Dad

My dad died three years ago.  Three and a half now, really.  At the end of January, although I couldn’t swear on the date.  My memories of how it felt are vivid, but a calendar is conspicuously absent when I talk about his illness and death.  He was diagnosed in May, I think?  Or maybe June?  He did three rounds of chemo, I think, but maybe just two, or four.  Was it the same number of rounds of radiation as chemo, or not?  I think they just did radiation on the brain, but couldn’t swear to that.

But I remember how fucking terrible that Christmas was, so clearly.  I remember the hospital bed in the living room that he wasn’t quite in, yet.  Not for a few more days, so we covered it in presents to make up for the lack of tree, or any other festive trappings.  I remember the night he died with achingly clarity, and the taste of cold McDonald fries eaten in the emergency ward.  I remember most of all the horrible feeling of waiting.  Death was waiting in the wings, but we didn’t know if we had hours or days left, and so we went home to sleep for a few hours.  And that is, of course, when he died.  (I don’t know yet how to feel about that.  Mainly I don’t.  Can’t.  Wont.)

On Father’s Day, everyone on my whole fucking facebook feed (hyperbole) put a picture of them dancing with their daddies at their weddings.  And I refused to have any of the feelings.  Or to address Father’s Day on social media in any way.  (David got a card and a book and some booze.  Low key for sure.)  We were never big on Hallmark holidays growing up, so they day doesn’t actually carry that much emotional punch for me, but clearly it does a bit, because I’m typing this out.  It certainly carries more punch than his actual day of death, considering I only remember that a week later this year.  I don’t have any pictures of my dad at my wedding, obviously.  I don’t have any pictures I can bear to look at from the year before that, either.  (Jesus.  I just found a single picture on FB from a family wedding in July of 2009, at least two chemo rounds in, and I can’t even look at it.  Skeletal is the only word for it, and it got nothing but worse from there.)

You know, it’s not that I miss my dad more on some randomly assigned Sunday in June.  It’s that on this one, randomly assigned Sunday in June that I am more acutely aware of the big alive-father-shaped-hole in my life.  And it fucking sucks.

Don’t smoke, kids.  That shit will kill you in a terrible way, and leave behind a person-shaped-hole behind that will haunt your family for the rest of their lives.

Fuck.

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Weaning, redux

So, I was on domperidone for like, a million months.  Okay, about 9 months.  About 750 little white pills. That’s a lot of time, and a lot of little white pills.  That’s, particularly, a lot of time on an anti nausea drug that interferes with your dopamine receptors.

The first few days totally off the pills sucked.  I didn’t throw up during my pregnancy* but 36  hours after my last pill I found myself puking up the pain pills I’d taken for the splitting headache I had again woken with.  So nauseous.  And headachy.  And ragey!  Yikes.  It took days to feel better.  I read somewhere on the internet that the drug’s halflife is 70 hours, and it takes 6 halflives to be out of the system.  It’s been a little over a week, so I’m halfway through the detox and really am feeling better.

I am still nursing in the morning though – for increasinly short times, as my milk dries up.  I’m surprised that it didn’t just vanish overnight without the pills, as I was expecting.  I’ve decided that J’s month-a-birthday next week is the last time I’ll nurse the baby – “I nursed for 15 months” has a nice even ring to it, as opposed to a more wordy “I nursed for 14 months and some extra weeks” that the pedantic in me would probably use.  (Er, provided that there’s still milk there in a week.)  It’s funny the way we tell stories to ourselves.

I didn’t intend to nurse for so long.  The year of mat leave and a month of transition was as long as I’d planned, once I was in to the thick of it.  But before I had a kid?  I was very much pro breastfeeding, but when they fed the baby formula while I was still knocked out cold from the c-section, I wasn’t overly concerned.  When I had to supliment with formula for a week after J was born until the “too complicated for the hospital to fix” tongue tie was resolve, I just did it.  The whole routine just about killed me: every three hours I had to feed the baby a bottle of breast milk, then nurse, then feed the baby formula, and then pump.  8 times a day.  But the formula part just … was, emotionally, not a big deal.  I was happy when she weaned off the formula herself – it smelled really gross – but I was never truly opposed to using it.  I mean, after the birth plan fails pretty catastrophically, supplementing with formula for a few days was no big thing in comparison.

But was that birth failure WHY I put myself through 9 months of brain-chemistry-altering pills?  I mean, I did it without a thought, really.  “Kid’s starving, take drugs, skim over 10 page warning pamphlet, feed kid, sleep through the night again.”  The logic was so clearly there, but why the extra time?  How much of my willingness to fuck with my body chemistry was because I wasn’t going to fail at breastfeeding too, goddammit?

