Mom chat on the beach

I met up with some summer cottage friends this weekend who both became moms recently – one has a 6 month old, the other a 2 month old. We chatted about birth stories, life, and our babies while Avery played in the sand and the other babies slept or cuddled on their moms. It was nice to be surrounded by other fresh moms. I felt like I was among kindred spirits, in a tight group who shared a common understanding of just how hard motherhood can be.

But then our differences in experience started to make itself known. One of the new moms (with the 6 month old) talked about how there’s so much free time with a baby – she had just been reading a good book while her baby laid next to her on the beach. She had been able to take up baking and had been making all kinds of bread. She takes care of herself, and has leisurely showers in the afternoon. The other mom, with the 2 month old, said her baby sleeps a lot, in his own room since birth, sometimes all night without even a single feeding.

I started to feel alienated. I tried to nod and pretend like I knew what they were talking about, but I’m not good at keeping feelings bottled up. I declared that I was so happy for them, but that wasn’t my experience at all. I told them I felt like the first 6 months almost killed me, that I sometimes went 5 days without showering. They were great about it and said that every baby is different, but I still felt like shit.

Was it me? Was it my baby? What was wrong with us to make our experience so hard (on both of us)?

The next day I saw the newest mother on the beach while Avery and I built sandcastles and dipped our toes in the water, thoroughly enjoying everything toddlerhood has to offer. She tried to tell me about her night and she broke down crying. Before I could offer her support, she left in a hurry, apologizing that she was just really emotional right now.

I felt for her – SO HARD. And I also felt better. Even if your baby sleeps well or will happily bounce in a bouncer for hours on end, motherhood is still hard. The emotions are always going to be intense. The responsibility crushing.

I suppose I feel fortunate that (I believe) the hardest is behind me. Sure, the tantrums in public places sometimes give me a run for my money now, but since those first 6 (maybe 12) months were so hard for me, it just keeps getting better and better and better. And I’m also fortunate that I have that group of moms who really get my experiences here in the blog world. With that, I can’t feel alone. 😉

Day in the Life with a 20 Month Old

It’s time for my every-5-month DITL post! Here’s a taste of what my life is like as a part-time WAHM (work-at-home-mom) with a 20 month old toddler.

5:00am Avery woke me up with a demand to “EAT!”. I looked around me and realized I was in her bed (oops, must have fallen asleep in there after a middle of the night wake up). She was pulling at my shirt hoping to get milk. Although we haven’t offered morning nursing for months now, she’s been sick, and she always wants it more when she’s sick. But I offered her a banana instead, and so downstairs we went to get a banana at 5am.

We played and fed the cats and let the chickens out and ate breakfast and washed dishes and watched some Paw Patrol and coloured for the next 3 hours. I’d rather not have the early morning wake ups because I’m so tired, but at least we have a leisurely morning together before daycare starts. I drank half a cup of yesterday’s coffee, and didn’t get around to finishing it.

My wife stayed home sick today, so she watched Avery while I was able to shower before daycare drop-off, which was a nice treat. However, Avery screamed for mommy at the bottom of the stairs the whole time. She’s all about her routine and doesn’t like it when we mix things up.

Despite having 3 hours to get ready in the morning, in the 5 minutes before we had to leave Avery spilled a cup of almond milk on herself and on me and all over the couch. She freaked out over being wet. I changed her pants. Then she pooped. I changed her diaper. Then we had a disagreement about what shoes she would wear. Typical morning with a toddler.

She was emotional at daycare drop-off. She hasn’t cried over it yet, but her lip quivers and she doesn’t want to let go of me. It’s weird, because she has ALWAYS loved her daycare, and nothing has changed there. I think it might just be because she’s still not feeling 100% better from her last bug.

8:30am On my way home I picked up my wife’s dry-cleaning. I also got a mother’s day card for my wife and could only find one card written for a wife that didn’t say inside it that it was from a husband. WHY. Why can’t they just leave the sender out of it and let them fill that in by themselves?? Anyway….

