Thursday, 1 January 2015

Does That Make me a Bad Mom...

When I decided to start "trying" to become a mom, I knew that my life would forever be changed.  I was "ready" and "prepared" for sleepless nights, sweat pant attire, crying, whining (from the kids as well), make-believe play, baby smiles, giggles, tickle fights, getting puked/peed/pooped on, 8 o'clock bedtime, 6 am wake ups...every day, snuggles, sounding EXACTLY like my mother, agreeing to disagree on parenting with Barry, hugs that engulf my heart and soul, sass, learning to pick battles with a toddler, watching my heart grow outside of my body etc.  But what I was not so prepared/ready/wanting was the loss of me. 

Who am I?  Truly, deep down beneath the goofy dancing and ongoing silliness??  That, I am still learning....Although I don't truly know who it is that I am, I feel like I have lost a part of it by becoming a mom.  Don't get me wrong, I don't sit here with regret about my life changing decision.  I LOVE being a mom, especially to my 2 beautiful goof balls.  BUT, I wouldn't be living honestly if  I didn't admit that I have lost a part of me.

I have recently been submerged into "A House in the Sky" (yes, a book...Jodi is reading a freaking book....not ready to join any club yet but at least it's a start).  As I read through the journey's Amanda Lindhout took previously to her captivity in 2008, I can't help but think that perhaps somewhere along the way I had/have a different calling in life.  I want to see more of the world, meet all sorts of new and exciting people, do humanitarian work near and far, learn a new skill that will be useful/helpful to me and others as well as truly share my passion for life, love, compassion and kindness. 

I feel guilty that these are the ideals that excite, entice and inspire me.  I do not feel fulfilled by just being a "mom".  Hissss, I know that what I said will be taken offensively by so many of the beautiful mothers out there.  Please know that I do not intend to negate the importance of motherhood, especially to so many of you.  All I am saying is that I love being a mother but it does not completely fulfill me.  Does that make me a horrible mother?  (rhetorical... please no hate comments).

I am trying to live outside and refrain from keeping closed all of the time so please excuse what may sound like ignorance as I work through my personal thoughts and challenges. 

I am absolutely loving being back at work teaching full time as it fills my desire to grow, share, be compassionate, learn etc.  I am very self aware in knowing that I have jumped into work head first, being coated in all that is elementary school while letting my role as a mother take a back seat.  The Christmas holiday has helped allow for some balance; however, I can feel the muscles in my neck tighten as I begin to enter into school land again....worried about how to balance it all.  Most notable and perhaps selfish of me is the fact that I feel more fulfilled being a full time teacher than I do by being a full time mother.  Did I just say that?  Again, I don't want any of you reading this to think that I don't want to be a mom or that I regret it....I guess what I am saying is that somewhere along this crazy journey, I hope to find a way to feel fulfilled while being an ever present and emotionally available mother.

Monday, 10 November 2014

What Joy, What Fun, Our Little Bean Has Just Turned One!!

One year ago today, our family and friends were blessed with the arrival of sweet baby Aspyn Joy!  As I type this at 8:30am, I reflect on a year- to-date when I calmly walked into the hospital, prepared (as best one can) to be induced and meet our baby girl.  I remember the hospital being very calm and quiet and as the nurse administered my IV I watched the sky fill with beautifully glistening snowflakes...emulating the beauty and joy of what was to come!  As contractions began and increased at a rather rapid rate, I would look up and out of the window to watch the earth get blanketed with snow...naturally putting me in my winter happy place! A few short hours later I held in my arms a stunningly beautiful (yet quite purple) baby girl.  Perfect in every way possible.  I looked into those captivating brown eyes of hers and my heart has forever been altered.

Some of my favourite memories from this year:

- how lucky we are to have a baby who has slept through the night since day 1
- Aspyn's strength and patience as Mommy and Daddy do their best to insert and remove her NG tubes. 
- those SMILES!!!  They are endless and heart warming!
- watching two sisters fall madly in love!
- rocking our socks for World Down Syndrome Day (March 21st)
- getting connected with Upside Down in LA - a wonderful family support group
- realizing that we are all more alike than different
- warrior baby as she endures monthly RSV shots, and various specialist appointments
- FRIENDSHIP - we are surrounded by the best village!!
- tiny fingers, tiny toes, cute little feet!
- endless baby snuggles
- getting hooked up through Au Pair World and connecting with the most incredible caregiver, Miss Teneal!!
- learning to be emotionally available for both of my girls.
- having the greatest OT, Specch Path and Physiotherapist who are all dedicated and in love with our little lady.
- constantly learning and being an advocate for inclusive communities.
- realizing that true love isn't something you can describe, it's just something you feel!  And when you find it, it feels sooooooooooo great!