I mean.  For a long time I felt like I had failed at birth.  The PPD certainly made me feel like I failed in the first months as a mother.  I felt like I failed when my milk dried up, despite exclusive breastfeeding on demand – something I didn’t even know was physically possible.  Going back to work (as generally pro-me-not-staying-home as I am) and enjoying it makes me feel a bit like I’m a failure compared to the “naturally great at it SAHMs” who surround me  and are able to actively engage their toddlers every day, instead of like, taking J to the mall on my Fridays off as I do.  I felt like I failed at bonding with the baby for quite a while.  I certainly felt I failed, and flailed, during the various weight crashes.

But, dammit, I could NURSE THIS CHILD.  There was something.  Medically assisted or not, I could offer the baby a nipple and she would eat and I would know, KNOW, that I wasn’t failing her at this one thing.

And I guess, as I work this out on my computer screen, that’s not nothing, if that’s the route of why I have nursed for so long.  That in the rough seas of early motherhood, I found myself a touchstone that I could say, with confidence, that Yes I Can Do This.

It’s funny.  I also cloth diaper and made like 98% of the baby’s food, but that doesn’t feel the same to me, despite how the three are often grouped together in  “parenting philosophy”.  I CD because it’s cheap, and cute, and since the introduction of flushable wipes, surprisingly not messy.  I made all her baby food because it was cheap, and easy, and I could make 3 weeks worth of food in an afternoon, and my kitchen produced infinitely more interesting varieties of food than the store, and I like cooking.  I have no ego tied up in them – it’s just, you know, what I did, because I could, and wanted to.

But breastfeeding?  I have ego involved in that, which I’m only realizing now in the final days of my nursing relationship with J.  That’s interesting to me.  I wonder what other choices I’ll look back on later and see more complex reasoning for, tucked behind the stories I tell myself?

*except for that one night of stomach flu, but that wasn’t pregnancy related, so it doesn’t count.

Active little peanut

All children develop at their own speed – we all know this intellectually, yes?  But it’s pretty fascinating to watch it play out in real time.

Baby J is all about physical activity.  (Everyone who told me it’s easier to have girls because they are calmer and aren’t as physical can fuck off, because what a lie.)  She’s bold and fearless and yes, sometimes covered in bruises.  She’s a squirmy little monkey who at 14 months can walk forwards, backwards and sideways, can pull up, stand up, climb up and now down a flight of stairs, connect mega blocks, walk while carrying the half-her-size duplo box, dismount properly off the couch, rock chairs (even non rocking chairs – yikes), climb through tunnels, use a bumbo seat as an obstacle course, climb in to the dishwasher (just that one time when my back was turned, I swear), turn almost anything in to a walking push toy, pull up on a handle and get her feet off the ground, scale the back of the couch on to the desk, self feed, help undress, flip through books, takes apart duplo, pat herself on the chest when she coughs, and so on.  She’s so, so physical.

She doesn’t talk.

Like, at all.  Well.  Okay, she says a few words: no, oh oh, oh no, hi, and a two syllable inquisitive noise that means “what’s that?” Mama and dada, but we haven’t quite figured out what she’s talking about yet – it’s certainly not us.  For a while, we were pretty sure she thought her name was dada…  She listens, she understands words and requests and is again sleeping thought the night, this time after the doctor told her that she wasn’t going to be fed at night anymore.  She’ll bring you items on request and knows that when we say NO we mean it.  (Which sometimes starts this hilarious little temper tantrum I work very hard at not laughing at.)  She babbles noises and sounds.  I’ve had her hearing tested twice, and all signs point to fulling functioning ears.  She just … doesn’t have anything to say yet, or something.

I’m not worried.  She’s an effective communicator, for a baby, and makes it very clear what she does and doesn’t want.  (Not that, obviously, she always gets her way.)  She has a sense of humour. She likes to blow raspberries on my belly and play the Squish With Love game (she crawls, I chase after her, and when I catch her, I cover her in kisses until she collapses on the floor giggling.)

When my friends post videos of their similar age kids talking I can simply marvel at their babies without feeling doubt.  My kid will get there.  My kid is fine.  No, my kid is more than fine.  My kid is an active little peanut who is too busy with all the places to go and things to see to be bothered talking about it.  She’ll get there, and it will be adorable, and until then, I’ll just focus on trying to keep her from using the toilet as a water toy and teaching her how to properly dismount furniture taller than she is.

