Covered in hives I found what I was looking for

Did you ever have one of those moments where you had to resist the urge to shout “I told you so”? You did not want to seem like a petty child, by rubbing their nose in the fact that you were right and they were wrong.  I can’t say I really wanted to shout at the doctor who diagnosed me with indigestion when I had chest pain (see “Whatever happened to bedside manner”).  To be quite honest I would be content if I never saw this individual again.  However there was a great feeling of satisfaction when two other doctors confirmed that my week-long chest pain and shortness of breath is in fact due to something other than my stomach’s inability to digest my dinner.

I wish I could say this road to being right was an easy one, but in reality it was a bumpy journey to vindication.  After five days of having chest pain and pressure, followed by palpitations and shortness of breath, I finally went to see my very wonderful family doctor.  I was really hesitant to see any more medical professionals, but it seemed rather unfitting that I would be having chest pain from indigestion for 5 days straight.  My family doctor confirmed my original idea that a diagnosis of indigestion does not correspond to my list of symptoms.  However she wanted to ensure that I did not have a blood clot, so she ordered me a computed tomography (CT) chest pulmonary test to be done that day.

I went home to pump a bottle of milk, as instructed by the doctor, since a CT is an x-ray that uses a radiocontrast agent (usually made of iodine) to help improve the visibility of the organ being examined.  The doctor’s office called to confirm my appointment for three hours’ time, and then the receptionist  informed me that I would have to give my daughter pumped milk for the next 48 hours.  I almost had a panic attack when she dropped that information in my lap.  I did not even have one bottle pumped at this time, and even if I had a stock pile in the freezer my daughter wouldn’t take it anyway (she has never had more than half an ounce of pumped mommy milk, and I just won’t do formula).  But I took my cues from Dora the Explorer and I stopped to think.  In all that I have read about breastfeeding from Jack Newman’s stuff and from La Leche League, I know that sometimes what the manufacturer recommends is not always what is best for baby and mom.  So I called the hospital to find out the dye being used for my test and I called Motherisk.  Motherisk informed me that based on the current research I was safe to breastfeed my daughter right after the test if needed (less than one percent of the dye would go into my milk, and if anything did reach my baby it was at safe levels).  I was content with this information, since 48 hours of no nursing would be equivalent to hell freezing over for my daughter!

My mother then came over to watch the kids, so my hubby could drive me to the test (she didn’t think it was a great idea that I was driving around).  I am so glad he came too, since apparently I am one of those rare people who have an allergy to Omnipaque (the dye used for the CT scan).  It was really nice to have his company when the nurse started to panic when she could see the hives starting to form all over my face, neck and chest.  It was rather comforting to have my husband with me when the nurse walked me over to get registered in the ER because that is when my throat started to close and swallowing was getting difficult.  However I did check with the CT nurse first to make sure that a certain person was not going to be my doctor, reaction or not I would have gone to another hospital!

I was amazed at how fast I got in, and at how soon after being given a bed I saw the doctor.  Then the doctor explained to me that I was having an anaphylactic reaction to the dye, and that I would need to get a shot of epinephrine, a steroid shot and some Benadryl.  This seemed so crazy; I really never thought that I could have an anaphylactic reaction, or that I would stay calm for that matter while having one.

I then spent the next four hours at the hospital getting amazing care by a wonderful, caring and attentive nurse Tina, and by the truly amazing doctor.  Dr. Desantis did a great job of listening to me and making me feel important.  She treated me not just for the allergic reaction, but also regarding the original issue: the chest pain.  She gave me an appropriate diagnosis (Costochondritis) that fit my symptoms and she went over in great detail the results of my CT, and how to deal with the pain.

So even though I spent another 6 hours at the hospital; found out I have an allergy to IVP contrast dye; and was in a Benadryl-induced haze this weekend, I was very glad that I went for a second opinion.  I am confident in doctor Desantis’ diagnosis, and I feel good about knowing we ruled out any life threatening conditions.  And even though I would never be so immature as to say “I told you so” to the first doctor I saw, it is satisfying to just to be able to know that I was right.


Whatever happened to bedside manner?

I am not a hypochondriac.  I am a healthy person, and I do not visit the doctor for every little thing. However, I am very much a “what if” kind of person.  I am also pretty in-tune with my body so I seem to notice every twinge, ache and spasm that occurs. There is also a wonderful tool called Google which I like to employ when set pain in my body occurs.  All these factors can result in me thinking I have the worst case scenario whenever I feel a weird new pain.  Watching shows like House, and Grey’s Anatomy does not help the situation.  For the sake of drama these shows need to create all types of crazy illnesses and diseases that need to be discovered by brilliant and diligent doctors.  Like last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which I just watched last night, which was about a young pregnant woman who had a heart attack (weird coincidence considering the story below).  However, this is not real life and I spent my Family Day holiday rediscovering that.

