10 pros and cons of mat leave

Arthur is already 10 months old. My brain is having difficulty processing this. Where has my baby gone? How is my leave almost over? Why is time even a thing?

Photo credit: Doug Crawford

Over the last ten months, there have been some amazing moments, and some not so amazing. Here is my totally honest maternity leave pros and cons list.


  1. The actual baby: Babies bring so much joy. They’re soft, they’re cute, they (mostly) smell good, and they’re wonderful to cuddle. When it’s your baby, that joy quadruples. Even when you’re exhausted and covered in vomit, a baby smile will make you feel like the luckiest person in the universe.

    Arthur is a few days old in this picture – so small and sweet!

  2. Time (kinda): Once you’ve recovered from the hell of the first few months, you’ll find babies sleep a lot during the day. During nap time, you’re free to do cool things, as long as you’re within range of your baby monitor and don’t mind that your house looks like it was hit by a tsunami. I spent a lot of my mat leave cleaning and planning our move, but I also enjoyed visits with family and reading Outlander.
  3. People come to you: Babies are like little magnets. They draw in all the people you love. Some of those people bring food, offer gifts, and clean your house. It’s amazing.
  4. Not working: When Arthur was first born, I had no time or energy to think about work. When things got easier, I opted to continue to not think about work. I mean, I love my colleagues and like my job, but focusing my family has been a nice change. DISCLAIMER : I live in Canada, the land of 12-month parental leave.
  5. Comfy pants: On a similar note, I am really digging that I can wear whatever the heck I want. My outfits these past ten months have generally consisted of tights and stretchy jeans with t-shirts.
  6. Mom squads: To get out of the house offer the baby cool new experiences, I started attending play groups. It’s great to connect with dozens of other haggard-looking adults who are going through the same crazy shit. I really appreciate the circle of trust I’ve built.
  7. Running errands during business hours: During mat leave, you never have to worry that a business is busy or closed. There is no rush hour. As long as baby is cooperating (you do NOT want to deal with poop or tears in public) visits to the bank, liquor store, and pharmacy are quick and painless. Have you ever been to a grocery store on a Wednesday morning? It’s a whole new shopping experience. No lineups, no need to park in Siberia, no jostling for the best produce.
  8. Rediscovering: Remember when you were small and super excited about Christmas, toys, and snow; then you became a grownup and the magic went away? Well all of those things (and more) become exciting again because your baby is experiencing them for the first time. I’ve loved dusting off my childhood books and doing all the voices.

    Here’s a video of Arthur saying “wow!”

  9. Baby gear: I really enjoyed setting up Arthur’s nursery. Picking colours, framing art, folding little pairs of socks, assembling the crib… it’s all super fun. I haven’t had to buy much (thanks friends and family!) but when I do, I get a real kick out of second hand baby shops. Is that a $3 pair of itty bitty corduroy pants? Sold! Tiny $2 bowties? Yes please!
  10. New dads and grandparents: My husband seems to have been born for this job. One of my very favourite things is watching him with our son. Same goes for Arthur’s grandparents. It has been so much fun to see his connection with them grow.

The A Team


  1. Sleep deprivation: Early maternity leave is almost cruel. After more than 24 hours of being kept awake by regular bursts of pain, you push a watermelon-sized human out of your vagina. Then you spend the next two months awake around the clock, trying to keep your baby fed, clean and happy. Then you finally kinda get a routine, but you are still waking up two or three times at night to feed your baby. Even when your baby starts sleeping through the night (for me it was at four months) your day starts at 6 a.m. with a feeding. I still feel exhausted.

    Will I ever look untired again?

  2. Poop: A lot of my life revolves around Arthur’s feces. When he was brand new, it was making sure he was getting enough milk. Then it was dealing with poopsplosions as he figured out how to use his bowels. Now that he’s eating solids, I’m constantly thinking about whether he is getting enough fibre. Sigh.
  3. Your body changes: Since giving birth, I’ve had a giant, fatty flap of skin hanging from my lower abdomen. I have stretch marks. None of my pants fit. Also my lochia flow (code for massive amounts of blood) lasted seven weeks. My rotten diet from the early days of mat leave (hello BBQ chips!) has persisted, so I’ve gained about ten pounds since Arthur was born. We do a lot of walking, but not enough to counter the BBQ chips.
  4. Your relationships change: Maintaining a relationship with your partner is hard when you don’t have a small child. Trying to find time to connect when you do is even harder. The same is true for your friends who aren’t on maternity leave (i.e. almost all of them). You just have to do your best to make it work.

    Thanks to all the awesome friends who’ve made the trek to visit!

