Friday, April 4, 2014

2-Week-Long Cold

Jesus Murphy. It's been forever. But I've been sick. Two weeks! And I've been pushing through and chugging along because that's what you do. Back in the day I would have done my work, and then passed out on the couch. Now I have to go pick up Jack from daycare and take care of him till bath and bed. The Dude has had crazy times at work and hasn't been getting home till around 7:00, missing everything.

Then there's shopping to do for him, his laundry, and cleaning up from play time. Then I can rest. But it hasn't been enough rest to get better. I've been taking Advil and Buckley's cold pills all this time because swallowing hurts, congestion is coming and going and I've been making out okay. Jack's birthday party was on Sunday and I made sure I was full of pills to see me through.

I'll write about his birthday another time. Yesterday was his actual birthday and I had a doctor's appointment, had to stop work early and the Dude picked up Jack (late) instead of me because I had a fever. I'm now off until Tuesday on doctor's orders. I was told I should find someone else to care for my baby, but who? This is when having family around would make a big difference. I can't exactly call them up three hours away and ask them to make the journey over this. Surgery, sure. But not a virus. This is one of those things you just have to sort out on your own and it stinks.

Today I slept until 2:00 p.m. I couldn't even believe it, but I must've really needed the rest. The Dude just texted me and said he couldn't pick up Jack today. So that means I have to go out in the rain and do it myself. *Sigh* Two steps forward, one step back. And this is how your illnesses linger when you have a small child. They bring germs in and then require more work out of you, leaving little room to get better.

It was hard yesterday, not picking him up, not touching him, trying to avoid making him sick. He was so cute playing with his dad and smiling and clapping. And just like a year ago, I was too incapacitated to really enjoy him.

Nuts to this cold.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Jack was unwell when I picked him up from daycare yesterday, and he had a fever. So today he's home with me, after a grand total of six work shifts.

He's getting some much-needed sleep right now. I was thinking about how some people have their parents to rely on in times like this. My work is good about accommodating this kind of thing, but it doesn't make me feel like a good employee to need time off this soon. But he needs me, so here I am. And, honestly, I'm the best person to make sure he sleeps and drinks enough.

But thinking about not having my mom gave me one of my old dreams, the one where she's still alive.

Normally they fall along a certain pattern. I find out she's not dead yet, but she's left me anyway, to go live her life somewhere else, to die away from me after doing things on her own first. I chase what feels like a shadow, look for clues, ask others, beg for a phone number, anything. I always wake up before I find her.

This time was a little different. She did leave, but now she's better and wants to see me. I'm so excited, and I'm trying to get to her, trying to dial a phone that won't work, be where I'm supposed to be with obstacle after obstacle in my way.  I get messages and encouragement. And my son is alive in this dream. She wants to meet him. Everything is going to be better.

And then just like that, it's crushed. She faked her death, so I can't see her or the life insurance will sue. She won't see me. She goes back into hiding. I get to see a picture. She's happy. I know she loves me. And I wake up.

These dreams would haunt me more if they weren't the only opportunity I get to see her. And at least this time she wanted to see me back.

Monday, March 17, 2014

First Week Of Daycare

Jack has spent a week at daycare. He's eaten his weight in food, dropped a bottle from his daily feed and is not taking much in the way of naps.
Home after a busy day of daycare.

The eating part I'm feeling pretty great about. He's nearly a year old. Moving away from formula is a good move. The sleep part worries me. I've been so militant about it, going well out of my way to ensure he sleeps enough. But it's hard on him being somewhere new and trying to sleep there.

This weekend he stumbled around like a drunk, exhausted even after naps. He slept in. And today he had a leaky eye, runny nose and I got a call that he started running a mild temperature. He'd napped only an hour all day. He barely wanted dinner, so I did his bath routine 45 minutes early. And he's been waking up every 30 to 90 minutes with a cough or cry. Poor pumpkin.

And poor me.

You know, what's hard about being a parent isn't necessarily the extra labour. It's often the unknown variables you deal with. It's the lack of a support system when you're living away from most of your family. It's wondering how you balance your work obligations with your baby's needs. It's all the mental and emotional space your baby takes up in your mind and your heart.

