Observations of this moment in time. Charlie, 12 weeks. James, 2 years, 4 months.

 

-For the month of June, I had both kids at home full time. I have approximately 15 unfinished blog post kicking around. This document was named “Untitled 10” for several days. It’s messy and long and not the best, but it’s something. And something is the goal.

-Charlie smiles this joy-of-the-world smile all the time. All you have to do is look at him. I can set him down anywhere and he’ll just happily wiggle and smile. It feels like a miracle.

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-He can just barely hold his head up for about five seconds before it flops over again.

-At 12 weeks, I feel like he’s really getting that he is alive. He looks around so eagerly. He loves to look at faces.

-We are getting into a groove – he and I – but we still have challenges. Sometimes he’s fussy at the boob. Sometimes so much that I feel like I just want to give up on breastfeeding. But I want to work this out with him. We are still getting to know each other. We need more time.

-Everyone says your second child is easier. And that is definitely true. But I have to laugh at how deeply I took this to heart – like, I thought Charlie would just come out sleeping in the crib with no fuss, sleeping through the night at a month old, completely sleep trained… I guess I just thought he would emerge from the womb sleeping… (these are the words of an extremely sleep deprived woman…)

-I was terrified of spending a month with two kids home full time – but I survived… and for the most part, I actually enjoyed it. I actually felt a little bit sad about all the time I missed with James while he was in daycare full time over the past year and a bit. But I can’t dwell on it.

-James is hilarious and fun and sweet. He has this enthusiastic “LET’S DO IT!” that makes me smile every time. He has started saying: “Thank you  for dinner, Mommy.” He tells everyone about how he went to the Dinosaur museum (which we did over two months ago now). He’s obsessed with construction and every night asks Daddy to tell a story about a “Yellow digger and a purple dump truck”.

-Not to say it didn’t totally suck and result in disasters on an almost daily basis. Like the time I was breastfeeding Charlie while James played at the zoo and then James said he had to poop and I tried to swoop everything and everyone up in my arms (boob probably exposed) and get to the bathroom, only to have poop tumble out of James’s shorts… Or the time I took James biking and he suddenly decided to go another inch and planted himself face down on the sidewalk. I tried every trick in the book. “Go under Mommy’s legs!” “I’ll wait at the corner, you join me when you’re ready.” I tried getting firm. But no. Nothing. Finally, I picked him up and dragged the bike the seven long blocks home, swearing under my breath, sweating out of every pore, my arm muscles screaming – and James howling at the top of his lungs the ENTIRE WAY: “NO! NO WAY! I DON’T WANNA!” Charlie, riding along quietly on my chest.

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-We started James part time at a new daycare this week and it’s been completely traumatic for everyone. The first day I picked him up, his cheeks were soaked with tears.

Of course, I feel like the worst mother ever – for pulling him out of a dayhome where he felt at home. For throwing him into yet another new situation after already having his life turned upside-down with a new baby. Throw on top that we’ll be taking two week-long trips in July completely upending any routine or progress with the daycare …

However, at home, my ears ring with silence and the deep knowing that I need this. And Charlie needs this. Charlie and I need this. Charlie needs to nurse without being interrupted, in a quiet room. I need to be able to set him in his crib without fear of my toddler killing himself while I don’t have my eyes on him. My new baby and I need to slow dance and stare at each other.

I need to have time to listen to music and stare into space, take a shower – and even…a nap.

-I’m so fucking tired. Back at the beginning, I wrote something about how temporary it all seemed. Well, I am here to tell you that after not sleeping for three months, it feels ETERNAL. I have nosedived into my pillow at 7 p.m. several times. Charlie wakes up at least three times a night. Then he’ll give you glimmers of hope: like when he slept from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. last night…only to completely blow it by waking up every hour after that until I finally give up and drag him into our bed at 5 a.m. Every night, I think: If I could just sleep. Just. One. Night.

-Then I get sort of annoyed when Dan says he’s tired every day. Because I’m like: But you’re sleeping…

-But the thing is: Life is stupid demanding when you have two little kids. As Dan reminded me last night, it’s not like he heads off to work, puts his feet up on his desk and smokes a cigar while reading the morning news (although that’s pretty much what everything besides caregiving sounds like to a person who is at home with two little kids…).

