Posts Tagged ‘parenting’


Saturday, March 16th, 2013


There’s an acronym used in self-help and recovery circles – I think it originated with Alcoholics Anonymous. When you find yourself feeling low, you’re supposed to assess yourself to see if you are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired – H.A.L.T. Any one of this four states can weaken resistance and put people in a vulnerable position.

I’m lucky enough not to have issues with addiction, but I think H.A.L.T. is a useful tool for pretty much anyone. I know that when I let any of those states get too far, and especially if I’m experiencing all four at once (which has been happening a lot lately), I sometimes make decisions that are counterproductive, even self-destructive. I deal with Hungry by grabbing huge handfuls of M&Ms. I turn being Angry inward and end up with migraines. When I’m feeling really Lonely, I isolate myself. And, of course, when I am Tired is when I most resist going to bed on time, much like a toddler. The relationship isn’t always linear, either – being Lonely or Tired can also get me reaching for the M&Ms. When I am feeling all four, I generally make poor self-care decisions – I don’t eat, sleep, or play well, and my mood gets pretty bleak.

I feel the need to add one important variable to this list: Sick. (Also In Pain, but “HALTS” sounds better than “HALTIP”!) When I am sick or in pain, good decisions become really hard for me. My plans and goals fly out the window. I feel helpless and out-of-control. Also, I develop a strange blind spot – I don’t realize at all that being sick or in pain is the reason for my emotional state. I came face-to-face with this yesterday – it was the day after my Remicade infusion, and I woke up feeling amazing. (This doesn’t always happen.) Birds were singing. Colors were brighter. It was like this.

I used to have all kinds of systems in place for times when I wasn’t doing well. I used to take methotrexate once a week, and because I knew in advance that I would be feeling terrible that day, I had a whole routine set to go. But my RA has actually been doing pretty well for awhile now, and even though this is a great thing, it means I get thrown for a loop more easily when things aren’t good.

It’s not just my own Sick that gets me down. I have a five-year-old son, and he’s been bringing all kinds of germs home from preschool. It seems like one or the other of us has been constantly sick for months. We just seem to pass the bugs back and forth, even though I know that’s not how it works. And when my son is sick, I end up home alone with him, day after day, getting run-down and exhausted. Not to mention that thanks to Remicade and the immunosuppression, and his normal five-year-old tendency to need lots of cuddles when he’s not feeling well, I almost always end up sick too. (That’s a topic for a whole other post – probably my next one.)

I’m struggling with how to make H.A.L.T. work under these circumstances. The idea is that you recognize how you’re feeling and take action to meet the need. It’s clear (although not always easy to do) that you need to eat if you’re hungry, sleep if you’re tired, etc. Anger and loneliness are a little bit trickier, but there are still proactive things you can do to address them.

So what do you do when you’re sick, or your kid is sick, and it’s relentless and constant and it’s depleting you in all of the other four areas too? What do you do when the pain isn’t responding to meds? How do you take care of yourself and protect yourself from coping mechanisms that aren’t helpful in the long run?

This question isn’t philosophical – I know people will want to respond by talking about faith or religion or positive thinking. I’m not discounting those things – it’s just not what I’m asking. I mean, what are some practical things I can actually DO in these situations? What are some things I can do other than reaching for the M&Ms or withdrawing into myself? How do you make yourself do the things that you know are healthy?

I really want to know. It’s clear that I need some new tools.


Thursday, December 15th, 2011

No medicine

I will explain the title of this post in a minute, but there’s so much else to catch up on. Where do I begin?

This year has been so full of change that it’s hard to know where to start. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that my family and I moved across the country back in September. So far, it has been an incredibly positive change. I can’t even begin to express what a difference it has made in our lives to have supportive family around. I can bring my son over to my parents’ house and go have a long, luxurious lunch with girlfriends. My husband and I can go out on dates. We can get to my doctor and hospital visits without bringing our son or worrying about who we can get to watch him. Best of all, my son is thriving, and his bond with his grandparents is a truly beautiful thing to see. There are negatives, too – we miss our old friends, and the cold weather has been a rough adjustment. But on the whole, it’s been wonderful.

