Sharing Some Shame

To counterbalance my last post, in which everything was going so well, I thought I would share with you an example of my poor parenting, this time of the other child.

Poor Owen. Like me, he is a bit physically uncoordinated. On Sunday, in Ottawa, he was so anxious to run but we were on sidewalks and crossing streets, so we had him wait until we got to an open space. In front of the National Gallery, he was free. One, two, three, four, five running steps and trip and hands and head and knees scrape rip… down he went. As he said later, reflectively, shaking his head, “My pants were not broken when I crossed the street.” True enough, they were not.

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He loves gymnastics class, but has more trouble than most with anything that involves moving against gravity (which is kind of what gymnastics is). When I watch him try to do a cartwheel (gamely: he is really trying), I remember my own attempts with a childhood friend. She could do cartwheels like a champion; I could not. She could leap. I fell in a ditch up to my waist in mud. Anyway, like mother, like son.

So Friday, we had decided, was the day that the training wheels would come off the bicycle. And this is an example of bad (read: competitive) parenting. Because I feel like a 5-year-old should be able to ride a bike without training wheels. Why? I feel this in part because Owen is bigger than most 5-year-olds and since he looks like he’s 8, maybe parents are judging me for not encouraging him to be active enough and … do you see at all what is going on? Why on earth do I care what other people, most of them strangers, think of my child’s cycling skills?

With Seamus in the stroller and Owen on his bike (training wheels on), we made our way down our steep, steep hill into the village. At the parking lot of the community centre, I undid the training wheels and started helping Owen the way I remember my dad doing with me, or the way you see in movies. I thought in a worst case scenario he would gain some confidence, in a best case scenario I would be able to let go and he would sail around by himself.

I had not anticipated that he would let go of the bicycle and cling to me in terror, leaning so steeply that it was all I could do to keep him and the bike from keeling over. I had not anticipated that he would start crying and run away from me (and the bike). I had not anticipated that once I had convinced him (with threats, I think) to get back on the bike, that he would brake so we couldn’t go anywhere at all. I had not anticipated my anger and, I confess, my embarrassment (we were in a parking lot… other people saw my inept parenting). I was rough with him – way, way too rough. And he was apologizing the whole time. “I’m sorry, Mummy, but I don’t trust myself.”

Eventually, once he started braking (good strategy, kid), I got the hint and put those training wheels back on, where they will stay for a while. Here’s the thing. I love riding a bike. I kept telling Owen that once he gets it, he will love it too. I told him that he will get it eventually. But then I pushed him way too far. I am writing this down in part to remind myself of what I already know: that kids will progress at their own pace. If I think back, Owen was a little slow at all of his movements (rolling over at 8 months, walking at 14 months), but he got there every time. It is possible that he will never do a cartwheel. I know I never will. But I am convinced that he will eventually ride a bike. Now I just need to back right off and let him get there on his own.

Take Two (Double Take)

I can hardly believe how smoothly things are going this time around. I am writing this on a “difficult” day. It’s past noon and Seamus has slept just 30 minutes since he woke up at 7:30 this morning. He’s cried – comparatively – a lot. Like 5 minutes? I won’t even get into how long he slept last night (really long). I am not trying to torture anyone. I haven’t done anything differently (except, possibly, relax), but he’s just an easier baby.

Owen, as I recall, was ravenous ALL THE TIME. I felt like a mammal in the most primal sense. I was the food supply. I oozed milk. I WAS milk. Seamus seems to see me as both nourishment and nurture. He’ll cuddle without eating. And I like cuddling him. As a result, I am not in as big a hurry to put him down.

Now, as I write I am listening to the sounds of some fretting on the baby monitor. I may have to leave this post any minute now, but I am more willing to endure fretting, so long as it doesn’t devolve into crying.

Please know, if you have had or are having a difficult time, that I am not gloating. I was prepared for sleeplessness, spit up, pee fountains, etc., and there have been some of these! I like to think that would be immensely grateful regardless for this second try at mothering a newborn. Right now though, I am just grateful for this particular delicious newborn who is adapting so beautifully to the outside world.

Here are the things that have helped me this time around:

1. Incredibly quick recovery after incredibly quick birth. I am just lucky. There was no way to predict or prepare for that.

2. Wonderful team of nurses at the CLSC who noticed that Seamus wasn’t gaining weight and intervened early but not precipitously.

3. Wonderful lactation doctor who understood my limits with pumping and intervention and realized that if we couldn’t solve the problem quickly, the baby was going to get switched to formula.

4. My ability to make clear my limits with both the nurses and the lactation doctor (i.e. No tubes!… I need to leave the house! …  If this takes more than 6 weeks, I’m done!… etc.)

