September 29, 2006

Day 193: Anger management for moms

A lot happens to a girl due to the miracle of birth: her boobs sag, her stomach pouches, her hips widen, and though I've yet to understand the crucial role the ass plays in the process, it somehow manages to expand as well. But I've also noticed other less obvious changes. One is that I've been bestowed with super-human hearing. I can be in the living room with the TV blaring and if Maddie so much as rolls over in her crib, I'll hear it. I'll wake up from a dead sleep at the slightest sound from her room. (Meanwhile, Fernando seems able to slumber through a 2am screeching session. Funny how that works, isn't it?) But perhaps the biggest change has been in my general temperment.

I thought that motherhood was supposed to teach you patience, but so far it has had the opposite effect on me. Or maybe it's just that I expend every ounce of my patience on Maddie and as a result have none left for the rest of the world. I like to think that I've always been a pretty calm, easy-going gal. Not anymore. The smallest things irritate me. My poor husband is beginning to realize that the sweet girl he married is actually a crazy person. Last night we were sitting on the couch watching Grey's Anatomy (love it), Maddie was sleeping, all was well. The dog started barking in the other room, so Fernando yelled at her to be quiet. I lost my mind. I went from 0 to 9.5 on the rage scale in about 2 seconds. I think it went something like this: "Everybody just shut up!! All day long the dogs are barking, cats screeching, people yelling, babies screaming, the idiot across the street is revving his stupid motorcycle! Can't I have one frickin' moment of peace and quiet around here?!?" I think Fernando may have actually been afraid for a minute. But he can take solace in the fact that he is not my only target. People who don't board the bus in an orderly fashion receive outraged glares. The woman in line ahead of me at the grocery store who decides to count out her change in pennies and nickels is lucky to even survive my wrath. And I hit a new low the other day as I was trying to maneouvre the stroller around an old lady in the mall - complete with cane - and I found myself silently cursing her in my mind.

Who am I? What have I become? This is not the serene image of motherhood I'd envisioned: sitting in a rocking chair, baby at my breast, knitting booties and sipping chamomile tea. Instead I spend half my day in a frenzy of irritation and frustration and am as a result considering changing my evening happy hour drink from chilled white wine to hard liquor. Whiskey, anyone?

September 26, 2006

Day 190: In pursuit of progress

I lurk frequently at a message board for moms of babies the same age as Mads. It's a good place to brag or blow off some steam, depending on what kind of day you're having. I've said in the past, though, and I'll say it again, it's also a good way to make yourself question your parenting skills. Some of these babies are already sitting, crawling, talking, standing on their own... I would assume these accounts were greatly exaggerated if it weren't for the fact that they are often accompanied by photographic proof. I look at the picture of little Johnny standing bravely in front of his dad's open arms, then over at Maddie, flat on her back happily licking the lid of a shoebox. It makes me wonder if I should be doing more to encourage her progress. I don't actually care all that much, cause as every mother of an "unmotivated" baby is quick to tell you, when they're graduating from high school it won't matter who crawled first (that's kind of our mantra). But still, I've been on a kick these days to get her going. And so, last night was her first swimming class!

Things didn't start out well when Maddie showed up wearing the same swimsuit as another baby. She was mortified. I told her that's what you have to expect when you shop at The Gap. But they got better from there. Fernando and she were crammed in a kiddie pool along with about 20 other babies, some screaming, most just looking vaguely confused. Now, I'm not going to boast, but I'm pretty sure she's the strongest 6-month old swimmer ever; she kicked her little legs and waved her little arms like she'd been born doing it (hmm...). It turns out she also swallowed about a gallon of pool water, which she proceeded to throw up in a screaming fit of mucousy hysterics afterwards. But, it's a small price to pay to realize your life's calling at such a young age, no? Do they have baby triathlons, I wonder? She'd have to work on the whole cycling and running bit, of course. I'll have to look into it.

