This Year

We put up our tree early this year, and I’ve been sitting by it every evening lately, enjoying the soft glow of the white lights. I’ve always loved Christmas; that feeling of excitement in the air, the anticipation of a new year, the sense of togetherness with our friends and family. But now there is a bittersweet undertone for me, as there is to all things. My heart always asks quietly, “what if?”

Two years ago at this time, I was recovering from a miscarriage only months after losing our baby girl. I hated Christmas. I hated every happy, smug face. Every song. Every light. I cried at the Christmas Eve service, the only black-hearted congregation member, I am sure. I don’t know if I have ever been so angry in my life, not before or since. I didn’t want to decorate or even celebrate that year, but we had family coming to town and perhaps Danny thought it might do me good to dig out all my favourite ornaments. I eventually gave in, and I raged inwardly at that stupid tree and the holiday that should have been Haven’s first. 
I plastered on my game face, the one that said I was coping. Most people didn’t even know we’d been pregnant a second time, that tragedy had struck again so soon. But I smiled and faked my way to the new year, eating and drinking myself to distraction. Was it a healthy strategy? Definitely not, and I wouldn’t recommend it, but January came and I breathed a sigh of relief. 

Last year, I still felt at odds with Christmas, though I had some measure of hope kicking away in my belly. “Maybe,” I thought. “Maybe this baby will live.” I was still far too afraid to speak of when our son would come home. It was always if. Moving on New Year’s Day meant no tree and no decorating, so I wasn’t left much time to try and sort out my feelings. 2016 came and we took off running (I don’t think we have slowed down yet). 

Hope has come to rest in our home again, settling into the cracks. Even though I struggle with anxiety and fear where Nahum is concerned, I think about him growing up without feeling too nervous. This Christmas, I decorated my tree, smiling at Haven’s ornaments and stocking as I hung them. We took pictures of Nahum “hanging” his first ornament (read: attempting to eat it while Daddy held it). My heart has come closer to sorting out all the pieces that grief left me. Next year, we’ll fill Haven’s stocking with gifts for the less fortunate, and we’ll start new traditions with Nahum. We love our kids equally, and I’m starting to see how there can be space for them both, though parenting them is so different. 

I’d like to know, how do you incorporate your lost loved one(s) in Christmas (or other holiday) celebrations? Do you have any special traditions that involve them? 

What Maternity Leave is Really Like

**Before I begin, please don’t think I am not appreciative of the somewhat compensated year “off” that Canada gives moms (if they’ve met the qualifications). I especially appreciated my leave in those early months.**

Before I began maternity leave, I had this rosy picture in my mind of a happy year spent bonding with my baby and recharging from the stress and pain of the last several years. I was in for a real wake-up call. Here are a few of the things that have surprised me the most:

1) Loneliness and isolation. I am a homebody and an introvert, so when I say I am lonely and feeling isolated, well, that’s saying a lot. In my pre-baby mind, it would be easy to get out; I’d visit my mommy friends and we’d laugh and commiserate and I’d feel some sense of purpose and community. The reality is that naps are unpredictable and trying to match schedules with another mommy friend with a baby is nearly impossible. Most people need more notice than “NOW NOW NOW!” Our wee babe isn’t really great at sleeping at night either, so I feel housebound trying to keep him from being overtired before bedtime. His schedule always clashes with church, and unless something happens after bedtime (but before his first wake up), I usually can’t go. People don’t even bother inviting me out a lot of the time now. Since we have no family in the city, I don’t even have that connection (one that most people probably take for granted). 

2) Sleep deprivation. I truly didn’t realize how hard it could be. I can’t even imagine having a baby who sleeps through the night when three wakeups is a normal night for us. A bad night is four or five (or more). I also didn’t anticipate that my mental health would greatly suffer from the sleepless nights; even one bad night and I feel depressed and angry. I knew I’d feel tired when I had a newborn, but I am now almost 7 months in and I feel chronically exhausted. 

3) The Hormones. Need I say more? Between the sleep deprivation and my breastfeeding hormones, I am probably a real joy to be around.


4) Low self esteem.
I have had to admit to myself that my self esteem is at an all-time low. My days are filled with taking care of a baby, cooking and baking everything from scratch (to accommodate Nahum’s food intolerances), and sometimes getting housework done. It feels like I live the same day over and over and over again. My job as mom and housewife is thankless and generally goes unnoticed. I guess that is what it is to be a mom, but to be honest, I feel unimportant, irrelevant, and boring. I’m also used to contributing financially; even though my employment insurance money is like a paycheque, I feel like I am not doing something important (obviously I know taking care of my son is vitally important, but hopefully you know what I mean). 

5) Out of touch. It is kind of an awful feeling to watch everyone leave for work in the morning, knowing they will have conversations with other people, tasks that make them feel useful and smart. I didn’t think I would miss working so much, yet here I am. I don’t think it is the work I miss so much as feeling like I have something interesting to contribute, something to talk about that isn’t my child. I feel out of step with the rest of the world, like I don’t fit. 