-And it’s all about Daddy right now. At bedtime: “Daddy read it. Daddy put me in bed.” etc. It’s understandable – I’m the one he has to share with another kid and I think he’s still a bit bitter about it. So it doesn’t hurt my feelings…that much…most of the time.

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-The thing is, I’m the only one James really has to share with Charlie right now. If Dan is with James, he’s with James. Whereas I often have to say: I’m feeding Charlie right now. I have to put Charlie down right now. I have shift my focus, often leave the room or disrupt whatever James is doing, or even just ignore him sometimes. And vice versa. There are so many moments in the day when I feel like no one is getting what they need. When I can’t stay still enough to peacefully nurse Charlie. When I can’t help James to the potty in time – or actively play with him.

Sometimes I feel like this is the beginning of the complicated relationship all mothers have with their children.

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Because children demand everything all the time. And as hard as I try, I’m always coming up short – because I’m not this Wonder Mom with eight arms and the ability to be in two places at once…I’m just another human…but it will be 20 years before they realize that.

Until then I’ll have to disappoint them and feel crazy with mom guilt.

And my one little heart…and all this wild love…will try to make up the gap.

 

 

Getting through: the best and the worst

Today is James’s last day in daycare – I am trying to ready myself for the chaos of having two tiny souls in my charge – and I am not going to lie: I am terrified.

Especially since the past stretch Saturday-Sunday-Monday was, what I confessed to Dan later, possibly my least three favourite days of parenting on record.

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Saturday Dan worked, James descending into sickness, refusing to eat, crying at the drop of a hat, hating everything. Sunday, all of us parked on the couch while James fought a fever, crying, screaming, generally being miserable. Monday, both kids with me, an afternoon of both of them crying at various times, reaching the true nadir when the baby was screaming in the carrier and I picked J up to bring him inside, covered in dirt from digging in a giant dirt pile, trying to rinse him off the in sink while both boys screamed, one in strapped to my chest, the other in my arms.

I called Dan, begging him to come home, utterly overwhelmed, a sinking ship.

What if I can’t handle my own kids? What if I don’t want to? What kind of mother does that make me?

But there’s been some really good stuff too.

We took James to a little cabin in the mountains where we hiked and sat around a campfire. He wanted to walk on his own. He wanted to touch leaves, walk over bridges and kept asking to see more waterfalls. We couldn’t get him to stop gathering wood at the campfire. He had his first marshmallow. You could feel his excitement about it all and it brought back so many memories of what I loved about going to the cabin as a little kid.

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I still get that feeling every time we drive into the mountains – it’s like opening a window and letting the light flood in.

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Yesterday, Charlie and I drove to Banff to meet up with a friend. Dan said: “Are you really doing this?” It has been a week of terrible sleeping and again – the worst three days ever.

But the plans had taken forever to work out and I couldn’t bail. And lo and behold, Charlie slept all the way there, all the way up Tunnel Mountain, sat quietly smiling through lunch and we only had to stop for a brief feed on the way home, after which, he passed right back out.

Which is all to say: Somehow, even through the thick of the worst, we have find time for the things we love in life? Don’t we? Even if it seems like too much work – even if there’s a possibility the baby might scream for that hour drive – it’s worth it – for the fresh air, for the time to listen to podcasts in the car, to see a friend, to walk, to see mountains or trees or water or whatever surrounds you – to go to the place that opens that window.

It’s easier writing those words than living that truth. All we can do is try.

The things we can’t hold onto

Last week, Charlie became one month old. He smiled at me first thing in the morning, as we were waking up in bed. I kept making faces at him, gurgling baby noises, kissing his nose, his mouth, his cheek trying to get his sweet smile to reappear.

I can’t believe it’s been a month. It’s been a blink. It’s been eternal. It’s certainly been a comedy of errors (like last week when a particular projectile poop resulted in me putting my new white robe in the laundry…with my phone in the pocket).

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Last night, we were in the backyard with our neighbours and friends that are expecting their second child in June. Their first, almost exactly James’s age.

I handed Charlie to Hannah – and her partner Ben said, “You just forget how small they are.”

“Yep,” I said. “It breaks my heart that I’ll forget again.”

