The Things I Said I’d Never Do

We have such high (and often unrealistic) hopes for ourselves when they’re freshly born, don’t we?

Just for fun, so we can all have a good hearty laugh together, these are the things I said I’d never do before I became a parent (in my infinite and knowing wisdom). Eye roll.

  • feed them sugar
  • let them ‘cry it out’
  • kiss them on the mouth
  • lose my patience (ya ummmm ok)
  • give them screen time
  • feel the urge to shake them (sorrrrryyy but if you’re a colic mama you’ll understand)
  • cater to them by making a separate meal at dinner (or breakfast… or lunch…)
  • let their nap schedule dictate my day
  • use food or TV as a reward
  • stress about taking them on a plane (ha. ha. HAAAAAAA)
  • miss being in the workforce
  • eat food my toddler has dropped on the floor
  • eat food my toddler has dropped out of her own mouth
  • talk about my kid’s poops in great detail with my spouse
  • skip a workout because I was too tired

…are you rolling on the floor laughing? You should be; I certainly am.

Going Coastal

I thought I’d sit down amidst the utter discombobulation that is packing with two small children to write a blog post about what led us to our decision to move to a small coastal community we’ve never been to. It might seem like it came out of nowhere but I’ll remind anyone who has known us for 3+ years that a surprise move is kind of… dare I say on-brand for Tom and I. I mean, we did elope and this feels pretty similar to that. In both instances we spoke at great length about what we thought was the right move for the future of our family, took it about as seriously as we needed to (that is to say… not very) and then took a leap of faith. The only difference is that getting married cost us like eight hundred bucks and was probably a smaller commitment than the current weight of our new mortgage and sprawling fixer-upper.

Our first home together was a cheery and bright one bedroom apartment in the city. We got married in that apartment and brought Hennie home to it a year later. When she was ten months old we bought our first home, a tiny but cozy two bedroom condo. A year later we brought Wells home from the hospital to that apartment; I guess we move fast! Even before he was born we were having the conversation most of our generation probably has when raising a young family: do we want to continue to live in a small space in the city or do we want to move further afield so our kids can have the stuff we took for granted, like a yard and their own bedrooms? Like many young families our age, we can’t afford to have it both ways. We had this conversation over and over and over again, never really deciding what we wanted.

A year ago this month I was reading this post on one of my favourite blogs and I started daydreaming, as I always do when I see a home tour of a whole house, about upsizing our home and downsizing our community. Though it had always been a bit of a dream in the back of my mind, something about that article made me think “why not?” and I began thinking more critically about the logistics of that move – whether it would be possible, what it would look like for us. It felt like a monumental decision for me but when I mentioned it more seriously to Tom he seemed game for a change; having lived in multiple countries throughout his twenties I don’t think moving outside of the Lower Mainland was too much of a stretch for him.

Soon I became pretty fixated on the idea of selling our tiny apartment and moving somewhere else, but the checklist of what we were looking for in a community made the move seem fairly improbable. Our non-negotiables included mild weather (well, for Canada), decent elementary schools, a young, liberal-minded (or at least open-minded) community, multiple breweries (if we’re being perfectly honest) and obviously a real estate market that would allow for a detached home to be within the realm of possibility for us. We wanted to stay in as close proximity as possible to family in the Lower Mainland but knew that this was asking a lot. Knowing that it might not be possible to check all of our  boxes, we didn’t pursue it too much.

When we became serious enough about selling our place to connect with our realtor, we focused on a move to another local city where we thought we could afford a decent townhouse. We hung out there and loved the area, even staying in an AirBnB for two weeks in the fall and viewing some properties. One evening as we were doing our usual nightly scouring of the real estate there, Tom entered our search parameters and just started cruising around the map to see what we could afford elsewhere. He ended up on the Sunshine Coast looking at the houses for sale in a little beachside town called Gibsons. We marvelled at some gorgeous ocean-view homes and went to bed. A few nights of real estate hunting later and we were still looking at houses in Gibsons. We had never been there before and knew nothing about the coast but within a week our search had shifted. Without even talking about it we had both stopped looking at townhouses in the lower mainland and completely redirected our house hunt to the coast. Rather than approaching our nightly real estate searches with our usual sense of tired obligation I could feel a palpable excitement in the way we talked about the possibility of this move. Just as I can remember the moment when we decided we were going to be together forever (me: “is this it!?” Tom: “…I think so!”), I can remember the moment when we decided to redirect our house hunt to this totally new, seemingly random community we had stumbled upon in our late-night, beer-fuelled deep-dives into the depths of REW (me: “should we tell our realtor!?” Tom: “…I think so!”).

