The birth story of Stella as told to me by her mama, Kristin

To see the birth story book, watch the slideshow. Read the full story below.

I was due on October 5th. That day, I had asked Hazel what she wanted to do. I wanted to have a day of mommy-daughter time, and just let her pick. So we spent the day at the park, and we went to Tim Hortons and got some Timbits and had lunch together.

“We just enjoyed each other because I knew that time was short at that point, and soon it wouldn’t be just me and her.”

I came home, and I was very tired and uncomfortable. We had supper, and I just rested. All night long I had to pee: I kept getting up to pee, and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I was in pain, not with contractions, but just with a full bladder. I’d pee and the pain and discomfort would go away. I was getting up probably every hour and a half to go to the bathroom.

Chris was normally off on Fridays, but that day he had been asked to work overtime. He was getting up to go to work at about quarter to five. I was up at 4:30 to go pee. He asked if he should go, and I said yes, I figured I just had to pee lots, and that if something changed, I’d get someone to drive me to the hospital. I was saying this going into the bathroom. I went pee and came out and suddenly had a bad back pain and bent over the bed. He looked at me quite sceptically, like ‘Should I be going?’ I thought I was fine.

We were trying to talk quietly so we wouldn’t wake up Hazel, who had joined us for snuggles at around 4 a.m.

“Are you sure that wasn’t a contraction?”

“No, it didn’t feel like a contraction.”

A little time went by and another hit, and I admitted to myself, ‘Okay, maybe this is a contraction.’

Then another one came. I was much louder getting through that one.
Hazel woke up. At that point, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this might be labour pain’, and I was trying to get dressed, trying to get my pants on but having a lot of trouble doing it because I was nine months pregnant and in pain!

I remember thinking to myself, “Well, fuck…I thought I had more time!” For whatever reason, I had been certain I was going to be way over due.

Chris tried to put my pants on, and I got mad at him: “Don’t touch me, I can do it myself!”

He said, “I don’t think we have a lot of time.” He called his mom, and by then Hazel was quite concerned as mommy was making some odd sounds. I think I was quite snarky with Chris multiple times. He was trying to rush me into the kitchen and somewhere around there (around 5 a.m.), his mom showed up.

By then I had made it out to the living room, but it was still 5:30 or 5:45 by the time we got out of there. Chris was so panicked. For whatever reason, he knew it was happening faster than I did.

Unbeknownst to me, every time I had to pee may have been labour pains, but I slept between each time, so this didn’t occur to me until later.

I had to have two more strong contractions before I made it to the car.

If he could have picked me up and put me in the car, he would have.

“We need to go!”

“I cannot stand up right now, therefore I cannot walk to the car. If that means I’m going to have a baby in the porch, then I’m going to have a baby in the porch.”

We made a very mad dash to the city and had a couple really good contractions in the car. Then we got to the maternity ward and didn’t realize ahead of time that no one would be in the old building on the main floor, so we went to Emergency. They got me in right away and wheeled me along.

I remember getting into the wheelchair and thinking, ‘Oh, thank God.’ They wheeled me all over the place, and I didn’t have to walk. They wheeled me up to Labour & Delivery and did my assessment. They wanted to check how far dilated I was, and I didn’t want them to touch me. It must have been about 6:15 at that point.

I was 9 cm dilated, but they were having trouble getting the heart rate from the baby, and they wanted to do an internal fetal heart check with the electrode through the uterus to the baby’s scalp. I said, “Nope, you’re not doing that to me, she is fine, I know she is in there.” I just wanted to sit on the birth ball and labour there because that’s where it felt good.

I remember being both simultaneously terrified but also knowing that I could do this, that I knew what I was doing this time, and I was prepared. I was going to have a better birth than the first time, and I was ready to fight for the things I wanted this time. Which is why there was only a nurse and a doctor in the room when I delivered: I didn’t want ANYONE there. No extra fluff or distraction. Though I didn’t realize I was gonna be done in 45 minutes. But having soooo many people in my room with Hazel when I was labouring was so distracting and annoying and frustrating and unnecessary. So I was ready to fight anyone who didn’t listen to me.

I remember telling the nurse and doctor,“Fuck off, there’s no way you’re making me labour on that bed,” when they asked me to get up there so they could check me.

