Exile island

Remember that game-changing twist in Survivor where they banished a contestant to a separate camp, alone, away from the tribe? That’s what we did with our daughter last night. Yup, she spent her first night in her real crib, in her own room. While I’ve heard many moms say they looked forward to getting baby out of their bedroom, I can’t say I shared this sentiment. What can I say, I’m a “keep your enemies close” kinda gal.

She’s been napping in there for months, so she’s “used to it”, but night time is a whole different ballgame, apparently. It was pretty fussy going from about 9 pm until about 1 am, although we’ve been dealing with some new night-waking issues off and on for the past couple of weeks (more on that in the next monthly update) so it’s hard to say if the switch of venue was entirely to blame. In fact, we had sort of decided that recently we were most likely waking her up at night with our ramblings and rumblings as much as the other way around, which was part of the reasoning for the transition away from our room.

I couldn’t leave her in total isolation, so we assigned a kitty cat “lovey” and a mermaid to the task, while mom slept with the stuffed mouse and the monitor.

I’m willing to chalk this one up as a win. After one last comfort feeding around 10:30 (she had gone down at 7:20), we would just go in and rub her back and talk to her every so often when she fussed (which was about every half hour until 1ish) and she would resettle. And then she slept. Until my husband got her up at 6:30 and brought her back to bed with me, where she belongs.

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Dayscare

Shortly after I had Sloane I had my first freak-out about how fleeting maternity leave is. It was May 8, I had a 13 day old baby and it was already 1/12 over. That’s 8 percent done. Which seemed like an awfully big number in that moment. After that, every time I thought about going back to work I felt the anxiety squeeze my rib cage, quicken my breathing and send my pulse skyrocketing. So I made a deal with myself: I wouldn’t deal with daycare or even think about it until she was 6 months old. I deserved 6 months of burying my head in the sand.

Alas, just a couple weeks ago I decided it was finally time to face the music.

In an absolutely ideal scenario, I wouldn’t have to go back to work until Sloane was at least in pre-school, if not Kindergarten. Sadly, there are no Rockefellers in my family tree. In the second-to-ideal scenario, I could at least put off the inevitable until she turns 2. Still no Rockefellers. In the third-best situation, we would hire Mary Poppins herself to care for Sloane while I returned to work part-time. Sadly,  a no-go. In the fourth-to-ideal scenario, we put her in the care of a normal, reasonably priced daycare or day home while I return to work 4 days a week (3 if I can swing it without risking my job or losing too much of my salary in the deal). So this is where we are – and fourth best isn’t too bad when I’m well aware that there are about a thousand much less desirable scenarios that many less-lucky-than-me moms cope with. We are supremely lucky in myriad ways, not the least of which being that we live in a country with 12 month maternity leave, and that living with my reduced EI salary  for a full year is totally do-able.

Back to complaining. It’s not that I don’t want to work, but that I want to take care of my baby more. It’s not about mommy guilt or being overprotective. I do believe that there are plenty of qualified caretakers out there, I do want her to meet and socialize with a variety of people, and I don’t feel guilty about going back to work per se – I just like being with my kid. It really is that simple. But I do like what I do for a living and I won’t lie – there are things about going back to work that are incredibly appealing…like eating 2 meals a day without having to attend to a baby. Drinking coffee while it’s still hot. Not getting puked on. In fact, an average day at my office sounds like a vacation compared to the effort it takes to spend 12+ hours a day solely responsible for child care. So no, I don’t want to stay home because it’s easy – but because it’s important, rewarding, fun and meaningful work. Sometimes advertising is too (a lot of the time it’s not) but at no point has it (or will it ever be) more important to me than Sloane. Duh.

However, I also like earning a wage and contributing financially to the household. It would be a switch to rely on somebody else for my pocket money and while in theory I understand that it is “our” money, it’s something that I still struggle to get my head around. We’ve always been more of a “both parties kick in the cash” than a “let’s throw it all in a pool together” kind of couple, with our own credit cards and separate bank accounts. Obviously, our household contributions aren’t financially equal, given the grand canyon between our salaries, but it works somehow. If he’s paying the big Costco tab, I’m picking up the daily Safeway bill. If he’s paying rent, I’m paying the utilities (except when I forget, as you may recall.) Plus I like to think that what I lack in funds I make up for in sweat equity – like cooking the majority of the meals and keeping our daughter alive. And while I don’t mind using his (our) money to pay for the necessities of life, I would feel quite silly spending it at Sephora or to fund my Kindle one-click payment bills. Anyways, these are all secondary musings to the issue at hand. Daycare. See how good I am at avoiding it?