Love you baby A! oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo  Here's to the memories, excited for what's to come!!

Happy First Birthday Aspyn!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Things I Was Never Prepared For...

Before having children I took baby classes to prepare me for childbirth...some things you just can prepare for...

 - Hemorrhoids!  I apologize for starting this post off with such a horrific thing but I might as well dive into the deep end off the bat!  Now, I had heard that hems were a possibility through childbirth but nothing, I mean NOTHING, could have prepared me for mine.  Gigantic, painful, throbbing bulges between my cheeks for a few weeks.  As if post-partum pooping wasn't scary enough, try it with hems.  UGH, AWFUL!! 

- Breast feeding: Why on Earth isn't this easier?  I will just come out and say it.  Breast feeding didn't work for me.  Now, I know this could start some Mom Wars but truly it did not work for me.  I was told by nurses that my large breasts would make it more challenging (I thought big, bountiful,l milky boobs were a good thing) and I had flatter/inversion issues with my nipples.  I guess I always thought that I had pretty 'normal' breasts (no previous complaints) but through the whole process, learned otherwise.

- Baby Den: I am referring here to the 'pocket' of excess skin hanging from what used to be my very average stomach.  I affectionately (or rather) acceptingly refer to it as my BABY DEN.  I learned with my first child that with some of us lucky mothers, this beauty never really goes away.  Healthy eating, exercise, body wraps, toning lotion, Weight Watchers, HCG drops, Plexus Slim...nothing gets rid of this completely.  You may consider high waisted jeans to tuck your den into.  I totally understand Mom Jeans now!

- Peeing Pants:  Yes, you will definitely uncontrollably pee your pants.  Perhaps as a result of sneezing or doing squats and especially during my favourite cardio - jumping jacks.  Poise commercials make a lot more sense to me now.

- Emergency:  Your baby will cry for reasons you don't understand - rashes will appear that don't go away - diarrhea will ensue - allergies may rear their head - hand, foot, mouth disease - slap cheek - bronchitis - pneumonia - etc. will cause you to make several trips to emergency at god awful hours of the night.

- Sleeping Alone:  You are your partner will likely no longer share the same bed for many, many months.  (ie) his snoring wakes the baby, you share feeding times, you're too uncomfortable in your bed now etc.  Very romantic.  Sexual encounters will be scheduled ahead of time!

- Hair: As if my hair could get any just did!  Good thing I lose a baby kitten worth of hair every day.  We find my hair in EVERYTHING.  Even though my hair is tons thicker since babies, I lose it every moment of the day.  It's nicely woven into the couch creating a whole new look - no need for reno's. In babies diaper, on breakfast, lunch and dinner plates and my personal favourite, coating the bathroom floor.  We now have a permanent hair mat!

- Mom Wars:  for this reason I choose not to belong to any new mom groups.  You will find that something so many new moms like to do is compare their babies.  From sleeping patterns, to rolling over, crawling, walking, poop colour, consistency, smell etc.  I especially love encountering the moms who are below their pre-pregnancy weight and continue to talk about how much their body will "never be the same".  At which time I like to introduce them to my Baby Den.

- Tired:  I am exhausted....always.  I have been this way since August 26, 2011.  Just face it, you will feel this way for the next 20 years.

- Personal Hygiene:  I promised myself that I wouldn't be the mom who let herself go.  Now, I still believe I haven't done that but some days any priority that has to do with me just won't make it into the day.  There will be days that you do not brush your teeth.  That's right, for the entire day and yet you will still go out and encounter people.  Showering will be less frequent, you will wear the same clothes for more than one a row. 

- Cold Food:  You will learn to eat when you get the chance and it will likely always be cold.  You may even microwave your cup of coffee a 1/2 a dozen times a day.

- Cleaning:  I can never seem to get on top of anything.  There just aren't enough hours in the day to possibly get 'caught up'.  The mountains of laundry will just inevitably exist.  Hence the latter part of Personal Hygiene. 

and lastly...