The on-call doctor came in, and it wasn’t even a doctor from my clinic, because the doctor on-call from my clinic couldn’t make it in time. The nurses told her how far along I was and the doctor wanted to check me. I finally said yes, she could look, mostly because Chris was persistent and worried.

I got back up on the table, she said she wanted to break my water, and I said no, because with Hazel it made it hurt more and didn’t help. She said, “We need to put the electrode in (for fetal heart monitoring), and we can’t do that unless we break your water.” I said no again, and she replied, “I can almost 99% guarantee you that if we break your water, this baby will be here in 5 minutes.” Chris convinced me, so I let them do it.

She broke my water, and they put the probe in and found the heartbeat, and she was fine, just like I said she was. Three real good pushes, and she was out. She was born at 6:55 a.m. I think we got to the hospital at 6:15 a.m. They didn’t have enough time to admit me or put an IV in. She was in a hurry.

They put her on my chest right away and I got to cuddle her and hold her. That feeling. I don’t have words for that feeling. Does anyone? But I can say that I knew her. I knew my baby and I knew she was mine and that she belonged to me. (When I had Hazel, I felt like someone had placed a stranger on me. There was no instant bond or love at first sight. It took me a year to get that bond.)

That feeling, it never gets old. She was all squishy and covered in white and adorable. We asked for delayed cord clamping, so we probably sat there for a good five minutes.

They asked Chris if they wanted to cut the cord and he said no. I gave him hell.

“I shoved a baby out my vagina, you can cut the damn cord.” So he did.

They took her and weighed her. She was 7 lbs 8 oz and 21 ¼ inches long and healthy and happy. We were in there for probably half hour, maybe even longer, skin to skin. They were stitching me up. My legs wouldn’t stop shaking, coming down from the adrenaline, and they brought me toast.

They gave her back to me. We got the placenta packaged up and our gal came and picked that up for us.

I got to just lay there and hold her and cuddle her. She slept tucked in against me. I just got to sit there and get to know her a little bit and soak it all in. Chris got to stare at her and hold her and cry. After half hour or 45 minutes, they had a room ready, so I showered, and they wheeled me up to my room and just spent the day recovering and getting to know each other.

When Hazel was born, we had around 30 people in our private room, people coming and going all day. I remember being exhausted, so this time around, I wanted a lot less chaos. We had a lot of time to ourselves, getting to know the new baby who remained nameless until the next day. It took us 24 hours to name her.

We had a list of names and just kept going through until we had one that we felt was hers. I knew that I wanted Esther in there for my great grandma, but other than that we had lots of names that we liked but couldn’t agree on. Eventually we agreed on Stella Rose Esther. She felt like a Stella.
Stella is funny – like has a sense of humour already at one-year-old. She is goofy and fun and has no fear. She is fierce and adventuresome and smart and crafty and even a little bit manipulative. She knows how to get what she wants! She’s perfect. I love watching her and her sister together: no one can make Stella laugh like her big sister.

This time around my postpartum experience has been totally different than the first time around. I suffered postpartum depression with my first, who was also a hard baby with colic and reflux. We also had breastfeeding challenges. Wanting this experience to be different, I surrounded myself with support. It certainly helped that I had an easier baby this time, but it also helped knowing I had family to help me, friends, a nanny, and a postpartum doula.

I didn’t realize the first time around how isolating motherhood could be, and I wanted to make sure I was well prepared this time. One of the best baby gifts I gave myself was hiring my postpartum doula, Darla, from Postpartum Darla. Having her come once or twice a week was amazing. It gave me someone that I could leave Stella with while I took Hazel for some much needed Mom and daughter time, someone to ask questions about breastfeeding or baby carrying, make sure I got fed or got a shower or a nap if I needed it! She encouraged me and gave me confidence, supported me no matter what, and just held space for me when I needed it. I can’t say enough good things about her; best gift to myself ever!

The heartbreak when you can’t always protect your child

The heartbreak when you can’t always protect your child

When my son started preschool, I was nervous kids would make fun of him.

He initially wasn’t talking as much or as well as his classmates. Both teachers have commented how much more he is talking in just a couple of months and how he is easier to understand.

Cub copying his preschool teacher, Mrs. O.

Pretty sure Cub is copying his preschool teacher here! He digs Mrs. O.

