December 30, 2006

Day 270: Christmas miracles

Sorry for the long stretch between posts, blame the Christmas craziness. I should have asked them to set up a cot for me at the mall, I've been there so often in the past couple of weeks! But, crazy or not, Maddie's first Christmas was actually a lot of fun. Of course she has absolutely no idea what's going on, but still I found myself not being able to sleep on Christmas eve, finally getting up at 6:45am and waiting impatiently for the sounds of her waking so that I could go drag her out of bed and watch her empty her stocking. It was like I was a kid again, waiting for Santa. Of course I ended up basically dumping the stocking out for her, and she then ignored most of what was in it... but she did seem to take a fancy to the cardboard tag attached to one of the little toys, so that was a special moment. Maddie's biggest gift to me was that she seems to have transformed herself into a little angel baby over the past week or so. She's napping great, sleeping great, smiling and being generally adorable all the time. She's even agreed to sit in the stroller without acting as though it's some form of medeival torture. I don't know what has prompted this miraculous reprieve, but I am enjoying every second of it!

The in-laws took Maddie overnight yesterday so Fernando and I had an impromptu date night. We went to see the movie The Pursuit of Happyness and I have to say it was a tough haul. I mean, it was wonderful actually, but it made me think for the millionth time since having Maddie about the lengths people go to for their kids. Shortly after having Maddie I was at a new moms' support group meeting - which is an indication of how well things were going with our new little bundle of joy - and I very clearly recall saying that I felt overwhelmingly guilty because if push came to shove I wouldn't throw myself in front of a car for her. I wouldn't make that kind of sacrifice. It scared me, because I felt as though I should feel some kind of intense need to love and protect her, I should feel that her life was more important than my own. But I didn't. And now here we are on her 9 month birthday and I can say with relative confidence that I would give anything in the world for her. And now that knowledge is what scares me! I don't know when the change happened, I suspect it was a gradual thing, made stronger with each smile, with every time she's reached out to pat my face and every time she's looked helplessly at me after bumping her little head. I used to be consumed with what I saw as her shortcomings - the crying, the demands, the stubborn refusal to make my life even a little bit easier! But I know now that even though she makes me crazy, even though she has turned my world upside down, and even though there are days I feel overwhelmed and question the direction my life has taken - I wouldn't change a single thing about her. She's perfect. There is a lot of guilt and a lot of expectations that come with this motherhood gig, but my vast experience has made me realize that loving her doesn't mean I have to always love it.

And for the few of you who have lasted this long and are still reading... I hope you had a very merry Christmas. Or a happy Hanukkah, or a great Kwanzaa, or a wonderful holiday, whichever one it is you celebrate. And if you don't celebrate any holiday, hope you had a very enjoyable week. And I hope that 2007 is a happy and healthy one for all of us.

December 20, 2006

Day 260: Ah, those special moments of motherhood

Before I had a baby I like to think that I had a fair amount of dignity. Some class. Dare I say it - a bit of grace. Okay, so maybe the grace part is pushing it. But you get the point. Most of that rapidly disappeared during the birth of Maddie and in the weeks that followed, where I spent most of my waking hours in my pyjama bottoms with my boobs hanging out for more than a few poor unsuspecting visitors and passerby to see. I remember sitting in my living room one day when Maddie was only about a week old and Fernando said, "I never thought me, your mom, and your naked breasts would be in the same room." It was an odd realization. Since then I have managed to keep myself covered up for the most part, but there are still many moments where I find myself doing things I never thought I'd do, things that sometimes make it difficult to hold on to those remaining shreds of dignity. So consider this an ode to all of those other mommies out there who look in the mirror at the end of the day to discover they've been walking around with a smeer of baby poop on their cheek...

I would like to meet the mom who doesn't bury her nose in her baby's diaper at least 5 times a day to check if that odour she's emitting is the real deal or just a bit of gas. I doubt she exists. I often find myself thinking, as I immerse myself in the potpourri of poop, that surely there must be a better way of doing this. There have been countless times I've been out in public - at a restaurant, at the store, at a friend's house - and have scooped Maddie up and aimed her bum at my face. No matter how hard I try, it's hard to retain any sense of style or class at that moment.

I have yet to discover the secret to successfully clipping a baby's fingernails. Poor Mads has little baby claws on her and is always scratching herself. She'll barely sit still to take her bottle, so how I'm supposed to restrain her long enough to give her a manicure is beyond me. I know what you're thinking - she weighs 18 pounds and I weigh... slightly more than that. I should be able to contain her. All I can say is try it and you'll see. They're slippery little things, and she fights me with every ounce of her 18 pounds. So anyways, this morning I found myself biting off her jagged little nails. Biting somebody else's nails - now that's the kind of day-to-day stuff that no one tells you about life with baby.

