Mother issues.

This afternoon, we went to visit my mom and stepdad to celebrate my stepdad’s birthday.   Soon after we arrived, my mom said to my wife “we’re so used to having J around now that we tidy everything that she might get into away before she comes”. This is one of many statements my mom has made lately that are very clearly meant to assure us of her exemplary grandmotherly-ness and of J’s hypothetical safety if we do eventually leave her with them.

Which we haven’t done. We’ve never left J with anyone for more than 1/2 an hour. Why? Well, in the beginning it was definitely us being overprotective. But for the last year, we’ve mostly really wanted to. So why haven’t we? Because I don’t trust the person who most wants us to leave J with her (my mom), and I feel too guilty asking someone else to babysit J when I won’t leave her with her own grandma.

My mom loves J. So much. It isn’t that I don’t trust her intentions, which is what I feebly said when she accused me of not trusting her. I know she’d never hurt J on purpose. But what went mostly unspoken was what I don’t trust: her judgment. And in the event of her poor judgement leading to some awful place, her honesty. If J, for example, hit her head while my mom was taking care of her, I don’t 100% trust that she’d tell me, because she hates being blamed for anything so much that she can never accept responsibility. Which wouldn’t be as huge of a problem, except…

Except that when J was 3 months old, I specifically asked my mom if I could leave J with her for a minute while I left the room (everyone else in the room was a child). A minute later, I saw my mom leave that room, and when I went to see what was going on, J was alone, on a waist-height bed. When I confronted my mom, she said that she asked J’s ten year old cousin to watch her and that she should have known better, and when that answer didn’t fly, that I should have specifically told her (my mom) not to leave J with the kids.

Except when J was about 7 months old, and my mom was alone with her on her second floor balcony, my mom dangled her over the balcony to “show her to the neighbour”. Half an hour before that happened, my mom had complained of being so dizzy that she couldn’t stand up.

Except that I routinely find prescription medicine pills that have been dropped on the floors at their house, and when I mentioned that as a safety issue, my mom angrily responded that her home is so much cleaner than mine (true, but I don’t leave pharmaceuticals on my floor).

Except today I discovered a bottle of super strength cleaning product WITH NO CAP ON, AT FLOOR LEVEL in the “baby proofed house”. And when I freaked out about it, all she said was that she didn’t think that J could have got to it.

I’ve felt sick about it ever since. I feel super stressed that J could have perhaps taken a slug of cleaning liquid, bad about the fact that I’m always making my (unwell and depressed) mom feel bad, angry that she’s so undependable in so many ways, and on a pettier level, increasingly frustrated that this dynamic is getting in the way of D and I from having a date night. Or a date morning. A date anything that doesn’t have a pit.

Nothing will make my mom change. Even the prospect of spending more time with her granddaughter, which is probably very high on her list (though at this time, I think it’s equal parts desire and power struggle). So where do I go from here? What would you do, internet friends?

