31 January 2009


My youngest son, 4, learned how to float on his back this week. I know maybe that doesn't sound like much but I was impressed. We went to the pool at the new gym we joined and we saw a little girl floating. I asked if he wanted to try. I attempted to teach him but he wasn't relaxing & would sink over and over. So my oldest son asked me to step aside and in minutes oldest had taught youngest. My oldest realized that the key was relaxing the throat/neck & sticking out the chin...from there the softening of the middle happened & he was floating. At first he needed a hand beneath him as he was getting into position but after a few more minutes he was doing it all on his own, with a huge mellow grin.

I couldn't help but think about how I use the image of floating on top of water to help women through contractions. Suggesting that they make their body soft and open and take up more space, let the sensation lift them up and up and up... And I also thought it funny that the key for my son was relaxing his throat...also so helpful in labor! "What goes above, so goes below".

29 January 2009


You heard it here first. I'm nuts, I know, for thinking that I might just join some friends and train for a half-triathlon. It's not until September. It's about a half-mile swim, about 10 miles on a bike and about 3.5 miles walk/run.

Why is this an out-there idea, you ask?

Well, I am not a swimmer. I swim just fine & used to be an avid scuba diver - I just never learned how to swim and do that breathing to the side thing. I'm planning to train using a mask & snorkel at first. I think the group is hiring a swim coach.

I am not a runner. I make myself run a little between walking sometimes. I'd like to be a runner but frankly they have not invented a jog bra that's strong enough to make it any fun. But I can walk.

I don't even own a bike, but I love spin classes.

I've never done a race of any sort before, unless you count a three-legged race or similar at a field day.

But some of my friends and I just joined a new gym together that is super nice & has a pool (missing from old gym) & the most awesome kid areas, climbing walls & the spinning is amazing, complete with jumbo screens playing bike races.

We also started Weight Watchers, knowing that all of this will be easier if there is a bit less of ourselves to lug around.

I'm putting it here because I'm pretty averse to backing out once a challenge has been set. So I will register and train and see how it goes. But I did buy a magnet for my car similar to the picture above to inspire myself. I had the thought today (in said spin class) that I have had three looong, natural labors and pushed some good-sized babies out, so I think I can do this. And apparently so can some 70 year olds who have to use a noodle for the swim part (or so I am told - this could be a lie to make me feel better - not sure)...so I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

27 January 2009

eight is (more than) enough

A woman gave birth to octuplets today (by cesarean at 23 weeks gestation) in CA. They knew about seven babies...the eighth was a surprise.
She plans to breastfeed all eight babies! Wow - what a woman...my hat is off to her.

26 January 2009

to the women in my life

you know who you are - I love you.

25 January 2009

the hard sell

I'm home cleaning up, putting the house back in order...in the background has been playing infomercial after infomercial that came on after some show someone was watching earlier & I don't know why I have not changed the channel. Facial rejuvenation, commemorative coins, exercise equipment & colon cleanse programs. I like to think of myself as a pretty informed consumer and, well, not a sucker. But just hearing this constant stream of messages in the background has had me thinking, "hmm- maybe I should try that","ooh - maybe that really works"...

This is just an hour and a half of messages & yet it's been sort of hypnotizing. Is it any wonder that women line up for every bell & whistle that promises a "safe" birth? A lifetime of this barrage...on the news, on fictional TV shows, from our friends, from our mothers, in books...
It's overwhelming & insidious. And yet some of us are able to see beyond it all and trust birth.

I'm going to go turn off the TV - I don't need a solution to back pain...my back feels fine but if I listen long enough I'm sure it will start to hurt. I'm going to trust that I'm OK.

24 January 2009

23 January 2009

addressing anemia

On an eloop I follow, there has been a discussion about anemia in the childbearing year or really anytime. Here are some of the suggestions:

Molasses on oatmeal
Real black licorice, like Panda - it contains molasses
Yellow dock tincture
Cooking in a cast-iron pan
Floradix (both vegetarian & non-vegetarian)
Take a supplement with food-based nutrients (more easily absorbed, non-constipating iron)

22 January 2009

my obamicons

make yours at obamiconme

be the change

This may be Obama's challenge to America...but it comes in pretty handy as a mom. Kid complaining about something? "Be the change, kiddo, be the change". Same goes for birthing women, doulas, anyone - be the change

Happy Birthday To Ya

train platform 1/20/09

goodbye to Bush

crowd sounds

sorry for the jerky movements!

swearing in

the bubble - trip home

inauguration trip

apologies for the bad quality - I only brought a small point & shoot with video...

