The third month

Dear P.,

You are three months old now, which means that you’re out of the fourth trimester, at least in theory. This month we’ve started to settle into a bit of a routine. It’s dictated by your brother’s school schedule, but it still brings some order to our days. We haven’t been even close to late for school once, and the morning routine has carried on whether you a) sleep through all of it and have to be woken up in order to get out the door, b) wake up really early and want a nap before we’ve even finished breakfast, which means you are very very fussy or c) wake up when E. does and spend breakfast generally cheerful. I can never predict which baby I’m going to get on any given morning, but I’m learning to roll with whatever you offer (although I really need to start making E’s lunch the night before).

Right before we have to leave I sit down to nurse you and read E. a story. Then we walk your brother to school and you usually fall asleep in the carrier on the way there or while I’m chatting to the other mothers after your brother has gone inside. We often run errands during that first nap as it’s still pretty hot in the middle of the day. Then we come back home and spend some time together. We work on house projects, like sorting out the basement storage cupboards or weeding the front garden, even if you only have the patience to sit in the bouncy seat for ten minutes at a time. You do some tummy time (and end it as fast as you can by rolling over). I sit you on my legs and sing songs and tell rhymes- your favourites are “This little piggy”, “Old MacDonald” and “This is the way the gentlemen ride” (you especially love the great big bounces when it’s your turn to ride). Most of the time I eat lunch. You’ll have one or two naps in the bassinet and then, right about when I’m starting to wonder what on earth to do next, it’s time to go back in the carrier to go and pick up your brother. You’re usually happy to lie on the floor and watch him run around when we get home, or sit in the bouncy seat (or be held) while I prep dinner. You take a brief catnap in the very late afternoon in the carrier while I’m making dinner, and then you sit on my lap or on Daddy’s while we eat (staring at your brother the entire time- you remain utterly fascinated by him). After supper it’s time to get ready for bed, and then the next day we start all over again. The only fixed points in our day are 8:35 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.- the times when we need to leave for school to either drop E. off or pick him up. Otherwise the day unfolds in a loose pattern of nursing, playing, and sleeping.

On the sleep front, you made some great progress this month with learning how to nap in the bassinet rather than a carrier. Unless we’re having a really busy day you always take two naps in the bassinet and it’s rare that it takes me more than ten minutes to get you down. You’re still not sleeping for longer than 45 minutes, but I know that will come in time. I’ve been known to take you out of the bassinet after one of the naps, lie you down on the bed, and then let you nurse and sleep for another hour (or sometimes even another hour and a half). You’re so happy during those naps- you rest one little hand on the breast and you make happy noises even when fast asleep. I read a book and enjoy the snuggles and the quiet time. I would never have been able to do this with your brother, as I would have been convinced it would instill terrible habits, but with you it is one of my favourite times of the day. I know that you will be little for only a short time and I don’t want to miss it.

Night sleep is no longer something I brag about. Right around the two month mark we got your bedtime back to 8:00 p.m., and you promptly responded by waking up at 3:00 a.m. most nights. A good night means you get through until 4:00, and a bad one has you asking to nurse at 1:00 or even earlier. If you’re up before 3:00 that means you’ll have a second night feed as you almost never go longer than three hours once you’ve woken up the first time. I haven’t had to pump much in the last couple of weeks because you’ve been up so much. I’m definitely now more tired than I was when you were a month old and sleeping nine hour stretches starting at 10:00 p.m., but I also know you need the earlier bedtime and that eventually you will sleep longer stretches again. The next challenge is going to be adjusting to sleeping in the crib. You’ve clearly outgrown the bassinet so the night before you turned three months your Daddy set up the crib in our room. I’m sure you’ll like having all the extra space once you’re used to it.

When you’re not yet over-tired you’re a very happy, chatty baby. You have a whole range of cheerful shrieks and squawks and a cough that is almost a giggle. You have huge gummy smiles and a little dimple in your left cheek. If I pretend to chew on your neck and ear I get the biggest smile, but your favourite person is still clearly your brother. You spend all of supper trying to get his attention. You wave your arms, kick your legs, shriek and squawk and smile and coo, all with your eyes locked on him. If you’re upset in the car, he can calm you down by holding your hand and singing the “We’re ok, P.” song that we invented. If you’re doing tummy time, you’ll actually stay on your tummy and look around if he’s somewhere close by. When you have the occasional bath, it’s because E.’s in the tub, and I put you in with him (holding on to you the entire time of course). You will kick your legs and flail with your arms and generally have a wonderful time watching him while I float you around. E. is very excited for you to be big enough to properly sit up in the bath with him.

