Monday, October 29, 2012

One Hot Mama!

Now that I'm a Mom, I'm feeling hotter than ever. Temperature-wise, that is.

Before becoming pregnant, I was always cold. I hated the winter. I loved the heat of the summer. Everywhere I went I always seemed to feel a chill. During the fall and winter, I would bundle up and still feel the cold. In the summer when I'd go somewhere air-conditioned, I'd freeze. At work they had it so cold I had to have a space heater going under my desk so I didn't turn blue. When I visited my Mom I had to wear an extra layer or two of clothes. (She keeps her house FREEZING!)

Late in my pregnancy, I started feeling the heat but that was no surprise since I was carrying an extra 70 lbs and it was the middle of summer. Now that I've had the baby however, my thermostat seems to have gone up even higher. We're into Fall now and yet I'm sweating. At least it's saving me on heating. I didn't turn my furnace on until we were well into October and even with it on I keep it low anyway. It barely turns on. The fleece pjs that I used to love I now can't even wear because I sweat in them after a couple of minutes. I used to love turtlenecks. Now I can't stand them. They suffocate me. I try to wear mostly low-cut crisscross tops that are easy to pull down for breastfeeding anyway.

When I'm carrying Michelle around I figure that it makes sense for me to feel warm. After all, walking and dancing around carrying 12 lbs constantly is a bit of a workout but even when I'm not carrying her, my temperature still seems to be out of whack. I'll go out for a walk with Michelle and think "Wow, I can't believe how warm it is today!" It's bright and sunny. It seems like a spring day. Never mind that the leaves are orange and falling and we're halfway through October. It might be an Indian Summer. Then I look around at other people. They're in WINTER COATS! One woman even had gloves on and I'm perspiring in a light sweater with the sleeves rolled up! What the?! I wanted to take off my sweater and just wear the tank top. It's like I'm on another planet. Mars maybe. I hear it's warm on Mars.

Of course my Mom is in her glory because she always found it too warm and keeps her house so cold that you could hang meat. In the winter, she just doesn't turn the furnace on. In the summer, she has the air conditioning blasting. Whenever I complained about the cold she'd say "One day you'll go into menopause and have hot flashes and you'll understand!" So now she's saying "I told you so!" Seeing me sweating at my sister's house, taking my sweater off and saying "It's an oven in here!" makes her smile. Of course my sister keeps her house at a normal, cozy temperature. I used to love it. But these days it's too hot to handle. The light streams in the patio doors of her kitchen and it's like being on the surface of the sun! I guess that's why they say if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. I look around at my Mom, May and Shannon. They're all in long sleeved tops and acting normal. I'm in a sleeveless top, panting and wiping my brow.

My mother tried to tell me that I was going through menopause. I rolled my eyes. "I'm pretty sure that's impossible right now!" Now, I'm no doctor, but I'm fairly certain that you can't go through MENOPAUSE  while you're BREASTFEEDING! I think that one would have to cancel the other out. I had my doctor confirm it, just so I could tell my mother she was being ridiculous. I think the doctor even rolled her eyes too when I asked. The doctor suggested my recent heat wave could be because of the hormones associated with breastfeeding and also from breastfeeding itself. It's like my body has it's own little furnace working overtime. The body exerts itself to produce milk so it's like I'm getting a workout all the time (if only I could lose this tummy flab in the process!) You burn 500-700 calories a day while breastfeeding. That's a pretty intense workout. I think that's what you lose doing the 30 day shred too. Heaven knows when I'll get around to that.

I Googled it and sure enough, other breastfeeding women have gone through the same thing. Hot flashes are common because of the hormones. So I'm not from Mars after all. It's just such a strange experience for me when I'm used to always being colder than everyone else to now constantly feel hotter. It's not that big of a deal. I just dress lighter. At least it's not summer. It can be embarassing sometimes when I'm out though and everyone else just looks comfortable and I'm burning up, my pits drenched, my forehead shining. I remember one woman I worked with was having hot flashes. Her face was red and her blouse was sticking to her. I felt bad for her but I couldn't relate to it. I was shivering and pulling my sleeves down over my hands. They finally gave us fans and heaters for our cubicles so we could create our own little microclimates in the office because some of us were too hot and others too cold. There was no happy medium.

When Michelle was a newborn people were telling me I had to keep her bundled up because babies are used to heat after being in the womb. Aside from when you very first bring them home however, babies shouldn't be any more bundled up than we are. I have to be careful with Michelle not to dress her too lightly though. She probably doesn't feel the heat like me. I've noticed she can get pretty hot when she cries though. After a good bout of screaming her face is red and feels warm to the touch. We had a nightmarish car ride home the other night where she screamed almost the entire way. Her poor little face was red as a beet. I tried to explain that there wasn't anything I could do while driving on the 401 but it didn't help. I couldn't pacify her with singing or crinkling sounds. I finally just put pieces of Kleenex in my ears. Overall though she has been behaving better.

She was such a good girl at her doctor's appointment which was a huge relief. I told the doctor that she's good half the time which is an improvement over the beginning when it seemed she had more bad days than good. It's 50/50 now. There were times before when she would cry inconsolably. Now she is usually consolable. You just have to find out what it is she wants after a process of deduction. (Incidentally she was screaming in the car because she needed to be changed but I didn't know that at the time and couldn't have changed her while driving on the highway anyway!) The doctor said she looked very healthy. She's gained another pound and even grew 2 inches in the past month! I thought she'd gotten taller/longer because now when she's on the change table she can reach the container of baby wipes at the foot of the table and kick it. Now when I see the doctor it's for Michelle. I'm just an afterthought. Sometimes I will ask her about health problems I'm having but she never seems concerned. Michelle is the priority. I didn't know there would be so many appointments. I'm nervous about her going for her needles again too. I didn't realize how often they have to get them.

I have been avoiding starting my Jillian Michaels workout. Partly because I'm terrified of it and partly because it's very hard to find the time or the space now with Michelle in the picture. I remember I used to sweat buckets doing the exercises so it may actually kill me now!

Sometimes my Mom drives me crazy. I don't think a day goes by that she doesn't say something to worry and/or offend me. But I love her anyway. When she calls I put her on speaker phone because it's easier than trying to hold the phone. Michelle always reacts to her voice. The other day I gave Michelle the phone and she was smiling and laughing at Grandma. Sometimes you have to laugh at the things she comes off with. I could be hurt by her suggesting I'm menopausal or trying to make me feel old or I could just smile and shake my head. I don't feel old. 40 is the new 30 anyway and Michelle is keeping me young.

Despite the hot flashes there are advantages to breastfeeding (aside from the obvious -- a bonding experience with the baby as well as nutritious, free milk that saves me from buying formula). I haven't had a period and I hear that they may not return until I start to wean the baby. That's something to look forward to with menopause as well, despite the uncomfortable symptoms. No more messy, painful, annoying periods. (Though I'm curious whether they'd be painful anymore. After giving birth to a 9 lb 4 ounce baby I'm pretty sure things would have loosened up in there so I shouldn't feel so much pressure at that time of month!)

So I used to be too cold and now I'm too hot. It's OK. Maybe one day things will be "just right." I have a stack of turtlenecks I may never wear again but I'm reluctant to get rid of them just in case. I'm holding on to my skinny jeans too, just in case. They may fit me again one day. Who knows?