  5. Confinement: Baby naps offer time to get lots done, which rocks. But sometimes you also feel trapped in your own house. I resent the fact that any outing requires a giant bag of supplies. And dressing babies (at least my baby) is like dressing a feral raccoon, so getting ready to go out can be difficult.
  6. Cleanup: I spend SO much time picking up after my kid. Tidying toys, washing poop-stained onesies, wiping down his high chair… it never ends. If I let it pile up, the mess just takes over – eating away at my sanity. There are pieces of baby rice cracker stuck on my slippers as I type and they are driving me bonkers. As soon as I finish this post I am washing them.
  7. Guilt: When I was pregnant, I totally thought I would be that mom who made baby purees from organic, locally-sourced food. I thought I would : teach him sign language; do all sorts of research on brain-building games; and wear him in my baby carrier 24/7. In reality : I feed him whatever I’m eating; I know a minimum about baby development; and my back gave out after five months of carrying him. My guiltiest mom moments are when I put him in his play room (a.k.a. baby jail) so that I can have 10 minutes to catch up on social media and Clash Royale.
  8. Feeling like a cow: Often I really love breastfeeding. I love feeling connected to my baby. I love the quiet and the snuggles. I love knowing I’m giving him the best (and cheapest) possible food out there for his development. But sometimes, I just feel like a cow. Pumping milk is pretty much the worst thing ever. I look and feel like I’m hooked up to a dairy farm sucking machine. Also, sometimes I would really rather not whip out my boob in a public place.
  9. Feeling insignificant: Sometimes, when Arthur is being particularly rambunctious, all I manage to accomplish in a day is keeping him alive. JF gets home after a day of fixing problems and the house is a disaster, the baby is crying and my left eye is twitching. It can be rather demoralizing.
  10. Questions about the next baby: As Arthur gets older, people just can’t seem to help themselves. « Are you going to have another one? » « How long will you be at work before your next one? » « Is Arthur going to have a little brother or sister? » My stance on questions related to my uterus is this : don’t. My reproductive system is no concern of yours.

Our family is a perfectly good size, thank you! Photo credit: Joël Forget

And that’s it! My honest assessment of maternity leave. All things considered, it really is an amazing stretch of time. I give it a solid eight out of ten, most days. Some days are an eleven.



Movin’ on up

It’s true. We’re moving. We put our house on the market in early July and it just sold a to a nice couple — a bittersweet moment.

House with sold sign

Our lovely old home, sold!

Public service announcement

If you have a small child, staging and cleaning a house for viewings is not advisable. You will find vacuuming with a wriggling fifteen-pound baby in your arms exceedingly annoying. You will also seriously resent regularly dismantling and putting away exersaucers, activity mats and jolly jumpers.

Those of you not watching my Facebook feed are no doubt thinking « what the damn hell!? »

It is rather confusing. We quite like Elmvale – particularly the high quality doughnuts. We also love our pretty victorian home. But the arrival of a certain little goober has changed a few things.

A baby on the ground, surrounded by toys and smiling

Arthur is the reason we’re moving

Why we decided to move

  • We want to live closer to family and friends in Lafontaine, Perkinsfield and Midland. Our parents are going to offer part-time daycare when I return to work. Ah-mazing.
  • We’d rather move while I have “free time” (ha) to pack up and manage logistics. Mat leave for the win!
  • We’d also rather move while baby Arthur’s mobility is limited. I do not want to have to renovate/set up a home while chasing a toddler.
  • The kid is going to a French school in North Simcoe County (Elmvale is already in that catchment) so we want to ease his commute.
  • We still want a country house! Or a least a house on a quieter street with a bigger yard.

Which brings me to my next public service announcement. We need help finding a home. Do you know someone with a great house who’s thinking of selling? Are any of your elderly neighbours (with well-maintained homes) on the brink of death? Awesome! Let us know!

What we want — must haves

  • Something in Tiny Township — south of Balm Beach Road so our drive to Barrie remains bearable
  • A quiet street, low on traffic — so Arthur and Odie can roam free
  • A big yard that is either a) private b) fenced or c) ready for fencing
  • At least three bedrooms
  • Good, solid bones — we can update a kitchen or put in new floors but we don’t want to rejig walls, put in new electrical, or replace plumbing

What we want — nice to haves

  • Acreage — one or two would suffice, more would be great
  • Surrounded by trees for privacy
  • A garage
  • Two full bathrooms
  • A finished (or finishable) basement

Is that so much to ask? Probably, in this market — especially with our limited budget. But we’re putting it out to the universe anyway. Wish us luck!

To the kale washers

I hate washing kale. I like eating kale, cooking kale, and even picking kale. But I hate washing it.

