Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Independent Baby

I've been thinking a lot about how I want to raise Jack. I thought a lot about that before I had him, of course, but that was always along the lines of him being a child, and how I would react to certain things or what rules I'd have.

But having a baby makes you ask other questions, like when do I start on that path? And I think the answer I've been coming to is: as soon as possible.

For example, I want a child who can play independently. I do not envision myself as my son's manager of fun. I want to take him to the park and do as my mother did: sit on the sidelines and keep an eye out while he plays. I do not want to be one of those mothers who's actually on the playground with her child.

These days when I'm home with Jack, I try to let him sort out his own amusement as much as possible. Intermittently, I'll read him a story, pick him up and make him giggle, hand him toys, etc. But mostly, I put him on his play mat or in his bouncy seat or his jolly jumper. From there, I leave him to grab toys or roll over or bounce himself. He'll whine at me a little and I'll reassure him from where I'm sitting, and he'll go back to what he was doing.

Eventually, he'll let me know he's bored of whatever and I'll relocate him. And of course, he'll get hungry, so I'll feed him. And he naps every two hours. Between naps at some point, he'll go in my lap and we'll play together a little bit. But otherwise, the day is spent trying to encourage him to entertain himself.

And it's working, I think. I can take him places and he doesn't need me to fuss over him. I eat all my meals hot, something I was led to believe would not happen. I go to mom meet-ups and generally, I hold him in my lap and just converse with other women and he'll hang out and just listen to us talk. He'll squirm at some point and I'll put him in his stroller and he'll play with the toy attached in there and not fuss.

Either he is naturally a very mellow baby, which is totally possible, or he's learning to amuse himself. Maybe both. Right now I'm playing music on my laptop and he's in his bouncy chair just listening to it. Sometimes the Dude will play the guitar for him for up to a half hour and Jack will sit there and just watch, enthralled. I'm pretty impressed with his attention span.

I sometimes feel bad, though. I think it's hard not to internalize modern messages about "stimulation" and how motherhood is a "job". You can feel like you're supposed to always be doing something for your baby, playing with him, rocking him, talking to him, reading and so on. I've ignored these ideas because 1.  I don't think it's healthy for a child to be always reliant on others for entertainment, 2. rather than wean my child off of me as the play master, I'd rather not set myself up in that role in the first place, and 3. I know myself well enough to know I would never be able to keep up such a pace anyway.

I've been complimented on how relaxed my baby is. I've been told I'm lucky. And I totally am; I know this. But I wonder if I have any influence on the fact he's like this. I generally believe babies comes out of the womb the way they are, and his happy personality is his own. So I suppose what I'd like to know is if the way I care for him is helping create a mellow person, or if the way I take care of him is just naturally complimentary to the sort of person he is, perhaps due to similar personalities.

I'll likely never know the answer to that.


Friday, August 23, 2013

On Being A Baby Person

I find my feelings about babies has undergone a massive shift since having one.

I'm not inherently a baby person. I've never not liked babies. I'm not a psycho. As a human being, I've always appreciated a baby, though I've never ached to hold them or anything. I just enjoyed seeing a cute wee person in little clothes making coos. I'd hold them briefly and give them back when they fussed.

Now? I melt. A baby smiles at me and instead of feeling pleased, I fall in love a little. A baby cries and instead of hearing the noise, I think about the baby's feelings. I hear about bad things happening to babies and instead of feeling upset or indignant, I get a chill down my spine and feel like crying.

And I think it relates entirely to the fact that I consider every baby could be my baby. A baby laughs? Jack laughs! Has a cute outfit? Jack could wear that! Gets lost or abused? Oh God, that could happen to Jack!

Some people say loving a baby is what true love is. Now, I don't think that's so. It's a different kind of love than what you have for a romantic partner or your parents. Actually, and this is going to sound absurd in many ways, but it's sort of like how you love your pet.

Hear me out.

Unconditional love has no place in most relationships. There needs to be something that a person could do to lose the claim they have on your love. No one deserves to be loved by their spouse if they're cheating on and abusing them, for example. It's actually a sad state of affairs to go on loving someone who kicks your dog or calls you names.

But you love your child unconditionally. And, really, you love your pet unconditionally too, that is, if you actually love your pet and are not just keeping one for the hell of it. Because some people do that, and frankly also may have kids for the same reason.

You care for your child and it takes a long time before you get anything back in recognition. You provide for needs, spend your money and your time, worry about them when they're not around and generally do your best to give them a good life. And you do these things for your pet, too.

When people say their dog is like their child, it's a fair enough simile. No, the dog isn't a child, but in many ways it's like one. The caregiving relationship and unconditional love exists and is cherished.

