Category: Gorgeous Boy

Preparedness makes me so nervous

Last Friday the kids had a Safety Drill at school. For me, it only meant that instead of picking the kids up at the bus stop, I actually had to go get them at the school. Parents needed to learn the protocol if “something” happened one day.
The night before we had my nephew’s wedding, and on Friday I slept in. That day I let the three younger kids stay home, but my Gorgeous Boy had a test and couldn’t miss it. He went to school, not too happily though.

During breakfast, my Princess Peach told me what they do during her kindergarten class Safety Drill. If there’s a threat, the teacher leads the kids to the bathroom, where they file in in complete silence. They have to stay away from the sink because it has a motion sensor, and if there’s a noise, the bad guy will know they’re there. The teacher turns off the light, but she has a flashlight. If it’s lunch time, the teacher has an emergency snack bucket.

While she was telling me all this, my hair was standing on end. I have a very vivid imagination. The images her whispering voice conjured gave me nightmares for nights. They still do.
In the afternoon, I picked up my son. It was my turn to practice the drill. All the parents parked by the basketball courts, following the directions of traffic helpers. All the school stuff wore reflective vests, and somehow, seeing all of them wearing those and a whistle around their neck, I felt this soberness in the air. This was something important.

I checked in at middle school desk that was set up outside. A person with a walkie-talkie called inside the school to ask if my son was still inside. There was a crackling of static. My heart pounded imagining that they would say, “No, he isn’t here.”

After a while they answered he was there, of course, and then I picked him up at a different table.
We walked away, hand in hand. He didn’t try to shake it away, but he wanted to. Some girls were looking at him. We walked past a father who was patiently listening to his three daughters complain of how terrible it was they had to wait in the dark for hours, the whole sixth grade class.

As I drove away, I muttered a prayer of gratitude that this was just a drill, a practice in case something bad happens. A nightmare. A horror so terrible I can’t even imagine. I hate that kids (and parents) have to do this. But boy am I grateful my kids will know what to do (hopefully) in case of an emergency!

As for me, I’d love to fly to a distant island, safe from tsunamis and hurricanes, and live away from monsters. And then I think of The Village, and I’m left with just a prayer of protection for my children, and every children. That’s all I can do.

My Gorgeous Son teaching school in Ghana

World Breasfeeding Week

Memories are tricky things. Our minds distil events, and we’re left with the essence.

When I was little, my three younger siblings and I never ventured far from our mom’s side. She cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked with a baby in her arms. One of my very first memories is of my dad driving my mom and all of us kids to answer a request he had heard on the radio. A newborn baby at a local hospital needed “maternal milk” (that’s how they called it), and my mom, who at the time was nursing my little brother, had a plentiful milk supply.

To me, the fact that my mom would donate milk to a baby in need was the most natural thing in the world. When I was a baby, she would walk several blocks every three hours to nurse my baby cousin whose mom couldn’t feed him. I have dozens of “milk brothers and sisters” all over the country.

So when I became a new mother, the thought of not breastfeeding my child never crossed my mind. I was very sick after my son was born, and I was depressed for a whole year post-partum. Knowing that I was able to nurse my son and that he was so healthy and beautiful was sometimes the only thing that gave me enough incentive to get out of bed every morning. Every month the scale showed how much my Gorgeous Boy was growing. I know numbers don’t mean anything when it comes to babies and children–my Swan Princess is twenty pounds underweight according to the charts, but she’s my healthiest kid. The numbers on the scale, however, were a source of pride for me that helped me out of the depression.

All of my kids were champion nursers. I know that some people will be horrified of knowing that Princess Peach was three and a half when she stopped nursing, but we both loved every moment of it. It’s not true that if babies nurse into toddlerhood they will be clingy or insecure. My Princess Peach is so independent and full of confidence!

When Baby Hulk had to stay in the NICU after birth, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to nurse him, even though I had done it four times before. During the first days, the only thing I could do for him was pumping every two or three hours. It was emotionally and physically taxing. But the first day he was fed my milk though the feeding tube, he looked so content all the efforts were worth it–for him.

Little by little, the nurses allowed me to nurse him. At first, he’d fall asleep, but he caught on really well. Each time he tried he did better and better, until he didn’t need the feeding tube anymore and eventually he came home with me. We’re both pros now. I don’t count the minutes he nurses or how many times he swallows.

I don’t take it for granted though.

I know many mothers aren’t able to nurse their babies for one reason or another, and I love that I can choose how I want to nurture my baby. I’m grateful that I come from a culture that holds nursing mothers in such high esteem. There are no special nursing covers or rooms in Argentina (or there weren’t when I lived there), but mothers and their babies were welcomed and respected everywhere.

During the years, many times I’ve seen my kids pretend-nurse their “babies” (from teddy bears to action figures). I hope their minds can also distill the essence from the memories: breastfeeding is not only natural, but also sacred. It saves lives.

In Princess Peach’s room I have a painting of an angel holding a nursing mother. I’ve felt the embrace of angels many a night when comforting a baby.

Happy International Breastfeeding Week! Maybe one day we won’t even need such a celebration. After all, how many “International Breathing Weeks” do we have?

Statue of Mary nuring Jesus

Mothering, my dear friend

Mothering, very much like writing, is a lonely affair. Especially during the first few months as a new mom. When my Gorgeous Boy was born, Jeff and I didn’t have the support of our parents nearby. We lived far from our family and from our friends who were also having babies at the same time as us.

I wish that during those hard months I had the companionship of Mothering Magazine, the only parenting magazine I’ve paid a subscription for. But I didn’t discover it until my third child, El Cangri, was six months and I didn’t know how to help my baby, who suffered chronic ear infections and who could cry for hours and hours, and who had a diaper rash that nothing could cure.

We were at a chiropractor’s office when I came across a free copy of the magazine. I took it home and devoured it. Not only did I love the articles, but the readers’ letters and the ads. Oh the ads! Natural toys and baby slings, cloth diapers and homeopathic remedies.

When I found Mothering, I found a friend, and behind it, a community of other moms, like me, who wanted to try alternative parenting styles.

When I didn’t know what else to try for my son who could throw titanic tantrums or when I was considering homeschooling, I went to the Mothering Forum Boards and found a lot of advise, which even when it didn’t apply to me, I  felt I had support, people who understood what I was going through.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard the terrible news. Mothering is no more. The company, struck by the economic crisis, like hundreds if not thousand other businesses, couldn’t keep afloat. Now, they’re only a web base company.

The forums remain, but I’ll miss my bi-monthly copy of the magazine. I have a stack of past issues that I’ll save like gold for the future, for when I need to read an inspiring article or find nutritious recipes. Even if no more babies will come to our family–we have four after all!– I’m sure a friend, or my daughters, in many, many years, will find the same joy I did at finding like-minded mothers reflected on the magazine.

Thank you, Mothering Magazine, for being my mentor and help me be a better mother for my kids. I’ll miss you so much!