Thursday, August 30, 2012

One in a million baby!

We went to see the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Dream Home in the Welcome Home Sweepstakes (for a virtual tour visit: We go to see it every year. Of course this was my first time seeing it with the baby, which is a different experience! Luckily my Mom offered to carry her half the time to save my arms/back (which were already aching.) Michelle had fallen asleep in the car so we thought it better to leave her in the carseat so as not to disturb her. It is quite heavy though! She ended up waking up anyway but at least she was pretty good. She seemed fascinated by her new surroundings. She seems to register a lot more now than she did at first as a newborn. I'm not sure what babies see exactly but now that she's a month old I know that she recognizes me and she does seem to take in a lot more. Today she smiled at herself in the mirror! That was pretty cool. I'm not sure if she thought it was another baby smiling back at her. Everyone keeps commenting "She's only a month old?!" when they see the way she smiles or makes little noises or moves her head. So maybe she will be a little genius. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking.

I was relieved she was good while we were touring the Dream Home. Of course she's usually happy when she's in motion (in the car or in your arms.) She needs perpetual motion! It can get tiring though carrying her all the time. My Mom says I was the same way. I was constantly in her arms. "Spoiled little girl needs constant attention just like her Mom!" Mom said about Michelle.

The house was GORGEOUS. They always are. A 6500 square foot $4.3 million dollar home fully furnished in contemporary rustic decor with a lot of natural wood finishes and a zen-like muted colour scheme. It would be wonderful to win it! Not that I could probably afford the property tax anyway! It would be nice to live closer to Mom and May. Though they are always just a phone call (and not too long of a drive) away.

It was a nice day but had started out quite stressful. As I started the drive Michelle was screaming (she usually falls asleep in the car but she hadn't yet.) I had fed and changed her twice before leaving the house so that she'd be in good spirits for the trip. When I looked at the rearview mirror and saw Michelle in the mirror at the back I realized that the sun was on her face. D'oh! I have screens on both the rear windows to shield her from the sun while she's in her carseat but they don't cover the entire window and don't work from every angle, depending on the sun's position. Usually she's in the shade but on this particular morning as luck would have it, the sun was right on her. With her red hair and pale sensitive skin I couldn't let the sun be on her for any length of time. I wasn't sure if UV rays are able to go through car windows. I didn't think so because my prescription glasses are transition lenses and don't darken when I'm driving (which was annoying when I first got them because driving is the main time that I really need sunglasses.) Anyway, I didn't want to take a chance at the baby getting a sunburn so I stopped the car and tried to reposition the stupid screen on the window to put her in the shade. It didn't work. I was so annoyed. I wanted to just black out all the windows! So when I started to drive again I reached back to the backseat and held up a piece of paper beside the carseat until I could see in the rearview that her face was in shade. She was still screaming, my back and arm were aching, nearly dislocating my shoulder to reach back and protect her from the sun. I was so stressed I said a prayer "Please God let us turn a corner and put her in shade to save my arm and let her fall asleep for the trip to save my sanity!" With that, the next thing I knew there was a bend in the road, the sun was no longer in her face and she closed her eyes and went to sleep. "Thank you!" I said to God. Whenever I need help, He's just a prayer away.

The traffic in Oakville is always horrendous and somehow now that I have a baby I seem to hit EVERY SINGLE RED LIGHT THE WHOLE WAY! It's so frustrating because the baby is content and restful only when she's in motion. When the car stops, she doesn't like it at all. Oakville is usually bumper to bumper. Apparently motion and white noise are comforting to babies because it reminds them of the cozy environment in utero. I've even had people suggest that I put the baby on the dryer. I know she likes the vacuum. Sometimes the fan works. And the motion of the car (that seems to be the most popular among babies and I know many parents that will go for drives just to put the kids to sleep!)

I'm learning not to take crying episodes so seriously. The baby, like me or anyone else, just has bad days or bad moments sometimes but it's not the end of the world. She always winds up smiling again and I know she's happy.

Michelle's latest doctor appointment went well. She's healthy and strong and 10 lbs 10 ounces! Almost 11 pounds. When I told the doctor about the baby having her fussy periods in the early evening she said "Colic." And gave me something to try. It has little capsules with liquid in them and says to give it to the baby when they're having an "episode." So I guess I'll give it a try if she has one again. I asked the doctor about gripe water (a few people had recommended it to me). She said it's harmless and was another option I could try. I said that I heard it had sugar and alcohol in it. The doctor said it used to (so people were giving their kids alcohol? I guess when you're desperate you'd try almost anything!) but doesn't have alcohol anymore. I guess some babies have intestinal problems, tummy aches and they can't say that they're in pain so they just cry. Then again some babies just cry for the heck of it. It's hard to know for sure. Really all that anyone (even a doctor) can do is guess because you can't ask the baby what's going on. The last couple of nights she has been pretty good. She's fussy for a bit but then settles down. My Mom suggested putting her on her tummy over my knee and rubbing her back. If it is gas then this may help. I know for myself when I had gas pain the only thing that really helped was lying on my stomach (and passing wind!) The baby does poo an awful lot. My sister said she never had to change so many diapers. At least I know Michelle is eating well. I read that breastmilk is very easily digestible. It certainly seems to go right through her. Or maybe she's got IBS like her Mama already, poor thing.

It would be really nice if we could win the dream home. We could live in it for a little while at least and then sell it. Winning any lottery would be nice! Millions of dollars would definitely help! As a single Mom it is tough. They say money can't buy happiness but it would buy peace of mind if nothing else. It would be one less thing to worry about. And with millions of dollars I could buy Michelle all kinds of fancy toys. Maybe even a motorized contraption that simulates a car/a vacuum/a dryer. If they have such a thing. Maybe I should invent one! They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Someone needs to invent baby clothes that are easier to put on as well! So many outfits that looked cute when I was pregnant I am now realizing how difficult/impractical they are. I hate pulling things over her head. Buttons in the back are a nightmare. I almost wish everything had domes in the front!

She does have a swing and enjoys that sometimes. Other times it doesn't cut it. The car seems to be the favourite though she likes being in the stroller as well. It's a combination of motion and white noise. When she's fussy you just try whatever works. She had one REALLY bad night so far where I couldn't seem to console her at all but (knock on wood) it seemed like a temporary problem. Someone suggested maybe it was a growth spurt. Considering she's gained more than a pound already (and as a percentage of her total weight, that's substantial!) I might agree! If that's the case I may have more episodes in the future as she continues to grow. I just have to remember not to blame myself. Birds fly. Babies cry. It's natural for them. Usually there is something that will make her happy. I just have to try everything until I find out what it is! It will be easier when she can talk and tell me what she wants. Though I hear that can be a challenge as well. Especially when they hit the terrible twos and the more terrible teens...So much to look forward to!

It occurs to me that even with millions of dollars, the baby would still cry, I would still breastfeed, I would still lose sleep. So it wouldn't change everything. But I could hire someone to cook meals and do laundry. That would definitely be a help. I could hire a nanny but the truth is even with all the money in the world I'd rather no one watch Michelle but me. I am her Mommy and that is priceless to me. I wouldn't really trust anyone else to watch her. No one could love her like I do.

Michelle is my little miracle baby. A beautiful, totally unexpected gift from God. She is one in a million and is worth more than millions to me! But yes, winning the lottery would definitely be nice! I could buy a beautiful dream home in paradise and live by the ocean. Instead of making a shushing noise or running the vacuum, Michelle (and I) could be soothed by the sound of the waves. Or we could live on a houseboat and then she would be lulled by constant motion even when we're at home! Sounds like a plan! That's it. I'm buying a lottery ticket! You just never know...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One step forward. Two steps back.