21 January 2009

speech, speech

To the complainers, who say the inauguration went on and on or the speech too long or not "one for the ages", I say:
I loved the speech - but I was prepared to love it & was not listening with a critic's ear.  I can tell you that everyone around me was listening with rapt attention and did not seem bored or impatient in the least.  As for length, this was a ceremony!  It's meant to make memories...what's a few extra minutes?  So many people have weddings rather than going to the justice of the peace not because it makes them more married but because we crave ceremony & ritual.

our dance with history

I'm so glad I went down to DC!   (pictures tomorrow, I swear!)

I really had second & third thoughts but just decided to be along for the ride & be OK with it being a huge series of crowded bummers, but also made room for the possibility that it might just be great.  At the very least, it would be a lark with dear friends.  In the end, I really did feel like we were a part of something big and historic.  It felt important to me to be there and I know that feeling was shared by all, friends and strangers alike.  I'm sad that my 11 year old couldn't come, but he had fun with his plans.

At first, there was some talk from my friends that we might not even try to get to the swearing in - that it might be too hard with kids.  I have to say that I was crushed - how could we not?!  I was thinking that I would have to just do it by myself or try to hook up with other friends to get a ride home.  Fortunately, everyone was made brave by how easily things were going.  We talked constantly about how we seemed to be in a bubble, where obstacles stayed far away.  We were a school of fish and the current was pushing us along in just the direction we wanted to go. In spite of snow, we had no traffic & got down there really easily.  We settled in (at my friend's BIL's house in Alexandria, VA - thanks Scott!) & then toured Old Town.  We had a fantastic meal & got sleep.  

On Monday, MLK day, we easily made our way in.  It was laughable how easy it was, actually - we would walk on a platform and the train would appear with seven seats.  We would walk into a restaurant and there would be one last table, just big enough for us.  It was pretty funny.

We hung out around the Mall, being amazed at all Obamania everywhere we looked.  We visited Yoko Ono's Wish Tree, writing out our wishes for the president, our country and our future and added them to the tree.  We then went to the American History part of the Smithsonian.  Thinking that we were out of luck for doing something meaningful for MLK Day, our main goal was to see Julia Child's kitchen (which was cool).  But as continued luck would have it, we happened upon a celebration at the museum where an actor was telling the story of Dr. King's journey, reciting portions of speeches and playing recordings.  It was very moving - especially at the end when he encouraged the large crowd to grab hands with our neighbors as we sang "We Shall Overcome".  Strangers were hugging with tears in our eyes.  At the very end, they played Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday To Ya" (listen to it if you have never heard it - a very happy song) & we joined some women who were dancing - it was a beautiful moment - our own little love fest.  We turned to leave and happened upon the Greensboro Lunch Counter - a critical place for ending Jim Crow laws.  So it turned out to be just about the most perfect MLK Day imaginable...we ended our day with nighttime walking tour of some of the monuments. When I called home to check in, my 4 year old asked, "Did you see him?"  I didn't understand & asked who he meant..."Barack Obama! - did you see him?!"

