Category Archives: Emotions

Almost time

Yesterday I sent my dissertation chapters to my supervisor.

Today I packed my bag.

In 48 hours I will be at the airport, heading across the pond, and leaving E., my most beloved son, on the other side of an OCEAN for two weeks.

I am, not to put too fine a point on it, losing my SHIT over this.

Logically, rationally, I know that E. will be fine. He will get some extra one-on-one time with his Daddy. He will have myriad grandparents all eager to take him to the park, or build towers with his blocks, or flatten him like a pancake.

He will be, in all likelihood, spoiled rotten.

I know this.

But, as I keep trying to explain to Q., who is, I suspect, a bit hurt that my leaving is causing me so much stress and anxiety and misery, how I am feeling has nothing to do with whether or not I trust him to look after E. (of course I do), and only a little to do with whether or not E. will miss me (although I must say the toddler development books I’ve read which advocate not separating from your child at this age for more than a night are not helping).

It’s really about me.

Even thinking about getting on that airplane makes me feel like my heart is being ripped out of my body.

The best way I can think of to describe it is to say that it feels like I imagine it felt like for Lyra and Will when they visited the Land of the Dead and had to leave their daemons behind (if anyone who reads this is also a Philip Pullman fan).

Rationally, of course, I know that E. is not truly part of me but is his own autonomous (adorable) person.

The way I’m feeling right now doesn’t have a whole lot to do with reason and being rational.

Irrationally I worry that either my plane or theirs will plunge out of the sky in a giant ball of flame.

Irrationally I worry that I will scar E. for life by leaving him, that he will hate me for doing so.

Irrationally I worry that he will change and grow so much in those two weeks that we are apart that I will feel like I no longer know him.

It is the mama bear instinct rising to the fore, awakening and grumbling and growling. Stumbling out of hibernation. It is my deepest, most instinctive, primeval self that is speaking when I try to explain to Q. how I feel and I can’t get the words out before I start to cry.

This child, my child, is most precious to me.

Leaving him, getting in an airplane and flying away from him, crossing a fucking ocean while he sleeps in his crib, with his bunny draped over his face in the ultimate lovey-eye-mask combination?

I can’t say it ever struck me like a great idea, but now that the reality of it is very much almost here?


It is killing me. My anxiety is through the roof.

I’ve started telling E. about what will happen. We’ve got the globe down to look at where we live and where we were visiting Auntie L. and Auntie C. and where Q’s family lives, and we’ve looked at where Mummy is going. We’ve talked about how I’m going to get on an airplane (E. quite likes that bit) and his Grannie and Grandpa and then his other Grandpa are going to come and stay with him and Daddy. And about how a few days after that he and Daddy will get on another airplane (E. quite likes that part too) and come to another airport and I’ll be waiting for them.

I’m making some videos of me- reading a story, singing his favourite songs- so he can watch them if he needs some Mummy time while I’m away. We’ll plan to skype unless that makes things more difficult for him.

I have been obsessively planning the packing for months now. I packed E’s bag two days ago (yes, the bag that he won’t be needing until next month). When I asked Q. if he would mind if I left him a list of what needed to be added to the bag and what needed to be done with the house and the cats before they left (all things that I’m quite sure Q. would have been more than capable of handling himself even if he probably wouldn’t have picked quite the same clothes for E. that I would have), he said he’d be worried I wasn’t myself if I didn’t.

Nothing’s helping much. I’ll at least be keeping busy over the next couple of days since in a fit of genius insanity I decided to have E.’s birthday party the day of my flight. It’s in the morning and my flight is very late at night- so late that I won’t have to leave to go to the airport until after E.’s asleep. Even so, I’ve belatedly realized that this probably wasn’t my smartest plan. (The alternatives, however, were to make Q. organize the party after I’d left, and I was SO not ok with missing my son’s second birthday party, or to have had it last weekend, which would have been almost a month early, which I thought was too much.)

I know we’ll survive. It will either work well, or it won’t. We’ll get through the days, and eventually I’ll be back at the airport waiting outside of customs to pick up my boys.

But on the edge of it, right now, I just wish it wasn’t happening.

There is no way out but through.



Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the second year, Emotions, PhD

Avoiding the impossible choice

Update on my stepfather: the surgery went as well as could be expected and the surgeon is positive at this stage that the cancer was caught early and before it could spread. My stepfather was lucky in a way that the tumor grew in a place where it caused him to be in incredible pain when it was still very small, so he sought medical attention much earlier than otherwise would have been the case. We are still waiting on the reports from the pathology lab but for now everyone is quietly optimistic.

This week E. and I were looking at alternative childcare options.

Q. really, really did not get why I was putting myself through this, given we hadn’t yet heard back from our top choice (the co-op nursery school less than a kilometre from our house).

“We’re number one on the waiting list,”, he kept saying to me (number one because I got up super early to stand outside at 7 a.m. the first Monday in October to make damn well sure we were the first on the list). “If there’s any space at all, we’ll get it.”

True, but I just wasn’t comfortable sitting around and waiting. They would only offer us a space if there was room after all the returning and alumni families had been given what they needed. And there had to be space in E’s specific age group. At the open house they really stressed that your position on the waiting list didn’t really determine your odds of being offered a place, “because if the first six people on the list have toddlers and we only have space for preschoolers, we’ll just jump over them and start with number seven”.

And, as I had already decided, they had to be able to offer us at minimum two full days plus one morning- ideally three full days- per week. Mornings only, especially only three mornings per week, just weren’t going to cut it. Not if I was going to get this PhD finished. Not if Q. was going to stay sane.

If we were going to be offered a place we were supposed to be contacted starting in late February, and they would have told everyone the results by late March.

I’m flying to the UK in mid-April.

I was NOT ok with learning in late March that we didn’t have an appropriate place for E. and starting the search for alternative childcare with three weeks remaining before I decamped overseas for four months.

Anyway, after a lot of searching online I had found two other possible options that seemed to be good fits.

The first was another co-op preschool in our neighbourhood. Close enough that we could walk to it. (And by this I mean that E. could walk to it on his own two feet, albeit slowly, and not have to ride in the stroller.) One group of preschoolers, maximum of sixteen children. Two ECEs and one parent on a duty day. Mornings only, but the morning session was three hours versus our top choice where the morning session was only two and a half. That half an hour per day would make a big difference if that was the only time I was going to get to work on my dissertation.

It turns out that they have a deadline for registration in mid-March to guarantee a place in September, so it was a good thing I had looked into things when I did. On Monday E. and I went down to have a look.

I have to admit that my heart sank when I asked at the school office for directions and she told me that it was in the basement.

I don’t want E. to spend three hours a day in a basement.

But off we went, down the stairs, into a rather unpromising looking basement.

The room itself was a pleasant surprise. Bigger than I was expecting (although only one room), and with much larger windows than you would think a basement could provide. The children played outside in their own playground for a minimum of thirty minutes each day, barring extreme weather events. They had a snack and circle time. Otherwise it was free play. When we arrived two of the boys were playing with trains, three children were sitting at a craft table cutting up pictures from magazines with scissors, another group were heavily involved in an elaborate dress up game, and several little girls were trying to console a very upset little girl who, it turns out, spoke very little English and was there for her very first day.

They were all much older than E., which surprised me, but the lead ECE said that the preschool tends to turn over every two years and that almost all of these students were off to JK in the fall, so the new intake would include more children closer in age to E.

It was a truly loving and warm environment. That poor little girl whose first day it was was so distraught the whole time we were there, and the ECEs cuddled and hugged her, held her, and frequently stopped talking to me to attend to the needs of the other children.

E. had a blast. He just pottered around the room checking out everything and protested mightily when I said we had to go home (I only got him out the door with the promise of tuna sandwiches for lunch).

I found myself wishing so much that it hadn’t been in the basement. There was another daycare in the school that I passed on our way out- a Montessori Casa- that had a big main floor room and it was just a beautiful environment. I rang them up when I got home and while there would certainly have been a place for E. there in September, they only did full-time care, and the cost was more than we were comfortable paying.

I felt in my gut that the preschool would be a good fit for E. The problem was I didn’t think five mornings would really cut it for my own work, but I couldn’t ask Q. to take more time from his position, especially if E. stopped napping part-way through the next academic year.