Ten Things on a Monday

  1. I haven’t blogged in ages, and I keep wanting to sit down and write, but it’s been so long and I feel overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start. And so, here’s a ten things post to summarize the past couple of months. (That’s thing number one.)
  2. A month ago, we decided to look at a condo that my wife found online and really liked. We weren’t really even seriously looking, but we went to see it, loved it (it’s bright and homey and has lots of windows, and only shares one wall with another condo), and then we bought it. We bought the first place we looked at, isn’t that kooky? We offered a quick close because that is what the sellers wanted, and we took possession on Thursday. I still can’t quite believe we are homeowners. We’ll keep living here at the campground during the summers, but in the winters we’ll stay in the condo.
  3. We also bought a car (before we had any idea we were buying a home) which we picked up last week. Neither transaction went entirely smoothly, and July kind of disappeared in a haze of tediousness, but hey – new car, new home.
  4. D is 26 weeks pregnant. We’re so busy, I sometimes forget. So does D, but baby M is doing lots of kicking these days and generally making her presence known.
  5. Because our new condo is in a different city, D has transferred OBs. I suggested she see my OB/GYB because I love her, and so we had an appointment with her but she is going on maternity leave (the nerve, right). Her replacement sounds good though, so we’re going to go with her. Their office has pictures and write-ups about famous women everywhere, and it’s an all-female practice. It has a good feel to it.
  6. J is going to be two in a month. She is so much fun, I am really loving this age, despite the emotional tumult and the struggles for autonomy and the constant “NO, thank you’s”. She speaks like she’s three. She uses 10-15 word sentences and uses the past tense, and talks about yesterday and tomorrow and tells us SO much about her experience of the world. It’s fun, and makes things much easier because she can communicate so well. She’s so ahead on most milestones that I feel awkward talking about it, because I don’t want to be all “my-kid-is-gifted”. Also, she is so quiet when we’re around people she doesn’t know very well that if I were to tell them the things she says it would sound implausible. So when people ask if she talks, I say things like, “oh, yeah, she’s pretty chatty at home”, and there’s a weird sort of dissonance between out-in-the-world J and at-home J.
  7. I made a friend! We met at J’s music class, and she has a son who is a couple of months older than J. We had a playdate this morning, and it’s pretty exciting to meet someone who I actually really like who has a kid that’s J’s age. Unfortunately the kids don’t play that well together yet (they are basically total opposites), but I’m hoping that will come with time. J definitely likes them both – though she was silent the whole time they were here, after they left she chattered away about them for a good long while.
  8. I think our 15 year old cat is getting close to the end of her life. She’s had a bad UTI and is just ending her second course of antibiotics. She is thinner, not terribly happy, and I just feel like she isn’t going to bounce back. Maybe I’m being pessimistic. And when she does die, there will be an extra layer of grief because she is also J’s cat – J loves her so much, and the thought of her experiencing that difficult to understand loss guts me.
  9. J is still a terrible sleeper. I feel like a bit of a failure. I really thought it’d just come, in time, and it has not. Right now we’re working on getting her to fall asleep alone, and then we tackle the staying-in-her-bed-all-night issue. I don’t mind co-sleeping if she sleeps, but she kicks – not accidentally, on purpose. In order to annex more bed. I hate it, it’s making us all miserable, and it needs to stop.
  10. We’re going camping tomorrow! Yurt camping, at Macgregor Point. Any tips on camping with a toddler are welcome!

We have a talker

It happened really suddenly. Until a few weeks ago, J had a huge number of words but mostly used them individually, with the occasional two or three word sentence. And then she said four words together, then five, and now, our child is never quiet. She tells us what is happening:

“Two people! Dogs, walking on road.” “Felix not happy. Felix under couch. Now Felix under table!” “Mommy not happy. Mommy sad. NO hitting.”

She tells us what she wants: “Want oat bar, YES PLEASE!” and “Shoes on, go outside, blow bubbles” and “NO TAKE BOOK AWAY, MOMMY, WANT BOOK, READ READ”. I’m fairly certain that she would like that to be in all-caps.

She tells us how she feels. When we got back in the car after visiting a conservation area with a farm, she announced: “Outside. Fun. Happy. Animals!” She’s also quick to tell us when she’s either “sad” or “not happy”, but these announcements are still often coupled with throwing things.

She knows the titles of 90% of her books. She’ll even recite parts of them. It blows my mind. Also, on the flip side: my mind misses the glimpses of quiet that I had until recently. The chatter is almost incessant, and while I mostly love it, I also love quiet. I was a quiet kid (and am a quiet adult). I have seen videos of my wife as a child, and she was a serious chatter box. So… there’s that. I’ll adapt, I suppose, get used to the unending chatter the same way I got used to the white noise machine we started using to help J’s sleep. When the power went out for a few hours last night, I could barely sleep without the crackly faux-water noises that have been the backdrop to our sleep for the past year and a half. Between the night noise and the day noise, I doubt a quiet house will ever feel the same to me. But it’s all worth it, because this kid has said “I love you, mommy. Big hugs!” about five times already today.

 

Sisters without caveats

I have three sisters, but I still feel like an only child in a lot of ways.

Two of these sisters are my step-sisters, whom I have known since I was fourteen. One (H) is two years younger than I am, and the other is six years older (A). I lived with H one week on/one week off for four years, and we were sort of close-ish during that time but haven’t been since then. She is emotionally distant (to everyone in the family, not just me) and very conservative, in a family of bleeding hearts. A and I are closer, but still don’t see/talk to each other that often in recent years. When her relationship with her kid’s dad broke up about 6 years ago, we saw a lot of each other and I took care of my nephew at least one day a week, but she has a new partner now and we live in different cities and while I love her, we don’t have the shared experience of having grown up together (we’ve never even lived together) and we’re also pretty dissimilar in how we live our lives and parent our kids. I’m still very glad to have her as a sister, but I wish that we’d grown up together for at least a little while.