Places to go, things to see

Places to go, things to see

Back in the saddle, remembering that I like horses

There was one thing I kind of forgot as I was weighing my feelings about going back to work, and it was, in in hindsight, a big one.   It’s that I am very good at my job.  And while it’s not my passion, I really do enjoy it.

I’m going to violate one of the internet’s prime directives and talk about my job, just a little.

I did admin work for the better part of a decade.  I was good at it, and fast, given the amount of spare time I had compared to my peers.  But I never really enjoyed it.  I would put off tasks that I didn’t enjoy, like filing, for months.  I always got everything that needed to be done, done, but my main interest wasn’t the day to day tasks that fill up admin support days.  It was always the special projects. I’ve worked in a variety of different admin jobs, and the special projects varied along with them.  I’ve done everything from organize a trip to New York for 30 people for a week with 30 different schedules, to cold calling people in France using what remains of my childhood french immersion skills to try and find a genealogical-minded distant relative for my boss, to becoming the group expert at a new piece of graphing software, to learning Access to update and QC a giant database.  A huge range of things, and all much more interesting than putting in another stationary order.  Although that doesn’t mean an absence of pens around the office wouldn’t be a problem, so it always got done too.  Just, you know, given the choice to work on a special project or organize someone’s business cards, well… It was always easy for me to prioritize.

When I went on mat leave, I was officially a tech, but I was also still doing all the admin work, just due to the way things shook out in the group.  I had no problems with that, of course.  I’d been doing all the tech work as an admin, and there was no real difference doing all the admin work as a tech.  But now there’s an admin to do all the admin work and she’s great and I don’t have to order stationary anymore.  My entire job, in flux as it is, IS a special project.  The last couple of weeks I’ve been working for an engineer who has been an amazing teacher, and I went from knowing basically nothing about this subset of our industry to being conversant in it.  I’ve learned 601 new things in the last month, and that’s an awesome feeling that I had forgotten – how nice it is to learn something new.   To tackle some new project that at the beginning feels so confusing, so far over your head that you don’t even know how to start, and then a few short weeks later you’re QC’ing someone else’s work as a second pair of eyes.  To be an expert at something – to be the person people come to for help.  To be good at something clear and tangible with immediate results.  It’s nice.  It’s really nice.  And I had forgotten that going back to work didn’t just mean leaving J with someone else all day and getting a paycheck.  It also means that I get to be good at something and get better at other things and to learn.

It also means lunch dates and coffee dates and yes, a paycheck.  It means talking to grown ups all day, every day, and then coming home with my kid and my husband and eating together and playing together and enjoying the whole time we’re together, instead of those days spent simply waiting for naps or a play date.  It means missing out on play dates, and long daily walks and spontaneous trips to Ikea for lunch.  But right now, this very week, I can live with the trade off.  Next year, or another kid later, or a different role at work?  Who knows?  But for right now, things are okay.  Things are good.

It feels like the best deep breath I’ve taken in months.

Weighty Issues, Redux

Hey, so remember like 10 months ago when I was all aflutter because my baby was charted as being off the chart overweight for her height?  Yeah, I barely do either.  I was thinking about it today, though.  At J’s 12 month check up, the doctor charted an actual drop in weight – about a pound the month prior.  So on Friday I took her to the public health nurse office to weigh and measure her.  And she’s lost another half pound.  Which puts her somewhere between the 3rd and 15th percentile in weight.  She did grow an inch, so she’s now up to the same for height, which is something, I guess.  She’s a tiny peanut.  A tiny peanut who now weighs the same as she did 5 months ago.

Yeah.    That probably isn’t good.

The doctor, at the last appointment, told me I had two months to fatten up the baby.  Two weeks of macaroni and 5-cheeses and cream cheese spread and a couple of pieces of bread a day (daycare) and everything else I can think of to fatten her up, minus feeding her straight up butter?  She loses weight.

