Tuesday, July 10, 2018

on mamahood: months six and seven




Dear Birdie,

I am grateful when I reread my last letter to you. That was stinkin' hard. I remember it well.

In the way that most hardship goes, the memories of those bleak, teeth-grit times in months four and five are fading out -- I still know them in my molecules, but they are becoming more and more like vintage photographs that I hold on to to prove my daring, my strength.

We pool a lot more light in our hands these days.

Your cheeks are light, your eyes, our open mouth kisses, the three of us cuddling in the morning as you talk to us b-b-b-b-a-ing away, you are our cherub and our valentine and our one true love.

Oh lordy hallelujah amen amen amen, thank you for ushering us into the darkness and back out again.

//

Wait, but first:

Let me back up.



How did we dig our way out of the tunnel?

A friend asked me that the other day, and it gave me pause, because I don't know how we did it, baby.
I think just time? I think just letting some of that loneliness and tedium settle around us like dust, and knowing that it was OKAY to not be surrounded by frickin' marigolds every blessed day? That parenting is hard?

When I wrote that last letter, I shared it with others as I often do, and friends and friends of friends reached out to tell me that they felt these things too.

One thing your dad and I will always tell you, for the rest of your life (so much so that you will roll your eyes and murmur, I know I know) is that it is necessary to share your feelings, to feel them with others, and to let discomfort have its place amongst your days and things.

Every time I have done this in my life, I have heard a chorus of me too, and it paves a bridge back to community, away from aloneness.

So I felt shitty. I allowed myself feel it. I shared with others. And the intensity eventually went away.

Mama's first recipe for you!



Also, meet Elsinore. She is your protector. She has watched over you since birth. She is an eagle.

Whaaaaaaaaaat?

So, in another life, I have a career and I am a counsellor. I am not just your mama.
In counselling, we sometimes try to externalize our feelings so that we can look at them outside of ourselves, because it is very hard to make sense of things when they are buried on the inside. To externalize, you give it a name and a shape or a character, and you talk about it as something beyond you, in order to understand yourself.

(Have I lost you yet? How old are you, as you are reading this, anyway? 18? 27? 35? Are these letters interesting to you? Am I dead? Is this morbid?)

In a nutshell, we have many externalized figures in our household, including: Angus (dad's anxiety), Field Marshall (dad's super do-er drill sergeant), and Elsinore the eagle (my super intense mama over protectiveness / anxiety).

She has become a beautiful and powerful figure to me, but she did not start that way. During the hard time, she protected you in such a way that was pretty draining for me, as she was ever-vigilant, ever-ready, and super exacting.

Baba and I have had many talks about her, as sometimes she was a pain to be around. Oh man, you were so safe and well cared for because of her (I mean, your nap times and wake windows were precise and to the minute -- she did the arithmetic SO fast in her head, jeez), but also, she did not suffer mistakes easily.

Baba and I had to tell her that she did not need to do all this alone, that he was up to the task of taking on the mantle of how-things-are-done-around-here, and we thanked her for her service. Since then, she has been way more friendly, and even flies away for lengths of time to do what eagles do during playtime.




So aha!: in order to get to the light I..

- shared my feelings, realized not alone
- accepted / released Elsinore
- leaned on your grandparents way more for support
- stopped trying to do All The Things during your naps, slept, wore my robe religiously until 10am
- listened to podcasts about non-baby things during our walks, felt like human being
- and honestly, you started sleeping a bit longer in the night KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD


//

We went on another trip, this time to the Sunshine Coast, and we forgot to make ferry reservations again and our car was packed to the brim, and while it was nice to get out, it was still tiring, and I'm proud of us for even trying.

Pictures or it didn't happen:







There have been milestones every week since you turned 6 months. It has been so, so so so fun. I think this is why people continue to make babies. This part has been the best.

Milestones:

First time sitting up by yourself!

First taste of solids!


First ride in big kid stroller! (clearly you love it and DON'T cry everytime we put you in)



First swing ride!



