Friday, 7 February 2014

Time After Time

The other day, at about 6 am, I heard my eldest child crying in her room. When I went in to see what was wrong, she sobbed, "I want a hug and a kiss!" (our standard nighttime routine). She was completely convinced that she was just going to bed, although she'd actually been asleep for a good 10 hours.

That's how it is for kids: time has no meaning except for the rules and routines we apply to it. They live entirely in the present, while adults spend most of their time dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.

Since my mother died, I've spent a lot of time thinking about, well, time. When I look back, I have this feeling that I didn't maximize my time with her. I never asked her how she felt emotionally...what she thought lay in store for her "after" or if she was afraid. We never got to have a final conversation like the ones you see in the movies—where all issues are resolved with a loving embrace and a teary goodbye—since she was completely lucid one day and near-comatose the next.

That said, we all knew she was sick, and we had two years to have that conversation. So why didn't we? Denial surely played a role. I was many ways, it was just easier to focus on my somewhat demanding life, with a move to a new home, a challenging two-year-old and an exhausting pregnancy. But the other reason is simple: I thought we had time.

When you have children, time becomes more elastic and flexible than you ever thought possible. Those early newborn days can stretch into one seemingly endless night, where the hours have no meaning...yet somehow, overnight, my three-year-old's pants are too short and her wrists are dangling from the ends of her sleeves. In a heartbeat, my one-year-old became too big to lie across my lap when I rock her to sleep.

Time: we're always seeking more of it, yet we recklessly squander it. We don't always appreciate it—but when it's gone, we mourn its loss. And if we blink, we miss it: the brief, unremarkable moments that make life worthwhile.

As hard as it is sometimes, I will try to give my children more of my time...because no one knows how much time we really have. But when it comes to showing them how much I love them—how fully they own my heart—it's never too late.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Choosing Wisely

I read recently that the United Arab Emirates has introduced a new law that requires mothers to breastfeed for two years. Those who don't could be sued by their husbands. If a mother can't nurse for health reasons, she will have to use a wet nurse.

I'm not usually the type to get up in arms over political decisions, but words can't express how much I disagree with this. Why is it that as soon as a woman has a baby—actually, as soon as she gets pregnant—her body suddenly becomes public property? 

I can't tell you how many times in the past few years, through two pregnancies and having two infants, that I was told how to act, what to do or what not to do by people who don't even know me or have a vested interest in me or my family. "It's wrong to drink any alcohol when you are pregnant," a random stranger at a work event once advised me. (I was drinking sparkling water...did she think I was going to lunge across the table for the wine bottle? I admit that I did have the odd glass of wine during both pregnancies, but only very occasionally and always in moderation). "Your baby's feet are cold—she needs socks," another woman said to me while I was grocery shopping. ('s not wintertime, and she just pulls them off immediately, so what's the point?). The constant commentary used to drive me crazy; now, I've accepted that receiving unsolicited advice is part of being a mom.

But being told—in fact, legislated—how to feed your child? That's just not okay with me.

As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I tried really hard to nurse my first baby, but it just wasn't working. Giving it up was the best thing I could have done: I instantly had more time instead of being chained to a breast pump 24/7, felt better and bonded better with my baby. Even with my second—whom I ended up nursing for 14 months—there were times when I felt like I was nothing more than a food delivery system, constantly on call and spending hours alone with her in dark rooms to calm her down enough to nurse. And while I ultimately enjoyed bonding with her in this way, it took me a long time to get past the pain and discomfort (which became a whole new ballgame when she got her first teeth!) as well as the worry of being the only food source (what if I can't get her to latch? Is she getting enough?).

The last thing we need, in the world of parenting, is yet another way to propagate the "mom guilt" that is so very prevalent already. We need to trust mothers to make good choices for themselves and their children. Because if we don't trust them to feed and nurture their babies as they see fit, then what, exactly, do we trust them with?