My health has been confusing. For a long time, the only real symptoms I’ve been having are terrible headaches and some weirdness in my fingers. I finally had an MRI and they found damage in my cervical spine, which may or may not have anything to do with the RA. I had two cervical epidurals, a month apart. The first one was amazing – I was totally pain free for almost a month! I really couldn’t believe it. When the pain started coming back, I had the second one. Then, unfortunately, I fell down the stairs a few days later and was so banged up that I couldn’t really tell if it had helped or not. I did know that I was having headaches again, though. I went to the pain management doctor who had done the procedure, and he checked my range of motion and nerve function. He concluded that the epidurals had done their job – the problems in my hands were completely gone – and that the headaches were coming from something else, most likely muscle tension. So I’m going to see a headache specialist in January. On the bright side, he prescribed some Zanaflex to tide me over and it really does help when the headaches hit – looks like his theory is probably correct.

Next came a good news/bad news kind of situation. For the past week or so, I have been experiencing terrible pain and a new level of fatigue. My feet have been killing me, and pain radiates from my back all the way down my left leg. It was frustrating to find myself limping around again – it’s been awhile since I had lower body symptoms. So I saw my rheumatologist yesterday. The good news: my bloodwork looks great, and he couldn’t find any joint inflammation at all. The bad news: he thinks this may mean that I have now developed fibromyalgia. I am very resistant to this idea – I really, really don’t want another chronic condition! Anyway, we are holding off on drawing any definite conclusions for now. After all, I did fall down the stairs a few weeks ago, and we both want to see how I do after some more time passes. In the meantime, I want to see what massage, gentle yoga, and good sleep can do for me.

Okay, so now on to the medless part. My husband and I have decided that we would like to try to have another baby. We talked to the rheumatologist about this yesterday, and he approved. My RA seems to be in a really good place right now. It’s possible that it’s been in a good place for quite awhle, and that the headache and muscle pain were confusing the issue. So right now we are in the process of stopping all of my medications, with the exception of Pulmicort for my asthma, and seeing what happens.

Being medless is weirdly exhilarating, like hang-gliding. I push off from the cliff and hope that my remission-like state holds me up, at least until I become pregnant. (I went into remission when I was pregnant with my son, so I’m hopeful that it will happen again.) The freedom is dizzying – no more med side effects, no more panicking if I forget my pills. There are still vitamins to take, but it’s not the same. My med-free body feels great, healthier. At the same time, I know that like hang-gliding, it’s risky. It’s a race against time, and one that I can’t be sure I will win.



Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

 – Emily Dickinson

I was in the middle of writing a long blog post, but I suddenly erased it.  It was full of medical details and information, and it made me think of this post that WarmSocks over at ∞ itis wrote.  I think it’s great to share medical details on our blogs – this is how we learn things and support each other.  But today, for this topic, getting into the nitty-gritty is really a defense mechanism for me, a way to avoid talking about what I really need to talk about.

My husband and I have decided that we really want another baby.  The post I deleted got into all sorts of complicated medical reasons why this may not be the best idea.  All of that is interesting, but isn’t the main point.  The main point is this:  Yesterday we went to see a high-risk OBGYN for a pre-conception consultation, and came away from the meeting feeling optimistic and hopeful.  We asked him to give us an honest, straightforward assessment of our risks and challenges, and he surprised us by saying that he thinks that our chances of a healthy pregnancy are excellent.  Even better, he made immediate plans to consult with my endocrinologist and rheumatologist to form a plan for my care that will make everyone comfortable.

So unless things change, we are going to try.  We know that we may not succeed, for all of the reasons I outlined in the post I deleted.  🙂  We know going in that it will be high-risk if we do succeed.  We also know that life with two children will be more challenging than life with one, especially if my RA or other conditions worsen.

But right now, I choose to focus on hope.


Wednesday, April 14th, 2010


Monday, April 9, 2007

“You have rheumatoid arthritis,” the doctor said.

I looked at him.  He waited for me to speak.  I looked down at the table, at the long silver tray where the hypodermic needles lay waiting, loaded with hydrocortisone.  The doctor was a hand specialist, and I had come to be treated for what I thought was tendonitis in my left thumb and right index finger.  My mind reached back to the mother of an old boyfriend – she had rheumatoid arthritis.  What did I know about her?  She didn’t seem to have much wrong with her.  I remembered that she had a massage therapist come to her house every week, and that she told me that she needed to avoid stress because it made her condition worse.  From this, I had developed an impression of rheumatoid arthritis as something mild and possibly psychosomatic. 

