Monday, August 29, 2011

Gratitude Post - 8/29/11

Inspired by Amanda at Lets Take the Metro, I am attempting to post 5 things for which I am grateful each week. Here are this week's top 5:

1. Visiting with out of town family – While in Phoenix for a business meeting last week, I got to meet up with my cousin, aunt and uncle for dinner. It was great to see them, as it can sometimes go over a year between visits.

2. Birthday ice cream cake – When I was a child, every year my parents would get an ice cream cake for my birthday party. This year, with the opening of a vegan-friendly ice cream store relatively nearby, the husband and I splurged on an ice cream cake for our birthdays (his birthday is one day after mine). My childhood tradition may need to turn into an adult tradition too. ;)

3. My 3-year old singing happy birthday to me – The highlight of my day, by far.

4. Yummy new vegan brunch spot – I love brunch. It’s probably my favorite meal. I have so been missing a good brunch spot, since it is so hard to find a place that is vegan-friendly for the husband. Fortunately, a new vegan bistro recently opened, and we tried it out on my birthday. It was a long wait to get our food since we got there in the middle of the Sunday rush, but so yummy we will absolutely be back, and now that we know when the busy time is we can avoid the rush time or order ahead.

5. Having a vegetable garden in my back yard – This is the first year we’ve tried to grow anything, and our summer harvest has been quite respectable. I absolutely love that I can just go outside and pick an onion or a stalk of basil whenever I need it when I’m preparing dinner.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing for Joyful Birth - Making Peace with my Soul


Welcome to the First Carnival of Birth Reflections

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Birth Reflections hosted by Patti at Jazzy Mama and Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts that reflect on how birth has transformed them into who they are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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This is the third post in a series I have written about healing from trauma and preparing for a joyful birth. In my first post, I published the original birth story I wrote in the weeks after SchoopyBoy's birth, and wrote that things had been left unsaid - things that caused me to feel guilt and shame. In my second post, I wrote about making peace with my body after developing pre-eclampsia and then having two consecutive miscarriages. In this final post on birth reflections, I want to talk about what I experienced during the birth, how it impacted bonding with my newborn, and how I am preparing for a more joyful birth experience this time.

Throughout my pregnancy with SchmoopyBoy, I felt that if I needed an emergency cesarean I could live with it because I trusted my care provider and believed it wouldn't be done unless truly necessary. The one thing I had wanted to avoid with all my heart was a chemical induction, which is exactly what I was facing due to my pre-eclampsia diagnosis. I checked into the hospital with dread. My (extraordinarily opinionated and manipulative) childbirth educators had virtually drilled into my head that an induced labor was nothing more than hours of tortuous pain followed by an inevitable cesarean. I strongly considered bypassing the several hours of tortuous pain and requesting we go straight to cesarean, since I figured that was the inevitable outcome anyway.

I actually tolerated the induced labor well – until the bag of waters burst. Wow, what a difference that made! As I wrote in my original birth story, I thought I was less than 4 cm dilated since the balloon inserted behind my cervix had never fallen out. I didn’t think I could handle the pain for an unknowable number of hours, so I requested an epidural at that point. It was during the preparation for the epidural that I found out that I was in transition, at 8cm. My childbirth educator had sat in front of a room full of expecting first time parents and told us that transition only lasts 15 minutes (not that it may only last 15 minutes for a lucky few, but that it does last approximately 15 minutes). I thought I could tolerate the pain for only 15 more minutes, declined the epidural, and set to work.

I was not one of the lucky few with a 15 minute transition. I lost track of time, my head and body reeling from what it was experiencing. At some point, after almost 2 hours had passed, I figured it had been more than 15 minutes and cried out "Why is it taking so long?!” When my doula answered, “It takes as long as it takes” I knew I had been lied to, and was livid.

After another hour of pushing, during which time the intense pitocin-fueled transition contractions never let up, the doctor became alarmed at the baby’s dropping heart rate every time I pushed, and so initiated an emergency vacuum extraction.

Let me make this entirely clear. No living creature should ever experience having a baby ripped out of her nether region without so much as an ibuprofen. Seriously. No one. The sensation is Un.Real.

Having several hours of painful contractions that rated 11 on a pain scale of 1 to 10, culminating in a vacuum extraction left me… in shock. Literally. They immediately placed my baby on my chest, but I could not move. I could not breathe. I felt only a weight on my chest and horror at what my body had just endured.

