Despite being a specialized perinatal RN working at the bedside supporting new mothers learning to breastfeed, I still struggled deeply with feeding back when I had my first baby. In the early weeks post partum I found breastfeeding to be beyond hard and found nothing enjoyable about it.
We struggled with having our preterm baby try to learn the same feeding tricks that a term baby would and I struggled with the utter exhaustion from an induced labour and an assisted birth. Once baby is here the hard work continues with little reprieve.
I remember waiting and waiting for things to click and when they didn’t come naturally I knew that I needed to call for help. I sent a SOS to a friend who was an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and she came to me and gave me the support I needed on how to make things work.
Post partum I had so much extra IV fluid floating around my body that every part of me was ridiculously swollen, including the breasts that were meant to nurse my baby. It all seemed kind of impossible.
When we were ten days post partum we went to the paediatricians for our scheduled check up. He measured and weighed my baby and asked me how feeding was going to which I quickly replied with a short, ‘its fine’. Then he said something that helped me hold things together at a moment where I felt really vulnerable.
“You are doing a really great job Andrea!”
It was the first time someone told me I was doing a good job in motherhood and the difference that those simple words made were unforgettable. I didn’t even know that I needed to hear them until he said it.
Three babies later and I can tell you that learning a new skill, like breastfeeding a baby, when you are beyond exhausted is like having an out of body experience. It really feels kind of ridiculous.
So much information from well meaning health care professionals went in one ear and out the other. I was too tired to hear what they were telling me. I kept hoping that things would just naturally come together and had no idea of the learning curve that was involved for me and this baby.
Over time my body recovered from the long induction and birth and I let myself commit to breastfeeding one feed at a time. I wasn’t commiting to breastfeed exclusively for six months or going for a year and I wast even thinking about the two years that the WHO guidelines recommended.
I was just going to try this one feed and see how it went. If it went somewhat okay then I was going to try it again just once more.
My lactation consultant friends showered me with the support I needed, continually checking up on me as the days went by. My sister, who had had babies, told me all about her nursing experiences and those sisterhood secrets of the early post partum weeks. My husband brought me snacks and made me dinner while I sat firmly in one spot on our couch focused on latching the baby or expressing milk to give.
All together they helped mother me, the new mother. I was never expected to return to normal or pick up where I left off. I took this new role one day at a time and I was allowed to grow into motherhood.
While my village took care of me, I was able to take care of the baby. When I’d spent those newborn nights night cluster feeding, my partner would wake up early and take the baby so I could have some extra sleep. Breastfeeding wasn’t just my issue that I had to learn to deal with on my own. It was a shared supported experience.
My youngest sister, who had no kids at the time, would come over in the afternoon and take the baby so I could have an afternoon nap. Catching up on sleep helped my mental well being and my ability to take on one more breastfeed.
This was my post partum experience and I feel very fortunate that as a new mother I was able to be so well cared for during the transition into motherhood. I wish all new mothers could get the chance to adjust to this new part of their lives while surrounded by people who care about them.
Let’s mother the mother. Let’s take care of her and give her the support she requires so that she can flourish in her new role.
***I wrote this post inspired by the tragic and upsetting loss of fellow nurse and mother Florence Leung. You can read more about her story here.***
Recently we had a family celebration in our home and there was some serious memory making happening. Over the years we’ve had a lot of celebrations and I’ve come to realize that so much of what we do fulfills two purposes.
Of course we want to celebrate the actual event, in this case it was Josie’s fifth birthday, but we also celebrate to create memories and give our young family a legacy. Together we make memories for me to file away and also for my children to tuck into their own memory banks.
When one of the kids has a birthday I always let them choose what they’d like to do for dinner. Whatever they choose is what we do and in the past it has been a range of going out to staying in.
This year the birthday girl chose breakfast for dinner and I was quite pleased with her choice. We had an easy dinner, opened family presents and then blew out all five candles on this homemade chocolate cake.
It wasn’t a fancy cake or really even Pinterest worthy but the birthday girl and I made it together during a moment of quiet in the afternoon. She cracked eggs like a pro and measured and stirred and even put the cake right into the oven.
I love looking at the photos from that evening and really taking that extra minute to study their eyes and the shape of their face. You start to notice detail that you don’t get to see when life is moving right in front of you.
Here we were. Living our life and incidentally making memories.
Part of having kids is that they are always around. Obviously I mean this in the most uplifting positive way but kids will basically rule your social life in every way that is possible. So, why not make them part of your social life? I love doing fun activities with my kids and the older they get the more I really appreciate being able to do fun things with them.
It turns out kids actually like to spend time with their parents. I like taking my kids on excursions where they can gain social skills and learn how to interact appropriately. Knowing full well that one day they will be off on their own.
- Go to the movies. Before I had kids I went to the movies on a somewhat regular basis and loved the whole experience. Now that I’m a mum I love taking my big kids to a show, even though it’s all kid centric flicks. I enjoy going with them and they love going with me. We started our kids to the movies when they were over three years old. We ask for movie passes for kids birthday gifts and it’s a great way to help cut cost.
