My eyes tear up as I spend my last official day on maternity leave. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have 13 months off to care for Isabel. A year ago at this time, I was struggling to breastfeed Isabel and just struggling to take care of her on my own.
Now I have a mellow and cheerful baby who gets a big grin on her face as she takes her first steps on her own. She loves to walk! Isabel’s taken to daycare like a duck to water. It helps of course that she’s surrounded by loving and affectionate teachers.
I’m not looking forward to being on a schedule and being a harried working mother, but I am looking forward to using my brain again. Unfortunately I will be working weekends, but it means the end of shift work for me.
The following are some of Isabel’s daily reports from daycare:
Isabel loved to open and close the door to the washer in the drama center. A staff observed Isabel was able to take 14 steps without support. Great job!
Lunch: Tofu bolongese, pasta, peas, cantalope and water
Isabel was very excited to watch her teacher read a book about animals. She even tried to imitate the sound of tiger after hearing her teacher (so cute!) She got so excited she bounced up and down in the chair at the table.
Lunch: Fish provencal, red rice, corn niblets, kiwi and water.
Ziploc bags and hole-ridden boxer shorts are some of things we can’t bear to part with in our household. Yet, for the last month we have prepared ourselves to leave our biggest possession: our house. Decluttering, house staging and coming to terms with a decrease in house prices are some of the issues we’ve had to deal with lately. Leaving our house will be bittersweet. Getting a good price for our house isn’t enough; we have to be reassured that our house will be sold to a caring owner. Is this the future sign of hovering parents?
We scurried out of the house Thanksgiving Monday just as a real estate agent came to the house with prospective buyers. Fong Yee looked up at them curious as to why strangers were entering our home. At least, that’s my interpretation of her feelings. Jake thinks she was displeased to see them going into our house. We can’t help but project our feelings onto our baby.
The theme of never say never seems to continue in my life as we just bought a house in an area (Gerrard and Carlaw Streets) that I have always said I’m uninterested in. While my feelings haven’t changed, the price on the house and the huge 45 feet by 90 feet seemed too good to pass up. Despite the spaciousness of the house compared to our current two-bedroom house, I’m still conflicted about leaving the Pocket and the life we’ve created for ourselves here. 2008 has been the year of change though with the birth of Isabel and our favourite restaurant, Sakawaya, closing.
My conflicted feelings continue as I try to decide whether or not to buy some books on Chinese food. I’m always looking for Chinese cookbooks with recipes I might be able to duplicate. I realized this week I never feel Chinese enough. My mother is my baronmeter for excellent Chinese cooking. I’ll never be like my mother partly because of a lack of knowledge and partly because my life isn’t just about cooking.
I have few if any Chinese friends and incorporating the Chinese culture into my daily life is a constant challenge. I don’t know how I’ll incorporate being Chinese into Isabel’s life. I’ve already bought a children’s illustrated book, The Pet Dragon, by Christopher Niemann as a way of introducing Isabel to Chinese characters. Educating Isabel about her heritage will probably be a lifelong project for me.
Illness and death are on my mind this week as Fong Yee recovers from an ear infection and I contemplate writing my will. I question many of my mothering decisions I make such as giving Fong Yee an antibiotic for her ear infection. I worry about giving a seven-month-old baby an antibiotic.
Research on the Internet shows that garlic in olive oil supposedly works. The Big Carrot also sells drops composed of St.John’s Wort and olive oil. How will I know though if she’s suffering from ear infection when she can’t speak? I can take her to the doctor again, but the doctor is a conservative one who immediately prescribes an antibiotic. I’m sure if this is the start of many worries to come as Fong Yee grows up. I’ll probably never questioning my judgement.
