Why everything’s better through the eyes of a child

Why everything’s better through the eyes of a child

Many months back, a mom who attends the moms group I facilitate, made a comment about the upcoming holidays that has stuck with me all this time probably because I loved it. I’m pretty sure I asked something like, “What are you most looking forward to or anxious about with your baby for the holidays?” She said, “Everything is just better with him.”

We get so caught up in the hard moments, and we all know there are HARD moments, that sometimes we forget to be grateful for all that we have (and how quickly they go by!). Lately, I’ve been reminded of how awesome my life is because of my little man in it. Here are just a few examples.

Encouragement. When was the last time you said something positive or encouraging to yourself? Often our self-talk is negative. Kids lift us up. I take my now four-and-a-half-year-old son to business meetings with me now. After one meeting, I told him, “You’re my badass business partner, thank you for coming.” He replied, “You’re a badass also.” It made me FEEL like a badass! And reminded me that I should say those words to myself more often. And when we went on a nearly 24-kilometre bike ride in the mountains, I kept telling him how great he was doing, and he’d shoot back, “You’re doing great, too!” Try talking to yourself the way your little talks to you, and you’ll feel infinitely better, stronger, like you can take on the world.

Unadultered joy in anything and everything. We recently flew to Kelowna, BC for a vacation (hence the 24-km bike ride in the mountains!). Our son found joy in EVERYTHING: takeoff and landing while flying, the views out the windows, the airplane window coverings. He literally shouted, “Whoa!” as we were taking off, and “Hold on!” as we were landing. The other passengers got a kick out of his shouts of glee. But it was a good reminder: when was the last time you flew and it was all ho-hum? Did you really appreciate how quickly that plane was getting you somewhere, how awesome that is, how beautiful the view was of the world beneath you? If you stop and think about it, it really is mind-blowing. Also, when you ask our son what he liked most about vacation? The pool. Kids are so easy to please! And it’s because they find the fun and joy everywhere.

Creativity. Our son likes the game Subway Surf. If you haven’t played it, it’s basically a kid running through subways in various locations around the world, collecting coins, with someone (a police officer?) chasing him, until he goes “smack like a pancake” against a subway. Well, anywhere we went on vacation became my son’s Subway Surf. Running down the boardwalk, we had to jump on every metal grate because it was a “power up.” Every concrete beam for parking, we had to climb on it. Swimming around the pool was dubbed “Subway Surf Delta Hotels.”

Dancing like no one is watching. So this literally happened yesterday, as we went to SoulPower for mom and child yoga. At the very end, in the dim lighting after we had done shavasana, we had a dance party. Those kids GOT DOWN! And they didn’t care who was watching. We need to be more like that in our lives! And not just with the literal dancing, just like for kids, it doesn’t just apply to dancing. They are true to themselves no matter the situation and they don’t feel bad about it at all. We need to be who we are, as moms, women, wives, friends, business people, whatever you want to be, and not apologize for who we are. I love the quote “Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.” Kids embrace that; we should, too!

Mom and child yoga

One of the ways I celebrated Mother’s Day was going to mom and child yoga with my son.

We need to encourage and love ourselves unconditionally, we need to find the joy and gratitude in the little things, we need to be creative and be the truest version of ourselves, and we need to go for it, whatever “it” may be, with all our hearts, without apology.

We could learn a lot from our little people. Before we danced our butts off, we were listening to a sweet song while lying down (best part of yoga, my son told me, was the sleeping part!), and I began to cry. Yoga doesn’t normally make me cry, but I’m definitely an emotional person. I took a page from children and decided I didn’t care if anyone saw me being vulnerable because it’s through that vulnerability we find connection, plus I was being true to myself. In that moment, I couldn’t help but think how much I have to be grateful for, how fun my life is, all because of this little guy. He really does make everything better. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

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!

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.

How to make a postpartum plan

How to make a postpartum plan

When you’re expecting a baby, a lot of the planning tends to revolve around the things you think you’ll need: a crib, a change table, a breastfeeding pillow, a pump, bottles, sterilizer, how many sleepers and onesies, receiving blankets, diapers, wipes, a stroller, car seat…the list of things you could buy in preparation for a baby’s arrival is endless.

While you do need some of these things, I’d suggest it’s more important to stick to the basics when it comes to stuff (you will have a better idea of what extras you truly NEED after baby arrives) and plan for what your day-to-day life will look like after baby arrives, or what I call postpartum planning.

I’ve written before about why it’s important to do this: the short of it is because cultures that support women more during this time have lower rates of postpartum mood disorders. Where I live, 1 in 4 or 5 women will suffer from PPD. (Of course, just because you have support doesn’t mean you won’t get PPD, or if you don’t have support, that doesn’t mean you will. But the two are often tied together.) And planning doesn’t mean everything will go perfectly, but it does increase the likelihood of mom feeling less stressed, overwhelmed, and isolated, which means she’s more likely to feel peace and joy in motherhood.

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In the very early days, we spent a lot of time in this position on the couch – which wasn’t always possible with two dogs, so I welcomed any help I could get with meals and letting the pooches out!

