Hello… it’s me

Looking back over the last 11 months I think about the many opinions and thoughts I had about what it would be like to be home on maternity leave, and boy was I wrong! I was worried that I would be bored, well the last thing you are with a premature baby is bored. I thought I would not know how to play with my son because I didn’t really play myself when I was little and how exactly does one play trucks?!? I was worried I would I would not feel fulfilled and feel like I needed to be back at the office, because I have basically been working, in school or both for the past 16 years of my life. But really most of these thoughts came out of fear of not wanting to be a bad, or “lazy” parent. I wanted to be the best parent I could be for my son I didn’t want to settle for second rate. And thankfully I am never bored, I get the biggest laughs from a round of peek-a-boo at the table and trucks a easy, so much less dialogue than dolls so thank goodness I had a son, and raising my son challenges me in new ways every day making want to be better and feel more fulfilled than I ever did at work. 

Thankfully, for the majority of the experiences I was wrong about turned out to be very positive and I am thankful for them. Sadly one expectation inhad that I thought would be so positive turned out to be very megative. I didn’t expect how isolating it can be to be on maternity leave. How you can go weeks… even months without another adult initiating conversation with you. That going to mommy and me every week does not guarantee that you will form friendships with any other adult and a time will come when you look around the room and realize that you only know that adults as “Keira’s mom” and “Bradly’s grandma”.  And yes much of this is because everyone is busy with their own lives and many are going through the motions powering through until bedtime so they can crash at 7pm with the little in hopes of a few hours of rest; but that doesn’t make the feeling of isolation any less overwhelming.

So to my many pregnant friends and family out there I will be texting, calling, messaging you from time to time when you are home maternity leave. Don’t feel like you need to reply right away, but know I will chat about the weather, your baby’s poo-explosion or the latest episode of the Bachelor whenever you are ready, because it’s the one thing I needed the most over this last year, to feel like I entered someone’s thoughts and they decided to reach out.  Because no one should have been as excited as I was to go to a medical appointment because they are the only person who you would speak to that week that would respond with adult conversation. 

How did you fight the isolation of maternity leave? Let me know in the comments below!

Mommy Moment: Minimalism

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a trend on my Facebook feed. Everyone has been talking about the Netflix documentary Minimalism, and raving about how it had impacted their lives. So naturally I needed to watch this amazing and impactful film.

Last week while Michael was studying for an exam I decided it was a good time to delve into this potential rabbit hole. It documents the authors of “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life” Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus on a book tour and features others who prescribe to this way of living; and I have to say it has definitely changed the way I think about the things in my life. 

Since university I have been the type to hate clutter. Those tiny dorm rooms and shady apartments really help you get rid of a lot, because they are not only where you sleep but where you socialize. It brought on good habits like always making my bed before leaving the house (even if its just a quick pull the comforter over the messy sheets, sorry Mum), hating random paper clutter, and twice a year purging those things that out in the open that you really don’t like because you don’t want to pack them up or they don’t fit in the back of your tiny coup. But one skill I did not master moving from Halifax to Moncton and back for4 years was the art of letting go of the things that I hold some value but not enough for me to keep and those things that may not be in your face on a daily basis, like those jeans I bought because I had a wicked stomach flu in 2006 and finally fit into a 4, and lets face it, this Mama is not going to be a 4 again, and if she does should she really wear those jeans??? Probably not. 

Moving across the country did not help at all either. I have boxes of things I packed when I moved out here 5 years ago that I have never openned. They have moved from Moncton to Wainwright to Red Deer Condo to Red Deer House #1 to Red Deer House #2. Boxes of things i have no idea what is in them, but I continue to put them in the back of a truck and carry them with me. Why? First off, full disclosure I’m too lazy to go through them to see if they have any value and sadly this continues for many areas of the house and doesn’t help that we doubled our square footage from House #1 to House #2 so the sense of urgency to actually purge through my past is definitely not there. Secondly, I don’t want to get rid of all my stuff. I like the idea of opening a box of memories and reminiscing about the time I wore that sweater, experiencing the way that a particular book smells and feels in my hands can transport me back to my favourite parts and characters. But what this documentary taught me is that minimalism is not all or nothing.

