Author Archives: Erika

Baby Advice – what I wish I could tell new parents

Baby Advice – what I wish I could tell new parents

Right, so, first thing’s first – I hate getting unsolicited parenting advice.  I hated it before we knew that Isaac was special, and I hate it even more now that the unsolicited advice is rarely helpful to our situation.  “Have you tried ABA?  I read an article that autistic kids do really well with ABA.” <sigh>  “Yes, oddly enough, I am in the know of the most common and documented autism therapy.  Thanks, though.”

Thus, I cringe when I hear myself *give* unsolicited parenting advice.  As it’s happening, my inner voice goes, “No.  NO!  What are you doing, crazy lady?  They hate this!  You hate this!  Stop stop stop!”

It’s rare.  I’ve gotten pretty good at biting my tongue.

But when a new baby comes on the scene, and especially when that new baby is part of my tribe (new nephew, good friend’s new kiddo, etc) – all this advice comes bubbling up and I hold it in.  My new nephew Charlie made his debut last week, and I have so. many. thoughts.

Then I realized – I have a blog!  I can type all my thoughts!  And it’s not giving unsolictied advice, because I’m just sharing my thoughts to the world!

If any new parents (hi Aidan!) happen to read this…well, so be it.  I’m not saying any of this is super helpful or whatever.  It’s just my list.

<drumroll please>

  1. You can’t make a baby sleep.  You can set up behaviors, rituals, and environments that are conducive to sleep…but none of those things guarantee sleep.  Babies do what they gotta do.  Roll with it.
  2. You can be 100% confident that they will either figure out sleeping through the night eventually, or that they will not sleep but will not bother you so you can sleep.  It will happen, someday.  You can set up behaviors, rituals, and environments that are conducive to that day coming, but you cannot make it happen.
  3. Nurse on demand.  It’s what your body and the baby’s body wants.  Be lazy, do what’s easy, nurse on demand.  I am the most scheduled person alive, and I nursed on demand because trying to make a baby shift to my schedule was horrible.
  4. Get life insurance ASAP.  Once anything is wrong with your kid – from autism to pre-existing health stuff – that insurance gets more expensive and harder to get.  Get it as soon after birth as possible – it’ll be super cheap and they have good options now that you can cash out at age 18 and use for college costs.
  5. Baths are important…but not, like, super-important.  If your kid looks dirty or smells, then bath them.  If they don’t, then don’t.  (I mean, babies are pretty gross so you end up bathing daily.  And a bathtime at night is conducive to helping with sleep.  All good reasons…but as kids get older?  If they look and smell clean, let it go.)
  6. You are going to be the primary influence on your kid – on their morals, their outlook on life, on how they view the world.  If someone else in your kid’s life doesn’t exactly match how you roll…it’s okay.  Your kid can still have time with, have a relationship with that person.  You’ve got this.
  7. The parent makes the weather in the house.  How you react to things – to mistakes, to thwarted plans, to rainy days, to running late, to when your kid messes up, or throws up all over you…how you react sets the tone for the whole day, the whole house, your baby’s whole world.  Breathe first.  Take care.  You make the weather.
  8. It is more important to be a good observer of your baby than to know all the facts and “should’s” and details of child development.  Speaking as someone who parented a baby who matched up with *none* of the milestones or sensory reactions of a typical baby…my knowing him, watching him, grokking him was so much more important than my knowing the “right” thing.  If something goes wrong – physical health, developmental delays – you knowing your baby will help the experts SO MUCH.  Watch.  Learn.  Be with them.  Be the expert in your kid.
  9. Ask for help, early and often.  Call the on-call nurse.  Rally your family and friends when you need them.  Related to 10.
  10. Have a village.  You cannot do this alone.  Even if you can for a short time with everything going fine, there will be a time when you cannot.  Deliberately build a village of people you know and trust who also know and love your baby.  Even if you don’t need a sitter right then, have one and be building that relationship for when you do – even if all you do is go out for coffee for 40 minutes and come back home.  So worth it to have that village when you need it.  And you will.

 

Okay, take it with a grain of salt – my parenting journey has been very specific to autism and being atypical.  But…this is what I want to share with the new parents I love.

Milestone Mulling

Milestone Mulling

Milestones often kick off a time of contemplation for me.  It’s like I’m just walking down a path – la di da di da – and suddenly I look up!  And I see how far I’ve come!  And I see my surroundings aren’t the same as when I started!

So I stop.  And take stock.  And think.  And eventually start walking again.  The time I spent around our 10th wedding anniversary (10 years!  It stopped me cold.) ended up being a hard period – but the work I did, the therapy I accepted, the communication built between Andrew and me, I feel is so for the good now.