So on Tuesday I bundled E. into the stroller and went off to investigate the other option, a very inexpensive home daycare that was recommended to me by someone I know in the neighbourhood. This was really the only home daycare I’d looked at, as I just couldn’t cope with the idea of using unlicensed care that I’d found on craigslist. But knowing that my friend adored this caregiver, who was both an ECE and a qualified teacher, made me feel more comfortable.

As I walked (and walked and walked) to her address, I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

This really is too far away.

But then I started rationalizing. She was only ten minutes from the public transit station we used when going to the university. So it didn’t add all that much time to our overall daily commute.

Even so, E. was going to be in the stroller for a touch over thirty minutes, twice a day.

I didn’t like that. I so much preferred the two co-ops, even though doing the drop-off at either of them would probably add just as much to the commute, if not a bit more, as they were in the opposite direction from the university. But E. could walk to them himself. And at two and a half, which he’ll almost be when he starts in September, I felt that was important. I’m very conscious that E. will probably end up riding in our stroller for longer than he would have done otherwise if we lived somewhere else and owned a car. I’m not anticipating that he’ll be ready or able to walk everywhere we need to go starting next fall. We regularly walk over two kilometres in one direction to go to a particular branch of the library or to a particular grocery store. But I’m equally conscious of falling into the trap of keeping him in the stroller for longer than is good for him because it’s easier and faster to just do things that way. These days if we run an errand that takes us about 650-700 metres from home I’ll ask E. if he wants to walk when we start back home again. Often he’ll walk the entire way home. It takes a long time, but I build that time into my expectations, because it’s important to me that he gets the chance to walk, to exercise his independence.

So while the long walk to this dayhome would have kept Q. and I in great shape, I wasn’t thrilled about what it would do for E.

The dayhome was clean and tidy and welcoming. There was a superb child-caregiver ratio: two ECEs to five children. E. would have been with one other little girl exactly his age (the daughter of my friend) plus a couple who were seven or eight months younger and a couple who were just under a year older. They are fed breakfast, lunch and two snacks- all organic food. She was flexible with drop off and pick up, so E. wouldn’t have had to go there for the full eleven and a half hours she was open each day. She was warm and loving. There was a lovely gentle cat. They went on expeditions to the local park and the library. She had rented another apartment next to her own for the space, so the entire apartment was set up for the children. She was happy for us to leave our stroller there during the day.

And yet, my inner voice kept popping up with concerns. She said she made sure they all had exposure to French in case we were thinking of immersion (which we are), but when she sang their song about the days of the week in French I cringed inwardly at her accent. There is a clear accent that anglophone Canadians have when we’ve learned French at school, but not well enough to be fluent. It’s one of the things I am most grateful for- even though my French is now terribly rusty, I still have an excellent French-Canadian accent, one that my French-Canadian flatmate in graduate school said meant I “didn’t sound like an English person speaking French”. I’m sure European French speakers are horrified by my pronunciation, but I like the fact that it reflects a real dialect rather than too many years in school being taught by a non-native speaker.

And this: even though the children went to the library and the park, the bulk of their play was indoors. The play area was relatively large (the living/dining room of the apartment) and there were options for imaginative play (toy kitchen, play house, circus tent, etc.), but there was no way around the fact that E. simply wouldn’t get the chance to run around the same way he would at either of the two co-ops. When taken into consideration along with the stroller/walking issue, it added up to a lot less time where E. was in control of his own body and outdoors.

But the biggest issue was this: She was really pushing learning. “How is he with recognizing shapes?” she asked. I had no idea. E. can do shape sorters and has been doing so for months, but we don’t read a lot of books where I point out circles and squares. “Does he know his numbers? His letters? He’s getting close to two- he should recognize his alphabet by now. Is he combining words into sentences?” Well, no. Just this week E’s gone on a big number kick, and I’d say today that he can recognize and try to name two, three, four, five, six, seven, nine, and zero, but on Tuesday the only one I was confident he knew was zero. I’m not sure he knows any letters consistently. He certainly isn’t combining words into sentences.

“We do a lot of learning here. Days of the week. Months of the year.” There were flashcards. “I don’t like to read the words in a book. Instead I ask the children to describe to me what is happening.”

The more she talked the more uncomfortable with the environment I became. It was actually quite interesting to realize that I have so wholly embraced the idea of play-based learning and following E’s lead. He is absorbing information in leaps and bounds, every single day, but I honestly don’t worry about drilling him or pushing him to learn things like shapes and letters. I know all of that information will come when he is ready. And at not yet two, I honestly didn’t think any of it mattered.

But there was no getting around the fact that she was inexpensive and flexible with her hours. And it would have been a safe and warm environment, even if not exactly the sort of environment we fostered at home. And E. thought it was great- he just pottered around exploring and actually interacted with some of the other kids. Both care providers commented on how independent and self-confident he was.

Tuesday at lunch I outlined both options to Q. and got more and more depressed as I did so. I was absolutely certain that the mornings-only preschool was the better environment for E., but that the dayhome was the better option for Q. and I from a managing our workloads perspective, even if the trek to get there would have been seriously annoying and downright miserable during the winter.

I didn’t know what we were going to do. I was girding myself to looking into still more options.

And then, while I was putting E. down for his nap, Q. checked his e-mail and called up to me that we had a message from our top choice. They were contacting us, just as they’d hoped they would, at the end of February.

They had a place for E. in September. They could offer us three full days per week (or more if we had wanted them) on exactly the days we wanted.

I cried when Q. read me the e-mail. I was just so overwhelmingly relieved to have the situation sorted, to avoid the impossible choice between the welfare and happiness of my child and the needs of our careers.

I cannot think of a better place for E. He’ll go three days a week, 9:00-3:30. He will get thirty minutes of outdoor play each morning and afternoon session in a playground built for the nursery school and designed for his age group. He’ll have circle time and crafts, sensory tables, healthy snacks and hot lunches, water play, loving, warm responsive ECE teachers, small group sizes, and play-based learning.

I also cannot think of a better option for Q. and I. Q. will get four and a half full days per week for his career during semester (he is going to do the 2.5 hour duty day session each week during semester) and five outside of term. I will have three full days (albeit days that end at 3:30 since I’ll do pick up and Q. will do drop off) for my dissertation and teaching commitments, AND two full days at home with my son. In July and August he’ll be home with me full-time.

He has a guaranteed place for the 2014-5 year, for however much space we need. If we don’t have a 2.0 he’ll probably go full-time. If we do I think we’ll try to keep him in for three mornings per week so he gets the socialization and I get a bit of time home alone with his younger sibling. If we do get a 2.0 s/he will have a guaranteed place when s/he is old enough.

It sorts out everything until E. and any 2.0 are old enough to go to kindergarten.

There are still so many unknowns facing us in September. But a big one, maybe the biggest one, is sorted out.

I still feel torn about this. I am 100 % convinced that it has been wonderful for E. to have been home with us for his first two years, even though I know it has put a strain on our marriage and put Q. under enormous pressure with his work and slowed down (or weakened the quality) of the work I’ve done on my dissertation. But I also truly believe that E. will be ready for something more in September. I think he will blossom having a new environment and new people to interact with. Exploring the options this week has really brought home to me that going to the drop-ins these past six months has helped him to adjust to new environments and to be less overwhelmed by new places or new people. The ECEs at the co-op and at the dayhome all commented on how happy he was to explore and how he wasn’t clinging to me or overwhelmed in any way. He was just genuinely excited to play with the toys and see what the other children were doing. That reaction would have been unimaginable last fall.

I’m not designed to be a full-time stay at home mother. There are days when I wish I was. I am so confused about what I want from my career now, that in a lot of ways it would be much easier if I could just embrace being home for the next few years.

But I know myself. I know I need something more.

At the same time, I am just not emotionally ready to put E. into full-time daycare, especially not the ten hours or more per day routine that seems to be so normal in this city filled with families with two working parents and long commuting times.

It would break my heart to spend that little time with him. And I just don’t believe it would be the right choice for him either.

So this co-op, with its three short days per week for only ten months of the year, I really do believe suits us all perfectly.

I know I will miss him in the fall. Q. voiced this too. “I’m going to miss him,” he said the other day at lunch. “I’ll be just like those regular Dads who only get quality time with their children at the weekend.”