So, what does postpartum planning look like? To start, think about a regular day/week in your house and who is responsible for what. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • who buys the groceries?
  • who picks up the mail and deals with paying bills?
  • who takes care of housework such as laundry, sweeping the floor, vaccuming, dishes, cleaning the bathroom?
  • who cooks?
  • who walks the dog or changes the cat litter if you have pets?

In our culture, we often place unrealistic expectations on moms. She’s at home, so she should do all this work, right? No. She’s caring for a new baby, and that’s a HUGE job. How big of a job? Watch this video to see how many hours you have leftover in a day after you care for yourself, a baby, and do the bare minimum of meal prep and housework (hint: it’s fewer than 10 and you still haven’t slept).

So you need to think about who is going to do the above tasks: is it all going to be dad? Remember, it’s a hard time for dad, too, after baby is born, so he can’t be expected to take on it all. If that ends up being the arrangement, make sure you talk about it first! Don’t just assume: that isn’t fair to either of you. Is there anything you can delegate to other family or close friends? If not, what can you leave? Maybe the mom can still do some of this, but not as often: maybe you can sweep the floors every two weeks instead of once a week. Maybe you can hire a housecleaner once a month. Maybe you order takeout more often. It is an intense but short season: it’s not forever. Housework will keep, and eventually it will be easier to do some of these tasks (think babywearing!).

After you’ve thought about household tasks, try to imagine your life with a baby (which I know can be hard to do until your baby is here – here are some tips on what to expect from a new baby):

  • do you want visitors right away? (If you do, ask them to bring a meal when they come! If you don’t want visitors, no apology necessary! It’s your home and family.)
  • how are you going to feed baby?
  • cloth or disposable diapers?
  • where is baby going to sleep? (your baby might dictate this to you!)
  • who gets up with baby in the night? (if mom’s breastfeeding, that might be your answer, but maybe dad changes baby first and then returns baby to mom, as an example)
  • how will you ensure mom gets enough rest, recognizing she’ll be waking in the night?
  • how will you ensure dad gets enough rest, recognizing he might be getting broken sleep but still going to work an eight-hour day outside the home?
  • who will mom call if she’s having a really tough day?
  • how does the family ensure mom has time for self-care?

I encourage families to create lists: lists of household chores for people to do when they come over; lists of groceries you need; lists of activities older children like to do; lists of healthcare and postpartum professionals mom might need (think lactation consultants, pediatrician/family doctor, pelvic floor physiotherapist, chiropractor, public health nurse, postpartum doula, etc).

Even if you’ve already had a baby, I would encourage you to do this exercise, but instead try to imagine life with a baby and another child, and reflect back on your first experience. What would you have liked to have done differently? What worked?

Whenever I present to new or expectant moms, I tell them it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help. I can’t say this enough. Whether you are hiring help or getting help from a family member or friend, you should never feel bad or that you aren’t a good enough mom because you are asking. It’s the opposite: by acknowledging you need help, you are taking care of yourself, and that’s how you will have the energy to take care of others. You are also helping to change the stigma around asking for help and paving the way for moms who come after you: the more we all acknowledge we need help, the easier it is for us to ask.

Motherhood can be hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. 

If you’d like a FREE postpartum planning outline or a sample postpartum plan, message me below with your preference, and I’ll send it your way!

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No matter how hard, he’ll never be this little: Advocating for your child, part 2

No matter how hard, he’ll never be this little: Advocating for your child, part 2

It has been a long road for Adrienne Fedorowich and her little man, Kashton. The nine-month-old has suffered from a severe rash almost since the day he was born.

“It was everywhere. His head was always really bad, his cheeks, his face, his eyelids, his arms, his side body, and his legs were the worst areas,” details Adrienne. She says at first she thought it was eczema. Their doctor recommended Aveeno baby lotion, which she tried, but I didn’t help.

Neither did all the different over-the-counter creams they tried. It got so bad sometimes, Kashton would scratch his head, and there was blood all over his crib.

“I remember picking him up one time, and I wiped the blood off the crib. I remember just crying. ‘I don’t know how to help him.’”

 

Because he was so itchy, Kashton would wake up more than a baby normally would, sometimes 8-10 times a night, and it became an exhausting, painful, and helpless cycle for he and Adrienne.

Adrienne family 04

“I’d be living off 4 hours of broken up sleep, and he’d be exerting so much energy from scratching that I wasn’t able to feed him enough, and then nurses were concerned he wasn’t putting on enough weight. I was concerned because they were concerned, and it caused me stress. He wouldn’t sleep, he wouldn’t nap, he wouldn’t eat, and he’d scratch and itch. I couldn’t help him.”

Read the first part in this series: Adrienne and Tansley’s story

She recalls they had to put mitts on him, swaddle his arms in and wrap him so tight so he’d sleep – otherwise he’d scratch himself raw every single night.

Adrienne and her husband, Josh, took Kashton to an allergist to do a skin prick on his arm, which came back negative. Adrienne was disappointed, as she’d been hoping for answers to solve the itching.

