Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The joy of seeing mama

What a joyous experience I had this morning to see and hear my son's pure happiness at my presence. I was about ready to head out for work as he came downstairs. He saw dad and gave him a pleasant enough hello. Then he saw me and his face lit up. Mamaaa!! he said, his eyes wide and bright, his mouth expressing both wonder and joy. Mamaa!!! he walked right past dad, no longer paying him the slighest interest. Then he stopped to point out the treasure he found. "Look, mama!" he said, to Mark, as though he should be similarly overjoyed with my presence. He then walked over to me for a hug and a kiss, twirling my hair and so content to just be near me.

I can't even describe what a wonderful feeling it is to be so loved and wanted. It does make me sad that Mark doesn't get to experience this. But I'm so very grateful that I do. It made me wish I could put off going to work for a couple more hours.

I have a friend who has a very close relationship with her mother. My friend lives overseas and as a result, her mother doesn't get to spend much time with her grandkids. One might think that would drive them apart. When I asked her what made them so close, she said it was the true happiness she heard in her mom's voice every time she called. There was never a question of why haven't you called in so long. But instead, joy and gratitude at the gift of communication.

That's what I feel right now from my son - joy and gratitude for my presence. And that makes me want to be the best mother I can be to him. I hope that as he gets older and we face our respective disappointments, that I can mirror this to him - a consistent gratitude and pleasure in his presence.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The importance of personal bonds

This is an interesting thought piece, that comes at an important time for me. I also need to keep the points of this article in mind – that’s it’s the interpersonal bonds, not the achievements, that impact lasting happiness.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I’m starting to mentally wrap my mind around the idea of a second. I’m not really ready yet. I still don’t want to go through a pregnancy or a childbirth. I still weigh more than I’d like to before getting pregnant. My work situation is not perfect. But I also know that waiting a lot longer doesn’t make a lot of sense either. So I’m starting to get prepared.

I’m off the birth control and back to charting my cycles. I’m through one month and back to a sense of how things are working. I’m picking up a couple of free pregnancy tests from a freecycle neighbor this evening, just to have on hand. I’m setting up doctor’s appointments to for general health checks. I’m planning trips and vacations this year with the expectation that travel next year will be much more difficult with a baby in tow. And I came SO close to buying a Big Bro shirt that was on clearance at Gymboree. We haven’t even made an attempt yet and I’m already on the verge of buying clothing that makes an announcement. That, to me, is what says I am about as ready as I’m going to be.

Daddy's in the doghouse

And we don’t know why. The doctor says it’s the Oedipal complex. And perhaps she is right. She said it would last about a year, which jibes with my friend’s statement that her son started paying attention to his father when he turned three. But boy, it’s bad. I really feel sorry for Mark. And I feel especially bad trying to convince him for a second when he’s being so clearly rejected by the first. Who wants to voluntarily bring on something that requires so much work and sacrifice, but little love in return?

River will be in a happy, cheerful mood, until dad walks in the room.

“Huggies?” dad asks.

“No huggies!!!!” River shouts emphatically.

“Kissies?” dad asks.

“No kissies!”

If dad approaches and tries to get a hug or kiss, River will push him away and shout, “Nooo!”

“Stuffed bear?” dad asked, trying to find something to endear him to River.

“No stuffed bear!”

“Adios River,” dad will say. And only then River brightens up, “Adios papa.” “Adios papa,” he’ll repeat cheerfully. Then he’ll often proceed to ask me for the stuffed bear his dad had just offered me, or come give me a hug.

This morning I wouldn’t give him the bear. I figured his dad had just offered it to him and he’d said no. If he really wanted the bear, he should have taken it from his dad. Other times, when he makes a request, like mama flush the caca, mama take me down from the seat, I’ll oblige, as long as it’s not very inconvenient for the family. But man, I feel bad for Mark.

I wish there was something I could do turn on the love button for him. I’m sure it will come eventually, and I’m afraid the tables will turn one of these days. I’m so grateful that I’m not the one in the doghouse, as that would make me worry terribly about my ability as a parent. But it also hurts to see it happen to Mark.


