Year End Meme of 2012

Because why not keep traditions alive?

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Went to Cabo, pregnant.  Had a baby.  Collected EI.  Took baby on a road trip, took baby to Mexico.  Lots of baby related firsts.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Didn’t make any last year.  For next year, I resolve to send 5 thank you letters, and to attempt to transition back to work gracefully.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Me, of course.  A couple of cousins.  The woman in our birth and babies class who I’ve since become close to, if that counts.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Well, David’s cousin died, but I only met him once.  Hard on the family, when a teenager dies.

5. What countries did you visit?

David and I went to Cabo in January, a road trip with Jess to Montana in the summer, and to Cancun with Jess in November.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2012?

No depression would be nice.  More money than EI brought in will also nice.  I don’t know – the second half of this year has been pretty great.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 6 – Jess’s birthday.  Pretty much the biggest day of my year.  (Even if the labour itself was more days than that.)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Kept a baby alive with my boobs.  Had a totally awesome child.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Well, it might not read as failure to others, but I absolutely felt like a failure because I failed to birth Jess and needed the c-section.  PPD felt pretty failurific.  My milk drying up didn’t feel great either.  Yeah.  Bodies, man.  I feel that mine failed me a bit this year, and then I blame me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

C-section recovery sucked.  PPD also sucked.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Vacations.  Always vacations.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

David is such a great, amazing dad and partner.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

American politics.  God, I’m glad I’m Canadian.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Day to day living, mostly.  Three small vacations.  Cloth diapers.  Impulse baby clothes.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I don’t know.  So many months this year were spent in a depressive episode followed by a certain amount of flatness.  The highs were there, but they weren’t generally something I was excited about in the lead up.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

I sang this song to Jess while crying, for the first couple of months of her life.  Mumford & Sons, Little Lion Man.

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear?”

But then things got better.

Other songs that capture the year include Wintersleep’s  Mirror Matter, with it’s chorus of “Happiness, it’s all around you.”

I listened to Of Monsters & Men’s Little Talks many many time.

“The stairs creak as I sleep,
it’s keeping me awake
It’s the house telling you to close your eyes

Some days I can’t even dress myself.
It’s killing me to see you this way.

‘Cause though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.”

Japandriods’s The House that Heaven Built was also in regular rotation.

“When they love you and they will
Tell them all, they’ll love in my shadow
And if they try to slow you down
Tell them all, to go to hell”

I listened to a lot of music this year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Happier.  Definitely happier.
b) thinner or fatter? I’m no longer pregnant!  Much, much smaller in the waist area.
c) richer or poorer?  Pretty much a net neutral.  Spent less, made less, spreadsheets show that this year was about even.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Taking Jess to the swings in the summer.  We went on tons of walks, but rarely to the swings.   Otherwise, it’s been a pretty ‘achieving my goals’ kind of year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Crying.  Feeling sad.  Doubting myself.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home.  David’s parents came for a day, my mom for the afternoon.  Dinner at my aunt’s.  Then the rest of the week hanging out and watching movies and playing video games and trying to get the baby to figure out why we’re ripping open presents.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?

With the baby.  It took awhile, but now I can’t imagine the world without her.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Can’t choose.  Community, Parks and Rec, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Modern Love, Always Sunny in Philadelphia…  We watch a lot of sitcoms and British shows, and I love them all.  I had a lot of time on the couch nursing, and watched the entire run of West Wing, and HIMYM, Gilmour Girls and Vicar of Dibley.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope.

24. What was the best book you read?

I read over a hundred books.  I couldn’t even start to pick a favourite.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? 

Japandriods.  Of Monsters and Men.  Mumford and Sons.

26. What did you want and get?

To have a healthy baby.

27. What did you want and not get?

To have a happy post partum experience, and fall instantly in love with my baby, and other such idealized ideas of motherhood.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Um.  I think we saw like, two movies in theatres?  A Bond one?  And maybe something with Jason Segel?  That one.  Sure.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 31.  Jess and I had a totally normal day, and then I got presents in the evening from David and Jess.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

No PPD.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Yoga pants.  Tops that allowed nursing.  In a word: comfortable.

