Yesterday I decided to spend my work break at a nearby coffee shop: Red Church Café + Gallery in downtown Hamilton. I am no stranger to this café, as I came across it a few months ago. At the time, I wanted something different from my regular Keurig brew or Timmies and went on the hunt for something better. I decided to go to the Starbucks in Gore Park but instead, I came across a sign that says this: Art. Coffee. Prosecco. Beer.
Bingo. I found what I was looking for.
Red Church Café + Gallery is just that. Unique and modern. The café is vibrant, eclectic and inviting. Towards the back of the café is an art gallery which exhibits work from local artists. The seating outside reminds me of a Parisian café but with a twist.
Yesterday I picked up a cappuccino. I asked the barista for a double shot of espresso, but to my surprise, the barista told me that all of their cappuccinos are made with a double shot of espresso anyways. In my opinion, the cappuccino is made just right, with not too much milk and more in the European fashion. They serve a wide selection of coffees from Americanos to Chai Lattes and everything in between. In addition to their drink menu, they also have a lovely selection of baked good available as well as breakfast sandwiches and a lunch menu. The cafe also sells De Mello Palhetta coffee and has an extensive selection of French press machines available for purchase.
Overall, I had a great experience and I can’t wait to go back and try something from their lunch menu and sit outside. I would say that Red Church is the perfect escape from reality, at least for a brief moment in time. I can’t wait to go back and enjoy a cappuccino and sit outside, while I reminisce of Europe.
Lets face it. Being a mom is hard. Working mom, stay-at-home mom, part-time working mom, self-employed mom, its tough, no matter how you “mom” it.
I never in my wildest years ever imagined that I would have to literally plan my day to a “t.” Since I have returned to work in October, my life has been in a constant state of chaos: numerous illnesses courtesy of daycare, days running into the office late, days where the weather is so bad I dread going into work, late nights with sick kids, late nights when M is on call, and late nights catching up on laundry. Its like having a newborn all over again, as you are constantly tired. I mean, it is chaotic but its manageable. But I am happy to report that my family and I have come to a point where everyone is on a good schedule and we’ve “figured things out” (I think??) But it takes time to get there.
I mean, the months returning to work after maternity leave is hard. Your kids are confused (why is mama leaving me?); you are confused (did I forget how to talk to adults?) and everything just seems to be confusing for a while…..and that’s okay. This is now my second time going back to work after maternity leave. Its tough but eventually you get through it and “figure it out” (whatever that means). What is my secret to this? Well, its no secret because so many people are already masters of this wonderful tool called balance.
How does a busy parent of small children achieve this?
Well, these are some of the things that I have been incorporating into my life. Its not perfect and some days it can be messy, but you learn how to deal with it and move on. My tips are as follows:
Staying organized – every night, I prepare my outfit and the boys outfit for the next day. The worst is if you have a late night and wake up late but nothing is ready. Then you just end up scrambling. I also swear by a calendar to write all our appointments and other extra-curricular activities and place numerous reminders on my Outlook. I swear that baby brain is a real thing, and keeping everything organized helps. Here is a nice calendar I bought at Winners to jot down appointments, commitments and deadlines:
Prepare meals in advance – some things are easy to make in advance and place I’m the freezer, like pasta sauce for instance. Cutting up fruit and veggies and placing them in containers for snacks is also another great idea. Its a good way to stay healthy and on track. Works for kids too!
Coffee (or tea) break – This is self-explanatory.
Cleaning schedule – delegate certain nights for certain tasks and get the rest of the family involved! Long gone are my days when I can spend 3-4 hours on a Saturday cleaning. With two small kids, thats not an option anymore, (I’d rather do fun things with the kids anyways on weekends) so I break it up throughout the week. For instance, Monday nights when M. is at the gym and kids are asleep, I clean the washrooms. Kitchen we always wipe down and vacuum after dinner (babies and toddlers make a huge mess so we always end up vacuuming after anyways). I find that keeping things tidy makes it easier and when it comes time for a deep clean (spring cleaning for instance) I send my hubby and kids away. That calendar I bought is also a great tool to create a cleaning schedule.
Exercise – need I say more? Its healthy for you and a great way to relieve stress. My husband and I alternate nights going to the gym. I usually go when the kids fall asleep and hit the treadmill for about 45 minutes or do a virtual fitness class. Sometimes, if I don’t feel like driving, I will work out at home and there are lots of great workouts for free on YouTube. If the weather is great, I’ll take the kids out and push the stroller or wagon for a nice long walk. Everyone wins! With work and other commitments, I try and aim for some form of exercise three times a week. Its manageable!
Ask for help – there is no shame ever in asking for help. Sometimes we rely on our parents or friends to ask for help and that is okay!! Yes we can be supermoms but even the best of supermoms need help once in a while and there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I find that I get overwhelmed with life and I’ve learned that the best thing to do is ask for help.
