26 August 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Pictures of my dad & my son as metaphor for the process of starting my own business:

Gee, Grampa, I don't know if I'm sure about this...

Maybe all I need is a little encouragement.

Oh jeez oh jeez oh jeez.
But it feels good.

21 August 2009

Things I Love - Adding to the Blogroll

Some new names added to the Blogs I Love list on the right:

Pregnant Stephanie, no longer pregnant, has set up shop at The Tsunami Mommy. I'm keeping the link to Pregnant Stephanie up because there's lots of great stuff there and as far as I know she hasn't moved it over to her new home. Her twitter handle has changed too.

More Yummy Mummy Club: Sharon DeVellis at The Inside Scoop writes like I would like to write, only funnier. Which is to say, she's funnier than me, not that I want to write funnier than her. Er. Well maybe I do. I'm making a mess of this - just go check her out.

And Amber Strocel. Her twitter updates are always wryly amusing, and I really enjoyed her recent Carnival of Maternity Leave posts.

That's a good start - there are many more to come. There is an astonishing wealth of really talented women writing about their lives. I plan to add a few to the blogroll every week.

19 August 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Well, it's 5am and I'm up, so...

A friend's 6 year old daughter & the Imp of the Perverse enjoying the view of Stanley Park from our apartment window

17 August 2009

Forgive Me, Readers, For I Have Sinned

It's been more than three months since my last blog post.

No excuse, but it's been a busy three months.

I learned my job had evaporated while I was on maternity leave, three days before my leave ended. So that was fun.

Then The Boy turned 1.

And a good time was had by all...

There was The Weaning, which made me simultaneously joyous and sad. The Boy didn't even notice. (That was the part that made me joyous. And sad.)

There was the beginning of daycare, which The Boy, now known as The Imp of the Perverse, absolutely loves. Which, you know, makes me both joyous. And sad.

There was the end of crawling and the beginning of walking. And the many bruises that accompany the severe listing to starboard inherent in that learning process.

And then, and then...

Then there was the "Hey, I should start my own business one day" which became "Hey there's an EI funded program that could help me start my own business" which morphed to "Hey the deadline for applying to that program is in a couple of weeks." What followed was along the lines of "Hey, I got an interview" and then "Wow, my application's been shortlisted & gone to an independent panel for review." Hard on the heels of that was "Wahoo, I've been accepted into the program!" which today, as I started the first day of ten weeks of classes, became "Hey, check me out, I'm an entrepreneur!"

Remember way back in the mists of history, when I said I'd work free for a clothing designer if money wasn't a concern? Well, I didn't win the lottery but I am working free for a designer.


I'm the designer. I know, crazy! I'm designing children's clothes, starting with a line of funky hats for boys.

The Imp of the Perverse models my first prototype

Today I registered my company name: Chill Monkeys Apparel. It's starting to become really real.

Oh shit. Now I have to actually DO this.

06 May 2009

Wordless Wednesday

We really are all about the hats in this family

04 May 2009

Things That Are True - Validation

Okay, so yesterday I did the Walk for Kids Help Phone. Like seven kinds of idiot, I left my camera at home. Fortunately my team mates brought theirs - check out Rachael's blog for a fun photographic account of our morning. Mmm, Trevor Linden...

I couldn't really tell you why I decided to take part in the event. If I was a better person than I am, I would say it was to raise funds for a very worthy cause. (Which we did, to the tune of $3 million nationwide.) Participating in events like these is a little bit like buying a secret insurance policy: if I contribute to Kids Help Phone, maybe my son will never need it. Never be scared, never be bullied, never be suicidal, never need to turn to an anonymous friendly voice to discuss the pain he can't talk about with anyone else.

But for me it was also a chance to get out of the house, and out of my own head for a while. And, as it turned out, a chance to meet two remarkable women: Yummy Mummy Team Captain Catherine (aka EarnestGirl) and All Around Excellent Energy Rachael. I could not have had a better time, or found two better people to share those 5km with.

I've never been one of the cool kids. And new motherhood feels a lot like being an awkward teenager, uncertainly edging up to the popular girls, not ever sure whether what you're doing will earn the scorn or laughter of those you admire.

After the event, as we were saying goodbye in the parking lot, Catherine told me that it sounded like I was doing well in my first year as a mom. I almost burst into tears. You don't realize, sometimes, how much you need some validation until you get it. It may have been an offhand comment for her. For me, it was like wandering around the cafeteria, tray in hand, and being invited to sit at the cool kids' table for lunch.

Thanks to Yummy Mummy Club for being what got me off my (ample) behind to get out and walk the 5 km in such excellent company!

02 May 2009

Things That Are True - Breastfeeding

“Your rack is shrinking.”

Said my husband, the poet, the other night as I was undressing for bed.

And it’s true.

The Boobs of Doom, we named them early in my pregnancy, when they swelled from a B to a D cup seemingly overnight, when my aureolae grew to the size of demitasse saucers and my nipples became rather aggressively brown and determined to have a look around for themselves. Post partum, as the milk came in, they ballooned to a DD/E. Yes, from a B to an E. That’s 4 cup sizes for those of you playing along at home… We began to affectionately call them The Boobs That Ate New York.

My husband, delighted, felt like he was married to a 1950’s pin up.

I found my new mammarian bounty cumbersome. Although I appreciated that the giant boobs balanced out what had become a seriously generous ass, I couldn’t get used to them. They were in the way. Running to catch the elevator left me gasping in pain. No bra could adequately contain them, and they were inconvenient, leaking milk at inopportune moments. And the nursing pads, and their failures. Classy, that breast pad peeking up out of the top of your shirt, milk leaking out of your no longer protected nipple below. Especially in the grocery store when you’ve finally carved out 15 minutes for yourself away from your adored but exhausting little one, and someone else’s baby starts to cry and oh dear here come the pins and needles and… Gush. Awesome.

I may be the only woman in the history of breasts to rejoice that mine are slowly disappearing. I am so happy, now that The Boy is getting most of his nourishment from solid food, that these unruly milk factories are now tucking themselves sensibly into D cups again. (D cups! What I once would have considered “stripper boobs” are now something I find sensible…)

But here’s the thing:

I have loved breastfeeding. LOVED IT. Far more than I ever could have guessed, back in the unknowing days of my pregnancy, reading all the reasons that breastfeeding is a Good Thing, approaching it as an intellectual concept, wanting to do what was best for my child.

I have loved it so much more than I would have imagined in those early difficult days. (And they are difficult. Don’t let anyone fool you on that count. It is hard, and it does hurt, and you will torture yourself with guilt for wanting to give up, even if you keep going. Gawd, the senseless guilt we new mothers heap on our own heads…)

And here’s why I have loved it so:

I’m an admitted control freak. I like to know what’s coming. I have to have a plan. I have to know how it’s all going to happen, fit together, and turn out in the end. And I've always been this way. My parents tell stories of having to prepare small-child-me for outings by describing, in detail, what was going to happen. Once they didn’t know there would be a dog at a friend’s home we were visiting, and apparently I freaked out to an embarrassing degree.

Being a control freak and a brand new mom simultaneously is… Well, it’s imfuckingpossible, frankly. I felt so out of control. I felt so lost in not-knowing. Things were happening to me and around me without me having any clue what was coming next. For someone like me, this was at times sheer torture.

But I could feed my child.

Even when I was so tired I couldn’t remember my own name, I could feed my child. I held on to that, like an anchor keeping me still in the maelstrom that my life had become.

