The Day that Changed Everything

October 19th was a big anniversary for me. It was the anniversary of the start of a journey that I understand now will never truly have a final destination. On Wednesday, October 19th of 2011, I woke up and knew that I was not well. My body ached, I felt like a truck had run me over, and I was hot. 104 degrees Fahrenheit kind of hot. I slowly made my way to your bedroom to get you out of your crib. It felt like I was trying to pick up an elephant. I struggled through carrying you down the 5 steps to the living room and handed you to Daddy. I was wiped, done in, dizzy, sweaty. I needed to go lay down. I REALLY needed to go lay down.

Daddy is supposed to drive truck and I am in a panic. I’m not one to easily admit that I am unwell, that I need help, that I can’t do it all. But on that day, I am freely begging for help. I CANNOT take care of you….I know it, and my need for you to be taken care of FAR overrides my need to be able to do it all. Grandma E comes over and takes care of both of us while Daddy is away. For the next few days, I literally do not leave my bedroom but to use the bathroom and I barely see you. Grandma E does everything from playing with you all day, to making me rice or soup (which I can’t eat), to bathing you and putting you so sleep. From my bedroom, I listen to life go on.

It’s like a little bit of torture. I’ve gone from being with you practically 24/7 (as I am still on maternity leave), to hearing you having fun and wondering what has struck you as funny, to hearing you cry and aching from not being able to respond, to wondering if you are hungry. Constantly wondering if you are hungry.

You are 10.5 months old and still breastfeeding. You have never drunk from a bottle and we haven’t yet gotten you to drink out of a Sippy cup. As I’m writing this, I see how silly it must have seemed at the time, but I’m seriously in a panic about it. How will you survive? Surely you will get sick? Dehydrated? After only a day and half of hardly seeing you, my body deceives me and is already starting to produce less and less milk. We half heartedly try to breastfeed a few times and it doesn’t work. You are frustrated and squirmy because there is no let down. And I am just emotionally drained. Not only am I sure that you are now malnourished, but I’m convinced that our relationship has been broken. You are a very busy and alert baby and you never have had much time for cuddling. Nursing was our time to bond. When we could be both emotionally and physically close. When you would quiet your body and I could look down at you and just take you all in. Within a day or two, all that was gone.

So, I’m sick physically. I still have a fever, I’m starting to cough, I have aches and pains and headaches. On top of those symptoms, I have stopped breastfeeding cold turkey. So, to the flu like symptoms, we can add a change in hormones that is wreaking havoc on my mind. Turns out, depression isn’t an uncommon symptom for Mamas who quit breastfeeding cold turkey- with the sudden change in hormones and change in relationship between Mama and Babe. Interesting….

Of course, I’ve been talking to Nana and Babu. Nana is worried that I might be experiencing engorgement or pain due to suddenly quitting breastfeeding. I’m not. I’m not at all. There is no engorgement, no leaking, no pain, no nothing. My body deceives me, it lets me down. I’m not sure if I can put it into words, but I take this as some kind of evaluation of my body’s organic and natural responsibility as a Mama. Why I am not engorged? Why did I just stop producing milk? How can my body not know that just because I’m sick, it has no right be that selfish? That my baby still needs me? It’s messing with my mind…..all of this is slowly but surely messing with my mind.

By Friday, I am so wiped. It’s hard to describe, but my body is in such pain and I’m experiencing some strange version of restless legs syndrome. I am literally not able to sleep. Now, I’m quite used to not sleeping so you can only imagine how little sleep I was actually getting for it to actually be impacting me. I decide to go to the doctor’s. She checks me out and listens to my chest with her stethoscope. It’s all good. It’s probably just a virus. Drink lots, get some rest. You know? The usual. And that’s it. Back home we go. I’m a little bit devastated. As Grandma E and I drive home, it’s taking everything in me not to cry.

When we get home, I decide to get some of the milk that I have pumped and froze and defrost it to see if we can get you to take it with a dropper. It’s sour. The breast milk is sour and it puts me over the edge. I call Nana and Babu. Poor Babu is the first to answer. “How’s it going babe?” he innocently asks and gets a sobbing mess of a daughter trying desperately to explain how the milk is sour and that I can’t produce any milk and that you don’t drink from a bottle or a Sippy cup and that the doctor says that I’m fine and that the sky really must be falling. I’m doing the ugly cry and Nana and Babu are worried. They want to come help.

On Saturday night, things are no better. They are worse and I’m getting desperate. Daddy takes me to the hospital. ER doctor listens to my lungs and immediately puts me on a couple rounds of ventalin and then orders an x-ray. Surprise, surprise! I have pneumonia.

By Sunday, Grandma E has gone home and Nana and Babu have come to help. We’re 5 days in and the physical and emotional strain is taking its toll. As I’ve been writing this, I have not hesitated once. The details have been very accessible in my memory and I have not struggled to remember what came next. But by the time Nana and Babu get here, the physical is morphing into the psychological and the dates and the details are becoming fuzzy.