Like right now, what do I do? He's wetting one fewer diapers than normal. Is it because he's sick? I don't want to wake him, but is his temperature staying steady? Was it the right thing to put him to bed early, or does that have anything to do with his restless sleep? These little choices feel so large.

I'm liking being back at work, but when Jack isn't feeling well, I don't want him away from me. I think he'll get better faster in my care. And I don't want to take time off work my second week back. He went till nine months without so much as a sniffle, and he's had three colds since, which actually lines up nicely with the increase in trips to the Early Years Centres and daycare. Sigh.

I wouldn't go back, but that doesn't mean there isn't a part of me that wistfully recalls my simpler life, which I didn't even appreciate as being simple. I can admit I struggle with certain aspects of domesticity, and throwing another person's needs into the mix at times feels daunting.

With him feeling under the weather, I feel no sense of predictability about tomorrow. At least this whole night has not been spent with him crying. Some sleep is happening. Maybe the morning will be okay. Maybe.

God, I'm lucky he's an easy baby. Jack is not the baby I deserve, but he is the baby I need.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

End of Maternity Leave

I'm at the end of my mat leave. My last day was February 23, 2013. I took a little vacay, mat leave began on March 1, and bolstered by a little more vacay, I'm due back at work on Tuesday. Jack starts daycare on Monday.

Friday was the last real day, where I had my baby all to myself while the Dude was at work. And it was a really great day. In fact, I had a really good week. Jack had been kind of sick for two weeks, so we didn't do much for awhile. But last week was really lovely.

Monday the Dude took the day off and we went to the subsidy office.

Tuesday I took Jack to an Early Years Centre in the morning.

Wednesday I took Jack to an Early Years Centre in the afternoon.

Thursday a mom friend came over with her little boy in the afternoon for a nice visit.

Friday I took Jack for a long walk after a day of him eating plenty and taking great naps.

So, it's ending on a high note. The notes haven't all been high, but now that my leave is ending I realize just how much I'll miss it. It's an era of my life that's over. I watched my baby grow and it's been a sweet time.

Deep down, I guess I used to feel like parents had some sort of protocol or idea of what they're doing... but we're all really just flying kind of blind. I made everything up as I went, Googling, asking my doctor and other moms for information, and now I feel like I've got some sort of handle on it all. And just in time to go back to work and do things I'm completely rusty at.

I was rocking Jack in the glider yesterday evening as I fed him his last bottle of the day and I had a little cry. Very soon that time of the day is going to really matter more to me than ever before. At the end of a day of work, I'm going to have to get as much out of our time together as I can, all two hours of it.

The Dude and Jack have a great relationship, and sometimes the Dude doesn't even get to see Jack at the end of the day, though when he does he says it's amazing quality time. So I can't be afraid of our connection going anywhere. I was raised with daycare and was very attached to my mother.

It's just I don't think I'm fully ready for it to be over. That's all. If I could just have one more month, maybe, or two. There's so much I'm going to miss.

You know, it took me some time to adjust to being a mother, to truly fall in love with my baby and to get into a groove where I wasn't feeling inadequate. And now I'm there. But at least maternity leave did that for me. It gave me the time I needed to become confident and competent and to create a relationship with my son. I can't imagine what American mothers go through, leaving their babies at 6 weeks, 12 weeks... I had over 11 months and that still doesn't feel like enough.

But here we are. I'm lucky. I just have to remember that. Jack will be just fine, and soon so will I.

We'll still have Sundays.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Toronto's Daycare Subsidy

So, the Dude and I were approved for daycare subsidy. We were fortunate enough to find inexpensive home care at $45 a day, and it's been reduced to a little over $39, and only Tuesday through Friday because I don't work on Monday. But it's still a savings of around $80 a month, which is nothing to sneeze at.

And I intend to move Jack to the actual daycare centre when he's 18 months and there's space in the toddler room. Care then will cost over $70 a day and with the subsidy in place I should still only pay $39. I think. Either way, it'll be cheap enough to be affordable with the subsidy and all the leg work has now been done.

And what leg work there was.

We had to provide our Child Tax Credit statement, where our household income was assessed from our taxes. We had to provide our own tax assessments. I needed to provide a letter of employment, plus pay stubs and the Dude had to fill out forms for being self-employed. Then we needed our lease to prove we lived in Toronto. And we needed Jack's birth registration. And we both needed to go, so the Dude had to get the day off work.

