MaternalMusing

A Personal Adventure Into Parenthood

Prepping A Big Sibling: Only Child Expiring Soon April 13, 2015

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V is a truly awesome kid. I know, I know…I’m his mom so I’m pretty biased but this past year has really shown me what a fantastic, thoughtful, caring little boy we’ve been blessed with. Last winter, while I was overjoyed to find out we were expecting a sibling for our little man, I was also worried about how to tell V, how it would change our relationship with him, and honestly if I could love another child as much as I loved my miracle baby. For 3.5 years V had had all of our love, attention, resources and focus….how could we possibly divide that with another baby? And how would we help V adjust to sharing all of those things? I’m told these are common concerns for repeat parents-to-be and that it would all come out in the wash, but if you know me and my control-freak self, I wanted to have a solid plan in place to make sure our transition from 1 to 2 went smoothly.

First Hold! V was so careful...and carefully assisted by Daddy.

First Hold! V was so careful…and carefully assisted by Daddy.

First of all we had to decide when to tell V that a little brother/sister was on its way. Because there is a large-ish gap between our children and V is old enough to understand most things I felt like we should wait until I was almost done my first trimester to share our news. V is a sensitive kid and I didn’t want to tell him a sibling was coming if we experienced early complications or a miscarriage. You never know, so I felt it was easier to tell him just before we told other friends/family. Obviously there comes a point, typically when your stomach could block out the sun, that older kids will probably notice there is something unusual going on, but early on it’s pretty easy to keep it to yourself.

My tiny 4 year old...and avg sized 4 month old at the time

My tiny 4 year old…and avg sized 4 month old at the time

One other reason we didn’t share about the baby early on is because I was so sick and we didn’t want V forming any negative connotations in regards to his sibling. Kids are typically pretty sensitive and if we’d told him ‘Well baby is making Mommy sick’ we worried he’d think this baby was a pretty terrible thing. The fun part about all this was that I was brutally sick with Mr. A. Vomiting and nausea, all day, every day, for the first 14 or so weeks. Of course V noticed that I spent most of my time lying in a dark room with a cold cloth on my head trying to keep my breakfast/lunch/dinner down but since he has no concept of ‘morning (ha!) sickness’ he just thought I was plain old sick. We also told him about my kidney issues right away since they involved 3 separate (middle of the night) ER trips before I hit my second trimester.

V getting ready to feed Mr. A his first taste of solids.

V getting ready to feed Mr. A his first taste of solids.

When we did tell V we didn’t make it a big deal. We sat on the couch while he was dancing/playing around the living room and told him he was getting a brother/sister. Of course, V being 3 at the time and not understanding how babies are made, started looking around the room like his sibling was about to magically appear. We explained that baby would grow in Mommy’s ‘tummy’ until after his birthday (well we got close!) and then he’d come out and play. We also put more emphasis on what a great big brother he was going to be, rather than how a new baby was arriving. We sold it like a promotion and everyone with toddlers knows that they love anything that makes them feel important or grown up. Luckily V had had a baby cousin born in Jan of 2014 so he at least understood the concept of what a baby looked/sounded like. V, in his typical way, nodded, took the announcement in stride, and went back to playing. In the toddler mind if it’s not happening right that second, then it’s not really all that exciting.

Bubble Guppies is one heck of a bonding experience.

Bubble Guppies is one heck of a bonding experience.

One thing we made sure to NOT do when we told V was start by asking him if he wanted a brother or sister. Let’s be honest, at that point it didn’t really matter if he wanted it or not, so it was better to just tell him what was happening. We also didn’t ask him if he’d prefer a brother or a sister…babies aren’t really the ‘made to order’ type. We had him ‘guess’ what the baby was before our gender ultrasound but he didn’t really seem to care either way. My advice here is essentially don’t let your child feel like they have a choice, when they really don’t. It’s not like asking them if they’d prefer milk or juice with breakfast…

Helping Daddy give Baby A a bath in the NICU.

Helping Daddy give Baby A a bath in the NICU.

Another element A and I discused was how involved with the pregnancy we wanted V to be. He was 3 and a half when we told him about our impending arrival so he was definitely old enough to understand what was happening but still young enough to be impatient or distracted at appointments/ultrasounds etc. We decided that V wouldn’t be attenting any of my pre-natal appointments, tests or ultrasounds. Baby doctor appointments, especially high risk ones, are long and they would have required him to sit still and quietly which is hard to do for any normal 3-4 year old. Some days I would be at the hospital ALL DAY…ultraound for an hour in the am then a 3+ hr wait to see my high risk OB. Not really fun for an active little boy and stressful for me as well. My in-laws were great about watching him while I was at appointments and he had fun hanging out with his cousins all summer!

Oh he's beautiful! - V

Oh he’s beautiful! – V

We, of course, would show him the ultrasound pictures when I got home and he loved looking at them and trying to pick out his brother’s features! He’d ask to see ‘his’ baby sometimes during the day and we’d let him look at the scans as much or as little as he wanted. We also let him touch my belly and feel his brother kick when I got far enough along. This weirded him out honestly and he only did it a couple times. Around 20 weeks when I was getting bigger he started asking me daily if his brother was coming out to play yet which was a little freaky since we’d had one pre-term kiddo already. I took it as a good sign that he was so excited to meet his little sibling. V also got to hear baby A’s heartbeat once during one of my many hospital stays. This was probably the most excited I’d seen him…he loved it! He told us ‘Baby August’ was talking to him.

Helping Daddy feed his baby brother.

Helping Daddy feed his baby brother.

We had also decided that V would not be present when I went into labour. I’m not a big fan of sharing that with anyone other than my husband and we didn’t want family in the waiting room etc this time either. My parents were lifesavers and took V to their house for numerous weeks in the summer when I was so sick with my kidneys and Andrew was at work. They agreed to pick V up when I went into labour (or was being induced as it ended up) and they’d bring him back to visit his sibling when we were ready. This was a hard decision to make since we didn’t want V thinking he’d been ‘replaced’ while he was away, but it ended up being a pretty smooth transition. V has a lifetime to spend with his little brother so waiting an extra day to see him after he was born wasn’t going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

My boys in Baby A's second flight..home from FL!

My boys in Baby A’s second flight..home from FL!

I’ll be honest, I spent a lot of my pregnancy randomly in tears about how the whole ‘new baby’ thing would change our family dynamic. We’d had almost 4 years to get into a pretty smooth routine and as happy as I was to welcome a new life into our family I was also worried that we’d be living in chaos for the next 14-18 years. I had all of these plans to savour and celebrate V’s last summer as an only child. We were going to go to Canada’s Wonderland, visit the CN Tower, see many, many Jays games at the Rogers Centre! We were going to spend all summer, just the three of us, enjoying our calm before the storm. And then we didn’t…

Introducing his baby brother to Ace!

Introducing his baby brother to Ace!