What elevates loving the baby is that you expect the baby to outlive you, the baby will grow into a person who can share a love with you person to person, with words. Imagine if your beloved pet could say, "I love you"? You'd probably die of happiness.

So, I'd say the love comes from the same place, the nurturing, tug-on-the-heartstrings place where it cannot be shaken or broken, and you are fully invested in caregiving. Only it's more, it's lifelong, more involved and more personal. The intensity is greater, but the emotional place it starts from, at least for animal lovers, is the same.

So, for anyone who's ever loved an animal and becomes outraged at animal atrocities, you're really thinking, "That could have been Muffin!" And you get upset, more so than you'd be if dear Muffin never entered into your life. It's a point of reference for pain and love.

When you have a baby, it's just so. Your love for your baby puts you emotionally in other people's shoes, and you experience their joys, fears and sorrows about their babies because you know. And you can't go back to unknowing. You can't go back to where it's only hypothetical for you, where you imagine what it would be like, and then finish imagining and get on with life, because your baby is in your life and you live with that love and all it brings every day all day.

You can't imagine what something is like when it's an all-day, every-day thing. Because as soon as you're done imagining it, you're no longer properly evaluating it's effect on you because in real life there is no stopping, no breaks. Once it's happened, it can't unhappen and your heart, your mind and your life beat to different drums.

Same with pregnancy. You can't fathom constant nausea until you've experienced it because you can only imagine it for so long before you have to do other things, whereas if it's happening to you, it's unending and there is no stepping outside for a break. You live in the experience until it's done.

These are the things people try to explain and never are able to really get across. I think probably because it sounds smug, usually. "Wait till you have kids, then you'll know!" And you hear this and think, "Okay, asshole."

But remember losing your virginity. You can't go back to ignorance. It's not about hymens or anything like that, it's about knowledge and life experience. You can't unknow what you know. And that knowledge changes you. Same as with anything, like falling in love for the first time or losing a parent or nearly dying or being assaulted or saving someone's life. Certain things cause you to grow in certain directions and there's no going back. Becoming a mother is one of those things.

And unexpectedly, still without being a baby person, I'm totally now a baby person. My heart works differently.

Loving a baby means you love when he's ready for bed,
but when he's sleeping you look at pictures of him and miss him.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Roll, Baby

So, the Dude and I had a "date night" on Friday, courtesy of my cousin and his girlfriend babysitting for us. Very exciting. Well, it was more so for me, as the Dude's boss decided they should blow off the studio that day and go to Canada's Wonderland. After a tough day on the rollercoasters, the Dude was tired enough to fall asleep during World War Z. L'amour!

I'm not sure why, but there is an inherent irritation with someone who falls asleep during the movie. I mean, it's not as though their lack of consciousness is preventing anyone else from seeing the film. I suppose it's the loss of the shared experience you were aiming for by seeing the movie with someone in the first place.

And, oh, how fun it would be to hit up Wonderland. I think the Dude is going again before summer is out with his brother and nephews. And I'll be missing that one as well. I ain't bringing no baby to an amusement park all day. I have often seen those women pushing strollers around with sleeping babies and toddlers and I've always thought to myself, "Well, that looks spectacularly un-fun."

It's just one of the little unfairnesses that emerge post-baby. I'm sure there are things about my day the Dude envies.

But not today. I took the day "off" so to speak. I do this every weekend; I take several hours and run off and do something enjoyable and indulgent without the baby while the Dude takes care of business. And today, while I was enjoying a Groupon-fuelled spa day, Jack completed his first roll. Kiddo went from back to front while I was getting a microdermabrasion. Every other time he had pinned his arm and was unable to roll. But today he rocked his little world and, according to the Dude, was looking mighty proud of himself.

And I missed it. You leave for just a few hours to preserve your youth and look what happens. Your baby does something cool and all you get is a photo:

"I'm awesome."
When I got home, he didn't repeat his new trick for me, no matter how many times we asked, so I'm yet to see it. Sadly, this isn't the first time my baby has gaslit me.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jittery Mom

So, today I got to be that mother, the one who thinks her baby is sick and so schedules a last-minute doctor's appointment only to discover her son is totally fine, whoops.

Why did I get nervous? Eh, baby poop stuff. I'll spare you the details. But turns out there's a lovely collection of other symptoms that make iffy poop an actual problem. Also, when we were in the appointment, Jack dropped a deuce and it was totally normal looking, which of course it was. On a related note, I have always had this little fear of going to the doctor's for medical concerns because I'm convinced it'll clear up on its own by the time I get there and I'll look like a hypochondriac.