Tuesday morning came early - time to pack up our sleeping bags and say goodbye to our not so youthful hostel.  We had seven people to get packed and up and out by 6am and we did it.  We stopped for coffee and bought the Washington Post for a keepsake.  We (amazingly) found parking (we had backup plans that were thankfully needless) at the train station.  We had gotten train passes the day before and walked past the crowds and onto a train with seats for us.  We had our walkie talkies ready in case the rumor about cell phones not working were true (cell phones did work after all).  We left all but essentials that we could carry in pockets or hip packs.  The two youngest kids (both 12 - not mine) decided that the best way not to get lost was to hang onto the belt of my hip pack (as they had been doing for the whole trip), so my job as sled dog continued!  They joking yelled "mush" as we trudged along.  As soon as we stepped onto the platform in DC the crowd was overwhelming but elated.  There were spontaneous chants and songs.  When a new train would unload, people would just make room.  We joked about ads for anxiety meds and social anxiety disorder until we all decided not to focus on talks of claustrophobia (given that the subway stations there are basically cement bunkers)...we took some Rescue Remedy & lots of deep breaths...but soon enough (maybe 40 minutes up and out of the station?) there was daylight ahead and we all felt relief.  It was controlled madness on the streets...we just started walking, going where the flow of humanity was heading, hearing which entrances to the Mall were already closed off.  We finally made our way in at 14th street (on the Independence Street side - the parade route was on the other side of the Mall).  The energy was happy and joyful.  There sure were a lot of fur coats (real and faux) around us - many that looked like polar bears...we saw one such polar bear who was quite tall & just followed him.

Once we found our spot, with a good jumbo-tron view, we settled in.  Most of the crowd was lovely, but of course there were some folks who pushed their way in front.  I had a chat with one guy, who was a bit of a jerk but ultimately understanding, asking him to move a bit since he was very tall and chose to push in front of us, cutting us off from the kids.  Other than that, people were great & there was a spirit of cooperation.  I held up one older woman while she tried to put warmers in her shoes.  My friend encouraged an older lady who was sitting on the ground (another polar bear!) with a bad leg to get up, joining others to physically help her, when it was time for Obama to be sworn in.  There was singing and joking and fun. Although it was really cold, body heat kept all but our feet warm.  Obsessive tow wiggling was not enough to stave off loss of feeling.  Some booed Bush 43 though most did not.  Many sang "Hit the road, George and don't ya come back no more" and "Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye..."

The bubble of ease burst right after Obama's speech, as people tried to leave.  Somehow, we were basically trapped in.  Human gridlock (or many barriers?) was preventing our area from being able to get out to the street.  I was so grateful not to have tiny kids with me and prayed there would be no panic or medical emergencies.  It was a little frightening a few times, as we were not able to choose our direction and were literally carried by the crowd.  I was afraid for the older folks with canes and such but people would shout back upcoming obstacles, "curb", "rope" and people seemed to be looking out for eachother...some people climbed on top of porta potties to get a better view and yelled instructions about where openings might be found. Someone lost a child but then found them, one young toddler was asleep on his dad's shoulders, draped dead weight on the guy's head.  We gave our kids snacks (it was a weekend of communal mothering) and chatted with people who had come from all over the country.  It had gotten a lot colder with cloud cover...we marched in place to keep warm, took more Rescue Remedy and just kept repeating, "We have a new president"!  The word awesome is used all the time, but this really was an awesome moment.

The irony was not lost on us that when we finally got to the street it was "Independence" and marked as an evacuation route.  One man, wrapped in a flag, jokingly said, "free at last, free at last".  We could not get back to the Metro (subway) so we just walked straight over the bridge across the frozen Potomac (with a great view of the Jefferson Memorial) all the way back to VA!  The highway was closed down and it seemed a little like something out of a disaster movie.  Eventually busses started using the road so we had to clime over the median barrier and were directed by soldiers away from the closer Metro near the Pentagon and diverted further in to VA to the Crystal City area of Arlington - it was only maybe 3 or 4 miles but we felt a bit like refugees.  The kids did not complain once - they were simply amazing - and only talked of being grateful to have been there.  We were so happy to get in out of the cold and get some food.  By the time we made it to the train, we got seats and had an easy time getting back to the car.  Like the trip down, the drive back was trouble-free and I again played iPod DJ, choosing songs of celebration.  We all sang along.

20 January 2009

back home safe

it was awesome - will post more tomorrow!

We have a new president!!

Here's a picture of us yesterday, from the Cafe Press site - they were doing a "Button Brigade", handing out buttons and taking pictures...

