Toddlerisms.

On a regular basis I find myself completely shocked by how quickly Bingo is growing and changing.  As I try to shove her foot into a suddenly-too-small shoe, as she climbs down a short set of stairs, as she casually says “octopus” as if it’s no big deal, my breath catches and I find myself wondering, “When did that happen?”

And then the moment passes.  We hand the too small shoes onto friends, she climbs down longer flights of stairs, octopus gets added to her daily vocabulary, and I forget when it was new.

All of this watching a person learn and grow is wonderful, and miraculous, and exactly how things are supposed to be.  It also means that old things are forgotten and left behind: that silly way she would wiggle across the floor replaced by a proper crawl, that crawl replaced by the inelegant thudding of her steps.  As the days of babyhood disappear and toddlerhood whirls through our house in a mess of strewn washcloths, spilled food, uncontained giggles, and full body hugs, I’m acutely aware of how quickly toddler quirks come and go.  Right now the thing that’s changing the fastest is her language.  It isn’t just “octopus”: new words are appearing every day.  As those words come, they replace the babbles, gestures, and toddler vocabulary that came before them.  I want to see what comes next, of course, but I don’t want to forget those old things either.  For the sake of recordkeeping, here are some of the toddlerisms I want to remember the most:

  • Before Bingo could say “phone”, she would say “hello?” instead, holding her hand up to her ear.
  • A couple of months ago, she realized that Sea and I have names other than mummy/mommy.  She now uses mummy/mommy and our actual names interchangeably.  She does this in a particular nagging tone that makes me wonder how Sea and I sound when we talk to each other.
  • If I ask her, “Do you want to walk or do you want me to carry you?” she always replies “Carryyou!”
  • “Ketchup” is “kepuch”.
  • “Open” is “apoot!”
  • She calls letters (written words, letter magnets, the alphabet song) “ABs” and points them out with great excitement whenever she sees them.
  • She identifies colours correctly most of the time now.  Before she could, every colour was purple.  Every number greater than one is two.
  • She pronounces the hard c sound as a t.  “Come!” is “tum!” and “okay” is “otay”.  She’ll hold a favourite toy or stuffed animal close (often after intentionally throwing it) and ask, “Otay?  Otttaaay?”

There are more of these toddlerisms, I’m sure of it—ones that I’m already forgetting.  These are just some of the ones that I want to hold on to, and this post is my way of tucking them away for the future.  When Bingo speaks only in sentences full of clear words, I hope that I’ll be able to read this post and let her strange, perfect toddler language echo clearly in my mind.

For those of you who have/had small children, any favourite toddlerisms to share?

Thoughts on travelling with a toddler.

I think most parents would agree that toddlers are inherently free range creatures, who do best in the wide open spaces of parks or playgroups.  (Though a church basement crowded with small plastic furniture, dolls with matted hair, and some rickety trains might not seem wide open to you, to a toddler it’s a vast expanse.  Perspective.)  I know that it takes Bingo, at least, all of three hours and a rainy afternoon to get distinctly squirrelly.  Coop her up for a full day and you will suffer full out toddler wrath.  Given this common knowledge, I think that we can accept an airplane as one of the worst places to bring a small child.  A chinaware store would be better.  Or a silent meditation retreat.  Or a judgmental in-law’s living room.  Really, anywhere.

Even knowing this, a few weeks ago we boarded a transatlantic flight.  One week ago, we did it again.  In total, we spent more than 16 hours on an airplane and another 8 + in transit.  Our journey included trains, planes, buses and cars.  Now that all of our jetlag has passed, I feel equipped to offer some notes and tips on travelling with toddler.

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In honour of World Breastfeeding Week: I breastfeed and I hate it.

I’ve breastfed my daughter for twenty months; on all but three of the days she’s been alive.   I’ve breastfed her at every hour of the day and night, and in every room in my house (bathroom included).  I’ve breastfed her on buses, in shopping centres, in parks, on curbs, in hospitals, on airplanes, in restaurants, and the shoe section of Walmart.  I breastfed her as the sun rose this morning, and as she fell asleep tonight.

I’ve chosen to breastfeed for a lot of reasons*.  I’m lazy.  It’s cheap and (sometimes) convenient.  I believe that it can promote early attachment.    I’m sure that I would have forgotten formula every time I left the house.  I’ve read too many stories of shameless formula companies engaged in unethical activities.  Breastmilk is nutritious.  The benefits of breastfeeding are supported by research.  It was assumed that I would, and I assumed that I would.

And I hate it.

