Still learning.

“Mama, why wasn’t [insert so and so] listening at child care today?”
“Mama, why did that person stop their car in the middle of the road?”
“Mama, why didn’t you remember to [such and such that my fried brain continually forgets to do]?”

“Because people are still learning, my sweet boy. Still learning how to control their bodies, how to obey the rules of the road, and/or how to remember to do things when functioning on not enough sleep. Life is always teaching us, and we’re always learning.”

A semblance of the above conversation (though for varying reasons) takes place between my son and I a few times a week. So much so that he now chimes in with me in answer, “yeah! They’re still learning!”

It’s a bit of an overly positive take on shitty drivers, I’ll give it that. But, there are nuggets of truth to be found in these conversations nonetheless.

With that said, we’ve recently had a helluva reminder that D and I are still learning.

But first, some backstory.

Six months ago, after having given birth to M, it became rapidly apparent that my mental health needed my son in full time child care while I stayed at home to look after my newborn. I simply wasn’t able to sanely meet both his and M’s needs on the days D was working. It was beyond me, and I feel no shame in admitting that.

Thankfully, we were quickly able to secure full time placement, and it has been the absolute best decision for us all. O adores his “school”, loves the time he can spend there with friends (as he can hardly do that anywhere else these days), and it gives him a place during the day to get out all of his energy and exploratory needs. Furthermore, when he’s at “school”, it leaves me with the sanity I need to care for his sister (now an infant), care for our home, and find some pockets of time during the day to care for myself.

This is not a decision I regret. That being said, I fully get that such an option simply would not be possible or available for some families for a multitude of reasons. Furthermore, some may have chosen differently. I respect that. My anxiety, however, had other plans in store.

Fast forward to now.

After having O at home recently (for reasons that can be found here), I realized something, and it was a something that I had started to clue in on during his week at home this past winter break.

We don’t yet truly, truly know what it means to have two kids.

(It is here I struggle in putting what I mean by that into words. A part of me feels that what I have to say next is not a valid “problem” as it is one born of first world privileges. The other part of me dismisses that notion, and says a struggle is a struggle, and giving words to problems has always helped me better make sense of it all. So, fuck it. I forge ahead.)

We don’t yet know how to fully balance the juggling act of forever meeting the needs of two children while trying to meet our own.

We don’t yet know how to deny the sigh of exhaustion that comes with forever needing to be the type of “on task” that two children require of you.

We don’t yet know how to best give each other breaks (even if that just means one of us being with the “easier” kid in that moment) so that the other can feel the briefest moment of reprieve before having to dive right back in (and how to be accepting of that fact).

We don’t yet know how to quiet the loud sighs of relief come after Sunday evening bedtimes and Monday morning child care drop offs.

How to be at peace in the mess of preschooler + infant “all-day-no time to clean” living… How to give up the illusion that our sore bodies won’t forever be laying or sitting on the floor for YEARS to come… How to not blessedly (and guilty) SAVOUR the daily TV time aka “mom and dad break” that we’ve been having from 4:30-6PM…. These and so much more are things we are very much still learning.

(Truth be told, these are things that we may never learn, or may not HAVE to learn. But, I digress.)

When O is at childcare during the week, I can re-replicate the ease of what it once was to just have one kid. I can breathe. It is a blessing, but, it is also a curse. It’s inadvertently made us be able to deny and delay the demanding, draining reality that comes with having more than one child.

There’s no choice.

Much like winter break, we’ve recently been given no choice but to face this reality head on.

There is much I could say about how it went, but I’ll simply say this: it’s been exhausting, bonding, raw-rubbing, relationship building, HARD-yet-meaningful work.

And while before all of this I may have quite rudely guffawed at the following positivity that I am going to type, I’ll do it anyway. We have been made all the better as a family for it. Yawning, laughing, grumbling, smiling, still learning and all.

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Until now.

I’ve been managing. Despite being always at home while on mat leave, juggling an infant, and my daily adult in-person interaction since early November being limited to just D and my son’s educators during child care pickup (you’d be proud, Dr. Bonnie Henry, with how well I’ve listened), I’ve managed. Until now.

Then this week happened.

Something snapped, and I let the loneliness and isolation “grief” finally creep in through the cracks. Despair set in, acutely and deeply.

I give up, Covid. You win.

As a deeply introverted, shy, homebody (who married someone that is the same exact way), I am profoundly lucky and privileged it took me this long to get here. I admit to that fully.

Yet, here I am now missing things I have *never* missed before in my entire life. Super busy play cafes, shopping in packed malls, full to the brim drop-in programs, over flowing movie theatres, and grocery stores with isles that have so many people in them you can hardly move. All things I would have non-jokingly told you I was allergic to a year and a half ago.

And when I remember back to the slow and simple days of park get togethers, play dates, and meeting up with mom friends to chat while our kids were being kids — it physically hurts now.

This was not the postpartum experience that I thought it would be. This is not mat leave I wanted it to be. The summer ahead of us, the first with our completed family of four, it will likely not be the experience I wish for it to be (at the rate Canada is going with the vaccinations). I hate all of this.

Perhaps next week I’ll be able to start seeing again the other things to look forward to, the silver linings in our time outside, and the positives in the small joys to keep celebrating.

But, right now? I am in mourning.

