Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I'll Be Your Baby And I'll Take Care Of You

His shirt says heartbreaker and he is. He has big blue eyes and a plucky grin and just a hint of a dimple in each of his big round cheeks. He is growing so quickly.

Before Grady was born, I couldn't imagine wanting to stay home with a baby. My job was a huge part of my identity and I couldn't imagine giving it up. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do just that. How can I afford to give up my (stressful albeit) high-paying job? We live in a city where you can't buy a house for less than half a million dollars. We have a mortgage and bills and life is expensive.

I'm lucky. I know I am. I'm not going to complain about my job situation. I'm lucky to have my job. I'm lucky to live in Canada where 52 weeks of maternity / parental leave is the norm. I'm lucky that Canada allows either the mother or the mother's partner to take parental leave. I'm lucky to have a spouse who is as invested in raising our child as I am.

But it's hard. Two days a week I drag my tired ass out of bed (Sir is teething. There is no sleep.) and I try to nurse my sleeping baby without waking him. I kiss the top of his head and I leave him snuggled up and cozy in bed. I spend 20 minutes pumping breastmilk in the office bathroom, three times a day (breastmilk that my child refuses to drink out of a bottle or cup. Breastmilk that would be going to waste if I wasn't lucky enough to live in a city with a breastmilk bank.) Shawn drives Grady to my office (30 minutes each way) at lunch so I can give him a nice long feed. I endure snarky comments about spoiling my baby, judgments from non-parents and parents alike, and offensive remarks like the one about my son growing up with a breast fetish because I don't force him to drink from a bottle.

The other three days a week are difficult in their own way but are made much more easy because of my close proximity to sir. I sit on the floor of the nursery with my laptop on the floor beside the activity centre. I try to schedule my phone calls around Grady's nap so I don't have a giggly baby in one ear and a phone stuck to the other ear.

This two days in the office and three days at home work schedule is working. It's hard at times but Shawn and I are committed to making it work. We've almost worked out the kinks, just in time for everything to change again. We have four more weeks of this - tops - before I have to make a serious decision about being back in the office full-time or officially cutting back to part-time work (and a part-time salary.)

Shawn is currently on parental leave. Now, please believe me when I say I'm not complaining about Canada's maternity / parental leave system. I know that we're lucky. But our system doesn't allow for him to work part-time while on leave. Or rather, it does allow for him to work but whatever he earns is deducted from his benefits dollar for dollar. The way the system is set up discourages people from working part-time while on leave. I'm making a basic statement on what is a complicated situation but that's essentially what it boils down to. If I reduce my hours (and pay) to part-time, Shawn cannot work part-time while receiving benefits. Our benefits expire at the end of June. It doesn't make sense to forfeit those benefits (another quirk of our system is that all maternity / parental benefits must be claimed before the child's first birthday.)

So we're trying to come up with a plan.

On paper it seems logical for me to go back to work full-time. I have a higher salary than Shawn and my job is much more secure than his. But logic isn't dictating this decision. Logic flies out the window when I think of spending ten hours a day, five days a week away from this face:

We're trying. We're fumbling our way through, trying to decide what's best for our little family. We just want to be happy but somewhere along the way things have become very complicated.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

It’s The Weight Of Love So Gentle In Your Arms

I gained 43 pounds during my pregnancy. I did not need to gain 43 pounds during my pregnancy. I did not start off grossly underweight. I was not carrying multiples. I just gained weight. A lot of weight.

In hindsight, my postpartum depression was not entirely postpartum. Things started to go downhill somewhere around my 34th week of pregnancy but at the time I attributed it to being huge and tired and achy and having a stressful work situation and moving to a new city (and, and, and.) I am not someone who loses weight when feeling blue. I am an emotional eater. I eat my feelings in the form of baked goods and sour candy.

I gained eight pounds in my last week of pregnancy. Yes, Grady was five days late. Yes, it was late July and I was retaining a lot of water. But still. Eight pounds in one week. At the time I didn't care because as I was standing on the scale hearing the nurse tell me my total weight gain for the week, I was actually in labour and had more important things on my mind. But thinking back on it now, I feel a bit icky. Eight pounds is a good-sized baby. Eight pounds is more than what my niece weighed at birth. I put that on my body in one week.

I spent my teen years and a good portion of my twenties hating my body. It's only been recently, as I've entered my late twenties, that I've been able to appreciate my body for what it is. That's not to say that my body issues magically disappeared. It will always bother me that my lower half is wider than my upper half. I will probably always appreciate my height while hating my long torso. But I managed to overlook the flaws and focus on the good. Until I got pregnant. No, until I gave birth. Pregnancy gave me curves and made me feel voluptuous and supple. My postpartum body made me weep.

A week after Grady was born, I was changing my clothes and Shawn said to me, "babe! You look three months pregnant!" in a congratulatory tone. As the tears started to flow, he quickly tried to fix the damage by saying, "no, it's a good thing! A few days ago you looked six months pregnant!" (And then I killed him. I am writing this from jail.) The thing was, I did look three months pregnant. And that was okay! I had just given birth! But I didn't feel okay. I felt huge and jiggly and more insecure about my body than I had ever felt before. I didn't know what to expect from my postpartum body. I still don't know what to expect from my postpartum body.

I hit my pre-pregnancy weight about six months after Grady was born. I had been hovering about five pounds above it for a few months thanks to no effort on my part (I'm not trying to be all pro-breastfeeding here but seriously, it melted away the pounds) so when I decided to cut back on sweets, it was a fairly quick and easy slide back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Which was great. Awesome! Cause for celebration! But also a little depressing. Because even though the scale told me one thing, the reality of my body is an entirely different story. I am jiggly in places where I never jiggled before. My abs are pretty  much non-existent. My once perky butt is now flat and saggy. I'm a mess is what I'm saying.

I've been participating in Jennie's Biggest Blogging Loser since January. I have been eating salads and cooking more and trying to avoid sugar and processed foods. I have gone to yoga once a week - every week - since October. I feel like I'm making the right choices. But it's not enough. I want to be proud of my body. I want to feel physically strong. I want to feel healthy. But ... I also want to wear a bikini this summer. And I kind of hate myself for that. I hate that vanity is playing any part in my attempt at a new, healthy lifestyle.

This is my long-winded and twisty way of asking how you approach your weight / health. Are you motivated by your appearance or something deeper? Have you ever struggled with a significant change to your body? How do I work to improve myself without feeling like my current state isn't enough?