Thursday, December 30, 2010

Operation A-to-sleep

This is a picture of our happy family resting, 4 days after A was born. The only pictures I have of A sleeping are from her first few weeks. After she shocked us by sleeping through the night for 2 weeks straight at two months old, things slowly went downhill from there. While other Mommies and babies were enjoying increasing time spent sleeping at night, A was waking up more and more frequently. She also did not nap, unless resting on one of our chests. As soon as I would lay her down in her bassinet, she would begin to squirm and let out a big cry.

I don't know what I expected in terms of a babies' sleeping pattern, but I was not at all prepared for the battle that ensued over our child's sleep. We consulted every book and website imaginable. We commiserated with our friends, and tried different tips we were given by other well-rested parents. Nothing worked. A would not respond to anything that wasn't human - the swing, a vibrating chair, soft relaxation music, a "lovey," and the list goes on. The only thing that calmed her were our arms, and very intense rocking. I became a pro at being a jiggling, swinging, rocking Mom. I lost something like 20 lbs.

We found out at 4 months old that A had something called GERD - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. It was probably made worse by an allergy to cow's milk protein, which can pass through a mother's breastmilk. We felt relief at knowing that something was actually wrong, but that didn't lessen the increasing burden of sleep deprivation.

At that point, A was waking up every 30 to 45 minutes, all night long. It was a form of slow and terrible torture. Being the source of milk and comfort, I was the primary caregiver at night. Tom helped when he could, but it was just easier for me to stop the screaming by breastfeeding her and dozing off myself. She would then wake up screaming and the process would start all over again (little did I know that feeding her was probably not the best thing to do, as this would exacerbate the acid reflux hurting her tiny tummy). I still get weepy over the times I "lost it" - screaming in frustration at A waking up for the zillionth time, breaking my toe after kicking the wall, having visions of myself throwing her down the stairs. I scared myself more times then I'm willing to admit - I just thank God that I had a supportive partner who could step in when I got to my breaking point, and that I never did anything to hurt my baby. I don't know how many times I said "I wasn't meant to be a mother," because I couldn't forgive myself for the times I lost my cool.

Very very slowly, things started to improve. For one, I was able to handle the sleep deprivation better as I adjusted to it. We learned "tricks" to get longer periods of sleep - most of the time it was having A on our chests and propping ourselves up with a bunch of pillows. The upright angle and our comforting warmth allowed A to sleep for longer periods. And secondly, I learned how to cultivate more compassion for both myself and my daughter, and was able to overcome times of impatience or anger. As A grew and turned into a little person, I was better able to associate her daytime self with her nighttime self.

We are now at 16 months, and life is very good. We adore our daughter, and I no longer think I shouldn't have become a mother. In fact, I'm enthralled with the job, and can't wait to do it all over again. Next time around I think my expectations will be much more realistic, and although we desperately hope that our (potential) second child will not have reflux, we at least have the knowledge and tools to deal with it if it does happen again.

However, it is time for A to learn how to sleep. All those months of holding, comforting, rocking and sleeping chest-to-chest have created some habits that need to be changed. A still wakes up frequently at night - usually every 2 hours, although sometimes more often if she has a sore tummy. I'm convinced that she still has some digestive issues, but we're not really sure what they are, and whether my eating dairy again is playing a role. I have been unsuccessful in giving up my cheese and yogurt!

And so, the journey starts now, as we attempt to break some of the habits she has learned. Some crying will be involved, although I hope to be there to help her work through her frustration. My goal is to have her sleeping at least 5-6 hours at a time, but it all depends on so many factors. She is one of the most strong-willed little babies I've ever met, so we'll see how she does when she is told "no."

Follow along and see how we do...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year

Oh, the New Year. A time for reflection on what has passed, and renewed hope for what will come. I find this week in between Christmas and New Year's the hardest part of winter - I'm tired from all the entertaining, my house is a mess, and I feel the oncoming winter blahs. Once January hits, I tend to find some energy to soldier through our Canadian winter (usually by mid-February I am cursing the snow and cold).

As I'm sure you are all in the middle of doing, I'm now writing my resolutions, in the hope that I can make some positive changes this year and meet some of my goals. I'm excited to follow along with a friend's new blog as she embarks on a personal journey.