At 21 weeks I was admitted to the hospital with devastatingly painful hydronephrosis and had a tube inserted into my kidney. At 26 weeks I had a recurrent infection that required another hospitalization and a permanent PICC line inserted. I’d get to carry a portable IV pump until I delivered. I had another hospitalization in August because my left kidney had blocked (although 2 hrs before my surgery for my second nephrostomy tube it cleared Thank God!). I had my tube changed once a week, met with an Infectious Disease specialist every two weeks, my high risk OB weekly due to blood pressure issues, had weekly progesterone shots in my backside to help keep Mr. A inside longer than his brother, AND monthly meetings with my urologist. I was at risk for septic infection, pre-term labour and strokes/seizures. I was told by all 4 of my departments that I wasn’t allowed to leave the city…I had to be within 30 mins of the hospital at all times. There went all of our summer plans….

Taking a 'picture' of his little brother!

Taking a ‘picture’ of his little brother!

This was incredibly hard, not just on my body, but mentally as well, for me and for A and V. V was shuttled back and forth between my fantastic in-laws and my amazing parents. All in all V was in Niagara over a month last summer when you add up his various trips. He was there so often he called it his ‘Niagara House’. Luckily he adores my parents and vice versa so he had a great time visiting them, playing outside, splashing in his kiddie pool and learning to use the toilet like a big boy. Have I mentioned how much I love my parents? We wouldn’t have gotten through last summer without them. I’m so blessed to have family who loves our child like we do and literally re-arranged their whole lives to help us out. I was so overwhelmed by their love and thoughtfulness that it’s brought me to tears more than once.

Posin'

Posin’

When V was back in London he spent his days with my sister-in-law and his cousins. Sometimes being dropped off at 3am when we were rushing back to the hospital with pre-term contractions, blood pressure spikes or kidney issues. Do you know what a relief it is to know you have someone to call when you have a middle of the night emergency? Huge! I also still live in awe that my sister-in-law was able to convince him to nap at her house on a regular basis…

As awesome as all this was for us, imagine how it was for V. He’s not old enough to really understand why all of this shuffling around was going on. All he knew was that some days Mommy was home in bed and he went to Auntie C’s house for the day, then he’d come home and give her a snuggle. Some days Grandma and Grandpa would come pick him up and he’d come home in a week (or more). Other times he’d head to Auntie C’s and then after he’d visit Mommy at the hospital because they’d ‘kept’ her. He started to get anxious when I’d tell him I was going to the doctor, asking me if I’d be home after. He’d cry on Skype asking us if he could come home like he was in some kind of exile. This was absolutely heartbreaking but honestly it was better that he had a stable routine especially during weeks I had multiple procedures.

Taking care of Baby A once we came home

Taking care of Baby A once we came home

As much as I wanted to spend all of my time with him I was physically unable to. Between all of these appointments I was on bedrest for my blood pressure, or recovering from having my tube replaced. I couldn’t lift him, bend down or chase after him. I couldn’t bathe myself so how was I supposed to help him? I felt useless and awful that I’d ruined his ‘last’ summer. And then I realized I was being stupid. All in all, V had a great summer! He was the number one guy for a lot of people last year! Our whole family pulled together to make sure he had a pretty awesome summer despite the chaos happening at home. He got to travel, see Blue Jays games, swim and run around outside. Sadly I wasn’t able to really participate but the summer was supposed to be all about him…and it was.

After all the chaos, to be honest, A’s arrival was pretty anti-climatic. He really does deserve his own post on that so I’ll skip to our first meet and greet! V was with my parents during my labour and delivery and was finally able to come visit his new sibling on his 4th birthday! Our b-day gift to him was a doctor’s appointment for vaccines so he could get into the NICU. Andrew got to tell V that Baby August had arrived the day after he was born, but V didn’t come down to London until the Monday evening to meet him. My parents brought V up to the NICU and we helped him sanitize his hands and walked him down to Baby A’s private suite (The ‘new’ NICU is pretty freakin’ swanky let me tell you!). On our quick walk we explained to him what he was about to see. Baby A was in a special crib to help keep him warm, he had a mask on his face to help him breathe (like Bane) and was on a special blanket that made him glow! He was too little to hold right now but he’s so excited to meet his awesome big brother! V skipped down the hallway, anxious to meet this little person who’d been hiding in Mommy’s belly!

What followed made me sob like a baby. V was the sweetest, most loving big brother I’ve ever seen. He sighed when he saw his ‘beautiful baby’ and whispered to him that everything would be okay now, Vaughan was here. He blew kisses into the isolette and kept telling us how amazing his baby brother was. It was such a special moment for the 4 of us and I’ll carry those memories with me forever. V was so sad that Baby A had to stay at the hospital until he was big and strong but he promised his little brother he’d come visit him again. Heartbreakingly beautiful…that’s my boy!

Aww I love him! - V

Aww I love him! – V

August was in the NICU for 16 days and V was able to come for several visits after he arrived back home. When we brought him for visits we encouraged him to give his brother kisses on the forehead, ‘help’ give him a bath and even help us hold his bottle. He loved being so hands-on! One thing we never pushed though was contact with his brother. If he didn’t want to give him a kiss then that was his choice. We explained that it would be nice if he did it, and his brother loved his kisses, but if he wasn’t feeling it I wasn’t about to hold a screaming toddler over a 4 lb something infant forcing them to snuggle. We tried very hard not to create any negative emotions surrounding our new addition. When V visited the NICU it was all about what he could do to help!

It's okay Baby August...Vaughan's here!

It’s okay Baby August…Vaughan’s here!

When we finally brought Baby A home, V was over the moon! He wanted to help with everything and we still try to keep him very involved. He would sit next to him and rock his chair, replace a dropped soother, and sing him songs when he was sad. He was everything we’d imagined he’d be as a big brother and now, 7 months in, he’s exactly the same. V will shush us when he see his little brother sleeping, pick up dropped toys and come find us if he thinks Baby A is hungry or sad.

The one thing V doesn’t do is hold his brother. Not that he doesn’t want to, but let’s be honest. Baby A is considerably bigger than V was as a baby…and quickly gaining on how big V is as a 4.5 year old. V weighs a whopping 27 lbs…and August is quickly approaching 17 lbs at 7 months (delightfully average for the most part!). V just can’t hold that much squirming baby safely, so we keep the snuggles to the bed or playmat.

V is a very protective older brother, he worries if Baby A isn’t with us. He doesn’t like when I take him for doctors appointments and makes me promise that I won’t let the doctors keep him because August is ‘big’ now. He gives me a stern talking to if Baby A doesn’t come with me to pick him up from school. If we’re going somewhere he wants to make sure Baby A can come too. He’s eagerly awaiting the day that Baby A can play with him and they can have sleepovers. He tells people that Baby A is his best friend. Oh…and he also asks me not to swallow Baby August anymore…he didn’t like it in my belly apparently.

Snuggles before V heads to school for the day.

Snuggles before V heads to school for the day.

I did have someone ask how we ‘made’ the boys get along. The answer is ‘We don’t’. Kids are just like everyone else…sometimes you just want time alone, you aren’t feeling affectionate, or they’re just plain getting on your nerves. We respect V’s personal space and if he wants to play by himself, away from his brother, for an hour or so, he’s free to do that. I don’t believe you can force anyone to get along, even siblings, and there will be a lot less resentment, if you just let things unfold organically. I should also probably mention, on the other side of the spectrum, Baby A is obsessed with V…No-one else can get a smile or laugh quite as quickly as V can when it comes to our August-man.

