Wednesday 30 September 2015

We don't know the future (reminder number ten thousand and one)

September has been the kind of month that reminds me of our mortal, flawed, limited nature.

I've had a few minor health issues. Your average colds and flus, except last weekend I had a slightly more exotic affliction in the form of a clitoral abscess. Ahem, yes, do take a minute and picture that.  It wasn't serious, but very very painful and required surgery. I had my first experience of general anesthetic. (Not as scary as I thought it would be. I thought it would feel like fainting/losing consciousness, a sensation that terrifies me, but it was more like waking up from a deep sleep.)

I was going to write about that experience, but then we got the news about my dad and it seemed trivial by comparison. My dad was just diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. We don't know what stage it is yet; those tests are still taking place. As you might remember my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. Hers was very small and asymptomatic, however, and after treatment there is no evidence of the cancer. My dad's already feels more ominous because he does have symptoms, although not severe ones.

The past week we have been slowly mentally/emotionally adjusting our lives to accept these new realities and unknowns.

And there are my menstrual cycles / our efforts to conceive / body image / sexuality .... it's all sort of mixed up in my mind. The flashbacks to AJ's birth: those constantly go through my mind. I suppose it is inevitable as it is now the season of her birth.  The reminders are everywhere. The hospital brought back a lot of those memories. Not so much the memories that form a narrative, but the kind that lend texture to the narrative.  The sight of a bed, a hallway, an operating room, all that equipment and ritual. The strange sensation of other people sharing the responsibility for my body. My mind on drugs and the resulting peculiar judgments.

All of it has made fertility and the potential for pregnancy even more urgent. I'm not so much pondering whether or not it can happen, but feeling like I have to seize hold of the possibility. With all my body and mind. I guess it's the thoughts of mortality and feeling like I need to do something to strike back against it.

AJ is doing great; it is already time for her 11 month update. I will try to write that soon!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Intersecting Roads

A couple of minutes from our home there's a major intersection. We drive one way or another through this intersection most times that we leave the house. Lately I've started to think of this intersection as a metaphor for my mind.
  • The south road goes to AJ's daycare. Across the street from the daycare is my old school.
  • The west road goes to my new school. 
  • The east road is the one we take the least often. There are some big box stores in that direction where we occasionally shop. But it also leads to the maternity clinic where I went for about six months while I was pregnant, and that is what I usually think of when I look in that direction.
  • The north road, of course, leads home.
So, let's go down each of these roads.

Of course we are very preoccupied with AJ's transition to daycare. We are lucky in that it seems to be going smoothly. She is happy to go; she eats, sleeps, poops and plays there like the happiest baby in the neighbourhood. The first time she went, Mr. Turtle stayed with her 15 minutes then picked her up at 2:30. Since then she has gone almost every day for a full day from 9:00ish to about 4:30.  I was very worried about how she would adapt to not having the breast during the day, but it doesn't seem to matter to her. We get reports emailed to us and sent to our phones, and it's reassuring (if a little discombobulating) to see her carrying on her baby life without either of us. Of course, next month it will become my job to drop her off and pick her up. I hope that doesn't change things too much.

I found myself missing my old school a lot during my first week back at work, and I was a bit surprised by that. I expected to miss AJ, but I didn't think I would miss my former workplace. The people at my new school have been welcoming and helpful, but I still wanted the familiar environment. I missed my teaching colleague who has become a trusted friend; my other colleagues; the students I had worked with. I even missed the things that I disliked, the issues I fought over with people for years, because that was part of my role: it was part of what made me belong. I haven't figured out yet how I belong at my new school, and even though I know intellectually what my role is, I feel un-moored emotionally. I'm hypersensitive about how people are relating to me and fret over proving myself to people (I'm like this anyway; it's accentuated now.)

 I also miss the feeling that people know me and my history.  My last half year at my old school I was pregnant with AJ. My close colleagues knew about the fertility issues and what I was going through during the pregnancy. They were genuinely sad and happy with me through the various bumps on the road, and as parents themselves their support of me as a becoming/new parent meant a lot. I wish they were still there to "welcome" me back and share this part of the journey, too. Of course I need to make connections at my new workplace, and I will: I just miss that feeling of walking into a room and seeing someone I don't have to explain everything to.

