Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sliding into third (trimester, that is!)

I've heard the second trimester referred to as the "Honeymoon Phase" of pregnancy and for the most part it was a LOT easier than the first (which in my case was characterized by nausea, violent mood swings, severe fatigue, depression and just generally feeing crappy.) In the 2nd trimester, I had more energy, my appetite was good (maybe too good!) and I felt happy and healthy overall. But I guess the honeymoon is over. Lately, I've begun to experience some new and uncomfortable symptoms. The swelling in my foot I already mentioned in a previous post "My Left Foot". My doctor prescribed me compression hosiery, which are basically stockings that squeeze the heck out of your foot so it couldn't swell if it wanted to. Yeah, they're dead-sexy. I tried them. They were very hard to get on. They did keep my foot from becoming balloon-like. Unfortunately they turned my toe purple and the best thing about them was peeling them off at the end of the day. I think I'll just go with bare feet and sandals and try to keep my feet elevated as much as possible. As I learned the hard way, another problem with having all your blood pool in your feet is that if you stub your toe, it will be a geyser of blood! One day I was on the phone, getting ready for work and rushing around when I stubbed my toe on the bassinett (it has feet that stick out so that it can rock). With the added weight and the bloated foot, I've been a little clumsier and more ungainly lately. (It doesn't help that my left foot is huge and with my belly in the way I can't even see it anymore.) Suddenly I realized my middle toe was gushing blood. I put pressure on it and it wouldn't stop. I put a bandage on it and it soaked through. After a few bandaids (and do you know how hard it is to get a bandage on your middle toe without sticking to the other toes?!) a lot of pressure and holding my foot up in the air, I was good to go. These things always seem to happen when you're already rushing to get ready for work!

There are aspects of my new voluptuous figure that I don't mind. My cups runneth over! To the point where I just gave up wearing a bra because it was getting too costly to have to keep going up a size. I would try one on in the store and think it was comfortable until a couple of days later when it was too tight and I couldn't stand it and had to tear it off. I will have to get nursing bras of course but I am going to wait until the end so I don't have to worry about outgrowing them. I do tend to get backaches more often now. Between the boobs and the belly, I'm front heavy and it puts a strain on my back, especially when I have to bend over to do things like gardening, weeding, etc. Another thing that makes bras so uncomfortable is that I now have a pain under my breasts, along my braline where my ab muscles used to be. The doctor explained that my uterus is pushing up toward my chest, meaning added pressure against my ribs. My belly is taking over and there is now no evidence of the muscles I'd worked on. Everything is being crowded and stretched.

At my last appointment, my doctor told me that I've actually gained too much weight now. I was gaining about a pound a week until suddenly I gained an extra 5 lbs in a week, inexplicably (I'm sure the ice cream had NOTHING to do with it!) I like to use the excuse that I'm eating for two. Of course realistically you're only supposed to consume an extra 300 calories of healthy foods for the baby. I was probably having at least an extra 500 or more (or an extra 1000 on a really bad day). Despite the number on the scale, when she measured my abdomen she said that I was the perfect size for this stage and that everything is where it should be. So who cares if I've put on a little extra weight?! Gheesh cut me some slack! Considering that I've gone up a few bra sizes and my leg is swollen up like a tree, it should be understandable. A lot of it is probably water weight. Yes I know the goal is to gain 20-35 lbs over the course of the pregnancy but that's in theory. In practice it doesn't seem to be the norm for most people. Women I've talked to typically gained from 50-80 lbs. A lot of it depends on how much you weighed before your pregnancy. My sister gained 75 lbs with her first but she was a rail (100 lbs) before the pregnancy, so she probably had to gain a fair bit just so she wouldn't be underweight. One woman assured me that she was carrying a ton of water weight (she was swollen everywhere, not just her feet) and lost most of it just having the baby. Breastfeeding burns off a lot as well. And I will work out again after the baby. So I'm not going to stress myself out about it. I'm certainly not going to starve myself, or the baby. If we're hungry, we're eating! Most of my diet is very healthy but I do indulge (hey, I'm human and I have cravings!) now and then. Besides, yes I've gone from 125 to 157 lbs but 125 was the lowest I'd been since I was 21 years old. It was only last year that I reached that goal weight. Before working out hardcore last year, my weight was anywhere from 130-145 lbs. So if you consider that my normal weight was about 140 lbs, then I've really only gained 17 lbs! So there! 

157 lbs now

125 lbs last year

If I have put on a few more pounds than I should, it's no wonder. Not only am I eating more, but I haven't really been exercising much. I used to be much more active. I did yoga every day, aerobics, went dancing a couple of times a week, etc. I haven't attempted yoga in several months. I wouldn't be able to handle a vigorous aerobic workout these days and needless to say I don't hit the nightclubs anymore! (You don't see too many pregnant women on the dancefloor!) I do boogie around to the radio a little when I'm home but I get tired pretty easily now. I get winded climbing the stairs, partly because of my added weight and partly because my growing uterus is crowding my lungs, making it harder to breathe.

Another new symptom to rear its ugly head recently: HEARTBURN. I'd never really experienced it before getting pregnant. I finally understand just how appropriate the word heartburn is to describe the condition. My heart was ON FIRE! Actually the entire area from my belly to my throat was burning. It almost made me nauseous. It came on all of a sudden while I was at work and drinking a huge bottle of water (here I thought drinking water was supposed to be GOOD for you.) I'd had pasta and salad for lunch and some fruit for a snack. I thought I was being quite healthy. Then the burning started. I would soon learn (I did a little reading about it online) that citrus and particularly tomatoes can cause heartburn and that water actually makes it worse! A lot of people were suggesting I take antacids. I discovered that drinking milk calms my molten lava stomach and seems a healthier option than popping Tums. Drinking obscene quantities of milk appears to keep the heartburn at bay. Unfortunately milk gives me gas. Burping and flatulence isn't ideal, especially in public but anything is preferable to that burning feeling.

Before being pregnant, I had to use the bathroom quite frequently. Now of course, with a baby sitting on my bladder, it's even worse. I never sleep through the night anymore. I always have to get up at least once, sometimes twice to use the washroom. Then when I'm awake, I'm usually starving so I'll have a little bite to eat before going back to bed (yes it's a mystery how I've been gaining so much weight. It's truly baffling! Tee hee. I can't help it. If baby is hungry, Mama eats. I'll get my old bod back after baby vacates my belly.) It's embarrassing at work to have to go to the bathroom so often but I don't really have a choice. When I have to go, I HAVE TO GO!

Aside from the physical symptoms of pregnancy, it seems there have been mental ones as well. A couple of people referred to it as "pregnancy brain." Maybe it's because there is so much on my mind and so much going on with my body, but I have been much more distracted and forgetful lately. Sometimes I lose track of what day it is. I get confused. If I didn't have my schedule in my calendar I'd be completely lost. At home and at work I'll sometimes find myself blanking out on things that I've always been able to do with no thought or effort. Work is more difficult. Twelve hour shifts can be tough at the best of times. It's that much more taxing when you're pregnant. I work rotating dayshifts and nightshifts. Being a night owl, days are my hardest. I usually only get a couple of hours' sleep and it is REALLY difficult to function when sleep deprived, especially now. People are quick to point out that's it's good preparation for the baby coming. I've had practice getting up at 4:30 a.m. and having to work for 12 hours on no sleep. I'm hoping baby will be a nightowl like me though. She's never active in the mornings. She moves around the most in the afternoon and evening. Especially after midnight. Fine by me. We can nap the morning away and be up all night! She is getting much more active and aggressive with her little kicks. I love feeling her move. It is my favourite thing about being pregnant. (That and hearing her heartbeat at the doctor's office or seeing her on the ultrasound). It's when I feel the strongest bond with her and I always acknowledge her either by talking to her -- "Hey baby!" when I'm at home or more subtly rubbing my tummy if I'm out somewhere.

