The First Year

Sometimes Tom and I wonder aloud to each other about the minutiae of our lives. When we die, wouldn’t it be fascinating to know the exact statistics about how we had lived? Maybe we are defined in part by how we live: many hours we spent loving the ones around us, how many times we went out of our way to show someone kindness, how many books we read or hand-written letters sent. Of course, it’s best to think of the good things; no one wants to know how many pints they have imbibed in their lifetime or how many weekends were wasted watching Netflix (no regrets!). These conversations always bring some much-needed perspective to my life and a secret commitment to myself to do better.

As we approached the first birthday of our first baby I haven’t been able to shake my curiosity about the statistics of this last year. Though I know I’ll never have the answers, I can’t help but wonder: how many diapers have I changed? How many night feeds have I endured? Good Lord, how many cups of coffee or glasses of wine (sometimes in the shower because #MultiTaskingMama)?

But those are boring – how about the things that are specific to my family’s experience? Could I measure this year by the nights spent walking around our kitchen island bouncing our swaddled, colicky daughter; in hours spent shushing her? The number of naps in that vibrating green chair we bought on Craigslist in desperation or the tears shed by a mama beset by guilt because she is unable to calm her own child? How about the number of appointments with Hennie’s paediatrician we attended this year, or her geneticist, or her cardiologist, or her GP? Can we measure the year in the number of times I googled ‘sleep regression’ or ‘teething remedies,’ or the number of times I texted my village in the middle of the night, desperately seeking their advice?

I wish I knew how many times this year my husband has cheered her on as she conquered a new skill or has made her shriek with laughter. How many times have we brushed our lips against her head or rubbed that downy blonde hair under our palm absentmindedly like she is an extension of ourselves, like we are scratching an itch on our own skin? How many times has she fallen asleep grasping our finger in her hand or reached for us to pick her up? How many times did we call her “Little Miss Custard Pants” or sing her a made-up song? Surely her first year could be defined by the number of hours she has spent in our arms or times she has turned those big, blue eyes on us with a mischievous smile? Has it been hundreds of times, or thousands? And yet still not enough.

This gorgeous little girl. She is growing so quickly and I’m struck with the knowledge that one day she will outgrow my arms, outgrow her stroller, outgrow her parents. She pushes my hands away so she can show me that she can stand on her own, but still expects that I remain nearby to scoop her up in my arms when she falls and praise her efforts with the enthusiastic applause that only an over-proud parent can give. I will always celebrate your independence and stay close enough to catch you, baby girl, long after you’ve learned to walk with steadiness through this world that isn’t good enough for your innocence. I don’t have to know the statistics of my life to know that it is already defined by the time I get to spend with you.

This Season

It’s Fall! For the rest of the world this season is heralded by the changing leaves, chilly morning air, and pumpkin everythaaaang. Once upon a time the arrival of Autumn meant the same thing for me, but mamas of November babies have an additional reason to be excited for this season. As the air cooled this year I was reminded of how painfully pregnant but palpably excited I was at this time last year as I waddled around in the crisp sunshine or walked in the park under the changing foliage, trying in vain to get comfortable on the hard wooden benches down by the water. I spent the majority of the third trimester in a daze, daydreaming about what my daughter would look like and when she would arrive. Seeing the first Halloween display in a shop window one day jolted me into the reality that my due date was only weeks away and we would be welcoming Hennie James into our world soon.

We had our babe in early November and winter came shortly after. Everyone told me to enjoy each season for what it was, to savour every moment and not take anything for granted, but we struggled. The busy-ness of Christmas filled me with anxiety as invitations to parties and family events filled our calendar. We weren’t able to control our baby’s constant crying at home so what made anyone think we wanted to troubleshoot that unstoppable, shrill screaming in front of others? I felt bumbling, inexperienced, embarrassed, and exhausted, and I was as much of a hermit as I could get away with.

As we eased into Autumn this year I noticed a dread building slowly in the back of my mind. So many times I found myself saying to Tom, “I feel so anxious and I don’t know why.” Usually I’m able to pinpoint the reasons for my anxiety when it surfaces but this time I wasn’t been able to locate precisely what was causing it until we had the first cool Fall day and I suddenly realized… it’s this season. My body was recalling the lingering PTSD I felt from that Fourth Trimester. Her colic, coupled with long months spent waiting to hear from cardiologists and medical geneticists, made for a very miserable fall and winter last year indeed. We did not know how severe her heart condition would be, we had not yet received any answers about her diagnosis, and I did not savour every moment. I wished many of them away and I don’t regret it; some nights all that kept my spirits up was the knowledge that it would pass, the promise from other colic-mama’s that she would outgrow the screaming. I have zero patience for Mama Guilt so I respect that I did what I needed to do mentally and I humbly foster the hope that I will always remember to be that gentle on myself and on other struggling mamas.