Then I looked over at the nurse.  She looked stricken, as if the doctor had just told me something terrible.  Why? 

The doctor explained, slowly and gently, that while he could still give me the hydrocortisone shots, they would only help things temporarily, and that the problems would almost certainly come back in another joint.  He showed me my blood test results.  Something called the “rheumatoid factor,” which was supposed to be below 14, was listed as 468.  He used words like “severe” and “aggressive” and “damage,” and told me that I needed to get in to see a rheumatologist as soon as I could.  I just stared at him, trying to put what he was saying together with the impression of my old boyfriend’s mom.

I declined the shots, took the phone numbers he gave me, thanked him, and left the office.  I went to my car, sat down inside, and called my husband.  “He says I have rheumatoid arthritis,” I said.  There was a lump in my throat and I didn’t know why.

The ironic part is that I turned down the shots because I was afraid of needles.  I had no idea what was coming.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

My husband and I sat in the rheumatologist’s office.  I liked it – it was messy, a trait that for some weird reason, I had always associated with creativity and intelligence.  Under his white lab coat, the doctor was wearing a loud plaid shirt with a clashing tie.  For some reason, I liked this too.

He fired information at us quickly, so quickly I could barely take it in.  Words like “rheumatoid factor” and “sed rate,” “DMARDS” and “biologics” and “prednisone” flew through the air.  Again, like the other doctor, he mentioned “severe” and “aggressive.”  He kept saying, “We need to get this shut down.”  I had done a little research by then, and what I had read scared me to death.  The things he was saying didn’t make me any less scared, although he seemed pretty calm.

Then he said, “And, of course, you can’t get pregnant while you’re on these drugs.  Were you planning to get pregnant?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I’d like to see you wait about two years.  That should give us enough time to get this under control, and we can go from there.”

Two years?  I was 36 years old, almost 37.

In an examining room, a nurse gave me two shots, one called Toradol and the other called Depo-Medrol.  So much for avoiding the needles.  She sent me home with a lab slip ordering more bloodwork (again, more needles?) and four prescriptions. 

I called my mother and cried on the phone.  “Two years!  I can’t wait two years to have a baby.”

“If these drugs are really that dangerous, you should really take a pregnancy test before you start them,” she said.

“I don’t think I’m pregnant.”

“Just do it for me.”


Friday, April 13, 2007

Early morning.  I left my husband sleeping in our bed and went into the bathroom.  I took a pregnancy test out from under the sink.  It was a cheap one; one of my friends had bought them in bulk when she was trying to conceive.  I peed on the stick and left it lying on the counter, then went into another room and tried not to think about it.  I hadn’t even missed a period; it was due in about four days.

A few minutes later, I realized that I had forgotten to set the timer.  “Crap!”  A lot more than three minutes had gone by, and I knew that the results were no longer considered valid if you waited too long.  I looked at the stick anyway.  It looked like there was a faint line in the test window, but it was too hard to tell.

I took out the expensive Clearblue Easy test I’d been saving.  It was going to be two years of waiting – might as well use it now, right?  This time I set the timer.

There it was, in words clear as day – “Pregnant.”

My heart was pounding.  I went into the bedroom, woke my husband, and said, “I think I’m pregnant!”

“Really?” he said.  He looked excited and happy.

“I don’t know,” I said.  Then I started to cry.  I cried because I was happy, because I was mixed up, because this wasn’t the way I had wanted this moment to happen.  I cried because my husband’s birthday was in six days, and the timing would have been perfect – I would have just missed my period, and this could have been a wonderful birthday surprise.  I cried because I had gotten two shots the day before and had no idea what they might do to the baby.  Most of all, I cried because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.  Would I be okay without the medications for nine months?  Would I be able to take care of the baby once he or she came?

We were only four months into our marriage, and everything had changed.

