One more post

by , on
August 31, 2010

This post is my own response to the challenge my husband posed to several bloggers: What if you could only write one more post? What would you want to say? For more information on the thought experiment or to read other people’s theoretical “last posts,” check out If you could only write one more post.

Whether I’m thinking about mortality or my legacy my last post could be nothing but another letter to my daughter, a beautiful little girl who I hope will lose me before I lose her, and not sooner than she’s ready.

When I contemplated killing myself, now what seems like ages ago, I never considered leaving a note. Despite filling notebook after notebook with my various writings when I was growing up (as I still do), I never thought of anything I could say as there would be no explanation. Now it’s hard to think of dying without telling leaving something for her. Something that would help her make sense of all the things that will be coming at her throughout her life.

Dear Baby Girl,

I never expected to be a mother, and I certainly never expected to enjoy it as much as I do. You have been a true gift, a great addition to my life, and I hope you never doubt just how much I love you, though there will be times when we each struggle with the other.

You are beautiful and I have no doubt that you are intelligent and these are gifts that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Use them well. Don’t ever make anyone feel less than you on purpose.

Be kind to other people, always. Be a bright spot in the lives of others.

Drive defensively.

Play. I hope you don’t ever lose the fearlessness and curiosity you display right now. I hope your imagination grows as you age. I hope you will always smile as much as you do now. Your smile brightens people’s days. Your laugh fills the room.

Love your Daddy. He loves you more than anything or anyone else in the world. He will do anything for you. He is a gift in your life and I hope you will realize how special your relationship is before you regret not realizing it.

Take care of the puppy. The love that dog gives us has no strings attached. You two are going to be best friends. Realize how special he is and take good care of him so we can give him as much love as he can handle. Cry as much as you need to when he leaves us. He is part of our family and there is no shame in grieving the loss.

Read. Everything. Anything. Lose yourself in books, seek out new authors, read newspapers and blogs and magazines and anything else you’re interested in. Learn from reading.

Learn from watching. Watch television, watch people, eavesdrop. Pay attention to the world around you.

School isn’t everything. Grades aren’t everything. Some things are going to hard no matter how smart you are. Just try.

Love this country. You were lucky to be born a Canadian citizen. That also means that you have the right to speak out against things you see that you think are wrong. Use that right whenever you feel passionate about something.

Don’t be a slave to trends. Please. Develop your own style, be comfortable with who you are. Anyone who dislikes you because you’re not in this seasons mini skirt and platform heels isn’t worth spending time with. (I suspect this will be the style at some point in your life, because it’s been ‘in’ twice during mine – so far. I still don’t get it).

Open your heart. Allow yourself to love and be loved. This is something I’m still working on and I hope it will be easier for you. It’s so important to love people.

Be honest. Not all the time with everyone, but when it’s important you’ll know.

Make the choices that make sense for you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

You can’t be happy all the time, but I hope you’ll at least be content the majority of the time. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Never, ever, under any circumstances, stay with someone who makes you feel like less than you are. If your successes make them angry, if they’re only happy when your not, if they try to keep you isolated, if any one ever raises a hand to you or speaks to you in a way that makes you feel like less than a person you leave. It might be difficult, you might make excuses the first few times, but please recognize what’s happening, listen to what your friends are telling you about the situation you are in, and leave.

Talk to us. Tell us what you’re feeling. Don’t keep anything to yourself that we could help you with.

If you’re going to drink, call home for a ride.

If you’re going to have sex, protect yourself.

And, to quote one Baz Luhrmann, always wear sunscreen.

Love Mom.

Growing up

by , on
August 28, 2010

I grew up in Ottawa. I was born here and I didn’t leave until I was 20. I’ve moved away five times and it never stuck. The closest I came to home outside of Ottawa was when I went to college in Belleville.

When I was a kid I had big dreams of traveling around the world, having adventures in foreign lands, but a part of me always wanted to own a house in Old Ottawa South that I could go back to. I lived in that neighbourhood through my entire childhood, in three difference houses, each only a few blocks from the next. My father still lives in our first house, walking distance from my preschool, my elementary school, the park I played in, the pool I swam in, the rink I skated at, the dead end where I used to ride my bike, the hill I used to sled down…

Joe and I went for a walk through the neighbourhood shortly after we started dating and he was both fascinated and amused by the fact that we were never far away from some location that had a memory for me. When he was growing up, he lived in three difference provinces. I went to the same school with the same people for 10 years.

We’ve discussed in the past how to find a happy medium for our daughter. Joe had some great experiences seeing the country and having different experiences with different people. I built a lot of great memories in a great community.