Yesterday our damn cat ripped a hole in our duvet with his nail and tiny feathers had been puffing out of it all night. I sewed up the hole when I got home and then threw it in the wash. I put away a load of laundry. I stripped and remade the bed. I vacuumed the upstairs because there were tiny feathers EVERYWHERE. I cursed the cats.

Then I hurriedly tidied up all the toys all over the house that Avery didn’t have time to put away before daycare (because of the milk spilling and last-minute diaper change). My wife was in the bath from the time I left until the time I finished the morning household tasks. I couldn’t help but feel a little jaded (even though I want to care for her and let her rest so she feels better) because I was just as sick 2 days ago and I DID NOT get a break. But it all comes out in the wash because I never have to sit in an office for 8 hours a day doing work that isn’t always inspiring.

9:30am Pulled out my laptop and sat on the deck in the sun and got to work. I’m working to get ethics approval for my dissertation research right now. After 2 reviews by the ethics board, I have a few more small changes to make to my application and then I expect to get that golden ticket to go ahead and start programming my data collection materials.

12:00pm Left to pick up Avery from daycare. She went down for a nap as soon as we got home. Wife was napping too, so I headed outside for some garden therapy. I got our outside water turned on for the season, planted a second sowing of peas and carrots, tended to the chickens (who were being ridiculous all crowding into one nest box), and topped up some gardens with compost. My hands were dirty, my lungs full of fresh air, and it was wonderful.

When I came inside my wife was awake and we cuddled on the couch and watched an episode of our newest Netflix show, Peaky Blinders. Afternoon grown-up tv is a rare treat these days!!

2pm Avery usually has an hour-and-a-half long nap these days. Right on cue, she woke up asking to eat. I think she’s going through a growth spurt. We immediately went outside and played at her water table, went for a walk, coloured on the deck with sidewalk chalk, and went for a bike ride with Avery in the child seat on the back of her Mo’s bike. She had so much fun that she was really upset when we had to stop, and she refused to take her helmet off.

4:45pm I headed to the kitchen/BBQ to make dinner and wash the day’s dishes. I spent the next 2 hours in the kitchen with a 20 minute break to eat. Avery gets steal cut oats every night before bed, and they take half an hour to make. She also requests fresh hot tea (mint tea) to take to bed with her. While I cooked and cleaned my wife played quietly with Avery. When it’s time to eat the oatmeal we always watch something calm on tv – either Puffin Rock, or lullabies on YouTube. Tonight she requested Puffin Rock.

6:45pm It was bathnight for Avery. My wife and I both participated in bath time because we’re trying to do less dividing and conquering and more team work. I put Avery to bed, which is now one of my favourite times of day. We snuggle in her bed while she nurses to sleep, usually for 45 minutes. It’s peaceful, relaxing, and a great way to reconnect after a full day.

8:00pm Since we’re both under the weather, my wife and I watched TV in bed and were asleep by 9:30. Our evenings are usually pretty uneventful because our days are exhausting.

And that’s it! A day that was full of little things: work, errands, playing, cooking and cleaning, ended with a lot of nothing. Laying in bed, recouperating, getting ready to start it all over again tomorrow.

Signs of Avery

The tiny sock swimming around under my bed covers.

The puzzle piece wedged between the couch cushions.

The red tricycle that lives on the verandah.

The baskets of toys that sit where our boring old grown-up books used to sit.

The tiny forks and spoons in the cutlery drawer.

I observe these signs of Avery’s existence throughout the day when she’s at daycare and they make me so happy. So thankful that we were lucky enough to become parents to this amazing little person. She has fully infiltrated every fiber of our lives, and I love it.

This post is a response to a daily prompt.