Perfectly Imperfect

Sunday, March 7th, 2010


I learned about a new blog today, written by a woman with RA who is contemplating becoming a mother and is eager to connect with other women who have been through this.  It’s called “RA (maybe) Mamma” – I’m also going to add it to my links on the right side of the page.  (Thanks to RA Superbitch, one of my favorite bloggers, for bringing this blog to my attention!)

Oh, there’s just so much I want to say about this subject!  I haven’t talked that much about being an RA Mamma, mostly because I wanted to focus on my musician-self when I started this blog.  But so much of my RA journey has been entwined with my motherhood journey.  I haven’t written my onset story yet – saving it for the time when it feels right – but I was diagnosed with RA the same week I learned that I was pregnant with my son, who is now two years old.  So I have been learning how to be a mother and a person with RA at the same time.

Unfortunately, I’m going through a difficult low-energy patch these days, and can’t give this subject the attention it truly deserves.  So, for now, I’m just going to cut-and-paste in an essay I wrote for a class when my baby was four months old.  I don’t mention RA in this essay – partly because I’m very private about it, and partly because I was still struggling with deep denial at that point.  There’s a brief allusion to “medical issues” – I’m talking about the RA there, and needing to start RA meds.  Anyway, I figure you can read this essay and filter it through the lens of knowing I am a mom with RA. 

I hope to be able to write more about this soon – it’s a subject close to my heart, especially since I am contemplating having a second child.

So here’s the essay:

Perfectly Imperfect

On December 2, 2007, at 1:18 AM, two people were born in the same hospital room.  One of these people was a baby boy named Christopher.  The second person was someone called “Mom.”

Even though I had spent almost nine months preparing for the birth of that first person, I don’t think anything could have truly prepared me for the birth of the second. Over the past four months, I have watched myself struggle to integrate my old self, someone I have known for years, with “Mom,” who often surprises me with her thoughts, feelings, and actions.  Before I had my baby, I had many ideas in my head about what it meant to be a mother, and about what kind of mother I expected to be.  As it turns out, some of these were accurate – I play the piano for my child, laugh and play with him often, and love him as wholeheartedly as I ever expected.  Other things, though, have surprised me.

I expected that movie-moment in the hospital – after hours of sweaty labor and pushing, coached along by nurses and my husband, I would hear the baby’s cry and see his first squirming moments. The doctor would put him into my arms and I would burst into tears, my heart full of instant love for this little person.  Childbirth classes had prepared me for something earthy, painful, but rewarding. Instead, the day arrived two weeks early due to an unexpected pregnancy complication, and all my preparation and ideas about the birth went out the window. There were no contractions, no water breaking, no labor, no pushing – just consultations with specialists and the news that my baby should be delivered as soon as possible.  I never used the iPod that I had loaded carefully with my favorite music, or any of the “comfort items” I had planned to use during labor; I barely got my suitcase packed with the essentials. Christopher came into the world in a scary, brightly-lit operating room, via C-section.  I was wide awake and terrified, numbed from the chest down, and there was a sheet hanging mid-torso, so I couldn’t see anything that was happening.  I heard the nurse exclaim, “Look at all that hair!” and I heard the baby’s first cry. After what seemed like an eternity, my husband came over with the baby in his arms and showed him to me.  I couldn’t hold him since my arms weren’t working yet, and I could barely comprehend that this was my baby.  Then he was taken away from me.  I was wheeled to the recovery area and put on a morphine drip, and I spent the next few hours in a narcotic-induced fog, wondering where the baby was.  Over the next few days in the hospital, still heavily drugged and in lots of pain anyway, I struggled to get to know my baby.  I was frequently confused about who he was; he bore a striking resemblance to my younger sister at birth and even had the same name, Chris. I repeatedly referred to the baby as “she.”  Not exactly the start I had envisioned for us…

At home, I had to stay in bed to recover from the surgery, and I watched, feeling helpless, as my husband and my mother cared for my son.  I felt completely useless as a mother and sometimes felt disconnected from the baby in a way that disturbed me.  The only job I could really do was breastfeed him, and that wasn’t going well at all.  He had developed jaundice and was sleeping all the time and refusing to eat.  He lost a lot of weight and his blood tests didn’t look good, so we went back to the hospital a few days later for UV light treatment.  My mother and husband both suggested that I stay home, but to me, it was absolutely unthinkable.  I think it was that night that I truly became a mother.  My husband and I shared a fold-out chair meant for one person, while our baby slept next to us in an incubator under bright purple lights.  I cried when I saw the IV needle in his little leg.  I was nauseated and weak myself and could barely walk, and I knew that the sensible thing would have been to go home and get the sleep I needed. Instead I stayed all night, rejoicing in the morning when his blood tests came back improved.  In the end, we all survived the experience, and that terrible night brought home to me just how much I loved this little stranger, and how much I would sacrifice for him.     

