Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Schedules and Joy

As I see the way my baby girl is growing and changing, I can't deny that I'm growing and changing too. As she crawls (well more like drags right now) I can't help but reflect on the fact that I'm finally, truly dragging myself out of the haze of new motherhood. It's usually a new pregnancy that jolts me out of the baby haze (I have wonderful pregnancies, not a ton of baby brain, although I'm pretty prone to random naps), but for the first time in a long time I'm finding my energy again. I knew this was the case when I woke up and saw the rain and actually regretted that the ugly weather would be keeping me in.

For the past 8 months, I've only left my house under duress. I was too tired, too busy, and just too unfocused to deal with to deal with the requirements of managing four kids in public. At home, where life is familiar, I'd developed a rhythm centred entirely around our new baby girl. Necessity was the name of the game. I would do anything I could to make sure that the most I'd have to do was clean my main level to have friends over, and at the beginning I tried to restrict that to one or at most two days a week. On the weekends when my husband was home things were a bit more social, but even then it was mostly just to visit either my folks or his. The only new friends I made was through our young parents Alpha group.

As I looked at my schedule this week (shocking enough that I have a schedule), I realised I only have one solitary day to spend at home being anti-social in my yoga pants. I've managed to integrate two regular playdates every week (one is a follow-up to our Alpha group that's a playdate with an opportunity for us to discuss the struggles of living our faith in the world) and a standing playdate I have with a friend I met at our Alpha group. Every Thursday we either go to meet my husband at work or spend the afternoon with my Mom. This week I have two extra playdates thrown into the mix and I must say I'm very pleased with this arrangement. Add to that the fact that I've been walking down to the store to pick up all our groceries lately and have made a concerted effort to take them out to the field for a run around and I'm pretty sure the TV is feeling pretty lonely. At night I've even found myself energetic enough to read through a few books that were on my list.

I don't know how long I can keep up with this level of energy, but for now I'm going to relish in it. The juggling it takes to manage so many kids in public can be pretty stressful (please big boy, stop running away in parking lots, I'm going to lose my mind), but it's worth it. As I feel the fog lifting from my mind and the lead melt out of my bones, I feel refreshed, ready and want to make the most of life with my four precious blessings. It took me 8 long, dark months to get to this point, but I'm grateful for the journey and the destination.

Friday, 13 April 2012


Baby girl is a mere week shy of 8 months old now. What a whirlwind these last few months have been. I feel like we're on the quick stumble towards a year and there's not holding her back. She's crawling now. Half the time she's dragging, the other half of the time she's moving her chubby little limbs in perfect sync. Either way she's getting around quickly, and getting into lots of mischief. I'm having to really carefully sweep the floor almost constantly as she's quite happy to put anything and everything in her mouth.

Speaking of food, she's now eating lots of solid food. As with our other kids, we're doing baby led weaning with great success. She can eat pretty much anything, although I'm doing what I can to keep her away from added sugars in cakes and sweets. The best thing about all of this is that she's still breastfeeding. I've never made it this far breastfeeding any of my three other children, and I'm so proud that I'm persevering. She still has a bottle to supplement once every day or so, but it's becoming more and more rare as she seems satisfied with her solids and the breastmilk. I only supplement when all else has failed. She's got two little teeth that are half-way out in her lower jaw, so I've had a few bites from her, but mostly when she's distracted or falling asleep. I've learned how to unclench her little jaw quick! Ouch! Even in the middle of that pain, I remember how lucky I am that I've had all the support I needed to breastfeed her. This morning as I cuddle up in bed with her for her morning feed, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this moment. She's still so tiny, and yet so big compared to the newborn I struggled to build a breastfeeding relationship with. I held her a little closer and soaked in the sweet, trusting look in her eyes.

She still has so many milestone ahead of her, both big and small ones. I look forward to each of them but also wish I could hold her in this moment a little longer. She is such a ridiculously happy baby, and I know she'll be a (mostly) happy toddler and preschooler, but for now I'm treasuring her littleness as long as I can.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Matter of the Heart

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child. In the mix of all the emotions was a fear. A tiny, unsettling, and lasting fear. Not fear of the daily duties of motherhood, or how it would change our young marriage. Not even fear that our baby wouldn't be healthy. I was afraid that although I might love our baby, that it wouldn't be enough. That I wouldn't be able to make room in my heart for another person, a person I could barely imagine. I did love the idea of our sweet little baby. Those two pink lines on the test somehow represented her heartbeat and mine, beating within my body. I  just couldn't imagine, in that first flush of life as a mess of symptoms how I would learn to love this little person. That fear persisted, a quiet bit of unrest in the back of my mind, until the day our baby girl was born.
The second she was born those fears were washing away in a flood of her tears and mine. She came out pink, crying, and more beautiful than I could have imagine. I wanted nothing more in that moment than to sit quietly and hold her forever while I memorized every part of her. I wanted to drown in the ocean of her bright blue eyes, that searched my face for comfort in this new world she'd be thrust into. I loved her. So deeply and truely. There is nothing like the love you have for your child in those first moments. It's so tangible you can breathe it in. My months of fear seemed laughable in the face of my overflowing joy.