Maddie spends a lot of her days being chucked around by Fernando or I - affectionately chucked, of course. It's one of her favourite pasttimes. The other day I was lying on the floor holding her over my head; she was squealing and kicking her little legs about when out of her mouth escaped a giant gob of spit. It came at me in slow motion, closer and closer until - smack! It hit me right in the mouth. The sad part is that I didn't even try to dodge it. I just watched it fall, felt it hit, wiped it off, and kept on playing. I guess spit, in comparison to her other excretions, isn't all that bad.

Not quite the special moments of motherhood you imagine, perhaps, but memorable all the same.

December 13, 2006

Day 255: And the winners are...

Well, only 12 days until Christmas. And so, as promised and by not-so-popular demand, here is my list of top 5 baby items. These are the things that have gotten me through the past 8 1/2 months, those wonder products without which I would have long ago pulled out my hair and run away from home. For your convenience and in hopes of receiving product endorsement royalties, I've even linked to the relevant sites. Once again in no particular order, here they are:

5. Receiving Blankets. A co-worker who recently had a baby told me that you just can't have too many receiving cloths. He was right. I'm not sure what they're really intended for - to "receive" the baby, I guess, whatever that means - but I used them for just about everything: As a swaddling blanket, as a burp cloth, as a rag to clean up puddles of spit-up, as a wrap during her baths in the first couple of months, as a comfort blanket to go to sleep with - for Maddie, not for me (although there were nights I probably could have used one, too). In the first four months we went through at least 10 a day, and that's no exaggeration. We have around 30 of them, and that's just enough to get us by. And they're pretty cheap, so stock up!

4. Exercise Ball. When Maddie was 2 weeks old and I was at my wits end, I had a post-partum doula come to the house to observe us in action and hopefully tell me what I was doing wrong that was making her cry all the time. When I greeted her at the door she had a big purple exercise ball with her, the kind people do ab workouts on at the gym - well, I don't, but perhaps you do. She told me that bouncing on the ball while holding a fussy baby results in instant calming. I was highly skeptical and it didn't work at first, but after four or five attempts we witnessed a miracle: there was blessed, wonderful silence in our house again. Not only that but it put her to sleep every time. It got to the point where we had a ball upstairs, a ball downstairs, and one at my parents' place. We've still got one on hand and in fact I just had to use it this afternoon. Fernando knows it's been a tough day when he comes home from work to find the exercise ball in the living room. After all, it's not like I'd actually use it to exercise. God forbid.

3. Baby Einstein dvds. Everyone knows that Baby Einstein works some kind of black magic voodoo on babies, lulling them into a near-comatose state. It's heavenly. I first sat Maddie in front of her Baby Mozart dvd when she was about a month old, and even back then she quieted down and just stared at it. Now, almost 8 months later, it doesn't have quite the hypnotic hold over her it once did, but we still play it daily. I specify the dvd rather than the old VHS version because the dvd has a "repeat play" option. Call me a bad mom if you like, but I figure they wouldn't make such a feature if it wasn't meant to be used. When you've got a screaming baby on your hands it doesn't take long for some ideals (eg. "My baby isn't going to watch TV") to go straight out the window.

2. Exersaucer. We inherited a hand-me-down Graco exersaucer from a friend. It was really big and a bit of an eyesore and I remember pleading with Fernando to just donate it to the second hand store. He didn't, and I'll be forever grateful for that. Ever since she's been able to hold her head up she's loved being in the thing. She bounces up and down and sucks on the toys and feeds her snacks to the dogs from it. Usually while watching Baby Einstein.

1. Baby Bjorn. This miracle of a baby carrier can be a bitch on the back now that Maddie's getting bigger, but in light of her intense dislike of the stroller, it has likely saved my sanity. Seems like a pretty good trade-off to me. I use it so often I've turned it into a verb, as in "Mads and I Bjorned it to the mall this afternoon." I literally don't leave home without it, and it never fails that when she's hanging from it, dangling her little legs and squealing, somebody will comment on what a happy baby I have. I love how people feel they can sum up a baby's personality based on 10 seconds of observation... I sense that I'm about to go off on a tangent, so I'll stop myself now. The point is, the Bjorn has been a lifesaver.

Honourary Mention: Babylegs. Okay, so it's a bit of a stretch to say I couldn't have lived without them. But they're just so darn cute, I had to include them on the list. And they are useful. They're great under dresses and even pants during the cold weather, and if Maddie were to one day decide to crawl they would protect her little knees. And most importantly they make the constant struggle to change her diapers a lot easier because you don't have to worry about taking pants on and off. And did I mention they're really cute?

