January 31, 2007

Day 301: The countdown is on

So, I realized that as of today there are only 34 days until I return to work. Suddenly my maternity leave seems like it was very short. I kind of feel like the system needs to be revamped. Because, seriously, the first 5 months pretty much stank. Then we had about 3 months of transition. But for the past couple of months we've been sailing. It's actually - gasp! - kind of fun. You know, apart from the screaming and housework and teething and poopy diapers and nap strikes. But now just as we've found our groove I have to go back to work. It really doesn't seem fair. And so, I propose that someone else - possibly Super Nanny? - take over for the first 5 months, then I'll step in.

I must admit, though, sad as I am to leave Maddie, it could be that the timing is actually perfect. Truth be told, I'm running out of things to do. You can only shake a prescription pill bottle so many times before the allure starts to wear thin, you know what I mean? I try to spice things up every once in a while, but so far without great success. The art gallery trip a couple of months back was met with confusion, and piercing screams that forced us to leave early. Turns out she's not a big fan of traditional Haida art. Who knew? Just this week Maddie and I ventured out to the aquarium. She endured it, but only in exchange for basically an entire bag of Goldfish crackers. While wandering past the jellyfish tank I commented to her on the irony of her eating Goldfish crackers while at the aquarium. She ignored me. In all, I'm not sure it was worth the $18.50 admission.

Knowing that my stint as a SAHM (stay at home mom) is coming to an end is definitely making me enjoy the days more. When you know that each and every day is going to be the same indefinitely it can get a bit suffocating. But realizing that these days together are numbered helps me to really treasure them.

January 23, 2007

Day 293: We're on the move!

Crawling is not considered a milestone.

A lot of babies never crawl.

They all do things in their own time.

All of this is entirely true, I know. But still I've worried about Maddie's complete lack of interest in crawling. And so imagine my delight when last week she got herself up on all fours and started motoring around the living room. In my excitement I called my mom and think I said something along the lines of, "This is the best day of my life!" So now that the immediate post-crawl glow has worn off I can see that perhaps that statement was a bit of an exaggeration. But it is pretty cool.

I am realizing that being a mom to a crawling baby is a whole different job. It's like she's a wrecking crew and I just trail behind her cleaning up her mess and making sure she doesn't knock down anything important. And there's no more hiding from her. I admit I used to plop her down in the living room - yes, in front of the tv - and then escape to the kitchen for 15 minutes to get stuff done. Now she just hunts me down, slapping her little hands against the floor, grunting the whole time. Sometimes her arms give out and she face plants, which doesn't make her happy at all. I told her she needs to up the weights at the gym. The key is in the repetitions. Speaking of which...

I've been trying to drag myself out to the gym more often these days. I recently realized that Maddie has been out in the real world as long as she was inside of me. The theory goes that it takes 9 months to put the weight on so you get 9 months to lose it. Will someone please tell that to my jiggly thighs? (And how the hell did they get fat in the first place? I don't recall them performing any important function during the whole process.) In a way I don't feel as bad about myself as I did before I had Maddie, because at least now there is a good excuse for my belly. However, I can see that the excuse - "I had a baby!" - is starting to wear thin. I have visions of myself saying it when Mads is off at University; somehow I think it wouldn't carry the same weight (no pun intended). I'm going to jump up on my soapbox for one minute to say that as women we face unbelievable pressure to be thin and lovely our whole lives. The girdles, control top pantyhose, gym memberships, the dreaded bathing suit season... it's exhausting. And we judge ourselves as harshly as anyone else could do it. It makes me sad to think that one day Maddie will question her own beauty and worth. But I have to say, it is so nice to have this little person in your life who you know doesn't notice and doesn't care about your extra 5 (okay, 10... fine, 13!) pounds. I know the day will come when the mere sight of me makes her shudder with embarassment, but for now I am perfect because I am mommy. I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts!

January 15, 2007

Day 285: The things nobody ever tells you

With Maddie's first birthday just a couple of months away and my return to work quickly approaching, I've been prompted to reflect over this past year. This crazed, chaotic, confusing, challenging, wonderful year. And when all is said and done I have to say, I feel a bit like I was duped. Nobody thinks that having a baby is easy. But when you think about the hard parts, what specifically comes to mind? I'm going to guess that the labour and delivery tops your list. Then maybe the sleep deprivation, the breastfeeding, the crying, teething, potty training. These were all on my list, too. But it turns out there's a lot going on here that I had no clue about. So I've decided to let the cat out of the bag. Here are some of the things nobody ever told me - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Eating. This sounds like a pretty basic one, right? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Until it was time to start feeding Maddie actual food. First of all, when do you start? You're "supposed to" start solids at 6 months in order to avoid food allergies. I started at 4 months. She was crying so much I was convinced a good meal would make her happy. Then, what do you feed them? What do you do when they refuse to eat? What if they will only eat peaches and throw a mini fit when you try to slip a green bean or two in there? What about when they start refusing breastmilk or formula 4 months before the book (oh, that damn book!) tells you they should stop?

