Monday, July 29, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Slow Goodbye

My milk is nearly all dried up now. There's still a bit left. Every time my breasts filled up (Taking much longer each time), I would feed Jack rather than let it go wherever milk goes when it doesn't get consumed. Seemed wasteful not to. So it's been a very slow process, but completely pain-free in its slowness and also it's giving me a chance to let go slowly.

My low milk supply, unfortunately, didn't allow me to keep the morning feed very well. At first I had plenty for one good feed, but slowly it decreased until it was nothing more than a snack. Apparently my normal output is a pittance. I'd had an inkling that all the pumping I did all day was necessary to have a good supply in the morning, giving my breasts a good eight hours to fill after a day of being emptied of their meagre offerings every 2-3 hours.

Well, I was right. Jack's feeds got shorter and shorter until he was no longer consuming enough to lull him back to sleep. It was a mere appetizer and nothing more. And since continuing to lactate has had some undesirable symptoms for me, I decided that the tiny amount he was getting was just not worth it.

Oh, a lactivist might tell me it's "liquid gold," but I really don't think it is, not in such tiny amounts. I can't see that it's so wildly superior to formula that several millilitres will do any real good, especially not at the cost of my physical comfort.

My teeth were getting sensitive. When I stopped pumping, it improved and when I stopped the morning feed, it mostly went away. I found other women online who experienced this, so I know I'm not alone. Having a decent sex life has been proving challenging. My body has not responded well to the hormones, and even hormone replacements haven't improved my situation much.

I have no idea why my body has been so adverse to breastfeeding. But it's slowly ending. I may have already done my last feed.

It's a hard thing for me. It's pleasant to nurse my baby. If I'd had enough milk to feed Jack each and every time, even if I needed to take meds and herbs, it would have been meaningful for us both. I still hurt sometimes when I think of the loss. Though when I see his excited little face when he sees his bottle-- his mouth makes this O shape and his eyes light up-- I feel at peace with this outcome. He never showed nearly as much enthusiasm for my breast and my milk as he has for formula in a bottle.

And speaking of which, it's bed time. But I have to wash the bottles before I go to sleep.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sleep Training

I decided this was the right call for me: Ferberizing. I was never anti-sleep training. I threw out my beliefs about one-size-fits-all sleep solutions when my baby spent the first couple weeks of life in bed with me. I was never intending to co-sleep, but when you pit your will against a newborn baby, the baby always wins. He transitioned out relatively soon, but I have remained flexible about sleep methods ever since. No ideology here except for: do what works.

So, last night the Dude was out at the movies with his brothers. They went to see The Conjuring, which is, if you ask me, not a good recipe for ever sleeping again. I love horror movies, but they linger in my mind at night and ruin my life, so I don't typically watch them. And while he was out, I was at home with Jack and a new sleep pattern that neither of us really wanted to deal with.

I started his bath routine early. He was rubbing his eyes and I wasn't going to make the mistake of pushing his bed time back if he was tired. No second wind tonight. So I gave him his bath and he pooped in the tub. Baby poop is not like adult poop. It turned the water a gross colour and I had to get Jack out, clean the tub, refill the tub and rinse him off and dry him with a new towel. Fun!

He fell asleep well enough, except he woke up after 30 or 40 minutes. Previous nights we had rocked him, but this was not a hole I wanted to dig. While we have some support in the city, the Dude and I are more or less alone in this with few breaks (Especially me) and I was not about to add a new exhausting sleep routine to our lives.

So I let him cry. I'd go in after a few minutes and stroke his belly and give him some comfort. He'd quiet and I'd leave. The crying would resume, I'd wait a little longer before going back and I'd do the same thing.

I learned something about myself. I found this much easier to do if I was alone. If someone else is there, my resolve breaks, like I feel worried the other person will think I'm being cruel. I've tried to let him cry a little in the past and this emotion has launched me out of bed or off the couch faster, or I've asked the Dude to do something. But when I was alone, and had a game to distract me from how long each dragging minute was taking (Time moves at a snail's pace when your baby is crying), things worked out quite well. I'd say he fell asleep after less than 30 minutes.

And he stayed asleep. He woke up at 6:30 in the morning, refreshed and smiling. I put him down for a nap today and he fell right to sleep. He's now rolling around on the play mat in front of me. And by rolling, I mean trying to roll. He was successful once, several days ago, and hasn't been able to do it since. Which is also when the new sleep issues began.

He's so cute, just flopping his body from side to side, trying to roll successfully. Then he takes a break and grabs at some toys, regroups and tries again. Occasionally I hear a grunt of frustration. It's really something to see a little baby figure out how his body works.

Oh man, I just watched him roll onto his tummy, only his hand was trapped underneath him. He attempted to get some leverage by grabbing the mat. He's so close!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Four-Month Sleep Regression

I think Jack has begun what's known as the four-month sleep regression. Suddenly his naps are off and he fights falling asleep at night. Then he wakes up and hollers at varying intervals in the wee hours. I know this is temporary, but temporary can be as "fast" as two weeks. It can be much longer. It also makes it hard to leave the house because unless he's napped properly, it's anti-sleep to take him out as he doesn't rest much in the stroller. Ugh.

Now, he isn't four months yet; he's about a week and a half from that, but it's close enough. He does most things a little early, probably due to the extra time in utero if you ask me.

I feel like he's rubbing his eyes (A signal he's tired) all day long. He rolled over from back to front recently and hasn't done it since. And from that day his sleep has been off and bizarre. If I'm to understand the baby literature correctly, he's mulling over this new milestone in his head and his brain is undergoing changes, not allowing him to sleep properly.

So now my goal must be his sleep. Day time socializing has to be put on hold so that I can get us through this.

Admittedly, I have high hopes. My baby has never been overly cranky or high needs. He's generally a mellow and happy little guy who smiles at me in the morning and enjoys playing on his mat for up to an hour.

Then again, I could eat my words. We'll see.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mellow Baby

I'm home from my vacation, the first I've taken with a baby. It's nice to be home, although a little strange too. I was getting used to waking up to people to talk to and things to do. Now I'm alone with Jack again and I have to figure out on my own how to spend the day.

It was wild how fast the days went. It seemed like no time would pass before Jack would need another nap and then his naps didn't feel super short. I think the key to enjoying maternity leave, at least for me, is other people being around during the day. Since I have no friends with babies, I must find strangers with babies to talk to via mom meet-ups. So far I've not made a new friend, only acquaintances. Today I'm planning to go to a farmer's market and see who I can meet.

Last night before bed I again remembered my birth experience. I don't go there most of the time because it hurts me and I cry. So I decided to finally write Patient Relations at the hospital and tell them what happened to me. I felt very mismanaged and I want an apology. I would also feel gratified if I learned it lead to any changes in how they approach women in their care. It was therapeutic. I think it helped me sleep.

Jack spent the first night in his crib. We don't have a proper room for his nursery, per se, but we do have an alcove-like space in the basement near our bedroom. It means we have to walk by him at night and I'm unsure how much noise carries from upstairs. So it's not ideal, but this is Toronto and a lot of first-time parents have their babies stay in the bedroom with them at night for quite some time due to space constraints.

It was alright. With him out of the room it was easier to ignore the grumbles and complaints that didn't need attention and still hear the cries that did. I think this will make it easier to improve his already good sleep, allowing him to self settle even more.

One thing that's really been making me happy lately is waking up in the morning. He gets a bottle around 7:00 and after that I take him into bed with me until about 9:00, 9:30. We snooze the early morning hours away and when I look over to him when we wake he has the hugest smile for me. He always wakes in such a lovely mood, and since he lets me sleep a bit longer I'm also in a great mood, compounded by that delightful smile on his face. It's nothing but sunshine.

On the way home last night we got stuck in traffic and made it home an hour and a half later than planned. I eventually had to feed our crying baby in the car and couldn't burp him. He also pooped, and I couldn't change him. I kept telling him I was sorry. He eventually quieted down about 30 minutes away from the house and then fell asleep about 10 minutes before we arrived home. Full of gas and soiled. This kid is a champ. Of course we had to wake him to change his diaper, and then bathe him to help him back to sleep (In a strange bed) and other than a wee cry he did it.

My baby is so mellow, like literally my dream child.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Revelation

So I'm at my in-law's on the lake. This trip has been in the works for maybe a month and for the month I've been on the fence about it. I only really thought about how much I'd have to pack and getting Jack used to a new place and not having access to all my stuff.

But what a great day I've had, one of the best in a long time. Having people around, family members who can lend a hand or take an interest or talk to, makes a world of difference. I'm not lonely or isolated and I'm eating normal meals at normal times. I got dressed and brushed my teeth. I can enjoy my baby.

This must be what it's like when you raise a baby around family. I'm getting a taste of what that must be like, what sort of socializing and support I'd have if my mom were alive and around. The unnatural feeling I've been having, questioning my motherhood, it's gone. After one day, I feel great. I miss the Dude, who couldn't come due to work, but other than that I don't feel drained and exhausted. Rather I feel able to properly enjoy the evening rather than recover from the day.