They say that late in the third trimester, the nesting instinct starts to kick in and you feel a burst of energy where you can't wait to clean the house and get things ready for the baby. I've already started to experience this. My family helped me move the remaining items from my former guest room to turn it into a nursery. I used to have it as a collectibles room until my ex moved in and forced Barbie, the teddy bears and the guest bed into the basement so he could take it over as his scorpion and sword-laden gothic office/dungeon area. After finding out I was pregnant, I had planned to make his office the nursery eventually but was afraid to broach the subject with him. Luckily I never had to. With the room empty now, I couldn't wait to paint. I chose turquoise because I want to do an ocean theme (my master bedroom, bathroom and just about every room in my house to some degree has an ocean theme. My dream was to live on a tropical island. It's a bit of an obsession). I used BEHR paint (I highly recommend their paint! I've used it all over the house every time I've painted. They have an amazing colour selection. It goes on easily and you only ever need one coat). The shade is called "Teal Zeal." It felt good to brighten up the formerly grey room. My ex always kept the shade drawn. Come to think of it, he probably was a vampire! I loved to see the formerly dark, dismal room become bright and cheery. The colour looks blue in the photo but it's actually a beautiful shade of turquoise.
Now I can't wait to fill the room with artwork (I'm planning to do several mermaid/sea theme paintings) and furniture! I'm so grateful my sister is giving me her crib, change table and rocker as she doesn't need them for my nephew anymore. It's an enormous help for a single mom on a tight budget to save on so many large purchases. Of course there's really no rush for the furniture. I'll have the baby in the bassinett right next to me for the first few months and then move her into the nursery eventually. I'm just anxious to see the room finished. I've already been playing around with ideas for layout. It's been fun getting things ready for the baby. The room, clothes and other things I'm going to need. I've been very lucky to get donations from friends and family for the most part. My sister has been awesome. I'm relying on May and my Mom to offer support and advice along the way as well. Time is flying! We're almost into May. July will be here before I know it. Though I have done a lot of reading about pregnancy and caring for a baby, I know that I'll need street smarts as well as book smarts. Having a couple of pros like May and my Mom to turn to is a huge blessing. I know I'll have a LOT of questions once the baby is here. I'll probably be calling them 20 times a day!

Next week I have to go for my gestational diabetes test. Not relishing the idea. (If you've read my post, "Labour of Love" then you know that I have an intense PHOBIA of needles and that I faint every single time.) A lot of people have phobias. Some people are terrified of snakes. I think snakes are cute. Frankly, I'd take a python over a needle any day! Snakes have never hurt me. Needles always hurt. I have to just try to block it out. Breathe. Relax. Mind over matter. I know I'm going to have to toughen up to survive labour so maybe I should take this as a learning opportunity. Maybe this time I won't faint. Needles have always been my nemesis. This one will be even more frightening since they're going to make me drink a sickening (I've heard it's NOT pleasant) sugar drink (why can't they just let me have a Coke?!) and then sit there for an hour psyching myself out until they take my blood. I can only hope it goes well so that I won't have to have the subsequent three hour test where you have to fast beforehand. I can't imagine going 14 hours or more without eating, especially now. I feel weak and lightheaded on a full stomach never mind an empty one. They told me I didn't have to fast before this one but I am going to cut down on my sugar (I won't even have OJ in the morning just in case) before I go. Wish me luck!

I can't believe how quickly the time has gone. It seems like just yesterday I took the pregnancy test and saw that shocking YES + in November. So much has happened since then (including my ex disappearing and leaving me to raise our child alone.) It's been a rollercoaster to say the least. Now I'm two thirds of the way there. Just three more months to go. I'm going to get even bigger. And it's going to be Summer. I don't mind forgoing bikinis for a bit. Being pregnant has been an adventure and for the most part, I'm enjoying it. The biggest and best day of my life is yet to come. I still can't believe it. I'm excited and nervous. July 23rd. The day I get to meet the love of my life, my baby. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Baby Fever

My little niece having cake!
Babies are messy. I know it. Screaming in the middle of the night (or the middle of the grocery store). Diaper changes. Spitting up. Toys and baby gear everywhere. And when they're old enough to eat solid food -- food everywhere (spaghetti will be fun. And obviously I've seen what they can do with a piece of cake!) It doesn't matter. Babies are cute. I love them. I'm anxious for mine. It won't be long now (due in July!)

It's so strange because most of my life I thought I didn't want kids. When I used to hear an infant wailing in a supermarket I'd cringe and think "Thank God that's not me!" Now I smile lovingly, get a warm feeling in my chest (then again it might be the heartburn!) and think "I can't wait for my own!"

It's like a switch has gone off in my brain since finding out I was pregnant. I'm in Mommy mode. It's hard to imagine now that I wasn't always in this mode. There were fleeting moments when a baby would look at me and smile that I'd feel a small twinge in my heart but not enough to make me want any. I just couldn't go there in my mind. Obviously it was meant to be. I was just a bit of a late bloomer which is only fitting because I have been in everything else. I didn't move out until my late 30s. My sexual peak didn't hit until my 40s. In my teens and 20s I wasn't happy with myself, wasn't comfortable in my own skin. It took a long time for me to reach the point where I felt vibrant and beautiful and open to experience life and its pleasures fully. Most women catch baby fever much younger. They can't wait to start a family. It's one of the things that rushes them to the altar. (I never really got wedding fever, then again I  never met Mr. Right, aka "the one," my soulmate. I met some pretty good imposters, but their true colours would always show long before any engagement ring appeared.) At the rate I was going, I couldn't see me ever getting married or having kids. And I was OK with that. I was just happy to reach a point in my life where I felt good about myself, physically and spiritually. I saw life as a beautiful adventure. I wanted to fall in love, travel, experience life to its fullest. The plan was to eventually relocate to a tropical paradise. I wanted to travel light. I drove a car with two seats and no trunk space. Babies weren't on my radar whatsoever. Not in my wildest dreams.

With my little nephew
People were skeptical when I told them I didn't want children. Especially when they would watch me holding their babies "Doesn't it make you want your own?" they would ask, incredulously. At the time though, it really didn't, "Not even one little bit," I replied smugly. Sure babies were cute and all and it was nice holding them, but I liked handing them back. Nice to visit but I didn't want to live there. I was relieved that I didn't have to hear them screaming at night and change their pea-soup ridden diapers every day. My time was my own. I was free. I could sleep in. Without an adorable little dictator controlling my life. Little did I know. The switch hadn't gone off yet. The switch wouldn't go off until the Fall of 2011 when I was 42 years old and dating a younger (and extremely fertile apparently!) man. Yes it took a scorpion, a balloon and a strange twist of fate to change my mind, my body, and life as I knew it, forever (please read my first blog post -- "Expecting Unexpectedly: My Story Begins" if you haven't yet and are curious how I suddenly found myself pregnant in November of last year.)

Apparently, I would learn later that another scorpion (aside from the one that knocked me up) may have played a role in the whole get-Ann-Marie-unexpectedly-pregnant scheme. My mother, also a Scorpio, told me that she had been praying every night that I would never regret my decision not to have a baby. What?! Mother! Really? Can you please consult me before you have discussions about MY life and reproductive system with the Big Guy?! And if you have that much pull can you maybe say a prayer for me like -- "Please God don't let Ann Marie regret that she never won millions in the lottery?!" Because let me tell you, $30 million would come in handy right about now! It seems that my mother's baby prayers for me were answered in a rather dramatic way. It was, quite tellingly, only a few days after Mom's November birthday that I was "late" and took a pregnancy test to find that YES I was quite pregnant. I guess I know what she wished when she blew out her candles! Thanks, Mom! What have you gotten me into?!

Now I have babies on the brain. Everytime I see one, giggling and cooing on TV, smiling in a magazine ad, sleeping cherub-like on an Anne Geddes card or calendar, or out and about beckoning me from strollers, from mothers' arms, or those irresistible little kangaroo pouches (my sister gave me one -- a "Snugli" -- because the idea of carrying my child like a marsupial is beyond adorable) I'm smitten. Yes I've been hit by a case of full blown Baby Fever! Just a glimpse of a baby and I can't help but smile, experience a pang of longing, an uncontrollable wave of affection and start to tear up a little in anticipation of my own little one. Baby strollers are like magnets to me now. I'm drawn to them. The other day in frozen foods I saw a couple with a newborn, six weeks old. So tiny. So precious. They had a little flower band on her head. She was sleeping like a cherub. "Don't let her fool you," the mother said, "she was screaming 20 minutes ago." It doesn't matter. Babies are perfect. Even when they're devils, they're angels.