I used to dream of living on a tropical island. These days with my hot flashes, living under the blazing sun might kill me. Though I imagine if I could afford to live in paradise I could afford to have an air-conditioned home anyway. And there would always be the ocean to cool off in. The problem with living by the ocean is that there are so many tropical storms. Hurricanes. Tsunamis. We're pretty safe where we are here in Canada. Right now with my new elevated temperature, a colder climate doesn't seem so bad. I drive with my windows rolled down and it's refreshing (though everyone else has theirs rolled up.) I always make sure Michelle is bundled up in her stroller blanket. I go out without a jacket most of the time. I don't even need a jacket at my Mom's house (aka the meat locker) anymore. I never thought I'd see the day. Sometimes the car is an oven after sitting in the sun. The last couple of days have been cold and rainy. My Mom was going on about Hurricane Sandy. I don't think it's supposed to affect us much up here. I don't watch the news so I just hear about the latest catastrophes from Mom (which is possibly even worse!)

It's strange. My life bears almost no resemblance to what it once was. Everything is different. Me especially. You just never know what life has in store for you or how you might change. Emotionally, physically, mentally. You think you know who you are and what you want but life is dynamic not static. You learn. You adapt. You surprise yourself. Life is a journey of discovery and you're never done. You never have all the answers. Embrace each stage of life that you go through. Celebrate the highs and endure the lows. I have transformed more in the past year than ever in my life. I'm happier now than I was at any other time. Even on my most difficult days, the love that I feel and the sense of purpose that I feel as a mother makes it all worth it. They say not to sweat the small stuff. Even sweating is small stuff! I'll just dress lightly and turn the heat down. This too shall pass. At least I'm not too cold. Maybe I'll even learn to love winter.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My baby ghoul!

Of course she's too young to go out for Halloween this year but it's still fun to dress her up. I couldn't resist this cute little skeleton sleeper. I'll still dress her up on Halloween night. She can come to the door with me when the kids come trick or treating.

My sister suggested I could take Michelle out but it would be silly. She's too young to understand it at all and obviously the candy would be for me, not her! It would be pretty awkward knocking on doors saying "Trick or treat...Yes she's only 3 months old and breastfeeding, not on solids, but please give me some junk food to stuff my face!" I don't need that kind of temptation anyway. I'm having a hard enough time restraining myself from eating the box of chocolate bars I bought to give out on Halloween as it is! Also taking her out would mean I wouldn't be home to answer the door for the kids. I figure next year when I take her out I'll just go really early and still be back in time to answer the door for most of the kids. I'm trying to remember what time they usually start. I think it's sometime after 6 pm. The little ones with their parents are usually the first out. The bigger kids and teens come later but I think it's usually all wrapped up by 8 or 9 pm. I'll have to pay more attention. I hope I don't run out of candy. (It's taking a lot of self-control for me not to eat it all myself!)

Halloween is a tricky holiday for a single parent. Usually if you had a partner, you'd split the duties. One goes out to walk the child around trick or treating and the other stays home to get the door for the neighbourhood goblins. I never want to be one of those people with the lights out and no candy on Halloween. I know I hated that as a kid when I'd go to a door and no one would be home. It was such a buzzkill when you were racing from porch to porch and then one of them was a dud. How dare people miss Halloween!

My mother never liked Halloween. My sister was surprised that Mom never got a picture of us on Halloween. With all the pictures she had of us, why wouldn't she take one of us in our costumes?! I guess she was just trying to forget the day altogether. But what is cuter than a kid dressed up for Halloween?! I always loved it as a kid and as a young adult, especially in my goth days. Back then (in my 20s) every day was Halloween (just like the "Ministry" song...) I used to go nightclubbing four nights a week downtown back in the day. With my pale skin and dressed in funeral black I looked like a vampire most of the time. On Halloween, I just kicked it up a notch with black wigs, fake blood, etc. I was usually a vampire or a ghoul of some sort. More recently I was a devil a couple of times.

I'm not quite as scary as I used to be! I prefer dance music to alternative now. I own clothing that isn't black. My favourite colours are turquoise and fuschia. I don't really watch horror movies anymore (I prefer comedies.) I paint happy pictures (instead of morbid self-portraits) and write happy songs (instead of dark, depressing poems). I guess I've softened over the years. My days of partying, downtown clubbing, dancing until the wee hours are over. (Though I still do love to dance, now it's with a 12 lb baby in my arms!) I got to enjoy the single life longer than most I suppose. A lot of people "settle down" and have kids in their 20s or 30s. I had another couple of decades to dance all night, stay out late, sleep in. Mind you even in my wildest days I was pretty conservative and always the proverbial good girl. I didn't drink or smoke, never did drugs, never got into trouble. I guess the most reckless thing I did was fall for the wrong men. That's all behind me now. I suppose I could say that I fell for the right man eventually (ironically the most wrong of them all), the one I was meant to meet, because he's the one who gave me my sweet Michelle. He just wasn't meant to stick around. Though he was her biological father, he was unfit to be a Dad.

Mike didn't know his own father. I speculated at one point that it might be Satan. He grinned at that. We watched "Rosemary's Baby" while I was pregnant (probably not the best idea. I wanted to watch movies about pregnancy and he wanted to watch a thriller so that was our compromise!) Mike didn't mind being called a devil. His nickname for me was "Angel." We certainly were opposites. Mike was very drawn to the dark side. He was a goth though he didn't see it that way. He was a horror movie fanatic and was fascinated by all things macabre. I still can't believe that his dungeon of an office filled with skulls, scorpions and swords is now Michelle's nursery! What a transformation. (Of course it had been a guest bedroom/collectibles room filled with dolls before Mike moved in and claimed it as his space.) I actually contributed some artwork to Mike's office when he was setting it up: Some scary black and white self-portraits from my gothic days. He liked them. I had been in a dark place in my 20s. Maybe that was part of what drew me to Mike. I understood some of that sadness and anger and angst. Though his darkness was far blacker than mine ever was. The life he had had made him a pretty messed up boy. Maybe he wasn't evil. Just weak, damaged, broken. There was something beautiful in him, in spite of everything. Behind the tough act. A vulnerability in his stunning blue eyes. Sometimes when I look at Michelle I can't help but see him in her. I try not to see it. Most people say she looks like me. I  hope there is more of me than him in her. I'm pretty sure there is. She definitely takes after my family because there are photos of my nephew as a baby that are IDENTICAL to her. I also see similarities with my own baby photos, my nieces and my brothers.

Michelle is my little devil. And my angel. My sister gave me this little devil costume months ago. At the time I thought it looked huge for her. I didn't think Michelle would fit into it by Halloween but she's grown so much that it's just perfect.

I look forward to future Halloweens with my little girl (ghoul!) Dressing her up and taking her out trick or treating. Visiting a pumpkin patch (total photo op!) Carving pumpkins together. I'll get to relive my childhood again through her. She will keep me young, bringing back the sense of fun and magic at holidays and every day.