Yes, there are a million reasons to breastfeed. You can read about them somewhere else. Here’s the one that made the difference for me, and that I don’t see discussed much: breastfeeding gave me a tremendous sense of power.

And not the wrong kind of power – not power over something or someone. Not a power born of ego. At a time when I was plagued with insecurities, buried in guilt, and terrified of Doing It Wrong, watching my baby grow and thrive, knowing that my body was his sole source of nourishment gave me a real sense of quiet competence. I have, my entire life, always defined myself intellectually. As I watched him grow out of the tiny onesies I’d so lovingly bought before he was born, and saw his skinny little newborn legs fill out and develop pudgy rolls, I gradually grew into a sort of awe for my physical self.

Look! Look what my body can do.

The Boy at 3 months

His body takes breast milk I've made and turns it into eyelashes. And fingernails. And teeth! As an atheist, this is the closest to a sense of reverence I have ever been.

The Boy sleeps - 10 months old

Even today, as The Boy reaches 11 months on The Outside, I look at him and rejoice in how healthy and happy a little guy he is.

The Boy at almost 11 months

And I forgive my still alarmingly generous ass, and the way I look in a bathing suit at 11 months post partum, and all the physical imperfections my control freak self used to pick apart in the mirror.

Because look what my body can do.

The Boy at the playground a couple of weeks ago

Now that The Boy has started self-weaning (we're down to 3 or 4 feeds a day), I won’t miss The Boobs That Ate New York.

But I’ll miss what they’ve represented.

09 April 2009

Things That Break Your Heart

I have started and deleted this post a half-dozen times. I lack the skill to convey what I want to say.

Tuesday, via Twitter, I learned for the first time about a woman I'll never meet, and the daughter she lost. I have been on the verge of tears for two days, every time I look at my son, and have been holding him tight far more than a crawling 10 month old is interested in being held.

Sweetney said it better than I can.
So did Her Bad Mother.

For anyone who thinks the internet is an isolating medium, the outpouring of love and heartbreak from strangers for Heather and Mike Spohr, and little Maddie, proves differently. The donations to March of Dimes' March for Babies in her name, which were less than $3000 on Monday, are now in excess of $20,000.

Sigh. Time to wipe my eyes and go gaze at my sleeping son, and feel lucky.

07 April 2009

Things That Are Surprising - My Own Reactions, Also: Link Love

Alas, the Bumbo seat is no longer an adequate means of restraint. I knew this day would come, but I'm not really ready for it, in the same way that I'm not really prepared to see The Boy's grin now full of teeth. He looks less like a baby and more like a little boy every day. And when I first realized that, I died a little bit inside.

Don't get me wrong, I celebrate the milestones - my heart cheers every time he masters a new skill: the crawling, pulling himself up, self-feeding... It's just that he's one of one. We're not planning on having any more children. So this is it.

One child has always been the plan, so it's shocking to me that I'm reacting so viscerally to this, and I'm not expressing myself very well. Fortunately, Jessica Gottlieb has been here before me.

Here's her post on the subject.

And here's some link love for more writing that has knocked me on my ass in the last few weeks:

Sharon's take on why we never throw rocks.

Her Bad Mother's contribution to the adoption/abortion discussion.

And something a little lighter for this sunny Tuesday.

05 April 2009

Things That Are True - You Know You're a Mom When...

You know you're a mom when you are breastfeeding your baby, enjoying a laid back morning, and the sun is streaming in through the window. As its rays catch the fine blond hairs on your son's upper lip just so, your first thought is:

"Oh God, in about 13 years I'm going to have to hide my laughter when he is sincerely trying to turn that into a mustache."

31 March 2009

Things I've Learned - C-Sections

I was a breech baby, born by scheduled caesarean section. My dad, for years, kept forgetting my birthday because he thought they’d chosen the second of the two dates available for surgery. Back then in the dark ages of 1970, my mom was oblivious to the whole procedure, knocked out under a general anaesthetic. Modern anaesthesiology now allows mom to be awake and aware of the birth of her baby, a fact I am particularly grateful for, since I had an unexpected c-section myself.

After almost 30 hours of labour with my son, he hadn’t descended at all, and I had dilated a grand total of four centimetres.

Four stinking centimetres. Not even half way there, after water breaking at home, labouring for hours, two trips to the hospital, being sent home both times to labour in the comfort of my own home...

(Aside – who the hell uses the words labour and comfort in the same sentence?)

Then finally being admitted when contractions were less than two minutes apart and I couldn’t see straight in the midst of them. Gas. Epidural. Constant internal monitoring due to a low baseline fetal heartbeat, and ever increasing levels of oxytocin being administered.

All that for four measly centimetres. The Boy was staying put.

My GP and the resident on duty suggested that the baby might be too big for my pelvic bones to allow his passage. They told us we could continue trying for another four hours if we wished, but that they were going to bring in the on-call obstetrician to consult. While they were out of the room, my husband and I had a rare quiet moment alone and talked things over.

I was exhausted. The baby, although not in distress, kept doing worrying things with his heart rate. I was worried that if this went on too much longer, that I wouldn’t have energy left to push when the time came, or that the baby might become distressed and then we’d end up with much drama, and an emergency c-section.

We decided it was better to choose a c-section and deliver the baby safely than to risk complications for either one of us. If they suggested it, we wouldn’t fight it.

Twenty minutes later I was being rolled into the operating room.

We're all about the hats in this family

Last week, in fact a week ago today, my cousin had a baby girl. Like me, she had an unplanned c-section. Visiting her in the hospital with that beautiful tiny little baby, surrounded by friends and family, memories started to wash over me: things I didn’t realize I’d forgotten in the ten months since The Boy was born.

The Take-away:

Here is some of what I wrote in an email to my cousin and her husband that night:*
  1. You will feel like crying. This is normal, good and necessary. Let the tears flow. It's your body's way of dealing with its wild change in hormonal activity in the last 24 hours, and also of acknowledging the physical trauma of your surgery, not to mention the overwhelming emotions of becoming a parent. Think of the tears like a refreshing summer rain that scrubs the air clean and leaves everything revived. Let them wash away your insecurities and fears. Know that the tears will pass and you will feel better for having let them flow.
  2. Your abdomen will feel puffed full of air. This is because it is - for reasons unknown to me, this is a common result of a c-section. The only way to get rid of this air/discomfort is the indelicate reality of much flatulence. So embrace your inner frat boy and let them rip. (Re: frat boy: I don't suggest lighting your farts. Open flame + newborn = poor judgement call, and only so much can be forgiven because of hormones.)
  3. The hospital will likely give you stool softeners. TAKE THEM. The painkillers you're on can bung you up. You do not want this. Getting constipated (also common post childbirth whether c-section or vaginal delivery) is a whole deal you want to avoid at all costs, and it contributes to more discomfort in regard to item 2. Also, when you're able to, walk around. This helps get/keep things moving.
  4. Dried apricots. Send someone out to get you some, and eat them by the handful. They will help you with item 3. Also they're a healthy source of energy and iron. And they're yummy. Much better than what passes for food from a hospital kitchen.
  5. Sleep when you can. Feel no guilt whatsoever in asking people to leave when you need to rest. This is one of the hardest things to do, but girl, you need your sleep. You may feel an irrational compulsion to check on your baby every five minutes or so, to make sure she's breathing or just to gaze at her beautiful little face. This is normal. But let it go and sleep if you can.
  6. The first time you look at your incision, it will seem big and ugly and kind of scary. Within a few weeks, as the stitches dissolve and the steri-strips fall off, and as your abdomen starts to shrink, the incision will get smaller, and less angry looking. What started out for me as the Joker's ghoulish grin carved into the top of my pubic area is now a small scar only three inches long that is gradually fading to match my skin tone (ie pasty fish-belly white).
  7. Shower as soon as they tell you that you can. This will make you feel more like yourself. And make sure you shower every day, even if nothing else gets done. Including housework and thank you notes. (Anyone who gets their panties in a knot about not getting a prompt thank you note from a new mom can go piss in the wind. Seriously.) It is shocking how hard it is to manage something as simple as a daily shower.
  8. You will sweat a disconcerting amount. This continues for the first week or so, then eases off. I remember waking up in the middle of the night literally in a puddle of sweat. This is how your body gets rid of that extra water you've been carrying around. And being on the IV for the c-section fills you up with even more fluid than your body would produce naturally.
  9. Speaking of which, you may be really swollen for the first several days. Drink lots of water. And even though you may not be able to tell at first when it’s time to pee, go as often as possible. Know that one morning you will wake up, be able to see your ankle bones again, and feel like you’re Audrey freaking Hepburn.

