Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 1 Year Old!

Dear Anabella,

On Friday you turned one year old. I can’t say that this is the first time in my life I am speechless, because I’m afflicted with speechlessness often, but I can say that for the first time in my life I am wordless. Meaning, I actually cannot locate the words in my brain to send down into my fingers and put on this page.

I have thought and I have thought about how I can put what this feels like into words and all that happens in my brain is a quick and grainy lot of images flashing by like silent Super 8 movies, flickering across a lumpy backdrop, starting with the first moment I saw your face and ending with you tonight, sitting in your pretty party dress, surrounded by the people who love you the most.

One year. One magical, wonderful, life-altering year.

So I try to jump start my brain and it sputters to life with an image of me, lying in the hospital, just 366 short days ago, working very hard to bring you into the world. In case you’d like to revisit, it went something like this.

Then another flash and you are home. Your daddy and I, so used to our lives as two, are now three. And after mere days, we can’t imagine it ever having been any other way.

Flash! We are joined by another new life, a tiny, porcelain doll of a girl who I will quickly and seamlessly come to love like a second daughter. Olivia and Aunty Emily become fixtures in our year, rendering the experience twice as nice.

Flash again and it’s spring! Glorious and fresh, you and I are free to wander our city together, tourists in the place I’ve called home forever, but now, with you, everything is brand-new.

Summer arrives like a blinding flash, the sunlight glinting in your beautiful eyes as we laze about at the cottage, enjoying our time with Grandnana and exploring the beach that I love so much. To see you sit in the sand and splash in surf is a life-long dream of mine fulfilled. I’m choked at the image and need to pause. It’s my next dream that we might spend another summer like that, together, before you are too old to want to be there alone with your family.

Suddenly it is fall. Your Aunty Emily and I are running through High Park with you girls in your strollers. We are laughing one minute out of sheer fun, and tearing up the next as we realize how fleeting these precious moments are. Sitting in the fading warmth, sipping coffee and talking about how this moment, right here, can only happen like this once. I look into her eyes and am so grateful to have her, someone who really, truly understands.

Flash! You are sitting. Flash! You are crawling. Flash! It’s Christmastime already?

It’s a joyous holiday, your very first Christmas, just another in the infinite and awesome list of firsts that I have tried diligently to capture for you here, but really I have only scratched the very surface. The holidays come and go in a blink and suddenly it is upon us. January.

A new year and the final month of your first year. It’s a time I have been anticipating anxiously for months and suddenly it is upon us. Flash. I am leaving you behind at the place that will become your new home during the week. I walk out of that daycare for the first time without you and am so overcome with pride at how easy you have made it, so overcome with sadness about how much I will miss you, so overcome. I have to sit in the lobby for several minutes just gathering myself and wondering – where do I go now? What do I do without you?

Imagine? One year. In one year I am lost when you’re not by my side.

Flash! It’s today. And you are the most beautiful little person I have ever seen. All dressed up in your party clothes I see you in a new light. My baby, my tiny little bundle of feet and fingers and wrinkled parts has become this sweet, thoughtful, funny, loving, curious, most amazing little girl. One part daddy, one part mommy, but so many parts just you.

Happy birthday Anabella. How lucky we are that this is just one - another incredible first - of so many more yet to come.

I love you,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Little Shop of Horrors

Have you ever caught someone else's vomit in your bare hands?
Have you ever looked lovingly at your significant other as he/she said, "I tried to help her by sucking the snot out of her nose with my mouth."?
Have you ever sat upright in bed all night with a small body lying face down on your chest, just to make sure that the body kept breathing?

If you answered yes to any of the above then you:

a) Had even more fun during your party years than I did.
b) Work for some kind of sanitarium, asylum, or zoo and are currently looking fiercely for alternate employment.
c) Are a parent.
d) All of the above.

Guess which one is me?

Last week Bella spent two hours -- no I did not mistype that -- two HOURS, not days or weeks, at her new daycare and came home with the plague. It started slowly last Thursday and promptly developed into the most disgusting cold you've ever seen and quickly and efficiently spread to infect anyone and everyone who came within a 20 foot radius of our home. I swear even the dog is sneezing.

I am not sure I can adequately express what it feels like to have kept my baby impeccably healthy for almost an entire year with thankless activities like...

- endless hours of breastfeeding
- incessant hand washing to the point where my skin is literally flaking of in chucks on my formerly beautifully manicured hands
- the constant wiping of multiple surfaces with Lysol wipes
- boiling things that I never thought could or should be boiled
- making my own food using organic, fresh ingredients

...only to take her to daycare for TWO hours and have all my hard work, cautious behaviour and more than my fair share of finger crossing, fall to the mercy of four other snotty-faced babies and a room that probably hasn't seen the likes of a Lysol wipe for many months. Or ever.