Things have been going fine at the new school. I don't have anything to complain about, really: it's the emotional part of making the transition, as well as all the busyness of year start up and getting used to a new workplace that is tiring. I am exhausted at the end of the day but the list of things to do/not done is still there, still growing. I have to do some deep breathing and remember that it always feels this way at the beginning of the year, and that I have attended to everything that is really important (at least at last count). The other challenge is keeping up my physical strength. This has always challenged me as someone with a demanding/stressful job. Eating enough (and nourishing food) in the morning and during the day. Drinking water. Getting enough sleep. Handling anxiety. Relaxing and getting enough sleep. In the past two years I had gotten as good at self-care as I have ever been. I feel like I've backslid a bit though in this new situation. I have to make an effort to stay on top of it.

Then there is the adjustment to life as a working parent, which is completely new to me. I feel like I haven't fully grasped the significance of this change. Mr. Turtle and I are still experimenting, adjusting. Some changes I can't help but notice. At my previous school, my colleague had a school-aged daughter. I remember her almost always leaving an hour after classes ended  to go home to her child, whereas I would often stay two or more hours after school, doing tasks. I felt not inferior to her, nor superior, but a curious combination of the two. Rather as if I had a privilege that I didn't want. Now, in my new school, I am the one who is usually leaving after an hour, while my new colleague is still in her classroom. I don't know how I feel about that. How big a part of my professional identity and confidence comes from spending hours at my job, putting in that extra effort and time? How much do people actually expect that of me? How do I negotiate these boundaries?


We are starting to try rather more earnestly to get pregnant again. My feelings about this have mostly settled into resolve, although there will always be a current of uneasiness. There is no talk of plans, or expectations, only of intentions. Mr. Turtle has said that he does not want to go to the "extremes" that we went previously. Well, it is all relative what is extreme and what is not. Certainly others have gone to greater "extremes" compared to us. Still, taken all together: the monitoring and timed intercourse, naturopathic treatments, endless tests, IVF - it was all quite time and energy consuming. Neither of us feels up to that now, or possibly ever. I can't imagine trying to squeeze acupuncture for fertility into my timetable, for example, especially since I have no proof it made any difference. I am monitoring my cycle intermittently with the Ova.cue, but no charting, no BBT.

We haven't talked seriously if we will seek another referral to The Fertility Clinic and on what timeline. It's not off the table, but I have very ambivalent feelings about going back to The Fertility Clinic. I'm sure nobody looks forward to assisted reproduction, but I imagine if it at least worked for a couple, they might anticipate the process with some optimism. In our case I just feel dread. Once I accepted that things were going OK, AJ's conception and birth felt like a "get out of jail free" card. Going back to The Fertility Clinic, on the other hand, feels like going back to jail. Jail with no guarantee of redemption or release. I dread being told to go for more tests, being told more bad news. Of course, this is all in my head. I don't know what would really happen.

Looking down that east road, I always flashback to prenatal appointments, the sense of wonder and expectation. I wonder if I will ever experience that again. I would like to think so. I know I haven't accepted that I won't, not even close. I think of all the doctors seeing all the pregnant people, day after day, always more, always the process of life continuing, and it feels strange that it's all going on without me. There is one thought I find comforting. In every examining room there are birth announcements posted from many years back. Last December I sent the maternity clinic AJ's birth announcement, as well as photos of her with the doctor who was at her delivery. I like to imagine AJ's announcement posted in one of the examination rooms. I like to think I'll go back one day and see it. But even if I don't, the thought that it is there gives me a good feeling.


Home is a good place. It's quite lovely having Mr. Turtle at home for a few weeks, and things will definitely get more intense after he has to go back to work. He's been a very good stay at home parent: shopping (I almost never did that), cooking, and caring for AJ (he does get a break when she is in daycare). AJ has adjusted to the change in her routine and caregivers with sunny acceptance. Gosh we are lucky for that.

