NYE, 2013 Style

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I’ve been thinking about New Year’s Eve. About New Year’s eves gone by, when I would claim not to care about making plans, that whatever I did was fine, hum and drum. “I’m not a big New Year’s person,” I’d say.

Except I did care. I cared that there was some kind of something, anything, as long as it was planned for. Something to look forward to. No tiresome nightclubs or overpriced dinners, but an attempt, at least, to celebrate.

The worst kind of plan was the backup, the thing you really didn’t want to do but there weren’t any other options. If you’d left it too late, say, or the majority of your friends were away. One year, when I was in college and living in Vancouver, I agreed to pay $40 for a ticket to a party (in the building that was once Graceland, and then became a ridiculous club that probably put on the Much Dance Mix ’98 CD and called it a night) in order to spend the evening with my friend and her boyfriend. A sad little threesome, we were: I hardly knew him and I was shy, a terrible conversationalist; she was eager to make sure we all had fun; he seemed bored and apathetic. Oh, the awkwardness of tagging along after a new couple. Just imagine us on the dance floor: her, being kind and attempting to dance with me and with him at the same time. I have a vivid memory of the three of us lined up in a row along the back wall near the washrooms, drunk people careening around in front of us as we just…stood there. Doing absolutely nothing. It wasn’t even the sort of situation you could try to rescue. I watched the time pass, waiting for midnight. Was it too soon to go to the washroom again? Should I buy another soda (just soda, because I’d spent all my money on the ticket)? Why did I wear this stupid dress? Why didn’t anyone want to talk to me? It didn’t occur to me that simply leaving was an option, and anyway I never would have gone through with it because, after they had sacrificed a romantic evening with me, it would have been rude.

So I stayed. At one point a girl tripped and cut her foot on some glass, and was bleeding everywhere, and I hurled myself at her, shrieking, “Are you okay??”, trying not to grin like a maniac. I was just so relieved that something had actually happened.

By contrast, I look upon the year that a bunch of us got stuck in the village at Mt. Tremblant (three miles from our condo, in -20 Celsius, bickering and then crying and then nearly walking home over a probably-but-not-definitely frozen river) with fondness.

This year, I’ll be spending the majority of the evening in a dark room, trying not to move. I am still too new-Mom paranoid to let Rei sleep without me in the room. Every night, at around 7:30 when she is done her bath, I go upstairs to nurse her and get her into bed and turn the lights off. And then I wait until it’s time to actually go to sleep, because if I go to sleep when she does I’ll wake up at 4 am and the cats will also wake up and cry until I feed them. We earned their 6 am wakeup call by pushing them just a tiny bit forward every morning for months and months, earned it, dammit. So I sit in the dark, and try not to make any noise or to buy (too many) things on Etsy. Then Pete comes to bed.

This year, we had no New Year’s plans. We didn’t even have an anti-plan, a, “Let’s just stay at home and cozy up and drink hot chocolate and go to bed at 7:30,” sort of plan. There was just nothing, because what can you possibly do on New Year’s that also doesn’t mess with your infant’s precious bedtime? (A babysitter is not an option. Yet.)

Et voila, we got invited to a party! That starts at 3:00! We can arrive early and leave early and still be home in time to celebrate the rest of the night in separate rooms, Pete on the couch with the cats, me and Reiden in the dark.

I’ll spend about five minutes feeling sorry for myself, and the rest of the time mooning over pictures of my baby, feeling grateful and amazed and sappy.

It won’t be the most festive of New Year’s eves. But, as with every other night, I will love it.

I’ll Be Home

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You move a lot. Nine places in nine months is your record. You like change, and new environments, and because you have no money you can never get quite the type of place you want. You go through roommates. You move in and out with boyfriends.

Every year you spend Christmas with your mother and brother, because that’s how it’s always been. The first year that you’re away breaks everyone’s hearts, but next time is a little easier. You spend one year with your father and stepmother, a year at home, a year with your in-laws. Scotland, Vancouver, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Kelowna, Kelowna.

You’re never where you actually live.

Except this year, because you have a reason.

At 5:00 am you nurse your little baby. You think about what she’ll wear on Christmas, about taking photos in front of the tree. How she’ll stare at the lights, mesmerized, while her dad sings Rudolph. About presents and After Eights and dinner. You hold her and look at her milk-drunk sleeping Buddha face and once again you can’t believe how crazily, stupidly, ridiculously you love her.

You think, “This, this, this. This is home.”

(And then she farts.)

