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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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….
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.
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.
It’s easy to feel like you’re alone and no one understands what you’re going through as a mom, no matter how old or young your child is.
I’m here to remind you that you’re not alone and that at least one mom, but probably many more, get it. And the more we talk about our struggles, the less alone we feel.
Like when all your toddler will eat are hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and ice cream. I promise you there is another mom out there, feeling guilty that her child doesn’t love apple slices.
Or when you snap at your little one who just wants you to play with them but you have a chore you want to do or work you need to do or you’re just tired and want to sit for one moment and drink your coffee while it’s hot.
If you’re having a bad day, mama, please do something kind for yourself: a coffee or tea, a favourite song, a bath, or flowers for yourself. You deserve it.
Or when you let your child watch TV or videos so you can get said tasks done but you still feel guilty about it because someone likely posted an article on Facebook that said screen time was bad.
Or when you don’t feel appreciated by your spouse (don’t they see how much you juggle every day?), or your boss (don’t they see how much you accomplish while still being a mom?), or the public health nurse (don’t they see how much work it takes to get your little to an appointment? Why all the questions? Don’t they see you’re doing your best? And that you feel less than adequate, even though you know you shouldn’t, when your child hasn’t said the “right” amount of words yet or weighs in a low percentile?).
Or when you’re frustrated because your spouse doesn’t understand you’re too tired or touched out for sex. Or when your spouse doesn’t understand you don’t want to have to beg for it either. Or when you feel like your spouse begrudges your need for something just for you (the gym, work outside the home, art, a class, whatever), whether they actually begrudge you or not. Or that just because part of you resents your spouse who gets to leave for work during the day or go out at night doesn’t mean you love your baby any less: you’re just tired and overwhelmed from the sheer responsibility of caring for another human who is utterly dependent on you. (I would just add…please tell your spouse how you’re feeling! No one is a mind reader.)
Or when you get upset because plans with a mom friend fall through because baby or toddler isn’t feeling it, and you know they can’t help it and it’s not personal, but you’re still disappointed and frustrated (why can’t you ever do what YOU want to do?!?!).
Or when your baby won’t nap. Or when your baby naps and ruins your plans. Or when your little one won’t sleep through the night and you swear everyone else’s child is (ha! This is such a lie).
Or when you think you’re the only mom breastfeeding a child older than one. Or you think you’re the only one bottle feeding. Or the only one doing baby-led feeding or the only one spoon feeding purees.
I could go on and on and on! Any of these ring true? Some do for me, so I’m willing to bet some do for you. And you know what helps? Talking about it. I bet you’d be surprised to see how many other moms feel the same as you do. Case in point: I met another mom for a play date and we had more than one struggle in common. She got it. I got it. And we both felt better after talking about it with someone who understood.
Maybe you don’t hear it enough or wish you heard it more: you’re a great mom. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together and we have each other’s backs. Next time you feel alone, please reach out to another mom: you might be surprised to see she feels just like you do.
I tell moms all the time: you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.
I know first-hand how hard it can be to follow this advice.
I also tell moms: motherhood can be hard, but you’re not alone.
Because I haven’t been following my own advice, I’ve found myself feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Ironic, right? I’ve come to realize, though, that I’ve been focusing so much on helping other moms that I’m not doing the best I can for myself.
I’m sharing all of this not so much for your sympathy or pity, but so you realize every mom has her struggles, including me.
In some ways, I have tried to reach out, but I’ve found this difficult now that I’ve moved into a caregiving position. In other ways, I’ve felt isolated or maybe even isolated myself.
I’m always excited when a support group for moms is established, and when a new one recently began, I contacted one of the organizers about coming as a support for moms. I was asked to not attend so attendees weren’t overwhelmed by facilitators or experts. What I should have asked was, Can I attend as a mom myself? Because the night of the meeting rolled around, my husband was working out of town, and I found myself at home with my toddler, feeling sorry for myself, lonely and excluded.