When I’m rested and happy, I manage to push past my distaste for the task. I even find the energy to de-stem it, carefully cut it into bite sized pieces and make salad dressing.

When I’m tired and cranky, the kale slowly yellows in the fridge until I guiltily throw it into the compost. As I toss it, I think about the hungry people in this world, the money I just wasted, as well as the resources it took to grow and ship the kale to Elmvale.

Here’s the thing about being a new parent; you’re always tired. Always. Why? Because :

  • Labour itself is a sleepless two-day marathon.
  • Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, so they cry — a lot.
  • They need to be fed every two to three hours, day and night.
  • Newborns are preceded by months of sleep deprivation (imagine snoozing with a bowling ball on your bladder).

Me and the babe. I’m happy but can you see the bags under my eyes?

I love my little dude – so, so, so deeply. With a love intense enough to frighten me sometimes. But all that wakefulness is starting to take its toll on my body.

So the short version of the story is : I haven’t been washing much kale lately.

Luckily my enormous, beautiful, supportive network of friends and family has once again jumped in to save me from a BBQ-chip-based diet. They’ve cooked, cleaned, driven, dog-walked, babysat, grocery-shopped, and gardened for us. Many travelled long distances — through cottage country traffic — to visit.

As I watched my little sister scrub kale in my kitchen sink the other day, I thought about the wealth of love underpinning my whole life. Kale may be an odd topic for an initial postpartum post, but I can’t think of a better way to describe how special our baby’s “village” is

I want each benefactor (a.k.a. kale washer) to know: it mattered. Every kind action was noticed and appreciated. Thank you. xo

Third trimester musings

With five weeks until Lumpy’s due date, I can feel my whole focus shifting. Between my pea-sized bladder, sore hips, and overactive mind, sleep is beginning to elude me.

Here I am today – 35.5 weeks pregnant and feeling quite whale-like

The little energy I have, I direct to working, eating and preparing for Lumpy’s arrival. My relationships, Twitter feed and housework are suffering a bit.

A month ago, I was tweeting regularly, but living on the edge of nesting panic. Our bathroom was in shambles and Lumpy’s room was still filled with construction debris. But with a giant boost from family and a week off work, we managed to :

  • Finish the bathroom
  • Finish the nursery
  • Pack for the hospital
  • Take a hospital tour and drop off our forms
  • Meet with our lovely doula and doctor
  • Attend an ultrasound
  • Install the carseat
  • Finish our birth plan
  • And more!

Bathroom, before and after

Lumpy’s room, before and after

Since that busy week, our dear friends Mireille and Patrick hosted a beautiful shower so that we could celebrate Lumpy with our Toronto crew. The gifts from that event, combined with those from the lovely local shower my aunts JoAnne (a.k.a. the paint fairy) and Denise hosted in January, mean we have more than we will ever need to care for this little gaffer. He is already so very loved.

JF and the awesome motorcycle Daryl and Kyrsta made us out of baby supplies

We’re not totally ready. I still haven’t bought nursing bras, prepped healthy frozen food, sterilized bottles and breast pumps, or given our house a good scrub down. But the bottom line is, if Lumpy were to pop out of my uterus tomorrow, we’d be alright.

More than alright, really. Because we have the best support network in the whole land. Everyone (parents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbours) has offered to pitch in and help us when caring for a needy newborn turns us into zombies – or in my case, a pair of zombie boobs.

My favourite corner of the nursery, because it’s filled with gifts from our friends and family – everything from the crib, to the books, to the stuffed animals

Plus I know I have a stellar partner to get me through. JF continues to be amazingly thoughtful and patient through the wild hormone adventure that is pregnancy. I’m grateful for him every day and can’t wait to see him get his dad on.

This man is going to be a great parent – and Odie is going to be a stellar brother!

Given my recent tiredness and upcoming labour, this may be the last post for awhile. Wish us luck! I’ll update you all as often as I can. xo

32 gifts

Early winter kicks me in the shins every year. I can’t help feeling glum as the merriness of Christmas fades and I look ahead to three cold, hard, vacationless months. Plus, I’m pretty sad and anxious for the world right now.

I temporarily banished the doldrums this morning, with what’s become a January tradition: listing some of the highlights of the year gone by — one bullet for every year of my life.

