Posted in motherhood

4 TIPS to stay sane during Mat Leave

Let’s face it, the first months with a newborn are extremely challenging. Between changing diapers, breastfeeding around the clock, recovering from childbirth and trying to keep your little tot alive, no matter how strong you are, it’s hard! Exhaustion and hormones can get the best of you.  

While I won’t pretend to have found a miracle solution to turn this difficult time into a walk in the park, these 4 simple yet effective tips will definitely help you stay sane. They worked for me!

TIP #1 – GET OUT DAILY! 

Yes, in the beginning, the thought of getting out with the baby made me cringe. The constant cries, the fear that he would choke while I showered, the alternating pees and poos that called for yet another change of diaper before heading out; it all seemed so stressful! Oh and there was also the diaper bag. What if I was gone longer than planned, would I need that extra bottle, or that extra bodysuit in case we had a little “accident” on the way?  At first, it took us 3 hours to get ready and by the time we stepped out, I was so frustrated that I was packed with negative energy. 

Yet, I yearned to get out – it was a matter of survival. Luckily, practice makes perfect – by the time he was a couple of months old, I was a pro. Not that I had figured out how to put him on my schedule. But I just knew him better then, and I could deal with his little “surprises” pretty swiftly. The strolls in the park, the brunch dates with friends, and the trips to Shoppers Drug Mart, to Eaton Centre, or Starbucks were all so therapeutic! 

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TIP #2 HAVE A GIRLS ONLY SUPPORT GROUP! 

I still don’t know if I was lucky or unlucky that several of my girlfriends were pregnant at the same time as me. On the one hand, I couldn’t expect much help from them, but on the other, it meant we were going through the same things and we could share our experiences, doubts and mistakes in a judgment-free zone. So many times, I got reassurance from a friend whose baby had a similar rash, or any of the weird little conditions that don’t last but can definitely freak out a new mom. My whatsapp mommy and girlfriends group was life saver for sure!

Funny enough, it’s even better to have friends on different time zones because that means you have 24-hour girlfriend support! When you’re on that feeding every 2-3 hours schedule, days and nights tend to look the same to you, so who knows when you’re going to have a melt-down! This is why having a friend you can call on at 3am without disturbing their sleep is big a plus!

TIP #3 TAKE A COURSE

Do you need to upgrade your skills for your career? Or maybe you like drawing, or cooking! Whatever you fancy, I’ll tell you that I’ve never, in my entire life, enjoyed going to class as much as I did during mat leave. It is extremely liberating, stimulating and rewarding! I remember the first times, it felt so strange to be walking in the streets of Toronto without a stroller, a baby bag, a baby carrier in case he cried, etc… you get the picture?

Here I was, walking freely with a tiny cross-body bag, taking the stairs to and from the subway, enjoying a cup of starbucks coffee, and most importantly, I was going to meet 20+ other adults and have adult interactions about a common interest and all this, away from my baby! How liberating! And  for 3 hours, every week, I was going to listen to someone teach me something I don’t know. And my brain that felt like it was failing me on a daily basis, would, for the first time in a long time, get the kind of stimulation that I missed so much.

TIP #4 SCHEDULE SOME YOU TIME 

Manis and pedis  took on a whole new meaning for me this year. How delightful ! At some point, I needed some me time so much that I substituted some much needed sleep with a spa day! And some nights, after all the bottles were cleaned, laundry folded and next day meals prepared, at times, I couldn’t go without an episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah or The Ellen Degeneres Show before going to bed. Yeah, I may be a little over the top here, but these little breaks from my baby routine kept me sane in the midst of a constant chaos. 

Have more tips? I’d love to hear from you! What helps you keep your sanity during your mat leave?

Posted in motherhood, Parenting

When choosing a daycare, trust your gut!

