Friday, March 21, 2014

The Weight

The Weight by The Band was my Aunt’s all time favourite song. It held significant meaning for her. The night that she broke down, she listened to this song over & over again & by morning she admitted she needed help & was admitted to the nut house, as she called it. I have always felt this was extremely brave of her. To admit she needed help, to reach out.

I have been grieving her loss deeply. It feels like a healthy grief, not excessive…it’s not a dark ugly grief. I know that kind of grief; I experienced that when my Dad died. I’m talking about it…I’m reaching out…I’m processing. It’s a long road for sure. As my friend wisely pointed out, you don’t lose someone all at once, you lose them in pieces over time. I know from experience that the hurt lessens. Right now it’s right there, just under the surface. The hard part is I also know from experience that I won’t ever miss her less.

The time spent caring for my Aunt, & the time since her death, has been the single greatest external parenting challenge I’ve had to face so far…at first balancing my time between my Aunt’s needs & Elena’s & now balancing my need to be alone with Elena’s need for me to be present with her. It has also been a challenge navigating how to explain this all to a 3 year old.

Of course I have spent a lot of time evaluating & reevaluating my life. Through this all, I have gained a strength I didn’t have before. I have found confidence through having faced this hard time & come out the other side…scarred yes, but also tougher, stronger. I have learned valuable lessons about priorities & limits.

I have learned when to carry the load, how heavy a load I can bear…& when I need to take a load off…

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Year in Pictures...

Elena is 3 today!

March 4th, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday, Elena!!
I didn't think it would be possible but I love you more now than the day you were born!!
I love you more today than I did yesterday!!
I will love you more tomorrow than I do today!!

Sunday, February 16, 2014


My greatest fear isn’t one I allow my brain to contemplate for too long as it hurts too much…that is a fear I won’t even talk about or write about…but it is every mother’s worst fear.
Second to that fear is one that I worry & think about often…I fear that something will happen to me, leaving Elena left without a parent. It's a reason keeping this blog is so important to me, so she has a window into my thoughts. I also keep a personal journal written to her. I take videos of us together, me talking to her…many many photos. All so that she’ll have them if I’m not around. I want to be sure to leave a clear record of how much I wanted Elena & how deeply I love her. I don’t want there to be any doubt in her.

I worry about this because long before I had Elena, long before I ever considered being a SMC, when I was young, I always had this…I don’t know…feeling. Not really a premonition, just…okay now I’m sounding crazy but hear me out…I always just felt that I wouldn’t grow old. And there was a time in my life that I wished for death to release me from the pain & depression I was drowning in. But life continued…life got better…life brought me here & now I fear & worry that I’ll still not grow old.…only now the stakes are higher.
My aunt was exactly my age now when she was diagnosed with her 1st cancer in 1983. After going through these last 8 weeks, I am so afraid of what can happen & how quickly it could happen. God, I hope I am turning 70 before my 1st real health scare...or older.
It hurts my heart to imagine Elena graduating high school without a parent, getting married, having children, navigating all of life’s ups & downs. I worry & worry & worry…& what am I supposed to do with that…keep healthy, give everything I have to making sure Elena is healthy & happy & loved. What else can I do?

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Long Road Home

My Dad’s sister was born June 21, 1944…She was the oldest sibling, he being born 2 years later. They were close growing up & my Dad looked up to her. They lost their Mom suddenly, tragically, when he was 18 & she 20. This was devastating for both of them & for her, losing her Mom meant losing her best friend.

Life was hard after that. Her Father remarried quickly, which was often the case in those days. She spiraled, trying to move on with life but trapped by grief & depression. She became pregnant by accident but decided to keep the baby, though unheard of in that day & age. Her father was mortified but she so deeply wanted to be a Mother, she didn’t care.

The early weeks were rough, she was very sick. The Dr advised that if she made it to 12 weeks, she’d be in the clear. At 12 weeks, she went out & bought a beautifully soft, yellow sleeper for her baby. That evening, the pain started. She didn’t know what was happening. She had vicious cramps & then they would subside only to come back stronger & harder…then the bleeding started…

She went to the hospital & was told the fate of her baby…she was devastated. Her heart had bled out of her along with that babe. Her Father arrived, patted her hand & said it was for the best…& she died inside.

Time passed & she struggled with her grief & pain…depression gripped her.

Then her Father got sick…& he died. Their relationship had been strained at best & forever fractured…& then he was gone before they could reconcile.

