Friday, January 21, 2011

2010 in photos

Fellow mommy bloggers have done their year in photos, and I wanted to join in the fun! I am a little late, since our computer had died over the holidays, but here we go!

Pregnant at the start of 2010

This is the only photo I had in February, so it won by default...

March, we did maternity photos

I wanted to add another one with the whole family

April marked the end of my Master's program...I had Layla a week later

April: My final belly shot before being induced

A few hours later, Layla came into our lives

The three of us, Noah wouldn't join us in the photos

May marked Noah's second birthday!

June: Noah and Layla getting closer

July: Canada Day!

August: Learning to play together

September: Noah went to ride on Thomas the train with Nana and Granddad

September: Also marked Layla's baptism

October: We went apple picking with Keith's family

October: We also did some Halloween photos with Kim

November: Layla getting bigger!

November: Noah developing such a sense of humour!

December: Sibling love - but also the start of sibling rivalry, as Layla is learning to move around and steal Noah's toys

January 2011: Keith started his parental leave, until April. He is such a good stay-at-home dad.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


As I sit on the floor of my living room in the early hours of the morning enjoying my morning coffee, an ]overwhelming surge of grief passes through me, so strong and suffocating that I have to stifle a sob. This isn't the first time I have had these random bursts of grief. They are not triggered by any noticeable precipitating event. The emotion fills me and makes me feel like I am drowning in grief. They bring tears to my eyes and have often knocked me to the ground, clutching at my chest - struggling to breathe.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath and wait for the moment to be over. It doesn't take me long to compose myself and I sit back and take another sip of coffee. I shake my head, as if that resets my brain, and work at getting myself up and out the door to catch my morning train.

This grief that encompasses me is always present in the back of my mind. It is solely related to Noah's health. I am sure these attacks are not unique - anyone who has experienced any level of sadness so profound that it changes their life forever, will have these least that is what I tell myself.

Noah's diagnosis was so unexpected, and so feared (given my personal history of working with this population), that the 24 hours we spent leading up to being admitted to the hospital are so ingrained in my mind that they give me nightmares. The moments spent holding Noah, as they performed an hour and a half echo, calling out each defect one by one, is enough to make me break into a cold sweat.

At the present, Noah is the picture of health. He is a tall, healthy looking boy with rosy cheeks and full hair. His size is so impressive that he looks older than he truly is. His speech is so astounding that he sounds older than he is - but in reality, he is just over 2.5 years old and is living with a chronic condition that will impact the rest of his life. Noah has many barriers to face in life - many of which I am not comfortable sharing - but he is such a healthy looking boy that you would easily forget that he was not "normal".

Nothing about his behaviour, energy or physical appearance would give away the true secret. It is for this reason that I often forget we have a sick child. We treat him as we would any child and I think because of this, the grief finds moments to take over my world and bring the startling reality to the forefront at the most random times: sometimes I am just running on the treadmill and I have to stop to take a moment; sometimes I find myself reading and my mind wanders; other times, like today, I am just having a quiet moment. It is enough to make you want to occupy your mind every moment of every day, just so this grief can't grab hold and drown you...of course, this is impossible.

As such, I find I have to accept this grief. The attacks seem to come more regularly as we approach his cardiology appointments - as I know that we have another surgery in the near future. It is the "when" that is unknown and that is causing a lot of my anxiety. I find talking to Keith helps a lot because he is so level-headed and realistic. He has his own moments where I find him sitting alone in our room on the edge of the bed, looking like his world has crumbled - but we are there for each other and find strength in this shared experience.

I try not to let my knowledge affect me too much but of course that is impossible. Knowledge is there, whether you want it to be or not. I try not to think about what it will be like to hold down a 3 year old Noah while the nurse pulls a chest tube out of his body, while he is conscious. I try not to think of the pain he will endure when they crack open his chest and sew his bones back together. Of course, I have seen this all first hand, a hundred times, and that makes it impossible to forget.

Of course, this grief and panic naturally spreads to my fears for our beautiful Layla - she is such a healthy looking baby, but I know first-hand how looks can be deceiving. Is she healthy? Sure...for now...but who is to say that won't change? I picture her going through a similar ordeal and it rocks me with emotion so great that I want to bury my head in the sand.