The doctor was patient with me. I can't have been the first new mother to be rattled by baby bowel movements. I still felt sheepish.

Now, this all meant I didn't go to a mom meet-up like I'd planned on. The last time I missed a mom meet-up, a reporter showed up and did a news segment on the group and I caught it on The National. Not that I feel like I missed out on being on TV. Been there, done that, y'all.

Totally grabbed a screen shot for a souvenir. 

But still, it would've been neat, and the conversation that would have come out of that reporter's questions would probably have been a good one. Stimulating conversation is at a premium these days.

There's another meet-up tomorrow, and I'll be making that one. Unless of course Jack develops another imaginary ailment.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Yahoo Answers

Okay, so a Facebook friend from elementary school posted this link about how the body knows when it's time to labour and deliver and you shouldn't need to be induced at 40 weeks on the dot. Despite my 43 week pregnancy, I still totally believe this and feel I was an anomaly. Something in my body didn't click. Glitch of sorts.

So, I decided to re-Google "43 weeks pregnant" to see if there's anything new to read on the topic since April, 'cause you better believe I spent my many spare hours on the internet trying to find anything that could offer some explanation.

And lo, I came upon this gem, which I shall share with you because it's too effing funny not to. Enjoy.

 But in case you weren't fully satisfied by that answer, here is another.

God, I love the internet.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Vaccines for Baby

I took Jack for his four-month immunizations today. It was about as much found as it sounds like.

So, the appointment was at 2:00, which meant that it would really be at 2:15. Jack now weighs 15 pounds, 2 ounces. He went from being this Goliath baby to being in the 50th percentile for weight. Fine by me. He's 66 cm long, which clocks him at the 85th percentile for height. So he's essentially a lanky baby, like his Pa.

I don't remember his head circumference. Probably since I didn't vaginally birth him, I'm not as emotionally invested in that one. Ha!

It was funny seeing my doctor. When I got pregnant last year I was due for a physical, but since I was seeing midwives who were taking my blood, urine and such, I didn't see the point of additional care. So she never learned I was pregnant. The last doctor's appointment for Jack was with another doctor because mine was away. So it had been literally two years since she'd laid eyes on me and look! A baby! I felt slightly sheepish.

Jack's taken up shrieking and squealing as of late, like he just learned he has a voice of his own and he can use it. This started in earnest at the doctor's office. My boy, he's got the impeccable timing. It's cute for about 2 minutes, then you start feeling your face burn as people look at you, like your baby's a wind-up toy and you're making these noises happen on purpose.

Taking Jack out to these appointments is a little rough since he doesn't see fit to nap in his stroller. Or maybe it's the car seat that's fitted into the stroller. He doesn't much enjoy being in the car either, so maybe he just doesn't like the seat. Anyway. This gives me a two-hour window of good wakefulness before the crank starts. I had to wait for my doctor and then after seeing her, I had to wait an 20 extra minutes to get the shots, putting Jack about 15 minutes past his normal nap time. That went well (No, it didn't).

There's something about holding your baby, who's tired but managing to keep it together, and then watching his face crumple after he realizes he's been pricked. Oh, the wailing, the sobbing, the fat baby tears. You feel like an ass. I mean, you're not an ass because now your kid won't die of whooping cough or get polio. But this baby has no idea why his mother was holding him and allowed such a thing to happen. Thank god babies have the memories of a gold fish. He calmed down soon enough, though he was disgruntled for quite some time.

Colour me unimpressed.
I felt some sort of treat was in order after that ordeal (for me), so we went to Menchies. His naps were already shot, so I figured I might as well enjoy some delicious frozen yogurt. Go into a Menchies and try not to feel happy. You can't. It's impossible.

The Dude has been helping his brother move this week, so I'm more or less on my own until Friday night. Le sigh. Good thing Jack is such a calm kid. Minus the new shrieking, of course.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I Support You

World Breastfeeding Week is upon us and for those who are not raising babies, are done raising babies,  or are not in the business of caring for babies, this probably doesn't mean much. For those of us in the thick of it, it means quite a bit.

Since entering into the world of formula feeding, I've seen little support online. If I wanted to check to see if a certain mixing method was safe, I'd be faced with online opinions about how formula is poison, or how formula-fed babies only survive and not thrive, how breast is best. Not helpful. And hurtful, besides. Even my can of formula sometimes makes me feel bad.