She came into my life at the perfect time. I've been pretty immature most of my life. I was a late bloomer. People always guessed my age to be much younger than I was. (I still got asked for I.D. sometimes at bars and casinos!) Partly because I inherited my Mom's anti-aging gene and partly because I still felt and acted like a kid. I never felt like a grown-up. The reason I didn't plan to have kids was that I didn't feel responsible or mature enough. I wouldn't have been ready for it before now. Although I guess it's the act of having kids itself which forces you to grow up. You have to rise to the challenge. You have to be responsible and committed because you don't have a choice. Of course that doesn't mean you have to lose your sense of fun. When I dated men who had children I felt like more of a friend to them than a Mom. I hope I can be a friend as well as a Mom to my little Michelle. I want to be a "cool" Mom. Someone she'd want to hang out with. Of course I will lay down the law as well. I have a little of my mother's overprotective streak in me. I hope I can find the balance between being overly strict and too lenient.

On Devil's Night Michelle will officially be 3 months old. I still can't believe it. The last year and the last few months especially have been such a rollercoaster. Michelle has transformed my life and my self in so many ways. She was worth waiting for. I'm happier than I've ever been. She is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Even when she's a little devil!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Booking it!

I've always had a passion for books. For three years I worked at a bookstore and got an employee discount. That was dangerous! I'd often spend half my paycheck there. (That was before I bought my house, when I still had a disposable income.) Even before that I had been picking up hardcovers at book sales for years. I finally had to get a bookcase to store them all. I still have most of my books displayed on shelves in my living room. My most prized ones are autographed copies of Clive Barker and Anne Rice books (I stood in line for book signings when they were in the area, back in my "goth" days) as well as an autographed cover by Mel Odom (I love his beautiful distinctive illustrations of women. His work graces many of the book covers on my shelves. I met him at a Barbie store back when I was collecting dolls. He also designed a beautiful doll named "Gene" who has the same haunting eyes as the women in his paintings. I have a few of them along with my Barbie collection.) Anyway, I'm getting off topic! The point is, I love books! I love the escapism of reading them (when I have the time, not often these days!) I love the books themselves, the cover art, everything about them. A friend told me I'd have to get rid of the books before Michelle is crawling or she'd be pulling them off the shelves and destroying them. I have more faith in her than that and I'm not getting rid of my books! I hope she leaves them alone. After all, she has her own books which are much more colourful and eye-catching.

My love of books may have started before I was born. My mother told me that while pregnant with me she didn't have food cravings but had a strong craving for reading. She doesn't like to read and other than the newspaper, usually avoids it altogether but while pregnant with me she had the urge. So she read the entire Bible cover to cover out loud! She didn't have any novels to read and I guess she thought it would be a nice gesture (being a Catholic and all) to read the "good book." She believes that it was feeding my brain while I was in utero and that it helped me to do so well in school (I was a straight A student through university, B.A. Specialist in English, Major in Drama, Minor in Art History). I always did have a love for words. I was a master at spelling bees. I always loved writing. I remember one year in high school English when we were studying poetry. Our teacher gave us an assignment to write 10 poems -- one for each category, including haiku, free verse, sonnet, etc. Everyone in the class groaned. I grinned from ear to ear. It was like Christmas to me. The best homework EVER! Writing poetry was one of my favourite hobbies. I'd written hundreds, if not thousands since I was a kid. I wound up writing two poems for each category. My teacher was impressed. Years ago I had sent some of my poems to publishers and was thrilled to have a few of them accepted into literary journals (The Queen's Quarterly, Dalhousie Review and Green's Magazine.) When I learned to play guitar years later, songs came flooding out. I would put together a simple chord progression and once I had the tune, the words would just flow. Songs are just poems set to music. Writing poetry is like breathing to me. Most of my songs were written in under 15 minutes. To date I have written close to 1,000 songs (hundreds of which are posted on Youtube if you want to check out my channel -- there's a link on the right side of this page if you scroll down.)

I'm grateful to my Mom for reading to me, especially since it's something she didn't enjoy. It would be like a mother eating pickles because the baby wanted them, even though she hated them herself. I really do think there's something to the idea that reading while pregnant can be good for your baby. I know that the baby can hear her mother's voice. She may not understand the words but I still think that on some level it may prepare her for language. She may learn by osmosis. She may pick up on the patterns and rhythms of speech. Being fed with words may start the brain working to recognize speech and make it easier for her to talk later on. It's a theory. It can't hurt to try it. So needless to say I read to my baby as well while I was pregnant. And did a lot of singing too. I felt a bond with her even before she was born. She seemed to react to the sound of my voice. I would feel her moving and it was like we were communicating, even then.

Now I read to Michelle every day. Our storytime doesn't last too long. I stop once she seems to get frustrated. At just under 3 months old her attention span is only so long. Whether it's books or her swing or whatever it is, she may be entertained for a while but then it's time to move on to something else. Sometimes she lasts as long as half an hour. Other times it's only ten minutes. I have a selection of board books and bath books with short, simple stories so it doesn't take long to get through a few of them anyway. She can't understand them yet of course, but she does show interest. She's even started grabbing the books, touching the pages and she makes little sounds as I'm reading. As though she's trying to read too. I hope she loves books as much as I do. I thought it was a good sign that she would hold books herself and look at the pictures. (Here she's looking at her mermaid bath book.)

She seems to enjoy nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss because of the rhyming sing-song quality. I also have books on counting, shapes, colours. I figure she might as well begin learning early. They absorb so much in the first year of life. I think the sooner the better to get her mind working. I am glad to be able to devote my time to her while I'm on maternity leave. The fact that I'm not in a relationship helps too. She is the focus of all my attention and energy. A man would have just been in the way. (Especially one as needy and demanding as her father. A big baby himself! He would have been exhausting and stressful to have around. Not to mention his dog. It was a blessing that he made his exit so Michelle and I could have quality time together.)

The consensus, among family, friends and strangers, is that Michelle seems advanced for her age. Many people have commented about how alert and aware she is. They are impressed at how she'll interact with me, smiling and making sounds in response to me. Some are surprised at how well she holds her head up (especially during tummy time), how she sits up straight (in her bumbo chair), grabs and holds onto things, smiles, coos and has conversations in babyspeak and even stands (with assistance of course!) People do warn me however not to be too anxious for her to do things before her time, especially crawling and walking because then she'll be getting into a world of trouble! At least right now she stays where I put her, when she's not in my arms.

I thought it would be cute to get pictures of her holding books. It really does look like she's reading! I was encouraged that she would even hold them and look at the pictures. I'm never sure exactly what babies see. I know that their vision develops gradually. Her field of vision is getting wider because it used to be she would only smile at me and recognize my face when I was right up close to her. Now she sees me and smiles at me even across the room. She smiles at herself in the mirror. She notices things on the TV. She loves the painting that hangs over the change table (one of the mermaid paintings I did for her) and always stares at it and smiles. Sometimes she talks to it. I love her babytalk. I try to mimick the little sounds she makes because I've read that this encourages babies to communicate. It makes them feel important and acknowledged and motivates them to keep trying to make vocal sounds. She has started making little squeals and high pitched screams occasionally now. It's like she's finding her voice and realizing what she can do. I can't wait until she can laugh. Right now she has kind of a silent laugh along with some coos and gurgles. I'm also anxious for her first words. I'll be ecstatic to hear her say "Mama" and "I love you" someday.
One of my favourite children's books in Michelle's library is "Why I love my Mommy." It features adorable illustrations of animals and words from real children about why they love their Moms. (...because she sings to me, because she feeds me, etc) I remember when I first saw the book in the store I flipped through it and started to cry. It was so sweet. I was hormonal, being pregnant, and feeling fragile after Mike had left me. I wanted to get a couple of things for the baby. I couldn't resist this book. Knowing that one day my little girl would say "I love you" helped me to get through the difficult days when I didn't know how I'd go on. This book also reminded me that Mommy is most important. My little girl would be just fine with her single Mom. Even when there is a Daddy in the picture, there is no bond on earth like that between mother and child (no offence to the fathers out there!) Mommy is usually the one to feed, and sing to and snuggle with the children. Mommy is the nurturer, the primary caregiver. From what I've seen, hands-on fathers who are just as involved as the mothers are in their children's lives are the exception, not the rule. So I never have to feel like Michelle is missing out. Don't get me wrong though. I think in a perfect world a child would have two loving parents. I wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility that one day there may be an exceptional man out there worthy of being Michelle's father. I'm just not holding my breath! And if he doesn't show up (or doesn't exist) that's OK too. My baby girl and me will be just fine.