19 January 2009

Ina May & O

a friend passed this along to me (and I'm able to post remotely!):
In the February 2009 issue of O, Oprah's magazing (p. 144) Isla
Fisher, an actress, lists the "5 books on my bookshelf right now" and
one of them is "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth"! She says about it,
"Women are happy to tell you their terrifying birth stories, but
nobody tells you the positive ones. So if you're going to have a
baby, you have to read this -- it's a collection of stories of
women's birth experiences, plus loads of practical information. In
today's world of modern medicine, it's so easy to have the experience
of pregnancy and birth taken out of your hands: You're measured and
blood-tested and ultrasounded. Sometimes it feels as if the whole
experience is happening to you. But women have the right to have the
birthing experience we desire -- whether it's a Cesarean or a natural
birth -- and to have the fear of the pain removed. A friend, Naomi
Watts, gave me this book when I was pregnant. It was such a special
time for me, and it was such a relief to read these stories."

18 January 2009

carpe diem?

jeesh - it's snowing as I wait for my ride down to DC...I wonder what adventures the next few days will bring? I am not bringing my laptop but will post about said adventures (and misadventures, I'm sure) upon return.
I'm wearing a set of three rings that read
Imagine Peace Forever
Yes we can. Yes we did.

17 January 2009


It just occurred to me that I forgot something from my birth story posted the other day - one neat thing was that I cut the cord.  My husband cut out first son's and so I cut our second son's...I felt special being the one to release him.

remote post

I'm posting from a hotel only a few miles from my home...we are doing the birthday sleepover my son requested in lieu of a party...it's been fun having time with just him.  My husband and son are in the pool again & I decided to have a few quiet minutes...

It looks like I will be making other remote posts too (if I bring my laptop), as I am taking a (nutty but hopefully wonderful) road trip with friends to DC so we can witness Obama becoming our next president!  woo hoo!

16 January 2009

birthday gift

Not your traditional birthday gift, I gave my eight year old something he has been asking for: a house key. He doesn't really need it...he waits at most 2 minutes very occasionally while I head up the street from preschool pickup - usually I beat him home. But I guess it makes him feel big and trusted. I bought one of those stretchy spiral cords that connects to inside his backpack. He used it to open the door for me when we came home together yesterday.

birthday greeting from Grandma

my mother-in-law sent this note with O's birthday gift and I always appreciate the time she takes to pass along these memories - no Hallmark from her!
Dear O,
I remember the night you were born - L was sleeping at our house and I woke him up after your father called to tell us you were ready to come to us.

It was very cold that night, but L was very excited and didn't mind waking and facing the cold. On the way over, when we got near the George Washington Bridge, there were detour signs because of construction.

Grandma and L got lost...

By the time we reached the birthing center, you had already arrived. I specifically remember the joy in your mother's and father's faces just looking at you!! Everyone was thrilled to welcome you onto this planet!!

Each year as you grow, I see you loving this world and all those around you as much as they love you!!

Love, hugs and kisses.


from Jeannine Parvati Baker

Preface to I AM MOTHER - The Unfolding Lap

How could this maiden know that an answered call from my baby-to-be would generate changes so vast that pubertyʼs transformation would make sense?

Thirty six years ago I accepted the invitation from the Unknown into the world of mothering,. Now at the crisis of my mortality, I ponder -- what does being a mother mean to me?

At the tail end of a beastly winter, this is what came to me -- The Unfolding Lap.

The Unfolding Lap

I AM MOTHER whose entitlement unlocks the doorless room
The home of a mystery that flays the soulʼs skin
Carving ego and rendering the oily mind into light.

I AM MOTHER who grows dreams in my belly
From my blood drinks the Tree of Life
Rooted in heaven until the birth quake
Splits me open in revelation and relief
And I awake from the nightmare of separation.

I AM MOTHER carrier of the secret told since the beginning
Hearth of the future, unfolding lap, volcanic breast
A daughter of uncertainty, the croneʼs executrix
The ultimate harvester of hope.

I AM MOTHER so hear me! Listen with labyrinthine ears
To the purpose of sound, sense the movement of your cells,
And the pulsing message from your bones that resonate with this;
Serve the Breath-Maker and be the BirthKeeper the Earth needs now.
Your mother will be so proud.
© Jeannine Parvati Baker
11 March 2005
Joseph, Utah

thanks to Jill for passing this along and always helping the veils vise, no matter the time of day of night.