5. Duncan’s more constant presence in the house – this is huge – his working from home has been a life saver. I have showered EVERY DAY.

6. My ability to endure fretting and to let Seamus calm himself down without jumping to see what’s the matter – on the other hand, I think Owen went straight from silence to screaming.

7. Wearing the baby. I have a sling that I bought with Owen, but he was so heavy and the weather was so hot that I hardly used it. I wear Seamus around a lot (though by no means all the time!!) and it’s great. But it also helps that he doesn’t scream when I put him down.

8. The Internet. Streaming video was in its infancy when Owen was in his, and I hadn’t heard of a podcast. Now there’s entertainment within easy reach all the time (do you think John Oliver knows that some of the people watching him on YouTube at 2am are mothers pumping milk for their underfed babies?). Also, I bought an ipad, which has to be a breastfeeding mother’s best friend. I can check facebook at 3am! Though it does disappoint me when I check again at 6 and nothing has changed. What have you people been doing for 3 hours?

9. The Internet. I am having my doubts again, but when I discovered Priscilla Dunstan’s baby language last week I was an instant convert. She argues that there are 5 “words” that babies make before they start to really cry (for hungry, tired, need to burp, lower bowel pain, and skin sensitivity – hot/cold/wet). I haven’t heard Seamus make the hunger or “skin sensitivity” sounds, but the other 3 are bang on, and it really helped me, when I was at my wits’ end, to know that his screaming had to do with a sore belly and not my bad parenting.

10. Last but not least: Owen. This (first) child of mine has been so helpful since the day Seamus was born. He goes and gets me my nursing pillow, he fetches me water, facecloths, burp cloths, diapers… He talks to me so I don’t get bored… Honestly, his presence has made having a baby so much better.



Anyway, this is what has gone well, so far. Maybe some other day I will write about all the minor horrors of double frenectomies and low weight gain babies, but for now, that’s over, so I am revelling in the good (by the way, that fretting baby fell asleep!)




Seamus Wilder Cowie

Hello again. I feel like I need to make some kind of explanation for my very long internet absence. It’s complicated. For one, Owen was not causing me as much existential angst as before, so there’s less to unload about. Also, I got busy, though that’s hardly an excuse, since I could have stopped looking at Facebook so much. Also, I was so anxious that something about my pregnancy wouldn’t work out, that I waited a long time to say anything, and it felt dishonest to write when the thing that was foremost on my mind was inadmissible. Anyway, here I am, with no promises. I did want to share with you our latest addition: meet Seamus!


Seamus arrived on Valentine’s day. He was in a hurry to have that birthday, apparently. He was “due” on the 12th, and we were kind of hoping he wouldn’t be born on Friday the 13th. It did seem, however, that the Valentine’s baby would not materialize. Owen and I attended a winter festival, on a cool -14C day. We danced. I pulled Owen (who weighs a lot!) around on an inner tube on the ice. All attempts to be careful with myself had gone out the window come 38 weeks. We had hot chocolate. We came home.

For supper, we (with Duncan) had a lovely Chinese fondue. We all kissed when we lost food in the pot. We had prepared fruit for the chocolate fondue Valentine’s dessert. During supper, I was feeling twinges of indigestion. Duncan was looking at me funny, because I guess I had a look on my face that was not quite compatible with “eating fondue on Valentine’s day.” I assured him it was NOT labour. “It’s not painful enough,” I said.

After supper, the twinges became more pressing, but still not painful. “I don’t think it’s labour,” I said. But I had Duncan google “how painful is labour?” He came back with the Internet’s reply: VERY. So again, I said, “I guess it isn’t.” But then it kept recurring, and I knew I needed to get my parents to our house from an hour away, so I called the hospital to ask them if it could be labour. I thought they might know better than the Internet. They, too, were doubtful. Time your contractions for an hour, they said, and call us back. Put your parents “on call,” just in case. I did. They were attending a concert given by Stan Rogers’ son. My dad kept his phone on vibrate for me.

Needless to say, it was. Long story short (short labour), we arrived at the hospital around 10:00 pm, by which point it was clear that there was no time to wait. We left the car at the entrance of the hospital (with our bags, my wallet, etc. still inside). At 10:09 I was holding a baby. I was still wearing my scarf and one sock. The doctor showed up in her coat at 10:20. Hats (scarves?) off to the nurses at the Lakeshore, who bossed me around and got that baby out safely!

Since then, Seamus has blended into our family like he’d always been there. It’s kind of awesome. He’s the easiest baby I have ever encountered. He’s 2 months old and is already smiling when he wakes up. So, anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to.