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Out and about

Today I had a doctor’s appointment in Fredericton, our province’s capital, and spent the rest of the day shopping with my seven month old son.  As a young mother and son that live in the country, we don’t usually have exposure to that many people and things in the run of a few hours so, when we do, it’s fun to note the odd and unusual. 

Here are a few notes to some of the people (and things) that we ran into today. 

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To Michael’s … I heart you.  I do.  Every aisle  – the overpriced baskets that scream “fill me”; the undecorated wreaths that beg to be adorned with something special; the unpainted wooden and ceramic items that are just dying for a shiny coat of paint; the multitude of fake flowers that are more expensive than the real thing; and, my latest artsy inclination, the cutters and colors and cake pans that are ready for the next savvy baker with a fancy cake in mind.  Yes, every aisle beams with crafty potential and makes me giddy.  (I will admit to your one downfall, though – much of you is bloody expensive.  I can’t believe people spend $30 on a package of scrapbooking paper – thank goodness I haven’t been sucked into that crazy vortex).

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To Winners – I visit you often and am very fond of you (don’t get me wrong) but I always leave you wanting to spend a month’s salary on lottery tickets.  I look longingly at your fancy decorations and clothes but usually leave with a couple of items from the clearance rack.  C’est la vie when you’re working with maternity benefits, I guess. 

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To every woman (and the couple of men) who stopped me to talk to Oliver – blonde, brunette, blue haired, young, old, walking, running, sitting, shuffling, shopping – he attracts you all like cheesy magnets to a refrigerator.  And yes… he is adorable, isn’t he? 

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To the hospital  – I wish I had known that 2 pm was the absolute worst time to enter the parking lot (due to lack of spaces) and that 3 pm is the absolute worst time to leave the hospital (due to lineup to leave the parking lot).  Now I know. 

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To the lady in Admitting wearing the banana clip – come on!  That went out of style at least 15 years ago – you’re not even pretending to try!  Maybe I should have checked your pants for stirrups. 

 

 

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To the doctor I saw today – You’re friendly and all.  And I know it’s a distraction to have my son in the room with us so thanks for appeasing us young mothers travelling to your hospital.  But using my stirruped legs to hide behind during a game of peek-a-boo with him … well, I’m not sure I even have the words.  Oh wait, yes I do – what the hell?!  (I wish I was kidding.  Sadly, I was distracted enough by why I was there that it didn’t occur to me how out-of-a-sitcom this was until after I left.)

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To the man that pressed the elevator’s “Down” button even though he saw me push it and even though he saw that it was lit up – I’m truly sorry that you touching the button a second time didn’t magically make the frigging elevator appear frigging faster!  It seems you don’t have some sort of Midas-like connection with the Otis gods. 

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To the used clothing stores – Well… thank goodness for you.  I’m not opposed to buying new things for my son but will never understand why some people insist on having everything brand new.  Why pay $30 when you can pay $6 for something that was worn twice? 

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To anyone who saw me breastfeeding publicly today – thank you to those who smile sweetly and get it.  I know we like to think our society is progressive enough not make a big deal out of it, but it is still a head turner for some (hell, it’s a grimace/sneer/aggravation for a few).  Don’t you worry, though, because we breastfeeders are on it.

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To my baby boy – you’re so much fun to shop with.  I know many would shudder at the thought of schlepping their infant son to malls and big box stores all day long but not me.  I love that you are so smiley and good natured and happy most of the time.  And I love even more that people seem to be so attracted to your smiley good nature. 

It makes me smile and makes for an awesome day out and about.

Why is it that I only ever think of a good idea for a blog post when I am nowhere near my computer? That and vacation and life with a 6 month old has kept me from writing in recent months. Of course, this is just one of the so many things in my life that are different since having my son (like sleeping patterns and the time it takes to get ready to leave the house).

I saw an interview with Edie Falco a few months ago. I wish I had an exact quote but she said the one thing about having a family that she wasn’t prepared for was the selflessness that is involved. This really hit a chord with me.

