Baby & Body: 11 & 12 month updates

We did it! We kept her alive for a whole year! And she’s even turning out kind of awesome! I say all the time that she is actually the best little baby ever. She’s hilarious, bright, tough, laid back, and really fricken’ cute. We know that we won the baby lottery and gush about it all the time. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Physical growth hasn’t been as “leaps and bounds” lately as it had been for the first 9 months or so when every weigh-in is a shocker. Mainly because once they start crawling and walking they burn more calories and don’t plump up as much. As of her last clinic visit on May 1 (for her 12-month vaccinations) she is 28” long, and 20 lbs 10 oz.

The major developmental milestones from the last (9 & 10 month) update have pretty much carried over, with walking and talking being the biggest elements. Walking was funny: at 10 months we were convinced that she’d be on the move any day – and for sure be independently walking before she turned 1. Way back in Mexico, she was standing all the time and starting to let go of the furniture or come to a standing position in the middle of the room, and it seemed like she was soooooo close to taking steps. But no. She cruised, she stood, she wobbled, she lurched, but she did not properly walk any hands-free steps until the 11th month, and then she hung out in the two or three steps and fall down phase FOREVER. Finally, at 12 months and 3 days, she toddled down the hallway of her dayhome (12 steps!!) into Charlene’s waiting arms. Not mine or her dad’s, or even Grandma’s, but Charlene’s. It was such a long time coming and evidently, she just couldn’t wait ONE MORE HOUR for me to pick her up for the weekend. At least Charlene took video, which was very cute footage because Sloane seemed so pleased with herself.

Speaking of Charlene, Sloane absolutely loves her dayhome and I’m so happy, because it was a decision I really sweated. Before finding the dayhome she is at, I wasn’t totally satisfied with any of the options I had looked into and looked at. Every tour made me want to cry at some point, and I’d always feel awful driving away. When I left Charlene’s, I didn’t feel like crying at all – so I took that as a very good sign. While I was leaning towards the more homey, cozy, feel of dayhomes (and the handful of kids as opposed to, like, 90) I had my hesitations about them being maybe too unregulated. Luckily, what we found is a bit of a hybrid. It’s a house, just a few blocks from us, but it’s overseen by a company that hires, trains and regularly checks in on the caregiver and environment. They provide all the resources, toys, curriculum, planning, admin support, groceries, etc. so that the caregiver’s only job is to focus on the children. Our caregiver was a pediatric nurse in the Philippines and is super sweet with the kids. She is also incredibly organized and structured, so you feel confident that she has a solid grip on caring for up to 6 babies at a time. Plus, they use this AMAZING app called Tadpoles that sends photos, videos and daily reports to our phones, so we can see what she’s doing throughout the day. It’s so awesome to see every snack, meal, nap and activity photo-documented.

And speaking of speaking, Sloane’s vocabulary keeps growing, so far it includes:

-that? (what is that?)

-That. (I want that)

-THAT!THAT!THAT! (GIVE ME THAT RIGHT NOW I WANT TO EAT IT ALL NOW, I SAID NOW BITCH, NOW!)

-numnumnumnum

-quack quack

-Nenna (Gemma – but many things are Nenna: bunnies, furry pillows)

-up up!

-down

-ta (please and thank you)

-cup

-boobas (yup, boobs, also accompanied by hand gestures and a general air of desperation)

-titty (surprise, this one means kitty)

-dada

-momma

-mum mum (baby rice crackers)

-papa (my dad….and my mom – she’s a bit confused on this. They are both Papa)

-night night

-goo gurl (good girl – accompanied by clapping)

-ball

-puppa (puppy)

-diaper

-uh oh

What else? She still wants to touch everything. She likes to feel things of different textures and is particularly fond of trees, pinecones, sweaters, doorknobs, Gemma, Velcro, and textured paintings. Where she could take them or leave them before, she has now gotten into stuffies. At bed/nap time she’s always snuggled her “bunny lovey” which we now have 3 of – 1 at home, 1 at dayhome and 1 at Grandma’s – to avoid a potentially catastrophic loss. She’s also just now discovered the other ten or so animals inhabiting her room. One of her favourite games is what we call “Ark” which entails dragging all of her animals into the boat (baby bathtub) in her room, and climbing in herself, of course. She likes to high-five, cheer, blow kisses, wave and give real kisses now…which vary between slobbery, open-mouthers and dry pecks with loud “mwah!” sound effects.

