I expected Motherhood to suck.
I expected to be sleep deprived, and miserable. I expected that caring for my child would feel like a never-ending slog, an obligation that went on and on and on and on, until I died. I expected to miss life before my baby; when I could sleep in, go on road trips at the drop of a hat, and shower any time I wanted to.
While I was pregnant I obsessively read Reddit threads about parents who regretted having children. In them, mothers and fathers protected behind the veil of internet anonymity wrote words like, "I love my children, but I wish I never had them," or "My child has made my life worse in every possible way,". I was terrified that when my child was born I would find myself writing my own tales of woe and regret on an anonymous internet forum at 3am.
I was terrified that I would be the only mother in the world who truly loved her dogs more than she loved her baby.
When my baby was born, I didn't love him instantaneously. The moment he entered the world in a wave of endorphins and blood, I was overjoyed, awestruck, and relieved... but I was not in love. I thought he was terribly cute, precious, and wonderful, but I also struck by strange he felt. I remember saying to a nurse how it bothered me that if in those first 24 hours of life-outside-the-womb someone had lined my baby up with a dozen other caucasian newborns, I might not be able to pick my child out.
He was a complete stranger to me, yet also as deeply connected to me as my own beating heart, or blinking eyes. How could I not know him? How could he be both things?
I've never been one to throw the words 'I Love You' around. When my husband told me that he loved me after a couple months of dating, I smiled awkwardly, blinked, and said "thank you". A fact that he will never let me live down.
In the first weeks of his life, it was hard for me to say the words "I love you" to my infant. I wasn't sure that I did- love him, that is. I worried that these feelings meant that I was having trouble bonding, or that maybe I was suffering from some sort of postpartum depression, or what perhaps I was just a really shitty mother and human being and that I would never fall in love with this perfect child of mine because I was a cold-hearted, ice-queen monster.
But then, around 6 weeks old, he smiled at me for the first time. And in that very moment, the walls of stone that surrounded my cold, dead heart crumbled, and my heart thrashed to life, like a phoenix raising from the ashes.
I tell my baby boy, who is 15 shit-disturbing months old now, that I love him about one hundred times a day. Sometimes when I do, he smiles and blows me kisses with his dimpled, perfect baby hands and I love him 1000x more.
I wonder if my inability to love him from the get-go stemmed from my months of convincing myself that Motherhood would be horrible. Truly, I was woefully under prepared for just how amazing it would actually be. I never would have expected that waking up 3-7 (yes, SEVEN!) times a night really wouldn't feel 'that bad', and that pregnancy wouldn't actually destroy my body, and that this stranger of an infant would give me a sense of purpose and renewed wonder in life that I didn't even realize was missing.
Motherhood, in my experience, hasn't sucked at all and that has taken me by complete surprise.
It has been a year and a half since I last updated this space.
My 7lb 13oz son was born 52 days after my last post. He came screaming into the world after a 32 hour labour, which ended in an epidural, vacuum assist, and an episiotomy.
The moment my son was born was surreal, and magical, and intense, and perfect. The elation and relief that I felt in that moment is truly indescribable. I now understand why people have 8, 9, 10 children; they're chasing the dragon of the-first-time-i-saw-my-baby high. It is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Bennett Leander B*. Our Benny.
It took 5 entire days for my milk to come in. Nobody told me that it could take this long, and nobody told me that my baby would be starving the entire time. Those first 5 days were a fucking nightmare. Other things that nobody told me:
1. Episiotomies, though uncommon these days, are not unheard of. Healing from one hurts more than childbirth itself-- only worse because the searing pain persists for days on end, and you don't get another cute baby out of it. People will give you (un)helpful advice like, "Take a sitz bath", or "make a padsicle" and you will want to light them on fire... because icing your vagina which was literally SLICED OPEN AND SEWN BACK UP is about as helpful as, say, putting a cool cloth on a knife wound. (The only thing that helped, for me, was staying in a horizontal position as much as possible so that blood did not pool, and thus swell, my rear end. Also, a LOT of tylenol and ibuprofen)
2. It's ok to give your baby a bit of formula while you wait for your milk supply to come in, and it will not necessarily create a baby who is now completely boob adverse. In fact, introducing bottles from the get-go will not ruin your baby for life. It's also ok to formula feed your baby from the get-go. Your baby will be just fine. So do what you gotta do to survive, Mama.
3. During days 1-3 post-birth you will love your partner/spouse more than you ever thought possible. You will be doped up on every single feel-good hormone imaginable, and just the sight of them with your new baby will give you near physical pleasure... Which is wonderful because during days 3-365 you will absolutely, unequivocally loathe them. Welcome to the first year of parenthood.
