Tag Archives: parenting

Let’s Stop Perpetuating the Idea that a Mother’s Body Is Ruined

A few nights ago, I was helping my 8-year-old son shower. As he cleaned his body parts, he asked, “Why do I have to have such a deep innie [belly button]?” He always has trouble cleaning in there. I told him I didn’t know why, and remarked, “Mine used to be like that, too, until I had babies.”

Gavin peered at my own belly button, which has gotten remarkably larger and shallower since two kids made my belly their home 8 years and 3 years ago, respectively.

Gavin looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry, Mama.”

Automatically, I replied, “It’s not a bad thing.”

And it isn’t. I remember when I was a little girl, and I traced the stretch marks on my own mother’s torso.* I asked her how she got those stripes, and she said, “They’re your fault. These are yours, and these are your sister’s.” I remember thinking they were pretty gosh-darned cool, that your body leaves you visible reminders that babies were carried there, and that once upon a time, we were physically one person. But my mom’s facial expression told me she didn’t believe that it was cool.

I secretly held on to the idea that it was cool, though. My mom and I don’t agree on a lot of things. This was one of the first things I remember disagreeing about with her.

When I was pregnant with Gavin, I could see the stretch marks starting to form. Everyone advised me to apply cocoa butter, which I did. But I knew that they wouldn’t make my stretch marks disappear; it was another thing I found cool. My mom and I had matching stretch marks! I did keep applying cocoa butter though. I found the stretching to be itchy, plus it smelled like chocolate. Win-win.

I was ready to give birth. Gavin felt it was necessary for me to wait an additional 12 hours after this photo was taken. Look how round I was.

I was ready to give birth. Gavin felt it was necessary for me to wait an additional 12 hours after this photo was taken. Look how round I was.

When I was pregnant with Audrey, I became fascinated with the fact that I got an entirely new set of stretch marks! On the surface, I was like, “Hey, that’s not fair.” Most mothers don’t even get stretch marks at all, but I got two separate sets, souvenirs from my 9-month journey as a pregnant woman with each child.

Gavin’s stretch marks are all along my panty line. They sweep across from one hip to the other because he sat low my entire pregnancy. I looked ready to give birth starting in my second trimester; he sat that low. According to old wives’ tales, my round belly and “gained weight all over” look should have netted me a girl baby. But I knew even before I was pregnant that we’d be having a sweet baby boy. A baby boy who enjoyed kickboxing with his mother’s cervix. I used to tell people I didn’t even know what a cervix was until I was repeatedly kicked there by my firstborn.

Can you believe this was only like 18 weeks in? I look ready to pop already!

Can you believe this was only like 18 weeks in with my second pregnancy? I looked ready to pop already!

The second time I was pregnant was a little different. Audrey’s stretch marks form a little circle around my stretched-out belly button. She hardly moved at all until the last 6 weeks or so, and then it was like 24-hour gymnastics in my womb. She literally changed positions 2-3 times a week between weeks 36-39, until she finally turned head down and told me she was ready to come out. I carried her all in the front, as if I was carrying a watermelon under my maternity dresses, but with the long way pointing out.

I don’t care what people think anymore: I believe my stretch marks are beautiful and I’ll shout it from the rooftops. I’m going to start thinking of them as my children’s first works of art. They left reminders of their burgeoning personalities while we were still one person. What’s not beautiful about that?

If you have stretch marks, I encourage you to stop thinking of them as scars or battle wounds. Carrying children doesn’t ruin your body; it makes it better. My body carried and sustained life! And then after that, it made milk and nourished babies even longer. Recognize the beauty of what the stretch marks represent.

*Disclaimer: I apologize to my mom, whose body I described in detail without her permission. I hope she forgives me. My mom is the most beautiful woman on earth. Well, she was until my daughter was born.

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Crispy Parent of Two

It has been a while since I’ve updated this blog, but that’s to be expected. I now have double the number of children I had before. How does it work out to more than double the work?