- True Love:  You will experience a deeper kind of love.  One you have truly never felt before.  A love that you feel in the pit of your core, that makes you feel more connected, more human than ever.  A love that you have longed to feel without even knowing it.  It will bring you peace and joy and uplift you to a euphoric level that no one can duplicate.  For you have created something truly beautiful in this world - something that makes everything I've mentioned above worth it and so much more!


Saturday, 14 December 2013

DIY - Activity Advent

The Christmas season is by far my most favourite time of the year.  To be honest, I am one of those people who listens to carols year round and counts down to the big day starting Dec. 26th.  I know, I've got it BAD!  This year I wanted to do something fun for Marleigh since she is 2 years old and understands what's going on this year.  Also, with having a new addition to the family, I wanted to find something uniquely special just for Mommy and Marleigh.  And so the creation of "Marleigh's Activity Advent began.  My dear friend and craft guru Angie graciously opened her craft room to me one night and let me play.  I decided to make various Christmas bobbles to stick to the mirror in our kitchen.  I glued pre-cut cardstock circles to different craft paper...adding polka-dots, stripes, candy canes etc.  I decided not to write directly on the bobble so that I can reuse them next year and the year after and so on...  Thankfully I made this decision before starting, saving me time next year :)  So, each day I decide on a new fun Christmas activity to do with Marleigh Bear.  We call it our "special Christmas activity" - not a catchy title but she gets soooo excited about it.  I also decided that for the most part we would complete the daily activity after nap time - in order to ensure she still went down for a nap every day!  Sometimes I use it for behaviour management (ie. Marleigh, if you aren't going to listen to Mommy then that shows Mommy that you don't want to do your special Christmas activity).  Not sure what child psychologists would say about my approach but it works...for December, now what to do in January????
Another key element is that I decided what the activity is going to be based on what I have the energy for that day.  Having a growing family can be exhausting and I needed to make sure I wasn't adding any unnecessary "work". I write the activity on a sticky note and add it to the mirror underneath the bobble.  I was hoping to use cute star sticky notes or find xmas trees BUT...that would be making more work and it wasn't necessary.  I had to remind the type A teacher in me of this often.   This year we will only be doing 20 days (I think...we'll see) as we will be heading to Calgary on the 20th and from then on our days will be filled.  Here is the list of activities we've done so far...feel free to take this idea and revamp it to fit your family!

1: Stay in our jammies all day and drink hot cocoa
2: Eat a pink candycane
3: Get a picture taken with Santa
4: Watch Rudolph and snack on popcorn
5: Make a snowflake craft
6: Drive around the city and look at Christmas lights
7: Snuggle and watch a movie of your choice
8: Go for a coffee/hot chocolate date at Starbucks
9: Have breakfast in bed
10: Get a Christmas manicure (green & blue sparkles)
11: Eat red and green fish crackers for snack
12: Bake gingerbread cookies
13: Play outside in the snow
14: Paint a Christmas picture

*** other ideas ***
- build a snowman
- roast marshmallows inside
- go Christmas caroling
- make snow angels
- give a homemade Christmas card to a stranger
- go watch a school Christmas concert
- go see the zoo lights (Calgary)
- go ice skating
- go sledding
- go on a sleigh ride
- decorate a gingerbread house


NICU - Earth Angels

Naturally this post should precede my last one but sometimes I just can't help the organization/disorganization of my thoughts and when I have a moment to express them.  So here it is.

Our beautiful gift, Aspyn had to spend 6 days in the NICU at the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge after she was born.  As soon as she entered this magnificent world she was a bright shade of  indigo.  Although I am a lover of purple, I knew that wasn't the best colour for a newborn.  Moments after our eyes briefly met and our hearts interlocked for what will be my eternity, she was whisked away to the NICU - "She just needs some oxygen", I overheard nurse Quinn graciously state, followed by, "but she is so beautiful".  Aspyn spent 2 days in an isolette with oxygen pumping to regulate natural levels.  Our first interactions were through 2 relatively small holes where my arms could go inside to touch her.  Her body, so tiny, so warm, so fresh, so perfect.  Watching her breath, sleep, grow from behind a plastic wall was difficult for my heart but I knew it was the best place for her.  Every 3 hours I could take her out, hold her in my arms and feed her, all while holding an oxygen tube next to her nose.  I became very good at learning to do the work of 4 arms with only 2.  After 2 days, our little Warrior had learned to regulate her oxygen levels and she could now live in an open isolette.  My heart was bursting with joy to see her growth!  On day 3, our little angel was struggling with her feeds.  Her muscle tone in her mouth and overall fatigue - all in relation to the Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) was causing her to be a messy eater (not keeping much in her mouth) and fall asleep during feedings.  At this point a Nasalgastro tube was placed up her nose and into her tummy.  Milk was poured into a syringe and attached to the tube where gravity would allow it to flow through the tube and into her tummy.  This would ensure that Aspyn was still getting all the nutrients she needed every 3 hours.  This is called 'garvage' feeding.