The only thought in my head was “It’s still not even over. I still need to birth the placenta. What pain still awaits me?”

I finally calmed down enough to realize that I ought to at least look at my newborn son. The only thing I could move were my eyes, which had been staring ahead, seeing nothing. My eyes turned down and I saw blood on my baby’s face. I knew it was my blood. I knew it meant that I had either torn or had an episiotomy, and that I would need stitches.

The thought that ran through my head was “Oh God, it’s still not over. I need stitches too. When will this torture be over? I just want this torture to end.”

Did I mention that my newborn baby son was on my chest this whole time, and all I could think of was “Good heavens please just let this torture end”?

Where was the overwhelming flood of maternal love? Where was the exquisite tenderness? The immediate bond of falling in love with my child the moment he exited my body?

I could not feel any of it. I was so traumatized and in shock over what I had physically experienced that I was unable to bond with my own baby.

What the heck was wrong with me? Here I had just become a mother, my first born child lying in my arms across my chest and all I could think about was my own physical pain? What kind of mother was I? And if my maternal instinct had failed at this most significant of moments, what kind of mother could I possibly hope to be? As far as I could tell, I had no maternal instinct. First my body had betrayed me by developing pre-eclampsia, and now my soul – that which made me ‘maternal’ failed me.

Postpartum depression followed in the weeks after SchmoopyBoy’s birth. I didn’t trust myself. I kept repeating “I have no maternal instinct. I don’t know what to do for this baby, how to respond to him, how to take care of him. I can’t do this.” I think I loved him, but I wasn’t in love with him. He was a great scary bundle of need, and it terrified and overwhelmed me.

The happy ending to this story is that of course, it did get better. It took somewhere around 8 weeks – about the time it took my body to heal – for me to realize one night as I was nursing him to sleep how truly, deeply, and tenderly I loved him. I started to feel more competent and trusting in myself as a parent.

Today, I can gaze upon his sweet sleeping form and feel so full, such deep and poignant love, that the feeling overflows from my body and spills out in tears.

But guilt remains. And shame remains. I couldn’t bond with my baby. I couldn’t love him the way I was supposed to. I was too self-centered, too focused on myself.

I don’t want another birth experience like this. I can’t stand the thought of going through that torture again. A torture so acute that I cannot bond with my baby.

That is why I freaked out when my doctor once again expressed concern about my blood pressure and put me on medication a couple of months ago. My brain buzzed and hummed No No No Not again. I cannot go through that again. Fear and dread overwhelmed me.

I am lucky to have a great doula team. One, an apprentice midwife, had a similar experience. Her first birth was a cesarean, her second was a pitocin-induced VBAC, and her third was a midwife assisted home birth. She tells me that, according to her experience, the worst of the natural contractions doesn’t come close to the most mild of the pitocin contractions. Her greatest fear is that I will be looking for those intense pitocin contractions, and won’t realize that I’m in labor until I’m in transition, and she and her partner will barely get to me just in time to catch a baby. Ha-ha, the unassisted home birth I never planned!

It was also my doula that suggested, as she reacted to my telling her of this birth experience, that I might be suffering from post traumatic stress as a result of a traumatic birth experience. It was she who emphasized the need for me to forgive myself, that trouble with bonding after a traumatic birth is not uncommon.

So here I am, preparing to birth my second child with joy. Learning to forgive myself – forgive my body for developing pre-eclampsia in the first place, and forgive my soul for reacting to physical trauma in a common and normal way. Writing and sharing my stories to find healing for myself and encourage healing in others. Practicing gratitude for all the joys in my life. Repeating positive affirmations – “I welcome my baby with happiness and joy” so the fear and dread have no room to breathe and are crushed out of existence among all the positive and joyful energy engulfing me.



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Carnival of Birth Reflections


 
Visit Jazzy Mama and TouchstoneZ to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Birth Reflections!

 
 

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Today's thought on work-life balance

As I write and post this, I am in Phoenix, Arizona. I am not on a family vacation, but on an overnight business trip. My second since SchmoopyBoy’s birth, and my second in just the past 4 months.

I have mixed thoughts on overnight work travel. On one hand, I used to do a lot of overnight business trips before SchmoopyBoy was born. I work in a field and for an organization where travel is pretty much necessary for certain projects and programs. The fact that I haven’t traveled in 3 years has meant that I don’t get assigned to a lot of the most interesting projects, and it has compromised the advancement of my career. Seeing as I am the primary income earner in my family, this could have real implications for my family’s future. Plus, (yes, let’s go there, shall we?) you don’t see many fathers compromising their future career growth once they have children in order to spend more time at home with their young children.

