On Vacations

Dallas was a nice trip.  We saw a bunch, ate some good food, bought a few things, and had more than one family nap.  (I love family naps.)  It was a relaxing, enjoyable trip, and I’ll try and get a few pictures up eventually.  The funny thing is how people have reacted to our choice of destination.  We’ve both had variations on the following conversation a few times.

“But… Dallas?  Why?”  “Why not?”  “Oh, you must have friends down there?” “No.”  “Is the weather great or something?”  “Not really – I mean, there’s no snow, but it’s still hoodie weather.”  “So what are you going to do for 10 days?”  “The JFK stuff, for sure, and otherwise, we’ll find something to do.  It’s a big city – there’s always something to see.”  “You’re not making plans??”  “Nah, we’ll wing it – I’m sure it will work out!”

And it totally did.  I stand by the fact that you can find something to do for a week in just about every place, ever, if you make some effort.  It’s certainly easier in a town with an aquarium, a zoo, a half dozen museums and a presidential assassination site, but there’s always something.  (And the less there is that you need to see, the more naps you can have.)

As for the why Dallas and not somewhere else?  Well, that one’s a little bit funnier, at least to me.

We had always planned to take a vacation right before my mat leave ends, but we held off on deciding where until the NHL strike resolved.  It finally did, and my hockey-crazy husband put down Dallas and Miami as two options.  I added New Orleans to the list on the ‘domestic’ side, and Jamaica and Cuba on the tropical side.   We decided against Cuba due to the fact that everyone we talk to complains about the food, and after getting sick on our last resort trip, we weren’t eager to go through that again.  New Orleans fell off because the timing in regards to Mardi Gras wasn’t good – not that I wouldn’t like to see it, but not so much with an 11 month baby and trying to get a hotel at the last minute.  The only logical way for us to get to Miami is through Dallas, and added 4 hours to a flight day with a baby, which would have liveable but not awesome.  So the toss up became random city wander in Dallas versus a resort trip to Jamaica.  And we’d just done a resort trip, so Dallas it was!

The Wall of Map

The Wall of Map

Plus, and this is actually no small consideration, Dallas allowed us to get THREE pins on our giant map of the world that hangs in our dining room.  It’s 6 feet long.  And we use colour coded pins to show where I’ve gone (white), David’s gone (blue), we’ve gone (red) and us plus J have gone (orange).   It’s so nerdy, but I love it.  LOVE IT.  It also handily covers up a wall that the previous owners did some form of crappy finish on, so a giant map takes away from the faux-finish, which is a nice bonus.  But really, I just love looking at maps, and looking at all the places I’ve been, and getting a daily reminder of how much I like my life.  Which is a pretty good return on a $50 piece of paper!

It’s fun to look at, too.  When we have parties, you’ll always find someone looking at the map, often comparing stories with someone else.  It’s a good conversation piece.

This shows a lot of different trips

This shows a lot of different trips

It’s also fun to look at where we’ve been.  I’ve got furthest north (Fort Nelson in northern BC), furthest east (Oman) and furthest south (Costa Rica) covered.  David wins the west with Hawaii.  The Yucatan has three pins of three different colours all clustered together – a white one for the trip to Cozumel with my parents in high school, an orange one for our trip to Cancun last year, and a red one for Chitzen Itza, which we did without J.  I totally win the Pacific North West, due to road trips years ago, and David dominates Europe, due to a post-university 3 month trip.  Interestingly, there are only 3 pins for places we’ve both been but separately: Orlando, Toronto and London.

We may

We may use this as a suggestion list when trip planning…

I won’t lie to you – some of our vacations, like Dallas, are influenced by the empty spaces in the map.  Sure, we have to want to see them, but filling in that blank southern expanse of America was a consideration on our trip.  It certainly is why we took a day trip to Waco.  I mean, that and the Dr Pepper museum, of course.  Because you on vacation – why not drive 4 hours round trip to check out a museum, a mammoth burial site and get a pin for the wall?  (Oh, yeah, we’re fun to travel with.  It’s a good thing that we both enjoy this kind of ridiculousness.)

The only one worth going to is Oman

The only one worth going to is Oman

Man, I love going on vacations.  I know I’ve said this a bunch of times, but I really, really do.  And I am so pleased that we’ve managed to integrate J in to our vacation-life as smoothly as we have.  That’s one of my biggest fears about parenthood, proven wrong.

Report Card

Nell did an interesting post, whose format I’m going to steal.    She and her husband had decided on the 10 commandments of parenting that they were going to try to operate under, and after their adorable little girl turned 1, they looked back and see how they’d done.  Well, I wasn’t organized on the front end, but we did have some very clear ideas of how we wanted to try and be.  Let’s see, shall we?