Right now we’re living in Ottawa and we can have days like today – going to visit the animals at the Experimental Farm just like I did when I was a kid. We took her to the garden and got pictures of her with the flowers, just like the pictures in my baby book.

Last winter we took her out on the canal, we’ve visited Almonte, we’ve explored Parliament Hill and the Byward Market, before she was a month old she had been to the Chinese restaurant I grew up eating at and the mall I’ve always shopped at. I know these experiences are more for me than for her, things that I now share with my mother rather than things the baby girl shares with me, but I like that I can have these experiences.

But we can’t live in Old Ottawa South (no way I’m paying that much for a house), and she won’t go to the same schools that I went to, and she won’t swim and skate and play where I did, and that’s for the best. I don’t want her to have the same life that I did and I don’t want her to feel any pressure in that direction, but I do want her to grow up in a neighbourhood. I want her to be able to walk to school and play nearby and be able to ride her bike around and have adventures.

I grew up in a neighbourhood with sidewalks. Right now I can’t say the same for my daughter. We live in a part of the city that was a suburb when it was built and apparently city planners decided that everyone would be driving everywhere so you can be walking along and have the sidewalk just stop in front of you. I hate it.

There are a lot of things I’m growing to hate about this city. The council, the public transit (keep raising prices and reducing services, see how that goes), the weather… It’s getting harder and harder to reconcile all the things that are difficult to deal with and the good things.

We have friends here, we both have good jobs, I know the city well (which is a huge plus for someone who is terrible with directions), and I have memories, but at some point I’d like to experiment with the idea that while Ottawa always seemed like home when that’s where my family was, now I get to move my family with me wherever I go.

Dear Baby,

by , on
August 27, 2010

I look at you sometimes and wonder if you will always smile after you sneeze. I don’t know what it is about the experience that you find so pleasurable, but it makes me laugh.

It is one of the many things I try to make note of and remember because you’re already changing so much and I know it’s not going to stop.

This morning we went shopping because suddenly you’ve grown out of all your pants. Of course, we knew you’d be tall. What I didn’t know is that you would be so entertaining. I had no idea you would love attention this much. You smile at everyone and smile even bigger when they stop to pay attention to you. They compliment your eyes and your hair and your smile and they get an even bigger smile.

Now you’ve learned to say ‘Hi’ and you’re delighted when people say ‘Hi’ back. You delight them.

When you get really excited you wave both arms and both legs as though you just can’t contain yourself.

You grab at everything and everything you grab goes right into your mouth. Including shoes.

You love the dog. You reach out to him and pat him, grab his fur. You laugh when he walks by. You lean out of your stroller to watch him when we go on walks. He doesn’t know what to make of you, but soon enough you’ll be best friends. And you’ll try to dress him up. And we’ll try to stop you, but he’ll play along. I’m convinced you’re trying to say his name.

When you laugh I honestly believe there can be no better sound in the world. I hope you have a lot of reasons to keep laughing.

I never realized how proud I could be of you this early in your life. You’re excelling. Your growth is off the charts, you’re a good sleeper and a good eater, you were crawling early and pulling yourself up early and I fully expect you to start walking before we’re ready for it. You’re like me, you get frustrated when you can’t do things. Once you learn to control that frustration it will serve you well.

You never stop moving, not even in your sleep. You bounce and crawl and squirm. You try to escape from high chairs, strollers, anything that we strap you in to. You just don’t stop.

I hope you never lose your curiosity and fearlessness, but I do hope you get a bit smarter about it. Your Daddy and I are both clumsy and I imagine you’ll break a few bones while you grow up, so be careful or I’m going to start putting a helmet on you. Getting scrapes and scars is part of childhood, but I need you to be safe because I don’t know what we would do without you.

Now that you’re here I need to see what you turn in to. I’m really curious, because I think it could be pretty much anything.

Title of post

by , on
August 23, 2010

I used to be a fiction writer. I still have stories that I wrote before I could really write that my mother saved for me. I find them particularly amusing because they’re very short and they were printed out on our old dot matrix with clip art for illustrations.

When I was in high school I had some very excellent English teachers who told me I had a talent for writing. I would lose myself in my stories, create characters that were a little bit of me, write out the situations I was most afraid of. I was always good at copying the styles of my favourite writers – Dickens and Salinger being the easiest to emulate. Short sentences, deep characterization. One of the stories I remain most proud of is a story that was meant as a tribute to Salinger’s A Perfect Day for Bananafish, with a little bit of Canadiana thrown in (I set it in Brandon, Manitoba and my main character had season tickets to the Wheat Kings, as you should if you live in Brandon, Manitoba).