My day started at 7am when I woke up and noticed I had chest pain.  This pain started in the middle of my chest and resonated into my back, but I thought nothing of it and went downstairs to feed the kids.  However after an hour and a half of continued pain, I kind of got worried. I knew it wasn’t a heart attack, but I also knew that chest pain was probably not good.  So I called Tele-health, and they asked me their list of questions.  The kind nurse then told me she could patch me through to 911.

That was a massive shot of adrenaline!  Now I was scared!  So I passed the phone to my husband, and went to the bathroom (because I figured the paramedics wouldn’t stop to let me go, so I better go before they got here).  Lo and behold all of a sudden the pain was gone!  So great, we had just called 911 and the pain dramatically disappeared as soon as the ambulance was on its way.  Just great, don’t I look like an idiot!  To add to my  embarrassment I got to share this experience with the crew from one fire truck and the two ambulances who showed up to rescue me. 

They checked me out, offered me a ride to the hospital or said I could go myself.  We politely thanked them for their time, and my son happily waved at all three emergency response vehicles as they drove away.  I was so incredibly embarrassed that I am sure I was as red as the fire truck. However my son was very excited to add a new oxygen mask to his doctor kit.

My son waving to the ambulance.

After much hesitation to go to the hospital, Jay and I decided to go and just make sure everything was okay.  Yes, I know how silly this sounds since I am 28 and healthy, but like I said my mind always floats to the what-ifs.  There is a history of heart disease in my family, and all I could think of was “why am I having chest pain”.

However a holiday is the worst day to go to the ER.  It took an hour for me just to get through triage and be registered.  While I continued to wait to see the doctor I got an ECG.  When I finally got paged the nurse directed me into an exam space.  However the doctor had no clue where I was. Finally I could hear the doctor talking to the nurse.  She said “Do I have the wrong chart, why is there a 28-year-old here with chest pain” and then her voice got quieter because the nurse informed her I was waiting in exam area three. 

The doctor then came over and asked me what was wrong.  I told her the same thing I had told the previous three people.  I was having chest pain earlier today; the pain was gone now, but I still felt the tightness and shortness of breath. I gave her all the other details, such as the light headedness, the numbness in my fingers, as well as my medical history.  She asked me what I did, and I told her currently I was on maternity leave with my seven month old.  The doctor then asked if I was breastfeeding, and if I had taken anything for the pain. I told her yes to the breastfeeding and no to the medication.  We did not have any Advil or Ibuprofen in the house, and with it being a holiday all the stores were closed.  Plus I was no longer in pain, so I did not think it was wise to take any pain mediation since I tend to get rebound headaches for days after I take one Advil or Tylenol.

The doctor then asked me why I had wasted my day waiting at the hospital, since I probably had a “screaming breastfed baby at home”.  She then told me that I should not have come because I had taken nothing for the pain (which I no longer had) and reminded me that at my age it is silly to think I could have a heart attack or heart problems (I never claimed it was a heart attack).  The doctor then told me she was going to send me for a chest x-ray so that she could send me home to “my screaming baby”.

I was shocked.  I had trusted this woman with my concerns, and I could not believe she had said those things.  It was clear this doctor had diagnosed me before she had even spoken to me. Instead of listening, she passed judgment on me after a two-minute encounter and spoke to me with her condescending, arrogant attitude. I can’t believe she was so dismissive of my concerns; in what medical school do they teach that chest pain should be ignored as insignificant? And why do medical professionals prescribe pain relievers like they are as harmless as breath mints.  Whatever happened to treating the problem and not the symptom?  Who knows what she would have said to me if I had ignored the chest pains and they turned out to have been a serious medical issue.  Would she shame me and call me a bad mother for ignoring my heath?

It angers me that she felt she had the right to concern herself with my baby’s well-being over my own.  I was her patient, yet she felt it was more important to share that she knew what was best for my daughter.  I could not believe she was judging my parenting. The doctor didn’t bother to find out that I had called my husband every hour to make sure my daughter was okay; or that I had left my husband with a bottle of pumped milk for her; or the fact that my girl was quite content eating solid food; or that she was only a ten minute drive away if she really needed Mommy milk.  

After I came back from the x-ray I waited in the waiting room.  The doctor walked over to me, and announced in a loud voice for all the other people to hear that “you are not having a heart attack, and you do not have pneumonia or anything fun like that. You just have indigestion”.  Apparently I did not need to have any sort of privacy in my medical care.  All the people around me had every right to know what my diagnosis was, because I was so stupid as to come to the hospital with chest pain.

Now I would like to hope that maybe she was having a bad day and this was a one-time thing, however I know it is not.  I have interacted with this horrible person before, and she treated me the same way.  She has no understanding of bedside manner or a patient’s right to privacy. I have also seen on rate your MD that I am not the only person to think so.

I am still very hesitant to post this blog, because I do not wish to feel anymore humiliation or shame.  I have tried not to let it bother me, but it does.  I still have this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.  So in my attempt to deal with this and move on I have decided to share my story. I am posting this in an attempt to take back my power from this person who robbed me of my dignity, my right to privacy, and my right to feel safe to seek medical care.  I may also have to write a letter to Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital to ensure this situation does not occur to anyone else.

