Can someone please tell me how it’s been more than a year and a half since my last blog post? While I had fully intended to follow my “First time mom truths” with more insights just a few short months later, apparently life took over and blogging got pushed to the wayside. My little Munchkin
is almost a year, just over 20 months old, almost two years old, so while this post is actually about my reflections on motherhood in that first glorrrrrrious year (which ended over 12 months ago), there will likely be a smattering of opinion herein based on more recent experiences (it’s hard not to re-read and revise, I tell you; hindsight is 20/20, and that’s an ongoing life lesson isn’t it?). Really, I figure since I’m knee deep in this epically awesome, disastrous adventure they call “toddlerhood” now, I may as well include a bit about that too while I’m at it (though that is going to be a post in and of itself, I am sure; likely to be published when she’s starting high school). So here goes the post that I started last year and never finished (like the million other things). I digress:
1. Brain farts don’t decrease in frequency, at least not to the extent that you might hope, think, wish, anticipate … EVEN when your sleep quality and duration improves. What I am saying is that things stay pretty bad from a cognitive perspective, for a good while. (To give you a better idea, at almost 2 years post-partum, I am still not “back” to normal – whatever that is … *Sigh*) Sorry. I really hate being the bearer of bad news but at the end of the day, when it comes to mental capacity and functioning, I can’t be the one you rely on to give you hope. Why, you ask? Because I’ve lost mine. (…. and that got pretty dark, pretty quickly, ha!). But seriously – mom brain is a real thing. Only now at almost 2 years post-partum do I kind of feel generally back to my previous intellectual capacity, and even then – as you can likely tell by my “tone” – this is a fluctuating and inconsistent “truth” (at best). I’ll give you a few examples of events from those last few months of maternity leave:
- A few minutes after we cleaned out and unplugged our old fridge (we were waiting for a new one to arrive the following day) I decided to hop in the car and head to the grocery store for some veggies, milk, and meat. I got all the way there, parked, walked in … and then realized that we did not in fact have a fridge to store these sought-after items in. We literally JUST discussed what we would be eating for the next 24 hours (and it wasn’t fresh food). Essentially, not the greatest time to shop for meat and dairy (unless you’re into rancid flesh and curdled milk. I myself, am not. But each to their own …). To this day I’m not sure if my husband chose not to dissuade me from going because he was relieved to get me and all my crazy out of the house so he could have a few minutes of peace, or if he had just become really good at pretending he was listening when I was talking (I’m going to say likely the latter. Because, #marriedlifesurvival … Amiright?). Or, to be fair, as a third option – maybe he did listen AND hear my plan, but just didn’t think about the nonsensical nature of the whole idea (in which case, parent brain might be a thing!).
- The liquor store we’d been going to for over a year has a walk-way separating the two sides, both of which carry wine (the entrance is on the left of the store, and wine is located across both the left and right sides of the store. Pretty much the whole store. The back of the store shelves beer and the far right wrap-around wall houses hard liquor, champagne, spirits, etc. Yah, I could draw a map in my sleep. Don’t judge.). Anyway, for the last few months of my maternity leave, I frequented the LCBO about once a week, and during those visits I completely ignored the entire RIGHT HALF of the store because for some reason unbeknownst to me, I was working under the half-witted assumption that this side shelved only hard liquor stuff, so was essentially a waste of my precious time. (The reality was that I had been buying Spanish, Italian and Portuguese wine from the right side for months and months and months before!) Anyways, to make a long alcoholic-sounding story short, one day I said to my husband: “It’s weird that our LCBO doesn’t carry anything other than American, Canadian and Australian wi…” I trailed off. OH GOD. It suddenly hit me. He laughed nervously with that somewhat concerned look on his face – slightly raised brow and half-smile, worry lines deepening …. then SILENCE. The ensuing dialogue goes something like this: Ryan: “Haha!!!! *looks at me and pauses* Wait, are you serious? *longer pause* Oh, you are. Yikes…” *gives me a gentle, loving, almost pitiful stare while I creep backwards out of the room and run up the stairs in tears of embarrassment*. So where had this previously DEEPLY engrained knowledge been hiding those few months and why did it suddenly crop up?? Was this information hanging out in some alternate universe with Tupperware lids and bobby pins; with missing socks and soothers? I’ll never know. What an interesting and yet altogether terrifying place that would be to visit.
