Tag Archives: birth

To My Son On His Tenth Birthday (Chapter Two)

My second-born, my baby, you are ten today. How did that happen? You’ve always wanted to be older, and now you are. And I am so proud of you.

There are three years between you and your brother. Because parenting is hard, and it took that long to feel like I knew what I was doing, and like I was ready to do it all again. But surprise—you were your own person from the start, and a lot of what I thought I knew from raising your brother didn’t apply. So I was learning all over again.

And you’ve kept us on our toes: you learned to climb stairs and open doors before you could walk. Enter the baby gates and bolt locks we didn’t think we needed. You’ve been on the move ever since.

You do have some things in common with your big brother. You also thrive best when learning in your own time. When you do decide to do something, though, you are all in.

You are a voracious reader, and will read just about anything and everything I oh so casually leave on the coffee table. You can’t get enough of graphic novels, and have discerning taste in picture books, often telling me which ones deserve my library “staff picks” stickers.

You don’t much like school, never have, but you are scary smart, and love learning and trying new things. You are currently researching poisonous snakes, just because. You love to help in the kitchen, and will probably make your own birthday cake. And it will be amazing.

You have a confidence I envy, and I hope you never lose. You get over anger and upsets quickly, and never hold a grudge. You have always been a snuggler, and will still randomly hug me in public; I hope you always will. I love your uncontained joy for certain things, like going out for sushi, or your pet snake (your birthday present).

You can also be a bit obsessive with things you love. TV shows, video games, drums, breakfast—you go through periods of choosing that thing and only that thing. Your current obsession is playing outside with your neighbourhood friends. Bagels with cream cheese and lox. And trying to convince us to get a dog.

You are a trooper. We’ve “joked” you’ve seen just about every specialist there is at one point or another. And yet, you are far from a sickly kid—you are an active boy with a great attitude. You’ve gone through medical tests, eye patching, chronic illness, and surgery without complaint. In fact at the worst point in your recovery from having your tonsils and adenoids removed, you commented that you “felt sorry for younger kids having this done”. You were six.

Though you try to play it cool, you still adore your big brother. You are both growing up, and have your own friends and interests. You don’t play together as much these days, and can get on one another’s nerves (sometimes on purpose). But overall, the bond is still there, and I look forward to watching it grow as you do.

Happy birthday my sweet boy!

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Things I Don’t Regret

Before I had kids, there were lots of things I was never going to do. And there were lots of things I was told never to do, or I’d regret it. Ten years into this parenting gig though, the kids seem to be doing all right, so I can tell you there are a number of choices that I don’t regret. Not at all. Here are some of them:

Breastfeeding my infants on demand around the clock. Breastfeeding past infancy. Not forcing them to wean when they weren’t ready. “Encouraging” them to wean when we both were.

Co-sleeping. “They” said we’d never get them out of our bed. “They” were wrong. If anything I regret not doing it sooner.

Rocking them to sleep. Nursing them to sleep. Staying with them until they fell asleep. Letting them nap in my arms, in the swing, in the car. Those years seem so long ago.

Vaccinating.

Picking my babies up when they cried. Carrying my kids as long as I could.

Not potty training. Amazingly, they have been out of diapers for a long, long time, despite the lack of candy or sticker rewards!

Encouraging my kids to take part in different activities. Not pushing them into activities.

Having a child in daycare. Working full time. Having a nanny. Staying home. Being a student-mom. Working part time. Working from home. It’s all good. Honest.

Taking a year of maternity leave. Having my kids three years apart. Taking my preschooler out of daycare while I was on mat leave with BB#2.

Putting my kids in French Immersion.

Not forcing them to do homework in Grade One.

Taking a stroller to Disneyland for my almost-5-year-old. Judge away, at least we had fun!

Spending money on books. Reading to my kids after they could read to themselves.

Letting my kids watch TV and play video games. Not letting my kids watch or play everything their friends are watching or playing.

Giving them choice over their hairstyles.

Staying with them on playdates when they were younger. Letting them walk around the block alone together now that they’re older.

Telling them the proper names for body parts and being honest about where babies come from.

Not being Pinterest-perfect.

Letting them believe in Santa Claus. Not getting into Elf on the Shelf.