4. I could be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that childbirth permenantly rewires the nerve endings in your vagina. What once felt good, may now make you want to put your first through a wall.
5. Your vagina will bounce back and look more or less how it always looked. The same, sadly, cannot be said for your butthole.
I'd like to get back into updating this blog. I'd like to share my parenting wins and losses, struggles and observations. I'd like for you to share in our journey. It's a fine fiasco.
As my pregnancy progresses into the 3rd trimester I am being treated to a whole new world of discomfort, aches, and pains. Sleeping for longer than 45 minutes at a time is a thing of the past, I've been treated to my very first hemmorhoid, and my energy levels are at an all time low. Getting my round, ever-expanding self up and out of bed for my 5 bathroom breaks every night is a monumental task, and the indigestion that burns it's way across my stomach (which is now located somewhere in my throat, it seems) is like nothing I have ever experienced. The 3rd trimester is truly no joke.
On the plus side, my visits to the Chiropractor have done wonders for the sciatica that I was struggling with since weeks 24/25. And my back pain, amazingly, is far less frequent now than it was a month or two ago. I am so thankful to not be dealing with those terrible aches and pains as well as my new ones!
As baby grows, so do his movements and mannerisms, and it has been really neat to get to know him. I still marvel every single time I feel him squiggle and kick. He's started getting the hiccups, which are easily felt by my husband and I. It's the hiccups that have let me know that he's already head-down, as they are felt by us waaaay down low on my belly. It is still so amazing to visualize a human baby curled up inside my own body, a totally separate person, but yet entirely part of & dependent on me as well. What an amazing thing.
10 weeks left. Give or take.
10 weeks left until I get to see this boy of ours for the very first time.
10 weeks until I get to hold him in my arms.
10 weeks left of feeling him squirm, safely inside my belly.
My pregnancy has been incredible. My aches and pains are minimal, and things are only now starting to get uncomfortable. I'm not sleeping well. I can't ever find a comfortable way to sit/lay/stand. I have sciatic nerve pain that radiates down my right leg any time I stand in one place for longer than 15 seconds, and aching mid-back pain that appears and disappers with no rhyme or reason. But it is all still so incredible.
Every few days my husband and I still look at each other, eyes wide, and exclaim, "We are having a baby!" How amazing and surprising and completely insane. I truly did not think we would ever be here, in this place. I am thankful for it all and do not take a single day of it for granted.
It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. I am cooking a Thanksgiving Feast for two-- with a roast chicken, rather than a turkey because there is no way the two of us can eat a 15+ lb bird. Our last Thanksgiving "just the two of us". Next year we will have a 7 month old baby, throwing food on the floor and driving me up the wall.
I'm giving thanks today for so many blessings. My fabulous husband, of course, who is currently in our car port, cutting two-by-fours and other sheets of wood with his table saw, as he is chest-deep in Getting-The-House-Ready-For-Baby renovations. My husband who works a full time job, then comes home to work well into the night on our renovations, without a single complaint. My husband who seems to know how to do absolutely everything under the sun and never ceases to astound me with what he is capable of. My husband.
And of course, there is the fact that we are in the financial situation to do these renovations at all. As someone who grew up on the poverty-end of the poor, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't whisper silent prayers of thanks for the position that we are in today. A position where I can buy a cart load of groceries, and not even pay attention at the check out because I know we can afford whatever the total may be. A position where we can withdraw $10,000 to pay for home-renovations without losing a wink of sleep. A position where we HAVE $10,000 in savings to begin with! What a privileged lot we are indeed. I am thankful.
Thankful for my adorable pets, who make me laugh every single day. Perhaps it's my hormones, but I have been going to bed at night lately feeling devastated that another day with them is done. Another day that we will never get back, ushering us helplessly closer to a day when they are no longer with us. Morose!
Thankful for our health. And our jobs. And our amazing friends and family.
And thankful for this baby.
It is fitting that am 20 weeks pregnant today. That means I am exactly half-way through this pregnancy. It's the home stretch now! I have been so fortunate to have a pregnancy that has been devoid of any major complications or scares.
As most of you know, I got pregnant rather surprisingly after struggling with infertility for years and year. Despite my previous struggles to GET pregnant, I haven't had any issues remaining pregnant. Things just chugged along without issue ever since. It amazes me that my body knows how to do this-- create, and then grow a life which will eventually be totally separate from mine. That cells divide, and duplicate, and tiny finger nails grow, and eye lids flutter, and kidneys form and settle where they are meant to be, all without a single thought from my own brain. Peeling a potato takes more mental stamina than growing a HUMAN BEING and that completely perplexes and astounds me on the regular.