How about you, have you ever been bothered by someone’s callous disregard for your feelings? Did you ever feel powerless by something someone said to you? I would love to hear your story, and what you did (if anything).

Confessions of a Reformed Valentine’s Day Scrooge


I know it's not Valentine yet but I'm full of ...

Image via Wikipedia

I do not like Valentine’s Day!  There I said it and I feel better for doing so. Each year I cringe at all the commercials and the Valentine’s Day décor.  I try to boycott the entire day, however this year I have decided to become a reformed Scrooge.  Yes, this year I am going to put away with “Bah Humbug”; and say hello to plain old “Happy Valentine’s Day”.  This year I am making the decision to actually try to enjoy the idea of the holiday.

Now if you were an outsider looking in on my life you would probably scoff at me for being such a Scrooge.  I really am quite rich in the love I have in my life. My Jay is the most wonderful and romantic of husbands.  My children are healthy and amazing, and I have amazing parents and sisters. The family I have married into is also pretty great, including my in-laws that are beyond compare (and totally in a good way).  Plus this day should be pretty special to me since my hubby proposed to me on Valentine’s Day 7 years ago.

So why am I so anti-Valentine’s day?  Maybe it was from those “cool-kids” that intentionally skipped my Valentine’s box for years, making me feel somehow deficient.  Maybe it was the fact that somehow being single in high school seemed like the end of the world.  I think it really stemmed from my absolute loathing for what Valentine’s Day has become.  Instead of being about showing the people you love that you do truly love them, it has become about flowers, chocolate, jewelry, and dinners out (all which seem to cost more during February). The cost of the entire day has become more important than the meaning behind the holiday. So instead of celebrating Valentine ’s Day I have just tried to show my loved ones that I love them all year round.

So what gives you ask, why is this year different?    The simple answer is: two children.  I now have two busy children, which means I am not getting a lot of sleep, and I have an unending to-do list.  I am sad to admit that I don’t always show my husband how important he is.  I want to, but I don’t.  I am sure he feels the same.  So this year I have decided to take this day to show him I love him, by going out of my way to do so all day. Now you won’t catch me out for dinner at a fancy restaurant, I will not be spending any extra money (except the steak we bought with our grocery budget).  I will not be supporting Hallmark’s version of Valentine’s Day (and I have instructed my husband to do the same). However I will celebrate my love this year through kind gestures, loving words, a romantic dinner, great conversation and some quality time spent together.  Today I will show my husband I love him because he is pretty awesome!

The End of All-Day Kindergarten?

There has been a lot of talk around the new all-day kindergarten program in Ontario. In the last two years I have seen many different reactions regarding this program.  Many parents were very happy about the money they would save in daycare. Some of my stay-at-home friends are ambivalent about it since they’re home anyway and they can find both pros and cons to their children being at school all day. My friends from teacher’s college are excited because it means more jobs, however some of the older teachers I know are concerned about the almost whimsical nature of the new program. These veteran educators are worried about the lack of structure, and how children with little motivation will succeed.

My own feelings about full-time kindergarten are mixed.  On the one hand I am home with my kids, and this program just means that they will spend less time with me and more at school (which may or may not be a bad thing). I am concerned with the fact that with any new program there will inevitably be issues that need to be addressed as unexpected problems unfold.  Therefore I am concerned with my children becoming guinea pigs and how that will affect their education.  

I am also concerned with how this will hurt my business.  I run a small home daycare, and the numbers and the ages of the children I watch are regulated by laws.  These laws state that I can only have three children under the age of three, and five under the age of five (five in total), so full-time kindergarten takes away some of my business.  However, I am a teacher by training and I envision that I will return to teaching when all my children are in school full-time. This means that I will be able to return to the teaching profession two years sooner (which I have mixed feelings about also).   

However all these concerns and thoughts, along with the $500 million already spent on the program might just be a waste of time and money.  According to Newstalk 1010, the task of examining our provincial spending has been given to economist Don Drummond.  He is examining ways to reduce our provincial deficit, and he is expected to recommend all-day kindergarten be cut, deeming it too costly.

When I heard this all I could think was “This is insane!”  The fact that someone is just going to walk in and recommend that it be cut, despite the millions of dollars spent on it just seems like a colossal waste of time, money and effort to me.  It also really makes me question the efficiency and intelligence of the government.  Did they not know exactly how much this program was going to cost long-term?  Did they have a plan for where the money was going to come from, or did they even care?  Was it something they figured someone else would have to worry about? What kind of institution creates a $1.5 billion program only to throw it away in its infancy, after already investing millions into the project?  I could see doing this if the project was an absolute failure, but so far most parents are extremely happy with the program.

My mind then started to go off on a tangent on the absolute catastrophe this whole project has been if they just scrap it and go back to part-time kindergarten. What about the fact that so many Ontarians are counting on this program saving them 2 years’ worth of daycare costs. What about all the jobs it has created?  What about all the people who have planned on this program, not just the families with children, but the teachers, the schools, the school boards, the before and after school programs, the busing companies, and the list goes on.  Is Dalton McGuinty really going to scrap his own program; how bad is that going to make him look, especially to people who already dislike him?