I'd like to also mention: The Children's Place, which has the most adorable baby clothes and has 50% off seasonal sales, and the Jolly Jumper, which is a source of constant bouncing amusement, and baby Tylenol, without which I'm sure teething would be even more of a nightmare than it has been. Oh, and last but not least - it's not actually a product, but definitely something that's gotten me through: family (cue the chorus of "awwwws"). I am in total admiration of all the single moms out there, I literally do not understand how they manage it all on their own. I've always appreciated my family, but never so much as I do now that Mads is here. Thank god I have a husband who can put up with all forms of crazy from me and still not head for the hills. Okay, this is starting to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, so I think it's time to sign off!

Disclaimer: As every baby is different, you may find none of these products at all helpful. In which case... sorry. And good luck. :)

December 05, 2006

Day 251: Ho ho ho-rrified

I should probably preface today's entry by explaining that Mads is not all that comfortable in the company of strangers. But unfortunately for her, it seems that all babies are equipped with some kind of magnet that draws people in. We'll be at the grocery store, and we'll pass a woman picking out tomatoes, looking right as rain. Suddenly she turns, spots Maddie, and before you know it she's kneeling on the floor in front of her saying ridiculous things in ridiculous voices. "Ooooh! Who da big silly willy girl? Do you know Mr. Tomato? Mr. Tomato says 'Hi wittle baby!'" Truth be told, it's a bit embarassing, particulary as I know Maddie's reaction will inevitably be to stare blankly at this woman, not blinking, not smiling, but clearly suspicious - as if she knows the woman is a lunatic and is mentally sizing up the emergency exits in case things go bad. Sadly, some people take this as a challenge of sorts. The less responsive she is the more they try to break her. Let's just say that after 5 minutes of unsuccessful baby talk things can get a bit awkward. It probably doesn't help that I stand there fake-laughing like an idiot through the whole exchange in effort to make the person feel better.

So it was with all of this in mind that Fernando and I packed her up for a visit with Santa at the mall. I was prepared for an intervention if needed - toys, rattles, bottles, crackers, biscuits and cheerios were all on hand. And so you can imagine our shock when Fernando plopped her down on Santa's lap and she sat there happy as can be. Then, as if in slow motion, we saw her turn her head back to see the big, bearded stranger behind her. Her face froze, then fell, and then the crying started. And that's the story of how I found myself crouching before a fake raging fire, singing "Baby Beluga" in front of Santa and his elves. She stopped crying long enough for Santa's helper to snap this picture.

On the way home I assured poor Maddie that in a few years that fat, velvet-clad man will come second only to Daddy on her list of favourite guys. And then, a few years after that, they'll both be temporarily supplanted by the boy who aims spitballs into the back of her head at school. After all, what girl can resist the ever-flirtatious spitball launch?

December 04, 2006

Day 249: Nature vs. nurture?

Well, Maddie celebrated her 8-month birthday a few days ago and to mark the occasion she mastered the task of pulling up to standing in her crib! I guess I should qualify that by saying that she will do it if I sit her right in front of the rails and then jump around in front of her bopping my head back and forth and making jazz hands while saying, "Yeaaaah Maddie! Yeaaaah Maddie!" over and over and over again. She thinks it's great. She also thinks I'm crazy, but what can I say - the feeling is entirely mutual!

Having Maddie has prompted me to spend endless hours mulling over the old nature vs. nurture debate. And I have to say that I've got to side with nature on this one. I am a very laid back person. Or at least I was before I had a baby - now I have a tendency to fly into rages indiscriminately, but for the most part I'm still relatively calm. Fernando is the same. Our Mads, on the other hand, is a bit of a lunatic. Literally since day one, when she spent 13 hours straight crying at the hospital, she's been so intense, so particular, so determined and demanding. And I do realize that all babies are demanding, but she really takes the term to a whole new level. Don't get me wrong, she is completely sweet and loveable in her own crazy way. But it would almost be possible to think there was a mix-up at the hospital, that somewhere in this city there is a baby sitting on some other family's couch watching Seinfeld and eating potato chips. But no, I can see Fernando in her adorable eyes and myself in her bad hair days. And so I have to conclude that her little personality was well formed before she ever entered this world. She is herself, entirely and completely.

I am realizing that most of the pictures I've posted recently are of Maddie in the aftermath of a food explosion in her highchair. She does spend a lot more time there these days. She still doesn't like being in it, but will endure the torture if food is around. A lot of people told me a lot of different things about when babies get easier. Some based it on age - at 6 weeks (ha!), 3 months, 6 months. Others based it on milestones - when she can sit up, eat baby food, hold her own bottle. Well for Mads and me the biggest one is her ability to eat real food. The kid eats all day long. I stuff her with biscuits, crackers, Cheerios, puffs, juice basically whatever I can find. I pondered giving her a cup of coffee the other day but in the end thought better of it. Turns out there is no better distraction on a bad day than food. Hmm, I guess she is her mother's daughter after all!