Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

The first person to ever ask me if I had ever had any issue with post partum depression or anxiety was my hairdresser. It’s seems kind of unbelievable really, especially considering she asked me this question just this past weekend and my youngest is already two years old. So, how is it that no one ever checked in or flat out asked me this before?

We all know just how taboo mental health topics can be to openly talk that and too often we feel a bit uncomfortable asking the people in our lives the nitty gritty on how they are coping. We tend to assume our friends and family will feel comfortable enough to ask for help if they are having a hard time. However, in real life, this is far from the truth.

Right after I had Elisabeth I sunk into a weird unexpected cycle of feeling anxious. I never had any post partum depression or anxiety with the other two babies and to my intellectual brain it did not make sense. I had a healthy baby in my arms and she was my third baby, I knew how to mother a newborn. I’m sure the high risk pregnancy, crazy delivery and NICU experience all played a role in my post partum anxiety but truly post partum anxiety can target any new mum.

This hot prickly feeling of anxiety crept into my daily life as soon as I got home from the hospital. I should have been relieved that the pregnancy was over and that I was home with my new baby. Instead, the happiness and relief of that was not enough to carry me through all of the feelings of anxiousness.

One of the ways that I felt more in control and safe was being with the baby in my bedroom. We set up camp in my bed and I could actually feel tiny moments of bliss and happiness, it was definitely how I coped and survived this time in my life. However, if you asked me to do something that required getting out of the apartment, I turned into this uncertain sweaty anxious person with a whirlwind of thoughts.

When Elisabeth was about five weeks old my sister took my older kids over to Victoria to go and see family. It was all great until it was time to arrange bringing the kids back home. The plan was for me to meet up so I could go get them and drive them back home. At first I faked it and thought if I pushed myself enough I would get over the fear of leaving my bedroom, leaving the city and driving with the tiny baby to go and pick up the other kids. It was about a 45 minute drive away and the thought of having to do it made me feel physically sick.

It’s a drive I’ve done many times before and logically it did not make sense why it made me feel as upset as it did. That’s anxiety for you, it is totally not a logical process. I was worried about putting our very tiny baby into a car seat, I was worried about driving while feeling so tired, I was worried she might cry the whole drive. I convinced myself that she could stop breathing in her car seat and I even let myself ‘go there’ and envisioned getting out of the car and finding that she had stopped breathing.

Eventually my sister offered to bring the kids back home to me and I went from feeling totally ridiculous with all of my thoughts to feeling a sense of calm. I could stay in my bedroom, on my bed, with my tiny baby and we would be okay. I could stop having to constantly process the ‘what ifs’ that were totally illogical but still swarmed my mind. Things that I had done with my other kids when they were babies just felt like too much this time around. Everything felt scary.

It was even too much for me to make the six week post partum check up with my obstetrician. Instead, I just kept telling myself that I’d eventually book it. Months went by and I could never bring myself to make that appointment. It felt like getting there was this huge mountain and there was no way I could arrange care for the big kids, take the baby and make it work. However, as expected from a busy medical practice, there was no call to check up on me or see if I was okay. Eventually I was totally off the office radar but not going didn’t help my feelings of anxiety. Instead, I’m sure it made it worse.

Anxiety is a complex beast, it is completely controlling of your daily life. It steals your joy and your sense of self. The idea that something bad is about to happen all the time is utterly exhausting. Things that used to make you feel happy and satisfied were now coated with a new layer of uncertainty. I wish that someone had flat out asked me if I was having any problems coping when I had Elisabeth. Just having someone to talk about these weird feelings would have been beneficial.

Slowly over time I started to feel less and less anxious. As my baby grew and I felt more in control of my daily life I had more anxiety free moments. It was not an over night transformation but a gradual continuous shift into feeling more like my old self. For me the feelings were the most intense for the first 3 to 4 months post partum and slowly eased off over the rest of the first year.

If this story resonates with you and you need more information, please check out AnxietyBC for more help. 

