Thursday, April 25, 2013

Getting to know Charlie...

It's been two months.

9 weeks and 1 day to be exact.

I can't believe how time has flown by.

I can't believe that she's only been here for 1527 hours (give or take about 10 minutes).

Charlie, who captivates everyone who sees her with her spectacular blue eyes, and enchants everyone who holds her with her perfect, loving smile.

Charlie, who loves to sleep soundly, especially when snuggled up close in the arms of someone she loves, and has the sweetest baby snore known to man.

Charlie, whose beautiful red hair catches the light of the sun and looks like soft strands of fire.

Charlie, whose perfect little upturned nose grimaces with annoyance when she's put down or when I leave her sight.

Charlie, my dear sweet angel of a daughter...

It may sound crazy to some, but in many ways Charlie is my first real "newborn" love. With Sammie's birth, I was so overwhelmed by fear and by pain that I had a very difficult time establishing a newborn bond. First of all, we weren't allowed to see each other for almost twelve hours after he was born. Then, being premature, Sammie had problems breastfeeding from the get go and had to be syringe fed by his father. When we finally did get him home, over a week after his birth (and against medical orders), I was so overwhelmed by post partum blues that I couldn't shake the feeling of perpetual "sadness".  And then, by the time he was two weeks old, colic had set in with a vengeance and lasted the entirety of his "newborn" period, lessening up only after three months.

Charlie has been the opposite experience. Her birth was clockwork, the only glitch being a one-hour delay while we waited for lab results. My healing was spectacular, so much so that I was released a day earlier. Charlie was a rockstar nurser from the minute I placed her at the breast. She slept for hours at a time from the day she was born (though never more than a few hours if she isn't right beside me). She naps on a schedule, seldom cries, nurses like a dream.  She smiled a three weeks and coos lovingly almost every time she sees me.  She rarely fusses (unless she's in her car seat) and appears to adore every person she comes in contact with.

Where Sammie was 'night', Charlie has been 'day'.

Perhaps their only similarity lies in their beautiful looks. There are moments where she takes my breath away. She is the definition of perfection.

Charlie has already taught me lessons that will last a lifetime:

I didn't know I could ever find a baby to be as beautiful as my son.

I didn't know that my heart would grow to love another human being as much as I loved him.

I didn't know that I could love having a newborn.

And as I prepare to say goodbye to this neonatal period of her life, I am so grateful to her for this gift. Her gentleness made the last nine weeks memorable in a way that I could never have predicted, never have known. My newborn-period with her was, in no uncertain terms, blissful.

And for that, I will be forever grateful.

 Charlize, a weekly gallery:

Charlie, the day she was born, all pretty, pink and perfect!

Her one-week birthday, fresh from a nap. 

One her second-week birthday, dressed up as The Very Hungry Caterpillar! 

Sticking her tongue out and being silly on her third-week birthday.

Snuggled up with her polar bear on her fourth-week birthday!

Giving us little smile at week 5!

Also, sleeping like a little angel...

It's Easter Time on week 6! We are SO excited!

Pretty in pink and ready to welcome spring on Week 7.

Taking a bath in a bucket on week on 7. :)

TUMMY TIME on Week 8!

Well hello there!

Taking a nap on her pillow on Week 9...(yes, yes, I know...she's not supposed to sleep on a pillow...but I was in the room the whole time, and she fell asleep on it.)

Photographic evidence of the worst parenting ever on Week 9: A pillow, an arm through the rung, AND a stuffie!!! ;) 
(Again, I was IN the room the whole time, and fixed her sleep position as soon as I took the picture :P)

Charlie, it's been an amazing two months, and I'm so proud to be your Momma! Thanks for making every day better than it would have been without you. <3

Sammie Update: Responsive Teaching Session 1

Today we had our first "Responsive Teaching" session with Bev, our Early Intervention Counsellor.

Our session, as usual, began with an update on Sammie's progress. This was a particularly interesting session as it had been several months since Bev had last seen Sammie and the progress he has made during this time has been notable, particularly in areas of social interaction with adults and his peer group.  Recently, Sammie has begun using 'touch' to connect with children around him and has begun to show an interest in playing 'with' others as opposed to alone. Sammie has developed a preference for specific people (particularly girls either a little bit younger or a little bit older than he is), and has begun exploring his personality in many different ways.

In terms of new skills, Sammie has recently developed a mild interest in arts and crafts, particularly colouring with markers. He is getting better at working with crayons as well.  He is still very "gross motor" focused, but seems to enjoy quiet activities and play a lot more than he did in the past. His interests have evolved beyond just 'trains', and now include puzzles, other toys like cars/trucks, and even his two dolls (Iggle Piggle and Upsydaisy).  He has started sitting still for longer periods of time, including during most of his meals, and is able to focus his attention long enough to watch an entire IMAX movie (Rocky Mountain Express).