Strange. I can’t remember how long they stayed for. I honestly can’t. At some point after Nana and Babu came, Nana and I went back to see the doctor. I believe the main purpose in going back was to see if I could get something to help me sleep. What I do remember is that, much to my dismay, what she prescribed did not work and I was again, devastated. At some point, my physical state improved. Unfortunately, my psychological state didn’t. While I’m struggling to remember the details, what I do remember is the lack of energy and ability to function well. I remember the sadness and feeling that I had nothing useful to offer anyone. I felt lost and so unlike myself….a level of sadness that I had never felt before in my life. Getting out of bed was akin to running a marathon. All I could do was the bare minimum for you, then I wanted to go back to bed and sleep or hide (I wasn’t sure which). The sound of your cry, you needing me, could make me fall apart. I had nothing to give. I hardly ate and lost lots of weight. Showering was a chore. Cooking was a chore. Leaving the house was a chore. I was lost.

Three months. That’s how long the worst of it lasted. Not long, but powerful. I struggled to find myself….where on earth had I gone? When would I be back? I struggled to find joy and purpose. I struggled to take care of myself physically. I cried. A lot. Alone in my bedroom or in the shower. I struggled to seem “normal” during any social or family events, which was incredibly draining. Every moment that I had to do something- whether it was make dinner, play with you, talk to Daddy or have a shower, I had to start with a mini pep rally in my mind. “You can do this,” “You have to do this.” I wondered when I would be back.

It’s one of the most shame-inducing parts of the whole thing, because I want to be able to say that I “snapped out of it” because of you…..my beautiful baby boy. That would be the “right” thing to say. That’s what I prayed would happen every day for 3 months. It’s the part of what makes depression so incredibly draining and confusing- how can I be so disconnected and sad with this beautiful family in front of me? It’s incredibly complicated. Quite frankly, what weighed on my mind most heavily as time progressed was- how on earth am I supposed to return to work in this state of mind? How on earth am I, the Director of departments whose job it is to support the health and wellbeing of our staff, return to work in such a state? I was overwhelmed. And as the clock ticked, the pressure and stress around my looming return to work is what kicked me into recovery mode.

I utilized our EAP program, I saw my family doctor and did what I needed to do to get well.

So why tell you this? I wavered on whether or not I should. My first concern? What if you feel somehow responsible? And the fact that I even had to wonder whether or not you may feel somehow responsible reiterates the need for me, and others to talk openly about depression. Cause quite frankly if we had a solid understanding of mental health issues we would know that the people around us are not responsible for our feelings, no more than they are capable of getting us to “snap out of it.” Our relationship with our family is such an integral and confusing part of the mental health journey and we must be open about these things. Aiden, should you ever get lost like I did, I hope that you’ll remember this story and feel comfortable sharing your journey with me and reaching out for help. That’s reason #1.
Secondly, you may have a wife one day……and I hope that, God forbid she ever get “lost” like I did, that you will be gentle, that you will be understanding, that you will be supportive, and that you will be patient. There’s no road map, honey. There’s no timeline. There’s no guide book. There are no guarantees. It truly is frustrating and you will need to have an incredible level of patience and trust in supporting her towards recovery and wellness.

Finally, and as always, I’m writing this to remember the lessons you are teaching me. You didn’t bat an eye during any of this. From full time breastfeeding to quitting cold turkey? Ok. From spending 90% of your day with Mama to being taken care of by others for a week? Sure! Why not? From never being put to bed by Grandma E to doing your night routine with her for the first time? Works for me! From never utilizing a bottle or Sippy cup to drinking from a Sippy cup after 15 minutes of instruction from Nana? No worries Mama! I got your back!!! You are resilient and adaptable. It’s the greatest lesson and gift you could have given me. Because quite frankly, if I’ve learned anything from this whole situation, it’s the intense and critical need for Mama to take care of herself so that I can be well in order to give you and Daddy everything that I want to be able to give you. And if you can put up with everything you put up with for those three months, then Lord knows that you can adjust to Mama going for a pedicure, sleeping in on the weekend or having Daddy take you to the Ontario Early Years Centre instead of me once in a blue moon.
And life is beautiful again Aiden. I was lost, but now I am found. And I haven’t lost or missed a moment with you since getting well…..I didn’t miss the first time you recently said “ahhhh do” in response to my “love you.” I was present and available during the three weeks of adjustment to daycare that had you up at all hours of the night. I didn’t miss all the tickles and the kisses. And the singing Raffi together. And the snuggling in our rocking chair reading books. I didn’t miss any of it. And in fact, I’ve been uber present ever since.

So as difficult as my experience with depression was, I am grateful for the many lessons both it and you have taught me this past year.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Man Under the Tree

September 4th, 2012

The Man Under the Tree

There’s been a man sleeping and spending his days under one of the trees in the park beside our house. At night, he goes across the street and sleeps by the door of the pharmacy. In the morning, he makes his way to the park and sets up camp under a tree, right beside where we play. He’s not begging. He doesn’t have a sign. He’s existing and I can’t stop thinking about him.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like this is the first time that I’ve seen a homeless person.  I once drove by a visibly pregnant young woman standing by a traffic light with a sign that read “Need food- pregnant.” I drove by, looked at her and kept going. I must have driven for about 10 minutes and couldn’t get her out of my head. I made my way to Tim Horton’s, bought a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of water and made my way back to find her.

