In My Absence

It’s been weeks since I’ve been here… and three weeks have passed since I’ve been back at work.

It’s been months since I’ve been at work… and it’s taken 3 weeks to get back to some kind of normal. 

I’m happy to be back at work, but I miss my baby. I also miss my “free time” and I miss everything else that is important to me. 

The last three weeks have been a whirlind of breastfeeding in the night, pumping milk between surgeries and baby deliveries, leaking breasts, making bottles, sleeping, cuddling with baby El, and maybe some sleep somewhere in there.

I still have mixed emotions about my decision to return to work early. I love my job and it feels great to be back, but I miss my baby – even more than I imagined I would. 

In my absence she seems to be doing well. So far I have been able to continue breastfeeding. Although, I can sense her getting impatient at the breast when the milk doesn’t come as quickly as the bottle. My milk supply is having a hard time keeping up and I’ve had to start some supplements. Hopefully it will pick up in the next little while. 

She is excited to see me when I finally get to her after a long day of work. Even at 5.5 months, she had begun to give little hugs and bury her face into my shoulder. Then she opens her mouth wide and dives into my face – her idea of a kiss. It doesn’t take more than 5 minuets before she is suddenly pushing to lean back and rooting for her comfort. She still loves her special mommy and El time, and for that I’m so thankful. 

Wednesday Morning Cappuccino 

Here before me sits a perfect cappuccino…  Made with espresso from my Nespresso coffee machine, hot whipped cream frothed with my milk frother, and poured into my beautiful Le Creuset cappuccino cups.

My blogging absence can only be explained by the simple fact that I have been engaging in my life more wholeheartedly.  I’ve come to realize that my time at home is limited and quickly coming to an end.  I’ve been taking the time to notice and appreciate the small things – like this delicious cappuccino that has become a regular part of my morning, or the beautiful, emphatic smiles I receive from baby El when she sees me for the first time in the morning, or even just reading a book or working on my puzzle.

My last blog post was about how my life felt like it was falling apart; how I felt that I lacked clarity and understanding about what I was doing and direction I was taking in life.  Circumstances haven’t changed, but I feel that my efforts to slow down, live in the moment, and experience life wholeheartedly have made me step back and accept life for what it is.  My career is demanding and unyielding at the moment; but I can do it.  My kids are a handful and they pose some difficult challenges; but they love me unconditionally and loving them back is the best gift I can give them.

If anything, I have realized the need to temper my expectations.  I need to slow down and accept my life and the situations I am presented with as they are.  So far this has been working.  Hopefully it will continue to work well as live moves forward

The “No Time” Life

Everyday I come up with some great thoughts and ideas that I want to blog about.  Everyday, however, I never find time to sit down at my computer to write them out.  Right now I have borrowed some time: baby El is awake but content in her swing.  A is at school.  E is distracting our Nanny.  I am sitting at the kitchen table drinking cold coffee, awkwardly holing my breast pump in place with my forearms as I type this post  (I’m still waiting for my pumping bra to arrive from Amazon).  I am lamenting the fact that today was A’s year end party at school and I missed it … because it it totally escaped my mind after I read the notice sent home last week.  I am not looking forward to explaining my absence to a sullen little boy when he gets off the bus in about an hour from now.

Yesterday I eagerly sat down on the bed, ready for my marathon afternoon of nursing El to get her to sleep, and I placed my computer within reach – hoping that maybe I could blog about one of the many thoughts that have been floating around in my head.  Unfortunately, El wasn’t going to cooperate.  After an hour of struggling to get her to sleep, I decided to wrap her up in the carrier and take her for a walk.  While on my walk I came up with a great idea: I could make a voice memo of my blog ideas and then transcribe them another time. So that’s what I did!  I walked and I recorded some great blog ideas.

But this morning, with my borrowed time to blog, I didn’t feel like listening or transcribing any of my ideas from yesterday.  I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and disappointment; like the emotions that go along with the posts was missing and I was just transcribing some sort of task.  My sadness was extended because I didn’t want to listen to or write down my thoughts from yesterday (really, for the past week or so that have been neglected).  Instead, I decided to write about these feelings of disappointment.