The only thing new with me is that my boobs started to seem like they were sort of coasting towards retirement. Since I was returning to work a couple weeks before Sloane turned 1, nursing has gone down to 2-3 times a day (always morning and bedtime, and sometimes a bonus “happy hour” session if she asked for it). I’ve had isolated days of lower supply before, but currently it’s a more sustained “bottom of the milk carton” kind of feeling. Which stands to reason – I’m only needed twice a day instead of the ten (or more) times I started out at. At the same time, she isn’t really fond of drinking whole (cow) milk…so we’re trying to make sure she gets lots of calcium, fat and vitamin D through other sources. The clinic said as long as she’ll take her D supplement and eat “a little bit of cheese and yogurt” it’s fine…which made me laugh because when it comes to Sloane’s eating habits, especially yogurt and cheese, there is no such thing as “a little bit”. 

Baby & Body: 9/10 month updates

Ignoring my now typical tardiness, I believe we left off with the rapid succession of sitting up to army crawling to proper crawling and lastly to pulling up to standing, back in late December and early January. Looking back at texts and pictures to confirm the timeline (because I seemingly can’t cast my mind back a mere 6 weeks) it seems that by mid January, standing had become the norm along with cruising the furniture. By far, her favourite pastime in this era is cruising the coffee tables, couches and ottoman, looking for remotes, iPads, game controllers, Kindles and iPhones. If I unleashed her in a Radio Shack she’d be happy for days. Actual toys? For suckers. Books, at least, have retained their appeal and she loves pulling them all off the shelves and flipping through them on her own. It is one of my favourite sights.

Although everything I’ve read suggests that, at this age, baby babble is just that – phonetic babble that is not intentional language or use of words – I beg to differ. This is the month she started using mom (momomomom) and dad (dadadadada) in the proper contexts and specifically directed at us. Also, more rarely, hihihihi, byebyebye, kitty and cup. She made the meanings very clear by complementing the words with her other new obsession: pointing. She used this funny crooked pointer finger – never quite straight, but accusatory nonetheless. She particularly enjoyed when we would reach out and touch our finger to hers, E.T style. Moving closer to the 10 month mark, she started pointing at objects saying, “that?!” as in, asking us what the object is called. And trust me, she wants to know what EVERYTHING is called. All day long. That is a cat. That is a doorknob, that is a carbon monoxide detector, that is a scratch on the coffee table, that is the metal thingy that the door knob latches into. That is mommy’s wine bottle.

We enrolled in another session of Rhyme & Reason this month in which she actually fell into the proper age group (8 to 18 months) whereas last time she was added to the group at just 5 months old due to low enrollment in her own age category. Of course, this was far less “successful” than the first time around when she was totally engrossed in the songs, stories and hand motions. This time, she just wanted to roam, manhandle other babies and get into everything. At any rate, she left each class happy and exhausted, so it has to get chalked up as a win, even if I largely felt a bit silly sitting in a circle, clapping and bouncing by myself

A sad thing about her new inability to stay still was that around the second week of January we had to cut out letting her come sleep in our bed after her first early morning feeding. She was just too wiggly and wily and wouldn’t settle back down with us. She was constantly scaling our bodies and trying to hurl herself headfirst off the bed, instead of drifting off holding our hands. Sadly, I had to start putting her back in her own crib for an hour or two more of solo sleep. Otherwise, sleep was smooth and naptimes really stabilized with a 10 or 10:30 morning nap and a 2:30 or 3 afternoon nap.

And then we went to Mexico. We left at the very end of January when she was just over 9 months and the flight took a little more work than it used to to keep her happy and quiet. She just wants to stand and crawl, which makes it feel a bit like a 5 hour alligator wrestling match with all the thrashing, grabbing and splashing (of sippy cups). Overall though, she did quite well and received many compliments on her good behaviour from relieved fellow travelers.