We are so glad Baby A came into our lives and it’s also nice to know that he and V will always have each other. Siblings are for life, and good or bad, they’ll be each other’s rocks when they’re older. Now to get prepared for when August starts grabbing V’s toys….wish me luck!

Oh the attitude...

Oh the attitude…

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When The Parent Becomes The Child: ‘Our’ Journey with Lewy Body Dementia April 6, 2015

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2014 was a big year for our family all around, and a true mix of the good and the bad. We welcomed a new life into our family in Sept but earlier in the year we began to watch one slip away. After years of gradual personal and physical decline my mother was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Slowly but surely we’re now witnessing this once vivacious woman drift quietly, but quickly, into her own world.

My mom and V on his very first birthday!

My mom and V on his very first birthday!

I’m struggling with how to organize and write this particular blog so forgive me if it’s more disjointed than most. It’s an emotional topic for me and trying to look at it both clinically and personally is a tough balance. I’ll start with a breakdown of Lewy Body Dementia and share a bit of my mom’s story before I move into how it affects our relationship with her as both a daughter and mother of her grandchildren.

A, V and my Mom when she came over to hand out the Halloween candy so we could both take V trick or treating.

A, V and my Mom when she came over to hand out the Halloween candy so we could both take V trick or treating.

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is rarely talked about but apparently pretty darn common among our elderly population. It’s garnered some media attention in the last year or because of its effects on famous personalities Kasey Kasum and Robin Williams. The disease itself encompasses both mental and physical symptoms and is usually a ‘possible/probable diagnosis’ based on different criteria. It can’t be definitively diagnosed until an autopsy is done after the patient passes on. A great resource I’ve found, if you’d like to learn more, is the website: http://www.lbda.org/

My Mom participating in Go Blue or Go Bald! She raised a ton of money for Make A Wish and opted to Go Bald!

My Mom participating in Go Blue or Go Bald! She raised a ton of money for Make A Wish and opted to Go Bald!

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, LBD is basically a combination of Alzheimer’s type symptoms combined with Parkinson’s. Patients can experience any combination of hallucinations, personality changes, paranoia and memory impairment. They also deal with tremors, weak muscles, and trouble with co-ordination. It typically progresses over the course of 4-8 years from initial onset and most patients are older when they start experiencing symptoms. It is progressive and there is no cure.

My mother’s journey with LBD most likely started back in 2009, just before I became pregnant with V. At the time she had just turned 60 years old. The changes were small to start. She’d forget little things, like conversations we’d had about plans for the weekend. Always known as ‘blunt’ she also started losing a bit more of her ‘social filter’. You know those things you think but don’t say? About your boss/co-workers, the person in front of you in line at the grocery store, acquaintances? She didn’t have that ‘off button’ anymore and would sometimes say mean or inappropriate things even to close friends or family. She also started to trip, and slip more often. Falling off ladders, missing that last step coming down the stairs or slipping when getting out of the shower. Nothing big, maybe a bruise or two but mostly catching herself and experiencing one heck of an adrenaline rush. This continued on a pretty even keel for a year or two. After taking early retirement she chose to sell her house, moving to an ‘easier to manage’ apartment, and continued on as normal. Driving around, visiting family, and volunteering, to pass the time.

V pushing her around on his Plasma Bike at his 2nd Birthday Party.

V pushing her around on his Plasma Bike at his 2nd Birthday Party.

Then the changes became more noticeable. She became aggressive and unpredictable behind the wheel. So much so that V wasn’t allowed in the car with her anymore. She could also become aggressive with people,often with very little warning. We never left her alone with V although we made an effort to see her at least once a week. She always felt badly afterwards but it was like dealing with another child. She had time-outs and people had to explain to her why her behaviour was inappropriate. As her child that was hard to do. You never picture having to sit your parent down to explain that ‘hitting is bad’ but sometimes it’s what has to be done. Honestly it’s a bit easier to look back on now that we know she wasn’t truly in control of her actions.

The day we moved her out of her house (of 20+ years!) and moved her into her apartment.

The day we moved her out of her house (of 20+ years!) and moved her into her apartment.

In the summer of 2013, she was asked not to come back and volunteer when her ‘filter’ deteriorated to the point that her language was inappropriate and confrontational. We started visiting the doctor for memory tests and she was referred to a geriatric specialist (at 62 years old, about 15 years younger than most patients). They did some testing and thought that the changes she had demonstrated may be due to small strokes in her frontal lobe. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to be done. Her results were a little abnormal but at that point they weren’t bad enough to warrant further care or treatment.

Boat ride in Gananoque back in the summer of 2009

Boat ride in Gananoque back in the summer of 2009

The bigger changes started in later 2013/early 2014. When we went Christmas shopping she couldn’t remember her PIN number for her debit. She start walking incredibly slowly, shuffling her feet as she went along. She would forget dentist, and doctor appointments. She kept forgetting if she’d fed her beloved cats, resulting in extreme overfeeding and grossly obese animals. We were starting to become very concerned and she herself called the doctor to arrange another round of testing.

On her birthday in Nov 2013.

On her birthday in Nov 2013.

Before those tests began, larger issues started to unfold. In Jan 2014, after she never showed up for a shopping date, we discovered that she’d been in two car accidents in one day, totaling her car. ‘Oops!’ she said. At this point I called the family doctor on her behalf and requested that they contact the ministry to pull her license. She was a danger to others and herself on the road. This was an incredibly hard decision to make and I knew it would break her heart. By taking her license we were limiting her freedom and mobility but it had to be done. I would never have been able to forgive myself if she’d hurt someone else or herself on the road when it could have been prevented.

Smiling on Boxing Day 2013 with my lovely sister.

Smiling on Boxing Day 2013 with my lovely sister.

The ministry allowed her to take a driving test in order to try to regain her license but she wasn’t able to complete the task safely and they ended the evaluation early. We got to read the report afterwards and it was heartbreaking. The woman who had had a spotless driving record until approximately 5 years ago would never, ever have her license returned to her. She was incredibly upset by this and called our family doctor daily to see if they could get it reinstated. Not because she was persistent, but because she had forgotten she’d already asked.

The doctor had her come back in and repeat her testing and we discovered that she had deteriorated significantly. They started the process of having her evaluated by CCAC (Community Care Access Centre aka the people in charge of setting up assisted/long-term care) because we were worried about her ability to care independently for herself. She had lost at least 20 lbs at this point and was unable to tell you what she’d eaten for meals, when she’d last done laundry, or gone shopping. We were prepared for this to take several months and were digging in for the long haul when unexpected events shifted us into high gear yet again.