When Bingo first latched on, we were in the recovery room of a hospital, wedged between a gray wall and other freshly sutured abdomens. Still shaking from the anesthetic, I felt awkward and unsure. Days later, my milk still hadn’t come in. Bingo’s weight dropped, and then dropped some more. She wailed with hunger and we shakily tipped an ounce of formula into her small mouth. I began to resent that this thing that was supposed to be so easy just wasn’t. And then my milk came in. Round circles appeared on my shirt, and I was embarrassed. My body shifted in ways that were totally beyond my control. The dull ache of nursing turned into pain so sharp that I dreaded the baby’s hunger, physically forcing myself not to pull away. And yet, after a month of breastfeeding, one of our midwives smilingly referred to us as a breastfeeding “success story”—without asking, even once, how I felt about it.

It’s gotten easier, absolutely.  I can breastfeed in any place and any position.  I can breastfeed with my eyes closed (and have).  But I hate it, still.  I hate the way that breastfeeding feels.  I hate the urgency with which my daughter grabs at my shirt, my skin, my body.  I hated the shrill cries that required my body to answer, that have been replaced by a whiny demand of “maaaaalllk!”  I hate the stares and comments of strangers, whether they’re approving or critical (“You’re so discreet, I barely noticed!”, “You shouldn’t be doing that here.”) I hate the demand that it places on me above all others.

A few months after Bingo was born, I looked at a picture of my friend feeding his newborn baby. In the picture, my friend leans against a wall. He leans so casually that he could be waiting for a bus.   He holds his baby close to his chest, and gently feeds him a bottle of formula. I looked at that photo and felt a jealousy so real that I haven’t forgotten about it since.

It’s not that I think formula feeding is inherently better. Feeding a newborn isn’t easy, no matter how you serve it. I’m sure that, at this very moment, another parent is frantically searching a diaper bag for a forgotten bottle, or cursing the formula powder spilled across the kitchen floor, or feeling judged for how their baby is fed, wishing that they could breastfeed instead. I know that the easy moment captured in my friend’s photo was surrounded by other, harder moments. But how much easier would it be, for all of us, if we were all supported to feed our babies in the ways that we choose? What if breastfeeding had been presented as one choice, and not the only choice? What if I had been told in a way that I felt, really felt, that the best way to feed Bingo was whatever way kept us both happy and well? What if I had been able to feed her that one ounce of formula without feeling as if any of us had failed?

I look at all of those what ifs and think: maybe I would have chosen to breastfeed anyways. And maybe I would hate it less.

*None of the reasons why I breastfeed mean that I think anybody else should.  I believe that whatever ways you choose to feed your baby (or whatever ways your baby/life chooses for you) are right and good, if they’re right and good for you and your family.

11 months later.

I don’t turn on my computer anymore.

Honestly, most of the time, I don’t even know where it is.  Balanced on a high surface, maybe.  Or buried under a pile of picture books.  Or serving as a coaster for the glass of water that I poured and then forgot.  Please don’t take this as a complaint: it isn’t.   It’s just to say that I spend most of my time these days catering to the demands of a very short and demanding roommate  (“Park! “ “Swing!” “Milk!”  “Play!”  “Monkey!”  “Food!”  “Sushi!”)  Please don’t take this as a complaint either: her demands are accompanied by hugs, a sticky cheek squished into mine, giddiness when I walk through the door.  No, I’m not here to complain.  Just to tell you why I haven’t written a post in 11 months.

I’ve been too busy.  Too tired.  Too happy.

I’m not sorry.

I am sorry, though, that you know so much about Bingo’s conception, gestation, birth, infancy even, but so little about Bingo herself.  Here’s what I want you to know:

Bingo is doing so well.  She’s 19 months now, and undeniably a toddler. I called her a baby until the word felt ridiculous counterpoised against her undeniably larger self. She spoke (and signed) early, walked late.  Her first word was “up”, said with arms reaching into the air. So many words have followed.  Her first ‘sentence’ was “No, mommy, no!”   Many of her joys and sorrows are the same as they were at eight months: she loves animals, books, and the park.  She still loves food, though sushi, cheese, bread, pizza and pasta have replaced carrots and bananas as her favourites.  Her favourite people are her mommies, followed closely by a host of baby friends, suitably entertaining adults, and a stuffed monkey.  Her list of baby sorrows is still short: having her face wiped, the word “no” (uttered by anybody other than her), nutrients, sleep.

Though you saw photos of Bingo as a fetus on an ultrasound and as wrinkly newborn, I’m not going to share photos of her here and now.   She is too much herself now, and the internet is too wide.  So imagine light brown hair, caught in a haphazard ponytail or falling across large dark eyes.  Imagine a small, wrinkled nose, and a dimple on a round cheek.  Imagine feet tripping over themselves, outstretched arms, a small body propelling itself forward, powered by curiosity and delight.  We are never still these days, and I don’t turn on my computer anymore.

A snapshot of eight months.

