Easter/Wedding Weekend

I have a brand new sister-in-law! Matt’s youngest brother married one of my favourite people in the world on Saturday. It was the first time in ages that all six boys were together, and I was a bridesmaid, so we tried our hardest to balance childcare and fun between the two of us.

Wedding

Lucky for us, M did great with abandoning her carefully maintained bedtime schedule and routine for the weekend. She had one exhausted screaming session when we attempted to go out for dinner, but after that she was a-okay. She even stayed up late for the wedding, and warmed up to Matt’s aunties completely, allowing him to socialize a bit, too. We’re so grateful for all of the family who chipped in throughout the weekend.

In terms of Easter, we didn’t do much. I had a little basket for the baby on Sunday, containing socks, a sunhat, some bibs and a bag of M&Ms for us. I figured it’d be the last time the bunny could get away with bringing socks! My stepmother-in-law sent over some grown-up candy, too, which we demolished pretty quickly. Usually, Easter is our time to come out of hibernation, but there’s still a ton of snow on the ground this year — we even got stuck in the hair salon driveway on the morning of the wedding, and needed the hairdresser’s husband to push us out!

Aside from the wedding we had an impromptu BBQ here, and another dinner last night. It’s been a lot of fun having people over and hopefully it’s a preview to what we can do this summer (which will be even better, once the firepit area thaws out!).

Family has been gradually heading home since Sunday morning, and we said goodbye to the last brother this morning. There were a few people we didn’t get to see on their way out, but that just means we have some visiting to do the next time around! We had an awesome time, all around, and can’t wait for the next party. I’m dying to see wedding photos, too — we actually got some full family photos which are a rarity!

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M at Five Months

M5months

Stats:

I weighed her at home a few weeks ago and she was over 16 lbs.! We’re at the point where she has check-ups every two months now, rather than every month, so it’s harder to keep track of her weight. But she’s definitely getting heavier and longer every day.

Nicknames:

Still not very many of those — she might not be a kid with a nickname, really. This month she was Buddy, sometimes.

Temperament:

So happy! We just had a family wedding this past weekend and everyone commented on how cheerful she was, even when we were keeping her up past her bedtime. She only seems to get frustrated if she’s very, very tired, or hungry. Other than that she’s grinning at everyone.

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Skills:

She can somewhat sit on her own — she’ll hold it for a bit but then as soon as she realizes she’s not leaning on anyone she topples over. She’s become a lot more dextrous in the last few weeks and grabs for things with purpose, now. She bears weight on her legs really well, and will lean on things to ‘stand up’ if her Dad puts her that way. Her giggle is becoming more of a real laugh, she can roll in all directions no problem, and she’s started to string new noises together — we’ve even heard a few ‘mama’ and ‘mamama’s from her!

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Sleep:

Started to improve in the last two weeks but this whole long weekend, she didn’t have a bedtime or specific naptimes so we’ll see what happens, now. She’s been sleeping hard at night all weekend, though. Overall it has gotten much, much better from what it was like at four months.

Eating:

She’s stretched out her nursing sessions, thankfully — I’m so used to feeding her frequently and now she really only wants to sit down and focus on nursing before naps and bedtime. She doesn’t even want to nurse when she wakes up in the morning!

We started giving her a few finger foods, here and there, last week — it’s early, I know, but she is literally yanking food out of our hands. I know baby-led weaning should start around six months, but I did a lot of reading and research and consideration, and I figured if she is capable of deciding she wants it, bringing it to her mouth, and eating it, she’s ready. She was also born two weeks late so if she had been on time she’d be eating at 5.5 months — her body would have kept developing in the womb, so maybe that’s why she’s capable. But she’s hit every hallmark of readiness for BLW save for sitting up completely on her own (that being said, she’s really good at sitting up in her high chair and the necessity for sitting up for BLW is so that the airway is clear — she doesn’t slump or lean back in her chair so I think we’re good).

Clothing:

She’s exactly on track with the recommended sizing for her age, maybe because she’s in the 50th percentile. Her 3-6 month stuff is fitting perfectly right now, and I suspect she’ll be growing out of most of it over the next month.

Loves:

Sitting in her high chair, meeting new people (as long as she can get a good look at them before they pick her up!), tickles before bedtime, sucking on the trunk of her new elephant toy, grabbing at Marbles’s face.

M5months2

Doesn’t Love:

When getting dressed takes too long, being in the car seat when the car stops moving, sun in her eyes, bath time when she’s really tired.

Things to Remember:

All of the family she met and fun she had at her auntie and uncle’s wedding! Going out in the stroller for the first time, exhausting herself playing at the Hub, the first ‘mamama’s, seeing all of her uncles.