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To My Son on His Tenth Birthday

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks now. What to say to you, my first-born, as you turn ten? That I can’t believe it? That time goes so fast? That it seems like yesterday you were born? These clichés are all true.

Ten years. I won’t say I don’t remember my life without you; I do. But it seems like a different era, and I know I’m not the same person I was before you. You made me a mother. There’s a lot I could say (and have. See: this blog) about being a mother—about those early days and weeks and years where I tried to figure it all out. After all, this is my birth-day too.

But I’d rather focus on the person you are today. At ten, you are so many things. Wise, kind, thoughtful. I wouldn’t change you for the world, and yet, I sometimes worry how this world will change you. You’ve received more than one “Integrity” certificate from school, and though I’ve never set much store by those awards, I admit: your teachers called it.

You are so much like me, and not just because of your red hair and green eyes. You don’t really care for change, or surprises, or being teased “good-naturedly”. And yet unlike me, you aren’t afraid to try new things. You want to do it all—and have already done so much: snowboarding, skiing, swimming, water skiing, tubing, skating, archery, mountain biking, skateboarding, squash, cartooning…And you aren’t afraid to say no, to be your own person. So your friends don’t care for your long hair, or the coloured streaks you’ve sometimes worn? You like them. Kids aren’t playing fairly at the park? You’d rather not play with them. I can’t help but hope this positions you well for the years ahead, when you’ll be faced with following the crowd or staying true to yourself.

You are an amazing big brother, and have been since day one. Even when your brother was first born, after you’d gotten us to yourself for three whole years, I never saw any jealousy. Nothing but you wanting to help him–even when he doesn’t make it easy. I know there will continue to be times you don’t get along, or even like each other much. But I hope the brotherly bond between you will never break.

You are an avid and voracious reader. Since we don’t track those things, I have no idea how many books you read this summer. You usually have two or three on the go. I love that we can share our love for the written word, and even recommend books to one another. You have always had a thirst for knowledge—starting back when the dinosaur encyclopedia was a favourite bedtime story. You wonder and question constantly. I hope you always will.

You are still a child—and I mean that in the very best way. You play, and I hope you will for a long time to come. And yet, you are logical and responsible and reliable in a way that makes it hard to forget you are only ten. You’ll often state that you can’t wait to be older, but I don’t wish this time away. I already know how fast the next ten years will fly by.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful boy.

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A Letter to a New Mom

Dear new mom,

Congratulations! You just grew and gave life to and are nourishing a new human. This is amazing! Be proud of you.

Everything in your life will change now, and probably not in the ways you imagined.

You may not have had the birth you wanted, and though everyone will tell you it doesn’t matter, it’s okay to mourn that.

Take time to write down your birth story.

Whatever you are feeling is normal.

If you don’t experience that overwhelming in-love feeling you expected right away, don’t worry: it’s coming.

And after you do fall in love with your baby and start wondering how you could possibly love another child that much, don’t worry: you can.

Despite what you said before you had kids, you will have conversations about poop.

You will make mistakes. Forgive yourself. Your baby already has.

Babies are not manipulative. Trust yours.

Enjoy this time. But you don’t have to enjoy every minute of it. In fact, you probably won’t. And that’s okay.

Parenting is hard. Don’t make it harder.

Be flexible. What you envisioned might not work for the child that you have.

Make sure you are in some of the pictures.

There will be plenty of time to clean when your child no longer wants to play with you.

The only thing you can count on when it comes to sleep in the first year is change.

Let baby be a baby. Don’t rush your baby off the breast, out of diapers, out of your arms, out of your bed, to walk, to read, to grow up, whatever…Your baby will get there, and you will miss this time. In the words of Gretchen Rubin: The days are long, but the years are short.

Baby smiles and laughter make up for everything.

You are a good mom.

Sincerely,

Mum2BeautifulBoys

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I Don’t Expect a Medal

When I was expecting my first child, during a conversation with some other pregnant women, I commented that of course I was having an epidural, because I didn’t expect a medal. These women took me to task a little, because they were both in fact planning natural births—and not because they expected medals, but because they thought it was best for them and their babies. I apologized, but the fact was, I really meant no judgment. It was merely a comment on my own very low tolerance to pain—natural birth was fine for other women, but I knew I would need medication.