Then it got me thinking.  If this is how I am reacting, someone who wasn’t even sure that I liked the program, what are the people who need the program thinking?  Maybe the Drummond report is meant to instill fear and panic in order to accomplish another goal.  Do I not do this all the time with my son; find a way of convincing him to do what I want by making him feel it is his choice.  Like when I say “would you like to put on your rain boots or would you like me to help you put them on?”  I am giving him a choice, but the end result is that I get the boots on his feet.  Maybe the government is doing this with the all-day kindergarten.

Dalton McGuiny

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Mr. McGuinty probably has no plans to scrap his own program; he is just looking for a way to raise taxes without it hurting him in the polls.  He is going to get this Drummond’s report and then when Ontarians are all up in arms about the cut he will ‘give us the choice’.  Then it won’t seem to hurt so bad when the government raises taxes, because it will feel like we had a say in the matter.  The end result will be the same; Dalton McGuinty gets more money.

Hey I could be wrong though.  Maybe they will just throw out this program, but I just can’t see that happening. I am also not sure if it is something I want to spend more money in taxes on. What would you rather: the taxes we have and the old kindergarten or all-day kindergarten and an increase in taxes?

Yes, that screaming child is my son.

They say it takes a village to raise a child; however I believe this phase is obsolete. Since most people in the Western world no longer live in small hunter-gathering villages this is no longer an option. While I love the idea of people helping each other in the challenging task of child rearing, I choose to continue to keep my autonomy as a parent. I like being able to choose to make my own parenting decisions, even if the people in my would be village do not agree. I can choose to co-sleep; breastfeed my children until they self-wean; and birth my children at home. However, I believe in this modern age women do still need each other. I think this village has become a community of mothers, who help their peers by doing things like keeping a child safe (we all know that one child that is always climbing the moment his mother looks away), lending an ear for support or holding a baby for a few minutes so we can deal with the mess or our other kid.

I believe mothers need a community in which they feel supported and give support. I also think that it is important to support the women you don’t know in their time of need, just as much as the ones you do know. I was reminded of this the other day while at the library with my son.

I LOVE MY SON. Without a doubt, with all my heart I love him. He is smart, precocious, funny, athletic, caring, loving, observant and perceptive. He is also spirited, tenacious, strong-willed and passionate; four traits which are considered strengths in adults but not in children. “Those” types of children are the one’s society deems “difficult”, and their parents we often judge more harshly. This is often an area of anxiety for me; the idea of being judged by my peers for my son’s strong temperament (which is something I can’t control).

My wonderful son at 2 and a half.

So back to the library … I registered for story time awhile back for my son. Normally he loves it; the librarian does an amazing job with the children and then my son likes to play with the train table in the children section afterwards. On this particular day he did not want to go. I saw his apprehension before we left and it took an extra 20 minutes to get out the door. However, I just brushed it off.  We had a nice walk to the library and he seemed to really enjoy the story time. However, the second the librarian was done he was out the door (with a few false starts before she was finished too).

He made a beeline to the train table and quickly staked his claim on 4 trains. I think he figured that if he got there first the trains would be his to play with, and with 8 in total he figured his 4 would be safe from sharing. However, after I picked up the baby, all our stuff, and pushed the stroller over to the train table I could see that was not the case.  They say to pick your battles and it was clear that sharing was about to be mine. There were lots of boys, and not a lot of trains left. There was one boy with two trains, he was fine. There was another boy with only one, and a gleam in his eye like one was not enough. I also spotted another boy on the perimeter that wanted to partake in the awesome train action but was afraid to ask since his mom was off doing her own thing. So despite my apprehension I told my child he needed to share, because that is my responsibility as a mother (no one likes the mother that won’t step it up and get her child to follow social etiquette).

My son was not happy about that, and after 5 minutes of negotiation he let me win. He gave one train to the boy with only one and another train to the boy who had been eyeing the table. However, with just two left it was clear my son was not about to give any more away, and I was quite fine with that. The chipmunk (my endearing name for my son) continued to play nicely with the other kids at the table.  All of a sudden he started to scream at a child who was pushing his buttons (yeah that same kid with no parent in sight).

So I decided he needed to stop, collect himself and eat a snack (since being hungry is one of his triggers). After eating his apple (while still clutching onto his two trains) he continued to play trains very nicely at one of the side tables in the area. Soon the other boys caught on to what he was doing and decided it would be fun for them to do the same. Which worked for a while, until my son got overloaded again and he started SCREAMING at that kid again.

So I knew we needed to leave because I feel it is important to be a mother who follows through on consequence. I had warned him a few times to speak nicely to the other kids, but he just could not keep his cool. I informed the chipmunk we needed to leave, which was information he did not want to hear. He proceeded to lose it. He had an absolute meltdown which made me really anxious. Now my mind was racing: do I dress the baby first and put her in the stroller?  Will she roast in her snow suit while I get the boy ready? Is he going to scream like this the entire walk home (which is not beyond his capabilities)? Am I going to be judged by all the other story-time mothers? How am I going to get this kid into the stroller, without upsetting him more?

