The Happy 14th

I was walking through Dollarama a few days ago, looking for a household item, when I saw a big Valentine’s display. I am a bit of a magpie, so I went down the aisle. Stickers! Cute, pointless, heart-shaped things! I reached out to take a themed bib off the wall, when my hand froze. How could I have forgotten in that moment what Valentine’s Day means in our household? In 2014, it was the day we found out our baby girl was gone. The day I screamed and sobbed, feeling such shock and grief that it was almost like I was outside my own body. 

I don’t believe that to remember those lost means living in that same moment of trauma all the time, but I did feel momentary guilt that I forgot for a second the little girl who we left at the hospital on February 16th, after she was born, after we said goodbye. Who we buried four days after that. Whose gravestone I can barely bring myself to visit (insert more mother guilt here). 

It’s all so bittersweet; I could never have considered buying that bib if it wasn’t for the joy of raising my boy, Haven’s little brother. My happiness does colour the way I remember and celebrate my girl now. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it is probably really healthy. All the same, I left the bib there, and we won’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day…at least not this year. 

Best Intentions 

I am always composing posts in my head, but so few make their way to my blog. I naively thought that mothering a baby would get easier as time went on (pause for laughter…and carry on), but now that my wee one has become a crawling machine, I pretty much spend my days chasing him around. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE it, but by the end of the day, I usually only have brain power left for my guilty pleasure fashion app or some internet Scrabble. 

Since I’m here, I might as well write an update! The kid will be growing a moustache before I manage to post again, I’m sure (though if he takes after his dad, he could be like four years old when those whiskers make an appearance…haha). 

Christmas was really fun. Not only did we get to spend a lot of time with family and friends we normally don’t see often, the day itself was really sweet. Nahum mostly tried to eat wrapping paper, and probably succeeded. It was a quiet, lovely day with just the three of us, then we spent lunch and the evening with friends. I’m already looking forward to next year. It was bittersweet, as everything is, to see Haven’s stocking hanging up next to Nahum’s, but I plan to find a way to include her more in our celebrations in years to come.

Nahum is now NINE FREAKING MONTHS OLD. How?! He’s sleeping much better these days (cue angel song), and that means I am feeling much more human. I also started a short sewing class, and that is really helping me feel like ME again. 

Parents are always asking, “where does the time go?” I’m not really sure, but I do think the day to day routine is partly to blame; each day is so similar that literally dozens can go by before you realize it. 

And that is my update. The TL;DR version is just that things are good, and I’m really happy at the moment. (It is so nice to write that). 

Boy Mom Probs

I get that it’s a small problem, and there are greater things I could (and can) take issue with, but whyyy do 95% of boy clothing articles have to advertise that the wearer is: 

1) Good with the ladies (seriously?)

2) Just like Daddy.

3) Someone’s cutie.

4) Handsome.

5) Strong.

6) Into heavy machinery. 

I personally love solid colour or simple patterned items, but they are surprisingly hard to find. 

Okay, little gripe over. 

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 Allergic Proctocolitis

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.