Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy, Happy Birthday!

   My daughter was born at 12:03 p.m.on February 23rd. The first thing that she taught me is that childbirth sucks and only the truly crazy could enjoy pushing out something roughly the size of a watermelon. The second thing that she taught me is that breastfeeding is extremely hard on the mother, and whatever choice a woman makes should be her own, because there are so many hurdles with breastfeeding. I am not talking about vanity; although after you breastfeed your boobs will never be the same. No, there is milk production, nutrition issues, nipple infections, pumping, and all manner of unpleasantness. If a woman decided to skip all that mess, as a mother who had an extremely difficult time breastfeeding, I find I can't blame her. There have been a lot of formula-fed babies out there, and most of us are not living in a plastic bubble because of illness or horribly deformed.
   After that mess was done, my daughter taught me that I could feel exceedingly frustrated and helpless. She took me through a stage where she would start to cry at 3 p.m. and would not stop until around 10 p.m. The doctor said this was something that babies sometimes did and she was developing her lungs. And she was also developing her ability to drive her mother batshit crazy.
   Then her plumbing got in a bind. She couldn't poo and watching her strain and strain and strain resulted in yet another panicked trip to the doctor. My daughter was a very healthy child, but that meant when something did go wrong: full mommy panic mode. My daughter taught me more about unblocking a baby's poo pipes than I ever wanted to know.
   Then we moved, and I decided to be a stay-at-home mom until she started school. Because I was newly single, and had no income, this meant self-employment. I relied on family for a lot of what  I needed, but I did the best I could to support us with babysitting and housekeeping. This taught me that housekeeping sucks and being a stay-at-home mom is hard, and I had to learn how to make a $6,000 (no typo there) yearly income support us. A $6,000 income couldn't; we relied on Grandma during that time.
   Then she started school and I was proud of her for getting so big, but I also hated letting her go, even just this little bit. She had been my buddy for so long. We had hung out all day, every day in those years after leaving her dad. Although I had worked out of the home before, somehow this was different. She started her lessons in how a mom needs to let her kid grow, and how to begin to suppress those helicopter mom tendencies. (NOT easy, let me tell you.)
   I started work and college, and at this time, I went to college on campus. This meant daycare; I had to entrust her care to strangers. With work and college, I also didn't see her much, so I had to learn to put her first, even if finals were stressing me out or if I needed more hours because we were broke. I had to make the time we did get to spend together count. Mornings became our special time, even though I detest mornings. Mornings and weekends were the longest amounts of time that we could spend together though, so I couldn't waste the mornings being the grumpy fire-breathing dragon/banshee/bitch that I am when I first wake up. I had to learn to suppress those early morning demons.
   She did so well in school. She learned to read in a heartbeat, and she taught me that in a lot of ways, she was much smarter and wiser than mommy. Mommy tends to procrastinate; my daughter gets all her homework/chores out of the way first thing. According to her, she does this so she can have more time for fun. Smart girl.
   I earned an AAS degree, but the recession started around the same time, so I stayed on with the stable job that  I already had. Offers where out there, but they offered less pay, fewer hours, and no health benefits. That last one was the kiss of death for the possibility of my acceptance of those positions. I am a single mom,  I need some hope of health insurance. I learned to put my little family's needs over what I merely wanted and didn't need.
   My daughter was doing so well in school that she was recommended to the GATE program, but I was nervous about this because I worried about her being pushed too hard. I had grown up seeing kids snap over too much pressure and while I wanted her to be challenged, I didn't want her to be stressed. I did talk to her though, and I learned that she was very excited about being able to go into this program. I sent her, despite misgivings, and I learned to listen to my daughter about what she wanted, because she knows what she can handle.
   I went back to college to earn a BA, but I went online, because that year off of going to campus had given me more time to spend with my daughter, and I got the chance to volunteer in her classroom and be a more active person in her life. I found that although I wanted to continue my education, I was unwilling to do this at the expense of time with my daughter. So I learned about alternative options for education.
   In that time, daycare got out-of-hand and my trust was broken, forever. I will never trust another stranger with my child again. She was unhurt, physically, but mentally, she was harmed. She learned first hand that some adults are not nice and can't be trusted. Family rallied to support me, and I learned that I had not suppressed that dreaded crying gene that all women in my family are cursed with; I went and bawled all over my boss at work when  I asked to restrict my hours so my daughter could be cared for by family while I worked. I learned that I had a good job that would try to accommodate my new needs. (Or maybe this was self-defense against the crazy crying woman; give her what she wants so she'll get out of the office and go cry somewhere else?)
    And over time, we stabilized and slowly the kinks worked out and the time came when my daughter and I where able to get our own apartment. Now we are celebrating her first birthday in our new apartment. She is excited for this school year to be over because next year she will be in middle school. A little girl no longer, but still my baby. I've watched her go from wanting to be a rockstar to wanting to be a scientist. For the past 4 years, science has fascinated her, and I have learned more about science than  I ever thought I would know.
   To the daughter who continues to teach me something every day, I am so happy that you were born. Happy 11th birthday!!!

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