Accept that things are never “picture perfect” – I am trying to let go of this idea that things are “perfect.” (i.e. kids are in perfect outfits; I have the perfect outfit; everyone eats dinner politely; there’s never a mess; we are always on vacation visiting countries with warm climates, and so on and so fourth). The point is, I’ve learned to let this idea of “perfect” go and accept and embrace reality- which is being a working mom with two small children. Some days I go to work and not realize I have snot on my shirt, but in my mom’s own words: “whatever!!!” It happens! C’est la vie!!!
Take the time out for yourself – this is key. Ask your hubby or a relative to watch the kids for a few hours while you go to the hair salon or to the mall solo. Sometimes you just need a few hours to yourself! This is more for your sanity.
Overall, the main thing that I have learned so far in my journey as a mom is that you can only do the best you can. You have to adjust your life and be in tune with the lives of your little ones and your spouse. With that being said, sometimes things don’t go always as smoothly as you want it to, and if that’s the case, you just learn how to roll with it! Like they say, life is a balancing act, and being a mother is no different.
It is no secret that moving can be the most stressful period of your life. The weeks leading up to our move were filled with chaos, confusion, optimism, tears and lots of red wine. Within six weeks, the last five years of our lives were all packed up in boxes. Moving certainly came with its challenges, namely a sick baby, a toddler fighting sleep and a husband busy preparing for yet another licensing exam. Despite all the obstacles that came my way, I somehow managed to get through it.
I knew eventually that “moving day” would come. When you are married to a medical resident, it is possible that relocation is in your near future. I am no stranger to this. I left Toronto in 2012 to follow him when he was matched for his residency program. I left behind the big city, my beloved job and friends. It was different though. We were just about to get married and I was excited to start the next chapter together. I was excited to embrace marriage, to leave a condo for a house and to move on to the next stage of our careers. There was a lot of positive change going around which we were both ready and excited for. However, this time around, I felt different. It was hard and I didn’t realize how hard it would be.
As he started counting down the final days of his fellowship, I too was counting down our final days in our beloved first home. Although I am extremely happy for him to embark this new chapter in his career, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I was sad to leave behind a home we built for nearly five years. It was also was hard for me to leave behind the many friends we had met over the years and the relationships we made. Furthermore, I had a difficult time coming to the realization that I had to start all over again: reacquainting myself in a new city, making new friends, and possibly trying to transfer my job. I couldn’t understand why I felt this way seeing that I knew that ultimately we would move once his fellowship was over. When we sold our house I cried every night for a week. It took a while for reality to sink in, but hey, here we are and we got through it.
As difficult the task of packing was, it gave me a chance to reminisce about our early beginnings. I will never forget the excitement we had as a newly married couple and entering our home for the first time. I remember the times when we went shopping to find accent pieces and decor to make our house more of a home. In this house we hosted many events and had many date “nights in” to ourselves. We also filled our house with love: it was in our first home we found out that we were expecting. But this was just one of many “firsts:” first birthdays and Christmases, first steps, first tooth and first words.
I guess you could say that the idea of moving is bittersweet. We simply didn’t live in our home but we created a life there. And as hard as this move was for me, I remind myself that this is not the end of our story, rather, the next chapter in our life together. Although I am a little hesistant to start all over again, its this excitement of the unknown that makes this journey special and unique: it is just one piece in the story of us.
As I see you today, you are hurrying out of your car to make your way to the NICU. Your heart is pounding and your mind is racing today. You are full of anticipation and joy to spend time with your baby, who, like many babies there, came into this world far too soon.
As you enter the NICU, you instantaneously go to the washing station to clean your hands, as you fear that any germs you brought from the outside may harm you baby. You rush down the hall and get to your baby’s isolette and talk to the day nurse who gets you up to speed with the day’s events.
You worry at every moment when those numbers on the monitor go up, or down. You jump at any moment when your cell rings, or when the nurse says, “the doctor would like to talk to you today about….” I see the worry in your eyes. I see both the hesitation and the hope that things will be alright. You fear the unknown. As everyone there tells you, life in the NICU is one step forward, two steps back.
I also see you standing by your baby’s isolette, admiring your baby and watching them grow from the outside. I see all the love that overcomes you when you look into your little baby, fighting for their life. Despite all the fear and darkness, you do believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and trust me, you will get there soon. There may be obstacles to get there- such as oral feeds and weight gain, but eventually your baby will get there.
Every moment in the NICU is a special one. You record every moment on your smartphone. Your baby book is filled with different “firsts:” First kangaroo cuddle, first bath, first day off of CPAP and so on. I see you paying diligent attention to the nurse who teaches you how to take your baby’s temperature and how to administer medications and vitamins. You’re already ahead of the game!