- Bake me a cake as fast as you can. It takes A LOT of parenting patience to be in the kitchen with kids but there are so many rewards that it really is worth trying. My husband is the pro when it comes to cooking with kids and they love being able to crack eggs and mix ingredients together. We start to include the kids in the kitchen when they are old enough to stand on a stool, which is about 18 months.
- Get in the pool! Our three kids are water babies and they love going swimming. They love playing tea party in the pool or playing different games. We are lucky that our condo has an indoor pool and we use it pretty frequently. I know that if we didn’t have access to one at home we’d still be at the local indoor pool regularly otherwise! We bring a bag of toys down to the pool and the kids love the captive parenting audience.
- Take it to the coffee shop. Being a city living family means we walk a lot and there is coffee shops all over. I absolutely adore taking my kids for a steamed milk or a hot chocolate and love reaping the benefits of having an actual hot coffee too. We sit and chat and play eye spy while sipping hot drinks from proper mugs.
- Get in some screen time (together). I did not grow up being an avid video game player but I try my hardest when Mario Kart comes on. Some evenings we have ‘Family Racing Night!’ and we all sit together trying our hardest to win the race. My kids love seeing mum fumble and learn a bit of self control when things don’t go as planned.
I’m not a parenting expert but I do like to have fun and my three kids love having fun along with us! I find that those long days go much smoother when a little fun is booked into them.
This post is not going to be filled with my New Year’s resolutions. It’s not about weight loss or making huge changes or even having a fresh start.
Every once in awhile I’m reminded about how good things are in my life. Maybe it is the start of the New Year that brings this reminder to me, I’m not really sure. I do know that every day I’m able to make my own decisions and I feel safe in my day to day life. At night, I get to go to sleep knowing my children are warm and tucked into bed.
My family gets to wake up together, eat breakfast and plan out a fun day together or do our routine school activities. I don’t take this mundane flow for granted. I am grateful.
Being grateful doesn’t mean I live an exclusively idyllic life or that things are always easy. Being grateful does mean that as the days pass I make a genuine attempt to appreciate even the smallest details. Even when things are crazy and out of control there will still always be something to be thankful for. I am grateful.
I am grateful for sisters who are like second mother’s to my kids. I am appreciative for a husband who makes me breakfast when I get home from a night shift. I am grateful and thankful to have friends I get to work with and to work a job that I feel passion about.
I am thankful to live somewhere that I can easily get medical supplies and life saving insulin. I am grateful for the hundreds of needles I have to take each month so that I can live. I am grateful. I am on my knees thankful for my health and for the chance to walk outside in fresh air and eat whatever food I want. I am thankful.
Before you get to caught up in your New Year’s resolutions, and feel fixed on making big life changes, allow yourself to feel grateful. Recognize the things that already exist in your life that you can be thankful for.
I can promise you that gratefulness does not disappear in a week or a month. In fact, choosing to be thankful is free and can be done anytime and anywhere.
Tell me something that you are grateful for.
I’m totally that person who does the, ‘One year ago today this happened’ or ‘Last year at this time we were…’. It drives my husband kind of nuts but I can’t help being reflective. I feel all the feels and I wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s just who I am.
Two years ago today I was finishing up my 24 hours of bedrest after having an amnio done at 23 weeks. We were told something was seriously wrong with our baby and we wanted more information to figure out what was going on. I was the most scared and vulnerable that I have ever been.
Five years ago today I was heavily pregnant with Josie and felt like I could go into labour at any moment. She was my biggest baby and boy did I ever feel it! I had my sister on standby in case I was to go into labour.
Eleven years ago today I got married on a Friday evening in Vancouver. There was a hint of rain but it was so mild out that day and I walked around downtown in my wedding gown with my freshly suited up husband to be. We had a smallish wedding on Granville Island and the rest is history!
Here we are now on Friday December 30th 2016. There’s one more day left till a New Year begins and I can’t help but feel a sense of wonderment with what new memories I will be gifted in 2017.
As life unfolds and the years tick by, I find myself becoming more grateful. At 37 years old my memories have multiple layers and reflection can bring a sense of melancholy and great joy all at the same time.
On that note, here is to a fresh New Year. I will bring my memories along with me into the next year and hope that I’m given the chance at collecting more.
Christmas is here!!
Despite not doing everything I had hoped to do with the kids this Christmas, I refuse to let myself feel disappointed. I always have a holiday case of FOMO and want to see everything and do more. More so now that I have three little kids and love the excitement they have for these kind of outings. It’s hard in Vancouver because there’s truly so many fun Christmas activities that you could do that are right at our doorstep.
Tonight we are having a low key Christmas eve with an early trip to the beautiful VanDusen Gardens for their Festival of Lights display. We will hopefully be one of the first into the garden and come home for an easy appetizer style dinner with the kids.
The kids are already excited about opening one little present tonight, a tradition from my own childhood. This year all the kids are exchanging presents with each other and are so excited to give them out.