While we still have many parenting challenges ahead – those looming toddler years! – most days are so much fun. All of a sudden this season is no longer one of PTSD for me, it’s one that I can see through the eyes of a child who notices with delight as each leaf falls to the boardwalk down by the river, who watches the squirrels in the park with distrust and wonder. Experiencing it all for the first time through her eyes is slowly erasing the memories of last year’s colicky trauma. Letting go of that experience has not been an easy one for our family but we are moving forward and loving every minute. So whether it’s 20 degrees like last weekend or -1 like today, bring on the pumpkin patches, tweed, apple cider, Halloween, hayrides, breweries (obvi), even snow… this year we are going to savour every moment!

Hennie James: Eleven Months

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Sweet Baby James is growing up and little hints of the toddler she will soon become are starting to show through in her budding personality. This strong-willed child knows her mind, has unbelievable determination, and can be very intense (I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised about that after some of the crying sessions we witnessed in her earlier months). Like her daddy, Hen will gratefully and enthusiastically eat anything that is offered to her. Like her mama she can be noisy, stubborn, and smiley all in a single moment. And boy is she on the move! Crawling, cruising, and climbing around our home to get quickly to the things that catch her eye. Lately she has been quite drawn to the tantalizing record collection on display in our living room; a few times a day she will pull Bob Dylan and Nat King Cole from the shelf and take them out of their plastic sleeve. Later we will find that plastic sleeve crumpled in a corner somewhere and wet with saliva. Fun!

Her facial expressions crack us up daily and she has recently mastered a very high-pitched screech that she uses when she feels excited or annoyed, needs attention, or is just plain feeling cheeky. Current favourite tricks include waving hi and bye, playing peek-a-boo, pulling off her socks so she can eat them, chatting nonstop, and pointing at us when we ask “where’s mama?” or “where’s daddy?” She has perfected the stare-down at an early age and we are very aware that we will have our hands full for a long time, but are loving that we get to raise such a curious and mischievous little sasspot!

We Moved!

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Big news in the Procter family: we bought a house!

It’s actually a condo not a whole house but it’s no less impressive in the context of the Lower Mainland’s current real estate market (for our family across the pond, things are roughly comparable to London). So I guess we could also say we bought a flat 😉

So far we are loving our new city and our new neighbourhood. We bought in a central location near a river because we prefer to be in a walkable area with access to gorgeous views and lots of different shops (read: types of food). Our new ‘hood has train tracks, tugboats, bridges, and a heck of a lot of steep hills; my buns were burnin’ after a short stroller walk on moving day (and Hennie’s only getting heavier!).

It’s only been a week in our new home but we are settling in well, unpacking, and making some plans for future projects (painting! renovations! adult stuff!). Since having Hennie in her own room I feel like we’ve gotten our lives back. The one-bedroom apartment we just moved out of was spacious, bright, and lovely, but our Hen is a very sensitive sleeper who wakes to seemingly innocuous sounds despite the white noise we put on to drown out general tomfoolery (see what I did there?). Cooking dinner or washing dishes in the evening often woke her up and reading in bed with a small light on was absolutely out of the question. In our new place we can actually talk to each other after she goes to bed at 6:30 (a game changer for our marriage?) and at long last I can read in bed again, a favourite past time that I’ve been missing for ten months.

With our proximity to the riverfront, new parks to explore, and of course a brewery, hopefully we won’t be missing Vancouver anytime soon.

Hennie James: Ten Months


Miss Hennie James is ten months old and her personality is shining through in spades; she can be sassy, silly, clever, and cute – sometimes all in the same moment! Hen seems to know her mind quite a bit already (not sure which parent she may have picked that up from?) and we love watching her daily as she tries to solve problems and develop her new skills. Despite our suspicions that she has been continuously teething for the last month or more, she has been super smiley. Her new teeth are popping through all over rather than in pairs, so she has a bit of a jack-o-lantern smile at the moment (just in time for Halloween, I guess!). She is walking like a pro as long as she can hold onto something with one hand to steady herself, and loves to wave hello, high five, and clap her hands while saying “yayayayayayayayaya!” Hennie is still not saying “mama” or “dada,” not chewing her food very well (though she is very enthusiastic about solids), and has yet to master drinking through a straw; bottles and cups seem to perplex her a little, and her first instinct is to chew on things rather than use them for their intended function.