To do something fun for myself, I signed up for a class where my toddler was in childcare in the next room. I thought it’d be a great opportunity to meet some moms and who knows, maybe gain a friend or two. There was an incident where my son was crying in the adjoining room (door closed and locked, but I could hear him and see the tears through the door opening). I tried to get to him and was stopped, informed the policy was for the caregiver to take care of it. I bawled on the car ride home, asking myself, Was it because I felt I’d been admonished in front of my peers? Because I felt peer pressure and then didn’t respond and be the parent I wanted to be? Because it made me feel even more alone in my parenting choices? D, all of the above.
I tell you these stories not to throw shade on anyone. In the above case, the instructor forgot to send me the policy beforehand: these things happen. We are all busy moms, we are all being pulled in multiple directions, and we all have our own struggles. That is my point. If you want to look to me as someone who has it all together all the time, I am not the support person for you. If you want someone who is real, struggling sometimes, and needs support herself, that is me. I’d rather be honest than pretend because pretending doesn’t help anybody.
I want to attend meetings both to support moms but also for my own support; however, I worry about coming across as disingenuous, like I’m attending for business reasons only. The truth is, it’s the opposite. It’s because at times I am lonely.
Lonely because I work from home while also being with my son. Working from home is a blessing because I get to be with my son. It is also stressful, trying to get my work as a web and social media editor done, while entertaining my child enough so he isn’t on an iPad all day. Add in trying to grow a postpartum business, and I’m often overwhelmed. Cranky. Resentful of the job I once loved even though it gives me the freedom and flexibility I want. It feels like most women with toddlers his age are not at home (I realize I don’t just need friends with kids the same age, and I’m grateful for the many I do have). Lonely because he is still nursing, and on top of not knowing many women at home with toddlers, I know even fewer whose toddlers are breastfeeding.
Lonely because for whatever reason, our son doesn’t want to say very many words, even though he knows his colours, the alphabet, numbers. It can be hard to be around people with toddlers who talk a mile a minute or parents who ask, He’s still not talking much yet? I feel like I’m justifying my son’s intelligence, that he is developing at his own pace (which I believed before and continue to believe after seeing a speech pathologist who couldn’t offer us much advice), and I shouldn’t feel the need to do that. That’s on me, not others. I know people are mostly curious but of course I worry about them judging him. We all want the best for our children, and we all worry about them being labelled as “different.”
I’ve written this post over the course of a few days, and I’m feeling way better. Since I first wrote down my thoughts, I’ve had conversations with numerous women in my life. Strong, wise women, who have made me realize I’m not alone, that I have a very solid tribe behind me, and that like everything, this is a hard season, but it is a season that will pass. Thank you to these wonderful women. I also attended and was welcomed at a support meeting for moms and was reminded again that we are all struggling at times, some more than others. Together, we are stronger.
Last night I went to my weekly yoga practice, one of the things I do regularly for my self-care. The instructor suggested next time we feel anger or distress to breathe in the moment and try to just acknowledge the feeling and then let it go. Similar to what my husband reminds me and what a journalist once told me: it’s important not to wear other people’s stories or pain. I found myself crying because I’ve definitely had moments in the last little while where I found myself frustrated with my son, unfairly, when I know it’s not him who is causing me the distress. I also know when you are down, it can be hard to practice gratitude, even if you know your life is great. And I know mine is.
I like to think crying last night was a release and a fresh start to a new week. One where I will continue trying to focus on the mantra I say to others: Be kind to others, but most importantly be kind to yourself.
I will still be here if you need me. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. But for the next little bit, I have to focus more on me so I can get myself back to where I need to be for myself, my child, and my husband. If you need me, I’ll be in my garden or at the spray park. Come say hi, and bonus points if you give me a hug or a coffee!
Adrienne Fedorowich knows what it’s like to have to fight for her children’s rights.
While her daughter Tansley (two years and nine months) and son Kashton (nine months), have very different needs, those needs have only been addressed thanks to strong advocating from Adrienne and her husband, Josh.
Adrienne traces her daughter’s speech issues right back to the day she was born.
“She was born on a weekend, so she did not get her hearing test done before she left the hospital. I have kicked myself a lot about that. I don’t know if it would have fixed or changed the outcome, but it could have perhaps gotten us on a track sooner,” says Adrienne.