Has it really been a month already? Time flies when you're having fun (and when you're stressed out of your mind!) Had some really rough days but we made it. It's hard to believe that 4 weeks ago I was in labour trying to push out my big girl (9 lbs 4 ounces). It was scary for both of us. That was just the start of our journey. We've been through a lot since then and yet it seems to have gone by in a flash somehow.

Michelle and I took it easy the other day. It was a grey, rainy day. The perfect sort of day to just stay in and do nothing (other than feeding, changing, caring for baby of course!) It was a relief to have the weather a little cooler. It got humid for a few days there. Without air conditioning it can get pretty warm, especially when you're breastfeeding and carrying around a 10 lb baby! Michelle was sleeping a lot better. Sometimes almost four hours (at least three) at a time through the night. I thought that maybe she'd turned a corner and that things were going to get easier from here on out... I thought wrong. She then started a new thing in the early evening where she just screams. She's not hungry. She doesn't need changing. She's just cranky and so you try EVERYTHING in your power to console her and nothing works. And you feel like you're going to lose your mind!

I was craving McD's one night and thought what the heck I might as well go for it. Michelle was fussy and I figured she'd fall asleep in the car (she usually does) on the way. So sure enough, she did fall asleep. Unfortunately she woke up and SCREAMED while I was in the drive-thru. I couldn't take it anymore so I just pulled out of line and left. When she still kept screaming, I barked at her (not my proudest moment but I was hungry and out of patience) -- "Fine! You got your way! We're going home! I didn't even get my Big Mac! Are you happy now?" and with that she stopped crying, closed her eyes and went to sleep. Sigh. Then we get home and she continues her tirade for a while. I couldn't take it anymore. Usually there's SOMETHING that will entertain her but I tried dancing, rocking, singing, shushing, the vacuum, everything. I didn't know what was wrong. I felt myself getting angry. I know she's just a baby but in that moment it felt like she was doing it on purpose to annoy me. It felt like I'd given up my whole life, body and soul for her and it still wasn't enough. She still didn't appreciate it. I finally said: "If you are going to keep crying no matter what I do, I'll just stop trying to do anything and leave you alone!" She stopped and looked at me for a moment as though processing what I'd said. There. She stopped crying. Woo hoo. Then she started right back up again. That's it. I had had it. So I put her in her crib and closed the door. I had read that when you're at the end of your rope and can't take it anymore just put the baby down and walk away. Take a breather because it can start to drive you mad. I had even read that frustrated parents have fleeting thoughts like wanting to throw the baby out the window (as long as you don't actually do it!) It's natural to feel annoyed with a screaming baby. It's probably the most stressful thing on the planet to deal with (it is by far the most stressful in my life and I had someone pull a gun on me once!) I felt so guilty for leaving her to cry, even just for a few minutes. I went back and her face was red and she was sweating. She had worked herself up into a frenzy. I started to cry. I couldn't take it anymore. I didn't know what to do. When I am able to meet her needs and calm her down it makes me feel good but when it seems like nothing I do works I feel so helpless and horrible I don't know what to do. But then it stops. She sleeps. She wakes up and smiles at me. It's like she's Jekyll and Hyde.

It's magical when she smiles. Michelle has started really looking at me now. She focuses on my face and I'm so happy when she looks into my eyes and smiles a big smile. Before it seemed like she was just staring into space and not focusing on anything in particular. But now she seems to recognize me and look happy to see me. It is the best feeling in the world to have my little girl smile at me. If only she could be like that all the time! But she's a baby. Babies cry. It's the only way they can communicate. She gets overtired and cranky. Sometimes she doesn't know what she wants. She can't tell me what's wrong. Is she too hot, too cold, does she have a tummy ache? Maybe she just needs constant stimulation. She likes variety. She loves to be in motion. She always falls asleep in the car and gets angry when the car stops moving. It's hard to stay in constant motion. I try to carry her around constantly but my arms get tired and my back aches. She's over 10 lbs now.

Sometimes she's an angel. She'll have a good day and sleep well and I can actually get things done. I finally had time to put the mobile up over the crib. I found a hook for the ceiling at Walmart. It was just a matter of having a few minutes to climb up and hang it! It's not as though Michelle sleeps in her crib yet anyway. I just like to have the (ocean themed) nursery complete. Michelle sleeps with me for the time being. Because I lie down to breastfeed at night it just makes the most sense to have her next to me. That way she can feed and we can both fall asleep then wake up and feed again. I know people who slept with their kids from the beginning. Before I had the baby I used to wonder how people did that. Wouldn't you roll over on the baby? But it's different once you have the baby. You have an instinct about it. I'm a light sleeper anyway. When I had told the nurse I had the baby in the bed with me I was afraid she was going to lecture me about how dangerous it was. She said that it's only in North America that people worry about it. In Europe and in China it's common for people to have their babies in bed with them. She said as long as I'm not obese, not a drinker or drug user that there's no danger of me rolling over and smothering the baby. I think we're safe!

Each day is different now. Some better than expected, some worse. I never know how she's going to be. I can only hope for the best and do my best. I am not in control of my life. She is. I must surrender to chaos. You can't reason with a baby or predict her behaviour. You just go with the flow. I just have to be grateful for the joyful, beautiful moments and survive the stressful, difficult times.

During the rough times I sometimes worry am I suffering from PPD (post partum depression)? No I'm not. It's always situational (the baby screaming) and temporary. Everyone has a few moments where they feel stressed, feel down, need a good cry. Even people who don't have children (never mind anyone who is raising a newborn alone!) If you are happy 95% of the time and suffer from stress/sadness 5% of the time, you are not depressed, you are a human being! Welcome to life. It's not always easy. I have exhaustion and hormones to contend with on top of physical depletion, sleep deprivation, the complete metamorphosis of every aspect of my life. It's a lot to take! Everything I'm going through is normal and natural. Occasionally I get overwhelmed. It doesn't make me a bad person or a bad mommy. I'm doing my best. I need to cut myself some slack. I don't have to be perfect. And maybe baby can cut me a little slack too. Maybe even let me get a Big Mac now and then...(I know they're not good for me but hey, Mama needs a treat once in a while!)

My Mom said I'm hard on myself because I'm a perfectionist and I always need to be the best at everything. She said maybe I'm trying to be the best Mom. I do feel pressured to do all the best things for Michelle but I am human and therefore fallible.

One night when I was having a really rough time I called my sister to talk me down off the ledge. She is always so supportive and reassuring. She helps me to put things in perspective. It will be OK. I will get through it. She reminded me of the phrase, that applies to almost everything in life, good and bad -- "This too shall pass." The crying always ends eventually and when it does you can truly appreciate the sweet sound of silence. I look at my baby when she's sleeping or when she's just looking around contentedly with her big blue eyes and I can forgive her for those terrible times. I adore her. And she doesn't mean to be so high maintenance. She gets frustrated that she can't communicate what's wrong. It would be hard to want to say something and not have the words to explain.

Me as a baby -- could almost be a picture of Michelle!

