I’m A New Mommy


I feel like a new mommy. My boobs are back to normal. At least, they are as normal as they can be after breastfeeding for 18 months. I think they look like tiny pancakes with pepperoni garnish, melting in the July sun. I am told that this observation is nuts.

I just hit the two week mark of weaning Noah, and the pain of my body shifting away from lactation lasted exactly four days. Physically, it was uncomfortable, but tolerable. Emotionally, I think I’m at the rainbows and dew drops end of the hormonal shit storm that was visited upon me. Noah has adjusted beautifully, and he’s happy to snuggle instead of nurse, and he’s thriving in his new normal. As for me, I’ve given up on normal because I just can’t seem to find a way to feel like myself anymore.

Giving birth to a baby has changed me. Moving away from the city has changed me. Moving in with my mother, and now father-in-law has changed me. Homeschooling my children has changed me. Losing yet another beloved relative to cancer has changed me. Witnessing the horrendous loss that my dear friends faced has changed me. All of these epic changes, all in less than two years. I am changed.

For example, I will likely never live in a city again. The peace and solitude of the country agree very well with me, even if it means that the people I love and crave are far away. I always fantasized about having the place they would run to if my friends needed refuge, and right now, I think I’m there. I do not, for a second, miss city personalities or the crowded TTC. I do miss the convenience of being able to walk somewhere interesting where I can be with people if I choose to, but soon I’ll have a driver’s license like a real adult, so I can go and have coffee with all of the university kids in town and pound angstily on a keyboard while I listen to music that is completely alien to my almost-middle-aged ears. It will be just like Toronto, but without the pollution, or unwanted conversations with the mentally ill on the subway.

I used to think I could never have roommates again. Living with my in-laws has been an adjustment. I don’t feel like the beautiful house I currently live in is my home, and despite my mother and father’s incredible warmth and hospitality, I’m not sure I’ll ever think of the place as “mine”. It may be a product of my own cultural upbringing, it may be because property ownership is on my own bucket list. There are tremendous advantages to having wonderful grandparents very close by – the very best babysitters and an outrageously talented chef being two HUGE perks. I’m grateful for the love they shower our children with each waking moment of the day, and I’m eternally grateful for the ability to take a financial load off by saying goodbye to our oppressive Toronto lifestyle. My in-laws have treated me with incredible respect and kindness, and have been supportive of our family, despite some social pressures (this is serious understatement right here). They are really the best kind of in-laws you could ask for, yet I miss our independence, and the ability to wander sleepily around the house without pants, and perhaps a few other things you’d never consider doing if your parents were around. I know that makes me sound like a shit because the trade off is 30 acres of what I consider paradise, and more loving hands to raise my family, but there you have it. Our current dream consists of one day building our own house on my in-law’s land. I think that’s the best way to enjoy this utopian setting, and each other’s proximity. After all, I’m sure my in-laws miss their total privacy too.

I hate the world. Or at least the world as presented by any major media outlet. This is why I will often stare at you with horror when you blithely reference the latest shooting, typhoon, mudslide, or celebrity scandal. There’s a real chance I will have no idea what you’re talking about, unless we’re about two weeks after said news event. The media continues to focus only on tales of abject sadness and destruction. There is still a dire shortage of feel-good stories of help and humanity, and I just know these must outweigh the bad, because if they didn’t how the hell would any of us get out of bed each day? I ask Nekky to give me the Coles Notes versions of any major news events that I think may impact my ability to be perceived as a functioning member of society, like the strife in the Ukraine, or what’s happening in Syria. Meanwhile, I exist in a bubble of my own creation where I  continue to not give a flying fuck about Bieber, any cats that become famous on the internet, or Rob Ford.

I need a vacation from my kids. If you know my children, you know that they are awesome human beings. They are smart, funny, kind, creative, thoughtful – poster kids for awesome. Ask anyone who isn’t related, and they’ll agree. Hanging with my girls has warmed the ovaries of some die hards who swore they would never parent. However, too much of anything can be a serious foray into the negatory. If I ate peanut butter and chocolate ice cream every day, I would no longer want to drive around in the middle of the night to find some. Spending over 12 hours each day with my daughters has made me want to fall on my knees and worship every great teacher I’ve ever known. If you ask me for my opinion (which I assume you are doing by reading this post), kids and parents SHOULD NOT be together all of the time. Even if they are living on a beach in Thailand. We’ve all done well considering the number of tears we’ve shed, and the Botox-worthy furrow lines on my forehead, but holy god are we looking forward to September when the kids start at a new school.