15 January 2009


what a miracle that all 155 people on that plane, especially the six month old baby, are OK. Imagine having to throw your baby to strangers in a life boat...chilling, literally & figuratively. Thank God for that pilot, not only for the people on the plane but for all the people of the city and NJ in the plane's path.

Happy birthday, MLK & OGC

Eight. That's how old my second son turned while we were sleeping last night. As I was drifting off, I was thinking about how eight years before I had been in heavy labor. I recall spending much of the time on my own, in a good way (though I'm sure I was alone less than I remember).

At the start of that January, a few days before his EDD, I went to a midwife appointment at The Childbirth Center (the only free-standing birth center in NJ, now closed). I was told that I was 4cm and they were so sure they would see me that night that they would be keeping my file out, and to go have a nice lunch & pack up. So that's what we did...we called my friend Deb, who was to be with us; called my mother-in-law, who was to take care of our oldest & then bring him in time fore the birth. We wanted to give everyone a heads-up.

We went home and packed up and sure enough, contractions started that night. My favorite midwife was on & I was so happy. Contraction went on for a couple of hours and closer to morning we called everyone. And they came. Including my father-in-law. This was not part of the plan and somehow everything just stopped. Screeching breaks. Stopped in its tracks. Imagine the delight of hearing my father-in-law, in his thick Italian accent, say, "Kim, false alarm?" But I was not giving up...it was freezing, so we went to the mall and walked and walked. Deb and my husband would look at me expectantly sometimes if I paused...but aside from the odd contraction here or there, nothing. We went to see a movie (a LOOOONG movie - Crash, I believe)...nothing.

Because of the expectation - expectation that had not been there until that midwife appointment, I was on high alert, feeling desperate to go into labor. I tried just about anything you can imagine - drank all manner of foul tasting stuff. I sent my poor husband to Chinatown to plead for anything that might help (they just stared at him). A midwife came over to try to strip my membranes but found that my cervix was actually pretty far back. I had massages and reiki. I walked. My husband did all he could to get oxytocin flowing. I used the breast pump while doing hip circles on the birth ball. I shoveled snow. I ate spicy food. I did anything I had ever heard of to get labor started. The ladies who did reiki on me told me they had never experienced an energy of timelessness like they felt when working on my baby...he literally made their clock get all weird and loud and their CD start to slow down like a stretched out tape. They asked to meet him once he came.

And you know what? Babies don't come until they are ready - none of the stuff that's supposed to work was working because it wasn't time. I know that now, but I didn't know it then. However, we were approaching 42 weeks, the cut off for the birth center and so the midwife also wanted to get things started. I'm sure if I'd been resistant, I could have held off, but I wasn't and agreed to go in and let her break my water and start labor. And do you know what again? Nothing. There was hardly any forewaters, so she couldn't even break my water. This kid was just not ready.

So we left all our stuff at the birth center and went out. We walked around and went to breakfast. We walked to Starbucks and I sat on a lovely velvet chair and read the paper. That's where I was sitting when my water really broke. On it's own - a giant pop & gush, like my first birth. Fortunately, the chair was OK. Months later, I saw a very pregnant woman sitting in that same chair and couldn't resist telling her the story.

We went back so I could change, but then went right back out to walk and hang out. I was still tightly gripping at control, which is not such a great thing to do when it comes to birth...this is my own personal karmic story of my life.

Hours went by and miles were covered. I was pretty disgusted and giving up hope. So of course we decided to check out a Mexican restaurant. I ate a full dinner. I had a few contractions, one of which was kind of strong. The waitress asked when I was due and I said I hoped to give birth within hours - she was a little freaked.

We went back to the birth center and the head midwife was not there, though a lovely apprentice was. I put in a little time with the breast pump, but nothing big happened. We spoke by phone to the midwife and she suggested getting in the tub with some Sleepytime tea, relaxing and getting some sleep and hopefully waking up in labor. Or, she said, I could drive over to the hospital and get induced, to which I said NO! She wasn't really suggesting this, I believe (knowing her), as testing me, nudging me to get in the game. As I was on the phone with her, making a plan to give up for tonight, surrendering, I had an enormous contraction.