My lack of blogging is just one place that I have been feeling disappointment.  For weeks now I have been trying to find time to add some breast pumping sessions to my day with the hopes of increasing my milk supply.  I want to do this slowly in anticipation of my return to work in 3 months, and also to counteract the likelihood that my supply will decrease when I have my IUD inserted in a few weeks.  Alas – that hasn’t been happening reliably.  Let’s also not forget about my unfortunate omission of A’s celebration today.  And then there is the complete lack of time (and energy) to get back into an exercise regime.  The weight loss has slowed and it’s time to kick it up a little, but there is no time.  My only form of exercise comes as leisurely strolls around my community with a fussy baby strapped to my chest. Oh, and there is also a serious lack of quality time that I spend with my other two kids… I feel like an epic failure.

I know that;s not the case; but it doesn’t stop me from feeling that way.  I want my life to go back to having some reliable structure and from, even if that structure is different than what it used to be.  Like most, I am a creature of habit and I thrive on routine and schedule.  This daily routine of “no/poor sleep – nurse fussy baby all day – maybe eat – maybe drink coffee – maybe shower – maybe do something I want to do” is really starting to eat away at my will.  I’m not sure what to do to change things up…

MEternity Leave? Really?

Over a week ago, on June 1, I sat down to start writing a blog post.  I wrote one sentence of that post and I have not been back to WordPress since then.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to blog, and it’s not because I have nothing to blog about… it’s because I’ve quite literally had no time to myself – at all.

This phenomenon of having no time to myself, despite being home from my 80-100hr+ work week, reminded me of the MEternity fiasco from a few months back.  For anyone to think that a maternity leave is a “sabbatical” or “vacation” or anything that resembles an opportunity for “me time” has got something seriously wrong.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I would say that I haven’t really been enjoying my maternity leave that much.  Before I divulge all the reasons I’m not enjoying it, I’ll state the few things that I do enjoy about maternity leave (just so I don’t seem to be complaining all the time):

  1. I love baby El and I love to spend time watching her grow and change.  I want her to stay small forever, but I know she won’t.  I’m cherishing the time I get to spend with her now.
  2. I get to see my other kids more often than I did when I was working.

Yes, I think that’s about it.  Here are all the things I dislike about my maternity leave:

  1. I am always tired – I am lucky to get 6 hours of broken sleep a night, and the sleep I do get is far from quality as I am paranoid about my baby and her ridiculously low risk of SIDS (this is where I say that, contrary to all advice on how to reduce SIDS, I can’t abide by t all.  Baby El refuses to sleep unless she is right next to me, with easy access to her precious boobie – All. The. Time.)
  2. I almost always have a little human being attached to my body.  This is either in the form of breastfeeding or babywearing.  Baby El usually needs to be nursed to sleep.  And, she doesn’t really like to stay asleep unless someone is carrying her.
  3. I am always yelling at the boys: Either they aren’t listening to the Nanny, so I get mad at them for that.  Or, they aren’t listening to me, so I get mad at them for that.  Or they are too loud and running around every part of the house and waking up the delicate baby that I just FINALLY GOT TO SLEEP.  I feel like all the time I spend with my kids involves yelling.
  4. I miss adult human interaction.  You can only text message people so much before you get bored.  Plus, everyone is working while I am home, so there is no one to go out with during the day.
  5. I have fleeting thoughts of finishing that book I started weeks ago, or working on the cross stitch birth announcements (for E first, before I can start El’s), or blogging, or even getting some exercise.  However, those thoughts are vanquished by one of the three kids that are demanding my attention at any given time of the day.  If I’m lucky, I can get outside for a walk with the baby in a carrier (she won’t even stay settled in a stroller)… but not before getting the 10th degree from A, who wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be back, why he can’t come, am I sure he can’t come, and what kind of punishment I will get if I’m not home when I say I’ll be home.
  6. I miss my job… dearly.  If it wasn’t for my baby, I would go back tomorrow.
  7. I’m sure there is something I’m missing.

So there you have it… My maternity leave is far from relaxing, enjoyable, or a life changing revolution.

And, I’ve gotta go… baby El is awake!

