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.

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Diapers

At a family wedding, one of David’s infinite number of cousins asked me about how we’re liking cloth diapers, and brands I recommend.  I had a lot of thoughts about this, and figured I’d put them here too in case they are useful to anyone else.

First of all, I am happy we’re using cloth diapers – they’ve worked really well for us.  And don’t want you to read anything else about my parenting style in to the decision to use cloth.  I like them because they are cute and cheap over the long run and I don’t mind an extra load of laundry every 3 days and in 6 months Jess has only had two bits of really mild diaper rash and they don’t seem to have blowouts.  No poop up the back, no poop in the hair, no ruined clothing!  Really, it’s almost as easy as using disposables, but thousands of dollars cheaper in the long run, and that’s important to me.  The side benefits about cuteness and the environment and the lack of blowouts and all the rest are great, but for me, the $800 ish I spent up front is good value over several years with probably a couple of kids.  Also, we have not found a noticeable increase in our water bill.

Amalah is my personal guru of cloth diapers.  Her posts on Alphamom and her own site were very helpful, if somewhat overwhelming.  I ended up buying a bunch of different diapers, mostly from her suggestions and some from sales, and have loved some and hated others.

Generally, I have liked the sized ones more than the one size fits all sizes, but you quickly come up against cost, as having to buy a few sets of different size diapers adds up.  We have a combo of sized and one sized fits all diapers, although now that she’s bigger (16 pounds) the OS diapers fit pretty well, so it’s less of an issue, compared to putting a 9 pound baby in the same diaper.  I mean, the snaps meant it fit, but it was so jumbo she looked like a beached turtle.  Because of that, we didn’t really start using cloth until she was over 11 pounds.

We mainly use all in one / pocket style diapers, as opposed to old school prefolds/fitted diapers and a plastic cover, although we have a few of the later and they are really handy to have around.  Especially when you’re behind on washing diapers – one cover can last all day as you just switch out the prefolds.  And prefolds are super cheap, so that’s a bonus.  All In Ones are the easiest, what with it being a shell with a sewn in cotton/fleece/minky layer and often place to stuff an absorbent pad.  (Some of them have attached pads, some separate.  I don’t notice any real difference in the time it takes to put them together or in the way they work.)  They fasten with snaps or velcro and work like the ease of a disposable. No diaper cover required.  Our daycare is fine with using them, too.

I have two favourite diapers (and god, does it feel weird to have that statement be true.  I guess I really am a parent now.).  The first is FuzziBunz Perfect Size diapers.  Jess wore the smalls until ~15 pounds, and then her chubby thighs dictated a move to the mediums.  They fit really well, and because they are sized, they don’t have the bulk issue.  They absorb well, the liner falls out in the washer so you don’t have to touch it when it’s dirty,  the colours are cute and they fit well under clothes.

My other favourites are the Scottish made TotBots, in part because they are so adorable.  I mean, the London ones are covered with little drawings of Tube map and little Buckingham Palace guards and blacks cabs.  Also fairy tale diapers, like Jack and the Beanstalk and the Three Little Piggies.  Squee!  They’re sold out everywhere, but will eventually return, and I plan to buy at least 4 more.  They’re soft minky fabric instead of the stiffer fleece most other diapers use, and so they are less bulky even as an all in one diaper.  The velcro seems to be lasting well, and the fit is great.  And oh so cute.

First in the diapers I like category are Swaddlebees Simplex / Blueberry Basix All-in-One Diapers.  (Same company – name change or something.)  I like them – they fit snugly and have lasted far longer than the other sized diapers.  I bought them on sale, and they’ve held up.  There’s not fleece inside – unbleached organic cotton instead, so they often come out of the dryer still damp.  I have them in plain colours, because they were on sale, but they do come in some pretty cute patterns.