So the great swimming experiment is thus far a raging success. The same cannot be said for our attempts at sign language. Baby sign language is all the rage these days, the idea being that your baby won't have to know how to speak in order to communicate with you. My hope is not quite as grand: I just want to cut down on all the crying. Anyways, we picked a few words to start on: "milk," "sleep," and "all done." The problem is that when she's screaming for her bottle or screaming for bed it's hard to hold her attention long enough to show her the signs. She's starving, and I'm sitting there holding the bottle in front of her with one hand and acting like I'm milking a cow with the other - it's just cruel, taunting her like that. Meanwhile she's looking at me as if to say, "For god's sake, just give me the damn bottle!" The only one she seems to enjoy is the sign for "all done," but I think that's just because it resembles jazz hands, and who doesn't like that?

Sounds like nap time is over...

September 25, 2006

Day 189: "I am a good mom, I am a good mom..."

Well, it's Day 189 of life with baby, and Day 10,189 of renovations. Or at least that's the way it feels. We have been renovating endlessly since we moved into the house last summer. And when I say "we" I mean my husband. I don't really do any of the work, not because I don't want to - although, this is also true - but because Fernando won't let me. This is not an act of chivalry on his part, but of fear: the thought of me wreaking havoc with a hammer or paint brush gives him nightmares. If I really want something to get done I just mention casually that I plan on doing it myself ("Honey, I think I'll paint the nursery, I'm going to start on it tomorrow!"). He's running for the toolbox before the words are even out of my mouth. It seems that some guys have the fix-it gene and some don't. I'm lucky because Fernando definitely does. So he does the hard labour and Maddie & I just sit in the chaos of it all.

Maddie had her first accident to speak of on the weekend. I should probably keep these sorts of incidents to myself, but the point of this little journal of mine is full disclosure and brutal honesty, so here goes... We put her down to sleep at a friend's place during dinner and she rolled off the bed and onto the floor. And yes, I now know that she shouldn't have been on the bed. Believe me, it's been noted. If I'm sounding kind of nonchalant about the incident, let me assure you that at the time I was a wreck. I think it's a lingering souvenir from the postpartum trauma that my coping ability is at an embarassing low these days. I would think the measured response to your baby falling from the bed would be something like this: "Is she okay? Poor baby. We mustn't leave her on the bed anymore." Instead, it took me about 4 seconds to conclude that I was the most terrible/irresponsible/idiotic mother on the planet and I should probably call child services to report myself. Then again, maybe that is the "normal" mom response? Maybe it's just the old post-pregnancy crazy hormone at work. Having since talked to other moms, though, it seems that their babies have not only fallen off of the bed at some point, but off of change tables, countertops, down flights of stairs, out of moving cars. Apparently it's some sort of rite of passage I wasn't aware of. For her part, Maddie seemed mildly surprised to find herself suddenly on her stomach on the carpet, but other than that she was fine. Thankfully. Meanwhile, I am monitoring her every move for the slightest sign of brain damage ("Why is her left pinky finger bent like that?? She's never done that before! Call the doctor!") This motherhood thing is exhausting.

I saw a funny-ish commercial this weekend on the Life Network. A group of moms are making self-affirming statements, my favourite of which is "I am a good mom even though I send my kid to school with his lunch packed in a plastic liquor store bag" (that is so going to be me). Anyways, I think I need to start doing this to ease my various feelings of guilt: "I am a good mom even though my baby rolled off the bed onto the floor," "I am a good mom even though I put General Hospital on during playtime instead of Sesame Street." Hmm, somehow seeing these statements in print is not doing much to make me feel better...

(Nothing to do with parenting, this is just for fun, for those so-inclined: Here is the footage of a much deserved Fox News ass-kicking, courtesy of Bill Clinton this weekend. I heart Bill Clinton. I can't help it, I do.)