You have a very strong neck and upper body- everyone comments on it, including your paediatrician. That’s probably why you rolled over (tummy to back) so early (at 9w3d!). You want to try to sit upright as much as you can and you prefer if we just hold on to your hands and let you balance yourself. The number one comment I get when out with you is still “She’s very alert!”, followed by “She’s so calm/easy going!” I wouldn’t call you an easy baby, but you are definitely calm and easy going, as long as we’re doing what you want. You still absolutely hate feeling left out and you’re still quick to cry if I have to put you down when you’ve decided you’re all done with being put down.

You’ve started grasping objects and spend many happy minutes trying to get them into your mouth. We first realized you were doing this when your Daddy said that you were intentionally pushing and pulling at his hand when sitting on his lap at dinner, only settling down once you could chew on his thumb. Your favourite thing to play with right now is a tag blanket that a friend made for your brother when he was a baby. I think it’s big enough that you don’t have to be precise with either your grip or your aim to get positive results. You will occasionally grasp other toys, like Sophie the giraffe, but they’re still a major challenge. You talk to anything that dangles from the bars of your playmat, but you haven’t yet succeeded in reaching them. You’ve also become quite adept at sucking your fingers- usually the index finger.

This month I cut all dairy and soy out of my diet to see if that would help your tummy. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’m positive it’s helping- you are down to two or three dirty diapers a day (instead of eight or nine), you’re much less gassy and fussy in the wee hours, and there’s no longer any sign of blood. It has made it a challenge for me, as I’ve had to remember to pack snacks whenever we’re out, but I know it’s the right thing to do, and hopefully you’ll outgrow this by your first birthday, just like your brother did.

We’ve determined that the only way to get any sort of happy quiet driving time with you is to leave as early as possible in the morning. We had to do another set of long drives this month to go to your Grandpa’s funeral and both times we were able to get in two solid hours of driving while you slept by leaving at 7:00 a.m. I can’t say that there wasn’t crying on either trip, but things were definitely improving and our drive home only took about forty minutes longer than it used to (the first time we did that trip with you, you added a full two hours to the journey by requiring many, many stops). Driving around in the city still produces a lot of crying, especially if you’re not tired.

You are clearly thriving. At your three month appointment you were 11 lb, 14.5 oz and 63 cm long, with a head circumference of 42 cm. You’re in the 50th percentile for weight but the 95th percentile for height. I knew you were a bit of a beanpole before the appointment because I’ve had to shift you into six month sleepers so you have room for your feet and your legs, but they’re still much too big in the body. You look absolutely giant in the bassinet, but when we set up the crib and put you in it you looked impossibly tiny.

It is so much fun to watch your personality emerge. You are both deeply serious and filled with glee. I never, ever get tired of seeing you smile and I love the conversations we’re starting to have. I love your funny little whorl on the crown of your head and your dark brown eyes. I love your perfect baby scent. I love how soft your hair is when I kiss your head when you’re asleep in the carrier, and I love how you like to fall asleep in the carrier with your face pressed hard up against my chest.

I am grateful, every day, that you are here.

Love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

Baby Sleep Bootcamp, Redux

E. started school last week, which means that P. and I now have about six hours a day together. I’ve spent the last week helping P. learn that she is able to nap in the bassinet (after eight or nine weeks of exclusively napping in carriers).

I know I said I wasn’t going to compare the two of them any more (or at least I was going to try not to), but it is honestly funny how identical this process has been.

I’m using the same routine- white noise machine, lullaby, shush/pat until asleep, and then place in the bassinet with enough awkwardness that her eyes pop open again so (hopefully) she will be eventually able to put herself back to sleep at the 45 minute transition mark.

And P’s reaction has been just like that of her older brother (which I described in detail here). From the shrieks of outrage, telling me that she is NOT TIRED, MUMMY! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT? punctuated by huge yawns to the desperate last attempts at socializing right before falling asleep. In this respect, at least, she is exactly like her brother.

The main difference, I think, is in me.

