Follow Through

When you live in San Francisco, you can either drive an hour and 1/2 to a “farm” to get your romantic pumpkin experience, or you can drive 20 minutes to that spot off 101 with the jumpy castle that your kid squeels at every time you drive by. Guess where we went?

This past May, I wrote this self-disclosing piece about trying to night wean, my own chronic inner tension and how the unaccepted shadow aspect of a parent weaves its way into a child’s unconscious. At the time, I found the first healing step in a flower essence, and began taking it. Since then, I have thought about following up, to let you know how it all came out in the wash. Well….it’s six months later and honestly, it’s still in the machine. Only now we’ve also added some Rit dye, so it’s getting more colorful by the day as it swirls around.

The Chamomile essence did provide some support and relief, especially for Fern. Her night waking decreased from five times a night to one or two. Enough of a shift that I no longer considered night weaning…just that bit of extra sleep made it all seem bearable. During the day, I started talking about “Nummie nums sleep at night. Nummie nums are tired. So we can have a little bit of  nummie nums and then go back to sleep.”. At night, she would nurse for five minutes, and then I could say, “Ok, nummie nums are tired. Time to roll over and go back to sleep.”. She would say, “Yup.” and roll back into dreamland, with nary a peep. Progress!

And then she and I went to Colorado. All hell broke loose, and I feel like we’re still being dogged by demons.

I couldn’t sleep in Colorado. I lay in my Grandmother’s house, feeling the texture of time, of ancestors, of my own long forgotten memories pressing forward. Feeling the powerful hum of the land, I hovered above cliffs in half sleep, desperately wanting to dip over the edge into deep sleep, but held captive by lucidity. In the distance, the sleeping Ute lured me into dreamtime, desperate for conversation from his rocky pillow. As an individual it would have been rough, but interesting. As an exhausted mother of a toddler, it was a nightmare.

Fern couldn’t sleep either. The heat, the high altitude, the stimulation and recovery from her first flight and just being in a strange place all contributed to wakefulness and need. She wanted nummies….All. Night. Long. At 3 am when I would refuse for the sake of sanity, she immediately whirled into the distress from denial that is so appropriate for her age and was so impossible under duress. Screaming fits the like of which I have never seen.

I didn’t write much about that trip because honestly, I hardly remember it I was so tired.

It seems we are still recovering from that experience. Whether it was a set-back or somehow traumatizing for her, when she wakes at night now, her protests still contain the echoes of that horrible night in Cortez. I think I’ve been in a “wait and see” mode. It’s been three months, so I think I’ve seen plenty. What’s the next step? Perhaps it’s time to go back to the beginning and get the Chamomile essence again.

As for my own process of allowing for, accepting, acknowledging that inner tension in my solar plexus? Yup. It’s still there. Reading back on that last post, really not much has changed at all, except what was a new realization at the time has now become a well known part of the story.

The primary realization that comes up for me now is just how long I have felt this way. Like with the night weaning, I get into this tolerant “wait and see” mode….and tolerance becomes my new M.O.. I find myself thinking frequently, “Life doesn’t have to feel this way.”. The weight of responsibility, of being the parent of a young child, of dealing with the blows of loss…of course times will often feel rough. But I’ve felt this way for…years. I remember it used to cycle more, with more rests in between of feeling relaxed, joyful, hopeful. I can’t remember the last time I felt that way, but it must have been before 2007.

I am making the connection, or rather, re-membering, that my anxiety stems from being on the run. On the run from myself, from painful feelings or thoughts. I over-caffeinate and I hurry, zipping through life to get to some unknown destination where everything feels more pleasant and easy. I drop into the moment best when I am with my daughter, or in nature, but I still have that feeling of living a lie, because while I exhibit playfulness and joy on the outside, internally my own toddler is throwing a fit.

One of the many lessons from our recent loss of Leo is the importance of slowing down. The price of rushing through our lives was made clear, and that starkness was a wake-up call. Jeff is returning to his Zen meditation practice, I am taking time each morning to meditate, to practice the kind of trauma release work on myself that I do on clients. So far, it’s all still pretty messy and painful, but moments are becoming cleaner, the strife dissapating like fog. Just how important this work is, is made immediately clear when I look into these eyes.

Maybe I couldn’t make myself a priority for myself, but I can do it for her.


22 thoughts on “Follow Through

  1. travelling always jacks up the sleep schedule. hate that. i finally nightweaned my oldest when he was two, and i was pregnant with #2. lately i’ve been thinking i need to nightwean baby #2, who is now 2, but since i don’t have the changed milk taste/supply thing i had going with being pregnant, it’s not as easy. this kid lives on my tit. he’s been nursing for an hour just now. he would sit here on my tit all day if i allowed it. kids. i wish boobs were removable.

  2. i don’t know what to say Mary. I’m a mother too, of two babes. One is now 7 and one is 4 in a month. The eldest I nursed for 3 months, I couldn’t stand it any longer and he took to a bottle extremely easily. My little girl however had a cows milk protein intolerance so I nursed her till SHE was ready to let go – 19months I think? thankfully she was on solids by then, she weaned herself one night when she was really very sick with a cold…and that was that. i don’t like to give advice on parenting cos our kids and personal experiences are all SO different. I can tell you that kids are extremely resilient. While they are young they are moving so quickly that they are forgetting a gazillion memories and experiences, but living them so hard that their little selves change rapidly with each learning. Fern is going to be amazing.
    it is so evident to me that you are a great mama, you are doing a great job.

    1. thank you for sharing your experience teeny. i am always amazed when i hear about kids who weaned themselves. i have been trusting that fern will stop nursing when she’s good and ready, but i have to admit that my agenda for when that happens is most likely not in alignment with hers….i think she would nurse forever if i let her! and kids are resilient, thank you for that reminder. one of the curses of being hyper aware of child development as a psychotherapist is that parenting could feel like a path full of landmines if i let it. there’s a balance between awareness and trust that i am still getting the finesse of. xoxox

      1. Hi Mary! I love that you respond to our comments. I wanted to say that with the plethora of child nurturing “advice” and ‘education” there is available now….it is hard not to feel like a failure no matter what we do. I can’t imagine the extra stress that actually being a psycotherapist would bring…you would have first hand knowledge of the effects of bad parenting on us as adults huh. Much love. xx

  3. Mary, your writing is always so honest, and dare I say, raw? That it is truly a gift to read. i look forward to your blog because you have the gift of understanding people, of understanding yourself, and being brave enough to put yourself on paper. I’m not a mother so I can’t put my own personal slant on this post, I just wanted you to know that it has touched me deeply, and I’m sitting here hoping the road gets easier for you.

  4. yes, i hear you with the night weaning. eden was 2 1/2 or so, elijah around 2 (he was more into actually drinking milk than just lingering, so a bottle of goat milk was my ticket to sleep…) but tom and i kept going back to the old “this small window of time is so insignificant in the grand scheme of their life… i will miss this someday.” and the truth is, i completely miss it. you are such a great mama, you ebb and flow with fern so fluidly. i wish you sleep and peaceful moments. i started reading simplicity parenting and it completely put the brakes on for us. slow, take time, meditate, so hard, but so not (but still so hard!) xoxo

    1. that book sounds like a must read for us right now. and isn’t it funny, how taking the time for slowness feels so exactly on point, and yet is so hard to sustain or drop into? like sitting in a crowd of rushing people and just being ok with not moving. so hard. and thank you as well for that reminder about the small window of time. that was my focus for so much of her infancy, but i had completely forgotten recently in my effort to “fix” what’s “wrong”. this is part of being slow to….taking time to be with what is, is often the only “fix” that is needed. xo

  5. Yes You can!!!!

    Wow, such truth in your words. If anything can make you find your truth its having a child to love. Looking in those beautiful eyes how could you not want to be coming straight from the heart each and every moment. But How???? what a journey and I feel I am also on that journey with M.
    She asks me every day with these kind of eyes, to be with her and love her and know myself at the very same time. Sometimes it seems so impossible and lonely to have to learn so much, an insurmountable task to be a Mommy awake and in awareness and having had no ‘real sleep’ . It is stressful!!!! and beautiful.
    I can hear your need of nature for your balance, I am so on the same page. If only we could ramble in the fields touching the earth and the trees all day. Its my dream, to one day provide that way of life for us too.
    Being in this village and on the edge of the woods you might think I have enough of it, but I still want to be even closer. And to have the time, to tend to the real rhythms of the earth each and every day.
    ‘Follow through’ indeed, we are working towards our dreams and luckily we are being reminded of the moment and the treasures available as we find our way. Fern is so blessed to have a mom that wants so much Love for her daughter, she wants to keep healing herself.

    Your meditation sounds like a really good idea and your other healing tools. The fact that you are finding the energy to even do that, Is really great, and the energy of that in itself could help Fern.

    M last week at 6 yrs decided she was ready to sleep in her own bed, and has slept there for a week. She has wet the bed three times, so I know its not easy for her and somehow she feels ready, but not all of her is.
    We are going along with it softly now, without fuss. I tried for a whole year when she was four to get her to sleep in her own bed and eventually stopped trying, it had become so stressful for both of us. Now I hear her breathing in the other room, cozily and so independent of me, I feel like crying, I miss her so much!!!!!
    I dreamed of having my bed to myself for literally years, now I miss her so much, I cant imagine that she wont be sleeping with me anymore. I am trying to reclaim my bed: ) and heal that part of me that has not slept well for so long. It does all work out somehow, in saying that, she could be back in my bed next week.
    Lets ramble on through!

    Amazing Mary mom, with such a heart of gold!. And a wordspinner of such glistening webs.
    Wishing you rest now.

    xxxx E

    1. i love hearing about your deep desire to ramble and pulse along with the rhythms of the earth. you’re right…i had been secretly envious (in a good way!) of your nearness to the woods. now i understand we are kindred spirits in that longing to step into a flow of life that is far more ancient than these modern times.

      your story about m and her new bed cracks that frustration around my heart and snaps me back to the precious moment….i just want her to sleep through the night, but i am so not ready to put her in another room! i can imagine how much you miss your daughter…i would love to hear how this part of the journey rambles on for you. so much love to you, radiant elizabeth.

  6. Mary, thank you for this post. Your words have touched me very deeply – not the mother part, which I am not, but the child part. Knowing that you care so much is somehow healing. It feels like you being one thoughtful mother to one wonderful child can make a difference for all mothers and babies, past and present.

    1. ah, thank you so much aneta, and thank you for seeing this aspect of our journey….it’s true…i am trying to heal both of us, and it is one of my only hopes for a better world. xo

  7. mary, your caring and thoughtful approach to life, healing, relationships, and self inspires me so much. i am very much prone to the “wait and see” mentality…which actually USUALLY keeps me feeling buoyant and hopeful as my response to infertility darin and i have been struggling with for years, but unfortunately does not yield any results. i am just still standing here stirring the cauldron of unknowing, a misty vapor in which i cannot see the future. i get a wild itch to take the bull by the horns so to speak, do what we have to do, whatever it takes, but then i think of my options, besides the gentle natural steps we’ve already taken (diet, herbs, exercise), and my spirit sinks. especially when i remember, oh and we have no money to pay for it. to pay for a baby! it seems so crazy to me. sooooo, back to the “wait and see” stance. anyway i love that you don’t try to offer answers, just walk us through the story itself. that is creating healing for a whole community of women and readers and i appreciate so much your offerings. i can feel the warmth of your soul here, and as different as our journeys are, it makes me feel supported and uplifted. and i offer you my own support, love, and kindness as you and your daughter work through this process together. the bond that you have created, even in the trying times, radiates from both of you.

    1. oh my goodness heather, i didn’t know about this aspect of your personal struggle. my heart breaks with you and at the same time i respectfully bow to your ability to surrender. i know that “take the bull by the horns” feeling, it’s one that could have a lot of velocity but also end up spinning you around and tumbling you over. i have a friend who went through this, and finally found her solution, but not through taking hormones or ivf. i can share what she figured out, if you want….email me. and thank you for your love, support and kindness….it glows through your words…you are such an amazing being and while i trust that everything is unfolding as it should for you, i also can see what a gift you would be as a mother. lovelovelove to you heather.

      1. mary i would LOVE to hear about your friend’s approach. i can’t figure out how to email you (ummm, duh?!!!) so i will give you my email address here…
        i am sooooo open to discussing and sharing all views and aspects of fertility, pregnancy, adoption, parenting, motherhood, and familyness. i have always felt like a mother. that’s why i love reading about your experiences mothering, and some of these other wonderful blogging souls, and to share my friends’ and loved ones babies. but i do indeed hope to become a real physical mother myself someday too! so needless to say i welcome any stories, advice, ideas, thoughts, and suggestions regarding fertility or family-growing.

        meanwhile, on a different leg of that mothering journey : i hope you and fern are doing well and moving along comfortably with the night weaning. i send you peace and love!

  8. Coupla things…

    1. Seasons o’ life. Fern’s only been here two years. This too shall pass. That’s the one thing I’ve learned, whether they be me or one of my monkey’s issues, is that suddenly one day you look back and think about whatever it is that seemed never ending and realize that – wow – it DID end. And believe me… there will be a night that you sleep. And the next night and the next night. I promise. Wait and see.

    2. You need to know you were in good company with two other exhausted mommies of toddlers. At least you got a room to yourselves in Colorado. Guess who else didn’t sleep for a week straight, yo.

    3. AND you flew home. Hotel rooms suck.

    4. Was thinking back to the trip and completely lost it thinking about geriatric squirrels. omg

    5. If the wear and tear is too much you can always buy new nummie nums later. hahahaaaa

    6. Bounce houses rock and make for good naps later.

    7. Kiss your punkin bug for us.

    1. 1. seasons of life, so true. unfortunately, the season we’re in regarding her sleep is like nuclear winter.
      2. i KNOW i was in good company! it is a testament to your good humor that you were able to survive that road trip and sleep in that back room. i think the thought was that putting fern and i in a separate room would have kept her from waking everyone up, but it just seems no one was allowed to sleep that week.
      3. we did fly home. which went relatively smoothly compared to the 48 hours of hell that was our trip out there. i would have rather have been in the car with you guys.
      4. i’m not allowed to think that’s funny.
      5. nah
      6. i would like my own private bouncy house. i think i would be quite fit if that was my daily excercise.
      7. kiss your clan for us too!!!!!

  9. I feel for you mama. Clover didn’t night wean until she turned 3! Luckily, I’m a pretty sound sleeper and fall back to sleep easily after waking up. Lucas however, not so lucky, poor guy spent close to two years on the couch, no joke. It’s crazy the things it takes to get through the toddlerhood years. Oh, and I am a total tolerant wait and seer, by the way. Lucas is not at all, this can cause friction at times, ahh, we all have our issues don’t we? Sending empathy and hopes that the slowing down and the work you’re doing helps to smooth things out both personally and with the nummies. I suppose another go at the Chamomile couldn’t hurt either, right?

    On a more romantic pumpkin experience note, have you heard of this: We missed it last year but took Clover the year before when she was Fern’s age and it was pretty fun. A little bit of a drive, but not too bad. I think we’ll probably try to make it out there some time next weekend 🙂

    1. it’s so good to hear about your experience missa. it takes superhumaness to get through the toddler years….and you helped me realize…i had been thinking i only needed that for infancy, and then the sleep fairy would wave her magic wand. my mantra had been…it’s only for two years, just two years. silly me, i thought i was doing “one day at a time” but i had sneaked in a light at the end of the tunnel that turned out to be a light bulb. 😉

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