Sunday, April 28, 2013

Crawl Space

I wish I would win the lottery. I wish I could afford to have an 8000 square foot house with lots of room for Michelle to crawl and wobble around without worrying about her bumping into, pulling down or getting into anything. In my small house there really isn't a room that has more than a couple of feet for her to move without getting into something. I'm constantly running to stop her before she can get hurt. Maybe I've been holding her back.

Up until now Michelle hasn't really "crawled" per se. Her version of crawling was more of a caterpillar scooch or worm wiggle with her just pulling herself along by her arms. Even at that she could move surprisingly quickly. She didn't seem to have any interest in crawling anymore at my place. She was more eager to get up on her feet and pulling up on everything in sight -- the ottoman, couch, shelves, anything in her path. She just sits and stands and sits and stands and falls and stands.

Then we were visiting at my sister's house (which is about three times the size of mine). We hadn't been there in a while. Michelle was on the floor in the living room. She was trying to get to my nephew Reggie and suddenly she CRAWLED PERFECTLY up on her knees as though she'd been doing it forever! "What the?!" I turned around and saw her crawling on her knees and I was in shock. "That's the first time she's done that!" I told them. "EVER!" Months ago she would get up on her knees and I'd think she was about to crawl but then she would just rock back and forth and then lay back down. She never seemed to get the concept of one knee in front of the other. She soon found that she could pull herself along the floor by her arms and since that was efficient enough for her she never bothered to use her knees. Now all of a sudden, given more room and the motivation of getting to Reggie, she was crawling like a pro.

I wish I had more crawl space for her. The biggest expanse of space in my house is the hallway or kitchen but there the ceramic tile would be uncomfortable for little knees. My living room is hardwood and though I have an area rug, the ottoman takes up a lot of it (and when she's on that rug all she does is pull up on the ottoman.) In her nursery she's surrounded by furniture to pull up on -- the crib, the change table, the bookshelves so there isn't really an area where she can just crawl.

After her crawling to Reggie and Shannon in the living room, I took her around the hallway, dining room and kitchen to practice her walking. To her little feet it must seem like a shopping mall or a football field at my sister's house compared to my little space. Now that the weather is nice I want to get Michelle a pair of shoes so we can practice walking outside too. They say it's best for babies to learn to walk barefoot but that only works for inside. Though I guess I can have her walk on the sand in my yard once it's warmer and not so damp. I will have to be careful to clean her feet off well before we come back in though because she enjoys chewing her toes. I'll have to get a pair of soft soled shoes for outside. I don't want to spend
too much when they'll only fit her a short time. I know in the olden days they used to have those hard soled white shoes for babies but these days the experts say that softer and more pliable is better. It's more comforable and also easier for them to learn to walk in something that grips the ground like feet rather than a hard sole with no tread that could be slippery. They also used to make shoes really high on the ankle but now experts say that's not good either and can hurt their ankles. My Mom thought that having Michelle walk on her feet too soon or jump in the jolly jumper too much might make her bowl legged. They say that that doesn't happen. Walking barefoot is good for them to develop their muscles. Apparently babies are born with completely flat feet and it's only by practicing walking that they start to develop an arch. I'm noticing a difference in Michelle's little feet with all her standing, walking and jumping.

I've heard that some babies never crawl that they go straight to walking. Other babies scooch along the floor on their bottoms rather than crawling on hands and knees. (My brother's youngest did that.) Every baby is different. They all want to move around and explore but they experiment in their own unique ways and find what feels comfortable for them. Perhaps now that Michelle has mastered crawling perfectly she'll be doing more of that. Crawling is less nerve-wracking than the standing and pulling up. I'm constantly afraid of her falling and hurting herself. Once she's walking I can imagine her running around my sister's place (as kids always do there, running in a loop around the kitchen, hallway, living room and servery.) I'll take her to parks with big fields of grass to run around in too. A great big space with nothing to bump into and a soft carpet of green grass to catch you if you fall.

My backyard isn't very practical for a baby. I never imagined when I was planning my tropical themed yard that one day I would have a baby in it. The sand is soft at least but there's no grass to run around on, just the flagstone patio and a big garden at the back. Years ago I hated the grass because it was becoming overrun with weeds and after a trip to the Dominican I was inspired to tear it all out and create my own little beach -- with a patio, sand and a tropical garden instead of grass. My boyfriend at the time indulged my fantasy and helped me create it. Had I known there would be a little girl learning to walk here someday I'd have left the grass, weeds and all, alone. (I also wouldn't have bought a convertible!) I was a single girl afraid of commitment. In a million years I never expected to be a Mom. This is the biggest commitment of my life. A child is the biggest commitment there is. Romances may fall apart and end in break-ups or divorce but a child is forever. No matter how old she gets, she'll always be my little girl.

You just never know what life is going to throw at you. It's strange because I always thought of myself as a control freak. I tried to plan everything and have no surprises and yet the greatest joy in my life, the best thing that ever happened to me -- my little Michelle -- took me by complete surprise and changed everything. The things that I thought I wanted or thought were so important fade in significance and she is all that matters to me now. Life's plot twists are what make it an adventure. If you knew exactly what each day would hold what fun would it be? These days every day is a surprise. I never know what Michelle is going to do next.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My baby is a head banger!

I'm not sure how it happened. It's not as though I've been playing heavy metal music but Michelle has become a head banger. When she's sitting on my lap sometimes she'll rock and bang her head on my chest. That seemed harmless enough. It hurts me more than her. When she's sitting on the couch and bangs her head against the back of it it's so soft and cushiony that she just bounces forward. The worst is when she bangs her head against the back of the high chair. Though there is a bit of a pad on it it really isn't that cushiony so she's hitting her head against hard plastic. Sometimes when she really hits hard she starts to cry. I tried explaining to her to stop it and that she was just hurting herself but to no avail. I'm not sure if it's out of boredom or frustration or whether she just started doing it because she realized she could. Someday soon I hope she'll learn the lesson that just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

I remember seeing a scene in a movie while I was pregnant where a baby was standing in his crib and banging his head against the bars repeatedly. I think it was the movie "Change Up" which incidentally is a hilarious film about two men becoming switched after inadvertently casting a spell at a magical fountain. The single one ends up in the married father's body and vice versa so they each get to see how the other half lives. Anyway, at the time I thought it was so far-fetched. "As if a baby would actually do that!" Now I realize that it is possible. As babies discover new and different things they can do physically they can become fixated on certain actions and keep repeating them until they tire of it or discover something new to move on to. Michelle still loves clapping her hands as well. She's also started a new monster growling noise. I was on the phone with my Mom one day and she heard Michelle in the background going "Grrrrr" like a bear or a tiger. "What is THAT?!" my Mom asked. "The baby. Doing her monster noise." "She should be in the movies!" my Mom said. Michelle is also quite the little screamer. "She loves the sound of her own voice!" my Mom said. I can definitely imagine Michelle in movies. She certainly has a flair for the dramatic. I have no idea where she gets it from.

