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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Things do not change; we change.
Henry David Thoreau quotes

One of the reasons I’ve not been blogging as much recently is that I’ve been struggling to find topics. Or, more specifically, topics that fall under the heading of “life, learning and communication.” Of course, it can be argued that everything can be put under that heading – everything that I come up with will unavoidably relate to at least life, if not the other two.

I’ve also been thinking about the purpose of the blog. I love pondering communication, not least because I’m using pragmatics tools in my MA thesis. More than that, though, I am fascinated by learning.

Even more so as nowadays I stay at home with the eleven-month-old and get to witness the incredible rate of learning that takes place all the time. All. The. Time. At the moment, she’s learning to take her first steps unassisted, and she’s exploring language at the same time. I’m stunned every day by the sheer effort and determination that I get to observe.

This, in fact, is another reason I’ve been shying away from blogging. There’s a cornucopia of topics in our day-to-day life alone, but I’m reluctant to flood the blogosphere with stories of my child if I’m not a mommy blogger. It’s related to the feeling of not wanting to have every single Facebook update be about my child – and that turns into not posting anything, even if I find something interesting and would otherwise like to share it.

Who is it, again, that’s doing the insightings?

Ever since the baby’s arrival, I’ve been in a kind of limbo with my personality and identity. Before, I was a student, a singer, an active participant in student organisations, a freelance teacher, an employee, as well as a daughter, a sister, a friend and a wife.

Now, I am a mom. And a wife. And a student, and a few other things that I used to be. However, my social life has shifted radically from what it used to be. Before, my planner would be filled most evenings, starting at five p.m. and going on until nine, ten or the wee hours of the morning. Now, I have to be home by five thirty for the baby’s dinner and bedtime, and if I go out, it’s a rare occurrence that takes place about once a month. That’s change for y’all.

Another thing that has shifted are my priorities and interests. Ever wonder why new mothers can talk endlessly about how their babies feed, cry, poop and sleep? Those three things are pretty much the only ways to tell whether or not the baby is healthy, what with the limited means of communication at the baby’s disposal. After health issues, you get gear. Strollers, babywearing slings, diapers (cloth or disposable), clothes, bedding… You can fill up several hours of conversation with all things baby, which you have undoubtedly noticed if you’ve ever met a new parent.

When your world revolves around the newcomer 24/7, there’s little else that grabs your attention.

Our daughter was born about a week before the whole volcano incident in Iceland – you know, the one that wiped out most of the European flight traffic for a week? I had no idea that it was that significant. In my baby-filled world, it wasn’t, except for the fact that one of the baby’s godparents was stuck in Denmark at the time and managed to get a rental car ride back to Finland.

After being in that baby bubble for several months – you remain there if most of your social contacts are other new moms who are also at home and available for lunch during the day – it’s quite a task to regain your non-mom identity.

For the past few months, I’ve done quite a bit of searching on the topic of Who I Am. Who is this person when she is not singing Old McDonald Had A Farm seven times in a row? Who is she when she is not working at the freelance contract job? Who is she when she is not putting in the hours for her thesis?

One powerful part of my search has been The Sedona Method, where the central process is one of letting go. A key way of letting go is welcoming the situation as it is, then welcoming the emotions that relate to it, and then welcoming any sense that the situation is about you personally.

Right now, I can either keep struggling to find out what I’ve become, or I can welcome the sense of being This, whatever it may be, and then explore it from a place of acceptance.

This is what I am today

Which brings us back to the tagline. If I don’t resonate with it anymore, I can change it. There’s a lot to be said about life, learning and communication, but right now I am not the person to say it on this blog. Or say it from that perspective. I will probably deal with similar topics as I have in the past, but I want to put a new spin on them.

One of the things that I still am is a Shivanaut. My practice is not rock-solid or enviably advanced, but when I need Shiva Nata, I go for it. I want to teach it one day. I love how it makes me feel. I love the fact that I will never use it up, even if I started doing it every day for an hour. I resonate with it on a very deep level, and that makes me a Shivanaut, even if I don’t do it every morning anymore.