So, we were lucky enough that my in-laws were in town and they took care of Jack. My goodness, he loves his grandpa. They visit on the iPad all the time and looks like it really has been enough to forge a relationship. The little guy was in grandparent heaven.

We got to the subsidy office later than intended because it's located in the worst part of the city: Islington. My god, what a hell hole. No, it's not riddled with crime and gangs. It's just car-centric, boring and horribly laid out, plagued with heavy traffic and nothing interesting to do or see. We missed one turn and it took us 20 minutes to get back to where we needed to be.

Screen shot from Google Street View
because it's too boring to take a real picture of.
In the office we gave our paperwork and at one point we were called over to verify some things. The lady cheerfully informed us we were missing things and was on the verge of telling us sorry, go home, suckers. Luckily it was she who missed something and so that didn't happen, although we saw it happen to someone else, a single mother who was there with a sick child. This place was all-business.

We had our interview with another woman who was even more walled-off than the first. She too said without a hint of concern we were missing things. There was no reassuring conversation that things could still be processed or that everything could move forward, so we were left feeling jittery and agitated. Apparently because I was on maternity leave, I needed a letter stating that and indicating when I'd return. And of course this was never mentioned until that moment.

I had very disturbing stomach rumbles during this time. When you have one crack at gaining a subsidy that will allow your finances to align for the next year and ensure quality care for your baby, you experience quite a bit of stress when it appears like it's not going to work out.

But thankfully, shitting my pants was not in the cards because I was informed that mat leave letter could wait and be sent in later. And just like that, we were approved. It seemed sudden, after all the mulling over our papers and very serious tone in the room. Immediately the mood lightened and the woman started conversing more naturally, answering questions and even nearly smiling.

It's definitely a weight off my shoulders. It's good to know what to budget for. All this time it's been an X factor. That's one of the crazy things about having a baby in this city. Finding a daycare is crazy, finding one you can afford is crazier still, and securing the subsidy can be tricky (And that's if you find care that'll accept it). So you can't make a sensible financial plan. I was quoted $1,400 a month from one place, which I could not afford. I'll pay about $820, which is a steal.

I'm so grateful I don't want more children. What you have to go through to get through life with one is more than enough. He's worth it, but cripes.

Friday, February 28, 2014

End Of Maternity Leave Musings

10 days and no post?!

Well, Jack has had a runny nose and in the cold with its leakiness, I haven't much left the house with him. I took him for a doctor's appointment yesterday in the freeeeezing cold. During nap time. So I left early and walked there so he could nap in the stroller. That's love, man. But what was it all for? Nothing, really. He has a virus, non-contagious and even though it's last TWO WEEKS, it just has to run its course.

And I have one week left of maternity leave and this is how it gets spent.

I find myself really realizing what makes parenthood so challenging. It's not the loss of time, although that is an adjustment. It's not the new daily tasks you must perform, even though they're time sucks.

It's the not knowing how to do things.

It's wondering how to handle a baby when you've never cared for one and he's crying at night, even though he always sleeps through, and you don't know what his damage is this evening and maybe he needs Tylenol for teething (Is he teething?) or a bottle (Why is he hungry at 11 pm AND 5 am?)

It's wondering if he really should be eating purees still, and how are you going to manage dinner when mat leave is over because you never know what time your husband will get off work but your baby starts his bath routine at 6:30 and you won't even have him home till 5:00 after not seeing him all day, so make dinner?!

Should my baby be pointing? He's clapping and waving, but pointing is not happening. What do you mean 11-month-old babies can speak words? Does bababababa or dadadada count? He's walking everywhere! That's early? Why did he have to be advanced in the one area that makes life harder?! No, he's not using a spoon. He's gagging and vomiting if he doesn't care for the texture of what he's eating.

It's an endless sea of questions you don't have the answers to. You're enclosed in a dome of shoulds.

And now with barely no time at all left in my leave, I find myself almost mentally throwing in the towel. The daycare will help him now. I've done all I can, all I know how to do. I need to outsource some of this.