Though not necessarily a metalhead -- apart from the head banging -- Michelle is definitely a music fan. When she hears music she starts to boogie a little, bouncing her legs and clapping her hands. Sometimes she gets really excited and squeals in delight. When she jumps in her jolly jumper (which is now more of a run and swing action) sometimes I'll put some music on and dance with her and she laughs her head off. She gets a kick out of seeing Mama acting silly. I loved to go dancing back in the day so I still like to cut a rug once in a while with the baby. It's really cute when she's holding on to the ottoman and starts to dance. I make sure to have pillows all around her so she has a soft place to fall. She's getting better at going from standing (or dancing) to sitting without falling down. 

Michelle is also fascinated by my guitar. She likes watching me play and even tries to play it herself. Unfortunately now it seems that my guitar has swallowed my nipple shield...
One day I was trying to quickly check my email. I had Michelle with me in the office. She was being good and was playing with the nipple shield (I had just finished nursing her and she likes to grab it off me and play with it for a few minutes. I usually let her. These days anything that will entertain her for two seconds is a godsend as long as it won't hurt her.) I didn't figure she could do any harm. Next thing I knew I could hear a guitar string being strummed. She had crawled over to the guitar at lightning speed. "OMG!" I rushed over to her before she could pull it over on herself or anything. I picked her up and noticed that the nipple shield wasn't in her hand. I checked all over the carpet. There was no sign of it. Mind you, it can be a challenge trying to locate something that is almost invisibile -- a clear little circle of silicone/latex or whatever it's made out of. After scouring the carpet for 10 minutes I began to deduce that it was most likely INSIDE the guitar. Great. Now if it was a hard object I could shake the guitar and hear it rattling but because it's a soft rubber thing (and no doubt sticky as ever with baby drool on it) it's probably stuck inside the wood somewhere. One day if and when I'm changing guitar strings (I've never actually done it myself and it won't be any time soon) I may find it and keep it as a souvenir but until then I've pretty much written it off. Thank God I had a spare one. I have to be really careful with it now though. Considering I'm supposed to be weaning Michelle in a few months (babies can have cow's milk at a year so I do want to start cutting down on nursing if not cutting it out entirely at 12 months) it wouldn't make sense to go out and buy another one as a spare. My Mom asked "Can't you just try nursing her without it?" but I've gone all this time with the shield I don't want to confuse her now. We're both used to the way things are and I don't want to spoil it. Plus I'm afraid it would hurt too much. My nipples have remained soft and pink so I don't want to get them calloused with a bare feeding now. There was a while there that Michelle was being more rough with me and I was red and sore but the doctor prescribed me a cream that worked wonders and thankfully it was just a phase and Michelle has been going easier on me. Also the fact that I have cut down the feedings somewhat -- from every two hours to every three -- has probably helped. I am going to try cutting down to every four hours once she hits 9-10 months. My Mom asked if the guitar sounds any different now. I don't notice a difference but I figure the shield has to be in there because it's nowhere else in the room and can't have vanished into thin air (though sometimes it seems like things do!)

It's ironic when I try so hard to keep Michelle from banging her head accidentally (watching her like a hawk, putting pillows everywhere in case she falls, running to put my hand there to protect her from near misses -- thousands of them -- like hitting her head on the bookshelves, the dresser and other hard furniture as she bends over, pulls up and grabs at her toys and books) that she would start doing it on purpose. I know that she will figure out (hopefully sooner rather than later) the cause and effect of it. To realize that she's hurting herself and to stop it. I try to prevent her from ever being hurt but my Mom pointed out that I can't protect her 100% forever and that part of learning is getting a few bumps and bruises here and there. My sister said that she had a helmet for my niece when she was little and learning to walk. Shannon hated it though and my sister didn't like putting it on her. I probably would have been tempted to get a helmet for Michelle if I'd ever seen anything like that. I can't recall ever seeing one in a store and I don't do a lot of shopping these days. I have a feeling she would hate wearing a helmet anyway and be pulling at it and screaming. She can't stand anything restrictive or confining.

I have to say I do like a wide variety of music and even enjoyed some metal when I was younger. Since I'm writing about head banging anyway, just for fun, here's Quiet Riot's video for "Bang your Head! (Metal Health)" --

At least my little head banger isn't such a night owl anymore (KNOCK ON WOOD!) She's back to sleeping fairly well at night for the last couple of nights at least. I'm hoping it's a pattern that sticks. After a long, cold, snowy Winter, it seems Spring is finally here. The weather has been really nice so we've been going out for walks a lot more and even sitting on my backyard garden swing for a while in the afternoon. I hadn't been out on it since I was pregnant. Half the time it's been lying on its side blown over by the wind. Michelle really enjoys being outside. Maybe the fresh air is doing her good and helping her sleep better at night. Maybe she's going through a growth spurt and needs the rest. Or maybe my hyper little running, swinging, boogie woogie head banging thrill seeker just wears herself out.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


"Dada," I hear all day long, "Da-da-da-da."
"Mama," I reply, trying to reinforce it with my lips pressed together "Mmmmm" followed by an exaggerated "Ah" sound -- "Maaa-maaa. Ma-ma-ma. Say MAMA." Michelle just laughs at me. I know that she understands the word. She knows that I'm her Mama. "Where's Mama? Peekaboo!" I am surprised by how many words she knows actually. She knows star now. She was playing with her shape sorter and I asked her which shape was the star. I was amazed when she picked it up (Ok it could have been coincidence but she had a 1 in 9 chance.) When I sang "Twinkle twinkle little star" she got excited, clenched her fist and shook the little plastic turquoise star. She makes associations between words and objects and pictures. She knows "monkey," "cat," "teddy," "fish." She knows water and gets excited whenever she has water in her sippy cup. Although she understands the words she doesn't really try to say them. She makes a few sounds but mostly all that comes out is "Dada!"

My campaign to get Michelle to say "Mama" isn't going so well. I know it doesn't mean anything but I can't help but find it ironic that her first and favourite word is "Dada" when there's no dad in the picture. I know that if Mike (her deadbeat disappearing dad who skipped out when I was 4 months prego without a word and still no apology or explanation to this day) had stuck around he'd be gloating. He was so competitive (he usually beat me at Scrabble, a fact which he loved considering I have a B.A. Specialist in English). He would get a real kick out of Michelle saying "Dada" rather than Mama. He would probably say "Ha ha! She loves me best! Neener!" (Because that's just the kind of weasel he was.) To all the mothers out there who feel hurt and rejected when baby says "Dada" before "Mama," let me assure you that it means nothing. Michelle never hears the word and has no daddy in the picture yet that's what she says. It's just an easy sound to make.

"Dada" is in a sense a nonsense word, a symbol of meaninglessness. Dada was an avant-garde art movement in the early 20th Century which began in reaction to the atrocities of war. It was a form of art that was abstract, nonsensical and irrational. It was also a strange song in the 80s by the German band, Trio -- "Da da da." I found it annoying at the time but I find it kind of catchy now. I played it for Michelle and she enjoyed it (in retrospect I shouldn't let her hear anything that's going to reinforce her Dada habit!)