I got in the tub and the contractions didn't stop. My husband expected that we had a long haul, like the first time, so he couldn't quite understand why I didn't want to watch "Law & Order" with him or much care about his plot summary. I just wanted him to get out of the way so I could see the flickering shaddow that the candle was casting on the wall. I needed solitude and dark. The room was wonderfully steamy and the visit from the apprentice and her tween daughter, bringing more tea with honey, rubbing my shouders and stroking my hair...it was lovely. We chatted and laughed and it was like a slumber party. I asked my husband to call people and tell them to come and he said, "really?!" It had only been a couple of hours of labor. I don't know how long, actually, but not long. He didn't think it was happening anytime soon. But I told him yes - call. NOW.

The head midwife arrived and I told her I thought I needed to go to the bathroom and she said it was my baby's head. I did not believe her. I got out of the tub to use the loo, but of course she was right about it being the baby. The contractions out of the water were so different - so hard. She asked me to lay on the bed to be checked. Of course there was no more cervix. I heard commotion and realized that Deb had arrived. She ran in...she said "thank God for EasyPass or I wouldn't have made it in time". I asked her to come over so I could hold on to her for leverage - she didn't even get to take her coat off! I recall her smiling and nodding at me, with sweat on her upper lip. My husband was holding a leg maybe. I aske him to put my hair in a ponytail, but he wasn't doing it right, so I stopped pushing, got up on my knees and redid my hair and then went back to pushing, trying out a few positions and hollering loudly. I called out "oh God" and the midwife siad something like, "He's here for you" and I remember thinking, "oh - I did't necessarily mean literally - it's just an expression, but OK". Not long after, my son's head was born (with the help of lots of olive oil!). The plan was for my husband to catch, but we actually caught him together, me sliding my fingers under his arms before his hands were even born. We had to unwrap him from his extrodinarily long cord which contained a true knot. He was 9lbs 2oz and had a full head of hair.

My oldest and my mother-in-law got there just after he was born (more later on that), in time for the placenta, so my oldest felt like he was there for the birth. He was so sweet and snuggled with us and his new brother.

And now that baby is 8 and shares his birthday with Martin Luther King. His request for his birthday was not a party with lots of friends or tons of gifts, but and overnight with just me and my husband, so that's what we are doing. Happy birthday, O!

14 January 2009

cool news

Orgasmic Birth is now available on Netflix! The film could use positive reviews to encourage people to put it in the queue! Please feel free to spread the word!

wish I'd written it

...so glad I read it - it's just so achingly poignant and true. The part about the 11 year old skate-punk got me, as I happen to have one of those myself.
Referenced in the wonderful NY Times blog, Motherload in yesterday's entry asking an important question, Why Do People Try To Scare Parents-to-Be, is Rev. Meg Barnhouse's essay

Grab a tissue...

Letter to a new parent

A friend of mine is going to have a baby, a
little boy. My two boys are tall and funny
and heartbreakingly themselves—and nearly
gone. I feel like I know something, which
is a fairly new feeling for me on the
parenting front. Even though he did not
ask me for any advice, here’s what I
wrote to him:

I do not know why people try to scare you when you have a baby. As soon as they hear your news they go unswervingly to the horror stories. They’ve probably been scaring the baby’s mother for months now with stories of pregnancies gone wrong. If they can’t think of bad-seed kid stories, they say, “Wait until you have a teenager!” I want to tell you something a little different. Have fun is what I say. Enjoy this baby and enjoy your newly expanded heart.

The first thing that happened when my first son was born was that I fell in love so hard and fast it took my breath away. It was enough for me to sit and stare at him, smelling his head, watching his breathing, drinking in the fact of his presence on the planet. I carried him around like a delightful football everywhere I went. Any which way I carried him was fine with him, because he was as in love as I was. Plus I had milk, which made him very happy. We hung out and smooched and sang and did “baby-cize,” where I would touch his toes to his nose and count, which made him laugh.

It wasn’t all bliss, of course. There was that time he was up in the night for the fourth time, crying. Babies have no manners, and they do not care about your getting enough sleep. I remember waking my husband, telling him I had a sudden fantasy of opening the window and tossing the baby out, just to get some rest. “I’m up,” he said. “You sleep.”