I love that they are excited about gift exchanges and feeling the joy you can get when giving someone else a present. Even sweeter was teaching my oldest how to properly wrap a present and write out the little gift card.
Merry Christmas Blogland! I love all of my readers and thank you for reading my words!
A friend once gave me the inside scoop about Christmas presents and babies. She told me to save my money, limit my stress and not buy presents for baby’s first few Christmases. I was given the advice back with the first baby and I heard her advice but it was so hard not to put together a stocking for my baby.
Instead of skipping it all together I kept things very simple for all of my ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ and continue to do so as they’ve gotten older. My first Christmas as a mama I packed a stocking with a couple new baby spoons, a pack of baby biscuits and a few other small things.
Fast forward to baby #3 and the problem with subsequent siblings is that older siblings will pay attention to what every other child gets, even the baby. If the baby gets nothing but teething biscuits, the older kids go on high alert and are confused as to why Santa only gave some old teething biscuits.
I know how this works, I was the middle child of three sisters, you can’t just put a pack of old teething biscuits in the littlest’s stocking and call it a day! Older siblings pay attention to what every other sibling gets.
This year I’ve kept it nice and simple with Elisabeth’s Christmas stocking and I know she will have fun pulling the wrapping paper off. Side note: I totally realize that at 20 months old Elisabeth is not a baby BUT she is our youngest and this makes her default ‘The Baby’ forever and ever. The End.
- Bebe De Luxe milk bath
- Kikkerland reusable pouch filled with a couple of chocolate Kisses
- Usborne Noisy book
- Purple Play dough
- One juicy clementine
Don’t worry, I totally know that my 20 month old toddler is not still a baby but, that being said, she will always be called ‘The Baby’ for as long as she is the youngest child. Which will be forever.
That snowman stocking is my childhood stocking that my mum made. Each of my littlest get to use it for their first couple of Christmases and even one of our old dog’s had a turn using it too. Got to love family traditions!
My husband is away for work right now, which means a lot more hustle and bustle from me but it’s nothing I can’t handle. However, I wasn’t expecting my four year old to start having trouble sleeping at night, but she is. Which means we are all over tired.
The two of us have been meeting multiple times each night this past week. It always starts out with a quiet little whisper of “mama….” and a curly haired shadow lurking beside my bed in the dark. We have had sobbing and flat out refusals to go back to her own bed and lots of, ‘SHH!! You will wake everyone up!’ from a bleary eyed me.
As a seasoned mama I know that these wake ups are because she needs reassurance that I’m there and that things are okay. I’ve always been sensitive to my kids needs for parenting around the clock and for the most part I just go with the flow. Meet their needs, stick to routine and hope for the best.
I’m no stranger to night wake ups but it’s usually the youngest one calling out, either with teething pain, random issues or those weird sleep cries you can’t explain but that still wake you up. I’m okay with the nighttime parenting of a toddler but I do feel a little more exasperated with with nighttime parenting of big kids. Especially, when those night wake ups are repetitive and don’t end in a peaceful back to bed sleep.
For now she slumbers in her own bed but I can guarantee that I will hear little footsteps coming to find me at some point over the night. In preparation, I’ve made her a little bed nest just for her on my bedroom floor right next to me. I’m hoping this will help her feel comforted and ultimately I’m hoping it helps her to stay asleep!
Today we waved goodbye to my husband, who headed up to Whistler mountain for a week long work retreat, and said a big HELLO to some big fluffy white flakes. Today also happened to be a scheduled day off from school for the big kids and the snow couldn’t have come at a better time.
I can probably count actual snow days on one hand since I’ve been living here the last fourteen years. In fact, unless you are a skiing/snow boarding family most Vancouverites don’t have proper snow attire. It’s commonplace to see Vancouver kids out in the snow wearing their rain boots!
We had to make a makeshift snow day outfit for Lizzy. Complete with an old handmade toque and some leg warmers over her pants for an extra layer of warmth. We didn’t have snow boots or snow pants on hand so she stayed cozy in her stroller holding snow balls in her mittens and watching the big kids.
There was the time in ’08 that we had a big dump of snow back right over Christmas. I had just one tiny baby and it was the most snow I had ever seen, leaving the city to come to a total halt. Then there was the snow day that happened the afternoon Josie came home from the hospital as a newborn. I can vividly remember the blast of arctic air as we hurried from hospital to the car to drive home and feeling a little nervous on the roads with my bundle of joy in her carseat.
You can never count on snow sticking around the city for any length of time so you have to take full advantage of the white stuff at first flake. Which means my big kids went out with their dad to catch some flakes as soon as they woke up this morning. In total we went out three different times over eight hours and the last time it was hard to find enough snow to make a snow ball.
I love seeing how my West Coast kids react to snow! I am positive that my oldest would go out in shorts and frolic and have the best time of his life and never feel the cold. My middle was interested and enjoyed it for five minutes but despite many layers, she was too cold to want to keep going. The littlest just wanted to sit and hold the snow ball that her brother made her and I just enjoyed watching them have their happy moments.