I did have my epidural—after a shot of Demerol and labouring in the whirlpool tub no longer cut it. I experienced back labour with my first, and had intense contractions minutes apart from the get-go. None of that “mildly uncomfortable for the first few hours” stuff for me. In what I now know to be a fairly typical scenario, the epidural slowed my labour, so I needed Pitocin. I can remember one nurse looking at the monitor and commenting she’d never seen such intense contractions that did nothing. I no longer felt them, which was, I suppose, the point.

Because I was tied to the bed, I couldn’t walk around and help things along. With people coming in and out every few minutes to check on things, I wasn’t getting the rest I’d been promised. Finally the OB on call told me he was sure I couldn’t push the baby out. He said I could try, and likely end up with a c-section. Or we could just go straight to the OR. After so many hours, I hesitated—all that just to end up with a c-section? Finally I decided to go with the surgery. After all, I reasoned at the time, if I ever had another baby, at least I wouldn’t have to go through labour again!

But it was too late—the doctor’s shift had ended, my baby had finally budged, and the OB now on call declared I could push him out. With help from an episiotomy and foreceps. So that’s what we did. But after twenty hours, my baby had passed meconium. Which meant he was taken from me to be cleaned up. They gave him back to me, finally, all swaddled. Which meant no skin-to-skin as I’d read about. While they fixed me up, no one suggested I should try to breastfeed, so I didn’t until I was moved to a room and got the “helpful” advice of “you put him here, you put him there, then you’re done” from the nurse on duty. Which resulted in at least a week of struggling to keep my baby awake and get him to latch, feeding him pumped milk through a tube, consulting with nurses, doctors and a lactation consultant–and lots and lots of tears. And even once he latched, it was a good two months of struggle and pain before we finally got into a groove. It was worth it, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do ever again.

Which is the reason I decided NOT to have an epidural the second time. Not because I wanted a medal or to prove anything (except perhaps to myself). No, I just decided a day of purposeful pain would be worth avoiding the snowball effect that almost led to a c-section (clearly unnecessary, since I didn’t have one in the end), months of healing from the episiotomy, and weeks of breastfeeding issues. To achieve this goal, I knew I had to make different choices, the first one being going with a midwife instead of an OB. I kept my options open—I still signed the epidural consent form, because frankly, back labour sucks. But knowing my care would be transferred to an OB if I had one was good incentive to try other things first.

I did reach my goal, with the help of a supportive husband, experienced midwives, a blessedly short labour (and a baby who was facing the right way!) and a bit of gas during transition. And while there were other complications, breastfeeding wasn’t really one of them.

Look, I’ll never judge another woman for choosing an epidural. How can I? I had one. And even knowing what I know now, I can’t honestly say I would have made a different choice the first time around. What I do judge is a medical establishment that defaults to drugs—often even before a labouring woman requests them–in order to manage birth, without first explaining the risks as well as the benefits. What also drive me crazy is that every conversation about birth with a first-time mom-to-be includes comments like “you MUST have an epidural”. Imagine if I went around saying “you MUST NOT have an epidural”? Yeah, I don’t think that would go over too well either. I know from personal experience that each birth is different. And I couldn’t possibly know what another woman is going through. Her choices may not be my choices. But without knowledge, it’s not true choice.

So I won’t tell another woman not to have an epidural. But I will tell her to research it first—before labour begins. I will tell her to ask questions (and if the instructor at your hospital class says there aren’t any risks, as mine did, don’t believe it.) I will suggest she consider a midwife, or to hire a doula if she has an OB, to support her in her goals, provide other options, and help her make informed choices. I will tell her why it’s a good idea to labour as long as she can without an epidural. I will tell her she CAN do it. And I will respect her choice in the end.

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The Best of the Worst Baby Advice

After attending a baby shower recently, I got to thinking about how much advice new parents receive. Sometimes it’s solicited, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. But even good, well-intentioned advice won’t always work for other mothers and their babies. Parenting is not one-size fits all, and there is no magic bullet, no matter what the bazillion books out there tell us (psst, there is always another book saying the complete opposite!) I still think it’s important for parents to share their experiences—I know I’ve learned a lot from other mothers, and clearly I have advice to offer.

But here are some tidbits I was given when I was expecting my first child that I will not be passing on:

You need to drink milk to make milk.