Of course, it's not going to be easy. It's going to be a HUGE adjustment for me. My life and my body are no longer my own. There are a lot of things I have to figure out and get used to. Even working the stroller and carseat. My sister is a pro. She has the stroller folded up and in the trunk like magic, my nephew strapped in and secure in the carseat in seconds. Whenever I tried to do it I fumbled and couldn't figure it out and had to let my sister take over. Of course she's had years of practice with her 3 kids. I'm a newbie. I'll learn and it'll become second nature to me too.

One day while I was unloading groceries, I suddenly wondered how I would manage grocery shopping with a baby. I couldn't bring the stroller into the store AND push a cart but the shopping carts don't seem to be made to secure a baby seat in...So what do Moms do? I couldn't picture it. I guess I won't know until I try. When I think back to times I've seen moms shopping with babies, they usually have backup, Dad or Grandma or a friend to push the cart while mom has the stroller. But moms must go shopping alone, especially single Moms. I'll have to pay more attention...and take notes! Actually I have heard that carseats will fit in the basket part of a shopping cart somehow. Having never done it, I just don't see how.

I know that sleeping in will likely be a thing of the past unless baby sticks to her prenatal schedule (based on when she's most active in utero). So far it seems she sleeps through the morning and gets lively in the late afternoon and late at night. Just like her Mama! I know that my schedule will revolve around her for the first while. I'll be up when she's up and grab naps when she sleeps I guess. I asked a couple of mothers how they could tell the difference when a baby cries whether she's hungry, or needs to be changed or something else. "You just know" seemed to be the consensus. It wasn't very comforting. I guess it's an instinct you develop. As a Mom you have a knack for knowing what your baby needs. You can detect a subtle difference in the sort of cries that come from being hungry or being wet. And there's always trial and error. See what works. I'm hoping I can sing my baby to sleep and she will be peaceful until morning...Sure. I can dream! For the first six months I don't imagine I'll  get much sleep as I'll be breastfeeding and have to feed every few hours. I'm hoping that the feeding goes well. I've heard it can be very tricky in the beginning, but once you and baby get the hang of it, it comes naturally. Hopefully it doesn't hurt too much. Quite a few women warned me that they had problems and had to give up and go to the bottle. I'm going to try not to stress about it. My sister never had a problem with her kids. It is natural. I can tell my breasts are already getting ready for milk production! And frankly being on a tight budget, being able to feed the baby without having to buy formula would be a huge help. If I could score some free diapers too I'd be all set!
In his Hawaiian shirt from Aunt Ann Marie!
I always used to think that having a child would put the rest of your life on hold, that you wouldn't be able to do the things you used to. While this may be the case to some degree, a lot of the things I love I can still do with baby in tow. I will still go to the beach. It never stopped my sister. I'll just have to find shade for the baby. I'll probably get one of those magical little fold up round tents that pops open in one second and then folds up again (though usually not as easily) to put back in the bag. My sister used those when we headed to the beach with my little nephew. I may not be able to wear my old bikinis right away but I can still rock a tankini and sarong and enjoy the sunshine, the sand, the waves. And when the baby is older it will be fun to build sandcastles with her. I can still go for walks, go shopping, to the movies, excursions, anywhere I used to, just with a little more baggage now -- a diaper bag and stroller.

Baby will be here before I know it! The time has flown since November. April is almost over now. I'm days away from my third trimester. It's hard to believe. In some ways, I'm frightened -- of labour and of taking care of the baby. Newborns are so delicate. Will I be OK? Will I know what I'm doing? It will be OK. Every Mom is a first time Mom at some point. You learn as you go. I will be a pro soon enough. And I will have a couple of pros to give me pointers -- my Mom and my sister. When I get back home alone and it's just baby and me, it may be scary at first. (Not that having her dad around would have really helped. He was far less prepared for parenting than I was. He was just a big kid himself. Mischievous and completely irresponsible.) Fears aside, I'm excited about meeting my little angel. I can't wait for that new baby smell (even more intoxicating than the new car smell!) -- soft, powdery, fresh, clean, innocent. The tiny little fingers and toes. Little cherub cheeks. Holding her, singing her to sleep. Dressing her in adorable little outfits. And I won't panic if I need advice. Help is always a phone call away. I will cherish the time alone with my baby. She will be my world and I will be hers. Someday we may meet someone wonderful to join our little family, but until then we will do just fine on our own. It's a rollercoaster (and I always loved those!) -- a mixture of fear and excitement. You're so scared that you may ask yourself why you got on this wild ride but then you feel so alive, so exhilarated that you realize it's worth it.

I never imagined this but now I can't imagine life any other way. I see it as such a gift, such a blessing at this stage in my life to be embarking on my greatest adventure. I feel stronger and happier than ever. You think you know who you are until something happens to change your perspective and you see what you can become. You think you know what you want until you make a detour and discover your true destiny is nothing like you planned, but so much better. Never say never. I'm not saying that all women are meant to be mothers or would all want to. I'm just saying that for me, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I was SO CERTAIN I didn't want kids! Yet now I know in my heart and soul that this was meant to be. God knew what I wanted and needed better than I knew myself. I always knew that I needed love and beauty in my life, I just didn't know the form that it would take: That it would be my baby.

Embracing my new curves

Worth giving up my old tummy for a while

It's still sort of surreal to me that this is happening. It's magical. A miracle. My own baby. Part of me. Will she be like me? 
Me as a baby
Will she want to dance ballet (It was my dream as a child but my parents couldn't afford lessons. I'll take out a second mortgage or get 3 jobs if I have to but if she wants them she is definitely getting lessons!) Will she love to sing? Will she be artistic? I hope so but I won't impose my dreams on her. Whatever she wants to do I will encourage her. A baby is full of hope and possibility. So exciting to have a new life starting. This is like nothing I've ever done before. What I used to think of as my babies -- the pets I loved, the songs I wrote, the CD I put out, poems I published, paintings I created -- nothing compares to this. I also loved gardening -- planting and watching things grow and evolve, blooming in spring like a living painting. This baby will be my masterpiece, my greatest creation, my most beautiful flower. The most important thing I have brought into this world. A child. A new life. A person. What a massive (terrifying) responsibility! What an extraordinary, miraculous gift. It wasn't something I ever dared to wish for myself. I certainly didn't expect it now. I would have thought it was too late. It feels like I've been given a second chance to be a 20 year old. I feel like a young woman whose life is just beginning. The baby will keep me young!

This baby means the world to me. She is worth the changes and sacrifices I have to make. I would do anything for her. I was inspired to write this song for her, "Everything I do is for you." It's the latest in a playlist of my original songs that I've written for her so far. (A singer-songwriter I've written hundreds of songs. My baby is my muse now. I plan to write many more songs and lullabies for her.)

I didn't know I wanted a baby. I only knew that I wanted my life to be beautiful and extraordinary. Wanted to find my true love, a love that would endure forever, someone to share the rest of my life with, someone to love, laugh, learn and grow with. I wanted life to be an amazing adventure. Wanted to create something unique, to do something daring that I'd never attempted, to live life to the fullest. Well, it looks like I got my wish...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Single Mom, Wonder Woman

When I was a kid, I never dreamed of being a Mom. I wasn't interested in pushing baby dolls in carriages or playing house. I wanted to be Wonder Woman! Beautiful and powerful, she was my idol. I used a skipping rope as a lasso of truth, tin foil for bracelets. I spun around hoping I would magically end up in a bathing suit and boots. Now I find myself suddenly a single Mom, something I never imagined I would be, but I'm quickly realizing that being a single mom IS being Wonder Woman! Fighting the forces of evil, protecting the innocent, standing up for what's right, making the world a better place (for your children in particular), doing the seemingly impossible and doing it all on your own.