First successful night, and then nights of not being the oldest baby still swaddled! You are a zipadee starfish now!



First Mother's day! First Father's day!



First time CRAWLING FORWARDS! (lord help us)

//

I really never thought I would love you as much as I love your dad (is that weird to admit? I just really like him a lot), but you REALLY give him a run for his money. I could watch you eat mashed bananas forever. I could count each of your toes while you laugh because it's so funny and our inside joke, foreverever. I could watch you pull out blades of grass with a deep delight, forevereverever.

This is what they mean when they say that you'll want to freeze time one day, and not want your baby to get older. A few months ago, I honestly would aggressively roll my eyes when I heard anyone say that because I wanted time to speed the F up. So you could sleep longer, cry less. So you could tell me what you needed, or you could become a teenager (my favourite age category of humans). 

But I don't, anymore. I am desperately in love with the time we have now, and the speed at which you're growing and learning to be independent both thrills and terrifies me.

I think that's good, this wistfulness. I think it means I love you and I am happy.

I am happy.

I love you.

Forever and ever,

Your Mama

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

$$$$ currently




Oh hi! I thought I would pause on writing about babies for a moment, and go back to my original baby and first love: money.

Ha! You think I'm kidding, but those close to me will attest... I have been a fan since a young age.

It has been 4 years since this post on how I view money, my do's and don'ts about what I will spend on, and so many big things have happened since.

Fundamentally, I would say that my relationship to it has not changed, but structurally, a lot has.

So! Let's indulge! Get it all out in the open!

I am endlessly fascinated and grateful when others talk openly about their pragmatic and philosophical approaches to money, so I am happy to update this space on what has changed in my world.

(Just like last time, if this topic bores you, I would skip this post.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

on mamahood: months four and five

Dear Birdie,

Your mama fell down a well of sleep deprivation these last two months, so I apologize but you are getting a two-for-one letter. And by 'I apologize', I mean -- I gave birth to you and wipe your bum every day, so... we're even.

You turned 4 months in April, and now you are 5 months old. 

That sentence does not even compute in my brain. 

I was looking through old photos of you on my phone just now, and baby, you were the size of a chihuahua! A pea! A pearl earring! 

And now? You are an ever-loving, full-sized Pinocchio little BOY.





Your big personality is becoming more clear. You are also no longer a newborn!
Here are things we know about you in Month 4/5:

- Your eyes are beginning to show hints of brown and sometimes a tinge of green, so my bet is that they will settle on hazel

- You smile at strangers-- so evidently you have your father's extroverted personality, not your mother's hide-in-a-hole one. 

- You learned how to shriek, so I'm not sure why I haven't entitled this letter: Dear Velociraptor 

(Seriously, you shriek so much. Can you stop? Your dad has sensitive ears, and he looks shell-shocked after one of your arias. It's like ahhhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhh eeeeeeeeeeee ahhhhhhhh and all our neighbours must worry about how we are treating you.)

- You understand what toys are for!

- Things you love: putting everything in your mouth, pulling mama's hair and baba's beard, when Gong Gong makes the clucking noise at you, being thrown in the air, any source of light that is on, touching your toes, Mr. Fox

- Things that have changed: you no longer cry and cry when you first wake up. If you are well rested, you smile so big, and are delighted to re-enter the waking world. You no longer require milk IMMEDIATELY or ELSE. Actually, you get super distracted and stop feeding if you notice other voices or movement. You graduated from your bassinet and sleep in a crib, in your own room.


So in other words, you are completely different yet wholly the same loveable being, and you're probably heading off to university next month.



//

We went on our first family trip this month!

People like to say that once you have children, you don't go on vacations anymore -- you go on trips. Vacations connote laying about and sleeping in and like, I don't know --margaritas. Trips, on the other hand, require a subaru full of so much baby stuff that you can't see out of the rearview mirror, and probably an extra day on either side to recover. 