- One morning I was semi-joking with the daycare staff (or at least they thought I was joking) about how my brain wasn’t functioning as well as before I had “the baby.” They laughed empathetically and looked at me as I tried to come up with an example. They waited politely. And I stared blankly. I literally couldn’t think. OF. A. SINGLE ONE. These mental blunders happened, like, every 2nd day! No irony whatsoever in the fact that I couldn’t actually formulate or articulate anything at all in that very moment.
- At Halloween, a few teenaged boys came by to trick or treat. I was so excited that we finally had visitors (we literally had about 8 people the whole night) and so I decided to give them lots of candies. While I was dropping a bunch of treats into their bags, I loudly exclaimed: “You guys sure are getting lucky tonight!!!” ….. Yeah. I said that. After an awkward silence and some forced smiles, they politely said “thank-you” and practically fell backwards down our stairs to get away from the mommy-molester. Of course I immediately knew what I had done – but in case it had gone over my head (as I mentioned previously – not that unlikely of a possibility), my husband made sure to point it out and laugh hysterically the moment the door was shut. I have so, so many more instances of similar mental lapses, but for the sake of time and space I will leave it at that. (Also, I would like to maintain some semblance of pride. Though who am I kidding? It’s a little late for that).
In summary, brain functioning may improve a little over time, but that’s as good as it’s going to get for now. I still – on some days – wonder if I birthed my brain rather than my placenta, in the moments after Heidi popped eagerly out. Seriously.
2. Diaper wipes are a great substitute for a finger bowls. True story. Who has time for a finger bowl? No one! And who loves ribs and wings and all things saucy? Umm.. Most people! And who wants even more dishes?? No one!! So … wipes for the win! They’re almost as fancy as those steaming hot towels you get at dim-sum or fancy Chinese dinners. Well, not really. At all. But you can pretend your classy while you pluck those wet wipes out of your turquoise Pampers container at the dinner table and dig that sauce out of your nail beds. Whatever you need to tell yourself to get through the day. No one’s judging you …. Well, they probably are. But I sure as hell am not.
3. Your baby will be eating duck confit while you eat leftover stale bread and mealy fruit. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s definitely truth herein. Probably the worst part of this is that you won’t even realize until months have passed, that while you’ve been eating Subway, Pizza Pizza and defrosted meals with microwaveable rice pouches, your little nugget has been getting homemade delicacies: only the best in-season fruits and veggies, organic everything, and super nutritious baked goods. Of course, she will usually want whatever crap you are eating, and the rule of thumb is the more time you spend on something the less she’ll like it. Also, the more of something you make (that she previously liked) the less likely she will ever eat it again. A few other general rules are that the floor is always “hungry” – especially when it’s just been washed, so she will take it upon herself to feed it regularly. And if something is not edible, it is more likely to be eaten than any food item. Especially if it looks dangerous or toxic.
4. You will suffer various injuries due to inexplicable mishaps and ridiculous klutziness. For example, when Heidi was between 9-11 months, I managed to near concuss myself by smashing my head on the wall in front of me. Let me be clear here: I am talking about a FLAT VERTICAL SURFACE, not a corner, not a door frame. (I know … I know … I am so awkward.). And speaking of door frames, I also hit my face on the doorframe (i.e. I walked into the door frame) on a separate occasion. No, I wasn’t drinking. No, I wasn’t running (because I guess that would be a better excuse to have zero coordination???)… and no, I was not having a “who can hit the wall harder with their head” competition (unless it was with myself – and I didn’t know about it – in which case, I guess it was a win-win situation?). Nope. I was simply going about my normal day to day life, wherein I did things like walking, picking items up from the floor and subsequently rising from a bent position to stand up. Altogether super risky stuff. In the course of my daily life in that first year, I also managed to sprain my finger and fall down the stairs (unfortunately separate – albeit equally impressive – incidents). (I should note that I was not holding Heidi, thank goodness). As you can imagine, I constantly had bruises. Why the ridiculous lack of coordination? Part of it, I think, was the brain fog and fatigue, which impacted my balance, perception, attention to things like door frames, and generally decreased my ability to carry out a functional life. I think the other part of it though, was me trying to rush around and get things done when Heidi was finally asleep OR move in ways I never had before in order to entertain her (i.e. hopping like a fool, hitting myself in the head with kitchen objects, etc.). Clearly, I’m all sorts of cool. Not sure that will ever change. A girl can dream though.