When I went to college and started writing in news style, I stopped writing fiction. I don’t know if I was just too busy, or too tired of writing anything when I got home, but the fiction in me went away and it’s never really come back. I miss it.

I feel as if at some point between childhood and here I lost my imagination. I used to be very good at playing pretend, with friends or by myself. I used to lose myself in books, just fall right in. When I was with high school I had notebooks that I carried with me all the time and I was always writing, sometimes stories, sometimes stream of consciousness, always writing the things that filled up my mind.

Now I have notebooks that act more as journals and I get irritated that I’m always writing about me. Where are all the people I used to build in my head? Where are the ideas that used to flow like water.

I tried to get it back when I did NaNoWriMo this year, but even that was about my fears about my life and I was never totally happy with the characters, they seemed so fake. I want to try again when November comes around, but now I wonder if it’s even worth it. Honestly, I’m spending my mat leave thinking a lot about what I want from my life. I’m going to have to figure it out and start demanding things of myself.

Not a valid opinion

by , on
August 20, 2010

Two days ago I read, along with a lot of women I talk to, the AOL article about Shaquan Duley. I read Her Bad Mother’s reaction and I read the open letter to a so-called expert on Pretty Babies.

I’ve let it sit for two days that this women, a criminal profiler that should never have been portrayed as an expert on this case or on Post-Partum Depression or Post-Partum Psychosis, declared that my problems are not chemical, unless I’m one of those “rare cases.”

I’ve let it sit, but I still can’t help but take it personally. I don’t think there’s any way to not take it personally since I’ve been dealing with depression for 13 years of my life, I’ve been suicidal on more than one occasion, and apparently, according to this criminal profiler who has no experience working with women affected by PPD, I just need to suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself.

What I can tell Ms. Pat Brown is that when I was in the depths of my depression I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I was feeling sorry for everyone around me. When I was suicidal it was because those around me didn’t deserve the burden. When I was in the depths of post-partum depression, I felt that my daughter would be much better off with Joe’s memory of me.

I didn’t ever have feelings of wanting to harm her. It was the first question my caretakers asked and the thing I paid the most attention to. Hurting her never entered my mind because, as I told my doctor through tears, I knew that she was not the problem, I was the problem, and I didn’t want her to inherit my problems by watching me. I specifically didn’t want her to suffer, but I did have anxiety.

Every time we left the house together I felt as though I was going to do something that would cause some sort of accident. I might trip while I was carrying her, or lose the stroller, or forget to check my blind spot, and then she would get hurt. In that way I felt as though I was a danger to her.

I worked with two midwives and a licensed doctor who all agreed that I was suffering from PPD and needed to be monitored and medicated. I was actually lucky to have been suffering from depression for that long because I know my own signs. I see the appetite changes, the mood swings, the sleep problems, the voice in my head that starts to point out my mistakes and all the ways I’m not quite good enough. I warned everyone that I was at risk for PPD and I told them what I was feeling.

I say lucky because another woman might not have known her signs, might not have had the clarity, that soon after giving birth to tell someone what she was feeling. Lucky because I can’t be embarrassed about it anymore. My depression is part of me and any stigma just floats away.

If one other woman who is suffering finds me and recognizes herself, I’ve done some good. If a woman sees Pat Brown’s comments and takes them to heart, something very, very bad could result.

If you don’t get help, you’re not going to get better, and this woman who decided she had the right to speak about something she knows nothing about, has the ability, because of the way she was represented in that article, to get into women’s heads and make them think they don’t need help because they’re just fundamentally flawed – And that will send them further into the darkness.

It’s what’s for dinner

by , on
August 19, 2010

I’ve come to the realization over the past few days that I am very good at taking care of my daughter – filling all her needs, paying her attention, pushing her limits a little bit every day – but I’m terrible when it comes to taking care of myself. I always have been, so I can’t even blame the fact that I’m a new mom focusing solely on the baby.

I have always been terrible at getting the sleep I need (she writes at almost 11 pm when she knows the baby will be up by 7 am). I am terrible at feeding myself if there’s no one else to be fed. This is becoming a problem because I’m at home taking care of my own lunches. Breakfast is fairly easy – an English muffin, a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit, even a muffin or a smoothie – I can usually figure out breakfast. Dinner can be more complicated, since we’re often both tired, and I know it will be more complicated when I go back to work and we have more of a time crunch, but it’s doable. I have go-to recipes, I’m learning more, we have the slow cooker, things can be pulled together.

