Uncategorized

No guilt in grief: Canada comes together to mourn.

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(Note: image from https://ca.gofundme.com/funds-for-humboldt-broncos)

 

No guilt in grief.

This week, our province, and the entire nation, has suffered an unimaginable loss: 15 young lives were lost, and countless others impacted in an instant. The nation seemingly at a standstill attempting to come to terms with this tragedy, trying to make sense of the magnitude of destruction. How did this happen? Why?

The air is thick with grief everywhere you go, outpourings of support, updates, and unanswered questions with every social media post, and in every hushed conversation. The entire country is in mourning.

My chest is heavy with grief, my body spent, emotionally exhausted from the constant wave of information, vigils, photographs of the wreckage, and of the deceased. My heart hurts. But then, I feel guilt for grieving.

I feel guilty for sharing in the grief of the Humboldt community. I feel guilty because I did not know anyone involved. I am not a hockey mom, my kids do not even ride a bus. I am as far removed from this tragedy as can be – yet the sorrow is real. I feel guilty for feeling sympathetic to all those in and adjacent to this tragedy, because I cannot even fathom an empathetic response. I literally cannot imagine the horror of that day, or everyday since.

Yet I grieve.

I do not feel privy to those feelings, I don’t have the right to feel uncomfortable, when so many lives are completely shattered. Grief is reserved for those directly impacted by tragedy.

But, that’s not Saskatchewan. That’s not Canada.

We are not removed from tragedy, we are all adjacent. We are family. We grieve together and hold each other up, from the outside in. If I can shoulder even an ounce of the weight these families are carrying, then I will. To grieve each other’s losses is a responsibility and a privilege of being Canadian. Canada Strong. Saskatchewan Strong. #HumboldtStrong

As we all come together to mourn the loss of 15 young lives, and the unspeakable pain of 14 more, many questions remain unanswered. How did this happen? It doesn’t matter. And why? We will never know. We sit in stunned silence, drawn into our own thoughts, cycling through images and headlines, thoughts and prayers, and then to thankfulness for our own blessings, our own fortunes- and back again, over and over. We seek desperately for updates, and answers, and explanations, in search of comfort. But the comfort comes in the arms of each other, our neighbours, and strangers: of that I am certain, no question remains. We are Canadian. We are family. We grieve together.

Lean in, Canada.

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parenting · Uncategorized

Today I will nurse you for the last time. Today I grieve.

Today I cradle you, latched on to me for the last time. Today your body relaxes into mine, nourished and comforted in this way, for the last time. Today, I nurse you for the very. last. time.

I know it’s time, but now that this day is here, the ball in my throat threatens to suffocate me. You are my last baby, and this is our very last time.

Because you are my last baby, all of your firsts, feel like my lasts. I have mourned many of your firsts, but this one feels monumental. This last hurts more than the rest. I stare at your cheeks, your eyelashes, your lips, moving with perfect rhythm. Your hair has gotten longer, curling around your perfect little ear. Your hand, resting on my chest, tiny fingernails three times the size they were when we started this journey together. Your body, now wraps all the way around mine, knees tucked in behind. I can’t believe you still fit so perfectly, intertwined with me.

My eyes are now betraying me. I swallow and choke back sobs so I don’t wake you. I try desperately to remember why I have chosen to stop. In this moment, I can’t remember – but this decision was carefully considered.

My breasts will fill again with milk made especially for you, and my heart aches at the thought of emptying them into plastic. Slowly they will stop producing anything at all. They will stop. Forever. That thought breaks my heart. Shatters it. I will never be able to do this again.

We started this journey 473 days ago. Our 10 feeds a day have tapered down to 2 or 3 most days, but there is nothing you love more, nothing you seek more, and nothing that calms you more. We have been an expert duo for 473 days. Many times, now, you nurse while jumping, dancing, stretching me impossibly far so you can look around and engage in the world around you. You are curious and ready to phase into toddlerhood.

Try as i might, as I beg, to keep you a baby forever, there are celebrations to be had. Celebrations that have already been delayed. Today marks the end of my baby parenting days. Today I lurch myself forward into the next phase with you. Today I celebrate 473 days of being the sole provider of so much of what you need.

Maybe that is part of why it hurts so much – I won’t ever be needed like this again. I won’t have the magic answer to anything that ails you. I won’t be able to pop you on the boob to make your bumps and bruises from toddler topples instantly better, or distract you after immunizations. I won’t be able to nourish you when you are sick. I won’t be able to comfort you in the night, soothing you back to sleep.