Last night I met a colleague whose 4-year-old son is receiving treatment for leukemia. He was diagnosed in the fall and faces another two years of chemo. She spoke of how he spent three days in the hospital last week due to an ear infection, which caused a fever.

“Any parent knows that a fever of 105 is no big deal,” she said, explaining how he was just going through a standard kid ear infection, but because of the leukemia, was held in the hospital.

I tried to not give away how I really didn’t understand, but I think my look was blank. No, I have no idea what dealing with a 105 degree fever in my child is like. I don’t know what an ear infection is like. I have never seen vomit or diarrhea from my child. Almost every parent I know has dealt with one of those things, but we have been blessedly exempt. If I can’t even fathom those simple illnesses, how can I fathom what it is like to parent a child with leukemia? Especially as a single parent of two with a half hour commute. I can’t. At all.

I can only feel an empathy so intense that if I could translate it into help for her, I would. I can only feel an intense sadness and sense of unfairness that her son has to deal with the fear of death before he has really started to live.

“One of the drugs he is getting is a derivative of mustard gas,” she said. “Who could imagine injecting that into your child? But you do what you have to do.”

It made me feel silly for worrying about chemicals on non-organic grapes, when other children are facing mustard gas derivatives.

I’m simultaneously so damned grateful that River’s hold on life and health is so strong. And I’m scared to know how tenuous that is. To realize that even what seems to be the firmest hold, can be cut so suddenly. And when something happens, we are going to be so unprepared, having had no experience. Just thinking about the possibility was so upsetting to Mark, that he didn’t want to talk about this little boy. It was clear he knew that one little flip of fate, and it could be our son.

Motherhood in France

Interesting article here about a now-popular book on motherhood in France. I don’t agree with all her points, but I do agree with the main theme – that mothers are probably going to be happier people if they get themselves a life in addition to their role as mothers.

I believe that society should help to make that happen, including not being judgmental about the choices they make. It’s their body, their life, and their child. If it’s not going to kill the kid or stunt it, then I think the mother is best positioned to decide what is right.

I grew up on formula, processed baby food and disposable diapers and can’t see any evident lasting negative effects from that. Perhaps a bit of breastfeeding would have helped the bond with my mother. However, knowing my anxious, perfectionist, needs-a-lot-of-sleep mother, I think it’s quite possible she was best served by my dad feeding me bottles in the middle of the night.

A mom in better mental and emotional shape usually leads to better times spent with the kids.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The moments that count

It’s been a rough couple of months, with lots of self-doubt, frustration and struggles for balance. Within this, I find that the moments that make me happiest are the fun times I spend with my family. It feels wonderful to be greeted at the door with a high-pitched “Mamaaaaaaa,” and outstretched arms waiting for a hug. I
feel appreciated and validated when my presence is requested to climb on, to be witness to something or to entertain. I don’t need any special skills or talents. I’m not being compared with anyone else. I’m accepted and wanted for who I am.

That’s not to say that I don’t still get joy from other things I used to be passionate about. Upon arrival in Africa, I definitely had a “Cool, I’m in Africa!” moment, where I was thankful I could both be a mother and have that opportunity. I’m still enthusiastic about the appearance of spring buds and flowers, of clean, fresh air, of time with a good book.

But there is something special about family time that makes me feel OK about who I am. That makes me feel I’m doing a good job. And that I’m contributing something that is being appreciated.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Celebrating the ideal mother

The March 20th edition of the Nigerian newspaper Weekly Trust has a full page article on Celebrating the Ideal Mother.

The introductory paragraph reads, “An ideal mother is one who inculcates the best of family values in her children. She also has tons of patience to put up with the childish tantrums and makes the child feel satisfied and happy without being over-indulgent. She is usually a mix of toughness and softness and that is why every mother deserves to be celebrated!”

Later in the piece it reads, “The whole day is most likely ladened with one kind of stress or the other, and they welcome it with open arms. Why? Because they are mothers and it’s what they do best, being the multi-tasking gurus that they are.”

