Favourites

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Now that Baby H is getting older, she is starting to clearly let us know what her favourite things are in this big, crazy, world. When she was little, pretty much all she really liked was eating. While that is still top of her list, the list itself grows every day. It’s awesome to see her grow into this little person with opinions. Here are some of the best things in life, according to Baby H:

1) Her Own Hands

I doubt I could find anything in the world that would make a more versatile and engaging toy than her hands. They are used for teething primarily, at the moment. No wet washcloths or teethers even compare to the joy of chomping on her own fingers. Hands are also great for grabbing, as well as pulling. Mommy’s hair and Daddy’s beard are a great choice, but earrings and necklaces are also a treat.

2) Music

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Baby H is obsessed with music. She has a few favourite songs, but generally gets excited when anything is being sung to her. Singing can calm even the most violent tantrum, and can encourage naps and smiles. I’m pretty sure I owe Raffi my life for all the times his songs have saved my butt.

3) Being Looked At

Faces are fun, especially when they’re staring back at you. The flip side of this is that if you look away for a split second, a fit of rage may ensue.

4) The Carrier

Our carriers are the best things we own. While having her sit in a car seat to do groceries is hit or miss, I can nearly always get them done with her in the carrier. Sometimes, she even shows her love by taking a nap.

5) Books

Not so much the stories though. Just turning pages.

6) Screaming

Sometimes it’s fun to repeatedly yell for no reason other than to hear what your super-cool, loud, voice sounds like! Bonus points if it’s in public!

7) Bath Time

Baby H loves to be in the water, and always has. Bath time is always so much fun for her. The splashing is the best part. Our poor dog stands by the door hoping Noah is going to show up for him every time.

8) Us

Seeing her smile at me first thing in the morning is the best. When my husband gets home, she will stop what she is doing and look at him with a huge smile on her face. It’s so cool that she knows us now, and that she kind of even likes us better than strangers. It is an honour to make the list!

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Fear

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It feels a little raw to write this right now, as I stand in the midst of it, but there was really no other topic that felt right today. I’ve been relatively open about the fact that anxiety is an issue I have been dealing with for years, on and off. It is a huge part of who I am and how I approach life. Motherhood is no exception. This post is a bit more personal, but I’m sharing it in the hopes that it might help another mama know that she isn’t alone.

I think that worrying about our kids is the very definition of being a parent. It is in our nature to fight for and protect our sweet babies with our lives. I have worried about Baby H from the moment I was aware of her existence and I will until my last breath. And I’m not alone. This is what it means to be a parent. But when you have an anxiety disorder, it doesn’t end there.

My anxiety interrupts my life. It sucks the joy out of beautiful moments. It extinguishes hope. It makes me feel like I am constantly in danger. The heart-pounding adrenaline rush that you get when you’re scared for your life has happened to me just sitting on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy. Sometimes it is triggered by something I read or see on TV. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere and viciously attacks my mind. It causes me to second guess every decision that I make, and every person that I trust. It makes me tired.

It’s hard not to let it eat me alive. I’ve got so much to lose. But then I remember that if I had let my fear control me, I wouldn’t have been strong enough to carry a baby. I would have dissolved in the face of the huge responsibility of sharing my body with another human being. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to undergo the prenatal tests and doctors visits. I would never have been able to endure childbirth, especially with a surprise c-section thrown in the mix. But I did all those things, because I loved her and that love was bigger than my fear could ever be.

I want my kid to be bold, daring, and fearless (okay, as fearless as you ever really want a kid to be, as a parent). For her sake, I will keep being brave. I will breathe. I will try to see the possibility that things are going to be okay. I will love through the fear. And one day, with the continued help of my doctor and my family, I’ll kick this anxiety to the curb for good.

There are a lot of us out there dealing with this issue. There’s no shame in reaching out. We are stronger together. It isn’t easy but we’ve got this.

What I Didn’t Love About Pregnancy

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As you know if you read my blog post last week, I loved being pregnant. I eagerly look forward to doing it again one day. But like anything else worth doing, there are always some downsides. Here is a list of some of the things about pregnancy that I didn’t love.