 

 

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I never really had to make a decision about having my babies at work, I just knew that it was the place that I wanted to birth. Once in awhile someone would say to me, “…but they will see all your bits?!” and I usually laughed and said, “Yep, but it’s really not a big deal”. Worrying about my modesty during birth was never a deciding factor, after all the people I work with are skilled professionals and I knew that they would treat me with the utmost respect. I was totally right.

After a stressful pregnancy with my third baby I was finally given the clearance from the top docs to deliver at my work place and not at a hospital with a more acute NICU. My pregnancy had been filled with constant nausea and vomiting, bleeding, dozens of ultrasounds, an amniocentesis, blood tests for cystic fibrosis, constant measuring of baby’s echogenic bowel and growth problems that started in the second trimester. I could go on and on really. It was a lot and it was scary.

When I got to 35 weeks I was told that baby looked great and I could deliver with my work family. I felt a sense of total peace and for the first time in my whole pregnancy I relaxed. My breath was easy and my heart was full. All the nurse friends that had continually checked in on me through out my pregnancy were gearing up for my birth too. That sense of love and compassion was so palpable and it really put me at ease.

I was booked for an induction of labour because my blood pressure was going up, something that happened with both my other babies too. The first nurse I had was Nurse Karen, she had been with me on my pregnancy journey since I got the news at 21 weeks that the baby was measuring way too small and all of the red flags started going up. She constantly checked in with me and gave me the reassurance that I needed when we were initially preparing for a possible premature delivery.

There was a point at the end of her night shift where we both looked at each other and we both had tears in our eyes. My emotional journey was not just me traveling alone but she was right there giving me her support. Nurses are amazing at tapping into a patient’s emotions and they realize how stress and fear can effect labour and birth. Having her share that moment with me was really special.

It was great timing for me because the next nurse on duty for my active labour was the same nurse that took care of me with my first birth. Having Nurse Mitra in my room was an instant feeling of relief and comfort and I knew exactly what kind of labour support she would give me. I knew I could do the ‘birth yodel’ and she would be okay with all my sounds.

My induction was not as smooth as my second labour and I remember feeling a bit frustrated and disappointed and that ‘hurry up’ kind of feeling. I felt really blocked and overly emotional about the lack of progress that I was having. Cue Nurse Cheri, my friend and my coworker. Also the person who constantly checked in on me while I lay in bed on bedrest and someone who would always told say, ‘How’s the baby girl?’, even though we hadn’t found out the gender (surprise: it was a girl!).

Nurse Cheri took charge when my labour went from 0 to 180 within two minutes. She invested her full self in helping me cope while I was losing my cool. She took charge when I felt like I wasn’t coping, she rubbed essential oils on me and made me focus on my breath and be present. All while monitoring everything else that labour and delivery nurses do.

I dilated at rapid speed from 4 cm to 10 cm in a matter of 15 or so minutes. It was a wild ride and the baby did not like it and her heart rate plummeted to 60 beats per minute when it should be over 120 beats per minute. I remember glancing up and looking at the faces on my work family. Their faces looked intense and so I closed my eyes.

I kept my eyes closed and I  knew that the baby was coming, I just could not hold it back and the need to push overwhelmed me. Before I really knew what was happening our sweet baby girl was born and I finally opened my eyes and saw this glowing ring of nurses encompassing me. I don’t even know where they came from and I didn’t even know some of them were working, but there they were. They were ready to help me and ready to help my baby. Nurse Mitra, Nurse Cheri, Nurse Stephanie and Nurse Cornelia. This baby was born right before shift change too.

At the two hour post partum mark the baby had to be moved into the NICU and I was fortunate to have some strong nurses taking care of Elisabeth. Nurse Jessica was on the ball when it came to her assessment skills and she even made sure to do the little things that matter to mamas, like giving your four day old baby a bit of a wash.

I know that I couldn’t have survived and thrived without all of your support and I feel so fortunate to have had all of you as my nurses. There were so many more amazing nurses that touched our lives during our week stay in the hospital and they will never be forgotten.