This past week had a series of milestones all in a row, which means I’m feeling extra-contemplative:

– my brother and his wife had their first son, Charlie, who is named after my grandfather who passed away this past Christmas.

– Andrew turned 40.  40!

– I found a grey hair in my eyebrow (I know, what?) and had what I’m pretty certain was my first hot flash this morning.  This plus a couple of other symptoms leads me to think my body is saying “Welcome to the early days of perimenopause, Erika.  How ya doin’?”  (Answer – a little WTF about the whole thing, but in general just fine. Yes, going to doctor just in case it’s something else.)

All of these things are good things, or rather, to be expected things, normal things, things on the path…but I’m standing still and mulling right now.  Gonna swim down into the depths for a little bit, and am interested to see what I bring back to the surface with me.

Re-post from St. Stephens Episcopal Church Blog: God is always there as we journey towards Him

Re-post from St. Stephens Episcopal Church Blog: God is always there as we journey towards Him

Well!  I was asked to contribute some thoughts to the blog run by my church, St. Stephens Episcopal, here in Ridgefield, CT.  They ran this today – enjoy!

 

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God is always there as we journey towards Him

JULY 6, 2017

“Mommy!  Mommy!  MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!”

Ugh.  While my children did the appropriate amount of night-waking as infants and toddlers, we are well past that stage right now, and I am having a lot of difficulty with this 2am Mommy-alarm.

“Mommy, I’m really really really scared!”

Deep breath.  Get out of bed.  Stumble across the hall.

“Mommy,” my 6-year old tells me, “I woke up, and I was all alone, and GOD wasn’t there.”  He is sitting up in his bed, clutching his Winnie the Pooh, and the fear is real on his face.

I sit next to him on his bed, pull him into my lap, and hold him close….and wonder what on earth I’m going to say.  My general rule of thumb with him is to only answer the question he asks, and it’s gotten me through a lot of questions and ponderings as he begins to grapple with the more complex nuances of our world, and the Divine within it.

After my grandfather passed, questions of death and the afterlife naturally came up.  This is what the Bible says, I’d tell him, and this is what I believe, I’d share, but this isn’t something you can know, it’s something we trust in faith.  And it takes a lifetime.  And you change your mind a lot.  But that’s okay, because God is always there as we journey towards Him, working this all out.

He became enraptured with the Apostle Paul this past spring, and how he was one thing one day, and then ZAP he became another.  “Is being Jewish wrong, Mommy?” he asked.  “No,” I answered, and this is what the Bible says and this is what I believe and Jesus tells us to love, love, love and God loves everyone and that’s hard to wrap our minds around, but that’s okay, because God is always there as we journey towards Him, working this all out.

“Why do I have to give some of my toys to charity?” he demanded angrily as we prepared a box to donate to the upcoming Nutmeg festival.  This is what the Bible says about giving, I say, and this is what I believe, and boy is it hard sometimes to give, but that’s okay, because God is always there as we journey towards Him, working this all out.

God is always there.  I realize whatever he has asked, I’ve reiterated this as fact.  With all the nuance and area for interpretation I’ve shared with him, the fact that God is always there has never been up for discussion.

Yet, I don’t always feel that God is there.  There have been times when I’ve felt loved and cared for in Her arms, when I’ve felt the Holy Spirit lift me up and out, when Jesus has been just in my peripheral vision…and there have been times when I’ve called out in pain or for help, and it’s seemed as if my prayer is going into a void.  When a tragedy strikes, and I can’t process how a God who loves us so much and is all-powerful could allow it to be, and so how, how, is God there.

And finally, I remember.  When I was six.  I walked into the living room and found my mother sitting on the couch, hands relaxed and resting on her lap, eyes closed.  “What are you doing?” I asked.  “I’m praying,” she replied, “I’m listening.  Sometimes if you hold yourself very very still and quiet…you can hear God.”

I took this very, extremely, literally.  This seemed a magic trick I could surely do.  That night, I lay in my bed, and held myself very very still and was so so so quiet…and NOTHING.  I wasn’t sure how long I had to stay doing this, so with tenacity I maintained my still quiet state until (of course) I fell asleep.  I woke up the next morning so disappointed.  I truly believed God would say, “well, hello there, Erika! Good work being really still and quiet!  I love you!”  I kept my experiment, and failure, to myself…but it was the first time I allowed the thought to enter my mind – is God really here?

Six is a big age for existential angst, apparently.

“Baby,” I say to my son, “I know exactly how you feel.”

“I was all alone.” He sighed.

“I know how that feels.” I said.  “Honey, everyone feels that way sometimes.  It’s okay if you can’t feel God and that makes you feel alone or sad or mad.”

And maybe our next existential crisis could happen at a time other than 2am, I thought to myself.  Yawn.