Identity Crisis

For almost 6 years, I have been a mother.  For almost 6 years minus 13 weeks, I have been pursuing a career in medicine.  Neither of these tasks are particularly easy on their own, let alone together.  No one gives out medals and prizes to the Mom who “accomplishes” the most with her kids, or who “does it all right,*” or who raises the best kids.  It’s different in medicine, though.  In medical school there are awards for many aspects of study.  There is a constant, hidden agenda, enticing students to be better than their peers, to be the best student they can be, and at the end of it all, to compete with each other for the best residency positions.

*What does “doing it right” mean as a mother, anyway?

For 6 years I have struggled to be the best mom I can be, despite the overwhelming time and energy commitment that goes along with medical training.  Along the way I have received little recognition for my hard work (like every mother out there).  For 6 years minus 13 weeks, I have struggled to be the best medical student and then resident that I can be.  Fortunately, that role always came with significant recognition: Scholarships and Bursaries, conferences, accolades from my peers and preceptors, and the all too often phrase: “I don’t know how you do it.”

We all thrive on positive re-enforcement and recognition for our accomplishments.  As a result, I felt more reward from excelling in my work life because the rewards were tangible.  Even as recently as being pregnant at work, I had people telling me that they couldn’t believe how hard I was working, or how dedicated I was to be working so late into my pregnancy.  It made me feel good to know that other people noticed my effort, how much I loved my job, and how well I performed.  But now that I am off work, at home and being a full-time mom, all of that is missing.

I’ve been home for 2.5 weeks and I really miss work.  I feel guilty because I should be happy to be home spending time with my kids – I never get this opportunity.  I would argue that staying home with three kids (while one if a newborn) is tough work – tougher than my actual job.  The worst part of it is that I feel like I don’t know how to be this person… the mother who gives all of her love, attention, and effort to her kids all the time.  It makes me sad to realize that for the entire time I’ve been a mother (minus 13 weeks), I don’t know how to fully identify as a mother.

I have, somehow, let my life as “medical trainee” define my identity to a greater extent than my life as “mother.”  I feel like this is so wrong – like I have it all backwards.  I mourn for my children, who have never completely had a mother who knows what it means to be their mother.  They have always been competing with my other identity – an identity where they have merely been accessories to my apparent success.  And now I am home all the time and I feel lost.  I am having an identity crisis, and I only have 5 months to sort it all out.

The Real Struggle

I woke up this morning feeling like today would be a struggle.  I have these days every so often, and it is always the same thoughts and issues that plague me.  I feel lost and lonely – like I haven’t navigated my way through life very well at all.

I am days-to-weeks away from having a third baby.  For this whole pregnancy, and even the months leading up to it, I have questioned whether this is a reasonable step to take in my life.  I obviously can’t go back and change things now, but it doesn’t make me feel any less stressed about how everything is going to fit together in the coming years.

I know I should be looking forward to my maternity leave, and I *kind of* am.  But I am nervous about what I’m going to do with all that time at home!  I know I’ll be taking care of my baby and for the first weeks I will be so exhausted that I won’t know night from day (can you tell I’m looking forward to this?), but sometimes I find that my home is not the peaceful, relaxing place where I imagine spending my down time.  There is so much to be done around my house: teach my nanny how to cook, deal with the clutter that has accumulated over the time that I’ve been neglecting housework (and letting my nanny do a sub-parr job of keeping up), figure out how to discipline my children, decide if I need to hire a new nanny (since the one I have seems to have difficulty with all the above things that I have to remediate)… That just part of the home list.

Then there is my anxiety about work.  Failing my exam has certainly not made me feel any better about my position and my performance at work.  I know that I likely didn’t prioritize studying as much as I would have it I actually had to pass the exam.  However, I feel like it reflects poorly on my ability to balance my work like and my home life, and in the coming weeks that struggle is only going to get worse.  Add in the fact that I am going to be taking 5 months off work and will be that much behind – I feel like I am going to have a target on my back, setting me out as “the weak one.” Any why am I the weak one?  Because I have kids and a family, and I can’t make my work my top priority all the time – especially when something in my work world doesn’t really matter (like a test that I don’t need to pass).