With the weight of loneliness lifted from me, I could really appreciate Jack and all the little things he does, like gripping toys and his giggles. Today he started rolling onto his side. It was so sweet and amazing to me to see him struggle and finally succeed, and then fine tune it. Soon he'll get himself onto his tummy. Sharing this milestone with people around me who care felt good.

It's nice to know there's nothing wrong with me, only my living situation. Staying home with a baby isn't unpleasant. Doing it alone is.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

No Nap For You

Tomorrow I'm going to the lake with Jack. It'll be a week away from the Dude and I'm a little apprehensive about it. My Father-in-law is coming to get me late in the morning, less than 24 hours from now, and I still need to pack a suitcase and wash the cloth diapers. And here I am on the Internet.

Jack was off-schedule today. It's not a hard and fast thing that needs to be adhered to, but it's an excellent guideline as to what he should be doing, whether he needs to eat and his naps are predictable.

The Dude (Who'd kept me up all night with his flailing limbs), whose heart was in the right place, took him out of his bassinet early, then tried to put him down for a nap early, back in the bassinet with me beside him. This resulted in crying. He also didn't change the baby first, which is a must. So, back up they went to the living room for another hour. Of course I was wide awake from all the noise and had to lull myself back to sleep, which took an hour. At which point they were back down for Jack's nap.

I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. The Dude took the crying Jack back up, presumably to nap in the living room, which he does from time to time. I came up an hour later, having slept maybe 10 minutes, only to discover the baby was still awake, meaning he'd up been for four straight hours. Four hours may as well be forever.

It really is amazing the sort of things you learn by being home with a baby. Getting them to sleep reliably is the most important thing. Getting them fed and changed is easy enough, but sleep? No screwing around. It's gotta happen and there's a window of time it has to happen in otherwise you're all in for a world of suffering.

Keeping Jack up because he was overtired and not sleeping would never have occurred to me and I had to fight off some resentment of the Dude for making such a critical error. It's not like he's had the experience with him that I've had. I took Jack in hand and rocked his cranky ass to sleep. He fought the sleep, but the sleep won, as it always does eventually. However, the rest of the day has now been shot as we now must get him caught up so he'll sleep properly tonight. Getting a three-month-old baby to nap every hour is hard going.

So now I have this to-do list that's not been touched and I don't dare traipse into the bedroom to start. Jack's sleeping and, god willing, he'll go another half an hour. It's so amazing how entirely a baby can dictate your day with something as basic as sleep, and how quickly your day can fall apart over said sleep.

As for me, I wish I'd caught some Zs myself. It's kind of bitter trying to make a baby nap when you'd give your left ear for a nap, yourself.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nature, thou foul beast

Yesterday was a comedy of errors. Well, not errors, exactly, but generalized nonsense. Nature is a menace.

I went to a mom meet-up group yesterday. Those things are lifelines for me. I get out of the house, meet women going through the same things I am, we tend to our babies without feeling apologetic to our companions and take it easy doing infant-friendly things. Yesterday it was a farmer's market. The women were nice, though I was the new one there, and being new is always a little hard. Well, not for everyone, but I do feel out of the loop whenever I meet new people.

It had rained in the morning and I thought the weather was done with that sort of thing, so I left the house in the muggy humidity without a rain cover for the stroller. I had a blanket to sit on for the market, so I didn't really have room for the cover. This was an error. More on that soon.

I was happy to get out, especially since the neighbours were replacing their share of the roof and hadn't thought to warn us. I'd woken up to bang-boom-thud. The disgusting thickness of the air seemed preferable. It wasn't a long walk to the market and on the way I passed a park with a wading pool. I was tempted to just run into it, stroller and all. It looked so inviting and I was already sweaty and heavy feeling. Note to self: go back later.

At the market I stayed for almost two hours and Jack behaved impeccably, as he usually does around others. He saves all his fussing and crying for home. But as I started to feed him, the sky darkened and the wind picked up. Ominous. I should have left immediately after he finished his bottle, but no. I lingered. Tactical error. By the time I left, the storm was imminent and within 7 minutes it was raining. I whipped out my umbrella and, shielding Jack and I as best I could, I hightailed it to a Starbucks. Depressingly, I was 5 minutes from my house and stuck so close yet so far away.

I figured the rain would let up eventually, so I grabbed a tall green tea latte and settled into a chair and tried to dry out the stroller a bit and tuck Jack in so he could nap. He fell asleep, I relaxed a bit and waited.

And I waited. And waited.

Taking pictures of my undesirable situation helped with the waiting.
I passed time on my cell phone, which I recently upgraded, periodically texting the Dude to ask if he was almost done work. I needed him to bring me the rain cover so I could get Jack home without thoroughly soaking him. Also, I worried for my pretty shoes.

Jack woke after a 40-minute snooze and slowly progressed into unhappy baby territory. I changed him, but had no more bottles to give. His bed time was fast approaching and he was getting hungry. Eventually the situation disolved into me dancing him around the coffee shop, continually plunking his soother back in his mouth to calm him while patrons looked on in varying degrees of sympathy and annoyance. I would have been out of there with my cranky baby in a heartbeat if I could have.

I got a call from the Dude saying that he and his boss were coming to get me in the car because there was flooding, both in Toronto generally and in our effing basement.

The Dude saw this on his way to get me.
I really couldn't handle that information. Home was to be my refuge from this madness, and now it was round two of my nightmare. I emailed my landlord with my baby crying in my ear a simple message: our basement is flooded. Call me.

When the Dude arrived I was immediately relieved. I couldn't have been happier to see him. We hauled ass out of there and took a winding way home to avoid flooded areas.

I had to leave Jack in his car seat upstairs while I ran down to assess the damage. There's a crack in the foundation and water had poured in through the stairs, which were wet and slippery and lightly coated in mud. I stepped onto the rug in the nursery and felt a sopping wet squish. I navigated the water to the bathroom, where it thankfully stopped spreading. The rug, no doubt, had absorbed massive amounts of leaking and spared us the agony of a total disaster.

When you have a baby whose bed time it is, a flood becomes a more complex situation. I had to feed him, first of all, while the Dude cleared out debris. Then he bathed Jack while I got out the ratty towels we had bought from Value Village for the home birth that wasn't. Turns out, not such a waste of money.

We had to plunk Jack in his bassinet, though, without the rest of his bedtime routine of allowing him to fall asleep beside us on the couch. I'd been fretting about when to make him learn to fall asleep alone, and turns out I'd reached that point out of necessity. And other than a few minutes of crying and one trip to calm him down, boom. Slept like a champ. I was almost conflicted about how I felt about the flooding after that since it forced sleep progress. I was still horrified, but less so.

Mopping up the rest of the water.

It could have been worse. Our landlord is coming by this week, the gutters should get fixed to dump water away from the house as opposed to directly beside it, and, hell, the floors got a much needed mopping.

So many times before when it so much as looked like rain, I just stayed in. Well, I took a chance and was rewarded with the life-enriching experience of basement flooding. Lesson learned.

Nature: 1, Me: 0.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bonding

I think I've hit my stride.

The feelings of failure and being trapped and isolated have been dissipating. I have this quickly growing awareness about my baby and his needs. I can watch him as he discovers his hands and ponders the room, and allow him to direct his own attention. When he fusses I can talk to him and engage and give him comfort. When I attend to his changing and feeding needs it's calm and pleasant. His naps are predictable and have become increasingly lengthy and less interrupted.

And I feel a sense of calm and competence. My loneliness is easing. Being alone with a baby is not the same as being alone with a pump. Without it chaining me down to my bodily failures, I've managed to get out of the house and see movies, go to cafes, go on walks, talk to other people.

I've developed pleasure in watching my son play on his mat, trying his hand at grasping things and kicking his feet. He'll pump his legs in his bouncy chair to make it bounce on his own without the need for me to do it for him. Other than meet his physical needs and reading him some books and talking to him periodically through the day, I just let him be and he is so engaged with himself and his surroundings.

I feel like I've hit my groove and I know what Jack needs from me. I feel connected to him at last. I was always fond of him and was proud of his hardy little self. But the bonding was hard and now I feel it sinking into my skin; he's becoming a part of my heart.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

No More Nursing: Day Five

I feel a number of things about nursing and my journey with it. I've been wondering what caused my issues. When it came to the delayed milk, was it the lengthy exhausting induction? The C section? My uterine infection? The separation from Jack while I was in the hospital? Did my hives signal a bad reaction to breastfeeding?

I think I may have actually been doomed from the start. When I was pregnant, my breasts barely changed. Oh, at first they got tender, but my large A cup only went up to a mid-sized B. This is a minor increase. And what I've been discovering, from extensive reading, this can signal a forthcoming production problem. I never became engorged. When my milk arrived, it only trickled in. I thought it was the result of health issues. But the lack of breast changes may actually have been the issue all along. I can't know for sure, but it's another consideration, and one that gives me strange comfort.

My body just plain screwed me, is all. And it's not the first time. I had four ear infections in my first year of life, then tonsillitis. Double pneumonia in childhood, followed my two bouts of kidney stones in my teens. In my early 20s I was treated to appendicitis and I developed IBS. My body simply does not give a shit, so I sort of wasn't shocked my body wouldn't go into labour. I mean, I was, but I can believe it. I had a nagging feeling it wouldn't happen around 42 weeks.