Toddler Talk

Avery’s not forming sentences yet at 19 months old (well she is, but they’re in baby-gibberish), but she’s beginning to say some pretty cute things. Here are my top 5 favourite cute things she’s saying these days:

1. “Ay-ah, teet!” (Which means Anna, treat!). She loves giving the cats treats, but one hides upstairs while the other tries taking them out of her hand. So she runs to the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs holding one reserved treat above her head away from the greedy cat, and yells for Anna to come down and get her treat.

2. “No”. It’s not the fact that she’s saying it that’s cute – it’s how. The upward and then downward inflection makes her sound desperate to be listened to. Also cute, we heard her talking in her sleep over the baby monitor the other night: “nOo. nOo. nOo.” I think she was probably having an innocent dream that we were making her put her shoes on or something.

3. She says whale like, “way-oo.”

4. She says mommy like “muh-yee.”

5. And a truly classic in toddler talk, she says please like “pwease.”

First period in almost 2-1/2 years

I’ve been expecting this. We night weaned a month ago, and I’d heard that breastfeeding at night keeps your prolactin levels up which can keep your period away. About 2 weeks into night weaning I started getting signs that I was ovulating – those old familiar signs that I used to get so excited over when we were TTC. And then today I got the first period I’ve had since my daughter was conceived in December 2015.

First, let me say how thankful I am that it was anticlimactic. I was worried that I’d have a horrible first period, with mammoth cramps and a monsoon-like flow. Instead, it came conveniently when I had my morning pee, and I didn’t feel a thing. I’ve always had really severe PMS cramping, likely because I had mild PCOS and cysts on my ovaries. I had some periods that I now know were really close to the pain of advanced labour contractions. So if this first post-partum period is an accurate representation of my future of periods, I’m a happy camper.

Despite the drama-free resurgence, I’m still feeling a lot of mixed emotions. It’s a symbolic end to the most meaningful time in my life so far – growing and nourishing my daughter as my body’s primary function in life (note: to each her own when it comes to what brings your life meaning). But I know that as she grows I’ll find more of my life’s meaning and purpose in raising her to be a well adjusted adult.

Getting my period also signifies a new beginning. I can now conceive again. We’re not trying for baby #2 for a long time still, but it feels different to be a fertile woman again. Being on my period is connecting me to the person I was before having a baby. I feel like I’m reclaiming my body as mine; it’s been primarily my baby’s for so long.

It’s a mixed bag of emotions, for sure. And even though I didn’t really experience any PMS this time, I still ate an entire chocolate Easter bunny because I always used to self-medicate my PMS with chocolate and wine. Old habits die hard.

Just another post about weaning from breastfeeding and #sleep.

Sorry to those followers who like to hear new stories about my goings-on. This is old news. We’re trudging through the challenging and sad territory of weaning from breastfeeding with a toddler who has only ever been able to sleep through breastfeeding.

It’s been about a month since we night weaned again (I say again because we night weaned a few months ago but that attempt only lasted two weeks). There have been two – maybe three – nights where I’ve broken down after hours of middle-of-the-night wakefulness and nursed my toddler back to sleep. Other than that, she only nurses twice a day – to sleep for nap, and to sleep at bedtime. She has handled the night weaning well for the most part, and doesn’t ask for milk through the night anymore. Thankfully, there really weren’t very many tears over the change. Occasionally when she’s having a rough time with a cough or congestion, an itchy rash, or being overtired she’ll ask politely for milk, but when I calmly say “no milk until bedtime” she doesn’t ask again. She has unlimited access to hugs, kisses and cuddles, as well as warm mint tea for that belly-warming feeling.

The first time we tried night weaning, she ended up sleeping through the night for the first time ever. I thought night weaning was our golden ticket to better sleep. I thought she was only waking so much at night because she had become conditioned to get milk at those times, and by de-conditioning her, she’d no longer wake. But last night, not unlike every other night this month, she woke up 5 times and stayed awake from 1am until 3am. And then she was up for the day at 4:30. She’s at daycare right now, but I’m just waiting for the call that she needs to come home early to sleep (she does half days and has her nap at home with me after lunch).