Mom & Dad:

Feeling good! The awfulness of the four month wakefulness period was hard to slog through but we’re relatively rested now. Being able to get out of the house with the stroller is a huge help, too, giving us something to do during the day. As the weather gets better we’re bound to have even more family adventures which should be really nice.

Looking Forward To:

Some upcoming family visits, in May! We’re crossing our fingers for the snow to melt one of these days so we can play in the backyard. Looking forward to really starting BLW in earnest once she’s a bit older, and hitting more fun milestones — more words, more laughs, more movement.

Dear M,

Every day your personality reveals itself a bit more, and I love that you are such a little spitfire. You are one determined baby. You want to smile at all the people and visit all the places, to grab at all the toys and roll as far as you can off of your playmat, out into the big wide world. You know if you’re not being included — if someone is eating good food and you can’t have it, if you’re in your carrier while everyone else is standing a few feet away — and you don’t like it one bit. You want to be a part of everything, and it’s so much fun to bring you into the loop!

I feel like you’ve hit a point in your development where you’re changing very quickly, and there are only more changes to come. I put away your newborn clothes recently and couldn’t imagine that you were ever so small. I miss teeny tiny you but I can’t wait to cheer you on as you grow bigger, too.

You have changed our lives. We can’t go to bed at midnight and expect to sleep in the next morning, because you are an early riser and of course we need to get up when you do! But I don’t miss staying up, I don’t miss hangovers, I don’t miss wasting the day sleeping in bed. I’d rather be watching you learn how to pick up your toys, how to eat a green bean, how to make words.

We’ve had so much fun with you this month, and we’re only going to have more!

Love always,
Mama

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Snuggles and Sleep

My girl does not snuggle. As a tiny baby, if you held her close, she’d instinctively root around for milk and that was the end of snuggle time. Even now, she has lost that rooting reflex, but still has the need to put anything and everything in her mouth to see what it’s like — so snuggle time turns, very quickly, into the baby licking your arm, or your finger, or your eyeball.

I discovered a secret snuggly time, by accident, one that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy if she was one of those magical sleeping-through-the-night babies.

She’s getting better at sleep, lately. She will take somewhat consistent naps, during the day, in her crib. She is only up to nurse once at night, maybe twice if something startles her or she’s having a particularly rough night. She lets out a random squawk here and there, but she’s learning to put her soother back in her mouth, or to suck her thumb, and more often than not, by the time we make a move to go get her, she’s on her way back to sleep.

But still, there’s one or two times she comes to lay in our bed, wanting to nurse at midnight, or five a.m. Matt grabs her for me and moves to the couch so we can stretch out in the big bed. She means business, in the middle of the night, and nurses steadily until she falls asleep again.

Matt used to move her, once she drifted off. I was too anxious about waking her up and would get really frustrated if she didn’t go back down. But I felt like a jerk getting him to do more work after he was already displaced, so I grew some courage and decided to do it myself (and if she wakes after that, if he’s still passed out on the couch, I’ll grab her again).

She dozes, in and out, curled up beside me. I pick her up before she decides that the big bed is where she’d like to stay. In the darkness, in the stillness, in the thirty seconds it takes to shuffle into her room, she curls into me. Her weight rests in the crook of my arm, her head buried in my shoulder, baby shampoo-scented hair brushing my cheek.

I have a hard time putting her down. It’s the same, when she falls asleep during the last nursing session of the night. I know I’m ‘supposed’ to put her in her crib before she falls asleep, but there’s something irresistible about a milk drunk baby, totally trusting me as her place of comfort. Matt told me, when she wakes up at night, he too relishes the cuddles (because he tries to soothe her down before we nurse). We don’t get them during the day.

We would not know these quiet snuggles if she didn’t wake at night. Yes, we would get more sleep. But these moments would go unnoticed.

I try to remind myself that everything is a phase, and to enjoy each phase even when the silver linings seem small. I will not remember quite how exhausted I felt through these days. But I will remember the midnight snuggles, the five a.m. nursing, the snuffles and sighs. I will remember the love.

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My Take on the World’s Toughest Job

There’s this video making the social media rounds — if you know any mothers, you have likely seen it.

The gist is that a company put out a listing for a difficult job. People (who I’m pretty sure are actually actors) applied and were interviewed and became incredulous as they learned that this demanding job had no breaks, and no pay. And then they found out that the job was motherhood.

I watched it, and thought something along the lines of ehhhh, that’s sorta overblown, but I get what they’re getting at. But I was really surprised by the vitriol this video has generated all over the internet.