But I never doubted my ability to breastfeed. Pfft. Stupid me. Lactivists will tell you low supply is rare, that any woman can do it.

But I call shenanigans. My eyes don't need glasses, my pancreas produces all the insulin I need, my blood clots and my kidneys don't require dialysis. However, these bodily woes exist because the human body is not infallible. Why then believe the breast is perfect? Oh, when it works, it is. The perfect baby food.

But here's the thing: nature gives zero fucks about you. It is indiscriminate, it does not care. It will weed out the population at random, with no rhyme or reason, no matter how decent a person someone is, how much they're needed or loved, or how hard they try.

I was born in 1982 with access to modern medicine, born of a C section, myself. My body has nearly died a couple times now, but thanks to modern medicine I was treated unceremoniously and easily.

I can't feed my baby. Thank God he was born in 2013, where he could be born safely and be fed something nutritious when his mother's milk didn't come. And as for me, and all my health issues I've had? Actually, I was breastfed. You can't breastfeed a baby to a life of good health. Like so much else, it's luck of the draw.

I'm enjoying my maternity leave a lot more now, and I'm really starting to bond with my son. I hadn't realized just how much of a barrier that pump put between us. I was prioritizing bottled breast milk over our relationship.

Jack's started to grab things and he's giggling. He's sitting up with assistance and he's able to entertain himself for a little while at a time. My son is so amazing. He's very bright and a great little baby. I'm so lucky to have him.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

No More Nursing: Day Three

Engorgement is painful.  And my breasts look pornographic at the end of the day. That large, firm, full look? Nailed it. I'm usually an A cup and now at my fullest I'm a C. I don't much care for the look; it's almost too ridiculous. I had to "milk" myself last night to relieve some of the pressure and the longest stream of milk shot into the sink. I wore a night nursing bra with the pads to absorb the leaking, and still managed to have a rough night's sleep.

It's now the evening and I'm not engorged like I was last night. It seems like I'll be able to keep the morning feed, and I feel very gratified by that. Hopefully I don't develop low milk supply for that time of day like I've had throughout this past three months. Otherwise I'll just have to give up nursing entirely.

This was also my first day alone with Jack and not pumping. I had time to do things. Rather than sit for 20 minutes every two hours trying to squeeze out that extra half an ounce, I can do useful things around the house or enjoy Jack or have some personal time. I also can wear a lot more of my clothes, no longer needing things that offer boob access.

When you combination feed (Offering formula and pumped breast milk) you're literally having the worst of both worlds.

Cons of breastfeeding:
Annoying and often ugly nursing clothes
Takes a lot of time out of your day where you can't do anything else
Often coated in breast milk
Carrying around a little extra weight

Cons of formula feeding:
Costs money
You can feel guilty
Others sometimes shame you
You have to wash the bottles

And you get little of the benefits. Breastfeeding gives you free food, no dishes, and optimal nutrition. Formula gives you freedom from your baby and your wardrobe back. Pumping and supplementing offers you none of these things.

I'm feeling more and more comfortable with my choice. Screw you, pump.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

No More Nursing: Day One

Day one of not breastfeeding is today. I did nurse in the early morning. I think so long as my body allows it, I'm going to do that as it works and it's very convenient. I've read about other mothers who have managed to do only one feed a day. Maybe I can too. If not, oh well.

It's been seven hours since I've nursed. Strangely I'm not terribly engorged. I certainly was at 5:00 a.m. this morning, though. I was leaking all over myself and my boobs were firm to the touch. I didn't pump before bed like I usually do and that seemed to be the result.

This morning the Dude and I took Jack out to the grocery store and I wore a normal dress, an empire waisted summer dress with a bra that I can't nurse in. It was very freeing. I have pads in my bra to absorb any leaking milk. I haven't pumped all day. I slept in while the Dude took care of Jack and did some housework, and I didn't have to worry at all about my milk supply.

I knew I'd know the right time to quit and it's finally here. I'm so ready.

And it's just the boost I need because yesterday I went out for a hair colouring (Nearly four months without one!) and the hair stylist asked me when I was due. Womp womp. I wasn't terribly generous with my tip.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ready to Stop Nursing

I'm reaching that point where I want to give up breastfeeding. I knew it would come eventually. In four days, Jack will be three months to the day, and I'm feeling like I've given all I have to give in this area.

I pump all day and take meds to garner between 7 to 10 ounces of milk, plus one breastfeed in the morning. And for what? When I try to feed my son my breast milk, oftentimes he'll make a face or flat out reject it. I've been adding it to formula to trick him into it. But it's like he's getting wise to me. He'll guzzle formula down like candy, but his mother's milk is a bother to him. He'll cry at the bottle, go back for another drink and then disengage and cry again. I can't describe the feelings of frustration and rejection I feel when he does this.

When I go out I'm wearing nursing clothes, just in case I start to leak and I can try to offer Jack the breast. It's never worked out. Pointless. And I hate my nursing clothes. They were expensive so I had to buy on sale and they're really nothing special and I don't feel special in them. I want my wardrobe back. I want my body to function like normal again. I'm tired of this. Also, it's been making my teeth sensitive.

It wouldn't be so bad if he was actually on the breast and feeding. Then it would be worth it. But seriously, forcing this issue is really making motherhood less and less enjoyable for me progressively each day.

And this is on top of the isolation I'm feeling.

I'm lonely. There. I've said it. I'm mostly reliant on the Dude for social interaction during the day, and I have to wait until 6:00 or even 7:00 some days to get it. None of my friends have babies. It's been raining almost every day, keeping me in the house with someone who can't hold a conversation. His smiles are great, but I'm a grown woman. I need more.

I'm not cut out for this. And by this I mean staying at home with a baby. Even though I love him, I am not "loving every minute" like the parents police command me to. They're the ones who nod approvingly when they ask if I'm taking a year off and I say yes. I don't mind the approval, it's what follows it, the forceful assumption that of course this is best for everyone and I must be very happy.

Maybe once Jack becomes more interactive I'll be more into this stay-at-home mom experience. That, and less rain chaining me inside my house.

And admittedly, I have a good baby. The problem really is who I am, which is not a baby person. And also the lack of family in the area. Grandparents would be a godsend. But they're all hours away. In many ways I just feel so alone. I miss my social life. I wouldn't give up Jack for anything. I don't regret my choice. I knew the first year would be very hard on me. But it still hurts.

Maybe removing breastfeeding failures from my daily life will improve things.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Baby Road Trip

Taking a baby out of town for the weekend requires as much planning as a week-long road trip. My mother-in-law wanted to throw Jack a party, akin to a shower, and my own family wanted to meet the boy so the Dude and I figured we'd get it all done in one shot, one car rental, one weekend.

Sweet Jesus.

So, everyone knows a baby needs a lot of stuff. They don't sleep in regular beds, eat regular food or use the toilet. So one must provide provisions. Enter the Pack-n-Play, swaddles and fan (For white noise); bottles, formula, breast pump, bottle brush and kettle; and diaper, wipes (disposable because I wasn't about to wash cloth diapers on the road, areyoukiddingme), and changing pad.

Then his clothes. Babies expel fluids all over themselves. I packed Jack a knapsack of clothes, pyjamas and receiving blankets. He also needs a bath to fall asleep at night, so we packed his baby tub too. And leaving for the weekend without his vibrating bouncy chair would be foolhardy because otherwise we'd barely be able to sit him down, so that came too and it doesn't fold down or anything.

So we had a game plan. This list was created of all we'd need for Jack (Plus, you know, a suitcase for ourselves) and we figured we'd pack the rental car, bathe the baby at 7:30 like we always do and go. Babies sleep in cars.

No, not our baby. He'll sleep like a dream at night, but turns out he's particular. He likes to be flat and swaddled and then he'll drift off all night. But car seats don't allow for either of those things. Kiddo was awake and miserable till 10:30 p.m. when we pulled into destination one, my mother-in-law's place.

The Dude set everything up while I changed Jack and MIL did her best to be quiet, but found it hard to contain her excitement since it was her first time meeting her new grandson. Unfortunately, he wasn't up for cuddles from someone new and it was one of those occasions where he wanted his mom. I rocked him to sleep very quickly and felt very motherly.

The party MIL threw was lovely. Her sisters all came, plus the Dude's best friend and his mother. Jack got so many adorable things for when he's a little older and the wisdom of throwing the party after his birth was obvious, since we already had everything we needed for the next few months. My particular favourite was the little yellow raincoat from MIL. All he needs now are little yellow rubber boots.

Packing things up from MIL's was as ridiculous as it was from home, only more so because 20 minutes away from her house she called because we forgot, of all things, his formula among other essentials. Jack isn't fond of the car, and so this was 40 minutes of extra time on the road with a cranky infant. I had to sit in the back with him to keep his soother in his mouth and otherwise calm him down.