Empathy and sympathy are not things that I struggle with. In fact, I find it very easy and sometimes even overwhelmingly easy to take on others’ pain and emotion. One of Daddy’s friends even said once that I had a bleeding heart….you know, that I was excessively sympathetic.  

All this to explain that what you taught me on Saturday was a new level of human connection and, as always, I want to thank you for it.

As you played in the park, my eyes kept darting back and forth. From you, a free spirited, very few cares in the world, loved and promising child to him. From you, carelessly “driving” the play structure bus, absentmindedly kicking sand and doing somersaults, to him. From you, intensely protected, supported and cared for, to him. The juxtaposition was striking and my heart ached. So much so that I almost couldn’t stand it.

All I could think of was that this man had once been a 20 month old boy. He was you. And as much as it pained me to think it, you, God forbid, could be him. Had he had a mother who so deeply loved him as I do you? Had she written journals about him? Had she kissed his belly and twirled his beautiful curls around her finger and swore that she would die before she let anything happen to him? Had they laughed at the simple things? Had she rocked him to sleep while nestling her nose in the crook of his neck just to breathe in the powerful smell of him?

Or, had he been unwanted? Had his mother not known how to love him? Had she abandoned him? Abused him? Or been entirely indifferent?

I don’t know this man’s past and how he possibly ended up underneath a tree in the park behind our house. But what I know for sure is that he was once a 20 month old boy. A boy who, just like you, was innocent and deserving of love. So, not only was I seeing him as another human being and connecting at a lateral level. But as I watched you, I was connecting to and seeing him as the child that he once was and I was moved.

A moment later he was rummaging through the garbage and I was put over the edge.

When you went down for your nap, I put together a bag of food for him. Nothing much. I made some sandwiches and included some apples, raisins, granola bars, cheese, crackers and something to drink. And when you woke up and invariably wanted to go back to the park, we brought him the bag. Yep, I brought you with me. Some of you parents are probably shuddering to think about it. But it was the right thing to do. I know you won’t remember the moment but as much as you have been teaching me, I wanted to teach you something that day.

I held your hand as we approached the man under the tree. I said, “Excuse me, but this food is for you” and handed him the bag. “No, no,” he said kindly, “it’s for you!” I explained that we had put the bag of food together for him and again, handed it to him. “What’s in it?” he asked as he looked through the bag. When he pulled out the granola bar, you pointed to it and started to grunt “uh, uh, uh” making it clear that you wanted it! “Is this your favourite?” he asked and started to hand it back to you. I protested and reminded him that we had many more at home that you could have. And he said, genuinely and humbly (and with a smile) “Sharing is caring, you know?” I took it back from his hands and put it into yours. I thanked him and said to you “Ok monkey, we better go” and he looked at you with a smile and said “Are you a little monkey?” You smiled at him and said, enthusiastically, “Yeah!” He laughed and said “It must be good to be a little monkey” to which you replied again with an energetic “Yeah!” And we walked away.

(As a side note, it hasn’t helped matters that the man under the tree reminds me very much of Uncle Chris. The long hair, the long beard, the tall slim build, the caring smile.  Uugh. Weird).

Aiden, we didn’t change the world on Saturday. We didn’t solve a problem. We didn’t even truly do much to help the man under the tree. What we did was what we could do in that moment. We brought him some food. To be honest, Aiden, if you inherit my “bleeding heart” syndrome, I will be proud. The small amount of energy that it takes to care and worry about other human beings is a small price to pay in relation to being aware, suppressing judgement, doing the best you can in the moment and recognizing the incredibly small distance between you and the “other.”

Maybe the man under the tree has a Mama somewhere who worries and wonders. I can barely write that sentence without crying. And if God forbid and despite all my best efforts, you end up sleeping under a tree and looking for food from a garbage can, I can only hope that someone will look at you and remember that you were once a beautiful 20 month old baby boy who had a Mama who loved you more than anything. And I hope that every day, someone will do what they can and see you as a loved Mama’s child, rather than just some man sleeping under a tree. I would want that for you. We can’t give any less to those we will encounter in our lives.

You reminded me on Saturday that we are all one step away from being the “other.” Aiden, as you find your place in this world, you will encounter all kinds of people. Don’t be too quick to judge. Everybody has a story that would break your heart. The man under the tree has a story. He was a beautiful innocent 20 month old boy and now he’s looking for food from a garbage can. He is you and you are him.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We’re Here for a Good Time…..

July 7th, 2012-07

Not a long time….as the song goes. You know, the song. From Trooper? The song is such a Canadian classic that it seems unlikely. However, if by the time you’re reading this you have no understanding of this reference, just YouTube “We’re here for a Good Time” by Trooper. Hhhmmm….assuming of course, you have an understanding of what I mean by “just YouTube.” But I digress…

Anyway, for a woman who has spent her entire life about 60% in the future and 35% in the past, well, you can do the math on how present I generally used to be.

Have things changed? Have you taught me anything about stopping my racing mind and just being, right, here?

Let me give you three examples.