And then we found the house. It checked all of our boxes: stunning natural light, all the windows I could imagine, bedrooms enough for guests (or more babies! or guests with babies!) and it was even a rancher, which we were kinda hoping for. It was on a huge property with a back and front yard, had a fire pit, a large deck, and a detached office for Tom to work out of. It even had fruit trees and space for an ample vegetable garden, which was a long-shot wish of mine. We could afford it because it needed a helluva lot of love, but we were game for the challenge. We told our realtor. He called to inquire. The house was sold.

To Tom’s credit, he stayed calm through the many ups-and-downs of house-hunting, a feat that I cannot say I was capable of. With my exemplary imagination and lingering postpartum hormones I was a maniac every time we found a place we loved and a much bigger maniac every time we found out that a place I was already picturing myself living in was unavailable. I took up meditation to try and handle myself and we continued to focus our search on Gibsons, a community we had still never been to. We moved out of our condo so we could stage and show it more easily, packing up all of our unsightly clutter and moving it to my dad’s house (lucky him!). Before we left we went for one last date night at a local pub. Over many cheap pints I found that my husband, who doesn’t get excited about much, was unable to stop talking about the renovations he’d do on that first house we had fallen in love with. Poor guy.

The next morning our realtor called. The sale on the house – that house – hadn’t gone through and it was on the market again. He wanted to know if we could hop on a ferry immediately to go view it. Tom booked the next morning off work and we loaded the kids into the car to take a look at the rustic rancher that had occupied his thoughts for so very long. On the way there we said “at least now we can see it for ourselves and if it’s terrible we can put it out of our minds forever.” The day felt easy and exciting. It was a clear and crisp day in early February and the views of the local islands during the ferry crossing were stunning. We docked, drove to the house and stepped inside. We viewed it for probably ten minutes, the backyard too covered in snow for us to even really know what we’d be getting. Shortly afterward we were back on the ferry on our way home for nap time, instructing our team to begin compiling our offer.

And it was accepted! But first we had to sell our own condo, and fast. We cleaned, staged, photographed, and showed it as well and as quickly as we were able to and received a really fantastic offer after only a few days. We accepted it (whoop!), but it fell through. We accepted another offer, but it fell through as well. On the brink of losing our DIY dream house, we accepted a third offer. My anxiety was through the roof waiting for the buyers to get their affairs in order but thankfully, it went through. Miraculously, it seems, everything happened at the last moment when it needed to, teaching me all kinds of lessons about trust and letting go of things I can’t control. You would think I would already know how to deal with those things, having a medically complicated toddler, but it appears I’m a work in progress.

So here we are. Getting possession this week of a home which needs repairs we probably won’t know the full scope of until we’re up to our eyeballs in asbestos-laden insulation and rotting cedar beams (jk, probs). We head into it with a meagre budget, an inspection report so long it has a table of contents, and, thankfully, a sense of humour, at least for now. We’ve had so many moments when we’ve looked at each other, laughed, and said “what if we don’t even like it there because we still haven’t actually been?” but we’re just so sure that this is the right move for us that it hasn’t even really been a question on our minds. At the risk of being excessively corny and barf-inducing, I think I could live anywhere in the whole wide world with Tom Procter and it would still be the most stupendous life, so moving to a scenic coastal town where we can slow down and enjoy our kids and each other just seems like the icing on an already delicious cake.

For so long I existed in awe of the people I saw who were able to take a leap of faith and step forward into the unknown of a big adventure. This feels like that moment for us.