There is so much more I wanted to do this time around while I was off work. I had plans. M’s an easy enough baby that it would have worked this time, too, unlike with O. Yet, when I pulled out her diaper bag the other day prior to leaving for her sixth month vaccinations, upon it was a layer of dust. I was at a loss.

There are no thought provoking words or inspirational wisdom to end this piece, and it feels weird without it. Yet, I’m not sorry for it, for all I want and need to say is this:

This really, really sucks.

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The “if only”s.

My sweet boy.

As I’ve built this website, I’ve unintentionally had to remember and relive the “trenches” that were the first six months of your life.

I had realizations that came five years late.

Fraught discoveries at all that I didn’t know.

Wishes and hopes for the should-have could-have would-have but never-had.

I got stuck in the if onlys.

If only I could have better known your sleepy cues.

If only I could have better known your hunger cues.

If only I could have better known your signs of teething.

If only I could have better known the million things you were undoubtedly trying to tell me.

If only, if only, if only.

Instead, you were my bundle of hot, angry, and frustrated tears. Exhaustion, worn edges, and frayed emotions became you (and me, if we’re being honest). We lived, cried and grieved as one in the cavernous hallways of colic.

I tried.

To hear you, to see you, and to truss out from the misery of everything the need you were trying to communicate.

But that everything became one, and more often than not, I failed.

Yet here in the now, this is where I stop myself.

For in those failures – failures of first time mothering, failures of laughable pre-birth expectations, and failures of selflessness I wasn’t yet ready to let go of – I grew.

Those were the days that defined me.

If I had those if onlys, would I have learned to say fuck it and let go? To laugh at my utter lack of intuition, and just go for it on a wing and a prayer? To wade deeply into the murky Nile of motherhood, and still be able to find it’s soggy, muddy, messy beauty?

I don’t think so.

I intend not to write these soliloquies through rose coloured glasses, my mental health would have frankly moved mountains for those if onlys. My marriage with your father would have breathed sighs of reliefs in their reprieves.

But in those days, weeks and months — I became. In that battleground of exasperation, love, annoyance, and adoration (and the bravery to admit I felt all those ways), you taught me. You pushed me beyond myself. You gave me the greatest lesson I ever learned.

You made me a momma. ❤️

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This time around.

I recently sat down and did a bit of reflection on this piece I wrote a few years ago, but from my now second time mother perspective. Here’s what came of it..

Girl, I love you, but oh my goodness such DRAMATICS. Then again, I remember. Those days would be impossible to ever forget. First time motherhood was quite the significant headfuck for you. ⁣

⁣After your second birth, for the sake of sanity you realize you are historically close to loosing at that point, you choose a different dish. It is one that asks of you way less cooking and close to no prep — a delightfully easy meal of perogies, sausages and corn. Not the healthiest, but it was needed. ⁣

⁣I won’t fool you, things weren’t perfect while you made those perogies, and nor will they likely ever be, frankly. You were anxious and scrambling, but the results were about twenty million times less of a hectic gong show. And not only do you amazingly get to eat that meal together as a family (newborn sleeping in your lap and all), you manage it at two weeks postpartum, too. Perfection be damned. ⁣

⁣You could thank the gods that decided to listen that time around, but truth be told, just thank yourself. Second-time motherhood will instill in you the ability to handle (like a hot, graceful mess) 458634884 *more* things all at once. It is also quite the headfuck, just a slightly more manageable one. We even come to love it. ⁣

💚⁣ ⁣⁣

⁣P.S. I’d be remiss to finish this with out letting you know that here in the future you haven’t cooked this chicken dish in years. O, now a preschooler, has long since refused to eat it. Something about all the items touching (how dare us) and him being seemingly allergic to any and all cooked vegetables. We’re having LOTS of fun with that one.

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My brain is broken.

Any bookish types out there? If so, help!⁣

Off and on, and throughout the course of much of my life, I have gone through periods of heavy reading and then NOTHING.⁣

During the year and half prior to giving birth to my daughter I was averaging about two books a week. How many have I fished since she was born? Not a ONE.⁣

It’s not because of lack of sleep (she lets me sleep quite well — for now, at least). It’s not because I don’t have time (if I committed the same amount of effort to it as I do looking at irrelevant meaninglessness on my phone, I’d be golden).⁣

And it’s not because I don’t have anything I want to read, either. There are books by the hundreds on my “to-read” list. Gorgeous, fantasy books with intricate storytelling, fascinating world building, and strong, female protagonists.⁣

But, my brain keeps insisting on being this fried, dumb thing that refuses to cooperate. I’ll load GOOD books on my Kobo, attempt to dive in and am only able to read about a page before my attention wanders. Snap back, I try again. Over and over. Eventually, out of annoyance and frustration, I give up. My ability to focus is G.O.N.E. This is all similar to how it’s been in the past when I’ve gone through others of these “no-read” periods.⁣

I gave birth five months ago and I should give myself more time maybe, I hear you. But, I’d really like it to change sooner rather than later. ⁣Reading became this huge part of me, more so than ever before, and now it kind of feels as if I’ve lost a limb. It’s also the one, guaranteed thing I can get lost in during COVID when I need to pretend everything is normal… :(⁣

So, how do I fix this? Do I need a different approach? Should I work to better understand (somehow?) why I go through these no-reading phases? Should I consider a different mindset? Different books? A different life? lol.⁣

Help!

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