Except, of course, that I will. I will still be able to hold you tight. You will still fit perfectly on my lap, no matter how big you get. My kisses will still hold the power to make you magically better. I can nourish you by providing the best food and drinks in so many wonderful varieties! I can hold you, and rock you, and love you – forever.

I will never stop studying the angle of your cheek, your impossibly long eyelashes, and your perfect pout. I will watch the crooked vein on your forehead grow as you get older. No one will ever know you like I know you. No one will have studied every inch of your side profile for 473 days! We will always be bonded in such a special way. You are my last baby. You are one of my precious daughters. I will always be your mom and you will always need me. I know this.

But today, the ache is real. The knot in my stomach is real. The ball in my throat, threatening to suffocate me, is real. The red-hot tears and stifled sobs, are real. They are all reminders of how special this phase of my life has been, how lucky I am to have enjoyed it for as long as I have.

Maybe tomorrow I will be ready to celebrate this. Maybe next week? Today I am mourning.

Today I grieve.

Uncategorized

To my daughter, my first little love –

I have accomplished many things in my life, but the only thing I have ever truly aspired to be, is a mom. I have wanted you forever. I wished for you, dreamed of you, and prayed for you. I adored you long before there was even a glimmer of your existence.

When you were born, my dreams came true. You were everything I had ever imagined you would be, and so much more.

You made me a mom. You gave my life a greater purpose. You became the sun our world revolved around. You have never seized to amaze me in every way.

We impatiently anticipate and celebrate all your firsts – always eager to see what is coming up next! We pushed you to walk and talk, (and write, and paint, and draw, and read) early, and you did. You grew up so fast (and we grew up right along with you!) I have learned so much about parenting with you as my guinea pig. I obsessed about all the things. I made all the mistakes. You are amazing anyway.

You are smart and funny, sarcastic and clever. You are wise and intuitive, far beyond your years. You are beautiful and strong, kind and disciplined. You love with your whole being.

The pedestal we placed you upon toppled when you were 2 years old, and again when you were 5 – siblings barrelling into your simple orbit! Your shiny exterior blemished with crayons. Your glitter hardened into armour. But inside, you are feathers- soft and flexible, but resilient. You climb mountains like molehills and pull others up with you. I have raised the bar time and again, far higher than I’d like to admit. But you rise, baby girl, you rise!

You made me a mom simply by being born, but you make me the mom I am simply by being you. I could not be the mom I am without you. You give me strength and comfort in my darkest of days. I hear MY mom in your voice – calm and rational, sometimes bruised, but always steadfast. Always with love. You bring me so much pride and pure joy!

I have started this letter to you many times. I struggle with knowing how to describe what a pillar you are in our family, without feeling guilty about the responsibility I have inadvertently placed on your tiny shoulders. You have held us together in so many ways – practical ways like entertaining your brother so I can shower, or feeding your sister breakfast so I can sleep a little longer (everyday!). And more subtle ways like breaking the silence when tensions rise, being silly and awkward to make us all laugh, and reminding me to clean the kitchen before bed because it is my New Year’s resolution. You have the memory of an elephant – thanks for that. :/

You light up our world, and light the way.

Today, I say thank you for the gift of YOU. Thank you for all you do and for all that you are.

I love you endlessly and will never stop being in awe of you. You are my dream come true, and I am grateful for you every single day.

Love and adoration always,

Mom.

parenting

Shhh! Secrets of Motherhood: Don’t tell my in-laws!

I’m sure everyone has read some “Things No One Tells You About Motherhood” articles. The ones detailing copious amounts of bodily fluids, snot-crusted shoulders, leaky pancake boobs, sleepless nights, and the sticky crud in every imaginable crevice of your life. But, there are secret BENEFITS of motherhood that unless you’re a mom, you just don’t know!

The moment I first found out I was pregnant, I suddenly felt welcomed into the “mom-club”. This was especially true with my first baby: veteran moms wanted to mentor me, and other pregnant moms wanted to be ‘mat-leave best friends’.

“Oh, it’s perfect: we can, like, hang out everyday and drink coffee while our babies play!”

Suddenly, I was part of something widely relatable, and there were lots and lots of women welcoming me to their village, as I created mine.