You pile grief upon grief & pain upon pain & what is a person to do?

She broke…she wanted to die. She swore she wasn’t suicidal…she just wanted to die. She was admitted to the psychiatric ward.

Slowly, with therapy & the love of her Mom’s best friends, Margaret & Harry, she became stronger…she reentered the land of the living.

She loved…& lost…& loved again. She was married & she was happy. She tried to be the best step mom she knew how to be…but the pain of not having a child of her own haunted her.

In 1983 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She faced surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy…odds at the time said she was unlikely to survive…but she did. It was then that she decided to really start to live life…she would stop being scared…she would start taking chances.

She started to travel & spent the next 30 years planning exotic & exciting trips…sometimes with others, often on her own. She travelled all across Canada, the USA, South America, New Zealand & multiple trips to the UK & Europe. Destinations would come up in conversation & she would say, “Oh! That place is on My List!!”

Her other passion was her dogs. Her firsts were Jordie, a west highland terrier & Murphy, a Golden Retriever. She loved Murphy but Westies were more her speed so after they passed came Tessie, then Kodi, another Murphy & finally Dolly.

She became involved with Westies In Need after adopting Dolly. She was passionate about helping these poor pups. She would drive any distance to pick up a rescue. You can feel her passion if you watch this video interview.

Life was finally good for her. After so much struggle & pain & loss…she had arrived. Whenever I faced adversity, she would knowingly say, “It gets better, I promise.” Because she did know, she’d lived it.

December 17th, 2013 all that changed. 4 weeks after that, we saw the Oncologist. We were told her biopsy was inconclusive but that she most likely had advanced cancer of the pancreas or other part of the upper gut. She was brave & at peace with this news. She told the Dr she hoped to celebrate her 70th birthday in June…the Dr asked if she could move it up.
4 weeks after that had me sitting by her bedside in hospice. She could no longer speak, she could hardly move at all & her eyes were her only means of communication. I sat with her all day, talking to her, holding her hand. I played her favourite music for her…I read to her. That night I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I’d promised her she wouldn’t have to go through this alone. The hospice staff set up a cot for me…I laid down to try to sleep. I was acutely aware of her breathing, the noises of the room, the nurses coming in & checking on her. Despite this I felt myself drift off to sleep...but every time I did, it felt as though someone would yank on my shoulders, waking me. Then all of a sudden, I felt a change in the room, it became very quiet. Her breathing had changed, much more shallow & also very quiet. I got up from my cot, checked the time, 3:32am. I went over & took her hand. I put my other hand on her forehead, as had become my habit in the last few weeks. It was so quiet…suddenly she took a deep breath, scaring me...I whispered, "Good bye, Lee. I love you" & knew in that moment she was gone.

8 a woman so vibrant & full of life can be gone in just 8 weeks is so confusing to me...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Relegated to Spectator

Today was a particularly significant that was harder than I expected it would be. 

At the end of Elena's last Parent & Tot swim lesson session, the coach said that she was more than ready for the next level, Splash A. However, the next series of levels are for 3-5 year olds. On the one hand, I was very proud that Elena was excelling so well at an activity I enjoy so much...on the other, it made me whistful for that very 1st lesson, way back in August 2011 when she was just 5 months old. Lately I've had to deal with Elena being ready for things I'm not ready for. Is it right to hold Elena back just because I'm not ready? Absolutely not! 

This lead me to inquire if it was even possible to sign her up for the Splash A. I was told that, as long as Elena turned 3 before the end of the session, she was allowed to enrol. Elena turns 3 March 4th, the session ends March 9th. I signed her up & today was her first lesson. 

As I sat there watching her new coach lead her into the pool, the 1st time ever Elena would be led off for a lesson of any kind all on her own...without me, my heart was very heavy & I was astutely aware that not only was this a first, it was a last. It was the last time I would sit & watch my baby take her first lesson on her own. And I cried thru most of it...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Delurking Week 2014

I just read, over on Mel's site, about this delurking week...I'm genuinely interested to know who's out there reading. Are you a young single woman thinking single motherhood might be for you? Are you a married mom who nods her head in commiseration when I go on about parenting my daughter? Are you a fellow SMC? Do you have a blog I can follow you along on too? Are you a dad? Are you a single dude looking for a strong, independent woman, wink wink, nudge nudge?

Seriously though...peek out from the shadows...I've recently allowed anonymous comments again (I had to turn them off as I was getting WAY too much spam) & there's no verification so even if you're a robot, you can comment...I've also turned on comment moderation so if you don't want your comment published, just mention that & I won't, your comment can be just between the two of us. 