While I was pregnant I made it a routine to read "Goodnight Moon" to Michelle every night before bed. I actually didn't even have to read it. After reading it every day for a few weeks I had it memorized so I could just recite it from memory from then on. Recently I discovered that there is a Halloween version, a parody book called "Goodnight Goon." It's hilarious. They've done a great job of matching the original page for page with monster references instead ("The cow jumping over the moon" is replaced by "Martians taking over the moon" for example.) I think I appreciate it more than anyone (I've read it to Michelle but she didn't seem as impressed) because I know the original by heart. It makes me chuckle. I like when books or movies for kids appeal to an adult sense of humour. A lot of Disney movies do that. They are for kids but they'll have some jokes and references (double entendres, innuendos etc) that kids would never get. I always loved animated movies. I have a collection of them, all of which I had long before I knew I'd ever have a child to watch them. I was always like a big kid myself. 

I love storytime with Michelle. Many years ago when I worked at the bookstore we were hosting a storytime in the mall. My manager asked if I would do it. I loved reading to the kids. It was fun. It was great to have their attention. To see their little faces eagerly listening. Back then I couldn't have guessed that one day I'd be reading to my own little girl. I always loved kids. I just didn't see myself as a Mom. Reading children's books was fun because it allowed me to be a kid myself, to act silly. Being animated and using funny voices came naturally to me. My Mom always had a squeaky voice and acted stories out as she'd read to us. She was like a walking Disney character!

My Mom asked me why Michelle needed so many books. To me, they are a necessity! I have fish books (to match the theme of the nursery!) books on cats and other animals, books on learning colours, shapes, numbers, letters, picture and word books, nursery rhymes and Dr Seuss books. One book I haven't read to Michelle yet (it's too long for her at this stage) but that's one of my favourite books of all time is "Love you forever" by Robert Munsch. I remember the first time I read it to my nephew. I had no idea how the story would go and it caught me off guard how sad and touching it was. I managed to hold it in until my nephew was asleep and then I had a good cry. It will be hard to read it to Michelle. I really don't want to cry in front of her. I've had to hold back tears (of joy and sorrow) with her a few times. I can be a sentimental fool sometimes (especially when hormonal!)

Any time I see a movie or a commercial or anything eluding to how fast kids grow up and they show a series of clips going from baby to adult, it chokes me up. I remember my Mom used to cry as she'd sing "Where are you going my little one, little one? Where are you going my baby, my own? Turn around and you're 2, turn around and you're 4, turn around and you're a young girl going out of the door." I'm tearing up just typing it now! Time does go so fast. I'm cherishing these days with Michelle. I know she won't be a baby for long. Before I know it she'll be reading books herself, going off to school.

Some say that there isn't a market for books anymore. Paper books are becoming antiquated, being replaced with electronic devices. I'm an old fashioned girl (I don't even have a cellphone yet never mind all these other modern gadgets.) To me nothing compares with holding a real book in your hand. Turning each page (not just touching a computer screen.) And of course for children, you have to have physical books. You can't just hand them a computer screen thing with words on it. Not when they're at the age of putting things into their mouths anyway. Books are magical. They are works of art. They are teachers. They are escapes, glimpses into other lives, other worlds.

I don't know whether my Mom can take all the credit for my love of words and books. I think that like anything else it's a combination of nature and nurture. As she put it, she had a craving for reading while pregnant with me so it was as though I needed it. She didn't experience that at any other time in her life and to this day she doesn't read much aside from the newspaper and my blogs of course! (She loves my blogs but says it is hard on her eyes to get through them. Maybe I should make them shorter!)

Michelle has a pretty good chance of loving words since both her father and I did. (For all his faults I have to admit that he was clever at least. He was the only guy I ever met online who could actually spell! He loved wordplay and was a wiz at Scrabble. We played often and he usually beat me.) I'm also hoping that by introducing her to books early that it will foster a love of reading that will carry through her lifetime. 

I'm trying to do all the right things for Michelle. Aside from nourishing a child's body by feeding her, I think it's just as important to feed her mind. I am so grateful to have this year to spend with her, even though money is tight on maternity leave. These days are so precious. She has so many milestones to go through. So much to learn and discover, so much growing to do. Having the time to play with her, read to her and teach her is priceless to me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Learning Curve

Photo by James Harvey
It's hard to believe it's only been a couple of months so far. In some ways it feels like a year. Yet in another way it's gone by in the blink of an eye. I feel like a different person than I was two months ago. A little more relaxed. A little more patient. (Though I still lose it occasionally!) Overall I feel more confident, more comfortable in my role as a Mom. It feels natural to me now. Of course there are still a lot of things I have to learn along the way, milestones for Michelle and I, but I feel more competent to deal with challenges. I'm starting to get the hang of this motherhood thing!

When I first came home with Michelle I was petrified and overwhelmed. I felt so unsure of myself as a mother. I didn't know what I was doing. It was all new to me. The baby seemed so fragile, like a precious glass vase worth a million dollars. You're afraid to even hold it, terrified of breaking it somehow. With her unstable neck and soft spot on her head I was so nervous about picking her up, holding her, carrying her. The first time I bathed her was the most frightening. I was a nervous wreck. Trembling as I lifted her into the tub. Would she scream the whole time? Would she be too slippery to hold? I had a little whale tub that has a special insert for newborns so she could sit in it and I didn't have to hold her the whole time but I was still scared. She did cry that first time. Maybe she sensed my nervousness. Now we both look forward to "bathies." She's always good for them, wide-eyed and fascinated by the whole thing. She seems to love the water. She kicks her feet and splashes. She even had her first bathtime smile this week (she smiles a lot but hadn't smiled in the bath before.) I try to entertain her during the bath with squeaky voices and songs like "Rubber Ducky" from Sesame Street and "Splish Splash" from the 1950s (which is especially appropriate when I give her a bath on Saturday night as I often do. "Splish splash I was taking a bath, all upon a Saturday night..." Yes, I'm a geek.) Michelle seems to get a kick out of it anyway. Months ago I dreaded her bathtime and kept putting it off. It was so stressful to me, even though she didn't cry I was a nervous wreck. It used to seem like such an ordeal and so difficult. Now it's become routine and I look forward to it. I clear off the counter, bring up the whale tub and fill it (often with one hand while Michelle is in my other arm.) She likes it and it usually settles her down for a good sleep. I know now to time her bath just before her bedtime feeding so once she's all cozy in her sleeper and ready for bed I feed her and then most of the time she'll go to sleep for a few hours (there are no guarantees however, sometimes it seems NOTHING will get her to sleep!)