Lunch has been a problem for me since I started being responsible for my own. It’s so bad that I’m already concerned about what I’m going to pack for the baby girl’s lunches when she starts school – IN THREE YEARS.

I have trouble coming up with lunches for myself, and I have access to a fridge and a microwave, and I’m allowed to use peanut butter. When I’m at home I can usually snack through the day and not ever be really hungry, but some days, especially since the baby started crawling and thus wants to be moving all the time, I don’t get a chance to slow down and really think about eating. Like yesterday and today for example.

Yesterday and today I went through my usual routine of feeding the baby breakfast and having mine at the same time, but then for some reason I didn’t eat lunch when I fed her lunch, and then when I realized I was hungry she was ready to go again and I didn’t have time to actually stop and put anything together for me.

Today for lunch I ate a banana and a chocolate chip cookie at 4 pm. I can only imagine what that’s doing to my metabolism. It’s strange, when the baby was newborn, I didn’t eat lunch because I was often too depressed to put the effort in and then I started giving in to cravings and eating a lot of junk throughout the day to just forgetting to eat, or putting it off, or just giving up, and then I get frustrated because it shouldn’t be this difficult.

The fact is that I know I can’t just set the baby aside while I prepare food for myself, but if I know that why can’t I plan for it better?

I’m well aware that I feel better when I snack through the day, and that fits better with the shape my days take, so why don’t I think about what I like to snack on and write that plan into our grocery list?

I’m nearly 30, it’s really high time I figure out how to take care of me, isn’t it?

What now?

by , on
August 18, 2010

While the BlogHer conference was happening in New York I tried to follow along with all the women I knew who were there. One of the things that caught my eye was a few people I follow on Twitter using the hashtag #changeagents.

It’s a concept I’ve heard of before, but I had no idea that BlogHer had planned a track at this year’s conference about it. If I had known there is a good chance I would have desperately wanted to be there.

I blog, I tweet, I get out and meet people. I talk politics and I talk babies and I talk about me, me, me. I haven’t really defined myself in the online world, though I fall more and more into the category of Mommy blogger (which isn’t a bad thing, considering I’m a mom with a blog), but I do want to use my voice.

There are a lot of issues I am passionate about and I have blogged about some of them in the past as things come up, but I don’t consistently fight for what I believe in in any forum. I need to decide if there is anything that I care deeply enough about to expose myself to cruel comments from people who don’t know anything about my situation.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference, it’s part of the reason I’ve followed the path that’s brought me here, but what’s next?


by , on
August 18, 2010

(As a side note on the title, I used to read a lot of Archie comics, and there would be a speech bubble that said ‘sigh’ and I thought that meant that you were actually supposed to say the word.)

My mood has been up and down over the past couple of days. I can feel it. I’ll be fine, everything will be fine and then suddenly for no reason other than a second ticking by I will feel like melting into tears. I try to find a reason – maybe I felt like an outsider at the playdate yesterday, maybe it’s because I ate Mcdonald’s, maybe it’s because the puppy is acting strangely and I wish I could give him more attention. Maybe the person I really am is trying to break through the persona I’ve set up. Maybe I’m overtired. Maybe it’s because I haven’t exercised in a couple of days. Maybe the fact that I only have four months left at home is starting to sink in.

Maybe I’m concerned about the state of the economy.

Or maybe, just maybe, I have post-partum depression and I get these highs and lows and I need to just give myself some friggin’ slack already.

I’m going to feel like crying sometimes, I’m going to get tired, I’m going to get hungry while the baby is sleeping in the backseat and opt for the drive-through to avoid waking her.

I’m going to spend time wondering what I’m doing with my time and where the days are going and I’m going to wonder who I am because a hack of a lot of thing have changes in a short while.

I didn’t expect to get pregnant, I didn’t expect to have such a difficult pregnancy, I didn’t expect to speed through this year while she goes from not being able to move by herself to crawling and pulling herself up and getting into everything she can get her hands on in 7 months. A year ago we might have even been talking about me going back to work and Joe taking paternity leave.

For the past year and seven months I have been doing nothing but adjusting to my situation, and then having to re-adjust because everything changes. It’s crazy to expect to feel good about it all the time.

Last night I had a bath. Since I was a kid, the bath has been a refuge for me. I take baths when I’m sick or need to relax, when I want to get warmed up in winter, when I just want some time. Since I was a kid, my bath time has always included a book or a magazine. Sometimes when I was in school the bath was the only place I could get any reading for pleasure in – outside the bath it was all textbooks.