So here I am again, as I am about once a month, beginning a new blog post.  As I usually do when I begin these posts, I feel contrite about my absense and determined to be more present.  There are so many things I want to say about everything happening in your lives– so many comments that I want to make on your posts, so many congratulations and comisserations I want to offer.  Please know that I am reading and following– that I care about what is happening and think about you as I go about my days.  It’s just that I usually read your posts on the small screen of my phone, around 3am when my eyes are heavy and my fingers are clumsy, so I don’t comment.

There are also so many posts that I want to write.  I want to tell you about feelings of queerness in queer and parenting communities alike, about donor siblings, about visitors, about no longer blogging anonymously, about everything.  But right now, as I wonder how many minutes I have until I hear the baby’s cries over the monitor, I just want to tell you about her. Continue reading

Bingo- a birth story.

Somehow, Bingo is six months old. I want to write a post about her transformation from squishy newborn to funny, active little person, but right now I’m painfully aware of both my overall failure to blog and my specific failure to blog about Bingo’s birth. I’ll begin with the latter in an attempt to remedy the former. Still following? Good!

Bingo’s birth story was mostly written at the time of the event, time- stamped updates typed into my phone by me and then, later, by Sea.  If you don’t want to read it, here is the summary:

After the contractions brought about by induction #1– cervical gel- tapered off, induction #2- pitocin- went ahead as scheduled, beginning on November 21st. Labor was long, painful, and scary at times. It culminated in two hours of pushing, followed by a caesarean after I spiked a fever and labor stalled. Of course, what it really culminated in was the birth of the fabulous Bingo. This end product- and the care/love of Sea, our friends, and our fabulous midwives- make this a happy story, even though, at the time, a lot of it felt like anything but.

And here is the long version, written on November 21st and 22nd, 2013.

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Today.

(Yesterday, now.)

I text my friends to wish them a happy due date, telling them that I’m excited for them.  Text sent, I go and look in the mirror.

The wrinkled t-shirt I pulled out of the pile of unfolded laundry in our room is even more wrinkled after a restless night. Its front is stained with milk: in the next 10 minutes its shoulder will also be covered in spit up. Under my stained shirt, my stomach is stretched in a way that still feels unfamiliar.  The stretchmarks are always a surprise.  I look tired, and my hair is too long. I try to think when I last had a haircut, I can’t remember. I try to think about when I might go for another haircut, and I can’t imagine. I’m pulled away from my pathetic reflection by the sounds of a stirring baby: the same sounds that pulled me away from my bed no fewer than four times the previous night.

I go into the baby’s room. Picture-perfect before she was born, a basket of unfolded laundry now sits in the middle and books are flung across the floor. I turn off the humidifier and the white noise machine, mechanisms necessary for sleep. I’m greeted by a smiling baby. She is kicking happily in the center of her crib, surrounded by a small ocean’s worth of spit up. Despite yesterday’s bath, she smells like sour milk. I pick her up, and immediately realize that she has pooed out the sides and up the back of her diaper. Again. 

After the first of the day’s three outfit changes, I have breakfast while I feed the baby.  This, in itself, is a feat: I’ve eaten cookies or nothing more mornings than I care to admit.  Today I balance my bowl of cereal in the hand partially pinned under the baby’s head, and try not to drip milk onto her clean outfit.  I eat lefthanded, a newly acquired skill.  While I eat, I think about my friends, awaiting the arrival of their any-day-now baby.  I think of our own anticipation in November, and the days that followed.  Even remembering, I feel overwhelmed by the exhaustion and the pain.  I think about the long labor that ended in a c-section, about how I could barely turn or pull myself to sitting afterwards, about how my body leaked and bled.  I think about the night when Bingo cried constantly, and all of the tears (both hers and mine) that came both before and after.  I think about how I really had no idea, and how often I still don’t.  And I think about my friends, and how some of these things might still be ahead.

And then I’m pulled back to the here and now, mostly because the baby has managed to sink her elbow into my bowl of cereal despite my breakfast gymnastics.  Finished eating, she turns her head and smiles up at me.  In the past five and a half months, she’s transformed from a fragile newborn into a sturdy (and pudgy!) child.  I think now about all of the things she does.  She rolls, and sits (sort of), and wrinkles her nose when she laughs.  She has likes and dislikes, favorite toys and games.  After an absence (no matter how short), she greets me or Sea with an enthusiasm that radiates through her entire body.  She is more herself every day, and I am more myself with her.  As exhausting and chaotic as these days sometimes still are, they are palpably different from those first overwhelming weeks when I found myself wondering– more than once– what we had done.  These days are different, filled with more with joy than fear.  I am wrinkled, I am exhausted, I am happy.  And I am excited for my friends.