1) The Appointments

These weren’t so bad at first. Routine check ups with my own family doctor. Blood pressure, weight, pee in a cup, heartbeat. By the end of my pregnancy, though, the checks on me and baby had increased in both frequency and…intensity (sweep, anyone?). Our local hospital also has a revolving team of doctors that see you after 34 weeks, so there was a new face almost every week. I had awesome care and I loved that everyone was making sure that Baby H was A-OK, but I’m totally cool with being poked and prodded a little less these days.

2) The Dietary Restrictions

I probably went overboard on this (I’m an anxious Mama) but there are a lot of things you aren’t allowed to consume when you’re pregnant. Some of these were easy (I don’t like sushi anyways) but some were more annoying. I lived with a crippling fear of listeria for the entirety of my pregnancy. I was as obedient as I possibly could be, and it was so worth it because my little girl made it out in one piece. But still. A Christmas with no Sangria is kinda depressing.

3) Having to Pee All. The. Time.

I’m an elementary school teacher. I literally spend time in my day instructing others on timing their bathroom visits strategically. Like every other teacher in the world, I’ve trained my body to pee at recess. Not so much when I was pregnant. Thank goodness the other staff members were so helpful to me when I had to leave for a mid-lesson pee break. My close relationship with the washroom also continued through the night, when I’d generally wake up to pee about six times before morning. Believe it or not, I slept better with a newborn.

4) Waddling

I went to visit my students with Baby H when she was about 3 months old. As I walked to my classroom, I realized that it felt so much closer than it had before I left. It didn’t take me long to remember why. Walking hurt for the last month and a half of my pregnancy. Something about my bones shifting, the doctor said. I did almost all of my Christmas shopping online (thanks, Amazon!), and did my parent-teacher interviews in the library so I wouldn’t have to endure the long walk back to my classroom. My baby weighed 10 pounds at birth, and has a huge head. I rest my case.

5) The Fear

I was really, really scared to be pregnant. I have anxiety, and something as simple as a blood test can make me really spiral into a panic attack. I also fell totally in love with this kid from the day I found out I was pregnant. Needless to say, I lost a lot of sleep. Waiting for test results, obsessively kick-counting, and stressing out about the actual birth were part of my every day life. I’d be lying if I said it all went away when she was born, but I think I’m going to worry about her for the rest of my life. At least now checking on her is as simple as peering into her crib.

Despite all of this, my heart swells with gratitude every time I think of my pregnancy. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. It gave me my kid. I really can’t complain too much.

I’ll save the complaining for when I talk about labour.

Things I Loved About Being Pregnant

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I didnt know it then, but last year on Mother’s Day, I was pregnant. In honour of my first Mother’s Day as a mama, I thought I’d share what I loved about having a bun in the oven.

I am not sure if it makes me weird or not, but if I could gestate my next baby for 5 years I’d sign myself right up tomorrow. I absolutely loved being pregnant. I was lucky: I never had a single bout of morning sickness, I only had the big baby bump for the last 2 months of my pregnancy, and since Baby H was born in January, I didn’t have the privilege of carrying around a Watermelon under my shirt during a heat wave. Being pregnant was a joyous time in my life. If I never get to have another child, I will always look back at it with warm, fuzzy memories. For those of you for which pregnancy was not the happy little miracle I am going to write about, I apologize in advance. Let me assure you that I am not unaware of how exhausting, difficult and miserable pregnancy can be. I can only comfort you by speculating that my next pregnancy will most likely see my vomiting right up to my delivery day, waddling by four months, and delivering in early September after the hottest summer in hundreds of years. Karma, you know?

But for now, I am going to talk about the parts of pregnancy that didn’t suck.

1) The Bump

The Bump was definitely a pregnancy perk for me. I miss it. In my hormonal post-partum days, I actually cried several times when I saw my reflection in the mirror, sans bump. I waited a long time to truly “pop”. I wondered if I ever would. Then suddenly, there it was. And for the most part, it made getting dressed so much fun. I didn’t have to hide anything. My belly was supposed to stick out! I loved rubbing the bump. I loved when my dog chose to curl up there for a nap, as if protecting his new little sister. I even didn’t mind too much when people touched it.

2) The Naps

I didn’t sleep super well in my last few months of pregnancy, and I had to commute two hours a day to work. I was tired. Tired wasn’t new for me, I am always at least a little tired. But for the first time in my life people seemed to think I really deserved to sleep at any random time of the day. Everyone always thought I should nap! And I did. Long, glorious naps (interrupted only for pee breaks) snuggled up with my dog on the couch. Three months into motherhood, I look back at this time and my only regret is not napping more. I really only should have been awake when working or eating, in retrospect. Right now I don’t think I’ll ever have the opportunity to nap again.