Okay, what did I miss? Any other advice for a new mom with a c-section? Feel free to leave a comment, or you can reach me at alexishinde at gmail dot com. I look forward to hearing from you!

*Edited for clarity, typos, to take out names, and to make self seem more clever.

19 March 2009

Things I Love - Bugaloo Shoes

Top 6 reasons why you should buy these shoes right now:

6. They're made in North America. To steal from this website: They're made for children, not by children. This dovetails nicely with what I've been reading recently as well as my own long-established prejudice/preference for buying from small business, more-or-less local, and hand made.

5. Free shipping (including international) with an order of 3 pairs.

4. Five percent of your purchase goes to Justice International Mission.

3. Cheaper by a significant margin than Robeez (which are now owned by a huge multinational and manufactured in the, to quote the nebulous term on their corporate website, Far East).

2. Excellent customer service, quick turnaround, and Heidi Wells answers her own emails.

And the number one reason to buy these shoes without delay:

1. The most important reason to buy any shoe, any time, for anyone: they are almost unbearably cute!!

I stumbled across the website almost by accident when looking for baby shoes on craigslist, and was impressed with the beautiful designs for both boys and girls, and the ease of placing an order. I chose the Sneakers (which I loved so much I ordered them in two sizes), and the Clives. When I got the shoes three days later (three days including shipping internationally), I was even more impressed. They're really well made, they fit well without being too tight or falling off, and they're even cuter in person than on the website. Whenever we're out and about The Boy never fails to get compliments on his shoes.

The Boy checks out his new footwear

Even better, Bugaloo is currently running a spring sale. Many of the shoes are only $14.

Note: I have no financial interest in Bugaloo Shoes, nor have I been offered free product or samples to write this review. Just like other reviews under Things I Love, I have found them myself or through the recommendations of friends, and used them in the real world.

14 March 2009

Things I've Read - Sleep Is for the Weak

In the last few weeks, I’ve been reading a series of books that have made me angry. So it was a pleasure to tuck into this lovely little book one afternoon as The Boy was napping.

When I first started this blog, I had no illusions that I was unique in my struggles and questions and daily triumphs as a new mom. I’ve lived long enough to know that if I’m thinking something, a whole bunch of other people are thinking it too. Advertisers count on this, it’s called demographics. What I did not know, however, was just how many women have taken to their keyboards and written exquisitely and unapologetically about their lives.

The thing about being a mom, especially a new, first-time mom, is it’s easy to feel alone. Despite caring friends and family, when it’s 3:30 in the morning and your beloved is sleeping and you’re trying to feed the baby and dammit breastfeeding hurts, you’re on your own. The Groundhog Day-like sameness to your days has you striving to be a better mom and person, without even the fun of a car chase. (Seriously, the chase scene in that movie is one of my favourites. Ever.) And conversations with your still-childless friends can leave you feeling pretty isolated. Not because of anything they’ve done or not done, just because they can’t possibly understand why it's such a personal triumph to get to the coffee shop, on time, with baby, both of you recently bathed and in clean clothes. No matter how supportive your partner, and even if you’re lucky enough to have friends with kids the same age, there are so many moments when you feel alone; when the enormity of the decisions you have to make every minute weighs on you almost unbearably.

So many of the child care books I’ve read are emotionally disappointing, discussing developmental milestones and common questions in a detached and impersonal, generic way. This book, however, is a quick read that is the cure for what ails you; the literary equivalent of hot chocolate or chicken noodle soup. (Or, you know, a gin and tonic. Whatever.) Comforting.

In this book you’ll find, as Stacy Morrison says in the Foreword, “…a story from someone just like you, or not at all like you, that will shine a light on something true you didn’t even know you needed to know until you found it.” These are fragments of the lives of women who have written honestly and unflinchingly about their parenthood experience, recognizing the joys of the process, but not glossing over the bits that hurt, that terrify, and that ultimately unite us. I was so moved as I read through the pages. Compassion for Jennifer Satterwhite, struggling to stay clean as she raises her kids, recognition as I read Amy Corbett Storch’s description of her visceral love for her son: “I feel like someone scraped off the top layer of my skin and created an entirely new little person with it,” and tears of solidarity as I read Kelli Oliver George’s advice for a new mom.

Get your hands on this book, or visit the websites of its contributors. I'll be adding them to the blogroll in the next few days and weeks.

05 March 2009

Things I've Learned - Pacifiers

The British call them dummies.

And that is how I was inclined to think of them, back in my pre-parenting days. None of this new age North American re-branded touchy-feely “soother” or “pacifier”. Back then, I was inclined to be judgy and sanctimonious about all manner of things. This is easy when you are completely ignorant about that which you are judging.

All I knew was that I hated the look of a soother in a baby’s mouth, and I swore that I would never use one.

You know what's coming, right?

We had The Boy.

I steadfastly stuck to my anti-soother stance for two entire months. How? Simple: I became The Boy’s soother. He was on the boob a lot in those first weeks. And a pinky finger inserted in a screaming baby’s mouth works wonders…

You know, except that you can’t really do anything else. An alarming percentage of your finger disappears into that little mouth. One arm full of wriggly, fussy little person and the other hostage to his need to suck pretty much precludes anything more complicated than asking your partner to order take-out for dinner. And the suction power generated by a newborn is impressive. If you could harness and redirect that kind of energy, you could probably restore electricity to the people of Iraq in short order. Seriously, my fingers at times felt quite bruised.Link
And you can’t not soothe your child. Not only does the sound of his crying make you crazy, but as a new mom, you’re terrified of creating the slightest disturbance or inconvenience for anyone, anywhere, any time, for any reason. No one wants to be the mom that everyone’s looking daggers at.

Which is why I broke down a couple of days before The Boy and I went to Provence for a two week holiday. A ten hour flight across nine time zones with an infant put the fear in me. I was so worried about being the lady on the plane with the screaming baby that I caved and bought a couple of soothers. Not to actually use, you know. Just in case.

As it turned out, The Boy was a perfect angel on the plane. It was once we’d been in France for a couple of days that he lost his mind one morning and was inconsolable. Even the magic pinky wasn’t working, and he was making such a racket I feared my generous and easygoing hosts might ask us to leave. (That never would have happened, but new moms are not renowned for clear and logical thinking…) Out of desperation, I popped one of the soothers in his mouth.

The Boy at 3 months

Ah, the bliss of sweet silence. It was unbelievable, amazing. Just like that, he was happy, sucking away contentedly, and making me feel like a complete bonehead for having been so stubborn for so long. Sigh.