First of all — this is an ad, and a Mother’s Day ad at that. So it exaggerates (pretty sure that all moms get at least SOME sleep). And I don’t think anyone is claiming that motherhood is literally the toughest job in the world. So if the complaint about the video is that motherhood is indeed NOT the toughest job in the world, I’m in agreement. I will say that it irks to me to see people who aren’t mothers lambasting mothers for thinking they have a challenging job, though. Don’t knock it ’till ya try it.

I haven’t been a menial labourer, nor an indentured slave, so maybe I’ve had it too good to know otherwise. But motherhood is a hard job and it’s the hardest one I’ve ever had. At any other job, I have never been this invested in the outcome of my work. And I was never welcomed into any other position by having major abdominal surgery, for that matter.

It’s not a job, you say? But it is. Seventh-grade speech style, here we go.

Merriam-Webster defines a ‘job’ as:

1. The work that a person does regularly in order to earn money
2. A duty, task, or function that someone or something has
3. Something that requires very great effort

So I don’t get paid to be a mom. But it is definitely a duty, and a task, and a function, and is it something that requires very great effort.

Scratch the ‘motherhood is a job’ thing, actually — PARENTHOOD is a job. My husband maintains a regular workweek, but when he’s at home, he is a fully involved parent, and when he’s at work, he’s providing for us, financially (and occasionally putting out fires at home, from work). Fatherhood is difficult, too.

We made the choice to be parents — and let’s not forget that not everyone who is a parent was necessarily able to make a well thought-out, planned, easy choice — but that does not mean that the role of parent is magically easy. I prepared for motherhood as best I could and it turned out to be a hundred times harder than I thought it’d be, but also a hundred times more rewarding.

Just because a duty, task or function is a choice, doesn’t mean one cannot ever feel challenged by it, or seek support. I am allowed to say that motherhood is hard — it is. That doesn’t make me less of a person, less of a woman, less of a mother.

An example, if you will. My husband chose to be a graphic designer. He gets up every day and goes to work. Sometimes that work is unpredictable and challenging. Sometimes it’s rewarding and wonderful. When he comes home and says he had a hard day, I believe him, and I support him. I may not know or understand exactly what made it hard, and it was his choice to go into a field that offers up challenges, but the appropriate response to ‘I had a hard day’ is not ‘Well, you chose it, so too bad, and by the way, other people have it way worse than you.’

BeKind

Lord knows I am not looking for high-fives and huzzahs just because I had a baby. The simple act of being a mom is not enough for people to celebrate me, and I get that (although, really, Mother’s Day exists for exactly that reason, so I really feel like attacking a Mother’s Day ad for celebrating mothers is incredibly strange). But my choice to be a mother doesn’t mean that I am not worthy of praise, or support, or understanding, just because it was a choice.

The idea of a world where people must love every single aspect of their lives and work, all of the time, and never be able to say, hey, this is hard, is unrealistic. Parenthood is hard. Working outside of the home is hard. Working inside the home is hard. Being a graphic designer is hard. Being a construction worker is hard. Being a chef is hard. I would hazard that being an independently wealthy person with a team full of butlers is even hard, in some fashion. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard, in a way that I never would have understood until I became one.

I love my mom job. And I miss my paid job, at times. My husband and I joke that it’d be great if we could trade places every once in awhile, so he could stay at home and have baby bonding time and I could get out of the house and have regular pee breaks and talk to people who are capable of forming actual words.

The saddest part of this whole pseudo-controversy, to me, is seeing women attacking other women. No single person’s choices negate or diminish anyone else’s choices. We all have good and bad days and at the risk of sounding all ‘I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy,’ I think a little bit of understanding would go a long way.

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Our Breastfeeding Journey: Getting Better

Every night, after she has been scrubbed, lotioned, pajama-ed and kissed on the head by Matt, M snuggles into my arms and nurses until she’s drifting off. I study her little face in the dim purple light filtering through the curtains and think about how far we’ve come.

(You can read all of my posts involving breastfeeding here.)