I am a mother. With all its ups and downs, motherhood is the biggest thing I’ve ever faced, even if I only measure it with the level of responsibility and involvement. I have not exactly been shouting it from the rooftops for the past year. On one level, it’s a weird way of penance for the fact that we were blessed with a baby when others have not been as fortunate. I almost feel guilty for what we’ve been given, even though I know that it’s not a zero sum game.

I’m still fascinated by learning, and especially the experiential learning approach where experience is followed by reflection and then analysis to yield theories about the phenomenon. It’s the key learning process behind the branch of drama education I’m studying, as well as a powerful tool for any form of self-development, whether learning a skill or trying to figure out a relationship.

I will do my very best to use this blog as a place of reflection and analysis, and hopefully offer some of you a lesson or two in the practical process of experiential learning as well.

Thank you ever so much for stopping by! If you like what you’re reading, why not subscribe? Whether you do or not, I’d love to hear any comments below – and as always, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.
Martin H. Fischer

Being the mother of an infant is fascinating. Thanks to the Finnish parental allowance system, I have the opportunity to stay at home for the major part of her first year of life, and observe how she makes sense of the world. The rate at which she learns things is flabbergasting. And as a future educator (and a student working on my MA thesis) I can’t help but draw generalizations.

Case in point: the pacifier

For a few months now, our daughter has accepted the pacifier for what it was meant to do – soothe and pacify without the element of feeding. Now that she’s slowly getting the hang of using her hands, she’s started to grab her pacifier and investigate the mechanics of the object closer.

For those of you who haven’t handled a pacifier in a while, it’s not a complex object. There’s a rubber (or silicone, in our case) nipple, which is the part that goes into the mouth – traditionally speaking. On the other side, there’s a round button-like “handle” with a picture on it. And on the sides, there is a plastic flat edging in a kind of four-leaf clover shape, so the child won’t slurp in the entire pacifier. In other words, there are five different bumps on the pacifier in addition to the “part that goes in the mouth”.

Guess how many ways there are of putting a pacifier in one’s mouth? Or rather, guess how many ways our daughter has come up with?

See, the “handle” part of the pacifier, directly opposite to the nipple, is perfectly sized so that when her gums are itching from teething, she can gnaw on it. If we try to help (and I use the word in very broad terms) and turn the pacifier the “right” way around when she’s doing that, she’ll take it out and turn it back around. As in, “You guys, don’t come and tell me how I should be enjoying the pacifier!!”. 🙂

That’s creativity for you.

As she was winding down for a nap just a few moments ago, she clearly started to practice putting the pacifier in her mouth the “right” way around. For a nap, she does prefer the pacifier the traditional way around. 🙂 She kept taking the pacifier out, eyeing it very carefully, and then bringing it back to her mouth.

The wrong way around.

The right way around, but letting go too soon.

The right way around, but not grabbing it with her lips before it fell away.

Grabbing my hand as I took the pacifier handle and moving my hand as a crane to aim the pacifier in her mouth.

Over and over again.

My attempts to help went completely unappreciated. 🙂 The circle of trying – failing – getting frustrated – trying again – failing – getting really frustrated kept repeating, until she totally lost her cool and started crying. At that point it was okay for me to give her the pacifier, hold her close and let her fall asleep.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for her to be completely at ease with handling the pacifier and being able to grab it when it falls and put it back in two seconds. When she’s there, I doubt either of us will even remember the learning process. It will just feel like she’s always been able to do it.

But that’s not the case. Every single skill she has is the end result of a relentless process of experimenting, getting feedback (at the moment mainly physical), taking corrective action based on the feedback and experimenting again.

And again.

And again.

Why does it feel like it comes naturally, then? Well, for one reason, all she does all day, every day, is experiment. Every single encounter with the surrounding universe is an opportunity to experiment, get feedback, and adjust accordingly.

The other reason is that we, her parents, go through this exact same process all the time, too. We interact with the baby, get feedback (e.g. giggles = yes!, crying = I’m uncomfortable, and a multitude of other responses), and adjust our behavior accordingly. And we don’t remember the learning process, either.