Michelle and I were in Walmart the other day and she was talking a blue streak. "DADA!" at the top of her lungs as I went down the cereal aisle. "Da-da-da!" as I grabbed two bags of milk. When a man would walk by and she'd yell "Dada!" I was afraid he'd think she was talking to him. I was waiting for someone to say "Aww isn't that cute? She's calling for Dada!" and I would have had to explain "She'd have to call a lot louder than that. I don't even know where he lives!" Thankfully no one mentioned it. She did however have a lot of admirers. "She's adorable!" "Aren't you a cutie?" "What a little sweetheart!" I countered each "Dada" with a "Mama" to no avail. Next thing I knew she was squealing and screaming with delight. She was so loud that she made some unsuspecting shoppers jump. I couldn't help but laugh. The levity didn't last however. By the time I went to cash out, Michelle had had enough and began to scream. She screameed all the way home and while I was bringing in the groceries. I was suddenly wishing I had just ordered them online again.

Sometimes I almost feel like Michelle has a little of her dad's sadistic streak in her. I have to cut her nails constantly (which believe me is NO EASY FEAT! She wiggles and squirms and screams. I have become a pro however with practice and have never nipped her fingers again since that one time I did when she was a newborn) and she still manages to dig her nails into my arm. Her worst trick was the other night I was carrying her and all of a sudden she grabbed my right nipple and pinched it with all her might. It caught me off guard and hurt so much I screamed "OW! Don't EVER do that again! You HURT Mama!" I know (at least I'm pretty sure) she didn't mean to do it. She doesn't understand about hurting me but it's still brutal when it happens. It's funny that I used to call her dad a monster and he called me an angel. I guess Michelle has a little of both of us in her. Sometimes she's my little monster and sometimes she's my angel.

My fantasy is that maybe Michelle will say "Mama" by Mother's Day. It's a few weeks away. It could happen. I can't believe she'll be 9 months at the end of April. Time is flying waaaay too fast. I know when I was at the doctor with her last time and the doctor said she wouldn't need to see Michelle again until she was 9 months it seemed like such a long way away. Now it's only a couple of weeks away. It's scary how fast the months go by now.

Michelle is trying so hard to stand and walk on her own, constantly pulling up on everything. I wonder which will come first, the walking or saying "Mama." Probably once she starts saying Mama I'll never hear the end of it. Everytime she falls or wants anything it'll be "MAMA! MAMAAA!" It will be music to my ears.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kisses and Hugs xoxoxo

Motherhood is a thankless job much of the time. It's the hardest job in the world. With the longest hours and the lowest pay. But it is also the most rewarding labour of love you could ever have.

Michelle couldn't possibly understand the sacrifices I've made for her -- physically, emotionally, financially and in every conceivable way -- turning my life as a carefree single girl on its head. She doesn't realize how much it takes out of me caring for her 24-7 without help, how much it hurts to lift her (all 17+ pounds of her) and carry her several times a day on a wrist that aches so badly sometimes I almost throw up (it's the wrist I had carpal tunnel in while pregnant and it is sure getting a workout now. There isn't much I can do. Keeping pressure off of it isn't an option. I've tried carrying her in my right arm instead and I can't seem to do it. It doesn't feel natural and then I can't do things with my left hand anyway so I'm kind of stuck.) How hard it is to get anything done when she doesn't give me a second's peace. How many things I've had to give up. How stressful it is trying to make ends meet and reorganize my life to do what's best for her. She can't say "Thank you Mama" for all that I do. She still hasn't said "Mama" though she did say "Nana" a few times. I know she's just making sounds at this point. She knows I'm her Mama though. She recognizes several words and that is definitely one. I just can't wait for her to say "Mama" and "I love you."

Even when she's old enough to talk she wouldn't necessarily understand or appreciate all that I've done and will do for her. Perhaps not until she's an adult and even then, until she has kids herself, she probably couldn't fully understand. I know my mother always told me "You won't understand until you're a mother yourself." I never expected to be a Mom but now that I am I see that she was right and I love and appreciate my Mom more than ever. Mothers do so much, give so much of themselves every day, asking for nothing in return. Even before you are born, carrying you and caring for you while pregnant. Then when you're a baby, doing everything for you, giving you all of her time and energy and love and throughout your life, being there for you no matter what. Motherhood is also a job that never ends. No matter how old your child gets, she's still your little girl.

I remember the song "No charge" by Tammy Wynette -- a mother's response to her son when he was asking to be paid for the chores that he did. I get teary hearing it or reading it because I'm a sentimental fool. The first time I heard the song many years ago I got a tear in my eye. I never could have imagined that one day I'd be a mother myself. The song is even more touching to me now.

"For the nine months I carried you growing inside me, no charge.
For the nights I sat up with you, doctored you, prayed for you, no charge.
For the time and the tears that you've cost through the years, no charge.
And when you add it all up the full cost of my love is no charge..."

Sometimes when I'm having a really bad day, on no sleep and Michelle is fussy and everything goes wrong, I wonder how I'll cope. Then when she smiles and laughs my stress melts away and I feel so grateful. Recently she has started doing the sweetest thing ever. Suddenly she'll lean in and put her mouth on my cheek. She doesn't understand about puckering up yet but her intentions are good. Michelle gives me a kiss. Her own open-mouthed awkward baby version of a kiss. I love it. My heart melts and I feel like the luckiest person on earth each time she does it. I kiss her back and say "What a nice girl! I love you, sweet girl!" Sometimes she'll do it on command when I say "Give Mama kisses?" (which is how my sister was able to capture these photos of her kissing me) but other times she just spontaneously kisses me and hugs me, often several times a day. She'll clasp my face gently and put her mouth on my cheek. And it makes everything I go through (even my worst days) worthwhile. Sure she can be a shrieking monster sometimes but then she can be my sweet little angel. And in those moments it does feel like she's saying "Thank you Mama" and "I love you."

Mind you her first kiss was on Grandma's cheek, not Mom's and yes I was understandably hurt! She only sees my Mom now and then and sees me all the time. It's like I was being taken for granted. I got over it. I know that she loves her Grandma and Grandpa and gets excited when we visit them. Now that Michelle is kissing me all the time it makes me so happy. Of course I have always been affectionate with her. I kiss her hundreds of times a day. Everytime I'm holding her (which is often!) I can't resist kissing her. I noticed when I used to take her to the public playtime that no one else seemed to kiss their babies at all. Perhaps I'm strange, just overly affectionate. I can't help it. I'm happy to see that Michelle is affectionate too. She's also very intense (as I am and her father was) which can be good and bad. She gets so excited by the smallest things (even just drinking water from her sippy cup by herself) that she'll scream and squeal at the top of her lungs in delight or clench her fists and shake. She also gets upset beyond belief and has a stage 3 meltdown when she's overtired and cranky, doesn't get her way instantly, etc. My Mom says I'm probably making it worse by spoiling her and catering to her every whim, never letting her cry for more than a second. I can't help it. I would feel too guilty letting her cry. It's also probably the most stressful sound on the planet. When my Mom is on speakerphone and Michelle starts screaming (because she's on the change table for instance, which she HATES), Mom usually ends the call because she can't take the noise.