I’ve found that being “crispy” has taken on a whole new meaning. Mothers who take a more “natural” approach to parenting are labeled as “crunchy” or “crunchy granola.” Well, we can’t be crunchy granola because we’re Filipino and we don’t eat granola that much. So I guess we’re “crispy bata,” which is a play on “crispy pata,” a pork thigh dish from the Philippines. “Bata” means child. Which means my children are just crispy children, and I’m a crispy mama. Not quite crunchy, but almost!

One skill that is off the mainstream that I have adapted much more readily this time around is babywearing. That means attaching your baby to your body, rather than pushing them in a stroller or holding them in arms.

This is very useful for many reasons.

First, I don’t need to utilize ramps to travel. I can walk stairs; I can probably navigate a ladder if needed (but I wouldn’t choose to).

Secondly, I can see my baby’s face, and she can feel my heartbeat. Babies, especially newborns, are most content when they can hear their mother’s heartbeat, just like the womb.

Wearing Audrey in a ring sling and holding Gavin's hand.

Third, it frees up my hands to hold my older child’s hand or to tend to him in other ways. This also means that my arms aren’t killing me after 10 or 15 minutes. This particular ring sling, as you can see, distributes weight over my shoulder and back. At the time, Audrey was probably around 12 lb., but I could wear her in that sling for an hour and be comfortable. As she got heavier, I moved on to carriers that used two-shoulders, which provide more support.

Baby's legs are straight, putting all weight on the crotch area, rather than being distributed over the bottom and thighs.

These carriers are different from the Baby Bjorn style carrier. My husband used a basic Bjorn with our son and it was only comfortable for him until Gavin was about 15 lb. The straps put too much pressure on B’s shoulders rather than distributing it over his shoulder and back. The other problem with the Bjorn is that even though it looks cool and sleek, the baby hangs from his crotch, and that’s not good either, according to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute:

Carriers that distribute the baby’s weight across the bottom and thighs, as well as holds the baby’s knees at or above the bottom are recommended:

Proper babywearing - baby's weight distributed over bottom and thighs; knees are at or above bottom.

I am very fortunate to be a part of BabyWearing San Diego, which is a nonprofit organization that does outreach and promotion of healthy babywearing. The organization holds informational meetings almost every week in different parts of San Diego County. The organization has a lending library, full of carriers that are safe for both baby and parent to use. The leaders are so helpful about finding the right carrier and showing novices how to use them. It is a collegiate environment, where moms (and dads or other caregivers) share their experiences and advice.

BabyWearing San Diego’s very active Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BabywearingSanDiego/

Babywearing International: http://babywearinginternational.org/

One last picture of us babywearing – Audrey at several weeks old and being wrapped for the first time in a German woven wrap:

Cozy ... just like mama's tummy

Sometimes the rewards of parenting is about small victories

My precocious, intelligent son can count to 13 (to 30 with some help), knows all his ABC’s, as well as the sounds that each of those letters make, and he remembers things that happened when he was barely 2 years old.

At 6 months old, we briefly tried elimination communication. It worked, but only for about a month.

And yet as we come upon his 4th birthday less than 2 weeks from now, he is not even close to potty-trained.

That’s right: I’m admitting to the whole wide Internet that my almost-4-year-old is not potty-trained. I try not to mention it because inevitably I get either judgmental looks (and heavy silence) and/or ignorant remarks. Neither of which help the situation.

He was just starting to get potty-trained last year when I was laid off from my job, and therefore his routine was basically turned on end. Although he enjoyed being home with me most of the time, both of us transitioning to an at-home situation made for very poor potty training environment. Then he went through a contrary stage, which can only be described as the terrible 3’s (he got over it, thankfully). And then we moved.

An entire year full of transitions is just a difficult time for a child to be potty-training, so he just decided he wasn’t even going to try.

What I know about my son’s disposition is that he knows what he can do — and what he believes he can’t do, he won’t try for fear of failure. (Sounds a lot like me, actually.) Despite a lot of coaxing, praising, bribing, and cajoling, he just would not sit on the potty at the right times to do the right things.

An attempt around December 2009, before we moved. Unsuccessful.