“I tell parents that should be one of your requirements that you must do before you leave the hospital because you never know.”
Tansley never had ear infections or hearing loss, so her parents never took her to get her ears tested. But because she had a plugged tear duct in her eye that was always weeping and goopy, they visited many specialists, and Tansley has had two surgeries in that eye.
Adrienne has a client (Adrienne runs her own interior design company) who is an ear/nose/throat specialist, so she asked him to look at Tansley. He found she had inconsistent fluid levels in her ears, which caused her not to be able to hear sounds consistently. Before she was two and a half, she had tubes put in her ears. Immediately afterward, Adrienne and Josh began seeking out speech pathology (they called directly to get a referral – every time she went to the doctor, Adrienne had to fight to get her daughter into a specialist). They now take Tansley to both public and private practice, because public can’t see you enough to make the progress they need.
“If it wasn’t for us, she wouldn’t have help. You can’t sit by and let your kids struggle.”
Adrienne holding her son, Kashton, with her husband, Josh, who is holding Tansley. Photos supplied by Adrienne Fedorowich, taken by Finelite Photography and Design.
For Adrienne, it’s personal. She didn’t learn to read until grade 3, went to special ed and had tutors, and the experience wasn’t positive.
“If I can do whatever I can for my child not to have to go through that social anxiety, if nothing else, I will do it. It was horrifying when the teacher knocked on the door and (said), ‘Adrienne, you have to go to the special classroom.’”
When Tansley began seeing the private speech pathologist, she was saying about a dozen words consistently. Now she has between 50 and 60 words, and has started saying two and three word combinations.
It’s made a huge difference, but going to a private speech pathologist has been expensive.
“What are we supposed to do? Just give up? No.”
There are days that it’s really hard, says Adrienne, noting you see other kids her age speaking in full sentences. It’s emotionally draining.
“It breaks my heart that I cannot always understand my own daughter.”
Additionally, it breaks her heart when she explains to people her daughter is delayed because she doesn’t want to make Tansley feel bad. Adrienne points to a recent experience where Tansley needed foot x-rays. The technician walked in and greeted Tansley and asked her, ‘What’s your last name?’
“I was stunned. She doesn’t even know how to say her first name, and what kid would you expect to say “Fedorowich” – how do I explain to someone that she cannot tell you what her last name is without putting my daughter down and that she can’t tell you, ‘I’m scared’ or the anxiety she feels.
“I remember walking out of that room and I said to Josh, ‘We have got to figure out a better way of communicating to the other people a positive way of explaining what she needs.’”
The situation has been a lesson in slowing down for Adrienne and Josh.
“You can’t just race through things and expect her to be there. You’ve gotta explain things, you’ve got to make sure she comes along side you and you’re not leaving her behind, and that she feels as appreciated and as loved as any other child.”
That’s because she is.
“I don’t look at her any differently. She’s the damn cutest kid ever. When she smiles, all of this goes away.”
Like mother, like daughter: both have smiles that light up a room.
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.
Moms are often anxious when their maternity leave is nearing its end whether they are breastfeeding or not. If they are breastfeeding, it adds another layer of concern: what will happen to our nursing relationship? Do I need to pump? How will my baby respond to me not being there to nurse? Will my baby willingly take pumped milk from a cup? Will they eat enough solids? These are just some of the questions moms ask themselves and worry about when they are preparing to return to work outside the home.
The early days of breastfeeding. My son is 2 months old here and I was already back to work because I am self-employed. Working from home and having flexible hours definitely helped continue breastfeeding but it is still possible if you are returning to work outside the home.
A good resource for moms facing this scenario is the La Leche League: it’s reassuring to speak to other moms who have been there (and as you’ll read below, it was a resource one mom tapped into). With that in mind, I’ve asked two moms what their experience was. One mom returned to work when her little one was a few month old, and the other returned to work outside the home after a year. Their experiences provide some insight on how to make your breastfeeding relationship continue to work even if you aren’t with your little all the time.