P.’s napped a couple of times a day in the bassinet every day since we started the baby sleep bootcamp. It’s impossible for her to have all of her naps in there because I have to take E. to school. So the first nap is usually in the carrier and the final late afternoon catnap is too because by then E. is home again and I can’t be sure I’ll get the uninterrupted time I need to get her down.

She hasn’t slept longer than 45 minutes yet, but it’s early days.

At this stage with E., I was basically hysterical. I felt he was so over-tired (true) and I worried he would never learn to sleep properly (did not turn out to be the case). I worried all the time that he wasn’t getting “enough” sleep or the “right” amount of sleep for babies his age.

With P., my reaction has been more along the lines of: “Look at you sleeping in the bassinet while I ate my lunch with two free hands and checked my email! You slept for 45 minutes! You’re doing so well!”

I am taking the long view, and I have confidence in both myself and P. that eventually she will be able to sleep on her own, just like E. eventually did.

Sometimes I wish I could have been a second-time parent the first time around.

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Filed under P.- the first year, Sleep

On being (sometimes) a grasshopper

I’m sure everyone knows Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant, where the ant is industrious and works hard and stores food for the winter and the grasshopper flits about and has fun and doesn’t worry about tomorrow and then meets a bad end when the cold weather comes (largely because the ant won’t help it). The moral of the story is meant to be all about hard work and planning for the future, but the ant comes across as mean spirited and a bit of a killjoy.

Q. and I are ants, in that we live within our means. We bought the house we could afford, not the one we really wanted. We don’t keep a balance on our credit cards. When we do take on debt (such as buying a car), we pay it off as fast as we can.

My father is an ant.

My stepfather was, to a certain degree, a grasshopper.

My father, thanks to his ant-like tendencies, has the financial resources to pay for the extensive care he is going to need for the rest of his life. He will not have to live in some sort of institutional setting because he cannot afford otherwise.

My stepfather, thanks to his grasshopper nature, enjoyed more than a decade of retirement from his long-term career.

If my stepfather had been in my father’s accident, and my father had ended up with my stepfather’s cancer, their outcomes would have been even more bleak. My father would have died only eighteen months or so after retiring from his second career, and my stepfather would not have had the financial resources for private care.

But I feel like both of them are reminders that we should all channel the grasshopper, at least some of the time.

My father is 63.

My stepfather died the day before his 65th birthday.

Neither of them is going to get the decades of retirement that financial planners urge you to consider when thinking about the future.

They both made time to travel, to visit family, and to enjoy hobbies. They both squeezed a great deal into their lives.

But I can’t help but feel that they were both cheated of so much.

Being at home with a small baby, I do spend a certain amount of time wishing for the future. I can’t help it- I’m not a baby person. I love P., but I will enjoy her more when she is bigger.

At the same time, I find myself thinking a lot about my father and my stepfather and reminding myself to stay present, in this moment, in this life.

This isn’t a dress rehearsal.

This is all we get.

And when Q. and I are looking ahead, to places we want to go, and things we want to do, I am going to try to remember that we need to be grasshoppers too, at least some of the time.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Choose Happiness, Family, Grief, P.- the first year

Make space for grief

My stepfather passed away on Saturday.

It was a horrible day. I was on edge the entire time, anticipating the phone call. I had no patience for my children. All the usual weekend household tasks seemed like insurmountable obstacles.

When my Mum called, we were in the middle of dinner. I was trying to eat pizza with one hand and nurse P. with the other. As soon as Q. answered the phone I knew who was calling and why.

I talked to my Mum for a bit.

And then we had to finish dinner, and P. wanted to nurse some more, and then we cleaned up, and then E. needed a bath, and then I had to put him to bed while Q. walked the floors with P., and then I had to nurse P. to sleep and it was well after 9 p.m. before I had any time to myself and by then I just wanted to fall asleep on the bed in my clothes (as has happened several times in the past week).

When I last spoke to my counsellor, she told me it was important that I make space for grief. I had said to her that I felt I had mourned more for my cat than for my stepfather or my father. In part this was because (at the time) neither of them had died and there were still things I could do about the situation. But mostly it was because I have had to confront the physical absence of my cat every single day since she was euthanized.

I can’t ignore it.

I can’t hide from it.

I have been forced to wrestle with it and acknowledge it.

I don’t know how I will make room to wrestle with the loss of my stepfather.

My counsellor talked about a book called Tear Soup (or something like that) where the person grieving drops tears into the soup because making dinner is the point where they have time to mourn.