Writing this, I sound like I could benefit from a good therapist - and maybe I could. But this grief doesn't control me - they are just brief blips in my life. It is just part of being a mom to a chronically ill child. I am sure many people have the same sort of grief over something: a sick parent, the passing of a loved one, a frightening past....

I can only hope that in sharing my feelings that they will benefit others to know they aren't alone in their grief

Monday, January 10, 2011

We survived

So our first week of switched roles is over. I have to say I was extremely pleased with how it worked out!

First, I really do love being back at work. I am in my familiar work setting and it is so nice to have adult conversation (even if it does largely centre around my kids!). I also love the peace and relative quiet of the commute into work. I get to read a grown-up book and drink coffee - does it get any better?
While I do miss my kids (their photos are everywhere at work and my screen changes to a new photo of them every five minutes...), I really do think I am a better mom for being back at work. I only get from 5:30 until bedtime to spend with them, so maybe 2.5 hours tops - but that time is spent enjoying every second with them. We all laugh more, smile more and play more. It is really fantastic. I think it also makes me a better wife because I feel more refreshed and I miss Keith when I am at work.

Now, to get to how Keith did...

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I never doubted he could care for the kids , he has always been a very hands-on father,  it was more that he did it so well. On my first day coming home, the house was very tidy, the kids were all smiles, and they were all clean and happy. I know, first hand, how trying the end of the day can be with the kids...they are tired and we are running out of fun things to do together, it is impossible to find time to shower with both kids at home, and changing them out of PJ's is a hassel - but here they were, clean and in real clothes!

Keith teased me (or maybe he was serious?) that he thought all women shared the secret that mat leave isn't really that hard, but that we pretend it is so the men won't want to take some of it. I keep telling him that while it went well for him, over time things may begin to wear on him. The sleepless nights, the constantly hungry kids, the whining, the pee accidents, the exhaustion, reading the same book for the billionth eventually wears on you. That said, he is much more patient and calm so he is a lot better suited to working in that kind of scenario.

So far though, he is doing great. Friday was a challenging day as he had both kids and Noah seems to be rebelling against the change of caregivers. He is currently peeing right in his pants without even trying to make it to the potty and then telling us (with glee) that he did it. I am fairly certain this is linked to the changes around the leave, so it will fix itself with time I think. I try to prepare him by telling him that I am going to work the next day but I think he thinks I am playing a game because he then tells me that he is going to work too.

I had to have a talk with Keith about my expectations around what he is to do when he is home. I found the house was "too" well cared for - so I think he was burning himself out fast b/c he was trying to do too much. So I told him how low my standards were and hopefully that will make things easier on him.

Layla doesn't really seem bothered at all - she loves taking a bottle, which is making our breast feeding sessions much more difficult. She has always been an impatient nurser so without the instant gratification of the bottle, she is getting more and more frustrated, even though we are using a slow flow nipple on the bottle.The other issue is that I am not able to pump enough for her - I read online that if you normally breast feed, it is normal to get only 1-2 ounces per pumping session. So now, I have to take herbs (18 pills a day) and pump 5x a day to get enough milk for the day (which really isn't that much since she is mostly on solids). It is another hurdle that we have to face though. Overall, Layla seems very happy. She really loves her daddy and her whole face lights up when she sees him so I don't anticipate any issues with her, especially since she is so young.

Keith has a schedule and it is different than how I did things. I found it amusing on the weekend, when I tried to give a snack to the kids, Keith told me that it wasn't snack time. It doesn't bother me, like I thought it would, adhering to a new schedule. I am happy to keep the schedule up for the kids sake, since I know they will thrive best when I do so.

There were times when I was on leave, that Layla would wake up too early in the morning and it would throw our whole schedule for naps off. It really used to stress me out so I would complain about it a lot. This morning, Keith had to drag himself out of bed earlier than normal because Layla was up so early, after a very rough night. Keith had said, 'This is going to throw our schedule all off!". At first I thought he was teasing me and using my own lines against me in a joke, but he was serious. So it is amusing to see how the issues that may seem so simple to the working parent, become the be all and end all to the parent on leave.

Keith's week is off to a bit of a rough start this week because of the bad night Layla had but she had a long morning nap, so I think he is going to get it turned around in no time! He is a great stay-at-home dad.