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I Woke Up To a Toddler Today

I had always wondered how that worked.

How long was a baby a baby? When did it become a toddler? What was that process like? Was it gradual- a long, drawn-out affair? Or did it pounce on you like a lion from tall grass?

Well, this morning, I woke up to a toddler.

I had seen the signs coming for weeks. It has teeth now, 7 of them in fact, and they’re all garishly large and disorderly.

It has a pot belly where it used to have a flat tummy, and its fingers are of the chubbiest quality that Hansel and Gretel’s witch could only dream of.

It says a few words here and there, or iterations of words that its parents can understand, such as ‘Buh’ for bird. ‘Ah Duh’ for all done. ‘Daddo’, fairly self-explanatory. It even does an adorable fake cry when it’s angry sometimes.

I have seen all the parts coming along, but today Sadie become the whole.

The whole toddler package, in all of its glory.

She woke up at 8:30, and I was exhausted by 11:00 am.

It started with the back deck.

Babies can wait. When you have a nice little baby, and you need to pressure wash the bird poo off the deck after the winter, and finally take down your Christmas lights adorning the deck rails, and put up a baby gate so the baby doesn’t fall down the deck stairs, and patch up that one rotten board on the deck that broke last summer that can now fit a size 10 shoe through it… the baby has no goddamn idea these things exist, and when it naps, you can fix them.

This morning, Sadie saw sun, and the dog, on the deck, and she wanted to be there too.

Baby Sadie would have been content to sit at the glass door and watch the deck from inside.

Toddler Sadie stood up and banged on the door repeatedly, and being 100% bored of my house’s interior, I acquiesced.

How bad could it be?

First, she dragged her cute little jeans all over the bird poo/dust on the deck and dirtied ’em up real good.

Then, she made a beeline for the size-10-shoe-sized-death-trap-full-of-jagged-wood-splinters hole in the deck boards.

I lovingly steered her towards her water table on the opposite side of the porch, where she splashed around for 6 minutes and thoroughly soaked her cute little shirt.

As soon as I glanced down at my phone, she made a beeline for the death trap again.

And again, and again, and again, until I dragged her water table over it and covered it.

Then she discovered the baby-gate-less stairs down to the yard.

So we practiced her going up and down the stairs about 14 times (there are 10 stairs).

Every time I tried to lovingly redirect her away from the puddles of mud at the bottom of said stairs, I got one of those adorable fake cries I thought were so cute, before today.

Finally got her back on the deck, dragged our patio furniture storage trunk across the top of the stairs and blocked them. Makeshift baby gate, and a perfect fit! Voila!

Then I turn around.

See that toddler Sadie is busily unpinning all of the Christmas lights on the porch railings one by one and wearing the string of lights as a giant necklace. Creative- and helping Ryan and I with our outdoor to-do list! Nice!

After some more crying, she had a nap and it was time for snacks and a walk.

I’ve always said there’s a certain way I’m Never going to dress my child, and I’m Always going to use washable Norwex cloths to wipe her face and hands after she eats, Never with diaper wipes.

And then I fed angry toddler Sadie an open-face peanut butter on bread and tried to wipe her face after with a Norwex cloth. Much squallering. I gave up. Came at it later with a diaper wipe when it was crusted over and she was happy so I got a quick chance.

For the walk, it was very sunny, so I put Sadie in an SPF 50 long-sleeved shirt from Walmart and the only sunhat she won’t rip off her head.

Somewhere along the walk, I turned around to look at my baby girl in her sunscreen-stained hideous pink train conductor hat with peanut butter smeared all over her face, her little potbelly jutting out of her brightly colored hideous Walmart shirt that says ‘Purr-maid’ on it with a cat dressed up as a mermaid, her dirt-stained jeans, and her hand-me-down ripped up sneakers- and I thought ‘this is it.’

She is officially a toddler, and I am officially a toddler Mom.

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She’s Still My Christmas Morning

I remember the first week that we got to take Sadie home from the hospital. We had one of those big cardboard Baby Boxes from the maternity clinic and we had placed it on top of our dresser at the foot of our bed.

I worried and fussed that she would fall off the dresser in her box, and obsessively pushed it further and further back against the wall until there was No way in Hell our 3-day-old baby would be able to roll off the dresser. (New mom thoughts- the child did not move from its back-sleeping position more than one inch in any direction until at least 3 months. Anyhow- safety first.)

I had set the Baby Box up there as a pregnant lady, having no idea what was coming next. Just that a baby was coming into our house soon, we needed somewhere for it to sleep, and I wanted to be close to it when it was sleeping.

I remember putting Sadie, all swaddled up to sleep, into that box for the first time and thinking ‘Oh my God. We made a Person. We have a Person that lives in our room and sleeps in a box at the foot of our bed. This is Wild!’

I remember trying to sleep and straining my ears to hear her little noises coming from the box. At some point, I finally fell asleep.

I remember waking up at first light and feeling like it was Christmas morning. As soon as my eyelids unsealed, I remembered that there was a tiny person, sleeping in a box at the foot of my bed and I couldn’t Wait to see her!

I popped out of bed like a piece of toast and ran over to check on her. Her perfect little face, her exquisite nose. I remember my heart feeling like it was going to pop from the excitement and joy of having her in my home, and getting to wake up to her perfect little face every day.