“Everyone, including members of the public and professionals who work closely with children, is required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. If you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, you must report it to a children’s aid society (CAS).” This is what the Ministry of Children and Youth Services website says.
I guess that’s good. What puzzles me, however, is that we, the parents are to be scrutinized and reported by any and everybody out there who might suspect that we are neglecting or abusing our children. But on the other hand, our government leaves ample room for people who couldn’t care less about children, to open licensed home child care centres.
Today, I want to share the story of my first attempt at putting my 6-month old in a home childcare establishment. I have certainly heard of different issues with daycare centres; some I hear are too strict, others too permissive, or too expensive, and the list goes on. What I didn’t expect to come across, however, is a licensed childcare centre that is flat out negligent and reckless.
AYAN
When I first met her, I thought ‘what a pretty name!’! She told me it meant “the lucky one” in Somali. It definitely deserved to be on the list of contenders if I had a daughter one day. As we chatted on, she didn’t strike me like the typical daycare educator… but hey, this is my first time searching for daycare so, t’s not like I’m an expert in the matter! Plus, in Toronto, finding a daycare for a 6 month-old is nearly as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, so not too many choices out there.
recite-1mkn7umI also found that she seemed sort of set in her ways; but that was to be expected – she’s already a grandmother, and she’d been doing this for 12 years. Plus, all I really wanted was someone who would care for him, play and laugh a little with him while I got some work done. So I decided I was going to choose my battles. I’d be very specific on some important elements and if she could respect those, I’d let her do the rest as she saw fit. This was just temporary.
I felt relieved. Finally a solution that would help me focus on my work, my course and my upcoming meetings for the next month or so. This also meant that I wouldn’t have to try yet another immature babysitter who only hears half of my instructions because she’s checking out her friends on Instagram. Or one who will accidentally drop peanuts in the baby’s sheets… I can only go up from here, right? So after careful consideration, I made the decision to entrust Ayan with my life’s MVP, my reason for being, my EVERYTHING.
DAY 1
Drop off: 11:00AM –  We went over all the details of his routine; feeding, napping, etc. I said I would bring a cheque for the payment that evening and she insisted that it was okay, I could bring it anytime. How understanding!
Pick-up: 5:15PM. Little Bethany (3 years old) was playing with him on the floor. They seemed to be having fun. She stood up to go grab a toy and Makai didn’t like it. Suddenly Ayan jumped in and said to Bethany “Don’t leave him alone! You see!? He’s going to cry now!”
Iish! What was that?? Village style daycare? The 3-year-old has to play her part in entertaining the 6-month old. Slightly annoyed, I decided to take note and keep watching for the next few days, maybe just a cultural difference there. Okay, time to go! I asked her where his hat and sweater were. To my surprise, she said I hadn’t left them with her. Because I don’t trust my memory much lately, I had a moment of doubt. But frankly, why would I drop off my lil’ guy somewhere and leave with his hat and sweater!? Sounds like nonsense. And nonsense doesn’t sound like me. Forgetfulness, maybe. Thankfully, I always have extras so that was that and off we went.
DAY 2
While her sweater & hat story seemed fishy, I still checked everywhere and they were not at home!
Drop off: 11:00 AM – The mystery was finally solved. She had carefully folded and placed his hat and sweater in his bin. Hm… No humility to admit that she had found them though. But I chose to overlook and focus on the brighter side. At least, things didn’t disappear mysteriously. Now I could go on with my business without a worry. But before I left, she asked me, “did you bring the cheque?” Is my mind playing me tricks, or she told me just yesterday that there was no rush? But I remembered what my mother used to tell me “Good accounts make good friends”, so since I still couldn’t find my cheques, I said I would give her a money order by end of day. I also informed her that Makai had had his last bottle at 9:30AM and he’d probably be hungry soon.
 Pick-up: 5:30PM – Little Bethany opened the door this time. And within seconds, I felt like a husband coming home to a resentful stay-at-home mom who never really wanted children. The barely disguised whining began. “Today Makai cry cry cry. I don’t know. Maybe he miss his mom. He cry too much! And he don’t sleep. Babies his age they need sleep you know! To grow! He slept only 15 minutes, 20 minutes, like that! I found a pacifier in his bag, I gave it to him, you have to teach him to use the pacifier, it will help you too. Now I just change him, he just had a poo. Does it smell like poo here?”
WOW! I don’t think I need to comment, here; you get the picture. I glanced at Makai and saw the big smile on his face. He didn’t care about all this, he was just happy to see mommy. But before we headed out I wanted to go through the usual questions. Did he feed okay? did he spit up a lot? She said he fed okay, and not spitting up. So why was she giving me only one dirty half full bottle? Did she mean to tell me that from 11:00am to 5:30pm, he only drank 75ml? “I keep trying and he refused but he ate cereal very well.” she said. I know my little guy can refuse to feed sometimes especially when we’re travelling – maybe this is his protest because mommy is leaving him alone with strangers! We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I made the payment and we left.
Mama bear unleashed. We got out of there and never came back. I should have trusted my gut feeling.
DAY 3
Drop off:  8:30AM – This time I reinforced that she had to keep trying if he refused to feed. He should have at least 150ml every 4 hours. She said no problem. I left, but as I hopped on the subway, I realized that I was feeling sort of uneasy. Was this arrangement really going to work out for the next few weeks? We’ll see, but meanwhile, I had to buy a new phone as my phone had crashed. If anything were to happen, I needed to be reachable.
Pick-up: 4:30pm – I surprised myself. My usually fashionably late self arrived early this time. Someone buzzed me in. As I got closer to the door, I heard an intense, painful cry but I was still too far to recognize my baby. Suddenly, my heart was pounding and I found myself speed walking through the long hallway leading to her door. I reached for the door but it was locked. I thought, ‘if she doesn’t open the door right now, I AM GOING TO BREAK IT DOWN!’ Finally someone opened the door. I quickly scanned the room to see where he was. No questions asked, shoes on, I didn’t care that it was raining outside. I rushed in and picked him up. He was shaking and he continued to scream as he held onto me. “What happened?”, I asked. “I don’t know, I just changed him, he keep crying crying crying! I don’t know why when he start to cry he don’t stop. I just changed him because he pooped…” If she said one more thing, I feared the neighbours would have to physically remove my claws from her flesh.
WHY? HOW?
Really, Ayan? Why would you open a daycare if you can’t stand a crying baby or if you are disgusted by the thought of changing diapers, or if you can’t follow basic feeding instructions? And can you explain the soreness and redness in his diaper area? Did you wipe so hard that you made him bleed? Did you keep him in the same diaper until the doorbell rang? Either way, this is called NEGLECT! Come to think of it, who were the 3 school aged children who were sitting in the play area when I arrived? Why are they different from the ones I saw the day before? How many children do you ACTUALLY watch in this daycare? Last time I checked you were only allowed 5 and you had Bethany, her two brothers in the after school program and Makai. How easy is it to open a home childcare business?
Anyway, no work is worth letting this happen. I should have trusted my gut feeling. I am done with this daycare. As a matter of fact, soon enough, you will be too.
Posted in motherhood

