Monday, 30 November 2009

One family, under Mom.

Not to blow hard and heavy on my own shiny trumpet over here but there are a fair amount of aspects of Motherhood that I was pretty convinced I would excel at. Story telling, sing-a-longs – got those down.

Songs have come flooding back to my memory from childhood – Alice the camel is back, Miss Mary Mack has made an appearance, the monkeys are back on that bed jumping like crazy despite doctors orders, I got grouches rolling over, I got speckled frogs going against common advice and going for a swim straight after eating, Peter Pan, Dumbo and Pete’s Dragon have all come flying out of my mouth. I haven’t stopped at children’s songs. I belt out Helter Skelter when she’s crying until she realizes she can’t compete and stares at her crazy Beatle loving mother acting like she’s preparing for X Factor auditions. I softly sing Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash when her eyes start drooping. I croon along with Frank and Sammy Davis Jr. when Eloise and I need to shake off the blues .

I’m quite happy spending large portions of my day pulling funny faces, making animal noises, shaking my body like a scarecrow – as long as it makes her laugh. (The scarecrow move kills at our house by the way).

I can jiggle and rock until she rests her head in the crook of my neck and those pink-rimmed little eyes finally shut. Give her a big mama bear hug when she’s upset and whisper in her ear how much I love her.

But I also knew there would be aspects of Motherhood I would not excel at and the biggest one is accepting Fatherhood and its importance in my our baby’s life.

For the majority of my upbringing it was just me, my mother and my sister. Even before my parents got divorced it was a bit of a tag-team parenting style from what I can gather and I rarely saw my mom and dad parent together. My mother did an incredible job raising my sister and me (warning – gross maternal bias about to be uttered in the next 4 seconds) – one of us has devoted 2 years of her life to serve the Peace Corps in Mozambique and lives each day with compassion and integrity and the other one made a baby so cute and edible there are talks of putting her on the Tour d’Argent menu. I think somewhere along the way though I picked up the idea that parenting is a job that should really be done alone. No need to confer major decisions or deal with your kid playing you and your partner off each other. One family, under Mom.

I realized I felt this way when I would fantasize about my future children and never once was there a father in the picture. So when the Frenchman and I decided to have kids I made a point to force him into my mental picture. And I thought that once Eloise was born I would instantly feel that we were a family. Not so.

For a long time I think I kind of felt like a single mother. Having had more experience with children I naturally took the lead in the first few weeks. The Frenchman quickly learned the baby ropes though and by the time she was a month I thought, we’re a family now, right? But I knew deep down I still felt like this parenting gig was mine and mine alone.

And it’s not that the Frenchman is a deadbeat dad by any stretch of the imagination. He LOVES our baby. Adores her. She is his raison d’etre and he continues to be amazed by her beauty and her strength. But it is me that stays up for 40 minutes at 3am feeding her. It is me that takes her to the doctor for her shots. Me that gets vomited on all day. Me that puts her to sleep. Takes her to play group each day. Dances around to make her laugh. Well – until the weekend that is.

Which is all normal. I am of course the one who is at home during the week getting my government maternity pay (that doesn’t cover the rent) to make sure my child flourishes under my watch. My partner of course goes off every weekday to make sure we can pay the rent, occasionally spoil the baby and not starve.

But as the months dragged on I still didn’t feel that family unity that I was expecting. I Still felt that Eloise and I were one unit and the Frenchman an occasional plus one. Until a few weeks ago. 16 weeks after Eloise was born. I was nursing her in her room before bed. Dim lights, Buena Vista Social club playing softly in the background. In walked Eloise’s father, smiling at the two women in his life. Eloise unlatched herself from my breast to turn and look at her Daddy. He came closer and knelt next to us. She then reached out her tiny hand and began to stroke her father’s bearded face. Slowly. Deliberately. She smiled and then turned back to nurse. And there we were.

A family.

Friday, 27 November 2009


It was around this time last year on our way to a good friend's wedding in Chicago that we discovered I was pregnant. On our way down to London the night before our flight from Heathrow I had decided to grab a pregnancy test because I had a suspicion that I might be pregnant. In the past few years I'd had plenty of suspicions that I was pregnant and none of them came out to be true (overly dramatic? Moi?) so in the back of my mind I wasn't thinking this would be any different.

But there it was: Pregnant in plain blue letters on the test. I remember by heart racing and I started to shake as I came out of the bathroom and told the Frenchman - Je suis enceinte. His face was priceless - cartoon bug eyes come to mind. It's funny that we were both so shocked since this was after all the result we were after.

We boarded the flight giddy and bewildered, trying to make sense of it all. I watched Wall-E and cried. When we got to Chicago we had the taxi stop a few blocks away from my parent's place. We went into a Walgreen's to buy another test. After hugs and hellos I took the second test. Yup. Still knocked up.