On a hot July day two summers ago, my now-husband knelt down in front of me, pulled a beautiful diamond ring out of his pocket, and asked me to be his wife “through the perfect and the imperfect.”  He said this because he knew that we both suffered from strong perfectionist streaks.  Growing up, if I got a 99 on an assignment, I wanted to know where the missing point had gone.  Becoming a musician only enhanced this tendency, since so much of our time is spent going over fine details in a practice room, trying to create something of perfect beauty.  In an otherwise-good recital, I would find the mistakes and agonize over them.  My husband knew this about me, and about himself (although in different ways), and with those simple words, he created a space for me in which I didn’t have to be perfect to be perfectly loved.

I am an imperfect mother.  Sometimes I do a great job of multitasking, but there are plenty of days when taking care of the baby is all I get done, while housework and schoolwork pile up around me.  There are other days when I get the other things done and feel that I have given the baby short shrift.  Sometimes I watch too much TV when I am home alone with him.  Some days I forget to get his bottles ready ahead of time and have to scramble while he screams for food.  Once an old lady scolded me in the mall because my baby wasn’t wearing a sweater or socks.  (Okay, so it was eighty degrees out, but still…)  I have had people, once someone who wasn’t even a mother, demand to know what is in the bottle I’m feeding my baby, then lecture me about how evil formula is.  This one really hurt; I was forced by a medical issue to stop breastfeeding my baby after only three months, and I was completely taken off guard by the depth and intensity of my grief over this loss.  (My baby, on the other hand, was fine – happy, healthy, and thriving, he took to the bottle immediately and never seemed to suffer.)  When I look in the mirror, I see the extra pounds I have yet to shed, the stretch marks on my untoned belly, the scar from the C-section.  I have become one of those annoying moms who takes a million pictures of her child and talks about him constantly.  I have temporarily lost whole chunks of my personality and former interests, and have become someone who will talk in great depth and detail about baby poop with my mom, my husband, and anyone else who will listen.

Yet amid all of this imperfection, I am deeply, intensely happy.  I have watched my husband morph easily and naturally into an amazing, devoted, loving father. I have found a new fierceness in myself when I have advocated for my son’s health care.  I have become more proactive and, in spite of being scatterbrained and forgetful, have become more organized in subtle ways.  And most important of all, I am slowly learning to let go of my lifelong desire for perfection.  Instead, I savor the little joys that come every day.  Although I may not do everything (or even most things) perfectly, when my child sees my face, he lights up and smiles a smile of pure delight, and I know that one way or another, I am the perfect mother for him. 

Something’s Not Right…

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Just a quick check-in… I don’t really have the energy for a long blog post.  I haven’t been feeling well lately.  I’ve been unusually exhausted for about five days now – sleeping too much, fatigued during the day, unfocused and cranky, having trouble doing the simplest tasks, weak-muscled.  I realize that with RA, saying that I am fatigued is a little like saying that rain is wet.  But somehow, something feels different about this.  I’m also bruising easily.  The last time I felt this way, it turned out that my liver enzymes were elevated.  They never did go back to normal, but they came down a lot… maybe they are back up again.  Or it could be something like anemia, or something else entirely.  It could even be the RA itself – it’s a tricky little bugger, always changing – but I just feel like it’s something else.

Called the rheumatologist about this, and he wants me to come in early for my bloodwork – it was supposed to be on Friday, but he doesn’t want me to wait.  He is adding some adrenal tests.  Since I am in the middle of a high prednisone taper, my second since December, he is worried about adrenal insufficiency.  I really hope this isn’t it.

