I do not cry often. I like to think I'm pretty tough, actually. Music, though, is sort of my weak point. Sometimes I'll hear a song that will make me stop what I'm doing and just lose it - like sobbing, sniffling, wiping spit off my face bawling. It can be really embarrassing, struggling to hold it together when I hear one of my trigger songs out in a public place.

There is a song on The Decemberists latest album The King is Dead called "This Is Why We Fight" that always gets me.  Every. Single. Time.

It speaks to me as a woman who struggled to hold a family with no real foundation together long enough to create a base that would sustain us. It speaks to me as a mother who has had to fight to do what's best for my daughter, to protect her. It speaks to me as a wife and partner to a man that at times seemed as though was being wrenched from me by all the powers in the universe.

Come the war
Come the avarice
Come the war
Come hell

Come attrition
Come the reek of bones
Come attrition
Come hell

I think of the moments that felt like hell was just a breath away. It takes me to the moment that J looked at me and told me that I had to push the baby out right now, right now. I think of the moments on the floor, crying silently while my child slept, scared out of my mind that she wouldn't have the stability for a decent childhood, and that it was entirely out of my control.

This is why
Why we fight
Why we lie awake
And this is why
This is why we fight

When we die
We will die
With our arms unbound

And this is why
This is why
Why we fight
Come hell

I see my daughter, I see my husband, and I know without any doubt that every moment of it was beyond worth it. I know that there is not one thing in this world I wouldn't take on for them. Every hurt, every tear, and grasp that feels like it could be the last, I would do it all a million times over for this family of mine.

So come to me
Come to me now
Lay your arms around me
And this is why
This is why
We fight
Come hell

The love of a mother and a wife, fully devoted to her family, can stand against anything. There is strength here that I do not believe can be matched by anything in the world. The love of a family that truly appreciates a woman like this is absolutely the greatest reward that exists in all the world. When your child comes to you unbidden and tells you she loves you, when your husband/partner shows you how loved and appreciated you are every moment, everyday, there is nothing more worth fighting for.

As mothers, as women - this is why we fight.

It's been a year since I felt like I had something to say through this forum, and I am excited to be back. I hope you all are happy to have me...

We're out and about, playing in the park or walking through the store, and D takes a tumble. She's there, splayed out on her belly on the ground, and she gives a shout. Not a scream or a cry, but a shout. I, well, I do nothing. I wait. Then, the looks come. They come mostly from little old ladies and other moms with a baby or a toddler - occasionally they come from moms with older kids, or dads even, but not most of the time.

D gets up, brushes herself off, and looks back at me. "I'm ok mama."
"Good deal Bear, I'm glad you're ok."

Baby D was intense. She needed a lot... of everything, except for toys. She needed to be held, as much as possible. She needed to nurse, whenever she wanted. She needed every cry attended to, immediately.  She needed to sleep pressed up against mommy, daddy, or some other loving friend or relative.

Then she got bigger, and she needed less. From about 12 months to 18 months she struggled with the getting bigger and the needing less. It wasn't always an easy transition to go from having your wants and needs be one and the same to having wants that aren't needs. It's a hard lesson, but like the song says, you can't always get what you want...

I tried to make the transition as happy as possible. We celebrated every step toward greater independence and kept our connection as close as possible. Co-sleeping, nursing, baby(toddler)wearing, unlimited hugs and kisses - these remained the tools of my trade. Now, at almost 2 (just over a month to go!), I am amazed at how my intense-baby turned struggles-with-transition toddler has become such an amazing and remarkably separate little person.

I do miss the little squishy bundle of total dependence that wanted nothing more than mama's arms and mama's milk to be happy, but that being said...

There is so much joy in my newly acquired freedom to do nothing!

I often get asked by my precious D to put on a movie or a show. I usually say no. This generally results in a lot of shrieking and flopping about on the floor. It's amazing how quickly not doing anything fixes this problem, or - more accurately - allows it to fix itself. With that lovely toddler attention span of a microsecond, D is quickly off of her tantrum and on to finding something more enjoyable to do. And this "finding something more enjoyable to do" does not involve me. You see, there are still many things she needs me for, but entertaining her is not one of those things. If there is one thing my little girl does not need my help with, that thing is play.