The sister I did grow up with was born when I was four and a half. One of my earliest memories of sisterhood was asking how long it would be until she’d play with me. She never did. My mother thought something was ‘wrong’ from right when N was born, but it wasn’t until she started having seizures that anyone took my mom’s concerns seriously. N is severely intellectually disabled, moderately physically disabled, and has uncontrolled seizures. She didn’t receive an actually diagnosis until about 10 years ago, with the advent of more advanced genetic testing – she has a micro deletion syndrome. I’ve thought to myself (self-pityingly) on occasion that I had none of the benefits of having a sibling, and all the drawbacks. She was in and out of hospitals for our entire childhood (and still is), and she required so much care and energy from my exhausted, depressed parents that they didn’t really much of those things to give to anyone else – not each other, not me.  I vacillated between thinking that N would be ‘cured’ and worrying N would die. I think they probably did, too. They separated, got back together, then finally divorced (which was a relief to us all). I did not have a happy childhood, and I sure as fuck did not have a happy sibling relationship.

I don’t have a lot of unfulfilled dreams that I plan on inflicting upon my kids, but I want so very much for them to have a reasonably pleasant childhood and a good relationship with one another. I want J to have a sister without a caveat*. Even if it’s love/hate, I want them to have that intimacy with one another that I have so often wished for. I always thought my mother truly hated her sisters, but when I told her we were having another child she told me “they’re my best friends”. That’s either some powerful sister-magic, or some serious bullshit – but it sure is compelling.

 

* She also will have a sister with a caveat – F, her donor’s child, who is her sister and also not since she lives on another continent.

10 Things on a Thursday

  1. So I didn’t get a chance to do an update after our dating ultrasound, but all was well and Beebo was measuring a couple days ahead (as was J, at the same gestation). We got to see some movement and the ultrasound was super clear compared to the one we had with J.IMG_3109
  2. We also went through with NIPT – the Pan.orama test. Because of Easter, our results took a little longer, but we got them last week. Beebo was given a ‘low risk’ result, which is great, and we also found out the sex. We’re having another girl! I was hoping to raise sisters (probably because of my own sister baggage and fantasy of what a sister relationship could mean) so I am pretty stoked.
  3. D is finally feeling less nauseated. It comes and goes now instead of being constant, and she’s much more interested in food. She’s working, but trying to take it easy a bit – she does freelance academic writing/editing and also landscaping, but at this time of year mostly landscaping, which she is finding hard on her body. Overall, she is feeling most pregnancy sensations are happening earlier and stronger than in her previous pregnancy. And she’s looking at least a month further along than she did last time.
  4. We still don’t have an OB which feels weird. Our GP will be making the referral soon and then we start seeing the OB at 18 weeks-ish. It all feels very casual this time around, which we are okay with. Our GP is great and the OB we are being referred to is also great. Never imagined we’d feel so comfortable not using a midwife, but it feels like the right choice given J’s birth and D’s family history of cephalopelvic disproportion and cesareans.
  5.  J is going through a super challenging phase (at least I hope it is a phase) where she is throwing things a lot and really testing limits, mostly by doing things that just aren’t safe, specifically to get attention. She seems to do this especially when D and I are talking to each other rather than including her. I’m finding myself getting quite frustrated with her, and the whole ‘distraction and redirection’ thing that worked so well when she was younger is just not working. Yesterday she hit me in the face twice with wooden toys. I’m trying to regroup and remind myself that, smart as she is, she doesn’t have a lot of impulse control and her feelings are BIG.
  6. This behavioural change, oddly, has coincided with a HUGE leap in language development. She is using some 4 and 5 word sentences (though often without prepositions or pronouns) which is really neat, and tells us when she is happy and ‘not happy’. Being pursued by a toddler swinging her arms and chanting ‘not happy’ makes me… not happy. But she also uses these verbal skills to chat about the “tiny baby a mama belly” which slays me.
  7. She also knows all of her colours, which happened really fast and without much guidance on our part. She is constantly telling us what colour things are, with a fairly high level of accuracy. She seems to think that some browns are purple, though..?
  8. We’ve been spending lots of time outdoors now that it is warmer, and J loves being outside so much. She was over-harvesting the flowers from our gardens, and so D told her that the bees need them to make honey. Now, she’ll walk up to a flower, reach out, and then stop, and say to herself “flower. bees. honey.” It’s adorable.
  9. We did an Easter egg hunt and it was the first holiday J really participated in. It was such fun. We hid dairy-free treats and schleich animals in plastic eggs in the garden and she loved unearthing them and cracking them open.
  10. After a rough bout of teething and illness, we are bedsharing more and more. Do any of you co-sleep with two kids? HOW?IMG_3319

And so it begins.