Puerto Vallarta really agreed with her, even though it was at times a bit of a pain in the ass for us (narrow, cobblestone roads; a lack of serviceable highchairs). She loved the swimming pools and the hot tub (it was a cool one), especially with the inflatable duck floaty that grandma and grandpa picked up for her. The mere sight of Ducky resulted in so much flailing and screaming that we had to strategically hide it and carry it around out of her sight so she didn’t lose her mind if we weren’t immediately headed to the pool. She loved Mexican food including chorizo tacos, queso, guacamole, and could absolutely pack away the refried beans. She always enjoys restaurants and people-watching so the whole cadence of our aimless days spent wandering around, snacking, drinking and sightseeing suited her perfectly. It didn’t hurt that she was being squeezed, cooed at and fawned over everywhere we went by all the friendly old ladies and young gay men (and a few young gay men in friendly old lady drag.) As much fun as she had, she also slept exceptionally well, but a bit un predictably. With extra long morning and afternoon naps and solid long nights. I was often finding myself waking up significantly before her, for maybe the first time ever, which was a nice feeling to be able to wake up on my own without having to bolt right out of bed and get to work.

There were a few lows among all these highs. She was sick a couple of times, with a minor cold the first couple days of our trip that didn’t seem to faze her and then a more chesty, rattly cough the last couple days that really knocked her out for an entire day that she spent the vast majority of napping. Luckily the gym had a wet sauna so we went there pre-bed and got a lot of…stuff…out of her. That cough went away and then about a week after we got home it came back. Sick babies suck because there’s nothing you can really give them to feel better, other than a humidifier and snuggles. The only upside to come out of this last round of sickness was the one morning when Andrew didn’t have the heart to put her back in her crib and she ended up being calm (weak, haha) enough to come sleep in our bed for a couple hours.

More to come in separate posts about feeding, Mr. T, and another random rant. Soon. For reals.

Baby & Body: 8 month update

Today* is perhaps not the day I should begin to draft this update, as the babe was up at 3:30, 4:45 and finally 7:15…and I am feeling, how shall we say, less than charitable towards parenting at the moment. Teething, developmental leaps, holiday schedule disruptions and nap transitions all suck for sleep.

Let’s take those menaces one by one, since that’s the only way my brain can function enough to type at this point. Especially since coffee has been making me a bit too anxious lately to be worth the much-needed caffeine jolt.

Teething – as previously mentioned, the bottom two came in without much ado, but the next ones (assumed to be top two) are not coming without a fight. After realizing that I had given her a single bedtime dose of Tylenol more nights in a 2 week period than I hadn’t, I grabbed some hippie shit from the pharmacy to make myself (and hopefully her, of course) feel better. The Camillia liquid does seem to help, while the Hyland’s gel doesn’t seem to make much difference. Wrapping a crushed ice bundle in a washcloth and securing it with a hair elastic is her current favourite teething toy and provides good daytime relief. All her problems (like all of ours, I’d say) seem worse as she is trying to go to sleep, so that’s when we break out the medicinal guns. Or we wake up at, say, 3:30 with a whiny baby grabbing at her mouth and ears.

Developmental leaps – first came actual, proper, crawling on hands and knees, then came trying to sit up on her own. I mean, she has been sitting up without assistance for a while but I’m talking about getting to a sitting position on her own. This, she clumsily started and then perfected in about 2 days. It’s enjoyable in that it gives her more independence and options for positions to play in. The downside is that for the first week or so the urge to sit up was so compelling that she would do it constantly – including when she should have been lying down to sleep or when she first stirred upon waking – thus fully keeping her awake instead of allowing her to lounge and resettle. Anyways, this was all very much towards the tail-end of the month so I’ll save the next steps for the next update.

Holiday disruptions – having visitors, having lots of places to be in a day, and plans that extend beyond bedtime are all sleep-killers. Sloane has always been one of those “sleep begets sleep” kind of babies. Meaning that when daytime naps suffer, so too does her nighttime sleep. Which sucks, sure, and I know for most people that nighttime sleep is the holy grail, but honestly, the daytime naps themselves are just as important to me since this is when I get to do fun things like showering, eating and housekeeping. Without naps the whole operation crumbles  Which leads into…

Nap transition – around this age, babies start to transition from 3 naps to 2 naps. I’ve always had a tough time counting Sloane’s naps because she’s always had a bit of a weird morning routine (due to mutually agreed upon laziness) and I’ve paid more attention to her sleepiness cues than the clock when I’ve put her down to nap. This sort of non-routine routine has historically worked well for us. On a good day (which until the last few weeks was called a normal day) she would typically:

-go to bed at 7:30 pm

-wake somewhere between 6 and 8 am to nurse

-fall back to sleep in my bed for a couple hours, typically waking around 9 or 10 am.