I struggle with finding people to connect with in my life.  All of my good mommy-in-medicine friends are back in the place I left behind when I moved here for residency.  I have yet to find some good friends here.  I marginally succeeded in finding some out-of-work friends, but since work has gotten so much busier in the last year, those relationships haven’t been well maintained.  Not to mention, I can’t really talk about most of my difficult struggles with them… I mean, when someone tells you they had a bad day because their kid’s school bus was late so they missed their aerobics class, how do you respond when your bad day was doing a STAT c-section on a full-term baby who didn’t survive?  And there is the opposite situation with friends from work.  All my co-residents are wonderful people, but most of them don’t have kids and that makes it very difficult to commiserate with them.  Who can I talk to about my feelings of inadequacy as a mother, or about my decisions to prioritize my life differently because my kids and my family are an important (arguably the MOST important) part of my life.  Mostly, I feel like this position is a very lonely place to be and I don’t know how to make it better.

I’m sure that in a few days I will be feeling better than I am today.  For today, though, I have to push through the discomfort of the struggle.

 

More Than A Princess

 From the moment I found out I was having a baby girl, I have not stopped hearing the word “Princess.”

“Oh, she’s going to be such a little princess!”

“You must be so excited about finally having a princess!”

“With two big brothers, she’s going to be treated like such a princess!”

The variations of this statement are endless. What I fail to understand, however, is why having “little girl parts” automatically means that a baby is precious in a spoiled, pink and purple, frilly, and somewhat entitled way.  Maybe I have a different understanding of the meaning of “princess” as it pertains to little girls. However, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. 

I was a little girl once. I was expected to be “prim and proper.” I was expected to wear frilly dresses to special occasions.  I always had to look pretty. 

I watched a lot of princess movies. Especially those Disney classics… Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty… And these movies all propagated the idea that little girls grow up to be pretty and submissive women who wait for their handsome, rich prince to come and save them from themselves and provide a life that they would never have had otherwise. 

“Princess” comes with it’s fair share of connotations and stereotypes… For sure. 

I realize that in today’s society, girls are more empowered, even than they were when I was a kid. Women are making up their fair share of the workplace, including in professional, often male dominated, areas. It is a great change to see. Regardless, there is still some kind of stigma that surrounds  girls and women.  Somehow “empowered” in relation to women has been translated into being beautiful and proud of your body (just take one look at the nude selfies of famous, beautiful women that come up on Instagram when you search #empowered). Or even something as simple as the idea that a baby girl is expected tone raised and treated like a princess. 

After all, I’ve given birth to and raised two little boys and I never encountered even a fraction of the comments (or articles of clothing) suggesting that my cute, precious, and adorable little boy would be a “prince.” (I can’t even think of one)

I’m not against pink and purple (just as much as I’m not against blue and green, or any other colour for that matter). Fluffy tu-tus and frilly dresses are certainly very cute and belong in any little girl’s wardrobe – if they want them! I am not an advocate for complete gender neutrality when it comes to raising children. Boys and girls are different in some ways and it is perfectly acceptable to embrace these differences. It is also perfectly acceptable to breakdown stigma and stereotypes – and for that reason I let my boys play with  My Little Pony happy meal toys if they want them, and I paint their finger and toe nails when they ask me to.

I am certainly very excited to be having a little girl after having two boys. I am looking forward to the differences I will encounter in raising a different gendered child. I am also looking forward to seeing how my boys will react to, and interact with, their baby sister. I am looking forward to venturing into the other half of the children’s clothing stores, brushing and braiding hair, and bonding with a child in a different way than I have with my boys. All of this doesn’t mean, though, that this baby inherently deserves to be spoiled, or doted on, or fawned over in a different way than my boys were just because she’s a baby girl. 

I want the best of everything in the world for all of my kids. I want them to accomplish their dreams, whatever they may be. I want them to have the same opportunitiesas all other children. Most importantly, I don’t want any of my kids, especially my daughter, to be treated differently or have different expectations in their lives because of their gender. 