This is also the reason why it’s pretty exhausting to be home with an infant – whenever she’s awake, we’re both learning, and that takes energy.

I’m so glad you could tune in again! I’d love it if you shared your own experiences or insightings on the topic!

Love,

Sari

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It’s trusting that doing things to take care of yourself doesn’t mean that anyone else is less important.
Havi Brooks (on sovereignity)

I’ve been wanting to re-establish my Shiva Nata practice for a while, now. The fact that it’s been gone for a while, though, suggests that there’s something else lurking in the shadows, too. And what would be a better way to figure out the lurkers than to do some Shiva Nata and then let my mind associate its way to the answer.

Meta Nata

The good thing about not having done serious Shiva Nata for a while is that I’m really rusty. In other words, it doesn’t take too much to get me mixed up and open to epiphany central. This time, I only had to do a few starting positions of Level 2 with legs, and it wasn’t long until I was getting lost and having to start again.

Excellent. 🙂

After doing about four starting positions and mirror reflections of Level 2, I grabbed a glass of water and sat down at my computer. My husband had agreed to take care of the baby while I did my Shiva Nata and writing, so I could concentrate.

At the top of the document, I wrote “Why am I not doing Shiva Nata?” and took a sip of water. Then, I started writing all the things that popped into my awareness. And believe me, there was a lot of popping happening

*ding*

It has been quite a while since I’ve had one of those “well, duh!” -moments about my patterns. Then again, with the break in Shiva Nata, that’s no surprise either. 🙂 I discovered a few different threads behind my resistance (or maybe indifference?) towards doing Shiva Nata.

The biggest pattern behind it, however, was the whole “not putting myself first” thing. As in, I often remember the possibility of doing Shiva Nata late in the evening, when I’m already going to bed. At that point, I don’t want to give my brain the kind of zap Shiva Nata would cause, so I skip it. In the morning, I hardly have any time to grab breakfast, since the baby needs to be fed, changed, clad and cuddled. And all through the day, I’m more or less tied to the baby when she’s awake.

My husband does help with the baby, of course, but since I’m the one with the food, I can’t delegate all of the responsibility to him. And when the baby sleeps during the day, I seem to gravitate towards less physical activities, such as watching TV or hanging out online.

There’s also the body aspect. During pregnancy and right after giving birth, there’s a kind of protective barrier around the body image. It’s not as much my body as it is a vessel of taking care of, and bringing about, a whole new person. As soon as I start taking care of my body purely for the sake of me, I become (as the voices in my head bellow) a selfish person who puts her own well-being before that of her baby, and how can I be such a horrible monster.

The oxygen mask thing

Yesterday, Havi wrote about sovereignity. About putting your own oxygen mask on first. Incidentally, that’s also what Flylady is all about – loving yourself first so there’s enough of you left to take care of others, too.

I’ve already realized I have to drink enough water and eat well to be able to feed the baby. I’m also beginning to realize I have to get my sleep when the baby sleeps (even though she currently sleeps like an angel, only getting up a few times a night to feed) so I’m not overwhelmingly tired when she’s awake. Being tired makes it easier to start resenting her for demanding care – something I don’t want to end up doing.

In addition to the physical aspects, I think I also have to take care of my mind. The better I feel about myself both physically and mentally, the better equipped I am to interact with her, to connect with my baby, to find ways to communicate. It’s easier for me to try and figure out the message she’s sending when she cries, so I can respond to her needs and eventually remove the cause of her discomfort. I have the energy and the motivation to provide her with inspiration and learning opportunities. In short, I’ll be a better mother when I take care of myself.

Plus, I’ll be a happier person for my own sake. And no, it’s not selfishness, if I’m not doing it at the expense of other people. (This is a huge statement, coming from me, by the way.) Now, if only I could find a way to remember this tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that.

My goal? Trying to put in five minutes of Shiva Nata every day, topped off with a few minutes of quiet sitting down. I think that’s manageable, even with a two-month-old fighting for my attention. After all, we’ll both benefit from it.

Thank you for stopping by again – and keep catching your own (possibly Shiva Nata-inspired) insightings!

