Suddenly, change

Pandra has been put through a lot in the last week. She’s handling it all really well, though. My kids are resilient, and for that I am thankful.

Pandra on a tricycle
Pandra is growing up fast…

I started to cut back on nursing her late last week, on the advice of the oncologist. It only makes sense to wean her now, rather than right before chemo starts, so that it’s not an issue for her. Really doing anything to make life less complicated when that happens is a good plan.

But weaning has been hard for me this time around. Lyra nursed until she was almost two and a half years old, and then I flew away to Las Vegas for an extended weekend. When I got back and she asked to nurse, I told her that the milk was all gone, and she said “oh,” and never asked for it again. We were both pretty much ready to stop at that point.

I expected to nurse Pandra for longer than this. It’s been a bit of a blow to me that I’m not, even though I know there is no harm in stopping now. I’m not nursing her at this point because I have to; I’m doing it because I want to, and because she wants to.

Today was the first day I haven’t nursed her at all. Yesterday, she nursed once in the morning. The day before, she nursed once in the evening after work. On the weekend it was maybe twice each day. She hasn’t given up asking yet, although she’s stopped having epic meltdowns when I tell her no. Small steps.

The worst for me is when she walks around the house, making me follow her from room to room, assertively pointing in each room at a chair or bed where, in the past, we have nursed. She’s so disappointed when I say no that I want desperately to give in, just this once maybe. But I don’t. And she doesn’t nurse at all overnight any more. But there’s more to that side of things…

Sharing bedrooms is the best!

I had given up nursing Pan at night two months ago, but when she got sick, I went back to it. It helped her sleep. When she was better, though, she wanted to nurse all night still, so I had to cut that back. She was very rageful about this, and we didn’t sleep for a week or two.

Last weekend I decided, on a whim, to move her bed into Lyra’s room as an experiment. Adam thought I was crazy and that it could never work. I mostly agreed with him, but I needed to try anyway. So that night, we put the girls to bed at the same time, in the same room. Bedtime was mildly chaotic, but we managed.

Lyra was fantastic about having Pandra in her room. When I told her that Pan might cry for a bit, Lyra said “Oh, that’s okay mom. I’ll tell her it’s okay.” When I mentioned that Pan might wake up in the middle of the night and yell, Lyra replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll just go back to sleep when she’s done.” All this from a girl who looks for any excuse to stay awake all night.

And then, when Pandra did wake up in the middle of the first night, Lyra didn’t. When she woke up the second time it was closer to 5:30 in the morning, so I took Pan into the living room to cuddle, and Lyra followed. Pan fell back asleep in her bed, and Lyra and I went to sleep in the office. We all slept until 9am.

Adam and I were amazed that Pan had only woken up twice. And that Lyra hadn’t been upset by any of it, and was perfectly happy to share her room with Pan again the next night.

And that’s how it’s been since Saturday night. It’s Wednesday night now, and last night was the first night ever that Pandra has slept a whole night through. We realize that it might be a fluke, and she will probably still have wake-ups, but the fact that it happened at all has been a shock to our systems. It took Lyra until she was three and a half years old to sleep through the night.

Little girl in a dress
Lyra, the young lady

Not that we felt rested or caught up on sleep yet. That will take a bit longer. But I’m so glad that my children adapt well to change, and that I pushed through the challenge of having Pandra weaned and sleeping well and in a separate room from me before chemotherapy starts. I don’t know how I’m going to react to it yet; but I do know that I will be better off with my own space.

And to top it all off, Lyra, who has so easily taken to sharing her sleeping space, lost her first baby tooth yesterday. She’s not a baby anymore. She hasn’t been a baby in a very long time, but now she’s losing teeth and going to school. Everything, absolutely everything, feels like it’s changed in the last couple of months. I don’t feel bad about this; I like change. But it’s been a challenge learning how to handle it all.

My girls are both lovely, and adaptable, and clever. They’ll have no problem dealing with whatever changes get thrown at us in the near future; of this I am confident. We’ll all be okay.

Not knowing what the future holds

I took Lyra to her friend’s birthday party on Sunday and stayed there for the duration. I knew the parents of Lyra’s friend well enough from playdates and chats at preschool where they met, and I had briefly met one of the other parents there at one of Lyra’s dance classes (she remembered me; I only vaguely remembered her). Otherwise, the parents were all strangers to me. I find it difficult to be in a room full of people I don’t know particularly well at the best of times; it was unsettling, to say the least, to be in a room full of people when I’m mostly distracted by thinking about cancer and upcoming potential treatments and side-effects, without talking about it somehow. To me it feels a bit like I’m a sheep in wolf’s clothing… like I’m pretending to be a perfectly normal human being, but there’s something¬†wrong with me and I’m not telling them.