Last night, I took a magazine with me into the bathroom. And then I left it on the floor and just sat there. I was thinking about anything too hard, I wasn’t doing anything. I was strange for me, as I’m used to doing at least two things at a time (I’ve been that way for years, I’m not good at being bored), but it felt really good.

The baby was asleep, dinner had been cooked and eaten, everything was taken care of and I didn’t have to think for those few moments, and it felt good.

An open letter

by , on
August 16, 2010

Dear Mr. Harper,

I am a Canadian patriot. I understand what a privilege it was for me to be born here, to have been educated here, to be able to present myself as a Canadian. I plan on teaching my daughter about this great nation, it’s history and geography and what Canada has done for the world.

I believe that you too, Mr. Harper, are a Canadian patriot, but I always thought that acceptance of other views, beliefs and cultures was part of being Canadian. Clearly you don’t share that view.

To you, it seems, I am a dirty socialist – a word you spit out of your mouth with venom. I am less than you because I am a woman. More than that, I’m a woman who doesn’t know my place. I also believe that a Canadian is a Canadian whether they were born it or chose it, and that title should give us all the same rights.

Unlike you, Mr. Harper, I believe that Canadian citizens should be told how their Parliament actually works, not lied to. They should know that they elect MPs not the government and that they certainly don’t elect the Prime Minister, because part of democracy should certainly be knowing what you’re voting for. Knowing what I know about our system, I also believe a majority vote in Parliament should mean something. I also believe that the government cannot just decide to ignore decisions by the Supreme Court.

I believe that countries like ours need good census data, especially when such data often affects where the money flows. I don’t believe that a majority or even a strong minority of Canadians considered the long form census an invasion of privacy. Until it became an issue, I really don’t believe anyone thought twice about it.

I do believe that this whole census thing is another one of your distraction techniques while you do something more sinister much more quietly.

For a little while, Mr. Harper, you had me believing that we may disagree with each other, but we both want what we think is best for this country. Now you have me wondering if you ever understood what this country represented to those outside of it. We are supposed to be peacekeepers, aid workers, a sane voice in a crowd of superpowers trying to get their own way. We are a safe haven, a leader in ideas, a country that takes care of its own and others. Right now I can’t even be sure I will be protected by the Charter rights I hold dear if I say or do the wrong thing.

I am a Canadian patriot. I love this country, its history, its geography and its people. I hope I will still be able to proudly state my citizenship at the end of your term.

Fat Mom

by , on
August 16, 2010

I’ve heard women say that after they have babies they feel much more in tune with their bodies. Like having the baby showed them what their body was made to do and they have a newfound respect for it.

I don’t feel that way. At all.

Maybe it’s because my body proved to be not very good at being pregnant – I was horribly uncomfortable the whole 42 weeks, and yes, I went to 42 weeks and had to be induced. Maybe it’s because I’m almost 30 years old and I’ve only been pregnant once, for less than a year. (And I don’t really plan on being pregnant again).

After 42 weeks of feeling uncomfortable and not at all like myself, and then 6-plus weeks of healing from birth, my body became mine again, but so much was different.

My belly is much more elastic. I have stretch marks across my stomach. My hormones are still going wild 7 months later. I am scarred, literally. I am thankful that my body could handle the pregnancy in the end – there was some question about that – but I also felt a little betrayed by how it reacted. If this is really what is was made to do, then why did it end up being so hard?

Still, I know that my pregnancy could have been a lot more uncomfortable and a lot more dangerous. I was at risk for things like ectopic pregnancy, early miscarriage and gestational diabetes that I was very lucky to have avoided. My blood pressure stayed low and she was born healthy.

But now that she’s here it’s so much easier to complain that I want my old body back. In fact, I want better than my old body back. I’ve heard other say it and I’m jumping on the bandwagon – I don’t want to be the ‘Fat Mom.’

I want to be an example to her, and I also don’t want to reach a point when she’s embarrassed of me. I don’t want to reach a point when she doesn’t want to do an activity because she doesn’t think I can physically handle it. I want to be energetic and ready to go when she says she wants to try something new. I want to try new things by myself so she knows it’s okay to go in blind. (Like the Hip Hop class I signed up for this fall – more on that later, I’m sure).

I don’t think I’ll ever be classified at thin, but I want to be not fat and not tired all the time. I want to be able to put on anything in my closet and feel good about how I look and how I’m representing myself. I want to be able to say no to myself and yes to her more often.

I want her to know I’m working on it.

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