Mom still contends that there is a correlation between fussiness and intelligence because I was the worst baby ever but the smartest. "You never slept! I couldn't put you down. You screamed all night! You screamed the whole first year!" On the bright side, she said I was a genius. I was talking, walking, singing much sooner than I should have been. (She let me see my baby book where she had kept notes on my progress. I was walking at 7 months, talking at 8 months and toilet trained at 11 months.) There may be something to it. It stands to reason that smart babies need constant stimulation. Their minds are so active they are easily bored. They would be more eager to communicate. More particular about things (less willing to sit in their own feces -- Michelle screams the instant her diaper is wet or has a speck of poo. So I go through about 10-15+ diapers a day!) So I guess we'll see if Michelle turns into a child prodigy! People have made comments about her already recognizing faces and smiling which is unusual for a newborn. She also has quite a bit of control of her head already. She makes little sounds sometimes as though she's trying to talk but it will freak me out if she actually says anything. She grabs things with her hands quite a bit. Sometimes I think she's giving me the finger! She is able to hold her head up and turn to look at things. Or maybe the "fussy babies are smarter" thing is just a myth/a pipe dream that Moms use to console themselves that they have a screaming baby while other moms get to have a quiet one! Then again, if screaming is their only form of communication, I guess the fussier ones are more eager to communciate and so would probably be talking sooner. The laid back babies may not have much to say. The more sensitive ones who can't stand to be wet would be easier to toilet train (I was.) Maybe it's like type A and type B personalities. I was a type A and always a straight A student in school. It does seem that intelligent people in general are higher maintenance. Or maybe it's just Karma -- the screaming is my payback for what I put my Mom through as a baby! I didn't mean to. Then there is the fact that she's a redhead. There is a stereotype that gingers tend to be clever, sensitive, passionate, moody. It may not always be true but it applies to every redhead I've met. Myself included. So why should Michelle be any different?

A few people have mentioned "colic" as a possible explanation. I'm not even sure what it is but it seems to be the label they put on it when your baby just screams for seemingly no reason. I've heard horror stories of babies screaming for HOURS! That would be unbearable. To have your baby scream for a few minutes or half an hour at the most is bad enough. I heard of one woman who was at her wit's end so she just left the baby in his crib to scream and she went out to the car (where she couldn't hear it anymore) and wept. Sometimes you're at the end of your rope. You just need a breather. When there are two parents involved they can take turns walking the floor with the baby (though I've heard a lot of men don't pitch in to help with caregiving anyway, even if they are in the picture). When you're by yourself, there's no one to hand her off to. It's all you. 24-7. Obviously that can get exhausting!

I am trying to do all the right things. I'm not perfect. I'm not superhuman. Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed. I guess the best thing to do is to just take it one day at a time. It may get easier. It may get harder. Each day is different. I have to focus on the positive, the beautiful experiences of being a parent. Those moments are worth it. I have to just let the other stuff go.

My Mom also told me "Don't worry about the baby crying. It's exercise. It won't hurt her." But it seems like it hurts, at the time. I don't want her to be sad. I don't want her to feel like her needs won't be met. I want her to feel happy and safe and secure. I know for the most part that she does. Even after a particularly bad evening she still looks at me bright eyed the next day and flashes me a big smile. I know she's OK. We're OK.

As I type this, she is sleeping peacefully and she didn't do her weird moody thing tonight. So maybe it was just a phase that lasted a few days. Maybe it was just gas. Maybe I just shouldn't worry so much (tough habit to break. I get it from Mom.)

You just don't know what having a child is like until you have one. No one can prepare you. While I was still pregnant I imagined having the baby. I envisioned all the perfect Hallmark moments with her -- holding her, singing her to sleep, reading her bedtime stories, playing and laughing with her. I didn't picture exploding orange poo, screaming fits, spit-ups, stress and lack of sleep. But it's a package deal. You take the bad with the good. Life isn't a Hallmark card.

When you're getting married, they have you take a vow. To love, honour and cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, as long as you live. A pretty tall order! Many people don't wind up keeping that vow. They find out it's more difficult than they expected. When the going gets tough, they get going. They get divorced. A child is a much bigger commitment than a marriage. No ceremony. No spoken vow but an unspoken promise that is binding. Forever. There is no escape hatch. No divorce. That child is yours for the rest of your days and you love them no matter what, even when it's hard, for better and for worse. Michelle is my life. I will keep my vow to love her no matter what. Love isn't easy. They make it look easy in movies and fairytales. They show you the happy ending. They don't show you all the nightmarish real life everyday moments in between. Love isn't perfect. Whether it's romantic love or the love of a child. It's not all smooth sailing. Sometimes it breaks your heart. Sometimes they drive you crazy. But you get through it. You don't give up. Because that's what love is. You keep going.

Amor vincit omnia. Love conquers all. Even colic, or whatever the heck it is.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Milk, Poo and Tears

Sometimes it feels like I'm drowning. Between spit-ups and leaky diapers (pee and poop) the baby went through four outfits and five blankets in a single morning. While I was pregnant and accumulating baby clothes I told my Mom I had enough sleepers for her to wear a different one each day. Mom laughed "You'll need about 6 sleepers a day!" At the time I thought she was exaggerating. Before the baby, a single girl on my own, I used to do laundry once a week, if that. With the baby, I'm doing a load a day. I'm getting tired of the sight of orange poo. Sometimes it's a constant stream. Sometimes I have just finished changing her and she's already pooing again. One time she even splashed my hand before I could get the next diaper on! Beware of exploding orange baby poo! At least I know she's eating well but this is ridiculous. It seems almost constant. She eats. She poos. She cries. She sleeps five minutes. And it repeats. ALL DAY LONG. Until you fear for your sanity. It seems like she screams every few minutes with another poo. I understand, mind you. I'm pretty fussy myself. I would get cranky if I was starving and overtired (come to think of it, I am!) and sitting in my own feces (thankfully I am NOT. But I do suffer from bouts of IBS and have spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Maybe poor baby has inherited my bowel blues.) So I would complain too. But sometimes she keeps crying even after she's been fed and changed and everything is good and then it's just frustrating. "But you have no complaint!" I try to tell her to no avail.

It can be daunting dealing with bodily fluids from morning until night. I'm surprised I don't have nightmares about orange diarrhea! They tell me the day will come when she will only mess one or two diapers a day. Right now it's about 6-10 a day. Or more. I lost count. At least 4 really big poos. A few smaller poos & a bunch of wet ones. She never used to spit up milk. Now she's spitting up more and more (which I hear is normal). There are often little white curds in it. (Curds and whey? What is she? Little Miss Muffet?! What kind of milk am I making here?) I heard that when they are first born they don't have tear ducts. She certainly does now. It breaks my heart to see her little tears. I never want her to cry. Sometimes it does make me angry though, when she's fed and clean and everything seems good and she still fusses. It's like she doesn't have a right to cry! I tell her I'm the one who should be crying! She has me to take care of her and meet her needs but there's no one to take care of me and I barely have a moment to care for myself!

One day when she was upset inexplicably I sat with her laying on my lap in the rocking chair making a gentle shushing noise (it occurs to me how much easier it would be if we lived by the ocean. The sound of the waves would be soothing for both of us) until she stopped crying and fell asleep. Then I started to cry. I looked at the turquoise wall that used to be grey, sitting in the nursery that used to be an office (at least for a few months) for her father, wondering where he is, what he's doing, whether he ever thinks of us. Even if he hated me (and I don't know why he would when I gave him everything, the key to my house and my heart) how could he walk away from his own child? And not ever want to see her, hold her, know her? How could he just forget? How does he carry on with his life and just pretend we never happened? I still can't believe it. And I wondered, just for a fleeting moment, what if I hadn't gone on that date, hadn't met him at Tim Hortons, hadn't fallen in love with the most cruel, most cowardly man on earth, hadn't let him move in too soon, hadn't gotten pregnant unexpectedly. Then I looked down at my perfect, beautiful little cherub and I sobbed deeply (as quietly as I could so as not to disturb her) and I thought "But I couldn't undo this. I wouldn't undo this. Even after all the pain, all the stress, all the anguish. It had to be. She had to be. And I would do it all over again to have her."