The Takeaway:

  1. There are hills to die on. This is not one of them. It's simple: happy baby = less stressed you. Everybody wins.
  2. Look for BPA-free soothers with silicone teats. Silicone's less likely to crack and crumble than rubber or plastic, and is odor/taste free. Plus it just looks cleaner somehow.
  3. If baby prefers to suck their thumb, even better. Their thumb can’t get lost and is less likely to be dropped on the floor right when you need it most.
  4. We used a soother for about six weeks. When The Boy was 3 1/2 months old, we started phasing it out, using it only at nap/bed time, and then eliminating it entirely. By that time he’d learned to self-soothe and didn’t need it anymore.
  5. I’m still a judgy person, and I still hate the look of a soother in a baby’s mouth. In a toddler’s mouth bothers me even more. But if The Boy still wanted it, we'd still be using one.
  6. As it turns out, even a dummy can teach you a few things.

21 February 2009

Things I've Learned - Vaccinations

I realize I may be opening a giant can of worms, and that some people may be offended for religious or other reasons, but I feel very strongly about this issue and absolutely must take a stand.

There was never any question as to whether we would have The Boy immunized on schedule. The mumps outbreak in an unvaccinated group of children near Vancouver when The Boy was just over two months old served to underscore the importance of making sure he got his shots.

We in North America are so incredibly sheltered from the horror and heartbreak of diseases that killed children regularly a hundred years ago, and still do in the poverty-stricken regions of so-called third-world countries. My generation's collective memory does not include a time when it was common to lose friends and family to polio, diphtheria, tetanus and other (now) preventable diseases. For this, I count myself lucky.

Except luck has nothing to do with it.

A couple of generations of widespread vaccinations against these diseases is entirely responsible.

Here's a quick-in-layman's-terms description of some once-common childhood diseases. I'd be glad to protect my child from any one of them. Fortunate am I indeed that I can protect him against all of them...







The one study (of only 12 children) that concluded the opposite has been widely debunked.

Unvaccinated children that do not get sick are benefiting from the diligence of the rest of us. They can thank herd immunity. Not God. Science. Not their unique specialness in a benevolent universe. Modern medicine. Not luck.

Okay, rant over. The Takeaway:
  1. Vaccinations, especially the first one, are harder on mom than they are on baby. It's hard to see your little one cry for any reason. Steel yourself. It's important.
  2. My doctor, who I love, allowed me to nurse The Boy during his first two sets of shots. He pulled off the nipple for a couple of seconds and let out a lusty cry, then went back to nursing and within 30 seconds had forgotten all about it. I highly recommend this approach.
  3. If you're really concerned about fever and or pain, some physicians recommend giving your baby infant Tylenol before the appointment. We didn't do this, and it turned out not to be necessary in our case. But we are lucky enough to have a buddha baby who takes pretty much everything in stride.

17 February 2009

Things That Are Surprising

If this is patently obvious to you, it only shows that I am not very clever, not that I have that opinion of you! But if you are anything like me, you will find the following to be a surprise:

After you've given birth and no longer have a watermelon under the skin of your abdomen, you still can't sleep on your stomach.

I've always been a tummy sleeper, and I had a really hard time sleeping on my side for the last few months of my pregnancy. I basically didn't sleep for more than an hour or two at a time from about the five month mark. I would lie awake, remembering what it was like to roll over on my tummy and get some sleep. I was sooo looking forward to returning to my favourite sleeping position as soon as the baby was born. I would fantasize about how I would place my pillow, where my arms would be. I like to hook my toes over the bottom of the bed, and I would imagine what that would feel like when I finally got to do it again. By the time I was due, it felt like freedom would soon be mine.

And then I had a c-section.

No sleeping on the tummy with the pain of the incision as it healed. But I was looking forward to the worst of it being over and finally being able to sleep as I wanted.

And then the milk came in.

No sleeping on the Boobs That Ate New York. Not possible. My breasts, which had already swollen from a B cup to a D cup during my pregnancy, ballooned up to a DD+. Even if it hadn't hurt like hell to put pressure on them (never mind the leakage that occurred when I tried), the difference in altitude from head to toe would have made sleep highly unlikely.

Sigh. As much as I love breastfeeding, and will miss it when The Boy's weaned, I am dying to sleep on my tummy.

12 February 2009

Things I Love - gDiapers

Before The Boy was born, I was pretty sure I wanted to use cloth diapers. Using cloth seemed like a good fit, philosophically. As I've mentioned before, I couldn't stand the idea of creating tons of garbage with regular disposables, and cloth diapers are substantially less expensive. We found a local diaper service that was even cheaper than buying and laundering our own. We live in an apartment with coin-op washers/dryers - on top of the initial investment in supplies, it would have cost us $21/week to do a load every day. The diaper service, which includes drop-off, pick-up, and laundering with non-toxic cleaners, is only $18/week for 70 diapers. Regular newborn sized disposables at our local shops range from $14-$16/package for just 40 diapers. So it was an easy decision: save money and be an eco-warrior!

The only thing I was not looking forward to was a smelly diaper bag full of poopy cloth diapers whenever we were away from the house for any length of time. Ick. Then a co-worker, Rodney, asked me if I'd ever heard of gDiapers. (How he knew about them I don't know, as he has no children, but he's the kind of guy that just knows cool things.) I checked out their website, learned where they could be purchased in Vancouver, and decided to give them a try. I figured worst-case scenario I could always use regular disposables...
I loved them from the very beginning, and have been using them ever since! They are guilt-free disposables. Cute cloth outer cover, a snap-in reusable waterproof liner, and absorbent inserts that are biodegradable, compostable, and flushable. And no gaggingly cloying scent - smell is a big deal for me, so this is a huge plus. They're awesome! Even if I just wantonly throw them out, they don't clog up the landfill.

Eight months ago, when The Boy was first born, they were only available at specialty baby stores and health food stores, but they've grown in popularity so much since that they're now available at many drug stores.

It should be noted that we have also used regular disposable diapers, so I am able to do a direct comparison between regular disposables and the gDiapers. My son and I were lucky enough to vacation in Provence when he was two months old. Cloth was out of the question (who wants to do that much laundry on a holiday?) and gDiapers weren't available. For the first time in his life, The Boy was in Pampers. And for the first time in his life, he had diaper rash. And I was horrified at the amount of garbage we created in just two weeks. We've also used regular disposables on a couple of other trips, and for a while we used them overnight for their absorbency; we found that once The Boy was sleeping more than a couple of hours at a time, cloth diapers just weren't able to do the job. But we've now eliminated regular disposables entirely; we use cloth at home during the day, gDiapers when out and about, and gDiapers overnight.

The Takeaway:

gDiapers = no diaper rash (every baby's bum is different, but this is true for us)
guilt-free disposables
"little g" cloth covers are so cute!

a little more expensive and not quite as convenient as regular disposables
not yet available everywhere
subject to the same blowouts/fit issues as any other diaper

09 February 2009

Things I've Learned - Labour

This post was prompted by a conversation I had today with my cousin, who's due in March. We talked about many things: prenatal classes, visitors in the hospital and at home, nursing pads, bottles, breast pumps... There is so much to think about as you enter your final weeks of pregnancy, but looming large above everything else, is labour. Capital L Labour.