Love,

Sari

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If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.
Lawrence J. Peter

As I’m writing this, my husband is watching the England vs. USA soccer game. He’s been waiting for the World Cup since last summer, and apparently intends to watch every game. *sigh* He grew up in a very soccer-ey home – both his parents have coached soccer, and his first pair of shoes were a pair of soccer shoes.

I’m not a big sports fan myself. In fact, I’m quite the opposite – the sound of sports commentary instantly pushes my buttons and ruins my day. This has caused – how should I put it – a number of conversations during the years we’ve been together. This is why I’ve decided to open myself to the thought of learning to understand soccer. You know, the game where a 90-minute game ending 0-0 can be “incredibly eventful”. It’s either that, or I’m facing a looooong month of the World Cup, not to mention a few looooong decades of marriage. 😉

Where to aim?

When I watch a soccer game, I see a bunch of people running around on a field. When he watches the game, he sees a web consisting of the players and the potential passing lanes between them. There are two teams, so the webs are constantly interacting, and the connections are constantly breaking up and new ones are emerging. Add to that the offense-defence tactics that the teams employ to confuse the other team and make a goal, and it’s no wonder I have a hard time understanding what the heck is going on.

One of the most difficult things for me to grasp has been the whole passing-the-ball dance. How do they know where to kick the ball? I mean, they’re constantly running, and the other team is constantly running, and the ball bounces around, and there’s just no point to the whole game. Is there?

The key that unlocked this conundrum was trying to imagine the web of passing lanes between the players. The other epiphany moment was when I realized that they actually try to pass the ball not to player X, but to the point Y where player X will be in a few moments’ time. In other words, they’re planning ahead.

*enter sound of mind blowing*

The way I’m trying to practice watching soccer is to look at the game and try to find the passing lanes. When I become better at that, I can start educating myself on tactics.

The “planning ahead” caveat

In a slightly unrelated note, we had our daughter’s christening today. It was a beautiful ceremony, and a lovely reception afterwards. It was a small gathering of 20 people, consisting of our daughter’s godparents, grandparents and a few other family members. Our daughter was a veritable sunshine, admired by everyone. Being the center of attention takes its toll, however, and by the end of the day she was exhausted.

Note to self: just because relatives want to cuddle your baby, it’s okay and necessary to take her to the other room for a nap when she’s showing signs of fatigue. The relatives will get over it. Fortunately, I realized this about halfway through the party, so she wasn’t completely wiped out.

In a christening, the child (or adult, if it’s an adult christening) wears white. After our daughter was born, I decided I wanted to crochet a christening dress, because neither of our families had a family christening dress and I wanted to start a tradition. I couldn’t find a pattern, so I decided to make it up as I went along. I took one of her onesies to size the dress after, and started working.

I’d worked on the dress for several hours during the past weeks, and it was coming along nicely. Last Tuesday, I decided to try it on her to see how much longer the train should be.

We couldn’t get the dress on her.

It seems I’d both underestimated her growth rate and overestimated the stretch in the crocheted cotton. Long story short, I unraveled about 30 centimeters, or a foot, of the dress, so I could extend the slit at the back of the dress. This was on Tuesday, five days before the christening.

Yikes.

I eventually finished the dress the night before the christening (i.e. last night) around midnight. I had to change the pattern on the hem a bit to finish it on time. The dress was beautiful, and I’m glad I decided to make a dress instead of just buying or borrowing one. Still, I won’t be crocheting anything anytime soon. 🙂

Things change. Situations change. Children grow. If you’ve planned ahead, great. Just be sure to check the proverbial passing lanes at regular intervals, especially if it’s a huge project that takes a while to finish. And especially if you don’t have a ready-made pattern and decide to just wing it. Otherwise you might just find yourself in damage-control mode at one in the morning when you really, really should be sleeping already.

Thanks for stopping by in my corner of the internet, and keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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You can learn many things from children.  How much patience you have, for instance.
Franklin P. Jones

Encouraged by a friend who said she likes to read my writing, I’m taking a shot at dusting off my blog. For the past few weeks, I’ve been on a huge learning rollercoaster with our daughter, born seven weeks ago. At the moment, she’s sleeping in her crib, so I have a few moments to reflect upon some things I’ve learned already.