This year feels significant for me, because my husband and I hope to start trying for another baby. But before that happens, some changes need to be made. For one, my firstborn needs to start sleeping better. There is no way that I can be pregnant and deal with this amount of sleep deprivation. I'm willing to wait to have another baby until things improve. But rather than just waiting around, we're hoping to make the changes ourselves. This may involve a bit of crying, which I have been very much against, but there comes a point that my sanity is more important than my 16-month old feeling angry and frustrated.

The other changes I would like to make are somewhat more personal. I'm aware that I won't accomplish all these things in 2011, but I want to list them all out and then pick my "top 3" priorities. So in no particular order, here they are:

1) Make sure I take my daily Omega3s and other vitamins
2) Get back to a daily meditation and/or yoga practice
3) Find space for creativity in my life - whether it's writing, music, painting...whatever!
4) Do some kind of cardio exercise, at least 3x per week
5) Implement Operation A-to-sleep
6) Find a good therapist
7) Eat less Omega 6-9s (I know this sounds very specific, but if I put "eat healthy," that won't happen. Omega 6s and 9s are found in many of our processed foods, such as crackers, cookies, breads and chips. These are the things I hope to cut back on)
8) Eat more Omega 3s (olive oil, walnuts etc.)
9) Be kinder to our earth, by eating less meat and fish, conserving more water, becoming more self sustaining (a big garden, and starting a new project - a root cellar!) and cutting back on WASTE...all the junk I find myself buying!!
10) Take time to look around and be grateful for this life

I hope to continue posting on these resolutions, and find ways to really make some of them happen (even just one???).

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. Here is Sarah Harmer's Lode Star:

Out of the night, into the water
We push the boat from shore
Breaking the air and the stillness of the bay

Intensity of stars reflected in the harbour
Silently ignite
The oar dips into oil like water
And we are away

Your hand won't write
Not tonight
But your mind may wander
Into those deep lagoons that you know
And your boat will go by starlight alone
Da da da da da da da da
You sang to the moon
In the great black night
With no lodestar in sight

Out of the night
Out of the water
We pull the boat back to shore
Breathe in the air and the stillness of the bay
Intensity of stars reflected in the water
Silently ignite
The oar dips into oil like water
And we are away

Under the moon in the great black night
With no lodestar in sight

And wait for it
There are only two things now
This great black night
And the fireglow

And listen! The darkness rings
The darkness....

Listen! The darkness rings

And wait for it
There are only two of us now
This great black night, scooped out
And this fireglow

Listen! The darkness rings
The darkness...
Listen! The darkness rings
Take off your things

And listen!
The darkness rings

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All through the night

I recently shared a song called "All Through the Night" that I sing to my baby as she drifts off to sleep. I'm not sure the origins of this song, although I think it may be Welsh. As a child, I heard it every Christmas while my family and I watched "A Child's Christmas in Wales" - the television adaptation of Dylan Thomas's beautiful crafted tale about....yep, you guessed it, a child's Christmas in Wales.

Although I'm not going to copy and paste the full text into my post, I would just like to share a few bits and pieces that I think are particularly poignant. We all enjoy remembering Christmases past, and telling fine tales to children who listen and think "but that happens here during Christmas too!" It's like every story that begins with "when I was a child..." and ends with "I walked 12 miles in the frozen desert, to and from school, every day."

And so Mr. Thomas tells his tale to a young boy who is listening,

"Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

Oh, the snow that comes "shawling out of the ground" and swims and drifts out of the arms and hands and bodies of the tree...what a picture he paints!

The part of the story that my family always found so amusing was when the man and the boy are discussing the "useful" presents we receive at Christmas such as

"engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all."

The little boy responds by saying "I don't like socks" in such a charming Welsh accent, that we still quote that line every time someone in our family receives socks in their stocking!

If you have not had a chance to read the poem, I highly suggest you give it a Google! You can find copies of it on many different websites. If you're really interested, and want to see the PBS version, it is available on Amazon

Happy Christmas from The Chickadee Tweet!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Chickadee

You may wonder why this blog is called The Chickadee Tweet - if you're not wondering, you may want to logoff and go find something more interesting to do.