There are a thousand things I look forward to forgetting – the sand-in-the-head exhaustion that has steadily set in. His grunting sleep that keeps me awake at 3 a.m.

But the particular weight of him in my arms. His translucent eyebrows and barely-there eyelashes. The way he looks when he’s sleeping on me – neck craned, lips parted. The way he looks like an old man, when he wakes, wrinkling his forehead and bunching up his face. The softness of his skin. His smell. These things I wish I could tattoo onto my brain.

Someday, it will be something I think about and try to grasp, but the real feeling of it, will forever be out of reach.

For Mother’s Day, the New York Times published this short piece, “Our Mother’s As We Never Saw Them.” A piece about about how our mothers were people – different, but the same – before they became our mothers.

Of her mother in a photograph, the author writes: “She looks really sexy; wars have been waged over less impressive waist-to-hip ratios. And she is so young and innocent. She hasn’t yet dropped out of college, or gotten married. The young woman in this photo has no idea that life will bring her five children and five grandchildren, a conversion to Judaism, one divorce, two marriages, a move across the country.”

Of course, I have often thought about this with my own my parents – who they were, the trials they endured, the decisions they made.

But the piece also made me wonder about the parts of myself I am leaving behind. A young, spirited, sometimes-stupid girl-woman – who will be as intangible to my sons as my memory of them as tiny babies.

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Creative, clothes-making, festival-going, twenty-something Sky

But that is life – all of us evolving all the time. Who we were – who we are – who we will be.

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Overwhelmed, lined-forehead, mother of two, thirty-something Sky

Isn’t it funny how the most obvious realization of our lives – that our parents were, and are, just people – is also somehow the most stunning?

“For daughters, these old photos of our mothers feel like both a chasm and a bridge. The woman in the picture is someone other than the woman we know. She is also exactly the person in the photo — still, right now. Finally, we see that the woman we’ve come to think of as Mom — whether she’s nurturing, or disapproving, or thoughtful, or delusional, or pestering, or supportive, or sentimental — is also a mysterious, fun, brave babe.”

Well, I had a baby

In the wee morning hours of Monday, April 10, I gave birth to another little boy. He had long, ancient looking feet, skinny legs, the softest skin and a wise, perfect face.

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Giving birth is crazy business. One minute, I wasn’t quite sure if I was ‘really’ in labor. The next, we were watching a movie, and I was draped over the labor ball breathing through contractions while telling Dan this probably wasn’t ‘it’. Then the midwives were here and I was in the bath, wishing I could just take a five minute nap, telling the midwife it was past my bedtime. Then I was on the bed, trying to lie down, trying to get comfortable while contractions roared through me – my midwives reminding me that nothing was going to feel good right now. “I can’t do it,” I said- and I meant it. I thought the baby would never come. That the contractions would break me. And then: I had a baby in my arms.

For a week, I sat in bed mostly, with Dan keeping the house in order, spoon feeding me meals while our little Charlie breastfed – seemingly nonstop. One night, he did not leave my boob from the hours of midnight to 4 a.m.

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We also watched all of Season 6 of Homeland – which I highly recommend.

My parents were here for the second week – playing with James, taking him to the zoo, helping with laundry, meals, letting me nap without the baby beside me. Making everything so easy. Making me long for a world where we are all neighbours and they could pop by for an hour or two.

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It all feels familiar but different this time.

Sometimes, when I look at Charlie, I feel like I have traveled back in time to when James was a newborn. To this dreamy, sleepless world where everything is both chaotic and quiet…enchanting and exhausting. I have to remind myself that this little boy is an entirely new person – with his own life and story before him.

With James, the days and nights felt endless. I couldn’t understand how there would be an end to any of it.

But this time – all I have to do is look over at my two-year old to know that it will end – in fact, it will end all too soon. Soon, we’ll be on a nap schedule. Soon, the night feedings will taper. Soon, we’ll move Charlie into his own bedroom. And before we know it, he’ll be walking and talking and showing us who he is.

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Only for this precious little while will he be so new – stretching his bunched up limbs, making his newborn gurgles and looking around, bewildered by this world of ours.

When I look at Charlie, I can’t believe we all began this way – every burly football player, every great poet, every tyrant and peacemaker – every single one of us – featherlight, needy and utterly helpless.