Happy Nurses Week to all nurses who continually make a difference in their patients lives.

 

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Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories my kids will have around growing up here in the city. After all, they are literally growing up right downtown and our days are filled with sidewalks, concrete and lots of walking. My kids walk every where rain or shine and are our neighbourhood is our community. This is a very different way than either my husband or I grew up.

Yesterday we decided to make use of the sunny day and get outside. I always feel that Vancouver is at its very best on a sunny day! We decided to go and get croissants at our favourite spot and walk to the park and just enjoy some easy fun all together. I feel like once you find a place that makes the perfect croissant you are golden.

We got a few assorted croissants boxed up and off we went to the park. As a a Mama in the City I use my stroller like some moms use their car. Which means the basket under the seat always has a plethora of stuff in it including a layer of cracker crumbs. You can be certain I also usually have bird seed, bubbles and wipes stashed away somewhere in my big UPPAbaby Vista basket!

One thing that I’ve found about raising city kids is that even though a city may seem large, the people who actually live there often get stuck in their area. Your neighbourhood eventually becomes your own small town.

The kids know the person delivering our mail, we run into neighbours while we are out walking and we play with other neighbourhood kids at the park. Of course, the big difference is that on a gorgeous sunny day you will also be sharing your neighbourhood with hundreds of visitors but that’s par for the course when living here!

If you find yourself in downtown Vancouver make a stop at Ganache Patisserie for their amazing croissants. You won’t regret it!

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It was probably sometime after Christmas when our littlest girl started to fall in love with anything and everything to do with the farm. She talked about riding horses, petting goats and feeding chickens and we all thought it was totally adorable. We decided to celebrate Elisabeth’s second birthday with a family farm themed party. I mean, how could we not? We headed away from the city and out of the apartment and over to North Vancouver’s Maplewood Farm. Just under a twenty minute drive from downtown.

If you’re thinking about booking a birthday party here make sure you book at least two months in advance. We booked in February and we were able to get our second choice for our April date. On the day of our actual party there were apparently two other birthday parties following ours. This is a happening location!

In the last few years Maplewood Farm’s has opened up a new fresh party room that boasts a lot of natural light and a perfect space to host in. I was pleasantly surprised at the party room and the layout was ideal for our group. Which included a wheelchair, a stroller, a bunch of kids 11 months to thirteen years old and a some adults.

Of course, we had to book in for the farm’s pony rides. Unfortunately our little birthday girl was one year too young for an official ride but she still got to sit on top of ‘Crocker the Pony’ and became very serious when she was up on his back.

The birthday girl’s sister took full of advantage of Lizzy’s missing a turn and gleefully signed up for a double pony ride. Seriously, the smile on her face was a perma-grin and she absolutely loved being able to ride around the farm. Crocker was such a great pony for the kids to ride on! Now I’m left wondering about how to get this city girl into some horseback riding activities.

The pony rides are a nice slow pace around the farm and the whole party was easy going, which ultimately meant less stress for parents! We were able to walk around the farm, pet the goats, feed the chickens roaming throughout the farm grounds and check on the baby animals. It was a very positive experience for all the little kids and especially the birthday girl.

The price of the party includes a limited amount of time in the actual room but you are free to stay on the farm after the official party ends. We found that the two hour party went by fast but it was still the perfect amount of time! We chose the package that included decorations and table settings along with a pizza lunch for the kids and the farm even put together party bags for the kids. I literally just add to bring a birthday cake and it was perfect!

If I was to offer some insider tips I’d definitely suggest booking the pony rides, so much fun!!!. However, I’d recommend booking the pony rides for before the actual party room time starts. We purchased an extra hour for the party room but it sat totally empty during the one hour pony ride.

My kids are already asking to go back to the farm to see the animals. Thanks for having us Maplewood Farms!