In addition to the universal moms-club, there are some major benefits to being a mom! Here is a countdown of my top 5:

# 5.

An excuse to leave early. Sure, sometimes we feel bound (enslaved) by naps, feeds, and toddler mood-swings. But we can also use these to our advantage! Tired, bored, and not feeling Uncle Fred’s story of how he single-handedly saved his family from a school of jelly-fish on their 5-star vacation….for the 7th time?? “That is amazing, I would love to hear more, but little Georgia here has got to have a nap – or we’ll all be sorry, if you know what I mean!” Add a knowing side-glance and grin at other knowing women in the mom-club, and you’re golden. #RedCarpetExit.

# 4.

Further to #5, baby naps, feeds, and mood-swings allow you project your needs onto your offspring! Little Suzy sure needs a snack: we really must stop this marathon shopping session to get some food into this child before she turns into a bear! Just me?? #FoodOverFunAlways

Also, dear Parker really needs me to lay with him for a quick rest. Don’t we all need an excuse to nap?? Let me just excuse myself during this family meal….zzzzzzzz.

 

# 3.

Pancakes for supper makes you the best mom ever! Cookies for the school bake sale? Ice cream on a hot day? All the sweet indulgences now make you less a diet screw up, and more a domestic and parental goddess! Ohhh, I know we shouldn’t, but I suppose! #Brusselsproutsfordinner because #balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

# 2.

Holidays through the eyes of kids is almost as exciting as being a kid yourself. You get to

 

enjoy the simple things like Christmas lights, Santa, and the anticipation of all that is possible, all over again. And this time, you get to orchestrate all the magic!

 

Being the magician means you get to celebrate two-fold: you get to participate in the wonder and excitement, but also the pride of the accomplishment. It is hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it. Elf on a Shelf may be an obnoxious tradition: but hearing the squeals of joy every morning as your kids search and find that miniature magical man, is pretty frickin’ cute. The same goes for birthdays, lost teeth, and Easter treats!

#1.

Last, but certainly not least. My most hidden secret of motherhood; the most sacred of benefits. Once you have felt their secure embrace, holding you tight, pacifying the insecurities you know you’ve had your whole life; once you have experienced their comfort and stability, you know you’ll fight tooth and nail to never let them go.

#MaternityPants

I am done having babies, but I have ZERO plans of letting all of these gems go any time soon! In the comfort of my home, glass of wine in hand, bra thrown haphazardly across the room at precisely 8:01pm – these glorious pants are my welcome home; my warm hug at the end of a hard day; my #igotyouguuurrrlllll friend who will never judge.

The secrets of motherhood do not end here. But in a sea of negativity and woes surrounding parenthood, we have got to remember the perks.

Naps. Snacks. And comfy pants. Life is good.

parenting

Breastfeeding moms need our support and help.

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Breast is best. It is the gold standard in infant nutrition. This fact cannot be refuted. “Fed” is not best; it is the bare minimum. Yes, undoubtedly, you must feed your baby any way you can – breast, bottle, tube, syringe, dropper, teaspoon – whatever. Feed your baby! However, if you have a choice, breast milk is better. Breast milk is best!

As a neonatal nurse and mother of three, I have witnessed firsthand the frustration and heartbreak that comes with being unable to breastfeed your baby; and the anxiety, fear, and guilt surrounding the perception of ‘not having enough milk’ for your baby. But, I have also witnessed the miraculous benefits of what breast milk can do. Just because it is natural does not mean it comes naturally to every mom and every baby. Breastfeeding is laborious. It is hard work and takes dedication. It can be mentally and physically exhausting.

With this ‘fed is best’ movement, I fear that we will shift statistics away from breastfeeding and start believing that formula is just as good as breast milk. It’s not. Breast milk is best. In the absence of breast milk, then yes, formula is the next best choice – the alternative.

The benefits of breastfeeding, and more importantly, of breast milk, are extraordinary! Breast milk is dynamic, automatically adjusting to the needs of your baby. The milk a newborn receives has a different nutritional profile than one who is 6 months old. Even the milk the mother of a premature newborn makes is different than that of a term baby!

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(Image: Baby Center, 2017)

In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), breast milk is preferred, as it provides the perfect nutrition for fragile neonates, improving growth and neurodevelopment, and decreasing complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (a dangerous condition of the intestines with potentially fatal consequences) and sepsis (Underwood, 2013). Donor human milk is the next best thing for these vulnerable babies, though a very costly option in Canada.