Recently, I taped a potty chart at child’s eye level in our guest bathroom. We bought a brand-new truck potty (basically it makes a “vroom-vroom” sound when something hits the bottom of the bowl). I told G that when he acquired 10 stickers on his chart, he got to choose a toy from Target. And he acquired stickers by going pee or poop in the potty.

I think I put up that potty chart sometime in June. Today, G acquired his 10th sticker (and his 11th!) and got to open the Leapfrog Tag that my father had bought for him this past weekend.

I have to say, this made me feel pretty good, especially when he used the potty a second time. In the past year or so, there have been many times when I have felt a failure. Failing at keeping a job, failing at being an effective, successful stay-at-home mother, failing at helping my child reach the simple milestone of potty-training. It doesn’t matter that he’s one of the smartest children I know, that he has a sense of humor to rival his father’s, that he kisses my face and tells me every day “I love you, Mama,” that he can put together sounds in words that basically means he’s doing some rudimentary reading. This one thing, the darn potty, has kept me from feeling like anything like a good parent.

Today, I experienced the feeling of a small victory, and I realize that the feeling is still not much more exciting than any other day. And then it struck me: parenting isn’t about anything huge. Most parents don’t have kids who win Nobel prizes, or become President of any country — or even a company. It’s about the little things that prove that sometimes, they’re hearing what we say, following our examples, and incorporating our beliefs and values.

I’m going to try to remember this feeling and this revelation, and hope that our lives are full of small victories — and that I’m observant enough to recognize them.

My baby’s 3

Last month, the original Crispy Bata (aka Gavin) turned 3.

I'm 3!

I'm 3!

Some of you may be thinking, “What? How did he all of a sudden turn 3?”

I am thinking the same thing. And I see this kid every day of my life.

I looked at some older pictures of my son, and it’s amazing the kind of transformation they do from scrawny, screaming newborn to, well, scrawny, screaming 3-year-old. I’m sure  some people who have known me since I was a scrawny, screaming 3-year-old myself, and they’re probably wondering how I did it, too.

I have always thought of myself as a very self-aware selfish person. As a single adult, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. There might be if you are the primary caregiver for any other person, but otherwise, it’s OK to be selfish. The only person you can really count on is you. So it’s good practice to look out for No. 1.

When I found out I was pregnant with G, it still felt completely natural though. I still felt selfish, but as he was a part of me, it was like I was selfish on his behalf. Everything starting from that point was for the well-being of this child first, me second. There are things about my child-rearing experience that I thought I’d never do (like park him in front of the TV for a half-hour or more while I wash dishes or complete some other chore), and I have found that I am a stronger person than I initially thought I was. And perhaps in many ways, even before G, I wasn’t always just thinking about No. 1.

Now that G is a very active, rambunctious, clever, healthy 3-year-old, I celebrate my 3 years and 9 months as a mother. I didn’t think I could do it, partly because I had so many awesome mother figures in my life (my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, and many of their friends). How could I live up to that?

But when I look in my son’s face, and he only has eyes for me, I know. I just love him. And he appreciates that. For the past 3 years, that’s all I really needed to know. I didn’t realize it, but my mother (and her mother) taught me that, and showed it to me by example.

I know that this period of “mama is the best!” only lasts so long. I cherish the moments. If he wants to be a baby, I let him (within reason). If he feels like being a big boy the next minute, that’s OK too. That’s the thing about being 3. Before too long, he will really be too old to want to be a baby … and he really won’t want to be treated like one.

I’m glad I had such amazing mother figures in my life because they showed me to relish each moment about being a mom. They showed me that even the painful parts are necessary to raising your child right, and they are worth it for the moments when your child, wearing a dishtowel cape, kisses you on the face and says, “Superman loves you” with such sincerity that you know it will be true as long as you love the little Superman back.

Gavin at less than 1 week old

Gavin at less than 1 week old

Babies are not like sneakers

OK, so I keep this Word file on my computer of potential subjects that I want to discuss at length in this blog. And I was perusing the topics earlier this week and I came upon “babies are not like new sneakers” somewhere in the middle.