Preparing for Our Second Baby

martin-castro-597861-unsplash

Forget the gear. Everyone knows that you need the basics before baby: crib, stroller, freezer meals, diapers, duh. The Jess essentials (can we call them Jessentials? Probably not, right?) that I’m relying on to get through the Fourth Trimester this second time around are a little different from your standard pregnancy checklist. Last time I prepped so much for the baby that I forgot to take very good care of myself; I think that if I had put some tools in place for my own wellness, however little time I had to devote to it,  maaaaybe those colicky months wouldn’t have hit me so hard (but also they were just so freakin’ hard so I dunno, maybe nothing would have helped).

This time around it’s all about self-care; the baby is getting the basics and the rest will be for me because as any parent knows, when the mama is feeling good pretty much everything in the house runs more smoothly.

Basics for Baby. What the basics are will look different for every family. While most of Hennie’s clothes were pretty gender-neutral and I often shop for her in the boys section anyway, she was a newborn in the winter and Baby 2 is due in August so some lighter newborn-sized clothes were needed (tbh I picked up a few packs of plain white short-sleeved onesies and called it a day… #secondbabysyndrome ). Other than that we bought a mini crib, a Snuggle Me lounger, and invested in a really great double stroller and that was about it.

Catering to My Coziest Self. Obviously with the arrival of a new baby comes the arrival of those sleepless nights – so much time spent in bed without getting to sleep in it! This time I’ve resolved that if I’m going to be bed-bound for those long late night nursing sessions, I may as well make myself as comfortable as humanly possible (I mean, as comfortable as a mama recovering from childbirth with the postpartum sweats in August can really be). To all impending moms I would say this: whatever your cozy Saturday morning feel-good hangover jam is (or used to be), invest in that! Get some new pyjamas to cozy up those midnight feeds, some furry slippers if you’re due in the winter months, or plush new bedding to fall into for 45 minutes after being awake for three days. Whatever will add a bit of coziness for you is key. Obviously everything is going to revolve around your newborn for a time but it’s okay – and often crucial – to make a few tiny parts of your day about you. As you countdown those last few weeks go pick yourself up some small pleasures like some new shower products, a super soft shirt you can look forward to fitting into once that big ol’ bump is gone, a few pounds of fresh roasted espresso to look forward to each day, or a new shade of lipstick to throw on when you feel like a total postpartum dirtbag (it’s gonna happen some days, just embrace it)!

Sharpening My Coping Tools. Doing some “emotional work” is something I’ve been trying to make time for since I found out I was pregnant again in December. No one is at their best when their hormones are out of whack, they haven’t slept, and they’re trying to figure out what their brand new baby human wants. It’s a tough time for every family member as everyone adjusts to a new dynamic so the more tools you prep yourself with to help you cope with your stress the better off you’ll be able to handle that transition. Consider what usually helps you feel the most relaxed or focused; maybe it’s aromatherapy, listening to a favourite album, doing deep-breathing techniques, going through some favourite yoga poses, or having a chat with someone who always knows how to put things in perspective. Maybe it’s online shopping with a bottle of wine; I get it, but maybe try to find a few new tools before your due date. Keep a running list so that when you feel like things are getting to be too much you can take a few minutes (hopefully more if your new babe will allow!) and access these resources to find something to help you unwind or find a moment of peace. After my first baby was born I found that I felt much more capable and less anxious on days when I was able to leave the house even for a very short time. Every day I walked around the block a few times in the sunshine (alone!) and often stopped at the cafe on the corner to people-watch for a few minutes. These small moments were enough for me to regain some perspective and feel less isolated as I watched people live their lives around me. I suspect the caffeine boost didn’t hurt, either.

Becoming a Napper. There are two kinds of people: those who sleep easily and those who do not. I realize that to the types of people who can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, this advice is going to sound absolutely laughable. You freaks can fall asleep upright in an armchair at a toddler’s birthday party or under florescent lights in a waiting room or on an airplane, and I will forever be envious of that skill. But there are those of us who struggle to fall asleep even when conditions are optimal. I have never been able to nap  and quickly realized after my first baby was born that after sleeping only at night for thirty years, trying to grab a 45 minute catnap when my newborn was sleeping midday was next to impossible, no matter how exhausted I was. I wish that I had trained my body to fall asleep outside of it’s normal hours. I planned to spend the third trimester of this second pregnancy grabbing a midday nap when my toddler was down in an effort to teach myself this essential new skill, but so far it hasn’t happened and we’re now two weeks away from our due date. Kinda screwing over Future Jess but hey, can’t win ’em all!