As time passes on and your baby continues to develop and grow, the final piece of the puzzle falls into place: oral feeds. Your baby has taken off without any issue! The doctor is giving your baby the green light to go home. As discharge day approaches, you are busy cleaning your house and making sure that everything is perfect for your little one as they deserve it after a long hospital stay.
However, I must warn you there is a scary part. When you come home, there will be no more monitors. No more doctors, no more nurses to help or dieticians to asses feeds. You are all on your own. But that is okay! Remember you got this. Remember your medical team would not send your baby home if they weren’t 100% ready. You can do this and remember you will do an amazing job because of all the prep you were given during your hospital stay. It’s all on you now.
I will warn you- you will worry. You will worry a lot. You will get scared of things that wouldn’t normally scare you, like a cold for starters. You will start doing things that most people don’t typically do when they bring a new born home. You’ll start screening all your visitors to make sure no one is ill. I hate to remind you, but your baby is still vulnerable for some time. During winter, you may be in lockdown to avoid RSV season. But that is okay. Don’t feel like you are offending anyone. Remember, you are protecting your baby. Be prepared for remarks, I am sure of this. But don’t let it bother you, as remember, no one knows really what your little family went through. Even those with the best of intentions may say something that will hurt. My only advice is to forgive them.
At times, you will feel left out from things that some people take for granted, like playdates or even talking about certain milestones. You may find yourself falling into a habit of trying to explain to a stranger “corrected” versus “actual” age, or how many millilitres your baby takes in a feed. For a while this will happen, and that is okay.
Sometimes, you may find yourself feeling frustrated or angry. You may feel as if you were robbed of so many things such as bringing your child home after delivery or having a baby shower while still pregnant. You may find yourself sometimes crying about these things and I wanted to tell you that is okay. Its okay to grieve what you and your child lost. But don’t look at it as a loss, look at it as a different beginning to the story of your little family.
And although these things may hurt and sometimes you may feel alone, know that you are not. Know that there are so many others born before your child, who have gone on to do so well in their lives. Know that there is a support network of parents of premature children all over the world that you can lean on, to talk to, to laugh and share stories with.
Despite all the ups and downs that you have been through, I see you right now, stronger than ever and being an amazing parent to that beautiful, strong child. That is you, preemie momma. You can do this.
As a result of complications at 28 weeks 4 days into my pregnancy, I was admitted to hospital due to a short cervix. The following a week I was discharged on bed rest. What that entails is no prolonged walking, moving, working, lifting, cooking or cleaning. Literally, rest!
Although some may perceive this as an extra vacation, it really isn’t. It can make some women feel isolated and depressed, perhaps defeated. It’s a double edged sword- although it is difficult not being able to do anything or go anywhere, its for the baby’s best interest.
Recent studies have shown that bed rest has no effect on pregnancy, despite the fact that many mothers with complications in pregnancy report that going on bed rest has indeed prolonged their pregnancies. In my own case, the doctors thought I would not make it to 32 weeks however here I am at 36 weeks 2 days. I have made it further along this pregnancy than I did with my son and I too believe it has to do with bed rest. As one doctor explained to me, placing restrictions on my activities (no cooking, no working, lifting or cleaning) takes off a huge stress from my body. Stress on a woman during pregnancy can cause complications such as pre term labour, so going on bed rest does make sense.
Despite all the ups and downs I have experienced with this pregnancy, going on bed rest was the best thing for the baby. Even though I can’t go anywhere or do anything, I basically had to find “simple things” to do within my restrictions. Here are some of my ideas I want to share with you if you are on bed rest:
Netflix (or the equivalent to) – this is a great opportunity to catch up on some of your favourite shows or movies.
Pinterest planning – despite the fact I can’t go out to stores and buy things for the new baby, I can certainly plan baby’s nursery or going home outfit with the help of Pinterest. I have created idea boards such as “nursery”, “hospital bag” and “post partum” wear on Pinterest. Thank goodness for online shopping and home delivery to help make these boards come to life!
Online shopping – enough said. I have done a lot of online shopping since I have been on bed rest (sorry hubby!) So far I have purchased the following: new sleepers and onesies for the baby, going home outfit for baby and myself, toiletries, cosmetics, nursing bras and tops, a double stroller, even storage furniture and table and chairs for my son’s playroom (which hubby put together!)
Organizing your washroom – Every now and then I tend to hoard beauty and bath products and sometimes they just accumulate in my washroom. I took a day and sat down in my washroom and went through all my cosmetics, beauty and bath products and organized them and things that were empty or not used I threw out.
Read – since returning to work from my last mat leave, I haven’t had the time to pick up a book. Since I’ve been off I read the Nest and I am now starting The Girl on the Train. I have also gone through two editions of Vogue and In Style, 1 edition of Lou Lou, Elle US, Elle Canada, and Fashion magazine.