You’re prepared for this complete shift in priorities in some ways, of course… like the middle-of-the-night feedings and working around the baby’s sleep patterns. These are things people can prepare you for. These are things that people talk about. You know they’re coming and when they do, you just whip your breast out or rub your tired eyes and you do what you have to do.

And there are always the jokes about how you won’t matter when the baby gets here and that you’ll always come second to this little person. You laugh … ha ha … and then you lay awake at night and start to really think about all the ways your life will change and wonder if you’re ready for your focus to take such a left turn.

But you really cannot begin to grasp the concept until you’re living it.

It’s more than planning your day around naps and breastfeeds. It’s more than feeling sleepy for months (years?) on end because you’re awake when the baby is. It’s more than ordering iced tea at a restaurant instead of the three beer that you really want. It’s this whole shift of ‘self’.

The past six months I am feeling like I’m not even sure who I am anymore. So much of me has changed… many of my daily activities have changed, either because I can’t do them (like having a few casual drinks) or they don’t fit into my routine anymore (like getting in a good workout). I don’t have time for hobbies that I enjoy. When I get half an hour to myself, it’s not to take a nice bubble bath with a glass of wine but to do a load of laundry. I’ve gone four days without a shower (more than once) because I chose to have a nap instead of clean myself when a spare hour came along. Anyway, my point is that a lot of those little things that made me ‘me’ before becoming pregnant are gone; they just don’t fit into my life anymore.

So what makes me the new ‘me’ then?  I’m a woman and a wife and a friend and I know they’re in there but it’s suddenly really hard to see past the breast feeds and diapers and put my finger on this new identity. It’s even harder to see past the piles of laundry that never end and the three household chores that I do over and over again. Suddenly, I’m ‘mother’ and it’s really easy to get to the end of the day and think, “All I’ve done all day is clean up puke and change poop and where am I in all of that?”. 

Yes, I expect that I will get back to some of those old things… some day. But in the meantime, I feel a little lost. Becoming a mother sometimes feels like you’re taking bits of yourself, chucking them to the side, and inserting these new unfamiliar (and sometimes uncomfortable) “mommy bits”.  I won’t say the other parts of you die because that sounds morbid and regretful but you really do have to do some tweaking and massaging to get those “mommy bits” to fit into your idea of you.

So yeah, some days I feel a little lost and confused and am not sure where my ‘self’ is headed. But other days I feel like I’m sliding into that mommy role easily and doing it well. I guess I just keep hanging onto those days, the ones where I think I might actually be doing something right, and hope the ‘me’ that comes out the other side might just be ‘new and improved’ after all.

I had a near perfect pregnancy… no morning sickness, no problems with the baby, all tests were normal.  Other than a little heartburn, swelling, and carpel tunnel at the end, my pregnancy was really easy and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

My body responded so well to pregnancy, I assumed the transition to motherhood was going to be as easy and happen as smoothly.  I was still reading plenty of books and articles but what I was reading was the same advice over and over again and seemed so obvious.   And as the final weeks of my pregnancy ticked down, I felt little fear about what was to come.  It was all just going to fall into place, just like it was supposed to. 

The first few days at the hospital were just that:  everyone smiling, on cloud nine, emotions soaring.  I was drowning in oxytocin as I laid next to my baby in bed and sang to him in the middle of the night.  It was directly out of a fairy tale.  And then we moved home. 

Oliver would not sleep in his own bed, no matter what we tried, so I was spending nights with him on the couch.  Lack of sleep was making both our emotions run in every direction and sometimes smack into each other.  Breastfeeding was painful and hard to correct after not starting out correctly.  All of these things that should be coming naturally were so difficult.  With a screaming baby in my arms and tears running down my face, I questioned myself as a woman and as a mother.  I wondered if there was even an inkling of motherly instinct in me at all.

The raw, ugly truth is that I wondered if I had made a mistake by having this baby.  More than once, through his cries, I would apologize to him for not being what he needed.  I honestly thought that he would be better off with someone else raising him because I didn’t seem to have a clue.  In a particularly bad moment, I told my husband in all sincerity that we should give him away to someone who knew how to handle him. 