(1) My world stops when you drink out of a Sippy cup. STOPS…Now, I’m going to assume that how your drinking from a Sippy cup can stop me in my tracks is not as necessarily obvious as say,  tying your shoes or saying “I love you” for the first time. So, let me explain. You were breastfed. And it was one of the most precious, meaningful, and fulfilling experiences of my life. It’s hard to fully explain in words because so much of the experience is so deeply rooted in the cells of my being that it feels indescribable. I loved the intimacy and deep relationship building that breastfeeding offered us and was secretly grateful that only I would be able to share this with you.

You were a busy baby. Even early on. You were probably only 5 months old when Daddy and I recognized that you were a baby on the move. As I write this, you are 18 months old. And you are still a baby on the move (ok, toddler on the move…but you know me, wanting to hold on to your “baby-ness” as long as humanly possible). You have never been one to sit on our laps for too long, or cuddle for too long, or stay put for too long!! However, when we breastfed, I could hold you. When we breastfed, I could feel the warmth of your body against mine. When we breastfed, we would have extended periods of eye contact. When we breastfed, you would lay your hand against my chest. When we breastfed, we were as connected as humanly possible.

When you were 10 months old, I got sick. Pneumonia. I didn’t even have the energy to hold you. I spent several days in my bedroom and had very limited contact with you. It was not long before I was having trouble producing milk and was unable to feed you. We tried a few times once I was feeling well enough but it just didn’t work. FAR before I was ready to, we ceased our breastfeeding relationship.  This was probably secretly to others’ relief. I just might have been one of THOSE mothers who had a toddler who could, God forbid, actually ask for “milkies!” But alas, it was not meant to be. And just like that, that part of our relationship was done. Cold turkey. And I grieved the loss.

I needed some time to move past the loss of physical connection and renegotiation of our relationship. And then, one day, I stopped. I stopped living in the past long enough to recognize something. Your face. You make the same face when you drink from your Sippy cup as you did when you breastfed. And I stopped and took it all in. Your eyes half shut, head tilted back, cheeks slowly puffing in and out, in and out. Ahhhh. That sweet face. And to this day, when you drink from your Sippy cup, my world stops. It stops because of the feelings that looking at you produces. It stops, also, because I am well aware of the clock ticking. It’s only a matter of time before you lay the Sippy cup down and the opportunity for me to relive that face will be gone. I’ve learned now, that those moments will simply be replaced with equally as wonderful if not even better moments. However, until that day comes, my world stops, my heart aches, the memories come flooding in and I am present when you are drinking from that Sippy cup.

Image

(2) Have I mentioned that you never sit still for very long? Right….I’ve covered that already. So, I’m thinking we’re doing exceptionally well when you force yourself to sit for 5 whole minutes in order to eat supper with us. This can be a really challenging time for families and because of that, some choose to feed their toddler first, and eat dinner as a family after the toddler has gone to bed (have I mentioned that I can’t stand having to refer to you as toddler rather than baby? Right…covered that one too!!). Anyway, we’ve chosen to eat as a family. Which means that we have a total of 5-10 minutes where you will be focused on eating your dinner. Shortly after the 5-10 minute mark, you begin frantically signing “all done” and give us about .5 seconds to get you out of the booster seat (right….booster seat, because about 5 months ago you decided that you were too cool for the high chair). After you frantically sign that you are “all done” you generally want to come sit (otherwise known as stand or play) on me for a period of time while I try to finish my supper. During that time, you usually get food all over my clothes, put your hands in my food, try to eat my food, and try to steal my utensils, bang the utensils on my plate, and generally make a mess. I can tell by the look on Daddy’s face that he thinks that I shouldn’t allow such “tomfoolery” (I’ve never heard Daddy use the word tomfoolery, but it seems like the kind of word that Daddy would use. Why do I think that? Because he uses the words “soda cracker” and “slacks.” Enough said). And to be honest, prior to having you in my life, I may very well have watched the very scene that plays out in our home every night at supper with judgment and confusion. However, when you are on my lap, I am not thinking about the stain that will inevitably be on my shirt or your grimy little fingers infecting my food with who knows what. Honest to God, I’m thinking that if I blink my eye and force you off my lap, you’ll be 16 years old. And refusing to even come near me let alone wanting to sit on my lap. So sit on my lap baby boy. Stick your fingers in my food, on my face and in my hair. Because I’m going to relish it.  Here, right now. For as long as you want nothing more than to come sit on my lap after you are done your supper, my lap will be open to you.

Image

(3) In the last week or so, your verbal language skills have flourished. You’ve added cracker, poo poo, pool, blue, green, yummy, no way, day, Monday and Gaga (Grandma) to your already awesome repertoire. Now, the acquisition of a new word is momentous enough. And again, it grounds me to the here and now. But the BEST part of you acquiring these new words is the look on your face the first few times that you try that new word. You beam with pride. You cock your head to the side, as a huge grin spreads across your face. You so obviously and unabashedly feel your emotions and watching you experience that feeling is grounding. The pride I feel when you are brave enough to try a new word is almost indescribable. And let’s be real. If the indescribable feeling of pride I feel as you discover spoken language isn’t reason enough to be present, the fact that you repeat most of what we say these days is. It’s not lost on me that whenever I (accidentally) let out a “shit,” in your presence, you invariably let out your own “shhhh” shortly thereafter. And yes, with that same silly look of pride on your face. Yikes!