Last April 1st, while trying to sleep off my morning sickness, I received several text messages from my Uncle. They had that carefully worded tone of ‘don’t panic but please call me’. When I called him back he told me that my mother had collapsed inside the bank when he’d taken her for some errands and they were now hanging out in the ER. I called A to drive me over and spent the rest of the day waiting for test results, trying to keep her on the bed. Turns out she’d broken her hip and unfortunately with her memory impairments it was a challenge to find out how, and when she’d actually injured herself! Memory issues are embarrassing when you can still remember enough to realize you’re forgetting. As a result, rather than admit she had no idea, she was making up different stories for each person who asked. We used bits and pieces of these stories, along with her bank records, to piece together how it happened. If you asked her; she was hit by a car when she was grocery shopping, or alternatively a young girl had pushed her into the parking lot. From what we can actually deduce, we think she was walking in the parking lot, coming home after a grocery shop on the 31st of March. A car must have come around the corner and she’d tried to step up on the curb to get out of the way. With her decreased mobility she didn’t step up high enough and fell hard on her left hip, fracturing it, before hobbling off home and then collapsing in the bank the next day when it was finally unable to support her weight. She underwent surgery to repair the hip the next day and spent two weeks in the hospital rehabbing and undergoing evaluations.

A 'memory' picture book we gave her for Christmas in 2014.

A ‘memory’ picture book we gave her for Christmas in 2014.

The broken hip was tough, it’s hard to see your parent suffer in pain, stuck in a hospital bed. It was also a blessing in disguise. After the staff at the hospital realized that she was unable to complete simple daily tasks (eg. Getting herself up and dressed in the morning) they expedited our application with CCAC and we were able to have her evaluated for assisted or long term care. The evaluation came back quickly with the recommendation that she be placed in long term care, on a secured floor. Let me recap this for you. My mother went from living on her own, to a secured (aka locked down) floor in a nursing home in two weeks flat. Talk about quick progression. With the fall, memory impairments and other cognitive issues she would require 24/7 monitoring. At the age of 30, my sister and I had to make the decision to put my 64 year old mother in a nursing home. All I kept thinking is that she left her home to do her banking and now she’d never be going back. We had to enact her Powers of Attorney, give notice and move her out of her apartment and help her adjust to new surroundings. My head was spinning…oh and I was also 12 weeks pregnant with Mr A and already experiencing complications. This summer was not going as I’d planned. Luckily our family pulled together, put our heads down and got through it all.They did the majority of the heavy lifting (no pun intended!) so I could protect baby A. I feel blessed to be a part of such an amazing team!

Playing with V after his very first haircut!

Playing with V after his very first haircut!

Mom had trouble adjusting to her new surroundings and would often call crying or yelling, demanding we pick her up and take her home. She would pack her suitcase every morning with all of the momentos and belongings we’d brought to her and wait for us to pick her up. She would cry like her heart was breaking when every day we had to tell her she was staying. It was that terrible moment in time where she couldn’t remember enough to live on her own, but remembered enough to know that this wasn’t a place she wanted to be. More than once I’d hang up the phone in tears, but I’d have to remember as much as the conversation hurt me, my mom wouldn’t remember it 20 minutes from now. I wasn’t even her primary contact for these demands, my uncle had it 10x worse and handled it with amazing grace considering it’s his older sister he’s watching drift away. Nowadays she’s moved past this phase and is content to sit and think. She talks to the nurses and her biggest upset occurs when her parents aren’t calling her back or my uncle brings her the wrong kind of fish and chips. It should be noted here that my grandparents passed on some time ago, and she hates fish and chips. The nurses tell us it’s normal for dementia patients to ‘talk’ or ‘phone’ their deceased parents and we try our best not to argue with her. If she tells me about how they blew off her dinner invitation I’ll agree that it wasn’t very nice but maybe they’re busy and will try to make it another day. It’s those same little white lies you tell your toddler…glossing over the truth so you don’t have to upset them.

At my wedding in 2011.

At my wedding in 2011.

Mom has also physically declined quite rapidly and within a year has gone from walking independently, to a walker and now a wheelchair. She can still walk but needs to be supervised by someone in arms reach as her legs suddenly give out and she’s already had several trips to the ER and stitches from recent falls. Her arms do occasionally tremor but are mostly just quite weak. She can’t hold either of the boys for very long but she sure does enjoy looking at them. It’s those sweet moments we have to savour because with her progression it’s hard to know how much time we have to stockpile those memories.

Family is very important to both A and I. When we found out we were expecting V, way back in 2010, we discussed how we wanted our child/children to grow up creating strong relationships with his/her extended family. We were excited for holidays, family trips, parties etc. celebrated with aunts, uncles, cousins and, of course, grandparents. It’s worked out beautifully so far and V has loving relationships with all of his family on both sides. I’m sure A will grow into these fantastic, nurturing relationships as time goes on as well.

Mastering the art of the selfie! Better late than never right?

Mastering the art of the selfie! Better late than never right?

The challenge we now face, is trying to help the boys build some type of relationship with my mom, and create memories that they’ll carry with them when she’s no longer here. It’s hard to think about and definitely more of challenge than a ‘typical’ grandparent/grandchild relationship. With V’s other grandparents he visits regularly, plays and talks with them. They, in turn, babysit him, read him stories, run around outside with him and will soon be doing the same with his little brother. My mom is no longer able to carry a conversation, read, write or hold them. She will likely be gone before A is able to form memories to look back on. It’s something I don’t like to think about. I remember how excited and proud she was when we found out we were expecting V, all of the plans she had, and how little time she had to fulfill them before LBD stole that ability from her.

Mother and daughter during a visit in Feb 2015.

Mother and daughter during a visit in Feb 2015.

Sadly our visits with her are few and far between since we have to find a time when both boys are healthy AND her floor isn’t experiencing an outbreak of their own. This means that baby A has only been able to see her twice in his very short life (boo to being born at the start of cold and flu season!). She also becomes easily overwhelmed by the boys. They are a lot to process when your typical day is very orderly and quiet. I wasn’t able to visit when I had the tube and recurrent infections since they can easily be transmitted in a medical environment and what was an inconvenience for me could have killed some of the residents on her floor. There is a lot of guilt associated with our lack of visits and as much as I try to convince myself we’re doing the right thing it’s hard to know she’s there by herself.

Biker Mom!

Biker Mom!

What is also hard with the visits is thinking that these are the memories that V will have. He won’t remember the smiling Grandma who took him shopping as a baby, shared Happy Meals with him as a toddler, or ran around with him at his second birthday party. What he’s going to remember is the quiet, skinny little lady who smiled at him from her wheelchair and shared her chocolate bunny. Sweet memories yes, but not what I hoped for either one of them.

My mom holding Baby A for the first time. She could only hold him for a minute but loved every second of it.

My mom holding Baby A for the first time. She could only hold him for a minute but loved every second of it.

I try to take lots of pictures when we do visit so that when A is older he’ll be able to see he was snuggled and loved on by his Grandma, even when he’ll likely not be able to remember for himself. It’s another one of those moments in life where you just want to scream about how unfair it all is, but you can’t. Crying won’t help and it just takes energy and time away from all the positive moments you can squeeze out of a really crappy situation. I’m 31 years old, and she’s only 65! I shouldn’t be watching her fold in on herself, losing that ‘larger than life’ personality that used to light up a room. My boys are babies and it’s not fair that they won’t get to know the ‘real’ her. The whole situation sucks but dwelling on it isn’t going to make her better and it just makes my heart-break that much more when I’m sitting there holding her hand. So, in the moment, you try to let it go, paste a smile on your face, and do what makes her happy. Then, suddenly, while watching her savour her mandarin orange or chocolate chip cookie, the smile isn’t quite so forced and you find yourself truly enjoying the simple moment, kind of like you do when you watch your children sleep. It’s life at its most basic and that’s not always a terrible thing.