We couldn't pass up the opportunity to tell my mother and her husband in person - living in a country without any relatives it was pure luck that we were in a position to let family know we were having a baby face to face.

My mom had prepared a mini-Thanksgiving meal for us a week early. I asked if we could all go round the table and say what we're thankful for.

Heart racing once again. I'm thankful that the Frenchman and I are going to make you grandparents.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


In a couple of weeks Eloise and I will be traveling on our own to Paris to begin our Christmas holiday. After Paris where we'll join Eloise's grandma and her aunt, we will be driving down to Eloise's paternal grandparents where the rest of the family will meet up for baby's first Christmas. There will be A LOT of people. More aunts and uncles. Many many great aunts and uncles. Great-grandparents. Second cousins.

As this trip gets closer I am having more and more anxiety dreams. Dreams where Eloise is handed from relative to relative until I lose track of her. I run around frantically trying to locate my baby, asking everyone I see if they have seen her but no one seems to care about her whereabouts. Or I'll have a dream where I turn my back on Eloise and in that second a relative is shoving a chunk of paté in her open little mouth before I can shout non!.

I stopped by the office today with Eloise and passed her around to a few people. I didn't particularly like the experience.

I always thought I had the whole sharing thing down. When it comes to my daughter? Not so much.

Monday, 23 November 2009

There's a bit of an unwritten rule among mothers of babies: If your child is sleeping through the night do NOT say it out loud, write it down, or heaven forbid - post it on facebook. For as soon as the words - my kid is a sleeping genius - comes out of your mouth, you will spend the next nights up and down with your "sleeping genius" as she cries and feeds at all hours of the wee morning. Hours that used to be reserved for stumbling out of a club with smeared make-up and cotton mouth already forming.

So I've decided to use this blog to test my theory - if boasting about the amount of sleep you and your baby are getting immediately causes your child to revert back to her "night-time is for crying and food, right?" phase then surely complaining about the horrible nights you've been having should cause the baby to suddenly fall in love with sleepy-time.

See that look on the Frenchman's face? That's exhaustion. The look on Eloise -pure malice.

The past two nights Eloise has been waking at midnight, at 3am and then at 6am. We've gone through the check list to see what's wrong - room too warm? Too cold? Dirty diaper? Stuffed nose. That's it. So at 3 am we're picking the snot of her nose. No? That's not it? Teething. Give her teething powders. Really? Still not happy? Give in and feed her. And so for the next 45 minutes I nurse Eloise with my head lolling about with the need for sleep. Repeat this two more times until at 6am I kick the Frenchman out of bed, lie Eloise next to me so she can eat buffet style while I sleep.

I would assume it was a growth spurt - but one that only lasts at night? You're killing me kid.

So there it is. Our sleep woes out in the open. Now do your thing sleep theory and make it go away. Of course if it does work, you won't hear it from me.

First rule of sleeping through the night? Do not talk about sleeping through the night.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Quatrieme mois avec mademoiselle Eloise

Eloise –

When I first met you you were purple and warm and not a little angry looking at what you’d just been through. The first thing I was taken by was your ear. I thought it had something wrong with it. Your aunt Claire noticed it too. Like it hadn’t completely formed. The midwife said that you were fine, that’s just how ears looked. And then I saw that your ear was perfect and I was amazed that you and I managed to work together to form such a perfect listening device.

I think back to that mad purple little person and cannot believe how far you’ve come in just 4 months. You unknowingly say Mama. Although it’s more of a continual call: Mamamamamaaaaa. You are reaching and grabbing for whatever you can get your spit soaked little hands on. Hands that not only used to flail about without purpose but hands that you didn’t even know existed until a few weeks ago. You recognize your father and me. Perhaps not as your parents yet, but you’ve seen us enough to know that we’re rather important people in your life and you are not a fan of being apart from either of us for too long. Well, ditto kid.

You love to stand. You often get frustrated lying down and I have to spend large portions of my day helping you to stand on your own two feet. You puff out your chest and wobble your head in excitement and pride. I get glimpses of the young girl you will become when you are standing and it makes my heart simultaneously break and swell twice its size.

One of my favorite things this month has been watching your relationship with your father unfold. For the first time the other day I held you in my arms and you screamed as soon as your father walked out of your sight. Your father beamed, “Is that for me?” Usually it’s the other way around. I’ve never seen anyone so excited to hear a crying baby. The best part of his day is coming home and seeing you smile as soon as you see his face. You’ve managed to nearly bring him to tears on a couple of occasions. This is no small feat. The last time your father cried was when he was 7 and his puppy died. I however cried 2 hours ago reading you Arthur’s Thanksgiving.