There was one particular moment in movie where Ryan is talking about how he is often approached by people who will say they can appreciate what they are trying to achieve with minimalist living but that they just love their books. They have hundreds of books and just cannot bear to get rid of any of them because they live the smell, feel, and sound of their books and being around them give them so much joy, to which Ryan advised to keep them. Their take on this movement is not about getting rid of everything, only having one plate, bowl, cup per person in your home and live on as little as humanly possible but to live only with the things that add value to your life. If your books enhance your life and and give it meaning keep them, if they don’t then get rid of the because they are adding stress and taking the focus away from the things that matter in your life. This particular statement resonated with me, I am that person with boxes of books in my home, at my parents, and randomly lent across the country. I don’t own a e-reader because reading off a screen just doesn’t do it for me in the same way a book does, I love a book that has weight, pages are hopefully yellowed, and its old enough to have that musky library smell. That alone gives the book the perfect setting for my imagination to live for a very long time. I dream of the day that we have a home with a library nook with a huge oversized chair, warm blankets, a side table for my tea and built in bookshelves that go floor to ceiling where I can escape to alone or with my children to worlds unknown. So getting rid of my books is out of the question, and being told that, that’s ok made me reseptive to the over all message they were sending. 

Sorting through the physical clutter according to Joshua and Ryan, will help you sort through the metal clutter and allow you to live a more meaningful life. This aligns perfectly with what I hope to accomplish now in life. I don’t want to worry about the fluff, I want to care about the important things like my family. I am a hard core quality time person and would give anything to spend more time with the people I care about in a meaningful way, so if organizing my things and donating the things of less value to me to those who can use it will give me that I’m down.

Because I will be heading back to work soon and I probably fit in very little of my work clothes I think I will start with sorting out my closet and dresser. Keep what I love, donate what I can’t use and throw away what is useless to anyone. I would love to start a capsule wardrobe for my work clothes in March so this would be a great way to purge through the fluff and know what staples I already have. Maybe if I’m not sorting through my clothes for 20 minutes every morning I will get a few extra minutes with Monkey before heading out the door. One could only hope. 

I challenge you, my readers to come along with me, take the plunge and watch the documentary. You know know your Facebook feed is begging you to right? And then tell me in the comments bellow what is something you could declutter in your life? What would you do with that extra space in your mind? And don’t forget to follow me Instagram (@the_mcgills2015) to watch the purging unfold.

Mommy Moment is a weekly post that covers my thoughts, feelings and experiences as a mom. Come by every Monday to read about what it’s like to be a once career focused mom of a premature baby, who sometimes solo parents, loves cloth diapering and often bites of more than she can chew.

Mommy Moment: Nap Time for Mommy

I remember one Saturday a few weeks before Monkey was born vegging out on the couch in my pyjamas all day, eating candy and watching Netflix thinking “It’s going to be a long time before I can do this again”. I was quickly reassured not to worry that, that is exactly how my next year would look like snuggling with my Monkey on the couch and vegging out during nap times. Well this was the one thing that I was actually very right about when it came to parenting. 

With all the appointments and therapy that needed to be done during the day, and only getting on a sleep schedule at 8 months old there was very little time for hanging out one couch. Now that I am so used of cramming in all my to do’s while Monkey is sleeping my nap times look more like this:

Now that I am feeling better I am trying to make it a bigger priority to rest for at least one of Monkey’s nap time a day so that my life includes a little more Netflix and a little less “Nettoyage”. 

To all the mommies out there take time from the start for yourself each nap time so you don’t have to start training yourself to sit down every once in a while like I have to.

Mommy Moment is a weekly post that covers my thoughts, feelings and experiences as a mom. Come by every Monday to read about what it’s like to be a once career focused mom of a premature baby, who sometimes solo parents, loves cloth diapering and often bites of more than she can chew.

Mommy Moment: Getting Some Zzz’s

When Monkey first came home we were so worried about sleep, not so much about our lack of sleep, but about whether or not he had enough sleep, would he wake himself to feed, would he stop breathing… and all the other things you think when you are suddenly entrusted with a life. In the beginning (except for the first night) Monkey was an amazing sleeper. He slept great in his pack and play in our room, he transitioned flawlessly to his crib, and as of the night of his 4 month immunizations he slept through the night 12-13 hours! Those first few nights I thought there was something wrong with him he was so good at sleeping through the night.

At 6 months Monkey had another litany of doctors and public health appointments, I think that week he had at least one appointment every day. At each of the appointments I was asked how he slept. I said “I think he is doing really well with night sleep, but he doesn’t nap… like AT ALL”. When I explained that he went down at 7pm and would wake between 7am and 8am most days I was told that, that was great and not to worry about him not napping. Which sounded reasonable, everything I had read so far talked about how babies his age needed about 15 hours of sleep a day, which if you included sleeping in the car and stroller was pretty darn close. But what these articles and professionals fail to notice is that MOMMY NEEDS A NAP! 