5. Your baby could very well end up having very different – dare I say, opposing – behaviors and preferences when you compare him/her to other babies (so don’t!!!!) For example, maybe she doesn’t particularly like to cuddle (unless she is facing away from you, and let’s be honest – that’s not really a cuddle. That’s you being used as a piece of furniture and/or an assistant to help her see the world. But again, you tell yourself whatever you need to, to get you through the day). Hey, maybe she also prefers the crib to your arms. Maybe she’ll be in the crib in her room at 6 weeks while other babies are near mama’s side for a year. Maybe she’ll start out loving the bottle as a wee infant and then begin to hate it just around the time most babies wean from the breast to the bottle. Maybe she’ll take to a straw right away rather than a sippy cup. Maybe she won’t like to be worn in a carrier and she won’t sleep in car seats or strollers unless there is some sort of magical spell cast on her. Basically, I’ve learned that parenting is all about accepting that you have absolutely no clue what is going on, at any given moment, and coming to terms with the fact that you are totally unable to effect or change certain things. No matter what you know, wish, expect or believe, your bubs is (in my opinion) a little more nature than nurture, so the blueprint for behavior, preferences and tendencies, is going to be there regardless (to some degree) of what you do or do not do. This can be freeing (in theory) but also simultaneously anxiety-provoking and/or frustrating. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get things “right” or to be “competent” as a parent, but at the end of the day just because your little one doesn’t fall asleep snuggled into you and prefers to be on her own doesn’t mean you don’t have a bond. And vice versa – you’ve got a snuggly, attached kiddo. This doesn’t mean he or she lacks independence or is not going to thrive in life. It is WHAT IT IS. And it’ll likely change! Let it go. (Haha, I know, I’m an ass … how annoying is it when people say that?) Seriously… Heidi is now more affectionate as a toddler and looking back I wish I hadn’t wasted so much of my rather minimal mental or emotional energy on the worrying or feeling like a bad parent (which doesn’t make any sense, but as you will learn, you will think and feel things that “don’t make sense” because you are suddenly at the whim of this amazing new creature and you can’t always be perfectly rational and controlled. Or at all rational and controlled.)
6. The emission of vile bodily fluids from various orifices will take place at the most inopportune times (usually in public places or when you are pressed for time). For example, our first episode of projectile vomiting took place on the plane, all over Heidi’s sleep sack and my jacket. With several hours left in flight. Then there was the time where poor bubs had an explosive BM that blew out of her double-diaper (yes, I was trying to be proactive. Clearly that didn’t go so well). Thankfully this happened right before I checked in for our flight (not to mention my in-laws being there to help). In addition to air travel (which we clearly have good luck with), there’s also the delightful poop soft-serve-machine style, which will take place during the 0.42 seconds your baby is diaperless in the bedroom. If you’re lucky, it’ll be on the only patch of your house that has white carpet (the rest being easy-to-clean hardwood). From all of my experiences thus far I have learned three things: (1) Extra clothes for you and baby are a must during travels, (2) Don’t nuzzle too closely into airplane seats. Because. Imagine how many other things have soaked into that material. *shudder* (3) Get rid of all of your carpeted areas. Unless you are one of those people that enjoys shampooing carpets. (I bow down to you. Want to swing by? We’ve got some work for you …)
7. You will vacillate on baby-related topics with reckless abandon. So, I’ve always been a fence-sitter and tend to take my time coming to conclusions after doing some research and/or over-thinking every aspect of a decision … but I’m going to say it get’s even worse after baby. I think the added post-partum hormones and sleep deprivation aggravate the condition (which I like to call “decision making disorder”). For example, over the last few months I’ve heard fellow moms say things like, “My uterus is trembling just looking at that baby … aww, I am so ready for a new born again!” There were occasions when I would think – for a fraction of a second – yah, me too! And the next minute, I snapped out of the craziness and was all like, *waving my hand around obnoxiously* “Nope! Nope .. nope nopeity nope! I’m barely surviving over here.” There were a few rare days when my husband and I were chatting and you could very well have heard me say things like,”I totally get how people have 10 kids and live on a farm! We could get a few more dogs too!” … meanwhile no more than 45 minutes later I’m choking back tears as I plan out my trip to Mars. Because that makes about as much sense as the other crap that’s floating around my cranial space on most days.
What? Too abrupt? Fine. A few more wise words….