At my aunt's Jack was in bed at a sensible hour and I indulged in white wine. Opportunities to enjoy wine are few and far between. The Dude drinks very little and I can't down a bottle on my own. I haven't felt a buzz in somewhere around a year's time. Oh, it was nice.

What was also nice is how much over the weekend Jack was held and loved by so many different people. Not only was it good socialization for him, but it gave me a break, much needed after all that frazzling time on the road.

We were smarter about leaving town, slightly. We popped into see the Dude's grandmother and made it on the highway around 6:00. We'd planned on 5:00, but, yeah. Babies. We got Jack in bed by 9:30 and he slept till 8:30 this morning, obviously exhausted from his first trip.

Our next big outing (though nothing compared to this past one) will be strawberry picking. I'm a makin' some jam! Also, it would be a good chance for Jack to wear his spiffy new hat.

That giant apple's got nothing on that cute hat.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Is A Natural Mother?

Most New Moms Don't Feel Like Natural Mothers

I relate to this. I relate to it so much it made me cry. It speaks to me because I don't feel like a mother. I know I spend my day caring for a little person who is very cute and whom makes me smile. I have an instinctual need to tend to him and his needs. I worry about his wellbeing. I take pride in his growth and development.

But do I feel like a mother? Do I feel like I'm a good mother, even?

These are questions I find harder to answer.

There's an entire internet of people out there piping in about how babies should be raised according to their standards ("If you're not going to stay home with your kids, why did you bother having any?"). There's a whole industry devoted to telling you how it should be done (Breast is best. No screen time until they're 2 years old. Soothers are to be avoided. Let them cry it out. Don't let them cry it out. etc.") There's another section of the community at large that says having kids is either a waste of time or a choice you should be alone in handling ("Why should my taxes pay for daycare subsidies? I don't have kids. If you can't afford kids, don't have them!")

And that leaves new mothers like me feeling adrift.

I have no one here with me. So I turn on the TV because as much as I'm supposed to be talking to my baby so he'll develop language, he doesn't talk back. It's very one-sided. I need to hear adult voices. If I can't have adult conversation, I need to at least listen to it. Sometimes Jack watches with me. So, no more Criminal Minds. But there goes the "no screen time" recommendation. It's just not doable, not if my sanity counts for anything.

I'm having troubles with breastfeeding. Not ready to give it up entirely yet, but doing a combination of both is giving me extra challenges. My breasts leak all over me, yet my baby doesn't want to feed on them most of the time. I have to pack formula with me whenever I go somewhere, yet I still need to wear nursing clothes to give him the chance to eat from me first. I'm cleaning bottles and a pump, and taking the time to feed him with the bottles and pumping afterwards.

And I try to read advice on the internet about how to make this more manageable. I want to read other mother's experiences. What I consistently find is lactivists piping in asking why use formula at all? Have you tried Fenugreek? Have you called a lactation specialist? Breast is best! None of which is remotely helpful.

Then there's the fact I'm not a baby person. I love children. I think they're great. I love spending time with kids, hours on end. I enjoyed babysitting as a teenager and I was good at it. I didn't choose to have a baby for the experience of having a baby. I'm doing this for a child one day. Caring for a baby is exhausting and demanding. I knew it would be hard, but living through it is the only way to really appreciate the fatigue.

I'm looking forward to going back to work. Mostly I think my son would be better off in a daycare through the week. I feel like I'm not the best place for him day in and day out. I'm not cut out for this. At a daycare he'd have a solid routine, socialization, a rotation of toys and caregivers who are talented, educated and experienced in his age group. Then in the evening he'd be with his dad and me, we'd have quality time and then on the weekends we would be able to have fun together. Working from home would help me stay on top of housework too, freeing up time at night like I used to be able to.

There just seems to be something unmotherly about this feeling that I'm biding my time till Jack is a child. The thought of hearing him call me "Mommy" brings tears to my eyes. But I'm so grateful to women who have the guts to share things like the above article. There's too many loud voices telling mothers to cherish every moment. There needs to be more saying, "It's okay to feel inadequate and bored with certain stages. It's normal and it doesn't make you a bad mother."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Movies For Mommies

Today was my first Movies For Mommies, which meant for the first time since Jack was born I've been able to go to the movies. The movies! I loves me some going to see a flick. It's one of my favourite things to do. I saw Man Of Steel at the Humber Theatre. There are several independent theatres that do MFM and this was conveniently located off a subway with an elevator. Elevators have become extremely important to me as of late.

As soon as I sat down my baby began to cry and I immediately felt like that mother. But after a feed, buddypants calmed down and slept a wonderful 90 minutes, enabling me to both enjoy the movie and feel gratitude that the other crying babies, for a time, weren't mine. The final 15-20 minutes were spent on my feet holding Jack and swaying and dancing, keeping him calm so I could catch the end of the film. And no one thought this was strange or disruptive because we were all in the same boat.

You wouldn't think a theatre full of babies would be a calming place to be but it was. Every time a baby cried out or cooed it wasn't annoying, but rather a reassurance that if your baby did the same thing it wouldn't be a big deal. Babies that carried on were carried out. There was a changing station at the entrance, which was helpful. There was an accessible bathroom that had tons of room for my stroller.

And I got out of the house. I have another outing on Wednesday where I get to meet other moms for coffee. I've been to this meet-up twice before and I've already started seeing familiar faces. I'm hoping to make friends, though I'm terrible at doing do. Keeping friends? Sure. I can do that. Making them? Well, that's always taken a lot of time. I never know when or how to progress a new acquaintance. In fact, all my friendships seem almost accidental or extensions pre-existing friends.

And it's not like I'm hurting for friends. The ones I have are wonderful and close. I can be myself and relax in their company. It's just there is a gulf now. I can talk to my friends about my baby, but sometimes I want to run by some things with people who've been there, or talk "shop" to someone in the know. Kind of like how work is sometimes only interesting to other co-workers and can bore people who don't do the same thing. I'm cognizant of this and so I really limit my baby talk around those who don't have one.

Around other new parents this kind of talk is free flowing. Daycares, anxieties, birth experiences, hard days, night time wake-ups, everything is okay. I'd really like a mom friend or two, someone I can relate to not just as a mother, but also as a person, someone on the same wavelength.

But even if these outings don't lead to new friendships, it does lead to a happier, healthier me. Reasons to leave the house are good for me. I've spent a week at home and it's pretty bad for my mental health. I don't think we're meant to raise our children in such solitude or isolation. Good thing I don't live in the burbs.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day, and the Dude is out getting a massage. I made pancakes for breakfast and put a pen in Jack's hand to sign a card I bought on his behalf.

I was very particular about marrying a man who'd be a good father. I've always felt calm and confident about the Dude when it came to kids. I watch them flock to him. He entertains them and plays and makes them happy. He enjoys the cuteness of babies and toddlers. Seeing him with Jack is a joy.

As Jack babbles, the Dude will then respond, "And then what happened?" When a diaper needs to be changed, the Dude will do it. He does bath time and takes pleasure in Jack kicking and splashing in the tub. He does Face Time with his parents throughout the week, showing off his baby, bragging about all the little things he does.

I picked the right man.

Love.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Stay At Home Mom Validation

The rain is unending. Why even bother wash your hair so you can look presentable when you're not going to leave the house and enter into the soggy mess that is the outdoors? I mean, I like that I don't have to water my zucchini and everything, but I would like to make a trip out with Jack at some point.

I did get to see my friends yesterday. The McPal house threw a tea party and the four of us (Tea party regulars) enjoyed the decent weather in the backyard amongst scones, sandwiches and custard tarts. It was my first visit with friends without my baby. I didn't ache with missing him either. I needed the break and it was guilt-free. I have a wonderful group of friends and spending the afternoon with them was restorative.

When I got home, the Dude was full of validation and praise for how I spend my days. Though I was only gone a little over five hours, about half the time I have Jack on my own each day, he was exhausted. Child care, he realized first hand, is challenging and makes one very tired. It's easier to go to work. At least at work if you need to take five minutes and clear your head or eat a snack, you can. At his job there is a catered lunch and designed time to sit down and eat it. With a baby, just going to the bathroom has to wait.

I sort of suspected that, despite his positive hands-on attitude towards being a dad and his willingness to give the nightly bath and change diapers, he didn't really get it. He thought going to work could be as tiring as staying home with a baby, and I knew this to be false, as I've had a number of different jobs in my life and none compare. But now he understands. I really feel he does. And this improves my mood.

The Dude's attitude has also undergone a slight shift. He came home with a headache, took some Advil and spent time with his son and gave me my break. Before, I think he would have said he needed to lie down, not realizing I was in need of relief.

At the three month mark is when things are supposed to turn a corner and a baby is likely to be more predictable in a routine and easier to take out. I certainly hope so. I love my boy and I like being home, but even I have my limits.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hermit Mom

I haven't left the house in four days.

I am not evening kidding.

The entire week it's been rainy and gross, and I can tell you that while going out in dreary weather is a bummer under normal circumstances, with a baby and a stroller you have to disassemble to get in and out of your home, it's a nonstarter. Why bother? It's dry in here and the temperature is stable. Out there is a recipe for a terrible experience.