Babies are fascinating, and they’re an astonishing amount of work. They get even better as they get older. They start talking, for one thing. That’s a big milestone. They ask questions, start practicing “no,” and they tell you they love you. That makes your life rich.

Another milestone was when he could climb into his own child seat, ending the lifting, bending, and buckling. He did not like that seat when he was smaller, and several times I would have to stop the car and rescue him from hanging head down into the floorboards, screaming with frustration, his ankles being the only part of him that was still in the seat. One long ride, I remember having a bag of red balloons next to me in the front seat, blowing one up, holding it so he could see it and grab for it, then letting it go screaming out the window, which made him laugh. We left a trail of deflated red balloons down Highway 17 that day. My apologies to the clean-up crew: It was red balloons or screaming insane despair. Mine and his. Is that too strongly put? No.

Getting himself dressed was another milestone, then, much later, doing his own laundry, followed by driving himself to school. Now he likes rock climbing and hard-core drumming, he’s dressing himself every day, studying to be a doctor, designing his own tattoos, loving a young woman so hard they’re talking about marriage. I still look at him and see that baby, the toddler, the skater-punk eleven year old.

Your baby will be who he is from the moment he comes into the world. He will turn out a little like you and a little like his mom and a lot like who he already is. You’re right about the child-rearing project being improvisational from the first moment. My mother told me to trust my instincts instead of books, but I did find two that were helpful. Children the Challenge, a book from the ’40s about how to avoid power struggles with your child. You say things like: “You may scream like that if you want to, and I’ll sit with you out in the car, or you may speak quietly and stay with everyone here in the restaurant,” or: “It’s time for bed now. Would you like to go right now or in about five minutes?” The other one was How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, a book about training German shepherds by the monks of New Skete. It was about how your job was to make your child/dog/whichever a pleasant companion in the world, which takes patience, consistency, and boundaries. I see shocked faces when I say that a book about dogs helped with my boys, but lots of the same things are true for humans and dogs. Instead of only correcting them when they do wrong, you try to “catch” them doing it right, and praise them for that. They like knowing who is in charge, and they’d rather it be you. I learned that from the monks.

I worried some about my sons getting hurt. I worried more about them becoming fearful. I remember letting my younger son climb up on a chair to turn on the light by himself. I watched and held my breath. What if he fell? I figured, though, that making him fearful in the world would be a more severe injury than a bruise or even a broken bone trying out something for himself.

As the boys grew, they wanted to chatter to me about their toys, their friends, their video games. They wanted to retell the movies we’d seen. It tried my patience sorely sometimes, but I would say to myself: “This is an investment in their talking to me when they are teenagers. If I don’t want great hulking teens who just grunt as they pass me in the hall, I need to listen now.” At the supper table, when they wanted to be excused to go play, I would ask them first to ask each person at the table two questions and listen to the answers. Mostly they asked, “How was your day?” and, “Tell me who you talked to today.” My oldest surprised me one night with a phone call from college to thank me for teaching him to ask questions. He said he had no problem talking to girls the way some guys at school did; girls loved that questioning and listening thing.

I used to wish my children were perfectly obedient, but now that they are grown I’m glad they have some strong-mindedness. I did not enjoy their arguing with me, but I tried to think of it as training in negotiation, which they need in the world.

When you become a parent, you have to get used to making mistakes. When you make one, it’s no big deal. Just say you’re sorry. They learn that from you. They also learn please and thank you by hearing you say please and thank you to them. I have seen people being rude to their children, then turn around and expect the children to have good manners.

Your son will make mistakes, too, as he grows, and some of those will make you cry. Being a parent is not for the faint of heart. Try to be in control of yourself rather than of him, and you’ll be okay. Love is hard on the heart. Your heart can’t remain perfect and proud, unscarred and perky. It will be worn and joyous, wise and beat up, and full of sorrow and amazement. It will tremble with the awful knowledge of how helpless you are to keep him from pain, of how closely he will watch you to see what to become and what not to become. I would rather have this heart than the one I had before the first baby.

All of this is to say you are in for quite a ride. Buckle everybody up, feel the wind in your hair, and crank up the music. Enjoy. Life has just gotten larger.