When I first discovered I was pregnant, I immediately read everything I could get my hands on. I tore through What to Expect and devoured Your Over 35 Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy. I bought my husband The Expectant Father and read it in an afternoon. (Of course he never even scanned the table of contents, but that's a rant for another day.) I read and read and read, and looked at websites, and lurked on forums, and asked friends. I was informed. With a vengeance.

Except that I realized, as our due date approached, that in addition to skipping the bits about c-sections and formula feeding, I had somehow glossed over all the information in my many pregnancy books about labour.

My husband is from a medical family. Dinner conversations as he was growing up were often icky, and graphically so, as his parents (both doctors) and his sister (studying medicine) discussed their day. As a result, he can handle just about anything, and laughs at my complete inability to deal. When I'm flipping through TV channels and chance upon surgery in progress on one of the learning channels, I practically break a finger I'm in such a hurry to get the channel changed. So as I read my pregnancy books, I would make one passing glance at a diagram of the baby in the birth canal, convulse with squeamishness, and turn the page. At the prenatal class I was the person saying, "Really? Do we have to have another diagram? Do we really need to know what that looks like?"

As the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy were upon us, and it became clear that I could, technically, go into labour at any moment, I finally knuckled down and read about it.

And then I put it out of my mind.

I dealt with the idea of labour by not thinking about it too much. I figured my body would do what it needed to do whether I was freaking out about it or not, and would probably do it better if I wasn't freaking out. As my friend Christa, a nurse who's worked a lot in obstetrics, once said to me,

"Listen to your monkey. It knows what to do."

I let that be my mantra, and stashed the (to me) unsavoury details in a dimly lit, cobwebby, rarely used corner of my mental library.

Our birth plan was simple:
Help me, and support my partner in helping me, to safely deliver a healthy baby.

Which is exactly what happened.

Except it wasn't at all what I expected or thought it would be.

And here's something that's true: none of that matters.

The Takeaway:
  1. Every woman's labour is different. Your expectations, your philosophy, and your choices will inform your experience, and comparing yourself to the woman you know who had her baby easily after three hours of labour will make you a crazy person. (Unless you are that woman, in which case don't step out in front of my car. I'm just sayin'.)
  2. Don't browbeat yourself with words like "natural". As I told my friend Stephanie who was concerned about being induced and that it wouldn't be a natural process "baby's born = natural". The rest is details.
  3. Within weeks of giving birth, the details of labour and delivery will start to become fuzzy. If we remembered every detail forever, a lot less women would go through it more than once.
  4. Labour is to parenting as wedding is to marriage. Labour is over quickly. (For some, more quickly than others, yes, but I'm talking about within the context of your entire lifetime.) Parenting is the part that matters.

04 February 2009

About Me

Me, at 5 days old

This is cross-posted from facebook. I was tagged, and dutifully replied and tagged others. It occurred to me that my 3 blog readers might like to know what makes me qualified to write about motherhood, so I thought I'd post these 25 random facts about myself. As it turns out, I'm not qualified at all!! Not that that has ever stopped me before...

1. I once lived on a small island in the Indian Ocean called Ile de la Reunion.

2. I play guitar and sing badly but loudly and with great enthusiasm.

3. I'm a control freak, but have learned to settle things with my husband with a coin toss. I lost the first toss and it almost killed me to concede.

4. I am afraid of all rodents, even hamsters. It's not rational, but there it is.

5. If money were not an issue, I would move to Paris and intern with a fashion house.

6. My ideal home includes a room just for musical instruments. In the south of France.

7. I love taking photos and someday hope to take a proper class on the subject.

8. I miss the film industry.

9. I never finished university and it bothers me every day.

10. I succumbed to vanity and started a blog.

11. I make really astoundingly good lemon meringue pie from scratch.

12. I'm terrified of looking foolish and try new things only through sheer force of will.

13. I have tremendous admiration for my husband, one of the smartest, most thoughtful and most compassionate men I've ever met.

14. I was the kid in kindergarten who made the whole class cry when I told them my mom said there was no such thing as Santa Claus.

15. I'm an atheist. I believe in the law of conservation of energy. The energy that makes up me, my body, will continue after I'm dead. Some people call that reincarnation, I call it science.

16. I wish I was funnier than I am.

17. I have a pretty good poker face, except when playing cards.

18. I suck at job interviews, but if thrown into a sink or swim situation, I rock.

19. I suffer from awful motion sickness. It was even worse when I was pregnant.

20. I secretly love "Can't Get You Out of My Head" by Kylie Minogue.

21. I have a really good memory for useless information. My husband calls me "GoogleLexi". You want me on your team for Trivial Pursuit. (Does anyone actually play that anymore?)

22. I am mostly fluent in French and proficient in Spanish.

23. I am fiercely loyal, sometimes to my own detriment.

24. Every time I feel sorry for myself, I turn on the TV and some 10 year old with a terminal illness has just accomplished something tremendous. I then feel sheepish, and then inspired.

25. I walk in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer every year because I dodged the cancer bullet myself many years ago and will never forget how scared I was.

03 February 2009

Things That Are True - Crying

The Boy crying at 9 days old

If you are anything like me, in the first weeks of your baby’s life, you will find the following to be true:

Your baby’s crying will turn you instantly into a deranged lunatic.

Blame the DNA: millions of years of evolution have fine tuned the new mother to respond immediately to the sound of her baby crying. And that’s a good thing – for the survival of the species. For your ability to deal rationally with your disconcerted precarious emotional situation (thank you Tom Waits), not so much. In the first few weeks of The Boy’s life, I became completely irrational every time he cried. If his crying went on for more than 15 seconds, I went completely around the bend. My need to make it stop was buried deep down in Lizard Brain territory; intellect played no part in my decisions. The sound of it put me so on edge that I simply could not deal with anything else until I made. the. crying. STOP. I became frantic – by the time he’d been crying for 30 seconds I was seriously unhinged. Nothing else mattered.

My husband started to quietly worry about my long term sanity.

When The Boy wasn’t crying, I was able to recognize, on an intellectual level, that my behaviour didn’t make sense; that no harm would come to The Boy, and I wasn't the worst mother in the world, if he cried for a minute or two. But the very second I heard that little sound (and when they’re newborns, it is, mercifully, a little sound) Lizard Brain took over again.

So I went in search of expert help: I asked my friend Sarah, who had two kids already, if she had experienced anything similar. She told me of a time when her firstborn was just a couple of weeks old, and she was driving on the freeway, husband in the passenger seat, baby safely ensconced in his car seat in the back. All was well until he started to cry. Sarah became so frantic that only her husband’s firm hand gripping her own prevented her from undoing her seatbelt and leaping into the back seat to comfort her son. While traveling in the driver’s seat down the freeway at 100 kilometres an hour…

The Takeaway:
  1. This is normal behaviour, as outlandish as it may seem. Show your partner this part, so he or she knows not to have you committed immediately.
  2. You are not alone. Every woman I’ve asked about this, regardless of their pre-pregnancy career and competency, has behaved in the same way.
  3. This too shall pass. You eventually learn what crying sound means hunger, which means gas pain, which is the result of overstimulation or tiredness. Your confidence as a new mom grows, and you begin the long trek back to sanity - which from what I'm told, doesn't end until your child has their first child...

31 January 2009

Shout Out - Canada Mom Deals

I'm thinking about my friend Stephanie.

She is 40 weeks plus 4 days along, and there have been no Twitter or facebook updates yet today. Did the spicy Singaporean food yesterday do the job? Or, like me when I went 3 days past my due date, has she simply grown weary of telling people nothing's happening yet? I actually changed the outgoing message on my cell phone to say, "Hi, you've reached Lexi. And no, we haven't had the baby yet." When you're so ready to give birth, having to reply "Three days ago," to the question, "When are you due?" or smile through yet another round of "Oh my God, you look like you're ready to pop!" can become a little irritating!