To top it off, I felt so alone.  I felt terribly ashamed for feeling so frustrated and for feeling anything other than love for my son.  I felt guilt for struggling to provide the basic necessities for him.  And I was certain I was the only woman in the world to feel this way.  In all my reading and classes, I had never heard of such a struggle so I must be the only one on, right? 

Imagine.  Our household was an emotional mess for several weeks.  My husband, the patient saint that he is, put up with so many tears (from baby and me) and emotional ups and downs that it’s a wonder he’s still here.  Gone were the love hormones that swirled around us in the hospital and here were were the kind that made me cry at the drop of a hat, the kind that made me doubt myself so fiercely. 

It’s messy, I know, and not what you expect when talking about a new addition.  And I know there are some of women out there that will gasp at some of the above, specifically those that DO just fall into motherhood without skipping a beat.  But it’s the way it was and I’m not going to sugar coat it.

 As my hormones were brought under control, I realized that I really wasn’t the only woman to feel this way but no one ever talks about it.  There is this shiny, happy bubble put around a new baby (that is perfectly accurate in some aspects, don’t get me wrong) that keeps people from speaking frankly about their experiences.  Anything less than perfection is stifled to keep up this perception of the perfect new family. 

Personally, I think that mothers (especially new mothers) need to speak more frankly about their experiences.   This is my start and will continue to be my motto as I write here.  My hope is that a new mother will stumble across this blog during a particularly painful feeding at 3 am and realize that she’s not alone.  It does get better. 

The breastfeeding turned around (we’re champs now).  We used the Baby Whisperer techniques to get Oliver on a routine and into his own bed at night (highly recommended from this camp, by the way).  All of these things just fell into place and every day continues to get easier.  And I have loved my son since the moment I saw his purple, wrinkled, little forehead on the bed in front of me… don’t let the words above make you think otherwise … and love him more every single day.  After all, he’s the reason I’m here, my purpose.

After a lengthy and somewhat unplanned blog break, here I am to brag about my son, Oliver!   

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I can’t begin to explain how my world has changed since his arrival. During the nine months of pregnancy, you hear so many people say how different things will be and how your life will never be the same and all you can do is roll your eyes and mutter, “Uhh… eee-yeah, no kidding”. But then the baby comes and suddenly your life changes in ways that you couldn’t imagine and in ways you certainly didn’t see coming and that couldn’t be described with a hundred adjectives and adverbs. You remember life as a twosome but you wonder how you ever felt complete because you can’t imagine life without this little person in it.

I’m not saying it’s all easy and fun though. Don’t get me wrong; having a child is a wonderful high that is really great and makes me feel happy and loved and important but I’m not going to be the mother that pretends every moment is glittering and glowing and all smiles and roses (I’m sure there are mothers that have that experience but I think that most don’t). It is a huge adjustment and just plain hard sometimes! Falling into a rhythm and routine takes a lot of work that no one really prepares you for (who knew you essentially have to teach a baby to sleep?). While the mechanisms of breastfeeding are very natural, learning how to breastfeed involves a huge learning curve that often involves a lot of pain, a lot of emotion, and even a lot of tears. Frustration is at its peak when you are pacing the floors, rocking a crying baby that you only want to be comfortable but that you can’t seem to soothe. You question your instincts, your sanity, and every bit of common sense that you have.

I’m realizing that, while it’s great to go on about the good moments, it is equally as important to talk about the not-so-great moments. A new mother can easily feel lost and alone while feeding at 4 am and for the third time that night. You can feel like the only one who is experiencing . You can feel guilty when your thoughts and feelings stray from everything frilly and pretty. Moms need to share their experiences with each other from birth stories to potty training.

So I’m going to write about it all… the ups and downs, the good and bad.  I don’t intend for this to become a “mommy blog” but I am so immersed in motherhood that it will inevitably play a part in my writing from here on out.  I feel like I have some catching up to do. 

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I feel fine.