In the first week I worried about breastfeeding (Would she get enough milk? Would I, and my nipples, survive it?) It was traumatic for me physically and emotionally. I felt so drained feeding her non-stop and feeling like she still wasn't getting enough. And I was bruised, bleeding and chewed to bits by her. I didn't want to give up (though some people were telling me I was crazy and why don't I just switch to formula.) The nipple shield was a godsend. I'd be lost without it. It saves me from bleeding and bruising. Michelle is a pretty voracious eater. She's stronger than the breast pump. And it still feels like she has teeth! I enjoy feeding her though and love the bond that I feel with her. The only time I don't enjoy feeding her is in public which I pretty much refuse to do but I always go prepared with a bottle of my breast milk (which I pump and store when I know I have an outing, like a doctor's appointment, coming up). I am grateful that I've been able to breastfeed and that Michelle is doing so well. At each of her check-ups the doctor has been impressed with how healthy she is and the weight that she gains. I am so relieved that it worked out and I'm glad that I didn't give up when the going was rough in the beginning. I used to lose track of which breast I'd fed her on last. Now I know. I can tell by which breast feels more full (almost hard, engorged.) The whole thing seems magical to me how we're able to produce milk to feed our babies. I feel the letdown when it happens. It's a prickly stinging sensation. When she feeds on one side the other side leaks a little so I've gotten used to having a cloth handy so it doesn't drip everywhere. In the beginning I worried I wouldn't be able to produce enough milk. Now I know that there's more than enough. It's supply and demand so as long as she demands it, it will be supplied.

Michelle doesn't seem so fragile anymore. She can hold her head up well. I can still see the soft spot pulsing on her head but it's getting smaller. I don't feel as fragile anymore. I don't worry so much. I feel more confident as a Mom. I used to be so tenuous and held her so carefully in the cradle position. I didn't like holding her upright against my shoulder (I worried too much about supporting her head.) Now I hold her in either arm in any position though I seem to favour the left arm. She seems to like being upright against my shoulder the best. My sister always used her right arm. It just feels more natural to me to have her on the left and then I have my right arm free to do things. I've become much more adept at doing things with one hand. Occasionally I've even had to lift things with my feet in a pinch!

Thankfully Michelle will be good for a while in her swing, her bumbo or her jumperoo (she's really too small for jumping but just barely fits into the seat and seems to enjoy it. She does bounce around a little. Her legs are so strong and she's constantly kicking. So this gives her a chance to almost stand up on her own.) which allows me to do things like go to the bathroom etc. For a long while there I was just holding it in when I had to go to the washroom because she'd cry and wouldn't let me put her down. I was actually causing myself internal damage!

Life has gotten easier in many ways. Partly because Michelle has settled down somewhat and partly because I don't worry as much. I feel more competent. So many things that seemed difficult if not impossible in the beginning are second nature to me now. I was awkward with the carseat initially and didn't know how to get it into a shopping cart. Now lifting the carseat in and out hundreds of times, it's easy. I struggled with the stroller at first and couldn't seem to unfold it properly then I had a hard time fitting it back into the trunk (it just barely fits). Now I can get the stroller out of the trunk and set up in seconds and put it away easily too. It doesn't seem as heavy and cumbersome anymore because I'm used to it. And Michelle, though she's getting heavier, seems easier to carry because my arms are getting stronger. It's like anything. You do it enough times and it's bound to get easier.

Becoming a new Mom is like starting any other job (but the most important and rewarding job you'll ever have!) There's a learning curve. You are scared and uncertain at the start because you don't have the knowledge or experience. You doubt and second guess yourself. You feel like a fish out of water. It seems like you just don't get it. But then you start, you learn as you go, it gets easier and soon you feel like a pro. Your skills improve. You progress. You go from being a novice to an expert. I had read books about babies and what to expect but it's not the same as actually living it. No book can prepare you for how difficult it's actually going to be. Motherhood is a hands-on job. No guide book, no advice from friends or family, nothing can adequately prepare you for what you are going to encounter. You have to live it. Anything can sound good in theory but until you put it in practice, you just don't know. Case in point -- I was against using a soother initially. I was worried it would interfere with breastfeeding or that she'd get "addicted" to it and it didn't seem right. I was morally opposed to them! But after enduring one too many inconsolable screaming bouts, I finally caved out of desperation. You get to a point where you'd try just about anything. Now I love it. The doctor said it couldn't do any harm and I stopped feeling guilty about it. I realized there are times when she just needs a little extra comfort. She tries chewing on her fist. The pacifier is just an easy fix when she's fussy and overtired. It's a HUGE help, especially when she starts to fuss in the grocery store. Giving her a soother for a few moments of silence is far preferable to a dramatic scene with her screaming at the check-out. Sometimes it soothes her so much she actually falls asleep. I read that a soother is actually good for them to have while sleeping because it helps them to breathe better and reduces the risk of SIDS.

You do whatever works (provided it won't hurt them!) White noise. Car rides. Through trial and error you learn what works. You adapt as necessary. Part of being a Mom is being flexible. You can have plans that sound great in theory but just don't hold up in real life. Life happens. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. The road to Hell was paved with good intentions. Sometimes you need to admit when you're wrong and bend a little. The road to Heaven is paved with compromises.

It's funny because for most of my life I had never imagined myself as a Mom and didn't think I could do it but now it feels like the role was meant for me. I've never been happier. I love Michelle more than anything. She is my destiny. Now don't get me wrong, I still have my bad days! Sometimes I get frustrated. I cry. Exhausted and sleep-deprived much of the time it can tear you down. Everyone has bad days. After a series of good days I started to think that we'd turned a corner. I had reached a point where I felt like "I got this!" I was used to Michelle's idiosyncracies and rhythms. I thought I had her all figured out. When she wants to feed (every 2 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours through the night). When she needs to be changed. When she's sleepy. When she's overtired and cranky. It seemed to be getting easier. She was behaving better overall, actually let me go shopping without screaming. I thought I had become a master at predicting her moods, anticipating and meeting her needs. But Michelle is not a subject that you can learn, like mathematics. She is not an instrument you can master, like a violin. She is a very unique and very complicated little human. Just when you think you have it all figured out, all the rules change. Suddenly, she was feeding more erratically. She wouldn't sleep at all, day or night. I didn't know what to do. I can never get too cocky or she will remind me just how unpredictable, volatile and complex she really is!

Sometimes it seems like she's a little devil, being impossible just for the fun of it, just to show me who's boss. (There's no question that she is!) There were times I thought she must be hungry by now. She'd be crying and chewing her fist. All her other needs had been met. It had to be hunger. So I'd try to nurse her. And she'd scream and turn away and push me away. "OK. So you're not hungry?" so I'd give up and try to pacify her with something else to no avail. Then I would try to feed her again and she would latch on and feed voraciously as though she was starving. But if she was starving why wouldn't she eat the first time?! Or she'd be so tired her eyelids were droopy and she could barely keep her eyes open but instead of falling asleep she'd cry. I'd walk with her for hours, singing to her, dancing with her. Then I'd pass by the mirror to check if she was asleep and her eyes were still open. It was like she was straining to stay awake. Why wouldn't she sleep if she was tired?! I added some of my own lyrics to "If you're happy and you know it, stamp your feet." I started to sing "If you're hungry and you know it, then you eat" and "If you're tired and you know it, go to sleep!" Why would she fight the very things she wants and then complain about it? It doesn't make sense unless she's deliberately being contrary. In a book of nursery rhymes that I read to her they have the one "There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good, she was very very good but when she was bad she was horrid!" The girl in the illustration just happens to be a redhead. Coincidence? Fiery hair, fiery temper. (And yes, I am one too. And yes I was an impossible baby too!)