Guess what Germs? YOU WIN. I am pulling out my wipes and waving them like the white flag.

I have seen more snot in the last five days than I have during my ENTIRE LIFE. I have watched my beautiful, perfect, happy, charming baby turn into a hot mess of tears, red eyes, crusted nose, snot covered hands and hair. I have let her put her disease infected fingers in my mouth just because it made her smile for a nanosecond and then fallen prey to an illness that I simply don't have time to wallow in.

And now? I. Give. Up. She has just, after six days of hell, gotten back to something slightly resembling her former self, and guess where she's going tomorrow? That's right. Back to the cesspool. Because Mommy needs to go shopping for "back to work" clothes that she's never actually going to get to wear because she it seems she is going to be home ALL THE TIME with a sick, sad, snotty baby.

I'm waving my wipes, people. Man, she's so lucky she's cute. I bet even you would catch vomit if it were coming out of this:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How Long Do You Want to Be Loved?

During the first few months of my pregnancy I continued my regular yoga practice, vowing that I'd be able to keep up with my usual group rather than switching to the prenatal class. I thought that I was just that strong. About three months in I caved. Ashtanga was kicking my bloated, nauseous ass and I was spending more time lying on my mat trying not to vomit than I was in downward dog.

Prenatal yoga seemed like a joke for the first little while, but before long it became as challenging for my swollen, heavy body as my regular, sweaty class ever was. Also, I began to love it.

I loved being surrounded with other moms-to-be, almost all were first-timers like me. I loved looking at the rounded bellies, bursting with life and imagining what all the little people inside were up to. I loved the soothing voice of my instructor who also happened to be a doula and who would share her various birth stories with us at the beginning of every class. I loved the hour and a half of dark, warm silence and calming breath.

The final five minutes of class were always dedicated to the women in the room who were closest to delivery and who might not be back next week because of their newly arrived babies. At first this ritual seemed a little too silly and new-agey for me, I would squirm through it in discomfort, but by the time it was my turn to sit in the centre of the circle surrounded by women and candlelight I was converted. I took their blessings to heart and I thought of them as I gave birth to my daughter, one week early. I thought how lucky I was that I'd received my send-off circle early because my instructor was going to be absent the following week.

But what I loved about that class, more than anything else, was Savasana. This quiet period of rest at the end of our practice, also called Corpse Pose for you non-yogis, was always accompanied by a wonderful massage for each of us by our instructor and set to a beautiful song called "Lullaby" by the Dixie Chicks. Yes, the Dixie Chicks. Yes, I love them. Shut up.

At the time I just loved how soothing the song was, I could tell that it was a love song, I got that it could easily be a song sung by a mother to her child, but remember, I didn't have a child yet. So I didn't quite get it. Then, after I had Bella, I continued to listen to the song and it did start to have greater meaning, a deeper significance, I was often moved to tears as I sang it to my baby girl before her morning nap.

And then my year at home with my daughter began to draw to an end.

Yesterday I took her to daycare for the first time. I spent two hours there with her in the afternoon and we both had a really good time. The caregivers are wonderful and the babies are spectacular. Bella loved them all and I could tell that she is really and truly going to enjoy being there with them during the week. But the fact that she is going to be fine, something I have been telling everybody who asks and myself for weeks now, does not mean that I am going to be fine with it. I am going to miss her. I am going to miss her so much that my heart is literally sore at the thought of it. It is time for me to let her go and I am not ready.

And so when I put our favourite "Lullaby" on this afternoon so that we could cuddle and sing together before her afternoon nap, I was smashed into pieces by the song. I suddenly understood it in a way that I never had before. Because they have nailed it. They have nailed it because they are mothers too and this heartbreaking experience of leaving my little girl after our magical year together is not unique to me. I have yet to meet a working mom who doesn't understand how this feels.

Because just like these three country singing mamas, my life began when I saw her face. And tomorrow there will be so much to do, so tonight I'll drift in a dream with you.