The last two months we have seen Hen adapt to so many new environments and experiences as we travelled around BC and flew to England, but on her ten month “birthday” we moved into our first (owned) family home, complete with Hennie’s very own bedroom! Though we’ve only slept three nights in our new home, she has been napping and sleeping much better in her own space with less interruptions. Time is flying by and we intend to spend the next few months exploring the parks and river views in our new city.

Travels with Hen: UK Edition

Our recent family trip to Yorkshire was a little stressful, a lot of fun, and a major learning curve for two new parents who will have to troubleshoot Kiddo Jet Lag many times in the future. I spent a lot of time worrying about the 9 hour flight, not knowing that the 8 hour time difference would actually be the bigger problem. It took over a week of sleepless nights and sleeping-all-day for all three of us to successfully transition to the new timezone. We enjoyed a few blissful days on the new schedule before having to fly home. Luckily, Tom didn’t seem to mind playing with his daughter in a nice quiet house in the middle of the night, and Grandma P didn’t seem to mind making us breakfast in the late afternoon when we woke up for the day!

The first week of our trip we lounged around at home with family – all of us were under one roof for the first time since Christmas 2014 so we had a lot of catching up to do! The second week was much busier – a wedding, Tom’s 30th birthday, and visits with friends and extended family.

Highlights of our trip included:

  • getting to see Hennie spend time with her English grandparents
  • country pub dates with siblings
  • surviving our first outing (sort of) without Hen
  • the majestic Bennett wedding
  • Tom’s 30th Birthday BBQ
  • playing tourist in cute little towns like Harrogate and Ilkley

Big thank you to all who hosted and housed us over the course of our trip, it was lovely to see everyone and we’re looking forward to traveling more with a baby now that we know we can survive it!

Hennie James: Nine Months

Hennie’s ninth month on the outside has been one of travel and new experience! There have been a few stressful moments for our little fam but mostly just good days and so much fun watching her navigate new skills, new sights, and new faces.

Nicknames: Bugaloo seems to have stuck. Who would’ve thought!?

Life Lately: the past month has been defined by continued separation anxiety. Hen’s early months were a time when we couldn’t be separated from her for any length of time. Only we could care for her and calm her, and though she no longer screams for long hours of the day she has continued the trend of preferring her parents. We don’t mind at all, but we know our families (especially the grandparents!) would probably appreciate sitting with her for longer than a minute before she spots her daddy and reaches desperately for his embrace. But we have seen the alternative and know that there are worse things than a cute and clingy companion so we sorta love it.

Solids: We’ve been away from home for the better part of the past month so we’ve been using that time to try and expose Hen to new foods and flavours. We give her tastes of whatever soft foods we’re eating, from conventional first foods like bananas, yogurt, and mashed potatoes to some more “daring” baby foods, including chicken shawarma with tzatziki, lamb and beef curries, bacon, sausage, and eggs, feta and watermelon salad… so far Hen has loved it all!

New Favourites: after expressing zero interest in being read to up to this point, she has become infatuated with books – “reading,” turning the pages, chattering away to herself, and looking at the pictures. It certainly warms her bookworm mama’s heart to see her crawl past the noisy, light-up toys on the floor to get to a basket of books. I hope it continues forever and ever! Another new skill is pulling herself up and “walking” along the coffee table or couch. She’s been a more amenable baby since the day she learned to sit up so there’s no doubt in our minds that this girl prefers to be upright. She’s been able to crawl for a while and will do it if there’s adequate incentive (food, electronics, books!), but it looks like she may not be super into crawling and just go straight to walking. Every post I’ve done has said that this is our favourite age yet and nine months is no exception!

Travels with Hen: Road Trip Edition

 


In July we drove through the Okanagan Valley to stay in Rossland, BC for two weeks. Rossland is a little mountain town where Tom’s company is based and where the company’s annual summer conference is held. Despite my worries about the 37 degree forecast (how do you even keep a baby cool in that weather?) we had such a fantastic time relaxing and enjoying small-town life.

“Mountain Hennie” thrived on the road! She did amazingly well on a 10+ hour road trip, slept through the night multiple times in her (dark, air-conditioned) bedroom, and even napped longer than she normally does at home. It’s almost enough to make her parents wanna move to a big house in a small mountain town! We stayed in a house the first week but a hotel room the second – guess which is easier with a baby? Luckily, the hotel obliged our request for a room close to the conference room, lobby, and hotel bar, so our baby monitor offered me some freedom while she was napping during the day and sleeping during the evening.