For me, it was another juxtaposition of what pre-you and post-you life is like. Before you, we have made trips to Saturna that included me on the back of our motorcycle, or where we carried everything we needed in our panniers and biked the steeped hills to the cabin. I used to read books for hours there. Now, we pretty much kept to our schedule at home of eat-poop-play-nap repeat, and tried to not do anything drastic. Since you are getting older, you actually can't just sleep anywhere anymore, and so we prioritize being home for most of your naps. (#babyprison)

Still, it was really special for your Baba to be able to introduce you to Saturna Island. Oh love, this place is very important to our family. It's where your grandparents ferried over with your dad and your uncle when they were little just like you, where your mom and dad got married, it's where your cousins have tumbled and romped in the meadow, it's where there is calm and magic and the Salish Sea.

So yes, a lot of work to go on this voyage. And also, like everything we do with you: worth it. 














Real talk: these past two months were hard. 

In that fourth month, my sleep deprivation resilience hit a wall. All those lovely protective good hormones ran their course, and I was left with good ol' cortisol and some momsomnia and a fistful of anxiety.

It used to be that I wore sleep deprivation like a proud badge of honor -- oh yeah, I'm a proud parent of a newborn now, of course I don't sleep. But as the months dovetailed together, and you began waking more and more in the night, it became more a scar than a badge. Hello, sleep regression.

We had passed your 100 day milestone, and I naively had thought: we are out of the woods now, hey? The hundred days of darkness are over, yeah? Parenting is now just successive moments of beautiful photos on my instagram and endless joy?


It turns out that in many ways, it was harder once I was out of the fourth trimester. By month 4, you've been at the parent thing for long enough that people stop asking you how things are going, and your support system can pause. Not at all because people are unkind, but because life moves on, and your baby's newness has faded. People assume that things, while probably still being tiring, have at least reached some sort of homeostasis. 

So. There I was, exhausted and lonely. 

On one hand, not able to spend a ton of quality time with people because I'm taking care of you, and on the other, not totally being able to be present when visitors come over, because I'm eyeing you like a hawk out of the corner of my eye. Lonely either way.

There were some big gulps of tears this month, and they all said: who am I now? 

(A mama).

Why is this so hard?

(Because you're forging a new identity, and pain is as much a part of it as joy.)

Will it be like this forever?

(It feels like it. But I don't think so, love.)



You know what it is? It's like back in the day when I pretended like I was a Cool Girl for your father, ("Ohhhh you ride a motorcycle, that is so rad, like totally"), there is some societal pressure to be a Chill Mom. Like the kind of mama that goes barefoot with ripped jeans and is super relaxed and able to go with the flow, no schedule.

But in order to keep you alive? With no previous track record of having done so with any other human infant? I kind of have to be vigilant. I kind of have to keep all the bad dark shadows away from your halo of light. 

So I'm actively trying to embrace the part of me that is SO not chill, that is SO fiercely protective of you, even if it is not a cool way to be. Because the truth is, she is doing an amazing job of helping you thrive. 




(Thank god for your grandparents. 

They are the only reason I didn't have a thousand panic attacks and starve this month.)





I am gaining my footing in the new role, little one. It is the most challenging thing I've ever done.

Thank you for choosing me to be your person.

Love,

Mama

Saturday, March 24, 2018

on mamahood: month three

Dear Birdie,


This was a big month for you and me.

It was the first official full month that was just the two of us, day in and day out. To be honest, I was nervous and doubtful of my ability to solo parent you.

I would count the hours in the day -- watching the clock, and give myself pep talks. "Ok, it is 3pm. Husband will be home in 2 hrs. I can do this." You would cry, and I would feel overwhelmed. You would need me, with your beautiful grey eyes, and I would be unsure.




Somewhere in the hard mornings of those initial first days, we got accustomed to one another. Or, maybe more than that. I think we fell in love as a twosome, instead of the love we have as the three of us. You told me about your rhythms, and I listened and took notes (for real notes, not metaphorical ones.)