It’s so hard to tell if you’re doing the right thing with kids.  I worked really hard to introduce J to fruits and vegetables and proteins and all types of dairy and she eats so well!  I really had thought we’d had it all figured out.  I mean, the kid eats more interesting cheeses than David does.  He likes… marble cheese and plain babybels.  J eats aged white cheddar and Parmesan and cranberry goat cheese.  She happily eats almost anything and everything.  She doesn’t like peaches, and we both had a similar blurg reaction to the millet I experimented with, but otherwise?  She has a preference for citrus fruit (including lemons!) and kiwis, but will also eat bananas and purred apples and pears.  She still has no teeth, so has had no luck with chunks of apples.  She hasn’t turned her nose up at any veggie that I’ve made for her, and shows a particular love for carrots and parsnips.  On the rare occasions we eat steak, she gleefully sucks the meat dry.  (She still has no teeth.)  She eats pork and chicken and shrimp and beef and even raw fish, although her preference is for fruits and veggies over meat.  We don’t eat a ton of grains at home – I rarely keep bread in the house because it goes moldy long before we’d have finished it.  I’m not on Atkins or anything – I just don’t, you know, eat a lot of starches, other than rice.  Which she is indifferent too, but I still offer and she always eats a bit.

I thought I was doing good, you know?  Having this kid who turns down chicken to eat another segment of a sweet blood orange.  Who cheerfully eats broccoli and green beans and parsnip soup.  Who loves yogurt with berries and flavourful cheeses.   Who devoured homemade salmon cakes.  Who still nurses twice a day.  And yet, somehow, something has gone wrong, and I feel guilty.  Should I have been pushing higher fat food the whole time instead of fruits and veg?  Is there something more seriously wrong, or is this just a blip brought on by the combo of daycare, a sleep regression, a cold, teeth finally emerging and gradual weaning all happening at once?  How much olive oil can I pour on her food before she stops being willing to eat it?  What’s the line between enough cheese for the calcium (she doesn’t like milk much, though she’s offered it 3-4 times a day) and total constipation?  How much of my reaction is overreaction, penduluming too far the other direction from last time?  I thought I was doing so good, feeding her veggies instead of like, processed sweetened puffs or whatever.  Should I go out and buy more frankenfood?  God knows I love me a bag of chips, so it’s not like I’m totally against it.  It’s just… I thought I should keep her foods pure-ish for as long as I could, you know?  I’m sure it’s not hard to learn to love goldfish crackers (NOM) but much harder to introduce broccoli later, so why not offer it now, when her tastes are so influence-able?

And how can someone with cheeks this round be so slim?

And how can someone with cheeks this round be too slim?

I just don’t know anything any more.

Babies, man.

Sureal

That’s the only word to describe the first day back in the office after a year of mat leave.  Totally, completely surreal.  It was a bizarre mix of “what the fuck am I doing here?  where’s the baby?” and “what do you mean I ever left?”

And it’s not like things haven’t changed.  The company moved in to a brand spanking new office tower, I’m officially a tech and not an admin, there are 13 new people in our group of 25 people.  We’re on a new operating system, and my monitors are even bigger, so even the view of my screen is different.  (And by big?  I mean huge.  A pair of 24 inch monitors.  It’s a good thing it’s a big desk.)  I currently don’t know what, exactly, the new role will require me to like, DO every day.

But other things haven’t changed.  My three favourite people are still in the group.  My boss is still my boss.  There’s a constant struggle with budget and personalities.  (The stock price is still junk.) 

I have lunch dates and new shoes and a pair of monitors (I know I go on, but man, they make work so much easier).  I have a paycheque coming and options that just vested and coworkers and software and a brand new electric desk.  I felt… normal.

I also spent the whole damn day trying to get the daycare camera to work, so I could watch my little baby play.

Yeah.  One foot in a pretty black heel, the other in barefoot.  I’m not the first, and I’m not the last.  The main feeling for today was, oddly, how fucking NORMAL it felt.  I thought it would take a little bit more time than that, you know?

But we shall see.  I can revoke all this tomorrow and go back to being a hysterical mess, keening in the car in the parking lot of the daycare.

Ugh

So we’ve started the transition to daycare.  Without getting in to the details, let me just say that IT SUCKS MORE THAN EVERYTHING HAS EVER SUCKED BEFORE, at least since the last thing that was completely terrible.  So many tears.  The daycare hasn’t been great at communicating what I am supposed to do, which hasn’t helped anything, but that’s only a side stress of BEING IN THE SAME ROOM AS MY SCREAMING BABY AND NOT BEING ABLE TO GO AND COMFORT HER.

We’ve both been doing a lot of crying.

On Monday, I *think* I’m to drop her off in the afternoon and then leave, so I’ve booked a massage.  And on Tuesday a hair cut.  And on Wednesday I go find my new office in the new shiny office tower.  And the next phase of our lives begins.

I know it will be fine.  Eventually.  I just hate hate hate how many tears are being shed in the transition.

 

Being a grown up sucks.