On the other hand, at this stage of his life, my child needs me. He needs me, Mommy. I started preparing him a few days before my departure. I told him about how he was going to have special daddy time and I wouldn’t be here for one night to put him to sleep. He was not happy. He is, now, not happy with me. Every time I have called since I departed he hasn’t wanted to talk to me. Not because he’s having so much fun that he can’t drag himself away (although when he was visiting and playing with cousins yesterday afternoon that was certainly a good portion of it). He hasn’t wanted to talk to me because he is upset with me for leaving him and he is giving me the cold shoulder. So, I will have quite a bit of reconnection to do when I get back into town.

What complicates things for me even more is my own ambivalence. This business trip, like my previous business trip in May, has been almost like a mini vacation. I’ve gone out to dinner with other adults and had adult conversations for 1-2 hours. I haven’t had to think about what my picky toddler will be willing to eat. I haven’t had to worry about entertaining a young child at the table with books or toys. I haven’t had to get up from the table, interrupting my conversation, to take him for a walk outside when he gets restless so he doesn’t disturb the other customers. I went back to the hotel last night and watched television – things I never watch anymore like CSI and a PBS documentary. I cannot tell a lie. I’ve been selfishly enjoying being away for a night.

But I’ve also missed my little SchmoopyBoy. Each time I call and he pouts that he doesn’t want to talk to me in his ‘upset voice’ it breaks my heart. It makes me want to run home as quickly as I can and pull him onto my lap and hold him tightly, smothering him with kisses so he knows that no one and nothing is more important to me than him.

Balance. It’s hard. It’s complicated.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Overheard at the Grocery Store

I was on an unusual solo grocery shopping trip when I overheard a clearly exasperated woman in my isle berating her daughter (I would estimate the daughter was somewhere between 10 and 12, but I didn’t get a close look at her and I am a horrible judge of children’s ages). The tirade went something like this:

You really need to stop paying attention to what other people are doing and just pay attention to what you are doing. I’ve told you, the country isn’t run by A students, the country is run by C students, so just stop thinking about your grades and ignore them.


I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this, I think it is so interesting and wanted to think about all the different parts of her statements. The biggest question is, in my mind, Is what the mother said helpful? Since this conversation appears to be a common theme, I’m guessing the answer is Not so much, or the daughter may have resolved her upset and not feel the need to talk about it again. So let’s break down what the mother said and what the intention likely was behind it.

First, I understand that she was trying to tell her daughter to not compare herself and her academic performance to others, but just focus on doing what she could. I can appreciate that. Mel at Stirrup Queens recently posted an excellent article on objective success versus comparative success. The basic idea is that, a lot of the time we are objectively successful in an endeavor – in academics, in a career, in a relationship, really anything. But so often we compare ourselves to others who are more successful (or appear to be more successful) and we feel mediocre at best and like failures at worst. In the exchange I described above, it appears the daughter has clearly expressed some insecurity about her academic abilities in the past. She tends to compare herself against higher performing children and feels bad about herself. The mother was trying to invoke Mel’s idea of objective success versus comparative success in her first sentence. I think she could have worded it better, personally, and made the idea more clear.

The exchange took a rather surprising philosophical turn, I think. “The country isn’t run by A students, the country is run by C students.” Such an interesting thought - so counter to what we are constantly told, what we are conditioned to believe. C is an “average” grade, and most people are considered “average”, so if you mean to say that the majority rules and the majority is average, then that position makes sense. But is it true that the “average” rule the country? If you consider a certain previous president (cough, choke, Dubya, ehem) that certainly seems true. But is that the exception to the rule, or is that the general rule? Who really runs this country? Elite CEOs who graduated from prestigious ivy league universities and have the money and influence to shape policy? Hysterical ideologues that exert pressure on their representatives to behave like 3 year olds based on lack of information, lack of critical thinking, and dogma? Honestly, I think I could easily argue both positions. (I know there is an implicit assumption that ‘elite CEO’s who graduate from ivy league universities’ represent the A students and the ‘hysterical ideolologues who don’t think critically’ represent the C students. I acknowledge these representations are totally unfair, biased stereotypes and I apologize for not being well thought out enough to develop a better comparison.)