I also like (but not love) using prefolds and covers.  I started with cheap Indian unbleached prefolds, some Thirsties Duo Wrap covers and some Weehuggers.  I liked the Weehuggers but Jess outgrew them fairly quickly, compared to the the Thirsties which still fit at 16 pounds.    I’ve since bought a couple more Thirsties in the medium size (in girly prints) and a couple of Bummis Super Whisper Wraps, but at 16 pounds, Jess isn’t quite fitting them yet.  I’ve also bought a couple of fitted diapers:  Bamboozle Stretch Bamboo Fitted Diapers by Tots Bots.  They are awesome, and I plan to buy a few more.  Really easy to use, like the All in Ones, except for needing to add a  cover.  (Honestly, prefolds aren’t hard or anything.  I just fold the diaper in threes and stuff it in the cover – I haven’t figured out any of the special folds or how to best use a snappi (now used instead of pins.)  It’s just easier to use a one piece diaper with velcro.  I’ve already made this complicated enough, why add more?)

I’m not a big fan of the BumGenius Freetime diapers.  I mean, they’re fine, I guess?  I use them for nights, stuffed with a thick insert and bamboo insert, and she’s fine for 12 hours.  But the inserts don’t fall out in the wash, which means you have to pull them out before washing, and frankly, I like cloth diapers because of how rarely I have to touch gross stuff, so that takes kind of ruins it for me.  I mean, they are fine, and the Einstein print is pretty awesome, but a resounding MEH from me otherwise.

Diapers I hate?  Flips.  Hate them. The liner always moves around when you’re trying to put it on, because it’s not attached to anything.  They technically function fine, and other people seem to like them, but I’d rather use a prefold and a cover than this weird hybrid.  I will sell them to you for cheap if you want them!

Beyond the diapers, I bought a small wetbag for the diaper bag, and a large one and an Ikea pail with lid.  We use cloth wipes, because why not, at this point?  We use a combo of fancy cloth ones and cheap infant face cloths I got as a shower present.  As she’s not yet mobile, we leave her on the couch (aka the change station) while we wet the cloth in the sink, but eventually probably we’ll use a spray bottle to wet them.  Calgary has the hardest water ever, and I use Rockin Green Hard Rock detergent.  After 4 months of daily use, the diapers had built up a bit of ammonia smell, so I soaked them in Strip it by The Laundry Tarts and dried them in the sun and I haven’t had the problem again.

If you buy nothing else, buy a cloth swim diaper!  Swim diapers are basically just there to stop poop from leaking in to the water – liquids drain right through.  A 10 pack of swim diapers is like $10.  A swim diaper good for like, a year, is $15.  And they are cuter.  I bought a matching tankini top, and she doesn’t need anything else.  (Not that we didn’t buy a pink ruffled swim suit, but this gives us options!)

Of course, we still have disposables around.  No way in hell I will I deal with cloth diapers on a week long road trip.  And sometimes she starts to look a little red (especially in this transition to food / transition in poop phase) so we’ll cover her in diaper cream at bed time and use a disposable.  (Most diaper creams destroy most cloth diapers.  It’s not been worth my while to buy a cloth diaper safe diaper cream, for the one or twice a month this has happened.)

So those are my thoughts.  If I was to do this again, from scratch?  I would use a diaper service for the first couple of months, instead of buying newborn diapers.  I would then buy adorable covers and a small pile of prefolds and fitteds.  I would buy a bunch of one sized Totbots and sized Fuzzibunz diapers, and some Blueberries for variety and fun patterns.  A three pack of the bamboo liners for nights.  Maybe a trio of the BumGenius for nights, because they’re large enough to take lots of liners.  Yes to the cloth wipes and wet bags and detergent and swim diaper.  And then, I’d still probably buy a few news ones over the months, because damn if there are not some adorable patterns out there.

I only bought from Canadian stores, in large part to avoid paying duties, and cheaper (or free!) shipping.  The three I used and have been very happy with are Peekaboo Bottoms, GorgeousBaby and Calgary Cloth Diaper Depot, but there’s lots of others, with various deals on shipping and sales.

Anyway, that’s about the sum of my feelings.  (I can’t believe I have 1600 words to say about cloth diapers.  Motherhood is strange!)