But I’m also hopeful that next year will be easier than this one has been. That we might actually get to do some things as a family on the weekends, because Q. won’t be having to work all the time. That Q. and I might get some more time together in the evenings. That we’ll achieve a better balance.

For the first time since I can remember, I’m actually looking forward to the fall.


Filed under (Pre)School Days, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Emotions, PhD, Second Thoughts

Changing of the guard

We had some unexpected bad news from the family yesterday. My stepfather has been in the hospital for close to a week with something that they were thinking was a type of infection that would clear up with treatment but yesterday became (with a 99% certainty) the big C. (and not the benign kind). He’s in surgery as I type. On the one hand it’s great that they got him in so quickly, but it’s also never a good sign when they feel they need to move that aggressively.

I missed my Mum’s phone call yesterday because I was out all day at a conference (and giving an incredibly cobbled together paper that apparently managed to look coherent and convincing, go figure). Q. told me the news when I got home. I called my Mum, even though it was late, and talked things through with her. I had already said earlier in the week that I could go home whenever if I could be useful, but then, and again last night, she insisted that was unnecessary. E. has croup at the moment, so Q. and I have our hands full looking after him, but it’s reading week here which always means we’re under a bit less pressure.

After I spoke with my Mum I tossed and turned in bed for a while until I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get to sleep right away. I needed time to process things. So I got up, trundled downstairs, and texted my sisters, both of whom now live on the west coast of the USA and so were only part of the way into their evening.

We all linked up via a g.oogle hangout where they told me that they’d already had a chat and my youngest sister was getting on the first flight out the next morning to fly home. They didn’t want my Mum to be alone during the surgery, or to be without support afterwards.

I felt about a billion times better when they told me that’s what they had decided. My Mum didn’t really protest the decision, which means that’s really what she wanted too but just wouldn’t ask for. My sister won’t make it back before the surgery because they’ve been so quick at getting him into an OR, but she’ll be there later tonight.

I am, however, having a hard time with this. I am the eldest. I am the closest in terms of geography. In my mind, I am the one who should be there. I have always, always felt an enormous sense of responsibility towards my family. It was something my therapist commented on when I was living in the UK, reading for my MPhil, and clinically depressed. I think it stems from being the eldest child in a family where we moved a lot and our parents split up. At some point I decided I was responsible for looking after my siblings as well as myself. Now I feel it should extend to my parents.

Two years ago I would have been on a train home the moment I first learned he was going into the hospital. It was reading week. I wasn’t teaching this semester anyway. I had no major deadlines and could pull the conference paper I gave yesterday. Easy.

Except now, of course, it wasn’t easy.

Now there’s E.

I can’t leave E. and go without him because Q. is teaching this semester (a really heavy load) and we don’t have any sort of daycare lined up since we’re used to juggling him between us.

I can’t bring E. either. I can’t think of a more useless support person for someone who needs to spend hours in a hospital than someone arriving with a TODDLER in tow.

I could stay in their house with E. (did you see I called it ‘home’ up there? That was instinctive, even though I am more likely these days to call ‘home’ the house I share with Q. and with E.), keep it tidy, look after the cats, make nutritious meals. But I can’t keep my Mum company for ten hours a day in the hospital.

My sister, however, can. And when she needs to go back to get back to work, my other sister, who has holiday time she needs to take before her contract resets in April and she loses those days (which is frankly barbaric) is planning to come in, after the surgery, once my stepfather is back at home, to help out.

I am so grateful that they are able to do this.

I am struggling a lot that it is something I cannot easily do myself.

My stepsister, who has two children, one a year older than E. and the other a year younger, and who lives in a different province, must be feeling exactly the same way.

I called my stepfather before he went into surgery and managed to have a brief chat with him. I apologized for not being able to just hop on a plane and get there. “You come with excess baggage now,” he told me, souped up on morphine. “I love your excess baggage. Give that little guy a kiss for me.”

It’s true. I cannot drop everything as easily as I once could. I have new responsibilities and a family that I have built that sometimes must take precedence over my family of birth. And while I logically recognize that even though I could go now and take E. with me it would make no sense whatsoever, I am still struggling with feeling guilty about staying here. I feel like I’m abdicating the role I’ve felt I’ve needed to occupy in my family for as long as I can remember.

And it is hard for me to grasp that my baby sister, who has been known to need the odd bailout from her older siblings on a variety of matters, has grown up so much and so far that she can now be the one to drop everything, to get on the plane, to sit and wait with our mother. I’m enormously proud of her and impressed that she and my other sister thought everything through so neatly and decided exactly what I had already decided myself but felt unable to implement.

But I do feel like my world is ever so slightly off-kilter as a result.

And now, we all wait.

Please universe, let the news from yesterday be the worst of it.


Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Emotions, Family, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)


I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last couple of days about why I am feeling so anxious these days.

Part of it is related to the UK. I have so much anxiety about leaving E. for two weeks when I first fly over that I try not to think about or I start to build up into a panic attack. This has nothing to do with not trusting Q. or my Mum (who is going to come to stay while I’m gone) to look after E. I’m just not emotionally ready to leave him. It feels a bit like that scene in The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman where Will and Lyra go the land of the dead and their daemons can’t go with them. Not that E. is really a part of me, of course. He is his own person. But I feel like it will be ripping away a part of me to leave him.

So that’s part of it. I’m compensating in my usual way: through massive amounts of relatively unnecessary planning. There is a part of me that feels that if I can just figure out the absolute BEST way to pack and the IDEAL amount of stuff to bring versus buying in the UK, things will be better. Right now I am obsessing over buying E. the PERFECT rainjacket and the PERFECT backpack to be his carry-on for the plane. Because, you know, apparently finding the right size of backpack for a toddler with a chest strap and good pockets for sippy cups will make leaving him on the other side of an OCEAN for two weeks easier.

I am driving Q. nuts about this, but I have straight out told him it is how I’m channeling my anxiety, so he is being fairly restrained in how he is handling it. I was obsessing about finding the PERFECT place to live in the UK but now we’ve found a flat so I’ve had to channel the anxiety into something else. (As an aside, I am really excited about the flat. It’s in a small village outside the university town. I will be able to get from our flat to the department and the university library, both about 7.5km away, on a bike on a cycleway that is totally segregated from the road except for 200 metres or so at either end where I will be on a bike lane that is on the road itself. Getting fit without having it take up time that should be spent on the dissertation. Win!)

Part of it is stemming from my anxiety about September and what is going to happen with E. Since we’re away for four months, I feel this needs to get sorted out soon. We should hear from the co-op nursery school at the end of this month or early next month. If they have a place for E. that is two full days plus one morning, or three full days, we’re golden. But I am looking into alternatives. There is another co-op preschool in our area. I don’t think the space is as extensive (I’m going to see it at the end of the month), and it is smaller, so the children are just in one big group of sixteen rather than being divided up into groups according to their age. This would mean E. would be among the youngest and there could be five year olds, although I think it is more likely they will all be four or under since the schools in our area are all moving to full-day kindergarten (which is another post- my anxiety about the public school system and its curriculum and what the f*** is happening). It’s little things: you send your snack with your toddler rather than every family doing a group snack one day per month. But, it only requires a parental duty day once or twice per month rather than every week like the other place. And its morning program is 1/2 hour longer than the other one (8:45 to 11:45 rather than 9:00 to 11:30). So I think if our first choice can only offer us mornings, we need to think seriously about this other preschool, especially if we don’t think E. will be needing full-time care the following year if we’ve had a baby (IF IF IF).

My other option is a dayhome. I have a mummy friend in the neighbourhood (we met at a childbirth prep class) who has someone she adores. She is a qualified teacher and ECE, feeds them organic food, and is incredibly inexpensive for the area. I’ve spoken to her on the phone to confirm she has space in September and would consider a part-time arrangement of three days/week, but I’m waiting for her to call me back to set up an actual meeting. The only negative is she’s a reasonable walk away (probably a touch over twenty minutes), which would become a huge pain if she won’t let us leave the stroller at her place. It’s on my (massively long) list of questions to ask. I think I could probably break down and bike with E. in a child seat during the non-snowy months (I don’t currently bike in this city), but the winter would be an issue.