I guess I have Tear Showers.

They’re not ideal, as I seem to only manage to shower every third or fourth day at the moment. And when I’m in the shower, P. is usually in the bouncy seat so I’m trying to rush through as quickly as possible.

I could easily have Tear Evening Nursing Sessions, but I don’t feel like that’s fair to P. She doesn’t need to be attached to a weeping mother.

A good friend from my childhood reached out to me after I put the news on Facebook (that is maybe another post- grief in the age of social media- I don’t know that I would have said anything on Facebook but followed my stepsister and sister’s lead. But then not saying anything seems dishonest. I still have not said anything about my father’s accident on there and now I feel like the silence suggests I am somehow ashamed of our new reality.). She said she had been weeping off and on since I posted.

I think she has cried more than I have.

In part, I am sure it is because this has come as a shock to her, whereas I have had a full month to sit with the terminal diagnosis and the eventual decline, plus many more months (years, really) of health issues which had suggested we were on borrowed time.

But I’m sure part of it is that she has the time to do this. She has no children. I am not saying her life is not full or busy, just that if you are not always responsible for two tiny people with many, many needs, perhaps it is easier to find a quiet moment to sit with distressing news.

How do you come to grips with something when you have no time to think for yourself about even minor things?

I told both my sisters I want a vacation from my life.

In many ways, I mean I want a return to BEFORE. Before the accident. Before the cancer’s return. Before we had to choose to give our cat a good death (a better death, I might add, than that which was available to my stepfather, which is something I struggle with daily and is perhaps another post).

It’s not possible, of course, and I wouldn’t want to erase P. either.

But that is ultimately how I feel right now.

I cry uncle.

I would give anything for just a few moments free of all I have felt for the last seven months.

Failing that, I would give almost as much for a few moments to feel, really sit with and feel, all I have felt for the last seven months.

Because right now I just feel numb.

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Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

Apples and Oranges

On Monday I had my biweekly phone check in with my counsellor. I haven’t seen her in person since before P. was born, but I’m hoping to get there once E. is back in school. It’s just been too much to wrangle both kids. We talked through what was going on generally (short answer: family still in crisis on a truly unbelievable level) and how the course was going (almost done but I am marking exams at 4:30 a.m. after P. feeds because that’s the only time I have) and how I was feeling (exhausted and numb) and then she asked if I had specific anxieties about P.

And I had to admit- I have not been able to let go of the worry I feel about P.’s weight gain.

No one else thinks there is a problem. The midwives said her weight was fine. The paediatrician reported her “perfect” when I brought her in for her first round of vaccinations. P. has been consistently gaining about 0.75 oz per day, so 45 grams. The minimum is 0.5 oz, or 30 grams, so you can say “she’s only gaining a quarter of an ounce above the minimum”, which doesn’t sound all that great, or you can say “she’s gaining fifty percent more than the minimum”, which sounds like a lot. I try to make the voice in my head say the second one rather than the first.

“So you’re worrying about a problem when there is no problem,” my counsellor said.

Yes. Yes I am.

We talked about whether I was punishing myself because P. has been a somewhat easier baby than E. was (although I really would not classify her as ‘easy’), or whether I was just fixating on one thing to worry about (with E. it was sleep).

Ultimately I realized two things. The first is that part of this fretting over her weight gain is displacement anxiety. It’s the spill over from all the stress and grief and worry I have about the rest of my family. I’ve crammed it into a box and I’ve tried so hard to keep that box shut so I can keep functioning, but it’s creeping out and this is how it’s manifesting.

“What would you do if her weight gain wasn’t ok?” my counsellor asked.

“I’d work to increase my supply,” I said. “I’d probably try to pump after every feed. Maybe I’d take the herbal supplements again. And I’d cut out dairy just to see if that was causing any issues.”

“So you’d have a concrete plan for something you could do to fix the problem.”

I can’t fix the other problems in my life. I can’t heal my father’s spine or fix my stepmother’s hip or cure my stepfather’s terminal cancer or ease the burden my mother and sisters and stepsister have shouldered as they sit with my stepfather while he dies.

But I could probably fix a low weight gain if I just needed to make more breastmilk.

“Maybe you’re making this into a problem because you know it’s a problem you can control and you can’t control the other worries,” said my counsellor.

She is so right, of course.