Easter 2015 picture with her grandsons.

Easter 2015 picture with her grandsons.

As I said, not my most coherent post but this one holds a heavy weight. It’s hard to become a caregiver to a parent, especially when I have my own young family, but when it comes right down to it you do what you have to. My mom definitely had her faults but they were part of what made her ‘her’ and slowly she’s becoming what I can only describe as a ‘blank slate’. Although I already grieve the loss of the woman she was (annoying habits and all!), I don’t want to waste my remaining time with her mourning what still remains. Going forward we’re really making an effort to see her as much as possible with the boys and I’ll try to go for longer visits with my sister when she drives down. I’m going to savour every moment and hold it close, creating memories and stockpiling stories (Fav so far: When she asked me for a cigarette and I had to remind her she’d quit oh…only about 25 year ago…). These are the things that I’ll be able to revisit and share even when she leaves to join my grandparents for dinner…wherever that is…

V pushing her in her wheelchair after one of our visits.

V pushing her in her wheelchair after one of our visits.

 

The ‘Million Dollar Family’: Or ‘When Are You Trying for the Girl?’ March 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 6:46 pm
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As the mom of two young boys who rarely leaves the house for anything not grocery, work or child related I will readily admit my grasp of current terminology and slang is a bit behind. Not ‘Unbreakble: Kimmy Schmidt’ behind but pretty close. As a result, I actually had to look up a term I heard in a recent conversation, thank you Urban Dictionary, and the definition left me fuming. Let’s examine it shall we? The term was ‘The Million Dollar Family’.

For those of you not in the know let me catch you up; the ‘million dollar family’ is the ultimate realization of the 1950s primary school reader. A happily married Mommy and Daddy with two kids, specifically one boy and one girl. This is an actual term, used by actual real-live people. Apparently, unbenownst to me, this is the standard that all procreating women should strive towards, the baby-making ‘jackpot’ as it were. It implies that a family couldn’t possibly be happy with one child, or two children of a single gender, or more than two kids…either that or they should just accept that their family will just be ‘sub-standard’ when compared to ignorant social ‘ideals’.

V's Toronto Blue Jays Room

V’s Toronto Blue Jays Room

I realize that I use this blog, for the most part, to vent on issues that bother me as a mother, and as the newly minted mother of two children of a single gender this one sure takes the cake. For some reason there are a lot of people out there, mostly women, who can’t understand why I’m not utterly devastated that this time I didn’t get my ‘little princess’. To be fair I know there are women out there who have a strong preference for the gender of their child when they find out they’re expecting, but personally I am definitely not one of them.With all the issues we had staying pregnant with V, when A and I finally made the decision to try again we had absolutely zero preference on the gender of our new addition. Really, it’s true! If you’d asked us at the time our only two hopes for baby #2 would be ‘healthy’ and ‘ to term’ and luckily we came pretty darn close to both.

V not loving solids. Note the highchair...

V not loving solids. Note the highchair…

However, as soon as we started spreading the news of our newest arrival to friends and family, the number one response to our annoucement was ‘Oh this time you must be hoping for a girl!!’…

Then, prompted by the awkward silence caused by me staring at them open mouthed, many people continued putting their foot farther down their throats by listing off the various ‘benefits’ to having a little mini-me around the house: I can buy cute clothes, I can sign her up for dance or cheerleading, I can take her to get pedicures, I can play Barbies again!

Now all of these are incredibly awesome and cute, and should definitely be appreciated by those mommies of beautiful little girls, but seriously…that’s your gender preference deciding factor? Hairbows?? Have you seen how dapper V looks in his blazers and newboys hats? (Please diregard any pictures of him on Facebook/Instagram where he’s dressed himself….). V has already asked us to sign him up for dance class (He wants ballet pants, no tutus here) and I’ve learned to appreciate the intricasies of the Superhero action figure story-lines…same deal as Barbies honestly but often with less accessories and their heads (typically) don’t come off. Also, as the mom of two, it will likely be 5 years before I’m anywhere in the vicinity of a spa again and believe you me, as much as I love my kids, when I’m going for me time it’ll most definitely be for ME!

Check out the cuteness of boy clothing!! Admittedly a little short on frills and bows, but you have to admit is adorable!

Check out the cuteness of boy clothing!! Admittedly a little short on frills and bows, but you have to admit is adorable!

Now don’t get me wrong, when we found out we were pregnant I would have been equally ecstatic with a little miss but the purpose of us going for round #2 wasn’t to ‘try’ for the girl. What I can tell you though is that by the time I hit 20 weeks and had my gender ultrasound I was OVER THE MOON that we were having a second boy. My kidney issues had started, plus I was still sick to my stomach, getting larger by the second and had already been on short term leave for over 3 months, which meant my income was a fraction of what it typically was! When I saw ‘It’s a BOY!’ on that little notecard (A wasn’t able to be at that ultrasound so my OB wrote us a note) my first thought was ‘Thank GOD! Now I don’t have to shop!!’. I could just drag the totes of baby boy gear from the basement, wash it and we were good to go! Baby #2 was going to be cheap and easy! And honestly he is…this kid practically has nothing new for himself, beyond the thoughtful gifts we received from family and friends. He’s going to be a pro at hand-me downs…until he outgrows his brother…and then V will have to get used to it.

Baby A in the very same high chair! Yay for hand-me downs!!

Baby A, prepped for solids, in the very same high chair! Yay for hand-me downs!!

There are amazing benefits to having two kids of the same gender! We recycled pretty much everything from V with the exception of things he’d decimated, the cat had ruined or snap-up sleepers (don’t even get me started, those nightmare inducing things deserve a blog post of their own.) We also know exactly what to expect with diaper changes, boy growth curves and development, and other major decisions that relate specifically to boys, if you know what I mean… It also meant that my husband gets to satisfy both of his inner 9 year olds by creating one epic Blue Jays room and an equally epic Habs nursery (He maintains 1993 was the best year of his life). We are a boy centered household and couldn’t be more happy. I am the number one girl in 3 guys’ hearts and I never lack for snuggles, compliments or dance partners, how can you beat that?