1. I wanted a calm, natural birth. I read every single book ever written on the subject (or at least, it felt like it).  I physically and mentally prepared myself.  We hired a doula.  The maternity clinic practice was on board with intervention free births.  And then my water broke a few weeks early and I couldn’t get in to active labour and I ended up with pictocin, and an epidural, and a c-section.  The cascade of interventions that I so totally did not want.  It took me months to feel okay about what happened.  The baby came out and was healthy and all is well, but I’m still calling this a FAIL because man did things not work out like I wanted them to.

2. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is an unqualified PASS.  Sure, there were some bumps, with the multiple tongue ties, and the dangerous weight loss in the first few days and resulting supplementation.  And then my milk dried up randomly and the fact that I’m still take 4 domperidone pills a day in order to be able to breastfeed.  But damn, overall?  Aces.  It’s cheap (the copay on my pills is like $2/month) and easy and convenient.   It helped with the bonding in the early, dark days.  I’m planning on going off the pills when I go back to work, and see how long we can keep a morning and bedtime nurse happening, for the bonding.  We’ll see – it could be like 3 days before everything dries up, but I’ll have made it for a year, and I’m pretty proud of me.  Of us.

3. The bulk of my non-labour related pre-baby research was on cloth diapers.  It took me about 6 weeks after Baby J was born to start using them – a combo of being so overwhelmed and also her being so little that even the small diapers were comically large.  But as soon as we started in earnest, it’s been great.  I’m so, so happy that we use them.  There has been exactly one poop blow out, and that was in the first week of using them, before we figured out how tight things had to be.  (I have one friend who threw out 5 outfits on a single day due to the blow out messes, using disposables.)  They’re easy and cute and cost effective over the long run.  J rarely gets diaper rash, and when she does, it’s amazing how much coconut oil helps clear it up.  But I’m not insane about it.  We’ve started using disposable liners, to deal with the much grosser poop.  When we travel, we totally use disposables.  When she has a yeast infection (more common that diaper rashes, for her), it’s a night in a disposable with this prescription cream, and it’s gone by morning.  And did I mention how much cuter they are?  So much cuter. PASS

4. Make my own baby food.  I’ve been meaning to write about that, but it’s a total PASS.  J is a champion eater – her only food dislike so far seems to be peaches – and will generally eat anything you offer her, from last night’s risotto with peas, to green bean purees, to chickpea and cauliflower stew, to the entire cheese tray at a party.  It’s been fun to feed her, and fun to make the foods.  She does get a couple of tablespoons of purchased rice cereal mixed in to her morning fruit and yogurt, and she does eat cheerios.  On vacation, we buy those little pouches of food to supplement whatever she can eat off our plates, but otherwise, she eats what I make for her.

5. However, I was totally going to go all baby led weaning.  So great on paper, right?  Until the third time J choked and had to be pulled out of the chair and back thumped until the food came out of her windpipe and we decided that purees were the way to go.  First time was scary but I thought normal, second time David was done with BLW, and the third time, even I was like, “this baby is not ready for this, we should quit”.  FAIL, but not killing the baby seemed like a much better decision.

6. It was – IS – so important to my sense of self that we continue to travel.  And an unqualified PASS for that, for sure.  We had our road trip to Montana, the trip to Cancun for my sister-in-law’s wedding, and later this month we’re going to Texas.  (Why Dallas?  Why not Dallas?  Basically.)  So in J’s first year, we’ve done a road trip, an all inclusive resort trip, and our favourite kind of trip: the random wander trip.  (That’s where we have flights, transportation and accommodation worked out, and then we just wing the rest.)  This makes me very, very happy.

7. I really wanted to not give the house over to baby stuff.  You know, those houses that look like a daycare centre, that’s how many toys there are?  We have a moderate sized house, with fairly limited storage.  We’ve done okay on this, I guess.  I use this fancier black Ikea bins to hold toys, and we’ve got one in the living room, one in her room, and two in the basement.  Every night we do a quick sweep and put things away.  But of course, not everything fits, so there’s a push-walker in the living room, the exersaucer that just got disassembled and abandoned in the garage, a friend just gave us a megablocks play table so that’s in the basement now instead, and so on.  But it’s quickly tidied at the end of the night, so it doesn’t feel as bad?  I don’t know.  PASS, ish.  Although, we haven’t babyproofed much, relying instead on teaching what is off limits, and enforcing boundaries.  We still haven’t even put up any baby gates, because they’re not yet needed.  So that’s something.