"I love you, baby," I told Michelle, wiping away my tears, "Mama loves you." She let out a little sigh in her sleep and her lips curled into a half smile. "Even when you're killing me, I love you."

I survived abandonment. Pregnancy. Being pregnant alone. (And still having to do housework, yard work, gardening, mowing the lawn, heavy lifting, even at 9 months pregnant.) I survived labour and delivery, even when it got rough at the end with a male doctor stepping in to "assist" -- reaching into my insides up to his elbows and twisting things around, even using a plunger (vacuum) and salad tongs (forceps) to pull my 9 pound 4 ounce baby out -- and ripping me apart in the process. I'm hoping the stitches from the episiotomy are healing OK. I'm too scared to look. Survived the first few difficult weeks with a newborn, the challenge of breastfeeding, no sleep, barely a second to myself to eat, go to the bathroom, do laundry. I survived. And I will survive. I have to be strong for her. She's worth it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Sometimes my heart still breaks though. I know that hormones are part of it. My breasts are leaking milk. I'm on little to no sleep. I'm run ragged from morning to night trying to meet the needs of an adorable though ruthless and irascible dictator in diapers. I am so owned. Her father mesmerized and controlled me. Now she's doing the same. The difference is she's innocent. She doesn't mean to tear me apart (even when she nearly bit my nipples off the first week of breastfeeding.) Sometimes I just think about all that has happened this past year. I see the months flicker by like movie scenes. Meeting Mike. Him moving in. Finding out I was pregnant. The house full of pets. Christmas and the beautiful letter he wrote me about how much he loved me, how excited he was about the baby, how we'd be a cute little family and I was stuck with him forever. Then his unexplained disappearance in February. Losing Banff. Being broke. Everything falling apart. All the heartache. Then miracles happening, hope, life getting better. The months of pregnancy -- a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Labour and delivery. The pain and fear and joy. Meeting my baby. The scary first few days trying to care for her. Seeing her smile the first time. Looking into her eyes. Sometimes I'm overcome with emotion. I can't believe it all happened. Sometimes I just need a good cry. It's like I can only hold it in so long and then I crack, the dam breaks and it all floods out. It's a release. A relief.

Some days it feels like an uphill battle. She poos and it leaks through the diaper and is all over her outfit and blanket. So I bathe her (which is quite an ordeal in itself with a little screaming on her part though she usually enjoys it at least partially. She never likes getting out.) Then when she's all clean and I'm putting the lotion on she pees/poos on the towel. "Really?!" It's so frustrating. I'm not about to bathe her again but it's disheartening to go through all that just to have her sitting in pee/poo again anyway. Although with 10 or more diaper changes a day it's not as though I can keep her pee/poo free for long! You just go through a ton of baby wipes and wash cloths to keep up.

There are times I think "This is hell!" and I don't know how I'll cope. Other times I manage to have a sense of humour about it. And then all of a sudden she'll surprise me and have a really good day -- sleeping better at night, not fussing so much during the day, letting me go through a grocery store or visit friends without screaming. Then there are the magical moments when I watch my little angel sleeping, when she smiles at me or stares at me wide-eyed, innocent and full of wonder. Those moments are worth anything. Even poo and screaming.

A public health nurse came to the house to see us. I guess it's standard practice when someone has a baby for them to send someone to make sure you're doing OK. It's a good idea. You never know. I mean you need to read a manual and take a written test and road test before they let you drive a car but you give birth to a fragile little human and they let you walk out of the hospital the next day without any sort of test! The biggest responsibility on the planet, caring for a baby and yet there is no test, no manual, no license. You just figure it out on your own. (Mind you the nurses did give a few pointers in the hospital. Some more helpful than others.) I remember one nurse, a cool one (I wish she had been my nurse the whole time instead of the scatterbrain that was dealing with me most of the time) saying "People think that babies are so fragile, that they're like eggs. But they're hard-boiled eggs. They're more resilient than you think." It was after she had shown me the proper way to breastfeed and it seemed a bit aggressive to me. She thought I wasn't aggressive enough. (I don't know why but this reminds me of the one time I went horseback riding. The trainer was telling me to kick the horse and I wouldn't. She warned me that I was "too nice" and the horse would be in control instead of me. I couldn't help it. I didn't want to kick the horse. "It doesn't hurt them," she reassured me, "they're tough and they're used to it." But I still couldn't do it. So of course while everyone else's horse was sauntering along obediently at a leisurely pace, mine was galloping ahead at breakneck speed, scaring me to death and doing as he pleased because I was too much of a wimp to take control. Nice guys finish last. Unless they're on a horse and then I guess I would have come in first with my wild out of control stallion!) OK this paragraph was supposed to be about the nurse and somehow I ended up on horses... I guess the point is (when it comes to animals or children) sometimes you have to take charge, to take control or they will run amok and drag you with them. Anyway, the nurse was very nice. I told her my tale (about the baby's father leaving etc.) She thought he was a monster and that I was very strong. She complimented me on the baby, on my home and said that I seem to be doing really well. It felt good to have a stranger come in and tell me that I'm doing the right things and have it all together. It was reassuring to have positive feedback, especially from an expert. It's easy to doubt yourself when it's all so new and when you have people throwing in their (often negative) two cents about what you "should" be doing.

I also had a very nice visit with a couple of friends, James and Amy, and Michelle was surprisingly good at their place. She was all smiles and in good spirits most of the time. She almost made a liar of me (they had heard about Michelle screaming and thought I was making it up) of course by the evening she was showing her dark colours again and started exercising her lungs until her face turned red. I took my cue and bid them good night. It was a treat to have a home cooked meal, a bathroom break (James held her while I went to the ladies room. Not always an option when I'm home! Sometimes I have to hold it indefinitely!) and people to talk to who are down to earth, relaxed and calm. It was a good vibe for Michelle and I to be around. So thanks guys! Amy made a beautiful Little Mermaid blanket for Michelle and cooked a nice dinner (which I inhaled ravenously!) James was hilarious as usual and even had Michelle smiling and laughing. Aside from her relatives she doesn't have a lot of men in her life (I don't plan to have one in my life for quite some time! I wouldn't have time anyway!) so it's nice for her to be around a nice one now and then.


I decided to brave the grocery store again (the same one she'd had her meltdown in before). I do have to eat after all! Miraculously she stayed asleep the whole time. I almost have it down to a science now though. Feed her. Wait half an hour. Change her diaper (a huge poo). Then she's still a bit fussy because she's tired and just about ready to fall asleep. That's the perfect moment to get her into the car. She falls asleep during the ride and then is still knocked out while in the shopping cart. She did start to fuss on the ride home. I crinkled some foil that my Mom had given me. For some reason the noise stops her crying and she goes back to sleep. Sometimes a noise is all it takes. A distraction. Entertainment.

And recently I learned that she loves dancing. I had the radio on a dance music station (I miss going dancing) and I had her in my arms because I was trying to lull her to sleep. I started dancing around with her. She loved it. She looked quite content. The more I bopped around and swayed back and forth, the happier she seemed. Before I knew it, she was out like a light. It's good exercise for me and entertains her so I think I'll be dancing a lot. She likes her swing too sometimes but other times it doesn't cut it. Sometimes I guess she just needs to be cuddled and carried. Needs to know that Mama is there.

She was also good as gold in Walmart. She stayed asleep the entire time and even when I was cashing out, she woke up but was still mellow and didn't cry. I was so relieved. I thought maybe she's turned a corner and is going to be good from here on out. But then she had a difficult night, fussing and inconsolable. It seems if she has a good night then she's fussy during the day and if she has a bad night she's good during the day. I guess it's too much to expect her to be happy and restful both day and night!