In my head (and often, out of my mouth) the story goes that I have to go back to work. That I don’t really have a choice. But of course there is a choice. I could choose not to go back to to work for a couple of years, putting the burden on my husband to be the sole income earner. We could skip vacations and cut back on evenings and meals out. We could keep renting where we are, indefinitely, or move to a more affordable neighbourhood in the suburbs that we don’t really love. We could get rid of one of our vehicles. There are lots of things we could do to financially cushion that decision. But would any of those things make me a happier mom? Make for a better marriage? Help us maintain a fun lifestyle and household? Reduce our daily stress? Increase our joy?

No. Which means that none of these things are ultimately what’s best for Sloane either. So even though the choice is ours to make, it would be foolish to make a choice that didn’t take the overall happiness of our whole family into account.

That decided, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of choosing a childcare provider. Do you go daycare? Day home? Licensed? Approved? Private? What do all these things even mean?! Thankfully, I am a doggedly determined researcher, so sifting through all of the information and options is right up my alley – my lack of time to do so, notwithstanding.

There are so many pluses and minuses on both sides of the daycare/day home debate. On one hand for example, I like the structure, supervision and accountability of a daycare. But on the other hand, I don’t love the germs, the number of kids, the chaos and the institutional feel. And while day homes may be more cozy, attentive and personal, you have to be even more diligent about background checks, references, and experience/qualifications. With one caregiver in charge and no other adults watching to create “checks and balances” for proper conduct, you want to be damn sure you’ve chosen wisely. You want safety and security most of all…but you also want fun, stimulation and love to be a huge part of it. And then of course there is price to consider…it has to be worth going back to work, especially since I’m not dying to do so strictly for my own fulfillment.

So far we have visited (and waitlisted for) one daycare, with another one on the agenda for tomorrow morning. I only almost cried once (maybe twice) the first go-round, so I’m slowly building confidence in my ability to get through this with the appearance of being a sane, emotionally stable adult.

 

 

Christmas purgatory

winter

I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time and with the first snowfall of the year it feels like a legitimate time to bust out a wintry post.

I may not love all of winter, but I love the whole Christmassy season. I like the lights, tinsel and wreaths. The cranberry-cinnamon-peppermint-spruce-orange-spiced-whatever candles. The Guinness, mulled wine, eggnog and Baileys. The carols, cartoons and classic movies. I even like the snow (when observed from the inside of a cozy fireplace lit room or a warm pub). Point is – I’m not a grinch. Not by a long shot.

But the magic of Christmas changes over the years, and at certain points along the way you find yourself caught in Christmas purgatory: the no-man’s-land between the Christmas season as kids and the season with kids. There are a few cycles of this.

Obviously, when you are a kid yourself, Christmas is really fun and special. This lasts until probably your mid to late teens, when the obligatory stay at home with family and go to church time eclipses the fun of presents and hot chocolate and you’d rather just be out getting into trouble with your friends. Christmas purgatory #1.

In your twenties, things look up again. You’ve moved out on your own by now, and going home for a few yummy meals that you didn’t have to cook (or pay for) is pretty appealing. You’re so broke and needy that you’re super grateful for presents once again. These are the years you spend with roommates, boyfriends/girlfriends and friends, enjoying late-nights and lazy mornings in your own place on a much-needed break from school. You spoil your pets with treat-filled stockings of their own and start new traditions that are just your own – not your family’s. You’re not a kid, exactly, but you’re not really grown-up either and in the long-run, this phase fits into the magical “we were just kids back then” time of your life.

At the end of this era, people around you either start pairing off and having kids…or they don’t. Your coupled-off friends in their late 20s and early 30s, especially the ones with kids,  often start having holiday plans of their own. You’re usually not living, or hanging out regularly with, a big crowd of single, party-loving friends any more. You’re working full-time and may or may not get much holiday time off. And if there are no little kids around to reinvigorate things on the home front, Christmas starts to get kind of lame again. Christmas purgatory #2.