“I don’t think I’m going to get that sick this time,” says my wife. And then at exactly 6 weeks, the nausea hit full force. She’s still functioning, but she feels terrible and looks terrible (but gorgeous, of course). Luckily she has the rest of March off and can sort of ease back into work in April. I think last time she was feeling better by about 14 weeks.

We’re both surprised by how quickly things are changing. With D feeling rough, I’ve been doing more of the parenting than usual, and J has definitely noticed – she asks for D more often, and is a bit out of sorts. It seems like already the pregnancy is taking D away from J a bit, and like that is the beginning of what is in store when the newbie arrives – a division of parenting in which I’m parenting the toddler and D is parenting the newbie. And we’re thinking more about how hard this is going to be for J -first getting used to having less access to her Mama, and then getting used to sharing us with a new baby as well. It makes my heart hurt a bit.

And the question that plagues me right now is: How on earth can I be there for D and the new baby in the hospital (she’ll be having a planned repeat cesarean), and also make the absence/transition as smooth as possible for J? There is plenty of family to help, but I don’t want to totally disrupt her. Do I sleep at home, or at the hospital? How do I figure out a balance so that I’m not letting anyone down? If anyone has suggestions, I am all ears.

D’s first prenatal appointment was yesterday. She’ll be seeing our GP for a while and then transferring to an OB. She’s decided not to try a VBAC for a bunch of reasons, and we both feel good about that decision. In just under two weeks she’ll have a dating ultrasound, then NIPT at 9 weeks. Because of all the soft marker drama following J’s anatomy scan, we decided to pay out of pocket for NIPT. We just don’t want to go through what we went through last time if the baby has soft markers. It sounds like a weird thing to do, because obviously J didn’t end up having down’s syndrome or anything, so you’d think that if the same thing happened again we’d be calmer about it, but we just want to know. We’ll also find out the sex, which I am looking forward to. I have more of a preference than I did with J, but it doesn’t really matter to me hugely.

This all sound like we’re getting ahead of ourselves – it’s still SO early – for something that’s the size of a pea, but… it’s exciting. I’m trying not to succumb to the terror of everything that could go wrong, like I did the first time, and to instead focus on the most likely outcome – a small new person joining us out here in the world in 7 1/2 months.

 

18 Months

It’s been too long since I’ve written an update about J, and since I haven’t been actually writing in her baby book, this has become my record of her babyhood – so I thought I’d finally get to it. I’ve resorted to bullets, but it’s something.