Breast milk contains antibodies to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses, and has been proven to decrease the incidence of allergies, diabetes, and obesity in adulthood. The production of breast milk also burns between 300 and 500 calories a day, helping mom to lose excess pregnancy weight. Not to mention, formula costs between $70 and $150 per month! Plus bottles, nipples, a sterilizer, and potentially specialty formulas if your baby stops tolerating generic formulas! Breast milk…yeah, that’s free.

The “fed is best” movement undermines the enormous efforts moms are making to breastfeed their babies. It gives struggling, fragile moms an immediate “fix”, and an apparent way out of their difficult situation. Giving moms “permission to quit” isn’t empowering women to make their own decisions on what is best for themselves and their families, it is encouraging them to surrender to defeat. “Fed is best” capitalizes on mom-guilt, post-partum hormone fluctuations, and anxiety, and says it’s OK to give up on the choices you originally made and instead try a readily available, simple alternative (pretty convenient campaign for the formula companies – a billion dollar industry!).

While I can empathize with wanting a quick solution for the suffering of mom, and hunger of baby, it is a reflexive, short-sighted solution to the problem. Once the dust and stress (and hormones!) settles, and you feel capable of tackling the task of breastfeeding again, it is most often, too late. For the most part, the decision to formula feed is a permanent one (not referring to temporary and necessary supplementation).

We are failing new mothers. While “fed is best” does encourage mothers to FEED their babies by any means necessary, it fails to support mothers to fulfill their initial choices. The choice to breast feed is usually made prior to delivery, in idealistic circumstances.  When the going gets tough – and it gets TOUGH (and cracked, and bleeding!), it is understandably enticing to change your mind. But, decisions made in duress are seldom a mom’s true desires, and are rather an attempt at comfort…and sleep…and survival, really! I get it!

Moms need to be supported through the chaos, not given an convenient way out. They need encouragement and education…and sleep…and food. They need help and support in any and all ways. We need to rally around new moms and lift them up, wipe their tears, and bring refrigerated nipple cream! Health professionals need to educate and prepare moms prenatally and postnatally for breastfeeding. They need ongoing support and follow-up, and proactive assistance in the days and weeks following the birth to ensure things are still going smoothly, and to troubleshoot and problem-solve together.

Women need to talk about their breastfeeding struggles, and their triumphs, so moms know they can get through the impossibly hard days, the growth spurts, and the terrible, awful, horrendously bad latches (OUCH!).

We need to educate moms on the difference between a starving and dehydrated baby, and a growing baby doing exactly what he needs to do to increase your milk supply. We need to teach moms that very few women are actually chronically unable to produce enough milk for their baby.

We need to understand mom’s true wishes on how she would prefer to feed her baby, and her motivation and circumstances leading her to question those wishes.  If temporary stress, exhaustion, and discomfort are what are motivating the decision, then we are failing these moms in not providing adequate support, assistance, and education.

Breast is best. But, it takes the whole village.

BFblog1WM

 

References:

Baby Center. (2017). Donated Breast Milk: A Life-Giving Journey. Retrieved from https://www.babycenter.com/101_donated-breast-milk-a-life-giving-journey_10389312.bc

Underwood, M. A. (2013). Human milk for the premature infant. Pediatric Clinics of North America60(1), 189–207. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2012.09.008

Uncategorized

Adulting is hard.

Ice Cube, Memes, and 🤖: You know you're an adult when you  actually pick up the ice cube, instead of  just kicking it under the fridge

When I started back to work after maternity leave with my third baby, I practically ran out the door, eager to untether myself from a life of domesticity (at least for a few hours!). I eagerly embraced my newfound hours of independence, intellectual stimulation, and a break from the constant demands of young motherhood. I was excited to drink hot coffee at last!

But, the novelty quickly wore off: as quickly as the “#1 Mom – Love, Kid 1, 2, and 3!” custom painted mug turned stark white after one accidental run through the dishwasher. With all the glitter washed away, I was left with the reality that motherhood does not get left at the door when I walk out. The demands are virtually the same, crammed into less hours.

In a previous article, conflicted about leaving my last baby at home, I wrote, “I want ALL THE THINGS. I want to be supermom, fit mom, career mom, business woman, wife, and my own person”, thinking that going back to work would magically accomplish all of this. The truth is, doing #allthethings is fucking hard.