From a PhD perspective, the dayhome is the best option. I think the morning preschool, however, is the better option for E. I think he would really benefit from having the three hours in the morning and then coming home for lunch and the afternoon. If he is still napping well (IF IF IF), there would be scope to get a lot of work done, but there isn’t really room in that schedule to go to the library, or to go to the university to teach. So that option would require Q. to be willing to take E. a couple of days a week, even though “taking” E. would hopefully mean E. goes to preschool for three hours and then naps. With the dayhome, Q. could work five days, and I could work three. The ideal still remains our first choice of co-op nursery school, since its “full day” program is 9:oo to 3:30, including lunch and nap/quiet time. One of my other questions for the dayhome care provider is about late drop offs and early pick ups. I really don’t want three days a week to mean E. is in care from 8 until 5, or even longer (ten or ten and a half hours per day is not unheard of in this big city filled with two-career families with long job commutes).

There is one other possibility for a dayhome that is much closer, but much more expensive, so we’d probably only be able to put E. in for two days. That really would require Q. being able to take E. for one day. She’s a Montessori teacher and her ad suggested she has very similar values and ideas about children to me. I’m still waiting to see if she’ll consider a part-time placement, and if she will I’ll try to set up a meeting. The two preschools have the advantage of only running during the school year, so we only pay for ten months of care. That said, if we were paying for and using care for July and August, Q. and I would obviously both get more work done- if we aren’t having a baby (IF IF IF).

There is a lot going on. It’s all fallen on me. I’m the ‘boss’ parent when it comes to making these sorts of decisions for E., and Q. really does not have time right now to think about things. I think he’s taken the approach of “if we don’t get the first place we’ll think about things then”, but that’s really not good enough, since we’re going to be away for so long, and I think now we need more care for E. than we originally thought. Being offered three mornings at our top choice won’t be enough. When we first applied, before this semester started, we thought it would be. So I’ve been doing my research and contacting people and next week some time I’ll sit down with Q. and put all the options on the table and see what he thinks about it all, and we will hopefully have a truly honest and open discussion about workloads and what will be manageable next year and what won’t be.

Underlying all of this fretting, though, are two bigger issues that I’ve only just articulated for myself today.

The first is that I’m hitting the stage in my PhD where it is just one big slog to the end. It isn’t fun. It isn’t exciting. It is borderline crippling to face down my inner critic and my inner demons and my inner doubts and to just keep on writing each day. Most days I’m convinced I have nothing to say, that I am a fraud (see: “Imposter Syndrome, Academic, Female”), that nothing I think or write is original. Every now and then I think about how much more I could have done if I’d been working on the PhD full-time these last two years and then I really want to freak out and/or cry. My supervisor’s one consistent critique is that I’m a bit light with my footnotes- I’m not citing enough of the modern scholarship. I’m not citing enough because the  modern scholarship is where I run out of time with each chapter. When I was pregnant with E. I read and read and read the ancient sources. I built my database. I knew what my arguments were. The problem now is I simply don’t have the time to read everything I should in the modern scholarship before I hit the stage that I have to start writing each chapter to keep to my timeline.

Anyway. I have made my choices and I don’t regret them and I am doing the best I can. But I am ever mindful of the fact that upwards of 50% of PhDs in the Humanities never finish and that it is THIS stage where it gets to people. The stage where you just have to squash and silence your doubts and keep sitting in that damn chair and typing away at your keyboard. If I get a full draft, I will finish. I will defend successfully. But I have to summon up the confidence and the courage and the sheer bloodymindedness to get there.

The second issue is we are starting to move closer to a time where there are a lot of unknowns in our lives again. Will we have a 2.0? Will I finish on the timeline we’ve set out? Will I get a tenure-stream job (probably not)? Will I get any sort of job?

For the last couple of years, even though things have been chaotic and stressful trying to balance the PhD with being E’s Mum (and Q.’s wife, etc. etc.), there haven’t been any really big unknowns. We’ve been raising E., but not ttcing. I’ve been working on the PhD, but there’s always been lots of it left to do.

Now we’re approaching the endgame. In the fall I will be on the job market. There are post-docs I will need to apply for. If there are jobs in my field I’ll need to go for them. I’ll need to get my application in to the various local universities for their contract work.

And we’ll be back at the clinic.

Dear readers, if you have been with me  all this time (and I know some of you have) you know this about me: I do not do well with unknowns. I am a planner. An organizer. I cannot stand ceding control of my life to the universe. It’s why I had so much trouble during the three years we were trying to get pregnant. It’s why I nearly made myself crazy when E. was first born and I tried so hard (and so futilely) to get him onto some sort of predictable routine.

I manage my anxiety by feeling in control of my life.

The more I can’t control the big issues, the more I micromanage and grab onto smaller things. When we were ttcing it was my weight and body image and running. I couldn’t get pregnant, but I could damn well make sure I got skinny and could run really fast.

I have thought for weeks now that my micromanagement of planning for the UK, and now my obsession with daycare, was solely stemming from my anxiety about leaving E. in April. And that is certainly a big part of it. But another part, and probably an even bigger part, is subconsciously I’m aware that these four months in the UK is the last point in time when everything is planned out and set on a straight path, right down to the dates of our flights and the timings for our family holidays. When we come back in August, everything, EVERYTHING is up in the air. Right now we don’t know where E. will be going for care, whether or not I’ll be teaching, and, if I am, in what course and on what day, what types of jobs will be coming up (if any), what post-docs will be available (if any). We aren’t even 100% certain at this stage what Q’s teaching load will look like, and we certainly don’t yet know what his service commitments will be.

What I’m really doing by obsessing over the UK is allowing myself to sidle away from staring at the reality of the great black hole of unknown that happens once we’re back on this side of the Atlantic.

And strangely, realizing that this is what this has all been about has made me feel quite a lot better. For now.


Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Emotions, PhD, Second Thoughts, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

It’s not really working

This whole “let’s share E.’s care between us while Q. keeps his full-time academic position and I finish my PhD” thing.

It did work, mostly, when Q. was on sabbatical.

It did work, mostly, last semester when Q. was on a reduced teaching load.

It is clearly not working this semester now that Q. is on a normal teaching load (albeit the heavier side of normal).

Q. is beyond stressed. It’s not helping that he keeps taking on things. He agreed to be the keynote speaker for a graduate conference at the last minute because they must have had someone cancel on them and they were in a tight spot and he wants to look like a team player if he (or I) is ever looking for another job in the area (Canada’s academic community in our field is small. Reputations get around.). He at some point in the past decided it would be a good idea to rejig his section of a big survey course, which means he has to write new lectures this semester. This, in retrospect, was a very bad idea. He’s got committee work. He’s got page proofs.

He is, I keep thinking, JUST on this side of sanity.

I can think of no better indicator of the seriousness of the situation than the fact that he has become a bit teary talking about it all twice in the last month. This, from a man who I have seen cry exactly three times in the ten years that I’ve known him. Once when his father died, once when we first talked about what would happen when he moved back home three months after we started dating, and once, when we were pregnant with E., when I gave him the “tenure baby” onesie I’d ordered.

Q. is a bottler. He really takes to heart the idea that you just have to “be a man” and get on with things. As a result it is excruciatingly hard to get him to open up and tell me what he is thinking.

I, meanwhile, sit and watch and fret.

I think we will just about manage to get to the end of the semester. Just. Reading week is coming, which will help. When I head over to the UK two weeks before E. and Q. fly (a fact which is causing me some insane anxiety right now, which is another post), my Mum is going to come and stay with them so Q. can tie up his loose ends for the academic year.

I think I have managed to get Q. to agree to me looking after E. one day a week while we are in the UK so he can do his own work. He won’t get any serious research done but it would be some time for admin or course prep. He says that he is planning to just relax and catch up on his sleep. I would love it if he actually did this. I will believe it when I see it.

But we can’t do this again next academic year. Next year I am hoping to finish and defend. Next year I may well have a course directorship that will give me sole responsibility for a fourth-year course.

Q. and I have talked a LOT about this. It is the right thing to do for my CV- go for the course directorship.

It is an insane thing to do from a family perspective. It would make much more sense to try to get a completion scholarship that would get me out of teaching for the year. Or even just TA in a course I’ve done before and put minimal effort into it, like I did this year.