There are a lot of us out there. Nearly one quarter of mothers now are single mothers and almost 50% of today's moms will be the sole custodial parent at some time. Almost half of single moms were never married. The other half are divorced, separated or widowed.

Lately, I've been fortunate enough to talk with a number of single moms. Each has her own unique story. Some were abandoned, as I was, during pregnancy or after. I thought that my story was unusual, (in my 40s pregnant unexpectedly and abandoned), but I actually met another single mom whose tale was almost identical. She was 40, became pregnant to a man whom she'd only been dating a month (just like me). He left her, without warning, at the three month point (mine was at four months). She was due in July (just like me!) but ended up having her son prematurely. Luckily he was a healthy, happy boy and is the light of her life. His father only came to see him once, in the hospital, just after he was born and made no subsequent attempts to be a part of his son's life. Of the other single moms I talked to, most were divorced. Some escaped toxic and abusive relationships (alcoholism and other substance abuse, infidelity, physical and psychological abuse.) There is also a new breed of single mom -- the single moms by choice who decided to go it alone and create a family without a man, either adopting a child on their own or using a sperm donor to have a child without a relationship. If you want to start a family and Mr. Right doesn't show up in time, improvise! Despite the differences between them, these single moms are all extraordinary women. I am in awe of their independence, strength and determination, the deep love and close bond they have with their kids. I never expected to find myself in this situation. I can only hope that I'm up to the task.

It can be a daunting task. Let's face it, in this economy, families struggle to survive on TWO incomes, never mind one. To earn enough to support her children and still have enough time to spend with them can be a challenge. A single mother has to be resourceful, enterprising, hard-working, organized, a master of time management, able to juggle the needs of career and childcare. Having the support of family and friends can be a great help. I am fortunate to have a mother and sister that are extremely supportive. I've had family and friends donate maternity and baby clothes. My sister is giving me her crib, change table, rocking chair, toys and many other items which is a HUGE help. Money will be tight to say the least. Especially when I go on maternity leave. I'm not actually sure how I'm going to manage, what arrangements I'll have to make before going back to work. The plan originally was for Mike, the baby's father, to watch the baby when I went back to work because he worked from home (yeah, if you can call it that.) Now I'm not sure what I'll do but I'm trying not to worry about things that are a year down the road. I'm taking it one day at a time and trusting that somehow everything will work out.

I had no idea I'd be going through this alone. Mike had promised he was sticking around. He told me he was excited about the baby, wanted to be a family. He kissed my belly. He called her Michelle. He loved us. Or at least he seemed to, up until February. In spite of his history and his issues, he seemed happy living with me. He gave no indication that he wanted to leave. I still don't understand how he could turn his back on us. One day I will have to explain to my daughter who her daddy was and why he's not around. I'm not sure what I'll say since he left without a word of explanation or apology (if you missed my earlier posts, "Feb-RUE-ary" recounts his random disappearance when I was four months pregnant). It was baffling. I can't understand it. I don't know what to think. I don't want to believe that he was just cruel, heartless and selfish, that he didn't care about us, that he just wanted his freedom and took off so that he wouldn't be tied down. I would like to think that letting go was the only option he thought he had -- that he thought we'd be better off without him. He wasn't prepared to be a father. He was more of a burden than a help (financially and otherwise.) Maybe he didn't feel worthy of us, thought it would be a more difficult, more stressful life with him around (which is probably true.) Perhaps he felt like he didn't belong in my world. (He'd made mention of the disparity between our "worlds," said that we were from different levels of society, even described himself as a "bottom feeder." The place he had been living before moving in with me was scary to say the least. A dirty, dingy basement apartment with holes in the walls, a ceiling black with mould, yellow walls.) A boy from the wrong side of the tracks, rough around the edges, with piercings, tattoos, spiky hair, chains, a proclivity for dropping random F-bombs, he did seem to feel a bit out of place in my conservative suburban neighbourhood.

Maybe he was being cruel to be kind, for the baby's and my own good. Maybe it broke his heart to leave but he felt it was for the best for us. Well, I'd like to believe that anyway. He may have just been a monster, a misogynist, a sociopath too damaged to develop human attachments, too hateful and angry at the world to have any sort of conscience. But I saw a tender side. The way he comforted me. The thoughtful little things he did. The way he slept hugging my pyjamas. Beneath the tough exterior was a little boy who needed to be loved. And he was. And he seemed happy. I offered him a better life. For the first time, he had a good woman that he could trust. He had a daughter on the way. He had a beautiful home, a family, a purpose he had never had. How on earth could he let that go? I can't imagine that he could just leave and forget us. How could he not be haunted every day of his life knowing what he gave up? Knowing that he has a child out there. Even if he tried, he could never forget. When the time comes and I have to tell her about her father, I will show her pictures of him and the letter he wrote me at Christmas. She will see that he did love us, at least for a time. For whatever reasons, (financial, emotional, psychological) I guess he had his own demons to wrestle and couldn't stay with us.

Given the life that he had had, Mike really didn't know what it was to have a family. They say that the first few years of your life from 0-5 years are the most important. You learn more during that period than you will in the rest of your lifetime. More than just how to walk, talk, eat, read. You learn to love, learn about the world and your place in it. It is when you learn to bond with others. Not getting the right nurturing during this stage can be catastrophic. This period shapes the person that you will become. In those first few years, Mike suffered abandonment. He never had a father and even lost his mother when he was one year old. In and out of foster homes, he never had a chance to feel safe, secure, nurtured and loved. He would go the rest of his life with a chip on his shoulder. A black hole of need that would never be filled. Distrustful (especially of women), suspicious, defensive. In some ways, he was like a wild animal. A survivor. A lone wolf. Ironically he seemed to seek out situations that would perpetuate his anger and despair. He wouldn't let himself be happy. Maybe he didn't know how to bond, to settle down, to stay in one spot, to be part of a family. He seemed to want that with the baby and me but maybe he got scared, afraid of the unknown, feeling like a fish out of water. I recall him saying that he was nervous about holding the baby. He said he wouldn't hold her when she was a newborn because she'd be too fragile. I said "Of course you have to hold your own baby! You just cradle her, support her head with your arm. You can learn!" But maybe he was overwhelmed by the idea, by the responsibility. He was a drifter who was used to just picking up and leaving. He wasn't used to staying and especially having to care for a child. So maybe he just got scared. Found it easier to return to the life he knew, as dark and meaningless as that world might have been. I hated him for a long while but I have to make my peace with this. I have to forgive him for my own sanity. And the truth is, he has done us a favour. I just wish he had at least given us a goodbye, a note, an answer I could give our daughter when the time came. Despite all the pain he's caused me, I can't truly hate him because he has given me this extraordinary unexpected gift, a child that was meant to be. A love unlike any I've ever experienced. The adventure of a lifetime. I believe in Fate. It's not my place to question it. It had to be this way for whatever reason.

The truth is it may actually be easier not having him in the picture at all. It will just be the baby and me. So many women go through ugly custody battles with their exes, have to deal with the stress of seeing them because of the kids. All the animosity between the parents impacts the children. You cannot hate each other publicly, in front of the kids, without affecting who they are. Maybe a clean break, an absentee father is better, simpler. No one to argue with. No one to battle for control. I see too many couples who let the animosity they feel for each other poison their children. Sometimes they use the children as pawns to punish each other. It's no way for a child to live. I will never speak an ill word about my child's father to her. It would only hurt her. No matter what, he's still her dad. She wouldn't have existed without him. So I will focus on the good things about him. There were some. His sweetness at times, his intelligence and sense of humour. If she gets anything from him, hopefully it will be those qualities.