I remember feeling bowled over by the intensity of the emotion and thinking ‘Holy Shit. These feelings are so powerful! Moms Certainly can’t feel like this for Ever! There’s got to be a point where every morning doesn’t feel like Christmas Morning anymore.’

And here we are, 13 days from Sadie’s first birthday, and she’s still my Christmas Morning. She sleeps in like her Mama, so I get the honor of waking her up every day. Every morning as I walk down the hall to her room, I’m already filling my lungs with enough air to squeal out my customary morning greeting. I swing open the door, lean into her crib and squeal ‘Baaaaabbbbbbbyyyyyyyyyy!’

And that little poppet always shoots her sleeping little head right up and gives me a Giant, rosy-cheeked, sweaty-haired ear to ear grin.

Yes, the intensity of the feelings isn’t what it was in those first few weeks of being her Mama (and thank the Lord for that!), but it’s still here, every day, that feeling of gratitude that we got to make a person, bring it into our home, and have it live with us.

My little person is almost a year old now. I have photos and videos that can show me how, but I still can’t fathom how the time passed. But I remember, like it was yesterday, bringing that little present home and wondering how long I would get to feel so much joy.

So far- there doesn’t seem to be a limit. 🙂

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Waves

Some days, when I’m sitting in our rocking chair in the nursery feeding my daughter, I think of nothing.

I hold the bottle to her mouth and I think of what to make for dinner, or what groceries we need, or when I might be able to wash my hair next.

But some days, like today, when I’m holding her sweet little body in my arms, I look down at her and it’s like my heart just crawled up on a surfboard and caught the best wave of its life.

Today as I was feeding her, I was thinking of nothing in particular.

I looked down to see if she was still feeding or nearly ready for me to pop her soother in, and when I looked down, I saw one tiny golden hair sticking straight up from the rest, waving like a piece of seagrass in the current. That one, tiny golden hair was rocking in time to the rhythm of our rocking chair, and my heart just broke into a million pieces.

I looked at her crazy little patch of hair, sticking up in all directions, and realized that tomorrow, it will look different. It will wake up in a different crazy pattern. It will be a few micro-millimetres longer.

Her front teeth that have just come in will be a little further out from her gums than they were today. Her pudgy, stout little fingers clasped so tightly around her bottle that they’re white around the edges will be a little longer, a little thinner.

One day in the not so distant future, I won’t be in this chair with my daughter at this time of day anymore because I’ll be back at work and she’ll be in dayhome.

One day, I won’t even remember what she was like at this age.

I’ll need videos and photos to remind me that she was ever this small, and this perfect.

When I saw that tiny little golden hair swaying in the sunlight today, I realized that every single moment I have with her is a gift.

Every day that she wakes up, she’s a new child. A little older, a little different from the day before.

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My Time in a Mental Hospital

For Sadie’s naptime today, I had really wanted to also crawl into bed and take a nap. But as I sat rocking her to sleep just now, this blog post pulled and lunged at my chest the entire time, so here I am.

I’m doing it.

Braver versions of me have wanted to write this post for a long time, but the shame has always been too great, so I haven’t.

A friend of mine who shall remain nameless and detail-less called me a few days ago and said: “I just got out of the mental hospital and I have No idea what do or how to feel and I only know of one person that has been through this before and that’s you. Can you give me some advice?”

We talked for a long while, and I listened to all of her post-mental-hospital dilemmas with a heavy heart and a ready smile.

I am proof that there IS life after a mental illness hospitalization, and I also know how Incredibly hard it is to be a human, or to feel like a human, after the experience.

I reassured her that 1 in 3 Canadians experiences a mental illness in their lifetime, which statistically means there are far more people in her life that may have experienced a hospitalization other than just me, but when I got off the phone, that fact started to really grate on me.

We have the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, which has gotten a lot of people normalizing their experiences of mental illness on various social media platforms. We have some really wonderful human resource professionals in larger and/or more progressive companies that are equipped to handle employees’ mental illness concerns and help guide their conversations with employees/employers following a mental illness event, such as a hospitalization or extended leave of absence. I’ve recently seen billboards all along the highway demonstrating scenes of two people in various contexts (boss/worker, husband/wife, middle-age lady/friend) discussing mental health concerns with a tagline that says “Mental Health: Every Action Counts.”

These are all REALLY wonderful initiatives, and they’re starting to pave the way to ending mental illness stigmatization, but I am one of the Most outgoing, heart on my sleeve, share a shitty experience with anyone if I think it can help them type person I know-

And it’s been over 5 years now, and I Still Can’t Talk About My Time in The Mental Hospital.

That’s how bad it was.

So this- what I’m about to write- is for my friend. And for anyone who might find themselves in this situation in the future. And for anyone who Has been in this situation before and might find comfort in knowing that someone else received the same inhumane treatment while hospitalized. This is for you. But really, it’s for anyone to read, and anyone to share. If we’re going to normalize mental illness, people need to hear these things, talk about them freely, and not be ashamed.

I was hospitalized 5.5 years ago, in May of 2015.

I was in a very manic phase of my bipolar, and my friends were scared.

I was very hyper, super social, spending money frivolously, unable to sit down or stay still.

I had recently come back from a trip to the Dominican Republic, where I had had an allergic reaction to Dominican sand fleas and been treated with prednisone in a Dominican hospital.

I had returned to Canada and had been telling these friends I could see the bugs traveling under my skin and that I had rented a hotel room downtown because I knew the fleas were all over my apartment and I needed to get away from them for the night.

