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?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Harder, But Better

Just a tad snowy out.
The snow. Oh gods, the snow! If Jack were older, we could go tobogganing. But since he's a baby and I need a stroller, I be stuck at home because many people do not shovel in front of their homes like they are supposed to. In the interest of buying a compact stroller that does not annoy people on the bus, I did not get an off-road type of contraption. Pushing it through stomped snow and ice is too much damn work.

These are the little things that can make your day feel harder than it really was. I remember when I first had Jack and the weather was a little wet, and then it was summer and I felt it was too hard to get out and do things. Ohohohoho! I was naive.

No outer clothing for me or the baby. I had to pack bottles, no solids. Baby poop was not offensive yet. Jack was not mobile and could be plopped down and left quietly in the car seat while I took care of business setting up outside. The sidewalks were clear. His naps were ongoing and he could be swaddled anywhere and doze off.

Having a 10-month-old in winter, who is mobile and alert and more on a schedule and eating real stuff, well, that's another ball of wax. Also, no more coffee shop dates with moms. I gots to go to baby-centric stuff now because Jack gets antsy and wants to see what the world is made of.

And all the Early Years Centres have narrow time windows that always coincide with nap times. And I ain't missing no naps! Not worth it. You try dealing with Crank Master J when that happens.

I don't even think I've hit the crux of difficulty yet. Jack doesn't protest when we leave a place where he's having fun. He can't walk, which means he cannot run away from me. He cannot say "no." And he will do all these things at a time that overlaps with still being in diapers.


But I will not end this post on such a weary note. My boy, he's been doing spiffy stuff. Standing independently is increasingly steadier. He's finding his centre of gravity. He lowers himself with surprising grace as he attempts to balance.

Also, he's started saying "Mmm" after every bite of food. And he claps now. Sometimes he claps while we're feeding him, which is amazing. He likes to listen to the Dude play the guitar and he plucks the strings. He knows Cookie Monster and Big Bird (He has the dolls) and when we ask him where they are, he finds them and brings them to us.

In closing, my son is super adorable. Life's a little harder, but fuck it.


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