3) The Anticipation

A new baby is something so unbelievably exciting. I was 7 weeks when I found out I was pregnant, and the wait felt excruciatingly long sometimes. But it was fun to picture who she was going to look like, whether she would be born early or late, and what kind of temperament she would have. It was fun to plan and decorate her nursery, and to wash and fold every tiny item of clothing. It was fun to choose a name. It was fun to imagine being a Mom.

4) The Movement

I’ll never forget the first time I really felt my baby kick. I’m sure most other Mamas are the same. It is such a powerful thing to finally feel physically the connection that has been there since the moment that little line turned pink. It was even more fun once other people could feel it, and most fun when the kicks and hiccups were actually visible from the outside. A favorite moment of my pregnancy is having a younger student at my school feel the baby move and watching his awe and wonder that there was a real baby there! On the nights I couldn’t sleep, those little kicks reminded me that I wasn’t alone.

5) Maternity Pants

One of the first days I wore maternity jeans was Thanksgiving. There is a scene from the TV show “Friends” where Joey puts on an old pair of Phoebe’s maternity pants and calls them his “Turkey Pants”. That is literally all I could think of that day as I reveled in the comfort and freedom after our family dinner. Maternity pants should just be the next big thing in women’s fashion. They should be acceptable attire ALWAYS.

6) The Conversations

Everyone loves a pregnant lady. From old friends, to colleagues, to people in line at the grocery store, my pregnancy was a frequent topic of discussion. People often had questions, or shared memories of their own pregnancy, delivery, and babies. I learned a lot this way. I also talked to people that I had never really gotten to know before. Shy and socially awkward? Have a baby, folks!

As I sit writing this with my baby snoozing on my lap, I know that the best part of pregnancy was when it came to an end. The baby is the real prize. But when the time comes, I can’t wait to do this all over again. Mostly.

Stay tuned for what I didn’t love about pregnancy next week!

To all the mamas reading this, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. Hold your kiddos close, and try to get a little rest! For everyone else: go hug a mama!

Definitions

book-1798_960_720In the last few months, a lot of things have changed in my life. Even the definition of some familiar words. Check out some of my translations from the old definition to the new!

1) Shower

Old definition: A place to wash.

New definition: A holiday destination.

My bathroom is my favourite place in the house these days. It is really the only place I get to be alone. Showering is something I have to be strategic about (since my child doesn’t nap, I need to wait until there’s another adult present) so when I finally get in there, it feels like vacation. I always leave looking and feeling so much more rested. While I rushed a lot in the first few weeks, I’m now learning to milk that time for all it’s worth.

2) Music

Old definition: Something listened to for entertainment.

New definition: A part-time job.

Baby H loves music. It makes her so incredibly happy. I love singing, I always have. But the sheer amount of singing that I do in a day is enough to bring anyone to their knees. She even has a favourite song, The Gorilla Song by Raffi. When I first sang it to her she was very little. She looked slightly more interested than usual, so I kept singing. After a while, it clearly captivated her entire interest. Now that she is a bit older, the second I start the song she breaks out in a delighted grin and kicks her feet excitedly. It’s awesome. If she’s being fussy, a few verses of this song usually calms her down. But, I sing it a lot. At least 20 times a day, but probably way more most days. When I run out of verses in particularly tense moments, I make more up on the spot. If improvisational lyricist was a job, I’d consider a career change.

3) Grocery Store

Old definition: A place to buy food and household supplies.

New definition: A place you can go to be a part of civilization.

I can’t tell you how many trips to Walmart I’ve made since I’ve been on maternity leave. I usually go out and socialize with other mamas once a week at a local playgroup,  but that’s generally it in terms of plans during the week. Sometimes it feels really good to get dressed and walk around a store where there are actual real adult people. Bonus if Baby H sleeps through the trip!

4) Cooking

Old definition: Preparing food.

New definition: Racing against a clock.

Cooking with a baby is like hanging out with a time bomb. If you’re quick enough,  it’s all good. If you’re too slow there will be dire consequences. You’ll end up with a half-cooked or burned meal,  and a screaming baby. Proceed with caution. Or get take-out.