So I'm spending day in and out in jammies, pumping my breasts (Which have begun to produce a little more lately. Score!) and trying to discern a routine. At this point I want to know what's going on rather than react to Jack's cries. I want to know right away what his damage is so I can address it.

And lo and behold, I think it's starting to happen. I've realized he takes three naps a day lasting from 45 minutes to two hours. He eats every three hours. He needs a change every 2-3 hours. He likes to spend time staring off at things, but he sends signals when he wants interaction. When he starts to grumble now, I can almost always guess what he wants. So, I don't think all this home time has been a waste. When I'm out I'm not observing him. When I'm home, I pay more attention to the details.

I've been thinking about the Dude's role in all this. He's been the sort of partner I need. I've heard so many stories about husbands not pulling their weight, not partaking in the childcare enough, not doing housework. The Dude isn't home enough to do a lot of childcare, but when he is, Jack gets quality dad time.

The Dude does the bath routine, which Jack loves. He changes diapers. If he has to get up earlier to do something for the baby, he does it. He does the dishes and makes dinner. He does the yard work. He cleans the cat litter. On the weekends he takes the baby in the morning so I can sleep in, and then does a big clean after I wake.

Babies can strain a marriage, but I think with the right partner, and being the right partner, two people can make it work. Of course, having a mellow baby really, really helps. Jack truly is the kind of baby I'd always hoped I'd have.

Look at that little face!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Post-natal party dress

I'm in the market for some party dresses, or rather, at least one party dress. I have a few in my closet that should probably see the light of day, but I am a nut for cute things. Mainly dresses. Every woman has a thing, something she can't help acquiring because it makes her feel like a million bucks: shoes, purses, accessories, workout gear, makeup, lingerie, scarves...

I do dresses. And now that I'm no longer pregnant, I salivate over many of them. Whenever I leave the house without Jack, I scour my collection, looking for just the right one to wear. When you leave the house/look nice so infrequently, you really want to make it count.

Below are my current picks for a new party dress. Swoon!

My top contender, as I love shoulder details
and chiffon skirts.
My second choice, because the colour is amazing
and the rose detailing is unique and gorgeous.

This one has an adorable skirt,
but it might need to be shortened at the shoulders.

This is so 1950s, and I love it for that reason.
Slightly too dark, but perfect for fall/winter.

My body is the same size it was pre-pregnancy, but my abdomen ain't lookin' cute. No sir. Most of the skin has receded back to its proper place, but my belly button is still a little large and hollow looking, and I have a pouch of skin above my scar that juts out in an unnatural way. It's shrunk slowly over the past eight weeks, but I don't know if it's done yet. I hope not. I have no way of knowing my recovery is over. This could be it.

The weirdest thing about my tummy is the lack of muscle. There's more there now than there was, but I'm nowhere near what I'd consider normal. Several weeks ago it was so squishy I could poke my finger in and there'd be no resistance. My finger would disappear into the flesh and I would quietly wig out.

Wearing my dresses reminds me I can still be cute, regardless of my messed up figure. I also went out for a me day yesterday and enjoyed a professional blow-out for my still unmanageably thick pregnancy hair. The thick(er) hair I developed during pregnancy still hasn't fallen out yet and I'm at a complete loss as how to wrangle it. For now, it looks awesome, like a hair commercial. But seeing as I can't do that myself, I'll welcome the massive hair loss. I just used the word "hair", like, a million times.

This month marks a year since I got pregnant. And I'm stilllll feeling the after shocks.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Spots and Dots

I've been Googling things like, "My 2 month old is spitting up a lot" and "When do babies get more fun?"

The second one has been on my mind. I feel like I've gotten the hang of newborn care and now I'd love some more interaction. Mainly, I want to watch my son play with his toys. This sounds mundane and uninteresting, I know. Before having a baby I would have thought, "Okay, toys. That could be cute." But now that I have a baby, I see the appeal. Everything he does that's new makes my day more interesting and means he's becoming a more complex human being.

And these are excellent things. They break up the monotony of diaper changes and allow me to see the world differently, through brand new eyes.

I mean, a baby can't even really see. For example, this book is what he's capable of processing:


These bold contrasting patterns are discernable. Everything else? Meh. Fuzzy details I guess. We got this book as a gift and Jack loves to stare at the pages. It's wildly fascinating to him. Explains why he seems so in love with our lamps.

He's been given a number of toys by our friends and family and they're sitting in his nursery or on the floor, aching to be used. Occasionally I'll put a crinkly soft block in his hands, which only recently have started to grip, and he'll kick and bug his eyes out and the block will fall out of his hands. I'll take what I can get.

His first doctor's appointment is Monday. And actually, my first doctor's appointment in a year is then too. She doesn't even know I was pregnant. I never felt the need for a check-up while I was seeing my midwives, since they were always testing my urine, blood and blood pressure. It just seemed like yet one more appointment out of many so I didn't bother. Plus, I was worried I'd have to explain why I wanted a midwife instead of her.

So this should be interesting. Hi! Been a while, eh? Look what I did! The Dude thinks I'm nuts.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Easy Baby In Da House

There is a certain isolation to being a new mother. Though I'm lucky I'm an introverted person and I can happily sustain long periods of time alone, there comes a point where I need conversation. The Dude is my first go-to. I start looking forward to him coming home around 4:00 or so. Sometimes he's not home till nearly 7:00. Then he's usually tired, I'm tired and Jack is not.

We've done brunch a few times, often with Buddy B and his fiancee. It's a nice thing to look forward to: an easy trip to a restaurant in the neighbourhood with friends, Jack's not too taxed, I get out of the house and socialize and then come home. I don't need much anymore, just some conversation and a reason to get dressed and I can feel as though my day has been very good.

Something kind of amazing happened the night before last that didn't repeat last night: Jack slept through the night. He's not even eight weeks old yet and he slept from 9:00 till 7:00. Like, seriously. Not at all what we were expecting. Getting that kind of sleep was unreal. I'd forgotten what it was like not to wake up and feed him. Thing is, my breasts were so full I watched the right one leak all over me while I nursed with the left.

Everyone assures me there will be a turning point around three months. I'll get out more, Jack will fall into a routine with naps and now that he's slept through one night, I'm beginning to see it happening. I can believe it.

He really is a good baby. I'm grateful for him. The baby fairies don't hand out wee ones like this to everybody. The kid sleeps and eats and burps and otherwise is fairly content. The Dude and I only want one. Not only can we not comfortably afford two, or really desire a big family anyway, but we're pretty sure that if we had a second child there would be some sort of a reckoning for this easy baby (And I mean comparatively easy, not easy generally).

I'm thinking once his naps are more predictable, I may try writing my novel again. I have gained significantly more life experience as of late and I think I'll have more now to put into my story. And hopefully, if all goes well, I'll have the time to do it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Amnesia

Something resembling a routine is developing around this place. Jack's getting a bath, fresh jammies and is put in his vibrating swaying swing to fall asleep around 8:00. He'll wake briefly, fall back asleep, and otherwise stay quiet and out until his one night feed at 3:00 or 4:00. It's not bad.

All the same, it's tiring. My feelings for my baby grow each day and I enjoy his smiles and little facial expressions. But it's not mentally stimulating to care for a newborn. Going hours and hours without a break or being able to eat when hungry, but rather when I can, is hard on the system. Trying to pump without an extra pair of hands to tend to a fussy baby is frustrating. When your baby only wants to nap on your lap all day, better hope you don't have to pee.

I'm not going to be a stay-at-home mom. Bless the people who love this sort of thing, but I'm not one of them. Though I value that I can stay home. I'm grateful for the parental leave laws in this country. Just... this isn't who I am. My baby and motherhood have been working their way into my identity, weaving permanence in my soul, but though I felt called to have a child, I don't feel the same compulsion to devote my everyday life to his care.

And yet I think at this super young stage the idea of not being the one to care for him would break my heart. It's strange. I need breaks, time away and I occasionally feel burnt out by the sheer magnitude of everything that's needed from me. Sometimes it's just my presence. Jack's becoming more aware of me and has developed more emotional needs that are mom-specific. In the earliest weeks, he didn't care who did what so long as he was fed. Now he prefers his mother to do it.

It's an intriguing thing to be needed, like, really needed. I've been or felt needed in various ways before, but this is the first time in my life that it's been a concrete and normal part of a relationship. I give and baby takes. If I get a smile, that's great. If not, no matter. Still have to give. It's not like anything else.

I find myself thinking about my son a lot, as an older child, asking me questions, playing at the park. I wonder how I'll remember this time. A lot of mothers say they get amnesia about this stage.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Breast Not Best

Breastfeeding sort of sucks. It's also very handy. And I like it, and also I really resent it.

Obviously I have some ambivalent emotions surrounding it.

I both breastfeed and formula feed. My son is on the big side and the two times I've tried to do boob only, he's lost weight. So to hell with it, right? I mean, despite the literature lactivists will write about supply and demand and how low supply is rare, I know it's happened to me.