And then there's sleeping. I think we're all prepared to go a few months without sleep. But sometimes those few months stretch into a year. And then there are the babies who sleep wonderfully... as long as they're snuggled cosily in between mom and dad in the big bed. Or they start crawling and subsequently forget how to go to sleep. And then they learn to stand up in their crib and from then on refuse to do anything but. These last two are what we're dealing with now. Our poor, sweet baby standing in her crib and shrieking - tears and all - for over an hour at every nap time! It's enough to break your heart. Or at least give you a splitting headache and a suitably guilty conscience.

There is a plethora of other unexpected condundrums: getting your baby to use a sippy cup instead of a bottle; getting her to sleep without an extended nightly routine of bottle, rocking, bouncing, jiggling, shushing; determining whether her awful mood is because of teething, a cold, an ear infection, or just a plain old bad day. And worst of all is the guilt that seems to be born at that same moment your baby is, and that question looming always in the back of your mind: "Am I doing this right?"

In case I've scared you senseless with all of this, let's move onto the good. Thankfully the difficult times are balanced by some unexpected joys. Like when your little girl reaches out and shares her dinner with you - never the blueberries, mind you, those are hers alone. Or when you put your favourite song on and she starts bouncing up and down and you get your first glimpse of the little dancer she is sure to become. Or when you walk into her bedroom in the morning and she greets you with the biggest, most joyful and honest smile - as if you've been away for months instead of just a night. And of course, the complete rush of pride you feel at her littlest accomplishments: transferring a Cheerio from one hand to another becomes a monumental feat. Banging two blocks together seems the equivalent of an entire symphony performing Beethoven. These moments surpass almost every achievement in my own life. At times they seem bigger than everything else combined.

And the other bit of good news, which I am learning as we go, is that you do survive it. Whatever particular challenge you're facing might seem like it rates among the biggest problems in the world at the time, but a week later you'll be over it and on to the next thing. And though you may not believe it, you are doing it right. We all are. We're doing it right by doing it the best we can.

Now if somebody could just remind me of this later today when she's refusing to sleep and I'm full of self-doubt...

January 08, 2007

Day 277: Baby talk

I've often wondered if some women are just better suited to motherhood than others. When I was in my early twenties and our friends started having babies I began to think that maybe I was missing some gene essential to being a mother. I would find myself with a group of girls, gathered around a squishy, red-faced, wrinkly little baby and they would all be gurgling at her: "Oooh, what a pretty girl, who's that pretty girl? Boo-boo-boo-boo-BOOP! Ba-ba-ba-ba-BAH!" Then it would be my turn and I would say something along the lines of "Hi. I like your dress."

And then I had my own baby and the art of talking to her still eluded me. I didn't even know what to call her - muffin? sugarpie? I had a vague notion it should involve a food item. I remember my dad calling me mon petit chou tete when I was young, which means my little cabbage head. I settled for a while on pumpkin, but it felt awkward. And what was I supposed to talk about? Here we were, suddenly together every day, all day... we couldn't just exist in silence, surely. She wasn't contributing much in terms of conversation, so it was up to me. In the beginning our talk revolved around survival strategies, the fact that we were stuck with eachother so we'd need to just get used to it and get on with things. But slowly it evolved. I'd talk to her about music, about what was on the TV. I remember one day reading the newspaper to her in a really lively, excited voice. She didn't buy it, but I was still impressed with my own effort on that one.

Now we get along great, because now we know eachother. You hear a lot of wonderful love-at-first-sight stories about the moment you first see your baby, but for me it didn't go quite like that. While I could appreciate the miracle of the whole thing, she really could have been anybody's baby. She seemed like a total stranger, and I suppose she was. But now I see what a cool girl she really is. I've dropped the culinary endearments and instead call her Stinky Monkey. We talk about everything. Well, she babbles and I talk. Sometimes I goo goo ga, sometimes I just tell her I like her dress. We've found our groove, I guess. Looking back, I still really don't know if I'm missing a motherhood gene or not. I'm starting to think maybe it was just hidden.