There was no escape for Mom though when she was in the car with Michelle screaming on the way to the Princess Margaret Dream Home the other day! It's been a tradition with my sister, my Mom and I for the last several years to go and tour the PMHF Lottery Dream Home. The homes are always massive and beautifully decorated. It's fascinating to walk through an over 8,000 square foot home, to see how the other half lives. The experience is a lot different now with the baby though. For one we have to take separate cars because of the child seats. I followed my sister there. A long drive with the baby isn't always a picnic. Sometimes she sleeps and is content but when she has reached her limit, she certainly lets you know. The sound of an infant shrieking is even more stressful in the confines of a vehicle when you're trying to concentrate on the road on a six lane highway. My Mom sat in the backseat with Michelle to entertain her, give her a drink etc while we drove but she could only do so much. Michelle doesn't like being strapped in her carseat for very long and when she's had enough, she screams.

We made it there in one piece anyway and Michelle was good as gold while we were in the house. She seemed fascinated by it all. I put her in the kangaroo carrying pouch my Mom had given me to save my arms. It's murder on my back and shoulders but at least my wrists get a break. Strangers commented on how cute she was and how she "had the best seat in the house!" It feels kind of weird carrying her in front of me like that with my hands free. It's like she's an alien leaping out of my stomach. The house was crowded and I had to make sure people didn't bump into her.

Michelle has really been a handful lately. She's back to barely sleeping at all so it's very hard to get things done and I can't leave her for a second while she's awake because she's pulling up on everything and standing precariously and I'm constantly afraid she's going to fall and bang her head. My Mom says she'll never learn to do it on her own if I'm constantly catching her but I can't let her fall. I'm trying to teach her to fall on her butt so it doesn't hurt. I know that even when she can stand and sit back down and walk by herself the worries won't end -- then new worries will begin. She's already trying to get into EVERYTHING. She grabs at everything in sight. She's so curious she just has to be into everything. I let her explore things if I figure they can't hurt her. She had a great time tearing up some of the flyers and my junk mail (I don't let her touch newsprint and get her hands black but anything that has magazine quality pages is fair game.) She loves to rip and crinkle paper. I have to keep the Kleenex box out of reach or she pulls all the tissues out.

I never expected to be a Mom but now that I am one I know it was meant to be. I couldn't have imagined how much I could love someone, especially someone who can be so difficult and demanding at times. Sure she drives me crazy sometimes but she's worth it. I've given up sleep, money, my figure, most of my hobbies, life as I knew it. What I've gained is something more precious than anything -- a love beyond my wildest dreams. I feel so blessed. I am so grateful. I love her so much sometimes it feels like my heart may burst -- like the Grinch at the end of the animated Dr. Seuss classic "The Grinch that Stole Christmas" when his heart grows to three times its size and breaks the meter and he suddenly has the strength of 10 men and lifts the sleigh over his head. When Michelle hugs and kisses me, I know that she is the sweetest, most precious, most important thing in my life and I will do anything for her.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Crib Notes

Michelle slept in her crib! For almost an hour! Hey, it's a start.

While I was pregnant and decorating her nursery I never imagined that Michelle wouldn't actually be sleeping in her crib at all for the first 8 months. She hasn't been in it more than a few minutes here and there since I brought her home from the hospital. Until I actually brought her home I had no idea what it would be like. I had a bassinett in my room next to the bed to have her close to me for the first couple of months and then planned to put her in her crib at 3 months. It didn't quite pan out that way. She hated the bassinett and wouldn't sleep in it at all. I wound up selling it. The crib being that much further away seemed even more impossible.

Lying down was the only breastfeeding position that was comfortable for me and it seemed only natural to have her sleep with me since she was up several times a night to nurse. She would wake up and feed and then we'd both go back to sleep. It was the perfect arrangement. Lifting her up and putting her in the crib after each feeding (risking waking her up and having to sing, rock or otherwise get her back to sleep only to have her wake up in about an hour anyway to nurse again) wouldn't make much sense. It was just far more convenient to have her sleep with me. It was also a bonding experience for both of us. I am 100% an "attachment parent" (I can't relate to the "detachment" or "tough love" parents who would say I should just leave her to cry, should be weaning her etc.) I have to do what feels right for Michelle and me. Attachment and detachment parents will never see eye to eye. Attachment parents put baby first, detachment parents put themselves first and figure baby will just have to conform to their rules. Detachment parents argue that children who are left to cry will become tougher, more independent. Attachment parents would argue that children who feel loved and whose needs are met will be more secure, compassionate, happier and healthier overall (there is some research to back them up as well). Most parents probably try a compromise somewhere in the middle. You may try to cater to baby's every whim but sometimes baby has to conform to your schedule. It is definitely a tricky balance and until you are a parent yourself you really don't know what you'll do. I'm sure it's different when you have more children as well. Since Michelle is an only child she gets all of my love and attention. Someone with several children would probably have to leave them to cry and tough it out on their own a lot because there wouldn't be much time to devote to any one child.

Maybe things would be different if I had a partner who was pressuring me to have Michelle sleep in the crib so we could share a bed together -- I don't think so though. I think even if I had a man in the picture he'd have to fend for himself while Michelle and I shared a bed. (I've heard it isn't safe for a man to sleep in the same bed with a child because men don't have the same maternal instinct and may sleep too soundly and roll over onto the baby.) As it is, I'm all Michelle has and she's all I have. Sharing a bed makes sense for us, other than the safety issue now that she's so rambunctious. I will always do what I feel is best for Michelle, always put her first, no matter what the sacrifice. I believe that love is the greatest gift I can give her. If she feels loved and her needs are met then I believe that gives her a solid foundation for the rest of her life. Obviously not everyone agrees. I don't pretend to be an expert. I'm a first (and only!) time Mom and learning as I go. When it comes to nutrition etc, I try to do the right things according to the experts and the latest research. The doctors all agree that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby and the longer you can nurse them, the better. There are health benefits, physically (it boosts their immunity) and mentally (studies have shown that breastfed babies are more intelligent) as well as emotional benefits and bonding. When I have questions or problems I'm grateful to have a support network (namely my Mom and sister!) to turn to for advice, support, encouragement. They have been a lifeline for me. Though I don't always agree with my Mom (her generation did many things VERY differently) I still depend on her expertise as a Mom of four. Sometimes there are so many conflicting answers and no clear solutions and I just have to rely on my own instincts, what I feel in my gut to be right.

To me, it doesn't feel right to let Michelle cry. Since she can't talk, it's her only way of communicating. It wouldn't feel right to ignore her if she needs something. Even if I am spoiling her, I can't help it. Someone told me you can't spoil a child with love. The only time Michelle ever cried more than a minute was when it was unavoidable (like when I was driving on the highway.) As a single Mom, it's not an option to leave her. I have to take her with me everywhere. Sometimes I did avoid driving or going out just to avoid upsetting her (as I mentioned I even started ordering my groceries online.) Even while driving I'd try to comfort her by reaching into the backseat to give her her soother etc. Or singing bar after bar of The Wheels on the Bus (because for some reason that one song stopped her from crying) until I ran out of people and things to be found on the bus (it was getting rather ridiculous but if it kept her happy, I'd keep it going. "The cow on the bus goes Moo, Moo, Moo...")