5) Pants

Old definition: Clothing worn on the lower half of your body.

New definition: leggings.

I’m not even sorry.

Mama Allies

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I’ll never forget the first time Baby H had a meltdown in public. We were at the food court of the mall when out of the blue, she started to wail. I assumed she was hungry (as usual), so I gathered her up and brought her to the nearby nursing room. But when I tried to feed her, she just kept crying: terrifying, blood-curdling cries. No matter what I did, I couldn’t settle her. I was starting to get visibly flustered. This was pretty out of character for my kid. There was another mother in the nursing room who had a slightly older baby. She noticed Baby H’s cries (maybe notice is the wrong word as I am pretty sure they could be heard on Neptune) and kept reassuring me that this had happened to her, that I was doing everything right, and that she would be okay. She was very comforting, so I started to think that maybe I didn’t need to rush my little girl straight to the nearest hospital.  Once she left, I decided to try to give Baby H some formula, since she was clearly just too angry to latch. Partially because I was nervous and partially because I’m clumsy as sin on a good day, I fumbled and dropped the one sterile nipple I had for the bottle. A second mother had come into the nursing room and noticed my problem. Immediately, she offered me a brand new one that she had on hand. I was so grateful I could have cried. I offered to pay her, but she refused and said she was just happy to help. Baby H calmed down once her belly was a bit more full, and my day carried on as usual, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how kind these strangers were to me. They had saved the day!

If you relied on Facebook parenting groups and online forums to determine the level of support that mothers offered to one another, you’d likely come out thinking that there was nothing beneficial to interactions between moms. “Sanctimommies” are everywhere, telling us all exactly what we are doing wrong. Everyone has an opinion on everything, and many feel entitled to slap you in the face with it. For the most part though, this has not been my experience. One of the nicest things about becoming a mother has been connecting with other mamas. Having a baby has sparked many conversations with a variety of people, from old friends to pure strangers. And it’s awesome. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded with so many supportive mothers who are always willing to reassure, comfort, and commiserate. I hope every mother has these people. They make such a difference to me.

As soon as I announced my pregnancy,  they came out of the woodwork. They eased my fears and helped me form expectations. They shared their experiences and my excitement. Other mamas were the first ones to tell me how unbelievably wonderful motherhood is. They also were honest. Some told me about their difficult births, others about how hard breastfeeding had been. They passed on clothes for Baby H that their own daughters wore, lovingly kept in pristine condition. They gave me toys their babies didn’t use, and diapers their babies had outgrown. The generosity has been overwhelming.

Other mothers are also the ones who messaged me with words of encouragement when breastfeeding was my personal hell. They told me it would get better.  They reminded me that if I quit, that was still okay. They shared their own struggles. They told me that sometimes, they hated it too. That support is one of the only reasons I’ve been able to keep breastfeeding as long as I have. I cannot assign a value to these conversations (but if I were going to try I’d have to add the cost of 3 months worth of formula to 3 months worth of therapy).

Other mamas keep me company during the long days that maternity leave can bring. They don’t care if I’m going to breastfeed in my preggo jeans the whole time. They understand my excitement at just being out of the house. They send me a “hello” message when we are up at the same time in the middle of the night. They tell me where diapers are on sale. They like the bajillion Facebook pictures of my little one.  They even read this blog!

One day I hope I collect enough wisdom and experience to be helpful to a new mother, because we are all in this together. Being encouraging and kind to one another is the most important thing we can do. We all have our own beliefs and ways of doing things, but respecting how another mama rolls and supporting her in her decisions goes a long way. To all of my mama allies: thank you for walking this road with me. It would be a much harder journey without you!

 

Expectations vs. Reality

fb_img_1460505543022.jpgI’m sure I’m not the only mama who painted a picture in her head of what things were going to be like. We all do it-we read the books, we talk to other moms, we try to make a plan. Unfortunately, things rarely go how we think they will. These are some of the ways my expectations have differed from reality so far.

1) Birthing the Baby

Expectation

It was going to hurt, but maybe not as badly as I thought. I’d get through labour.  The hard part was going to be the giant head (thanks again for that contribution, hubby!). If it was really bad I’d use laughing gas or if it was worse than that I’d just get an epidural. Hopefully I wouldn’t die.