There's cultural pressure to breast feed. I've had a number of loved ones tell me it's okay to quit and just formula feed, but I'm not ready. But it's hard researching the topic looking for tips and tricks only to read how breast is best and formula can't compare and it's just soooo important to breastfeed no matter what. When you're formula feeding, it can hurt your feelings and make you feel bad about yourself as a mother.

When I was in the hospital five days after Jack was born, my midwives were seriously worried I'd lose my milk, and maybe develop postpartum depression after everything. I managed to avoid both of those things, but the milk thing was actually the tougher battle. I've experienced hardships before. A traumatic birth wasn't the worst I've had. Worst I've had in my adult years, but not in life.

I can nurse my son when he wakes at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. Luckily, he's falling asleep around 9:00 or 10:00 most nights and that one wake-up is all I have to tangle with. I can give him my breast, he takes his fill and goes back to sleep like a champ. Around 7:00 I can usually feed him again, though a bottle is often necessary as well.

And after that? Formula. Formula and pumping. It's sort of an imposition. I'm trying to reduce my feeding costs with breast milk, and it's physically much more simple to do. No bottles to fiddle with, boiled water, measuring scoops and burping afterwards. But God, it's a struggle.

It feels pretty rough when your own baby rejects your breast, sometimes even when it's full of milk. So on top of a feed, I have to find the time to pump so I don't lose what milk supply I have. And I have to take meds and herbs as well. I don't think I could maintain my milk without this rather tiring regiment.

When this all started I felt like a dud. Sometimes I still do. I couldn't birth my baby and now my body can't feed my baby. Being a father would be so much simpler. Dads can't do any of these things and so don't have to face bodily failures. Being a dad comes with its own set of concerns, but when you've just become a mother and you need artificial means to bring your baby into the world and keep it alive, you feel a sense of sadness. It's a loss.

So I'm looking for small victories. A bottle of breast milk a day is my new goal. I usually need a few days to get four ounces out of pumping, but now I'm trying to decrease the time to one day. More breast milk = money saved and health benefits.

There is a simplicity to being at home all day with a baby, but all that simplicity is rife with complexities.

An added example is leaving the house for a walk. No biggie, right? Well, putting aside the stocking of a diaper bag and changing and feeding Jack before leaving the house, I have to deal with a stroller that needs to be taken down the stairs in two parts after locking the three doors that lead into the apartment. I've gotten faster at it, but still. I also have to get myself ready to leave, and depending on Jack's mood, this could take some time.

Actually, I have to finish this up and pump now. Jack's asleep. I may not get a better chance.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude:  noun

: Enjoyment obtained at the misfortune of others; amusement and validation when your loathed mayor is discovered to be a crackhead. 

So, Mayor Ford does crack. This is on top of being a racist, homophobic, drunken, sexist right-wing nut. Am I surprised? Oh no, not at all. This man was never going to be anything but trouble. When he was elected I developed a small hate-on for the suburbs of Toronto who brought him upon us. The A, once something that meant "area" in the GTA now stood for "assholes" as far as I was concerned. Greater Toronto Assholes. Nobody I knew cast a vote for that clown. Downtown, AKA real Toronto, tried their damndest to keep him out. Well, here we are.

I rather wish we could have our own mayor and the burbs could have theirs, then they could elect the likes of Ford and have him rant about expensive subways that will service 53 people total per day, and leave the real work of the actual city to someone who, you know, cares about Toronto proper.

It's not totally awesome when your mayor makes your home the laughing stock of the country. When other countries know about your oaf-like mayor, it's even more embarrassing. Because what kind of a population brings in someone so obviously stupid to govern?

But then look at who we have for a Prime Minister, read up on our dwindling influence and tanking global reputation, and suddenly a dummy mayor warrants only a face palm and a sigh because you're used to politics making your home look terrible and your insides cringe.

Also today there was an earthquake. But even Mother Nature can't get Ford out of the spotlight today. Even Senator Duffy in his disgrace is given a small reprieve. The mayor of Toronto, aside from being a rule-breaker who's always battling it out in court or leaving early to coach football and using city funds to this end, is a crackhead.

The only winners in all this? This Hour Has 22 Minutes. And Rick Mercer. It certainly isn't the city of Toronto.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day

Usually on Mother's Day I feel a little introspective. I think about my mother and perhaps write about my feelings.

I wrote this in 2006:
My dad's 50th birthday fell on Mother's Day this year. Jamie and I took him out to dinner after dad took me to the gravesite.
It rained and we couldn't find the grave for what felt like forever. When we finally did locate it, it was as though it had been hiding on purpose because how could we ever have missed it?
I said a few words to Mom and didn't linger. I was cold and there isn't a lot to say to engraved stone. It chilled me to think of her down there. Sometimes I get something out of going, this time it didn't make me feel very good.
I've been feeling quiet all weekend. Just, unable to really talk because I don't have conversation in me. I want to talk about how I'm feeling but at the same time I don't. I've been feeling lonely.
I really miss my mother. I'm crying in my apartment and I can hear my sobbing echoing just a bit. It feels so empty. I can feel the loss pretty acutely right now. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes I just feel how bad it hurts to not have her around and how lonely it makes me feel.
There is no one like your mother in the world, no one who knows you like she does and loves you like she does. No one. I feel a little lost without that. Where are the phone calls and advice and hugs and encouragement? They're nowhere. They're dead.
It can make you feel so in need of something you know you can't have. No one can replace her or what she gave me and what I'm missing, no matter how close another woman is to me. I hate Mother's Day.

I wrote this in 2003:

Another Mother's Day has come and gone. For those of us without mothers, it can be a hard day or an easy day, depending on how you feel.
I have in the past ignored Mother's Day since my grandmother died. She was the last mother I had so why bother paying it any attention?
Today I fought back tears while I was vacuuming the second floor in the tower. It all came back to me. Her funeral mass mostly. Seeing the three priests, Father Stan from school, Father Whalen with the heavenly voice and Father Tim who had seen Mom through her illness to the end, praying over her body and for her soul and for us.
Girls from school who saw me choking out tears and hugged me while I was slumped over the pew. Seeing the head boy look at me and pass me without a word, making it obvious he was there on business alone, which did not surprise me.
Her coffin that I had chosen for her being wheeled out of the church with Aunt Debbie walking in between Jamie and I as we cried and watched. We were clutching each other as we watched the box move forward; it was unbelievable that it was holding the body of my mother.
My cousin David and I making eye contact and I knew that he felt bad for me. I knew everyone did. I also knew that everyone in that church, save the the two others in the aisle, were thankful that they weren't me.
My dad trying to push his way into the aisle, trying to make his place in the proceedings. Me pushing him away and continuing, not allowing him to join. He was not there, he had no right to walk with us. We were the closest family she had and the ones she loved most. I couldn't let him in.
Watching my mother being put into the ground. Only a hazy memory. The only thing I can say is that I know I was there.
Lying in my cousin Christina's bed at the reception. Everyone crowding around me. I know I can say anything I want. I could get away with anything. All I want is to go to sleep with the people I have around me. I feel so alone. I need comfort but no one can give me what I need. I barely know what I need.
And I blink back my tears on the second floor in the tower and keep vacuuming. I've paid tribute to her and I have to get on with my day. And then I have to get on with my life. And then I pray I will have children to bring this day some new meaning for me.

And now that day is here. I spent the day at the spa, relaxing and giving myself a chance to miss my baby. And I did miss him. When I got home, I was looking forward to seeing his little face, which has begun giving me smiles. The Dude had a video to show me of Jack' smiles that he took while I was out. My milk let down while I was watching it. Funny hormonal tricks show you in physical terms that you are attached to your little baby.

He's sleeping in a new swaying swing that we bought recently. It's been a dream this evening, saving us from the Fussy Francis he usually becomes these days between 7:00 and 10:00. He's six weeks old tomorrow and it's kind of hard to put that time into perspective. I can't believe it's been only six weeks, and yet his birth seems so long ago. It's a blur.

I told myself I wouldn't expect much from the first three months, that they'd be hard and unenjoyable. But I undersold the experience. I'm tired, but there's joy. Caring for a newborn all day can be tedious, but there's a relaxing rhythm to it, under it all. It's work, but there's meaning behind it and you can slowly see things change and develop. And I know it'll get better.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Video of Jack 1.0


I'll write about my first Mother's Day soon, but until then, here is a video the Dude took of Jack today. It's raining sweetness in this house.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Infection

I never described my time in the hospital after I was admitted for my uterine infection. After getting home, I just wrote about motherhood and how I was adjusting to it. I think a part of me was still too emotionally fragile over it to write about the experience, although a part of me recognized it was a good story, best told with some perspective and distance.

I may as well rehash a bit, as this is best told as a complete story in and of itself.

I was only home a couple days (At least I think it was about two days. It was a blur pain, sleep and total confusion. Let's say two days' worth) when I developed violent chills, the sort that rock your body uncontrollably. I'd gotten chills from my epidural, and I had them again after my C section. Those chills  didn't make me feel cold inside, only out of control of my body. But at home, they resonated at my bones. I was freezing from the inside out.