  • J is now 18 months old. I feel like we have such a strong sense of who she is, now. She’s watchful and meticulous, gregarious at home but a bit shy in public, very affectionate with her moms but choosy about who else holds or touches her. She likes order, and routine, and loves animals and nature. She loves reading, gymnastics, being in water, being outside, music, and food. She dislikes things being out of place, having sticky things on her hands, having people ruffle her hair, and pureed things. She is way more like me in personality than I thought she would be, though also like D, of course, and sometimes she reminds me of our donor and his daughter.
  • Her vocabulary is huge and she’s combining words much more often. My favourite words right now are “walnut”, “octopus” (pronounced aht-puh), “iguana”, and “mine” (though I imagine I’ll find the last one less cute very soon). Her ability to communicate is making this age a lot easier than it might otherwise be. She can name about 15 body parts, and if she hurts herself she will tell us what hurts, which is really great. The connections she makes between words is so interesting – we put a quilt on her new bed that has a few tiny seahorses on it, and without us naming them or drawing her attention to them, she pointed and said “neigh!” Because of course, a seahorse would say “neigh”, right? I can’t even recall talking to her about seahorses, other than at the aquarium a couple of months ago.
  • I’m loving the increased independent play that she’s been doing lately – we gave her a kitchen set for Christmas and that gets a lot of use, as she cooks and serves tea and soup all day long. Her other favourite play things are her little Schleich animals and a wooden barn (she ‘feeds’ her animals water from her water bottle and it kills me), and an indoor wooden Ikea slide that we picked up at a consignment shop. She is reasonably active but I think less so than a lot of toddlers – she’ll sit still reading books for up to an hour and her attention span seems uncanny.  It seems like she is always running over to one of us with a book, demanding “read, read!” Just recently, she’s started filling in words when we read familiar stories, and identifying objects in the pictures.
  • We started taking a gymnastics class about a month ago and she loves it. It’s for 16 month- to 3 year-olds, and the parents attend the class, too. She is the youngest and by far the shortest kid there, and she can’t do all of the activities, but it’s been so awesome to have the big, safe indoor space to run around in. They also do $5 drop in days, which is great. I think that it is helping with her upper body strength, which is not so strong – maybe because she didn’t crawl at all until fairly recently? She practices her gymnastic moves at home, and seems very proud of herself. I think it gives her a lot of confidence. I never imagined doing a structured class with such a young child, but she is getting so much out of it.
  • At her doctor’s appointment last week, J was exactly 23 pounds and 30 inches tall. She’s small and solid and baby-faced, and people think she’s way younger than she is. It’s hard because she’s quite advanced for her age, but I think people think she’s so young that they don’t try to engage her as much as they might otherwise.
  • J continues to love music, and is dancing more and more. If we ask her to shake her booty, she’ll dance, and if she dances by herself she’ll often make eye contact and say “booty!” She hums but doesn’t sing, though she loves being sung to – in fact, singing to her is getting us through a pretty terrible sleep regression right now.
  • As of a few days ago, she is sleeping in a toddler bed, and it seems to be going fine (though her sleep isn’t any better). She understands that she has to stay in the bed at night, though she climbs in and out all day. Often, she climbs in, gathers up all her animals, lies down and says “sleep. sleep.” She also pretends to fall asleep in the bath, which she thinks is hilarious but terrifies her moms. At night she is waking about every two hours lately. She’s been sick for a month with two back to back colds and reactive airway disease (with asthma-like symptoms) , is cutting teeth, and is going through so much developmentally, so who knows what is behind the poor sleep. It is terrifying that we might have a sleepless toddler and newborn at the same time.
  • The less pleasant side of this age is that has days where J says ‘no’ to everything, and throws stuff, and when she’s teething, biting joins the list. I feel out of my depth sometimes, trying to figure out what works as a behavioural corrective and what doesn’t. For instance, I think that trying to stop her from throwing things has resulted in her throwing things to get attention, but we can’t just ignore her, right? The weird thing about parenting is that every time you think that you’ve got this, things change. I’ve been reading parenting books and trying to figure out how we want to go forward with managing destructive behaviour, but it is so hard. I kind of hate telling people how to behave, which is… my job, now. I have to tell someone how to behave, so I need to figure out how to best do that, how to respect her autonomy and independence but also keep her from smashing objects, herself, and other people.
  • The week after D was away, J had a major potty regression where she refused to sit on the potty and peed in her training pants at least three times every day. We switched back to diapers for a week, and then she started using the potty again. She’s getting better at telling us when she wants to use it, rather than waiting for us to tell her it’s time to sit on the potty, and often will go the whole day (and sometimes night) dry. We’re basically just taking her to the potty frequently and being enthusiastic when she uses it, but it’d be really great if she were potty trained before the next baby. I am cautiously optimistic that that will happen, as we have almost 8 months.
  • We are finally getting to the point where we feel okay about leaving J with other people. Until now, she’s only spent the odd half-hour away from both of us, but I think she’s ready and so are we. My mom and step-dad have offered to take her for a couple hours maybe a million times (we’ve declined, but feel a bit better about the option as time goes by), and some friends of ours whom we trust are also willing to babysit. So sometime soon, we’re going to try that out. J really needs to be okay with being taken care of by others before we have another baby, so I think it makes sense to start now. Also, D and I could really use a date. I read somewhere that your marriage takes 18 months to recover from having a child, and that makes sense to me. I feel like we’re finally starting to feel more connected, more capable of conversation, etc. And then we thought we’d have another one? I’m equal parts excited and terrified, which is better than just terrified, but J just got the excitement. Poor second child is getting jilted from the get-g0.