The summer is almost over and I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to the beach (other than my little backyard beach) this year but it is too soon. She's too young and fragile and being a pale blue eyed redhead her skin would be much too sensitive, vulnerable to the sun. You can't put sunscreen on a newborn. We'll have to wait until next year. I'm not really ready either. I'm hoping to be bikini ready by next year. I'm hoping to lose the "Mommy tummy." It has gotten a little smaller. I wish I could lose the stretch marks too. I hope they fade at least. I wanted to do a little beach photo shoot with Michelle so I improvised. I had these cute shades from Osh Kosh and adorable little sandals from Old Navy. I did have an adorable pink swimsuit that was supposed to fit 0-3 but it was way too small for her. She pretty much fits 3 month sized clothes now. She looked at me like "What the heck are you doing Mom?" Sorry baby. You live with the paparazzi! You're going to be in a LOT of photos! Everyone always says they grow so fast. I want to capture every moment.

When she gives me a hard time -- with seemingly endless poo and tears -- I can be grateful that she won't stay this way for long. Her stomach will grow and she'll be able to hold more food and poo less often. And hopefully she will learn that her needs are always met and she doesn't need to cry so much. But when she's a delight -- wide-eyed, sweet, smiling or just contentedly looking at me curiously and I look at her angelic little face and her tiny fingers and tiny toes, it makes me sad that she won't stay this way for long. She'll grow up and won't need me so much and maybe I'll look back at this time and think how lucky I was, even when she was screaming. 

She's one month old now! It's hard to believe a month has gone by already. It really has flown by. Even the really hard days. This time is so precious. It is more than just breastfeeding, changing diapers and soothing tears. It's about bonding. It's about love and patience. It's baby Michelle and I learning as we go. It's not easy, for either of us. She's discovering a whole new world that she's just entered. I'm figuring out how to be a Mom (a whole new world for me!) We both have a lot to learn. We'll figure it out together.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Timing is everything!

Survived a trip to the mall with the baby!  It was a miracle. I was so relieved. After a few nightmarish shopping excursions where she screamed bloody murder the entire time, I was understandably nervous about the prospect of going through the mall with her. I couldn't avoid it forever. I needed to return something and I also wanted to pick up "What to Expect - The First Year" at Chapters. (I had read "What to Expect When You're Expecting" while I was pregnant and although a lot of it stressed me out, it was good to have a guide that was so thorough it covered everything that could possibly happen at each stage so that I was prepared. I figured I might as well have something to guide me through babydom. Babies don't come with a manual but they really should!) Michelle was starting to fuss as I put her in the car but she fell asleep during the ride and when I put the seat into the stroller and started to move, she was good to go. Thankfully she stayed asleep the entire time. I was crossing my fingers as I headed through the mall repeating a mantra in my head "Please be good. Please stay asleep!" Of course, on this occasion the timing had been just right. She had been fed so she wasn't hungry and just as I had put her in her carseat about to leave the house I could hear gurgling down below so I took her out and changed her. It had been a really big orange poop. It was a nuisance having to take her out of the seat and start from scratch again but it was a huge blessing that the big poo happened while we were still home. I'd seen how she reacted to pooing when we were out and it got really ugly. She screamed until she was purple and the poo seemed to implode under the carseat harness. So if I can time my outings for after the baby is fed, warm and dry and clean, she can sleep happily while we're out. Unfortunately it's not always so easy to time things. I never know exactly when she's going to poo. Every day is a little different. You can never be sure. Sometimes it sounds like she's going but it's just gas. I am noticing patterns though. She does tend to have her biggest poops early in the day. But she feeds and poos almost non-stop all day long except for a few minutes here and there when she sleeps. My friend convinced me to start using the diaper cake (it was so pretty I was trying to save it but she said I better use the newborn diapers while they still fit. They are pretty snug now. She's basically a size 1 diaper already. She's in 0-3 month clothes and even fits some 3 month old ones) and I've gone through the first two layers in under a week!

I have taken her out for walks in the stroller a few times now. She seems to like it. It's good for me to get out too. Being cooped up all the time can make you a little stir crazy. It feels good to get some exercise and fresh air. When I check on her in the little window built into the stroller she's usually wide awake. She seems fascinated by the experience. I'm not sure whether it's the bumpiness or the play of light and shadow that she likes the most. They have baby swings but they almost need to invent a baby bumpy ride that simulates a stroller, or a car. I've heard they like the dryer too. Apparently she loves the sound of the vacuum cleaner as well. I had her in my left arm while I vacuumed with the right today and she fell asleep. Housework is a real workout now that I have her! She often doesn't nap long enough for me to do things without her. So I just have to try to "octopus" it and do everything with her in my arms. At least when she's able to hold her head up I can start putting her in the "Snugli" carrier and carry her like a kangaroo while I hop around to do everything.

I've started reading "What to Expect" and I was happy to learn that the reason babies sleep better on formula (while I was supplementing her with formula in those early days, as instructed by the breastfeeding clinic Michelle did seem to sleep a bit more. Sometimes for three or four hours at a time) is that they can't digest cow's milk that easily so it stays in their system longer and makes them feel full. Breastmilk is so easy to digest that it goes right through them so they are hungry more often (which explains the frequent feedings and the endless stream of pooed diapers -- about 5 a day. Not to mention the peed ones too.) I like to have a book where I can find the facts instead of relying on confusing and contradictory advice from well-meaning friends and family. For a while there I was starting to get discouraged. It felt like everyone was a critic and telling me what I was doing wrong. "My baby didn't poo that much...Maybe you're overfeeding her." "Maybe she's lactose intolerant." "Maybe she's malnourished because you're not eating enough protein. You should be frying steaks." "My baby slept all the time as a newborn." It was getting to the point where I didn't want to talk to anyone because they were making me feel worse! I was already feeling pretty vulnerable from over-exhaustion. I know that they were only trying to help but it felt like they were finding fault which wasn't what I needed when I was already feeling depleted and discouraged and trying to do all the right things. I was starting to get defensive. I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, drink a lot of milk and have some meat but the baby limits what and how much I can eat. She doesn't always give me time to cook anything. I have to grab things that I can gobble in a couple of minutes. I'm on my own. I don't have a partner that can cook or watch the baby while I cook. Sometimes I'm starving, I think Michelle is finally asleep so I run to nuke a frozen dinner and she starts to scream before I even get to take the first bite. So I try to cradle her in one arm and eat with the other. But if she continues to cry, I end up leaving my meal to change/feed her. Breastfeeding takes so much out of me physically and it's not always easy to feed myself so I wind up weak and exhausted. But I don't need people telling me that I'm a bad mother for not eating when I'm trying to be a good mother by putting the baby's needs before my own. When she screamed in the grocery store one time as I threw things in the cart I was saying "Mama needs to eat too baby or Mama will die!" I didn't even care about the people around me staring. Welcome to my Breakdown people! I hope I never have a shopping trip like that again. It almost seems like any time I try to get food for myself (either buying it, cooking it or eating it) my baby will start to cry as though she just can't let me eat! She's the best diet on Earth! Sucks 500 calories or more out of me and doesn't even let me take that much in!

Mom is a worrier and always has something negative to say about something. I don't even watch the news because it just brings me down but I always get to hear about things from Mom. (Though I often wonder if she's getting the story right!) My mother can't resist calling to tell me the latest thing she heard/read on the news. She called frantically that the "Bumbo" chairs had been recalled. They've been around forever. I'm sure they're fine. I guess some people were putting them on tables or something. That's just silly. I would wait until she's old enough first of all. I would certainly keep an eye on the baby if she was in the chair and I wouldn't put it up on anything. Mom also called one day to say that "Eggs are as bad for you as cigarettes." Apparently some report she'd heard on TV. That's ridiculous. I thought that eggs were a healthy source of protein. I know they have cholesterol but come on. One day something is good for you and the next day it's bad. Mom shouldn't be allowed to watch the news. It's all doom and gloom and fear mongering. The worst thing possible for a chronic worrier like my Mom. I try to limit my worries. These days I just don't have time anyway. My biggest concern is the baby crying. Everything else in the world will have to wait!