Clearly, I was not in my right mind.

The girls were scared. They didn’t know how to help me. I’m not sure of their end of the details, but someone apparently Googled or asked a friend who knew mental health things, what they would have to do or say to get me committed to a hospital.

I had invited these friends to a pub I loved in Kensington that night for drinks and steak sandwiches, and had invited them to my hotel room downtown after.

They arrived at the pub in Kensington. We had some drinks. I buzzed around wildly. At some point, I went to the bathroom.

When I stepped out of the bathroom stall, there were three uniformed police officers standing in the very small ladies bathroom.

I asked if everything was okay, were my friends okay?

The two male officers asked the female if she was comfortable taking me, and when she nodded, they left.

She asked if I was okay stepping outside with her. I said ‘certainly.’

When we walked out, I saw the two male officers comforting my three friends. They were all in tears.

I had no idea what was going on.

The officer asked if I was okay getting in the back of her car so she could ask me some questions. I said ‘of course.’

She told me that my friends had called in, saying that I had invited them to my hotel room downtown that night to party, but that when they left, I was going to kill myself.

I burst out laughing, it was so absurd.

I apologized to the officer and said I had no such intentions.

I explained that I had a history of episodes of severe depression and that when depressed, I definitely thought of suicide, but at this point in my life I was quite happy with how my life was going and I had zero plans to end my life.

She explained that even though I had said that, she was obligated under the Mental Health Act to take me to the nearest hospital with an opening in psychiatric emergency, and that the officials there would make the decision.

She was very kind and just doing her due diligence, so I wasn’t mad at her at all. Plus- I was already in the back of her squad car, so what choice did I have?

She brought me into the Peter Lougheed Hospital and transferred me into the ‘care’ of psychiatric emerg.

Please- for the sake of this story as it unfolds now- pretend that this was you.

You came into emerg willingly. Though shocked and confused as to how you had gone from enjoying a steak sandwich and a drink at a bar with your friends, to the back of a cop car to a hospital, you came willingly and obligingly.

Now the police officer hands you to a security guard who orders you to strip.

He hands you a flimsy gown, the blue, worn cotton kind with the ties in the back.

You emerge in your flimsy gown.

He orders you to hand over your clothes.

You do.

He instructs you to remove your favorite necklace, the one you like to swing back and forth on its chain when you’re anxious, like now.

He tells you to take off your ring, the one you haven’t been without in years.

You do.

He tells you to hand over your cellphone.

You tell him that no one knows you’re here. Your sister, your stepmom. Your Mom, your Dad. No one has a clue you’re even in here. Can you please quickly call just one of them?

No! He barks. Give me your phone- NOW.

You do.

He directs you to an area that reminds you of a bad animal shelter. Concrete. Cold. Grey. Plexiglass. Pens. Three cages, for humans.

He tells you to step into one of the three rooms and wait for a doctor.

You do.

When you enter, the door bolts behind you.

It’s now 11 pm. No one knows you’re here. You’re cold. You’re basically naked. The room is freezing. There are no sheets or pillows or blankets on the ‘bed’ in the centre of the room. Let’s be honest- the ‘bed’ is a slab of cold metal. It looks like a slab you would see in a morgue.

You notice there are stains all around the base of it. Blood? Urine?

The walls are grey. Cold. You step closer and see that there are more stains on these walls. Bloody fingerprints. Scratches made by fingernails that etch out phrases like ‘Welcome to Hell’ and ‘Satan lives here.’

You need to pee. There is nowhere to pee in this cell.

You knock on the door.

No one hears you.

You knock again.

You begin to wonder if you might pee down your legs.

You bang as hard as you can.

The same security guard finally hears you. Stomps down the hall and asks ‘WHAT?’ through the Plexiglass.

You hop foot to foot and point to your privates.

He opens the door. Motions for you to follow him. Leads you to a bathroom.

As you slip inside, he says ‘Leave the door open.’

He doesn’t watch, you don’t think, but for the first time, you realize that you are now a criminal.

It doesn’t matter that three hours ago, you were a warm body, wearing its own clothes, smiling and eating a sandwich at a pub- here you are. Stripped of your clothes. All of your possessions. Shoved into a cell, guarded by someone with handcuffs, and can’t be trusted to pee with the door closed.

And for What?

Being a human.

Being a human with a mental illness.

I waited in that terrible cell and got interviewed by two psychiatrists over the course of the next 8 hours.

Under the Mental Health Act, a person can be detained against their will if two psychiatrists agree that that person is a danger to themselves or to others. When those two psychiatrists sign the form, the person is thereby ‘formed’ and shuttled up to the unit reserved for mental illness.

I came in around 10 pm to that awful holding cell and was formed somewhere around 8 in the morning.

The porter who comes to get you from that awful cell doesn’t tell you that you were formed. They tell you they’re taking you upstairs for further medical testing, and then they tell you to get into the wheelchair.

I didn’t need a wheelchair, but I was just so glad to be freed from that awful cell, I would have gone anywhere.

The pleasant wheelchair pusher chatted with me all the way up the elevators and onto the unit, where they buzzed me in through three sets of giant, locked doors.

I had no idea that I would, involuntarily, spend the next 30 days of my life on that unit.

Over the next 30 days, other people got to decide what I was allowed. For example, for the first 12 days of my stay, I was not allowed access to fresh air.