  

Remembering E’s Birthday

IMG_6961This week my not-so-little E celebrated his 4th birthday.  This little boy is now a bundle of rambunctious, over-the-top, hard to control, 100% boy.  Most times I feel like I was never quite equipped to be this little man’s mommy.  To celebrate his birthday, he requested a Paw Patrol party, complete with a Paw Patrol cake.  Mommy did her best to deliver.

From the very beginning, little E has kept me challenged – including his entrance into the world.  I love this boy dearly and with all my heart (remind me of this when I want to smack him across the head for never listening), yet sometimes I forget how much he has effected change in my life.  When little E came into this world, he was whisked away after about 12 hours to be taken to the NICU.  After he was there for 4 days, I wrote him a letter.  I thought, in “honour” of E’s birthday this week, I would share that letter with all of you here.

Dear E,
Today you are 4 days old.  When I think about how your life should be when you are 4 days old, it is very different from what you are living.  You should be at home, warm and safe with the people who love you.  You should be in my arms and sleeping next to me; be nourished by me and comforted by me.  Instead you tied up in tubes and wires and you spend all day in the bright lights and noisy sounds of the NICU.  I know this is what you need right now but it makes me cry every time I think about how unnatural it is for you to be there.  I hope you know how many hours I spend sitting with you and holding your hand, caressing your beautiful, tiny face.  I only wish I could be with you all the time, to hold you and comfort you when you are in pain.  I try to hard to cherish the one night that I got to hold you and feel your skin next to mine, but it already feels like a distant memory that is slipping away from me – further with every second that passes.  My body misses feeling you inside of me and when I look at my shrinking belly, I see the place you used to live and I wish you could still be there – because it’s better than where you are.
I know there is nothing I could have done to keep you from the pain you are feeling, but I find a way to blame myself for not making someone really listen to my concern for you in the hours after you were born – maybe you would be home right now if I was more persistent, if I didn’t let other people try to convince me that what you were going through was a normal part of a newborn’s adjustment period.  I thought they were wrong, and I was right.  For all of that, I am very sorry.
Before you were born I worried that I would not have enough lough to share with a second child.  I was nervous about bringing you into this world with the thought that I wouldn’t be able to love you and cherish you in the same way I do your brother.  I have learned, however, that it is impossible for me to not love you.  In 4 days I have spent more time longing for you to be in my arms, crying for your pain, and wondering how my life was ever complete without you.  I know it was only 4 days ago that you were not here, but that is already another lifetime ago.  When I look at you, I recognize your face – as if I have known you forever.  When I touch you, I know you were always meant to be my child.   Until I can hold you and care for you like I mother should, I will do my best to be strong for you and I will be by your side, loving you from a short distance, and counting down the minutes until you are healthy and ready to come home and finally join our family.

With lots of love and tears,
Mommy

(March 25, 2012)

Naked

“Mommy, why are your boobies SO BIG!?!”

We’re pretty open about nudity in our house. The boys have seen me naked their whole life and they don’t think twice about it.  Just recently we’ve been drawing the line on the boys coming in the women’s washroom with me when their dad is around, mostly so they learn that there is a reason we have “men’s” and “women’s.”

If I’m being honest, I’ve only started to be more self-conscious about being naked around the boys because of my growing belly and the amount of weight I’ve gained in pregnancy.

This morning, on my day off, I was showering the boys and I got that wonderful question.  I guess it was better than another comment on how HUGE my belly is….

“My boobies are getting ready to make milk for the baby.”

“Oh.” He said. And he walked away.

I thought I was in the clear…

“But Mommy, why is that middle part of your boobies so much more brown and red than the rest of them?”

“…Um… They just are.”

Oh, kids…

Family Drama

There is always something. 

My mom is throwing me a baby shower for Baby Girl. Despite this being my third baby, it is actually my first baby shower. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited. 

My mom asked me who to invite, and I gave her a list that was primarily my husband’s family members and a few of my close friends.  On this list, of course, was my MIL… But also my FIL’s fiancé. 

I received this message from my MIL this morning:

“I understand you invited [FIL’s fiance] to shower. Please let me know whether or not she is coming as it will determine my attendance. Thanks”

Seriously, this is normal and acceptable behaviour for a 60 year old woman!?!

Let the fun begin 🙂