“’Great, he’s not allergic,’ I thought, but I feel like I’m back to square one.”

Health nurses suggested contacting a nutritionist, so Adrienne spoke to one before Christmas, who said it sounded like he has a cow’s milk allergy, telling her the only way to know is if you completely eliminate cow’s milk and all soy products from your diet.

“I got off the phone and I was beyond overwhelmed. I enjoy cow’s milk products, so the thought of eliminating them was, ‘Where do you start?’ And because we already have so many family allergies, many things already can’t have (nut allergy so can’t have almond milk, for example). We thought, let’s just sit on it, wait til the New Year.”

Following the baby led weaning approach, Kashton started some solids in January, and his parents immediately noticed a difference: his rash started to clear up, and he started putting on weight. He put on a pound in 3 weeks. Before that, he was putting on an ounce or less each month. He also started sleeping better.

Adrienne and Josh decided to ask the allergist to do a blood test, specifically for cow’s milk, wheat, soy, nuts, and sure enough, it was a cow’s milk allergy.

“This way I knew it without changing our entire family’s world. Since then, he’s not having any direct cow’s milk (yogurt, cheese) and I’m just more conscious of how much cow’s milk products that I’m eating. I’m not drinking glasses of milk as much,” says Adrienne.

Additionally, Adrienne took Kashton to see a dermatologist.

“She said the exact words that we had been feeling: Babies with extreme eczema, they don’t eat, and they don’t sleep. They are so itchy they literally cannot consume enough calories because of how much energy they are exerting scratching. I sat there, thinking, ‘I’m not crazy. Why hadn’t someone told me this months ago?’

“It was kind of my ‘Thank God I’m not a horrible parent moment.’”

They still put creams on him every once in a while, but they are able to catch any outbreaks and address it quicker.

As soon as his rash went down, he became a different baby. He was happy. He started meeting milestones (he has started crawling and has a tooth now).

“We looked at each other, and said, ‘That’s our baby.’ It’s so nice knowing he’s not in pain.”

Looking back makes Adrienne emotional.

“It was hell. I went back to work when he was three months old,” and people would ask her, ‘How are you doing it?’

“My mom had four babies, and she said, ‘How are you doing this?’ I don’t know, I just did it. You don’t have a choice, what are you going to do? There were a lot of days where we just looked at each other, ‘Is this how this is going to be? Because this sucks.’”

Adrienne felt completely helpless: you have no power to help.

“You see the struggle your child is going through and you have no way to fix it. Nothing is an immediate fix. Everything was temporary, if at all.”

On top of feeling helpless, she was often given the run around trying to get him the help he needed.

“I phoned (my doctor’s office) one time, and asked, ‘Can you just send me a referral to the allergist?’ And they said, ‘No, you need to come in.’

“I thought, ‘You want me, who isn’t sleeping, to pack up my non-sleeping baby, to see the doctor, so you can give me a piece of paper,’” recalls Adrienne. So she did, and Kashton was red head to toe, and the doctor didn’t even look at him.

Eventually Adrienne fired her family doctor, telling him his staff doesn’t takes care of her kids the way she needs them to. At one point, she had to beg him to send a referral to a pediatrician – Kashton never did get one, though Tansley did. During Tansley’s appointment, the pediatrician looked at Kashton, red from his head-to-toe rash, and asked, ‘Am I going to be seeing him, too?’

“How many doctors have I been to for him? There was a point between the two, we had a doctor’s appointment every week and sometimes two. That’s exhausting when he’s not sleeping and you’re not sleeping, and we operate three businesses.”

While Kashton’s health has improved, every day is still a balancing act.

“I’ve had to really think about that work can’t be 8 to 5 like it used to be. I’ve had to learn to be much more adaptable. I might have to work in the evening or weekend in order to get stuff finished. Kashton doesn’t always want to go to dad, unlikely Tansley, or even Grandma. That has been very emotionally hard.”

Adrienne 03

Adrienne recognizes sometimes she just needs a break from always being needed, on top of dealing with health concerns for months.

“I don’t think I ever got depressed, but I got low,” and she says that is always a concern, since depression runs in he family, and she suffered postpartum depression once before when she lost a baby.

“Josh and I have frequent conversations about that for both of us. It’s been as hard on Josh, if not more, because he gets the brunt of it when I’m gone. He gets the screaming kid for 6 hours. When we’d go to the health nurses, they did postpartum depression checks on both of us. They kept asking us, ‘How are you guys doing, how are you managing, what’s your support system looking like?’”

Fortunately, Adrienne says they have support, and as hard as it has been, their situation is improving. And the hard times remind her how important the little moments are.

“I don’t want to wish away any moment. No matter how hard, he will never be this little. No matter what stage he is at, he will never be at this stage again. I can’t get it back.”

Adrienne Fedorowish is a prenatal educator in Warman, Saskatchewan. She and her husband, Josh, teach The Bradley Method and regularly run classes for expectant parents. 

 

 

 

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