I look forward to hearing from you!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

When You Gotta Go...

Why is it that, when your toddler reaches a certain age, everyone feels the need to inquire about if you’re toilet training said toddler yet? I mean, seriously! Can’t we all just leave each other alone & let the parent(s) parent their child(ren)?

Okay, rant over…sorry about that…but I’ve been tired of being questioned about Elena’s toilet habits for the last 10+ months…

From the time Elena was born, my Mom would brag that, before I was born, she’d toilet trained my cousin before she was two & that she had me trained by when I was two…I said, “Great! Then you can train Elena!!” More seriously, when my Mom would question about when I planned to train Elena, I told her I was on board for whatever she had in mind, just lead the way. I’m not sure if it’s just that she was afraid to put her money where her mouth was or whether she felt it was my responsibility, but she didn’t make any move towards any training…well, aside from encouraging Elena to try from time to time but nothing consistent. I’m okay with that…it really is my responsibility. I was just tired of hearing the questioning.

I thought about training Elena at the beginning of the summer, but I realized that I didn’t want to spend our summer searching for toilets everywhere we went. I thought about training her Thanksgiving weekend in October when I’d be home for the long weekend…I can’t remember why I didn’t end up doing it then…Then I didn’t want to do it before we went away on our vacation…to be honest, all that time, I just wasn’t ready.

That’s right, I wasn’t ready! I didn’t want to be searching for toilets, I didn’t want to give up the convenience of diapers…but more than anything, I didn’t want my baby to take another step towards independence, to not need  me for yet another thing.

By the time we got back from vacation, though, I knew she was ready. Elena would often tell me when she’d gone…she would go for long stretches of dryness…then, while shelling out yet another $50 for a box of diapers, I’d had enough! I had better things to spend $50 on! I said to Elena, “This is it, okay? This is the last box I am buying! When I’m home over Christmas, you’re going to start peeing on the toilet! No more diapers!” She looked me straight in the eye & replied, “Okay, Momma!” So that was it…we talked about it a lot in the 2-3 weeks leading up to our “go dry” date.

We officially started Monday, December 23rd…it was rough at 1st…I’d done a lot of reading up on training, because that’s what I do…I tried leaving her bare bum, didn’t make any difference…we’re now using the quilted underpants & we like them.

The 1st few days we did have success but many accidents too. She picked right up on pooping in the toilet. We’ve had just one Number 2 accident which resulted in one of her Dora dolls going into the garbage. I was NOT about to wash poop out of poor Dora’s hair!!

The peeing accidents became more frequent & I was getting frustrated!! My friend said I just needed to set an alarm! So I did & I asked Elena every twenty minutes if she had to go & she always said no & then she’d pee on the floor!! I called my friend back & said her method wasn’t working at all!! First she laughed at me…then she clarified that the alarm was for ME! To remind ME to take Elena to the toilet!!

I also tried a reward system. We started with a Dora Map & Sticker set where she would get a sticker to place on the map every time she had a success…this worked at first but she lost interest. I tried M&Ms as a reward but they only work some of the time…seems Elena isn’t really motivated by rewards. She does love my crazy happy dances & she loves hearing me brag to everyone about her successes. What seems to make the most impact on her is me telling her how proud I am of her…which makes my heart burst with love for her little personality!!

I was very intimidated about going out…I took a waterproof bed mats, folded it & put it on the car seat…I didn’t want the seat ruined!! I also decided that I didn’t care what anyone thought & I would bring our toilet seat with us. The trainer seat, I mean, that fits on top of the toilet. This was genius! Elena was more than willing to sit on any toilet since she could sit on it safely.

Slowly we had more & more success!!  We’ve come a long way & are now having more successes than accidents. She tells me when she needs to go…most of the time, anyway. Since her speech is delayed (a whole other post, coming soon) we are also using the signs for poop, pee & toilet & that helps a lot with her letting me know she needs to go…& I need to remember to take her to the toilet & get her to try if she hasn’t gone in a while.

Over all, it’s been a pretty good experience…I can’t really articulate why, but it feels like this was a bonding experience for Elena & I…it feels like we’re closer. If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s similar to the advice I offer on all things parenting…don’t let anyone pressure you to train your kid before you are sure your kid (& you!) are ready & do it your way, whatever way works for you & your kid.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta pee!!