I’ve written about Cub and his uniqueness before: he may not speak as well as kids his age, but he can read anything, spell, and loves maps. Last night he corrected me when I pointed to a country on an unlabelled map. I said it was Israel. He proceeded to tell me, “Israel’s not in Africa. That’s Eritrea.”

I was so pleased when Cub seemed to blend in with the kids who had been together for months, and if he or they were aware of their differences, I didn’t see it on the occasions I was in the classroom: kids would often ask him to join in playing and he eagerly sang along to all the songs and joined in activities. And Cub would come home and talk about his friends, rattling off all their names. It made me wonder when kids start to notice differences?

My heart broke a little at a recent preschool day. Cub was “helper” since I was a parent helper, and one of his jobs was to read everyone’s names who were at school that day so they could say “here!” While he can read each of their names, his pronounciation isn’t as clear as that of his classmates, and one of the boys started imitating how he was saying names. I don’t think a five-year-old is capable of being malicious, but it was obvious he noticed Cub was different or not saying it right, and he and his friend were getting a kick out of it.

My heart hurt partly because Cub talks about this boy at home and seems to really like him. I was so glad that he either didn’t understand or care the implication of someone mimicking him saying “Pub” for “Cub.” It was also the first instance where I saw someone make fun of my child for being different. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. It hurt me much more than it hurt him!

It reminded me of the book I’m reading right now, Precious Cargo: My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077 by Craig Davidson. The author is a writer who, out of desperation for income, takes a job driving a bus of children with special needs. In one of the chapters, he reflects on a few cases where he sees kids or adults making fun of his passengers. In more than one instance, he gets out and confronts people (which, upon reflection, he doesn’t recommend: he actually threatens to punch the dad of one mean kid and gets into an awkward altercation with said dad).

So, I’m not planning any altercations with any preschoolers or parents! Far from it. It was his realization that hit home for me and came to mind: he realized his outrage at people wasn’t helping him or the kids he was trying to protect.

“If anything, my actions merely called attention to matters they had learned to dismiss, having developed strategies to cope; I was the equivalent of an amplifier, forcing them to hear a frequency they had taught themselves to tune out.”

Man, when I read those words, I was really struck by them. It’s funny how the world works: funny that I was reading this book and had just read this package, which then popped into my head today, when I really needed it. We all want to protect our children and we would do ANYTHING to protect them. But sometimes you can’t. The world keeps turning, there will always be someone saying something mean or rude (as kids or adults – sometimes I think adults are worse), and you can’t always be there to stand up for them. They have to learn how to stand up for themselves or learn how to celebrate their differences and be proud of them. We have to do our best to install pride and confidence and kindness in them.

Cub using the pointer on the day he was helper.

Cub is lucky to have two fabulous preschool teachers, both of whom he talks about frequently!

Speaking of kindness, the teacher gently asked the boys to stop repeating Cub, and then one little girl, after Cub said her name, turned to the teacher to earnestly say, “Teacher, Cub did a really good job on my name!” The teacher suggested she tell Cub, so she walked over and told him. I wanted to hug her and cry. I’m tearing up writing this now. Cub was of course unphased by it all.

Our kids don’t need us to protect them, and we won’t always be there anyway every time someone hurts them, intentional or not. They need our love so they can go out into the world and stand up for themselves with the knowledge we always have their backs.

And in the end, kindness always wins.

“You’re not always capable of changing the world – and sometimes it’s hard to protect even your little patch of it, the garden where the most beautiful flowers grow. But you have to trust the resiliency of those flowers. They have made a life in that inhospitable soil, and somehow they manage to survive.” ~ Craig Davidson

Why staying is the right family decision

Why staying is the right family decision

By now you’ve likely heard the news that we are not leaving. And if you haven’t, you can take a peek at the video below!

Phew! It was a relief to be able to share it with our friends, family, and community, and we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of people, even those in Manitoba or with connections there, who have said, “I’m so happy for you guys!”

I’ve written before what it was like being a solo parent when my husband moved to Manitoba for a career opportunity. I found the first few months difficult. Something clicked after Christmas, where I realized I am a lot stronger than I first thought, and it didn’t seem so hard.