A brief recap of our journey so far:

  • We started out well, stretching the hospital’s skin-to-skin policy into latching M on right in the OR, after she was delivered via unplanned c-section. (We were even highlighted at a Best Start conference in February!) Still, we had some issues with ‘lazy eating’ and a latch that seemed questionable to me, but had a really hard time trying to see the LC while we were in the hospital. M gained weight quickly after we were discharged so we figured all was well.
  • Around a month postpartum, M’s latch really started to go sideways. We went back and forth with the help of the LC and a handful of doctors and nurses trying to make things work for a few weeks. We were diagnosed as borderline on the Hazelbaker scale for tongue ties, and had a frenectomy done on M at eight weeks old.
  • She latched really well for a week and then it all went haywire again. At some point I developed thrush (never officially diagnosed, but it responded somewhat to thrush meds) and battled it with a few rounds of gentian violet, APNO, and miconazole. Nursing became very painful, so I started pumping and bottle feeding during the day, which turned into pumping full-time.
  • With the exception of a few attempts at nursing, I exclusively pumped after that. We went on vacation, involving four flights, and faced with the prospect of pumping in the airport, I decided to try latching her again. To my surprise, she managed it well, so I kept going.

So here’s where we’re at now…

Whatever thrush or thrush-like pain I had is basically gone. I did a round of antibiotics just prior to our vacation, in case it was a bacterial infection (the walk-in doctor wasn’t super helpful in this regard, and basically said ‘You’ve done pretty much everything you can, maybe you’re allergic to the pump’ but the antibiotics were a last-ditch effort so I went with it). After that I threw medical advice out the window and started applying miconazole after nearly every feeding. Maybe it was the antibiotics, maybe it was the miconazole, maybe I actually was allergic to the pump, but something obliterated the red, itchy stabby feeling within a week or two.

Like magic, over the course of the last month, M has spaced out her frequent feedings (for the most part — she’s distractable now and doesn’t always finish feeds, meaning she’s hungry more often) and she seems to be thriving. Her latch is not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it used to be. I never understood what the LC was trying to impress upon me when she asked if M was latching with her tongue forward, and encouraged me to bring her to the breast when her tongue was in the right position — because M never actually used her tongue properly. Now I get it. I see her stick her tongue out all the way, over her gums, as I bring her on. And I see her tongue moving and working and cupping and lifting as she drinks.

Nursing2

On the day I found out she was back on her growth curve — yay us!

I don’t know if it was just a matter of her getting used to having more tongue and more motion to work with, considering that she was restricted in utero and for two months after. I don’t know if having to latch properly onto a bottle and use her tongue rather than clamping taught her the right way to do it. Whatever it was, I am grateful. We actually ran into our LC at a community event and she complimented how well M was using her tongue, something she observed without even seeing her nurse.

Her suck-swallow-breathe pattern isn’t always the greatest (something my sister noticed just from hearing M latch on). She forgets to breathe and snuffles and pops off. She goes into jags of random sucking with no swallowing, especially during the day. She’s easily distracted, and twists and turns. I usually have to flip out her upper lip and push down her jaw once she latches on, but now, she stays that way rather than tensing up and clamping down immediately.

There is still pain, especially when M is sleepy, or I’m dozing while nursing at night and not watching her latch, or she isn’t sleeping well so I don’t get a break at night. But it’s manageable pain. I can deal with it. I don’t think it will ever be pain-free, because I believe her high palate is always going to cause problems, but it is so much better than it was. And it’s so much better than pumping six times a day and worrying about output. It was hard to let go of the knowledge and control from pumping and bottlefeeding — I knew when she was or wasn’t hungry, with certainty, I knew she was eating enough, I could track her consumption — but after readjusting to nursing I feel like I can trust my body again.

At her four-month appointment, she had recovered from falling off her growth curve and was holding steady around the 50th percentile. The true test will be at her six month appointment, because she was bottlefed for a lot of her third month, but I feel her growing heavier every day and have faith that she’s gaining well.

I am so, so glad that we did not give up, even when it felt like we were underwater. I stuck to my mantra — never give up on a bad day. Because I didn’t want to make that decision under the weight of bad feelings, and on a good day, I didn’t want to quit. I owe a lot to my support network; all of the health professionals and my wonderful husband who fed M bottles while I pumped overnight, bought me flanges and lanolin and chocolate, accompanied me to appointments, and so on. It overwhelmed both of us, so many times, but we pushed through.

We’re almost at the point of solids, now. We’re going to be doing baby-led weaning (weaning as in ‘adding complementary non-pureed food’ not ‘stopping breastmilk’) starting when M is around six months old. For weeks, I clung to starting solids as a way to maybe have to nurse less often, but I feel good enough about our collective capabilities that BLW’s philosophy of ‘food before one is just for fun’ doesn’t scare me anymore.

I will admit to being scared of teeth, not because I’m worried that she’ll bite me, but because her latch is just shallow enough that it might cause problems. But we’ll figure it out.

Breastfeeding has been, by far, the most challenging part of parenthood. I read so many times, in so many places, to keep trying, to stick it out, that it would get better. I am so thankful it got better for us.

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