Erm, can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk in order to produce food for their own young? Can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk at all? Yes, nursing moms need to keep hydrated, but we are not cows, our babies are not calves, and human milk is not a dairy product. So if cow’s milk is not your beverage of choice, no, you don’t have to start drinking it in order to successfully breastfeed your human baby.

Crying is good for babies’ lungs.

Crying is how babies communicate, not how they exercise. Yes, there are going to be times you can’t do anything to stop it—when you’ve nursed her, changed her, picked her up, burped her, rocked her, nursed her again, passed her to your partner, put her down, picked her back up, and she still cries. But it is our job as parents to hear those cries, respond to them as best we can, and comfort our child through it even when nothing seems to help.

Don’t pick him up too much.

Here’s the thing. You can’t spoil a baby with love. Nurturing independence in your child is a process, something that takes approximately 18 years, not 18 months. And it happens despite us—those of you with strong-willed toddlers and teens will know what I mean. So let your baby be a baby while he’s a baby. Pick him up, hold him, comfort him. Need free hands? Try a carrier. Need help? Ask for it. Need to put him down because you are overwhelmed and need to collect yourself (or maybe you just need to use the bathroom, it happens)? Do it. Then take a deep breath, go back in, and pick him up.

If you let her in your bed, you’ll never get her out.

Some babies sleep fine in a crib in another room. Others don’t. Don’t be surprised if yours wants to be with you day—and night. Most adult humans like to sleep with another person close by—so why on earth wouldn’t our children? If you chose to share sleep in some fashion, there will come a time when your child won’t need you to put her to sleep, or back to sleep. In fact she’ll need you to wake her up. And it will happen before you know it. I promise.

Babies don’t feel/remember pain.

I once bit my baby’s finger (don’t ask). Another time I cut him with the baby nail clippers. Judging by the crying, yeah, he felt pain. No, he probably doesn’t remember. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt at that moment, or that I felt any less terrible about it. So I fail to see the logic in putting tiny babies through unnecessary pain now vs. later. If it would hurt him later, it’s going to hurt him now.

Babies should only eat every 4 hours.

Not any baby I’ve ever met. That said, every baby is different. Just because mine needed to nurse at least every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first year or more doesn’t mean that’s so for every mom and baby pair. Yours might need to nurse more often. Or less. But for most newborns, 4 hours is way too long to go between feedings. Even at night. Sure, some will sleep longer stretches early on, and that’s normal (lucky you!) But so is frequent waking. So is waking again after several months of sleeping through. Read your baby’s cues, and don’t listen to people who say “she can’t be hungry again!” Yes, actually she can be, or she could have another reason to nurse (comfort, teething pain, fighting off a cold, growth spurt…) And yes, just when you get used to one routine, it can change (comfort, teething pain, fighting a cold, growth spurt…). So don’t get too hung up on schedules or what a book says she “should” be doing, or what she did last week or last month, or what your friend’s baby is doing, or even what your other babies did.  Meet the needs of the baby you have now, who is the only one who can tell you what those needs are.

It’s harder on you than it is on the baby.

Sorry, I don’t buy it. A baby crying himself to sleep, for example, doesn’t have the logic to know mom and dad are in the other room and this is “for his own good”. He just knows he is upset and alone and the people he depends on to keep him alive aren’t responding. And if the adults have to comfort each other through it, or phone someone for support, or go online looking for virtual hugs to “stay strong”, imagine how the baby feels. If you were upset, would your partner tell you to “self-soothe”? And if he did, wouldn’t you want to smack him?

Babies over [insert weeks, months or pounds] don’t need to eat in the night.

I once read babies over 12 pounds don’t need to eat in the night. Mine would have been 12 pounds at, oh, around 3 weeks old. So no, I wasn’t going to deny my newborns food and comfort because they were bigger than average. In fact I’d argue they needed to eat more often because they were bigger than average. But regardless of size or age, babies aren’t waking in the night to eat just to mess with their parents. When she no longer needs to eat in the night, she’ll stop (but just FYI, that doesn’t always mean she’ll stop waking in the night…)

Have your babies close together so they can be friends.