The majority of Monkey’s first 8 months Michael was working out of town on a 2 weeks away 1 week home rotation, which meant that I would be solo parenting as I like to call it. This was unbelievably difficult, especially around month 6-7 when Monkey went through a week where he refused to sleep unless he was held or we co-slept. A night or two like that with no one to hand off to in the day time for an hour or so just to catch up was a struggle. I was so exhausted, and there was very little I could do to remedy the situation, I didn’t sleep soundly when co-sleeping, and if I didn’t do that he just screamed. 

Thankfully I have a mommy friend, Deanna who’s little went through many of the same struggles as Monkey so she understand very well where I am coming from. After a visit to the park with the kids and explaining what Monkey’s sleep schedule looked like she recommended an occupational therapist who had helped her with sleep training. This was probably the best piece of parenting advice I have been given so far. 

I got in contact with the therapist but was hesitant because Monkey has an amazing strong will, and neither Michael nor I was open to cry it out. Thankfully we had learned how to stand our ground with what we thought was best while he was in the NICU, because cry it out is the fastest and most readily prescribed method of training.During our initial consult we were shown 4 methods of sleep training and decided to go with the “pick up put down” method as it was the softest approach with the least amount of crying. What I can tell you is that this method is HARD, but it was so worth the effort. 

It took about 10 days for Monkey to really get what was going on and that he would be sleeping in his crib but once he got it things have been amazing! He has continued to sleep for 12 hours a night, and then two naps during the day about 90 minutes to 2 hours a peice. At first I really missed him during his naps because I was so used of playing with him all day, but as time went on I got used to the nap schedule and it has made a world of difference. We have only been on the routine for about a month now and I can tell you I get so much more done, I actually eat 3 meals a day again and I am energized when he wakes up because I either napped or watched a little trashy tv to relax. Not only did I feel better Monkey imidiatly became in amazing eater and his skills started to develop so quickly. Everyone always said that he’s so happy, and now he just glows.

After such a positive experience with sleep training and having been given such awesome advice I need to pass this along to any parents and parents to be out there. If you are expecting, read as many sleep training books as you can now so you can have an idea about what you are comfortable with. You may not know you have a problem sleeper until you are too exhausted to read anything. If your little is new and sleeping great, take some time to do some research about routines. 

You always hear about the horrors of babies screaming all night when they first come home from the hospital but from our experience except for that first night new born sleep is great. It falls in 3 hour cycles and they love sleep. It’s when they get a little older and decide that they would rather be with you playing and snuggling or have developed a sleep crutch that you could notice that bedtime is not such an easy thing. And if you were like us and find yourself too exhausted to read the research, talk to your family doctor or paediatrician and they will be able to connect you with resources in your area that will help you. And don’t feel like you have to choose the first method that is suggested, there are so many sleep training theories out there because there are so many different families and they have all worked for some of them. Some are more work than others, but choose what’s right for you and baby. Trust me you will be forever thankful.

The things I have noticed about myself with this change is that I am more relaxed, and confident. I know that if he has one bad sleep we can always make it up with he next one. I know that if we sleep in or have a special event that comes up how to adjust his naps, and which naps NEVER to adjust. I know that I will get the sleep I need or at least a power nap to get me to bedtime if needed and that Monkey will be in a better mood because of it. I am able to read books again, that was something I naively looked forward to when I was pregnant… I even considered starting my Masters because I would have so much time LOL!!! Oh if pre-mommy me only knew the truth. I can cook healthy meals from scratch again and I can relax and take a shower without having to peek around the shower curtain to make sure Monkey was still ok and not crying. 

I will say it again, sleep training has been a blessing, and I am forever thankful to Deanna for having the courage to point out that I might need a little support. As a side note, if for nothing else sleep training allows for so many more pictures like these:

(He always sleeps with at least 1 leg in the air!)

Mommy Moment is a weekly post that covers my thoughts, feelings and experiences as a mom. Come by every Monday to read about what it’s like to be a once career focused mom of a premature baby, who sometimes solo parents, loves cloth diapering and often bites of more than she can chew.

Baby Basics: Partner in Crime

I need to say that the best part of being as sick as I have been and stuck in my room under quarantine is listening to this:

One of the most impotant things about parenting is not doing it alone, and I know I found a good partner in crime when I hear so much laughter all day long. Even when caring for a sick Monkey who was not as into naps as he usually is. 

Baby Basics is a once a week post focused on all things baby! We will cover things as light as the toys we are really loving at the moment and outfits that melt your hear to as serious as some medical professionals I found helpful working with. Come back weekly and see what we are up to!