32. What kept you sane?

David.  Books.  Exercise.  Friends.  The internet.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Jason Segel.  Yum.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Abortion in America.  How is this still a debate??  I know I said that last year, and yet, here we are again.

35. Who did you miss?

My dad.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I’ve made a couple of mom-friends (or, friends I made through the fact I had a baby) and they are both pretty great.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

Life is hard, but it gets better.  Eventually.

A Merry Christmas Evening

Our work Christmas parties were, same as last year, on the same night in the same building.  Opposite ends of a very large conference centre.  Last year we went to mine and stopped in at his, this year we went to his and stopped in at mine. It worked out really well  – we had a sit down dinner at David’s, sitting with one of his best friends and his lovely wife, and then we eventually ducked over to mine to drink our free drinks, talk to a few people and debate eating from the poutine bar.  (Alas, too full from dinner, but cute concept.)  I also got a job offer, which was great, and sure, my boss has already approved my in-group transfer, so it’s a sure thing, but it’s nice to be wanted no matter what.  Plus, I’ll be reporting directly to a woman I quite like, instead of a nice man who runs meetings in a Dilbertish fashion.  So 4 drinks, a job offer, and a great photo?  Glad we walked over there.

DSC_0562 rotated

Because they were free, we had our picture taken everywhere.  (Including three photobooth&costume photo sets, because I am powerless to not wear a viking hat if there is one one offer.)  And re: the last post, maybe there’s something to be said for just figuring out my angles and finding what’s flattering.  Instead of staring unhappily at pictures of myself, I just need to find better pictures, better poses?  Not that the family portraits we had done with Jess were bad!  They were great.  But they were in full daylight and in jeans.  Maybe the secret is in a short sassy little black dress and flattering poses.  Because, damn, do I like this photo.

work christmas

I think I look great.  (David always looks great in a suit.  Yum.)  Open mouth laughter suits me, and the set’s great, and it totally avoids showing the areas of my body I’m self conscious about.  (We’ll pretend the photo where I’m sitting on his lap didn’t happen, because that one is terribly unflattering.)

Okay, a great photo or two may not cure my body angst, but it sure doesn’t hurt – how can I feel too bad about myself, when I can look at that picture and be all, “YES”?  I can’t.  I felt great, in a short black dress that flattered the hell out of my curves.  I’d had a few (ahem) drinks and had a handsome man and the pictures look great.  Done.

Post Partum Body

So the baby is 9.5 months old now, which is crazy.  We just had some nice family portraits done a few months ago, and I’m having a hard time making the critical self conscious voice in my head to shut up.  Because my post partum body is still not where I want it to be, and I feel bad because I feel self conscious about it.  (I feel bad about feeling bad!  Welcome to my brain.)   So, inspired by Meghan, here’s my journey with the body post baby.

I have never been thin, and my stomach has always been large and jiggly, even when I was a teenager swimming 6-8 times a week.  It’s just what my body looks like.

Here I am at 4 weeks pregnant, or, more accurately: just peed on a stick, went for a walk to celebrate.  I was at my heaviest weight in my entire life at this point – the summer had already involved a miscarriage and a flooded basement, and that had resulted in a summer of crappy eating and a lot of rum.  I weighed, shall we say, X pounds.

4 weeks pregnant

I got pretty big during my pregnancy, but I put on very little weight at all. I actually lost 5 pounds in the first trimester – stepped on the scale to see that the very day I popped my first stretch mark.  I take no real credit for what my body did during the pregnancy – I had terrible heartburn that meant even eating a muffin was a set up for 18 hours of unrelenting burning pain.  The only foods that I could really eat in the second trimester were Lucky Charms and ice cream.  (Being pregnant meant I suddenly became lactose tolerant, which was awesome.)  So I didn’t eat much, but what I ate was really calorie rich.  I got big in the belly, and fast, but I didn’t get big all over.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the rest of me lost some fat.  (I had some to spare.)  I also lost muscle mass when I had to stop working out around 28 weeks pregnant, because of some pelvic floor issues I was having.  Okay, yes, I still walked and did yoga, but that’s totally not the same as 4 day a week fitness classes with weights.