When she had those difficult days I wondered if it was something I was doing? Did she dislike something I'd eaten that came through my breast milk? I tried cutting out caffeine. It made no difference. Sometimes I think she just has a bad day, gets in a mood and needs to blow off some steam. The saving grace is that usually when she has a really bad day, she's good the next day, either because she's exhausted herself and doesn't have the energy for a tantrum or because she realizes I need a break to keep my sanity and goes easy on me!

I don't have it all figured out because you can't figure Michelle out! She won't let you. The only thing you can expect is the unexpected because the minute you think you see a pattern, she will change it just to throw you off. People will ask me "When does she usually..." (eat, go to sleep, etc.) There is no usually. Every day stands on its own. She has some good days where she doesn't cry too much, sleeps well and is a dream. Then she has some really really bad days where she screams, doesn't sleep and is an absolute nightmare hell-child. But just when you think you can't take anymore, you're at the end of your rope, so frustrated, so exhausted you could collapse, she'll suddenly disarm you with one of her killer smiles -- a big, wide, adorable grin that makes you forgive her for everything. When she is at peace, she is an absolute angel. She has so many adorable expressions -- curious and funny, sweet and innocent. Those are the moments I have to hold on to and remember when she's being a little devil!

The other day she looked up at me, gazing intently into my eyes. I'd never seen the look before. It was different. It was something more than curiosity, it was more like awe. It was a look of love. I felt as though she was realizing I'm her Mommy. I'm the voice she hears singing her lullabies on my shoulder, reading her stories in the rocking chair. I was the voice that she heard, even before she was born. I'm the arms that carry her around for countless hours, rocking her, dancing her, swaying with her. The one that feeds her, changes her, dresses her, bathes her, plays with her and talks with a silly squeaky voice. I'm the face that greets her every morning and smiles and laughs with her. And then she smiled and my heart welled up with so much love. Sometimes when she's crying I hold her face up to my face and look into her eyes and she stops crying. It's as though she understands. I give her everything. She is my world and I am hers. We're in this together. Sometimes she cuts me some slack and goes easier on me. Other times she cries but maybe she doesn't even know what she wants. It must seem a strange world to her sometimes. I can tell she wants to communicate and I think it frustrates her that she can't. Sometimes life is confusing and overwhelming, for all of us, especially when you're so new to the world and you have so much to learn. How can she understand it all? It's hard for me to understand life sometimes and I've been around more than four decades.

She is learning to hold her head up. She's getting better at tummy time. Her neck is quite strong now. She is learning to sit up. The Bumbo chair is great for that and she really seems to enjoy it. She's learning to grab and hold things. She even held my hand the other day which was possibly the sweetest moment of my life. She seems quite interested when I read her books. She really tries to communicate with little sounds. She is learning more each day and will continue to learn, more in her first year than in the rest of her lifetime they say.

I am learning and it's an ongoing process. I'll never be done. I'll never have it all figured out. Each day is different. And there are always new challenges to meet. Michelle is anything but predictable. I do understand some of her little quirks but I can never fully understand everything that she does. At least once she can talk she can tell me what she wants without me having to guess. There are so many milestones coming. Standing, crawling, walking, talking. It will be exciting but each stage will bring new challenges. The rules will constantly change.

While I do feel more confident as a Mom overall, I know there are still a million things left for me to discover along the way. I know that I will make mistakes. I will always have Michelle to keep me humble. If I ever feel too sure of myself, she will no doubt put me back in my place and remind me that I can never have her all figured out, never have all the answers. Each day is a new adventure and I'll always be learning. She will keep growing and keep my guessing. She is full of surprises.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fat Chance

My doctor basically told me there's no way I'm going to get my flat stomach back. I can work out and try to slim down somewhat but most likely my tummy will never return to its former (pre-pregnancy) state. It was depressing news but I didn't want to believe her. After all, I've seen celebrities who popped out babies and then returned to wearing bikinis a few months later, showing off their slim tanned tummies. Of course the majority of them didn't balloon up to nearly 200 lbs while they were pregnant. Some of them barely seemed to gain much at all, just had a cute little baby bump the size of a melon. Sickening, I tell you! On top of that most of them have tricks and tools at their disposal which I don't -- liposuction, personal trainers, a home gym, nutritionists, gourmet chefs who can cook healthy meals, airbrush artists who can correct their flaws in the magazines, etc.

Before becoming pregnant, I was 125 lbs. By the end of my pregnancy I'd gone up to 190 lbs!!! After having Michelle it seemed that I was shedding a lot of weight rather quickly. Of course 10 lbs was just the baby so that was gone instantly. Then another 10-20 lbs in blood and/or water weight came off within the first couple of weeks. Breastfeeding burns 500-700 calories a day and since Michelle wasn't really letting me eat, I was barely consuming enough to survive for the first month. Consequently I had lost 45 lbs before I knew it. "Just 20 more to go!" I thought, "this will be a breeze!" Yeah, not so much. Since Michelle is a little more manageable these days and I've found new ways to entertain/pacify her for a few minutes (including her bumbo chair, jumperoo, pacifier) I'm actually able to cook and eat meals now. It seems that the last 20 lbs is the hardest to lose. I plateaued at 145 lbs and have actually GAINED a few of pounds instead of losing more now. I was hoping to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight of 125. I'd settle for 130. Of course I'm not really helping matters. I haven't really been working out other than carrying Michelle around and I started doing a little yoga. And my eating habits haven't been stellar. I've given into temptation quite a few times. I've also heard that if you don't eat enough for a while your body goes into starvation mode and as soon as you do eat again, starts storing fat to keep from starving again. (One of the reasons deprivation diets don't work. Even if you lose in the short term it can't last. Eventually you will eat again and then you gain even more than before.)

During pregnancy my legs and feet blew up to nearly twice their size. If you read my previous posts while pregnant I even included photos but the pictures didn't do the feet justice. My feet and legs were MASSIVE! They were so swollen it was beyond cankles. They were tree trunks (and we're talking ancient trees with hundreds of rings from deep within untouched forest!) I was so relieved when the swelling did go down a week or so after giving birth. It was nice to see my old feet, ankles and legs again! Most of me did return to normal. Except my belly. I still look pregnant. Decidedly less so than I did in July but still somewhat pregnant. About five months pregnant. I'm still wearing my maternity jeans. They're just so darn comfy with that big elastic thing at the waist. I heard a model say many years ago that to stay (or get) slim you should wear your tightest jeans. That keeps you from eating too much during the day. If you have expanding pants with an elastic waist, you're more likely to expand to fit them. It makes sense. It's like when you eat too much turkey and have to undo your button. With a drawstring waist and no button to pop, you may be tempted to go for seconds or thirds. The turkey isn't the only thing to get stuffed! I could try the tight jean thing with one of my old pairs but I'd rather not walk around uncomfortable and unable to breathe. (As a sidebar, I knew someone who shall remain nameless, who used to wear jeans so skin tight they had to have assistance and a pair of pliers to pull the zipper up! That was the style in the 1970s-1980s...) Aside from the belly my breasts are bigger too but I don't mind them. They can stay. I didn't really have jugs before but then I didn't have milk either! I'm hoping they don't deflate like balloons once I stop breastfeeding...