Visitors! Its always nice to have visitors come by. People sometimes feel as if they are intruding. Believe me, you are not! I appreciated any visitor because I haven’t been in the outside world since mid-July and its feels better to socialize with people. From my experience thus far, any visitor that came by took away that feeling of isolation, which can make some women feel depressed. If you have a friend who is on bed rest, now is the time to visit them.
Crafts – lots of women on bed rest take up some sort of craft while on bedrest (such as crocheting). I am not a crafty person though so I did not partake in this activity. I did create a tassel garland (thanks Pinterest) for my son’s second birthday! My husband went to the Dollar Store and picked up all the materials I needed to create that garland.
Journal about the baby or start a baby book – as I did for my son, I created a baby book and planned to do the same with baby #2. This was the perfect opportunity to start it and in there I have all the baby’s ultrasounds thus far and even included my hospital tag from my recent hospital stay.
Blog! I started this blog while on bed rest as I have a passion for writing. Perhaps this is a good time for you to blog about a topic you are passionate about.
Home spa – If you can’t walk far to get your own mani/pedi, you can certainly do one at home. Take some time out of your day to pamper yourself and lay in a nice warm bath, or place a face mask on and give yourself a mani/pedi. Believe me, once the baby arrives you won’t have time to do this.
Like any married couple, my husband and I always wanted to start a family. We always dreamed of having a large family and wanted four kids. Our dreams came true when we found out that we were becoming parents in late February 2014.
The baby’s due date was October 17th, 2014. As you could imagine, my husband and I were over the moon. Of course with all this excitement also meant planning: we looked for names, we started setting up the nursery, created a baby registry and started planning a baby shower. Everything seemed perfect and I had a normal, text book pregnancy. Life couldn’t be any better as things were going according to plan. However at 28 weeks and 5 days gestation, a turn of events would change our lives forever…
I woke up for work at my usual time and started contracting but I did not know it. I was in a huge amount of pain and left my office within an hour. Later that morning, the pain worsened and I started to bleed. My husband frantically drove me to hospital. We found out that I was going into premature labour. By the time we reached hospital, I was 10 cm dilated and it was too late to do anything. Within minutes, I was rushed to the OR and gave birth to a beautiful but tiny baby boy. Following a 65-day NICU stay, our son came home healthy. To this day we do not know why I went into labour so early as up until that point I had a normal pregnancy. Despite all of this, our son is doing very well and is your typical two-year old.
I am sure you are wondering if I wanted to have another child after all what we have been through. A premature birth is in itself a traumatic experience and many parents who go through a premature birth do not want to have any more children. I told myself that I wanted to be the exception to the rule; that I could and will have a full-term pregnancy after having a preemie. I wanted my son to have at least one sibling to share and make memories with. I also wanted to give myself another chance to experience something that was robbed from me and that was a third trimester.
In early February 2016, my husband and I were ecstatic to find out that we were expecting our second child. My due date is October 3rd, 2016. Early on I was referred to a high-risk OB and started the appropriate monitoring and treatment. Every week I would be given a shot of progesterone (not fun) and every two weeks my cervix would be monitored (even less fun). I am not going to lie, as happy as I was when I found out that I was expecting again, a part of me was also very terrified. The chances of giving birth prematurely were now 15 percent as I had a premature birth before. Although I knew that I was going to be closely monitored, this time around I wanted to make sure that nothing would be overlooked. I was a bit of a hypochondriac in a sense where some may have thought I took things too seriously. But after my previous experience, who wouldn’t feel that way as well?
Things were going well until I fell ill at 28 weeks and 3 days with severe nausea and upset stomach symptoms. I went to the OB triage where they kept me overnight for monitoring in fears that I may become dehydrated. That morning, I was sent for ultrasound which uncovered that my cervix significantly shortened and that I was 50 percent effaced. Luckily it was still closed. I was then immediately sent to the antenatal unit where I spent a week in monitoring. The team wanted me to make it to at least 32 weeks where premature infants have minimal to no risk of mortality, disability and disease. This time around, I was given steroid shots to help baby’s lungs develop in case of an early arrival. For the remainder of the week, I was limited in terms of mobility and basically spent the whole week watching Property Brothers. The following week, things had stabilized and my cervix lengthened where the team felt comfortable sending me home on bed rest.
I am happy to report that I am as of today 32 weeks! Last Thursday I found out that my cervix is still closed and lengthened again. I just want to keep this baby cooking!!! As hard as it is being on bed rest, this is the best thing for the baby for now. Although some days I feel like I am walking on egg shells, I have to maintain a positive mind and hope for the best. Prayer has certainly helped. For that I have my loving husband and family to thank, as well as the tremendous amount of support and care from my doctors as well as my friends. Whatever the outcome will be, I do believe that things will be alright.