 

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Recently I had a weird interaction with someone and I totally let their negative vibe influence how I felt. I felt totally overwhelmed because I hate having awkward interactions with people and I am naturally more of a peace keeper than a shit starter. All day long I felt this extra weight on my shoulders and I just couldn’t shake it. It literally killed my appetite and zapped my zest and other people noticed. ‘What’s wrong Andrea, you don’t seem your usual self?’.

I caught the start of hot tears in my eyes and took a deep breath before I let the moment totally suck me into the dark side. I stood in the bathroom trying to regroup and my mind wandered to my kids. I thought about how my big kids would think it was so odd that I was letting someone’s issue make me feel this way. After all, I’m their mum and mums are strong and invincible. I couldn’t help but think about what I would tell my kids if they had this problem in their own lives.

I would tell my children to stand up for themselves and to know that other peoples misery is not theirs to be responsible for. I’d make sure they knew that their own happiness and their own sense of self was strong enough to pull them through. 

There were two choices I came up with after doing some reflection. Either I could just let this person’s interaction slide off me and toss it away, not putting in any extra energy into the situation, or I could do something about it.

 

I’ve decided to do a bit of both and while I am trying my best to brush off the negative energy that I picked up, I’ve decided to also stand up for myself. This is what I’d tell my children to do and what better way to parent than to lead by example. In this moment my children give me strength, they are the ones that make me ‘Strong As A Mother‘.

 

 

 

 

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Vancouver parents, I’ve got a very fun insider scoop for you! If you are a local Vancouver family I’m sure that you already know all about Rocky Mountain Flatbread. Everyone knows this is the place to go as a family if you want tasty food, a relaxed family vibe and a little play area to help keep your kids entertained.

The other week I was invited to Rocky Mountain Flatbread to test out their new kids birthday party package. We’ve had many pizzas from Rocky Mountain Flatbread, locals look out for their frozen pizzas at your grocery store, and so we were excited to see what they had put together for the little chefs.

We checked out the Main Street location and as soon as we arrived for the party the kids sat down at the wooden tables and helped put together a special celebratory cocktail, think Shirley Temple with fresh ingredients. Soon the kids were crafting the cutest paper pizza chef hats and there was literally never a dull moment at this party.  The pace of the two hour party moved quite smoothly and the staff were always very engaging with the kids.

 

The kids became little pizza chefs and gathered around the table and were able to get their hands right in the pizza dough. They rolled it, stretched it and made ‘flour smoke clouds’ then were presented with a variety of toppings to choose from.

I totally had a very Canadian moment and was singing Charlotte Diamond’s ‘I Am A Pizza’. You get full Canadian points if you too started singing this catchy pizza song!

You could win your own Rocky Mountain Flatbread Kids Pizza Party in Vancouver for up to 10 kids (value $200)!

One winner will be able to host their child’s birthday party at Rocky Mountain Flatbread restaurant and receive:

A personal party where the host will guide young chefs in creating their own juice cocktail, rolling out their flatbread dough, adding their favorite toppings and at the end of the party,  create their own home made ice cream! Leave the mess and enjoy the celebrations is the motto of Rocky Mountain Flatbread parties. This is a party perfect for all young foodies and all fellow ‘Mamas in the City’ who live life apartment style or who just like pizza!

 What Is Included In The Prize:

  • Get creative colouring your very own chef hat!
  • Cocktail making with fresh juice
  • Pizza making fun (roll out the dough & add your favourite  toppings)
  • Ice cream making from scratch with organic  cream, raw sugar &  vanilla
  • Platters of warm double chocolate brownies – plus a birthday candle!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all of you that enter! This is such a fun prize! 

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We had a special birthday in our family today! The ‘baby’ turned two years old and she was celebrated all day long. First while I was out working and she was with our babysitter and big sister at the park. There was a picnic with balloons and cake and of course singing. I love that she was so celebrated while I was working! Other people loving on your child feels like the best thing ever.