People love to compliment you. I’ve been told how beautiful you are, how strong you are, how flexible you are. I’ve had strangers compliment your sense of fashion (I’ll take credit for that one thankyouverymuch) and have been told that you’re going to be a talker. People compliment your eyes, your hair, your smile. They even compliment your toes. Personally I think it’s just because they don’t know you like I do.

Yes, you are beautiful and strong. Yes your smile can make grown men weep. But you are also stubborn and demanding. You are impatient and loud. You like to fart and spit-up. And I wouldn’t have you any other way.

Well…. Except for the spit-up.

Je t’aime.


Eloise at 4 months

Eloise at 1 month

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Favorite moments of my day:

When she first wakes up in the morning, she babbles. First she talks to the bars in her crib, then she moves onto the curtains that are now lit by the rising sun, she gets loudest when she engages my collection of colorful scarves hanging on the wardrobe across from her crib. During this time I am slowly waking, listening to her get more and more vocal as she greets her friends in our room. Then I get up and her face moves from the scarves to me, a big gummy grin and bright eyes wide. I bring her into bed with me and lie her down. She immediately starts opening and closing her mouth like a baby bird - hungry and waiting. I slide in next to her, pull her towards me and fill her mouth with engorged boob - her favorite.

She falls asleep in my lap after eating lunch. Warm and satiated. Peaceful. She cat naps. When her eyes open she smiles at seeing me and tilts her head towards me. A real little flirt.

When he comes home from work, she looks for him when she hears his voice and as soon as he comes in the room she beams. Daddy's home! I say. She ignores me - at this moment she only has eyes for her father.

After the middle of the night feed, I put her back in her crib. I lie there in the dark and listen to first him and then her fall back asleep. Their heavy breathing, one deep and one shallow, fill the room. This is my lullaby.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

And I ain't even sorry

Writing has fallen to the wayside a bit these past few days. Partially because in going to Paris I managed to temporarily break my baby and so sleep has been sorely lacking. Which of course made me resort to the early days of sleep when the baby sleeps. The other reason is that Eloise has become more vocal and though I didn't think it was possible, even more beautiful. So instead of sitting down in front of the computer I've been either nuzzling Eloise's cheek or engaging in a babbling conversation with her while she lies in my lap.

Friends with more than one child tell me to take advantage of these easy days, where I can lavish all my attention on my only child and I am more than happy doing so.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Frankly Mama I don't give a damn.

Turns out this trip to Paris did not just scar me emotionally. This trip also broke my baby. When I left for Paris I had a kid who could go 4 or 5 hours between feeds in the day and who always managed a minimum 6 hour sleep before waking for her night feed. She can now barely manage 4 hours at night without needing to refill the tank and during the day she is eating non-stop.

After she spent 2 hours gnawing on my breast the other day, her father and I joked that she's turned into Scarlet O'Hara. We could just picture her with a fistful of boob - As God is my witness I will NEVAH GO HUNGRY AGAIN!

Since she went so long without eating, I perfectly understand her needing to eat non-stop to make up for lost time. At this point though I think she's recovered milk wise and is merely eating so much just to be sure boob is still on the menu and that previous rupture in boob stock was an anomaly.

Either way, she's making me pay for abandoning her last weekend. And I don't blame her. But I don't think I've broken her permanently - this face seems happy enough:

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

29 hours and 20 minutes too long

29 hours and 20 minutes apart. It should have been 53 hours. We have a very stubborn daughter who spent over 20 hours of those 29 refusing to eat. Paris did not turn out as planned. I spent the time there with what felt like a bag of knives in my stomach, fitfully sleeping with dreams of accidentally drowning Eloise from my negligence. 300 euros later I was on a eurostar heading back home to stop my baby from becoming dangerously dehydrated and having to go to hospital.

As I lessened the distance between me and my heart I stared at the ceiling of the train so as not to burst into a fit of guilty tears.

My work once let me go to a conference about women in the workplace. A feisty Canadian was giving us pointers on how to better control our emotions at work. Rightly or wrongly, the ability to burst into tears in an open plan office is not a skill often sought in an employee. The Canadian said if you feel yourself getting close to tears, look up. Looking up is connected with reason and logic. Looking down is connected with our emotions and feelings.

So there I was staring at the ceiling of the Eurostar train in hopes of not turning into the wailing childless mother in seat 62A when it dawned on me. When we raise our children we are looking down at them through an emotional filter. Reason does not apply to a mother whose child needs her. Our hearts are swollen watching their face look up at ours. And then they grow up, and they are bigger than us. If we have done a good job they will have surpassed us. And we will look up to them with reason at the incredible adult before us. It will be their turn to look down at us and be filled with emotion at the sight of us as the aging person who sacrificed what we could to give them this view.