Lastly, the idea of a mother telling her child to ignore her grades is surprising, assuming the child attends a traditional public or private school. If the child were home schooled or unschooled I don’t believe grades would even be an issue of concern to the child, since grades are not the marker of achievement in a home school environment. Assuming the mother sends her daughter to a public or private school, where grades are the marker of achievement, and where they push the idea of better grades equals more success in life, what do you tell your child if you see that she is genuinely limited in academic ability, as measured in the public setting? How does a mother make her ‘average performing’ child feel adequate among higher performing peers? Should she try to build her up by tearing the higher performing child down, as this mother did by saying that A students don’t run the country, C students do? Or, perhaps, would a better idea be to focus on the child’s strengths and support and encourage the development of those strengths? I obviously know nothing about this girl. I don’t know if she plays a musical instrument or excels at ping pong or has an eye for designing creative landscapes. If academics is something that is really important to the child, and she seems to be struggling, perhaps talking about potential ways to get her additional help and academic support, through a tutor or additional time one-on-one with a teacher after school would be appropriate.

I tend to think that figuring out what is appropriate for the individual child takes more two way dialogue and active listening to the daughter’s true concerns. Perhaps the grocery store isn’t the best place for such a conversation, and perhaps the mother followed up later that day with more empathy and a willingness to listen and really hear what her daughter was trying to communicate. I hope for the sake of the daughter’s well being, and for the sake of the mother-daughter relationship, that was the case.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Preparing for Joyful Birth – Making Peace with my Body

Earlier this week I posted the original birth story I wrote in the weeks after SchoopyBoy's birth. In the post, I wrote that things had been left unsaid. Things that I now, more than ever, need to face if I am to prepare for a joyful birth this time. In this post, I want to talk about body image, and how my birth experience combined with two consecutive miscarriages left me feeling broken and disconnected from my body.

First, I want to talk about developing pre-eclampsia. I know every woman probably says this, but it really wasn't supposed to happen to me. I was diagnosed with hypertension in my first trimester. This was unexpected given my reasonably healthy lifestyle - lots of fresh and healthy foods, regular exercise, etc. My OB told me I would be lucky to make it to 36 weeks, and told me induction might be likely. I wanted a natural childbirth and I knew I needed to stay healthy if I were to achieve this goal, so I took proactive steps towards that goal. I got nutritional advice and made dietary changes, I took self-hypnosis classes, I went to pre-natal massage, I switched providers to someone who was more supportive of my natural childbirth goals. My risk of pre-eclampsia was about 25%, and I was determined to be in the 75% that does not develop it.

One could say my efforts paid off a bit. I did make it to week 39 before the lab results indicated that my health was indeed heading south. But I was disappointed. Angry. My body had failed me. It hadn’t merely denied me the natural birth I envisioned and hoped for. It threatened the proper function of my critical internal organs. It downright threatened my life, and in doing so my baby’s life.

At 39 weeks, SchmoopyBaby was fine. Better than fine. He was released from the hospital to go home before I was! (We did leave the hospital together just one extra day later.)

Given that both of us ended up fine and healthy, I could have moved on, and in fact did.

But then my next pregnancy, two years later, ended in miscarriage. And then so did my next pregnancy after that.

Now, being a feminist, I do in fact believe that I am more than my fertility. I am a complete and whole valid and worthy human being whether I have 8 children, 2 children, 1 child, or no children. That being said, I also identify spiritually with the feminine Creative Goddess, and desire a connection with what I refer to as the Light of Creation.

Given my body’s failings during my pregnancy with SchmoopyBoy and the fact that my next two pregnancies ended in miscarriage, it’s safe to say I’ve been not too pleased with my body’s performance as the feminine Creative Goddess, and felt decidedly unconnected with any Light of Creation.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how my blood pressure was showing signs of going too high again, so my doctor once again put me on medication. I totally freaked out. I was (am) terrified of reliving what I went through at SchmoopyBoy’s birth. I went into such a state of anxiety that ‘it was happening again’ my blood pressure spiked even more, I got a 3-day migraine, and my digestive system went into a spin. It took me checking into the hospital foe an afternoon and getting labs done – all which came back smashingly normal – to calm down.