The first section of Responsive Teaching is always focused on "social play" which "refers to the children's ability to play with their parents and other adults across many situations".  It is characterized by a "give and take in which children contribute as much to the play activity as their adult partners." In our discussions and assessments, we determined that Sammie's current level of social play sits about about a "moderate" (4 or 5 out of 10).  Ideally, we would like to see him operating at a 6 or above.  As such, Bev outlined certain goals and strategies for us to focus on to help improve our social play together.

(The following is taken from the Responsive Teaching Manual handouts)

Facts to remember about social play: 

  1. Social play with parents is critical for promoting children's developmental growth. 
  2. Cognitive learning is a two-person process, in which the impact parents have is related to how much they respond to their child.
  3. Cognitive learning occurs whenever children are active and alert. 
  4. By themselves, children can only learn information they discover accidentally.

The most important strategy that promotes social play involves "getting into the child's world". This involves three components: 

  1. Establish a mutual physical relationship with your child (using eye contact and by interacting on the same level)
  2. Interact by playing or communicating like your child by mimicking behaviours.
  3. Consciously strive to understand the world as your child does. 
As each child is different, very specific strategies were outlined to help Sammie develop his social play skills. These involve:
  1. Playing face to face as often as possible.
  2. Establishing and encouraging eye contact.
  3. Consider how to "make sense" of his world by observing and reflecting on his behaviours, all the while remembering that- as Sammie develops- the way the world looks while change on an ongoing basis. 
  4. Playing the "same way" by offering more opportunities for play together, tuning into his interests an encouraging turn-taking and variations in his games. 
Jason and I will continue to log Sammie's progress on our second blog,, for those who are interested in following along. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Like most people in the world, I have some exceptional skills in certain areas. I have always been very musically inclined. I have an aptitude for words and language. I have a knack for business planning and strategic thinking.

And I am exceptionally talented at hiding pain.

Yes, as unusual a skill as that might be, I have one of the highest pain tolerances of anyone I know. I've  spent months walking on fracture ankles, had surgery without full analgesics and anesthetics, and even failed to notice when I was registering full contractions on the monitor.

As strong as my ability to mask physical pain may be, it holds absolutely nothing to my ability to hide emotional pain.  I am a master of repression, a queen of self-confinement, an expert in hiding emotions that I don't want to share.

And even when I do share, I do so with a reservedness that general results in my loved ones underestimating the severity of what I am trying to convey.

I don't know why I do this, but I've done it as long as I can remember. I'm sure it had something to do with growing up with an aggressive father, or maybe it's a result of the sexual assault I lived in my early teens. I couldn't tell you.  What I know is that it is a 'personal strength' that, for the most part, does me absolutely no good.

There are times when I am not as successful at hiding my pain. I act out in ways that those who know me well can recognize and flag.  Sadly, it often takes them too long to pick up on it and, by the time they do, I'm much further gone than I could have been had I just been upfront with them.

It's a vicious cycle that I've been fighting for years.

And I'm trying to break it.

So I'm going to start with this:

Lately, I've been feeling very sad.

Not an "I just watched 'The Notebook' and gosh that made me teary" kind of sad either.

The kind of sad that sits in your soul and ruminates. And as it does, it begins to expand, spreading it's tendrils far and wide until every single part of your being is connected by one feeling, and one feeling alone.  The kind of sad that sits so heavily inside you that it squashes any tears that try to come. The kind of sad that can not be lifted by any amount of joy that surrounds you.

I call this kind of sad "The Abyss". It's like a deep, dark hole in your heart that never sees any light.

I don't always feel this way. Sometimes, I am so full of joy that I am downright exuberant. After all, I have nothing but beautiful things in my life. There is truly absolutely no reason to feel anything but truly and deliriously happy.

And most of the time, I do.

But then there are those other times. And lately there have been more of them.

Because I've just had a baby, I suspect it may be Post Partum Depression.  Or even Seasonal Affected Disorder, given that I've been basically house-bound for 5 months. I admit, I do feel better when I get fresh air, and- yes- having a newborn and a high-needs toddler is definitely overwhelming.

But then there's a nagging voice deep inside me that says "You've felt this way before, and it wasn't the sun or the baby...You've felt this way before and it was just 'you'."

And that's the voice that tells me that I probably can't handle this one on my own. That no amount of sun will make it go away.  That it won't just disappear when my hormones level out. That it's bigger than what is within my control.

I've learned from the mistakes of the past, and I know that the first step to feeling better is to admit that I can't do it on my own.

And so, with this, I come clean to my friends and loved ones. And I promise you that I'm working on it. Because my life is truly beautiful- and I want desperately to get back to a place where I can appreciate it fully.