The Princess and the Soother

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(I wrote this weeks ago, intending for it to be a brief little story about yet another dumb thing I did to mess with Rei’s sleep. But the more I wrote, the longer it got and I couldn’t finish it without saying more, more, more. It became the Energizer Bunny of blog posts. Anyway here’s a story that could probably be a lot shorter. No one ever accused me of pith. … Except that one time, in sixth grade, when I tried to write a scary story and someone told me, “You get to the point too fast.” Maybe I took that to heart a tad too much.)

(Great, now this is even longer.)

Rei had a bit of a weird night last night. I’d decided, based on something I had read, to start giving her more frequent feeds in the evening in an attempt to help her sleep longer. She was pretty happy until bedtime — let Pete walk her around the house, smiled during her bath, only cried a little when she was getting into her pyjamas (and this baby cries a lot before bed, because she’s so hungry and feed me now and what are you doing this isn’t a boob, it’s pyjamas helllppp!).

For a baby who’s not even three months old, Rei’s normally a great sleeper. She doesn’t love her crib, and she always fusses a bit when I put her in it, but it usually only takes a few rounds of comforting and shushing, and maybe an extra feed, to get her to settle. Once she’s down, she often sleeps for 6-8 hours. But the other night she ate every hour, on the hour, from 7:00 to 11:00. And then in the morning, she woke up and ate at 5:00, 6:30 and 7:30. I worried that something was wrong.

So last night, based on ONE exception to her pattern, I figured she might be afraid of going to sleep, because she sleeps for so long that she gets extra hungry. So feed more, right? Right?

Pete handed her to me. She looked at me, her face blank. Not crying. Peaceful. “Oh good,” I said, “feeding her more at nighttime is working! She’ll eat a lot and feel better about going to bed! I’m so smart!”

I’d fed her at 5:00, and then an hour later. Now, I presented her with the boob, and stuck her on it. She started to suck.

And then she screamed.

There’s nothing quite like watching your baby howl, red-faced, clearly in agony because you are trying to FEED HER. The special thing you do together. That she loves. That she normally wants to do all the time.

She pulled back, still screaming. I picked her up and tried to comfort her. “There’s lots of milk, Rei,” I said. “You just have to get it out.”

And then I tried again.

It was bad.

It was like I was torturing her.

“Weird,” I said to her purple, howling face, still trying to smush the nipple in. “I think there’s lots of milk, but let me check.”

And I tried to express some milk.

And sprayed her in the face.

After giving up and walking her around the room singing to her, she started to calm down. Eventually it occurred to me that maybe she hadn’t been hungry at all. Maybe she had thought I wanted her to eat and I was basically force-feeding her and she would never again enjoy our special time and AHHHHH!

Or maybe she just wanted something to suck on? So I set her down in the crib, and she cried. I gave her a soother and she accepted it. I crawled on to our bed (she sleeps next to us, in her crib) and waited, fully expecting her to wake up when the soother fell out of her mouth. Instead, she fell asleep! On the first try! Which never happens.

And woke up again an hour later. Given that she hadn’t had much to eat earlier (despite me repeatedly shoving my nipple in her mouth), I wasn’t surprised, and I picked her up and fed her.

She took the boob (yay!) and minutes later, fell asleep nursing (yay!). I ignored the rule about always putting a baby in her crib “drowsy but awake” (for anyone who isn’t aware, this is the magic bullet of infant sleep: you’re never supposed to put a baby down after she’s asleep. She should always be a little bit awake so that she can learn how to fall asleep on her own. It’s about as easy as it sounds.), because waking her up at that point just seemed mean, what with the earlier trauma and all (and okay, I didn’t want to deal with another round of getting her back to sleep).

I lifted her up off my nursing pillow and carried her over to the crib. She was all floppy, which meant the chances of her waking up when I set her down (which happens almost all the time, and often involves fussing and squawking and general protesting over having to sleep on her back, which is why she refuses to go near her crib for naps, which is a whole other post) were basically nil.

Unless, of course, a third party was to intervene.

I do this all the time: I accidentally rap the crib with my knuckles, I wake up wondering why I woke up and poke her to check her breathing (and then her temperature, because why stop there?), I panic about the heat and have to get out of bed to turn it down and rustle our inexplicably loud duvet, I sneeze, I do some bonehead thing that wakes her up.

I laid her down, pleased with myself. She ate! She doesn’t hate me! We’re all going to have such a great sleep! Except…

Where is the soother?