As someone who, in my manic phase, copes with the excess energy racing around my brain by running and rollerblading long distances, this was perhaps an even greater blow than my initial incarceration.

In the place of exercise and fresh air, I got incarceration and Copious amounts of sedatives.

I had hoped that maybe while on the unit, I would get some group therapy. Maybe get to leave the unit for a cooking class or an art class? Nope. I didn’t get access to those either.

I found pamphlets around the unit detailing a process by in which people held there involuntarily could have access to a lawyer and could argue for their early release.

On day 15 of my stay, my trial was held. A boardroom table full of people who didn’t know me got to read my medical files, hear me speak for 2 minutes, and decide if I needed another 15 days.

When we lost the trial, my lawyer said that I was the closest he’s ever come to a win on a mental health trial, and that we had only lost by one vote.

He apologised for the loss and handed me my medical files that had been used for the trial (which I’m 99% certain was illegal- as he instructed me to hide the thick binder under the clothes in my laundry basket).

When I reviewed it later, a nurse with a rather poor command of English had written on day 11: “Patient believes she has no oxygen in her body.” I remembered the moment I had spoken with her precisely. I had said “depriving people of oxygen is a sure way to make them crazier.”

When a room full of doctors reads that the patient believes her body contains no oxygen, clearly that patient isn’t going to win their vote.

In total, I spent 30 days of my life there.

I met some wonderful people on the unit. I had some wonderful friends visit the unit.

I got copious amounts of heavy sedatives to knock my ass flat and bring my chemicals down from their manic high.

And finally, I got out.

On the day of my release, I told No One.

I put back on the clothes and the jewellery that were taken from me. I used my confiscated cellphone to call exactly no one, and I walked home.

I lived 14 kilometres from the PLC Hospital and I walked every single kilometre away from that hospital, by myself.

I was Free.

I felt the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair in a way that I had never truly appreciated before.

And then I had dilemmas, much like my friend is facing now.

Where do you tell people you’ve been? How do explain your absence?

What do you say to your boss? Your coworkers? Your friends?

And then bigger dilemmas.

Can this happen again? Will this happen again?

How can I avoid Ever going back to that Hell?

And so it has been 5.5 years from when I was eating a sandwich in a pub and then suddenly incarcerated, because of a lie that my friends told. It’s been 5.5 years since I’ve had all my rights and freedoms stripped away from me. It’s been 5.5 years since a group of people in a hospital setting got the right to treat me like a criminal because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain.

I still find it Very hard to trust people. I find it Especially hard to trust people professionally, because the people that called me in were my work friends. I find it Very hard to live with my bipolar heart on my sleeve like I truly wish I could, because at any point in time, no matter how hard I’ve worked to stay on my meds, eat healthy, stay in touch with my psychiatrist, keep accountability with Ryan- someone could, at any point, call in to the police and say that I want to kill myself, and all of my rights and freedoms can be stripped away from me again. This is a Very hard probability to live with, and I shouldn’t have to live that way.

I wish that mental illness was treated like cancer.

You get to walk into the hospital yourself and keep your clothes on. Come sit in this nice comfy chair. I’ll put a heated-up hospital blanket on you and ask you where it hurts. I’ll offer you a glass of water. You can take your meds and cozy up on that chair, knowing you’re in good hands.

You can call your friends and tell them where you are. They won’t be afraid to visit. They’ll be tender and treat you with empathy when they visit. They might not understand what having cancer feels like, but they don’t have to. They just have to know that you’re unwell and it’s not a happy time for you. They’ll bring cards and flowers from the office.

The cards will say: “Thinking of you” and “Get well soon.”

And you will.

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Suck Muppet & The New Tooth

My sweet little Sadie has annoyed me for the past two days.

She is cutting her first little baby tooth and being incredibly dramatic about it.

I joked to Ryan the other day that when she cuts her molars I’m going to become a full blown alcoholic, if this is how she treats a little bottom front tooth.

So because I’m never in this space, the space where my child annoys me, I want to write about it and explore it.

Sadie, so far, has been a friggin dream. She is alert, inquisitive, warm, people-oriented, sweet and independent.

She toodles around the living room and kitchen, selects her own toys and busies herself with them. I get to do most household things in the same space as her without having to lord over her every move.

Well, at 3 months she started standing, by 4 months she only wanted to stand at all times (that includes diaper changes), by 5 months she was starting to crawl, and now at 6 months she is starting to pull herself up on anything that looks like fair game (the oven bottom drawer, the bottom of a foot stool, the footrest on our ikea chairs, a bag of flour that is taller than her).

So now I am trying to slice things, bake things, grate things, and deal with hot food things, while simultaneously making sure my tiny human doesn’t smash her giant bobble head on my very unforgiving tile kitchen floor (again).

Cooking has become a deathly sport, for her and I. While I watch her and chop cucumbers, will I lose the tip of my pinky first, or will she lose her balance and smash her head on the corner of the drawer (again)?

Anyhow, until two days ago, the ‘who might perish in the kitchen’ game was manageable. But then- The Tooth.

For the past 48 hours, my previously very amenable and self-satisfied little creature has become what Ryan and I have come to call ‘Suck Muppet’.

Suck Muppet is IN LOVE with Mommy.

Suck Muppet will Wail at the top of her lungs if Mommy appears to be moving away from her.

Suck Muppet forgets to Breathe she cries so hard when Mommy does in fact, step away from her for a mere moment.