I'm buying something I need to feed my baby
that tells me I'm making a lesser choice by buying it.
I've agonized over the way I feed Jack, slowly, very slowly letting go of breastfeeding and giving into my body's decisive stance that I would not be a source of food. I've quit the morning feedings entirely and I've stopped checking to see if I still have any milk trickling out. As far as I'm concerned, I've dried up.

Awhile ago I wrote the hospital and made a complaint about the care I received post-partum, about the stressful and too-long induction and the separation they forced on me from Jack when I had my infection, how I felt these things really damaged my ability to breastfeed. I got a response and really was able to get some of my pain out. It felt soothing.

And now there is a movement to support all mothers in how they feed their child. Breastfeeding moms who feed in public can face hardships from people who don't respect a baby's right to eat and a mom's choice to feed in a natural way ("Go to the bathroom or something. That's gross! I don't want to see that! You wouldn't poop in public, would you? So why would you breastfeed?") Formula feeding moms face criticism from people who believe everyone can and should breastfeed and feel this method is lazy and harmful to babies ("Breast is best. Breast milk is a baby's birthright. Motherhood means making sacrifices. You gave up too soon.")

The movement is I Support You. The rhetoric behind Breast Is Best has gone too far in that women who can't or don't breastfeed are being made to feel inferior. What is needed is not more promotion of breast milk, but rather support for it, real support. Where women can feel free to nurse wherever they and their babies themselves are authorized to be. Where in the hospital there are nurses and consultants who truly understand breastfeeding difficulties and how to overcome them. Where women receiving care aren't set up to fail.

But there's more. The professionals need to be able to recognize the times a mom would be better off throwing in the towel, whether she is developing postpartum depression from breastfeeding, or has insufficient glandular tissue (IGF), or a thyroid condition, or some other medical issue. These women need to feel like they have not failed. They deserve to know they are not at fault for problems beyond their control, that no amount of trying would work.

And for women who choose formula, because they understand their lives and obstacles better than outsiders do, because they've suffered sexual trauma, because they're struggling with their own concerns that are incompatible with breastfeeding, or who just cannot bear any further time spent with their bodies not being their own again.

This blanket approach to breastfeeding, that it's 100% natural and possible for all and every woman can do it is not just wrong, but getting in the way of women truly enjoying motherhood, because they're measuring their worth by their breast function. Fathers aren't treated this way. We understand they love their babies by how they care for them, that they can bond without breastfeeding, that their sacrifices don't have to include loss of bodily autonomy or perfect bodily function.

To the lactation "expert" at my hospital who said all women can breastfeed, while I was sitting there covered in hives and unable to carry my own baby post surgery: nuts to you, lady.

To the public health nurse who shamed my formula choices, feeding methods and suggested I pump every 90 minutes on top of nursing with a tube, despite healing from surgery and complications: nuts to you, lady.

To the perfect mothers out there who breastfeed with ease and can't understand why everyone else can't do the same: Nuts to you, too, though I support you in your breastfeeding and will always do so.

To the women who struggled with breastfeeding, overcame their issues and think all women should soldier through their own problems as well: Nuts to you, though I congratulate you on your success and support your right to breastfeed with pride anywhere you go.

To the women who are breastfeeding and are comfortable with their choice and the choices of others: I support you.

To the women who are pumping because their babies wouldn't latch, or their nipples needed a break, or their husbands wanted to feed the baby too, or because they're going back to work: I support you.

To the women combination feeding their babies with formula, nursing and pumped milk: Not only do I support you, but I understand you're living in the worst of both worlds. For as long as you keep this gruelling pace up, I support you. If you need to quit, I support you.

To my fellow formula feeders, for all the reasons we arrive at this place, without hesitation, I support you.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week

Friday, August 2, 2013


I have the feeling that Jack may be teething. I'm not sure, but I've got an inkling. He's not eating as much today and his naps are all over the place. His poopy diapers are... different, liquidy. And he's been drooling and shoving his fingers in his mouth for weeks. Otherwise he seems fine, in good humour albeit with some grumpy grumbles.

And admittedly, I don't wanna. Just I don't wanna. I'm tired!

Okay, yes, I want my baby to grow and thrive and teething is par for the course. I can't stop it, it's going to happen when it happens and I do feel pleased when he makes these little progressions.

But damn, it means more work for me. I'm here alone all day without a soul in sight and when things go haywire, it's all me. I know of a number of people who have their parents nearby, and a couple of whom have retired parents nearby. I can't even imagine that. Well, I can and it's glorious, but you know. It's not something that in any way resembles my reality.

I do have some people in my life who have offered to babysit, genuine offers from a good place from reliable and lovely friends. And I haven't taken them up on it. I do think there are complex reasons as to why not.