I’m guessing that this feeling will pass eventually. Or maybe it won’t, but eventually it will be obvious to groups of strangers that something isn’t right with me. I don’t know. By then I may not be as weird about it.

I took a walk in the rain.
I took a walk in the rain.

I’ve noticed that some of my friends and family cope with my having cancer differently than I do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, since it’s not up to me how other people handle their own feelings. And if my general disposition bothers them somehow, I know I’m not responsible for their reactions to my coping mechanisms. I’m pretty sure that so far I haven’t felt guilty about this. I may have to keep it in mind, though.

Today I walked in the rain through Vancouver’s Chinatown to get a stomach x-ray. This was one of the first tests that my doctor booked me for, because my cough sounded to her like it might be caused by acid reflux. I asked her if I should go ahead and get the test done still, even though I’m doing all these other appointments and scans and ultrasounds, and she said I might as well. If I have an ulcer or something on top of everything else, it would be good knowing that in advance.

I love the rain. Every fall since we’ve lived in the Vancouver area, I’ve welcomed the beginning of the rainy season. I love the sound and the smell of it, and how the clouds make the sky so interesting, and the colours that come out when a sunshower peeks its way through. I’m happy to see the end of summer and the grey skies. It’s possible that I was meant to live here.

Into the future

Looking ahead, Adam and I can see that this is going to be a long, challenging winter; probably among our most challenging yet. Friends and family have been offering to help in any way they can, but for now we can’t see anything that we need. Unless someone wants to come and mop the floor, but really, that’s only not happening because our steam floor cleaner broke and we both don’t like mopping. Right now, though, I feel normal. Well, I feel fatigued, but I have a 15 month old who doesn’t sleep very well and a five year old who isn’t much better. Adam and I are both fatigued. I’m pretty sure that, for now, it’s not the cancer.

I have another CT scan tomorrow to look for more tumours. Once they know if/where I have any other growths, then they will work out my stage, and figure out what my treatment plan will be. Thursday is the Oncologist appointment. Hopefully my actual chemotherapy will start not long afterwards.

Chemotherapy and breastfeeding the baby dragon

The one thing I am least looking forward to in the upcoming chemotherapy I’ll be undergoing is weaning Pandra. That baby loves nursing. She’s practically gleeful every time she gets to cuddle down into my lap and drink her fill of milk. And I love the nursing relationship that I have with her. I was prepared to continue nursing for the next year, but that is no longer an option.

I don’t think it’s going to be an easy transition. No, I think think that this is going to be a very, very difficult transition — hard on Pandra, hard on me, and hard on Adam. There will be nights of not enough sleep. There will be tears, and yelling, and banshee-shrieking, and exhaustion for everyone. I may have to sleep somewhere else for a night or two — in the office, or at a friend’s house even — leaving Adam to handle the banshee girl (I must admit, the idea of sleeping out of the house where I might actually sleep the entire night through fills me with a bit of guilty joy).

And in the end it will all be fine, and my relationship with my baby won’t be damaged, and she’s big enough and eats well enough that she won’t be malnourished if we stop, and maybe we’ll all start to sleep the night through earlier than we did with Lyra. But oh, how I do not look forward to the process. Because how could anyone say no to this face?

Sad Pandra is sad.
Sad Pandra is sad.

Fitness in the world of mommyhood

SpokesLet me be honest with you – I am terrible at fitness. I have been for as long as I can remember. I hated gym class in public & high school. I have had gym memberships on more than one occasion and actually gone to the gym twice at most, each time. I decided to take up running and did it once (after buying pricey running shoes!) There is a distinct lack of fitness regimen in my life.

It’s not that I’m in terrible shape; I’m not. Neither am I in good shape. I have weirdness in my left knee & hip that makes it hard to crouch or climb stairs at times. I can’t run unless my life depends on it. I get winded if I climb a lot of stairs. And if you go by general standards of female shape and body, I have more weight on me than is ideal. I suppose that makes me just about average.

It’s in my nature, however, to compare myself to everyone around me. I compare myself when I’m riding my bike to the people who ride past me effortlessly on the uphill, and feel like I’m falling short. I follow it up with reasons why I’m not – at least I’m ON my bike, and I’m doing a near 15k ride each way to get to and from work, up and down mountains and bridges, and hey, I haven’t actually been bike commuting in two years and they’re doing it way more often, and some of them are crazy roadies and I’ll never keep up with them even if I want to. But all of these thoughts come after the fact, and while they help, the initial feeling of losing some sort of competition in my head (stupid competitive head) is not really a good one.