Suck Muppet will not sleep in her own crib anymore. Only in Mommy’s armpit.

Suck Muppet does not play with her toys if Mommy is not Right There beside her.

If Mommy is on the couch watching her like she used to, Suck Muppet will just crawl over to Mommy, stretch her arms up and cry for Mommy to hold her.

Suck Muppet is a monster.

Typically all I need is 5 minutes away from my baby before I crave her and miss her again, but with Ryan away at work during the week as often as he is, I don’t have that 5 minute break to reset my Mom clock.

So last night I decided I would finally allow myself a shower. One act, all day, for my own benefit.

I dragged Suck Muppet’s exersaucer into the bathroom. Put it right outside the frosted glass doors. Stepped into the shower. Exhaled.

Then the screaming began.

It didn’t matter that I had brought her in Right Beside Me. That she was within her required 5 feet of comfort. That I was singing and talking to her from inside the shower and periodically poking my head out to wave and say hello.

I finished the shower.

I scooped her up in my arms.

I put her in her jammies and brought her to bed with me.

I let her fall asleep in my armpit.

I told myself tomorrow was another day, and we fell asleep.

And in fact, today was much better.

She’s still clingy, but not as bad, and I took myself out of the house and had a great catch-up with a friend at the mall, and got more things done around the house than I did yesterday and I found myself enjoying her again.

I told a Mom-friend about this today and she died laughing at me. She said she loves it when Moms like me who always say our babies are perfect finally hit a breaking point and admit that from time to time our babies suck.

So I guess that’s what I’m here to say.

99% of the time, Sadie is awesome and I have a blast being her Mama.

And the other 1% of the time- there is Suck Muppet.

For a peek into my future- here’s a chart of baby’s tooth development that makes me shiver in my Mom booties.

XO, Em

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Having a Baby Changes You: The Cool Mom is Dead

I wanted to have a baby and still leave the house and still see my friends and still do everything I did before the baby.

So I did.

I had the baby. She stayed in NICU for 4 days, then she came home, and the whirlwind began.

Family came to the house to stay and help us out.

Extra people in the house means extra cleaning, extra bed-making, extra sheet-washing, extra food-buying, extra food-making, extra communication and doesn’t allow for a routine to be built as a family; because each new family member that arrived to help arrived with different methods of communication, different areas of helping out (some walked the dog; some did dishes; some loved baby snuggles on the couch), and each week was different.

And that was so great and so wonderful and so nice and we are eternally grateful for the army of family that arrived week after week to help out- but all those extra things are one more extra thing on top of the original thing- which is navigating how to all of a sudden snap your fingers and become someone’s Mom.

So I was managing all those house guests.

And trying to be nice. And friendly. And polite.

To everyone that came through my door.

With throbbing nerve pain resounding through my clitoris, a newborn baby squawlering on my hip, and running on three hours of sleep.

I wanted to please everyone. Be a nice mom. A mom that had it all together, never lost her temper, was never demanding or bitchy, pleased everyone and had a perfect home.

Also in those first six weeks were a plethora of necessary appointments.

Between Sadie and I, we had weekly appointments at: the midwife’s, the obstetrician’s, the chiropractor’s, Calgary Lab Services for lithium testing, the psychiatrist for mental health check-in’s, and the family doctor’s. They weren’t all in one week, but it usually worked out to be about 4 out of home appointments per week- with a revolving door of guests in my home, throbbing nerve pain resounding through my clitoris, a newborn baby screaming on my hip, and running on three hours of sleep.

So I bundled the baby and I up and went to all those appointments.

I wanted to do it all.

I had made the decision to stay for the first 6 weeks with the family doctor’s clinic that had supported me throughout my pregnancy. The catch was- they were located in Canmore, where I had moved from at 34 weeks pregnant, and now the drive to see the doctor was an hour and 15 minutes away.

My reasons for this were twofold- Canmore had been my home, and as such, my core group of girlfriends that had been with me through all the stages of my pregnancy was still located out there and if I drove out there, I could pop in and visit them- and also, I wanted the doctors and nurses who had been so kind to me during those first 34 weeks to see the fruits of my labor.

So three (or even four times- I can’t remember), I bundled up my very newborn baby and drove an hour and 15 minutes one way to go to Canmore.

One of the times I was there, I popped into my old workplace and surprised one of my closest friends with her first Sadie-hug as she had yet to come out to Crossfield to see us and I thought she might like that.

That day was a hard day for us; Sadie, Ryan and I were all exhausted, in a rush, sick of spending all our day stuck in the jeep and rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off- but I demanded that we stop at my old workplace to give that friend a nice surprise.

I wanted to be the cool mom. I wanted to do it all.

The other three or four times I went out to Canmore, I would always visit my old friends at my old workplace, or send out a group message saying ‘Hey, Sadie and I will be in town this Friday- does anyone want to hang out?’. If the answer was no, I tried to invite them for fun events in my new neck of the woods. Boozy Stampede party? Group sleepover at my house after?

I wanted to be a cool mom. I wanted to be a good friend. I wanted to do it all.

This week- it all kind of hit me at once.