V in his swing after sampling strawberries (in a very poorly chosen outfit for that type of snack I know)

V in his swing after sampling strawberries (in a very poorly chosen outfit for that type of snack I know)

Now, on a more serious note, ‘gender disappointment’ is a real thing and affects some pregnant mothers to varying degrees.These women have their hearts set on one gender, only to discover their child is quite the opposite. This is another one of the reasons I bring up the topic of the ‘ideal’ mix of kids, and terms like ‘million dollar families’. Sadly some people don’t think before they speak and as a result can be seen as well-meaning but insensitive. We’ve all seen it! Let’s think…what if you had a friend who was really hoping for a baby girl the second time around? Or even the first time around!?! It doesn’t mean they are ‘ungrateful’ for the beautiful new life they’re bringing into the world, or that they don’t love and adore their new baby. What it does mean is that they are essentially ‘mourning’ what they thought they had and you making comments about how ‘boys are still really cute’ isn’t going to help. For them this comment reads as ‘Boys are still really cute, although not quite as cute as baby girls’ and although you may not have meant that at all…it’s hard to argue with pregnancy hormones and disappointment.

A in the same swing, doing what he does best...chillin'

A in the same swing, doing what he does best…chillin’

There is also a significant amount of shame associated with gender disappointment. Most women obviously understand that you should be over the moon with either gender so long as your child is healthy, but it’s hard to quiet that inner voice that keeps insisting you dwell on what you ‘thought’ you had. Haven’t heard the term before? I’m not surprised because if any one of these women actually said, “Yes the baby is healthy but I’m a little upset it’s a boy/girl’ they’d be mocked and gossiped about. Everyone knows the only socially acceptable answer to the question ‘What gender are you hoping for?’ is ‘Either one, it doesn’t matter so long as it’s healthy!’, even if for some women this isn’t necessarily true. My advice is to stay away from gender comments or ‘predictions’ unless you’re asked. Certainly don’t add your two cents on someone’s Facebook announcement with comments about a preferred gender and for goodness sake don’t make an idiotic comment on a gender announcement itself! Stick to a sincere congratulations for a healthy and happy pregnancy because that is honestly the bottom line.

Go Habs Go!

Go Habs Go!

Another ‘touchy’ subject is the number of kids you choose to have You must know by now that everyone will have an opinion on everything you do as a parent, even if you choose never to have kids! It astonishes me that more people don’t realize that it is pretty much never appropriate to ask someone when they’re having kids, when they’re having more kids, etc. You have no idea what’s going in someone’s life and the answer might not be something they want to get into. Maybe they’re struggling with infertility. Maybe they’ve had a loss. Maybe they are dealing with a genetic counselor for possibly devastating anomalies. Maybe they just don’t want to! Unless you’re one of the two people involved in that decision (or an x-ray technician, ER nurse or paramedic) it’s none of your business. I have seen people’s anniversary announcements come up on Facebook and without fail, if it’s been two years of married bliss and no kids, someone is going to make a comment. Same with people who announce their third, fourth, fifth bundle of joy. Someone always has to be the joker to add ‘You know how this happens right??’. So long as you and your partner feel like you can emotionally, physically and financially handle more kids, feel free to do as you will!

A in his Habs Crib

A in his Habs Crib

As for personal experiences with this type of questioning, I actually had one Interventional Radiology tech (who had seen me struggle through my entire pregnancy including dry heaving in the procedure room while a doctor rammed surgical tubing into my kidney) ask me when we would be trying for the girl. After I pulled my jaw off the floor and replied ‘Never’ I was even more angry when she answered with ‘Oh, we’ve heard that one before’ before wandering away, giggling to herself. Lady, I appreciate that you think this is coming from a good place but when I say ‘never’ I really, truly mean it. Two children is what we’ve decided is best for us and our family. Pregnancy has alternately almost killed my child and then me. It, therefore, is not a risk I’m willing to take for myself, my husband or the beautiful children I’m already fortunate enough to have. I am lucky enough to have lots of friends with children on the horizon and a giant family who does their part to contribute to the worlds population. I’ll never be short of baby snuggles and toddler giggles, but I will be giving up sleepless nights, stretch marks and baby spit-up as August grows into the precious boy I can already see developing under those goobery cheeks. And I’m really honestly okay with that. So long, ‘million dollar family’…you just aren’t for us! Every family unit is perfect in their own way, who needs out-dated ‘slang’ to set up a completely unnecessary class system that only serves to alienate over half the families I know.

Have I mentioned we love baseball?

Have I mentioned we love baseball?

To wrap this one up, I just want to send a public service announcement out into the world at large and remind people that the purpose of having children isn’t to ‘collect’ the matching set, or fulfill socially acceptable census statistics, it’s to grow your family in love!

Nothing but love between these two!

Nothing but love between these two!

 

The Big Question November 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 6:41 pm
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This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking about writing, but it’s probably one of the more difficult ones for me since it’s not quite as much about V and more about me as his mother and previous human incubator.

This is me. Hi! (All photos for this post courtesy of Grace Barnhart Photography)

This is me. Hi!
(All photos for this post courtesy of Grace Barnhart Photography)

As soon as I left the safe cocoon of my mat leave and started interacting with other adults the most common question I get after telling them I have a child is, “So when are you guys having another?” Now let’s be honest for a second, this isn’t really anyone’s business besides me and my husband but I can understand why it gets thrown out so often to us moms.

For some reason, society seems to think that children couldn’t possibly be happy, well adjusted or well behaved without siblings. FYI all of those assumptions are a bunch of crap, and this isn’t based on my biased opinion as V’s mom, it’s based on my adult friends who grew up as only children and still managed to survive and succeed into adulthood. Shocking I know! Anyways, end of that rant but let’s examine this question a little more closely shall we? I also want to point out that this post reflects my opinions entirely, if you want A’s you’ll have to ask him! It also covers some topics related to a woman’s baby-making parts so for the easily squeamish please come back for future updates.

A and I are the happy, proud and lucky parents of a fantastic, healthy and energetic three year old boy. When I first went back to work V had yet to sleep through the night; 18 months was our magic marker. I am still a little bitter at all those mom’s who had night sleepers at 6 weeks. At this point I knew my limitations as a mother and was aware that although each child is blessing I wouldn’t be the happiest camper balancing an active toddler and another sleepless infant. I have so much respect for those mommies with kids close together but I know that it’s not something I would win any awards for. I love my sleep!

Active little man!

Active little man!

A and I had also discussed V’s development when the conversation of more kids came up. We were sure that we didn’t want any more until we knew that V was developing normally, didn’t need any therapies or surgery and that we would be free to dedicate time to two children without having V suffer should anything come up as a result of his dramatic entrance. We knew that V would be followed very closely for 3 years to make sure he was on track with other kids his age and there are such a wide variety of things that can result due to prematurity, resuscitation, oxygen tubes, etc that we wanted to make sure V would have 100% of our time, money and attention should anything come up.

The BIG decision for us in regards to more children involved me though. My body was my enemy during my pregnancy with V and I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to your self confidence as a woman when the one thing you can’t do properly is (from a biological perspective at least) your one purpose for existence! I mean, all of these other women get pregnant, sail through, and deliver without a care in the world, why not me! The big wake-up happened at my 6 week follow up with my high risk OB. I went in hoping for some answers on why V made his early entrance and although we definitely weren’t thinking of more babies at the time, find out what the future would hold ‘just in case’. I left greatly disappointed. I was told that they had absolutely no idea why V was early. There are just so many reasons that some babies make their way into the world earlier than others that they couldn’t even guess. What my Dr was able to tell me though was what our lives would look like should we decide to have any more children and trust me when I tell you that it’s no picnic.