This time will not be like last time. This time, the medication is controlling my blood pressure, and at a much lower dose. My blood pressure never got this low during my pregnancy with SchmoopyBoy. I am not swollen the way I was. At this point in my pregnancy with SchoopyBoy I was going to a perinatologist for monitoring twice a week. This time around, my doctor hasn’t even brought up the possibility of needing any kind of monitoring. Everything is on track for a healthy, low risk birth.

I’ve had a few unfortunate experiences along my journey to motherhood. These experiences have taught me a lot, and led me to a path of appreciation and gratitude. I have one wonderful, healthy, energetic, spirited child. I am approaching the end of a surprisingly easy pregnancy. My current physical discomfort this time around is not an indication of impending health crisis, but an indication of a growing, thriving, healthy baby. After all I have experienced, my body appears to be redeeming itself.

It is easy to make peace with my body when my body appears to be making an effort to make peace with me. But what if once again I developed pre-eclampsia in the final weeks and have to face another induction? Would I be able to maintain peace with my body? One of my many learnings is that there are some things in life I can control and some things I cannot control. I cannot control the way my body responds to being pregnant. I can control the food and pharmaceuticals I put in my body, in an effort to optimize the way my body responds to being pregnant. Accepting the limitations of my own power over my body is key to finding peace and acceptance with whatever turn my pregnancy may take (assuming, of course, that whatever turn it takes still results in a live, healthy baby and mama).

I have a lot more to write about my birth experience with SchmoopyBoy. My next post on this topic will delve more into the visceral experience of the birth itself and how it impacted bonding with my newborn as well as my headspace heading into this birth.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Birth Story and Things Left Unsaid

In the course of preparing for this upcoming birth, I have come to the realization that I have some lingering trauma from my first birth. Lingering trauma that I realize I need to work through before this baby is born. I’ve known this for a while, but the meeting I had with my doula team last month spurred me into taking a more proactive approach. I reread the birth story I wrote about SchmoopyBaby’s birth in the first few weeks postpartum, and what struck me was everything I did not put into it. This birth story is nothing but the basic facts – this happened, and then that happened. There is nothing about my actual visceral experience - nothing about what I felt, or how it affected my ability to bond with my new child.

During the past several months, I found that I had been approaching this upcoming birth with fear and dread, rather than excitement and joy. Quite frankly, I am terrified of having another experience like my first. I have decided to use my blog as a forum to explore my first birth and postpartum experience. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, like with my miscarriages, I find the act of writing and sharing these stories to be therapeutic. Second, I’ve been carrying some shame and guilt associated with my first birth experience. I know that I am not the only woman to experience these feelings, and if another woman reads my words and feels comforted that she is not alone, then I have accomplished something greater than even my own healing.

Today, I am posting the original birth story that I wrote less than a month after SchmoopyBaby’s birth. The only edits I have made are removing names, for privacy. Over the next week or two I will write a follow up post that delves more into my internal experience and what I am doing to overcome the negativity it left behind.

Without further ado, here is SchmoopyBoy's original birth story.

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Well, it wasn’t exactly the birth we had envisioned and planned for, but as the saying goes, life is what happens while we’re making other plans. As you know, I had been diagnosed as high-risk early in the pregnancy due to hypertension. On Friday, May 23, I went to the perinatologist for my regular monitoring appointment and my blood pressure was high. They ordered some blood work to be done “stat” and about 4-5 hours later, literally just as I was getting into bed for the night, we got a call from the on-call doctor. The lab results were in and they were not good. My liver enzymes were elevated, as were my uric acid levels. The diagnosis – pre-eclampsia. The doctor’s order – come to the hospital that night to start the induction.

Unfortunately, it being the start of the holiday weekend, my regular doctor was out of town and couldn’t be reached. So the husband and I finished some last minute preparations and by 12:30am I was admitted. The on-call doctor agreed to insert the balloon behind my cervix that night to help get dilation moving faster (I was already at about 1.5cm), with the pitocin to start around 8-9am.

At 8:30am, my doula arrived, and at about 9am the pitocin started. They started it slow, and the contractions were tolerable. At about 4pm my bag of waters burst, and then things changed *a lot*. The balloon had never fallen out, so I thought I still was less than 4 cm dilated. With so much ahead of me, there was no way I was going to be able to tolerate the pain and asked for an epidural. Before they would administer it, they removed the balloon and checked my progress. I was at 8 cm! No wonder the pain was so bad – I was in transition!