I couldn’t figure out what the heck I was thinking. “That doesn’t even make any sense!” I must have been sleep-deprived, or perhaps really hungry when I wrote it down, pressed “save” and exited the program.

Then I remembered that it all had to do with this lady that I tried not to watch too carefully at Wienerschnitzel. I’m going to write about it now, before I forget again.

Pretty sure the bib is almost completely useless in this instance.

Pretty sure the bib is almost completely useless in this instance.

Sometimes after his swim class, I would take Gavin to Wienerschnitzel. Now, I used to be one of those people who said I would never feed my child junk food or fast food, but when your kid wants a hot dog AND NOTHING ELSE, you tend to go with feeding him Wienerschnitzel rather than let him starve (or scream “HOT DOG!!!!!” like a banshee all the way home).

Anyway, so back to the lady. She was probably in her 60s, and she had 2 small girls with her. I’d guess that these girls were around 3 and 5, and they were probably the lady’s grandchildren. I assumed they were eating hot dogs like my one-track-minded toddler, but it turned out that they were eating ice cream. Our particular Wiener place also served Tastee Freez (or however you spell it).

Throughout the meal (or snack), this lady kept admonishing the kids, “Don’t get ice cream on your dress” and “Be careful with the ice cream.” Which, you know, is totally understandable. Because these kids were basically wearing EASTER DRESSES. To Wienerschnitzel. On a weekday. I tried not to pass judgment. Perhaps this woman was bringing her grandchildren to a party or something.

When my son had almost had his hot-dog fill, the lady four tables away exclaimed, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO GET ICE CREAM ON YOUR DRESS! Now it’s RUUUUUIIIIINNNNED!”

I swear, it sounded like that.

Those two little girls, to their credit, were relatively quiet in the face of their grandmother’s (let’s face it) full-out tantrum. But their grandma made a huge spectacle in this hot dog joint, continuing to make remarks about how the dress was ruined, and how she had warned the girls multiple times not to get ice cream on their dresses.

You guys, I really, REALLY tried not to pass judgment. I TRIED. But I have to say this.

It was a 3-year-old girl. My son was not too much younger than her, and at the moment, he had ketchup on the sides of his mouth. But then, at the same time, he was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. That’s what a toddler should be wearing when eating. The woman was acting as if the child purposely and knowingly smeared ice cream on her beautiful Easter dress, in order to piss off her apparently very uptight grandma.

Dear Grandma: If you don’t want ice cream or ketchup on clothes … the child should be eating naked. If ice cream or ketchup (or other messy, staining food) gets on your child’s clothing, it is completely YOUR fault for dressing that child at all!

What does this have to do with sneakers? I remember when I was in elementary school, and I’d get a new pair of sneakers for school or my birthday or whatever. I’d spend so much time and energy just making sure I didn’t get a single scuff or dirt mark on them. And then when I’d inadvertently get them messed up, it was like they weren’t new shoes anymore. They were TAINTED forever. Sure, I still wore them. But they just weren’t “new sneakers” anymore.

Kids aren’t like new sneakers. They are actually still really awesome even after they get ice cream stains on their brand-new shirts or ketchup on their pants. If my son has to look immaculate for any occasion, I let him run around in a diaper and undershirt until it’s time for pictures or whatnot, and then I put the fancy clothes on him. If it is too cold for that, he gets “play clothes” until the Kodak moment.

Anytime he goes to school or the babysitters’ or his grandparents’ house, I fully expect that he will get dirty, that he will fall down, that he will somehow have a scrape or bruise that wasn’t there before I dropped him off. And in my eyes, it is completely OK. (Disclaimer: There is a difference between regular kid scrapes and child abuse, by the way. I’m talking about the regular cuts and bruises that comes with a kid’s curiosity and propensity to get into stuff he shouldn’t. A parent knows the difference.) It is part of being a kid — in fact, it is part of being a human being. We have tried really hard not to react too much when Gavin falls down or otherwise hurts himself, so that he learns how to deal with things himself, and/or learns to come to us if in fact he is seriously injured. Of course, when he fell 3 feet from a ladder at the playground today (he is fine), I couldn’t help but cry with him.