We talked about the problems I have with projecting. My big worry with P. is that if she does the same dramatic drop down the percentiles that E. did at six months (he had been in the 75th to the 90th percentile for weight and then ultimately slid down into the 20th and stayed there), she won’t have as far to go because she hasn’t had the strong early weight gain (she is a full two pounds lighter than E. was although exactly the same length).

My counsellor asked how I still remembered all these details with E.

“I kept a really detailed journal.” (I didn’t mention the blog.)

“Maybe you should put the journal away for now. Maybe acknowledge it as a historical document and a memory of E.’s infancy, but don’t look at it to compare.”

And then it hit me.

E’s journal is my parenting manual this time around.

When E. was a baby, I read (what felt like) every single parenting book out there. Books on sleep (SO many books on sleep). Books on food. Books on child development.

I’m an academic and I was trying to approach parenting like I would any other thorny issue- read my way into the subject.

I wanted the manual.

I wanted the explanation.

I wanted the key to E.’s behaviour.

And no matter how many times Q. said to me: “Babies do crazy things!” or “E. hasn’t read the books!”, I still struggled with adapting and adjusting to E. because he didn’t do what the books said he ‘should’ be doing.

I thought I had learned better. This time around, I’ve felt so smug about how I haven’t read any parenting books at all. I gave all the ones I owned away before getting pregnant with P. and I haven’t replaced them. I haven’t taken any out from the library. I’ve been resolved to just follow my baby and roll with the punches.

I thought I was doing this.

But I’m actually parenting exactly the same way I did with E., except this time my model isn’t some generic baby in a book but one very specific baby- my son.

This means when P. does something that’s similar to what E. did (like napping only in carriers) I don’t worry about it. I thought it was because I’d accepted that babies do crazy things but I think now it’s because E. did that exact same crazy thing and then stopped doing it, so I know P. will stop doing it eventually too.

Likewise, if P. does something that’s different from E., but not in any worrying way (such as always wanting to be held looking outwards or rolling over almost a full month earlier), I’m fine (if a bit apprehensive about what this will mean for us when P. is a toddler).

But when I feel P. isn’t measuring up to E., that’s when I worry. And I’m worrying because, once again, my baby is not fitting the model I’m using.

I changed the model but not my mode of thinking.

I know it is so common for parents to compare their children and it is so hard not to do it. And this blog is full of detailed reminders of exactly what E. did when.

My daughter, however, deserves to be seen as her own person, not in terms of “her big brother did that” or “her big brother never did that”.

It’s not her fault she was born second.

So I’m going to try to put down the journal and to stay away from the archives on this blog.

I’m going to try to see her just as her own perfect self.

She deserves nothing less.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Baby Olympics, Nursing, P.- the first year

The second month

Dear P.,

You, my darling daughter, are now two months old. Luckily you are not yet old enough to notice that this letter is late. I’m sure you would feel this is because you’re the second child, but it’s the marking for my course that has kept me from finishing this on time. I have to put you down far more than I would like to try to finish one last teaching-related email, and I’m looking forward to finishing the course at the end of this month and having E. start back at school in September so that you can finally have some of my undivided attention. Your infancy will always be busier than E.’s was, but I do want to carve out some time for just the two of us.

You are already showing signs of having very firm opinions about a number of things. You want diapers changed immediately after they’re soiled. You want to be held facing outwards so you can see what is going on around you. You want to sit on someone’s lap during meals instead of in your bouncy seat so you’re at the same level as everyone else. You want to nap in carriers during the day and you want to nap as soon as you start to feel tired and not several minutes later after I’ve finished whatever I was trying to do when you first yawned. And, most of all, you do not want to be put down during the day, not even for two minutes while I wash my hands after a diaper change. You are definitely still a baby in the fourth trimester.

Although you do still spend much of the day doing your best Winston Churchill impression – you have quite the scowl and a very intense stare – you’re also very cheerful. You started smiling early, but this month the smiles have become much more frequent. One of my favourite times of day is after your first feed in the morning where you don’t immediately go back to sleep. When I’m getting you out of your sleep sack and getting you dressed for the day, you always give me these enormous gummy smiles which light up your whole face. I’ve finally managed to capture a couple of smiles by getting Daddy to get you to smile while I wield the camera- you clearly respond to faces and the camera is enough of an intrusion that I can’t get a good smile on my own. You’re also cooing now and you want so badly to be able to carry on a conversation. When we speak to you, not only do you coo back, but you open your mouth, wiggle your tongue and your eyebrows, and wave your hands. You have a very expressive face and you already have so much you want to say. You have huge brown eyes- so dark they’re almost black and the pupils all but disappear in some lights.  Your hair is equally dark. You have quite a bit on some parts of your head and not very much at all on others. You also have a whorl at the crown of your head in the exact same spot as your brother’s. I know from experience that this is going to make taming your hair a challenge once it gets longer.