I was so embarrassed by this scene he was causing, and how it seems to reflect poorly on my mothering. In an attempt to reassure myself and save face I shared with the other moms that he was super tired. He had been up every day at 5:30am for the last 4 days; he had not been napping; and going to bed any earlier was NOT an option. Therefore he was exhausted.

I then decided I would deal with him with my daughter on my back so I started to put on my Beco (my baby wearing apparatus). Thankfully seeing the look of “oh my gosh how the heck do I deal with this” plastered on my face, a mother immediately offered to take the baby, which was an amazing relief. I then grabbed my son, gave him a big hug and told him he needed to get ready to go (I didn’t want to wait until the meltdown was over because I can never be sure how long they will last, especially with a crowd). All of a sudden my son became a ninja; every time I put on one leg of his snow pants he immediately had that leg out before I could get the next one in. So seeing me struggle one of the other mothers came over and sat down with me on the floor. She helped me put his snow pants on while I held him (even then it took several tries before we were successful). I thanked the mothers and proceeded to try to leave (which took another 20 minutes due to a bathroom trip).

My son calmed down fairly quickly, and the meltdown was not the worst I have seen from him. It almost seemed like he was asking me to take him home. He was so seriously overwhelmed trying to play with the other boys, something that is not normally such a struggle, and he was so calm after we left I really wonder if he just needed to get out of there. On our quiet walk home I had some time to reflect, and I was really touched by the mothers at the library.

First of all I was extremely relieved that I didn’t receive any of those looks. You know those looks, the “you are a failure of a mother because you can’t CONTROL your child” looks (which are usually given by people without children). I was also really happy and relieved to have had the help from the two mothers. I think many women in that situation would have stayed out of it. I think the mentality in our society is that we don’t want to step on toes so we mind our own business. Those mothers (who I did not know very well) found a way to come in and help me without taking away my authority as the mom and without  judgement. I felt like my toes were unharmed so to speak, and I loved that they were supportive and sympathetic to both me and my son. I would not have been able to handle the situation so well had it not been for their help. Their assistance really helped make the situation more bearable. In fact I would say I left with a good feeling, instead of how I normally feel after the chipmunk has a meltdown, which is exhausted, embarrassed and mentally drained.

So I say the next time you see a mother struggling, help her! You may never know how much she appreciates it, just know that she does. And if you find the opportunity to help a fellow mother in need, please feel proud to be part of the community of mothers that has replaced our village.

A Slice of Life – Sunday Family Dinner


In the attempt to eat healthier we are trying new recipes.  This dinner was Sole with cream sauce on a bed of spinach and red peppers.  It looks kind of yucky, but it really was so yummy!

“You want me to eat what?”

"Yum, sole and carrots"

Mommy at the sink cleaning the messy baby.

All clean!

I’m Running Away

About 39 weeks pregnant with my son.

    When I was pregnant with my son I gained a lot of weight. I gained weight steadily throughout the pregnancy even though I ate healthy and I worked out as much as I could until about the seventh month when my back hurt so much I could barely even walk at times.  A few days after he was born I stepped back on the scale hoping for a big drop and I was quite disappointed to find that I had only lost 12 pounds.  I still had almost 75% of the weight I had gained during pregnancy, which was disconcerting when I considered I started the pregnancy with about 30 pounds more than I had wanted.  So I Googled to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with me (because I thought for sure something was wrong with me, look at how fast celebrities are back in their bikinis’ right?!) and that is when I found out that I should expect to lose the weight in about 9 months.  You put it on it 9 months, so it should take about that long to lose. However, when my son was six months I realized that would never happen because the scale was still showing only about 15 pounds lost.  Apparently not everyone dramatically drops weight while breastfeeding.  There are a few women who store that fat in the off chance there is a food shortage (apparently the human body has not got the memo about grocery store and fast food).

     So this is where I had some creative problem solving to do.  What could I do with my baby, without needing to drive (just in case my hubby had the car), that was not expensive, and could fit into my schedule? That is when I stumbled on a learn to run program that showed me how to ease my way back into running.  The basic idea was that I run one minute then walk one minute for 20 minutes three times a week.  Each week I would run more minutes in a row and walk less, so by the time 8 weeks rolled around I could run for 30 minutes straight.  So I packed my son into the stroller and within a few weeks I was running.

     Now people always tell me “well I just don’t like running” and my response to them is that for a few months I didn’t like it either.  In fact I kind of hated it.  It was hard and kind of painful; the way working out is apt to do when you are out of shape.  Yet I LOATHED being fat even more than a little discomfort. So I just kept running, and running and running (in-between finding every excuse not to).  Then one day I didn’t hate it anymore.  That is when I became a runner. 