But ice cream on fancy clothes? Unlike the sneakers, I’m still going to love my child just as much before. Unless he takes his hand and purposefully wipes his shirt with it, I know the drips of food all over him are the result of being a child with limited motor skills, not because he wants to ruin my life or add 20 minutes of cleanup time to our routine. Unlike the sneakers, which get replaced every year, this kid is for keeps and I’m just going to continue cleaning him up, patching up his scrapes, and washing his ketchup-stained clothes.

Babies don’t have cargo

It is fairly obvious to me that many fashion designers who make clothes for children do not, in fact, have their own kids, or if so, they depend on nannies or their partners to dress them. How do I know this? Because so much, SO MUCH, of children’s clothing is so impractical, I can’t believe that parents  (by parents, I mean “me” or perhaps my son’s grandparents) buy them. Like, at all.

Yes, he is wearing formal clothes. Everything is washable. And only fit for about 12 minutes before he outgrew them.

Yes, he is wearing formal clothes. Everything is washable. And only fit for about 12 minutes before he outgrew them.

Tell me: What does a 2-year-old do with pants that have pockets in them? Or maybe … pants with multiple pockets as to be categorized as “cargo” pants? What kind of cargo is a 2-year-old toting around? He shouldn’t be toting anything around because I’m still carrying a big, bulbous diaper bag full of his stuff. But guess what gets put in those crazy toddler cargo pants? Yes, CRAYONS.  Crayons get put in there! Not right, baby fashion designers. I mean, why would a mom check a toddler’s pockets prior to washing said pants? She would assume that her child doesn’t put anything in there. She assumed wrong. If you really need to make toddler cargo pants, maybe you can make them fake pockets because a toddler? Doesn’t need pockets.

Although my mother says that a baby doesn’t look more angelic than when he is wearing white, I would think that white clothing should also be outlawed. Unless said white clothing

Dry-clean-only or hand-wash only. Are they serious? Why would I pay to dry-clean my kid’s clothes? I’ll take a picture of my child wearing it.  Then it’s going in the regular washing machine. If it survives, great. If it doesn’t, at least I have a picture of how cute he looks in it.

Not that many American clothes have these, but real buttons on children’s clothing are a joke. Whose kid sits still long enough for you to be able to pull the button through the hole? And while they’re standing close enough for you to be able to see to pull that tiny button through the hole? Thank goodness I rarely see any of these, but they do show up on boys’ polo shirts.

This is just my personal opinion, but I am annoyed by shoes that squeak or light up. My son has both varieties (because he has grandparents), and it’s only a matter of time before I trick him into removing them. On the other hand, he is such a noisy, rambunctious child to begin with, so maybe for a mother with a more quiet child, squeaky shoes might be welcome if only to remind the mother where her child is.

2007-02-05 003

My son got a Batman outfit as a gift. He wore it on Superbowl Sunday, and never again.

Any children’s clothing that costs more than $20 is ridiculous. I might pay more for a coat. I remember several pieces of clothing that got worn exactly once before we realized it was too small. Usually we had owned those articles of clothing less than a week. Thank goodness for hand-me-downs (both receiving and giving away). Otherwise I would feel so bad for the money spent on these clothes. Especially since the money spent is not mine.

I’m not just trying to be negative, though. Sleepers that have the metal snaps in the crotch area? A welcome innovation in children’s fashion. Perhaps they could improve upon this invention by making the snaps different colors so that a mom could differentiate before she has done up all 1,088 snaps except the last one, to realize that she has missed one. If snaps were alternating colors, this would help.

I know many moms are against these, but a shirt with those harnesses (“leash” to those who are against them) built into the back would be great. I have actually never used a harness on my toddler, but every time I see one in the store, I visualize my wiggly child letting go of my hand and running into traffic, and I am so tempted.