September 20, 2006

Day 185: "Your baby is probably happy and outgoing"

When Maddie was born I registered with a Web site that sends me weekly updates on her development. And so today my inbox included a message that began with the sentence "Your baby is probably happy and outgoing right now." Well doesn't that sound just lovely. I would like to one day open this weekly email to read, "Your baby is probably throwing hysterical screaming fits at the mall right now" or "Your baby is probably driving you to the edge of sanity right now." I would really love it if they threw something like that in here and there. Just to keep it real, you know?

My baby consumerism has hit a new and embarassing high. A while back I mentioned Maddie's affinity for the little fabric tags attached to toys. Well some enterprising soul out there has capitalized on this - and on a new mom's desperate willingness to try absolutely anything that might occupy baby for a minute or two - and created a line of baby products called Taggies. I'm sure you have an idea where this is going. They make books, blankets, stuffed animals... the item itself doesn't really matter. What matters is that they all have a bunch of fabric tags sticking out of them, in hopes that that your baby will be lulled into a tag-induced state of quiet bliss. So I cracked and bought Maddie a Taggie board book - something about a pig, I think. Well wouldn't you know that the one time she has a plethora of tags at her disposal she instead chooses to suck on the cardboard. In summary, when I buy her a toy she wants the tag, when I buy her the tag she wants the toy. There's no winning with this one.

Those of you who know me will be surprised to hear that I have reached shocking levels of domesticity lately. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I made Maddie's baby food. From scratch. I boiled it, blended it, froze it. And then today I cooked dinner for the family. This second one might not seem like much - especially since it was just spaghetti - but when you consider it has been months since I cooked, it puts it in a whole new light. Not only that, but I went grocery shopping, developed new baby photos for the grandparents and did two loads of laundry. And took care of Maddie. While debating whether I really needed to separate the coloured clothes from the whites or whether that is just some old wives' tale I suddenly stopped with the realization: my god, I am a stay at home mom. I think that is a definition of myself I have been running from in the past six months. Today I basked in the full glory of it, laundry and all.

September 18, 2006

Day 183: Everything changes

I went to a new moms' group a few times after Maddie was born and one day we were talking about all of the unwanted advice and opinions we've been given - which range from the standard "Your baby looks too hot/cold/hungry/tired/fat/thin/etc," to my personal favourite "Don't stand so close to the microwave with her!" Anyways, this led to discussions of those nuggets of wisdom that were actually helpful. One woman said that her friend summed up motherhood in two little words: everything changes. Ain't that the truth.

The fact that everything changes is reassuring on those days when Maddie is out of her mind and driving me out of mine because I know that tomorrow it will all be different. But it can also be incredibly frustrating because just when you think progress is being made you find yourself on a sudden and steep downward spiral back to where you were three months ago. I can pretty much guarantee that as soon as I say that Maddie has been doing something really well - sleeping, eating, playing, sitting, smiling, whatever - the next day not only will she not be doing it well but she won't be doing it at all. And she'll act as if she's never even heard of it.

Let me give you an example. Maddie has always been a big spitter. She spits up constantly. Let me repeat that so you get the full implications of what I'm saying here. She spits up constantly. As in, she has to change outfits five times each day. And so do I. And so does anyone else who comes within a foot of her. As in, the sound of vomit splashing on the floor at the mall or on the bus or at the lawyer's office is as familiar to me now as the sound of my own name. This is not a huge problem, but it does get a bit irritating. At first I thought she had a faulty valve somewhere, but no, apparently she is what is called a "happy spitter." Well, isn't that sweet. In any case, this is all supposed to subside at around 6 months, and in the past week or so it seemed like that was exactly what was happening. Miracle of miracles, her food was actually staying in her little belly. But then I made the mistake of commenting on this to my mom and it's all gone to hell since then. We were on the ferry on the way home from the island yesterday and she soaked through two outfits, four spit cloths and my new skirt. We left a trail of vomit around the entire ferry. Kids and old ladies would stop to make faces and coo coo cachoo at her and she would respond by laying a big slimy puddle of spitup at their feet. And so after a week of great, solid progress, here we are back at square one. Everything changes.