Tom’s Preparation for Baby #2: I asked Tom what the number one thing is on his mind as we approach our boy’s due date and he answered that making the transition as easy as possible for Hennie is his top priority (assuming of course that I can take care of my own recovery). She’ll only be 21 months old when he’s born so we aren’t really able to explain the concept of a sibling to her in a way she can understand. Our plan has been to just attempt to stick to her routine as much as possible to avoid her feeling like the family is in upheaval. Or maybe she’ll be enthralled with her baby brother and won’t notice much else? We’re just as interested to see Hennie’s reactions to her brother as we are to meet him and see what he’s like!

If you have multiple kiddos, how did you prepare for baby #2 and what did you do differently than the first time? I’m so interested to hear, if you’d like to share.

 

Mamas and Daughters

ACS_0038

It’s a big weekend around here – Canadian Mother’s Day and the start of my third and final trimester carrying our second child! I’ve never been a huge fan of holidays, admittedly; I’d much rather have a long weekend. Give me an extra day to spend with family without the plans or pressures that accompany most holidays! That said, Mother’s Day has caused a little introspection for me this year. This is my last Mother’s Day being a mom to just Hennie and I’m feeling so many feels! Rather than worrying like a normal mom about how she’ll handle all the change that’s coming to our family dynamic, I’ve been selfishly worried about her relationship with me.

Since her birth, Hennie and I have always had an interesting and complex relationship. I suspect that most mother-daughter relationships have these qualities, but having only one daughter (and being only one daughter) I don’t really have enough experience to know for sure. In the beginning I blamed the colic and high-needs attributes for her not wanting to co-sleep or cuddle, but as she grew into toddlerhood she continued to remain pretty indifferent to me, not unlike the beloved cat I had when I was twelve. I begged my parents my whole life for a cat and when I finally got one she completely ignored me and rebuffed all of my attempts to cuddle with or pet her. My response was to forcefully smother her with my affection even as she clawed her way out of my arms. I was never able to successfully convince her to acknowledge me when she wasn’t hungry and I quickly realized that tactic wouldn’t work on Hennie, either. So instead of smothering my daughter in love I have dutifully heeded my parenting instincts, which have instructed me to stand back and let her comfort zone blossom over time, offering attention and affection only when it is asked for. It friggin’ kills me, but she responds well to being given her space.

In time I’ve learned to see her independence not as a rejection of me but as a movement toward her own freedom. I’m happy for her that she self-soothes at such a young age and sleeps well in her own bedroom. I’m happy for her that when she falls her first instinct is not to look for me, but to pick herself up and continue determinedly forward on her own path. I’m not getting the cuddles I always dreamt I would receive from a child but hey, there’s always the next one. And I certainly cannot deny that the girl is unstoppably strong-willed; in fact I had hoped for this quality in spades for any daughter I might be lucky enough to raise.

Things have changed oh so slowly and Hen really seems to love it when we spend time together now. Our weekdays as a twosome are full of fun local adventures and my heart pretty much explodes every time she reaches for my hand or runs toward me with her arms raised. We snuggle a little more often and once in a while I even catch her looking at me with an expression that feels like the whole universe is shining it’s light on me. Maybe after the new baby gets here she’ll regress back to her “I don’t need no mama” attitude, but I’m secretly hoping she gets jealous and clingy and I become buried under babies that my body has made. The future remains a mystery until this baby comes so for now I’m gonna soak up three months of summertime park hangs, iced coffee dates, and hand-holding with my smart, strong-willed baby girl. 

The First Year

andreas-weiland-252618-unsplash.jpg

Sometimes Tom and I wonder aloud to each other about the minutiae of our lives. When we die, wouldn’t it be fascinating to know the exact statistics about how we had lived? Maybe we are defined in part by how we live: many hours we spent loving the ones around us, how many times we went out of our way to show someone kindness, how many books we read or hand-written letters sent. Of course, it’s best to think of the good things; no one wants to know how many pints they have imbibed in their lifetime or how many weekends were wasted watching Netflix (no regrets!). These conversations always bring some much-needed perspective to my life and a secret commitment to myself to do better.

