Friday, May 28, 2010

Thanks for Reading

I'd like to take a minute to appreciate all of you out there who tell me that you enjoy reading this blog. My ego feels all warm and fuzzy when you compliment my writing (or my super cute baby!). It would be a lie to say that it doesn't matter what others think, that I write this solely (and soul-y) for myself. Or that the blog is merely to keep my family and friends back home in the loop about our lives.

The truth is that I have a lot of fun doing it. And I am trying to reach out a little. To my family and friends, yes. But also to anyone out there who might be able to relate to some of the things that I am going through as a new mom. Why? Because it is therapeutic to share stories with our peers. To speak and be heard. To know that I am not alone and to let others know that they are not either. If I can make you think - great. If I can start a conversation - better! If I can make you laugh - well then my work is done!

So if you like my blog, please keep reading. Become a follower. Comment. Recommend me to your friends, or link to me from your own web pages. Apparently all this stuff means something out here in blog-world, but mostly I just want to share with as many people as possible. I want to be heard, and I want to listen in return.

---

Hey remember Sam playing strange with our friend Matt?
Well here the tables are turned!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rock-a-bye Mum and Dad

Dear Sam,

We'd like to acknowledge your considerable efforts recently in the arena of sleep. It seems that we have turned a corner and that you are now sleeping "through the night". We don't know what changed for you, but we LOVE it! Please keep it up!

Love,
Mum & Dad

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Playing Strange

Before Sam arrived in living colour we were quite social people, David and I.

I'd like to think that we do a pretty good job of remaining that way. To be fair, we don't go out to restaurants much anymore, and any loud event like a hockey game or boisterous house party absolutely requires a babysitter. But overall, we still see our close friends a lot. We just show up with more stuff. The playpen gets set up in a bedroom somewhere, sometimes we'll even throw the boy into the bath real quick to provide a semblance of our at home bedtime routine, a quick nurse and down he goes. Or we have people here.

-- Frankly, it's a bit of a blessing in disguise because who can afford to go out (or buy the new wardrobe required for your post-pregnancy body) when you have a baby at home? Seriously! These boobs? They are lovely, but there is nothing sexy about a nursing bra! And unfortunately I choose my outfits in the morning based on what is easiest to breastfeed in rather than what might look best. --

Our desire to remain social stems, I think, from the lack of family we have here in BC. All of Sam's aunts and uncles (by blood) live back East, as do his grandparents and just about our entire extended family. Over the years we've built a network of friends who have basically become our family - our little village.

Sam has seen our very close friends on a regular basis since he was a newborn. He is comfortable and familiar with them and I would trust any of them to look after him in our absence. Lately, however, he has started playing strange with the men in our pack. He's cool with the chicks, but these days Dad is the only dude he will tolerate.

For example, "uncle" Matt is particularly scary.

Don't worry, Sam recovered from this little encounter just fine. It was a temporary trauma, forgotten with the offering of Cheerios.

Tonight his great aunt (for real) Joey and great uncle Emile visited on their way through to the Island. It was just before dinner when they arrived which caused Sam to have a low blood sugar / new scary people in the house meltdown. After dinner and - again - the offering of many Cheerios, Sam warmed up to his great aunt and by the end of the visit he was all smiles and flirting. As usual.

Cool Sam.
But really he just fell over in the bucket and was too lazy to right himself.

Super smiley Sam.

I know this is a normal stage that all babies go through so I'm not concerned. It's actually a bit funny. Or maybe I'm a bit cruel. Aren't the best blog posts some combination both?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day?: A Dissertation by Samuel Barrett Tilgner



Dear Mother,

How are you? I am fine. I woke up extra early on Mother's Day to write you this post. I have watched you as you pound away at your keyboard obsessively for the past 7 months (which, coincidentally, is how long I have been alive), so I feel that I now have the psycho-social tools and manual dexterity needed to add my own thoughts to your growing online journal.

In honour of your first true Mother's Day, I would like to present a list of your accomplishments that I am proudest of. Although my neurological and cognitive functions are still forming to provide me with the ability to remember things for longer than 5 seconds, I would like to try and present my "Best Of" moments in chronological order. Please bear with me if you find any flaws in my presentation. I am, after all, a baby.

#1 - Conceiving Me (Or getting 'Knocked Up' as the tweens are calling it):
Kudos! My understanding is this is harder than it looks. Not that I've seen it from the outside, but my reliable sources confirm that simply getting two people to rub together to make a new person is, at times, trying. Congratulations on performing sexually for father while your cervical mucus was at its most receptive.