And of course it'll lead to other concerns: Is he getting enough attention? Is he eating enough at daycare? Sleeping enough? What's he doing now?

Sigh. Ambivalence.

It takes up a lot of mental space. It's the largest emotional investment I've ever made. I'm never done; there's always more issues and development and cleaning and mobility ahead.

I'm starting to forget life before Jack. Not intellectually. I recall lazy Sundays and brunch, going out for a movie in the evening, dinner invites on a whim, my friend's houses, quick travel. What I only vaguely recall is the lack of responsibility. I've acclimatized to being truly needed, physically depended on for life and survival. It's a part of my daily mentality. There's no going back.

And with that comes the sense all the shit I do now really matters. And it kind of does. Think about going home and eating dinner and talking to someone. Now what's for dinner plays into a child's growth and nutrition. The way I speak models language and behaviour. The way I interact with my husband around my baby teaches about relationships and communication. The toys I provide and the places I take him are opportunities for learning through play.

And these are everyday considerations.

Motherhood is not coal mining hard. It's not air traffic control hard. It's not being an astronaut hard. It's just... hard, in an unending sort of way.

And the really messed up part of it is how if you asked me if I'd take any of it away I'd look at you like you were crazy. This hardness, it's all mine. And the Dude's. Relinquishing it is horrifying.

And yet that's what mat leave ending is kind of about on a small scale. It's going to be a dizzying amount of personal freedom, coupled by sadness, along with worry and excitement at the end of the day. It's exhausting to think about.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Countdown to Daycare

So, last time I wrote, Jack was not walking. Well, now he is.

And this started, like, last week. He can walk the length of the living room now. My boy, he's up and at 'em. He's really proud of himself, too. I say, "Come to Mommy!" when he's on his feet and he toddles right over with a happy little expression on his face.

And he's only 10 months, which is earlier than the norm to hit this milestone. And that's really awesome. It's also the scariest one, the walking. It's just so many more opportunities for my baby to hurt himself, and oh, he has already. He's taken nosedives into his activity cube, his play pen, the jumperoo, ironically all baby-friendly things.

And his little face, he looks so much like the Dude now. He used to be a replica of me, and now I'm seeing my husband more and more, which is kind of great. I was feeling bad for the Dude for awhile, only because everyone was telling him they could only see me.

Five months, all me.

10 months, looking Dude-like.

Every mom thinks her baby is adorable, so obviously I'm stupidly biased, but look at that face! He's just so handsome. I hope this trend of looking like his dad continues. I'm not bad looking, but although my baby face looks great on an actual baby, I don't know how well it'll translate on a young man.

But his wonderful appearance aside, what's really on my mind is daycare. I go back to work on March 11. What the hell. I don't understand how that is even possible. I remember when my mat leave stretched ahead of me like an unending and confusing sea of time I had no idea how to navigate. 

I spent the first chunk attached to a pump and feeling mixtures of failure, frustration and denial over my inability to exclusively breastfeed. Then another few months was spent getting emotionally comfortable with bottle feeding, trying to get out and meet people, and learning to understand my baby's daily rhythms. 

The last chunk has been spent really getting to know my baby. His personality is blooming and I love it. I love who he is. He's so charming and friendly. Stranger anxiety? He never developed it. He's very confident. He seems to even have a little sense of humour. Babies aren't supposed to have that yet, but he's laughed at his own farts and when I make funny noises. He's a brave kid too. He doesn't wait until he's sure he can do stuff. He just tries things out and keeps at it, injuries and all, until he's got it figured out. He's relaxed and easily distracted. He loves books.

And now someone else will be looking after him all day. But, I think he'll be fine. He's got a little sense of adventure and he'll have fun. He'll have new toys to play with and other people to talk to. And at daycare he'll learn new things, stuff that as a first-time mom with no baby experience I don't know anything about.

He'll eat new food, learn to nap in less idyllic conditions, and hopefully later learn to drink from a sippy cup and use utensils. There's just stuff that I guess you could say I'll be outsourcing. It'll no longer be just me teaching him things. And that's okay. The whole "it takes a village thing" is true. 

I believe in daycare. I think it's positive for children. I think it'll be good to have some separation. But... yeah. It'll be a change. It's an end to an era. How could I not feel conflicted?
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