I’ve been realizing for the past year or two (not including pregnancy time) that I am quite simply thinner in my mind than I actually am. I think you’re supposed to feel the opposite, according to what all the magazines say anyhow, but that’s not for me. I assume I’m pretty slim, and then see a photo of myself and think “holy crap I’m SO much bigger than I think I am!” On top of that, I’m realizing that in my general age group among the other women at work (and I work with a lot of women) I’m on the larger scale. It is very unsettling to think you’re one size and realize that you’re not – even when you think you’re thin.

Earlier in the spring I signed up to do core conditioning clinics with a group of women, specifically designed to condition you for mountain biking. I actually rather enjoyed it, and stuck with it I think because it was a class format that a friend was also taking, and I had paid to go to the class, which commits me to going on two levels. You might think that paying for a gym membership would provide the same commitment, but it really doesn’t. At any rate, this wasn’t about weight loss, it was about strengthening and conditioning. And it was good, but I haven’t lost weight.

I considered a mommy boot camp type thing, and even signed up for one, but it was cancelled before it even began. After that I realized that a boot camp is probably not for me anyway – I don’t like exercising, and turning it into some sort of military training thing just bothers me on so many levels.

Those conditioning clinics are still happening, but with the car purchase we’re not in any place for me to rejoin them. It’s possible in a few months we’ll work out how to fit it in, but right now it’s not an option. So I’ve decided in the meantime that my only real option for cardio fitness is the biking to and from work, which I restarted doing this week.

On Monday I rode to work, then went downtown on my bike at lunchtime, then back to work, and then did a partial ride home (combined with transit.) It felt good, and I was exhausted. Yesterday I took transit as usual. Today I rode again, this time managing to go both to and from work. It felt great, and wasn’t as hard as on Monday. It’s amazing how fast you acclimatize to that kind of exertion.

My ride isn’t really a short one. I measured it out once on google maps, and it came to about 14.5 km one way. There is uphill and downhill in both directions, although it’s slightly more downhill on the way there, and thus slightly more uphill on the way home. It takes me just under an hour to do the ride at the moment – probably about 45 – 50 minutes.

This means I’m doing an hour and a half of cardio on a bike every time I ride. I have no idea if this will help me lose weight. I’m not entirely certain that losing weight is what I want to do – people keep telling me I look like I’ve lost weight, but I haven’t actually lost a pound in about 6 months now. My shape has definitely changed since before the pregnancy, and I’m down to my pre-pregnancy weight without really having to work at it (probably because of breastfeeding, but who knows).

So without cash to join a class, I’m hoping that my riding to and from work can be some sort of fitness regimen. If I lose weight, that would be awesome. If I tone up and look better, that would also rock. If I lose a size, that would be nice too. But really, what I want is to be able to play with Lyra and keep up with her at least a bit. She’s an active little monkey, and I don’t want to be a couch potato for her life. The biking will help, I just hope it’s enough. I don’t have the money (or, to be honest, want to spare any more time away from Lyra) to get a personal trainer or join hardcore classes. Plus, I don’t wanna.

Except that part of my brain that’s comparing me to everyone else and saying I fall short. I’ll just continue telling that part to shut the hell up.

Teething is fun times!

Lyra cut her first tooth (that’s the right terminology, isn’t it?) just over a week ago. She was fine with it – had a couple of episodes of crankyness, and drooled like a Saint Bernard, but she was mostly fine. Today I think she had another teething cranky fit. This morning her cheek went all red, and this afternoon she got very, very cranky and was stuffing everything she could get her hands on (fingers included) into her mouth. Tonight she was voracious with the chewing on of her teething toys. I think she may have another tooth coming in already, but I’m not sure if it really happens that quickly.

We were planning on going snowshoeing tomorrow morning up on Cypress, but now there’s a snowfall warning for tonight into tomorrow. With Lyra teething like she is, I think she and I will sit this one out. Adam and Jordy can go out if they are so inclined, but us girls will stay in and bake cookies.

There was to be a cookie exchange today, but various people were forced to drop out due to illness, so instead Adam, Maryn, Robert, Lyra and I went for a walk on the West Van seawall with Delany’s coffees. It was fun, but there were no cookies made. This puts me behind in my cookie-making plans. I went and bought a new cookie sheet, even, but have since realized that it’s too big for my little oven. This is disappointing in so many ways.

I’ve had a low-level cold for the past month, it feels like. It’s just a running nose and the occasional sneeze… enough to be annoying without actually becoming a cold.

Adam lost his wedding ring today. We might still find it – he was putting Christmas lights out on our balcony and it fell off his finger into the snow either on the balcony or on the ground below. When it melts, perhaps we’ll find it. It was a bit too big and couldn’t be resized because it was titanium, so really it was only a matter of time before he lost it. I’ll have to figure out what I want to do for replacing it… definitely not something to worry about right now. I haven’t even started Christmas shopping, really, so this week is going to be fun!