Barry and I were back and forth to and from the hospital every 3 hours to feed our little angel.  Between brief moments of Marleigh smooches, a quick bite to eat or a coffee run, we were EXHAUSTED and what I refer to as "running on pure love".  Marleigh had not met Apsyn yet as there is a Measles epidemic here in Lethbridge so no children under 18 are allowed in several areas of the hospital including the NICU.  (Vaccinate your kids people!!!!)

After 5 days and no real improvement with oral feeding, I was saddened to think that Aspyn might be in the NICU for a while longer.  Barry continued to remind me that this was the best place for her and in my heart I knew that too.  Wet met with her pediatrician Dr. Levin (most amazing woman....truly) and we were informed that because she is doing so well with her garvage feedings and we are doing so well managing them as well, there is no real reason Aspyn needed to stay in the NICU any longer.  I burst into tears as the thought of bringing her home seemed so far off and now was our reality.

That evening we were moved from the NICU up to Pediatrics and  I stayed over night with Aspyn.  I set my alarm for every 3 hours, garvage fed, changed diapers, etc. just like I would at home to ensure I felt comfortable leaving the hospital.  The next day Barry and I were further educated on garvage feeding and inserting/removing the NG tube as we would have to do it at home.  2pm, November 16th we were discharged from the hospital and on our way home!!

The nurses of the NICU, Quinn, Melanie, Stacey, Dawn, Crystal, and dozens more who may be nameless, will always be our Earth Angels.  From the depth of our souls, thank you for taking such excellent care of our hearts during a challenging time.  Our experience will forever be one of love and compassion.  Thank you!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Inner Demon

For those who know me well, some of this may not come as a shock but to many what I'm about to share may be difficult to read and understand.  I've decided to finally and genuinely commit to working on improving my view of myself.  I've never really understood the term "self-esteem".  In theory I assume it's all about establishing a vision of one's self to the highest or at best a positive esteem.    I can see how that pertains to everyone around me, but there has always been a disconnect to the definition and how it makes sense for me. I'm not sure that I can say that I have low self-esteem because that would suggest that I actual see some self worth which sadly I do not.

EEERCH!  hold up, put on the breaks here.  I'm sure that some of you may be thinking - how can she say/think that - this is awful - (and my personal favourite) can you think that way when you have so much and there are so many other people worse off?!  Don't get me wrong, I know how awful these views are and I am very cognizant of those worse off.   Just the other day my mom said to me "at least you don't have cancer" which I replied "True mom, but what you don't understand is that THIS is my cancer".  It's time that I stop minimizing my demon, pretending it will just go away and pushing it deeper in my subconscious ready to rear its ugly head at any moment.    

So, I've racked my brain trying to figure out where these views come from.  Honestly, I can't pin point a childhood 'event' or 'experience' that caused me to - for lack of a better term- hate myself.  But for as far back as memories take me I can remember "never being good enough".  I've never been skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough etc.  I don't believe that anyone is born to HATE so somehow, throughout my journey I have LEARNED to hate myself.  I have begun opening up to a therapist about my demon as undoing/altering 30 + years of self-hatred requires professional assistance.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to get 'help'.  Perhaps because I thought it would get better with time or I'd like myself when I became skinnier, prettier, smarter?

Now that I have two, incredibly remarkable daughters I know that moments of questionable self-esteem are inevitably in their futures.  But I never want them to experience the self-hatred I have battled for as long as I can remember.  I want them to grow up believing that self-worth is cultivated through developing compassion and empathy for others, validating the importance of what makes you happy and following your passions, learning that it is okay to feel bad sometimes and that your place in this world matters!  I need to learn to love myself in order to teach my girls to do the same.