-awake for 2 or 3 hours and nap (11 or 12pm?) For an hour or two

-awake for 2 or 3 hours and nap (3 or 4pm?) For an hour or two

-bedtime again.

I guess if you count the first going back to sleep after nursing as a nap, then she was pretty much on a 3-a-day schedule. Which was regular enough for my own flexible needs, but irregular enough to make it tough to plan a bunch of activities or meet-ups with other people, day after day – which was a challenge over the holidays with visiting family and various events. A situation compounded by the fact that she was sometimes skipping or “cat-napping” (or crap-napping?) one or more of her usual nap times. Making me question whether she needed a bedtime adjustment and/or to consolidate the 3 naps into 2 longer naps with longer awake times between them. Sometimes that worked out great and other times not at all, which I think will be the case until she eventually adjusts into the 2-a-day habit. An adjustment that just wasn’t happening with people rattling about the house and us running all over Hell’s half-acre. We’ll see how she goes as life returns to normal…for a few weeks until we go to Mexico for 2 weeks. Oh boy.

What else? Food…the slow mo intro to solids has picked up momentum. While she’s still nursing 4 or 5 times a day, she’s also now eating solids at two meals – it varies a bit. She will now eat almost anything you put in front of her or in her mouth. I have a few frozen purees that I pull out from time to time and do buy the odd pouch or jar of food (gasp! I know) but for the most part, she is eating what we’re eating, either in whole or in part. Or sometimes in semi-mash. I feel like this entire feeding topic may be a whole other post so I will leave it at that for now.

As for me, I have nothing to say for myself that you haven’t already heard. This may be the worlds longest post-partum plateau and I’m okay with it. Teeth have definitely added an element of danger to the nursing game these days, although she is yet to properly bite me. Yet. There were a couple light bite downs that were not great, and an overall general scrapiness that is not totally delightful. But, it’s OK so far. I’m still not feeling terribly energetic these days, and to that end it seems about time to get back on top of taking some of the supplements that have helped in the past. Maca being one that really helped when I was in the first trimester. And still more water. If I could get a weekly saline IV drip, I would.

One of the best things about this month is that Sloane has started to act like she really likes me. I mean, I know I’m her mom and she is bonded to me because she needs me…but now it’s like she really likes me – getting so excited when I enter a room or come home and reaching for me or crawling to me for some love at regular intervals. It’s nice to know the feeling is mutual. And big baby smiles go a long way when you are so tired you put the milk away in the pantry.

*as always, today is not really today, as it takes me a few to write a post. So fear not, this zombie day is behind me and baby has actually resumed napping properly since we have returned to normal post-holiday life.

Baby & Body: months 6 & 7 update

In not blogging for just over a month I missed an entire month’s update and cruised right on by the next one too – hence, the combined update. And you know, I can’t even be bothered to be apologetic about it because life has just been too damn much lately between travelling two weeks in a row and being sick twice in a row (one quick but brutal stomach bug, one bastard of a cold).

While Sloane thankfully missed out on the stomach virus, she was the one who gave me the cold, and a sick baby is no fun at all–less so when you are sick yourself. She’s been sleeping like crap because she can’t breathe through her nose (which means she also can’t suck her thumb to self-soothe) and (I’m guessing from my own symptoms) she’s also had a sore throat and headache. Good thing grape flavoured baby Tylenol turned out to be her poison.

Sickness aside, big changes these past two months include the arrival of the first tooth on November 6, followed up by the second one a couple weeks later for a cute little bottom middle set. Teething this time around didn’t seem to cause a lot of grief as both teeth sort of popped out as a bit of a surprise to me. At her 6 month check-up and vaccination appointment (which was actually right on her 6 month birthday) she weighed in at 17.5 lbs and 26 inches tall. I’d guess by now she is up to about 19 lbs and at least an inch taller.