But we also hit a point where we knew this couldn’t go on indefinitely. Our house has been on the market since September, and while we have had multiple showings, we hadn’t even received a low-ball offer. It became clear to us our house was not going to sell any time soon, or if we did get an offer, it would be so low that it wouldn’t be worth it to us. The expenses of paying rent in another province and driving back here to visit were adding up.

That was our logistical reason for not moving to Brandon. There are also many personal reasons for not moving, and to understand those reasons, I need to back up and tell a long story that began nearly a year ago.

About 10 months ago, we began seeing a speech language pathologist. We weren’t super concerned that our son wasn’t talking as much as his peers, as I have always felt he learned at his own pace, but we mentioned it to our doc and agreed to just check it out, no harm done.

Word searches are one of the many games Cub enjoys playing.

Shortly after Christmas, Cub began doing word searches. Here he is finding the word ‘equality.’ At the top he found ‘I have a dream.’ This one was a Martin Luther King-themed word search!

 

 

 

The monthly appointments have mostly been a source of stress for me, as there weren’t really any ideas that worked to “make” or encourage Cub speak more, and the SLP was puzzled by why he wouldn’t speak and would choose a more difficult route to communicate what he wants (as an example, find a banana or glass of water in a book and then show it to us). He was also puzzled because he noted Cub made eye contact with him, waved to him, was eager to play games with him, so didn’t think he was on the autism spectrum.

While these appointments didn’t show signs of helping, Cub loved seeing this particular SLP (one time when I mentioned his name, he high-tailed to the door so we could go see him!), so we kept going.

We were sad for us, happy for him, when this SLP got a new job and moved on. We then saw another SLP in his place. By this time, Cub was 3 and he was obviously reading and spelling. He would take foam letters and spell words on his own. Some of his earliest words were snowy owl, bald eagle, scorpion, elk (from his love of going to the zoo), hat, mom, kiss, cub. He kept adding to his repertoire. We weren’t sure, but felt this was pretty cool and remarkable for a 3 year old! When we told the SLP this, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m sure your son is very bright, but he should be speaking more words by now.” I got the impression she didn’t believe me. We granted her permission to refer us to the Alvin Buckwold Child Development Program.

Our file was given to a third SLP, who we began seeing in the fall, after Doug moved to Brandon. She had ideas to try and sent me home with resources: most of these ideas were things we had been always doing. I mean, we’ve read to Cub since he was born. I’ve tried the whole temptation thing to try and get him to say what he wants. Every appointment, she would bring up daycare or preschool and say how much she thought he would benefit from this. This rankled me. On one hand, we have some moms who feel like people shame them for going back to work while putting their children in daycare. Here I felt she was suggesting I wasn’t good enough or stimulating enough for my child, which I knew wasn’t true and that up until recently, he wasn’t ready or interested in something like preschool (which was also something I hadn’t thought of as necessary but I see now how much he loves it and it can only benefit). She assured me I was a good mom, but that just irritated me more: I don’t need to be told that. I know I’m a good mom and that I know my child best (and I hope if you are a mom, you know this, too).

During our last appointment, she told me she strongly believed Cub was on the autism spectrum and asked if we had considered that. I think I responded that most parents of my generation, if they had ever googled anything (which I tend to avoid), have probably considered it, but that we didn’t think so based on our discussions with our previous SLP and from taking a questionnaire sent to us from a friend whose son is autistic. She outlined why she felt he was, which in short was because he is behind in speech compared to his peers but is so far beyond in other areas such as reading and memorizing. Some examples include that Cub has memorized flags to many countries, particularly African, although Asian, South American, etc. (a friend asked him the other day whose flag that was, and he correctly proclaimed, “Bhutan!”); he can point out countries on unlabelled maps – this started out with Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Congo, Nigeria, Niger, Paraguay, and I think the latest was Equatorial Guinea, Chad (he also knows Canada!); in the same game, he can identify with country the capital belongs to such as Riyadh, Kathmandu; he can place the bones of a human skeleton in the correct places (with some mistakes along the way, but he gets better each time), and then he can place the correct names of the bones [and now if he hurts himself, he tells me he hurt his cranium, patella, or humorus]; and I have seen him more than once sort 12 items into their correct state of solid, liquid, or gas. There is no doubt he can read: part of the reason he knows the flags is he plays a geography game and sometimes I need to help. If I tell him the answer is Khazakstan, he can find the word no problem. (He also knows its flag…and the flag of Uzbekistan…he may even be able to find them on a map…) He can count forwards and backwards; as I write this, he is counting down from 5 to 0 minutes until we go to the Co-op because he loves to grocery shop.