But the job market is so terrible right now, we both know I can’t afford to pass up any chance to improve my CV. And Q. is 100% supportive of my taking the course directorship, if I am offered it (which is a relatively big if at this stage).

So. If I am going to finish next year, and especially if I am going to finish while teaching a new course, I cannot have less than three full days a week to work on the PhD.

And Q., it has become clear to me this semester, cannot function trying to squeeze his full-time job into part-time hours. Even though he’s not doing any research at the moment, the admin and teaching commitments just seem to expand ever outwards.

This is changing how I am thinking about daycare options for E. come September. We are supposed to hear at the end of the month or the start of March whether there is a space for him at the co-op nursery school in our neighbourhood. Originally we were just going to take anything they could give us, even if it was just three mornings, in anticipation of holding his place to go full-time the following year.

But three mornings isn’t going to cut it, especially not if one of those mornings is a duty day where I’m in at the school. And if we’re pregnant and we have a baby in summer 2014, E. won’t be going to full-time nursery school that year because we won’t be able to afford it. We’ll be lucky to be able to keep him in for a couple of mornings so that I can have a bit of one-on-one time with 2.0.

So I’ve come to the conclusion (I have yet to broach all of this with Q.) that I need to find some other options so that if the nursery school cannot offer us three full days (or two full days plus one morning, which is, I think, the minimum we can cope with), we can turn down the place they have for E. and go elsewhere.

Yep. Right after sorting out the major issues for the UK (flights, accommodation there, house/cat sitter here, holiday travelling), I’ve plunged into the world of daycare.

I could probably leave it until we hear from the nursery school, but I’d like to know that there are other options before we say no to them. I’m still really hoping they will have the right space for E. We are first on the waiting list, but it will all depend on what age group they decide he fits into (toddler group or younger preschool group- as a May baby by September he’s right on the line between the two), and what space is available after their current and alumni families have been slotted in, as they get priority.

I don’t know that I want to put E. in a big daycare, not least because I think part-time spaces are few and far between. But the idea of evaluating home daycares is stressful too. And my scholarship ends in August, which means we’ll be facing all of this at a time when our income will have suddenly dropped. We can manage it, but we certainly won’t be able to afford full-time care, even if I were comfortable sending E. to daycare five days a week (which I am most certainly not).

Add to all of this my inner doubts, which are wondering what on earth we are doing thinking about trying for a 2.0 given that will mean I will pop out another baby right after defending, so I will have at least a year with no mat leave and no income at all and no way to ask Q. to help shoulder the burden, since I cannot, will not, ask him to take more time from his job. His mental and physical health simply would not be able to cope. He’s put as much as possible on hold for two years now. If we have a 2.0, I am staying home with him/her. And when 2.0 is a year, we’ll have to revisit the daycare options since even if I’m just doing some contract teaching one or two days a week, Q. can’t be asked to pick up those days.

There are a lot of days I wonder if we’re crazy to even think about a 2.0. Things are still so hectic around here, and Q. is so stressed all the time. Adding a 2.0 would just add at least another two, if not three, years of total chaos. I know I want the family of four. I know I want E. to have a sibling. I know I want the years to come with two of them. But I’m scared of the newborn/infant phase again, because I hated so much of it for so long with E. I wish there was a way to have a 2.0 that didn’t mean JUST when we were getting E. into some care and we both had more time for our jobs we had a second baby, but I am ever mindful of the age gap. If we have a 2.0 when we first go back to the clinic, E. will already be more than three years older. But having a baby right after defending the PhD isn’t great either as it puts a bad gap on the resume at a time when to be competitive you really need to be doing everything you can.

The vast, vast majority of female academics who have children (most are childless) only have one. I’m really starting to see why that happens. The timings just never add up.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the second year, Emotions, Family, Second Thoughts

First steps to starting again

This afternoon I had an appointment with my f/s.

It was a bit weird to be there in the clinic, outside of regular cycle monitoring hours, showing the nurses and admin assistants my photos of E. I found myself paying attention to the toys set out for visiting children- toys I never allowed myself to look at when I was here BEFORE, and toys that I hope I won’t have reason to use since I really really really don’t want to be THAT woman who takes her first kid to the fertility clinic so she can rub salt in the wounds of all those who are still waiting. But it could happen- Q.’s schedule next year won’t be as flexible, and if I have to bring E. with me, I will.

Anyway, my f/s was really happy to see me and took down some details about E’s birth. He is still funny: “Does E. look like your husband?” “Yes, especially when he was younger.” “Oh good. We got the right sperm then!”

We talked about timings for 2.0, and I explained that we were going to be away for four months and wanted to be ready to do a FET as soon as we got back in late August.

The good news was he only wants Q. and I to update our bloodwork within six months of the FET (so we’ll do that in April before we go). No HSG repeat. No laparoscopy. Hurrah!

He sent me off with a package of birth control pills to take my last month in the UK to bring on a period before the FET. I still find it hugely ironic that I need to take birth control pills in order to give myself the best shot at getting pregnant. I guess I will find a way to get a doctor in the UK to give me a pregnancy blood test before starting the pills just to make sure some miracle conception hasn’t taken place (ha).

And while I was tempted to throw caution to the wind and do a FET this spring (since quite a number of the mamas on my online birth club are now pregnant again and my uterus is twitching something fierce), reason did prevail in the end. I don’t want to be pregnant in the UK. I’d rather be here, with my midwives. It’s not that I don’t think I’d get good care, but I think it’s just another layer of complications I really don’t need given I am meant to be selfish while we are overseas and go hell for leather on the dissertation.

It was kind of nice to be there, in a way. Nice to be able to start to think about the possibility of another baby. Nice to know that Q. and I have survived the crazy of new parenthood and want to do it again.

Being in the clinic felt 100% different this time around. I don’t know if that feeling will stay once we start cycling again, but I’m holding on to it for now.

One thing I couldn’t help noticing, though, was just how freakin’ big my chart was. I think I blogged about this at one point. How when I first started there I would stare at the big charts and the women attached to them and wonder why they had such big charts and what was so wrong. And then one day I realized that mine was the biggest chart in the stack for ultrasounds. And then it was the biggest again. And again. And I realized that all those women in the waiting room with me were now staring at ME and wondering what was wrong.

My chart is still freakin’ big.

My god I am grateful for E. I teared up in the clinic when I saw my f/s. I’m tearing up now remembering it.  Those men and women changed our lives in the best possible way.

I hope so much they can change our lives again in the fall.


Filed under Emotions, FET, IVF, Second Thoughts

Wouldn’t it be great, if everybody had a gun?
No one would ever get shot, because everybody would have a gun.
– The Arrogant Worms

On Friday I was in the library all afternoon. I had no idea what had happened until after E. had gone to bed, when I turned on my laptop to check my e-mail.

I was stunned into silence for a moment.

And then I cried. Huge, wracking sobs that just erupted up out of my gut. I couldn’t contain them. I couldn’t stop them. Q. tried to distract me with a film, but all through the evening they would find their way out again.

I cried until I thought I would vomit.

When you have a baby, everyone tells you that your perspective on the world changes. “Everyone’s child becomes your child,” they say.

Friday was when I truly *got* this.

I’ve noticed ever since E. was born that I’m more sensitive to news stories, more likely to cry during movies, less able to switch off my emotions if what I’m watching/reading/hearing involves children or pregnancy.

But to a certain extent, I just viewed this as evidence of a new ability to empathize, the same way I am far more sensitive to depictions of infertility, having lived with it myself, and how I always cry at weddings when it comes to the vows (which I never used to do), even weddings on screen, because they make me remember my vows and the way I shook while I said them, and the look in Q.’s eyes as I spoke the words that bound us together for life.

Friday was different.

And what really got to me wasn’t thinking about the kids. I’m still not actually able to think about the kids.

It was thinking about the parents.

And there was this moment where I could put myself in their place and imagine what they were going through.

It was only a moment. I couldn’t think about it longer than that or I would have started screaming. At the very least I would have needed to bolt up the stairs to E.’s room and wake him from his dreaming so I could hold him close and promise again and again that I would protect him.