Every day I am tempted to get a shirt printed with the following list of answers to the questions that seem to go part and parcel with my big baby belly: 

 

  • I feel fine.  Chances are I will feel fine when you ask me tomorrow too but ask anyway because I really want to tell you about every ache and pain and twinge.   

 

  • February 18th.  I would possibly add to that “Oh, well that’s nice” when told that their daughter/niece/cousin/father-in-law’s/next door neighbor’s birthday is February 2/12/24/6/19/27th. 

 

  • No, it would not be cool if my baby is born on February 14th.  I personally think it would be a real drag to have your birthday on any holiday, let alone the most commercial and meaningless holiday of all. 

 

  • No, I don’t know whether it is a girl or boy.  That’s nice that your daughter/niece/cousin/father-in-law/next door neighbor found out though. 

 

  • No, the nursery is not ready.  But you’ll be the first to know. 

 

And this three-parter: 

  • Yes, of course we have some names picked out but no, we have not decided.  I never once even considered picking out baby names before the prospect of having a baby was real.  I will decide what to name my child when I have spent a little time with him/her. 

 

  • It’s none of your business.  In response to the inevitable question of what my name choices are. 

 

  • “Mmm hmmm, that’s nice” to a) the list of names that you will inevitably tell me you like and b) the name that your daughter/niece/cousin/father-in-law/next door neighbor decided on. 

 

It is nice that so many people seem concerned about my wellbeing these days but for the love of pete!  I am getting asked the same four questions by everyone I meet, not excluding strangers (cashiers, co-workers I’ve never met before, and random shoppers at the grocery store, to name a few).  And it’s worse when you actually know the person a little bit.  I swear the same five ladies at work ask me the same four questions at least once a week. 

It gets old after 35 weeks.  That’s all I’m sayin’.

My niece was full of wonder at my big ole pregnant belly when we visited on Boxing day a couple of weeks ago.  Honestly, so am I but it’s a lot cuter coming from a three year old.  

“What is that big belly for?” she asked, several times through the day. 

Her mother and I would explain that there was a baby growing in there, just like she grew in her mommy’s belly.  She would look at me funny but seemed to accept the explanation and went on to the next Christmas toy, only to have the same question pop up again an hour or so later. 

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Fast forward to bedtime, laying on her bed and reading a story. 

“What is that big belly for?”, she asked again.

“Remember?  I told you there’s a baby growing in there!  A new cousin for you that you’ll be able to meet in about two months”. 

“Why?”

“Well, the baby needs to grow in there a little bit more.  You remember how big baby Lucy was [another cousin who recently visited]?  The baby needs to grow almost that big before he comes out and meets you”.

She put my hand on my belly and I said, “Sometimes I can feel the baby move in there”.  

“Why?”

“Well, because someitmes he needs to stretch and he pushes on my belly because there’s not a lot of room in there”, I responded. 

She looked at my belly, the gears in her mind grinding away.  “Poor baby”, she said, realizing how cramped the baby must be in there. 

And back we went to the story book, me thinking that her curiosity was satisfied.  A few moments later she abruptly pulled up my shirt and began looking at my belly again, putting her hand on it.  I thought, “How cute!  She wants to feel him move!”. 

But then she put her arm up in the air and came down on my belly with a big ole slap that smacked out really loudly!  I’m still not sure what was going through her mind to make her do that but her face wasn’t angry or upset so all I can imagine is that it was still curiousity and her way of saying hello.  All I could do was laugh and then she laughed and we went back to the book. 

A few minutes later she said, “How will the baby come out of there?”. 

I said, “Well … ” and I looked at her and back at the book.  Then I looked at her.  And then back at the book. 

All the while I was thinking that really the only two explanations were a) the bellybutton, which is freaky enough to give her alien-like nightmares (even to a 30-year-old) or b) the truth, which seemed a little deeper than I wanted to get with her over Dr. Seuss. 

So I just ignored the question and we went back to the book.  When I went back downstairs, I gave her mother a good warning of the questions she was going to get the next day.  Apparently she didn’t but she DID go around all day sticking her belly out and saying she was me. 