A few weeks ago my husband bought her a bike for her birthday. It shipped to us and late one night he was busy in the living room putting it together. Then we had to stash away and hide this tiny bike until the big day. Hiding presents can be tricky when living in a condo as there really aren’t so many hiding spots but we did it!

We gave Ben a bike back when he turned 2 and, wow, that boy owned the Yaletown seawall with the way he zoomed up and down it on a daily basis. He would ride to daycare and ride home with me chasing behind him. Pedal free run bikes had just started to come out on the market back then and we were one of the firsts where we lived to have a toddler on one. The amount of people that stopped to take in the sight of a toddler cruising the seawall was hilarious.

Fast forward to my third baby turning the big TWO and we decided she needed a run bike too. I waited outside with the three kids while my husband brought the bike outside. The look of happiness on her tiny toddler face was exactly what I hoped for. I think she was just happy that she finally had her own bike, just like her siblings.

Of course, when you are the youngest with a couple of older siblings you’re going to get all the assistance and teaching you can imagine. Big sis was totally into trying to help the birthday girl learn to get on the bike and push off and was so patient with Lizzy.

I’m hoping that as the weeks tick by we will get more sunny light filled evenings and this little two year old can soon be cruising the seawall on her own. Until then, she has many helpers ready! I can’t believe my baby is a two year old! Cue all the mama feelings!

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Downtown living can be absolutely fabulous until it’s time to register your child for kindergarten at the local public school. It turns out that each year more and more people choose to stay and raise their family downtown. However, the Vancouver public school spaces have never caught up to that fact. It’s all about ‘bums in the seat’ when it comes to funding and you can’t pre count those tiny tushes before they are sitting there. Lack of kindergarten spaces in Vancouver is a chronic issue, nearly a decade old, that rears its head annually.

Back when we were busy registering our first child for kindergarten I put so much energy into whether or not he would be accepted by lottery to our neighbourhood school. If he didn’t get a spot in our local catchment, where would he go to school? I most certainly stressed over this issue.

Long story short, he did not get a spot and was at the end of the waitlist. However, we ended up being quite happy with our ‘runner up’ school and have enjoyed our four years there. When it was time for our second child to register for kindergarten we had to start back at square one.

You can read all about our first experience with our first Vancouver school lottery system experience here

Since our first child was an ‘over flow’ student, the usual sibling priority for registration you’re entitled to at your catchment school does not exist. Even if your child was placed at a Vancouver school due to lack of spaces in your neighbourhood school, siblings have zero priority. Instead you must go through the hoops, register at your catchment school, apply for cross boundary and hope for the best. This is a rather questionable process as all nearby schools are technically considered ‘full’ and do not except cross boundary students.

As a parent you could have a brand new kindergarten student at one school and their sibling could be somewhere else entirely within Vancouver. Not an ideal set up considering the transition into kindergarten includes dropping off in the classroom and picking up at the same spot. How does a family with young children manage that without it being a hardship?

This time around we were randomly lucky. Through the school lottery we got a spot at our local school for kindergarten. However, having two kids at two different schools was not ideal for our family at all. Today we heard that our cross boundary application for Josie was, amazingly, approved. We will have two kids at the same school and we all couldn’t be more happy. This could have played out in so many different ways and we were lucky it worked out the way it did.

Downtown Vancouver has just opened its third regular elementary school, there is a K-3 Annex attached to one of the schools, in the downtown core. Apparently there will be three kindergarten classrooms at the new school and the spots for next year are all currently filled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Baby

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March 28, 2017 // Parenting

You know that moment when you see a photo of something and it completely changes your perspective. That happened to me the other day when my husband showed me a photo he’d taken of our youngest girl. The two of them had been out on an outing and in the photos she looked so big. All of a sudden I saw her as a total toddler, probably the way everyone else sees her, and less of the baby that I  think of her as.

In my mothering world my youngest is still ‘the baby’. Since she’s always been on the tinier side it’s quite easy to keep thinking of her as a baby. Compared to the older kids she still has a lot of basic needs that we need to take care of and when we talk about her in our family we legit refer to her as ‘the baby’.