I learned how to shower, eat breakfast, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and do the massive piles of laundry -- all in the sparse moments in between your bird calls. I started to see these mundane activities as REAL accomplishments in my mornings. Like, somehow if I was able to complete all 5 of these goals during one of your 45 min naps, I felt like a rockstar. 

Sometimes, our timing would be off and I would hear you wail as I was stepping out of the shower, and have to come rushing to soothe you, eyes frantic and hair dripping. Or, I would optimistically assemble a bowl of cereal and then take the literal gamble of pouring in the almond milk --- only to have you screech, a moment later. Soggy cereal was a theme for us this month.

I promised myself I would be real with you in these letters, as I embarked on my mission to write them. I think there is value in honesty, especially as you get older and if you choose to read them, that these early days were hard. I love you, and it is hard to get used to having you around.

We spend our lives as adults looking after ourselves, and wiping our own butts. We don't really anticipate the true nature of what it means to be selfless, so feeding you first and caring for you first, is an adjustment. There are days that I want to run away and eat with both hands and curl my hair and wear a shirt that doesn't have to be breastfeeding friendly and just carry with me my wallet and keys instead of bag stocked with diapers and take a walk for no reason, not just because I'm trying to get you to sleep in your stroller and and and and --- 

And, I love you. Even so.


Some facts from this month:

- Your eyes are still grey, but sometimes they look blue in certain light, and sometimes it seems like there is a bit of brown creeping in

- You are no longer the baby with tons of hair. You thrash around so much when you're on your back that there is a ring of baldness. Like Friar Tuck, or Friar Kai. 

- You love to smile and there are a few kinds. There is the big, toothless, gummy smile where your whole face becomes a rainbow, and the one where you look shy and bashful, like you're at your first Gr. 7 dance.

- Your neck has become super strong and we don't have to worry as much about your poor little floppy head. 

- You like tummy time! (for about 3 minutes)

- You are still the longest baby in the world (maybe not really, but in the 85th percentile for sure.)

-  Your new favourite trick is making a fist and staring at it. Then you show me with this really proud look on your face. I think you are realizing that you have HANDS.



 

This next picture breaks my heart. 

I took it after you had passed out from crying, when I took you to your first immunization appointment. You actually look sort of content here, but trust me when I say that you started purple-in-the-face-crying even BEFORE the doctor began anything, as if you knew what was to come. My ears had never heard this sound before. Yes, you cry, but the kind that a boob can fix. This, was not that. You screamed as if the world was coming to an end. And for me, it was. My heart shattered as I held your little, hot as a furnace body, as you struggled and fought. I tried to bring you to my breast to calm you down, and you just hollered into my nipple. That had never happened before to us: it was as if my surefire magic trick had been yanked away. 

When she finally jabbed you with the needles (THREE of them, oh my heart), the look on your face and the screams crescendoed. I fought to hold back my own tears, and felt irrationally rageful at the good doctor. She left the room, with apologies, and you wouldn't even look at me. Your tears dripped hotly down your tiny face, and you whimpered and hiccuped because your crying had been so violent. Then you closed your eyes, and fell asleep.

You cried yourself to sleep. I thought that was just a saying.

(Please don't be a daredevil like your dad and go down hills fast and break bones in your body -- I don't think I will be able to take it. )



Speaking of your Dad.

Your Baba really misses you, sweet baby. He has to go to work and bring home the bacon, and it was really hard for him to leave us. When he gets home, it is dark outside and more than likely, you're down for a nap and it's time to make dinner or do chores anyway. He gets very little face time with you anymore.

The weekends when we can all be together are our very favourite times.

When you grow up, I want you to thank him for all of his hard work and sacrifices. He would rather be here with you, but I strong-armed him into letting me be the one to be the Always parent. I will remember to say thank you more often, too.







Ok, signing off for month three. You're looking at me from your chair like: why are you staring at that silver box again?

Love you to bits, my every day twin. I hope you get all the best parts of me.

Yours,

Mama