People like to tell you how things should be. People without kids will tell you what they think or heard from other people or read. People with kids will tell you what their kids were like or what they did in their day (which may have been several decades ago and may have been dead wrong -- for instance they used to say not to feed more often than every four hours and put your baby to sleep on her stomach. That's the opposite of what they say now.) Even people who have had babies recently may not necessarily understand what you're going through. The problem is that each baby is different. Just as no two labours are alike (I heard so many vastly different stories and my own wound up being nothing like any of them. You really don't know what your own experience will be until you have it.) no two babies are alike. Some people have babies that never cry and sleep through the night right from the beginning. Others have fussy babies that cry a lot and rarely sleep. I had some people tell me I have to feed every few hours and that I should wake the baby to feed if she doesn't get up on her own. Others told me never wake a sleeping baby. It's hard to know what to believe. I just let Michelle call the shots. I figure she knows better than anyone when she's hungry. When she cries, I do the checks. If her diaper is dirty (and 9 times out of 10, it is!) I change her. Then if she still cries, I assume she's hungry and try feeding her. She usually nurses voraciously so she was obviously hungry. When all her other needs have been met, if she still cries I assume she's tired and needs to nap so I entertain her by carrying her, singing to her, rocking her, putting her in her swing, going for a walk or a drive, or sometimes just letting her lay on my chest for two hours (she was quite content while I watched my show, even though my chest was hurting I didn't want to disturb her. Sometimes she cries as soon as I put her down so I just let her lean on me as long as she's happy.) She is demanding. Sometimes it's exhausting meeting her demands, but I do it. It makes me happy when I'm able to stop her tears. What gets frustrating is when she'll cry after all of my efforts and I don't know what's wrong. I'll ask her "What's wrong?!" (As if she's suddenly going to be able to speak and tell me!) When all else fails, I've found that making a strange noise, especially a loud shushing sound seems to quiet her. It probably just distracts her so she forgets that she was crying. I've tried playing with her, introducing toys to her but it's probably too soon. I'm not even sure how much they can see at this point.

My Mom and sister came over for a visit and Michelle was thankfully pretty good, though she is high maintenance. When she's not being fed and changed she likes to be constantly entertained. You can't dare to put her down for a moment or she'll cry. It was a treat to have my Mom hold her and walk around with her for a bit to give me a break while I grabbed a bite to eat. Mom said that the baby looks like me and seems to have my temperament (God help me!) I was a real handfull and now I suppose I'm getting my payback for what I put my mother through. Sorry Mom. I had no idea! Thank you for everything that you endured to have me and raise me. I may not have fully appreciated it until now. You always said "You'll never understand until you have kids of your own!" I never expected to have my own children. Now here I am with a baby (biggest surprise of my life!) and I finally understand what it's like -- how much love, how much stress, how much sacrifice and work children really are.

I was hoping she'd take after me and not her father (who as most of you know has been M.I.A. since February. Good riddance.) Then again he was even more high maintenance than I was. M was as needy as a baby, never gave me a moment's peace or privacy, not even to go to the bathroom (don't ask!), was a voracious eater, would barely let me eat anything (sometimes literally took the food out of my hand)...Oh dear, come to think of it maybe she did get a couple of things from Dad. Sometimes she seems to be giving the finger too (see photo!) It was something my ex did often, especially for pictures. Yeah, he was a charmer! I'm sure it's just coincidence with Michelle though. My Mom said Michelle's hair seems to be a little more blonde than strawberry now. I was born platinum blonde and turned auburn later. Could she be doing the reverse? I guess we'll have to wait and see. Her eyes are denim blue at this point but I've heard that they can change as well. Of course both M and I had blue eyes so there's a good chance they'll stay.

Mom carried the baby around, singing to her, bouncing her, keeping her amused until her arms were aching. She said I was the same way as a baby. I wanted constant attention. I wouldn't let her put me down all day long. I also screamed all night and wouldn't sleep. At least thank Heaven, Michelle doesn't do that. She's actually started sleeping pretty well at night at least (a few hours anyway). Knock on wood.

I couldn't resist trying her little shades on her. I'd gotten them several months ago and thought they were adorable. They seemed so small but look big on her. She looks like she could be a baby Elton John! We didn't really get to hit the beach this year but there's always next year. Maybe by then I'll be bikini ready though even if I manage to lose my mommy tummy I don't know if the stretch marks will fade. I'm hoping. I'm still using the stretch mark cream that I got months ago. It doesn't seem to do much aside from smell like cookies. There's cocoa in it or something. Can they invent something that makes stretch marks vanish? Please? Although my appearance is not as important to me these days I look back at photos of me from last summer and want to cry. I worked so hard to get to my goal weight/shape having no idea that I was going to fall in love and shockingly wind up pregnant in the Fall. Still, Michelle is worth the stretch marks (and the stress and sleeplessness). I just hope she appreciates it. Someday if she's giving me a hard time (in her teens for example) I may break out some of those old bikini photos and then show her my stretched out belly. The Mom guilt! My mother certainly used it on me. I guess I'll probably resort to it someday with my daughter.

Time isn't always on my side these days. It seems it rarely is. The baby will fall asleep and I'll rush to get something done only to have her wake at the worst possible moment. One day I had just finished bathing her because she'd had a really messy poo. I had her upstairs, in her towel, about to put on her lotion when she pooed on the towel! I wasn't about to bathe her all over again. Luckily it didn't go too far. A couple of times she's peed while I'm changing her and wet the clean outfit and blanket I had just put on her. At least being a girl she doesn't spray up when she pees (I've heard some nightmare stories about changing baby boys!) Or she'll wake up and start screaming in a crowded grocery store. Or she'll poo through her cutest little dresses. But sometimes I get lucky, the stars align, baby is good, all goes well and it's such a treat. I wish every day could be like that. Baby Michelle would sleep soundly and I'd get everything done. She'd wake up refreshed and happy and never cry. But she's a baby. She's like the weather. Unpredictable. Uncontrollable. You never know what you're going to get. (Though while I'm on the subject I am so grateful for the beautiful weather we've had in August. I was worried it would be too humid when I got back home with no A/C but it's been perfect.)

For a recovering control freak like me it can be hard to surrender control to a small human. You can't reason with her. She wants what she wants when she wants it and you better figure it out because she doesn't speak English yet! Stupidly I always ask her anyway "What is it love? What's wrong? Are you hungry? Do you need to be changed? What is it?" I thought she would have different cries for different things but so far it's the same plaintive "Waaaaa" whether she's hungry, or dirty, or tired, or just needs to be cuddled. So you try each one and figure it out by the process of elimination. It does feel good when you get it right and she stops crying. It's beyond frustrating when you get it wrong and you can't figure out what she's on about. "But you're clean, you're full, you have no complaint! Everything is good! I don't get it!" Those are the "I'm just bored, entertain me" cries. That's when the vacuum cleaner, the stroller, the car, white noise, motion etc come in handy.

One night she kept falling asleep while nursing but each time I tried to put her down she'd wake up minutes later and scream. My favourite show was coming on and I didn't want to miss it. She fell asleep on my chest and seemed quite content. I let her sleep there. It was easier than disturbing her and having her scream. So I let her stay that way through the entire show. My chest was aching and my arm was numb by the end of it but at least she stayed quiet and content.