I had a friend come over to help me at my house for the week because my husband was away for work again. Because, oh yes, in the midst of all this- my husband took a new job wherein which he is pretty much gone for the first 6 weeks of his new job training, so that’s been fun…

I’m not a diva- I’m not a princess- I need to make it clear here that I don’t have a revolving door of people coming to stay with me because I’m demanding or selfish or incapable of operating as a mother of a newborn-

I have a revolving door of people coming to stay with me because I have bipolar type 1. And as someone with bipolar type 1, I have a medically necessary requirement to sleep at least 5 hours straight for at least every 1 in 3 nights, or for lack of a better word, I will go psycho and need to be committed to a mental hospital for 14-30 days.

It sucks, and it’s embarrassing (even though that’s dumb to feel, because its not like I asked for bipolar- its just a shitty life card I’ve been dealt)- but it sucks and it’s embarrassing to need these people in my home as an otherwise capable grownass woman of 33 years of age. It sucks to have to beg people to come stay with me so I don’t go crazy.

So my friend came to stay with me this week and I was trying be nice, and polite, and perfect, and happy, and not demanding, and not bitchy, and not short-tempered.

And I failed.

Four days into her stay, I yelled at her to move her stuff away from my child’s closet doors so I could put my child’s laundry away.

A fight ensued; I ran away into my bedroom, shut the door and cried, and my friend left my home shortly thereafter.

I spent the whole rest of the day crying intermittently while trying to get shit done, like clean the house and feed myself and my child.

The fight with my friend made me so upset that I started thinking of some other friends with whom I had recently fallen out of touch, so I reached out to them by text and basically said ‘Hey, have I done something wrong? I don’t hear from you anymore and it makes me sad.’

And within four hours, the two friends basically wrote back what I feared they might, which was something along the lines of ‘this relationship is one-sided’ and ‘you’ve changed, so you’re not worth my time anymore.’

And I bawled my eyes out.

I had tried so hard. I drove out to Canmore 3-4 times in the first 7 weeks of my baby’s life. I had texted. I had tried to make plans. I had tried to maintain those friendships. I had wanted to do it all, and to do it all well.

Be a Mom. Be a Cool Mom. Not let it change me. Have a clean home. Have a Perfect home. Have people over. Entertain them. Feed them delicious meals fresh out of my oven. Be fun. Be gracious to those who came to stay in my home. Maintain all my old relationships. Keep my head up.

And yesterday was my final straw.

Who am I kidding??? I can barely f*cking meet my Own basic needs on the daily- why am I power cleaning the house and whipping homemade meals out of the oven for guests when all I ate yesterday was a chocolate bar and a bag of corn chips I found stuffed in my couch???

Why am I trying to be gracious to those who enter my home and know that they are here to help me sleep- why can’t I just tell them my life is a mess, I am exhausted and I need them to shut up so I can go the Eff to sleep?

Why am I driving multiple times over hell’s half acre to try and maintain friendships with people that haven’t come to see me or my daughter once since my baby was born?

Why am I trying to hard to be the Cool Mom and to please Everyone Else??

So I’m done.

The Cool Mom is dead. I did away with her yesterday.

Whoever doesn’t like me now that I’m just a boring old Mom can continue not liking me- and I’m no longer going to shed tears for those losses.

I’m going to lean into my loving husband, tuck my child into my armpit and gaze at her big blue eyes, and hunker down in my beautiful home.

As my Mom always says: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Only some people, some of the time.”

I’m going to start trying to live that way, and letting it be okay to not be okay.

XO, Em

Room in My Womb: A History of My Motherhood 

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Mother’s Day is coming up. It’s coming up soon, and it’s coming up hard and fast for some of us. This particular Mother’s Day, I’m really excited about it, because it’s my First Mother’s Day with a babe in arms. It’s taken me many, many years to get to this joyous occasion, though, and that’s what I want to talk about.

My tagline for this EmPowered Mama blog is Motherhood: Raw. Real. Honest. And that’s what it is always going to be. So without further ado- let me reveal to those of you who may not know, that I have considered myself a ‘mother’ for quite some time now.

On September 1st, 2005, I had an abortion. The fetus, if it pleases you to call it that, was 7 weeks, 4 days old.

I terminated because I was young; my family was largely unsupportive, and everyone seemed to think that I, as a 19-year old girl, would know what to do in this unplanned situation.

I didn’t know what to do, and I made my choice to terminate the pregnancy because I thought it was the choice that would most please my family.

I have regretted that choice in some form or another for all the days and years since.

Interestingly enough, the development of bipolar disorder occurs when a person has a combination of 8-13 different genetic factors and incurs a traumatic event in adolescence/early adulthood that effectively ‘launches’ their potential bipolar disorder into action.

The loss of my potential firstborn child was the catalyst for every single future mental health battle I’ve had since then.

To sum it up, in my first pregnancy, I did not get to birth a child. I did, however, birth my entire lifelong battle with mental illness.

Oh- the things you wish you could have known at the time.

Anyhow- fast forward through a lot of hellish years to when I finally had had enough therapy to forgive myself and get my shit together and I met Ryan and we fell in love and we said, ‘let’s make babies!’

So we did.

And we were SO good at making babies that within a month of going off my birth control, we were Pregnant!

We conceived somewhere around Valentine’s Day 2018. We had a positive pregnancy test on March 21, 2018 and we danced around the kitchen in a circle, holding hands and paws with the dog. I’ve never seen my man look so happy. It was Perfect.

And then it wasn’t.

I started bleeding March 26th. I didn’t stop bleeding until April 23rd. Our chance at becoming parents had died. Another little piece of me had died.