As we approached the first birthday of our first baby I haven’t been able to shake my curiosity about the statistics of this last year. Though I know I’ll never have the answers, I can’t help but wonder: how many diapers have I changed? How many night feeds have I endured? Good Lord, how many cups of coffee or glasses of wine (sometimes in the shower because #MultiTaskingMama)?

But those are boring – how about the things that are specific to my family’s experience? Could I measure this year by the nights spent walking around our kitchen island bouncing our swaddled, colicky daughter; in hours spent shushing her? The number of naps in that vibrating green chair we bought on Craigslist in desperation or the tears shed by a mama beset by guilt because she is unable to calm her own child? How about the number of appointments with Hennie’s paediatrician we attended this year, or her geneticist, or her cardiologist, or her GP? Can we measure the year in the number of times I googled ‘sleep regression’ or ‘teething remedies,’ or the number of times I texted my village in the middle of the night, desperately seeking their advice?

I wish I knew how many times this year my husband has cheered her on as she conquered a new skill or has made her shriek with laughter. How many times have we brushed our lips against her head or rubbed that downy blonde hair under our palm absentmindedly like she is an extension of ourselves, like we are scratching an itch on our own skin? How many times has she fallen asleep grasping our finger in her hand or reached for us to pick her up? How many times did we call her “Little Miss Custard Pants” or sing her a made-up song? Surely her first year could be defined by the number of hours she has spent in our arms or times she has turned those big, blue eyes on us with a mischievous smile? Has it been hundreds of times, or thousands? And yet still not enough.

This gorgeous little girl. She is growing so quickly and I’m struck with the knowledge that one day she will outgrow my arms, outgrow her stroller, outgrow her parents. She pushes my hands away so she can show me that she can stand on her own, but still expects that I remain nearby to scoop her up in my arms when she falls and praise her efforts with the enthusiastic applause that only an over-proud parent can give. I will always celebrate your independence and stay close enough to catch you, baby girl, long after you’ve learned to walk with steadiness through this world that isn’t good enough for your innocence. I don’t have to know the statistics of my life to know that it is already defined by the time I get to spend with you.

This Season

curtis-macnewton-12713-unsplash

It’s Fall! For the rest of the world this season is heralded by the changing leaves, chilly morning air, and pumpkin everythaaaang. Once upon a time the arrival of Autumn meant the same thing for me, but mamas of November babies have an additional reason to be excited for this season. As the air cooled this year I was reminded of how painfully pregnant but palpably excited I was at this time last year as I waddled around in the crisp sunshine or walked in the park under the changing foliage, trying in vain to get comfortable on the hard wooden benches down by the water. I spent the majority of the third trimester in a daze, daydreaming about what my daughter would look like and when she would arrive. Seeing the first Halloween display in a shop window one day jolted me into the reality that my due date was only weeks away and we would be welcoming Hennie James into our world soon.

We had our babe in early November and winter came shortly after. Everyone told me to enjoy each season for what it was, to savour every moment and not take anything for granted, but we struggled. The busy-ness of Christmas filled me with anxiety as invitations to parties and family events filled our calendar. We weren’t able to control our baby’s constant crying at home so what made anyone think we wanted to troubleshoot that unstoppable, shrill screaming in front of others? I felt bumbling, inexperienced, embarrassed, and exhausted, and I was as much of a hermit as I could get away with.

As we eased into Autumn this year I noticed a dread building slowly in the back of my mind. So many times I found myself saying to Tom, “I feel so anxious and I don’t know why.” Usually I’m able to pinpoint the reasons for my anxiety when it surfaces but this time I wasn’t been able to locate precisely what was causing it until we had the first cool Fall day and I suddenly realized… it’s this season. My body was recalling the lingering PTSD I felt from that Fourth Trimester. Her colic, coupled with long months spent waiting to hear from cardiologists and medical geneticists, made for a very miserable fall and winter last year indeed. We did not know how severe her heart condition would be, we had not yet received any answers about her diagnosis, and I did not savour every moment. I wished many of them away and I don’t regret it; some nights all that kept my spirits up was the knowledge that it would pass, the promise from other colic-mama’s that she would outgrow the screaming. I have zero patience for Mama Guilt so I respect that I did what I needed to do mentally and I humbly foster the hope that I will always remember to be that gentle on myself and on other struggling mamas.