It's harder to find things to wear these days. I try to wear things that are comfortable. I'm kind of in limbo between the pre-pregnant me and the pregnant me. Some things are too big, others too small. I was pleased that Michelle actually slept long enough for me to reorganize my closet the other day. I put away most of my maternity pants. I did keep my pair of medium maternity jeans which I wear almost daily. I tried on a lot of my old pre-pregnant jeans and pants and was disappointed to find that the majority of them were way too tight. I did find a few looser ones and low rise ones that leave room for my belly. I didn't want to get rid of my skinny jeans. I just put them away for now. I'm hoping maybe I will fit into them again one day. I also dug my sweaters out of hiding and put away the halter tops. I think it's safe to say that summer is well over. The leaves have turned and are falling. It's getting colder than ever. I finally broke down and put my furnace on.

I toyed with the idea of buying a girdle. I've never worn one. I'm not even sure they still sell them or if it was just something they had in the 1950s. I've only seen them on TV. I knew someone with a beer belly but it was hard as a rock. A lead belly! Not much you could do to conceal that but mine is soft and squishy so it can be squeezed in. I figure when I'm wearing clothes no one would know. Since I don't plan to date anytime soon it's not as though anyone is going to see my bare flabby stomach. But I want to be slim again, just for my own sense of well-being. Plus I still have a drawer full of bikinis that I don't want to get rid of. Part of me is hoping to prove my doctor wrong and show up at her office with six pack abs by next summer. Sure. Could happen. (Well no, I didn't even have a six pack before. I think it's harder for women to get them. I had a two pack at most.)

I was pleased to discover that I'm still able to do a headstand at least. I haven't entirely lost my strength, balance and coordination. I guess it's like riding a bicycle. You may be a little wobbly at first but once you learn it your muscles remember even years later. I am going to continue doing yoga and will try to do my headstand once a day as I did before. It is a great workout for your core. I feel all of my muscles tightening as I do it. Unfortunately I don't think it will be enough by itself to lose the "mommy tummy" so I'm also embarking on the "30 Day Shred" again. I've been putting it off because it's a rough workout (it nearly killed me when I did it years ago but it did help me to lose 15 lbs within a month before I went on my tropical vacation.) Of course these days, with the baby, it would be harder to find the time and the space to do the workout. That's what I tell myself as an excuse to keep procrastinating.

Aside from exercising there are of course other things I could be doing to help me lose weight, or at least not gain it. Buying Halloween candy ahead of time was monumentally stupid! I got a 90 pack of chocolate bars (I almost got the 40 pack and then thought "I don't want to run out on Halloween if there are a lot of kids") Yeah. Sure. It's just more for me to eat! There are still a few weeks til Halloween. How many chocolate bars do you think I'll actually have left to hand out to the kids?! Any? I should have waited to the last minute to buy Halloween treats. When I know there is chocolate in the house, it's almost impossible not to eat it. It beckons me from the cupboard. "Come on, just a few Smarties...You know you want to!" That's just way too much temptation. I've lost count how many I've actually consumed so far. The problem with those little bite size bars is that you lie to yourself. "Oh this isn't much! Look how small it is! This can't hurt!" After all, there are only 45 calories in a mini box of Smarties, 40 in an Aero (zero calories in the bubbles after all!) and 60 in Kit Kat and Coffee Crisp. So one by itself won't hurt you. But like they say about Lay's Potato Chips, you can't eat just one. You have enough of these suckers and it adds up. I don't know anyone on the planet who would have the discipline and self-control it would take to eat just ONE candy bar when there's a box of 90 (or 80 now...) just sitting there. This stuff is dangerous. I shouldn't have it in the house! Even as I type this I'm craving it!

I remember being a kid at Halloween and being so excited to come home with my haul, dump out the sack (usually a huge bag or pillow case) and then go back out for another round. Then at the end of the night you dump everything out and sort it into categories (the OCD organizer in me LOVED that) -- things you don't eat which get thrown away (dangerous homemade stuff or partly open packages that Mom forbade us to have as it may have razor blades in it, as well as Kiss candies and black licorice which I hated), chocolate bars, chips, hard candy, etc. And then you'd gorge yourself on about 20 candy bars and a few tubes of rockets and chips and cheesies (even though Mom said just have one of each. AS IF.) Back then I was lucky. I had such a fast metabolism I could eat anything I wanted, as much as I wanted, and never gain a pound. I was rail thin as a kid, still slim as a teen. It wasn't until I hit my 20s that I started to gain a little. Then much more in my 30s (I blame work. A Krispy Kreme opened near my work back then and guys kept bringing in boxes full. I was eating the plain honey glazed like they were going out of style. They melted in your mouth. I squished them down to the size of a Timbit so it didn't look so bad. God they were good! On top of that I was a shift worker and they say that messes up your metabolism and makes you gain weight because you're eating at strange times -- like having lunch at 2 a.m. on nightshift.) At 40 I managed to work out and get back to the best shape of my life, which I hadn't been since I was 20. Little did I know that I'd get pregnant and gain more weight than I ever thought possible. Being pregnant seemed a good excuse to eat. I wasn't exactly careful about calories. I figured it would all come off after I had the baby. I didn't realize how tough it would be to shed.

These days it isn't just my eating habits that are sabotaging me. It's my drinking habits. I have a weakness for sugar. I loves me some Coca-Cola! Especially in those delectable little glass bottles. Mind you, it's only 100 calories in a bottle but they're completely empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever. (And yes I do limit my caffeine intake to 1 or 2 drinks a day. I don't drink coffee or tea. Coke is my one vice. I don't smoke, drink or do drugs either. I never did, even before the baby. Sugar is my addiction!) Add to that the healthy things that I drink -- several glasses of milk, which actually has 130 calories a glass and fruit juice which has 120 calories -- and I may have close to 1000 calories a day without even including food. 

And when it comes to food, it's hit and miss. I make some healthy choices (Special K cereal -- I even add flax seed meal to my cereal for an excellent source of OMEGA-3; asparagus; big garden salads with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and carrots; bananas, blueberries, pears, tuna, chicken breasts, lean ground beef, whole wheat wraps, pasta etc) and some not so healthy -- hotdogs, burgers, pizza.  I do try to eat healthy for the baby's sake since I am breastfeeding. I make sure to have fruits and vegetables, protein and calcium every day. I'm still taking prenatal vitamins so hopefully I'm passing on to the baby all the vitamins and minerals she needs (also giving her vitamin D supplements since that's one thing lacking in breast milk) regardless of my diet. But of course I crave the junk foods and they're the quickest and easiest thing to grab. 
Photo by James Harvey

I do still have my little personal trainer but she's not quite as demanding as she used to be. And while she does give my arms a good workout, carrying, rocking and dancing her every day, I don't think it does much for my belly. My arms actually aren't too bad. They're about the same as they were before. I figure they'll be getting stronger as time goes on and Michelle gets heavier. But I need to do something for my abs. A healthy diet low in sugar and fat is the first step. Exercise is the second. I suppose I should be doing sit-ups. I've never liked them. It's hard to do something that isn't fun. At least yoga is somewhat enjoyable. Jillian Michaels workout is a trip through hell but at least following along with her DVD keeps you motivated. I just have to psych myself up to start it. I'm afraid I won't be able to do it. I remember how hard it was. There were times I thought I'd pass out from exhaustion. It burns about 500 calories. So between that and breastfeeding I should be good to go. I can even have a Big Mac and a bunch of Halloween chocolates. I don't want to do the workout in the basement because it's two flights of stairs away from Michelle (even with the monitor I wouldn't feel comfortable with that.) So I have to clear a place in the family room to do it and then hope that she gives me half an hour to get through it (mind you, I might be happy to have an excuse to stop!) I will do it and once I start I will commit to the full 30 days as I did last time. And with any luck I may lose 15 lbs like I did with the workout years ago.

