The Dinner Table

I am the dinner table. I am breakfast, lunch and supper. I am a mid-morning, afternoon and midnight snack. You can call me blue plate special or fine dining. We have just finished four days of cluster feeding. The four week growth spurt took us by surprise. Apparently, it is not a given that you will remember everything from the first time ‘round. There we were, my husband and I, in our living room, on the couch last Wednesday with a fussy baby that viewed my breasts as an all-evening buffet. He was on and off the boob and crankier than the crane on the Island of Sodor. Loch googled ‘fussiness’ – how did the generation ahead of us survive parenthood without the internet? – only to learn that Hamish was simply growing. He ate and he ate and he ate and he was still hungry.

The dinner table is mobile. At 7am, I feed Hamish while reclining like a queen in my bed amidst stacks of pillows. Mid-morning, he has a snack in the ML section of the MacPherson Library. I’ve come to visit my co-workers to show off my newest addition. It is so quiet here in the stacks and I know that I’m a bit out of place when a young male student rounds the corner, sees me and immediately shifts his gaze away. But, even still I think to myself that the music score section of an academic library is a fine place to nourish both brain and body. At lunch, he eats snuggled in the cow patterned breasfeeding pillow while I supp on tuna melts and creamy tomato soup and watch a tapped episode of House. Crumbs from my toast falling and coming to rest on Hamish’s brown and red Please Mum outfit.

In the afternoon, he has a picnic on a wooden bench on the Westshore Walkway. Joggers pass by as he suckles his way to a brand new second chin. The air is autumn crisp and his fingers are cold, but the vanilla steamed milk pouring out of my breast is warm, sweet and fully of fatty goodness. A woman runs by and says, “Oh, I miss that – have fun for me.” I think for just a moment that I’d rather be jogging. At dinnertime, he feasts in the rocking chair. The slow back and forth motion matching the bobbing of his head as he drains me one more time. Before bath time, Corbin is the engineer and I am the conductor and Hamish is the passenger. He eats while I sit in a child sized blue plastic Ikea chair. I can do both at the same time, I tell myself.

After the bath and before I go to bed, he has one more snack. This time he is once again curled into the breasfeeding pillow while I eat my dessert. Chocolate sauce drizzles onto the favourite elephant jammies – the brownies made by my god sent chef of a husband. It’s 2am, Loch has fed him his midnight bottle to give me a break, and now it is my turn again. I sit on the couch with my feet extended but one knee up to help support my arm, which supports Hamish’s head. He latches on sleepily and consumes more milk. I am sleepy too. I gaze down at him affectionately. My neck is sore from the proud mama pull – that muscle ache that comes with gazing down at your infant adoringly while he eats. My own head is bobbing as I fight the urge to fall asleep while holding my son. At 5am, we resume that same position on the couch. This time the cat comes out believing that it is morning and believing that I will want to cuddle with him. I tuck my feet into the spaces between couch cushions to avoid them being smooched and drooled on by the feline cuddle monster. My son eats and he eats and he eats and he is still hungry.

When I’m not the dinner table, I’m employing a borrowed electric pump to extract four ounces of liquid gold. This will be used in the night when Loch is still up and I am resting – making more milk. My older son, Corbin, comes into the kitchen. He looks at me and then at the pump. “What’s that?” inquiring 2.5 year old minds want to know. I remind him of the episode of Teletubbies that he watched the previous week – the one where they marched the cows into the barn and hooked them up to a machine that sucked the milk out of them. “It’s the same thing,” I tell him. This satisfies his curiosity and he is off again to finish his puzzle. I am left on my own in the kitchen to watch the electric device suck my poor purple nipple into a chamber. The sound of the pump is rhythmic and soothing. The effects of its efforts are amazing. I watch as streams of milk come out of me, warm and fogging up the chamber of the pump. I can see the evidence of my body’s hard work as the bottle fills up. I am amazed that this liquid contains all that is necessary to not just sustain him but make him grow – he lives off of me and only me. He is thriving and lengthening and starting to fit into the clothes that he was swimming in just a month ago.

*written for the Momoir Project writing class on November 17, 2008

The Things We Carry

Corbin is 2.5 years and my newborn is 2.5 weeks. I’ve been feeling fabulous since Hamish’s birth until now. I wake up with the most excruciating tooth pain reminiscent of an infection I had 7 years ago pre root canal. Despite the nagging ache in my mouth, I am joyfully making bat, witch, pumpkin and cat shaped pancakes for breakfast. After all, it’s Halloween and being a Mom supersedes everything. I pour the wholegrain pancake mix into a measuring cup and Corbin dumps it into the mixing bowl while making cement truck type noises. I crack an egg in time with the rhythm of the throb in my tooth. Corbin starts to combine the egg and the mix as I pop a couple of pain killers and reach for the protein powder. I add some milk and help Corbin to mix the batter completely. The pan is warming on the stove as I spray the metal cookie cutters with cooking oil. Together we pour the batter into the shapes and Corbin sprinkles them with colourful sprinkles – a concession I make to create a fun cooking and eating experience at the expense of added sugar. When the pancakes are finished we ease them out of their molds and Corbin chooses to eat the pumpkin. I gingerly eat a bat, chewing ever so carefully to avoid aggravating that one tooth.