I'm thankful to be half-way through this pregnancy and to feel great. I'm thankful to be half-way through this pregnancy and to be able to say that I genuinely love my changing body. I'm proud of all my new curves and contours, and feel more womanly & feminine than I ever have. I feel fortunate and blessed.
There is just so, so much to be Thankful for.
5 years ago I went through something that I never thought I would experience: Divorce.
My ex-husband and I had what I would describe as a marriage that was quite comfortable and rich in friendship, but was devoid of any real passion. Despite our problems, and the vital things that our marriage lacked, I was completely blind-sided when he told me on Friday afternoon during an argument that felt no different, and no more severe than any of the other arguments that we'd had before in our married life, "I want a divorce."
When he said it the entire world seemed to stop spinning, like a car crash. Everything slowed down, and suddenly the only two things in the room were he & I, talking and moving in slow motion. He was sitting on our leather section sofa, head in his hands. I was standing at the kitchen counter in our open-concept living/kitchen, knees buckling. He said it like he really meant it. Like it had been on the tip of his tongue for months. I'll never forget that moment: the feeling of the bottom falling out of my entire life.
In that initial moment things slowed down, but in the moments, days, weeks, and months that followed things went dreadfully fast. Faster than I thought possible. I remember feeling dismayed at how easily the tapestry of our married life that we'd woven together, could all be unraveled. A few years together to build, 4 words to destroy. I remember feeling dismayed when he said he didn't want to pursue counselling because he "didn't want to be married to me anymore!". I remember feeling dismayed when I found out about the other woman. Feeling dismayed when I found out that a few of our mutual friends knew about her, & about his dissatisfaction in our marriage long before I did.
Not wanting our friends and family to find out on Facebook when I inevitably changed my status from "married" to nothing at all, I decided to reach out directly to those nearest and dearest to me. I wrote Facebook messages, emails, and made phone calls. My written messages didn't go into specifics but said that we would be splitting up, and it was very sad & difficult, but we would survive.
What followed was a general response that shocked, and deeply, profoundly wounded me. The response was:: Nothing. Radio silence. Nothing at all. Of the 20-or-so messages and emails that I wrote, I received maybe 5-7 responses. The vast majority of people opted instead to say nothing.
I have spent 5 years trying to figure out why someone would NOT respond when they received a message like that from someone near to them, and I still can't fully understand. I don't think I ever will. Maybe they were all just horrible people, and never truly my friends at all..? Or maybe they all just didn't know what to say. Maybe they racked their brains for an appropriate response to news like that, came up with words that all felt insufficient, ingenuine, or trite, and so they ignored the message altogether. They chose instead to say nothing, and go on with their lives.
You must do a lot of painful things when you go through the divorce process-- finding out that you never really knew your spouse at all, breaking the news to your loved ones, the divvying of assets, packing/moving house, self-doubt, trust issues, being fucking broke all of a sudden, not knowing if you'll ever find love again, the the anger, the betrayal... Divorce is all around an extremely shitty, inconvenient experience, and I don't recommend it. But I'll tell you the worst part about divorce... It's something I never anticipated:
You go from having you entire life planned out. You think things are going to move in a certain trajectory. You have a 5 year plan, a 10 year plan, even a rough 25 year plan. You have inlaws that love you, and a social circle, and some financial reliability. . . . and then you have NOTHING. It's bad enough that the person you loved most in the world (your spouse) is no longer emotionally accessible to you, but there is all this other collateral damage as well. Collateral damage that you never would have expected. Friends who avoid you because your divorce is just such a bummer, in-laws who (naturally) will remain faithful to their adult child rather than to you, people who judge you. You become a bit of a leper. Your network shrinks in size by HUGE amounts.
I found losing my spouse to be hard. But losing my entire network was crushing.
It was then that I decided that whenever my friends & acquaintances were to go through something painful in their lives, I would say something. Particularly if I found it difficult to think of what to say-- those were the times when something needed to be said the most. No matter how hard, how squidgy, or how useless my words felt, I would say something. Because what I learned is that it's not what people say, it's simply that people say anything to you at all.
When the people in your life are going through something difficult, like illness, death, divorce, financial worries, etc... they do not expect you to offer them the most profound, poetic, words of encouragement that they have ever read. They don't expect you to take their pain away. They just want to know that they aren't walking through life alone. They want to be acknowledged & validated, and told that you care. It's really that simple. So, say something. Say anything.