Because I am ultimately a lazier short-cutting version of myself these days – and this blog post is already a year late – I’m gonna go ahead and skim over the other “truths” that are more general in nature and most likely discussed by other bloggers in wonderful detail. One of these generalities is that “homemade” now carries an entirely different meaning. For example, Patak’s butter chicken sauce in the crockpot with chicken breasts is “homemade Indian”, Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice/quinoa pouches with a quick chicken and broccoli stir-fry is “homemade” Chinese, stuffed tortellini that cooks in 6 minutes covered with store bought pesto sauce is “homemade” Italian. You get my drift. All of these are more homemade than pizza or shawarma, and because they are essentially “heated up” in your home, they are “homemade.” I remember being so enormously proud of the aforementioned concoctions after a long day at home with bubs. Like, beaming with pride. Whereas before baby I wouldn’t be proud, per se … maybe satisfied? That brings me to the moral of the story: In that first year, you should be prepared to accept yourself as a dirtier (and not in a good way, hahahahaha), less fit, less social, more fatigued (ridiculously sleep-deprived), less cognitively capable version of your pre-baby self. Your standards for everything in life will have to be lowered. This is essential in order for you to:
(A) Continue to like yourself as a person and feel like you are a relatively useful and productive part of society;
(B) Cope with what the day has in store without feeling like you want to run away, and;
(C) Enjoy the micro-moments of pure bliss without thinking about the over-arching, underlying fear that you have absolutely no idea what you are doing. Because for most people, that’s pretty terrifying.
But guess what? As much as all of the above sounds like a nightmare – maybe even enough of a terrifying journey to make you wonder why anyone would CHOOSE to impose this sort of disarray on themselves physically, psychologically, cognitively … professionally, socially, relationally – I will and can confidently tell you that IT IS ALL WORTH IT. I survived that year, and so can you. Hey, I’m sitting here thinking about an eventual second child … and clearly I haven’t “forgotten all the bad” (as evidenced by this entire post ….).
With all that said, it took me well over a year to stomach the idea of venturing down the “parenting a newborn” road again. Things get better my friends, I am living proof.
And sure, I guess you could say I’m cheating a little because as I edit/post this, I have had almost a year to gain some perspective. I’m no longer in the throws of absolutely insane sleep deprivation or in the midst of an emotional meltdown. I’m also no longer in the deep seedy underbelly that is that terrible “first 6 months of daycare” phase, where there were literally more germs, more viruses, more sick days than I could ever have imagined. It was a shit show. Returning to work and trying to manage work-baby-life balance was a whole new challenge. But. It. Is. STILL. WORTH. IT. You get through it. You surround yourself with support. You cry. You cope. You employ strategies you’ve learned and you remind yourself of why you went down this road. You look into the eyes of your blessing and you watch her little feet twirl while she eats, and everything makes sense again. You make goals about your self-care, some of which you meet and many of which you don’t. You drink wine. And when all is said and done, you remind yourself that this time (apparently) flies by and before you know it, one day you’ll be banging your head against the wall wondering why your 15 year old is ignoring you, or sleeping “so much” that you have to wake HER UP (can’t wait, hehehe).
In that first year, I learned so much about myself – about my strengths and short-comings – as well as about other people, the world, nature, my husband, my extended family. Having a baby brings you closer to so many things and forces you to look within, to stretch your patience, to grow your capacity to accept (mistakes, the unknown, a lack of control, others’ opinions, the list goes on). Fear not: this journey was not in vain. Because at the end of this crazy 12 month rainbow is a pot of pure gold (toddler humor really is pure gold). I’m talking about your tiny human with a big ‘tude and an even bigger curiosity about everything in life. She will bring light and joy and laughter and tears. She will open up a space that was previously hidden; flat, empty, dark and hollow. A compartment of the heart that you did not know existed, now grows exponentially with each passing day.
Signing off for the night, I promise I’ll post soon enough about life as a toddler’s parent. And about my recently successful and delicious Thai coconut prawn ramen noodle recipe (can you tell I’ve cooked, like, 4 dishes I’m proud of in the past 2 years?). I’ve also got a draft of the top 10 “make your life easier” items/services that I recommend for working moms … So, yeah. We’ll see how all this blogging goes. Shoot for the stars, right? Just kidding. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s not to overcommit or make promises. Those days are GONE! So … maybe you’ll hear from me in a year. Or five. It’s the thought that counts.