Though I do still plan to co-sleep with Michelle, I have learned (the hard way -- if you read my last post, "Off the rails." She fell out of bed. She may not have been traumatized by it but I was!) that I can't leave her to nap in my bed anymore if I'm not going to be there next to her. She moves too quickly and can crawl over the edge in seconds. So in the early evening and during her afternoon nap, I've been trying to put her in her crib for her own safety. One night I even managed to transfer her from the bed to the crib so I could have a shower and know that she was safe. I still rushed just in case she woke up and got frightened (I always imagine I hear her crying when I'm in the shower so I never really get to enjoy a shower. I used to like long hot showers. Now my showers are about 2 minutes or less.) But at least I knew she couldn't roll out of it. I was relieved to turn off the water and hear silence.

I'm also getting Michelle used to being in the crib by letting her play in it when she's wide awake and in good spirits. I put a couple of her toys in it and played peekaboo with her favourite fish puppet. Since I don't have a playpen, the crib seemed like just about the only safe place to leave her for a moment while I try to put laundry away. I can't turn away for a second now that she's learning to stand because she CONSTANTLY pulls up on everything and I'm afraid of her banging her head. She laughed and seemed happy playing in the crib until I tried to leave the room to put some laundry away. "Mama's right here," I assured her and came back before she could get too upset. She started really having fun with it and pulling herself up on the rails to stand. At least when she fell back on the mattress she couldn't get hurt. I even got some video of her playing in her crib:

Her first hour sleeping in the crib happened during an afternoon nap. She fell asleep in my arms and I thought, this is my chance. I very gently placed her in the crib. I thought that maybe if I left my pajama top next to her it might be comforting to her to have my scent nearby. It seemed to work. She slept for close to an hour. Later that evening I did the same thing and it worked again. When I went to check on her, I found her snuggling my pajamas. I had a flashback of her father. He was so dependent on me, like a big baby himself, even at 32 years old. He never wanted me out of his sight. He sulked when I had to go to work. One morning I came home after nightshift and found him sleeping with his face buried in my pajamas. It was so sweet I took a picture. I teased him about it later. He admitted that it was comforting to him to have my scent there. "Your pjs smell sweet, like you." I will still never understand how he could leave. Whether it was love or even just dependency, it seemed like he couldn't live without me for a second. Then inexplicably he disappears, forever. Maybe he resented being dependent on me. Maybe he realized that once the baby was in the picture she would get all of my attention and he would be pushed aside. Who knows? Seeing Michelle sleeping with my pajamas reminded me of him though. I still can't fathom how he could leave her. I know I wasn't always a picnic to be around (especially while pregnant and hormonal) but how could he leave his own child?

While I was pregnant with Michelle and getting the nursery ready my Mom suggested that I may not even end up using the crib. My sister had been co-sleeping with my nephew so he hadn't really used the crib. "Oh no," I assured her, "the baby will definitely sleep in the crib." I figured I would need my space, my privacy and my sleep. I was also nervous of the idea of sleeping with the baby. I thought I might roll over on her or suffocate her or something. Once I brought her home, all my plans were out the window. I realized that your maternal instincts prevent you from rolling over on your baby. As one nurse told me, it's only in North America that people frown on co-sleeping. In Europe, it's the norm. She said that unless you are obese or use drugs or alcohol, you would always be alert enough to wake up at the baby's slightest movements so there would be no danger of rolling on her. She did add that this doesn't apply to men who don't have the same instinct and can sleep more soundly(probably why when a baby cries in the night it's usually Mom who gets up, though maybe the men are just better at pretending to sleep.) As far as needing my space or privacy, that was out the window too. It's strange because although I never planned to have children, the moment I found out I was pregnant, a feeling of love and protectiveness came over me. A latent maternal instinct, that I never knew I had, rose to the surface. I couldn't imagine me as a Mom. I thought I was too selfish, too independent, too impatient. The thought of the responsibility terrified me. When my doctor asked me once if I thought about having children I told her I was too immature. She said that admitting that was a sign of maturity. She told me that because I realize what a huge responsibility children are,  I would make a good Mom, that some people blunder into it with no thought of how much work a child is. It was a strange feeling being pregnant. Something that I didn't even think I wanted, something that terrified me beyond anything was now the greatest joy of my life. Suddenly this little person who didn't even exist before was the most important person in the world to me. I have sacrificed everything for her -- body, soul, finances, lifestyle. I give her all of my time and energy. Everything is for her now. It's funny because I know women who wanted children so badly but then after having them felt overwhelmed and couldn't wait to get back to work to get a break, after just two months on mat leave. They went stir crazy being home with baby and back to work even though the cost of daycare was as much as they were earning at their jobs and spend only an hour a day with their kids after work, even getting a sitter on the weekends so they can go out. Meanwhile I never planned to have kids at all and now I can't even bear to be away from her for an hour! So the moral of the story is -- you just don't know. You may think you know what you want (or don't want) in life, until life actually happens to you and you find out who you really are. I knew that I wanted love in my life. I thought it was romantic love but it turns out it is the love of a child, which is deeper, more true than anything I've experienced. And it's worth all the sacrifices in the world.

I managed to sneak her into her crib again and she's sleeping as I type this (knock on wood!) My fantasy now is that one day she will actually sleep in her crib for the whole night. Maybe one day. When she's ready. Having my bed to myself again and being able to sprawl out would be a bit of a treat. I have to admit I would miss sleeping next to her though. I know that it will be tough on me (maybe even more so than on her) to give up breastfeeding when I do. I will miss that bond between us. Sometimes I watch her sleeping next to me like a little angel and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. It more than makes up for the times when she keeps me up all night driving me crazy!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Off the rails

The unthinkable happened. Michelle fell. Now that Michelle is more mobile, she's a danger to herself and I'm not sure what I'm going to do. She loves pulling up, crawling, climbing, lunging. Her most dangerous stunt so far was diving over the rail at the side of the bed. If I'd been one second sooner I would have caught her.

We've been co-sleeping from the beginning. Although she has a crib she has never spent more than a few minutes in it (minutes of her screaming bloody murder I might add). Because I was breastfeeding her every two hours through the night it just seemed the natural thing to do to have her sleep next to me. She would wake up to nurse and then (when I was lucky) go right back to sleep. It was the only way I got any sleep at all. Any time I tried to put her in her crib, she just wouldn't have it. I had a bassinett and wound up selling it. Until I actually had her at home with me I had no idea what it would be like. She wouldn't sleep anywhere or any way except next to me.

People talk about "sleep training" where you just leave your baby to cry with the assumption that eventually she'll wear herself out and fall asleep and over time she'll learn that this is just how it is, crying less and less each night. The problem is although that may work for ordinary babies, Michelle is far from ordinary. I think she could probably scream all night if I left her there. Which I wouldn't. I'm a softie. Even at my most frustrated moments, the longest I could ever leave her to cry in the crib was 5 minutes. Well it was probably more like 3 minutes but it felt like an eternity. Sometimes when we were in the car and she was unhappy she could scream for almost an hour (and let me tell you I don't think there are too many things as stressful as driving with a screaming baby. Thank goodness she seems to enjoy car rides now overall. She either sleeps or sits contentedly looking out the window most of the time now. Though of course now that I've said that, it probably won't happen again. Just when I think things are getting better or eaiser in some way, it changes.) So now I don't know what to do about the sleeping situation. Leaving her to cry in the crib just seems cruel but letting her sleep in my bed is no longer safe now that she's crawling and climbing around. Ironically it says Safety First right on the rail but then again they do warn you on it, in fine print that it is no substitute for a crib and should only be used for children that are old enough to climb out of an adult bed normally. It used to hold her in when she could do nothing more than roll but she's an acrobat now and you can't keep her still.