And it felt self-indulgent, really, to imagine the level of pain that those parents are actually experiencing, to toy with the idea of something so horrible that it would end my life as I know it, forever, all the while knowing that E. was safe in his crib upstairs (something Q. said to me repeatedly when I first read about what had happened and I couldn’t stop the tears).

Those parents are living our worst nightmare, and they will never be able to wake from it.

But in that moment, that first instinctive gasp, I could put myself in their place. And even imagining something like that happening to my E. was enough to bring me to my knees.

It is a terrible love that we have for our children. It owns us, completely and forever more.

E. woke up the next morning, too early, and I did what no doubt so many of you did as well- held him a little tighter, kissed him a little more, swore up and down not to get frustrated when his early waking caught up with him and every tiny frustration overpowered his usual good temper.

Our lives got to continue as usual.

But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’m trying not to read about it, not to look at the pictures, not to listen to the briefings. I am not yet capable of coping with it in any rational manner.

But again and again I find myself thinking. We bring these little lives into the world. We promise them, in the wee hours of the night in our rocking chairs, while we kiss their tiny heads as they snuggle into us, that we will protect them. We do the best we can. We buy the right car seat. We put gates on our stairs. We put them to sleep on their backs. We hold their hands as we cross the road. We do everything we can.

And then.

If they’re not safe at school, where are they?

When Q. and I first started dating, we got quite serious quite quickly. So it wasn’t that far into our relationship when I gave him an ultimatum, the only one I have ever given him.

“I will never,” I told him, “live in the United States.”

Even though there are far more universities there than in either of our countries.

Even though there are richer universities there that might be interested in a spousal hire, which probably is our only real chance at both of us getting full-time positions.

Even though we have good friends who live there, and, now, family as well (both of my sisters have moved there in the last couple of years).

I will not go.

Not ever.

Not for any price.

It’s not all about guns, of course. It would be far too simplistic to suggest that. It wouldn’t be true.

But it is part of it.

My father owns a gun.

It is a shotgun. He hunts geese every fall.

The gun used to live at my uncle’s house in another province where my father normally hunts, but since he’s found an opportunity to hunt closer to home, it’s in his house now.

When we go to stay with him after Christmas, E. will be in a house where there is a gun.

And I am ok with this.

I am not opposed to guns.

I don’t think it’s as simple as all guns are bad.

I have played with Nerf guns.

I have watched children build guns out of Lego.

I can see why some people need to own a gun. I can see why other people might not need to, but might want to own a gun.

Where my head explodes is with this idea that one should have a right to have ANY gun that one fancies.

Even a gun that can fire dozens of bullets without needing to be reloaded.

Even an assault rifle.

No civilian needs a weapon that has been designed to allow it to kill as many people as quickly as possible.

After the massacre in Port Arthur, the Australians changed their laws and made it much more difficult for people to own particular types of guns.

Farmers could still have their shotguns. Hunters could have rifles.

But it became much more difficult to purchase and own semi-automatic handguns and their ilk.

It worked.

I live in a city that probably has one of the worst gun cultures in Canada.

Nearly all of our gun deaths are gang related.

Sometimes an innocent civilian gets caught in the cross-fire. There was a shooting not so long ago in a mall which I have been to probably dozens of times since we moved here.

We will never be able to sort out our gun problems so long as the weapons continue to flow so freely and easily across the border.

Yes, it is true that the lack of mental health support in our societies played a role.

And yes, the media coverage no doubt encourages emulation and imitation.

And yes, it is true that you could ban all guns and people would still find a way to get them.

But here’s the thing. It would be harder for them to get them.

They might get noticed when they try to get them.

They might end up with a gun that fires fewer rounds before they would have to pause to reload.

They might end up with one gun instead of three.

Some might not end up with a gun at all.

And those who did, who would still try to perpetrate these horrors, might only get a few shots off before they were stopped.

I do not disagree with those who want the right to own a gun. I don’t understand the attitude, but I fundamentally do not disagree with it.

But I don’t agree that you get any gun. Whenever you want. With almost no questions asked.

And what breaks my heart, over and over again, is I cannot see how things will change.

I expect in a year, or two, or six months, the President will be standing at another podium, wiping away more tears, as he speaks of another tragedy, involving young children, or high school students, or university students, or co-workers, or theatre-goers, or shoppers in a mall, or citizens at a political rally, or whoever, and everyone will jump up and down and say this cannot happen again, this must not happen again.

But it will.

It is a running joke that Canadians define ourselves by what we are not. And what we are most not are Americans.

And while I know that many, many Americans feel the same way that I do, this weekend I’ve never felt that to be more true.

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Filed under Emotions, Soapbox

Personality plus

I’ve mentioned a few times on here that E. is, by nature, a really happy baby/toddler. That he loves going new places and meeting new people. That he takes new things in his stride.

E’s relatives often say the same thing over and over again to Q. and I: “You’ve done so well with him.”

They are trying, I know, to give us a compliment, to praise our parenting skills, to express approval of the fine young lad we are raising.

But I always find it a curious comment. Because, really, E. is too young yet for his behaviour to be all that heavily influenced by what we tell him to do/not to do. He still throws his food on the floor whenever he feels like it, even though we have spent months asking him not to do this.

I feel like we’re being praised because E. is a happy little guy.

And I just don’t think we can take credit for that.

Yes, he knows he is loved, and he has secure emotional attachments to us, and he is confident that his needs will be met.

But ultimately, E. is just a happy, laid-back baby.

I always feel sorry for my friends who have more intense/high needs babies when people praise us for this wonderful job we’ve apparently done to produce a son who just smiles all day long.

I have friends with babies who are cranky. Babies who are fussy. Babies who don’t handle changes to their routine, who can’t cope with strangers, who can’t miss a nap without losing the plot entirely.

Those babies are also equally loved, equally secure in their attachments to their parents, equally confident that their needs will be met.

It’s not their parents’ fault that those babies are not as happy-go-lucky, not as adaptable as E. Their babies just have a different temperament. Their parents aren’t doing anything wrong.

So when Q. and I get praised for producing such a happy guy, I always feel a bit uncomfortable. We’ve done a lot of things to make him happy, but ultimately, we got lucky.

Thinking about E’s temperament while we were away made me want to write a post about his personality, because there is just so much of it these days, and I know he’ll continue to grow and change. I don’t for a moment think he’ll necessarily keep all of these traits as he gets older, and I’m determined not to be one of those parents who labels a child as “outgoing” or “dramatic” and then finds the label becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I would like a record to remind me, later, of what he is like now.

The first thing that always pops into my mind when I think about E. is how happy he is. This kid almost never.stops.smiling. Huge smiles when he sees me or his Daddy. Big toothy grins when he’s accomplished a particular task he’s set himself. Self-satisfied little smirks when he thinks he’s getting away with something. Cheeky grins when he’s being naughty (and knows it). When he isn’t smiling, it’s generally pretty easy to improve his mood. He has always responded incredibly well to being picked up and cuddled- it’s been a very rare occasion when that in itself hasn’t been enough to stop his crying almost immediately. Even when he’s overtired, or ill, or frustrated, or overwhelmed, he will often still manage to hold things together and stay his normal cheerful self. He does this hilarious thing at the moment where when he gets frustrated he’ll start to make this weird half-crying, half-crowing noise that makes him sound like a rooster, and then when he solves the problem he makes the most self-satisfied little sound, smiles to himself and then just goes about his business like nothing amiss has ever happened.

He remains an extrovert. When he was really little he just couldn’t get enough of going to new places and meeting new people. His idea of heaven was a trip on the subway or the streetcar. I swear he would set himself goals of just how many people he could charm between stops. He can be a bit more hesitant now, especially if he’s just woken up and found himself in a new place, or if people have suddenly arrived and want to play with him in a loud, boisterous manner (my father is the main offender here). But he still really enjoys going to new places- he just gets so obviously bored if we stay at home for too long. He’s fascinated by older kids, but will interact a lot with kids his own age as well, which I think is probably because he’s spent so much time with his baby friends. And, of course, he still loves the cats. He really really loves the cats, and even though he is getting so much better about trying to pat them rather than grab their fur, they still head for the hills if he crawls up behind them unexpectedly.