This morning, Corbin and his friend Lily are going to have their photos taken in Costum. We are having our friend, Erin, take professional photos just for the fun of it. Lily is a princess and Corbin is a prince. My girlfriend Kim and I hide on the stairwell just out of site with our babies. The toddlers listen to Erin much better when we are absent. I rub my sore left cheek and relay my toothache woes to Kim in the same story line that I tell her about the Halloween pancakes. The photo shoot is done and now Corbin needs to be taxied to his daycare Halloween party. After dropping him off, I decide to pick up a coffee. Afterall, I am still operating under sleep deprivation mode.

When I get home, I call the dentist. I tell her receptionist that I need to see someone between the hours of now and 2pm since I have to pick up my son. What I don’t say is that my son has an afternoon tea party scheduled at our house with Lily and so I need to pick him up from daycare early. She gets me in for 12noon. They x-ray and deliver the bad news that I have a good-sized abscess in one of the top left molars – a tooth that has already had a root canal. The pain has been steadily increasing all morning and I’m thankful that they have at least found the problem. They tell me that they are going to prescribe me antibiotics and grind down the tooth a bit as the infection has shifted it. I wonder how long this will all take as I don’t want to be late picking up Corbin. Then, they tell me that I will either need a dental surgeon to extract the tooth or perform some kind of next stage root canal to attempt to save it. Save it? You already tried to do that once. Take it out, I hear myself tell them as I wonder what time it is. Can I go now? I’m grateful that I have to get the prescription filled as it means I can stop at the store to get some fruit for the Halloween tea party. When I drop off the prescription, I badger the pharmacist with questions about how the amoxicillin will affect my nearly 3week old infant. I then pick out my tea party food, go home to set up the party, pick up Corbin, have the tea party with Lily & then Kim and I head over to her place for dinner & an evening of trick or treating. By 7:30 the whole left side of my head feels like it is throbbing. I recall Corbin’s newly attained Halloween book about the monster who wanted to dance. Frank did a cartwheel, Frank did a flip … unzip. I coming unzipped, I think.

That was Friday. Friday night I get maybe two hours sleep. I’ve come to the end of painkillers. The recommended dose says that I can’t exceed 6 tabs of advil. I had taken six tabs before 8pm. I don’t dare take anymore since I am breasfeeding. I sit on the couch, look at my husband & cry. I tell him that I would rather be in labour. On Saturday I’m calling the BC Nurses Hotline to find out if I can exceed the recommended dose. What will it do to my milk? Will my infant be ok? Will I be ok? Is my infant niggly because his tummy is bothering him and is this because of the penicillin?

I am at the end of my rope and I don’t have the energy to tie a knot. Tired, worrying about what the hell is going on in my mouth. Burdened by the concern for Hamish as I pop painkillers and antibiotics. What if it doesn’t get better? The nurse told me to go to emergency if the antibiotics are not effective. How will I know? What if I have to be hospitalized? Can Hamish stay with me? Will I have to stop breastfeeding? I am riddled with questions and in the relatively pain free moments provided to me via a cocktail of Advil and Tylenol, I am building train track layouts for Corbin and reading him stories.

In these moments of sanity, I am even more aware of the difference between this infection and the one I had seven years ago – sans children. I am aware that I carry with me the blessing and burden of motherhood and that when small people rely on you, a tooth ache is never just a toothache.

*Written for my Momior writing course on November 2, 2008. Since writing this piece, I have had the nasty tooth (#26) removed. The Dentist assures me that the extraction and subsequent new tooth are not something the tooth-fairy will cover. So sad, too bad.

Milk into Baby

Dear Hamish,


“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.”
Winston Churchill

Last night we sat on the couch from 8:00pm through to 10:30pm. Although you had eaten before your bath, you ate and ate and ate and ate. And then you ate some more with the same kind of frenzy that a survivor participant would exhibit at a buffet. When you were not eating you were crying. Convinced that something was wrong, your father and I tried to read your body language. Your feet were kicking angrily and you bucked and waved your clenched fists in the air. Suddenly, I was reminded of when your brother was your age. We were so helpless – wondering what the heck was going on with him when he was unhappy. It suddenly flooded back to me. Ah, yes babies have fussy times. The evening was Corbin’s and it looks as though it is yours too. Your Dad was my trusty research assistant when your brother was a baby and last night as we calmly sat on the couch scratching our heads, the laptop came out and Dad was busy googling ‘fussiness’. And then it was that we rediscovered Kellymom.com, the trusty website that had assisted us with many of our breast-feeding questions 2.5 years ago. Seeing the familiar logo made me feel instantly at ease. Your Dad read from the list of reasons for fussiness – a refresher course that led to our “Ah Ha!” moment: Growth Spurt.

