Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Finding my Mothering App

I had a conversation with my ever wise friend, Danielle, a couple years back that changed my life. As we were talking about feeding infants and teaching kids to sleep she said, "You know, it's always helpful to talk to other mothers about things, and parenting books certainly have merit, but I feel like a lot of moms worry so much about 'what the experts say' that they ignore their own maternal instincts and intuition. You can know your own children and how to take care of them."

That conversation has played over and over in my mind. When I became a mother nothing about it felt natural or instinctive, like I thought it would. I wondered if I really could tap into that motherly intuition Danielle seemed to have so easily. I have worked to build that maternal sense. It seems to be a few parts logic mixed with a few parts experience, all carried by a higher power that is not my own.

In the last week it has become all the more real to me.

Exhibit A:

About ten days ago Roger brought home RSV and shared it with the baby, who I'd been working desperately to protect from sickness. He gave some to me, too. I watched it the first day, calling my nurse practitioner s-i-l, Jill, for advice. By the second day I was terrified. Sometimes it seemed like he could hardly get a breath. As I watched his chest and neck suck in, I reached for the phone and made a quick appointment with the doctor. At the appointment the doctor gave me two choices: admit him to the hospital or take him home and care for him. With her instructions, I felt confident I could care for him at home. But oh. It was miserable. My husband had to leave town, so I took my camp of sickies to my parents' home. My mom cared for Rog, who woke up in coughing fits each night, and my job was the baby. The first couple of nights I slept ten minutes at a time, waking up in a panic each time the baby snorted or gasped for air. I would tear the snaps on his sleeper open to check his chest. My throat was sore, I couldn't breathe, my head felt like it was going to explode. And I was terrified that if I actually went to sleep, I would wake up to find a dead baby. These were long days and even longer nights.

Then one afternoon everything changed. I fed the baby, sucked out his nose with the bulb syringe to ensure he had clear air passage, snuggled him up, and left him napping in the warm safety of my parents' den. I fed the big boys lunch, chatted with my mom, and took a shower, checking on the baby every now and then. As I watched him breathe and sleep soundly, my irrational behavior and morbid fears vanished as I realized that if I could leave him to nap in the day, I could sleep while he slept at night. If he was fed and his nose was clear, I knew he would be OK. I knew. And I trusted.

Now, several days, doctor appointments, doses of amoxicillin (ear infections all around), and prayers later, we are each on the mend. (Hallelujah!)

Exhibit B:

Yesterday morning I handed Rog a babybel cheese in the kitchen, then ran up to Blaine's room to help him get dressed for pre-school. It couldn't have been more than three minutes to help him choose his black corduroys and striped sweater. I came down stairs to see the cheese broken on the kitchen floor and the front door swung wide open. And I knew Rog was gone. When Roger gets hurt he runs to the next room to throw a fit instead of into my arms. That's his brand of tantrum. Obviously the cheese had broken and he'd gotten mad and run (and this time not just into the next room.)

I raced outside (grateful I was dressed to drive B to pre-school instead of in my typical morning half nudity). In the rain, I ran down one side of the sidewalk and turned the corner. No Roger. I ran down the other side. No Roger. We hopped in the van while I started scrolling through my phone and calling every neighbor I could. No one answered. I drove like mad around my little neighborhood searching for my little blonde. "Pray!" I ordered Blaine. Had he run to the park? To my neighbor Melanie's? He was nowhere. I started to panic. In my small-town neighborhood I was confident he wasn't kidnapped at 9 o'clock on a Tuesday morning. But when Roger's throwing a fit, he's not thinking very clearly, and I knew my greatest fear of a child getting hit by a car was entirely feasible this morning. I drove up to Talent Avenue, the main drag in our little city. No Roger. I drove back through our neighborhood. Where was he? I finally got a hold of Taylor and plead, "What should I do?!" I considered calling the police. He advised me to try a few more minutes. I hung up the phone and stopped at the intersection. My mothering voice told the crazy person in my head to stop panicking and focus. I calmed myself. I thought a prayer. I channeled my inner mother. He's gone farther she said. I knew I needed to cross this street and drive over into the next neighborhood. Halfway down the street, there they were. A man and a woman, carrying a child. My eyes filled with tears, I slammed on my brakes and ran to them. "That's my boy," I sobbed!

{The rest of the story is that these nice people had called the police, who, when they arrived, looked at me like I was a total ignoramus when they saw how far my pajama-clad, barefooted boy had run in the rain, and asked me why I didn't have an alarm on my door (who has an alarm on their door?!). It was awesome. I was just glad to have my boy back. He got a firm talking to that lasted pretty much all day. And on Saturday's to do list: install a high lock on the front door. OK and probably an alarm, too. Boy am I feeling like a shmuck.}

The jury is still out on what was scarier--listening to an infant struggle for air or searching the streets for my runaway boy. But I can tell you this: in each instance, once I found my center and channeled those mother instincts, we prevailed (and thank the holy heavens disaster hadn't struck yet when we did). You can call it intuition. You can call it your gut. I like to think of it as the mothering application of the Holy Spirit. I don't think it matters what you call it. But it is real. And it is power. Thank you, Danielle, for teaching me to find mine.