I'm going to say that again, a little louder: If there is one thing my little girl does not need my help with, that thing is play.

Not to say that I don't play with her, I do. There is a lot of hide-n-seek, tickle monster, and carry-dad's-socks-to-the-drawer (what? she thinks it's fun!), but I spend most of her playtime - which is mostly anytime she isn't eating or sleeping - staying our of her way. I dance around and sing songs with her, I let her help with the garden or the cooking, and we read books together. Still, I expect her to spend significant chunks of time playing on her own with her dolls, cars, puzzles, play kitchen, or just rocks and sticks outside.

She is extremely good at this.

This leaves me time to do things around the house. I often spend it with a book and a cup of tea instead. I am learning to happily embrace living in the chaos of a small child's home. So long as there are dishes to eat off of, reasonably clean clothes to wear, and sticky floors get a good once over every week, I can let the rest of it be until I feel especially drawn to tidying up. I accept that I must attend to my own sanity first, and that requires time to do nothing. Nothing sometimes means puttering in the kitchen with new recipes or reading a good book. Sometimes it involves yoga or swinging in the hammock. It's not unheard of to involve celebrity gossip or Ally McBeal reruns.

Sometimes doing nothing when it comes to D takes more self-control than doing something. When she decides to start screaming in the grocery store or she wonders aimlessly around the playground without playing with anything, I have a really hard time just letting it be. I am definitely a work in progress, but I am getting there. I find myself constantly amazed at what she can do when I leave her to it. She is, as an example, teaching herself to go to the potty. I let her roam around with just a shirt on, and she has decided she'd rather go in the potty than pee all over herself. It's been remarkably easy.

Some days, the doing nothing doesn't work, like the infamous day of the hour-and-a-half long tantrum caused by too little sleep. There are times when I want to pull my hair out after she throws her plate of food on the floor for the third time. So instead of nothing - because doing nothing feels impossible - I turn the focus on myself. I concentrate on my reactions, my emotional response. I spend my energy calming myself, hoping to teach D how to do the same. I think it's working, but I guess I'll just have to keep doing nothing and see.
   A trip to the farmers' market in the morning always leaves me thinking about food the whole rest of the day. It's so much fun to take Dav out there and show her all of the different fruits and vegetables. It's bright and colorful and smells delicious. As she gets older, I hope she learns to appreciate that we live in a place where we can buy our food straight from the farmers who grow or raise it.
   Making sure Dav's getting the absolute best nutrition possible has been a concern of mine from day one with her. It's the reason I ate healthy food while I was pregnant, why she'll nurse for as long as she wants, and why I cook our meals using whole foods, making whatever I can myself. I know that what she gets from me, which accounts for about 95% of what she consumes, is really good for her. I also believe that those steps I take to make sure what she's taking in is healthy allows for some leeway when she's not being fed by me.
   Daddy gets to give her a taste of ice cream. Pop-pop gives her some pickle. Lala and Papa buy her a grilled cheese sandwich on her birthday. Mama, well Mama shrugs it off and makes a batch of whole grain wheat germ pancakes with brown rice syrup and blueberries for breakfast, puts out a plate of hummus, feta cheese, and grilled zucchini for lunch, and cooks garlicky lentil and apple stew for dinner (with a mandarin orange for dessert). We snack on whole grain pita instead of those baby junk food puffs. We sip water, never juice.
   I try to set a good example, too. I try and eat things I want her to eat, because I know she'll be watching. I can't expect her to accept cheddar cheese on apple slices or almond butter on celery as an afterschool snack if I'm shoving pizza rolls down my throat. Still, I don't want her to become overly preoccupied with everything she puts in her mouth. A stressful relationship with food is a dangerous thing, and I want her to be able to enjoy the social aspects of eating. We love butter, full fat yogurt, and real cream in my house (just keep it organic, please), so I think we are providing a healthy, balanced perspective when it comes to food.
   It's easy now, because I have so much control over what she gets. I imagine, though, that it's only going to get harder. Oh well, I'll take full advantage of my position now and hope the lessons and good habits stick. And, I'll try to eat my ice cream and drink my beer after she's already in bed for the night...
Oh Toddlerhood, how mixed are my feelings at your arrival...