For those of you still reading, give some thought to the characteristics of the Chickadee, which happens to be my favourite flying creature. According to Wikipedia, the ever helpful online encyclopedia, the chickadee is "a small, common songbird, a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae." (Being the immature person that I am, I had to click further to read more about "tits"...there are a species of birds called "tits!" Then I had to google where the origin of tits comes from, as a nickname for women's breasts - I found nothing, but honestly only searched for several minutes)

Where was I? Oh yes! Chickadees! The black-capped chickadee is small, fluffy, and in my opinion, the cutest bird around. They're very friendly, and will often come and peck away at some seed in your hand. Their song is beautiful, and sounds exactly like their name (chickadee-dee-dee-dee-dee).

When thinking about a proper name for both my blog and my doula services, I couldn't think of anything I liked better than chickadee. To me, its name conveys a sense of fun; its song is a lighthearted melody that you can hear even in the dead of winter. And so, The Chickadee Tweet was born. And soon, as I work through my doula training, I will birth my second project - Ottawa's Chickadee Birthing Services. I'm hoping for a natural birth, but am open to interventions from financial advisors, business planners, and banks. Also, friends and family can donate money to me if they wish (with 0% interest, and 75 years to pay back the loan....what? Come then they will have discovered the fountain of youth!)

I don't know a song about chickadees specifically, although I do really like bopping around to Rockin' Robin (but for the record, chickadees are definitely better than robins):

He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and singing his song
All the little birdies on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight

Every little swallow, every chick-a-dee
Every little bird in the tall oak tree
The wise old owl, the big black crow
Flappin' their wings singing go bird go

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight
Yeah yeah

Pretty little raven at the bird-band stand
Told them how to do the bob and it was grand
They started going steady and bless my soul
He out-bopped the buzzard and the oriol

He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and singing his song
All the little birdies on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight

Pretty little raven at the bird-band stand
Told them how to do the bop and it was grand
They started going steady and bless my soul
He out-bopped the buzzard and the oriol

He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and singing his song
All the little birdies on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight

Monday, December 20, 2010

Off we go a-doula-ing

Doula (pronounced doo-luh): a woman wise in the ways of childbirth, who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a labouring woman and her partner.

Although that is not a textbook definition, it is my understanding of what a doula does. But having never attended a birth as a doula, my definition or understanding may change significantly in the weeks to come! My very first client is due any day now, and I have several to follow in the new year.

My decision to begin my doula training started with the birth of my daughter, and the positive experience we had with our doula. Some of you may have heard of the Pain Medications Preference Scale (PMPS) - this is a scale that allows you to explore and clarify your feelings about pain medications in childbirth. My own PMPS score was a -7, which means that I really wanted to have a natural birth for the health of my baby, along with personal gratification, and that I would be disappointed if I used pain medications. Given that I had such strong feelings about pain medications, I needed to find ways to ensure my satisfaction with the birthing experience.

One of the ways to increase your chances for a natural birth is to hire a doula - introducing a doula into the labour room not only improves the bond between mother and infant, but also seems to decrease the incidence of complications and interventions (an intervention is anything that "intervenes" with the normal process of birth). And so we found our doula and went about preparing ourselves for the birth of our first child.

People always ask me "what does a doula do?" My first answer is usually "nothing medical!" There is a misconception that a doula is somehow like a midwife - however, we have no medical training (although women can have medical training outside of their roles and responsibilities as a doula). We never provide medical advice, or try to advocate on a woman's behalf. We are there to support a woman and partner in their health decisions, by providing information and a non-judgemental shoulder to lean on.

Some of the things my doula did:

- helped time my contractions when we weren't sure if I was in active labour
- suggested a walk around the block, which really got things moving!!
- held my hands as I gripped onto them with all my strength
- massaged my back
- applied cool and/or warm compresses; wiped the sweat from my brow
- held the bucket while I vomited my red electrolyte drink (water is really best)
- suggested different positions
- supported my back as I pushed

There are probably many more things I have missed or can't remember, but the doula was a very important part of the process.

Another question people ask is "doesn't a doula replace the father or partner?" My answer is "no!" If that is happening, then the doula is not doing a good job. A doula's role should complement the role of the partner, not replace. We work together to support Mom in her efforts with each contraction. We can also provide each other with breaks to grab a coffee, go to the bathroom, or in the case of a really long labour, take a short nap. This means the labouring mother is never alone (unless she wants to be, of course).