September 12, 2006

Day 177: That's what I get for bragging...

"We have been blessed with a good sleeper." Those were my own words, I believe from Day 171. I would like to take them back, if possible. Apparently Maddie has been surfing the net and read that entry and decided to prove me wrong. She has now taken to waking up in the middle of the night, every night since then. She's not hungry, seems she just wants to exercise her lungs at 2am. I thought I would just let her CIO, but this is no normal crying. She steps it up a notch at night. So out comes the exercise ball and we bounce and bounce until she's back asleep. I have probably spent half my waking hours bouncing on that damn ball since she was born. You'd think I'd have thighs of steel by this point... unfortunately not.

Is it just me or are we in the midst of another baby boom? I don't know if all these pregnant ladies and high tech strollers have been there all along and I'm just now honing in on it because of Maddie or if there has been a sudden reproduction eruption. It's apparently become the height of style: babies are the new black. Funny, though, I don't feel particulary fashionable covered in vomit and emitting that certain special quality that comes from having not showered in three days. And Hollywood is incredibly fertile these days, too, no? What with Shiloh and Suri and the rest of the celebity offspring. It kind of drives me crazy seeing photos of those moms in US Weekly running around make-up on and midrifts flashing, babies in tow. Not too good for the old self esteem. My favourite part of that magazine is the "Stars: they're just like us!" section where they have pictures of Heidi Klum wiping her kid's nose and Angelina Jolie hauling her baby around in a sling. They're just like us. Please. Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure Angelina isn't right now sitting in her nightgown, in a half-renovated house with no kitchen, with crusty spit-up in her hair, wondering how to spend her $550 EI paycheque.

And on that note, Maddie and I are taking a trip up to the mall this morning! The mall has become our second home, actually. We love it there. I still constantly find it bizarre how this little person who I barely know has become my new best friend. We are joined at the hip (no really, I carry her around all day in a "Hip Hammock") and even though she has no idea what I'm talking about I tell her all of my biggest plans and deepest secrets. She is the best at keeping secrets. I guess if I'm lucky one day she'll tell me hers, too.

Shopping awaits!

September 09, 2006

Day174: Milestone mania

I read in a home decor magazine recently that you shouldn't begin a home renovation project if you have kids under the age of 18 months. Having not entirely taken that wisdom to heart, we started work on the house this weekend. My husband Fernando is right now in the kitchen wearing a large and scary face mask that is supposed to prevent him from breathing in the horrifying amounts of dust and mildew he is uncovering. It also makes him sound like Darth Vader when he talks, so he can't seem to resist saying ominously, "Madeline, I am your father..." every time he passes by her, to which she responds with her standard expression of startled confusion and mild concern.

With Fernando hard at work, I focussed my attention today on Maddie's milestones. Milestones are a big thing in the baby world. Most every baby book includes milestones sections telling you what your baby should be doing every week. After reading this you inevitably feel that your baby is far superior to others her age ("Maddie's been rolling over for weeks. She's obviously a genius.") or falling dangerously behind ("Sitting up? She can't sit up! Why can't she sit up??"). If you then want to move to an even higher realm of anxiety, a good way to do it is by visiting mommy message boards online. Here you will read other moms boast about their babies who are not only rolling over and sitting up, but also crawling, talking and cooking breakfast on weekends. And so, even though I know that these milestones are ridiculous and should be ignored entirely, I still catch myself trying to ensure that Maddie is "keeping up." So today we worked on crawling. Or, I guess it would be more accurate to say that I worked on crawling while she lay on her stomach and cried. She then flipped herself over onto her back (showing advanced dexterity and determination!) and looked at me as if to say, "What the hell is wrong with you?" She likes that look a lot. Anyways, I think we made some pretty substantial progress.