The underwire bra is a tool of misogynistic oppression. I spent so much time in the latter half of my breastfeeding days pining after my old lingerie. I waited until all of the weaning pain subsided, and then donned a fancy matching set of underthings, complete with padded, push-up, underwire bra. What. The. Hell??? How in the name of all tits did I go so many years wearing such things? Wearing an underwire bra is like wearing a band of medium gauge wire around your sternum all day. In fact, that’s exactly what it is! Sure, cleavage is fun, but at what cost? I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like my heart was skipping a beat. I felt like I had to take it off in the grocery store bathroom and go free and floppy amongst the Saturday Costco throng because I couldn’t take it for another minute. Breast feeding has reduced me to a B cup if we’re being generous – I don’t need any support that requires the use of steel. And while we’re at it, you can keep your high heeled shoes too. I NEVER thought I would see the day where I said that high heels were oppressive, but maybe there’s something about squeezing a tiny man-head out of your lady bits that makes you seek comfort wherever and whenever you can. Henceforth, push up bras and heels are reserved for date nights and special occasions. Like when hell freezes over.

I’ve traded hot chicks for chickens. In Toronto, I used to surround myself with a bevy of babes who I count among the fiercest, most beautiful people I know. I would hear a song on the radio, and instantly dream up an elaborate way for them to turn that tune into art. These days, my beautiful friends visit once a month if I’m really lucky, and I spend my days gazing out the picture window in the kitchen dreaming of a little hobby farm with a pair of goats, some alpaca and some egg-laying hens. I find the smell of manure just as exhilarating as the backstage perfume of hair spray (“Smells like pretty” as my friend Dave would say) and I’m now the Artistic Director of my own destiny. In many ways, leading a bunch of emotional, feisty artists who had synced up their menstrual cycles was easier and less intimidating.

I’m smack in the middle of a sea change here, and I’m truly uncertain of where I am heading. After we tackle the mountainous terrain of financial planning and future dream lining, where do we end up? All of the things I used to rely on, count as certainties, assume to be fixed are gone. All but my family, and a select group of friends.

What’s next in store? Do I write some books? Travel? Build a home? Create a legacy for my children? Drown in debt? Get cancer? I miss the carefree feeling that my Toronto self had when I was blissfully unaware and utterly self-absorbed. Now my eyes are open, and it’s hard to fight the fear that keeps creeping in.



On Weaning

Mr. Noah Jamal turned 19 months old yesterday. My little man has so many words and so many things to say.

When we started out together, I had decided that I would breastfeed him until he was two, but as he grew stronger and more active, breastfeeding began to feel like a contact sport. Nipple tweaking, punching, biting, scratching, kicking and karate chops to the trachea were not uncommon. I was blessed with a healthy, easy pregnancy and straightforward delivery, but breastfeeding was a tremendously painful challenge for the first eight weeks of Noah’s life in the world. You can read all about that here. I was very determined to make it work, and so I stuck with it, with so much love and support from my partners. I knew I wanted to breastfeed as long as I could.

Weaning began to feel more and more appealing, but I was torn. I felt very emotional about the idea that we would no longer share such a close physical bond. Cutting the umbilical cord is a process that takes a lifetime, I think, and as each day passes by so quickly I see my little soul become increasingly independent. I’m proud of him, I can’t wait to see him grow and blossom, but I also ache for something I can’t quite name. Maybe it’s the ability to physically hold him close and keep him safe in my arms? Maybe it’s the idea that his whole universe seems so simple as he makes his first tender steps into this huge, scary world?  It could be that I ache for something as simple as the nourishment and comfort that I alone can give him. There have been countless times since the day I learned that I was pregnant that I’ve felt like keeping my baby in my body forever, where none of the evils of the world would ever touch him. In my sleepless night-time moments I realize that I am powerless to protect him, and I’m terrified that I will leave the world before he’s strong enough to safeguard himself.  I realize that the older he gets, the closer we get to the day when I have to explain things like 9/11 and cancer and why Toronto elected a drunken crack-head for a mayor. Parenting is a terror and joy unlike anything I could ever have imagined.

I half-heartedly tried to wean a few times over the last two months. Neither of us were ready, so no surprise that it didn’t work. Then, when I resolved that I was able to move on to the next great thing, Noah got a nasty cold, and I just couldn’t deny him the comfort of the breast. When he was better, we moved to feeding only first thing in the morning and just before daddy put him to bed.

He would ask to nurse, and I would explain that I didn’t have milk just then, but that we could cuddle and have a snack, or some warm milk in a bottle or juice. He accepted this with very little protest. If he pushed harder, I found a good distraction, like a walk outside or a favourite game.  The next week, we cut out the night-time feeding and switched to a quiet snuggle on the couch with the mammas and a bottle before bed, no complaints at all here.

On one particular day, I wore a low-cut shirt. Insensitive, yes, but I wasn’t thinking as I rushed to get ready. He asked to nurse a couple of times, but when I explained that I didn’t have milk, he settled for gentle snuggle with my boobs. We were waiting for the car to get serviced, so it made for an amusing show. No more angry protests though.

Then on Sunday, Mother’s Day ironically and coincidentally, we nursed for the very last time. In the two days leading up to this event, I was really emotional. Not many places will tell you this, but you experience hormonal changes, and all of the fun that comes with that, as your body slows down and then stops milk production. I said goodbye to this sweet era of my baby’s life, the many tender moments where I’ve felt a connection like nothing I’ve experienced, and I prayed that even after I stopped being a food source, he would recognize the bond we’ve shared. I think part of me is worried that I can be easily replaced, and yes, I do suffer from low self-esteem.