8. However, we’ve been much better about not buying all the things.  I absolutely have bought stuff, some of which is unnecessary.  (But the owl hand puppet from Ikea is so cute!  Like, she tries to eat his face while squealing with joy cute!)  But we haven’t bought a ton of things, and are still getting hand me downs.  David took a friend of his to the hockey game, and got a red wagon, the mega blocks table, a car seat and some more toys in return.  Good trade!  We will still buy more things (I’m trying to collect vintage Fisher Price Little People toys) and more cute clothes (some of the hand me downs really aren’t my thing) but we will not buy all the things, nor need only new things.  Total PASS.

9. Fairly early on, it was clear that I had to get out of the house, like, every day.  So I made an effort, and yeah, we do leave the house basically every day, and that’s been a great help on my sanity.  In the summer, it was multiple long walks a week to the reservoir, and then it became fitness classes instead, and then play dates got added in, and, being honest, lots of trips to the mall/Ikea/shopping because, well, that’s out of the house too.  It’s to the point that a day without a trip is almost unheard off.  A few months ago it was a rare treat, but now it’s more of a punishment, because J gets tired of the house and my face.  PASS.

10.  I love to read.  Love.  Being a reader is a pretty core part of my identity.  Despite having a baby, I still read 88 books last year, and while that’s less than half my personal best, it’s still a decent number.  So I figured I’d read to my baby every day, and pass on that love.  Have I?  Hahaha, no, total FAIL.  Hey, did you know that babies have no attention span and would rather chew on the books?  At least for the first, like, 8 months?  So I’d make a half-assed try every couple of days, but generally just let her toothlessly gnaw on a pile of books.  Sure, we went to the library story time, and have piles of baby books in every bin in the house, but I didn’t push the issue.  And now?  Her happy place is sitting in a pile of books, carefully turning pages, looking at the pictures, and ‘talking’ to them.  Just starting to introduce a bedtime story to the bedtime routine, now that she’ll sit for the two minutes it takes.   So I may have failed in the daily reading task, but she still loves books, which is just excellent.

11. I bought a Boba Wrap, a Boba carrier, a Mei Tai and a cheap wrap.  I was totally going to babywear!  But my kid? After the first few weeks?  Hated all of them.  Like, the best case scenario was to get her in a carrier right before nap time, then scream herself to sleep.  Not awesome.  We’ll try our luck in Texas, with her held on my back, but my expectations are low.  It’s too bad, because it seems convenient, but can’t argue with a baby. FAIL

12. I love sleep.  I wanted to continue to get to sleep.  AND I HAVE.  J is now full on, for real sleeping through the night.  She goes down for naps easily, she sleeps well, she sleeps for a long time.  She learned how to fall back asleep herself when she was a few weeks old, and it’s wonderful.  David and I trade off sleeping in on weekends, too.  Everyone in our house loves sleep.  Yay sleep.  PASS.

13. I was totally going to teach the baby sign language.  Not like, intensively (by the time she needs to communicate what a zebra is, I hope she can say the word), but the basics.  You know: more, all done, poop, bath, tired, sad.  Enough to communicate a little.  Guess who does not give a shit about hand gestures?  My baby.  I’ve been trying to teach her all done and more for like, 2 months now?  And she just smirks at my attempts.  Crosses her arms over her chest and smiles.  Man, who knew babies got a say in these things?  🙂  FAIL.

14. I wanted a baby that would fit in to our life, instead of having to rework our entire life around the baby.  I’m calling this a PASS .  I mean, sure, I’m on mat leave, my schedule is based on her naps, we take her needs in to consideration for everything we do.  But.  We still travel, go out for dinner, do weekend trips, hang out with friends, gets pedicures, throw parties, play board games, go “antiquing”, watch hockey, etc, much the same as we ever did.  Sure, things take more planning and timing, and we’re more limited to how much we can do in a single weekend afternoon, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do the things.  We just put a little more forethought in to them.  We have a very easy going baby, and that really helps, I know.  But we still get to enjoy the things that made our life good before the baby.  We now just get to share that with someone else.

15. I wanted to enjoy the year of mat leave.  To find my place as a mother.  And I don’t know how to grade that.  I mean, the first 4 months were a blur of PPD and crying.  The last month is building up to be a month of feeeeeelings and longing – both to go and to stay.  I have loved some of the phases of J’s short little life, and less loved some of the others.  I’m still very new at this motherhood thing, and I’m pretty sure the only person who can grade me on it still poops in her pants and has not yet learned English. We’ll leave this one ungraded.

So.  9ish out of 14.  And the failures were, on the whole, minor, or outside of my control.  That’s excellent.  I know that as mothers, we’re supposed to beat ourselves up over our choices, and feel guilty, and all that shit, but I don’t.  I choose to feel quite proud of living up to my plans.  And also for setting up reasonable goals!  That always helps.  So as this year of mat leave comes to an end, I can be comforted to know that I did what I set out to be, to parent the way I had hoped to, and that I rolled with at least some of the punches.