It can still be nice, but it’s just not quite the same. All-adult family Christmas get-togethers just lack a certain something. Nobody’s too amped up to go to sleep, nobody’s having their first sugar cookie, sled ride or Santa sighting and nobody really needs/wants presents any more. By year five of this, you’re all sitting around swilling scotch, trying to talk yourselves into another game of Scrabble while accepting e-mail money transfers for the presents you bought for yourselves on behalf each other.

This Christmas, we will have an 8 month old to spice up the season – and I have to say, I’m pretty damn excited about it. It’s such a fun and cute age for baby’s first Christmas. She’ll be mesmerized by the trees and decorations and will enjoy the wrapping paper and bows as much as her actual presents. Instead of hauling my ass out to work on shitty days, we’ll get to curl up in the rocking chair and watch Miracle on 34th Street. We’ll get to see if she is cool with creepy mall Santa or screams her face off when we hand her over. We’ll get to read her Christmas stories and buy her first special Christmas Eve jammies. And I have this nice, soft-focus image of her snoozing on a fuzzy blanket while mom and dad sip bourbon and watch The Last Waltz as the snow falls outside.

 

Baby & Body: 5 month update

This past month has been F-U-N. Really, no sarcasm at all. Like, so much fun. It has also been a shit ton of work, but so much fun. The fun part is that Sloane is starting to become a real person, with a sense of humor, likes and dislikes, a temper sometimes, and little quirks. It’s a lot of fun just discovering what she thinks is fun or funny. Things like oinking or barking at her, sniffing or slurping her neck, pretending to eat her toes, and “pouncing” on the bed like a cat when she’s laying on it. It’s amazing the things you will do to get a belly laugh out of a baby. The work part is that this is basically a full-time job, which is fine because she actually is my full-time job right now (thank god for 12 month mat leave). But it does mean that I’m not doing much else other than interact with her. When I’m with her, that is…I’m still getting out without her for appointments or errands or the odd night or lunch out, so it’s not like I’m shackled to her every minute of every day, but when I’m with her, I’m really with her – if that makes sense.

Although I do have to say, she’s still pretty chill. She’s great in her stroller and Baby Bjorn or her bouncy chair on the floor – so long as I don’t go too long without giving her some attention. Hence the blogging in bed while she is sleeping now, rather than attempting to get any actual work done during the day. I have the rest of my life to check shit off a to-do list every day, and only 7 more months (waaaaah!) to be with her all the time. It’s a small, small window in the grand scheme of things. And as they say, “the days are long but the years are short.”

Back to things I can think about late at night without crying.

Her big accomplishment this month was rolling over, which she did for the first time on the Monday of the Labour Day long weekend while visiting our friend Terry. Also the second and third time. Given a spacious, carpeted room to frolic in, she finally had the space to play. Which made us realize that we had to create more space in our house for her (bye-bye gigantic aquarium, hello foam floor tiles) and also, that a new house altogether sure would be nice. For now though, this new little play space is doing the trick nicely. She rolls every which way and wriggles around to do full 360’s. She’s also taken to sleeping on her side again now that she has a little more space in the Pack n’ Play. Basically, we had been stifling our child’s movement with our teeny tiny home and restrictive furniture. Yay us.

In our defence, we are still taking her out for walks every day (with the odd exception) and she gets lots of play time at Grandma and Papa’s house too. We also started a weekly Rhyme & Reason class with little rhymes, stories, songs, finger/hand plays, and lots of info about development. She loves the activities as well as gawking at all the other babies and moms. She is particularly partial to songs that involve bouncing, jiggling or tickling. We also do the library every week or two and she likes it there quite a bit too. I’m pleased to report that there is an impressive selection of really good children’s books out there that make bedtime story time pretty fun for us (and the cats) too.

So she’s not too hard done by.

Likewise, I’m doing pretty well too. My biggest challenge is still remembering to eat and drink enough to not get tired and cranky. Just in the past couple weeks there have been a few scattered days where my milk seems a little lower than normal (this had never been a problem before, to say the least) and Sloane didnt seem completely satisfied during/after nursing – tugging and fussing (ugh) So I went with the old wives’ tale of drinking Guinness and it works like a charm. If I feel a bit low, I just drink one before bed and wake up fully stocked. But overall, i know that eating regularly and drinking enough water is definitely the smarter way to stay on top of my dairy duties.