On another note, my two-year-old picked up a bug – he is throwing up today and has a high fever.  So I’m bracing myself for the same.  This could be very tricky, since I’m supposed to go in early tomorrow for the bloodwork.  (Apparently adrenal tests need to be done first thing in the morning.)  If I’m throwing up, I guess we will have to wait… and if something really is wrong, that could be bad.

Anyway, here’s hoping it’s nothing…

Wagon Train Part 2: Let’s Get Physical

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

In an ironic twist, I have fallen off the wagon-circling wagon.  There are reasons for this, which I may get into in another post.  But for now, I’d like to jump back on and talk a little about my next set of wagons – physical activity.

Exercise is a seriously tricky proposition for a lot of people with RA.  On the one hand, we know that it’s a really important part of maintaining joint health – sometimes it very literally is “move it or lose it.”  On the other hand, when the joints are in flare or already damaged, things can get dangerous.  Another annoying thing about RA is its changeability – the line between just enough activity and too much is razor-thin and seems to move around all the time,  making it hard to stay consistent.  At least it sure works that way for me, and for a lot of other RA folks I know.  So I have to admit that after going SPLAT a few too many times from overdoing, I have erred on the side of doing… well, nothing. 

(Sheepish grin)

I was going to write a somewhat lengthy post that covered all of these different thoughts I’ve had about exercise over the years, but I’m really tired today and so I will get right to the point, which is my plan to change this.  I’m realizing that as time goes by, I’m getting weaker and have less and less energy, and that I’m beginning to have new muscle problems in addition to my usual joint problems.  While I do realize that my illness has a lot to do with this, I want to be proactive about the parts I might be able to influence.  I also want to model something better for my boy than a sedentary lifestyle.  So here are the wagons I plan to start circling:

Wagon #1: Water exercise

Esther WIlliams

(Okay, so I may never be Esther Williams, but I think the picture is cute!)

A long time ago, my rheumatologist said that swimming would be good for my joints.  Problem – my “swimming” is really more like “trying-not-to-drown.”  So then he suggested low-impact water exercise – for example, the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program (AFAP), which offers gentle range-of-motion exercises for people with all different forms of arthritis.  I learned that it was offered at several different local YMCA’s, as well as a few other places.  Around the same time, my husband and I thought that it would be a good idea for our son to take baby swimming lessons.  One of our friends had taken her son to the Y, so we checked it out.  And then, in one of those beautiful events of synchronicity that makes you think things are meant to be, we saw it:

AFAP class and Infant Swim, Saturday mornings, same time, same pool.

So off we went on Saturday mornings for a little family exercise.  At first I felt a bit ridiculous, since I was by far the youngest person in my AFAP class.  It was a little awkward explaining to people why I was there, since most of them were osteoarthritis patients.  But it didn’t take long to get comfortable, and I really enjoyed the sensation of being in the water, which is kept at a soothing 90 degrees.  And it was so sweet to look across the pool and see my baby splashing away in my husband’s arms, loving his swimming class.  He was a natural water baby right from the start.  Sometimes he would catch sight of me, and I could see him laughing and saying, “Mama!”  The little old ladies in the class loved seeing him, too.  And I liked knowing that his father and I were being good models for him.

Unfortunately, I had to stop going to class for a loooooooooooooong time because of problems with non-healing wounds and repeated infections – a really unpleasant story I won’t share here right now.  (Fun times, let me tell you – aren’t immunosuppressant meds great?)  Then we just got busy and involved with other things.  But two weeks ago, we decided to start going back.  This time we joined the Y as a family (we were guests before) as part of a bigger commitment to exercise.  The AFAP classes are free to Y members, and the Y also offers free childcare to members while they are working out, so I would like to start going more than once a week.  (That’s if my son, now a toddler, will cooperate with the childcare thing – something we are working on.)  I’m also encouraging my husband to start swimming during the week – he likes it and hasn’t done it in years.  And we’ll keep up our family Saturdays, which are good for all of us. 

Well, I was going to write more – there are at least three more wagons in this particular part of the circle – but to tell the truth, I’m in a lot of pain today, and I’d still like to get something posted.  So I’ll sign off here, and tell you about the others when I’m able.