We’re just as exhausted as we were when she was an infant. It has me aching to spend a night in bed with her, letting her nurse freely through the night, so we all get a good sleep. But we keep hoping that eventually she’ll figure out how to fall back asleep without milk, and we don’t want to drag this process out by taking a step backwards.

This experience has reinforced my decision to not sleep train her using conventional methods – it’s right for some kids, not right for others. She’s the kind of kid who will stay awake ALL NIGHT LONG to get what she wants. In the crib, she would have cried for hours. In her toddler bed, she can get up and get a stuffed animal she wants, she can come and get me from my room without crying for me, she can easily remove or get another blanket… I’m happy we waited to try independent sleeping (without nursing or co-sleeping) until she was actually independent. I think she would have been awake just as much had we done it earlier, but she would have been a lot more distressed about it.

So life now is a waiting game, and we’re just trying to survive while we wait. We’re doing what we can to help her sleep – cuddles, reassuring cheek kisses, lots of rest through the day – but nursing through the night is no longer a tool in our toolbox. We want to see this through.

Wish us luck…

We’ve joined the Paw Patrol fan club [insert eye roll here]

We try to curate what Avery watches on Netflix. We don’t have cable, so it should be easy to make sure she only watches shows we’re on board with. We have nothing against Paw Patrol, really, besides the fact that it’s kind of annoying to the parents… And I suppose we also dislike how the characters always win at everything – losing isn’t an option. We want Avery to see examples of people failing on their first try. We want her to not be afraid of or stunned by failure. Anyway, we’re not against the show, we just prefer that she watch other things.

But somehow we have a Paw Patrol addict on our hands. Her great-aunt got her some Paw Patrol books for Christmas, and while visiting her cousin she was exposed to the show for the first time. When I was scrolling through Netflix to find Llama Llama, Avery was looking over my shoulder and spotted the Paw Patrol icon. We gave it a try. She grabbed one of her Paw Patrol books and excitedly pointed from the book to the TV. And with that, she was hooked. Now whenever she pulls her book off the shelf, she points to the tv and says “Paw? Paw?”

We’ve started watching it every morning before daycare while I make breakfast and feed the cats and fuel up with coffee.

Does anyone else find it kind of annoying for the parents?

Does anyone have good kids show recommendations?

3 Things on Sunday

1. My PhD research proposal was accepted!! I waited a month for my advisory committee to come together for a meeting, and the meeting went amazingly well. I can finally – after 3 years and 2 other proposal attempts that fell through for different reasons – finally, move on to actually DOING THE RESEARCH and finishing this f-ing degree and get a job.

2. I had my first me-time in a long time getting my hair done this weekend, but thoughts of how expensive it was going to be and how much I just wanted to be home with my little family made the whole 2 hour process unenjoyable. It’s funny how you can be at your wit’s end with trying to keep up with your demanding toddler’s needs and then in only 5 minutes of being alone feel like your heart is aching from missing that wonderful, demanding toddler.

3. Night weaning is going really well, but sleep isn’t… It’s complicated. Avery has been sick forever and the cough still keeps her up at night. The doctor assures us it’s normal for kids her age in daycare to be sick for this long, and for things like runny noses and coughs to linger well beyond the duration of the actual bug. She’s also struggling with yet another itchy post-viral rash (apparently she’s prone to them). So she does a lot of crying through the night, and I used to be able to make her feel better by nursing. Now we just put a hand on her back and lay next to her while she fusses, and she doesn’t even ask for milk to help her get through it. She just deals with it. It makes me proud of her, and also sad that the instant comfort phase of her life is over. She makes her own comfort, now. That said, last night she was really upset, and I brought her into our bed to sleep on top of me. Just because we’ve night weaned doesn’t mean we’ll let her suffer all night or go without sleep.