So thank you, my little monkey. For reminding me of where I need to be, and to be honest, where I want to be. Most moments, I’m here, with you, taking you in.  (Yes, most moments. You gotta give me a little break here. I’m not perfect and I’m human. Some days, after hearing an insistent and monotone “uh, uh, uh, uh, uh” while you point around the room that lasts for about 20 minutes because I am completely incapable of figuring out what you need, I do kinda wish that I was anywhere but in the present moment.) But take a drink from that damn Sippy cup, sit on my lap for two minutes or beam with pride after trying a new word, and I’ll be right back….in the here and now…with you….my sweet, sweet boy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk in the Park

Image

You and Mama spent about an hour in the park today. Let me preface by saying: you’re 17 months old and you’ve been walking since you were 9 months old. So, you’re pretty darn good at it. You’re physical, agile, coordinated. You have been since very early on. However, the park is uneven. There’s lots of sand. Garbage. There could be glass!!! There are things to climb on and things to fall off of. All kinds of scary monsters that you need protecting against. But, you’re 17 months old. And as far as you’re concerned, the days of needing your Mama are pretty well over. We’re in the “me do” phase. The indignant look on your face when I try to- oh, I don’t know- hold on to your finger while you speed down the stairs….well….it about says it all. You believe that you can do anything and I am not interested in being the one who makes you feel otherwise. So, as you always do, you got me thinking!

While watching you gleefully run around, I couldn’t help but think about how important it is to be conscious about support- how we support someone, the level of support that they and you need, the delicate balance between knowing when to provide someone the opportunity to learn something for themselves and wanting to warn them of the cliff they are about to fall off of, doing your job as a parent by supporting and encouraging self confidence and doing your job as a parent by protecting your child from harm.

So, as I gingerly followed you around the park, arms wide open, behind you, waiting to save you from yourself and those monsters I referred to earlier, I learned a few things about support.

(1)    It’s not fair to determine the kind and level of support that someone needs based on who they used to be or more importantly, what they used to need. In my heart, you will always be my baby. And I will probably always see you as months or years younger than you actually are. I think it’s probably some Mama mechanism to allow us to be ok with our babies growing up. We kinda always see you as a few months younger than you actually are. We hold on to it for as long as we humanely can. There’s comfort in it. There’s denial in it. And even though it helps our heart to adapt to your growing, it does us a disservice in how we support and encourage you. I want to think of you as 6 months old. But you are 17 months old. If I offer you the same level and kind of support that you needed when you were 6 months old, I do wrong by you. The same applies to us as adults.  If I allow my previous experience and history with someone to unquestionably guide the level and kind of support that I offer them with today’s situation, I do wrong by them. We must not treat people as they used to be and continue to offer them the support that they used to need, but see them as they are in that very moment and adjust our support accordingly. If we interact with people based solely on our desire to see them from the perspective of a previous moment in time, we stunt their opportunity for growth, we interfere unnecessarily, and we run the risk of negatively impacting their self esteem. You are 17 months old and not 6 months old. I will do my best to treat you accordingly.

(2)    Sometimes, I’m gonna have to let you go. No holding Mama’s hand. No running interference. No support. And let me be clear: I don’t like it. It makes me cringe. And I fear the worst case scenario. Our park has these little rocking horses. They are very low to the ground so that you are able to get on and off of them by yourself. The top of the horse, however, is right at your mouth level. In the split second that it took you to get on it, I had visions. Visions of you rocking so enthusiastically back and forth. Visions of joy, and excitement quickly followed by blood and screaming. I could see it as clear as day. I knew that this would inevitably happen if I didn’t hover over you and put my hands over yours and somehow control the speed with which you would rock this horse. So, I came over and put my hands over yours. You, of course, were immediately annoyed with me. You kept throwing my hands off. Mama, you’re ruining my moment. My fun. My pride. So, I let go. Figuratively and literally. And you began to rock, enthusiastically back and forth. There was joy and excitement quickly followed by….well, followed by you stepping off of the horse to move on to the next thing. Sometimes, we have to give people a little rope. And the best way that we can support them, is by backing off.

(3)    Sometimes, I’m gonna let you do parts, while I insist on doing parts. That’s how you and I negotiated the slide. Normally, Dada’s with us and one of us walks up the stairs to the top of the slide with you, while the other one waits at the bottom of the slide to catch you. But it was just you and me. So, we had to do a little negotiating. I allowed you to walk up the stairs without hovering over you but once we got to the top of the slide, I picked you up and we went down the slide together. You were so obviously not as full of joy as you normally are once you reach the bottom of the slide on your own that it really struck me. Again, what we take away from someone when we do for them what they really want to do for themselves. How, when you had multiple sources of support (both Dada and I), you were able to accomplish your goal better than when there was just me. How sometimes, no matter how badly someone wants to do something on their own, it’s necessary to step in and take on some of the burden.