We got through it. We got our doctor’s clearance to start trying again.

And now- as I type this- I am using my other hand to soothe the forehead of my sweet 25-day-old baby girl, who is having a little nightmare beside me while she sleeps in our bed.

If there is a God- God is good.

It’s been 14 years in the making, but I finally have my babe in arms for Mother’s Day.

It took me 14 years to get here, and I’ve been many Moms along the way.

A grieving mom, a mourning mom, a hopeful mom, a bereaved mom, a persevering mom…

But I know that there are Many other women that don’t have their babe in arms this Mother’s Day- and this blog is for them too.

This is what I wrote for the “About” section of my blog:

“My blog was born because the shit women go through to make a baby is absolutely Nuts- and the fact that we all walk around making it look Easy is a goddamn travesty. Women are Incredible, and mothering is Hard as Hell.

This blog is for new mamas and old mamas and wannabe mamas. First-time mothers and mothers of multiples. It’s for bored at work moms and unconventional moms. Infertile moms and miscarriage moms. Stepmoms and adoptive moms and birth moms. Moms who still have a sense of humour. Old mothers. Young mothers. Mothers who are now grandmothers.

Anyone who’s ever wanted to be a mother.
Anyone who’s ever had a mother.

So basically- women.
This is a blog for All women.

I want you to join me. I want you to come along beside me in your little Mom-mobile and read these blog posts and share in these journeys. Let’s hear each other’s miscarriage stories and infertility stories and birth stories and postpartum stories. Let’s see pieces of ourselves in them. Let’s laugh about these stories. Let’s cry at the sad bits and pee our pants laughing at the funny bits. Subscribe to my blog and start following me if this sounds like it could be a fun ride for you. If reading my posts doesn’t make you pee your pants or bawl your eyes out- or do both at the same time, I’m doing something wrong.

XO, Em

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Taint for the Faint of Heart: Sadie’s Birth Story

April 13, 2019

YOU WERE BORN TODAY!!!

We came into the hospital at 7:20 pm on your due date of Friday, April 12th.

We had my waters broken at 10:20, went into contractions reallllly frickin quick from there, got on the Oxytocin drip and went from 0-100 Reallly fast- contractions coming stacked right on top of each other like pain pancakes.

Daddy was a Hero during this phase- I was pretty awesome too.

Then I got my epidural around midnight and told Daddy to go to bed.

He slept in a big black comfy lazy boy chair from midnight-4:30 and you and I chugged through the night like a little train, just pulling each other along.

It took me from 12:00 am to 2:00 am to get from 3 cm to 4 cm, and then from 2:00 am to 4:30 am to leap straight from 4 cm to 10 cm fully dilated.

The resident OB came in at 4:30 am to check your position cuz you had a little dip in heartbeat and he announced:

“We are Fully Dilated!!!” in a really shocked voice and the whole room flew into cheers and celebration!!

Our nurse Justy was with us for the whole ride, and by 5:00 am she had us leaping into all sorts of different positions trying to push you out of there.

Baby Girl- you were a Ton of Work to get out- but in a room Full of people telling me what to do, I zeroed on in just your Daddy’s strong, clear voice reminding me what to do, and man did the three of us ever work together in perfect harmony to get you out.

My first 30 minutes of pushing were Hilarious- I looked like a Complete idiot and nearly burst every blood vessel in my head- I think I was trying to somehow push you out of my eyeballs? Maybe my ears?

Daddy corrected me, and the second half hour that I pushed you I got the hang of what I was doing, but you had your long body all tilted to the side, so all my awesome pushing just resulted in my mashing your sweet little skull plates into my pelvic bones for 30 minutes- sorry about the big ole bruise on your noggin from that!!

At 6:00 am, after an hour of pushing, the resident OB and Dr.Henning came in and both took turns getting your body turned to come straight down, and then I realllllly got to work pushing like an Olympian Gold Medal Powerlifter- there are pictures- I look like a lady on a mission and No One could break my stride.

I found lung capacities I didn’t know I had- strength and clarity of purpose I didn’t know existed until then- and I breathed you out in sets of 4 pushes, 10 seconds long each, every two minutes.

Around 6:30 am, they had to tell me to ease back on my power pushing, as I was about to blow you right through my entire vagina to anus section.

Sure glad they didn’t let me do that!!!

I rested out a few sets of contractions, stopped pushing, let us both relax for 15 minutes, and then started again.

Instead of tucking your chin in to your chest, you were trying to come out with your little face staring straight ahead out of my vagina, so they had to use the forceps to try and get your head tucked in a little better.

As soon as they said the forceps had corrected your little noggin and I could push again, I pushed with every last shred of determination that I had in me, and at 7:29 am, after two hours and 15 minutes of pushing, your head popped into this side of the world and you were staring Straight into your Daddy’s Soul.

He looked down at you, you opened your big black eyes and looked Right into his heart, blinked, and then let the rest of your body slide out.

Your Daddy lost Every Shred of composure at that point.

He said he had been holding tears back since 2:00 am, and when you blinked at him, the floodgates just poured right open.

I was smiling and laughing and crying tears of joy and your Daddy was weeping like a man who had just discovered he in fact had no bones, and was now the most Vulnerable person on the face of this earth.

Daddy looked at me and said Oh My Lord I am going to feel this way about her for the next 20 years.

He couldn’t get a word out without bursting into tears.