I look back at my old bikini photos from last summer. I know that there's a fat chance (or a slim chance?) of me returning to my goal weight again after all that my body has been through but I'm going to try. I'm not going to let the doctor discourage me. Anything is possible if you want it badly enough. It just takes discipline and hard work. I just have to be more careful with my diet and if I slip up then just make up for it by exercising more. It's about balance. I will start to work out hardcore (very soon! Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day...) My motivation used to be looking good for Mr. Right. Now my motivation is just to feel good and to be healthy, for me and for my little girl. Something tells me once she's walking I'm really going to have to be in shape to keep up with her.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all the things you are thankful for. Though it has been a difficult year, it has also been my best and I know that I am very blessed. I am most grateful for my family, both my big wacky family of 15 and my little family of two, Michelle and me (well three actually if you include Ali, my tabby cat!) I am most thankful for Michelle -- by far the biggest and the sweetest surprise of my entire life. My angel, my miracle, my everything.

On Saturday we celebrated Thanksgiving at my sister's place. Her hubby's family was there as well so it was quite the crowd and with the kids running amok, it got pretty loud! I was relieved that Michelle was so good though I did have to carry her most of the time. My sister gave my arms a bit of a break by taking her for a few minutes. Reggie was getting jealous so she picked him up too. I was impressed! I have a hard enough time holding my 12 lb baby. I don't know how she can carry Reggie who's at least 3 times that. She said that at least when they're a bit bigger you can rest them on your hip so your arm/wrist isn't taking all the weight. She also explained that you get used to it and build up your arm strength over time. I'm still a newbie Mom. I've only been doing this for two months now. I guess I'll be Hercules before too long!

Of course Thanksgiving is also a time to gorge yourself on too much food and slip into a turkey coma! I have always loved turkey dinners with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. My sister and her hubby made two turkeys, one in the oven and one smoked on the BBQ. It was delicious but somewhat awkward for me to eat as I had to gobble it down, eating with one hand and holding Michelle with the other. Thankfully I managed to get through it without dripping gravy in her hair. A couple of people offered to take her while I ate but she cried for Mama. Someone else cut my turkey up for me at least. As much as I love turkey, it's something I never make myself. To date I have only made turkey ONCE (for the whole family at Christmas in my new house after I'd just moved in.) It turned out pretty well but it was stressful, took hours longer than expected and may have taken years off my life! I'm no Martha Stewart. I wasn't much for entertaining even before the baby so there's no WAY I'd attempt to cook a big meal now that I have Michelle. When the family comes to my place for special occasions, I order pizza or chinese food.

As much as I enjoy getting together with the family, it can be somewhat overwhelming for Michelle and for me. So after a hectic day with the whole gang on Sunday, I decided to take it easy the next day. Michelle and I celebrated Thanksgiving Monday by doing a whole lotta nothing! We didn't go out at all. We just stayed in our pjs all day. She'd wake up to feed and then we'd both go back to sleep. There is an italian expression "La dolce di fare niente" -- the sweetness of doing nothing. They mention it in "Eat, Pray, Love" (one of my favourite films, by the way!) Sometimes you just have to take a breather. Take time to just enjoy life instead of rushing around trying to do too much. We could learn a lot from the italians (and being half italian myself, I suppose it's in my blood!) They don't live to work. Family is the most important thing. Life is a celebration. Take time to eat, to live, to love. Enjoy life's simple pleasures. Sadly it seems to be a North American thing to live to work, to stress out about doing more, having more. People are so busy trying to earn more money to buy the latest gadgets that they forget what really matters. I've known people that were such workaholics that they couldn't even relax when they got home. They always needed to be doing something, working on some project, going somewhere. They couldn't stay still. But a little stillness is good for the soul. I try to balance it out so that if Michelle and I have a really busy day, the next day we'll take a breather.

I'm not sure if it's because of these little breathers but I'm thankful that Michelle seems to be settling down, behaving better overall. Though she still has her bad days and moments, they are fewer and farther between. She doesn't seem to fuss as much and is more easily placated. She also seems to be getting more affectionate. When I hold her she nuzzles into me more and holds me tight. Sometimes she even grabs for my hand. She smiles and coos and tries to have a conversation with me and it's so adorable. I try to respond back with the same sounds she makes so that she'll feel like she's really communicating. I can't wait until she actually starts to speak.

A friend was telling me that the best is yet to come, was saying how much more fun kids are when they start talking and walking around but also warned me I will have to seriously overhaul my living room before Michelle is on the move. I thought my living room was pretty child friendly now with my storage ottomans instead of a glass and chrome table but apparently I still have a ways to go yet. They were suggesting I remove my books and bookcases. I have no intention of doing that. I just hope she doesn't show an interest in the books (as in pulling them out and ripping them apart as my friend suggested she would.)

I can't believe how the days fly by now. We're already into October. Michelle fills my days. She demands most of my time but I don't mind. I love being with her and I also appreciate the moments to myself while she's sleeping. I'm finding that when it comes to time it's about quality, not quantity. I may only get half an hour to myself but I savour it. So many things that I used to take for granted are a treat now. I'm enjoying the simple things. Most of all I cherish each day with Michelle. They go by so fast. I get up with her in the morning and before I know it, it's noon, then it's dinnertime, then it's bedtime. Some days it's nice to get out with her and visit family or friends, run errands, go for walks. Other days I love just staying in with her, sometimes just staying in my pjs all day and having cat naps when she does.

It still blows my mind that a person who didn't even exist a year ago is now the most important person in my life. She's everything to me. I adore her. I didn't even know it was possible to love someone this much. It's unlike anything else I've ever experienced. I was always a love junkie and dove headfirst into a lot of really bad relationships looking for "real love." I wanted to find that one special person to share the rest of my life with. Someone who could make me laugh. Someone who would be there for me no matter what. Someone beautiful inside and out who would inspire me, make me want to be my best self. Someone to wake up with every day. Someone to cuddle with each night. And now I have her.

I am so thankful for Michelle. She really is a miracle. I never expected to have a child, especially at this stage in my life. I had no idea how much it would change me, how happy I would be. These days with Michelle are the happiest days of my life. It seems strange that only a year ago I was a single girl who didn't want to settle down. I thought I wanted to be carefree, wanted excitement, adventure and romance. But now there is nothing I could do, nowhere I could go, no one I could meet that could compare to Michelle. She is the one. My real love. My life partner. My present and my future. My dream come true, beyond my wildest dreams. I wouldn't trade her for the world.