I’m home alone with him now- he’s napping in the swing. The house is quiet. I am waiting for Dan and James to get home. He’s so tiny. So precious. So sacred.

A letter to my little one at 39 weeks, 5 days

Dear Baby,

You can come out now. Anytime would be fine. No really: Can you please get out of my body?

I remember when I found out about you – remember how we had just moved into our new house, the painter was over when I peed on the stick and we had just returned from camping in Waterton National Park. Dad was doing laundry and I ran down the steps to show him the plus sign.

“I knew it!” he said. “You were acting crazy all weekend.”

A little lentil in my belly? I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I tried not to let myself believe it – after two miscarriages before your big brother, I knew to batten down the hatches on excitement.

At the 12 week ultrasound, you came into view, a whole person already. When the technician left the room, I sobbed and sobbed.

“What’s wrong?” Dan asked, confused.

How could I explain? That for two and a half months, I had loved you, my lentil, but tried with all my might to pretend I wasn’t attached, for fear you wouldn’t be there. I tried not to allow you into my life even when you were already there.

Thirty weeks scampered by. Your big brother grew from a babbling baby into a little boy speaking in complete sentences, full of opinions. It felt like you would be with us before we knew it.

People said nice things: Oh but you’ve not gained weight anywhere but your belly! It looks like you swallowed a soccer ball ! And later: a basketball!

I ate it all up.

But these final 10 weeks – oh, how they’ve dragged. On and on and on. And on.

Suddenly, the comments changed to: “You’ve GOT to have this baby early! You couldn’t possibly get any bigger.” (this, with six weeks to go.)

And then: “You’re twice as big as [my friend due on the same day]!”

The truth is, my little lentil, that weren’t so little anymore – you started to take up a lot of space in my belly. And while I have delighted in your little feet pushing at my tummy, the fact that you use my bladder as a trampoline I find less amusing. Also all this relaxin is making my butt bones very sore – I feel it flattening like pancake daily… so when you’re bigger and making fun of my mom butt, you can thank yourself.

As 38 weeks approached, I felt giddy. Everyone seemed to believe you’d come early. And somehow I became seduced by this idea. Any day now! I thought as 38 weeks came and went. Then suddenly, as 39 approached, I thought: Any day, in a walking-through-molasses-wearing-heavy-boots kind of way.

Like: Holy shit, it could still be two or three more weeks.

The truth is I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t pregnant. I can’t remember what it’s like to kick back and finish a bottle of wine with your dad after your big brother is asleep. Or have fun in like a holy-shit-I’m-having-SO-MUCH-FUN kind of way! Or not worry that my steak is too rare (even though I’m trying to be so much more relaxed about it all this time around). I want to eat sushi and wheel of triple cream brie – is it too much to ask?

When I walk outside and see all the runners, I watch them longingly as I waddle along. Will I ever sweat and feel fit again? Will I ever feel light on my feet – not like a 90 pound steel weight is jamming into my pelvis with every step? Will I ever (EVER) be able to fit anything besides these two black maternity tank tops? (actually only one of them fits now…)

In the last 48 hours, three women – 3! – told me they were two weeks or 10 days late with their second. It had never occurred to me I’d be pregnant for 2 or 3 more weeks! My god! The thought of it made me shudder.

Sometimes I feel like I’m going a little crazy- I wake up and have  twinge of a pinpoint cramp somewhere on my abdomen: Is it starting?! I have a weird pain in my hip – Labor?  My cell phone rings: Someone calling me to tell me I’m about to go into labor? 

But then my day goes on with no real sign of you arriving into our world. I go for extra long walks (listening to S-Town podcast) on the bluff and through Prince’s Island Park. I get dinner ready before the boys get home.

How strange to keep waking up thinking: This could be just another day. Or I could have a baby. (It’s very difficult to make a grocery list at a time like this.)

Sometimes, I wonder if you will ever come. What if I’m pregnant forever?

I know this on a rational level how absurd it is to consider being pregnant for the rest of my days- but on the other hand, some part of me believes this might actually be a possibility.