The room, at this point, was pretty dark. I squinted into her crib and felt around, expecting to find it near her head. I patted around her face, jabbing at her cheeks. I began to worry that she was, in fact, lying on it.

Getting a baby to sleep is sort of like getting yourself to sleep when you’ve had one of those nights where everything is keeping you up. You get so close each time, and then your nose itches. Or a certain someone starts to snore. Or the cat meows. It’s not easy. And you do not want to mess with it. (Poor Peter, the countless number of times already I’ve flung an arm out at him to tell him to stop him moving because he’s rocking the bed and her crib is right next to the bed and why is our duvet so freaking loud?)

So now I had a dilemma: pick Reiden up and undoubtedly wake her, or let her sleep on her soother. Which was probably right under her head. Stuck in her ear, or something.

I felt her ears. No soother. I took a deep breath, put my hand under her and rolled her to one side.

Nothing. I rolled her to the other side.

She whimpered.

If it wasn’t by her face, or underneath her, where could it be? Could it somehow be in the middle of her back, the part that didn’t roll?

I texted Pete. “I put her in the crib and now I CAN’T FIND HER SOOTHER.”

Then: “DID I SET HER DOWN ON THE SOOTHER?”

He replied, “Well, it can’t hurt her.”

“But it could! What if it does? Oh dear. I’m going to look on the ground? Maybe it fell out?”

“How could it?”

It was, in fact, on the floor, which I discovered while crawling around with the light from my iPhone.

I got back into bed, the cheap Ikea duvet crackling like a camp fire, and texted Peter the good news. I had retrieved the soother, and, impossibly, Reiden had managed to sleep through the whole thing.

I think the sleep gods took pity on us that night. The poor baby, her blissful sleep routinely sabotaged by her own bumbling mother.

Crossing the Great FOMO Divide

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Some days everything goes to crap and all day, all day I try to get out for that walk, that 15-minute walk to the grocery store that I crave, savor, must have every day. Except the timing isn’t working and here comes another meltdown and I hold my overtired, wailing baby and sing and bounce until she finally falls asleep and watch the light disappear and with it, my hope for a walk.

Some days I realize it’s 2 pm and I’m still wearing pajamas and not in a cozy, stay-at-home way but in a way that makes me feel small and alone.

Some days there isn’t time to eat, it just doesn’t work because I cannot master the art of preparing and eating food while my baby cries.

Some days, most days I hold her all day long because she will not nap on her back.

Some days I realize the plans I made with such confidence are logistically impossible. I’m sorry, I say. I didn’t factor in enough time to get out of the house. Or: I thought this fussy phase would be over by now. Or: I thought maybe I could get her to nap through to her bedtime.

I don’t get to see people I really want to see. I don’t get to dress up and go out and try to feel normal for a little while. I pout. I am not very good at adapting to change when it means missing out on something I was looking forward to.

But the greatest surprise of this week is that I’m not afraid of it anymore. I’m okay with missing out. This week I helped Reiden through a tough time instead of meeting up with an old friend. I let her sleep instead of getting her up too early and rushing her out the door to make a breakfast appointment. I got her to bed while my friends ate and drank at one of my favourite restaurants without me. I imagined them there, all the laughing and chatter and noise and teasing and reminiscing.

I missed all those things, for sure. But it felt a little better, this week. More like normal. More like being a mom and putting her first is kind of, really, wonderfully okay.

Up With Felines

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I had what seemed like a good idea for a post, at 4:00 this morning when once again I couldn’t sleep. I can’t remember what it was now. My dear grandfather used to say, “Must have been a lie,” when I couldn’t remember something. In this case, “Must have been so banal and inconsequential that my brain filed it in the Do Not Retrieve bucket.”

On that note, it’s one thing to be kept awake by a baby — whose job it is to keep people up at night. It’s quite another to be juussst at that point of drifting off to that place that’s not quite sleep but also isn’t the constant yammering of your brain, that dreamscape where your thoughts get a little Alice in Wonderland, and instead of dropping down into the rabbit hole you end up squarely back where you started because of your two whining, extremely annoying cats. Neither of whom are Cheshire.

Poor Peter. He’s been getting up at 5:30 for years (years!) because of them. Well, mainly because of the big one, Yoshi, who never seems to get the fact that cats in the wild only eat once a day. No, Yoshi gets breakfast, dinner and a bedtime snack (it’s the only way we can control his weight), and feels strongly that his first meal should be as early as possible in the morning. And Pete has this weird thing: if he wakes up and then dozes, he gets fuzzy-headed all day and can’t write. So getting up and going back to sleep is not really an option for him.