I kind of feel like a burden. I have this inner voice, this deep-seated belief. I know where it comes from. I know it's intellectually not right. But it holds me back a lot.

After my mom died when I was 16, I went to live with my dad at Grandma's house. At first I had the same expectations of him that I had of my mom. He would be responsible for making dinner, paying for the household bills and providing for my basic needs and some of my wants. I'd help around the house, do my own laundry, go to my part-time job and not screw up at school. Sounds normal, right?

He started off doing everything for my brother and I, unasked, and burnt out after about one month. I used to ask my mom for the occasional book, which she would get for me. He did this once and then claimed it was too much of an expense. We had a trust set up and he wanted these things to come out of that.

He started not coming home after work and expecting me to cook for Grandma. He didn't do housework and I was expected to pick up most of the slack. I started doing Grandma's laundry, a task he previously was responsible for.

Then he wanted child support out of my mother's estate, bullied us into suing for it and won. He also wanted our survivor benefits into his pocket, not accumulating for our future. Eventually he was garnering around $700-$800 a month for my brother and I. My mom had received a fraction of that when she had us, even though he made more money than she did. He got a raise around this time, though he spent it on himself.

We moved out of Grandma's after a year so we would be in our old neighbourhood. But things went south. He became resentful of the water bill, banging on the bathroom door when our showers took longer than 6 minutes, which he timed. I wasn't allowed to have the light on if I was watching TV because the electric bill was too high. Our cats were an ongoing irritation for him because they needed food and litter and he didn't want to pay for it. He'd kick them out at night to fend for themselves.

It got to the point where my birthday was not celebrated. I paid for my own dinner at a pub my dad frequented and I only got a present because I kept asking for one. And that made me feel bratty, but considering I was doing all the housework at this point, I felt ignoring my birthday was too much.

He stopped buying groceries. He piled the freezer with meat pies and we ate those any time we were hungry while my dad ate at restaurants and didn't come home until late. When the pies ran out, groceries were scarce and I bought a box of popcorn to subsist on between dinner at my boyfriend's house and nights working at my aunt's fast food place.

Whenever he helped me move when I was younger, he'd charged me money for it, not willing to help out his in-college or fresh-out-of-college daughter. For one move he once bought a rope he thought I'd need for a move and invoiced me.

I know why I feel like a burden deep down. It's because my own father made me feel like it was too much trouble to buy food or provide utilities for me. If your parent doesn't want to provide for your basic needs, or doesn't think your expenses should come out of his income when you're still only a minor, you get the sense that you as a person are a hassle. When you're older, in your heart it feels crazy that a friend would happily give you a hand with your child so you can go to the movies. It feels frivolous to ask. It feels like too much to ask.

I need to work on that. I don't know how, but I do.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Long Weekend Baby

Two weeks ago we went to the lake. Now this weekend we're going back. The Dude, poor soul, was not able to go, and it's one of his favourite places to be. So off we go again. I'm looking forward to it, but it is a ton of work. We used to just pack on suitcase and away we went. Now? Ugh.

This time I intend to downsize. Lugging around all that stuff is seriously awful. You sort of feel like a pack mule, or a manager of a baby rather than a mother.

I'm not bringing his play mat. It's a useful item, but a blanket on the ground will suffice, especially since there will be family there. I'm not bringing the kettle either. No one used it last time I was there, so I don't feel bad about commandeering it for the weekend. We shouldn't need the Pack n' Play because there's a crib in the basement that'll be free. I'll also bring fewer toys, which will lighten my knapsack.

I look forward to the day we can stop packing the baby tub and the bouncy chair. Those are items that aren't must-haves like diapers and formula, but make for a miserable trip without them. And then of course diapers being a thing of the past will improve life all around. Not bringing them on a trip will be extra pleasant. As it is, I'll be bringing the cloth diapers (Which also means I must take the special detergent). The cloth just save so much money. A little extra labour, but oh well. I'm used to it.

I've had a rather challenging week. Trying to get Jack's naps on track is an ongoing job. As he won't sleep when we're out and needs to sleep every two hours, this creates an issue for me if I want to leave the house. Also, the Dude has been coming home after Jack's in bed a couple times. I've had the sole job of caregiving all week, more or less. It's wearing me out. It will be nice to get out to the lake and have a change of pace, with the Dude there and extended family. People to talk to, different scenery, less baby care on my shoulders.

Good thing I have a great baby. Honestly, this child is a real delight. He's sweet and smiley, and once in bed at night he's a champion sleeper. I'm tired from the lack of help lately, but it could be a lot worse.

Look at that face <3

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