At night, I lie awake, trying to find a comfortable position. Lying on my right side, then my left. Stuffing a pillow between my legs. Knowing I need to ‘sleep while I still can!” and knowing I’ll wake because I feel like I have to pee so bad I might explode only to have a few dribbles come out  – and I’ll picture myself holding you.

A tiny baby, in my arms. I picture us in our sun-drenched bedroom, staring at each other, or both passed out from the exhaustion of ushering new life into the world.

I know it’s not going to be easy. Hell, I’ve been through it before. I know when you are here I will long for this very moment, when you were a silent mystery within me… yes, I’m sure this will all seem like a luxurious dream someday.

But I want you to feel sunshine. I want to tell you about so many things in the world waiting for you. I want you to feel what it’s like to stretch your limbs. To feel your mama’s skin against yours.

So – if you could just. Come. Please. That would be great.

Your loving mommy,

Sky

A few things I don’t want to forget

As far as shoulder seasons go, I’ve always loved fall. In the north, spring isn’t the prettiest time – muddy, naked tree-d and, in Calgary, I wouldn’t associate spring with warmth. But this weekend, I had a love on for spring.

It was warm. People were outside turning their faces to the sun like sunflowers. On Saturday, Dan opened up all the windows upstairs and the house filled with fresh air and sunlight. I walked into our bedroom and I felt something…Something new. And maybe I am feeling this ‘something’ a bit more with my giant belly, waiting for this mysterious person to join our lives.

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The truth about my first day of maternity leave

My first day of maternity leave.

My last day, Friday, was uneventful. Everyone was busy. They had a sweet farewell for me on Tuesday – with snacks and prosecco – and Friday felt like this non-event. So strange cleaning out my desk with no one around.

I was excited – ready.

Today would be perfect. James had a doctor appointment in the morning and we’d spend some time together. Then I had a pedicure booked.

But when we tried to leave the house, James melted down into a puddle when I put him into his warm coat instead of the blue coat he’s suddenly become attached to. He screamed and cried and hit me on the head. I sat him on my knee and explained to him that we never hit and he listened quietly before lifting his hand to go for another swipe. I blocked it and accidentally scraped his cheek with my thumb nail which sent him for another round of screaming.

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We finally walked outside into the cold morning to see Daddy off to work. “Let’s go to the playground,” I said.

“Yes. Playground,” he repeated.

I packed him and all his things into the car and we drove to playground and as I opened the door to get him out he said: “No playground.” And pushed away my hand as I tried to get him out.

At the doctor, he flattened himself out on the floor like a starfish—screaming—when the nurse tried to weigh and measure him.

Forget about finishing the morning together: I couldn’t wait to drop him off.

Of course as I pulled away, I felt horrible, relishing the silence in the car.

What if I just can’t be around my kid all day? What if I can’t handle him? What if I actually don’t like him that much? (Sometimes the voices in our heads can be really mean you guys!)

I came back home and stuffed my sandals in my purse for the pedicure. Should bring my book? Why no! That was trashy magazine time. I scooped up about five issues of People and settled in. Turns out People magazine makes you feel bad about everything in life.

What made me think I deserved this day – to be off work at a mere 37 weeks? Yes, my midwife had recommended it, but I was fine physically, if you don’t count not being able to walk for more than 15 minutes without slowing down my pace to that of an 85 year old, thanks to the insane pressure on my pelvis and bladder. Sure I was checked out at work but I could show up and do things for another week or two.

You’re a big bellied self indulgent piece of shit. I leaned back into the pillows and closed my eyes and tried to focus on very nice Thai basil sea salt foot rubbings.

The sun is shining through the window now – and I am trying to get grounded here.

When I am a sleep deprived, hair-in-all-directions mother of two who hasn’t brushed her teeth in three days, what would I have wanted to do with this time?

  1. Set some goals while you have any headspace. Not crazy ones. Small ones.
  2. Write.
  3. Try not to judge yourself too much.
  4. Spend a day all to yourself being as totally lazy or as active as you like—just don’t spend it online (and stay off Facebook always and forever).
  5. Make time for your husband and your marriage.
  6. Take lots of long, indulgent showers.
  7. Be patient with James. Something big is coming for him too.
  8. Listen closely to and enjoy the silence.

So I’m going to go take a shower now. Tidy the house. And go get my little guy.