She also became a highly proficient roller and wriggler and went from okay to leave unattended for a few moments to “can’t take your eyes off her for a second” in a matter of days. Like most healthy, red-blooded babies, she has a death wish and is magnetically drawn to hazards big and small. Current dark obsessions include pulling the floor lamp to the ground, yanking the CO detector out of the wall and/or sticking fingers in the now empty socket, scouring the ground for loose change and buttons to choke on, reaching fragile limbs into the mechanism of the gliding chair, rolling towards the top of the stairs, grabbing at cat whiskers, and sleeping face down in the mattress. Close to the 7 month birthday mark she made big strides towards crawling with a sort of rudimentary army-crawl, belly-slither technique that greatly increased her speed in reaching her death trap of choice. Fun!

Long story short, time inside the house can be a bit of a nightmare at the moment – with not a lot of safe space for her to explore before I have to redirect her from danger. Rescuing her every 20 seconds (and often pissing her off in the process) makes for an awfully long day and lots of running back and forth between rooms if I’m trying to do anything else. Imprisoning Safely securing her in a Jolly Jumper or Exersaucer is the only relief, but she only tolerates jail safety for small blocks of time. Although I’m not overly excited about returning to work, I won’t lie: there have been several days in the past couple of months where I have waxed nostalgic for my out-of-the-home job (what a break! how civilized! soooo easy! The grass is noticeably greener at my office!) Time outside the house is loads of fun though, as she’s always happy to be gawking at things and socializing with every passerby. Particularly if said passerby is a boy/man. She loves dudes and beards, so this whole hipster era is really working out well for her/us. We flew to Toronto to visit my brother and his kids and Sloane was happy as a clam to be out Bjorning or strolling all day long, riding the subways and streetcars and hanging out in restaurants. Similarly, when we took her to Banff shortly afterwards, the hotel, pub and outdoor swimming pool life suited her perfectly (until she got sick – and with the exception of the first night in the terrifying, rickety, possibly-haunted, hotel-provided crib).

The other big development was our slow-out-of-the-gate introduction to solid food. Because of her healthy size and appetite for boob, I had incorrectly assumed that she would be stoked to eat some real food at the recommended 6 month mark. Nope. She just wasn’t that into it. If I tricked her into getting some food in her mouth, she would begrudgingly swallow it, but she had no real interest and wouldn’t eagerly open her mouth for much. I have to say, this didn’t bother me in the least. If she had been being selective or picky it may have (I have issues with picky eaters and dread having one) but because she was just altogether uninterested, I figured she just wasn’t there yet. Every other milestone she’s hit of her own volition and in her own good time, and I figured when the time was more right she’d let me know. I still kept offering solids (kind of half-assedly) but it was more of a token effort to keep up the exposure than to actually accomplish any feeding. Then, right around the 7 month mark, she was suddenly into it. She’s still mainly a boob girl, but will pretty much try anything I give her and is definitely more excited about it all.

As for me, I’m tempted to take a pass on commenting at the moment. I went through a phase where I was feeling really good about myself (maybe the best I ever have) but now that I’m coming off of 3 weeks of travel, sickness and loads of one-on-one time with Sloane I just feel worn out. One of those “sick and tired of being sick and tired” kind of phases where it shows on your face, in your posture and in your attitude – but I know that it is just the sick and tired talking, not a lasting state of mind. Nothing a few good sleeps, a gallon of water, an industrial humidifier, a vat of eye cream, a lb of concealer, a babysitter, and professional lighting can’t take care of.

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.

 

 

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.

Baby & Body: Month 2 Update

This should have been posted on or around June 25, but as long as I manage to get it in before the 3 month deadline, I’m gonna go ahead and count it as a win.

June was crazy y’all, complete with a triathlon (Andrew, not me), an extended visit from the Newfoundland contingent of grandparents, a business trip to Washington D.C (again, Andrew, not me), a trip to Revelstoke B.C for a friend’s wedding, a vet trip for Twitchy (let’s call it butt-explosion preventive maintenance), and finally my 6-week check-up (actually closer to 8 weeks) with the OB-GYN who delivered Sloane.

I believe I have adequately covered all of my excuses. On with it then.