Do you/did you feel this way? What helps/helped? Do you have any ideas to share?

Almost Seven Months

I can’t believe how the time is flying by. I said to a friend today that I wish I could somehow bottle this time so I could come back and visit it every now and then. I actually cried today thinking about how much I love Nahum and how quickly he is growing. I don’t want to forget his raspy “talking” voice, the smell of his fluffy head after a bath, the feeling of his pudgy little hands on my face, the gummy grins when daddy gently throws him upward, or the snuffly cries he lets out when I nurse him at night. He is sweetness itself. I know logically that there is so much yet to come in our parenting journey and I will love it all for different reasons, but I’m not ready to let go of these baby months yet. There are only a few left. 

I think about Haven often lately. I was online, buying some dresses for a young girl in the family yesterday, and it struck me that I should have been guiltily adding things to my “cart” for her too. The stocking we hang for her st Christmas should be full, like Nahum’s will be. I feel that I parent Nahum wholeheartedly and unreservedly, but there is always that bittersweet edge to it all, knowing that he shouldn’t be our only living child. I do think I love him more deeply than I could have otherwise, though; once you have lost a child, you know that there are no guarantees. I don’t take a single moment for granted. 

I’m not the best blogger lately; between cooking, cleaning, and caring for Nahum, there’s just not much brain energy left at the end of the day. But I do compose posts in my head, so that kind of counts?🙂

When Life Hands You Lemons…or an Immune Mediated Gastrointestinal Disorder

It’s always hard to know where to start when you’ve abandoned your blog for awhile, but I figured I’d start with what has taken up the majority of our time lately: Nahum’s guts. 

Around three months old, we started to see specks of blood in Nahum’s stool every few days, then it increased to every day, then every time he had a bowel movement. Sometimes it would be nothing but mucous and blood coming out. Imagine our distress! He’s had foul-smelling, green, mucousy poop since he was about 7-8 weeks old, but the doctor and public health nurse shrugged it off at the time. We now know that was likely the start of his problems (or it could even have been earlier than that; he seemed to have tummy pain when he was very small). 
A visit to the doctor revealed a likely diagnosis of Allergic Proctocolitis, or Food Protein Induced Proctocolitis of Infancy, which most often affects breastfed babies (it is a reaction to food proteins passed through the mother’s breast milk). The doctor told me to cut out milk products, which is the most common antigen, and come back to see her when we returned from vacation. I cut out soy at the same time (usually one goes with the other in these cases), but it soon became apparent that there was much more to the picture. We stumbled on his biggest antigen by mistake; we’d eaten a load of corn and corn products all week and Nahum’s poor little body was freaking out. It wasn’t hard to guess what the issue was, so farewell to corn. Chicken and eggs we cut soon after (guess what chickens eat a lot of?) and, finally, we recently realized that quinoa does a real number on him too (you can thank my love of leftovers for us figuring these things out easily; when we ate the same things three or four days in a row and Nahum’s body responded for three or four days, it made things pretty easy!) The good news is that most babies grow out of this condition by around a year or at least within the first three or four years, so he likely won’t deal with this well into childhood. Thankfully, we were able to sort a lot of this out relatively quickly and, though it took a solid month for the corn to leave my system, Nahum is now doing great! We haven’t seen blood in about two weeks and his stools have seemed pretty normal. We are SO relieved. 

I think the hardest part about all this, other than the stress of not knowing what was happening and whether this was a more serious condition or not, has been figuring out how to cook without using milk, soy, poultry, eggs, or corn (quinoa is not as difficult to avoid).  Corn is the most difficult of all to avoid since it is not required to be listed as an allergen and is hidden in all kinds of names, like citric acid. Read the label on pretty much every product in the store and you’ll see why I make all of our food from scratch now. A reaction can come from the smallest contamination (kind of like gluten for a person with celiac), so I have had to rethink the way we eat entirely!

Now imagine never being able to eat out (or to be putting a LOT of trust in the kitchen staff if you do), and having to make the time (out of thin air, it seems) to do all of that prep and cooking while raising a baby. And you have no family in town to help, your friends mostly have their own kids to raise, and your husband frequently travels for work. I spend nearly all of my time caring for Nahum, cooking/baking, or cleaning. Time to myself is at a premium, so I enjoy it to the full when it presents itself (some friends can’t understand why I don’t make plans with them, and it is 100% because I need that time to recharge!) 

This obviously affects me physically almost as much as Nahum, as I have had to adjust my diet so drastically. The silver lining, and the reason for the title of this post, is that our eyes have been opened where it comes to what we eat. I have cleaned up my diet big time and my health has improved because of it. I have lost so much weight (goodbye, pie) that I am down to the size I was before my first pregnancy (though, let’s face it, babies forever change our shape; mama still has “wobbly bits,” as Bridget Jones would say). 

So that is a big part of what has been going on! Other than that, our little guy turned six months old a few days ago (I can’t believe it myself). He is such an adventurous, inquisitive little goofball. We so enjoy watching him learn and develop his personality. 