Do you ever just feel like you’re faking it? Fake it ‘til you make it, they say. I have an established family, career, home, I am almost done my graduate degree – I think I’ve made it? But, I can’t help but feel I am still faking it in all these roles. I read a meme on social media the other day: “You know you’re an adult when…you pick up the ice cube instead of kicking it under the fridge.” Well, shit. You do not want to look under my fridge. Or my oven. You better also steer clear of my bathroom.

I am a 33-year-old, successful woman by most accounts. I should be an expert at things by now! But, I gotta ask: when does adulthood kick in? I think I have done all the things I am supposed to do. Why does it feel like I am constantly dropping the balls? One kid is forever being neglected, I haven’t been to the gym in weeks, my husband is likely seriously questioning his choice of ‘roommate’, laundry is piled in every corner, I am surviving grad school on luck and good karma. Does reading statistics textbooks to my kids count toward their reading logs? Balls dropped. Some I can’t even find anymore. They’re likely under the fridge with the damn ice cubes!

Adulting is hard. Being a mom of 3 is hard. Being a wife is hard. Being a nurse and an educator is hard. Being a student is hard. Dreaming big dreams, and wanting #allthethings is the easy part. Now my dreams involve making a happy life. Maybe a happy life is not about tick-boxes of achievements and outwardly having your shit together. Maybe adulthood isn’t about trying to juggle all the balls in a half-assed attempt not to drop any, fumbling as you go, and chasing the little effer you kicked under the fridge. Maybe it’s about having the humility to say, ‘I can’t do all of this alone, if any of it is going to get done well’. Maybe it’s about setting your ego aside, so you can set down some of the balls. Here, can you carry this for me? I’ve got some heavy gonads to carry today.

Maybe adulting, and doing #allthethings, is more about acceptance and grace, than the relentless attempt to constantly be proving yourself worthy. Maybe this is the magic moment you become an adult, you’ve made it. When you accept life at face value and push on proudly.

Adulting is hard, and some days I am just exhausted and broken trying to hold it all together. On those days, and most others, I’m going to keep kicking ice cubes under the fridge. One less tick-box.

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To my littlest love, on your first birthday

Emme-Cake2To my littlest love, on your first birthday –

Tomorrow you turn one and my heart feels as though it could explode. In all honesty, I have dreaded this day. This year has flown by, each month faster than the last, each day a blur. I tried to stop or stall time repeatedly. Tomorrow is a milestone for us both, and one that I celebrate for you, but mourn for me. Tomorrow you will be considered a toddler, and my baby-days are over. You are my last baby.

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You have grown so much this year despite my best efforts to slow you down. I begged you to stay little, but you grew anyway. I pleaded with you to stay curled up on my chest, as you rolled off. I longed for you to stay still, as you crawled away and played with your toys instead. I was convinced I was all you’d ever need, but you found comfort and entertainment in your siblings, your daddy, the nanny…and #allthesnacks.

Tomorrow you are one. But, here I sit, in the shadows of your bedroom window nursing you to sleep. I stare at your cheek, the outline of your ear, your fine wisps of hair, your eyelashes. My heart aches knowing these days are numbered. “I will breastfeed until they are one” I said about each of my babies.  Tomorrow, you are one.  I am officially abandoning that idea – I am not ready; and neither are you. We have made up the rules as we go, changing them along the way!  You have given me grace, sweet baby. You have done everything slower than your brother and sister, and for that I am endlessly grateful.

Emmelips

Tomorrow you are one. Soon, you won’t need me to cuddle you to sleep. Soon, you won’t need me to comfort you in the night. Soon, you won’t need me to nourish you in a way only I can do. Soon, you will walk, and you will run. Baby girl, soon, you will fly! You will chase after your brother and sister, and then your dreams. Soon, you will be your own person, doing your own things. I will be your biggest cheerleader, your endless supporter.

Tomorrow you are one. Today, tomorrow, and every day as long as I live, I will love you and cherish you. You have added so much love and joy to our family. I never knew something was missing, until you filled the space. I never knew I had so much love to share until you and your brother and sister taught me the infinite ability of my heart to grow. When you were born, it grew, and it grew, and it grew! So today, filled with love to the point of explosion, I know it has the ability to grow a little more.

Tomorrow you are one.

Tomorrow. You. Are. One. I still don’t believe it.

But today, you are not yet one. Today, you are still my baby.

In the words of the subtly ingenious Robert Munsch, “As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be”.

Happy Birthday, baby girl!

Love always,

Mom.