(4)    Sometimes, I’m gonna just do it for you. There won’t be any negotiation and I’ll have no problem knowing that I may be risking hurting your pride because my accountability as a Mama will override your feelings.  The swing was where I drew the line. As you grabbed the hole where your leg would go and like a gymnast about to swing himself around the rings, tried to somehow launch yourself up into the swing, I was surprised by your confidence and commitment. You are not anywhere near capable of getting yourself into a baby swing. I don’t care how much you believe that you are and I don’t care that your feelings will be hurt when I make it clear that you are not. I’m not going to share this responsibility with you. I won’t let you own any of it. I picked you up and plunked you in the swing.

Thanks for the lessons today little one. You are so incredibly sure of yourself….I am jealous. I will do my best to encourage your confidence and only offer support as you and I both need…..But take it from someone who’s had to learn this the hard way…..There’s no shame in asking for help….And when you need it, I will be here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Cry it Out!

I’ve been paying close attention to you lately. Trying to decide what I wanted to write about next. I told myself when I started writing that I would let you decide what I wrote about. But I don’t believe in coincidences. And a particular parenting topic that has plagued many, including your very own Mama, keeps rearing its ugly head. I’m going to take it as a sign. Because not only did it deeply impact me for one very terrible night several months ago; but it dramatically shaped my parenting style and most importantly my trust in myself as a parent.

So here’s the deal. It’s not always that easy to get babies to sleep. And it’s incredibly difficult for some parents to figure out how best to help their babies learn. Hhmm……I just reread that sentence and “incredibly difficult” doesn’t even come close to capturing how I felt about this decision. Agonizing? Better. Excruciating? Not bad. Heartbreaking? Yep. That does it. Literally, heart breaking. And let me tell you Aiden, everyone has an opinion. And I mean EVERYONE. And they’re all different. And most have some aspect that makes sense. Especially when you’re deliriously exhausted and desperate.

To get to the point, I’ll offer an unsophisticated pared down version of the extreme ends of the continuum. At one end, parents who have allowed their babies to “cry it out” and on the other, those who consider any amount of crying without responding to be cruel and abusive. And then there’s everyone else in the middle. Exhausted parents who are desperate to do the right thing, terrified of doing the wrong thing and potentially, one night away from going over to the “dark side.” (A reminder here that this is my perspective. Aiden, there are many people who fully support the “cry it out” method. The decision regarding the evaluative nature of the issue socially is of little importance to me here. Just so you know, you can rest assured that there are people out there who feel like some of the parenting decisions that I have made would be their dark side. It’s all relative. And that’s part of the lesson here).

And I got there one night. I went over to the dark side. I was desperate. Worn out. Weary. And probably most importantly, in a state of parental doubt. I knew how I wanted to parent you through the night. I really did. I was as certain about that as I was certain that you were my son. I. Wanted. To. Respond. Simple as that. And I did. I responded every time. When you cried, I could barely stand it. My responses were not only emotional but physical. My heart would race, my stomach would hurt, my shoulders would tense. I wrestled with balancing what I wanted to do with what I felt like I should do or maybe more accurately, what I felt that others felt I should do. Slowly, messages of not being so quick to respond started to permeate my sleep deprived brain. Messages from people who I really love and respect. Couple that with the fact that I had no reliable objective data to back up my method (in that, what I was doing wasn’t working!) and well, I humbly accepted defeat and decided to let you “cry it out.”

You were about 6 months old (Uugh. It’s truly only in retrospect that I can appreciate how young you were and how crazy this all sounds now…..Hindsight….You know?). We had had a few weeks of you waking up every hour and a half, sometimes staying awake for an hour and a half at a time. I always responded. I would shhhh to you, rock you, swaddle you, nurse you, carry you around for literally hours. I was wiped.
So, we put you to bed. And when you woke up at your very predictable 45 minute mark, I didn’t come in. And you cried (and by cried, I mean screamed) for two straight hours. Saying that out loud still makes me feel incredibly guilty. And I cried for two hours as well. I ached for you. I thought, how can this possibly be better than what I’ve been doing? It dawned on me that, you may very well eventually fall asleep if I do not respond but at what cost? And let me be clear that you didn’t fall asleep at the two hour mark. I went in. I scooped you up with more purpose and resolve than I had ever had. I thought, screw this. This is NOT how I want to parent. This does NOT work for me. And I know that this does not work for my son.

About a month later, still exhausted and uncertain about how to support and teach you about how to fall asleep on your own and how to get yourself back to sleep if you woke up, I called a sleep doula (thank God for Google). Andrea took an extensive history and then offered up a plan that worked with my parenting philosophy.

The plan was easy. I put you to bed but stayed in the room with you. If you started to cry, I would begin to shhhh. I’d say things like “You’re ok baby. Mama’s here” or “Time for sleepies. You’re safe.” The plan was to support you emotionally unless you became overwhelmed with crying (at which time I would go over and pick you up and support you physically). The first night, you cried off and on for 45 minutes. You never screamed, so I never picked you up. On the second night, you cried off and on for 25 minutes. Again, no need for me to intervene physically. And on the third night, you were out in 10 minutes. And not only were you falling asleep on your own, but you were staying asleep. If you woke up or cried, we had a 10 minute rule. Any intense crying of over 10 minutes and we would go in and remind you that we were here for you and to ensure that there wasn’t anything else wrong. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times that we’ve done that. And well, you’ve been a great sleeper ever since! Three nights. That’s all it took. Three nights.