If you don't already know the song, here are the lyrics, but they are so much better when you hear them for yourself, so if you can bury the country music prejudice for a few moments, give it a listen:


They didn't have you where I come from
Never knew the best was yet to come
Life began when I saw your face
And I hear your laugh like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never never giving you up

I slip in bed when you're asleep
To hold you close and feel your breath on me
Tomorrow there'll be so much to do
So tonight I'll drift in a dream with you

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up

As your wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you're miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 11 Months Old

Dear Anabella,

Last week you turned 11 months old. The day came and went quietly, nestled in between and over-powered by the bigger, splashier holidays that the month of December is famous for. In true Bella fashion, you sailed through the holidays with grace and contemplative good-spirit, for the most part, and it would have been easy to forget this significant 'monthday' if it weren't for my own obsession with documenting each one. This one is so significant because without any fanfare or dramatics, despite the festive season, you reached your 11th month and silently slipped into the last full month of your first full year. Just like that. Just like that your infancy is drawing to a close as you crawl carefully and curiously toward toddlerhood.

The month of December was full of excitement and amazing firsts, both thrilling and terrifying. Christmas is the obvious one. Your very first Christmas. It was so fun, wasn't it? As I told the many people who asked if I was excited for your first Christmas, "Yes - it feels like my first Christmas too." It totally did. We were lucky enough to celebrate not once, not twice, but three times and see almost your whole family. Everyone looked at the holiday through brand-new eyes this year - your big, round, hazel eyes.

You soaked in the sights, sounds and controlled chaos in your own, special, stand-offish fashion. Quietly taking it all in and waiting until you felt comfortable and secure before letting your guard down and opening yourself up. Although it took a few tries, once you grasped the concept of presents you decided that anything in shiny paper belonged to you and needed to be opened immediately. But like your mom, you took it slow, enjoying the unwrapping bit by bit instead of tearing into the gift and tossing it aside for another without even appreciating what was inside. A valuable and honourable trait that you possess even before the end of your first year and only one of the millions of things that makes you such an incredible person.

This month we also survived your first illness. The sudden onset of a high fever that made you miserable of course, and sent me into a fairly huge panic. I'd been dreading the first illness since the day your were born and as horrible as it was for all of us, it's almost a relief to have it under our belts. At least we know that we can survive it. That we can pull together and get you (and me) through it without too much overreaction and mayham. I still don't know what caused the illness because besides the fever, which reached as high as 39 degrees at one point, you had no other signs of being sick whatsoever, but I do thank my lucky stars for your father - who played it cool and kept us both as calm as possible -- and for Tylenol.

Finally, this month was all about communication. You are learning so fast now and it really sunk in this month that you can 'talk' to us using your own little language and a lot of hand signals. I sometimes back to your first smiles and how I thought that it simply couldn't get any better than that. A smile, a physical cue to show me with a little twitch of your face that you were in there, thinking, and that you felt joy. Imagine then how I feel today when you look right at me with your sparkling, glinting eyes, wave your chubby hand in my direction and say clearly and joyfully, "Hi!" Your first 'real' word. Excuse me while my heart explodes into a million shards of pure bliss.

You can also tap your fingers together at meal time, your sign-language way to ask for "more." You will say, "Rahrahrahrah," when you see the dog, your version of barking, and if I start singing Amy Winehouse's 'Rehab' you shake your little head, "No no no." By far your favourite communication trick, and mine, is to point at someone you love until they point back at you -- our family's special way to say "I love you!"

Well Little Girl, know this, I'm pointing at you every second of every day, whether you can see it or not.

I love you,


Thursday, January 01, 2009

All Is Quiet on New Year's Day

Though not nearly as quiet as it would have been, say, last year. Or any year other than this one. Because on previous new year's days I'd be sleeping right now. Snuggled under a warm blanket, nursing a hangover and looking forward to a lazy day of junk food and movies.

This year I was roused at 8 a.m. after a brief four hours of sleep by the peepish coos and chit chat of my baby chicken in the next room. And that sound! Instead of burying my head under the pillows and throwing my slippers at the door, I got up out of bed and eagerly went to her. The fresh-faced smile and tight clingy grasp of our morning hug was the better than an Alka Seltzer and an Advil.

And now -- although she had a full twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep and restful day yesterday that did not begin with Caesars for breakfast and end at 4 a.m. with pot-infused truffles -- my little one seems more hung over than I am. Her uncharacteristic crankiness might be preventing me from writing the witty 2008 wrap-up that I'd hope to get down, but it is in its own way a gift, allowing me instead to put her down early for her morning nap and crawl back into bed myself.

And that in itself is symbolic of the kind of year it's been. A huge, all-encompassing, life-altering, doozy of a year where every challenge, every long and sleepless night, every meltdown, every labour pain, every tear, every tooth, every poop-smeared minute was, in fact, a beautiful gift just as long as I looked at it the right way.

Happy New Year to each and all. May you find as much love in life's grumpiest moments as I have learned to find during this last, most incredible, year.