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


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:  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


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.