First I will need to be referred to my high risk OB by 16 weeks of any subsequent pregnancies for weekly appointments to follow on the fetus’ progress and the length of my cervix. This means being subject to ‘trans-vaginal ultrasounds’ on a weekly/biweekly basis to see how tightly my body will hold onto any pregnancy. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to load up your bladder, have someone insert a bizarre looking wand into your lady parts and wait to see a specialist on a weekly basis. I might as well move in to the hospital…

OH WAIT! That’s what will likely happen should we decide to take this leap of faith again. I will likely be admitted for observation and strict bed rest by 30 weeks of pregnancy, depending on what my ultrasound results show. They can’t continue the trans-vaginal ones in the third trimester because it’s too dangerous to the fetus, so you get to sit/lie around and wait. And having been there before I can’t tell you how much that idea thrills me. Weeks away from my family at home, alone, lying on a hospital bed and crossing your legs? Good times.

Did I mention the stitch they may put in? One thing every pregnant lady looks forward to is surgery early into her pregnancy. Again, based on the results of any future ultrasounds, I may have to have a circlage put in to hold my cervix closed as the fetus gains weight. My Dr believes that the most likely cause for my water breaking early with V is an incompetent cervix. Essentially when V gained weight my body became incapable of supporting it and he, for all intents and purposes, ‘fell out’. The surgery in and of itself presents possible pregnancy ending complications but without it we may run the risk of going into labour before the viability marker (24 weeks). Prior to that point no life-saving efforts will be undertaken and we will be left dealing with the terrifying spector of infant loss.

The other concern my OB had for me was the fact that my contractions started with frequency and pain at 19 weeks. This indicates low hormone levels which can stimulate my body to trigger labour early. The only way to try and prevent them going forward will be to obtain weekly injections of synthetic progesterone to trick my body into behaving as it should. This will be along with my rH negative vaccines since I’m one of the 5% of the population that carries a negative blood type. Now I don’t mind needles but the prospect of weekly shots in my behind doesn’t exactly fill me with glee.

Watching my boys! Life is always better as a participant.

Watching my boys! Life is always better as a participant.

Even with all of these precautions that they would be willing to undertake for me there is no guarantee that they will work and A and I have to face the reality that any future pregnancies could have devastating outcomes around the 21-24 week mark. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to bury a child. Any parent knows that regardless of how your child comes into this world as soon as you’re aware that you’re going to be responsible for that precious tiny life there isn’t much you won’t do to protect it. How would I be able to deal with forming an emotional bond to a child I wouldn’t be able to bring home? Another question is how we would deal with another preemie. We have a very high likelihood of having another early arrival because I unfortunately experienced both forms of premature labour with early contractions and early water breakage. What if a second child did experience complications and subsequent physical and developmental delays. Are we in a good position to dedicate the time and attention to a child with special needs as well as V? We know that love would never be an issue but do we live in a area that provides good services, what do our benefits cover etc.

Daddy always makes it all better.

Daddy always makes it all better.

This would also have HUGE implications on our day to day life for the duration of the pregnancy. I would be on bed-rest and off work, likely from 16 weeks onwards and A would have to take over pretty much all home and work responsibilities. He would be responsible for all of V’s care and most of mine as well, and I do struggle as to whether that’s a fair burden to put on him when he does so much for us already.

Along with all of these concerns that apply to our personal situation we also deal with the normal questions parents ask themselves when considering adding to their family regarding time, attention, finances etc. It really is one heck of a process isn’t it?

Loving my baby boy!

Loving my baby boy!

That being said, A and I have not made the final call in expanding our family. I, personally, would love to have another but I would also love a ‘Magic 8 Ball’ to predict what the outcome to another pregnancy would be for me. I know each expecting mama experiences uncertainty but having come so close to losing something so precious I just don’t know if I’d be able to survive. I do know several of the NICU mommies I met have had amazingly successful, full term, subsequent pregnancies, but I just worry that that won’t be me. I think an important aspect of any possible future pregnancy would be to head in thinking that it will be normal and roll with the punches if and when they come up but with the intervention I’d need I think pretending would be difficult.

Regardless of our decision however, A and I are so blessed to be as lucky as we are. If V remains an only child his whole life then we’re happy with that. How can you be disappointed when you’ve already hit the parent jackpot?! I sure do love that little man! I mean all of these ‘what-ifs’ only really come into play if pregnancy does even happen for us in the future. All of those couples who deal with infertility and miscarriages are a testament to the fact that pregnancy is never ever a sure thing no matter where your heart lies.

To wrap up though, I guess going back to the original question my answer for the time being needs to be, “We haven’t quite decided yet, thank you.” and then do my darnedest to change the subject back to the awesome little kid we already have in our life!

Family <3

Family ❤

 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions! November 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 1:09 pm
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As a parent you are suddenly, ready or not, either the sole or partnered decision maker in the life of one very small human being. And oh the decisions you need to make! Do you want to vaccinate? Circumcision? Formula or breast? Co-sleeping vs crib? Do you believe in self-soothing? Do you pierce ears? Rear-facing or front-facing car seats? And those are only a few! Don’t even get me started on the rows and rows of baby products (Cloth? Organic? Generic?). And when you’re a first time parent you obviously have no experience to draw from in terms of your preferences! It’s a whole new world of trial and error and eventually you figure it all out…honest!…well mostly anyways!

Then they suddenly hit the year mark, two year mark, three year mark…and then comes some of the BIG decisions! Are you planning on heading back to work? How do you feel about daycare? What are your plans for your child’s schooling? These decisions can have longer lasting impacts on both you and your child. Forget Pampers vs Huggies…let’s talk about private vs public schooling or, if you really want to boggle your mind, home daycare vs daycare centre vs stay at home mom vs family care…
A and I have already tackled some of these challenges and I fully admit there were some trials, some errors plus we still haven’t even picked a school for V with registration looming in the new year.

Work vs Stay at Home

The first decision we had to make as a family, when V was 1 year old, (so blessed to live in Canada with our full year mat leave!) was one of the easiest to make. Financially I had to go back to work although I had the luxury of only doing so part time. The company I worked for prior to leaving on my parental leave actually laid off their workforce during my time at home so I had to look for new, gainful employment when my benefits ran out.
I chose to return to my background in retail and began to work for a large box store with locations and banners in the US and Canada. Although they were, for the most part, flexible around appointments and family time, the work environment was not a good fit and we parted ways about 8 months in. I then returned to being a stay at home mom for the summer while looking for a new opportunity that would allow me to use my education and skill set. I took the summer to spend a lot of time with V, playing outside, taking in activities in our area, and spending time with my husband. It was a great time at home but I really did miss adult interaction. 1 year olds really aren’t that conversational and require much less hovering than an infant so I was anxious to return to a working environment.
I ended up being offered a fabulous opportunity with a major financial institution in Canada and started work full time in Sept of 2012. The scheduling was originally a little less flexible than part time retail but after a year of moving forward with the company I was offered a Monday to Fri, mornings only, shift within my business and I’m now proud to say that I’ve found my niche…I’m one of those lucky moms with a career she loves, part time, and am able to spend my afternoons and evenings playing (aka napping) with my little guy at home!