     It all started one day while I was walking in the mall and I saw a flyer for the 5km run for breast cancer. Wondering if I could do it since it was only two weeks away, I decided a race might fun.  So I immediately went home to check out how long my usual route was.  After figuring out I was running 3km anyway I decided a challenge is what I needed, and I signed myself up.   My dad also decided to sign up and was excited that I was doing something he loved to do (he was running 12km every weekend just for fitness, which totally astounded me). 

     So the day of the race I pushed myself way too hard, but by the end of the run I was proud to say I took MINUTES off my best time and I gave it 100%.  On that day I decided I would run the Around the Bay Road Race, a 30km race around the Burlington/Hamilton bay and a goal of mine for years.  I had five months to train, and I thought go big or go home.  I knew I could do it, and I needed a goal to keep me on track for losing weight.  The next week I borrowed some books from the library about marathon training and I started my training.

     Suddenly my running became enjoyable.  It became a decision, and not a chore, which made me want to do it rather than feeling like I had to.  I also needed to focus so as I started to train for my run without my baby.  Now I am not going to say that it was because I was no longer bringing my son with me that made me love running, but I will say it was a factor.  All of a sudden I was a person again, and not just a mom.  I had time alone again, something I realized that was important to me. Since I am such a pensive person I need time to reflect on my own, have some head space time; basically just time where I am not singing wheels on the bus over and over to a needy baby.  Running allowed my a few hours of freedom a week, and I literally felt like for a short time I got to run away from all my responsibilities.

     Now it’s not like I don’t love being a mom, a wife, a business owner, and a home owner.  I love all my roles and I fully accept the responsibilities that come with these job titles.  Sometimes it is nice just to don the hat of a runner, without all my other hats (ie mother, sister, daughter, wife, et al).   Being a runner was something I never felt guilty about because it helped me to de-stress, lose weight, and feel good about myself. I really feel it helped me avoid post-partum depression, something I was at risk for developing.  I also felt by running I was teaching my son through my actions the importance of exercise, eating healthy and taking care of one’s self.  Plus running made me happy, and why wouldn’t my son and my husband want me happy.  By taking care of my own needs I could be a better individual, which in turn made me a better mom, who was more able to take care of his needs.  

      Another great thing about running is the endorphins.  Oh how I love that natural high you get from a good, hard run.  It really is addicting, minus all the potential home-wrecking side effects of some other  addictions.  In fact my husband would often tell me to go for a run because he loved how calm and happy I was when I returned. 

     My incredible mood was not the only benefit of running though. When you train for a marathon you can’t help but lose weight.  I lost 45 pounds in those months of training and it felt like the weight was just falling off while I ran.  Maybe if I had slowed down enough to look behind me I would have seen it lying there on the sidewalk.  I can really attest to the motivational effects of results, and results like that made me feel astounding.  I had lost all the baby weight plus more, and I was motivated to eat healthy.  It also makes you appreciate your body in a new way when you like the image staring back at you in the mirror.  As well, I have always loved a challenge, and each week I would push myself to hit some new goal.  Some weeks I would push for a faster pace time, and other weeks I would try to run father or longer than I had ever before.

     Every weekend I would go for my long run and I would cherish that time.  It was my one or two hours of solitude; my reflection time; my time to just be in the moment.  Some days I would work out problems in my head, other days I would mentally plan out my goals and dreams for the future, but the best part was when I turned my brain off and let my body just feel.  I would feel the muscles in my legs contracting and releasing; working to propel me forward.  I could feel the pounding of my entire body as each foot stuck the pavement.  I could feel my heart as it worked to pump oxygen rich blood to my entire body.  I felt so alive! And what a release from all the thinking, and stressing I always do.  I loved how it was a break for my brain. I could just be … just exist in time without trying to plan the next ten steps or worry about some “what-if” that will probably never occur.

Crossing the finish line with my father at the Around the Bay Road Race.

     Unfortunately I was too ambitious and I trained too hard, too fast.  About a month before my race I developed some tendonitis in my foot, and I was advised to stop running (well until the race anyway).  I still completed the 30km race, but I couldn’t run again for a while because of the pain in my foot.  This delay in my running momentum really took the wind out of my sails. After lots of doctor appointments, tests and treatments I just couldn’t get back into stride.  I finally started to run again without too much pain in my foot when I found out I was pregnant with my second child.  I wanted to continue to run but my asthma and my bad back issues prevented that from being possible.  So I put my running on hold.

     After my daughter was born I yearned to run again.  However it has been such a painfully slow process that I was starting to go slightly crazy.  I wanted to run so badly, but it was back to being something I didn’t enjoy.  I had shoe issues, lack of sleep issues, pain in my foot again issues,   lack of time issues, being sick issues, oh and the when I leave the baby she screams the entire time and I come back to a stressed out family issues. Yet I stuck to it and tonight for the first time in a long, long time I love to run again.  My run tonight made me feel powerful, and alive.  It’s like I could just run away from everything in my life for a short time.  I get to have a break from being anything but being me, an individual. Tonight my body was strong, my legs carried me far and I felt like I had found a long lost friend. “Hello Michelle the runner, how you have been missed”!