Mommy Moment: Meet Your New Best Friend

As I mentioned in a previous post, and everyone who has attempted it will tell you “breastfeeding is the most unnatural natural thing you will ever do” and I can only say from my perspective that nothing rings more true about the premature baby experience than this. 

The day after Monkey was born Michael and I headed out to Babies R Us and picked out the highest rated, most compact, most expensive breast pump we could buy. Breastfeeding was by far the most important thing for us to achieve and we were going to do it no matter the sacrifice. Now as a side note and a piece of advice I will give about this is get the insurance they offer that allows you to easily return it if there are issues. When we got back to the Ronald MacDonald House to sterilize and set up the pump we opened the box to find several parts broken. I have never returned a pair of jeans as easily as they exchanged the pump for us… but that could have been the tears and hysteria on my face that read “Don’t mess with this mama”.

Once we got everything sorted and had a pump that actually worked it was time to start “building up my supply” and because pumps are not babies and I hadn’t  been able to hold Monkey I had a long road ahead of me. This meant every 2 hours in the day time and every 3 at night I was to pump for 20-30 minutes or until 5 minutes after I stopped leaking, which ever came first. Which in theory sounds like a lot of work but in truth is was expanentially more work than what appeared at first glance. Each pumping session began either 2 or 3 hours from the beginning of the previous one, so if you began pumping at 12noon when you finished at 12:30 you had 90 minutes to lable the milk, store the milk, wash and sterilize your pump parts and with whatever time was left eat, sleep, or do whatever else you need to to get by and then prepare to start again. The day time pumps were not so bad, they helped make the time sitting on the unit fly by which is a blessing when you are there for weeks on end, and really what else did I have to do while watching my Monkey in an isolette all day. Where the real struggle was and where you learn to make good friends with your breastpump is those middle of the night sessions where you move slower so even though you have that extra hour it probably isn’t used for sleep but for remembering what day it is so you are labelling the milk properly, or crying because the hormones and exhaustion have taken over and you “just can’t” watch another cat video, or see another favourite get kicked off Big Brother or the Island or whatever mindless television you are watching to make the time go by and take your mind off of what is happening. 

From what I could tell for a lot of moms on the unit this went on for a few days, maybe a week, and then their littles started demand feeding and you were only building supply in the fridge on the unit for when you weren’t there for a meal and at night. This was NOT the case for Monkey and I. This schedule not only lasted the entire time Monkey was on the unit, but continued after his discharge for about 2 weeks. This was because even though Monkey had mastered breathing to his full lung capacity, breathing while in deep sleep, and waking to demand food on a semi regular basis, he refused to feed orally. I give him credit though, how many of us juice or drink smoothies because they are so convenient you can even work out and lunch at the same time. Well he brought it to a new level with his NG feeds where he could sleep and eat at the same time. And it wasn’t that he was unable to bottle feed, it was that he just didn’t want to. It was moments like this where Michael and I realized how much of our personalities were genetic.

Thankfully at this point the breastpump and I had a solid relationship and we had the pumping sessions down to a science. I could pump enough mls for a day in one session so from time to time I could skip a session at night to sleep. My freezer was overflowing with extra to keep up with the demands of a baby gaining several ounces a day. And with the help of my husband and reaching out to a lactation consultant Monkey finally made life a little easier for me and began nursing on his own. Now I have to give props to all the formula feeding and exclusively pumping moms out there because those extra steps are a lot of work, because I am reminded again of all the work it takes. You see between Christmas and New Year I became too sick to nurse Monkey and had to revert to an albeit much less taxing pumping schedule to maintain my supply and was reminded of those long days and nights from 9 months ago. So keep on moving forward with your feeding goals Mamas no matter what you choose, you are doing what is best for your babies and families and no one can make that decision for you.

Mommy Moment is a weekly post that covers my thoughts, feelings and experiences as a mom. Come by every Monday to read about what it’s like to be a once career focused mom of a premature baby, who sometimes solo parents, loves cloth diapering and often bites of more than she can chew.