I know that learning to change my views of myself and lessen my demon is going to be quite the feat.  There is a long endeavour ahead - I venture one step at a time - and I choose to TRUST THE JOURNEY.


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Aspyn Joy Smith

November 9, 2013:
Shortly after Marleigh Bear went down for a nap I decided to have a nap myself (knowing that peaceful nap times were soon to be over for me).  Once I laid down I felt a bit of a trickle between my legs.  Now, not too concerned at first since I had recently overcome an 8 week illness where when I coughed so hard, my bladder muscles couldn't keep up and would leak urine every so often.  So, I figured that I had once again peed a little and thought nothing of it and continue to enter my slumber.  Moments later I felt more of a trickle...and then more and more and more.  I called Barry into the room and stated that I thought my water was breaking.
    Earlier in the week, at my 1 of many Dr. appointments I was advised to go straight to the hospital when and if my water breaks.  Likely because Marleigh came fast and I was already 3cm dilated.  So my earth angel Erin came by and picked up Marleigh and Barry and I went off to the hospital.  It was confirmed that yes indeed my water had "sprung a leak" (verbatim Dr. Davies).  So I was sent home to see what would happen naturally and if nothing progressed by 8am on November 10th then I would be induced.  I recall many people saying that every labour story is different so don't count on your first experience to be any sort of precursor of what's to come this time.  So far though, the experience was very familiar.
   Since Marleigh was in good (correction - great) hands we decided to take advantage of the free time and go for dinner.  While at Firestone, I started to have contractions....10 minutes apart.  I was thrilled that things were starting up on their own.  After dinner we went home to watch a movie and my contractions continued...10 min, 8 min, 6 minutes apart.  We were convinced that baby girl was coming in the middle of the night.  At about 12:30 am my contractions were slowing down.  Now 20-30 minutes apart.  At 3am they had completely!  So I went to sleep and awaited the inevitable induction.

November 10, 2013:
8am: We arrive at Chinook Regional Hospital.  9am - Petocin drip begins.  I went into this experience with a bit more openness to the idea of having an epidural.  I had Marleigh naturally and was glad I did but was very nervous to feel that intensity again.  BUT, I thought I would see how far I could get this time naturally again.  11:30am I decided I was ready for an epidural.  The anesthesiologist was in a bowel surgery at that time so I had to hold off.  So, I chose to have some morphine...which did nothing.  by 12:15pm I was practically begging for an epidural.  Our AMAZING nurse went to check on the status of the anesthesiologist.  I was told that he would be able to help me out in about a half an hour.  So, over the next 30 minutes I breathed and glottal moaned through some crazy intense contractions while watching each minute pass on the clock (I like to torture myself).  1pm the anesthesiologist arrives to give me my epidural.  I sit up on the bed with my back curved like a cat awaiting this magical epidural.  As the Dr is meticulously lining up the epidural I am pushing baby.  Certainly not intentionally but I can't help it and I can feel her moving through the birth canal.  First, crazy pressure in  my rectum and then even lower where I can feel pressure in my pelvis.  Clearly, my pushing and tension is making it more difficult for the Dr. to get the epidural in but I am staying still in my desperate attempt to get some pain relief.  The epidural is successfully inserted at 1:22pm.  I swing my legs onto the table and the nurse asks me to open my legs so they can check to see how dilated I am.  Upon opening my legs I instantly feel a familiar/devastating release.  Yup, I proceed to poop all over the deliver table.  The nurse has a look of shock on her face and I think it's because of the poo monsoon I've just created but instead she shouts down the hall for Dr. Davie as baby girl was already crowning. Dr. Davie promptly slips into his gown and calmly asks me to push.  Then moments later another push and TADA, our baby enters the world.  Yup, that's right...2 pushes...that's it!  I look down at her and say the only thing that came to mind in my shocking state..."Holy Shit"...(literally...ugh).  Barry missed her coming out as neither of us expected it to come that fast.
    Aspyn Joy Smith entered this beautiful world at 1:26pm on November 10th.  The anesthesiologist comes to my bedside and says, "well, your epidural will kick in in about 5 minutes".  Bah!  So, I successful received an epidural this labour, however; it was a little too late to be effective!  4 hours and 26 minutes of labour, no tearing, no stitches, no swelling, minimal bleeding.  All I can say is that I truly believe my body likely isn't built for fashion (as it isn't the 'prettiest') but instead is built for function (does what it's meant to do)!