I thought I didn’t have much longer, maybe 15 minutes or a half hour, so I passed on the epidural. Wishful thinking on my part, thus started the most agonizing 3 hours I have ever experienced. The pitocin contractions never let up, even when it was time to push. I was surprised, but relieved to see my regular doctor come in during the pushing. Apparently he made it back into town and hearing the news that delivery was imminent, he came to the hospital. Yay!

They were having a hard time getting the baby’s heart rate on the external monitor, so we agreed to a variation of the internal monitor that sticks to the baby’s head rather than screws into it. His heart rate dropped extremely low (50 beats/min) at each push, and he was too far down for a c-section, so the doctor initiated an emergency vacuum extraction, which necessitated an episiotomy due to the swelling caused by the quick exit. The cord was wrapped once around SchmoopyBaby’s neck, but that wasn’t really the problem. SchmoopyBaby had the cord in his hand, squeezed in a little death grip.

In all I think the hospital staff tried as best they could to follow our birth plan, even with the complications.

Little SchmoopyBaby was fine, and has been doing very well ever since. He was 19 inches long and just 6 lbs, so he is a little guy. He is feeding like a champ though, so hopefully we’ll see him grow soon enough.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Picture Thursday - 33 weeks pregnant


The funny thing is that I think this picture makes me look small. I look a lot bigger in real life.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gratitude Post - 08/08/11

Inspired by Amanda at Lets Take the Metro, I am attempting to post 5 things for which I am grateful each week. Here are this week's top 5:

1. Air conditioning – I totally stole this idea from Amanda, but so true. I live in the desert southwest, where temperatures well over 100 degrees F are the norm all summer, and where air conditioning is a way of life. I really feel for the people further east who are not accustomed to such temperatures and don’t have air conditioning.

2. Ice cream – Do I really need to explain this? In the middle of summer, what is better than a cold sweet treat after dinner? I don’t indulge very often, but I did over the weekend and had a very happy mouth and tummy.

3. Great co-workers – Last week my coworkers through me a little breakfast baby shower. It was very sweet. I’m lucky to have so many friendly, supportive co-workers.

4. Afternoon naps – Naps in my household are becoming an increasing rarity. When they do happen on a weekend and I can take advantage of the opportunity to get a little extra (much needed!) sleep myself, it is fantastic.

5. Spare pillow – Remembering how uncomfortable I was whenever trying to sleep while pregnant with SchmoopyBoy, I bought a big, firm, king sized pillow a few months back and have been using it to support my belly and legs when I sleep at night. I feel such a difference when I lay down without it for more than a few minutes. I’m thankful to be so privileged that I can splurge on such a thing that makes such a big difference in my comfort.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

3 Year Old Need - Not Less, Just Different

My 3-year old just graduated from the parent-toddler swimming class to the just plain toddler swimming class. Not because he can swim safely independently now - he can't quite yet - but because he no longer needs the security of a parent with him in the water. This last Tuesday was his first day trying out the new class. He loved it. He mouthed through the glass behind which parents sit and wait, "I'm swimming by myself!" He didn't want to leave when the class was over. He wanted more fun swimming in the pool with his new teacher.

It is somewhat bittersweet for me. I love seeing him grow more independent. He is so proud that he can do things by himself now, and I delight in his new and growing repertoire of accomplishments. At the same time... my baby doesn't need me anymore! sniff.

But then when we finally left and he dashed along the sidewalk towards the car, he tripped and went sliding face down, scraping his knees and elbows, and giving himself a round red bump on his forehead. He spent the next 10 minutes curled up in my lap crying, his hand up my shirt holding the mole on my side (his go-to-comfort place on my body since he weaned) and drinking a sippy of milk.

So maybe he still does need me for something.

It's not just the physical hurts that require 'mama love'. Bad dreams, hurt feelings at playschool, his upset if he wakes up late after I have left for work in the morning - such experiences all expose his need for physical and emotional connection with me.

It is one of my unexpected observations of parenting - that my child's need for me does not, in fact, grow less as he grows older and more physically independent. I had assumed that it would, but SchmoopyBoy's need for me still appears so great. While it is not less per se, it is qualitatively different. Whereas he needed me to do more for him in the past, he now seems to need me to be emotionally available for him more than ever. I have spoken with other mothers of toddlers and older children who have confirmed this experience with their own children.

Learning to parent at each new stage of development continues to surprise and challenge me. My every expectation gets turned upside down on its head. My independently swimming, self-dressing big boy who demands privacy when using the bathroom is still in many ways my schmoopybaby.