It was amazing to watch him become your Dad.

I’ve never loved a person so much in my life.

Then you and your Daddy went off to NICU together to figure out your bowels, which is a story for another day, but it’s 11:20 pm on the day of your birth, and I wanted to tell you how it all went down while it’s still so fresh in my mind.

We did it all together my little love, and we did a Great job.

You are here; you are ours, to have and to hold. To nurture and protect for the rest of our lives and our journey as a family has begun.

We love you so much,

Mommy and Daddy.

P.S. You are 7 pounds and 14 ounces. Just a squeak shy of an 8-pounder. You are 59 cm long, which works out to 20 inches. You’re the biggest baby by far in NICU right now and the nurses love you cuz they don’t get to see big babies like you that often.

Silent Tantrum

I posted this on my personal Facebook the other day and it got such a great reaction that I figured I would post it here too.

Sadie has learned how to have a Silent Tantrum and it’s the best thing ever.

The quiet rage featured in this video was due to me informing her that she could not throw topsoil all over the porch.

Without further ado- the Silent Tantrum.

Covid Blues

Because I’ve struggled with depression in the past, I tend to not let myself feel my negative feelings.

As soon as something like sadness creeps into my mind, I run it through a bunch of mental filters until it skims itself right out.

One of the most effective ‘don’t let yourself feel’ filters that I use is the relativity filter.

If someone else has it comparatively worse off than me, then I am not allowed to feel my own sadness.

So far with this whole Covid situation, I’ve not let myself feel sorry for my place in it.

There are people who have lost their loved ones due to Covid. I cannot even imagine that reality.

And then there are all the amazing women I know, who are keeping their heads up and trying not to drown under the weight of their new Covid realities.

I know Moms with four very active children under 11 at home during these times. I know a working Mom with two children who now works a full-time job from her kitchen table, day in and day out, with the kids under her care as well. At night and on weekends, she pursues her Master’s degree.

I know a Mom with two school-aged kids who works at a grocery store and has been juggling childcare for her children while putting herself on the frontline every day. When she’s not making sure people in her community have food to eat, she’s homeschooling her two children. At the end of a busy week of grocery store shifts, her over-washed hand skin literally falls off in sheets.

I know a Mom at home with two kids who is teaching her kids their homeschool programs, running her own company by day, and attending post secondary classes online at night once the kids have gone to bed.

I salute all of these women. I have no idea how they do it.

Because of realities like the ones above, I have not let myself feel my own sadness, and today I just feel like it’s been two bloody months of being resilient and cheery and I can’t fuckkng do it anymore.

To clarify- I Can do everything I Have been doing and I will continue to do so until I can get a job and then life will change all over again- but I just can’t keep pretending Covid hasn’t affected me either.

Here’s my reality.

I have a beautiful 13-month old toddler.

I have a husband that loves me.

I have a home that I’m very happy to have.

My husband was working from home with us for the first three weeks of Covid.

It was awesome.

Then he got called away to a job north of Edmonton, from Monday mornings-Thursday evenings.

That’s when the logistics of my new situation started getting tough.

My mat leave up until Covid had been pretty awesome.

I had joined the gym in Airdrie and had Sadie in childcare three days a week for 1-2 hours at a time.

I was accomplishing new fitness goals, feeling good about myself and most importantly, getting some time to be an adult away from my child.

I had a network of mom friends that I could visit throughout the week.

If the weather was crappy, we would stroll around CrossIron mall, or head to Walmart or Costco for a shop.

My mat leave was up on April 13th, and I had started applying to prospective employers on February 28th.

Then Covid19 happened.

Gone was the gym. The mall. The friend visits. The ability to walk nonchalantly into Walmart with my child.

With Ryan gone for most of the week, I’m alone. A Lot. In a small town where I know no one. In a house with a busy and emotional toddler who was supposed to start dayhome March 16th, but couldn’t because of Covid.

Little things like running out of groceries mid-week become big things. If it’s Tuesday and I haven’t bought enough meat for the week, I’m reheating frozen fish sticks in the microwave and eating them with old tomato soup I found in the fridge. If I want to make muffins to curb some boredom on Monday, I have to wait until Ryan gets home on Friday so that I can leave Sadie safely at home with him and go to the store.

My one big excitement is to go to the grocery store, and I always think it will be great, but then there’s all the directional arrows, security guards and unsmiling people who dart past you suspiciously and it just drains me. But it’s the only time I get to myself all week.

If I’m having a shit mental health day and it’s bad weather, we’re stuck at home now.

I spend her nap times applying for jobs.

I’ve applied for over 100 jobs and have heard Nothing back. Nothing.

I’m applying for jobs during a pandemic, and it’s the worst state our economy has been in in decades. I know this. But it’s still hard some days to not feel rejected. To just keep pumping out resumes and crossing my fingers despite the zero response rate.

I’m lucky to be receiving CERB, but it’s starting to weigh on me that I haven’t been a ‘productive member of society’ since Sadie was 32 weeks in my belly and I went on mat leave.

That’s 15 months of being at home, the last 2 of them being during Covid times on top of it.

My home is a lovely home, and lately I feel like a very isolated prisoner stuck within it.

I know my problems are smaller than most people’s, and I know that I’m very lucky for all the things that I do have.

I also know that’s it okay to not be okay, and that’s why I’m posting this today.

If you’re also feeling like shit during these times, I hear you. I’m with you.