A Slice of Life

I have read several other blogs where one day a week the blogger posts pictures in place of words.  So I am going to borrow this great idea with my “A Slice of Life” series.  Check out our day today.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Look out Bob the Builder, here comes my Dad!

     My father is the most industrious person I know.  When I was growing up I remember watching with pride as my father worked away an entire weekend to complete an amazing project around the house.  I would beam with pride showing the neighborhood kids his newest accomplishment; whether it was the curving 5 tiered flagstone step path to our front door, the elaborate gardens, a wooden book shelf, or the entire finished basement that became my haven (which took more than one weekend, but not by much).  I remember watching him while he completed his tasks.  I would play outside if it was an outside task or play near him if he was working inside, although sometimes I was directed to play just out of hearing range to avoid new language being added to my repertoire. From time to time I would be allowed to help him, which I loved dearly.  I loved helping him because I wanted to learn how he did it, and I loved spending time with him. I was amazed by his abilities of creativity and ingenuity, as well as how beautiful his finished projects were. I yearned to know how he did it all; how did he know how to build a shed, or drywall a basement? I was especially amazed when I asked him how he knew how to do what he was doing, and he said that he didn’t and he was learning as he went!  Wow, how did he even know where to start?  I still find I am amazed by all he can accomplish in a weekend, and the amazing things he can create.

   Then at some point I became a teenager and I no longer wanted to help my father. Everything else seemed more important than learning these things.  Instead of wanting to stop and learn how apply painting tape properly or how to build a deck or lay a stone path (all things I wanted to learn as an adult) I decided I was too “busy” with my friends, or my homework, etc.  Now as an adult I find myself wishing I knew how to do all these things, and I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity when I lived at home and was old enough to learn.  Despite all those missed opportunities there was still many things I did learn.

     When I was small and my father was still my hero there were many times he slowed down to show me what he was doing, and there are a few things I know how to do to this day because of his tutelage.  There are a few other skills I learned because I was forced to help him with a task as a teenager. The most important thing I learned from him though was to try.  To this day I try to emulate his do-it-yourself attitude.  Why pay for something if you could learn to do it yourself.  By completing a task on your own you learn to do something new, you build your working knowledge so it becomes possible to learn to do harder tasks (stemmed from a healthy sense of curiosity), and you get the satisfaction of finishing the task and knowing it was done well.

     So today I tried to pass on that sense of industriousness to my children.  I have to say it was so thrilling to not only get the drill out and successfully install the mirror, I was so pleased that I did it while my daughter was on my back in my Boba (my soft structure carrier) and my son was standing beside me.  Not only was I accomplishing a task that I have been asking my amazing and busy husband for WAY too long, but I was teaching my children how to do things around the house, just like my father did with me. Now I realize installing a mirror was super easy and it may seem like way to much excitement for such a simple task.  I am still very proud though because it is a completed task and I took the opportunity to show my children how to do it.  I showed them how to pick the appropriate drill bits, put the bits in the drill, drill the whole, then install the hardware; all tasks that will one day be their working base of knowledge.  Just like they will need to know their ABC’s before they can read.  

    So I will continue to do things around the house and show my children what I am doing.  I will try my best to include them in all I do and to remember that valuable teaching lessons which arise in life are way better teaching tools than any workbook.  From these moments I hope both my son and my daughter will start to develop a healthy curiosity to fix things, or at least learn to take pride in accomplishing a task.  Hopefully they might even have a fond memory or two of learning something from their mommy. 

The rocking horse my father made for my son.  I had a similar one that is still in riding condition at my parents’ house.  These horses are amazing!

My Breastfeeding Journey

So I did something today that has been on my “to-do” list for a while.  I finally found and went to a La Leche League meeting. It is something that I have wanted to do for a while because breastfeeding is something I feel very strongly about.  I also wanted to join the group for the sense of community and support.  Therefore I felt like today was successful, but I also felt a pang of sadness when I left.  During the meeting I was reminded of some issues that I had while breastfeeding my first born.  Normally I pride myself on my ability to think critically and reflect on my life (hence the creation of the blog) because it allows for a great deal of personal growth.  However, sometimes this reflection can quickly turn into a thick layer of guilt.  During the drive home I found myself reflecting on my breastfeeding journey and on the idea that somehow I “failed” my son because I didn’t breastfeed him until he was 2 or 3.  I am trying very hard to be kinder to myself and have a positive attitude about myself, so I then tried to dissect these feelings of failure to see if there truly was something I had failed at. 

     Even before I had children I always felt it was important to breastfeed, since it was clearly the best thing I could do for my baby.  However when I first had my son I struggled a lot with breastfeeding.  I apparently took for granted the learning curve that was involved.  I just assumed that I would plug the baby on, and things would go okay.  Now normally I am the type of person who inundates myself with research about a subject until I feel proficient enough in that particular topic, but despite my usual nature, clearly I was not prepared enough for this task.  Maybe I just assumed it would just be easy and therefore more research was not needed. 