So, why the big long story? What was the lesson? The whole experience confirmed for me my need to trust my gut when it comes to parenting you. I firmly believe that the plan worked so quickly and effectively because of the many months that came before. You knew I was there for you. You knew that you could count on me. You knew you could trust me. You tested me throughout those first several months and I had passed your test. And I believe because of that, you were more open to learning to fall asleep on your own. I didn’t know how or why or when my need to be so immediately and consistently responsive to you would ultimately benefit you, I just knew it would.

I knew “cry it out” wasn’t right for me. And yet I did it anyway. It is still truly one of the most agonizing memories that I have. The good news is that I have learned my lesson. I have been a different and better parent since then. It’s probably one of the greatest gifts that I can give to you: I trust myself. I rarely doubt. If you could have seen me those first several months!! Is he eating enough? Too much? Sleeping enough? Too much? Pooping enough? Too much? Well, you get the picture. Now, I listen to my gut and know that my body will tell me if I’m on the right track or not.

The beauty of being your parent is that all I have to do is do what’s right for you and our family. I do not need to worry about whether or not my decisions will be popular or acceptable to anyone else. For they won’t always be. The “cry it out” controversy is evidence of that and only just the beginning of what will be a lifetime of parenting comparisons, options and perspectives. Whether to circumcise you or not, whether to breastfeed or not and for how long, whether to use cloth or reusable diapers, what to feed you, how to dress you, when to potty train, what behaviours to accept or not, how long of a metaphorical leash to provide you or not, and the list goes on and on. What I’ve learned from our “cry it out” night is that I really do have a solid understanding in my heart and soul about what is right for you. That is entirely reassuring and comforting. And to be frank, is a level of certainty that I have had only a handful of times in my life.

I hope you will forgive me one day for leaving you alone to scream that night. And I thank you for the humbling opportunity to connect to a level of parenting self confidence that will serve us both well as we navigate this world together.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bananas and Personal Growth

April 25th, 2012

Bananas and Personal Growth

Just this past weekend, you started saying “nana” in clear and obvious connection to bananas. About three weeks ago, you started obsessively saying “Dada” specifically in connection to Dada (And I say obsessively only because you decided to start with Dada. Had you chosen not to break your mother’s heart and start with “Mama,” perhaps I would have used the word “enthusiastically” or even “excitedly.” But, meh, what are you gonna do?). A few days after “Dada,” you included a meaningful “Mama” to the mix! So, to review…You are 16 months old. Your verbal language includes: Mama, Dada, nana, a guttural version of vroom-vroom for car, quack (which was your first word), “ugh, ugh” for woof, woof and a staccato high pitched “ah, eh” to mimic when we say Ai-den.  Your sign language includes: milkies, more, eat, all done, help, please, tired and as of yesterday, thank you.

So….what on earth, Mama, does you saying “nana” have to do with personal growth? Well, Mama has a really cool job. It’s hard to explain. But sufficed to say that I support people as they grow to become their best selves. I know, right? Like I said, I have a really cool job. Anyway, I’ve been paying close attention to you lately. How you are learning, how you are trying, how you are celebrating. And I’ve been paying close attention to Dada and I lately too. How we are supporting your learning, how we are encouraging your trying and how we are helping you celebrate. Here’s the thing Aiden. I support other people to grow and become even better. But not because I have the answers; but because I have the passion. I don’t have the answers and just like everyone else, I am also always on my own road to growing and improving myself. And I have had many exceptional teachers. My favourite one these days? You guessed it!! It’s you, my sweet little monkey!! Here’s what you’re teaching me about personal growth.

You will be more successful if you follow your own passion- not the road that somebody else paves for you. And trust me. I worked hard to guide you towards having “Mama” be your first word. That was my road. My passion. My plan. Let me make you two promises. Promise #1- this will not be the last time that I try to guide you towards my plan for you. Depending on where you are in your life, you may just shake your head at me and think it’s cute. “Oh Mama. Please. I got this.” Other times, you will be flat out discouraged and offended by my interference in your journey.  Promise #2- my intentions in guiding you towards certain goals will ALWAYS be honourable. They will ALWAYS be based in the deepest and most genuine level of love that has ever existed. So, as we experience these moments, I promise to do my best to remind myself that even at 16 months of age, you had to pave your own road. So long as you promise to do your best to remind yourself of where my behaviour is coming from. And I will be reminded of this lesson as I work with women to support them in their own self improvement journeys.  You do not need to discount or ignore the perspectives of others in your life. But do tease out your passion and purpose from the gentle nudging you have received from others so that you can be assured of the authorship of your journey and increase your likelihood of success.