Where’s the baby?

Awe, look at how cute the baby is!

The baby just did this super adorable thing today…

Shhhh! The baby is sleeping!

Careful! Watch the baby!

The list goes on and I totally get how completely ridiculous and maybe a little endearing it is at the same time. Today while the big kids were off at school I let her get busy with the paints. Then she danced in the living room to some Raffi and sang Baby Beluga. Like, she actually sang the words and you could understand what she was saying. Babies don’t do that.

In about two weeks time we will have an official two year old. Not a baby. She’s having a birthday party at a farm and she likes to talk about how she will ride a pony, see a goat and eat cake. I’m trying my best to not be too ridiculous with my emotions over realizing that I no longer have a baby.

While I’m all for celebrating my toddler’s new milestones, I will still be secretly be calling her ‘baby’. I just can’t help myself.

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Hawaii definitely has my heart ever since our first trip there as a couple. I feel like as soon as you arrive on one of the islands you’re transported to this total sense of tropical bliss that gives you that feeling like you’re home. There’s that warm thick air that greets you as soon as you get off the plane to those island birds you hear chirping first thing in the morning. It is a true love affair.

It turns out that my kids also have a bit of Aloha fever and loved every minute of our family holiday. Each kid had a different favourite and I love hearing what they had to tell me. At the end of each day I’d ask them, ‘what was your favourite part of today?’. We often do this at home but I felt like being on a family holiday invites this question even more. Plus, it encourages them to learn how to be reflective and also grateful.

My oldest, eight and a half year old Ben, wasn’t so sure about doing a snorkelling trip with his dad. We had talked about it before we left and practiced in our indoor pool with the snorkel gear. When the time came closer he said he was nervous about swimming in the ocean. So, off we went to Baby Beach to practice snorkelling in some calm waters. However, even after a day at the beach he still was not sure about going on the trip.

Later that day he told us that he was now excited to go. Phew! I was really glad he changed his mind as we had bought the tickets ahead of time and they were non-refundable. My two boys left before 6 AM and were gone all day. They came home utterly exhausted and filled to the brim with tales from the ocean.  Ben was able to use a wet suit and the guides worked with him so that he felt really comfortable. I love seeing my kids conquer their fears! He saw so many amazing animals; schools of fish, dolphins and turtles were just a few of what they saw. He said it was his, ‘best day ever!’ and I believe that.

Alii Nui Maui– snorkel boat trip

Josie is five years old and the last time she was in Hawaii she was just a toddler, so this time around everything was still very new to her. She loved saying ‘Aloha!’ to people and was interested in absolutely everything that we did. She loved meeting new friends at the pool but her ultimate favourite experience was swimming in the ocean and sailing in a boat looking for whales.

This girl is such an ocean lover and her zest for catching waves made me feel like an overly cautious mama at times. She definitely loved every moment that we spent at the beach and would have stayed even longer if it was up to her.

Pacific Whale Foundation– Family friendly whale watching

Te Au Moana Luau in Wailea – Kids five and under are free (yeah!)

You might wonder what a not yet two year old can even get out of going on a trip like this. Lizzy, who turns two next month, loved hanging out at the beach. Another vote for Baby Beach! It is seriously perfect for families that have mixed levels of swimmers.

This toddler learned lots of new words while we were away. Which is always a fun milestone, even the third time around. Pineapple, aloha, fish, boat and beach are all new words that she loves chatting about. Lizzy got a big kick out of going to the Maui Ocean Centre. She could have sat at these tanks and watched the life inside forever. We’ve been to this aquarium a few times before and it’s always a fun experience. If you haven’t been before but are thinking of going with kids, plan to spend about 1.5-2 hours there.

Just like that our trip is over! It was a sad moment boarding the plane back to Vancouver, knowing we were trading in sun and sand for raindrops and cold. My kids were in for a bit shock the day after we arrived home when I handed out their Winter coats for our outing.

Until next time Hawaii!

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