He’s pretty flexible and adaptable, but only to a point. He coped incredibly well with the trip down under, and all the travelling around we did while visiting. I think at one point we’d put him down in four different houses within the space of four days, and he went to sleep without a struggle each time. He can manage to miss the occasional nap without his world collapsing, although now that he’s down to one, I wouldn’t want to see him go more than a day without a proper nap. At the same time, he loves his routines and absolutely thrives on them. From the time that he was three weeks old he understood that nighttime was for sleeping, and while it took thirteen months to get him sleeping through the night, he almost never refused to go back to sleep after he’d been fed. He wasn’t an all-night-baby-dance-party sort of baby. Now he knows when it should be mealtime, he tells us that it’s time for his nap, and he loses the plot completely if you deviate from the bedtime routine. One afternoon he was so exhausted that as soon as he was in the crib he started sucking his thumb and cuddling his bunny, so I didn’t pick him back up to do the lullaby I normally do before his naps. After about a minute of listening to him scream his head off in outrage, I went back upstairs, picked him up, sang to him for about a minute, put him back down in the crib and left, and he promptly went straight to sleep and didn’t make a sound for two hours. Lesson learned.

He is quite the stoic. It still makes me shake my head that it took us MONTHS to realize that he couldn’t tolerate dairy and soy. Even when his gut was bleeding as a result he was still a happy, cheerful baby 90% of the time. I’ve noticed this with teeth as well. He’s obviously uncomfortable when teething, and we do tend to give him one round of Ad.vil before bed, but that seems to be all he needs to sleep through the night with very few random wakings, and during the day he’s usually fine to be unmedicated. He takes all manner of knocks and bumps in his stride- it’s much harder for his father and me to keep from gasping and rushing to see if he’s been hurt.

He is incredibly deliberate and precise in what he does. He’s always been like that- I remember my Mum commenting on it when he was barely able to grasp things, and it just became even more obvious once he started eating solid food. He is so careful, so delicate with his hands. You can see him thinking all the time about what he’s going to do next and how he’s going to go about doing it. He likes to have things just so, like how he’ll line up his ducks on the rim of the bath and make sure they’re all facing him, or how when he’s stacking his Mega.bloks he’ll pull off two or three double blocks if he finds another quadruple one that will fit on the ones he’s used as a base. Even though he’s incredibly busy (my Dad’s summary of E. ever since about Christmas has always been, “I can’t believe how much he eats! I can’t believe how much he smiles! I can’t believe how he never stops moving!”), his movements always seem to have a purpose behind them. He never seemed to start crawling somewhere just for the sake of it- there was always a destination in mind, and this has stayed true now that he’s started walking.

He’s not a chatterbox. He says quite a lot and definitely now tries to tell us something from time to time (unfortunately I haven’t brushed up on my Ewok lately so I can’t quite make out what he’s trying so hard to get across), but he’s not like some of the other babies I’ve met who seem to be babbling constantly. He’ll play for quite a long time by himself just making the occasional ‘ooh’ when he feels he’s done something of note. At the same time, he doesn’t miss a thing. It became a bit of a running joke between Q. and I that whenever I came back from a walk with E. when he was little Q. would ask how many people had commented on how alert E. was for whatever age he happened to be at the time. It was literally probably the first thing people said to me 90% of the time after they asked how old he was for about the first six months. I remember my sister not really understanding it, and then she came back from a trip to the mall and said that all the other babies looked a bit zoned out and she finally understood why everyone said what they did about E. Even in his first couple of weeks in the world, he just seemed so aware, so attentive. He never had that funny lack of focus that babies seem to have for the first two months where their eyes always look a bit off center. He just stared straight into your soul.

He has a great sense of humour, but he’s never been one of those babies who laughs all the time. It’s a struggle to get big belly laughs out of him (Q. is much better at this than I am- I think Daddies are somehow inherently more amusing than Mummies), and even giggles can be hard to come by. It’s not that he’s dour or grumpy, or even that serious, given he’s usually got a smile on his face even while resolutely refusing to give up a giggle. When he does something that he knows is funny he’ll often just sit there and smile and look pleased with himself while his father and I fall about laughing. The one exception I can think of was when he fooled my Dad into thinking he wanted to be picked up, but then he hid his face in my lap before repeating the request to be picked up again. He did this over and over, and the laughter just kept building. He is quite ticklish, and he does love his Daddy’s crazy noises and faces.

He is curious and adventurous without being a daredevil, which is quite a nice combination in that he’s still not scaling the couch or the bookshelves, but if we go to the park he’ll trundle off and explore. He is, blessedly, not particularly stubborn and remains very willing to accept redirection or a distraction if he’s doing something we’d like him to stop. We’ve yet to experience anything even remotely resembling a tantrum. He’s independent, in that he can often play for half an hour or more by himself while we make dinner, but at the same time he really loves spending time with us, and if we’re in the kitchen and he’s reorganizing his books in the living room he’ll often pop back around the corner just to touch base. There are points in the day when he really wants you to just sit right next to him while he does his own thing. He’s affectionate and loving- he gives huge, open-mouthed kisses- but not particularly cuddly- he’s got too much else to do. It’s funny to think that for the first three months or so we basically never put him down except to sleep at night. When he had his first bad fever, he was so sad and lethargic and miserable that all he wanted to do was lie on our chests, and both Q. and I admitted to each other that although we felt terrible that he was so unwell, secretly we were relishing all the baby cuddles.

I was watching him tonight after dinner as he pushed his little car around the couch in the living room and I thought my heart would explode with the strength of my love for him.

He is becoming his own little person.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the second year, Emotions

All good things…

E. is weaned.

It started when I weaned myself off the dom.peridone. E. was happily drinking all or close to the maximum 16 oz. of cow’s milk a day recommended by his paediatrician, so I didn’t feel I needed to artificially raise my milk supply any longer.

My milk supply fell off a cliff as a result. It was incredible. I went from pumping 5-8 oz. each morning (more if E. hadn’t fed much that night) to 1. So that was the end of pumping. We were away visiting grandparents for a week, and it was obvious at the night feeds that E. wasn’t drinking much and they really had become about routine and habit rather than nutrition.

When we got back home we had one night like usual, and it turns out that the night feed that night at 2:30 a.m. was the last time I ever nursed E., as the next day at dinner, Q. looked at me and said, “We should sleep train, right?” We didn’t have any more excuses- no upcoming visits, no conference to prepare for-, plus we’re going to visit his relatives in the not-so-distant future, so if we didn’t bite the bullet and cut off the night feeds now, we’d be commiting to night feeds until August.

So I, with a lot of trepidation, went off to sleep in the basement, and left Q. to deal with E. “Just don’t get angry with him,” I said as I went downstairs. I think Q. was confused. “I’m never angry with him,” he answered. “Besides, if he goes on for too long, I’ll just come get you.” He laughed, and off we went.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess I figured since Q. has less patience than I do when it comes to E. that he might get really frustrated, that he might not be able to see it through. I was expecting the worst.

E. did wake up, at 12:30, with a dirty diaper. And it did take Q. until 2 to get him back down. The crying comes down the vents into the basement, so it did wake me up, but according to Q’s report the next day there wasn’t actually all that much crying- it just seemed like it to me. Q. woke me back up at 3 when he came downstairs to get a snack, so at that point I went upstairs with him.

E. slept until 7 a.m.

The next night I slept in the basement, this time with my trusty earplugs. I woke up around 4 and had  a terrible time getting back to sleep. I took out the earplugs, since I figured I would have missed whatever antics had gone on upstairs, so when E. woke up screaming at 5:30, I heard him. Again he had a dirty diaper. Once Q. changed him, he was all smiles and up for the day. And that was the FIRST time he had woken up that night.

Saturday night I figured it was safe to try sleeping upstairs again. E. slept straight through until 6:15 without a peep.

Last night? Well, he went to bed very overtired, courtesy of an afternoon nap refusal, so he was asleep probably by 6:55 or so. He slept until 7 this morning! He popped up twice that I heard with a very brief cry (5 seconds or less) before settling down again.

TWELVE hours, readers. That is unheard of for E.

I know we’ll probably have some regressions and more wakings, especially given he is (still) teething like mad, having cut one molar and with another molar plus three canines moving around. But I know he can do it now.

My son sleeps through the night.