Childbirth, (PART 2) -5 truths about the epidural

I always wanted to have children of my own some day. However, there was one thing that scared me to death – childbirth. I mean, how was I going to survive this? I cry and complain about paper cuts for God’s sake! There is no way I am cut out to endure this kind of pain! During my pregnancy, I’ll admit that I even envied my friends who (for health reasons) were scheduled for a c-section; at least, that way I’d have an excuse for not being brave enough to go through labor.

At my week 37 appointment, the doctor handed me a “birth plan” to fill out. She said “labor could be anytime now, but if nothing happened by week 42, we’ll induce you”. Did she just say week 42? I felt like I was hearing a life in prison sentence. I was supposed to deliver early (at least that’s what I had singlehandedly decided to believe)! Because the longer the pregnancy, the bigger this baby was going to get and based on the latest ultrasound, he is already BIG! As in, he is in the 90th percentile, Big… So this news pretty much meant that A. I won’t need a C-section and B. going past my due date is actually POSSIBLE!?! As soon as I got home, I started to fill out the birth plan, but really, I didn’t care about this damn birth plan, all I was looking for is the section where they ask me if I want drugs? And oh boy, was I eager for some drugs! 

This post is dedicated to the first-time expectant mamas who are determined, as I was, to get the one and only Holy Grail of labor pain relief drugs – the epidural. I want to share a few facts that aren’t necessarily explained to you by health professionals – unless you ASK! This is in no way an attempt at giving you an exhaustive list of the health watch outs but it covers the most frequent ones along with what actually went wrong in my very own experience. (If you want full health facts about the epidural, visit www.fitpregnancy.com. This pregnancy health website is very thorough!)

Meanwhile, here are some pointers from mama to mama:

hospital-840135_1920#1 – The epidural is not a one-time shot. Prior to labor, I thought the epidural was just a one-time shot in the spine, that would miraculously suppress the pain. Well, not exactly! A catheter is connected to your back and if you feel any pain, you just press a button to get an additional dose. This means you can gage how much of the drug you need (don’t worry, you can’t overdose, they will set a limit to how much you can add). In my case, however, the contractions grew stronger and stronger for hours and yet, it seemed that all the button pushing didn’t bring me any relief! This takes me to my second point…  

#2 – The epidural doesn’t always work! As you can imagine, this was quite the disappointing news to me! Apparently, 3% of women will only get a brief or no break from labor pain even with the epidural. Never in a million years would I have thought that this could happen to me! Everyone I know said the epidural was a lifesaver. My two cents? If you get the epidural and it doesn’t work, don’t be like me and ask for a second one. It’ll probably do you more harm than good!   

#3 – The epidural slows down the natural process of labor. In my case, what seemed to be a super fast labor in the beginning, turned into a never-ending process by the time I got my second epidural. So even though it didn’t work, it still slowed down the process! 

#4 It’s a package deal! You may not know that when they administer the epidural, you will also likely get pitocin along with it. Pitocin will help speed up labor. And since the epidural tends to lower your blood pressure, which is dangerous for you and the baby, you will also get IV fluids to help keep your blood pressure at acceptable levels.  So if like me, you get enough doses of the drug to sedate a horse, it’s a double loss – not only do you still feel the pain, but on top of it, you’ll stay in labor for longer, and get more of the other drugs, and fluids, and so on and so forth…

#5 – You can get Post labor edema!  Well, it’s not exactly the epidural that causes this, but the IV fluids they inject you due to the epidural. A few hours postpartum, I looked down at my legs, and realized the horror… Oh my God! What happened to my legs? Is there an elephant lying here in this bed? Panicked, I tried to move my toes. Yep they’re mine! Nurse!? And what did the nurse have the audacity to tell me? That it was normal and that I would just pee it out. Like that just made perfect sense. I had to research this one! My friend Google got me the answer. So, because they inject you with IV fluids (contain sodium) for long hours, the liquid gets trapped in different parts of your body. Drinking water will help eliminate the excess fluids because water helps flush out the sodium/fluids from your system. 

Anyway, I hope this helps and good luck on your D-Day, and remember, when in doubt, ask questions!