I went back to work part-time when my little was 7 months old, opening my own business. Before this I was working from home seeing clients and taking my babe with me (starting at about 6 weeks postpartum, very part time). At 7 months I had arranged for my little to be watched by her grandparents Monday afternoons, her daddy Wednesday afternoons, and her Aunty Friday afternoons anticipating working from 2-6. Being she was a little older I wasn’t too worried about pumping for a 2-6 time frame but before I knew it I was booking clients from 11-6 or earlier and I was taking my pump to work. I was able to keep up pumping 2-4 times a day from 7.5/8 months to 1 year with no leaking. My little was fine with other people taking breastmilk from a cup and eating some solid foods. We started daycare full time when she was 9.5 months old and she did so great. Having her be able to play with other kids was awesome for her and for me. I continued to nurse her in the morning before work and when I came home. I also decided to continue co-sleeping so we could all get better rest and she could nurse through the night without much disturbance. My girl is now 2.5 and we have continued nursing until the past week or two – being pregnant has lead to some serious nursing aversion for me and my daughter still asks on occasion but we decide to snuggle instead so mommy can work on growing a healthy baby.
A lot of the time I found people would tell me ‘you’re back at work so you’re not nursing anymore then right?’. Well no actually, I don’t see any reason to stop nursing (unless you want to) when returning to work because your supply is determined by demand by this point anyways. If you don’t nurse as much your body quickly responds and there is less chance of leaking (unlike earlier when it’s hormonally driven and you just leak everywhere all the time). If cows can be milked twice a day, why can’t I decide to nurse twice a day on work days and more frequently on weekends? It worked for us; now it won’t work for everyone, and that’s ok. But there’s no reason to stop nursing just because you are going back to work.
I also believe that my identity, although I am now a mother, is also very firmly planted in who I am as a working individual and business owner as well. Does this mean this is right for everyone? No. But I also don’t think that going back to work makes me less of or a bad mother, in fact it makes me a better mother because I am doing something I love (which I am also very fortunate I get to do). I know staying home with my daughter would not be beneficial for our relationship at this point. I need something outside the home and sometimes people try to make me feel guilty about that. Is my house clean? Yup. When the house keeper comes once every two weeks (I can’t believe I waited almost 2.5 years to get this going for my family!). Is the laundry always done? At some point yes – is it put away? Not necessarily but it does get put away by the next time I do laundry. Do I make homemade pizza and pasta weekly? Nope. But we do make pancakes for supper because my little loves helping make pancakes. Going back to work away from my home was important to me, and we made it happen in a way that worked for our family. I kept nursing, we still did cloth diapers, and both baby and momma were/are happy. It makes me a better individual, mother and wife.
I recall feeling so stressed about going back to work, especially when my little was 10 months old and still not filling up on solids (and refusing bottles of pumped milk). But I went to a LLL meeting and they reassured me that our relationship would stay strong, that he wouldn’t starve and that we could keep breastfeeding.
Some things I did:
got organized with meal planning and freezer meals;
matched nap and lunch times up to the daycare’s schedule;
started using the same blankie at every nap to establish a comfort object for use at daycare;
got his father to hold/rock him to sleep so he was used to someone else. (This usually happened when I was out of the house.);
had a conversation about household chores with my partner since I’d no longer be home to do the lion’s share;
made a transition plan with my daycare to ease my little in by increasing length of his visits over two weeks;
prepared and resigned myself to the possibility of reverse cycling (baby nursing lots at night to make up for missing mom all day);
planned to be connected as possible when reunited with my little (focused play, babywearing if I needed to cook, lots of snuggles and nursing);
I nurse him the moment we are reunited when I pick him up from daycare.
The first few weeks I hand expressed a few times during the day and saved the milk in the work fridge. I was sending it to daycare in sippy cups but he was refusing to drink it. So instead I froze and donated it. After a month my supply regulated and I no longer needed to express.
As you can see from above, there are many ways you can keep your nursing relationship strong if you so choose. For more on breastfeeding and returning to work, watch my Facebook Live weekly mom chat on the topic:
New motherhood can be overwhelming. It’s really valuable to have someone passionate and knowledgeable in your corner. Darla is all that and more. Smart, encouraging and focused on what’s best for mom and baby to help get through the days (and nights). I’ve leaned on her many times and am so thankful for her support.