The cats started in around 4:30, both of them this time, keeping me awake and worrying that Rei was going to wake up. At 4:40 I poked (shoved) Pete and made him get up. I was already exhausted from the night before, when, after agonizing about the end of my (very generous) maternity leave (aside: parents in the U.S.? The six-week thing is barbaric. It should be a human rights issue.), I lay there making packing and to-do lists for our upcoming trip home and even turned on my iPhone to get them out of my head and instead just kept coming up with more things to add.

Rei got up at 6:30 today and wouldn’t go back down, and has been a complete mess all morning. We both blame Yoshi and slightly resent Ben, who’s too dim to realize what he’s doing. Yoshi’s just somehow malicious about the whole thing. Perhaps Rei’s 12-week growth spurt is the problem? More fun to pin it on the cat. He just looks guilty.

I never want to tell people that our baby is such a good sleeper, lest I incur the Wrath of the Sleep-Deprived Parent. But while Reiden may sleep through the night, our cats most certainly do not.

PS: She also hates napping anywhere but on me and prefers that I am in constant motion in a standing position. No rocking chair nonsense for us, folks. Feel Sorry For Me Now!

Three Months, Almost

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That’s how old Rei will be soon. In just a few days. Four days. In four days, she’ll be three months old.

This is why I couldn’t sleep last night.

Almost immediately after Rei was born, I started to miss work. Badly. I texted work people, asking what they were doing. I checked email (and I am the type of person who never checks email when away from work; who thinks working on vacation is a form of self-loathing; who has never been defined by a job). I even contemplated asking if there was something I could do, some little project I could help with while working remotely, with no deadlines and the understanding that as long as my baby kept insisting on being held all day long, I’d probably never get the work done and sorry, what was I thinking? I mean, I really MISSED it, in this yearning, pathetic sort of way.

Somehow, my brain had compartmentalized my baby and my work. I was happy, ecstatic, in love with my little girl. I also missed my old life. And one did not cancel out the other.

But last night (or early this morning, rather), after I nursed Rei and she went back to sleep, I realized she would be three months on Monday. I almost bolted upright before remembering how noisy our comforter is. I would have gone downstairs to cry if I could have done it without risking her waking up. Because…three months. Which means, if I go back to work at nine months as planned, I only have six months left of this. Two-thirds left. A measly two-thirds.

I never registered that working would mean I wouldn’t be spending my days with her. And nine months seemed like such a long time off. I’d be ready to go back by then. I’d be bored. I’d be dying to be something other than a mom.

But dates and definitions can distance you from reality, from feelings. Thing is, I expected to love my daughter. I didn’t expect to like her so much already, to enjoy her company, to feel such a kinship with her. My days are hard, to be sure, much harder than any job ever was. They’re not always fun and sometimes they full-on suck. But it’s what I do. It’s what I do for her.

I’m with her, all the time. And today I can hardly contemplate not being with her.

When I finally fell back to sleep this morning, I dreamed I went back to work, Rei in tow. I had to cross a river to get to the office. My cat Yoshi got lost in the woods. In the foyer was an old frozen yogurt machine. No one knew who I was. It was the kind of dream where you’re in a bizarro world; a place that’s real but not real.

Except for Reiden, in my arms. The one thing that made perfect sense.

Autocorrect

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Sometimes, when waiting for a web page to load on my phone, I find myself staring at the address bar, annoyed that the Reader feature hasn’t popped up yet. Where are you, Reader? What’s wrong? Should I leave and come back? Do you need some, err, privacy?

I sit there, willing it to appear, refusing to acknowledge that I can easily read the text by looking at the ACTUAL PAGE. That’s right there. In front of me.

This won’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t use the Reader. Or have it. Do all phones have it? Is it a Safari-on-the-iPhone-only thing? I’m too lazy to look it up. But it’s AWESOME. You can read anything on any page and see just the text, without graphics or ads or anything to distract you! All pages look the same! It’s somehow…comforting.

Also, why does my iPhone correct words that aren’t wrong in the first place? Why “find” instead of “fund”? “Now” instead of “bow”? I mean I know why, but still.

These two things are not related.

I do, however, love it when it corrects to “Rei”. Because, well, her. She’s a word now. I typed her name and she became a word in my phone. Everything should autocorrect to Rei.

REI REI REI REI REI. Best word in the world.