Reality

At one point, I asked the sweet little nurse if she could “please $#!@&*% kill me”. Labour hurt so badly that I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts. The only reason they call it laughing gas is because it’s the biggest joke ever. Soon I was asking for the epidural which was amazing until it WORE OFF 45 MINUTES LATER (why did no one tell me that could happen?!). Pushing was better than labour but after 2.5 exhausting hours Baby H hadn’t moved. My c-section was the best thing that ever happened to me. If we’d had a boy, I probably would have named him after that wonderful anesthesiologist.

Don’t worry, I apologized to the nurse the next day.

2) Feeding The Baby

Expectation:

From what I understood, breastfeeding was the perfect way to feed my child. It would be quick, free, and require no sterilizing. I figured I’d breastfeed every few hours for 15-20 minutes and we’d be golden. I would breastfeed exclusively until 6 months, then add solids and continue to breastfeed until she was a year old AT LEAST. Think of the money we’d save on formula! Think of the precious time spent with baby! Think of how much healthier she would be! But if I couldn’t produce milk, I’d just use formula and not worry about it.

Reality:

Hahahahaha. If wet nurses were still a thing I would have hired one by day 2. My kid wants to eat All. The. Time.
Breastfeeding is what I do for most of the day. I could sterilize approximately 73 billion bottles in the time I spend nursing. Sometimes at the end of the day I feel like if I have to touch another human being for even one more second I will need to be hauled off to a padded room somewhere. I want to quit every day, but then I look at my little one and feel a crushing sense of guilt. How can I take away her favourite thing in the world?

We are still mainly breastfeeding at 3 months and I am so proud to have made it this far. I give her formula when breastfeeding is inconvenient (like in the middle of the grocery store). That little bit of formula is literally the only reason I still feel like I can do this. I don’t have long-term goals for how long I plan to breastfeed any more; every day is a win.

3) Sleeping

Expectation

When I was a nanny, the little 10 month old I looked after slept between 2-4 hours a day. I figured newborns would sleep way more than that. I’d have plenty of time to do chores, make meals, and even pick up those adult colouring books I’d been too busy for when I was still working. She probably wouldn’t sleep through the night for a while but that would be fine, since I’d just grab a nap when she did. Mat leave would be like vacation.

Reality:

Nope nope! Baby H is not a napper. 2 hours a day would be astounding. I may get a few 20 minute cat naps on my lap. The second I try to use my ninja skills to move her to her crib or put her in someone else’s arms her eyes pop open immediately and that’s the end of that. Instead of colouring peacefully all afternoon, I think longingly about how nice it would be to have a shower. When bed time comes, Baby H and I are both exhausted. She sleeps so well at night, and I am so grateful that she’s chosen to bestow mercy on me in this manner. If only I’d be able to stop myself from waking up to check on her, I might actually get some rest.

4) Going Out

Expectation:

Babies are super portable. Once she’s fed she will probably be happy to be on the go for at least 2-4 hours. It will be easy to take her places because she’ll sleep in the carseat. We can go for walks, do activities, grocery shop, and socialize! Going out will be a great way to help me unwind.

Reality:

Whoever said that babies are portable never tried to carry a baby in one of those infant seats. The seat alone was heavier than I was allowed to lift after my c-section. Then I wasn’t able to drive until I was healed. By the time I was good to go,  the baby weighed 12 pounds. Right now, she’s over 17 pounds.  Hauling that thing around will either give me epic muscles, or a hernia. I’ll keep you posted.

Also, whether I can go out is entirely up to my beautiful little dictator to decide. If she doesn’t want to grocery shop (or do anything else, for that matter), she will make it abundantly clear. Once, she screamed non-stop while I waited for a price check at the cash. While we waited, the male cashier tried to tell me all about how I just needed to relax about being a mother. It was a delightful experience. Essentially, we never go anywhere without the understanding that we may need to leave. Once I made peace with that, outings have became a lot less stressful.

5) Motherhood

Expectation:

It will be tough at times, but I will love my baby so much. It will be a wonderful experience.

Reality

It is tough at times. So much tougher than I thought it would be. Sometimes I am more tired,  impatient,  and frustrated than I’ve ever been in my whole life. But man do I love that kid. So, so much more than I ever knew could be possible. And it isn’t just wonderful to be her Mama. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

I’d love to hear from other parents! What were some of your biggest surprises?