28 weeks pregnant

After I discovered Zantac, I could eat again, but still didn’t gain much weight.  During the whole pregnancy, I put on 12 pounds, or, X+12.  I’m short, and carried it all out front, so I looked like I gained a lot more.

38 week pregnant, after my water broke

I gained 12 pounds (X+12), gave birth to an an 8 pound baby (X+4), and a week after she was born was down to X-7 pounds.

1 week post partum

I bounced up to X-3 pretty quickly, as my body tried to adjust to the baby and the Breastfeeding Hunger, and all the rest.

2 weeks post partum

I fit back in to my jeans by the time Jess was a month old. Which was nice, but I again can’t take any credit.  The c-section recovery was really, really hard on me, and at a month post partum, I still couldn’t lift her in the car seat, let alone exercise.

At 12 weeks, I took a lame mommies and babies yoga class.  (I don’t like singing much.  I like yoga.  This class was way too much of  the former and far too little of the latter.)  At that point, I couldn’t even lay down from a sitting position because of the internal adhesions and resulting pain.

4 months post partum

Around the 4 month mark, I started taking more intensive fitness classes – starting with strollercize twice a week.  By the end of November (9 months post partum) I was up to 4 classes a week – a deep water running class, two areobics/weight classes and a pilates class.  My weight has been pretty stable for a couple of months at X-5, and while ideally I’d like to hit X-8 and stay there, I’m not unhappy about my weight.

7 months after Jess was born

7 months post partum

I finally bought new jeans, in time for our family photos, and found that I’d dropped a pant size from my pre-pregnancy jeans.  (My chest size, however, is still a few sizes up.  Breastfeeding!)  My hips, ass and thighs are the same size or smaller than they were pre-baby.  Thanks to all the fitness classes and squats, I had not developed mom-butt and I still like my ass.  (I first learned to love my butt when I took pole dancing classes.  I liked the way I looked in short-shorts!)

Baby's first ocean, at 8 months old

Baby’s first ocean, at 8 months old

But I am unhappy about my stomach, and it shames me that my belly is the first thing I see when I look at the family portraits.  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to be the woman hiding from the camera, or the one who looks at herself with shame.  Because life is too short to fixate, or so I keep telling myself. The conflicting messages in my brain (be happy!  you’re too big!) are annoying, but I’m feeling them, so here we are.

The thing is, I’m DOING THE WORK, and it’s not making the kind of difference I wish it would.  I work out a lot, I eat mostly sensibly, and I have a big belly and my core strength just is not back yet, 9 months after the c-section.  When I started doing the fitness classes at 4 months, I couldn’t even get in to a plank position, because something internally caused screaming pain if I tried.  Hell, the first time I tried to do a crunch, 3 months after the birth, I couldn’t lift my head more than a half inch of the ground, and 5 of those made me hurt for 3 days afterwards.  (C-SECTIONS ARE NOT THE EASY BIRTH ANSWER.)  Things are better – because I’ve worked very, very hard – but still not great.  I still can’t, for example “access my transverse abdominals” at pilates, or hold a plank for 60 seconds.  I’m getting closer, but I don’t have the strength that I’m used to, or the sensations I remember.

I guess, really, that it upsets me on both fronts – the loss of tone and the loss of strength.  I’m trying hard to be kind to myself, and to keep going to the classes and to generally not think about it to much, but it’s hard. I’m mostly happy with my body – as much as I ever am – but this one thing upsets me, and then I’m upset that I’m upset.  Blerg.

Being a woman in the 21st century: self-esteem is a minefield.

Table for Three

Years ago, I was at a sushi restaurant with a friend, lingering over California rolls and talking.  The only other customers in the place came over to us as soon as they were seated.  They introduced themselves and then blew my mind.  “We’re sorry in advance – our son is 18 months old and this is the first time we’ve ever taken him to a restaurant, so we’re not sure how he’s going to do.  We’ll try our best but we hope he doesn’t ruin your evening.”  We just demurred and waved them off, and frankly, weren’t bothered by the kid at all.  I have no memory of how he behaved, so I’m sure it must have been okay.