 

Sleepy snuggles with Mommy!

Sleepy snuggles with Mommy!

 

Home Daycare vs. Daycare Centre vs. Family Care

Now this decision also involved a few trials and errors until we came to an arrangement now that makes everyone happy!

When I originally went back to work we had started with family care (aka having a family member who lived very close watch V while I worked). It was important to A and I that V become close to his family and spend time building relationships with his grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. We ‘traded’ watching V for me tutoring my niece with her school work in the evenings, and it worked well for the first few months. Unfortunately with the stress of working a job that wasn’t fulfilling, illness in both households, and V being a little slow to socialize/talk, we decided that after I finished my summer at home we would look into more formal daycare options.

A licensed daycare centre was never an option for us as the waiting lists are long, and the fees were high. They also do not have very flexible hours and require intense contracts upon your enrolment in the facility. We therefore decided to support a family friend who was thinking of starting her own home daycare as a way of being a business owner and spend time with her own young family. We had had play-dates together previously, our children were close in age and it seemed like a great fit. The fee was fair and the hours fit well with our work/life balance. We started with an original 6 week trial period and eventually moved into a full contract for 4 days a week. The daycare was close so I walked with V in the mornings and A picked him up on his way home in the evenings while I was at work.

Sensory corn bucket at Daycare

Sensory corn bucket at Daycare

It was everything we hoped it would be, V was socially engaged, involved in a wide variety of activities from a visit to a local pumpkin patch, story time at the library, playgroups at the local Early Years Centre and making friends he truly loves. However starting the week before Halloween someone in our household was sick every single week until the middle of May. Being a small kid, having weaker lungs, and spending most of his time sheltered at home for two years did V no favours when he began interacting with the germ farms that are other little kiddos! We had a total of two stomach bugs, 4 ear infections, 1 ruptured ear drum, a febrile seizure, pneumonia, croup and more colds than we can count. I sincerely hope to never, ever go through another year like this ever again! As a family we were worn down emotionally and physically.

It also brought our finances into focus as well. As part of our contract with the daycare provider, unless she cancelled, we were required to pay for each day V missed due to illness or otherwise. This makes business sense but with V being sick as often as he was (and obviously for the health of other children we could not send him to daycare ill!) we literally paid hundreds of dollars last year in daycare fees for days we spent at home with him. What made it all the harder was that I was usually the one staying home with him and I did not receive pay on those days. I was also receiving coaching at work for missing so many scheduled shifts. It was hard to justify paying out of pocket for so many sick days when we definitely didn’t have the money to spare. I was also suffering from a lot of job related anxiety due to missing so many days with V or being sick myself. It was at this point we began to discuss alternate daycare options that might be available to us.

Appleland with Daycare

Appleland with Daycare

The other issue that came up was the differences in parenting styles that weren’t evident in play-dates but did become a stumbling block as V spent more time at daycare. A and I are confident and happy with our parenting style and the same goes for our daycare provider. All of our children are happy, well behaved and functional tiny members of society! Our provider is an excellent parent with strong values but, as wonderful as those are, they are very different from ours. This became an urgent issue for us as V was receiving conflicting messages at home and daycare which caused him to act out emotionally and created conflict between us and the provider. If you are looking at a home daycare I definitely do recommend seeing if you can observe a day in the life at the daycare or obtaining parental testimonies from other parents who utilize the service. As awesome as it may seem through a meeting or website you must see if it will fit your lifestyle as it is never healthy for a child to be caught in the middle of two vastly different child rearing philosophies! After a meeting we decided to give our notice and part ways at the beginning of the summer however the provider, due to upcoming business opportunities, decided to terminate the contract early. We do remain friends, as well as V with his daycare buddies, and are all in a more stress-free place!

Figuring out his shapes!

Figuring out his shapes!

V has returned to family care and is once again a happy and more even tempered young man! He gets to spend time one-on-one with one of his favourite Aunties and she gets to love on him daily! He is spoiled with hugs and kisses from his cousins and their neighbourhood friends which helps maintain his social skills and we are proud to say that he has yet to be sick this year and we’ve passed the Halloween marker (knock on wood!). The arrangement is definitely a great fit for our current lifestyle and I’m so happy that V has found a place that he truly is one of the family.

V and his cousin K spending some quality time!

V and his cousin K spending some quality time!

So as I said, definitely trial and error! We don’t regret any decisions we made in the process of finding our ‘best fit’ but it did take us almost two years to find where we were meant to be! So don’t feel bad if the same happens to you 🙂 No judgement here!!

Private School vs Public School (Sub decision: English vs French Immersion)

This is our next BIG decision as parents. We have already decided that V will be enrolled in the French Immersion program offered by our public school board but this does not start until he’s eligible for Senior Kindergarten in the year he turns 5. For now we need to decide what we’re comfortable with for his enrolment in Junior Kindergarten which starts next September.

The local public school he is in the district for is, and this is no exaggeration, one of the worst schools in the province of Ontario. Due to local school closings it is now a ‘mega-school’ that draws from a large amount of low income housing, deals with a high number of learning/behavioural difficulties and has an extremely large student population. For example this year there are 5 split kindergarten classes with approximately 30 students each. That is a total of 150 kindergarteners alone and the school goes all the way to Grade 8! They have a high teacher turnover and there has been violence in the kindergarten classrooms between children. Now I’m not talking the occasional emotional outburst where someone gets clocked on the head, I’m talking pencil stabbing related incidents (you learn the darnedest things from hairdressers with similar age children…). I’m sure you can see why I’m a little concerned about registering my under-weight, under-sized, loving child, in a school where he could be completely steamrolled by his classmates or even older kids. I wouldn’t say I’m a helicopter parent by any means (and please people who know me feel free to tell me if I ever become ‘that’ parent) but I do have what I believe are fairly reasonable concerns for my child’s well-being at a school that will have him for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, 8 months out of the year. We do plan on attending the orientation nights and I will be prepared with questions!

Getting ready to head to school...in a year!

Getting ready to head to school…in a year!

We are also examining other options such as a private school or nursery for the one year. We aren’t rolling in the dough but hopefully we could make the tuition payments work, or apply for scholarships or grants so that V is able to attend. There are a lot of great options in the city we live in so we are really spoiled for choice. We do also have the option to hold V out until SK because kindergarten isn’t a requirement for children in the province of Ontario. However V is a bright, social kid who already asks us when he gets to go to school so we really want to make sure he attends as soon as we can find the right environment.

I will definitely update as we get closer to making our final decision on this one but for right now all we can do is inform ourselves, wait it out and see what happens in the new year!

So I guess there are no really ‘small’ decisions in the life of your child but I’m definitely finding as V gets older the decision have a more long running impact on his life and his behaviour and A and I are still doing our best to manage all of the information that gets thrown at us as parents. I say just go with your gut, don’t be afraid to admit you made the wrong decision, correct it and take the lesson onto the next big one that comes up! Best of luck Mamas and Papas!!