In other TMI news, I realized that it has been more than 14 months since my last period. For some reason, it hadn’t really occurred to me before that it would be so long. It can come back any time after giving birth (a breastfeeding girlfriend got hers just 6 weeks later), but it’s not at all unusual for it to stay away until after you wean the baby if you’re exclusively breastfeeding. Just another little bonus to make up for the first few weeks of hell.

One thing that has maybe (?) started happening that I’ve been waiting for (due to warnings) is the postpartum hair loss. It does seem a bit delayed so maybe I’m just in a shedding cycle or it’s unrelated, but I do seem to be, well, shedding a lot of hair these days. It’s not like, coming out in clumps or anything but I’m just brushing out a lot more hair these days. This may be a blessing, given that what is left, Sloane is dutifully attempting to rip out. It really is a good thing they are so darn cute and sweet and smell-icious.

A Cat Confession

Last week I was ranting to my husband about needing to know the statistics on death by cat tripping at the top of the stairs.

This morning I got fired up again when one of the cats left a poop beside the litter box, because apparently the first of their twice-daily litter box scoopings was a touch too late for their liking.

Fellow pet lovers, rest assured: I still love my cats, care for them, and they are not going anywhere. I certainly don’t hate them, but I have to confess that post-baby, I’m not always feeling the crazy cat lady affection like I used to.

Taking care of a baby is a giant, time-consuming, energy-funneling undertaking. And some days, the cats seem like pushy, needy, messy things on my to-do list, instead of the joyful companions they have always been. I know it sounds horrible. But an outside-the-litter-box poop when you’ve just gotten the baby fed, changed, burped, and down to nap is spirit crushing. A cat incessantly head-butting you when you sit down to shove 5 bites of food in your mouth before the baby’s “mom is trying to eat” radar goes off can feel like an unwelcome interruption of the highest order. When a cat swerves under your feet for the 70th time that day, causing you to stumble and startle the baby you are clutching, I dare you not to feel at least a fleeting moment of rage. And the cat hair. My god, the cat hair! It’s one thing to lint roller yourself 5 times a day, but a whole other thing when you are rolling the baby, blankets, beds, carpets etc.

A quick Google search (and lots of personal anecdotes) suggest that these ugly feelings of post-parental pet annoyance are shockingly common. There are literally dozens of articles with titles like, “I used to love my cat and dog, then I had a baby”, “I had a baby and now my dog is driving me nuts” or, “My Cats Were My World Before I Had Kids, Now I Forget They Exist”. A common thread running  through each one, is some variation on the assertion that – at one time – the author’s pet was their baby. Not even like their baby. Their actual baby.

Lately, I can’t push away the uneasy feeling that maybe this is part of the problem. Pets are an amazing part of the home and of a family, but they are not children – nor, I reckon, should they be. But when we welcome pets into our home years (or decades) before kids enter the picture, we throw ourselves into caring for them, and about them, with a zealous passion. We do this because we can – because we have the time, money, energy and space to do so. In and of itself, it isn’t a problem. If you have the skill and the inclination, knock yourself out knitting your cat booties and cooking for your dog. Hell, set him a place setting at the dining room table. But if and when things need to change – whether because of a human addition to the family, financial hardship, or maybe an illness or injury – it’s okay to take them off the pedestal they probably didn’t need to be on in the first place.

The thing is, it’s going to feel like it’s not okay, because it’s such a downshift in the dynamic. When your pet gets demoted from beloved “fur baby” (honestly, is there a worse term?) to barely tolerated bum, you’re gonna feel guilty – and we all know moms specialize in guilt. A big problem for shelters and animal welfare organizations is that at this point, some people begin to feel like they are better to give up their animal than to provide it with what they perceive as second-rate care. Rescue organizations point out that in most cases, this is misguided and the animal is just fine in its current home. We don’t need to surrender our pets just because we can’t keep them in the (spoiled?) lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. We might if there is an allergy or aggression issue, but that is an entirely different scenario.