At the same time as I worry about her health, I can’t help but think about what arrangements to make for Fong Yee if Jake and I both die. The thought sickens me, but it’s better to be prepared than not. My oh-so-large estate meant I could just go to Staples and buy a will kit. After puzzling over the forms I finally realized this week that I need instructions on how to fill out those forms. So I went back to Staples and bought a book. Every thing of substance in my life seems to require a manual these days judging from my bulging folder of manuals.
First of all, an update on the Bugaboo Bee. Three weeks after complaining about the faulty rear brake, Bugaboo said the problem was “a misalignment in the inner tension of the chassis preventing the break (sic) from engaging.” The customer service representative said I seem to be cursed with bad luck as they have sold many Bees. Life has taught me though that I’m never alone in my experience. There must be a reason I never see anyone in my baby boom area use a Bee. So now, we’re on our fourth Bee and I got Bugaboo to throw in a car seat adapter for all my troubles.
Strollers aside, being a mother doesn’t mean that I’ve been able to get my mother to stop perceiving me as a child. A month ago, I didn’t say anything when my co-worker said all mothers are crazy. I immediately thought of my own demanding mother. It wasn’t until the following day that I realized I now fall into the mother category. There’s no way I can be crazy!
But crazy, bossy mothers seem to be a familiar refrain in my life. Among my mother’s infuriating traits is her nosiness. But the sight of this seventy-something woman walking with a cane pulling a suitcase filled with food softens my hard heart. My mother has become intolerable since Isabel’s birth. She never stops giving advice or being critical of what I do. Yet she insists on coming each week with Chinese soup ingredients in hand.
Mom loads us up with more food than we can eat. Unfortunately she can’t provide something I need more than food: company. Silence tends to accompany her visit. How can one be in the company of someone else and yet be so lonely?
Mother-daughter relationships are often complicated ones. We can never escape our mother’s expectations, hopes and dreams. They never seem to stop judging us. So I now ask myself how I will be different as a mother. Or will I be different?
My husband laughed when he saw the Bugaboo Bee box on our porch. It’s our third Bugaboo (supposedly the Cadillac of strollers) in two months. I have their customer service memorized by now as I keep having to call with the same complaint: the rear brakes don’t work. Only one of the wheels lock ninety-five percent of the time. Bugaboo’s customer service representative said she thought the problem was that plastic expands in the heat. But plastic doesn’t expand in the heat although metal does.
Once I assumed the brake was working and left Fong Yee sleeping in the stroller while I took packages into the house. I suddenly heard a loud “wah!” and turned to see that the stroller had fallen over into the road. Luckily, she was unhurt though.
I’m also hoping third time’s the charm with baby carriers and slings. Almost three hundred dollars later, I’m on my third baby carrier, the Beco Baby carrier. I’ve had problems adjusting it as the weight seems to fall across my back, not my hips. At $158, I can only hope this carrier will work. Of course, it doesn’t help that Fong Yee is gaining weight daily (she’s weighs at least 16 pounds).
I knew I had reached a new low as a first-time mom when I put a custard-filled brioche and a poo-filled diaper in my purse/diaper bag (both items were in separate bags of course). I hesitated momentarily when I ate the brioche later that Tuesday afternoon. But the pastry and a cup of a Earl Grey tea hit the spot when Fong Yee gave me a break during one of her naps.
I was an efficient, well-organized journalist until January 31. But these days I’m just a sleep-deprived, breast-feeding and diaper-changing machine. Fong Yee has no patience if I don’t respond immediately to her cries. I consider myself lucky to have my hair combed before I leave the house.
I used to follow business and international news quite closely for my job as an online editor. But the CBC radio is my main source of information these days. Its voice is my constant companion during my long and often lonely days spent mainly at home with Fong Yee.
One thing is certain though with Fong Yee: each day is different. I miss having time to myself, but it’s rewarding to see her smile and gabble.
I also miss adult conversation! I’m part of a moms’ group on my street, but after five months I have yet to have anyone in the group ask me anything about myself. I love talking about my baby, but it seems people only identify me with Fong Yee these days. I no longer exist.