Darla’s support made a tough day much more bearable. I was dealing with mastitis, conflicting advice and general exhaustion from a tough recovery at about two weeks post-partum. Darla was able to share her own experience and had resources at her fingertips that she forwarded me. She also knew what I really needed, and said the words all new mothers long to hear – you are doing a good job.
Good food is also so important in those early days and she kindly had delicious, warming Thai food sent to the house. The gesture lifted my spirits that were starting to plummet with the pain and the stress-free dinner gave my partner and I some much needed time to just relax together.
Thanks so much Darla, it’s something I will always remember.
You do do the cleaning and food things but it’s so much MORE than that. The support that you give is so much bigger than just meals and cleaning. Although I really appreciated when you did prepare lunch and supper for us, and the extra help with laundry etc was nice, what I discovered was that the support, mom to mom, was what I needed more. Encouragement when I was unsure and the helpful information that you gave me (and not in a pushy way!) and just someone to listen to me and say YES you are doing a good job! I don’t have all the right words but I think you know what I’m getting at. You helped to create the village I needed to be a good mom. So thank you for that. Your role in our new and scary journey into parents of two was invaluable and thank you doesn’t seem to be a big enough word to express our gratitude but THANK YOU is the best that I can think of.
After two years as a new mom, I can without a doubt say that the most important tool we can have in our back pocket is a supportive team who can guide, serve, and love you; while also protecting your heart, and strengthening your spirit. I remember feeling very lost and alone when I first brought my little man home to start our new life together. Thankfully, I was truly blessed with an amazing friend who helped guide me through a lot of doubt and guilt. Darla has an amazing capacity to love and support all those she meets, and has a deep passion for serving new mothers who just need a confident, empathetic, supportive friend. Her compassion and love is a true joy to be around. Simply said, she has a ‘way’ about her that makes you feel safe and truly heard. I am so happy Darla was hand-picked to be in my life… But more than that, I’m SO excited that you have the opportunity to partner and walk down your path with her as well. Sharing a coffee with Darla will always be the best part of your day, and the impact that will leave on your heart will stay with you for years to come!
Darla’s group that she so selflessly facilitates helped support me during a very difficult time. She has created a safe space for all of us to share the not so easy parts of mothering. We feel welcomed, supported and listened to each and every time.
You met expectations, and I would like to note that my husband and mom were skeptical, and you over-exceeded their expectations. There was a lot of relief. There was so much that had to be done, so to come home and to have even one or two things done already, everyone’s just a lot more happier, healthier.
And you’re the type of person who does continued support: I feel like you continue. You get to know people and become friends with them and you do offer continued support. It’s not just “you paid me, and it’s done” – without realizing it, it’s just an extra person in the community who, if they don’t know the answer, they might know someone with the answer.
Darla is the most genuine person you could meet. As soon as you meet her she instantly feels like a friend. I feel so grateful to have been given the chance to meet her and all the help she has offered me.
Also I have to say that I never thought Mom groups were something for me. I normally shuttered at the idea. But for some reason when I saw the ad for the Warman support group I decided to give it a try. After all it was free and it said it was come and go so I liked the idea that I wasn’t obligated to stay or even go again if I didn’t like it. So I went, and I loved it! Everyone was so supportive of one another and even when I didn’t think I had anything I wanted to discuss with other moms I found myself learning new things! It’s something that I always look forward to now.”
I have to admit I was reluctant to join a “mom group,” out of fear that it would be pretentious, judgmental, or we’d have to check our non-mom-related identity at the door. I quickly learned that this group provides an opportunity to have “real talk” not just about motherhood, but our lives now that motherhood is a part of our lives. Darla facilitates in a way that provides some structure while allowing the discussion to flow naturally. The group is so accessible, and “come as you are,” so there is never financial pressure, or a need to appear more on top of things than I really am! I’ve loved having the opportunity to connect with members of the community with kids the same age as mine. We have gotten to know each others’ kids and celebrate their milestones every time we meet up, and we’ve been able to form friendships and connections outside of the group setting, and that has been invaluable to me!