#2 - Successful carrying to term:
Again, my thanks! Harder than it looks. Way to not 'Drop the Ball' as coach used to say.

#3 - Delivery of Me:
Hmm - I wish I could give you full marks for this, but unfortunately, this event was entirely disruptive to my schedule. And the fact that I was pulled sticky from your womb from a front incision instead of the practiced 'vaginal delivery' was completely bush-league. However, results are results, and thank you for making my first breath (45 seconds later) a decent one.

#4 - Breastfeeding:
We've got a long history on this one Mom, and it's easy to forget how hard it was for everyone that first night and the following weeks. Thank you for pushing through raw nipples and psychotic insomnia episodes to work with me on making this a successful venture. The fact that Dad held my head while someone cut my tongue is a minor quibble when you consider that I am, in fact, still alive.

#5 - Changing my diapers:
Thank you for making this potentially embarrassing time in my life calm and respectful. Despite your disturbing obsession with washing cloth diapers for weeks at a time, your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Wherever I am in my life, whenever I have a load in my pants, I will think of you.

#6 - Cuddles:
I don't think we need to expand on this issue, except to say, keep up the good work.

#7 - Crying to sleep:
Now really, this was something I wasn't going to write about, because I am still undecided at this time. Crying? To sleep? Really? This is what conclusion you came to after months of research and metric evaluation? I see you with your notepad, scribbling down when I go to sleep, wake up, demand to be fed and so on. All of those numbers came to 'Maybe we should just leave him alone for a while?' My question to you, dear Mother, is couldn't we have come to this conclusion by throwing darts at a shelf of baby advice books?

Regardless, I'm sleeping fine now, and I grudgingly thank you for your help in giving me this important life skill. However, to compensate, I will have to insist on more of #6.

#8 - Nicknames (A partial list):
You are not the only culprit in this manifesto, Mother. Father, or "Dad" as you refer to him seems to be bent on not letting any of these cutesy terms disappear from our conversations. So far, I have been called:
Sam (obviously)
Samantha (when I'm crying)
Sam-a-lot
Green Eggs and Sam
Sam-Bot (The Bio-Mechanical Sam...What the Hell?)
Sam-Man
Sam-Face
Big Sam-Face
Big Red Crying Heavy Sam-Face (I'm not making this one up...)
Sam-Bort (Again, WTF?)
Pirate Sam
Captain Sam
Samanthaaaaaaar! (I get it. I'm supposed to like Pirates.)
Samuelson
Samotage (while Dad insisting he then sings the only 3 lines from Beastie Boys 'Sabotage' he knows)
Sam-Boy
Samcake
Little Crying Robot Baby (which your friends started, I believe)

Quite frankly, enough is enough. In our world of conflicting gender and identity issues, THIS is how you choose to build up my ego? But I digress: This is a post of thanking, not blaming. Thank you for loving me enough to come up with silly names. Sambot makes me laugh. Grudgingly.

#9 - Solid Food
This is A-Number 1! So far I have avoided allergic reactions, choking on Cheerios (perhaps because of your repeated warnings to Father of 'Don't let him choke on the Cheerios...) and have enjoyed food which is, quite frankly, of better quality than you eat. And you may not realize it, but I am very appreciative of the extra money you spend on organic meat...although I feel that when I get picked for the team, I will be the smallest boy there: My compatriots will have had a lifetime of being fed cattle growth hormones. Never mind that - The large are slow and can be used to carry heavy things for their betters.

#10 - My Hair
This certainly did not come from Dad, although perhaps his? Hard to tell. Suffice to say it is the one feature that has been the biggest draw in public. The outcrying of adoration from my growing fan base has made me realize just how precious physical attractiveness is. I will treasure it always. I certainly hope it will allow me to "mack" on the "ladies" later in life. Although you may not share this wish.

Mother, thank you so much for taking the time to read these important and innermost thoughts that I have been building on for months. I feel that it is critical at this juncture in both our lives that we are open and honest with each other. Know that when I sing into a stuffed rabbit's face, or put pureed apples into my eyes, I am really just saying "Mother, Thank You for making all of this possible."

Please consider this link to Pink Floyd's "Mother" as my tribute to you. Its reflections on Cold War Hysteria really fit with our home life paradigms, don't you agree?