We talk dreamily about finally getting to the house chores we've neglected: the overgrown backyard and patio, the disorganized shelves, IKEA furniture not built, the organization projects I started and stopped halfway. Hiring a landscaper to make our backyard more manageable. Cleaning the ducts for the first time in years (whoops). Finally babyproofing. AJ is taking her sweet time about crawling and her parents are taking their sweet time about getting ready for it. Mr. Turtle says he'll get to some of the chores before he goes back to work. In the big picture of things, if we feel mostly sane and happy,  and the house is not falling apart around us, I think we are still coming out ahead.

How do I feel about all of this? In my mind, I am standing at the intersection. Even though each of the roads is familiar, that familiarity feels like an illusion, as if I am in a dream-scape where things are not what they seem. I am going somewhere I have never gone before. And the truth is, often I feel very alone. I have to keep reaching out to remind myself that I'm not.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

The Tenth Month

My first weekend after starting work went from fantastic to super-fantastic (heavy sarcasm). After sitting around at home on Saturday, exhausted, I came down with a nasty GI bug on Sunday. Luckily my mom was around to help with AJ and Mr. Turtle was back by the evening. But I'm taking longer to bounce back than I thought I would and so I'm home from work for the second day. My goal is to do some normal things today so here goes, catching up on the blog. I have an undercurrent of emotional turbulence too, so it's good timing.

AJ was ten months old at the end of August. Here's whats new and developing:


  • Things she likes are "egg". (She also liked actual eggs until the past two days; they are boring now apparently).
  • She also says "Awgahtit" and "Ahlikeit" (sounds like "I got it" and "I like it") when she is doing something she likes.
  • AJ calls her toy cats gat,  gitt-ee, kitt-ee, kitty cat or gitty cat. They are her favourite toys. We have called "Kitty Cat" as her first word/words because she has learned how to ask for the kitty cats. She will say the word to us and then when we give them to her she laughs and claps. I think she's very excited that she has cracked this code. Since we are both cat people we are glad that we seem to be raising another cat person. She might get a cat at some point in her childhood: a puppy, never!
  • AJ continues to be a happy baby, at least during the day. She seems to really like daycare and we have had no issues with leaving her there (at least. she hasn't had issues). She enjoys all the toys, especially the toy xylophone and some interactions with the other babies.
  • AJ eats most foods now, including meat, in fact pretty much anything we are eating that she can chew. She still breastfeeds at 6am, 5pm, bedtime and once at night, but at daycare she eats all solid food. I convinced her to take homo milk or formula from a spoon at one point, but it's much too impractical and messy an operation to do regularly, and she won't take either from a cup or bottle with any consistency (she drinks water from a cup). 
  • AJ finds it hilarious to offer me food while we are eating but won't let me have it: she just waves it in front of my face and laughs. Perhaps this is payback for all the times we did that when she was little.
  • She did give dad food once and was annoyed when he actually ate it.
  • Her favourite foods are melon, other fresh fruits, muffins, scrambled egg until recently and she likes chicken too. But she will try pretty much anything.
  • AJ is dextrous enough to pick lint or other rubbish off the floor and put it in her mouth, so we need to vacuum often/supervise closely
  • AJ accepts a spoon but prefers to feed herself
Large Motor:
  • Getting closer to crawling but slowly, slowly. She can now go up on her hands and knees, but has not figured out the forward motion. She ends up pushing only with her arms and going backwards, away from her target, which she finds super frustrating. Or she does a belly flop.
  • Standing with more confidence, starting to reach and show interest in pulling up.
  • Finally mastered the belly to back roll, which means she does not hate being on her belly quite so much as she used to. At least I say that having observed her do it several times; she doesn't do it anymore than she has to, even now.
  • Usually (with luck) to bed between eight and nine, up between 2 and 4 hours later for one night feed, sleeps till 6am (with maybe one wake up where she needs to be soothed a little).
  • Occasionally she wakes up and refuses to settle for....anywhere from an hour to three hours. She will doze off in our arms, and then as soon as she is put down, scream. On these occasions we have to do sort of a version of cry it out, where we let her wail in her crib for a few minutes just to tired herself out.
  • Front incisors coming in. Teething doesn't seem to bother AJ too much, at least not constantly
  • Bigger, stronger, cuter.....Of course!
  • Grabbing parts of our face - noses, ears, eyes, cheeks. When she wants to look at my ear she will grab my chin in one hand and push my head to the side to get at it. She also likes to bite my chin which I have had to put a stop to because of all the teeth.
  • Sitting and playing with her toys
  • Smiling, talking and interacting with people
  • diaper change
  •  being in the car seat or stroller for too long
Important events in the tenth month:
  • In August we took a one hour plane ride to visit my parents at their summer place. AJ did very well on the flights. I had a bottle of milk pumped for her which we tried to offer her during takeoff and landing, but she wasn't interested. She only cried a little on the first flight, and not at all on the second.
  • At my parent's place she enjoyed daily walks in the woods, swinging on the swing they rigged up for her on the porch, and hanging out at the beach in a tent (she wasn't crazy about the lake.) And of course all the attention from grandparents. I must say I really love seeing my parents with AJ. She is their only grandchild, and probably will always be the only one unless we can have another child. Any time they see her they act like they just won the lottery.
I am way behind on photo organizing - maybe today I'll get caught up, maybe - but here is a favourite of AJ from our vacation.