While we still have many parenting challenges ahead – those looming toddler years! – most days are so much fun. All of a sudden this season is no longer one of PTSD for me, it’s one that I can see through the eyes of a child who notices with delight as each leaf falls to the boardwalk down by the river, who watches the squirrels in the park with distrust and wonder. Experiencing it all for the first time through her eyes is slowly erasing the memories of last year’s colicky trauma. Letting go of that experience has not been an easy one for our family but we are moving forward and loving every minute. So whether it’s 20 degrees like last weekend or -1 like today, bring on the pumpkin patches, tweed, apple cider, Halloween, hayrides, breweries (obvi), even snow… this year we are going to savour every moment!

What Is A “High Needs Baby”?

IMG_7619Tom and I have thrown around the term “high needs” a lot when talking about Hennie and I just wanted to write a little bit about what that means because it’s a relatively recent term and some friends and family have expressed curiosity about it. High needs is a term coined by the venerable paediatrician Dr. William Sears to describe babies who “need more”. You can read about the 12 features that define these babies’ [here], if you’d like to, but I’ll quickly sum up the main points for you. Through years of paediatric practice and counselling of parents and babies both “normal” and “high needs,” Dr. Sears recognized and recorded the 12 features of the high needs baby and came up with the term to reflect a more positive attitude than the “difficult” or “fussy” labels these babies had previously been given. As Dr. Sears says, “each of these personality traits has its blessings and its trials. These personality traits should not be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ They are just differences between babies, but these differences do make high need babies challenging to parent. Ultimately, what matters is how the child learns to use these special gifts. Our goal is to help parents identify these unique features in their infant and child and channel these traits to work to the child’s advantage.”

I first learned about the term after joining a support group for fussy babies online. In those early days with Hennie we began to suspect that our parent friends were having a completely different experience than we were having, and one night, in an effort to feel less isolated, I sought out other parents on social media whose newborns acted like ours did. Being a parent is hard and we expected it to be a challenge, but our friends could put their babies down sometimes, could anticipate their babies’ needs with some predictability, could enjoy their babies’ without being screamed at constantly. Once Hennie’s reflux problems had been resolved and colic had finally passed (around four months) we found her slightly easier to manage, but it was clear that she was still a loud, clingy, sensitive, draining baby. This is not to discredit any other parent who is having a tough time because all kids are a little high needs and may reflect a few of the 12 characteristics Dr. Sears identified above, but we could see that Hennie possessed most if not all of the features listed, and children who reflect that many traits are, as we quickly learned, especially challenging.

Hennie needs to be held constantly but isn’t quick to cuddle. She is an intense baby with an angry, loud cry. She is extremely sensitive to her environment and does not easily accept a caregiver who is not mum or dad. She is often hypertonic – if she is awake, her little muscles are usually clenched. We weren’t able to put her down for months and we have found that she is at her happiest when she is being held by one of her parents while looking at the other. She cannot self soothe and relies on a multi-faceted strategy to get to sleep, then often won’t transition out of our arms once asleep anyway. At family events she isn’t the baby that is easily passed around for everyone to hold and cuddle; we feel like we’re “hogging” her, but she needs time to warm to new people and situations and easily becomes overstimulated by so many faces.

When we found and read Dr. Sears’ baby book about parenting the high need child we couldn’t believe it – as he described the personality of his baby daughter Hayden in the opening chapter, we could have substituted Hennie’s name and been reading about her. They were exactly alike. I instantly felt relief knowing that other babies like Hen existed and it wasn’t just that I couldn’t hack it as a mama. My penchant for self-doubt had caused me to wonder at times if my expectations for motherhood had been extraordinarily warped, if I was just straight-up bad at parenting, or if I just had a dramatic or negative outlook (I’m sure a handful of our friends have wondered the same). But here was a book not only describing our child perfectly, but also describing our experiences as parents and our feelings of doubt, resentment, and inadequacy.  Dr. Sears described entire nights spent walking with his newborn daughter while she slept, the danger of making comparisons, the tendency the high needs baby has to dominate the home, and the defeated feeling of always having to walk on eggshells and meet her constant demands. I was reminded that we needed to change our expectations rather than trying to change her (an impossible task anyway) and find ways to stay positive on days when we felt exhausted and resentful. Most of all, I felt vindicated knowing that approximately 10% of babies just need more as Dr. Sears puts it; “more touch, more understanding, more sensitivity, more creative parenting.”