Too frigging cute.

I’m not very good at being introspective because I’m too easily distracted.  When I came across this list, I thought it was a concise and easy way to look back on the year.  It’s nice to look back before moving on… sort of a breather before we start this all over again. 

2009 is going to be a big one. 

 

Where did you begin 2008?

In my living room.  If I remember right, I had woken up about 11:30 pm to find Hubby ringing in the new year with snores from the next room.  How will this year rate on the excite-o-meter?! 

What was your status by Valentine’s Day?

Married. 

Were you in school (anytime this year)? 

No school for me, other than in the high school auditorium for choir rehearsals and concerts. 

Did you have to go to the hospital?

I’ve been in for many prenatal appointments since May (Yes… my address is still the same!)

Did you have any encounters with the police?

Not in the last year, unless the parking police count.  I’m pretty sure I remember Hubby getting a speeding ticket though. 

Where did you go on vacation?

Hubby and I went to Cuba in early May.  It was an awesome trip.  We also did a family trip to Grand Manan Island. 

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What did you purchase that was over $500?

Hmm … hardwood flooring, trip to Cuba, Hubby’s scooter, a little more of our house by way of a mortgage payment.  There must be other things but I can’t think of them. 

Did you know anybody who got married?

One wedding… cousin Craig.  The first wedding since being 19 where I wasn’t able to drink and dance it up.  It was still a good day, though. 

Did you know anybody who passed away?

No funerals but attended a couple of wakes of acquaintances. 

Did you move anywhere?

Nope.  But my friend Randy did… <sniff>. 

What sporting events did you attend?

Do curling funspiels count? 

What concerts/shows did you go to?

Hubby took me to the NB Symphony for my birthday.  He’s such a sweetie! 

What has/have been your favorite moments?

Finding out I am pregnant tops the list for sure (although trying to get pregnant ranks right up there too).  Feeling Cletus’s first kick and seeing him on the ultrasound are other favorites. 

Some favorite Cuba moments:  Smoking a cigar on the beach, skinny dipping, and swimming with the dolphins. 

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They were all pretty awesome, as was whale watching in Grand Manan. 

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What’s something you have learned about yourself? 

My body digs being pregnant.  If only I could make money doing this…  

Any new additions to your family?

Well, technically … yes, Cletus counts, but we also met a new nephew on Hubby’s side and a new cousin on my side.  God, our families are fertile! 

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What was your best month? 

Probably May-June because we were in Cuba and found out in early June that we are expecting. 

What music will you remember 2008 by?

2008 was the year of New Music Monday.  There are plenty from that bunch and I can’t really pick just one but thanks to cool cousin Joe for giving me all of those choices. 

What do you want to change in 2009?

Change is coming all on its own.  I’ll just be working on figuring this mom stuff out. 

Overall, how would you rate this year?

Not too shabby at all. 

What would you change about 2008?

Nothing.  Well, maybe I would have got pregnant a month earlier so I’d be having my first before I turn 30. :)

Other than home, where did you spend most of your time?

Lame-ass work (how many days until mat leave?).

Change your hairstyle?

Yes.  I went from long and curly to short and … well, there’s no escaping the curly. 

Get a new job? 

No, but I did take on the chairman position at the local curling club, which is pretty much a second job (except for the lack of paycheque).  

Be honest – did you watch American Idol?

My God, no.  Seacrest choke. 

For the record, I don’t watch any of those “You obviously can’t dance” shows or the ones where they set up bachelors, bachelorettes, momma’s boys, geeky losers, or washed up bands in a mansion to pick from a flock of bimbos.  Not for me. 

Start a new hobby?

Other than lifting weights and staying pretty faithful at the gym, no.  I have so many hobbies now I can’t get to them all. 

What are you wishing for in 2009?

A healthy and happy family, first and foremost. 

After that, I hope Hubby and I can continue to make changes in our lives that benefit the environment and our family and that we can influence our families and friends to do the same. 

Oh, and Motherhood for Dummies.  On recycled paper, please. 

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