One part I especially agreed with was towards the end. “It seems as if something spiritual happens to a mother once their baby is born. Not only does the mother receive a spiritual connection with her baby, she seems to be suddenly connected to other children besides hers.”

The article ends by advising you to call your mum and let her know how much you appreciate her as your mother. Good idea.

The chance to help someone out

After reading all the sad and depressing news in the two Nigerian papers, it does make me want to bring a little bright spot where I can. I’m thinking of making a donation to the parents of the premature triplets who are seeking help. Here is the text of the article by Joseph Onyekwere (it is accompanied by a photo of the young couple with three miniscule babies) in case anyone else is interested.

“When on May 23, 2009, Mr. Kehinde Onilude, a private school teacher walked the aisle and got joined to former Miss Bola Sodipo in a holy matrimony, their hearts’ desires were for enduring blessings from God, including the fruit of the womb.

Not long after, God answered their prayers as Bola conceived. But their joy was short-lived when a few weeks ago he lost his job. That however did not dampen their spirit as they looked forward to the arrival of a set of twins in their new home in May this year.

But on March 10, 2010, they got more than they bargained for. Bola gave birth to premature triplets – a boy and two girls – at New Life Hospital, Orelope, Egbeda, Lagos. Her antenatal scanning had earlier revealed only two babies.

That became the beginning of a painful joy for the young couple. “From New Life Hospital, we went to General Hospital, Ikeja. They said that the incubators are filled up. From there, we went to Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH. Also, they said the same thing and we became highly confused,” said the depressed father of three.

According to him, the little children would have died if not for the mercies of God. When the children could not be admitted to LUTH, the couple moved to Lifeline Hospital, Ogunlana Drive, Surulere. “They asked us to deposit 600,000 naira ($4,000). We said we don’t have that kind of money, that we only intended to stay for two weeks. They now asked us to pay 600,000 naira for the two weeks. So, we left the place.”

While the figure was highly exorbitant for Onilude, little did he know that his predicament would worsen at the Good Tiding Hospital, Fasoro, Surulere. Onilude said, “When we got there, they asked us to be paying 131,500 naira ($1,000) per day. At that point, we did not know what else to do. So we kept begging the doctor and he reviewed the figure to 51,000 naira ($350) per day.”

By the time the children were incubated for six days, the bill rose to 306,000 naira ($2,000) and it dawned on the couple that relocation was the only available optioin. The couple was stunned by the figure. However, through the aid of kind-hearted individuals who lent them some money, they were discharged March 16, 2010 and transferred to Ayinke House, Ikeja.

Now Onilude is appealing to Nigerians to come to his assistance to ensure the survival of the children. His words: “I am appealing to Governor Babatund Fashola of Lagos State, his wife, the deputy governor, philanthropists and other well-spirited individuals to come to my aid. We will appreciate any kind of assistance that will help us offset the hospital bills and raise these children.

Onilude can be reached through this number 08024537467 or 08051921722. Better still, payments can be lodged into his BankPHB account number 12620004814.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The complex continued

Our case of the Oedipus complex continues. Usually, when Mark asks River for a hug or a kiss, River refuses. This morning, just after I’d gotten River up, Mark came in to say hi. River was sitting on his potty. When Mark asked for a hug, River said no. Then River said, “Bye, bye papa.” As in, get out of here.

I have a friend whose second child was incredibly attached to his father as a toddler. Though it was my friend who stayed home and provided 90% of the care, this tyke would go bonkers whenever his dad was home, and tail him like a God. I felt bad for my friend that she was so clearly second best when she was the one who mainly provided for this child’s needs. I was afraid of that happening to me.
Instead, it seems to have happened to Mark.

I’m leaving this weekend for a little over a week. I hope that my time away will be helpful to River and Mark in allowing them to bond without River worrying that Mark will take me away from him. Mark does a lot for River and it’s hard to see him being rejected.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The possibility arises

It’s a weird feeling, wanting it in an abstract sense, not wanting it in a physical and immediate sense, but knowing we could probably adjust and not only make it work, but be happy about it, whenever.