   I try thinking back to those first few weeks as a mom and I wonder if I could have actually imagined getting frustrated with the little angel in my arms. I don't know that I was able to  picture the "watch me deliberately hit my head on this table/stuff a handful of toilet paper in my mouth/scream while trying to claw your eyes out because you won't let me stick my hand in your very hot coffee"-ness that could inhabit my fiery, spirited, strong-willed little girl. Oh yeah, she's going to be a handful. This is a journey that reminds me daily of how little control I have in this life, and how surprisingly beautiful that makes it. My need for lists and plans and knowing what comes next is not anything easily found in a 12 month old's world.  And that, my friends, is as it should be.

   I understand why parents struggle with finding an appropriate balance between allowing kids to be kids and maintaining the order they need to stay sane on a daily basis. It isn't always easy, and I only have one little one to corral (not to mention the magic weapons for tantrum ending underneath my shirt). I've seen, on more than one occasion, a frazzled mom give up and put the toy in the basket. I've seen the mom on the verge of tears while her kid screams and thrashes while other adults looks at her with contempt. I've seen moms abandon full grocery carts to take inconsolable children home after spending an hour or more just trying to buy food for their families. I always try and shoot them a sympathetic half smile, show them that sometimes there is empathy and solidarity with no judgment from another mama, because we all have our rough days.

  There are times, though, that some parents need to see the disapproval and judgment of the people around them.  I have on sadly numerous occasions seen stressed out, worn down moms hit unruly children to try and regain control over a situation. You can call it spanking, or swatting, or whatever you want. From where I stand, I see a grown-up physically attacking, as well as emotionally and mentally abusing, a child. I've heard the "I don't hit them hard enough to hurt them" argument. Well, if someone two, three, four, or more times my size was swinging a hand at me when it is presumably their job and their responsibility to love and nurture me, I think the damage being done would be much greater than just the immediate physical pain.

   Every mother is a mother by choice. There is (thankfully, rightfully) no law that says just because some guy managed to get his sperm in your egg, you have to become a mom. Regardless of how you feel about that, the option for a safe and legal way out is there. So when you choose to pop out a baby, and then you choose to keep that baby and raise it, you have an obligation to do the best you can for that little person.

   If someone's wife was acting in a manner that her husband found unacceptable and his response was to hit her to make her stop, would anyone say that it's okay?   Obviously, any sane person would say that it was abuse. Why do so many people think it's perfectly acceptable for an adult to perpetuate violence on a child but not on another adult? Children deserve to have their humanity respected just as much as adults do.

   What it boils down to is lazy parenting, in my opinion. Some people just can't be bothered to spend the energy to use consistency and exercise patience or to let go of their own desire for control enough to allow their children to behave like children. Let's stop, as a society, expecting children to act like adults and start expecting parents to do so. Let's stop giving our averted eyes, it's-none-of-my-business tacit approval to these adults' disrespectful, destructive assault their children's personhood.
   The Bear's first birthday is fast approaching. Not only will that mark one year outside of my belly for her, but also one year of mommyhood for me! One year of no sleep, mountains of diapers, and being covered in someone else's bodily fluids.
   One year of finding boundless strength and energy reserves I never knew I had. One year of trusting my body to provide what my baby needs and discovering the joy of the nursing relationship between mom and baby. One year of seeing everything for the first time all over again. One year of the deep intimacy gained when you share the raising of a child with someone. One year of learning how it feels to have an ever-expanding heart full of an always growing love.
   I've spent my minutes, hours, days attending to the every need of this little person. I've trusted my instincts and adapted to the constant change. Now, my little baby is transforming into a toddler. She's taken her first steps and pushed for independence. Now, when she's upset she comes to me, or she doesn't. It's no longer a given that mommy can make it better, or that she'll even want me to. She communicates with gestures and words (some only I understand) instead of always with a cry. She laughs, not only because of physical sensations, but with humor. It's amazing. I miss the tiny baby who wanted nothing more than mommy's arms, mommy's breast, mommy's comfort. I'm impressed at the firecracker kid I'm seeing more of everyday, though.
   Ok, I'm ready for phase two...

