I am pretty bad at entertaining babies.
When I was pregnant with Connor the idea of endless rounds of playing peekaboo and singing Wheels on the Bus made me cringe. But when I discovered that the swish-swish-swish of the wipers during Wheels on the Bus makes my baby laugh, I’m much more willing to sing it over and over. And over. I guess that’s one of the miracles of motherhood—that the clichéd, annoying, gooey-faced stereotypes of how we interact with babies are much less annoying when we have a chubby little bundle of our own.
But I still find it hard to keep a baby entertained for any period of time.
I think with Connor, my first baby, I tried to interact with him a little too much, and the poor kid was probably over-stimulated a lot of the time and I fear I’ve swung too far the other way with Ethan. Maybe it’s the second child’s lot, but he gets bored and isn’t shy about letting me know.
“There’s only so many times I can shake this rattle thing, mama,” he seems to say. “Give me something that actually does something!”
And then he reaches for my iPhone.
He almost sent his first tweet the other day and, while I like that my phone distracts him for a few minutes when I need to put dishes in the dishwasher or, heaven forbid, pee, I don’t actually want him to play with it too much. I’m afraid he’s going to go crazy buying up everything in the app store and, besides, my iPhone is my toy.
We have a bunch of baby toys but one of the struggles I find at this six-month-old stage is that he wants whatever I have. An iPhone that has colours and makes noise? Of course he wants it (and I haven’t even introduced him to Angry Birds yet). A cup of tea? It’s too hot, but he doesn’t know that and gets quite upset when I take it away. Apparently he wants to be just like mom.
Mom, meanwhile, sometimes—just for ten minutes—wants to sit and drink tea and peruse Facebook on her phone while her baby is happily playing with something appropriate for him.
Luckily, we seem to have found a solution with two new toys Ethan thinks are just dandy and that allow me to sit and play quietly by myself for a bit—a singing remote and a singing tea pot. Fabulous!
Both of these toys (properly known as the Click ‘n Learn Remote and the Say Please Tea Set) are both made—and generously provided by—Fisher-Price. They’re part of the Fisher-Price Favourites line, which includes six of their time-tested toys that help kids learn or play and to keep them busy while mom gets something done.
These toys live up to their promise, too.
Ethan doesn’t know that the remote is not an iPhone, and I figure that it’s teaching him some skills for when he’s got a man-cave later in life. (Kidding!) He can hold it himself and likes pushing the buttons and if he drops it I don’t cringe like I do when my iPhone takes a tumble. When the remote sings and talks to him about colours and numbers and shapes he watches it intently, so I figure he’s having fun and learning something more suited to his age than how to tweet.
The tea set has been an instant hit as well. The tea pot opens and sings songs and makes tea-pouring noises, and it comes with cups and some treats. Connor, my photo-shy four-year-old, thinks it’s the best toy ever. I came downstairs the other day and he and his penguin (and a couple of tiny, party-crashing squirrels) were having a tea party.
When Ethan manages to get a turn with the tea set he quite happily crashes it around on his high chair tray and I can drink my own tea without worrying about little fingers getting too close to it.
I used to look at other moms’ pictures of tea parties with their little girls and would feel slightly sad that I didn’t have a girl to have tea parties with too, but no more. As long as they want to be just like mom, I’ll quite happily have rowdy, remote-control-clicking tea parties with my boys. It’s a great way to keep all of us entertained.
If you know me from my own blog or Twitter or, heck, pretty much anywhere but here, you probably know my story. You know why I started blogging in the first place and you know why writing about motherhood, including the hard stuff, matters to me.
It's because I had horrible, unexpected, undiagnosed postpartum depression.
For those of you who don't know it, here is my story:
When I was 38 weeks pregnant with a breech baby and low amniotic fluid that indicated a need for a C-section, the OB asked us a question: “Would you like to have this baby today or tomorrow?” Not prepared to be whisked to the OR that instant, we chose “tomorrow.” Connor was born on June 13, 2008, which happened to be Friday the 13th.
Thus began my journey into motherhood, which included a lot of things I didn’t anticipate, like a fussy baby who needed to be bounced all the time and would accept no substitutes — no walking, no rocking, no swaying. He also thought sleep was for weaklings.
At first the sleep deprivation was hard, as I expected. After five months, I couldn’t take it anymore, so we attempted sleep training. I’ll give you the short version: It didn’t go well.
By the time Connor was eight months old, I was miserable. In desperation, I phoned a counselor who said, “It sounds like you have postpartum depression. You should see your doctor.”
I rejected her suggestion.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” I told her. “I’m not interested in that label.”
She was right, of course, but I didn’t realize it because I didn’t feel “depressed.” My issue was anger. Rage, actually. I had no idea it was a symptom of depression.
Finally, after reading someone else’s story, I started to accept that I was dealing with PPD. When my son was 18 months old—after almost losing my marriage and my family because of my anger—I went to my doctor.
At first the anti-depressants helped and I no longer felt like I might throw my high-energy, non-sleeping child out the window. But over the next 18 months, things were better for a little while, and then tough again, and on and on I went riding my extended postpartum roller coaster.
I looked for more help. As we neared my son’s third birthday, I was seeing both a therapist and a psychiatrist who specialize in PPD, and I was on a different medication at a higher dose.
I had also started blogging about my experience, and then actually telling family and friends. That was hard, partly because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, but also because I didn’t want to admit I was having a hard time being a mom.
In the end, writing about my experience and sharing it with others was the best thing I could have done. In telling my story I’ve found nothing but support, and once I opened up, I realized how common PPD is.
I started telling my story because I didn’t know enough about PPD to get help when I needed it. Now, every person who tells me that my story has helped makes the telling of it worthwhile, so, stigma or not, I’m going to keep sharing.
Sometimes something hits you in the heart when you really don't expect it.
Despite hoping for a girl, I have two boys. Two wonderful, funny, smart, beautiful boys. I was so happy to be part of the Dove program to promote the Unstoppable Moms for Unstoppable Girls contest and while writing that post I actually had an epiphany. Of course my sons will have friends that are girls who will be part of my life. It's almost the same thing, except better because I'll be able to talk to them in a way I wouldn't with my own daughter. Hooray!
And then the post went live and I sat there on my couch crying. Because, oh, I so badly want a daughter.
I don't know why this matters to me. I truly don't. But this week alone I've seen at least four of my friends on Facebook talk about painting their nails with their daughters and my heart is hurting.
Part of me is mourning the daughter I was sure I was going to have. I've planned for her for years. I saw myself with her. She was an actual, real, though not-yet-physical entity to me. Was I wrong? I guess I was.
After Connor was born, it was clear to me that he was the baby we were meant to have. And I feel that way about Ethan, though in a different sort of way. But I still struggle, wondering how I could have been so sure of something that was obviously not meant to be.
Is this crazy? Or have you felt this way too?