The SLP also gently chastised me for the amount of time Cub spends on an iPad. “You do know the recommended amount of screen time is no more than an hour a day?” I just smiled and said yes. Is using an iPad always ideal? Some would argue not. How do you think Cub knows all of his geography or the states of matter or the abbreviations to American states? It’s mostly from an educational app he plays on it. We didn’t teach him any of the above stuff I listed. He taught himself. I didn’t bother telling her any of this. She later sent me a website that contained tons of articles around kids with autism and there was one about screen time and possibly being linked to delayed speech, so of course I had the moment all parents have at some point: is this somehow my fault?

I left this appointment feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Is my child on the spectrum? Is she the right person to say so? What difference does it make? Isn’t the point of a diagnosis to get more resources if you have concerns? But what if we don’t have any concerns because we have seen so much improvement and increased speech over the past few months? I had so many questions and wasn’t sure where to go for answers. I turned to friends for support and I messaged my husband, saying something along the lines of, “Doug, no matter what happens with a diagnosis or not, I don’t want to be in a new place. I want to be here with our friends and family and support network.” He later told me he knew how serious I was because I called him by his first name.

He didn’t hesitate. He agreed and began looking for a job back home. He encouraged me to discontinue the speech path appointments because they weren’t helping. We agreed to make an appointment with our family doctor to hear his opinion, express our concerns, see what answers we could get.

We felt huge relief after seeing him, and it was a reminder yet again of why I didn’t want to leave: I did not want to try and find a new doctor when we already had one who meshed so well with all three of us. And let me tell you, it was not that long ago where Cub would cry and cry going to the clinic. One particular appointment was for my check-up, including pap. Cub wouldn’t let me put him down and it took many minutes for him to stop crying, and I mean many: we slowly progressed from the waiting room to the office, from standing and me holding him to sitting and holding him, to him being willing to sit beside me, to him being willing to sit with the nurse, while my doc did the world’s fastest pap ever.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when he hurt his arm on a weekend. I told him we could see a nice doctor at RUH because his doctor didn’t work on the weekend. He refused and said our doctor’s name through his tears. We were lucky enough to get in to see him that Monday, and Cub was a completely different kid after seeing him. Like went from needing his arm propped up on a pillow to bending it and putting pressure on it as soon as we were in his office to running around the kitchen island when we got home. It takes time to build that kind of relationship. (By the way, we brought up screen time with him, and the article I had read, and after reassuring me, he joked, “Yeah, Darla, your son has autism because you let him use an iPad.” His off-colour sense of humour is one of the reasons we dig him.)

We now have an appointment at the Alvin Buckwold Child Development Program, and I look forward to hearing what these specialists think and what kind of resources they suggest because it’s clear our son learns in his own unique way. It has taken some time for me to reach this point. I have so many thoughts and emotions bouncing around my head, but I know this will be the place, in conjunction with our family doctor, where I will find the answers and support I crave.

No matter what happens, I want to be near my friends and community. I have leaned heavily on so many of them these past few months, and even once my husband is back, I will continue to do so. I am so grateful for them. I am so grateful for my family, particularly my mom. My mom comes to see us once a week, staying overnight, to spend time with Cub so I can get work done or run errands. When we have a house showing, she is the one who cleans it top to bottom. She does this all willingly (the housework not as much, but she doesn’t view spending time with Cub as work – they are precious moments for both of them). We wouldn’t have this if we moved to Brandon, not nearly as often, and I know it broke her heart to think of it, and I dreaded having to explain it to Cub as well.

Cub now attends preschool, and he loves it. He was all smiles the first day I took him. He walked away from me no problem, and as I sat in the classroom watching, it was clear he was ready: he was right in there following along and playing with the other kids. I left the room to read in the hallway and he didn’t care. His teacher is amazing, and she and the preschool are yet another reason we don’t want to leave. She is a part of the support network. Cub comes home from preschool and rattles off the names of kids he played with. His first day was Valentine’s Day, and that night he went through his valentines from classmates four times.

Has there ever been a happier kid on their first day of preschool?

So happy at his first day of preschool!