The good news is, she usually goes from 7pm to 4am with only one wake up that we need to go to her bedside for (that one wake up takes 2 minutes for my wife and an hour for me, though). The bad news is, 4am is when she wakes up for the day now… We’ve let her have an earlier nap to compensate, but that just messes with her afternoon energy levels. Can’t wait for her to settle into the new normal without night (and morning) nursing and hopefully find a good rhythm we can all be happy with.

Reflections on Night Weaning (at it again…)

*Photo from Pixabay.com

Night weaning is hard, even when it’s easy. Avery’s only nursing twice a day now, to sleep at nap and bedtime. It’s a big change from nursing all night long, snuggled beside me. We’re doing this to give her a gentle nudge toward sleep independence, but it’s just as much about me breaking my dependency on nursing away her every tear, every cough, every nightly stir. That has been such a wondrous gift, and although I’m theoretically ready to make the separation, my heart never will be.

I miss her as I lay in my bed and listen to her snore through the monitor. I feel jilted that I can’t lay with her all night anymore (part of our night weaning plan). I feel anxious waiting for her next wake up, wondering how difficult it’ll be to get her back to sleep, how many tears she’ll shed, how long the protest will last.

We have officially been one week without night nursing. I’m going to give it another couple of weeks before claiming that the transition period is over, but so far Avery’s doing a really good job learning to get back to sleep without nursing. Last time what broke us was her 3-5am insomnia, and her being sick. Both of those things are happening again, but we’re powering through this time. With every month older she gets, she can also understand better what’s expected of her at night, and that makes me feel better about it.

With the huge decrease in nursing comes a change in hormones. I’m getting some signs that I might be ovulating for the first time in almost 2 and a half years. Yes, you read that right – I haven’t had my period since we conceived Avery. It has been a wonderful, crampless, dry, and clean part of my life. I’m not eager for it to return.

One final reflection on night weaning: choosing to night wean was a decision I made for my marriage over my child. That alone has a lot of complex emotions associated with it. And while my wife is purely excited, I have to keep reminding myself that my marriage deserves to get priority over the child this once. It will all trickle down to benefit Avery in the long run. If my wife and I are a satisfied, happily married team, Avery will have a good relationship role model to look up to in her parents.

Adventures in Toddler Discipline: Setting Boundaries

Avery has started standing and jumping on the furniture as a way of testing boundaries. We have told her that she needs to sit or lay down when she’s on the couch or the chairs, because she could fall and get hurt from standing and jumping. She wants to see just how far we’ll go to enforce this rule, and she needs to test us every single day in case we’ve changed the rule from the day before.

Avery: stands on couch

Me: please sit on your bum when you’re on the couch.

Avery: smirks, stays standing.

Me: Can you sit down on your own, or do you need me to help you get off the couch?

Avery: still smirking, starts stomping her feet.

Me: You’re showing me that you need help to get down. Lifts her onto the floor.

Avery: kicking and crying. Runs to the next piece of furniture, climbs up, and stands on it.

Me: Sit or I’ll help you down.

Avery: stomps and cries.

Me: lifts her down.

Avery: runs to the next chair, stands on it.

Me: lifts her down.

Avery: screams.

Me: pulls hair out in frustration.

Finally out of furniture to climb on, she gives up and runs off to play with something more appropriate. It is unclear who won.

If you’re interested in how we devise our game plan for dealing with boundary testing behaviour like this, I highly recommend two books: The Soul of Discipline and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame.

I recommend both of these books, but No Bad Kids is a quicker read with very easy to follow ideas for actually responding to your kid’s behaviour in real time. The Soul of Discipline gets more into theory of misbehaviour and discipline.

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame

The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance- From Toddlers to Teens

Full disclosure: These are affiliate links, but I have not yet been accepted into Amazon’s Affiliate Program. I need to drive 3 sales in order for my blog to be considered for this program. If you’re interested in either of these books, purchasing through the links provided here will help me to qualify for the affiliate program. Belonging to the Amazon Affiliate Program will allow me to earn a very small commission from Amazon sales made through the affiliate links I provide on my blog.