I'm hoping that Stephanie's radio silence means magic things are happening!

But this post is about somebody else entirely, although tangentially related as she's an acquaintance I made through Stephanie - one of her followers on Twitter: CanadaMomDeals

Lucia scours both the ether and old-school bricks and mortar in search of great deals for mom and baby focused products and services, and is kind enough to post the results of her hard work on her website and Twitter page. Please join me in welcoming her to Blogs I Love on the right!

30 January 2009

Things I've Learned - Breastfeeding and Formula

Before my son was born, I was absolutely, completely, without question, 100% committed to breastfeeding. I was so NOT interested in anything else that I skipped the sections in all the books about bottles and formula. Didn't even read them. "I'm not going to need that," I thought smugly to myself. I couldn't even wrap my head around why someone who could breastfeed would choose not to.*

I was so intent on breastfeeding that I wasn't even going to buy a pump to use for the occasional evening out. I was planning on being happily tethered to my child for at least a year, ready to sacrifice all to do the right thing.

The Boy was born on a Monday evening by emergency c-section (another part of the books I had skipped, so confident was I that I would be able to handle whatever childbirth threw at me). I was in post-op recovery for almost an hour before I was wheeled back to our hospital room to make our first attempt at breastfeeding. The Boy was a champion eater - although it was all new and a little scary for me, he latched on immediately like he knew exactly what he was doing. The nurse who helped us was satisfied that all was well and left us to it. I fed him from both breasts and he settled down for a sleep. I felt exhilarated, despite the pain from the c-section incision, the discomfort of the catheter (yeah, not so much with the fun there...), the exhaustion of 30 hours of labour (had I known it would end in a c-section, I might have skipped some of those 30 hours)... I had breastfed my child and that was a good thing. I continued to feed him on demand through the night and all the next day. He latched on well, and although it was painful it didn't hurt too much. In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I'd been leaking colostrum from both breasts like crazy, so I was feeling pretty confident about the whole thing.

I tell you this just to help illustrate how absolutely crushed I was when on Wednesday my milk hadn't come in yet. At all. And the colostrum I was producing wasn't cutting it. The Boy was losing too much weight and the doctor was concerned about his low blood sugar levels. He was, essentially, starving.

It was awful. A technician came in every six hours to poke his tiny little heels to draw blood for tests, which made him shriek in pain, and made me cringe in anguish. The Boy got so that if you put him in his bassinet at all, he would start to cry, anticipating the pricks on his feet. The nurses insisted that he had to drink some supplemental formula just to get enough nourishment to thrive.

The sense of guilt I felt was extreme. I wept. I sobbed. I felt helpless. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I was incompetent. I was terrified my milk would never come in. I thought, "There must be something wrong with me. I can't believe that two weeks ago I was running a multi-million dollar company, and now I can't even nourish my own child." I worried about the cost of formula and how that hadn't been part of the plan, budget-wise. I couldn't sleep; my mind reeled with fear, anxiety, and self-recriminations (none of which, by the way, are helpful in producing breast milk).

I was devastated.

The hospital was completely on board with my continued efforts to breast feed. Nurses helped me get physically comfortable and showed me various holds and techniques. They helped me work out a feeding plan, track feedings, and supplied supplemental formula to The Boy only after he had emptied both breasts, not as a substitute for breast milk. The Boy's blood sugar was so low that he kept falling asleep before he got a decent feed in, and they helped me wake him up to continue. They were really amazingly helpful. I can't say for sure, given my mental/hormonal state at the time, that I wouldn't have given up without this army of incredibly knowledgeable and supportive people mustering to my side to make it all happen.

They also did whatever was necessary to stimulate my body to increase milk production, putting me on domperidone (which sounds like champagne but isn't), a prescription drug that stimulates lactation.

Then they brought in a breast pump that was truly terrifying in appearance. It was a big, heavy, industrial-strength, shiny with chrome and metal thing from a 1950's science fiction pulp magazine that rolled in on its own wheels. (It looked a little like the big bullying older brother of the pump in the photo below.)

I was to use this scary piece of equipment to pump after every feeding, 5 minutes at a time, alternating breasts, for a total of 20 minutes each. It was completely overwhelming.

And my husband, through all this, felt even more helpless than I did.

They let us leave the hospital the next afternoon - with the formula, The Boy's blood sugar had stabilized. We had to rent a hospital-grade pump to use at home, and continue with the domperidone and the supplemental formula. I kept hoping to feel the engorgement of my milk coming in. I would gladly have traded the guilt of failure for the ache of too-full breasts.

My doctor referred me to the BC Breastfeeding Centre, and we went to see them on Friday morning. I'd had such hope for the appointment; after the amazing support at the hospital, I expected it to be a La Leche League type of experience. In fact it was a very clinical medical environment, and while I do not in any way doubt the vastness of their medical knowledge, the style of their practice did not suit me at all. I left the appointment in tears, feeling like I never wanted to breastfeed again. Once home I watched The Boy sleep, dreading the moment he would wake up and want to feed. Fortunately the public health nurse (who was totally. awesome.) was scheduled to visit that afternoon, and she talked me off the ledge. She told me,

"No matter what happens, the most important thing to remember is that your baby will be fed. He will not starve. Whether it's formula or breastmilk, he'll get adequate nutrition and thrive."

That simple statement allowed me to let go of the guilt I'd been beating myself up with, and to move on to practical matters and focus on doing what I needed to do to feed my child. Three days later, to my eternal joy, my milk came in, and I've happily breast fed since. I visited a lactation consultant who recommended a great nursing pillow (Things I Love review coming soon) and helped us achieve an optimal latch. Now, when I'm cranky and tired, feeding The Boy in the middle of the night, I just have to remember how hard those first few days were and everything shifts into perspective!

Eventually, many weeks later, I recovered from the trauma enough to buy a small, cute, quiet breast pump (a conscious choice that was as far from the hospital pump as possible) for the occasional evening out or morning when my husband, a prince among men, watches The Boy and I go out and do my own thing for a couple of hours. I love it. (Proper review in Things I Love coming soon...)

The Take-away:
  1. Don't be rigid in your expectations. I didn't expect a c-section, and it never occurred to me I'd have trouble breast feeding. Much heartache could have been avoided if I'd been more accepting of circumstances earlier than I was.
  2. Guilt is not useful. It paralyzes you and stops you from being able to see beyond your own failings. It makes it impossible to be pro-active.
  3. The hospital staff is on your side. They want you to succeed.
  4. Contrary to what I somewhat foolishly and naively believed, formula is not evil.
  5. Pumping breast milk is not abandoning your child.
  6. And breastfeeding is not as easy as it should be. How did the human race survive all those millenia?

*I'm in Canada, which has a very generous government-sponsored maternity and parental leave program. Having that full year of paid leave makes breastfeeding a lot easier. If I'd had to go back to work right away, I don't know how easy it would have been to pump several times a day...

22 January 2009

Things I've Learned - Fingernails

The Boy's fingernails at 8 days old

My boy was born with an impressive set of fingernails. After all, they'd been developing and growing for about 28 weeks. Within an hour of his birth, he looked like he'd gone ten rounds with a feral cat; babies will scratch the hell out of themselves without even being aware of it. We dug around in the go-to-hospital bag for the tiny mittens that had come as a set with a hat and booties. It never would have occurred to me to buy them on their own... We put them on him. This immediately stopped him from ripping his face to shreds, but looked kind of goofy. Actually, really goofy.