And really, these all can’t be weighed equally.  “Failing” at birth hurt terribly.  The baby refusing to sign just makes me laugh.  The reason I liked the idea of baby led weaning is because it promised to give the baby a good palate, and eat adventurously.  We achieved that with a spoon instead, and the victory of result is far more important than the failure in method, you know?

At any rate, instead of 68%, I’m giving myself an A.  Because it’s my report card.  I sure as hell can grade myself on a curve.

Feeeeelings

Oh, god.  I just got the package from the daycare, with all the forms, and the handbook.  And I am having SO MANY FEELINGS.

Jess was a disaster at the fitness class today.  Whiny, clingy, randomly inconsolable, before being fine for a while.  (Teething?  Maybe?  She has to get some eventually, right?)  And I’m torn between feeling sad for her, at the struggle she will have to deal with adults who are not me (child got her fear of strangers at 3 months, and it’s lingered) and feeling glad for me, because she will have to get better at letting adults who aren’t me pick her up when she is sad.

I’m reading through the day care handbook, and it really does sound like we’re sending her to a good place.  “Outdoor time is scheduled at minimum twice a day and more often when time and space allows for it.”  “We provide a morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack that is cooked and prepared at our x location.  The menu is reviewed and prepared quarterly by a nutritionist and follows The Canada Food guide recommendations.”  “Televisions are not used in any of our classrooms for watching movies, or television.”  Actually, it sounds in more than a few ways like a more structured, involving, stimulating environment than home.  What, a trip to Ikea isn’t as stimulating as a sand table and twice daily walks outside?

BUT MA BABEEE!  *insert weeping*  Even though we’re in a phase where my whole day is spent waiting for it to be nap time.

I am just so conflicted.  Someone please tell me awesome things about daycare.  I don’t seem to have any friends who are in my situation, and so I turn to you, internet, to tell me the perks of handing over my child to trained experts.  Because as much as I am looking forwards to it (I’m not loving this stage, right this week), I’m also really, really sad.  (And eating my feelings.)

On not bonding with strangers

I do a couple of fitness classes avec baby a week – mainly for the exercise, but the chatting after class is nice too.  After one of the land-based classes, I was talking to another mother, whose son was the only other baby in the class who had learned to crawl.  (Which, by the way, make these classes much more disruptive than what my baby just lay or sat on the mat.)  After class, I went over and asked how old her son was – ten and a half months at that point.  I said that Jess too was that age!  And then we compared birthdays, and the babies were born on the same day!  And at the same hospital, as it turned out!  What a coincidence!  I said that Jess had been born around 4 in the morning, and turns out that her son was born right before midnight.

I said something along the lines of “maybe I saw you there – we were in the hospital for a couple of days.”  She looked down her nose at me and stated flatly.  “I had a midwife.  We were out of the hospital very fast.”  I sputtered slightly, and said something about how after 55 hours of labour, I’d had a c-section.  I swear that she looked at me and sniffed disapprovingly.  I muttered something about being pretty sure that it wouldn’t have mattered what kind of assistance I had, that J wouldn’t have come out any other way.  She sniffed again, and I slunk away from her and her placid, stolid baby.

You guys, it’s been 11 months and I’m still defensive as fuck about my birth experience.  And you know why?  It’s because PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY JUDGING ME TO MY FACE ABOUT IT.  Sure, not people I like, or people who matter, but it’s true – there is shaming out there for c-sections.  I get it!  I desperately, frantically didn’t want one.  I laboured for two and a half days because of how much I didn’t want one.

But I didn’t have a choice.

I mean, I made every choice possible to have a natural birth.  I did my readings, I hired a doula, I gave birth in a natural-birth friendly hospital with nurses who were fully supportive of my intentions, I went as long as I could without the drugs (pitocin contractions are not the same as normal ones – they are way, way more painful).  When the doctors announced that I needed a c-section, I refused and got another hour to try and make things progress.  It didn’t work.  The baby was unable to come out the normal way, and that sucked.

But I didn’t have a choice.

And yet, I still feel so judged for it.  By virtual strangers who have no idea.  And that sucks.

Having the section sucked.  The fact that the morphine didn’t work sucked.  The fact that my feelings of failure fed my PPD sucked.  The fact that 11 months later I still have abdominal pain sucks.

But the fact that my baby was born healthy and alive and that I am healthy and alive?  Does not suck.  Sure, it was less than ideal, but the end result was positive, so good enough.  Fuck the haters, and all.

 

As you can imagine, this woman and I have NOT become friends.