I’m not telling you not to have them close together. I feel family planning is up to, well, the family. I was not ready to have another any sooner than I did, but that’s me. I just hate this statement because closeness in age is no guarantee they’ll get along—and a big gap doesn’t mean they are doomed not to. That has more to do with personality in my opinion. Which is something you can’t pre-plan. But the main reason I hate comments about family size, parental age, age gap, sex etc. is—you never know what is going on in other people’s homes and hearts. It’s rude to tell parents of an only child they “should” have more no matter what—but what if those parents did want another child? What if they’ve been trying for years? What if they’ve experienced a loss? Now imagine how hurtful those comments are.

Parenting is a tough job. The last thing we need to hear is that we’ve already messed up by having children too young or too old, by having too many or too few, having them too close together or too far apart, or that we should “try again” for a child of a different sex—especially when some of these things aren’t even within our control, no matter how we try to plan them. So, let’s all just make our own family planning choices, and go with “no comment” on the family planning choices of others, agreed?

What was the best of the worst baby advice you received?

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Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children (Part 1)

People give you a lot of advice when you are having a baby. Some of it useful, some of it…not. But there are some things that I do wish someone had mentioned, so I’m sharing them in the hopes of helping others. Truth is, it’s possible someone DID try to tell me these things but I wasn’t listening in that “everything will be perfect when it’s MY baby” haze of pregnancy. So you can roll your eyes, tell yourself things will be different for you, but do me a favour, check back in a few years and see if your perspective has changed. Deal?

1. Never say never. In fact, if you swear you’ll never do something (like, talk about poop with your friends or let your child sleep in your bed), your chances of doing exactly that have gone up exponentially. So go ahead, say never. I dare you.

2. Never buy over-the-head onesies. And never give them to people as gifts! I had to cut one off BB#1 with scissors because I couldn’t figure out how to get it over his head without smearing the diaper blowout into his hair. Related: sleepers that do up in the back and white velour sleepers are also evil (these tend to be gifts from people that don’t have children).

3. Oxy-Clean. I might have saved some of those onesies and sleepers had I known about this amazing stuff. BB#1 had to be completely changed after most BMs, and many of his outfits could not be used for BB#2, they were stained so badly. Related: I’ve heard if you fold the top of the diaper in at the back, you can stop these up-the-back blowouts (it’s worth a try, right?)

4. Kids aren’t dogs. Okay, yes, I did know this. But it didn’t register with me that so many aspects of child-raising are referred to as “training”, as if babies are pets and not people. Two biggies: Sleep training and potty training. The amazing thing about children is, they are born learners! They become independent in spite of us, not because of us. And just like they all walk and talk in their own time, they also sleep through the night (because that’s what all the fuss is about, right?) and learn to use the toilet when they are ready. You don’t really have to cause them or yourself stress to “teach” them these things. I mean honestly, would we all still be walking around in diapers if no one trained us with stickers or candy? Trust in your children. They will amaze you.

5. Tree-trunk legs. I thought I had cankles BEFORE I gave birth the first time. Turns out they were mere saplings compared to what happened AFTER. I was freaked out there was something seriously wrong with me, and called my OB. Who casually told me, oh, that’s water retention from lying in a bed for 12+ hours attached to an IV as a result of having an epidural, and the swelling would go down in oh, 4-6 WEEKS. You think someone might have warned me about this. Now, this was not the reason I did not have an epidural for my second birth, but it was a consideration.

6. Slip on boots and shoes. I figured this one out after getting myself all bundled up, strapping on my baby, and then realizing I couldn’t bend over to tie up my winter boots. Okay I suppose you could remember to put your shoes on first, before your baby, but sometimes you have to go back for something, and then there’s the whole issue of UN-tying them with the baby in the carrier when you get back. Make it easier on yourself, get slip-ons.

7. It goes so fast. Oh wait. Everyone told me this. If you are pregnant or have very young kids, they’re telling you this too. But I probably wasn’t listening, and chances are, you aren’t either. I’m not trying to trivialize those moments where you feel like crying, those hours you keep checking the clock to see if your partner will be home soon, or those days you can’t wait until bedtime. I’ve been there, oh how I’ve been there. Some of those moments seemed like ForEver. Then I turned around and my babies weren’t babies, they weren’t even toddlers or preschoolers. They were eight and five. And, wow. It really did go so fast.

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