I think Lyra’s starting to show some vague interest in solid food lately. She’s certainly been watching me eat more closely. I let her taste a bit of banana this week – she seemed to like it. Soon enough I suppose she’ll start supplementing the breast milk with new and interesting flavours and textures. I look forward to it and I feel strange about it all at the same time. I still hope to breastfeed her for as long as we’re both interested in it and happy doing so, though, so it’s not like things are over in that sense.

Tonight she is waking up often and needing a lot of calming. The teeth must be bugging her.

So much to say…

… and little time with two hands to type it out.

Nursing Lyra has given me a new insight into the fact that I am an animal. I have no qualms nursing her anywhere, any time (except in a moving car, and that’s just because she’s strapped into her car seat.) This includes restaurants and stores, the sidewalk, sitting at the bus stop, on the bus itself – literally anywhere. I nurse her anywhere, and I’m completely comfortable with it. The best is when small children (almost invariably little boys) come up to see what’s happening. It’s quite sweet, really.

The other part of the realization that I am an animal is just the awe I feel at the fact that my body is producing exactly as much milk as she needs, on demand. To be fair, I’m very lucky in that breastfeeding came so easily to me, and now it’s second nature. She knows what she’s doing – we both have it pretty well figured out. I can almost feel when she needs to eat before she starts giving the signals. I’m as much an animal as a cat with kittens. I can try to intellectualize it as much as I want, but when it comes right down to it, I can’t possibly explain. It just is.
Tonight I’m trying to get the bedroom clean. It hasn’t been cleaned since before Lyra was born – it’s probably been three months. That’s unfortunate, and I think starting to drive both Adam and me crazy. Part of the problem is that we have too many clothes, and not enough closet space. Sadly, I’m still in my maternity clothing for the most part – I won’t fit back into my before-pregnancy clothes for a while, but some of the maternity stuff is just too big. I’m in this insane transition where very little fits me, but I’m not willing to get rid of the pre-preggo stuff, and I can’t exactly go out and buy a new wardrobe when I’m working on dropping back down in weight. I’m actually only about 7 lbs off now, but it’s all in the belly I think, so pants are not fitting, and shirts I used to wear accentuate the floppy belly I got from pregnancy in a kind of nasty way. As for maternity shirts – some of them fit fine and look okay, but some of them just make me look chubby. It gets annoying – I know there are clothes I could get that would make me feel comfortable with myself, but I can’t justify buying a new wardrobe.

In other news, Adam put money aside for me to get a bike post-baby… so I now have a new bike! I’m super excited, can’t wait to get out and do some riding. I found a used Santa Cruz Nomad that fits me and is outfitted in great parts, as well as being super well maintained. I hope to start going out for short rides to get back in shape and see if I can still remember how to ride a bike.

Baby things and breastfeeding and such…

Today Lyra is three weeks old. Today is also her original due date. When I first found out I was pregnant, I didn’t want to tell people the exact due date because it seemed like such a changeable thing. Turns out I was right about that, I guess.

We’ve settled in to something akin to a newborn routine, which I know and accept is subject to change drastically and without notice. At the moment, however, it’s nice – I sleep during the day when she’s sleeping (not all day, but often,) which helps me stay coherent. At night I nap on the couch until around midnight, when she wants to nurse. She’s still not quite willing to sleep in the bassinet (or anywhere not on a living body) most of the time, so she and I generally stay on the couch all night, feeding at three hour intervals or so. Basically this means she eats at midnight, 3:00am, 5:30am, and 8:00am, at which point she has a nice awake time where I hand her off to her daddy and get some more sleep until around 10:00am.

I’ve found it’s very uncomfortable to breastfeed her in bed – I don’t like sitting up without being able to lean back against something, and since we don’t have a headboard there is nothing to lean against. If I lean on the wall, the bed slides out from it. The only way I can comfortably feed her in bed is lying on my side, but I prefer not to do that too often. I couldn’t really tell you why – it’s comfortable, but I’m not totally comfortable with it. Mostly this means I don’t sleep in bed anymore, but out on the couch.

I also let Adam sleep the night through because really, there is nothing he can do to help in the middle of the night. At some point I’ll start pumping milk (I got a breast pump today on craigslist, just need to buy bottles for it) but for now it’s far easier to let him sleep. At least then one of us is awake and functional during the day. Besides, starting next week he’s back at work anyway, and he’ll definitely need sleep again.

Breastfeeding is really going well now. The midwives are happy with her latch and said that she’s definitely got the feeding thing figured out. It’s actually rather entertaining to me watching her when she’s all excited about feeding – the mouth opens up wide and she waves her face around and makes some fantastic gorilla sounds, all of which add up to something strange and cute that makes me laugh.

I have more to say, perhaps in another post because this one is long and all about breastfeeding it seems.