Michelle tries to pull up on everything now so I have pillows all over the family room. I've been worried about her falling on the hardwood floor when she tries to stand by the ottoman. I wasn't even thinking of her falling in my room because the only time she's in my room is when she's sleeping. As soon as she wakes up I hear her and run to her before she'd have a chance to do anything anyway (or so I thought). My Mom kept bringing it up. She kept saying that Michelle could even sneak out of bed when I'm lying next to her. I told her there is no way that would happen. When I'm next to her my maternal instincts kick in if she stirs in the slightest. The problem is when I'm not there. I guess from now on I'll just have to try to put her in her crib when she falls asleep, even though she'll likely wake up instantly, screaming. I thought the bed was safe enough. I had a rail on one side and a body pillow on the other. I also had pillows at the foot of the bed. Surrounded by barriers, she would sit up and cry and I would come and get her before she could move. Unfortunately these days she's moving a lot more and a lot faster. I didn't get there in time.

Michelle had been cranky that day. She'd only had a short morning nap and no afternoon nap. We had a nice visit with Tara and Elena (I'd spoken with her online and felt like I knew her but we hadn't actually met) mid-afternoon. Ironically we had even discussed sleeping arrangements. Tara had a convertible crib for Elena and had that against the bed, with high railings to keep her safe. I just had a short white railing thing that my Mom had given me on one side and a body pillow on the other.

If Michelle didn't have an afternoon nap then she'd be falling asleep at dinnertime and wouldn't sleep at night. I couldn't have that. Though it was a little cold and windy out I took Michelle for a walk after they had left. As expected she was out before I even got to the end of the street. She remained asleep long enough for me to make and eat my dinner then woke up just in time to be nursed. To my surprise she fell asleep again while nursing. "Oh dear" I thought, "she won't sleep tonight now." I had to go to the washroom really badly (I'd been holding it a while which tends to happen. I don't always get a chance to go while Michelle is up.) As I was sitting in the bathroom I heard Michelle start to cry. I rushed as quickly as I could "Mommy's coming! I just had to go potty!" I called out to her. I washed my hands and as I went to dry them, my heart stopped. I heard a loud THUD and then her screaming. OMG OMG OMG. If I'd been just one second sooner I would have caught her. I couldn't believe it. There she was, face first on the carpet. She had gone right over the railing. Ironically the rail which was supposed to keep her safe had caused her to fall from an even greater height. Thank God the floor is carpeted. Thank God she was OK. I called my Mom immediately and told her what happened. Of course she couldn't resist saying "I told you so! You have to have her sleep in her crib!" She said that Michelle couldn't have been hurt too badly because she wasn't even crying anymore. I tried to see if there was a bump or anything. I couldn't tell. Her eyebrow looked a little red. I held some ice in a cloth on it. Michelle thought that was funny and laughed at it. She seemed in good spirits. I was so relieved. It could have been really bad.

So I may have to put her in her crib for her own safety. The problem is that neither of us may ever sleep again. The other option is for me to just never do anything in the evening but sleep next to her. Or I could take the mattress and box spring off the frame and put it on the floor so at least there wouldn't be as far to fall and cover the floor with pillows. I wish I could fit in the crib and then I'd sleep in there with her! It's so difficult because the only way she ever falls asleep is breastfeeding next to me. I usually fall asleep too and so we get through the night waking and feeding and going back to sleep. If I have to lift her and put her back in her crib each time, it'll wake us both up. My Mom has an answer for that too. I shouldn't be feeding her so often anyway and she has to be weaned and blah blah blah. Of course in her day you only fed your baby every four hours and weaned them completely by six months, giving them cow's milk. She was giving me solid food when I was six weeks old. No wonder I have so many intestinal problems! I told her that back then they didn't know any better. Back then they didn't even know smoking was bad for you and probably allowed it in the hospital. She said yes they did. Some women were even smoking while they were nursing their babies in the hospital. So there you go. Next time Mom says "in MY day" I'll remind her of the smoking Moms.

Hearing that THUD was one of the worst moments of my life. I can't bear for Michelle to ever be hurt. She's had so many near misses (almost banged her head on the crib and changetable while crawling but I blocked her in time, almost hit her head on the hardwood in the living room, almost ran into the corner of a bookshelf unit.) I guess she was bound to have an accident at some point. Unfortunately even when she's walking and doesn't fall, I still have to worry. Kids are always getting hurt. My nephew was running and dancing around and hit his head on the corner of the wall. What can you do? You can't bubble wrap your kids and your entire house and the entire planet. There is a show called "Bubble Wrap Kids." I caught a little of it one day and I could relate to the Mom wanting to control everything and not let her children get hurt. The problem is that if you protect your kids too much, you don't really allow them enough freedom to explore and enjoy life. My Mom tried to protect us. She worried about us so much we weren't allowed to go anywhere or do anything. I was the only kid in my class that didn't get to go on trips. They were going to Quebec one time and my Mom wouldn't let me. I had to stay behind and do a project on Quebec while everyone else got to actually be there. I don't want to hold Michelle back from doing things but at the same time I will worry any time she's out of my sight. I worry even when she's in my sight!

Michelle did eventually fall asleep later that night. She was up playing and laughing for hours. Now as she slept like an angel, I watched her, feeling so relieved and grateful that she's OK. She didn't even seem to have a mark on her. I remembered the words of a nurse in the hospital after I had Michelle. She was giving me pointers on breastfeeding and caring for a new baby. She said I was too gentle with Michelle. That I had to be more forceful when I tried to make her latch on to feed. "People think babies are fragile, like eggs but they're really hard-boiled eggs. They're more resilient than you think."