Happy Fathers' Day to all the Dads out there and to all the Moms who take on both roles, too!
   I wholeheartedly consider myself a feminist. Like most feminists, I believe that a woman's life and body is her domain and her domain alone. The women's movement fights so hard for the right to safe, legal abortion and reproductive rights, I wonder why birth choice and advocacy for mothers doesn't seem to be on the agenda.
   It feels so often that because I choose to dedicate my life to motherhood and family my feminism is automatically called into question. I would never challenge the validity or value of a woman's choice of a life dedicated to career, political service, activism, or the pursuit of knowledge. I don't understand what so threatens someone else's feminist ideals to see a strong, intelligent woman take on, happily and by choice, a traditional 'female' role. I'm not subservient, I have not lost my identity, and my position is not less than anyone else's.
   Would anyone attack a daycare worker or a preschool teacher's position as running counter to feminism? Then why when I take on that same work and more am I looked down on? Is it because I don't get a paycheck? Is it because I'm caring for and teaching things to my own child and not someone else's? Am I the only one who fails to find the logic?
   I wish that these women who will speak out and march to protect a woman's right to continue or end a pregnancy on her own terms would also be willing to fight for a woman's right to birth on her own terms. It feels like once a woman chooses to continue a pregnancy, she falls off the radar. What, now that I've decided to become a mother it's becomes perfectly fine to subject me to the ever-changing whims of a male-dominated medical establishment? The journey to motherhood should be empowering and strengthening, not an excuse to disavail me of my rights to have full authority over what happens to my body.
   When's the march for that?
   I can't believe in just over a month my little girl is going to be a year old! It's been a while since I've done a Dav update post, so that's what I'm going to do today. I feel like bragging on my bear for a bit.

