bus stop several miles away, first. Things might be different today, but the day I turned 16, I made my parents take me directly to the DMV so I could pick up my license and drive us all home – and I never looked back.

It just seems that now that it’s my girl’s turn to be in the driver’s seat, that the time has passed too quickly. Now, I promise all the newish parents reading this that I have not forgotten how rough it was at first. When I was doing it myself, I felt like the 4th Trimester was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life! For the record, I still feel this way! But despite these feelings, I did it again three more times! What is wrong with me?!

Well, it gets better from there (I promise!) And while I’ll admit that there are moments in that newborn period that are so full of wonder and awe it’s almost magical, I think those same babies become so much more interesting as they get older.

Half of my children are teenagers right now, and I’m going to share something with those of you still stuck in diaper and breastfeeding mode: Do not buy into the myth that teenagers are terrible people that you will hate having in your life almost as much as they will hate having you for their parents.

I think this narrow expectation is at the root of a lot of the issues that can crop of between parents and their teens, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Broaden your expectations about this time, and try to remember what it was like to have your hormones in control of your body, your mind and your soul  – and you’ll do okay. I’m not saying it’s a cakewalk, I’m just not sure that reality always fits the myth. So true for most of the stories you hear about parenting – at any age.

One thing that I’ve been told (by my own mother, nonetheless) that has proven to be absolutely true about parenting is this: “The days go by slowly, but the years go by too fast.”

I am reminded of this today, as my girl takes that next necessary, anticipated and completely supported step toward her full independence from me. I remember our first Christmas together as a new little family and marvel at all that has transpired since. This act of parenting never ends, and in ways even though it’s so much easier now, in others it’s even harder.

Not the parenting, per se, but the act of letting go.

It’s been happening since the moment she left my body, even before the umbilical cord was cut, she was already leaving me – this one being suddenly made two – and I am preparing myself for her full leave-taking which will be happening soon. The next two and half years will be chock full of days that go by at a snail’s pace, but I will blink and the years will have flown away.

So, in this season of gifts, recognize the gifts of your family as they are, in real-time, in all its messiness. Try your hardest to not wish it to move forward too soon. Time is already taking care of that for you.

Look at your baby in your arms once again. Memorize the contours of her sleeping face, feel the weight of her warm and trusting body nestled against you. Give thanks to the ones that made you a parent. And begin the wistful process of letting them go.

The secret beauty of it all is that they never really leave you – they are forever imprinted upon your heart.

Are you still in that phase of, “When will this challenge ever end?” Is it possible to pause to be in these moments with your little one(s) – even if this moment is not pretty and moving in slow motion – and savor them?

I’m Ready for My Close Up!

Capture10:3

As new parents you might be tempted to try and capture every moment with your new baby. This is true of almost every parent – even those of us who had babies before smart phones were ever invented! (I know, I know… I’m old.)

I’m putting this in writing for the sake of my two younger children – it’s not that I care any less for them. But if you were to look around my house, it would  appear that I only have two children. And really, it would look like I adore #1, and I kinda like #2 based solely on the number of actual photos that are in frames. And then I just stopped having children. In reality, I went on to have two more. It’s not that I don’t capture any moments of #3 or #4, it’s just that they’re all stuck on the computer,or my phone. Rarely do they ever get posted anywhere! Am I bad Momma? No, I’m a just busy one.

I’m happen to be #4 of six children in my own family. My oldest brother’s baby book was completed from cover to cover – snips of light brown curls from his first haircut, his first lost tooth, all of the major milestones written out in detail. And my baby book? Well – at least it has my name written in it.

Now, when I was young, I was a little resentful of that, I’m not going to lie to you. But today? Not a chance – because I recognize just how full my life is and trying to capture every single damn minute of our amazing fun and exciting adventures would be impossible! (Just a hint of sarcasm here.) I’m also not someone who’s very good at the selfie (I just got on Instagram six months ago and I think I’ve posted five times). Clearly, photography is not one of my strengths.

I’d like to provide a word of caution to all of you new parents about trying to capture all of those countless moments of your baby as a newborn. Take some, for sure, because in looking back you won’t be able to remember they were ever that tiny when they were fresh and new to this world. But sometimes, when the urge to snap a quick photo and post to social media hits you, stop yourself and just try to take it all in. This moment, now. What made it so important that you wanted everyone to see it? Reflect on that and maybe capture that image, that moment, in your heart instead.

So much of our lives are lived online these days that it’s precious relief to find stolen moments when no one else needs to see this or experience it except for you and your new little family. Breathe in the scent of your delicious new little baby, smile at the sweetness with which your partner gives them a bath, take a selfie of the three of you – that no one else will ever see.

Some of this transition to parenting is so very hard and real and messy – but we rarely ever see a post or a picture about that anywhere. We’ve yet to find an outlet that allows or approves of the reality of new parenting. And so instead, the only things we ever see are how wonderful life is with a newborn. A lot of it is, but let’s be real – a lot of it isn’t. Don’t get sucked into the myth that your worth as new parents needs to live up to the “magical moments” you capture for consumption on social media.

I’m not saying to stop being a part of the social media landscape, I’m in it, too! But recognize, as well, that every single second of every single day your baby is changing and growing – and so are you. All of you moving through this “new normal” that feels so abnormal while you’re stuck in the middle of it. But the only images that ever make it onto your computer screen or phone, are the great ones. We don’t post the not-so-great ones, do we? Maybe it’s because when we look back, we only want to remember that it was a positive time, our transition to parenthood. But that’s not based on reality and I think it robs you and your partner from acknowledging the incredibly hard work that went into this life-changing transformation.

So, maybe you capture a few of the not-so-great images, too. Don’t worry, you don’t need to post them anywhere, they can be just for you. Images that record your early parenting “fails” to help you realize that this is how it’s always been: a series of ups and downs as you learn and grow into this new role that has been thrust upon you. When you think about it, nine months is really not enough time to be truly prepared for the enormity of parenting. But you can do this. You are doing this. It’s not necessary to capture every moment of it for posterity. There are things about this time that make permanent impressions that will never be forgotten.

Because they’ve been captured in your heart.

As new parents are you finding it challenging to keep up with the task of capturing all the milestones of your new baby’s life? Would it make your transition easier to lighten up on this a little bit? What are your thoughts about capturing the not-so-great moments of new parenting?