You were cluster feeding and I had been commenting to both Auntie Naomi and Auntie Kim on how hungry and thirsty I had been feeling all day. Your Dad and I felt armed with information that would take us through the night. We felt justified that as parents of a newborn for the second time that we had the situation well in hand. I resigned myself to sitting on the couch with you for as long as it took to fill your tiny belly again and again and again. In a nutshell, we felt like experts.

As I nursed you and admired how your feet have finally started to reach the bottom of my favourite jammies, I marveled at how much you had already grown. I was sad to think that soon your feet will soon be straining against the soft cotton fabric. These jammies, my measuring tool to assess your life and growth will soon be traded up for a size 3-6 months. It happens so fast. I remain amazed at how you are able to lengthen and fill out simply by taking in milk that comes from me. I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in being able to give this to you. And, while I am sad that the favourite jammies will one day no longer fit, I will happily pass them on to Auntie Roz who can put them on her own bean – a measuring tool for the your cousin who is right now growing in her tummy.

You are one month old today. You have been grunting and making faces at us to show that you are none too pleased with the whole digestive process and Auntie Naomi says you sometimes have a look on your face that says, “Damn It! This body is too small for me!” However, you are also starting to really notice the world. You know the sound of my voice, your Dad’s voice and your brother’s voice. When you are content, your lips purse in an “O” shape and your eyes are wide seeking new lines & shadows to study. You’ve smiled a few time out of pure gassiness, but on a couple of occasions your Dad and I are sure that you have given each of us an intentional gummy grin.

I will continue to give you milk and you will continue to grow. Your spirit will soon have more room in which to reside and I just know that we will be seeing more gummy grins in the near future.

Happy one month birthday, my sweet angel.

Love Mama.

Halloween - The Love Bug
Halloween - The Love Bug
Froggy Boy - this little Old Navy outfit was worn first by Lily, then Corbin, then Sophie and now Hamish
Froggy Boy - this little Old Navy outfit was worn first by Lily, then Corbin, then Sophie and now Hamish
Napping with my Big Brother & Tidoo
Napping with my Big Brother & Tidoo
Playing Trains
Playing Trains
Reading with Dad
Reading with Dad
One Month Old Today - Walking the Trans Canada Trail and looking at the Trestle Bridge
One Month Old Today - Walking the Trans Canada Trail and looking at the Trestle Bridge

They’re 2, they’re 4, they’re 6, they’re 8 … A Musical Theatre Fan is Born

This morning from 11:00am until 12:30pm, Corbin had his first musical theatre experience. Actually, it was his first time attending a live performance of any kind related to theatre. He hasn’t even been to a movie theatre yet. No, it wasn’t Shakespeare. But if I do say so myself the performers did a fantastic job. I don’t think they should shy away from having this particular gig bolded on their resume. Thomas & Friends Live On Stage had a plot – though a bit difficult to follow given the echoey acoustics of the Save-On Foods Memorial Arena. Moreover, it was fun filled and packed full of cheerful Thomas songs, dancing and nearly life-sized prop trains that shunted their way across the stage. Of course, true to the theme and story line of the books, Thomas saves the day.

Originally, I purchased three tickets as Loch had agreed to come along. I knew we would need two adults since Hamish would be here by the time the trains were scheduled to arrive in Victoria. However, there came a day when I realized that I would have to fess up and confess to Loch that the show was indeed a musical. As I suspected, he immediately begged out. No problem. I asked Aunti Roz to come. I knew that she would delight in seeing Corbin’s face throughout the show.

As it turns out, it’s a great thing that Loch did not come. I loved it, but the almost drug hopped happiness of the performers and the cheerful thomas musical numbers would surely have turned his brains to mush and had them leaking out his ears. Corbin, on the other hand, found the whole performance to be mesmerizing. I wasn’t sure if he would actually be attentive throughout the whole show and Roz and I had decided that if he was bored we would just check out early.

Bored? Absolutely not. While his good friend Lily went right up to the front where small people were allowed to gather and groove, Corbin insisted on staying in his seat. He watched the show with a studious intensity and responded when the show’s players asked for audience participation. His eyebrows lifted and his lips curved up into a sweet smile when the trains came on stage. He was delighted by the sights and sounds.

The part I loved the best, though, was when he got off of his seat without saying a word to either Roz or myself and he walked down the short flight of stairs to get to the front of the stage. It seems he had tuned in to the fact that the show’s final musical number had hit that highpoint that we recognize as the finale. He marched to a spot on the floor next to Lily, craned his head up and danced alongside his friend. The song ended with and explosion of streamers that arced over the heads the stage and streamed onto the dancing toddlers below. A pink one found it’s resting place on Corbin’s shoulders and he delighted in wrapping it around his neck and wearing it proudly out the door.

It was a fabulous way to spend a Saturday.

thomaslivegroup
p.s. We didn’t do a Halloween post, but here are some photos …

Princess Lily and Prince Corbin
Princess Lily and Prince Corbin
Prince Corbin, The Royal Lion Sophie, Princess Lily and The Royally Sleepy Lady Bug Hamish
Prince Corbin, The Royal Lion Sophie, Princess Lily and The Royally Sleepy Lady Bug Hamish