     After my son was born I was very excited to have skin on skin for our first contact.  In the hospital we shared an awkward first feeding with lots of help from the midwife.  Then before we left, just hours after his birth, the secondary midwife (who I did not get along due to lack of respect issues) advised me that I needed to feed my son 6-10 times in the next 24 hours.  She did not warn me that sometimes newborns are tired after their long journey into this world and that they might just want to sleep for the first few hours after their birth.  I also knew that newborns need to feed every 2-4 hours.  So at home every 2-4 hours I tried to feed him, and the poor baby just screamed at me to let him sleep.  At 10:30pm, exactly 24 hours after the start of my labor, I was starting to panic because he had not nursed since 4:30 pm.  My husband was exhausted and his solution was for me to stop pestering the kid, but after that midwife’s advice I thought I was going to starve the kid to death (I was a little tired and a very overwhelmed by the new responsibility).  So I paged my midwife, who kindly reassured me the baby would not starve if he didn’t feed again until she got there the next morning. 

     Yet despite the midwife’s reassurance I pursued the feeding, since I was so determined to be able to do this on my own.  I felt like somehow I would be deemed a deficient mother if I could not do this new task, with ease, on my own before the midwife got there. But my baby boy just screamed and screamed at me, and I finally left him alone to sleep.  The next day he was ready to eat, but forever after that he only ever ate when he was hungry.  He never nursed for comfort.  I was sustenance and nothing more, which I have often wondered if it was because I tried to force him to eat so much in those first few hours. 

      The next six weeks were rocky.  I was massively engorged, I leaked so much milk I could have fed a second child and third, and I constantly had hard lumps and was worried they would turn into mastitis.  Oh and there was also a brief episode of thrush.  I also had a really hard time nursing him in any position but the football hold on the nursing pillow because of the size of my breasts.  This made me really nervous about having to feed him in public when we went out, so for a long time I just didn’t go out. I am just so thankful to my husband and my mother in law for supporting me so much during this time, because there was many times I just wanted to give up. 

     Then at about six weeks old it started to get easier.  I could feed a few ways, and the nursing relationship was starting to grow, and the letdown reflex didn’t choke him so much, and the whole thing became much more enjoyable.  So I figured that I had the whole thing under control. 

     Then when my son was 9 months old he decided that he would only nurse on the right side.  No matter what I did I could not get that baby to feed from my left side, and despite trying to pump to keep up my supply the left side eventually dried up.  Then we went to the doctor and she was concerned about his weight gain (he was below the 5 th percentile).  So at the doctor’s recommendation I entertained the idea of giving him one bottle of formula a day.  I figured what was the harm in that and I had these grand ideas that one bottle a day would beef him out.  However this was the beginning of the end of our rocky nursing relationship.  Within a month and a half he got an ear infection so badly he had pus coming out of his ear (the first doctor from the clinic missed the ear infection so it got really bad).  The pain was so intense that he would not nurse any longer.  He wouldn’t even take the pumped milk I had stored in the freezer, which is why I didn’t continue with pumping.  So sadly at 10.5 months I no longer breastfeed my baby, and I was devastated!

    So today I find myself reflecting again on so many things that went wrong.  In those first hours of his life did I try to push nursing too much or would he have always just nursed for the nutrition?  He very much loved to be held, maybe he was content to get his comfort in my arms without eating part.  Then there is the issue of his constant spitting up.  I would go out and a friend would say to me “Oh he spit up … oh he spit up again … oh he spit up a lot”.  Maybe the baby had acid reflux (like his mother and father) or maybe he had issues with my consumption of dairy (he still won’t eat dairy products).  Maybe nursing was for nutrition because there was something about it that was upsetting him so why would he nurse for comfort when it just made him uncomfortable.  His preference for side could be related to different speeds of letdown, and actually a refusal of a side is more common than you would initially think.  And even to this day he is so determined to get what he wants that he will stop at nothing to make it happen.  Maybe he refused the left side because he thought “why would I ever feed from the side I don’t like”.  And then there is the issue of when he stopped nursing.  Why should I have to feed him until he is 2 or 3?  Maybe when he weaned himself he was ready, and I just feel like I have failed him somehow because I didn’t control when we stopped.  However, I can’t help but feel like I failed or something because he continued for another year to need his bottle with formula and soy milk combo (the attempted regiment to get the kid to gain weight, which never actually worked). But maybe that goes back to his diary/acid reflux issues.  Who knows!

    By the end of all my reflecting I could not help but compare this journey with the journey of motherhood.  I could spend the rest of my life second guessing the decision I made, or I can reflect on what I did.  I can then decide to continue to do what I feel is right and try to learn from the supposed mistakes.  This journey taught me that I can’t control everything that happens with my children.  They are their own creatures too, and their individuality will also affect how this journey unfolds.  I have learned to fight for what I believe in, even if someone of authority has a different opinion.   It is why I wanted to seek out the meeting, since I feel having a community of similar women is an important way to stick to what I believe in.  I have also learned that I can continue to acquire knowledge and use this to be a better parent.  Most importantly I think I need to walk away from this knowing that sometimes I need to forgive myself of my imperfection or else I can never be a content and happy person.