My aunt covered me in blankets and then tried to warm me with her own body, draping herself over me while I shook and chattered. I eventually fell asleep, warmed enough, and woke up drenched in sweat. It was then I discovered I had a fever of 38.8 Celsius. I drank water, took Tylenol and I can't remember what else only to lower my temperature down to 38.6.

So I told the Dude and my aunt and the Dude called my midwife, who said I had to go to the ER. I knew this was necessary, I understood it was sensible on an intellectual level, but I didn't want to go. I had only recently gotten rid of my hives, I was aching from my incision and exhausted was not a strong enough adjective to describe how incapacitated I felt. A hollow, "NooooOOoooOOoooOOoooo..." escaped me and there was pretty much no way out of another trip to the hospital.

My father-in-law was in town and drove the Dude and I to the ER while my aunt stayed with Jack. I seriously don't know what we would have done without her there. This was not the only way in which she went to bat for me in the aftermath of my terrible birth.

I was admitted quickly, which didn't bode well for my prognosis. On one hand you're happy to be taken seriously enough to be sent right in. It sort of makes you feel justified in making the trip. On the other hand, it sort of means you're effed.

I was laying on a bed in a large room separated by rows upon rows of thin curtains. There were dozens of machines rhythmically beeping. It almost sounded like new age techno. To pass the time and distract myself from my own issues, I eavesdropped on other people's misfortunes. The ER is truly a smorgasbord of human misery. I heard about the medical history and slow decline of an elderly woman in the partition next to me, and the doctor's belief she would not last the night. The Dude and I bore witness to her Last Rites and though I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, I quietly said the Lord's Prayer with them and had a little cry.

When I was seen by the doctor after three hours at 4:00 a.m. I was given the option to sleep there and have an ultrasound in the morning, or go home and return in the afternoon. I couldn't bear the thought of the woman actually dying beside me to the music of the machines, so I went home.

In the morning I had a great time. I felt better, took a picture of my son sleeping, pumped a bit and felt optimistic about my ultrasound. My hope was misplaced and I was fast-tracked to get my diagnosis. Two residents informed me of my infection and I was given an IV in an inconvenient place in my elbow. I was told I'd be going back to Labour and Delivery and could bring my son.

I was wheeled out of the ER and sent not to L&D, but instead to the east wing, an old 1930s building that seemingly had never been updated to so much as include air conditioning. It was the post-op recovery floor and I was about to be put in a room with some strange woman who didn't look happy I was to be her roommate. At this point I began to lose it.

I would have to share? Pump next to a stranger? Share a room with someone and have my son in there too, and the Dude? How would that work? The Dude ran over to the desk and didn't come back till he had secured me a private room, apparently after meeting a lot of resistance to this. I calmed a bit, but resumed my rising hysterics when I saw the room I'd be staying in. There was a bed, one chair, a sink, and no attached bathroom. Again, what about my son and the Dude?

I was told I could arrange to have my son in there if I really wanted to, but companions were not allowed overnight. There was also no furnishings to house my son in the room, and obviously with no companion my ability to care for him was crap. It took me five minutes just to leave my bed and I was attached to an IV that was plugged into the wall. I started sobbing while the Dude pried the nurse for answers. She tried to answer them, quickly lost patience and said she'd "Better not say anything else."

The Dude was eventually told he could in fact stay, but he'd have to sleep in the chair. He hadn't slept in days, I was worried about his health at this point, plus he had to work in the morning. We argued and I won, sending him home to sleep after he brought me some provisions. My father-in-law stayed with me upon the Dude's request, worried that I shouldn't be left alone in my emotionally fragile state.

After the changing of the nurses, the night nurse told the Dude and his dad they had to leave. She was grumpy, perhaps hearing that I was difficult. She was short with me about my questions regarding my IV. I felt despondent and lost. I was separated from my son, who was less than a week old. My only solace was sleep, but though I was beyond tired, it didn't come easily to me. I laid awake feeling almost numb from disbelief.

The next day was mostly spent unable to move, fiddling around online, pumping breast milk, attempting to nap, chatting with nurses, drinking nursing tincture, making complicated trips to the bathroom and trying to stomach hospital food.

I did have some visits. The first was from the resident who diagnosed me. She seemed horrified I was not in L&D and had been separated from my baby. I found this soothing because in an effort to make me feel better, most people were telling me it was fine and not so bad, which made me feel crazy for thinking it wasn't fine and was actually very bad.

The next visit was from my midwife, who was concerned I might develop postpartum depression after all the madness. She encouraged me to save the milk I was pumping (I was icked out by the ward and didn't want to bring hospital-laced milk home) and to have the Dude bring Jack so we could spend time together. I initially didn't want him to because I wanted him away from the hospital, but I was easily persuaded away from this idea.

Third was my friend Karen, who brought me a bag of goodies to ease the discomfort of the hospital, plus a collection of silly hats. We wore the hats and as staff walked in we made no comment on them. I was wearing a giant turkey and Karen had on a lobster. She stayed with me for hours and lifted my spirits enough to believe I was going to be okay. I felt almost normal again.

Lastly came the Dude, his dad and stepmom and Jack. Still wearing the hats, it was a ridiculous party. Holding him was a salve, but watching him go hurt and I cried. I didn't feel at all able to care for him yet, but when he left I felt a little empty.

The next morning I got a visit from my father-in-law and after he left, I was discharged. It was a glorious feeling. He came back with his wife, and they took me home. I had help waiting for me, I was rested, and I can honestly say that everything improved from there.

The week my son was born was the worst of my adult life. So many women would say it was the best, but I'm being totally honest. It was the worst. 48 hour failed induction and sleep deprivation, followed by a C-section and then more sleep deprivation, hives, chills, an infection and separation, all in a week.

However, the weeks that followed have been full of joy and learning.

Silly hats only.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stalled

I really need to get my ass out of the house.

There are certain things about me that are work-adverse. For example, in this current situation, to leave the house I have to organize my baby. He needs to eat, be changed, in clean clothes and the diaper bag needs to be stocked. Then I have to put him in the car seat (Which slots into the stroller frame) and carry the frame outside and down the stairs and unfold it. Then I need to carry the car seat down the stairs and put it in the frame. This all takes an hour. An hour before I can leave my home.

So I mostly just stay here. I leave for appointments, but otherwise I wait for the Dude to be home because carrying the stroller stuff around is quick and easy for him, while I'm still slow because I'm weak from my recovery. Plus he can stock the bag while I feed the baby. He can shave half the time off what it takes to exit the premises. I'm envious sometimes of his general ability to leave efficiently. He's just faster, and I'm the one who's home all day.

Not that I'd prefer it the other way around. It wouldn't work anyway. If I'm working, the baby can't be in the house. So a lot of good that would do. Though the Dude is a nurturing kind of guy. He'd do well around here.

So, to get my sorry dilapidated butt in gear, I've signed up to attend a mom meet-up in a nearby neighbourhood next week. It's time I met some other new mothers. It's a weird thing to be, a mom. One day you aren't, the next you are. Frequently it doesn't occur to me that this change has happened. Oh, I don't forget I have a baby, but the addition of "mom" to my identity is what hasn't sunken in. I think of moms and I think of my mom, or other moms I know, not myself. I write about motherhood all the time, but in my day-to-day life it's been a slow mental shift.

Though I'm eagerly looking forward to Mother's Day. For one thing, I relish the thought of a day just for me in this house. For another, it'll be the first time since my mom died that the day won't be about pain and sadness. I'll have some joy. But it'll still have some sadness. I try not to think too much about what my mom is missing right now. That may be harder to do on Mother's Day. It usually is.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Go To Sleep

You spend nine months pregnant, sometimes you can spend nine months trying to get pregnant, and I'm pretty sure that after a baby is born you spend the next nine months-plus trying to make the baby go to sleep. Oh, you love him. You think he's cute. His little smiles and coos charm you. But still, you want him to sleep so you can sleep or watch something good on TV or eat something hot.

My little piggy is sleeping in the bouncy chair while it vibrates, after a successful brunch outing with friends and then an additional outing with his dad. Of course he fussed at home and wanted an extraordinary amount of food that as per usual my body couldn't provide in full, but now he's quiet and all is well. And the Dude is out getting us Nutella lattes from some cafe that apparently sell such things.

I've been thinking about what kind of mother I'm going to be, and want to be, and every time I do I envision an older kid. I'm just not a baby person. I wouldn't trade my own for anything, mind you, but I'm really just biding my time for the real deal, a child. I want a child. In a way I'm almost there. I endured the pregnancy, and I'm going with the flow of newborn life. Soon he'll be more interactive and that's one step away from toddlerhood, which is the bridge to being a child.

Oh, I'm told all the time to "Cherish every minute" and that's all well and good, but I was also told to love my pregnancy and I wanted to tell those people to stuff it. I don't have to cherish my baby's inability to communicate if I find it frustrating. I don't have to be fulfilled from close contact with his urine, vomit and fecal matter. I don't need to love the fact he needs loads of help to pass his own gas and will cry until he does. I can love him without finding all that stuff wonderful, quite easily.