Mommy Moment: First Hugs

When Monkey was first born he was quickly taken to the NICU to be stabilized. When I was finally able to see him a few hours later he was in an isolette with IV drip and CPAP. I was told I was not allowed to even touch him because it would be too much stimulation and he would stop breathing. 
This was not in my plan. For the last 34 weeks, and if I can really be honest for a large part of my life I had pictured how today would go. The script was as follows: around 40 weeks go to hospital, have unmedicated vaginal delivery, then skin to skin. How were we supposed to bond and form attachment when we can’t do skin to skin? Even the signs all over the NICU walls promoted it, and I wasn’t allowed because it could harm my baby. 
So I sat, in a rocking chair and watching him. I watched his little chest rise and fall, watched the numbers on the monitors suddenly change from good to bad to ok, watched the nurses provide basic care. And there I stayed until it was insisted that I get some rest late that night.
I was admitted to a room with another mother who’s baby was not on the NICU so I spent my first night as a mother alone, with another mother who got to hold her little while I feared for the life of mine. 
Early the next morning we learned that Monkey was still not stabilizing and would need several more interventions to breath independently. So still without having held him we agreed for him to have intrusive procedures that came with potential success and a lot of risk.
And so we waited, and we prayed that everything would be a success; and we we’re fortunate enough that it was.
 And then finally, 28 hours and 10 minutes after Monkey’s grand entrance into the world I could hold him. His breathing stabilized, his heart rate steadied, and his temperature regulated. Because there are few better things in this world than a mothers touch.

Mommy Moment is a weekly post that covers my thoughts, feelings and experiences as a mom. Come by every Monday to read about what it’s like to be a once career focused mom of a premature baby, who sometimes solo parents, loves cloth diapering and often bites of more than she can chew.

Mommy Moment: A Mother’s Instinct 

Shortly after Michael and I got home from our honeymoon we learned that we were expecting our first child and due in May of 2016. This was such exciting news, baby would be the first grandchild on my side of the family and the first in 3 years on Michael’s. Everything was going to plan; which is pretty typical for me. I am a planner like no other according to my best friend Alissa.

The pregnancy went along smoothly, my prenatal appointments looked great but in the back of my mind I kept thinking “there’s something wrong”. I would often say we need to have everything ready by the end of March because you never know what could happen. At one appointment I broke down crying to the doctor saying I was worried there was something wrong and no one was telling me. I was reassured that the baby was healthy and I had absolutely nothing to worry about. 

I kept attributing the worry running through my mind to first time mom jitters, but boy was I wrong… and extremely accurate.

Easter 2016 arrived and Michael and I spent the weekend at Mass, and celebrating with family. I felt great after just getting over probably the worst cold of my life. When I returned to work on Tuesday I teased my officemate that I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions all weekend and that maybe I would go into labour in the office… his biggest concern since finding out I was expecting.  I thought I was hilarious!! On Wednesday I started my day a little late, a voice told me to take my weekly bump shot before leaving for work because it could be my last. Like I had been doing for months I pushed that out of my mind and rushed off to the office. 

That entire day I felt off, I struggled to sit and stand and had no appetite. On my way home I decided to stop by my clinic and thankfully my GP was working walk in. He did an non stress test and said everything seemed ok and I was probably dehydrated from my cold so go home, rest, drink lots of fluids and if there is any blood or sharp pain go directly to the hospital. So I did just that… all of it.

On March 31, 2016 around 2am I woke up and went to the bathroom and there was the tiniest bit of blood. I debated (can you believe it, I DEBATED!!!) waking up Michael to go to the hospital but thankfully after months of fighting it I let the little voice win. We packed up a few things because my hospital bag was not ready and we headed out. 

While waiting in the exam room at the hospital and having nothing to look at but the giant clock on the wall I realized that the cramping that had been going on since weekend were about 3 minutes minutes apart. After the doctor examined me, Michael was told I was being admitted and would not be going home until baby came whether that was in 6 hours or 6 weeks. 

Later that afternoon after hours of more poking, and ultrasounds Michael was sent home to get my things because I had only thrown a shirt and an extra pair of underwear in my purse because when packing that night I was certain this was not happening. The nurses put me in the bath hoping it would slow labour because I still hadn’t progressed any further than my exam at 3am. 

At about 2pm my water broke, Michael was still gone and the little voice said you couldn’t have done anything different except pack your hospital bag. Thankfully Michael made it back to the hospital just minutes that felt like hours later and at 2:50pm in a room full of labour delivery nurses, obstetricians, pediatrcians, and a NICU team of nurses and respiratory care specialists our son was born. He cried, Michael cut the chord and he was taken away to be examined by the NICU team. Then he stopped crying…

Our little bundle was whisked away to the NICU and Michael followed where his journey of several respiratory treatments began to stabilize him. Over the next few days we watched the team of nurses and doctors perform procedures and treatments on him to stabilize his breathing so he could come home, and after 36 days he did. And now he is a happy, healthy, growing far too quickly 8 month old Monkey.

I will post more about our time in the NICU and how we managed to get through that difficult time soon. 

Mommy Moment is a weekly post that covers my thoughts, feelings and experiences as a mom. Come by every Monday to read about what it’s like to be a once career focused mom of a premature baby, who sometimes solo parents, loves cloth diapering and often bites of more than she can chew.