Now….I began writing this 2 months ago (so when I said “last night” and “this morning” at the top of the post, it was a bit of a fib). Sidebar: Did you know that Stephen King wrote all 200,000 or so words of The Shining in around 4 weeks? Yes, I feel sufficiently inadequate. WHATEVER, he also did a ton of cocaine at the time. ANYWAYS, the interesting thing is that my attitude has already started to come around. I feel less overwhelmed and irritated by them now and Sloane is starting to enjoy them as well, which totally helps. So if you’re in the thick of this situation now, I’d say give it some time. Like most things with a newborn, it won’t be this crazy forever.

We have to get some perspective and realize that it’s okay to let some things slide without feeling too bad about it. Especially when you have a helpless little human and your own mental health to worry about first and foremost. At the worst of it, our cats were still getting great food, good care, warm shelter, brushing and had treats and toys. They just weren’t getting unlimited attention and their picture uploaded daily to instagram. This is unquestionably better than the life they would have had on the street or in a shelter.

One day when your baby can’t stop giggling at your cat, you just might start to feel it again too, and the cat will have a whole new servant to recruit onto its staff.

PS – Kim, if you’re reading this, I’m not gonna keep posting in time for your morning coffee if you don’t text me gushing compliments every time. Just FYI.

Bye Bye Bassinet

That’s a little misleading since the bassinet is now simply sitting 10 feet away from the foot of my bed, rather than 3 feet away from the side of my bed. But baby steps, right? The main thing is that there is no longer a baby in the bassinet. Which is actually also misleading because the baby is still 3 feet away from the side of the bed in a Pack n’ Play. Sigh. I miss my bassinet. I love that bassinet. It’s pretty and it’s full of delicious, smiley, snoozy warm baby.

Sadly, that little bundle of yumminess has officially outgrown her bassinet. When I looked at her the other night, limbs touching all 4 edges, I realised I couldn’t put it off any longer. But I still have another month of sleeping with her in our room (as per SIDS risk-reduction recommendations) and I’ll be damned if I’m shipping her off to the Siberia that is her bedroom down the hall a day earlier than the experts are telling me to.

A lot of people said that they couldn’t wait until their baby was in their own room and/or that having her in our room would drive me crazy. On the contrary, and much to my husband’s delight I’m sure, I freaking love having her here. She’s so accessible and I can hear her little coos and sighs as she sleeps. I can look at her 25 times before I fall asleep and give her a little kiss and a stealthy breathing check from time to time without having to really leave bed.

For some reason, I’m also a little bit attached to the bassinet itself. This isn’t the first time I’ve developed an emotional bond with an inanimate object. There was a “crying in the back seat of my car in the garage as I prepared to sell it” incident that my husband walked in on. The bassinet was my first major baby purchase though, and it feels more intimate than most of the other baby gear and have I mentioned it’s really pretty?

monte-2013-ninna-darkbase

See.

So here we are. A bassinet, a Pack n’ Play, two adults, two cats and a baby. Heaven.

 

 

It could totally happen.

I was reading an article about this crazy rash of fentanyl overdoses lately – a BC town experienced 9 overdoses in 20 minutes one evening earlier this month because people unknowingly bought fentanyl-laced cocaine. Anyways, one victim’s mom said, “you just never think this kind of thing will happen to your kid.”

To which I replied: REALLY?! REALLY!? (Please picture Seth and Amy’s Weekend Update delivery of this line, because I couldn’t get the freakin’ GIF To embed here)

Who are these moms who don’t think this kind of horrible stuff could happen to them / their kid?! I think EVERY kind of thing could happen. Every freak accident, every obscure disease, every unprecedented animal attack, every bizarre addiction, every atypical disorder, every unthinkable crime, every rare insect bite…

So yeah, I might be crazy. At least I have a highly developed sense of imagination. I can thank my mother for that. She never just vaguely worried that I would “get hurt”, she worried that I would come home alone, late at night…minus 30, biting north wind…I slip on ice and break my ankle…realize I don’t have my house key or cell phone….and freeze to death alone on my front walk. Thanks, ma. I can only hope that if Sloane inherits this worrying habit from her maternal side, she uses her powers to fuel creativity rather than intensely detailed bouts of paranoia.