Musical Interlude: Lullaby for Christopher

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009


I’m taking a little break from circling my wagons in order to present a piece of music.  (Music is one of my most important wagons, actually, but that’s a subject for another post.)  This is one I wrote awhile ago, but this weekend I took it out, changed some things a little, and made a recording, which I had not done before.  The piece was written as a final project for a class called “Transformative Learning,” which I took while I was pregnant with my son.  We were supposed to create something that represented a transformative experience in our lives – and what could be more transformative than a birth?

“Lullaby for Christopher” is a short piece for solo piano – no vocals – in three sections.  The first section was written during the last month of my pregnancy.  It starts with a rocking motif that is meant to represent the baby’s heartbeat in the womb.  Two other musical motifs enter, representing the mother and the father, since these are the voices he heard most often during that time.  The three motifs were written using the initials of our family members.

Before I could finish the piece, Christopher arrived – two weeks early.  The second section was written in the week after the birth, when I was home recovering – it’s meant to represent his entrance into the world.  Then the third section is essentially a repetition of the first section, but with the themes presented in reverse order, representing the baby taking comfort in the familiar sounds of his parents’ voices as he drifts off to sleep.

I could probably express it more eloquently than that, but instead, I think I’ll just play it for you.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.


Sunday, November 8th, 2009


My mother lives 2856.2 miles away.  I looked it up on Mapquest.  I found it strangely comforting that there were only 29 steps in the directions, even though some of them involved staying on roads for 500 miles or so.  The map that accompanied the directions, though, made me a little sad, since it showed the entire continent with a red line across it indicating the driving route.  Only 43 hours and 23 minutes to drive there, assuming you don’t sleep or eat…

In spite of the 2856.2 miles, my mother and I are very close.  We talk on the phone every night.  Sometimes we Skype, although that’s mostly so she can see her grandson.  We see each other at least twice a year, usually for several weeks at a time.  She has been there for me through some very difficult periods in my life.  Whether I go to visit her or she comes to visit me, she takes care of me.  Now that I have a husband and child, she takes care of all of us.

The other day, we were talking about my recent realization that I need to be kinder to myself.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  When I wrote about it before, my focus was on appreciating my own efforts more, and letting go of the self-criticism that I often fall into.  She agreed that this was important, but added that I also need to start taking better care of myself physically.  She pointed out that I often don’t get enough sleep or eat well enough.  Then she said, “You need to start being your own mother.”

My first reaction to this sentence is to think of things like “nurturing your inner child.”  Blech.  Not my style.  But when I get past the “blech” reaction, I find myself with an image of a divided self – a rebellious toddler on the one hand, and a strict, overly-critical, disciplinarian parent on the other.  Strange, since this isn’t the kind of mother I actually have.  The rebellious toddler thing, though, might be more on the money.  Sometimes I have trouble being a grownup.

I do know some things about mothering, though.  I have a beautiful son.  He is not even two years old yet, so there’s still a lot about mothering that I haven’t experienced yet.  But I do understand mother love.  More than anything in the world, I want my child to be healthy and happy.

There are a lot of things that I do for my son that I don’t do for myself.  He eats a very healthy diet, abundant in fruits and vegetables.  He has special bedtime and naptime routines that send him off to sleep happy and comforted.  Aren’t these things I could also do for myself?  Couldn’t I join my son every day in his afternoon fruit-and-yogurt snack, or pile vegetables onto my plate the way I do onto his?  And how much better would my life be if I went to bed at a reasonable time and created rituals that made going to sleep a peaceful and happy experience?

I’m not a perfect mother, so naturally there are areas where I feel I could do better by my son.  These are also things that would benefit me.  It would be better for both of us to get more exercise, and to see people more instead of staying in the house.  It would also be good for us to have a wider selection of low-maintenance activities on the days when I’m just not feeling well enough to go out and do those things.  Even on the lowest-energy days, I could choose to lie in a lounge chair on the patio instead of on my couch, so my son could at least get some fresh air and sunshine while he plays with his trucks. 

So maybe it’s not really about finding some mythical “inner parent” to take care of my “inner child.”  Maybe it’s just about focusing on the kind of real mother I want to be to my real child, and then extending that kind of care to myself.  Somehow, when I think about my son, things become much clearer and simpler.