Hennie had a lot of first experiences while visiting Rossland!

  • first time at the pool (big hit)
  • first time trying frozen yogurt (even bigger hit!)
  • first time seeing cats (very apprehensive and distrusting)
  • first time having pizza (she grabbed mama’s slice and had a full bite before anyone could stop her)
  • first time clapping her hands
  • first time going to a lake

I think we’ll always have fond memories of this first big trip with Hennie, especially considering we had our offer accepted for our first home purchase while staying in Rossland. It was a relaxing, slow-paced time with an exciting twist!

Hennie James: Eight Months


This is such a fun age! We truly love it. Stroller walks, sunny park hangs, smiles …we are finally having all of the experiences that other parents have been having for a long time, haha. Of course there have been countless memorable moments over the past seven months that we will always cherish, but the current phase we’re in has so many more ups than downs that it’s hard not to gush about it. Y’know how you have a baby and people come out of the woodwork to instruct you to “savour every second ’cause it all goes by so quickly”? In the early days we took that advice as a comfort rather than a warning. But nowadays every milestone mastered and skill successfully learned is a reminder that this silly and determined baby girl of ours is trying to grow up as quickly as she can. Experience has told us that every phase is fleeting, so we are dragging out every cuddle and making the most of these long summer days before she becomes a toddler in just four short months!

Things We Want to Remember About Hennie at 8 Months Old: lately she keeps repeating “ich” like she’s about to say something in German. She is currently obsessed with her dad and needs to be held by him all the time. She gets so excited when she hears him come into the apartment after work and will push mama away quite roughly to get to him! She doesn’t laugh very easily but when she does she just lights up. Her belly and thighs are the most ticklish, but she has to be in the right mood (if not we receive the judgemental, chilling stare that she mastered much too easily). She still loves being in the wraps and carriers strapped to mama or dad and we’re so thankful for that because it’s nice to keep her close while we’re still able. At 20 lbs she may outgrow being carried sometime very soon! She has a cute little stink face that comes out when she is concentrating really hard on something.

New Skills: crawling, having teeth (though she is still working on how to chew properly), sleeping in her crib for all naps and night times (!!), interacting with more complex toys, joyously slapping her open hand against things, standing up, knocking down block towers, closing the fridge door (a game we play on repeat), trying new food flavours, and climbing on everything. If there is something within sight that she is not allowed to play with or is dangerous, she will do everything within her tiny powers to get to it. Her lack of fear is worrisome.

Hennie James: Seven Months

The theme for this past month has been sleep, specifically a lack of it! An onslaught of big changes in such a little body has meant that Hennie’s previously decent sleeping abilities have been hugely waylaid. Excitement at having so many new skills have made for a very agitated baby in the evenings. Even before this regression it took a combo of bouncing, shushing, and ninja moves to get this kid down, but once she was out we usually reaped the benefits of 5 (ish) uninterrupted hours of sleep. We knew that every phase has it’s day with these babes so we tried to accept that one until it passed but the week before May long weekend we were complete zombies and decided something had to be done. We made a plan with some new rules (for her and for us) and used the long weekend to start. Things were going well for a week or two until Hen figured out exactly what we were doing and altered herself accordingly, becoming completely resistant to naptime and bedtime routines and ramping up her screaming tenfold. Last night we felt like our strong-willed daughter had left us no choice but to let her cry it out. Ugh! Fingers crossed that we can get the whole family into a bit of a routine before the traveling we’re doing later this summer!

Nicknames: Hennie Bear and Bugaloo or just “Boogs” 🙂

Things We Want to Remember About Hennie at Seven Months Old: her twisty wrist motion, it’s the best. How she smiles with her tongue out, how much she loves frozen banana, the way she pumps her arms and legs with excitement when she sees us, how she looks to us for encouragement right after she rolls over, how proud she is when she achieves something new, how much she loves being in water and splashes like crazy, the way she laughed like crazy when she finally got up on all fours and started inching across the floor – it’s like she knew she had just done something so awesome.

New Skills: she has mastered her hand motions to the point where she can (clumsily) wave, high-five, and bring a spoon to her mouth; is sitting up without help, feeds herself red pepper, baked sweet potato, cucumber, and carrot, and finally finally fell asleep in our arms a few times. We had been waiting 7 months for those cuddles and we looked at each other with giddy grins every time she laid her little (big) head on our shoulder. This usually lasts less than a minute before she tries to climb up and over our shoulder to see what adventure awaits behind us. Little monkey!