Could we find friends and supports in Brandon or any other city? Of course. I know first-hand there are lovely people in Brandon because we’ve connected with some of them already (and even though we are not moving, they have all expressed how happy they are for us that we will be together again). However, we have amazing family, friends, and health and educational supports here already, and it is where we need to be right now.

My husband did end up finding a job, another exciting career opportunity for him, and I have to hand it to him: there have been moments were it has driven me crazy with him being an adult student and then furthering his education when he started working (he would go to Vancouver every few months for a few days at a time). I see now, though, what a great job he has done at setting himself a part from others in his field. His skills are in demand, and he had no problem finding work. And I was touched when he told me what he has been telling people: that his wife supported him through school and as he began his career, and that now it’s his turn to support the family and do what is best for all of us.

Thank you so much to everyone for reading and for all of your support. I know this isn’t the end of the story. There is so much more to come. It will be emotional, but I have no doubt we will get through it because we will be together as a family, and we will have you behind us every step of the way. For that I am forever grateful. Stay tuned!

Why mom-to-mom support matters

Why mom-to-mom support matters

If you haven’t already heard, I will be facilitating a support group for moms on select Tuesdays out of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. Our first meeting is this week, so I thought it would be timely to give a real-life example of what a difference a little bit of support can make.

Imagine you are a mom whose toddler has built a beautiful wall of blocks at an indoor playground, but when he comes back from a snack, another child has dismantled it. He’s upset, and you empathize: he worked so hard on that, and it’s a big deal to him. Perhaps you’ve even been in this exact situation!

No amount of empathy or “can I help you build it again?”or distraction or leaving him alone helps: he cries and cries and cries and cries. Real tears, at times screaming. To the point that you now have tears in your eyes and take a break to cry in the bathroom, because you have no idea how to make it better and you were already having a tough day. A couple moms give you empathetic smiles, one mom asks your toddler if he’d like to join them on the slide. Such little gestures that make you want to cry more, but in a good way: because these moms get it. They understand how it feels, and they want to help you.

This is exactly why mom support groups are powerful: they build us up, let us know we aren’t alone. At times we definitely FEEL like we are alone, or like we are the only person who has ever been in a particular situation, but I assure you, you are not. Somewhere, and some point, another mom has been there, and she gets it. She will cry alongside you and laugh with you at the situation once enough time has passed.

And so I hope you will join us for the Warman Moms Support Group. Motherhood can be hard, but you aren’t alone, and you were never meant to do it alone. See you Tuesday.

In the words of a mom: why hire a postpartum doula

In the words of a mom: why hire a postpartum doula

Who better to tell you the benefits of postpartum support than a mom who has experienced it herself? Below a mom gives feedback on her experience of having a postpartum doula.

Why did you want to hire a postpartum doula?

We wanted to hire a postpartum doula so that we would have as much support possible for mom and baby and help give them the best start possible.

Did I meet your expectations of what you had in mind for a postpartum doula?

Oh my gosh YES! You were so supportive and encouraging and having you with us as we became a family of 4 was so reassuring. It was such a comfort having you in our home and I always looked forward to your weekly visits.

You brought a calm, caretaker presence that just wrapped us up in gentleness that we so needed as we adjusted to life with a baby again.

Did anything I do stand out to you?

Well, I think that everything you did for us was wonderful. But I was always amazed at the amount of stuff that you knew, and I loved that you always had such awesome information. And if you didn’t know something, you sourced out the information. I loved that you were never pushy, just gave me everything you had and let me decide what I wanted. You were gentle and supportive in a way that was comforting and helped boost my confidence as a new mom again.

What would you say to families not sure about investing in postpartum care from a doula?

Hiring a postpartum doula is investing in your self-care at a time you may forget to look after yourself. A new mom needs just as much care as a new baby, but the new mom often gets overlooked. A postpartum doula makes sure the new mom is nurtured so that she can better care for herself as well as her new family.

You can find more testimonials from moms here.

Things I appreciate more now that I’m solo parenting

Things I appreciate more now that I’m solo parenting

I realize I always should have just appreciated what single or solo parents do, and on some level, I always have. However, we often don’t tend to truly appreciate certain scenarios until we find ourselves in them.