Lu said...

Amen! Amen to every last word. And thank you!

And seriously... who has an alarm on their front door... especially one intended to keep your kids IN? not the bad guys OUT? Good luck with whatever you decide to install :)

sarita said...

My eyes were brimming with tears as I read this--you write so well.

Thanks for the reminder.

Rachael said...

Anne, I don't even know what to say! Except that I'm glad these are behind you, and I sincerely hope that your week has gone better this time around!

Can I add something else that I've been thinking about lately? Sometimes I forget that the Lord knows my children even better than I do. Sometimes I worry so much and read so much and ask everyone I know for solutions to the phase that my children are going through--and I forget to pray. I think that promptings are responsible for whatever grains of "mother intuition" I've started to develop! It never ceases to amaze me how I can be dealing with some tiny little problem that matters so much to me, and I just KNOW what I need to do, and it's never something I would have come up with on my own. It always reminds me of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.

toddnjoelle said...

Anne you are a true mother. I've had a few similar experiences and was greatful when a neighbor down the steet moved last year because of complete embarrassment. 3 kids has been the hardest experience of my life, but has given me a little of that mother instinct that drives me forward. Good luck with your boys.

Sally said...

I totally lost Macy at IKEA last week and she was the only one with me. And my son almost drowned right in front of me one time, so don't be too hard on yourself. Motherhood is scary sometimes. Glad your baby is OK.

Abbie said...

Wow, Anne, intense situations! Bless you!

This was beautiful.

It's all about mothering with the spirit. I have less and less confidence in my brain the longer I am a mother. Luckily (blessedly!) I have more and more confidence in the Lord and the Holy Ghost. They are my mothering instinct. It'd be over if I stopped listening to Them.

Megan said...

Amen here too- I definitely needed this reminder as I care for two sick children of my own! The Lord knows what we need, and He cares about our children more than we do!

Danielle said...

Oh goodness! Well first of all, I can barely write a coherent comment because reading about both exhibits made me a tad teary eyed (sick babies and lost children are basically #1 and 2 at the top of my list of horrible things that can happen). I am so glad things have calmed down and everyone is feeling better. I have been so worried about you!

And I am certainly glad to be even the tiniest part of this happy ending. I am 100% certain you would have arrived in the same place with or without me, but I will say that I feel blessed on a regular basis that we have each other as friends and examples because for every one thing that comes naturally for me as a mother there are at least 10 that I struggle with. Its nice to pull strength from each other. And goodness...that's what this blog is all about! So thanks for that;)

jeanine said...

Oh Anne how scary! But thank you for the wonderful reminder!

Christina said...

Beautifully written about some really hard things. I hope things are looking up. And I appreciate your words. I think it can be hard to find that intuition, but I agree it is there and can be nurtured. The Spirit is always our best teacher. Thank you for sharing!

Melissa said...

I have always been convinced that "intuition" is the Spirit. I felt it when my kids were babies. I would ask silent questions and get answers. All these years later, I now think it highly reasonable that if Heavenly Father is going to send us His little spirits to raise, He was also planning on helping us raise them. ;)

Thanks to Rachael for your comments. I need to shift my prayers a little and have faith that Heavenly Father already knows my children. I don't think of that when I'm asking for help. I know that He will help me, but I forget that He knows them better than I do. I need to be more specific in my prayers and listen for His answers.

Sara said...

I know the terror your heart felt...Christopher managed to escape when he was about 18 months old (barely turned around to the lock the front door and he was gone in an instant). I've never been so scared in my life. How wonderful it is to know that our mothering instincts allow us to feel the Spirit and His direction when we're absolutely terrorized!

Amanda said...

I sometimes have to remind myself that Heavenly Father knows my children better than I know them. I sometimes feel so dumb when praying to ask for guidance is one of my last thoughts, instad one of my first.

Whenever I put my faith and trust in the Lord, regarding raising my children (or anything) everything always turns out the way it's supposed to. It's just hard to trust in Him, especially when that means turning your will over to Him.

Kimberly said...

Having kids is the most humbling experience- I can't believe Heavenly Father entrusts such tiny, helpless infants to our care. Absolutely incredible.

debt hope said...

My number two was an escape artist. The worst was the day I was on my hands and knees cleaning up the paint he had already used to "paint" the bathroom floor and door when I heard a knock on the front door where the UPS man stood wondering if this diaper clad child that he saw walking down the sidewalk was mine. That was a super proud moment.

I loved your thoughts on mothering instincts. One of the best things about mothering for me has been the realization that heaven does, in fact, speak to me. My prayers have been answered, and I have received inspiration. Mothering has strengthened my testimony of a loving and concerned Heavenly Father who pays attention to the details of our lives.

Anonymous said...

My eyes filled with tears reading your post. I have experienced both these situations and being a mom can be so scarey sometimes. I remember when I had my first baby and I was so worried about her during the night. I finally realized that praying was the best thing to keep my little one safe and she was in Heavenly Father's hands. After that I was a bit more calm. Congratulations on your new baby.

Jessica C. said...

Thank you.