Vanishing the way he did, he obviously had no intention of being part of her life. So it's less complicated. I get to be in control, make all the decisions, with no one to fight with. Financially, he wasn't in a position to help much or contribute anyway, so I'm better off on my own. Truthfully when he lived here, the bit of money he gave me didn't even cover the costs he incurred me, feeding and caring for him and his three pets. My household bills were double with him here and my grocery bill nearly quadrupled! I didn't realize until I looked at my credit card bills later that I was spending $800-1000 a month on groceries while he lived here! Now my groceries are only about $250 a month. He was eating me out of house and home! A ravenous 6'2" eating machine who could devour an entire dinner for a family of four as a light snack. Not to mention feeding his pitbull who ate all his own food and the cat food. I could hardly keep up with it. And it would have been exhausting dealing with all of them on top of caring for a baby.

Though it can be a struggle in many ways, there are advantages to being a single mom. Having a man around can be like having another baby to take care of! Not all men are helpful. In fact, many of them are not. Many of them barely pick up after themselves much less do anything for the kids. It is tough to make ends meet on one income, but if the man in your life happened to be unemployed or underemployed then he was a liability anyway and costing you rather than saving you money. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, my baby brother being one, he has a good job, is a wonderful father and husband and very helpful in every way. He and his wife share the responsibilities of caring for their children and share the finances. But I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is rarely the case. From what I've seen of married and co-habitating couples, 9 times out of 10, it is the WOMAN who shoulders most of the burden. When a baby cries, she's the one to get up and feed/change him. Mom is the one who does the cooking, cleaning, most of the household chores, on top of caring for, nurturing the kids and her husband (and pets if they have any). Mom is the organized one who remembers special occasions, school and extracurricular schedules, doctor appointments. Men don't seem to be wired that way. These days most women work outside the home as well so she gets to do it all, inside and outside the home. Dad has it relatively easy. With a new baby, most of the time it's Mom who does the feeding, getting up in the night when the baby cries, changing the diapers, playing with them. When it comes to parenting, it seems that dads may make an appearance but it is Mom who is the star of the show.

I remember reading years ago that statistically, marriage is bad for women, but good for men. Single women live longer than married women. For men it's the reverse -- single men don't live as long as married men. Why would this be? It would appear that when a man gets married, his burden is lessened -- he now has someone to take care of him, to fulfill his needs. Unfortunately, when a woman gets married, her burden is increased. On her own, she only had herself to take care of, which she could do quite well. Once married, she then has to care for her husband and children (and pets if they have any). She ends up doing it all, meeting everyone else's needs while her own aren't being met. She can wind up stressed, exhausted, depleted. Women are naturally better nurturers. Men often just don't get it. Frankly, men need us more than we need them! (Sorry guys, please no hate mail here! I am generalizing of course. I am speaking of the majority. There are no doubt some men out there who are capable of nurturing, who are very involved in their children's lives and very supportive of their wives. I know that my brother is one of them. I also know that he is the rarity.) Most of the women I've encountered do the lion's share of the work at home, with a new baby or older kids. So single mom or not, chances are if you're a woman, you're doing it all. Of course if the man in your life does anything at all, it is a help, as opposed to going it completely alone. With a male figure absent from their lives however, single moms may be more apt to bond with friends and family and develop a network or support system to help them out. The truth is, you are never alone. There is always somewhere to turn. There are a lot of us out there and we need to support each other.

Even in Hollywood, there are a lot of single moms. Here are just a few in the media recently:

Hot Mamas -- Celebrity Single Moms
Halle Berry
Sandra Bullock
Katie Couric
Sheryl Crow
Minnie Driver
Jennie Garth
Kate Gosselin
Kate Hudson
January Jones   
Heidi Klum
Bridget Moynahan
Natascha McElhone
Kate Moss
Denise Richards
Sharon Stone
Charlize Theron
Liv Tyler
Michelle Williams
Kate Winslet

Say what you will about her, but I think Kate Gosselin is one of the most strong, courageous women out there. Imagine taking care of 8 kids on your own?! I feel like I'll have my hands full with just one!

Most of these celebrities are divorced. Charlize Theron is a new single mom by choice who chose to adopt. It is good to see strong, beautiful, independent moms out there who love their kids. Of course celebrities naturally have a financial advantage over the rest of us. It's hard to take them too seriously when they say how hard it is to balance work and having time for their children (as Madonna had remarked in a recent article) when we know that with all their millions they could afford the best in childcare, could take a break from work, etc. Money would make a lot of things easier! Celebrity or not though the most valuable thing we can give to our children is love, which cannot be bought. From what I have seen, children of single mothers know that they're loved. They are grateful for their mom's sacrifices. They feel an even closer bond because she was there for them when no one else was. One of the sweetest men I ever met grew up with a single mother (his father was an alcoholic and took off on them.) He was extremely grateful to her, protective of her and consequently put women on a pedestal. If only there were more men like this!

Life often doesn't go quite the way you plan. I grew up reading fairytales and waiting for my Prince Charming. Yeah. He didn't show up. Does Mr. Right exist? Sometimes we think we may have found him but it turns out to be an illusion. I met a woman who married her high school sweetheart, had a fairytale wedding, had a family together, then one day he told her that he had never loved her. What do you do when your dreams fall apart? Many of us end up in dead-end, destructive relationships. We get discouraged. We find ourselves still single later in life. Or we marry the wrong one and end up divorced. I believed I'd meet Mr. Right, fall in love, get married and get a house someday. That was the plan. I guess it is for a lot of us. But it didn't play out that way for me. I spent 9 years in a relationship and didn't marry him. I had a series of relationships lasting anywhere from several months to several years but never found "the one." (And being a hopeless romantic I was waiting for the one, my soulmate.) So, I found myself 36 years old and still living in a basement apartment in my parents' house. I may never have moved out, except that someone dared me to, years ago. She insulted me and I'm grateful because it set off a chain of events that would change my life in ways I never imagined. I made the most daring move I'd ever made. My first declaration of independence.

I bought a house out of spite. I had no intention of buying a home. No desire to. Where I used to work there were a lot of single girls. One day they were discussing all the girls from work who had purchased homes recently, on their own. Some had gotten condos, others had moved into townhomes. When the conversation turned to me, one of them said "Oh Ann Marie would NEVER get a place on her own! She'd only move out if she got married or moved in with a guy." I was fuming. She did have a point. I was a serial monogamist who was never without a boyfriend. In a way, I did always feel that I needed a man in my life. I just never found the right one, one that I would actually marry. I kept thinking I would move out when I got married but what if that never happened? I was angry. I thought, "I'll show her!" I went into my bank, almost as a lark, to see if I qualified for a mortgage. When I did and they told me that I could get a house, on my own, it was incredibly empowering. I could really do this! By myself! I am woman, hear me roar! I didn't need a man! I could be a single homeowner. It was a possibility, a reality that I'd never considered.

Now the problem was finding a home in my price range. The town where I'd been living with my family was out of the question but a friend at work suggested I look in her neck of the woods. I was getting discouraged with overpriced cookie cutter uninspiring townhomes that all looked the same. I didn't want to settle. I wasn't willing to settle for a man, so why would I settle for a house, my largest and most important purchase ever? I was looking for a sign, looking for a house I'd fall in love with. Then it happened. I walked into the trailer of a new home builder and all the homes were named after artists! Being a painter myself, I took it as a sign. When I saw the prices I was shocked -- detached homes for less than the price of a townhouse where my parents lived. Beautiful homes that were actually in my price range. So I bought the "Monet." The advantage to buying a new house (aside from it being entirely mine and getting to pick everything out, design it the way I wanted) was that I only had to put a small amount down and by the time the house was built I had saved up the rest of my down payment (living with my parents was of course a huge help.) Also, the house had gone up in value before I even moved in. It was surreal moving into my new home. Moving to another city, on my own, at first it was frightening and overwhelming. I wasn't used to living alone. Most people have a bit of a transition -- they rent a place with friends before they buy a place. I'd gone straight from being with my parents to buying this house, on my own. I had left my on-again off-again boyfriend of a few years because he was an alcoholic and I couldn't save him. So I didn't even have a boyfriend when I first moved in. At first I panicked. It didn't feel right. It felt cold and alien. After getting settled in and putting up my artwork, it began to feel more like home. A friend gave me a kitten to keep me company. Soon, I loved my house. I knew it was the best thing I'd ever done. And all it took was someone daring me to do it. Mocking me and telling me I couldn't. (Later she would take credit and say that she was using reverse psychology. I'll never be sure...) My Mom was initially against the move. She didn't want me to go and had come to believe that I'd never leave the nest. Her other birds had flown away and I was her last one. But even she was happy for me and proud of me once she saw my new place. I just had to make sure to visit her often, or suffer the Mom guilt (the possessive Scorpio Mom guilt, yes unlike my ex, she's one Scorpio that never leaves my life!)