When I saw the two lines on the pregnancy test for our second child, I was surprised to feel that same nagging fear come back. A little voice whispered in my ear that there couldn't be enough love for another. That the amount of love I had for our first child could never find its equal. I feared I would either forget my love for our first child in my overwhelming awe of a newborn, or simply feel nothing or not enough love for this new little life. This new version of my old fear haunted me, woke me up at night, and perused me by day over my entire pregnancy. When I was in labour, I was able to reach down and touch the top of his head while he was crowning. In that moment of life in waiting, I knew like a bolt of lightning that this child I hadn't even seen yet had a place in my heart, and I easily love him as much as I'd loved our daughter the moment I first saw her. When I was finally able to see my two children together the last vestiges of my doubt fell away. I knew, absolutely, without a doubt, that I loved them both deeply and equally. There was no second best. I had simply found love multiplied, not divided.

Today as I held my 4th child in my arms, finally quietly sleeping after a very busy morning, I was reminded again of my old fears. I'm finally starting to understand that the heart isn't made of stone. Just like our womb, the heart has the ability to stretch beyond our comprehension to make room for love enough for however many children we have. There are days that my attention span or even my patience may not be overflowing, but through all of it I never for a second could stop loving any one of my children. I truly believe that even if I had another 10 kids I would make room in my heart to love each of them with the same overhwelming, intense, and personal love.

A Memory and a Tribute

I'm not really sure how I fell down this rabbit hole of memory. A bunch of little things I suppose: an old photo, a reminiscence with old friends, an email, a surprising movie title... Here I am, in the middle of an ordinary day, feeling like the kid I was at the age of 13. I can see myself sitting in a worn down old classroom, sitting at a shared rectangular desk with two other girls, listening in rapt wonder to the words of an old book coming to life in the voice of a seemingly unassuming man seated casually at the center of the room.

Every word, every phrase, is spoken with emotion and clarity. We are not "learning" or "studying", we are feeling the story out with this man as our guide. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a short novel, with a moral worth discovering. A favourite of our teacher who seems both old and young all at once. When I had the same teacher again for my final year of junior high I was sick for the few days he was reading of Mice and Men to our class (yes, he read it to every class, every year), but as I sat at home, I could still remember every inflection, character voice, and pause he'd used to breathe life into the book. I still have a copy of the book tucked away on my book shelf, a living memory of a man who had changed the course of my life in a way so subtle yet deep.

We all have that one teacher. The one who taught us something about the world and ourselves that left us completely changed in our very spirit. This teacher was that to everyone he met. I've never met a person who he didn't change for the better. I think his greatest charm was that, besides the fact that he loved his subject, he was a comedian, and he wasn't so self-involved that he would spare even himself a few hilarious barbs. His eyes always had this wonderful sparkle, and he always had a joke ready for every occasion. Not to say they were always good jokes. He was the first person I'd met who was such a devotee of puns (my husband and father-in-law are always quite fond and skillful in this craft!) and one-liners. I've never met another person who could make the rules of grammar quite so clear while so comical. He could be hilarious and then deadly serious. He could engage in physical comedy (usually in relation to his tie as I recall) and then dive right into a  moral discussion about euthanasia (or whatever topic was in the news) seamlessly and remain completely credible to his eager students.

These many years later I still remember so many details of my two years as his student. His fondness for a very particular brand of pen, his Comodore computer and digitised pictures of all his students, the poetry books he published of his students work every year (I kept mine, the first time my words were published), his print-out the of rules of grammar, particularly the one for commas, his miles-long final exam that he would invigilate with his trade-mark humour, and so much more. He kept in touch with any student who emailed or sent correspondence, myself included. I met him on the street years after our last class and he remember my name, and that of my best friends (one of whom I'd met in his class back in our first year at the school). The last email I got from him is still saved in my email.

The email is dated from 2005, not long before he passed away. This man, an inspiration in my life and that of so many others, succumbed to cancer that same year. The last email I have from him is full of reality mixed with his trademark positivity. Even though the cancer was taking away his strength, he talked about making a point to go out and enjoy the sunshine. His last lesson to me was so much like every other lesson he'd taught to me: life is worth living, even when things are tough. That dying shouldn't stop you from living life, even if it slowed you down a little.