While these high-needs aspects of Hennie’s little personality are certainly challenging and draining to us now, we are so excited to see how they become real advantages for her later. And please know that the purpose of writing this isn’t to elicit pity, but understanding. On a good day, I know that we are an ideal match for this little girl – we are flexible, energetic, and open-minded parents, and Tom, at least, has seemingly endless patience. But I am an anxious mama too, and I often feel guilty when friends and family don’t understand why Hennie doesn’t want to be held by them, why she won’t sit still or cuddle them, or why they’ve offered to babysit multiple times and we haven’t taken them up on the offer. When we bring her somewhere new people often comment that she is “playing strange,” but just as adults come with varying degrees of social comfort zones, so too do babies. As my friend Katherine noticed very quickly when Hennie was only a month old, our daughter “really likes her personal space.” That said, we have seen some great (but slow) progress lately and are hopeful that any future Procter babies are a bit more low maintenance 🙂 I hope that learning a bit more about high needs babies helps you – our family and friends – understand a bit more about Hennie and a lot more about how Tom and I are managing during this crazy first year of parenthood! And if you made it this far, thanks for reading!

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

 

Not a lot of new moms publicly use the word “dark” to describe their first months with a new baby and I certainly didn’t expect that I would be one of them, but our time getting to know Hennie James has been dark and discouraging in more ways than one. Even though we have an amazing ‘village’ of supporters I often felt isolated from friends and family who were enjoying the Fourth Trimester with their newborns. I felt guilty for not feeling the same way and anxious about Hennie’s health problems. I haven’t felt comfortable leaving the house with her and despite knowing deep down that it wasn’t the case, I felt like my screaming child hated me or at least hated being alive – what else could you assume about someone who wailed during every waking moment? Even in a literal sense that time was dark; Hen was born in early November on the very day that the clocks turned back and we lost an hour of sunlight each day. She came into our lives with the winter, and not one of our usual mild Vancouver winters but a record long, cold winter, the first in decades.

Anyone who knows us knows how tough it’s been. Close friends and cousins have endured my miserable midnight texts and my exasperated questions and responded with sympathy, understanding, and best of all: no judgment. I can never thank those people enough (you know who you are, I’m sure), and those same people will share our jubilant relief that the long, dark winter has broken!

Lately our girl is a different baby. She wakes up smiling and lights up when she sees us. She allows us to hold her and cuddle her and behaves the way I expected a baby to behave before I knew this one. The list of things she dislikes is still a long one but she doesn’t scream for no reason anymore, and she doesn’t hate life or her parents. In fact, she really seems to love us. And it is a love this mama has been waiting four long months for.

The snow finally cleared as the clocks changed again last week. Since then our home has been filled with sunshine in every sense of the word. Hopefully Hurricane Hennie is behind us. The first day of Spring is tomorrow and we are so ready for the fun seasons ahead with Happy Hennie!

Ode to the First Month

This is the story of a Little Red Hen

who was born to a mama and dad

who took her home from the hospital

and the Little Red Hen went mad.

 

First they bounced their Little Red Hen

and walked her ‘round the town,

but still she screamed and cried all day

and never let them put her down.

 

Then they shushed their Little Red Hen

’til both their throats were dry,

they shushed and sang and bounced ’til morn

but the Little Red Hen still cried.

 

Next they drove their Little Red Hen

with her carseat buckled tight,

she almost slept but would wake each time

they paused at a red stoplight.

 

Last they bathed their Little Red Hen,

swaddled up like in the womb,

but the Little Red Hen didn’t like that much

and her cries filled the little bathroom.

 

“You cannot fix this Little Red Hen,”

said the doctor, “it’s just colic!”

So the Little Red Hen just screamed and cried

and her mom became an alcoholic.