Of course I didn't stay alone for long. I ended up reconciling with an old boyfriend who was still in the picture as a friend. I wasn't very good at being alone. I always felt I needed to have a boyfriend. I'd go from one to the next with little or no break in between. I would stay in relationships too long even when they weren't working, because it was too frightening to not have someone there. Sometimes I would want to leave someone and someone else, usually his opposite would show up to give me a way out. I continued this pattern for more than 20 years. On a pendulum swinging back and forth between two types of men (strong but emotionless or sensitive but falling apart) when what I really needed was someone somewhere in the middle -- a man who could be strong AND sensitive. Right now, being pregnant and alone since the start of February is actually the longest stretch of time I've gone without dating anyone in the past two decades. My friend kept telling me I needed to be alone but I wouldn't listen. Now I have no choice. The baby is keeping me out of trouble! Of course I'm never really alone. She's always with me. I love feeling that bond, feeling her move, talking to her. No matter where I go or what I do, she's there. And when she kicks or nudges me it makes me smile and whisper "Love you baby." It's our secret conversation. I can't wait to hold her in my arms. This is a different sort of love than the romantic love I'd been seeking most of my life. It is a deeper love and one that I know will endure forever. Romantic love has so many conditions. The love you have for a child is forever, completely unconditional. It can never be undone.

In a perfect world, every child would grow up with two loving parents. In the real world, it doesn't always pan out that way. Sometimes Mr. Right doesn't show up. Or turns out to be very wrong. I think that a child having one loving parent is preferable to having two parents in a bad situation, who are unhappy, arguing, at each other's throats. Having no father in the picture is better than having a bad one. An abusive parent is more damaging than an absent one. Some people claim that they stay together "for the kids" and then subject their children to a toxic, hostile environment. A war zone where mom and dad hate each other. A nightmare where mother and children walk on eggshells hoping dad won't lash out at them. Children need to feel safe. They need to be loved. A single mom who has her whole heart to give may be all that they need. So if dad doesn't want to be there and takes off, frankly, he's done you a favour. And if dad is still in the picture but doing more harm than good, to you and your child, for Heaven's sake, get out.

I am a single mom. I don't know if I can be Wonder Woman. I don't have superhuman powers but I'm sure going to try to be the best Mom I can be. It's scary. Most of the time I can be positive but there are moments when I'm exhausted, when I feel overwhelmed, moments when I cry and doubt myself and I wonder how I'll get through. But I have a source of strength, a meaning and a purpose that I've never had before. This baby is my life, my reason, my hope and faith. I only have to think of her and then I know that it's going to be OK. She is a miracle. She was meant to be.

I've lived through quite an adventure so far and I know that the best (and the scariest) is yet to come. So much pain, so much joy, so much love that my heart may burst. It terrifies me but so far the things in life that scared me the most wound up being the most rewarding. They stretched me. They forced me to grow beyond what I thought was possible. The surprises and bumps in my life have become my life. Not what I planned, but so much better than my plans. In many ways I was hiding, from life, from myself. I thought I knew what I wanted. But there were things I never allowed myself to want. I was a caterpillar that never dreamed of being a butterfly. Now going through this metamorphosis I see a whole other world open up to me. Beyond my imagination. And whatever I have to go through, it's worth it. I know that everything will be OK. I know that I will be strong enough. I know that I will do whatever it takes because I have no choice. I have to love and protect the most precious being in the world, my baby.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Baby takes the wheel...

I'm not in the driver's seat anymore. Baby has taken over -- my body, my car, my home, my life. And that's before she even makes her grand entrance in July! I am so OWNED.
My adorable nephew!
Strangely prophetic...I love this photo. It was the Fall of 2010 and I had just gotten my dream car, the Mazda MX5 Miata. My sister sat my nephew in the driver's seat. I love his expression! It looks like he really is driving. I can picture him saying "Man, can you believe this traffic?!" I never imagined a year and a half later that a baby really would be taking my cute little car from me.
I loved this car. I used to call it "my baby." Now there's a new baby in town and I have to sell my beloved Miata. You can't put a child carseat in a two-seater convertible. At first I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I didn't drive the car through the winter anyway (it was supposed to have snow tires to be safe for driving on snow and ice and I couldn't afford them.) Thankfully my parents gave me their much more practical 4-door sedan to use. Now I just have to sell the MX5 because frankly the payments are killing me and it would be insane to keep making payments I can't afford on a car that I can't even drive (for about 12 years until my child would be old enough to be a passenger. Yeah. Not really a plan.) So I've posted ads and am hoping to find the right buyer...Speaking of which...

2010 MAZDA MX5 Miata
silver automatic two-seater convertible for sale!

BUY ME! (Isn't he cute?)

If you're in the Oakville area (that's Oakville, Ontario, Canada!) and in the market for a new-ish convertible or know someone who is, please let me know ASAP! I have to sell this car and the sooner the better. You can email me at if you're interested in the car. (This is just my email for selling stuff. Please mention the car and/or my blog or ad in the subject line. I get a lot of spam mail and don't open emails from people I don't know unless the subject line explains why they're writing. If you want to email me about my blog, my music, pregnancy, babies, being a single Mom etc then please use my regular email:

Love at first sight...
It was the Fall of 2010. My old, much more practical, much less glamorous, little car had died. (Muffler fell off, brakes were shot, the list goes on.) It was a good little car that got me from A to B for a decade. I didn't want to invest money into fixing an old car. I was feeling a little more daring and wanted to live a little. On the radio Mazda was advertising 0% financing. You can't argue with 0% interest! I took it as a sign. This time, I was getting the car of my dreams. I had loved the Mazda Miata since it came out in the 90's. It was just such a cute car. The dealership didn't actually have one on the lot. They had sold out of them in the Summer and it being Fall they didn't plan to get more in. They tried to talk me into a more practical car they had on the lot. I took one for a test drive. It was a nice car but my heart belonged to another. Passion trumped practicality.
I shook my head and told the salesman "I'm sorry. I like it as a friend. I'm not in love."
He laughed. "I've never heard anyone talk about a car that way before!"
"Yes," I admitted, "I'm a little strange." No. I couldn't settle again. I was following my heart. I was making changes in my life. Life is so short, why not live it to the fullest? It wasn't easy to get. Apparently there were only two silver automatic Miata convertibles left in all of Ontario. It didn't matter. I had made up my mind. They shipped one in for me. As soon as I got behind the wheel, I knew I had made the right decision.

Most of my life I had talked myself out of things. I tried to be sensible, to be practical. I was afraid to take risks. I played it safe. But that's not really living. I wanted something more. Something beautiful and extraordinary. I wanted passion, adventure. I wanted to live the life of my dreams. This was more than a car to me. It represented a new phase of my life where I allowed myself to go for the things I really wanted, without being talked out of it. To follow my heart. To be bold. I couldn't believe it was really mine. And I couldn't wait to go on a road trip. Thankfully the weather was cooperative. It was a warm September and I was making the most of it!

I'd had this image in my mind of what it would be like, having seen shows and movies where they hit the road in a convertible. It looked like so much fun. The real thing far surpassed my dreams. On a sunny day, driving with the top down, tunes blaring, wind in my hair, singing with the radio -- I felt so alive, so free, so happy. I learned the hard way to slather on the sunblock BEFORE the drive though because when I'd head to the beach (Grand Bend, Port Dover, Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach etc) I'd often be sunburned before I even made it there! I never used to like driving but it was different in this car. I loved driving it. Every trip was an adventure. Watching birds or planes fly over head. The sun beaming down on me, or at night seeing a blanket of stars above my head. It was magical. I cherished every moment in that car. Whatever sacrifices I had to make (the hour-long hikes home from work in the snow because I couldn't drive it in the winter, the payments which weren't easy -- it was a bit beyond my means) were worth it to have those moments in my MX5. My dream was to make the ultimate road trip south of the border, to Florida, to California. In May of 2011, I got to do just that. I was dating someone (a Hungarian Scorpio) who had a friend living in a condo on the beach in Daytona, Florida. We could stay with him. I had vacation time booked. I'd just celebrated my 42nd birthday. Now I was making my dream road trip in my dream car with my dream man. Life was good.

