Saturday, October 20, 2007

Interview With a Cheryl

Questions Provided By: Candace and Anna.

The way it works: She was interviewed by someone whose blog she reads. I read her blog every day, and I volunteered to let her interview me. Here are the questions she asked and my answers. If you want to volunteer to answer five itty-bitty questions, just leave a comment or send me an email. I love getting to know people, and it'll give me some use of my almost-received journalism degree.

1) I know you aren't overly fond of holidays. Tell me what you want Ben and Anna to remember about Christmas or Thanksgiving.

You're right. The holidays don't really mean much to me. I've never really gotten into the whole decorating and preparation thing. As a matter of fact, I usually forget to shop for gifts. Maybe my SAHM status will change my feelings about it (not this year, maybe next); we'll see. Regardless of whether or not I ever make wreaths or create a paper turkey centerpiece, I know already what I want Ben and Anna to remember about the holidays. Family. I'm blessed that all of my brothers and sisters live in the same state. As adults, we still try to get to my parents' house for the holidays, though sometimes we miss each other by a few hours.

For the longest time, the only children in the family were my nephews who are now 14 and 7. Two nieces were added by marriage, now ages 13 and 8. Then my sister and I got married and started families. Then my sister-in-law announced a third pregnancy. By Christmas 2008, there will be at least four children under the age of three gathered at my parents' house, creating chaos, joy and lovely memories. We have a large extended family that is totally wrapped up in our children, celebrating all the precious moments, exciting developments, etc. I want Ben and Anna to remember how focused we all were on the children in our lives.

2) What is the most sentimental thing you have in your home? Tell us about it.

This was the hardest question for me. Since college, I've worked very hard at editing my possessions. Maybe I watched too much "Clean House." I don't have a lot of keepsakes lying around. I have a few sentimental items, though I don't know which is the most sentimental and none of them are important enough to me to carry out with me if the house was on fire. I'd grab my children and their most loved things, not mine. I think this lack of sentimentality relates to my apathy for the holidays.

The sentimental items that I have include a framed cross-stitch that Chris's Grandpa Garrett made for us to commemorate our marriage. He finished it about a week before our wedding. Another is a painting of a lighthouse that his Grandma Dixie painted and gave to us as a present. Then there is the framed collage of our first year of marriage. It includes our wedding announcement, a picture of Chris kissing my cheek at our reception, pictures we had taken three weeks before Ben was born, one of which has Chris hugging my hugely pregnant belly, and our first family picture taken at the hospital with Ben all swaddled and wrinkly and cute.

Beyond those, there are some items I've kept from my years as a single girl. A wooden statue of a yogi in melancholic contemplation. The first carving I ever had really strong feelings for. He looked so sad in that pose, I knew I had to take him home with me and keep him safe while he sorted through his despair. It doesn't take a psychologist to realize that I transferred my own feelings onto the statue. For what it's worth, he's in a box in the attic right now. I also have half a dozen 5x7 framed prints of lovely fine art scenes. Lots of soft, subtle colors and happy images. I plan on hanging those on Anna's side of the room. I selected each print carefully because it reminded me of something from my childhood or something from a favorite book.

3) Nursing was a HUGE part of my relationship with my Anna. What is your favorite part of nursing? I know it is early to ask this question but I am assuming you nursed Ben as well. I am proud of you for your determination to keep trying with Anna!

My mom nursed me exclusively for the first year. She always told me that nursing her children was the most precious part of being a mother. She still recalls fondly the soft caresses of tiny little hands lovingly petting her bare skin. Naturally, the concept appealed to me.

With Ben, I expected to nurse him. Of course I also expected to go to full term with him. I didn't, and Ben struggled to go to breast. He latched on a few times, our lactation consultant approved the latch, and his pediatrician discharged him from the hospital at the normal time, not the standard 4-5 day minimum they now have for all babies who spend any time in the NICU. When we got home, we spent a frustrating two days trying to get him to breast again. He didn't. All he wanted to do was sleep. At our two-day follow-up at his pediatrician's office, we were quickly sent back to the NICU to be re-admitted. He had lost too much weight, was severely jaundiced and had the awful label of "failure to thrive." With a lot of tears, my life as a pumper began, and we made the decision to pump exclusively and give up trying to get him to breast.

With Anna, I wasn't going to just automatically start pumping without trying really hard to nurse. Part of it was remembering the words of my mother who still glows when she talks about how wonderful nursing was, part of it was that I knew how terribly hard it would be to pump all the time with a newborn and a toddler to take care of by myself. Imagine then, my utter joy when I not only got Anna to latch, but got her to nurse for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. We've had a few setbacks since she got home, but she'll go to breast at least four or five times a day. I'm loving it. I'm loving the close contact. I love how her eyes cross when she concentrates on a point right in front of her nose.

I'm not forcing the issue with her. When she's hungry, I offer her a choice of positions at each breast, but if she doesn't latch, we give her the bottle. It's getting to the point now where she'll usually go to breast at least fifty percent of the time. I only need to pump twice a day to make enough milk for all of her supplement bottles. Yay us!

4) Is it true? Does your love just grow and expand to make room for the second one?

This was something I thought about when we were thinking about another child and even more when we were expecting. Ben is my sunshine, he's my favorite part of life, he's a constant source of delight and wonder and bliss. How on earth could I feel that strongly for another baby? I didn't worry a lot about it. I just figured I'd deal with whatever happens when it happened.

When Anna was born, I was immediately filled with overwhelming tenderness and concern. Did I love her the same way as I love Ben? No. It's different. A lot of my feelings for Ben involve our history together, how we've bonded over the months, the love and laughter we've shared, etc. It's not just instinctual mother love. I love Anna, and I'm falling more in love with her every day. The place where Anna is in my heart is separate from Ben, so she's not replacing him or crowding him out, and my love for Ben is not constricting my ability to love Anna.

By the way, Candace, you're right about postpartum depression affecting the bonding process. When I had that meltdown a few days postpartum, I was ready to leave. Just pack up my stuff and get the heck out of town. I wanted to leave Chris, Ben and Anna and just go away and not ever have to be a mother or a wife again. It just shows you how much depression can overtake any feelings of love and commitment. My hormones are balanced better now, and I'm back to my usual self for the most part.

5) What is your dream vacation (family or couple)? Where would you go and what would you be sure to do?

In reality, any vacations we take as a family "need" to be to visit Chris's family since they live so far away and have only seen Ben once. We're going in February. In my head, I know exactly what I'd rather do.

Before I became a proofreader, I was a nanny for a lovely family in town. They weren't filthy rich, but comfortably well off and with some family money. Their extended family owns a villa in the Bahamas. They let me and a friend use the villa for a week several years back. It was lovely. Absolutely wonderful. It's a very quiet location, not very public and touristy. Perfect for children. That's where I'd go with my family. We'd wake up in the mornings and cook pancakes. Then we'd go for a walk on the beach and build sandcastles.

The End.