A couple years ago, when I was coming to terms with the notion that I might never have children, the biggest thing that I struggled to accept with was the idea that I might never experience pregnancy.
For every woman, pregnancy is a time of unfathomable change, challenge, and self sacrifice. This is inevitable. However, not every woman finds these changes, challenges, and sacrifices pleasant.
Some women are grateful for the baby that pregnancy usually results in, but find little to no joy in the pregnancy-experience itself. It is simply an inconvenient, mostly-unpleasant journey that they must endure in order to acquire an infant genetically theirs. Perhaps they are sick for all/most/some of the pregnancy. Perhaps the pregnancy flares up awful illnesses like sciatica, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and on and on an on. Perhaps she is in physical pain on a daily basis. Perhaps she is in emotional pain. Perhaps she just doesn't like it. A woman's feelings about her pregnancy are entirely her own, and I am not here to judge anyone for their thoughts on their own unique experience. I believe entirely that some pregnancies really are downright miserable and a woman should be able to say "This SUCKS!" and have those feeling heard and validated.
But some women enjoy their pregnancies. Deeply. Richly. Earnestly. And I always had a hunch that I would be one of these women.
So the idea that I might never get to experience pregnancy made me sad. I did not necessarily mourn the child that I thought I might never have, but I absolutely mourned the loss of the experience of a carrying that child. Perhaps it was naive and idealistic, but I desperately wanted to see my belly grow. I wanted to go to bed at night with the knowledge that there was a life, separate from my own, growth and thriving inside my own body. I wanted to feel a baby move while nestled safely in my uterus. I wanted to breast feed. I absolutely wanted to experience pregnancy.
Then, I got my wish.
But right now, I love pregnancy. It's amazing and wonderful and leaves me in awe every single day. I absolutely love it.... and I haven't even felt the baby move yet!
Two little red lines. That's all it takes to change your life.
It was father's day. I had just come home from a trip to Disney World, followed immediately by a whirlwind car-buying weekend in Vancouver. My period was a week late, but I didn't think much about it, chalking it up to the stress of travel and car shopping. My period had been a week late before (many times) after all, all for naught.
Despite my certainty that there was no "reason" for my late period, I took a pregnancy test. I have a large ziplock bag full of cheap ones that I bought off eBay another life-time ago. A lifetime in which I was trying to get pregnant, and talking to a small handful of fertility specialists, and being diagnosed with "unexplained infertility". 5 years of of my life-- gone.
My husband and I gave up trying 2 years ago. I remember the moment clearly. We were driving to catch a ferry on a gorgeous autumn day. My 30th birthday hung a few months off in the distance. I had spent half a decade at that point pursuing the dream of having children, and with each year that passed it seemed more and more impossible. All the doctors we saw, who scratched their heads, and could not explain the reason for our infertility pushed us towards IVF-- an option that seemed too invasive & depleting (financially & emotionally) for us. Anyone who has "tried" to have a baby for longer than 6 months knows how hard it is. It's a road wrought with frustration, disappointment, shame, isolation, self-loathing, jealousy, sadness, and rage. It is all encompassing & it takes its toll. I was done.
As we sat in line to board that ferry, and I contemplated turning 30 and what I wanted for the next decade of my life, I knew one thing for sure:: I did not want to waste the first half of my 30's "trying" to have a baby, in the same way I felt like I wasted the last half of my 20's "trying" to have one. I decided then and there that when I turned 30, I was done. When I turned 30 a few months later, I would give up the ghost. I would accept that children just weren't in our cards, and we would embrace all the many positive aspects of a life without children (and there truly are many joys to a child-free life).
I turned 30 on March 5, 2014. In the months that followed, I made the decision to 'come out' to our family with my infertility struggles, and to confess that likely we would not be having children. As many people with infertility do, I had kept this aspect of my life very private. There is a shame that surrounds infertility that I cannot quite describe. For me it was born out of a desire for people not to "feel sorry" for me. I told only my very nearest friends about my struggle, and allowed everyone else to think that I just didn't want children yet.
When we told our families that we were infertile, and that no, we wouldn't be pursuing IVF, and that there was a good possibility that we would not be a source of grandchildren/nieces/nephews, we were met with love & support. Family members who had, up until then, been asking us routinely about when we would be having children (because we had not been open with them yet about our struggles) immediately stopped it with the pressure and cajoling, and embraced us as we were-- child-free. We all began the process of moving on and accepting that Tamara & Jerred would likely remain a family of 2. It was liberating for me in the truest possible sense of the word. I felt whole.
And then Father's Day 2016 happened.