I am so grateful that I got to have that experience. I will never forget it as long as I live. I remember a couple of times while we were on the way I felt like I had to pinch myself. Could I be dreaming? Was this really happening? I was so happy it brought tears to my eyes. Getting there was an adventure. Being in Florida was a dream. His friend was amazing. He was very spiritual and his Zen apartment had such a great positive energy. I felt like I was in a movie. Life was almost too perfect. I took hundreds of photos, many of which were of my beau. He looked like he belonged in Florida. The typical surfer dude -- 6'2" blond, blue-eyed, tanned, slender chiselled six-pack god of a man. I loved his accent (he sounded like Dracula.) I loved that he was artistic, philosophical, sensitive, sensual, passionate. Of course he had tragic flaws (don't they always?!) Financial issues, emotional issues, life issues (an ex-wife from Hell being one). Drama and problems that I couldn't fix. We fell apart in July. He flew back to Hungary to find himself. I tried to mend my broken heart by dating a score of idiots. Men who were pretty on the outside but had nothing on the inside. Or men who were sort of nice but were boring and I felt no connection or chemistry with. Or men who wanted nothing more than a one-night stand (and although my sex drive was OFF THE CHARTS I'm just not built that way. I'm a sensitive girl. It has to be love. I wanted another boyfriend.) Then in October I managed to find another complicated, dangerous, sexy 6'2" Scorpio and fall head over heels for him. In a billion years I never imagined he'd get me pregnant. And then abandon me. But scorpions sting, don't they?

So here I am. It's been a wild ride. You just never know where the journey will lead, what awaits you around each twist in the winding road. What detours you might take. Places you never planned to go but that wind up being the most beautiful. And in the end you realize that it was destiny and you wouldn't change a thing. Yes, I've hit a major bump in the road of life, but it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. This baby is my greatest adventure. Being a single Mom is the most daring thing I've ever done. It wasn't something I ever imagined for myself but my maternal instincts kicked in almost immediately when I found out I was pregnant. I would do anything for this baby. She is everything to me. She's worth selling the car of my dreams.

I will miss my little Miata..I wrote him a song in the winter (at the time I was still in the first trimester. I wasn't ready to announce my pregnancy yet. I let on as though I was just saying goodbye to the car for the season but I knew in all likelihood I'd have to say goodbye to him for good...)

It doesn't end there. The baby changes everything. My figure. My lifestyle, habits, diet. My priorities. No more dancing on Friday nights for me. No more dating (mind you, given my choices in love, that's probably for the better! Being pregnant and having a newborn definitely put my dating life on hold for a while. But even after that it will be a LONG time before I could trust a man again. And he'd have to be pretty extraordinary to be allowed into my baby's life. I may have made some reckless choices in my own life, but I will not let some jerk into my child's life. No way, no day.)

I'm starting to kid-proof my home. I've replaced my glass and chrome coffee table with a softer, more sensible storage ottoman:

My pre-baby glass & chrome coffee table

My new baby-friendly coffee table

A storage ottoman for baby toys (thanks to my sis for the toys!)

I never pictured me as a Mom. I thought I was too immature, too selfish. I liked my freedom, liked sleeping in. It's amazing how much it changes you, once you know that you are responsible for another life. Your child becomes more important than yourself. You love them so much you just do whatever you need to do for them. An all-encompassing love and sense of protectiveness kicks in. It's instinctual.

Body and soul, I give myself to this baby. She is my life now. She is what matters most. It's you and me, kid! You're behind the wheel, baby, taking me places I never thought I'd go! Lead the way, we're in for quite an adventure!

And who knows what the future holds? Anything can happen. Maybe I'll win the lottery or something. Sure. Down the road I may have a convertible again. Maybe a four-seater. Maybe one day I will make that road trip to Cali, with my little girl at my side...

At this point, I'm just happy to have a car that can fit a stroller. 
EPILOGUE -- April 2014
I still have the car! I wasn't able to sell it and couldn't afford the payments any longer so my sister suggested I have it built into my mortgage. Now that I own it at least it takes the urgency off selling it . Obviously though as a single Mom on a tight budget I could certainly use the money right now! I took it off the market over Winter (who buys a convertible in the winter? Especially a brutal snowy one like we just had.) Now that it's Spring I've put an ad on Kijiji again:
If you are in the Oakville (Ontario, Canada) area and in the market for a silver automatic 2010 Mazda MX5 Miata, please let me know! It's rare to find an MX5 in an automatic so if you don't drive standard this would be perfect for you. For those that do drive standard the car does have a switch to convert it to manual.
I suppose if I'm not able to sell it I could drive it again someday when Michelle is old enough...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Singing to my baby

Me as a baby!

According to Mom, I was practically born singing. Even before I could talk. Apparently at just 8 months old, I could sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in perfect tune. I just didn't quite have the words down yet...It came out something like "Up a, up a, up a tar." Hey, I was close!

When company was over my Mom would encourage me to perform for them. A shy toddler I would start by singing quietly, hiding behind the couch. Once I got over the butterflies and heard sounds of approval from the audience, I'd come out of hiding, singing loudly and proudly. I loved the attention. I was hooked. As a pre-teen I used to write musicals and perform them with my brothers and friends for the neighbours. The garage made a perfect stage, with the garage door as a curtain. As a teen, I was involved in high school musicals and talent shows. One year I was Boy George (remember Culture Club?! Really showing my age now! Yes I was an 80s kid!) The next year I was Madonna. When I sang "Material Girl" I even had a routine worked out where I threw monopoly money. The audience loved it. It was an amazing night. The next day at school, I felt like a celebrity. People kept stopping me in the hallways and complimenting me. Normally I was so shy and quiet but I always came to life on stage. A shy exhibitionist -- half of me needed to hide, the other half craved the spotlight.

Being a singer had always been one of my dreams (along with being a writer, an artist, actress, dancer, photographer.) I dabbled in a few things but never really threw myself into anything. I let fear talk me out of things. The dreamer in me always seemed to be held back by my practical, cautious side. I always had to have a "real job" to pay the bills.

One boyfriend that I dated (probably the sweetest one ever. If he'd only had a job!) Rich taught me how to play basic guitar chords. Something just clicked. I'd been writing poetry my whole life. The words always came naturally to me. Now that I had the music, songs started flooding out. I couldn't play guitar very well but it's amazing how many songs you can create out of just a few chords. As Harlan Howard put it "Country music is three chords and the truth." The Sony store had a contest for a "Creative Dreamer" where you could win one of several products (a computer, a camera or an LCD TV) by doing something creative to promote the product. My Mom suggested I write a song for Sony. So I did. And I won! I was thrilled with my little Sony LCD TV. They've really come down in price but at the time it retailed for close to $4000. It's still my favourite TV with the best sound and clearest picture.

When I performed my songs for people, they were very enthusiastic. One guy I met, a host at a Karaoke night I went to, was a songwriter himself. He was amazed that I had already written close to 100 songs in just a year or two. He said he'd been writing for 10 years and didn't have 100 songs. After hearing a few of my songs he said they were catchy and powerful and that I was really onto something. This was what I was meant to do. Within a few years I had hundreds of songs. Now I just needed somewhere to play them.