You have to start somewhere.  You still have the fearlessness and naiveté that children so often have to just give it a go. I mean, what do you know of failure, or of being made fun of, or of grading systems that tell you your attempt was either a resounding success or an utter failure? All you know right now is that, if you don’t try, you won’t know. So, when I say “Can you say Ai-den?” and you rhythmically say “eh, eh,” you have no shame. You don’t think to yourself, “Wow, that’s not even close. Next time Mama asks me if I can say Aiden, I’m just gonna say Mama and hope that makes her happy enough not to bug me anymore.” You don’t judge yourself, shake your head in frustration, refuse to try again. I swear, when you say “eh, eh,” I can see it in your eyes. You are saying to me “I want to say Aiden. But I have to start somewhere. And eh, eh is what I can give right now.” How I wish that we kept that same attitude as we got older. You don’t know this yet Aiden. But fears creep in. Fears of ridicule, rejection, failure. They can be so debilitating that people don’t even try. Can you even understand that? People will want something incredibly badly but won’t even try. They don’t even start. One of the women in my current coaching group is trying to live within the perspective of, just start somewhere and trust that you will get there. Aiden, you already know this. Try with everything you have to hold on to this knowledge. It will serve you well as your future unfolds.

We must surround ourselves with people who will help us celebrate the start and the step rather than the obvious final outcome. We talk a lot in the growth and development world about the inherent strength of intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation. We talk about it so much that I think we sometimes confuse need for support and encouragement with extrinsic motivation. Aiden, when you say “nana” and Dada and I clap our hands, raise our voices and say “Good job Aiden,” you light up. You feel supported. You are learning that your genuine attempts and starts are celebrated…as they should be.  You are encouraged to try again, and again. We aren’t going to wait until the day that you say banana. We are going to celebrate and encourage your first attempt and let you know that we are proud of “nana.” And as you grow and continue to try new things, don’t you ever feel less than or weak or needy if you need those around you to celebrate you and your attempts. In fact, surround yourself with those people. Right now, you are as pure a soul as you will ever be. Unwritten on by experience. Unknowing of “right” or “wrong” behaviour. And your pure and honest reaction to support and encouragement is joy and the desire to try again. It feels good and that’s ok. As adults, when we are making genuine and honest attempts at growth and development, we also deserve support and encouragement, and not only for the final outcome, but for the start and the step. Thanks for reminding me about the power of encouragement. It will help me better at my job.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I Want you to Want Me…..

April 20th, 2012

Tonight, when I was bathing you, I cried as I watched you take your Thomas the Train train and properly put it in the suction cupped train tracks that adorn the side of our bathtub.  You got the train set from your Great Aunt Donna and Uncle Doug for Christmas. Daddy and I used to laugh watching you try to use it properly. You would smash the train against the track, and then sneak a peek at the end of the track to see the train fall off the side and into the water. Why wouldn’t it? You had watched Daddy and I do it many times before. You were persistent and patient, despite the fact that it would never happen.

Tonight, however, you skillfully put the train on the track and watched with enthusiasm as the train glided quickly on the track and eventually fell off the edge and into the water. You were so proud that you would gleefully look back at me and clap your hands with joy. I, of course, was so taken back by how obviously brilliant you are becoming, I burst into tears. In only a few short months, you went from incapable to capable. From baby to toddler. And I was as painfully sorrowed as I was proud.

I wiped my tears, scooped you out of the tub and carried on with our night routine. Right…the night routine….continuing on with the theme of you getting old far too fast!

You used to need me to hold you a few minutes after the sound machine was put on. Just a few minutes. But enough to make you drowsy. And enough to help me reconnect with you each night. But for about a week now, you haven’t needed it. I finish Snuggle Puppy, and the second I put on the sound machine, you are physically reaching and “uuh, uuh-ing” your way to the crib. I ask you, “Are you ready to go in your crib’ and you say “yeah” (That’s your new thing these days. You say it in a very exaggerated, high pitch voice, going from high to low). Then, when I say “Good night baby. I love you,” you say “bye.” Again, just like with the Thomas the Train thing….a little piece of me dies on the inside because it’s just another indication that you are maturing, growing, and already, needing me less.

So tonight, after the trauma of the bathtub scene, we listen to Snuggle Puppy. Like on cue, the second I start the sound machine, you reach for the crib. *Sigh* What a night….My little monkey’s growing up.

I come out to the kitchen and start cleaning your high chair table. I hear you cry. But it’s not a little “settling in” cry. It’s an “I’m not happy” cry. It’s a “Now that I’ve thought about it, that was too fast” cry. As far as I’m concerned it’s a “Don’t worry Mama, I still need you Mama” cry. I’m secretly thrilled.

I don’t wait the customary 10 minutes that Daddy and I have as a rule. I rush in. I save you from the crib. You wrap your arms around my neck and lay your head on my shoulder. And as I rock you, I smell your hair and kiss your head and think to myself “I’m gonna miss this. I’m gonna want this back. I’m gonnna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast. These are some good times. So take a good look around. I may not know it now. But I’m gonna miss this.”

Thank you baby, for humouring Mama tonight. I choose to believe that you “read” your Mama and knew that i needed to know that you still needed me tonight. And don’t forget. Any time you let out an “I’m not happy cry,” I will always come running….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hello world!

Hi everyone

I’m hoping that these writings will be the basis of a book (maybe even books) that I will publish some day. Not necessarily for mass consumption, but for Aiden.  I have learned even in the 17 months since he’s been born…how quickly time evaporates….and in some ways….I can almost forget the moments of only a few short months ago. My memory fails me at times….especially when life kicks in. And I want to remember….so I write for him…and I write for me…..and I hope others who stumble upon this blog will enjoy reading about my little monkey as well!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments