March 2009

One day old

William James Carvalho joined us on Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 5:32 pm. He weighed 7 pounds 3 ounces and was 19 3/4 inches long. Like his sister, his labor was uneventful if pretty short – 6 hours of very light contractions that allowed me to drive myself to the hospital, ending with the doctor breaking my water which brought on 40 minutes of very very hard labor before Will entered the world in one push. We had the most amazing nurse in the world who made the whole experience the polar opposite of our experience delivering Emma.

One week later, we are all doing great. Emma is going through what seems like a pretty typical 2 year-old adjustment period, requiring extra patience and love from us, Will is sleeping and eating and doing everything else newborns do (no prediction here about his temperament, lest I jinx it), and Mike and I are just beginning to figure out how to juggle it all.

One of the hardest things about the whole bedrest thing during this pregnancy has been asking for help. It isn’t that I haven’t needed help, it’s just that asking for it is difficult for me, it always has been. I will happily accept help that is offered, but reaching out and being proactive about getting it when I am having a hard time is not in my nature. I just assume that people who have the time or ability to help me will offer, and if they don’t offer then they must not be able to help so what is the point of asking? This has been frustrating for lots of my family and friends who have let me know that they want to help, but don’t know how and need me to guide them. I have been trying to get better at this, but it is really hard.

When Emma was sick with the stomach flu a couple of weeks ago, she spent two days throwing up. Every time she threw up she would say “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok” through her tears, to the point that Mike and I would cry with her as we watched her be very not ok.

As I watched her working so hard to convince us – and more importantly herself I guess – that she was ok, I wondered where she learned the “I’m ok” mantra. Certainly as grown ups we insist we are fine all the time when we clearly aren’t, but how does a 2-year old pick this up and start doing it? Then I realized that our usual reaction whenever Emma gets hurt or cries is to say to her “You’re ok, you’re ok.” Like a lot of parents I think, we do this in an attempt to calm her down as quickly as possible, and to reassure her – and perhaps ourselves – that she really is ok.

Now I am wondering if we are doing her a disservice by insisting she is ok, when maybe she doesn’t feel like she really is. Are we teaching her that it is more important and acceptable to be ok than it is to experience bad feelings? Certainly bad feelings aren’t comfortable, but if there is one thing I have learned over the years it is the importance of experiencing and “sitting in” the downs of life as much as enjoying and cherishing the ups. Maybe we should be trying to figure out a way to comfort her when she is hurt or sad, while still validating the bad feelings she might be experiencing? Because it really is ok to not be ok sometimes.

In the end I suspect it is stuffing the bad feelings that leads us – ahem – to pretend we are fine and don’t need help, when in fact we do. If we felt as though our bad feelings were as valid as our good ones, we wouldn’t really apologize for them or hesitate to ask for help when we needed it would we? Aren’t we stronger when we are able to ask for help and get it, when we are able to rely on others in times of need without apology or embarassment? And doesn’t this also translate into being more empathic when others aren’t ok and need help?

So I will work on asking for help more, but I am also going to work on helping my daughter be ok with not being ok, with figuring out how to feel comfortable with bad feelings without wallowing in them and with knowing that it is ok to ask for help when she needs it.

After the first substantial snow of her short life, Emma went out to play. Her favorite things to do were to fall down on purpose, and climb this little hill in our neighbors yard. Next stop, Mt. Everest!!