At Manhattans' Bistro

At the River Run Centre

When I moved to Guelph, I heard about a bar with an open stage every Monday night, Manhattans. I hadn't performed my original songs up on a stage before and I was terrified. People were very supportive. Particularly one dark-haired smiling guy standing by the bar who raised his arms and exclaimed "I'm your biggest fan!" A fellow songwriter and a fellow Taurus, Kev would become my boyfriend for the next four years. He was awesome. A bit of a mentor to me in some ways. He believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. He introduced me to "The Secret" -- The Law of Attraction. I began to think positive and started to attract positive things. I realized that the "bad luck" that I seemed to have for much of my life was largely self-inflicted. My negativity actually attracted the very things I feared. If I could just learn to be positive, I could attract good things for a change. It worked. Magic started to happen. After years of not acting, I wound up with a role in a film and got to see myself on the big screen for the first time. I got to show and sell my artwork, had my photography featured and with Kev's help created a CD which received rave reviews in the paper, ended up on the radio, in newspapers. It was a whirlwind.

Manhattans stopped having the Songwriter's Cafe on Mondays but it was an amazing venue while it lasted. Kev & I were regulars every week. It was our second home. A wonderful community of fellow songwriters. We even set a new Guinness World Record at Manhattans in November 2006 -- the longest concert of continuous original music. About 60 songwriters all banded together to perform for 200 hours (we actually ended up doing 201 hours just 'cuz!) with just a minute between songs and a couple of minutes between performer change-overs. It was incredible. The pressure was on. If you had to go to the bathroom, you held it until someone else could take over. If someone didn't show up, you just kept playing. 24-7 right through the wee hours of the morning. I performed my original songs for a total of 11 hours during that time and even ended up on the front page of the local paper! I was thrilled! The clerk at the convenience store was about to ask why I was buying 10 copies until she caught a glimpse of the photo, did a double-take and went "Oh." She didn't seem very impressed. I was on Cloud 9. Eventually all of us were sent our own certificates from the Guinness World Records and there was a blurb about us in the hardcover book under Human Achievements Team Efforts (page 104 of the Guinness World Records 2009.) If only they hadn't misspelled Guelph! (They printed Gelph. Hey, they were close.)

At the famous Bluebird Cafe, Nashville
It seemed like Kev and I were meant to be. We had so much in common. Especially our passion for music. It was a treat to be able to perform together. We formed a duo and played gigs in venues around Guelph and Erin, including the Woolwich Arms and a couple of  Rotary club events, including opening for Ribfest.

Kev and I went on a musical pilgrimage to Nashville and Memphis. The perfect roadtrip for a pair of songwriters. It was an incredible adventure. We got to play at the famous Bluebird Cafe where so many Country stars had started out. We even sang at the gates of Graceland for tourists passing by.

At the gates of Graceland, Memphis

Kev offered to produce a CD of my songs. They were my original songs and I provided the vocals and backing vocals. He added everything else -- a one man band and studio whiz -- he created all the instrumentation, did all the mixing and mastering. It was called "Magnetic", and featured songs inspired by the Secret. (If you're interested it's still available on CDBaby -- see link at the side of the page!) It was a long difficult road to bring it to fruition but finally in 2008, it was finished. The CD release party was incredible. The band was phenomenal thanks to Kev who brought together some of the best local musicians. He also had colourful lights set up, a great sound system. It was a dream come true. I felt like a rock star. I wished I could keep the band but they each had their own bands and projects, it was just for that one night that they came together for us.

Magnetic CD Release party -- photo by J Harvey

We performed all the songs from the CD and closed the evening with a song that Kevin and I had co-written about our trip to Nashville and Memphis -- "Four Hours to Memphis." See video below: 

Though we had done shows as a duo, Kev wanted to start doing gigs with a full band again (he had been in a band for several years before I met him). He put together a band and we played at local bars. It was a lot of fun. Performing with Kevin was a blast. In some ways we seemed to be a match made in Heaven. Unfortunately in other ways we were a match from Hell. It can be tough being involved with a fellow entertainer. There seems to be a bit of competitiveness, a power struggle. Kev always wanted to run the show. He was the lead singer. I was the back-up. In a setlist of 12 songs he'd let me sing two. It seemed like he didn't want to share the spotlight...

Kev & I had always been a bit of a rollercoaster. Too alike in some ways, too different in others and both stubborn Tauruses who needed to be in control and to be right. Two bulls can lock horns pretty often. It didn't seem like we would last in the long run. As much as I wanted it to work (we'd already invested so many years into it), I couldn't see a future for us. I asked the Universe for a sign and got one. It was time to move on. It was difficult saying goodbye not only to Kevin but to his kids who I loved very much (funny how I'd always said I didn't want kids but I ended up in a relationship with someone who had children and I ADORED them. They were awesome. Brilliant and funny. We had so many good times together.) It broke my heart to say goodbye but I knew it was for the best. It seemed we were heading in different directions. I had reached a fork in the road and knew it was time to make a change. To follow a different path. Leaving Kev of course also meant getting kicked out of the band. I stopped going to the bars and stages we used to frequent in case I ran into him and his friends there. It was like saying goodbye to the musical part of my life. I stopped performing in public at all.

I continued to sing and write songs on my own and posted them on my Youtube channel. In January of 2011 I had this insane notion to post a song a day all year and made it a New Year's Resolution. It was the first resolution I felt obligated to keep because I had announced it publicly on Youtube. I had so many original songs that no one had ever heard so I figured if I posted another original song each day then at least 365 of them would be out there. It was tough finding the time with everything else going on but I managed to keep it up all year. Instead of just recording the songs I'd already written, I wound up writing more. I ended up with close to 700 songs! Youtube became like a video diary of my life. Each new relationship, break-up and event in my life inspired me to write new songs which I would then post on the net.

When I found out I was pregnant, I HAD to write about it, but I wasn't quite ready to share the news with the world. I found a sneaky way to write about the baby without making it obvious. I wrote "Never counted on Yes" about my pregnancy test in November, "Flicker" about my first ultrasound in December. Once news of the baby was out, I created a playlist of the songs I've written for/about the baby so far. (There's a link to the playlist if you scroll down to the bottom of the page. Just click on the ultrasound photo!)

I had always loved singing lullabies. When my oldest nephew (now 30!) was a baby, I loved singing him to sleep. To be able to make a baby stop crying, to feel safe and happy and relaxed enough to fall asleep is an incredible feeling. Better than an audience of thunderous applause! Babies can be a tough audience! If you can please them, you're doing something right!

Some lullabies are pretty odd if you really pay attention to the words. In "Rock a bye baby" -- why is the baby in the tree to start with? "Hush little baby" -- includes a list of gifts I'm pretty sure you would NEVER give an infant ranging from a bird to a diamond to farm animals. I always loved "The Littlest Lamb" lullabye from the Flintstones (the episode with Ann Margrock -- I thought she was so cool. I wanted to be just like her.) Since I've been pregnant I found that Flintstone lullabye on Youtube, learned the words and I've been singing it to the baby, in utero. I know that she hears me. She responds to my voice. I sing to her at night, in the bath, in the car, throughout the day. My favourite lullabye is Gershwin's "Summertime" a bluesy version of which I'd performed with Kev as a duo. My Mom always used to sing "Too Ra Lu Ra Lu Ra" (Irish Lullabye.) I guess my mother's love of singing was passed on to me.

I wanted to write my own lullabyes for my baby. I came up with this one so far. "Lullabye":

I have written so many love songs through the years but since being pregnant I've realized that there is no love as deep or as pure as the love you feel for your child. I was inspired to write "Love of My Life" for my baby. She truly is the love of my life -- and I haven't even met her yet! I feel like I get to know her personality each time she moves. It's like our own secret communication that no one else shares. She responds when I talk, sing, laugh, dance, take a bath. It is such a strong bond, unlike anything else I've experienced. Love of My Life:

This is my most recent post -- "Expecting Unexpectedly" -- which is self-explanatory:

I will continue writing and singing songs for my baby and posting them on Youtube.

Your dreams don't ever really leave you. Even if it seems like you've given up on them. They're still there. They just alter a little as life changes. I wanted to be a singer/songwriter and I am. I may not be a rockstar performing on a stage with a band and lights and applause but an audience of one can be even more special. 

My most important and most rewarding gig ever is coming up in July -- singing my baby to sleep.