Global Mama: Canada

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

“Whoa, Mama!” Worldwide: We’re profiling one mother from every country on the planet.  (Current tally: 3 down, 189 countries to go!)

If you want to nominate a first-time mother living outside of the United States to be featured here, please send me an e-mail at: get[dot]msmack [at] gmail [dot] com.

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I met Nancy Blades through a mutual friend in Toronto. This was many years ago. Maybe even a decade. Long before this 40-year-old became a single mom to twins. Of course we had to meet. We have the same last name. There’s no relation—that we readily know of. But we’re both black girls. Canadian black girls. Canadian black girls with parents from the Caribbean. So, math tells us there’s some link there somehow. And I’d be happy to call Nancy cousin. She’s pretty great. But you’ll see that for yourself …

Life before baby …
Before my kids, life was pretty good. I had the average life of a single, urban, professional woman: house, car, good job. I traveled with my girlfriends every chance I got. And I was looking for Mr. Right to come along so the two of us could build something together.

My ideas about motherhood …
I always knew I wanted kids. I’m from a large family (the youngest of six), so I envisioned at least four children. As I got older the number scaled back a bit, but I knew that one way or another I would be a mom—even if it meant adoption. My ideas about motherhood came from a cultural perspective … it was just something women did and were meant to do.

After being engaged and having it not work out, plus being in my early thirties, I began to think more and more about adopting on my own.

Then came Nya and Darius …
When I found out I was pregnant, I was in total shock! And when I found out I was having twins, I felt like the ground literally opened up and swallowed me whole.

Then when the kids came along, they turned my whole world upside down! I had done the normal prep of reading books, talking to other moms, setting up a nursery in my home and at my mom’s (since I stayed there for a while after I left the hospital).

But nothing could have ever prepared me for what lay ahead: two babies to nurse, two babies crying (one who had colic for the first three months), two babies waking in the night to be nursed, two babies pooping and spitting up all over me, two babies crying, eczema, thrush, colds, diaper rash, screaming in the car seat—times two! Then there was no sleep as both my babies lost their sense of day and night. They slept all day and were up all night for the first four months. And did I mention two babies crying?!

I chose to nurse exclusively for the first six months and always did tandem nursing. I actually ended up nursing them until one month before they turned 3. I know it sounds crazy, but looking back, I think I did it for so long because it was the only thing I did well! I also allowed them to share my bed until just after their second birthday. I just could not be bothered to do the sleep training.

I remember, I had just returned home after staying with my mother. I was truly on my own with my babies. It was really overwhelming. Through the Toronto Parents of Multiple Births Association, I found out that I could call Toronto Public Health for support.

As I was talking to someone over the phone and explaining my situation, I started to cry. At that moment the woman who was doing my phone assessment changed her line of questioning and began to do a suicide assessment on me. I know this from my 18 years working as a social worker. I think she switched things up when I said, “They are sucking the life out me.” So very plainly and calmly I said, “Ma’am, I know where you are going with this. Let me assure you, I am not suicidal. I’m just very overwhelmed!”

The most challenging part of motherhood …
It’s all a huge challenge! I think the hardest thing continues to be doing it on my own. There are times when I would just love to have someone there to bounce an idea off or check in with to see if I’m doing it right. So I call up my best friend (also a single mom of two young kids) and check in with her.

I can say that I’m at a point now where I finally enjoy my kids. Before, it just felt like a chore … swimming lessons, dance class, soccer, t-ball. Just trying to keep them busy to make up for it being just me,  one parent.

The best part about raising a child in Canada …
All the resources available, both financial and practical ones. Through Toronto Public Health, I was able to have access to:

  • a homemaker two times a week, three hours at a time to baby sit and help with house chores
  • a registered nurse
  • help with baby supplies, including my high chairs and baby proofing my house
  • access to mom groups, both social and teaching
  • grocery store gift cards

Toronto also has breastfeeding clinics to teach and support. You can breastfeed anywhere in public without any hassle. There are family restrooms in all shopping malls where moms can nurse, plus designated parking spots for pregnant women or moms with strollers. And many drop-in centres for moms where kids can play freely and you get socialize.

Best piece of advice I ever heard …
When folks tell you that it is the hardest job in the world, you cannot imagine how tough it really is until you’re in it. My mom always tells me, “It might be long, but it won’t be forever.”

If we could jump into a DeLorean and race back in time …
I would tell myself that this rough period will pass. It will not get easier, but you will learn to cope better. I would also say, “There will come a time when you will actually enjoy the kids and want to spend all your time with them. They will make you laugh so hard that you’ll cry. Trust me on this, Nancy!”

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