Sloane continues to amaze on a regular basis. She is so smiley and happy, it’s really quite absurd. I’m trying to remember when she started to – for the most part – sleep through the night, and I almost can’t remember a time when she didn’t. Mommy amnesia is for real. For maybe the first 3-4 weeks she was going down around 10 or 11, waking to feed somewhere between 1 & 2 am, then up again around 4 or 5, and up again around 7 or 8. But from 5 or 6 weeks she started pretty consistently going down at 10 and sleeping until 6. Occasionally, she’d still wake for a 3 or 4 am feed (maybe every 3rd or 4th night) and now I can’t remember the last time she did that. A normal night was a solid 10 pm to 6 am stretch of bassinet time. We tried to put her to bed sleepy but not sleeping, and she’d wind herself down in her bassinet for a while (cooing, kicking, sucking her soother, looking around, searching for her thumb) before going to sleep. This could actually take quite a while, sometimes up to an hour, but she seemed quite content to just hang out until she was tired enough to close her eyes. And in the morning she wakes up in the best mood ever. I rarely wake to her crying, I just hear noises from the bassinet (sometimes gurgling or babbling, sometimes farting or pooping) and when I peek into the bassinet she is all smiles and giggles. Nothing makes her as happy as that first morning diaper change.

She grew like a weed in month 2 – I’m dying of curiosity to see how much she weighs at her next appointment. I’m betting it’s close to 15 lbs. She also gained more head control (less bobbly-headed) and began to seem more focused when looking at objects and people. She is a great eater, and still eats a ton during the day (I think she compensates during the day for that long fast at night) feeding on-demand every 2 or 3 hours – sometimes less frequently if she has long naps in the day and more frequently in the evening as bedtime approaches. During this month she still had a bit of a witching hour, becoming pretty fussy between 7 and 9 pm. Some nights more so than others. Never anything too crazy. The biggest change this month was that we started to get to know her and be able to tell what kind of a mood she was in, when she was getting tired or overtired, what might soothe her and when she just needed some space – it seems weird, but we learned that sometimes she just wanted to be left alone – this, I get.

As for me, I was surprised to find that I pretty much started to feel like myself again. I had expected this to take quite a bit longer, having always subscribed to the “9 months in, 9 months out” school of thought that it takes about as long as you were pregnant to totally recover from pregnancy and birth (and I’m sure it technically does – I just found that I felt pretty good, pretty fast). When I finally weighed myself after 5 or 6 weeks (out of negligence rather than avoidance) the baby weight (32 lbs by the very end) was gone, but I actually know (women always know) that it was gone after 2 or 3 weeks. The old-school advice goes that if you “take care of baby, the baby weight takes care of itself”. And while that sounds a little too good to be true, it has proven accurate in my case. I believe now that if you are able to pour your energy into caring for your little one and breastfeed on demand, that’s really all the workout you need in the early days (months). I’m still not my personal “ideal” weight. And I still don’t care. Frankly, this kind of vanity is a little bit off my radar right now. The things that currently concern me about my body are keeping my nipples from falling off (lanolin ointment is your friend), when and how much milk to pump, and eating well and often enough to avoid the dreaded “hanger” which I’ve always struggled with and has hit me extra hard post-natally. I walk a lot, which I think is really beneficial for both Sloane and me, but that’s about as much exercise as I can get my head around for now. Pilates keeps popping into my head and I know that it’s a GREAT idea for ab, hip and pelvic recovery, but for now, that is where it has stayed – in my head.

Breastfeeding continued to be a work in progress in month 2. If I had to give it a grade, I’d give it a B. Luckily, I was able to iron out the serious problems very early on with the help of  a really great doctor at my final appointment with the maternity clinic and a lot of YouTube videos. Seriously. I just had to google around until I found the right advice that clicked for me to sort out my shitty latch issues. Yet still, it wasn’t entirely comfortable all the time. I understand why a lot of people would give up at this point, especially if baby seems to fuss and not enjoy it either, like some of the moms I know. What kept me going was that even when it sucked for me, Sloane really loved it and that encouraged me to persevere. I’ve come to accept that although they say “breastfeeding should never hurt”, you’re still going to have to deal with a certain amount of soreness and discomfort (what normal humans who don’t work for La Leche League would call pain) for a while until your body totally adjusts. Just like breaking in a new pair of shoes. But with nipples. That’s probably as good of a place to sign off as any.