September 06, 2006

Day 171: Aging (not so) gracefully

Ah, Maddie is in her crib, down for the count. Yes, we have been blessed with a good sleeper. I feel guilty telling other moms this, those moms stuck working the 3am shift with a crying baby every night. Normally this would be the time I would sit down with a nice cup of tea and a good book... oh, who am I kidding? In fact I pour myself a generous glass of wine and watch an hour or two of reality tv. As I type this I am awaiting the start of the Laguna Beach premier. God, how old am I? It's one thing watching the kids of Beverly Hills 90210 struggle through heartache and math tests when you're 17, but somehow it's just a tad more pathetic when you're 30, no? But I love it. I admit it.

And while we're on the topic, let me tell you a little something about being 30: it sucks. I have been 30 all of 2 1/2 weeks and already I have managed to throw my back out. Now I wish I could say this happened while training for a triathlon or scrambling up a rockface or something, but no, the extreme activity that led to this injury was... brushing my hair. I got out of the shower, picked up my brush, ran it through my hair, and the next thing I knew I was splayed awkwardly on the bathroom floor, suddenly afflicted with debilitating back pain that required my mom to half-carry me back to bed.

Now that I think about it, this is a good metaphor to describe the point I am at in life right now: somewhere between Laguna Beach and an assisted living facility. The back problem landed me in my doctor's office today. He is a family friend, I've gone to him since I was a baby, and he delivered Maddie too, which is kind of cool. Anyways, when he saw me sitting in the office today he asked, all smiles, if I was pregnant again. Were it not for the fact that I can barely walk I would have run screaming from the room. Those first few months with Maddie were so traumatic that at this point I am pretty sure she will be an only child. It started with breastfeeding which, surprise!, turns out not to be such a natural and lovely process after all, and ended with a frightening trip through the fog of postpartum depression from which I am only just now emerging. I have reached the point now where I can look at her and definitely know that the whole thing was worth it, but am far from thinking that I'd ever like to go for round two. I guess you never know for sure what's going to happen, but for now I think we will be thankful for the beautiful girl we've got and try to battle any future reproductive urges with another puppy or two!

September 04, 2006

Day 169: Jumping Bumbos!

Yesterday we made our weekly pilgrimage to Babies' R' Us. Everything changes once baby arrives, but few things more than your shopping habits. I used to focus my over-consumption solely on myself, but now it's all for her (I can hear echoes of my former self : "I'm not going to spoil my baby..."). One truth I have come to learn is that no matter how brightly coloured the toy, no matter how loud the rattle, how melodic the music, how brilliant the lights, how soft or smooth or crinkly the surface, nothing will please Maddie more than the tag attached to it. She will ignore the lights & whistles every time and instead sit contentedly sucking on the tag that lists the washing instructions. And so, with this insight, you'd think I'd lay off buying all this crap, but no, of course not. So we left the store yesterday weighed down with a high chair, teether toy, pacifier clip, window screen, and something called a Bumbo chair, which my mom keeps mistakenly (and unfortunately) calling a Bimbo chair.

Now, I should exclude one baby item from the aforementioned category of crap, and say a big thank you and hallelujah to the makers of Baby Einstein dvds, which never fail to calm and entertain her. Our other wise investment was a Jolly Jumper, which she loves. However, we seem to have fallen into a kind of screwed up pattern, whereby she hangs out in the jumper while the rest of us grown ups jump and dance around her like fools. So, 45 minutes later, much to her delight, we're all wheezing and sweating while she hangs suspended watching us, laughing and drooling. But, whatever the method, it keeps her happy and occupied and so it was money well spent. Will the Bimbo - er, I mean Bumbo - join this elite category of worthwhile products? Well, as I type she is sitting in it beside me sucking on a plastic cooking spoon (which, along with her poo disposal bags, is her favourite "toy" of the moment), so it looks promising. But only time will tell.