The nurse who came into our room to give him a bath the morning after he was born seemed like a friendly sort, so I asked her if the hospital had a set of infant nail clippers I could borrow to cut his nails. She matter-of-factly said, "Oh, those clippers are more trouble than they're worth. The easiest and safest thing to do is to just bite his nails off yourself."

I stalled. I honestly didn't know what to say. Bite them? Seriously? I'm supposed to chew on the ends of my baby's fingers? In the modern world, in a fully equipped hospital, this was the best science and technology had to offer? Really?

"Yes," she said. "Just bite them off while he's sleeping."


I couldn't do it.

Each time that I looked at my baby boy and saw how silly those little cream coloured mittens looked on him, every time I thought about biting his nails - which was often as he would really gouge at his face given half a chance - I just couldn't do it. It was too... weird.

At one point I managed to remove one of his mittens, gently take his little perfect hand in mine, and... quickly put his mitten back on and tuck his hand back under his blanket. I just couldn't do it. I don't know why. I wasn't afraid of hurting him - I knew I wouldn't bite the end of his finger off or anything like that. There was just something so... feral about the whole thing. So animal. I felt like next I'd be picking bugs out of his hair and eating them.

I'm not saying I was rational.

On the second day, I started a campaign to get my husband to do it. I wheedled. I pleaded. I even tried to order him to do it. (Yeah, that went over really well...) He didn't want to do it either, and all the while, The Boy's nails kept growing. His face would just recover from one set of scratches and we'd forget to put mittens back on and he'd claw at himself again.

In almost all our photos from the first few days of his life, he's got those ridiculous mitts on. We left the hospital three days after he was born, still needing a manicure. I just couldn't chew his nails. I was getting almost frantic about it. I couldn't bite his nails, yet I couldn't just let them grow and keep him in mittens for the rest of his life. Those mittens were starting to take on a significance all out of proportion; they were becoming a symbol of my epic fail. I was clearly the worst mother in the world.

Two days after we came home from the hospital, I just couldn't take the accusation of those mittens any more. My husband and I were sitting on the couch, exhausted. The day's visitors had all gone home, so it was just the three of us, The Boy sweetly sleeping in Daddy's arms.

So I did it. I took those damned mitts off his hands, and started to chew off his tiny nails.

And it was truly weird - a very Animal Planet moment. There's nothing like sitting in your fabulous apartment in the sky crouched over your sleeping infant grooming him with your teeth to really remind you that it doesn't matter if you read The Economist every week, you are really just a monkey deep down. His nails were so small that I couldn't even feel the bits I'd chewed off in my mouth. The Boy, of course, slept blissfully through the whole event.

A few days later, a friend gave us a care package that included some infant nail clippers. I have yet to use them... It really is easier to just bite them off.

  1. Baby fingernails grow ridiculously fast. I have to trim The Boy's nails every two to three days. Toenails, not so much. Maybe every two to three weeks. (I don't bite his toenails. That would really be too weird.)
  2. Take baby nail clippers with you to the hospital if you think you might prefer to use them instead of embracing your inner monkey.
  3. Be prepared to do things that never ever occurred to you.

20 January 2009

Shout outs (Shouts out?)

Quick shout out to my pal Stephanie who's due to have a baby any day now. Her blog is partly what inspired me to start my own. She's written so eloquently and honestly about being pregnant, about the hopes, fears, and questions that assail you throughout the process. I only wish we'd been pregnant at the same time so I could have enjoyed her writing as I was going through it too!

She posed a number of questions on her blog - questions I too struggled with during my pregnancy. It occurs to me that if we both had those uncertainties that there must be others with the same concerns. I hope to address some of the issues we both encountered during her pregnancy in the coming weeks here.

If anyone stumbling upon this blog has any pregnancy or baby questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Like I've said before, I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I'm just bursting to share what worked for me. While I was pregnant, one of my neighbours, Sinead, took it upon herself to be my very own pregnancy elf. I would come home exhausted from a day at work, and she'd have left a bag of maternity clothes at my door for me to borrow, or some healthy snacks, or books and magazines. When I thanked her, she said something that I've found to be true as well:

"Once you've been through it yourself, you just want to help another woman on the same journey."

Sinead's kindness was utterly selfless and much appreciated. I can't pay it back, so I'll attempt to pay it forward.

19 January 2009

Things I Love

This post was prompted by a conversation I had yesterday with a newly-pregnant friend. She's been collecting lists of must-have baby items and we were discussing some of them. It's my experience that at least half the items on any must-have baby list are not in fact things you must have. What you absolutely must have for a newborn is food (your breasts or formula), shelter (your home, including diapers), and love (your arms). And a car seat, or they won't let you leave the hospital and drive home. Everything else, no matter how convenient or attractive, is non-essential. So many of these helpful lists are compiled by companies, stores, or manufacturers who want to sell something to you, or by magazines who are currying favour with their advertisers. They all have a vested interest in making you think you need more than you do.

One of the things on the list my friend was looking at was a fancy counter top steamer. The helpful hint that accompanied the recommendation was that the steamer could be used not only for sterilizing bottles in the early days, but later on would be great to steam vegetables and make your own baby food. It was multi-purpose, thereby saving you from having to buy both a bottle sterilizer and a baby food steamer. Sounds logical, right?

Except that you don't need to sterilize bottles. A run through the dishwasher or a careful hand wash in hot soapy water is all that's required. And you don't need to buy a special steamer to make baby food - an inexpensive insert or dim-sum style bamboo steamer is more than adequate to cook anything you want. Or sterilize your bottles, for that matter.

It's always better to trust recommendations from other moms. They have no interest in selling you something you don't need, and they've actually used the product in practical, real-world situations.

With that, a new feature here on Wave The Stick: Things I Love.

It should be noted that I do not work for any of these companies, I don't own stock in them (but maybe I should!) and I've not been given free samples to review or promote. This is stuff I have heard about from friends or discovered for myself and actually use. I should also say that I welcome feedback if you've tried a product I recommend and love it too - or even more important, if you've tried something and didn't like it at all! Nothing works for everyone - I'd love to hear all perspectives.

The Bumbo Baby Sitter

It's a really fascinating and wondrous thing to watch your tiny human evolve from a helpless being completely oblivious to his environment, to an aware little creature observing his environment, to an engaged little guy interacting with his environment, to a very busy little person trying to effect change on his environment.

Until babies' eyesight develops enough to see beyond the distance from mother's breast to her eyes, they're pretty much oblivious to anything and everything else. You need to get right up close and personal for them to be aware of you. Toys don't mean much - heck, even their own hands float through their field of vision and cease to exist once they're no longer in view.

As eyesight improves and babies learn to hold their heads up, observing becomes a huge thing. They watch EVERYTHING. My son has always wanted to know about everything that was going on around him, and would get frustrated if he couldn't be a part of the action. He got bored pretty quickly with looking up at the ceiling all the time. That's where the Bumbo seat came in.

Here's The Boy, pictured in his Bumbo at about 3 1/2 months. It gave his little body excellent support, allowing him to sit up and watch the world before he could manage it on his own. There are no fussy straps or buckles, and it's really easy to get him in and out of it - but not easy for him to escape from himself, at least not yet! It's really easy to clean - a smooth surface with no nooks or crannies for gunk to collect in. Babies are shockingly proficient producers of gunk in various forms: spit up, drool (not the same thing), dropped food particles... Not to mention the unfortunate leakages that occasionally occur...