Love you always and always,

Your Son, Sam (Sambot)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Heading Back to Work

I'm sitting in a cozy little sunbeam on the kitchen floor with the cats while I write this post (or draft depending on if I get it finished before the boy wakes up from his nap). I have a hot cup of tea by my side and the CBC on in the background, because I am one of the few Canadians under 50 who regularly listen to talk radio.

I've chosen this setting partly because it is calm and lovely and inspiring (birds chirping outside, a small family playing at the park behind my backyard), and partly because, despite the sun, it is freaking cold and I refuse to turn the furnace back on (because it is May thank you very much!) so this is the warmest spot in the house at the moment.

Sam is napping in his room where the heat is turned on a little - I'm stubborn, not neglectful. But seriously we had warmer weather during the Summer Olympics back in February.

Now, on with today's topic:

Living in Canada, I am very spoiled in a lot of ways. Beauty, wide-open spaces, natural resources, health care, and now that I am a mother I can fully appreciate a year-long maternity leave. Well, almost.

The government has done it's best to encourage and support parents in staying home for 52 weeks with their new children. My job is guaranteed for me upon my return, and even if my employer doesn't offer any benefits with the leave (which they don't), the Feds fork out a whopping $405 per week (after taxes) so that I can eat while I provide the love and nurturing my son deserves for most of the first year of his life.

Except that David and I had bad timing. He got laid off from work the same day I found out I was pregnant with Sam. It was laughable at the time. And certainly it had no bearing on our decision to start a family or not - we had been trying to get good and pregnant for over 2 years. What it does affect is the necessity for me to go back to work sooner than I would like. Sooner, like tomorrow. Less than one week after Sam has turned seven months old.

The reasonable part of me knows that I shouldn't worry, Sam will be fine. I am after all leaving him home with his dad. The mother-bear in me wants to scream NO! No one could possibly love and care for my son as well as I do!

Reasonable Jamie: It will be good for Sam to be with his dad more. He'll learn new coping and social skills. It will be good for dad too; confidence, bonding, and all that. Good for me to learn to let go a bit. Good for everyone.

Mother-bear: Hands off my baby! He's mine!!

RJ: I can work flexible shifts, mostly nights if I want to. I'll still see lots of Sam.

MB: I don't care! I don't WANT to go to work (sob!). My most important job is here!!

RJ: Well suck it up, we need the money.

MB: (sniff) . . . fine.

Honestly, I don't know how moms in the States do it. Go back to work after only a few months or even weeks. I barely trusted in my own abilities to take care of my baby when he was that young, let alone someone else's. I suppose that like me in this situation, you just do what you have to do.

But I am worried about things like being able to maintain my milk supply so that I can still breast feed. About missing big things like the first crawl. Or even little things like reading his bedtime book. Will I lose touch with my new mommy friends I've met through playgroups, etc. who aren't back to work yet, who still have time for coffee and library and swimming dates in the middle of the week?

I worry about David and Sam having a good time together. Will Sam nap for his dad? Will he take the bottle willingly? Or will every task be a struggle? Will David be bored or frustrated with Sam? If I am to be perfectly honest with myself (and the internet), I worry that Sam will do better with his dad than with me. Will this mean he doesn't need me anymore? Will it undo all the attachment work I've done with him? What if he starts to prefer the bottle? What does all this say about the mother I've been for the past seven months?

I know (hope) a lot of my fears are baseless. The fact of the matter is: Sam is growing up regardless of who stays home with him. There's no stopping it. And I wouldn't want to. (With hesitation. Would I?) Even if I was able to be a SAHM, he would eventually go off to preschool and then kindergarten. Where I have no control.

And I guess that's what this boils down to. I don't want to give up control over everything that influences Sam. It scares me to not be 100% in charge of his little world.

In order to maintain my marriage intact, I'm going to have to try really hard not to micro-manage David's parenting. He's an excellent dad. And while I will have written out my suggestions for Sam's daily schedule (re: naps, snacks, activities, etc.), I simply have to step back and let David and Sam find what works for them. I'm sure David will figure out things that I haven't even considered; and I'm sure that Sam will surprise me by cooperating with his dad on things that he fights with me on. In the end I have to trust that they will sort it out.

It would do me some good to remember what I have told others: Everything I've learned about being a parent, I've learned by doing it. I wasn't born with some innate knowledge because I am a woman. And I certainly didn't read any books ahead of time. A lot of it has been trial and error. And all of it has come with incredible support from my partner who is about to take over as primary caregiver for a while.

My boys are resilient. They will forge a path. They will be ok.

Will I?

I'll keep you posted.

---

Sam and his Momma Bear