Let’s be honest. My child is usually dressed in a T-shirt and shorts and sometimes a hoodie when it’s “cold.” (Remember, we live in Southern California where anything below 70 is “freezing,” and anything about 80 is “scorching.”) Most of his peers from what I’ve observed wear the same. Of course, I have been taught not to look at brand names so much as the value of the clothing, so maybe your child might be dressed differently. Even though he is a boy, I would like for my child to get into the habit of dressing functionally, rather than with the trends and be uncomfortable.

I wish I could sew up all those pockets in his pants, though. (I’m just too lazy.)

Any other children’s clothing that you think are ridiculous?

Yay for Breastfeeding, Part 1

Nursing Gavin, around 2 months old

Nursing Gavin, around 2 months old

I started to write a piece on why we chose to breastfeed, and it ended up being about 4 pages long. That is just way too much. You would get bored. You actually might get bored now.

I should say that if you’re already sure you don’t want to put your child to breast, there’s nothing I or anyone else can say to change your mind. Even if you don’t KNOW that’s how you feel … if deep down inside, you are not confident or just uncomfortable with the idea of a child nursing at your breast … it’s probably not going to happen for you.

If you are on the fence one way or the other (and I was at one point, and that may surprise many of you), I’m going to say some things that I hope will tip you over to my side of the fence.

I can throw at you all the statistics about how it’s much healthier, how it’s more natural, etc. But you already know all that.

I have heard some moms (or soon-to-be moms) say that breastfeeding just seems so restrictive — like the mother is unable to be as free as a mom who feeds her child a bottle instead.

Well, consider this. When I returned to work at 3.5 months postpartum, I decided I would pump milk and send it to daycare in lieu of formula. (I ended up having to supplement with formula anyway because my kid loved milk, whether from the breast or the bottle.)

When we came home each evening, I spent about 15-20 minutes preparing bottles for the next day. Washing, drying, pouring and measuring milk, and making sure I returned them to the fridge.

This was for the 3-4 bottles of breast milk that my infant son consumed in 9 hours.

Consider how many more bottles of formula are consumed in a single day by a child who is solely formula-fed. 10-12 bottles, maybe? Perhaps you just dump them in the sink throughout the day and wash them all at the end of the day.

Consider being awakened by a crying baby in the middle of the night. My kid? Got placed on the boob and was quiet again 99% of the time within 30 seconds. A bottle-fed baby? Unless you have one of those mini-fridges next to the crib or your bed, it may take you at least 1 minute to pour the formula in bottles that are pre-filled with water — and that’s if you don’t spill water or formula, or drop the measuring scoop. (I’m clumsy. I’m sure I would have dropped the scoop at least once a night.)

Going out: I’ve already talked about my diaper bag and what goes in it. What never went in it: bottles (unless he was going to the babysitter’s, or grandparents’) or formula. If we were out longer than expected, we never ran out of milk. We could have a little bit of spontaneity in our day, even with a 2-month-old infant.

I know, I know. It’s so difficult to pump and leave the baby, wondering if you have enough milk. I couldn’t ever have fun when I left Gavin anywhere because I was always worried about whether I had left enough with the sitter or whoever happened to be watching him. But think about it. The child is a newborn. Newborns by design are not meant to be away from their mothers for very long. I didn’t want to be away from my newborn. Sure, a couple of hours at the salon for a pedicure or a massage is great. Or even an afternoon shopping. But we have to consider that our children were made like this for a reason. I don’t believe that our modern culture should change what biology (or God) has designed — not this part.

It was after Gavin turned 2 that I finally spent the night without him (and unbeknownst to him, I was actually in the next room, just in case). Perhaps that is a little longer than most mothers would wait to spend a night away from their children, but in the first year, I feel it’s important to be close, not just for breastfeeding purposes but because our children should feel our closeness while they still enjoy our closeness.

There are more reasons why I should feel all mothers should at least attempt breastfeeding. This is just one of those teeny, tiny ones that I thought of, that maybe hadn’t been discussed or was maybe glossed over in those overwhelming breastfeeding classes that you might have taken.