Once my boy was past simply watching what was going on around him but not yet able to sit up on his own, his Bumbo allowed him to stay upright while interacting with simple toys: rattles, wooden blocks (and whatever else was handy and not baby-toxic).

Now at 7 1/2 months, and really trying to effect change on everything around him - what I call the see-it-grab-it-eat-it stage - the Bumbo is really effective in limiting his grabbing range. Now that he can sit up and move around a little on his own, I use the Bumbo to curtail how much trouble he can get into. It keeps him just immobile enough that I can get things done, but not so immobile that he's shrieking to get out of it.

Excellent product, performs as advertised.
Retails for about $60 new.
Pretty indestructible. I bought mine used for $30 - it looks brand new.

17 January 2009

Navel gazing and good intentions

We live in an apartment in the sky. We’re on the 21st floor, looking out over one of North America’s largest urban parks. We have amazing 300 degree views of mountains, beaches, bridges, and our city’s downtown core.

Today is a foggy day – not only metaphorically, as there was precious little sleep in our household last night (a subject of another post), but physically, atmospherically, and meteorologically, it’s a foggy day. The fog is so dense that I can barely see the near edge of a neighbouring building 20 feet away. The far edge of the same building is lost in insubstantial whiteness. Other than the periodical sounds of fog horns moaning in the harbour, it’s very quiet. You would never know I was in the heart of a city of a million people.

As I neared the end of my pregnancy, this is what impending motherhood was like for me; looking out into the fog from the 21st floor. I knew in a vague way what was out there: vistas of endless possibility and potential, milestones and landmarks, astounding joy and desperate heartbreak, and a million people who’ve been there before. But it was all insubstantial. It was unclear and difficult to really visualize, no matter how much I read, and how many friends I talked to. There was the occasional fog horn, helping me to re-orient myself, and every now and then there would be a light breeze that would lift the fog just enough to let me see farther than I’d been able to before. Then the breeze would disappear, taking any certainty I felt with it.

Seven months later, it’s still like that in many ways.

I am an admitted control freak, so this is difficult for me. I like to know what’s coming. I read, I research, I ask questions, I arrange facts and figures in my brain to call on them when needed. I’m not very good at being a beginner. I was a successful career woman in my late 30s when my son was born. I had a role. I knew what was expected of me. I led, I made decisions, I was an expert in my field. There were very few foggy days.

Becoming a mom changed all that.

Here I am: a beginner.

Despite having read my own body weight in books about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, nothing really prepared me for that moment when I became someone’s mom. And it’s not just one moment – for me it’s been ongoing. Every day I’m a beginner again, because my son grows and changes so fast. The fog of uncertainty never quite clears. But I’m learning to be okay with that, which is a huge thing for me.

So I guess what I’m hoping to do with this blog is to be a sort of metaphorical fog horn or light breeze for other women going through some of this same uncertainty. I don’t pretend to know all the answers. But I’m enjoying learning the answers that work for me, and sharing what I’ve learned with the one or two people that might stumble upon this blog.

And I promise not to take myself too seriously, despite the earnestness of the preceding paragraph!

I received some very good advice years ago. I was at a very low point in my life, going through the last painful death rattles of a very bad relationship. I was in the ladies’ room at a friend’s wedding and having a lighthearted conversation with a woman I had worked with briefly and knew only slightly. Maybe she could sense that all was not well in my world, or maybe she made the comment in an offhand way, never realizing the impact it would have on me in that moment and for the rest of my life. She said this:

Just remember, when you’re going through a difficult time, that trouble is like a fog bank. Fighting it is pointless. All you have to do is just stand still and strong and it will roll through and past you and be gone.

Those words have come back to me often since I became a mother. Motherhood is many wonderful (so wonderful!) things, but it can also be difficult. Exhaustion, the helpless feeling of not-knowing, frustration – all can contribute to a sense of being lost in the fog. In the dead of night, when my son won’t go to sleep no matter what I try, when I’m just SO tired, when I’m angry at my husband for no rational reason, when a million things seem to conspire to make me want to give up, those words have reminded me to just stand still and strong. Morning comes, the fog lifts just a little bit in the form of my son’s happy grin, and I peer out the window trying to see what the new day will bring.

It’s been a hell of a ride so far.

16 January 2009

Things I've Learned - Diapers

Today, a post all about diapers.

Before I became a mom, I'd changed diapers. I remember my twelve year old self in a babysitting course dutifully learning to fold cloth diapers and pin them on a baby doll. Throughout my teens, I'd babysat. In my twenties, I looked after friends' babies from time to time. So when I became pregnant, I felt like I was a veteran. I was no stranger to the diapering concept. Everything else was foreign, but for this, I was dialed in.

Nonetheless, when it came time to change my little boy's diaper for the first time, I was all thumbs. There I was, in the hospital, in the middle of the night, surrounded by people (including my sleeping husband) but for all intents and purposes, alone. With this little person less than 24 hours old who needed everything from me. Daunting!

We had decided to use cloth diapers before he was born. People thought I was crazy (many still do!) but I wanted to try it. I just couldn't stand the notion of disposable diapers and contributing that much garbage to a landfill. If my son is going to leave a legacy, I thought, let him determine what it will be. Not a pile of feces laden indestructible plastic for the generations. I digress - I'll save that rant for a future post...

Digging out the cloth diapers and covers I'd packed so lovingly in the hospital bag almost a month before, I set to work.

Babies, unlike the doll in my long ago class, squirm. They've never worn diapers before. And they don't really like to be naked and exposed after all those months of being completely sheltered and warm at all times. So he squirmed. And he cried. And as he squirmed, equipment and supplies scattered. And as he cried, I became frantic, and made a messy situation messier.

Eventually I managed to get him diapered and swaddled and settled back into his bassinet. I looked around and took stock of my first real MOM experience. The room was a shambles around me. I had used every wash cloth they give you in your room in the hospital. My gown (I'd had a c-section) was askew. My hair was crazy-homeless-medusa style. My brow was furrowed. And sweaty.

An hour or so later, when the nurse came in to check on us, (by the way, don't expect to get ANY sleep in the hospital as there is always someone coming in to check on you) I learned that I could have just buzzed for her and she would have changed his diaper for me in about 32 seconds. But the sense of accomplishment I'd felt getting it done myself was worth it. And she was kind enough to tidy up what I'd scattered, and bring a fresh supply of wash cloths. And she did so without judgment, just a smile, telling me I was the only new mom she had ever encountered who did it myself without calling on a nurse. I think I beamed.

Since then my husband and I have changed over 2000 diapers. We're getting the hang of it.

  1. Pointer pointing down. If you have a boy, this is vitally important. If his penis is pointing up, he will soak his entire stomach and chest the moment he pees, no matter how absorbent his diaper is, and how waterproof the diaper cover. We learned this the hard way. There I found myself, struggling in the ladies' room of the Imperial to change not just his diaper, but all of his clothes as well.
  2. If you're using cloth diapers, keep in mind that wicks are made of cloth. When you think you're done with a change, before snapping up that cute onesie and putting those tiny pants back on, check all around the diaper cover openings: legs, front, and back. Tuck in any hint of cloth sticking out, or you'll find yourself in the ladies' room of the Imperial, changing not just his diaper, but all of his clothes as well.
  3. Diaper cream is messy. And sticky. And gooey. Put a clean diaper under your baby before you smear that stuff on. Or you'll find yourself in the ladies' room of the Imperial, wiping diaper cream off their marble counter.