I have memories of things my mom did for us as kids: trips to the park, Friday movie and pizza night, day trips to the white sands beach. I'm going to wait till Jack's four or so to take him to bigger things like the zoo or an amusement park. It doesn't seem worthwhile if he's not going to remember it and the Dude and I will be faced with his dirty diapers and crying in public places for apparently no reason. But once he's old enough, I can't wait. And Toronto has so much. There's High Park, Riverdale Farm, Toronto Zoo, Canada's Wonderland, Ontario Science Centre, Centre Island, and also an aquarium is coming to town.

Growing up in a much smaller city, my mom still found ways to make life interesting. One day she picked us up from daycare and drove past our neighbourhood, insisting the car was driving itself. The car took us to pizza and a movie. Sometimes we'd go for drives and get a little lost just for fun. We hit the sugar bush some springs. She took us to Toronto once for a Blue Jays game. Unfortunately some whacko punched her in the jaw in the lobby of our hotel and the manager came out, repeatedly offered to sue the guy and sent us up a gift basket. She probably should have sued him. I think she had jaw issues after that.

I just had a sip of the Nutella latte. Not too shabby.

I guess I'm basically saying I'm very invested in Jack's childhood. I have all the patience and joy in the world when it comes to hanging out with kids. Love 'em. Love Jack too. But I think I'll die with love when he's a kid himself. He's already a really great baby. I'm excited to see what sort of child and person he'll be.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tips for C-Sections

I'm officially three weeks out of my C section and I'm up and at 'em. There are some things that can definitely help you get back on your feet, and also there are some things that most certainly should be avoided. I'm going to outline them here.

1. Bind your belly. Seriously, this is a must. You don't need a fancy binder, however you will likely need several different levels of binding as you progress. To start, I used a long muslin receiving blanket, folded into a long rectangle. I tied it around my back while in the hospital. Then eventually I could pull the ends around to my front and tied them there. Four or five days post pardum I could fit into my small size Belly Bandit. Now I can wear my Rago girdle.

I still have some small overhang of skin over my incision, but it's significantly less than it was. I hate it, but it's gratifying that it's shrinking. My skin elasticity is really being put to the test now. It looks a little crepe papery and slightly greyish at present too. But I'm back in my pre-pregnancy clothes. So boom.

2. Get help. Oh my God, don't even try to handle this alone. Even your other half will not be enough. Have someone stay with you. For one, you need assistance recovering from surgery. Two, you have a brand new baby who gives zero shits that you're recovering from surgery. You totally need extra hands to make meals, run errands, do dishes, change diapers... etc. You'll need help into the shower, up stairs, out of bed. And if this all is on your partner, well, dude's going to be sleep deprived as well. His health is going to deteriorate in a hurry.

The Dude was operating on about eight hours of sleep the whole first week. Eight hours total. I was almost more worried about him than me. Almost. Get a trusted family member to stay with you. You'll need it. And if you're like me and you need to haul ass back to the hospital, you'll really need the help.

3. Do not recover in the hospital alone. You can. Sure. Technically. There are nurses to assist you. But do you really want to call them every time you need help out of bed? The baby is hungry. You'll need up. You need to pee. You'll need up. Baby needs a change. You'll need up. You'll be up every damn hour, so forget about rest. Or you could have your other half stay with you and bring you the baby to nurse, change the diapers himself, and give you a hand in the bathroom rather than a stranger.

4. Arinca pills. Take 'em. There's Arnica cream, but I'm talking about the tiny little pills that'll help you heal internally. My healing time was actually really good, once I got home from the hospital the second time anyway. I was up the stairs within a week and lifting my baby, and getting out of the house within two weeks no problem, no pain. Additionally, take as few painkillers as you can get away with, and take the weakest ones. I was offered oxycontin and, uh, yeah, no. Them things be addictive.

5. If anyone wants to bring you anything at all, request food. Making meals requires trips to the grocery store, time in the kitchen, and then clean up. Even with someone in the house helping you with the baby, this could be too much in the first weeks. Prepared meals are gold. Best thing ever.

6. Midwifery is amazing. You'll have been transferred to an OB for your surgery, but you'll still be visited in your home afterwards by your midwives. I was also seen in my hospital room in labour & delivery, and also while recovering from my infection. I do have to travel to see the OB who performed my C-section, but that's on Monday, nearly four weeks after it took place. Nothing beats the personal attention you get from midwives. If you have a problem, you can see an OB any time. But starting with a midwife ensures a continuity of care with a personal touch. When you're reeling from a crazy birth, that personal touch means the world.

7. As soon as you can manage it, get a massage. My body ached in ways I can't describe. I got used to feeling like hell when I was pregnant, but after surgery and recovery, you don't realize you can make those pains go away. You're accustomed to it. But lemme tell you, a massage will make you feel more human. Trust your husband with the baby (He'll be fine) and get out into the world and re-introduce your back to feeling normal. I had one a few days ago and sweet Jebus, was it good.

8. Don't sweat it if your milk is delayed. This can happen. Don't freak out. You may need to supplement with formula so you don't starve your baby in the meantime. Jack lost 12% of his birth weight, which considering he was 9 lb 13, was not a huge deal. But kiddo needed some sustenance. I felt crappy about this initially, but really? It was out of my control. Too many things were thrown at me (C-section, infection, large baby, separation) to breastfeed exclusively. He's getting formula fed about 60% of the time because that's all I can manage.

I'm on meds to increase supply, I'm getting as much sleep as I can, I'm pumping and allowing my baby to drain me dry and that's all I can do. I accept this. Also, I enjoy the benefits of my husband taking on the odd feed, and being able to wear non-nursing friendly clothing from time to time. I realized that breastfeeding doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. I can give what I can and feel good about it.

Cesarians can be really upsetting. You can feel like you failed or a little traumatized by the experience. But a little acceptance goes a long way. I found I was able to cope with everything that happened once I embraced the fact you can't count on your plans. I'm no less a mother for birthing surgically, or being unable to breastfeed all the time. Shit happens, and then you move forward. Being a resilient person helps.

As for things that hinder recovery, try to avoid large gatherings in your home. Make sure visits are short and no one expects you to get up or do anything. Don't make phone calls or field phone calls, not till you're ready. Time is best spent sleeping. Let other people answer questions for you. Don't let nursing staff interrupt your sleep too often, before or after your birth. Set boundaries. They'll want to check your vitals all the time, which will wake you up, but you don't have to let them. Sleep, sleep, sleep. have your husband run interference for you. Their policies are all well and good, but you won't recover worth a damn if you're deprived of rest. I should know.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Motherhood is Surreal

Today I walked through the Eaton Centre, sans bebe, and revelled in the surreal experience of being 2.5 weeks post C-section with no one the wiser. It's so bizarre to have a baby at home, after having undergone major surgery to have him, endure a serious infection that lands you in the hospital, and then mosey around a mall like nothing ever happened.

Jack stayed with the Dude today while I dropped my aunt off at the bus station. Her time here, spanning two weeks, has come to a close. I feel far more prepared to handle life now. Before I was a dazed mess, in pain from a large incision, weak from my delivery and recovery and unsure of what to do with a baby. Now I feel like I can read some of his cues. I can change him quickly, I know a few ways to comfort him and I know his hunger cries.

I was so lucky to have my aunt with me. She made bottles, did dishes and relieved me from the constant care of my baby when I needed rest or a nap. It was also nice to have someone to talk to about what I was going through. I had a lot of feelings I needed to work out about breastfeeding and bonding and it meant a lot to me to have her as a sounding board.

I won't be exclusively breastfeeding. I just can't and I'm not going to beat myself up over it. The C section delayed my milk, then the infection and separation reduced my supply, and Jack's large size meant he needed bigger feedings that I had no chance in hell of producing, not starting from scratch when supplementing with formula was mandatory to keep him alive.

So he gets a couple breastfeedings per day and I'm satisfied with this. It's not the free food situation I had in mind, but then my entire introduction into motherhood hasn't been anything like I planned. So be it. Life is unpredictable.

My bond with my baby has been slow. I think he's a great kid. He's mellow and cute and an easy guy to care for. I'm lucky. He slept five hours straight last night. I enjoy him more and more each day and I wouldn't trade him for anything. But love hasn't been instant. It's been growing slowly over time. It'll continue.

So after I dropped my aunt off I decided to have my first bout of me time. I was wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes (Which I fit into now. I'm 3 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. My muscles, however, are all entirely gone due to all the bedrest I had after Jack was born. Also, my tummy is scary looking at present.) and I wanted to do something frivolous.

So I got my nails done and had a half-hour chair massage. I feel more like a woman and a human being. It was nice to walk around unencumbered. I didn't worry about my baby at all either. He was with his father, and anyway, I spent two nights away from him in the hospital and he did just fine. Humbling knowledge that my baby doesn't need me, but there you are.

And I don't mean he doesn't need me. He does. He just doesn't need me all the time and to the exclusion of other people. I'm not the only one who can care for him. The Dude is super competent. And with this knowledge I wandered somewhat aimlessly around the mall, like a normal nondescript non-pregnant woman. Almost back to normal, at least on the outside. So long as I'm viewed with clothes on.

I suppose I'm sort of floored how similar I feel. I'm still very much me in every way. I just now have a baby.