   My sweet little monster is in to EVERYTHING! She is all over the apartment climbing on everything and pulling whatever she can reach down onto the floor. She's getting really good at standing on her own and I think walking is just a short time away. It makes me long for those days when she was content to be in my arms all day and I could set her down for a moment without her taking off. I don't know when she got so fast! Her new favorite game is Chase, which is a welcome change from the months of Peek-A-Boo that we endured, though I'm sure that will lose it's novelty for me pretty soon.
   She's become a voracious eater. Her current favorite foods are: plain yogurt with bananas and wheat germ for breakfast, tofu with cheese or hummus for lunch, and a roastbeef/spinach/brown rice/sweet potato casserole for dinner. Yep, three meals a day! She had her first pizza and her first snowball (just a bite), too.
   She is also sleeping without a lamp on now. It's so nice to be sleeping in the dark again! She is crazy about the water, and she is fearless at the park. Today, she got her first cowgirl boots and hat; they are so cute it's painful! I'm sure there's more, but I can hear my angel tearing things apart in her den right now, so I've got to go.
   Hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!!
   I'm sitting here trying to understand the logic behind letting a baby "cry it out" and really not getting it.
   Were I as a grown woman to be ignored by someone, say Babydaddy J for instance, I wouldn't have a lot of trust for him. If in the moments that I was asking for help or attention he simply ignored me, I imagine I would start to feel insignificant and unloved, and I believe it could really hurt my confidence. On the other hand, if he behaves lovingly and is attentive to me, I feel more secure in our relationship and have faith in our ability to keep an appropriate level of independence from each other while still maintaining our connection.
   So, why do so many expect a little baby who knows nothing except for how much she wants her mom or dad (or some other loving presence) to hold and comfort her, to be benefitted by being left for even a short while to cry alone? What exactly do people think they are teaching that baby?
   We're supposed to believe that the baby is being taught to self soothe to sleep.   I don't buy that for one second. I believe baby is being taught that to express his most basic needs is useless, and neither mom or dad can be trusted to respond. Babies cry to communicate, and eventually they stop crying not because they've miraculously become good sleepers (a term I take serious issue with), but because they've learned that their attempts at communicating are going to be ignored.
   Until Dav showed me she was ready for and wanted more space, she had been in physical contact with me probably 75% of the time, including naps taken in arms or being worn, bed sharing at night, co-showering, and being worn while I was getting stuff done. Not to mention all of the playtime we share. She still nurses on demand (about every two hours awake and as often as she needs at night) and nurses down to sleep every night that she wants to and for most naps. She has every cry responded to immediately. She is firmly attached to me, and it has already made her really adventurous, confident, and easy going.
   Having a baby and becoming a mother is a choice. Our children don't asked to be brought  into this world, so it's our jobs as parents to take care of and attend to our babies. The first year of a baby's life is hard, harder than I think any first time parent can expect, and I can't imagine it gets easier anytime soon after. Be a grown up, suck it up. If you can't deal with taking care of a baby, don't have one.
   For the last ten and a half months, my home has been a big pile of toys and laundry, I've probably averaged 2.5 showers a week, I've gotten about three hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time, and I have learned to celebrate putting on a pair of pants that don't have a drawstring before noon as a serious victory. So sure, from the outside it probably looks like a big, ol' mess, but my baby bear is one of the happiest, healthiest, most independent babies I've ever seen. That's enough to make me feel like SuperMom right there.
   I'm sitting here thinking about this time last year, and how it seems a lifetime ago. I had a big giant belly (but no stretch marks yet), a beautiful nursery (that we never used), my birth plan all written (which said nothing about a call to 911 or slicing open my hoo-ha), and a firm idea of what kind of mother I would be (which has remarkably little to do with the kind of mother I am). I would sit for hours watching the little alien in my belly roll and kick and punch my abdomen into wonky shapes. I would walk, do squats and pelvic rocks, and kegel like a crazy woman every day. I fantasized about regaining my pre-baby body and a freezer full of breastmilk for mommy-and-daddy date nights. I felt ready for anything and ready to revel in the bliss of motherhood and my own little family.
   I was so unaware of what was coming that it's really sort of funny...
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   Now I know what it means to be a mother. Well, I know what it means to be a mother to my particular 10 month old at least, and I'm pretty knowledgeable about the research and expert opinion surrounding everything else. I've settled into my new mommy skin. I cherish the marks on my body left from the last weeks of pregnancy; each line a mark on the map of my journey to motherhood, the wider hips and heavier breasts physical evidence of a body that grew and continues to nourish another human being. I embrace our family bed, even when it means getting kicked repeatedly or peed on in the middle of the night, because it means I get to wake up every single day looking into the two faces I love most in this world. I am grateful for my beautiful, eventful birth experience because my trust in my power as a woman has grown exponentially, as has my trust in the power of other women to act as guardians of the birth process (even when things go off course). I still sit for hours watching my little bear kick, roll, and punch my belly -- she just does it from the outside now. I accepted early on that I do not respond well to a pump and my daughter does not want to take a bottle, and I haven't really wanted to be away from her even for just a few hours.
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   Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!
   I am of the opinion that more people like me should be procreating. Maybe that's a horribly arrogant, narcissistic thing to say, but I stand by it.
   Okay, so I don't mean people with my eclectic and sometimes embarrassing music preferences or my rad taste in movies. I'm not talking about my thrift store/clearance rack chic or even my mad kitchen skillz (yes, skillz with a 'z'). What I'm talking about are baby-makers who are willing and able to parent/live/exist mindfully and consciously.
   I hate the thought that so many repressed, small minded, prejudiced, thoughtless sheep are raising up another herd - uh - generation just like  them. So this is my call to arms, or at least to bed with a willing partner. We need to tip the scales people!
   Take the Duggars for instance, that crazy giant family on TLC. They are part of the 'quiverfull' movement that encourages fundamentalist Christians to get to it like bunnies so that they can contribute as many little soldiers as possible to 'god's army.' Meanwhile, more and more progressively minded people are opting out of the breeding game altogether.
   So, my enlightened (or at least open minded) brothers and sisters, get out there and make (or adopt or foster) some babies that can grow up into rational adults. Please, because I think we're thisclose to being on the endangered species list.