It must be scary for a baby. They were safe in their little watery world and then suddenly they're yanked out into this strange place (yanked out with a plunger and tongs as well as doctor's hands in my case. It was a rough labour for both of us!) They don't know where they are or what's going on. They don't know if their needs will be met. When they awaken alone, it must be frightening. They were attached to you for so long, they need to feel that connection. Lying on my chest she hears my heartbeat. She knows I'm her Mama and that she's safe. If she's alone to sleep then she doesn't know where I am. I hope that she will realize I always come back to her, that she can feel secure no matter what. I will always be there to meet her needs. I'm never far away. I know that my sister's kids are still so connected to her and don't like to be apart from her (even at 2 years and 10 years.) You see the panic in his face when my nephew realizes Mama isn't there, even for a few moments. It's overwhelming, but at the same time it's an incredible feeling to know that you're so loved, so needed. You are your child's world.

I am Michelle's world. And I will try to make it as happy as I can. I just hope she cuts me a little slack because I am new to this and I am on my own trying to do everything. There's no one else to put out the garbage, do the shopping and everything else. She has definitely challenged me in a way that no one and nothing ever has. Maybe it was what I needed to make me stronger. We've both been through a lot in the first few weeks. We've survived and we're doing pretty well. Maybe the hardest part is behind us and it'll be easier from here on out. Sure. As a stranger told me in line at the drug store (during another one of Michelle's screaming fits) "Yes this is the hardest stage. At least until she hits her teens..." But that's way way off...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Mad Dash

I used to be a bit of a procrastinator. There isn't time now. I have a very small window of opportunity between feedings, changings and other assorted screamings. Anything that needs to be done has to be done NOW and quickly. I used to leave dishes to sit in the sink. Now they're loaded in the dishwasher immediately. I'm doing laundry every day now. Sometimes I have the luxury of running around to get things done while Michelle is asleep. Other days I have to do things while carrying her which is much more of a challenge. Sometimes I wish I could grow extra arms. Trying to eat cereal without dropping milk on her head. Answering the phone, doing housework. The hardest was loading the washing machine. Hard to reach in with her in my other arm. So you hope she falls asleep for a few moments and then you put her down and make a mad dash to get everything done.

Certain things I dreaded like putting the garbage out, I now realize can be done in under 5 minutes. You just run around as quickly as you can and get it over with. The baby has forced me to be fast and efficient because otherwise nothing would get done. And there's no one else to do it so I don't have a choice!

I never know when she nods off whether I'll have 10 minutes, or if I'm really lucky, an hour or more to get things accomplished. So I basically have to get everything done in 10 minutes or less, just in case. I've become quite adept at dashing through most things. It's a whole new sort of multi-tasking. Sometimes I get lucky and she gives me a reprieve. One night I actually got to take a BUBBLE BATH!!! This is like winning the lottery. I always loved bubble baths by candlelight. They were one of the few things that relaxed me while I was pregnant. When the baby was asleep I thought, I could eat something (I've lost 35 lbs already, without exercise other than a couple of walks because breastfeeding burns 500 calories and I'm lucky if I have time to consume 1000 calories a day) because I am pretty hungry, I could grab some sleep because I'm beyond exhausted, but what my soul really yearned for was a bubble bath. After delivering a more than 9 lb baby, obviously my body has been through a lot. I have been pretty sore "down there" after the episiotomy. I thought the bath would be soothing (it was HEAVEN) for body and soul. I knew that if worse came to worst, I'd just step in and baby would scream and that would be the end of it, in which case I'd just drain the water and walk away. But I said a little prayer for peace and she complied. I got to lay in the soothing bubbles for almost half an hour! It was a luxury I thought I'd never experience again.

And I needed soothing after my ordeal the day before...

The day started out well. I took Michelle to the doctor. She did start to fuss in the office but I managed to pacify her with a bottle of my pumped breast milk (I really don't feel comfortable breastfeeding in public so I have a bottle ready when I know I'll be out.) When the doctor checked her out she said Michelle is very healthy and she weighs 9 lbs 12 ounces now! It feels so good to know that she's eating well (as if the constant diaper changes weren't evidence enough!) and that I'm producing enough milk. I actually leak sometimes now and my breasts become engorged. Sometimes I pump the milk for extra relief but I've been told that that's like putting out a fire with gasoline because it's supply and demand, so the more I pump, the more my body will produce. In any event, after my first stressful week wondering if my milk would ever come in, I'm just happy that my cups runneth over!

The day took a dark turn when my Mom (who I'd been visiting after the doctor) suggested we run up to the store so she could buy a lottery ticket. I needed garbage bags anyway (and it was garbage night that night) so I thought what the heck. Baby seemed to be safely napping in the carseat. Of course you never know how long she'll stay asleep and when she may wake up screaming. I'd already experienced her screaming tantrums in a grocery store before and I sure didn't want another ugly episode. So Mom runs into the store and leaves me to haul the carseat into a cart myself. Fine. She's just trying to be quick. I go in and am pleased they actually sell blue bags there. I grab a couple more things quickly. Baby is still quiet. So far so good. Five minutes later, I'm ready to motor. I line up at the cash. That's when it all falls apart. Baby Michelle likes being on the move. As long as she's in a moving car, cart or stroller, she's soothed, entertained, lulled to sleep. When the motion stops, she goes ballistic. So as I'm trying to pay, she begins screaming like a banshee. "Dear God," I think, "not again." The line-up scream. I was sure the entire store, including my mother, would hear her. It's hard to miss a newborn having a meltdown. I couldn't get out of the store fast enough. I get to the car. Mom isn't there but is no doubt on her way. She was just buying a lottery ticket after all and she knows I have the baby (Mom was notorious for leaving you waiting when you would take her shopping, but surely she wouldn't do that now that I have a baby.) I start the car, hoping Mom will be here any second. She wasn't. The baby is still howling like a demon. I decide to circle the parking lot. Maybe if the car is in motion, she'll calm down. I kept passing the grocery store hoping Mom would be out any second. She wasn't. People exited. None of them her. I finally parked in front of the doors and started honking. I was about to run into the store screaming her name and thought better of it. How could she be so inconsiderate?! The baby was beside herself (almost purple now from screaming.) I was getting more stressed and more livid by the second. I circled around the parking lot again and almost got into an accident with some idiot pulling out too quickly and not looking. This was ridiculous.

You know how there are football minutes and dog years? I think there should be "baby screaming minutes." A minute with a screaming baby feels like 10 minutes. Ten minutes with a screaming baby feels like an hour. An hour with a screaming baby feels like a year. Enough was enough. I had endured at least 15 minutes of this Hell (it felt like 2 hours) and I was ready to kill someone. Namely my mother!

I pulled up in front of the store again and tried to look through the glass to see if I could see her cashing out at least. What on earth was she doing? I wanted to just leave her there. A delivery person with a pallet gave me a look. I pulled ahead to get out of his way. Then I saw an employee bringing a bunch of carts into the store. I asked him if he would please have someone page my mother. I gave him her name and said tell her to come out right now or I'm leaving, I have a newborn baby screaming and I can't wait for her anymore. He nodded but apparently completely ignored my request, went into the store and did nothing. I finally saw my mother at a cash register. I was FURIOUS. So when she got to the car, I was screaming. She screamed that she had been looking for me (Why wouldn't you go to the car?! As if I want to hang around inside a store with a screaming baby!!!) The parcels in her arms proved she'd gotten more than a lottery ticket. We yelled at each other for a bit. The baby finally stopped screaming (I guess she figured she couldn't compete with us) and fell asleep. After fighting with my mother I dropped her off and said I'm never taking her anywhere again.