You’re already very strong. You’ll tolerate tummy time for a couple of minutes if I prop you up on a nursing pillow and you’ll not only lift your head but you’ll work hard to try to push your chest off the ground as well. You can support your weight on your legs if you’re “standing” against my chest and you’ve started to prefer this position to just being held when we’re working out any burps after a feed. People often comment on how good your head control is. It feels like you’re in a rush to get bigger and stronger, and I suspect you’ll be crawling well before your brother did. When you’re in the K’Tan getting ready for a nap you’ll often drop your head right back to gaze up at my face and smile at me whenever I look down. I can’t resist giving you kisses when you do this, which makes you smile even more, even though I know you need some quiet time to settle and fall asleep. When you do start to get sleepy you bury your face against my chest and I can feel your hot little breath on my skin. If you get over tired you slam your head against my chest (sometimes so hard it startles you and makes you cry).

I’m so grateful for how well you’ve been sleeping at night. Your record is 10 hours straight (from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m.) but your usual big stretch is around 8.5 hours. We have yet to experience any consistent success in getting you down for the night before 9:30 or 10 p.m., but that’s a goal for next month. This month I’ve just been enjoying the sleep. The evenings are a bit of a challenge as you’re usually overtired, overstimulated, and just generally over the day. Most evenings Daddy puts you in the carrier and takes you out for a long walk while I put your brother to bed and then work on the course until you’re back and ready to start cluster feeding. I’m positive all the fussiness and cluster feeding contributes to your exceptional sleep at night; I just hope you can keep the long stretches once we establish a more reasonable bedtime. We switched this month from the swaddle to the sleep sack as it was clear that you no longer liked having your arms tucked in. It was an easy transition- we swaddled you with your arms out for a few nights and popped you in the sleep sack. You’re still sleeping in the bassinet, but you don’t have that much more room left.

I try not to worry about your weight gain. You’re growing in leaps and bounds- at your two month well baby appointment (a week before you actually were two months) you were 61 cm long and had a head circumference of 40 cm. Those measurements are identical to those of your big brother at the same age, but you were over two pounds lighter (at 10 lb, 9.5 oz to his 12 lb, 11 oz). You’re gaining more than the minimum (if only just) and you’ve been gaining at a consistent rate for weeks now, so I think I need to stop comparing. I just hope you’re not going to slide down the percentiles the same way E. did once he hit the six month mark, as you don’t have very far to go!

This month saw your first long journey by car as we made the trek to go and see all of your Canadian grandparents. The drive there was traumatic. It usually takes us a bit over six hours, but it ended up taking eight as we had to stop at every single rest stop on the highway to feed you, change your diaper, and give you a cuddle. Then we’d put you back in your car seat, we’d get a few minutes of quiet, and then you’d start crying again. The last hour and a bit we just drove without stopping while you screamed, because nothing we did was helping and we had to get there. E. spent most of the ride wearing his noise cancelling headphones and informing us that you were crying. It broke my heart to have you be so unhappy and to be so utterly powerless to make it better.

We were dreading the ride home, but then you surprised us by sleeping for almost the entire journey. It still took eight hours, but that was with two long stops instead of six, and there was probably less than twenty minutes of crying in the entire trip. The major difference between the two was the time of departure. Driving there we didn’t get away until 3 p.m. and then we were in stop-start traffic for the first hour. Driving home we left at 7:45 a.m. and had a clear run all the way through. You tend to nap better in the mornings, so we speculate that we just hit a better rhythm. Daddy also wonders if you get carsick like your father and brother; if so, the stop-start traffic at the beginning of the outward journey might have made you feel sick and then you felt sick the rest of the trip. The other option is you were in a growth spurt by the time we drove home- you fell asleep on the carpet after we took you out of the car, and then fell asleep in your travel crib while doing tummy time the following day and in your bassinet when put down for two minutes. I can’t emphasize enough how utterly unlike your usual behaviour this is, so maybe we just lucked out with the second trip by catching you at a sleepy point in your development.