A couple of years ago, I was out for dinner with my aunt, uncle, cousin, her fiance and my mother, at a Chinese restaurant.  We were having a great meal (these people are a riot), when the meal almost descended in to a riot.  (Well, a riot of a dozen middle class white people.)  At the next large round table was a gathering that included a baby, maybe 9 months old.  And this kid started screaming.  Now, we were all understanding about it and shrugged it off, because it was a baby.  15 MINUTES OF UNCEASING SCREAMS LATER, my cousin went over and politely asked them to try and quiet down the baby, because he was ruining out dining expedience.  In the 15 minutes of wailing, the child was fully ignored – just left sitting in his high chair screaming his face off.  As soon as Kim talked to them, someone picked him up and he stopped crying instantly. (Which, DUH.  Even before I had a kid I was aware that babies often cry for attention.)  However, it then descended in to chaos because they were mad that we had questioned their parenting style or whatever, and it ended up with the father of the baby threatening to go fight my 65 year old uncle in the parking lot. (The staff was horrified and had no idea what to do.) It was fucking insane, but funny as hell in hindsight.

These two moments really stand out in my head, in the file of Things Not To Do.  David and I talked a lot before the baby was born about how no way in hell were we going to be Those People.  The ones who never leave the house, or the ones who won’t control their child.

And we started right away.  David’s mother was in town a couple of weeks after Jess was born, and she took me (us) out for lunch at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant.  Now, fine, she was a tiny baby and slept the whole time, but still.  A few weeks later we were there again, with friends, and she was awake and being passed around for cuddles for most of the meal.  As soon as she became old enough to sit up in a high chair it became even easier.

Chiling in her high chair

Chilling in her high chair at a long family dinner in Mexico

We don’t go out all the time, but at least once a week, I’d say.  Maybe a quick Saturday lunch at 5 Guys with David, or lunch at an Indian buffet with a girlfriend, or dinner with David’s parents when they’re in town at somewhere super fancy like the Boston Pizza’s.  (HA!  But they seem to love it there.)   And mostly, she’s very well behaved, especially for a 9 month old baby.

I’m not saying that she’s never got fussy at a restaurant.  But if she does, we offer cheerios, and if those don’t work, she gets picked up and we play pass the baby as we take turns eating.  If she fully freaked out (hasn’t happened yet but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen tomorrow), the plan is for one of us to bolt with the child while the other gets the food wrapped up and the check paid.  Ideal, it is not, but we refuse to be the assholes in the restaurant with the screaming, ignored child.  We also do things to make our lives easier – we bring food for Jess, and cheerios, and toys.  We try to plan the time for just after she’s woken up from a nap, not just before she needs the next one.  We try, when possible, to go before or after the main rush.  We praise her good behaviour lavishly, and try our best to redirect her the rest of the time.  We tip well, and try not to make a mess.  (Actually, the only time she was ever really messy was at the Indian buffet and she’d tossed some rice on the floor.  My friend did her best to pick up most of it, and the staff seemed fine.  It may have helped that Jess was quiet and spent the meal flirting with the waiter…)

Dinner at the "nice" restaurant at our resort in Mexico

Dinner at the “nice” restaurant at our resort in Mexico

At any rate, so far, so good. Hopefully by training the kid since litterarly birth to behave well in restaurants, she’ll continue to do so.  Another “you’ll see” myth about what happens when you have kids, busted!

WTF

Jess just turned 9 months old.   To use that old cliche, where did the time go?

More pressingly, where did this tiny little person go??

1 Month Old

1 Month Old

She somehow became this new, opinionated, noisy, happy, inquisitive person!

9 Months Old

9 Months Old

It’s hard to believe that she’s now been outside of me longer than she was inside of me.  Which, because I am, in fact, pedantic, happened a few weeks ago. Jess was born at 38 weeks gestational age, or 36 weeks actual existence.  It took 36 weeks to go from a couple of cells to an 8 pound baby, and another 8 months to become a 17 pound human being.  It’s really, really crazy to watch.

1 Week Old

1 Week Old

36 Weeks Old

36 Weeks Old

Babies.  Man, I cannot even believe these pictures are of the same human, so close together.  Just crazy.