I have mixed feelings about weaning, of course. I don’t feel torn about cutting the night feed or stopping pumping, because I haven’t really felt we had a good breastfeeding relationship ever since E. day weaned at 10 months. I regret that we weren’t able to continue, but if I am very honest with myself, my regrets stem mostly from the fact that I at some point decided that nursing past the year mark was the RIGHT thing to do, and that doing this made me a GOOD MOTHER, and the fact that I am the first of my close circle of mummy friends to wean means that I am somehow falling behind in the Mummy Olympics. I really struggle with self-imposed standards and it is so hard not to compare myself or E. to the other mums and bubs around us.

When you take away the stupid self-imposed ideology about what a GOOD MOTHER should do, and look at the reality of the situation, here is what you see:

– E was done nursing at 10 months. He wanted solid food. He wanted to get on with things. He probably would have slept through the night then if I had weaned entirely

– I couldn’t wean him because of the MSPI. I had to get him to the year mark. So I got up twice a night, started taking domper.idone and herbs, and started pumping twice a day.

– I did get him to the year mark. I got him to 13 months. I got him to the point where he not only had outgrown the MSPI, but he had grown accustomed to the taste of cow’s milk and, indeed, even liked it. This is a seriously big deal in my world. I mean, read that sentence at the start of the post again. I have a son who guzzles close to 16 oz. of cow’s milk a day with NO side effects whatsoever. A son who devours cheese in any form, at any meal, at any time. A son who not so long ago, at Christmas, was up screaming in pain in the wee hours because I had eaten potatoes that were cooked next to something that had been cooked in butter. A son who at nine months writhed in agony and wept while I held him because we’d fed him yoghurt.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

So while I do mourn for the loss of our nursing relationship, I can admit to myself that it’s the imagined ideal that I mourn, the place I thought we’d be in back before he started solids and I was determined to nurse to eighteen months or beyond. It’s not the reality of these last three months that I miss. He was done. I was (mostly) done, even though a part of me dearly loved the cuddles and the closeness that came with those remaining night feeds.

And I mourn the idea that I might never nurse a baby again because, given the struggle it was to get him, it is always, always at the back of my mind that E. might be our only baby.

But it was time.

Now if I could just reteach my body to actually sleep through the night, we’d be golden…


Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Emotions, MSPI, Nursing, Sleep

Second thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our little family and about how much I want to be able to give E. a sibling one day.

Partly it’s because there are a number of women on my birth club who are pregnant again (and in some cases VERY pregnant, and it just boggles my mind that people get accidentally pregnant two or three months after giving birth, because really? You couldn’t use protection, or understand that breastfeeding isn’t a good form of contraception? You had to be THAT fertile?!).

Partly it’s because when E. first weaned during the day I was worried I could have been pregnant, since that can cause a nursing strike.

Partly it’s because E’s day-weaning has made me realize that in all likelihood I will no longer be nursing by the summer, which changes our timeline, since I was reluctant to consider pressuring E. to wean just so we could attempt to have another baby. (And yes, wouldn’t I like to be like another mum on the birth club who said, “Well, I weaned J. at 18 months so I could get pregnant with C.” Yep. Pick your month, wean your baby, and bam! You get to add to your family with a safe, uneventful pregnancy and a full-term baby.)

And partly it’s because I’m a planner, and even though I know, I KNOW, that I cannot plan this, in some ways I do have to be thinking about it.

Because we’re not like most families. We don’t get to just pick our month and bam! We don’t get to debate the merits of two versus three years between siblings.

We grabbed that gold ring once, and I have to fight every time not to think it is outrageously greedy of me to even contemplate reaching for it again.

There are a lot of balls in the air. If I get pregnant before the end of this year, I’ll give birth in time to wrangle another four months of maternity leave from my scholarship. It’s a good scholarship. This is a significant chunk of money.

But getting pregnant by the end of this year will absolutely delay my PhD completion, as I will probably not then have a complete draft when I intended to, and then having two kids right when Q. has a huge teaching load will probably drop a huge atom bomb into any plans I had to get any work done, ever. And a slower PhD means I take longer to end up on the job market, which will probably cost us money in the long run (although who knows given how shocking the market is right now in our field).

It all depends, you see, on how I get pregnant. If I am very very honest with myself, this is what I am hoping will happen: E. will wean, either at the year mark when we stop the night feeds, or later if he’s happy to switch to a first-thing-in-the-morning/last-thing-before-bed pattern (for which I am not holding my breath). My period, which remains entirely absent, will do something magical that shows all the problems were fixed by getting pregnant, having a baby and nursing: it will reappear and be REGULAR, and we will get pregnant. On our own. Without a team of the finest medical specialists money can buy.

It can happen. It DOES happen. I know people to whom it has happened. And there is no real reason to think it can’t happen to us, given all of the problems are on my end, and one of the best things for PCOSers is to get pregnant as it can reset the body.

But I also have a contigency plan. I figure once E’s weaned, we try on our own for a few months while I do whatever is recommended to kick start my menstrual cycle. But if nothing’s happening, we go back to the clinic.

Because we have two snowbabies. Two six-day blastocysts, graded very very high. Frozen separately, so we have two FETs up our sleeves.

And then my planning and forethought runs out.

Because I am not currently capable of contemplating that neither of these scenarios could come to pass. That we might both fail to get pregnant on our own, and have both the FETs fail. Not an option.

Because then we’re staring down the barrel of a fresh IVF cycle, and a multi-thousand dollar price tag, and the balance sheet starts to run in my head.

We spent this much on E., and tried this hard, so shouldn’t any potential sibling be given the same chance? Shouldn’t we be equitable?

Except it’s not the same, the second time around. The second time, every dollar that we spend on a potentially fruitless quest to become a family of four is a dollar that could have been spent/saved for the family I have now. The second time, all the drugs and the crazy and the time and the needles would come at a direct cost to the toddler E. will be.

I was in a deep, dark place before that second IVF cycle worked. I can’t go back there again, not with a little boy who needs his Mummy. But at the same time, it is so hard to resist it. Infertility pulls you down.

And if we are going to do a fresh cycle, we shouldn’t be sitting around wasting time trying on our own. Those snowbabies were made with eggs from a (newly) 31-year-old. Any fresh cycle is going to deal with eggs two or three years older, at least.

And there’s the age gap issue. I feel in some ways we almost need to start trying before we’re really ready, so that if it does take a while, we don’t end up with an age gap between E. and his sibling that is more than I feel comfortable with. Right now I think I’d be hesitant to start any further treatments once E. turned four, but I guess that could change.

But always, always, it comes back to the money. Which is just so utterly unfair. How much do we spend just so we can have the chance to complete our family, something that other people take for granted and get to do for free? Where do we draw the line between spending for our future and embracing our present?

We are very very lucky. I know that. Q.’s work benefits cover the cost of the medications, which means, with a lot of sacrifice, we can manage to afford IVF. And we have our E. Whatever happens, we have our most glorious son.

But that doesn’t change the fact that when Q. and I first talked about children, years ago, before we were married, I said that if we were having one, we were having two, because my sisters are the most important people in my entire life and I couldn’t contemplate bringing a baby into the world to be an only child.

It doesn’t change the fact that I have always, always envisioned us as a family of four, with two little faces smiling at me from the backseat (or arguing with each other).

This is partly due to a lot of childhood baggage. We moved. A lot. At age nine, when my mother tried to get me to go for yet another tour of a new neighbourhood to meet the kids, I looked up at her and said, with eyes too old for my face, “I’m not going to bother to make friends this time. It’ll hurt too much when we move.” I figured out from an early age that the only people you didn’t leave behind, the only people you could always, always, count on to be there (even when you didn’t want them to be) were your siblings.

My two sisters are my best friends. One of them has lived in this city for as long as Q. and I have been here, and tomorrow she leaves for a new adventure (an amazing post-doc at an Ivy League school, because she is THAT awesome), and it is soul-destroying to contemplate this city without her. They both get me in a way that Q., although I love him so very much, will never be able to do.

I know I can’t expect that E. will have the same relationship with any sibling (I must say my original visions of our family assumed two little girls, given that was what I knew), but I want so badly to at least be able to give him the chance to form that bond.

So. That’s what I think about in the quiet of the night.


Filed under Emotions, Family, PCOS, Second Thoughts, ttc