Although I will not be changing this blog to become a "Doula Blog," I'm certain that my new experiences will be expressed in my writings and my choice of music. To honour the confidentiality of my clients, I will not be posting any specific information about mothers, fathers or their births. I will speak generally about the role of a doula, and the things that I learn on my journey.

Feel free to share an experience you had with a doula...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas is upon us

It's hard to believe that in only 8 days, our family will be celebrating together for Christmas. The tree has been trimmed and decorated lovingly with the (very few) ornaments we've gathered since moving in together 5 years ago.

As I do every year, I take the time to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. My family was never very religious, and my Moms' efforts to take us to church every Sunday were thwarted by my Dads' total disdain for organized religion. He has never been comfortable with those who trust so thoroughly in Gods' way - I'm not sure where that view comes from, but I should ask him one of these days.

So I grew up in a home where Christmas was a celebration more of family and love, rather than the birth of Jesus. This sometimes makes me uncomfortable, as I feel as though we're appropriating a religious holiday that has nothing to do with our own beliefs. However, each Christmas I go through the same motions, guilty of giving in to our consumerist drive (buying lights for the house, spending money on plastic toys from China, and filling the table with a ridiculous amount of food when so many others have nothing). These are things I WANT to change, and hope to change someday. In one of my favourite blogs (Click Here), a family learns how to simplify Christmas in a special way.

There is no denying that there is something magical about this time of year, if we take the time to peel off the layers of plastic trees, glittery lights and shopping malls. My favourite Christmas movie is called Prancer,
and features a young girl who is so passionate about Christmas that she inspires a whole town to rethink the true meaning of the day. It never fails that the movie ends and I am sobbing into my tissue (in my defense, this is a learned behaviour - both my parents cry at this movie as well). The most emotional part of the movie is when the girl's father reads Francis Church's 1897 editorial, in response to Virginia O'Hanlon's letter asking if Santa Clause is real:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Monday, December 13, 2010

oh blog, how I have missed thee

Once again, I have abandoned a source of my creativity, a stress busting activity, and a place to browse lovely entries by like-minded people. I would be intrigued to know why I tend to ignore the things that help me to relax and "veg out," and instead turn to other things that are not as healthy or fulfilling (e.g. like eating half a bag of chips while staring bug-eyed at the television). But the important thing to remember is that I'm back! I have not abandoned my blog completely, and I just need a little inspiration to get back into the swing of things. Plus, the cable is getting cut this month, so crashing on the couch will not be an option.

There have been many reasons for my time away, the biggest one being that I recently completed my doula training course, and have started to take on clients for 2011 (actually, my first client is due shortly!). I have been busy writing up contracts, gathering resources and meeting with mom and dads-to-be for prenatal appointments. More on this in future posts!

The other source of busy-ness is of course, little A., who still refuses to sleep at night without waking up every hour. We have slowly started weaning her from our bed and into her crib, but most nights she continues to wake up very frequently. I long ago accepted her sleeping habits, and vowed to get on with my life, but things are getting harder with my part-time job and doula work. So we continue to plod along, hoping that at some point, our efforts pay off, and she gives us the gift of 4, 5, or 6 (do I dare say even 7 or 8?) hours of solid sleep.

So in the wonderful world of the web, my blog has patiently been waiting for me to return, never once deleting my past writings or turning its back on me in disgust. Thank you blog! It's great to be back.

In the spirit of the holiday season, here is the song I sing to little A. every night:

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
all through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee
all through the night

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night

While the moon her watch is keeping
all through the night
While the weary world is sleeping
all through the night

O'er thy spirit gently sleeping
visions of delight revealing
breathes a pure and holy feeling
all through the night

Though I roam a minstrel lonley
all through the night
My true heart shall praise sing only
all through trhe night

Love's young dream alas is over
yet my strings of love shall hover
near the presence of my lover
all through the night

Hark a solemn bell is ringing
clear through the night
Thou my love art heavenward winging
home through the night

Earthly dust from off thee shaken
soul immortal shalt thou waken
with thy last dim journey taken
home through the night