That trip was bittersweet for me. I was so glad you were able to meet so many of your relatives- your aunties and uncles who live further west, your two cousins, who both absolutely adored you and who argued every morning over whose turn it was to hold you first, and your Great-Grannie. You also met both of your Grandpas. One of them you will never get to know- we drove when we did specifically to make sure that he had the chance to meet you before he died. I hope with all my heart that you will get to know and love your other Grandpa and that he will be a part of your life for many years to come, but your relationship with him will not be like the relationship he had with E. before his accident. You won’t know any different- he’ll just be your Grandpa- but it is hard for me.

The easy drive home again after our week away at least made it easier to put you in the car again right at the end of your month for your very first cottage vacation. We spent a week on a lake with two other families. I dipped your feet in the lake- the water was warm enough that you didn’t mind and I think you liked the feel of the sand between your toes. Otherwise you spent the week doing all the same things you would do at home: sleeping a lot at night; nursing a lot during the day; and napping in carriers. I liked wearing you down on the beach. There was shade there no matter what time of day, and I could watch your brother play while you slept. You also had an afternoon nap in a carrier with Daddy every day- he’d walk around until you fell asleep and then he’d sit down and read a book for an hour or two. There were two toddlers there and I found myself imagining what you will be like next year as I watched them play in the sand and wade in the lake.

I’m not surprised that you’re already two months- we’ve been so busy this summer and I know now how quickly babies grow up. You’ve settled in so well. It often seems like you’ve always been here, and your Daddy and I are so very glad you chose to join our family. We love you ever so much.

Love always,
Mummy

 

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

The perfect present

A few days ago my sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday. And, after some consideration, I was able to give her an idea.

But when she first asked, the immediate thought that came into my head was this:

I want an hour to myself to read a book.

It was the same thing I’d said to my counsellor on the phone during our most recent session, where I’d outlined how all four of my parents need so much right now and how my sisters and I are stretched to our breaking points trying to help. How my sisters are, again, taking turns supporting my mother as she cares for my stepfather at home, and how I am, again, incapable of doing more than offering moral support as my children require that I put them first, and you can’t bring a five year old into a house where someone is dying in the living room and wants (understandably) peace and quiet.

Reading is my self-care.

It always has been. Even when I’ve been at my busiest with teaching or the PhD I’ve been able to scrape some time here and there for a book.

Not much time, this year, but some.

P. is less than a week out from being two months old.

Since she was born, I have read exactly ONE book. I read it while nursing her during the week my mother was here at the end of June, because my mother took charge of E.

I am partway through another, which I have been reading while pumping after P.’s first feed of the day.

Fifteen minute stretches.

That’s all the time I’ve been getting.

When E. was this tiny, I read books while he napped as I paced around the living room with him strapped to my chest in a carrier. I remember vividly that George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons was released that spring, as well as the paperback version of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven.

E.’s infancy was different. I didn’t have an older child who wants and needs my attention when the baby is sleeping. I wasn’t teaching a course that demands every spare second I can muster. I can rationalize reading while pumping because I don’t have both hands free to work on the computer, so I can’t do anything with the course, and both children are sleeping.

I still miss my books.

I own every book Guy Gavriel Kay has written. He is one of my most beloved authors and I reread his books frequently (some of them every year).

His next book, River of Stars, was released in 2013, and I bought it and saved it to read when I was overseas in the UK by myself for those first two weeks. I stayed up too late one night to finish it because I knew I didn’t have a toddler who would wake me up early the next morning.

The book I’m currently reading in fifteen minutes stretches is his latest, Children of Earth and Sky.

I did not buy it, as I prefer to have his books in paperback so they take up less room on the shelf. Instead, I put it on hold at the library and waited for months for it to be my turn.

It will be due back before I can get it finished.

***

For my birthday, Q. gave me three things:

  1. The newest Harry Potter book
  2. A gift certificate to a bakery in our neighbourhood which has a few tables at which one can sit and drink tea and eat cake
  3. The promise to take P. for a morning or an afternoon every couple of weeks in the fall, when E. is in school, so that I will actually have time to go and sit in the bakery and drink tea and eat cake and read my book.

He gave me time.

Without me asking, without me saying a word, he knew exactly what I most needed.

I love him so much.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Books, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family