Physically, I’m doing fine. No serious engorgement pain thus far. Emotionally, I still feel a bit tender, but nursing is replaced with voracious eating (by the baby, not me) and lots of snuggles and cuddles that Noah is initiating, which feels just wonderful. It’s such a joy to have him near and to not feel worried about getting injured. I think we were as ready as we could be, and I think that’s why this has gone so smoothly this time around.

You’ll read a lot about weaning. If you’re like me, all of your trusted breastfeeding resources will tell you not to wean, but I wasn’t convinced that Noah would wean himself any time soon, and it was becoming a largely unpleasant event. Public feeding had become next to impossible because it really seemed like one or both of us was being injured. You have to make the decisions that feel right for you, in the time line that suits you and your baby best. I think if we trust ourselves, and our instincts we always know when that is.

If you have questions about your own breastfeeding journey, or just want to share your breastfeeding stories, I’m all ears.

Meanwhile, enjoy this ridiculous video that somehow captures my feelings on alternative families, breastfeeding, nurturing, the soul of a mother, the bond between non-birth parents and their children, and the ridiculously random nature of the universe.

At the time of publishing, I am less tender, but very emotional and irritable. Take note mammas, weaning is hard on your body and your hormones, so take good care of yourselves. Give yourself a week of extra attention, long bubble baths and extra chocolate. You’re going to need it.

Noodle Wrangling

If you were my breast, you'd have seen a lot of this today.

If you were my breast, you’d have seen a lot of this today.

It seems that since embarking on the journey of homeschooling my two daughters, I have forgotten how to take care of my son. He’s now an active and very willful toddler, and I’m learning how little time we actually get to spend together. I’m learning this because when we are together, I think I suck at being the parent I want to be.

I started this week with what I thought was a great plan. It’s March break, so the girls are in a camp, hopefully making lots of local friends. I figured that since we have finally nailed the sleeping thing with Noodle, and since I would be hanging with the little dude all week, I could try to start moving towards weaning him. I wanted to start a meal strategy that I read about in a book called ‘The New Basics’ by a pediatrician named Michel Cohen. Cohen suggests limiting meals to four times a day with breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. I thought this made sense so I decided I would start to tell Noah that he could only nurse at those times. I have a love/hate relationship with this book, so no real surprise when my baby boy thought this idea was bullshit.

Noah’s still getting teeth, and the big ones are coming in now. For those of you who don’t know, breast-feeding releases delicious chemicals that help to relieve pain. There was much screaming and many tears as I tried to make this transition to regularly scheduled feeding times today. I tried clove oil, and it didn’t seem to work one bit, though we’ve had success with it in the past. I caved. I couldn’t hold out, and everyone around me seemed to think it was a bad idea too. Especially Noah.  The result – an entire day of a baby on my breast, and some very tingly clove oil marinated nipples. I’d like to wean Noah by the summer time, but I honestly don’t know how anyone has the resolve. Feel free to post some advice, you mammas and dads who have lived through this.

Getting Noah to eat lunch was just as impossible as getting him to stop dive-bombing into my shirt. For the sake of transparency, I will admit to plunking down with him in front of our TV, then using the remote to bait him with his favourite show. For each bite, the program was un-paused. We’re supposed to be TV-free this month, but this technique was working so well. At least that’s what I thought until I realized he was taking bites, then waiting until I hit play to subtly turn his back to me and deposit the entire mushy mouthful of goo on our hand-woven carpet.

I’m in the PMS zone this week, so I was really trying to take this in stride, but was starting to feel a bit harried. I freely admit that I often sweat the small stuff. Then I attempted a poopy diaper change and realized that the nursing/feeding thing was a cakewalk compared to what I shall call the shit-flinging bucking bronco ride. He screamed, kicked and punched until Daddy came from the other room to lend a hand. Even when I tried to give him a toy to play with (read my iPhone) he tossed it aside and tried to roll away. He didn’t want to get changed, he wanted to nurse. As I’m typing this, I remember a great Mamma S strategy that involves pinning him down beneath my leg. Hind sight. (See what I did there?)

I’m not sure why he’s wanted to nurse all day. He’s not sick. Maybe it’s because it’s so novel to have me all to himself? Maybe it’s because I’m boring, and like a bad boyfriend, playing with my tits is all he can think to do to have some fun with me? Maybe it’s because every time he walked away, I was furiously trying to bang out this blog post. I’m feeling like I need a lot more practice with Noodle-wrangling. I’m also feeling like I need a two-hour nap. How does my nearly seventy-year-old mother keep up with him?

Dear readers, I welcome any and all suggestions for amusing a seventeen-month-old, without the television. I want this week to be fun, and I want it to be the bonding experience I was hoping for.  I advise you to expect minimal posting from me this week.

Although, the girls are home now and all three kids are playing delightfully in the family room as I ‘hide’ in the classroom.

Hmmm….I wonder how much writing I can do?