She left a message on my machine that she was sorry for the misunderstanding. She had been looking for me in the store. Next time, run to the car!!!

Baby can scream. She screams when she's hungry (which is almost constantly for my voracious little vampire). She screams when she's dirty (eating constantly means she poos constantly too). She screams when she's tired. Which is most of the time because she doesn't get much sleep. It's tough. My Mom always told me that I screamed the whole first year. That I wouldn't sleep, wouldn't let her put me down all day long. I was moody, demanding and high maintenance. So I guess this is karma that I wind up with a little girl just as difficult as I was. My mother said that the trade-off was that I was brilliant. I was very advanced for my age. Walking, talking and potty-trained all well under a year. She said I was a "firecracker" because I was born on "firecracker day" (aka Victoria Day) and because of my red hair. Redheads can be moody. I'm the first to admit it. Now I have a little one on my hands. She's a real Drama Queen!

People ask me what's a good day/time to do things and I don't know how to answer. I don't know with the baby. I can't plan my day out and know how it will go. She calls the shots. She might sleep for a few minutes or (by some miracle occasionally) a few hours. But you race to do whatever you can as fast as you can while you can. And you hope that she doesn't scream. Especially when you're out in public. But so far she has made a scene almost every time we've gone out.

I went to the grocery store today because I was nearly out of milk. She screamed the entire time I was in the store. I had never moved so fast. I threw things in the cart. I threw them on the belt at the cash register. I was stressed beyond belief. Then there was the time she screamed at the drive thru so that they couldn't even hear me. She was screaming so much I thought I'd better check on her so I parked and went to the backseat to see if she'd had an exploding poo or something. Next thing I knew there was a hornet in the car. Great. So now I have a screaming baby and a hornet to deal with. Luckily he moved along when I opened the window. I guess he couldn't stand the screaming either.

It's hard to do anything now. Sometimes I get lucky and get an hour to myself. Other times baby won't even give me five minutes.

My friend came to visit (and brought pizza and lava cakes God bless her soul! Visitors Welcome! Please bring food! Mama is starving!) last night. I had to feed Michelle almost the whole time. And then there were the diaper changes. Then there were just the screams of overtiredness. My friend got to see the kind of stress I deal with on a daily basis. She suggested I try bottle feeding so I'm not so depleted breastfeeding all day, try a soother to quiet the baby. I am committed to breastfeeding and I don't believe in soothers (to me it's just sticking a plug in the baby's mouth and it may confuse her, interfere with her feeding.) She was thinking of my best interests. But I can only think of the baby's. Even if she's killing me. Sometimes I think I'll lose my mind.

The baby is all that matters. Some people say "Just let her cry." I can't. They say I'm spoiling her. I don't care. She is innocent, helpless. She needs me. I can't let her think that the world is a cruel place and her needs won't be met. I have to comfort her, reassure her, make her happy. Even if it destroys me in the process. That's my job as a Mom. To put her first.

I really had no clue what it was going to be like. My life has changed beyond recognition. I used to need 10 hours' sleep to function as a human. I never get anywhere close to that now. I'm lucky if I get 3. I remember before I had the baby that I told someone I would just sleep when the baby slept. It seemed to make sense at the time. I actually did grab a cat nap for a bit with her once but usually when the baby sleeps is when I have to do everything else. Laundry, cleaning, dishes, grabbing a bite, running to the bathroom, or when I'm really lucky, doing a bit of writing. I knew that the baby would consume most of my time but I didn't fully understand how completely she would take over my life. I thought that it was so difficult being pregnant. Now I see how easy I actually had it. I think about the days when I was able to go back to bed and sleep until the afternoon. Now I'm lucky if I get 3 hours' sleep in a day. Sometimes you don't know how you survive. But you do. You have a really bad day and then the next day is pretty good.

Sometimes I do feel depleted. The baby takes so much out of me emotionally and physically. On the positive side, breastfeeding and carrying around a nearly 10 lb baby has proven to be a good workout. I've lost over 35 lbs already. Just another 25 to go. My doctor cautioned me to be careful though. If I don't eat enough I may become very weak. I have had a couple of near fainting spells from lack of food and sleep. The baby literally is sucking the life out of me! She feeds on me all day and then doesn't let me eat or go to the store to buy food! 

There are good days. One day I went for a walk with Michelle in the stroller. It was a beautiful day, not too warm and with a slight breeze. She didn't start to fuss until I got home. It felt good to get out. Sometimes you can feel isolated when you're locked away feeding and changing and caring for a baby. Some days I wasn't able to get out of my pj's. A friend popped by unexpectedly and I answered the door with a zombie face and a milk-stained nightgown. Some days I just don't care. Vanity has gone out the window. There just isn't time. Sometimes I think maybe things are getting easier. Maybe baby is settling into more of a routine. Then I'll have another stressful nightmare day and I think I'm having a nervous breakdown (how can you tell if you are? Just out of curiosity...)

And just when I think I'm losing my mind and I can't take this anymore, the baby will be calm and angelic for a few moments. She'll look up at me with these curious big blue eyes and I love her so much that I know I can go through anything for her. She drives me crazy but I adore her. I look into her eyes and I melt. She smiles and it is the highlight of my life. Several times she has looked right into my eyes and smiled when I said "I love you!" or "Where's your smile?" Or she makes this little cooing noise. Just the thought of her being able to talk, to say "Mama" one day makes me tear up. It is worth it. If this is what I have to go through then so be it. Yes some days I feel like I'm going to crack when she's screaming and I feel like I'm going to collapse. I start to cry from a mixture of exhaustion, frustration and hormones. But somehow I survive it. I have to. And at least I'm always able to comfort her, eventually. Once I figure out what is wrong I can fix it. She's hungry and I feed her. She's wet/dirty and I change her. She's bored/tired and I entertain her/lull her to sleep by rocking, walking, dancing, singing, making strange noises, taking her for a drive, doing whatever I need to do!

When she is at peace, the world is a beautiful place. I watch her sleep and she is my little angel. I'm so grateful for those heavenly moments. They make up for the moments of sheer hell! I just wish she could be happy all the time. I can't bear to hear her cry.

Some people don't have it so hard. I met someone with such a quiet baby, she never seems to cry. She slept through the night right from the beginning. Other people tried to tell me newborns were so easy. They sleep most of the time. I guess it's luck of the draw. Just as no two pregnancies or labour stories are the same, no two babies are the same. No one can tell you what experience you're going to have.

She is an individual. There has never been another baby like her. I am blessed to have her. Even when it's not easy. Even when it's the hardest job in the world.

Writing about it helps somehow. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. A way of sorting out my life, my feelings. I didn't know how I'd keep up with this blog. It's different now. I just type my thoughts when I have a moment, save it as a draft and post it when it's done. I don't have time to painstakingly proofread and edit anymore. I can't afford to be picky. I won't be able to write as often or as much as I did before but I can still share my thoughts and experiences. And I need to. Writing, like the bubble bath, is something I need, for me, to nurture my soul.

I'm a Mommy now and 99% of my time and energy goes to the baby, but I still need something for me so that I don't go crazy. I can't lose myself completely. I need these few moments for myself. It's hard when you're on your own and there's no one to watch the baby for a minute while you run to the bathroom or grab a shower but you just get creative. You learn to hold it until you have a moment. You learn to be grateful for the few seconds you can steal for yourself.

And I am grateful for my time with the baby. Even when it's rough. I wouldn't trade it for the world. This is love. Messy, complicated, joyous, painful. As Shakespeare said "The course of true love never did run smooth." She is my true love.