We're so lucky to share our lives with her!

Saturday 5 September 2015

First weekend after returning to work

Mr. Turtle is away fishing.

It rained all day. I ate salmon out of a can, and whatever else was on hand around the house. (I have no intention of going out.) I am working my way through a bottle of wine, in very modest increments timed around AJ's breastfeeding schedule. I watched episodes of The Last Ship on Space channel. I haven't watched enough to fully understand what it is about, but basically a bunch of people sail around in a post-apocalyptic world where half the population has died from a virus. For some reason I found this compelling. My stepmother in law came to visit, which was nice, but I found it challenging to keep up a conversation with her.

My only goal is to sleep as much as possible in 24 hours, but AJ hasn't been particularly compliant. She has a mild cold, and had a fever yesterday which seems to have gone away. She was happy other than one screaming fit but didn't want to nap longer than half an hour at a time. Also she is cutting two  incisors and drooling enough to soak her clothes through. But she is also trying really hard to crawl and it is so adorable.

I think I'm doing OK, but the transition to working parent is exhausting.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

It's getting real

So, this whole working parent thing might be the nemesis of the blog, finally. I want to write (and read and comment) but suddenly there's less hours in the day. I'm doing a lot of "mental blogging": meaning I write it in my head but it doesn't get to the page. (Even as I write this mini-post I'm wondering if AJ is eating lint.) Mental blogging isn't nearly as satisfying however, since those unwritten posts don't offer any catharsis; they just hang around like a nagging headache.

So far so good though. I've been back at work  for four days, and today the real work started, with the students. Everybody went home happy, which is my measure of success for the first day. It will be a project to get to know this new group and figure out how to most benefit them, but at least so far I have a lot of help and support, so that's good. Mr. Turtle started six weeks of parental leave as soon as I went back to work.

Alice had her first day transitioning to daycare today. She stayed from 9:00 to 2:30. Mr. Turtle took her and stayed for about 15 minutes, after which he left because he felt like he wasn't needed. AJ seemed to enjoy herself a lot. She played, ate lentil soup, napped (!).  She only cried a bit before her nap (which she always does anyway). The staff said she could have easily stayed all day, but Mr. Turtle needed her back. The experience was much harder on him than her. He's promised to write a guest post about his time at home, so I'll let him tell his own story when he's ready. I think so far I've had the easier time because I have a lot of distractions at work, which is different than coming home to an empty house.

Things can change, of course, but we are hopeful that it will be a smooth transition. Even though there's no way to not feel a little sad and dismayed that our baby is growing up so fast.

The daycare uses a cool app called HiMama which allows them to send updates and photographs to parents. How awesome is that? I think we found an excellent daycare.

I will go now - precious moments with AJ! Ten month update soon, I hope, and other thoughts.