My little hard-boiled egg was fine the next day. She didn't even have a bump. There was a red dot, hardly more than a speck on her eyebrow where she'd landed. My Mom couldn't see anything. Michelle didn't learn anything from the incident. She was still lunging and leaning over and climbing everything fearlessly. Either she'd forgotten the fall or she figured it probably wouldn't happen again because Mom will always run to catch her. I'm still torn on what to do about the situation. I think I'm just going to try never to leave her alone. It's harder to get things done. I'm typing this with her sleeping in my arms and then I'll crawl into bed with her. She's safe while I'm there. Even though she's OK, I still feel guilty that it happened. The idea of leaving her in a crib to scream for hours instead of putting her in a bed which she fell out of once and cried for 2 minutes doesn't make a lot of sense. Maybe I'll see if I can fit in the crib...I heard of a grown man crawling into a crib once as a joke on his wife. She didn't find it funny. I'm assuming he was drunk. Anyway, I better get some sleep while I can. Who knows what my little egg will be up to next?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Just Say No

When I was growing up, it seemed like my Mom never said yes. Everything you'd ask her to buy or ask if you could do, the answer was "No." She told me that my first word was "No" and I figured it was from hearing her say it so much. I always thought of my Mom as very negative. I wanted to be a positive Mom, to come from a place of "Yes." These days, as the Mom of a curious, wobbling, grabbing 8 month old baby, however I'm realizing that sometimes you have to just say "No." Several hundred times a day! Michelle is CONSTANTLY grabbing everything in sight. My glasses (which she's broken so I'm going to try switching back to contacts), my hair, my face, my clothes, the phone, remote controls, nightlights, books, the mail. Anything in her path. I try to keep dangerous things out of her path. Some things I let her away with. "Oh look she's chewing on a DVD. Oh well." If it isn't going to hurt her or break anything, I figure there's no harm in letting her explore. She wanted to help me sort my mail. I let her crumple and tear up junk mail but I drew the line at ripping my insurance papers. I've put outlet covers on all the plugs which is good because she is fascinated by everything on the wall. Even the switch plate where a central vac would go. I don't know why she reaches for it. It isn't even remotely interesting. It's just a plain white rectangular plate with nothing on it. But it's at her eye level and she stops at it every time we take our walk (with me helping her) down the hallway.

It's a good thing I didn't cut all the tags off of her toys because 9 times out of 10, the tag is her favourite part. It can be a stuffed toy with multiple colours and items on it to play with -- rings and beads and bells and whistles -- but she'll turn it over and play with the plain white tag. She has a little baby laptop computer with all sorts of buttons that make different sounds and lights. Her favourite thing to do is to turn it over and look at the bottom, which is plain and has nothing on it aside from the battery compartment which (thankfully) is screwed shut. I try not to argue with her or discourage her when she's not playing with a toy "properly." I figure whatever makes her happy. I do try to show her though what other things it can do when you don't have it upside down.

There was a small window of time between when she was a newborn and now that it was a little easier. When Michelle could sit up on her own but not yet stand or crawl, I could sit her on the blanket with her toys and she would entertain herself for a few minutes while I did the dishes etc. It was a godsend. Those days are gone now. I can't leave her for an instant because now she's pulling up and she could fall. So I have to be there every second. I try to have pillows around but I still can't possibly cover everything so I have to be there. The crawling was bad enough, at least she couldn't get hurt. I've been good about keeping the basement door closed. The difficult part is remembering to open it again to let the cat up and down when she needs to use the litterbox. The pulling up is scary because she can stand for a bit but then suddenly just falls over and if I'm not there to catch her fall she could bang her head. I tried training her to fall on her butt. "Fall on your bum and you don't get hurt!" I sang to her. I figured if I make a song of it the message might stick. It made her laugh but I don't know if she was really getting the concept. She did go from standing back to sitting several times but then I was there to guide her.

One day I had my Mom watch her while I went to an appointment. I figured I am going to have to leave her eventually so I better get used to it in small doses at least. It's also helpful to me to be able to get things done once in a blue moon without carting her around. I was nervous about it. Even though my Mom has raised 4 kids I still worry. When I got home I kissed and kissed Michelle as though we'd been apart for a year. Meanwhile, Michelle had been having a lovely time with Grandma and Grandpa. My Mom said that Michelle even stood ON HER OWN! Not even holding onto anything. Great. So I'm there 24-7 and I leave for an hour and Michelle has a milestone with Grandma?! That's not fair! I don't want to miss anything. Also upsetting was the fact that Michelle kissed Grandma several times (she doesn't really get the puckering action but she leans in and puts her mouth on my Mom's cheek which is very cute but made me jealous.) I'm her Mom. I do everything for her, devote my life to her 100%. Where's MY kiss? She did end up giving me a kiss too but I was still hurt that she made such a fuss of my Mom. She also didn't dig her nails into my Mom, or pull off her glasses, or give her a hard time while she was being changed. "She was good as gold," my Mom bragged, "a little angel." Now of course logically I understand. Michelle doesn't see my Mom as often so she would make more of a fuss of her. She takes me for granted because I'm always there. As far as acting up is concerned, my Mom said it's common for kids to give their parents the most grief and to behave better for others because they know they can get away with things with Mom but they're not so sure with someone else. Well it doesn't seem fair to me. Part of it is also the time of day. Michelle can be an angel for me too in the early afternoon but then during her cranky time (usually early evening) it's another story. If my Mom was looking after her all day I'm sure she'd see a wide range of behaviour, from Jekyll to Hyde, as I see on a daily basis.

For a while there Michelle was sleeping really well -- going to bed at a decent hour and staying asleep except to nurse and then going right back to sleep. Then all of a sudden, she was back to her old tricks -- either staying up late or falling asleep early but then waking up in the middle of the night and not settling down. One night she was asleep by 8 PM and I thought, "This is great!" I got the dishes and laundry done, had a shower, checked my emails etc. When I went to bed at 11 PM however, she woke up 5 minutes later and wouldn't go back to sleep. She sat up as though it was morning and the day was starting. I tried explaining to her that it wasn't morning, that it was night and that Mama was exhausted and was just about to go to sleep. She wasn't getting it.

Sleep deprivation, someone once told me, has been used as an instrument of torture. Sometimes it does feel like Michelle is deliberately trying to torture me. Of course I know that she's a baby and she doesn't know any better. She can't help it if she wakes up, right? But there are times that I know she's tired -- she's rubbing her eyes and everything -- and she still doesn't sleep. Then other days you get lucky and she sleeps like an angel. It's inexplicable. You just never know how it might go. You hope for the best. I usually nap with her when she has her morning nap but when I have to go somewhere or do something I don't always get to do that. On no sleep, I find that I am much more stressed, much more fragile. I could cry at the drop of a hat and everything just seems worse.

My Mom always said that once a baby starts solid food, they sleep better through the night. It was true overall, at least for a while. I think now that Michelle is learning to stand and wanting to explore so much that her mind is more active so maybe it's harder to settle down and to stay asleep. I am grateful for the nights that she sleeps well so that I'm able to get things done and catch some sleep myself. I just have to muddle through the nights where she doesn't sleep and try not to let it get to me. Some days when I find myself feeling really down or anxious I remind myself how exhaustion can affect me. I just don't function as well on no sleep.

I have to realize that Michelle is going through a lot --learning so much in so short a time. A few months ago she learned to sit on her own and now it's like she's been doing it forever. Standing and walking will become second nature too but while she's still learning and wobbly and falling, it's a tough process for her to go through and takes a lot of her physical and mental energy. Each day now it seems she figures something else out. Before she used to just knock the stacking rings over and chew on them. Now she actually tries (and sometimes succeeds though it may just be a fluke) to put them back on. She used to just look at the pictures when I read to her but now she seems to look curiously at the words so I started pointing to each word as I read it and she seemed fascinated. She's learning to stand, wanting to walk, trying to communicate. She's on the verge of so many things. I know myself that when there's a lot on my mind I have a hard time sleeping, so why should she be different?