Christmases past

The first death happened late spring of my 4th grade – my Grandma K dropped dead of a heart attack, a totally unexpected thing.  The first Christmas after that was hard – my dad took the death of his mother very badly, and the first Christmas after any loss is tough.  My Grandpa K died in November of grade 6 – a long slow terrible death from emphysema.  In grade 7, on the last day of classes before the Christmas break, my uncle Johnny was terribly injured on the job, and he lingered until the quiet days between Christmas and New Year’s.  The whole vacation was spent sitting in the ICU waiting room, and it was terrible.  In grade 9, my Grandma W died just before New Year, in the hospice we’d spent a wrenching Christmas watching the cancer finally win.  Grandpa W died when I was in grade 12, not long before Christmas, finally succumbing in the same hospice as his wife, also to cancer.

So what I’m trying to say is that Christmas?  Wasn’t exactly a festive happy season for me, growing up.  Christmas was the time where people died, and even on years blessedly free of funerals, the memories were always so close to the surface.

That combined badly with my mother’s rabid hatred of shopping and deep theological issues with the church she’d been raised in.  One year, in grade 12, she canceled the holiday outright.  (Gave us the option of not having Christmas in Calgary, or not having Christmas in Mexico.  Mexico was lovely.)

So I grew up being, at best, ambivalent towards the holiday. It helped when my mother put her foot down and started to refuse attending more than one Christmas events in a single day, and cutting out trips to visit my grandparents on Boxing Day, three hour away.  Before that, on the edges of my memories, were Christmases mainly marked by stress and frustration.  After that, were less spoken family tensions, but at least we started to have pleasant Christmas mornings.

As a young adult, navigating Christmases with my ex’s family was a stressful nightmare that would start in November and involve a  month of back and forth and crying and manipulation and guilt and stress and general horribleness.  (I really, really don’t miss that.)

The Christmases of my childhood were full of unspoken family tension and tears.  The Christmases of my school years were full of death and funerals and tears.  The Christmases of my young adulthood were full of loud family tensions and tears.

 

I refuse to let this be the legacy my daughter grows up with.

 

We haven’t quite figured out how yet, and god knows you can’t avoid deaths, but we can at the very least deal with scheduling multiple family gatherings calmly, well beforehand and not allowing waffling after the final decision is made.  We’re also insisting on not traveling for Christmas this year – baby’s first Christmas and all.  (Next year, it will be baby’s first Christmas where she knows what’s going on, and the year after maybe the future hypothetical baby’s first Christmas, and I am willing to keep coming up with stuff for as long as I have to, if it means I can wake up on Christmas morning in my own bed.  Or in Mexico – that can be quite nice too.)  It helps that all the grandparents are being calm and rational about it, and everyone recognizes that, free of any close ties to the religious nature of the holiday, there’s no difference celebrating family together on Boxing Day instead.  Or on Dec 28th, for that matter.  When Jess is old enough to care about Santa, that might change things a little, but then, it’s better if you’re at home so Santa can find you, right?  But seriously, I am willing to travel the couple of hours south to spend Christmas with my inlaws – I have in the past – but with a little baby it’s SO much easier to stay home, and everyone seems to get that.  Also, neither one of our sisters will be home for the holidays, so it’s a very small number of people’s feelings that need to be taken in to account.  So we’ve eliminated the fighting over Christmas drama.  Our sisters not being home eliminates the sibling drama that made last year’s Christmas rather shitty.   We have a long standing family dinner at my aunt’s house on Christmas Day, but that’s it for driving around.  (And she lives like, 7 minutes away from us.) What else.  Presents: I actually like buying and receiving presents.  On mat leave, I don’t have to fight Saturday crows at the mall, instead free to go at 10 am on a Tuesday and cut down that stress.  I have a pretty good idea of what everyone’s getting already, and figuring out the rest doesn’t stress me out.  We’ll actually decorate the house this year – I know Jess will love looking at the shiny lights and other pretty things, and so far, she’s not mobile enough to be a big threat to a tree.  (Well, this week, anyway…)

My 2012 Christmas resolution is to start a new tradition of calm, pleasant holidays, with the minimum possible level of crying and drama and stress.  Fingers crossed!