My husband recently moved to another province for a new job. The opportunity came out of nowhere and was too good to pass up. He’s enjoying it, and I’m so proud that all of his hard work has paid off in the type of job he has always wanted. In the mean time, my son and I, along with our pets, have stayed behind until we sell our home. Once our place sells and we buy one there, we will move and join my husband (and while I can’t wait, I also kind of dread moving provinces with a toddler and 3 pets).

That means, until we sell this place, I have to try and keep it “ready to show” at any given time. With a three-year-old, two cats, and a dog. Just thinking about it makes me tired. I’m forever grateful for all the help of my mom, who comes up at least once a week to hang out with Cub so I can work my two jobs (more on that below!) and also does so much to keep our house clean and looking beautiful. My husband did a lot of the cleaning when he was here. One of the many reasons I miss him.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I work another part-time job in addition to being a postpartum doula. I’m a web and social media editor 15 hours a week for an Indigenous newspaper. And then I’m obviously a mom full-time, and most of the time, it’s just me.

As such, here are the first four things that come to mind that I appreciate even more about having another parent around:

  1. Mealtimes. My husband would always make breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Oh, how I miss this. Maybe I was spoiled, but it was really nice having those two days where I could wake up and not have to worry about making something to feed myself or my toddler. I feel more relaxed on the one morning a week my mom is here, even if I still make myself and/or my toddler breakfast, just because I know someone else is here to help and can play with him while I get some other work done.
  2. Company. Even if I do most of the care for our child, it is really nice having someone come home at the end of their work day and be here for the evening, particularly on days when my toddler doesn’t want to leave the house. While those days are relaxing, they can be quite lonely. I love my boy, but we don’t have the most in-depth conversations, even if he does like looking up random animals and places from atlases. In addition to someone to talk to in the evening, it was someone who helped during mealtime, bath time, bedtime. And it was someone home with our son so I could occasionally go out to yoga, which leads me to….
  3. Self-care. We like to throw this word around to moms who are tired or stressed out. “Find time to do something for yourself, even if it’s something little.” I’ve realized I’m guilty of this: no doubt I’ve said something similar to single moms or moms who are solo parenting while their spouse is away for long periods of time. I’m sorry for that now because it probably came off as naive at best and annoying at worst. By the time my toddler falls asleep (which isn’t that late – usually between 8 and 9), I am too tired to do anything like yoga, even if my body is screaming at me to do it, and even though I know I’d likely feel better for it. All I want to do is have a bath, zone out on social media, and go to bed. But what I’ve noticed is if I don’t find time to do something for myself, my patience wears thin, and I get short and angry at my toddler for things I know I should let go. It’s true I now need to find self-care in different ways: the odd yoga stretch here and there if I can’t do a whole practice, listening to a relaxation recording before bed, a cup of tea I like, or an outing we both enjoy. I have managed to incorporate short yoga practices once he goes to bed and I’ve started meditating. 

    Self-care: standing pigeon pose while the toddler has a bath. Take what you can get.

  4. Getting s*** done. I mentioned above I work another part-time job. I sometimes felt completely overwhelmed by this when my husband was still here, so now it can feel even worse. Somehow I do it because I have to, but it isn’t always easy. It was definitely easier when I had a partner in crime who could play with and parent our child so I could do my work. Now I do it when my mom is here or when my son is watching a video or playing a game. Now household chores are also entirely my responsibility, although my mom helps a lot when she is here. However, that’s one or two days a week so the rest of the time, it’s on me. I follow the advice I give other moms: I let go of what I can (most housework, to be honest), and I try to do work when my toddler will watch videos or when he’s in bed if I must.

After a visit to the art gallery and river walk, I felt invigorated. I kept telling my son how much fun I had with him. Getting out can make a big difference.

These are just the 4 that come off the top of my head, but I know there are more. As the saying goes, you often don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I half joke that being apart has made us realize how much we love and rely on each other. Not that we didn’t know before, but you really don’t fully understand until you’re apart. I know my husband and I both eagerly look forward to when we are reunited as a family, and I know not every mom who is solo parenting is that fortunate. 

So if you have a friend who is a single or solo parent, help her out. Offer to pick up some groceries for her when you’re out. Drop by for coffee. Take her a meal. Play with her child so she can do a quick yoga practice alone in her room. What might seem small to you will be huge to her.

 

 

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