There was a moment where Michelle pulled herself up on the ottoman and then let go for a moment and stood. I was sitting right there, ready to grab her if she started to wobble but I let her be. She waved her hands in excitement, realizing that she was standing on her own, not holding anything. My heart was in my throat. "Yes!" I said encouragingly, "Clever girl! You're standing!" She looked quite proud of herself. I know that my heart will be in my throat for months. Afraid she's going to fall, ready to catch her. I suppose in a way, that feeling will remain for the rest of her life. My Mom says she still worries about me -- in my 40s but still her little girl and now with a little girl of my own. As we go through life there are many moments when we are uncertain, venturing into the unknown, moments where we may fall and get hurt. We can't let that stop us. We have to say "Yes" to life, even when it's scary. I don't want Michelle to ever get hurt but at the same time I have to make sure I'm not too overprotective. I have to give her room to grow and explore. I have to encourage her, to let go a little and let her take those wobbly steps on her own, even if she falls.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The whole famdamily!

My whole family got together for a combined Easter and birthday celebration for my brother Chris. It was chaotic, as our family events usually are, but fun. It was a nice day out, though still a little chilly when the sun went behind the clouds. Half the family hung out in the yard for the day. When Mom announced that she had put the turkey in and it would be done in 2 and a half hours I was surprised. "I've never heard of a turkey cooking that quickly!" She had miscalculated. It was more like 4 and a half hours. We wound up having dinner after 7 p.m. Oh well. It was good but I only had a little anyway. My stomach still wasn't great. I'd been violently ill the night before (woke up at 1 a.m. with diarrhea and vomiting simultaneously. Yes it doesn't get much worse. Thank God Michelle slept through it and slept while I had a shower. And Thank God she didn't catch whatever it was. Food poisoning? 24 hour flu? Who knows?)

I called my sister in the morning because I still felt awful and was scared. I knew that my niece had a nasty flu a week or so earlier and wanted to see how long her symptoms lasted. For some reason the throwing up is always in the middle of the night. I didn't throw up again but still didn't feel quite right. I was probably dehydrated. When Michelle and I had our morning nap I felt a million times better. Being on no sleep didn't help. I just took it easy the rest of the day and didn't eat much. Even with the birthday cake (homemade chocolate cake is pretty hard to resist and normally I'd have a huge piece!) I only had half a piece.

I am always grateful to spend time with my family. It's not often that we can all get together as a group. A lot of people I've talked to said they don't even celebrate birthdays with their families. They don't get together for holidays. It seems to be more the exception than the rule to be close to your family. Once kids grow up and have their own families they don't spend a lot of time with their parents anymore. Maybe it's because Mom always insisted on it that we grew up thinking it was just the norm. I don't mind it. I love my family. I'm wishing more and more that I lived closer to them. Of course I'd probably have to win a lottery to afford a house in Oakville and money is tighter than ever.


My Dad is always excited to see his youngest granddaughter and Michelle is happy to see him too. She loves when he lifts her up in the air. My parents feel so blessed to have seven grandchildren. They really thought (as I certainly did!) that Reggie would be the last one since my brother Chris and I were certain we weren't having children and May and Mike weren't planning on any more. Michelle was definitely the biggest and best surprise of my life. It's nice to visit with family and have several extra pairs of arms to hold her. She would reach for my Dad, then my Mom, then back to me. She was enjoying all the attention.

Auntie May, Uncle Chris and Auntie Barb all had turns holding her too. Everyone commented on how good she was. She had been an angel on the drive over too. Some days I really can't complain. Then other days she's a little monster. You just never know how it's going to go. It was a relief to have her go easy on me on a day when I wasn't feeling 100% though. In the morning I felt so rough I almost thought I should just stay home but I didn't want to miss the celebration. My sister suggested I just eat very little. She also reminded me that at least at my Mom's there would be other people to hold Michelle. Trying to carry her when I felt weak and dizzy was the biggest challenge of being ill. Whatever the bug was it seemed to work its way out of my system thankfully. I just hope it wasn't anything anyone else could catch. If we all stayed home when someone was sick we'd probably never see each other though. Dad had a bit of a cough. James had a cold. With a big family chances are someone will have something at any given time.

Michelle is officially 8 months old now. I'm seeing changes already. She's sleeping a little better. She's pooping up a storm so she must be getting enough to eat. She has four meals a day -- cereal for breakfast, meat and veggies or fruit for lunch, meat and fruit for dinner, and oatmeal in the evening. I had heard that you can start babies on finger foods at 8 months so I thought I'd try giving her a couple of Cheerios to see what she would do. It was good practice for her fine motor skills picking up the little Os with her thumb and forefinger but after 15 minutes of playing with the cereal it was clear that they would never make it into her mouth. It's ironic when she puts EVERYTHING in her mouth that she wouldn't put food in. My Mom said that she's not used to having anything that small which is true and I guess it's a blessing if she's cautious about putting small items in her mouth. I finally put one of the Cheerios in her mouth for her. She screwed up her face like "What on Earth is this?" and started to gag. That was enough for me. I'm going to wait until she's 9 months old to try finger foods again. I'm certainly not going to push if she's not ready. She's eating the baby food pretty well (the few things that she likes at least -- cereal, sweet potatoes with turkey and pears being her favourites) and seems healthy. She's nursing every 3 hours through the day now and every 2-3 hours through the night.

They say that "a little knowledge" is dangerous. When it comes to babies, "a little mobility" is even more dangerous. Now that Michelle can move around, it's very scary. She pulls herself along like a caterpillar. I keep the cellar door closed now (it used to be open all the time so the cat could come and go from her litter box. Now she has to cry at the door) just in case because Michelle can move surprisingly fast. Now I even have to worry about her standing and falling when I turn my head for a second. She was playing nicely in the living room on the blanket with her toys, or so I thought. I went into the kitchen for a second and when I looked back, to my shock, MICHELLE WAS STANDING! ON HER OWN! She had pulled herself up for the first time on her own and was standing holding onto the ottoman. I raced over to her but it was too late. Thank God I had pillows propped against the TV stand or she would have whacked her head against the glass doors as she fell. The problem is it would take 100,000 pillows to block every hard surface on the main floor. I told my Mom and she just laughed. "That's why all of my kids had trips to the hospital for stitches. You can't prevent accidents from ever happening." Today she's pulling up on her own, next thing I know she'll be standing alone then taking her first wobbly steps and I'll have my heart in my throat the whole time. I don't want her to get hurt. But I do want her to learn and grow. She has been having fun exploring the living room. She pulled half the DVDs off the bottom shelf. I figured it wasn't doing any harm other than she was chewing on a couple of the boxes. I put the kids movies on the bottom shelf because I thought that would end up happening. At least it entertains her for a bit. I've tried to remove anything that can really hurt her other than of course the hardwood floor itself and the furniture.

Now that I'm a mother myself I appreciate my parents more and feel closer to my family than ever before. Though I'm a single Mom it's nice to know that I'm not alone and that I have their love and support. Time is going by so fast. I can't believe we've already celebrated Michelle's first Christmas and Easter. Her First Birthday will be just around the corner. I can't imagine what she'll be doing by then. Hopefully she doesn't get into too much trouble along the way...