Now and Always

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. We lit a candle to join in the worldwide Wave of Light event in honour and remembrance of little ones gone too soon. We remembered our two babies, especially Haven, and the little ones lost by so many family and friends. 

I don’t let my mind wander to my pain very often these days. I think I am just stretched so thin as it is taking care of our little guy. But days like this are good; they are a safe place in which to pull back the curtains and dwell for a spell on what is and what could have been. 

It wasn’t until our house was quiet this evening and my hubby left for an event that it really hit me. Tears filled my eyes as I took in all of the candle and remembrance photos on Facebook. I take part because I think it is important, but it hurts too; how empty it is to look at a candle rather than the soft face of my daughter. She would be two and a half years old now. I like to think of her trying to “help” with Nahum, getting into mischief, cracking toddler jokes. 

There will always be invisible holes in our family photos. Nahum will keep growing, but Haven will forever be a baby in our memories. We’ll never even know whether our second baby was a boy or a girl.  My mind has a hard time sorting it all out, even now. I don’t think it will ever be able to fully grasp and accept that she is gone, that we barely even got to enjoy that second baby until he or she was gone too. 

Thinking of you today, sweet babies. Mama loves you now and always. I’ll never, ever stop missing you. I hope you are happy and warm wherever you are. 

The Diaper Disaster

I posted this on Facebook the other day and thought I would share it here too! 

…………

I can usually change a diaper in near darkness at night in a couple minutes flat. Amazing how one variable can change it all… 

The Diaper Disaster

Step 1) Open sleeper, open diaper (avoiding windmill legs and while comforting screaming baby). So far, pretty normal. 

Step 2) Is that a little poop? Reach for wipe. No biggie. 

Step 3) Wait, why does my hand feel wet, and my arm, and leg…ahhh! Quickly cover the source. Phew! No harm done, just a little damp.

Step 4) Crap, that was the last diaper. Let’s lay grouchy baby back in the crib while I run downstairs for supplies.

Step 5) Okay, back upstairs, pick up the little Wookie, place him on the change table…why is my sock so wet? Excellent, I have just mopped up a stray pee puddle with my foot.

Step 6) Back at it. New diaper applied, sleeper zipped.

Step 7) Pick up the still screaming infant. Annnd the back of his sleeper is soaked! Guess I didn’t catch the rogue stream as well as I thought. Good thing I have spare jammies right here.

Step 8) Okay, one hand in the sleeper…dammit, that is a leg hole. Okay, rotate, hand in – ANOTHER leg hole! OKAY, sleeper totally rotated, arm in, leg in, other leg in, arm in…are you kidding me?! The sleeper is somehow still on sideways. 

Step 9) Fix sleeper, comfort the wee wailer, who is now clean and dry.

Step 10) Feed the baby. Baby lets out a toot while he’s eating. Ohhh, no you don’t! 😳

Sweet Times

I’m not sure when it happened, but we’ve settled into a nice groove. This stage has been so fun as we get to know our happy go lucky boy and he blossoms into his own particular person. He turned four months a few days ago and I could hardly believe the growth since his three month milestone, physically and in every way. 

I was completely obsessed with him napping independently for awhile, but I finally realized it was pointless to try and “make” him do anything at four months old. Now I have resigned myself to him taking his naps in my arms and I think I might even kind of like it. How much longer will I be able to look down at that sweet face with his petal lips parted slightly, apple-breath hitting my arm, long lashes brushing his soft cheeks? I stifle laughter watching his sleep grins and comfort him with my milk when he wakes too early and needs some coaxing back to his dreams. No, it may not be convenient, but I don’t mind.

I feel needed, vital, and it is such a wonderful thing. I remember all too well how utterly useless I felt in the aftermath of Haven’s death, as though my whole being had become void in her absence. Now I have a purpose and I revel in it while it lasts.
Where night feeds used to be draining, I find myself soaking them in most times now, despite the exhaustion. I smile in the dark as Nahum grips my thumb, getting his fill before hitting the crib again. Danny and I laugh as he pounds the mattress with his tiny heels, squealing with delight. My heart swells watching his pudgy little belly rising and falling on the monitor. When we go to the nursery in the morning, we’re always greeted by the biggest, gummiest smile and his contagious, gasping laughs. All his limbs are going at the same time as though he might burst from the excitement. He is kissed countless times through the day! It’s the surest way to get a smile or a giggle. He anticipates daddy’s bristly kisses with a wide open, drooly mouth. We can’t wait to get kisses back!

I will be the first to admit that the first two months did not find me at my best and I struggled with motherhood and my role as primary caretaker for a tiny human who seemed to be made up entirely of urgent needs. I don’t feel guilt over that, because I believe I was doing my best to survive when we had a lot of challenges right off the bat. But now we are past survival and into the stuff of daily life; it has finally sunk in that he is here and he is ours and our wee family has become a bit more whole.

I’m head over heels for my little son. These are sweet times indeed.