September 02, 2006

Day 167: Can I call in sick?

Motherhood is a full-time job. People are always saying that. I wish it were true, because how I miss my old 35-hour work week. How I miss lunch breaks and office gossip and conversations about things other than poopy pants and peek-a-boo. And, oh, how I miss that utlimate luxury of the working world: sick days. Some days you're just not up to anything more than staying in bed with a bottle of cough syrup and a full slate of daytime tv. Today is one of those days, but unfortunately my new boss is a bit of a slavedriver.

I should confess that my dismal outlook this morning may be in small part due to the fact that we celebrated my 30th birthday last night. And, perhaps, it has something to do with the bottle of wine I ended up drinking. As often happens when too much wine and milestone birthdays collide, I found myself thinking back to where I thought I'd be when I hit 30. When I was 10 I thought I would be hairdresser. At the time I enjoyed braiding my best friend's hair and so I figured I'd make a career of it. By the time I was 20 I'd moved away from dreams of hairdressing and towards those of corporate life. Power suits, business class travel, it all sounded so fantastic. Until I got my first job, of course. Anyways, the point of this traipse down memory lane is that whether I dreamed of high fashion or high finance, none of those dreams involved babies. And now here I am, still wandering in search of a career, but now with a baby in tow. I don't regret where I am, I guess it just goes to show you never know where you're going to end up.

Isn't it funny that you have to spend 16 years in school if you want to land a job that doesn't require a hairnet, yet you can just jump into this parenting thing with no training, no knowledge, no skills. Try as I might, I am still unable to find the right words to describe my sudden immersion into motherhood after Mads was born. "Overwhelming" comes to mind. "Insane" seems fitting. That first night in the hospital she screamed for 13 hours solid. Solid. That is no exaggeration. After the first several hours passed, I dragged myself over to the nurses' station, screeching baby propped awkwardly against my shoulder, certain that something was horribly wrong with her. Surely this could not be normal. "Some babies cry more than others," I was reassuringly told. "You've got a crier." And so began this journey into motherhood. It has certainly improved since that night, there are moments when I am sure I have the most gifted and gorgeous baby ever to be born. But then they pass, and I find myself wondering yet again if this job ever gets easier. For now I try to remind myself that while the hours may be a bitch, the benefits - that smile, that gurgly giggle - can be pretty great. And so the beat goes on.

September 01, 2006

Day 166: I need a drink

My daughter Maddie is in her makeshift nursery as I type "crying it out"... a process also known as "CIO" if you are a baby-book junkie. (Really, do we need to abbreviate everything? Are we honestly that busy? I am so tired of everyone being so proud of the fact that they are busy and stressed out. I was reading the other day about a doctor who said she was just far too busy to have her period, so she was advocating some kind of pill that supressed it. She actually said that her very busy medical practice doesn't allow her the time to go to the washroom to change a tampon, like we should all be so impressed. Please. But I digress...)

Maddie is CIO. There are some super human moms out there who don't let their babies do this, but I am not one of them. Over the past 5 months I have come to know my limits, and it turns out that struggling with a tired, screeching, red-faced baby falls just outside of them. I've tried the alternative, but in the end both of us just ended up tired, screeching, and red-faced and that doesn't do anybody any good. So instead she CsIO and I listen to her do it over the baby monitor with a guilty conscience and heavy heart and wonder for the umpteenth time if mid-afternoon is too early to have a glass of wine.

I have been a mom now for 166 days, and can honestly say that I know little more than I did when I started, so if you are looking for advice you are probably in the wrong place. But if you are just curious to see how a newbie mom is getting by, then by all means you are welcome to share in my random musings on the joys, challenges & general insanity of it all.

And on that note, the CIO is not going too well. We've hit minute 14 of her 15 minute limit and while she taunts me with brief periods of silence, the poor girl is definitely not sleeping. So it looks like that wine will have to wait!