“Sleeps like a baby” – right!

One of the first things we had to learn as parents is not to jump off our seats and run to the baby whenever she makes a sound. Especially when she’s sleeping. There’s grunting, whining, snorting, moaning, and a range of other graceful and not-so-graceful sounds that reflect the different stages of sleep but do not imply anything’s wrong.

This is adorable during the day, when she’s napping. At night, when I’m trying to sleep, it’s not so adorable. Call it a mother’s instinct or whatever, but I tend to wake up to even the smallest whines and grunts. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s very useful – if there’s a sudden change in the baby’s breathing pattern, I am alert enough to check if something’s wrong. However, when there’s nothing wrong, the baby is breathing and sound asleep (pun intended), it can get just a tad frustrating. A work in progress, this one.

Motivation and obligation

A friend and I talked about the way new parents often seem like they were ‘born to take care of a baby’, in the sense that they look so natural when handling their baby. I suggested that it’s not necessarily about natural aptitude but rather about very intense practice. From the day she was born, we’ve been the ones taking care of her whatever the situation. By the time we left the hospital, we’d both probably picked her up dozens of times and changed what seemed like a mountain of diapers. She was four days old. You get pretty fluent pretty fast.

Another reason most parents become the best parents for their baby pretty quick is the fact that babies cry. It’s one of the only things they actually have control over, so they signal any discomfort by crying. And for many parents (ourselves included) there are few things in this world that spur you into action faster than your own offspring screaming inconsolably. You kinda want to find out what’s wrong and fix it. When you manage to soothe the child, the rewarding sight of a calm baby strengthens the learning experience.

It kind of reminds me of what’s been called the best way to learn a new language: get yourself in a situation where everyone speaks the foreign language, and where you have to find some food and a safe place to spend the night. Even if you think you’re really bad at languages, chances are you’d pick up a handful of key expressions in a matter of days. Again, successes are likely to cause huge surges of positive feelings such as relief, gratitude, feeling safe and connected.

Maybe the rapid learning in these cases is caused by the combination of the two: a strong initiating force and the huge emotional payoff at the end. Plus, of course, repetition upon repetition. If you want to survive a week in a foreign country (or with a newborn, for that matter), one problem-solving situation is just the start.

The whole carpe diem thing

With a newborn, the concept of “I’ll just do this, and then…” flies pretty much out the window. When the baby is awake, it often requires your undivided attention by demanding food, a clean diaper, or other basic comforts. When the baby sleeps, you need to have a slice of your attention directed towards the crib in case the baby voices a demand.

Furthermore, there’s often no telling as to how long the baby will stay asleep. In other words, if there’s something you need to get done while the baby’s asleep, you’d be wise to jump to it as soon as the baby falls asleep. This group of activities includes things like eating, taking a shower, emptying the dishwasher, and going to the restroom. Things that, pre-baby, were blissfully easy to schedule: first, I’ll do X, then I’ll do Y, and then I’ll do Z… but first let me Facebook for a moment. 🙂

Now, there’s a clear hierarchy of priorities: as soon as the baby falls asleep/calms down, I’ll get a glass of water. If I get stuck Facebooking for too long, she might wake up and demand a clean diaper, then food, then burping, and two hours later I notice I didn’t get that glass of water. This whole Do-It-Now thing is no joke.

There’s another side to the carpe diem approach, too. The moments when the baby is awake and alert are a precious few during one day. They are the moments to connect with the baby, sing, read, cuddle, find eye contact and encourage interaction. It feels like such a waste to ignore the baby when she most yearns for connection. And if I try to “get this one thing finished and then” connect with the baby, she might already be too tired or hungry, and the moment is gone.

Of course you can’t catch all of these moments. But you can try.

And you can try to catch those kinds of moments with grow-ups as well. If you feel like saying something beautiful to a friend, say it. Don’t hold back just because “she knows how I feel about her” or “I can’t just say it out loud”.

Thank you so much for reading, once again! *Blowing a sprinkling of insightings your way*

Love,

Sari

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