In 2016 I…

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

  • Performed in a band
  • Skated the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park
  • Celebrated my amazing grandfather, Dinis Rebelo
  • Had pancakes at the Wye Marsh Sweetwater Harvest Festival
  • Replaced the ugly mudroom ceiling with handsome beadboard
  • Hugged Odie on his one-year anniversary with us
  • Had my first Thai massage
  • Travelled to the top of 30 Rock to watch the sunset
  • Checked out a California beach
Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

  • Learned to throw an axe
  • Got awesome false eyelashes
  • Bought my first king-sized bed
  • Came second in the five family nerd tournament
  • Joined Weight Watchers and lost 15 pounds
  • Attended my 10th Festival du Loup
  • Hosted an epic garage sale on my birthday
  • Started the world’s longest bathroom renovation
  • Went to the ballet
  • Spent time with my avo
Hanging with avo usually looks like this - except add food

Hanging with avo usually looks like this – except add food

  • Attended my first night time santa claus parade
  • Danced with mom, Yève and Elise on international women’s day
  • Got to level 23 in Pokémon Go
  • Powered through a few injuries and illnesses (concussion, poison ivy, an epic battle with a nettle tree)
  • Partied with the Lefaives at JoAnne and Dan’s 40th anniversary party
  • Bought a new mommy mobile – Linda the Forester
  • Greeted many friends’ adorable new babies
  • Drank margaritas the size of my head in Mexico
Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

  • Started focusing on our little family — quitting several volunteer roles
  • Helped good friends move into their first home

Somehow I forgot to post my list from 2015, but here are those from 2014 and 2013.

As usual, counting my blessings makes me feel a heck of a lot better. 2016 may have been a shit year for the human race, but it was a great one for me. Thanks to everyone who played a part.


Lumpdate : Week 22

Pregnant woman standing bike with sunset in background

The belly in San Diego – Joël and I went to visit Violet last week

I’m barfing a lot less

It’s almost Christmas – my favourite time of year – and I’m feeling more hopeful, more pregnant and (finally) less barfy. I’m down from two hurling sessions a day to your basic weekly morning vomit. Winning!

Lumpy is growing

At 22 weeks in the womb, Lumpy is about the size of a coconut and growing well (code for: none of my pants fit). We found out he’s a little boy. Judging by his movements in my belly, he is also a future jiu jitsu master.

JF is rocking the dad-to-be thing

JF continues to be marvellously supportive and lovely. I still find mornings hard, so he walks Odie, clears the driveway, and brushes off my car while I barely scrape together the energy to eat a bagel and make him coffee. He only grumbles a tiny bit on very cold mornings.

We can’t pick a name

We want a perfectly bilingual name (français/anglais) we both love. Our faith in that name’s existence wanes with every passing week. Partly because cousins and friends already named their baby boys all the cool names – curse you all! Just kidding, we love you. Mostly.

We’re feeling more ready

Between us, we’ve read 10 baby books, downloaded 10 baby apps and joined a dozen online groups. I’m in prenatal yoga. We see our doctor regularly. We’ve sketched out a birth plan. We’re doing two prep courses this winter, plus a tour of the birthing unit at RVH.

Stack of baby books on a bed

Some of the books on our nightstands right now

Except the nursery

There’s a toilet in the middle of Lumpy’s room. Also some tools, wood debris, and cement board – the bits and pieces that come with a bathroom reno. We’re making slow and steady progress, thanks to a kind local contractor. But our house is 113 years old, so the finish line is still several weeks away and I’m not picking out paint colours just yet.

Friends, family and colleagues have been awesome

We’re feeling very supported lately. Amazing people are organizing two baby showers. My superwoman boss has been extra flexible with my prenatal appointments. Mom friends are offering used gear and freaking hilarious advice (shout out to Eliana). Even Odie – he’s family too! – has been extra snuggly lately.

A man holding a giant black dog

JF, practising his baby holding with Odie

Christmas is almost here!

And then there’s Christmas! We’ve got a happy little tree, some cedar boughs on the porch, and a whole weekend of cookie baking with family ahead of us. This season always make me happy, but we’re both pretty excited about Noël 2017 – with the Lumpster.

christmas tree, decorated

Our tree this year – fa la la la la!

Ring the bells that still can ring

Sometimes, I think that having a child is the ultimate selfish act. Lumpy (the squirmy artichoke-sized human in my belly) didn’t ask to be conceived. I wanted to create him or her.

In my darker moments, I worry that I am casting Lumpy into an angry, dying world. Governments are moving too slowly to rescue the earth from climate change. People seem selfish – consuming more than ever before. Fake online communities are replacing real ones. The news is filled with hate, fuelled by inequality.

My mother tried to make me a good citizen of the planet. I imagine myself teaching Lumpy to volunteer, make sustainable choices, be kind to all humans, and fight for positive change.

I cling to the hope that the next few generations will be better stewards of the earth – that they will bridge false barriers like religion, nationality, gender and race to move forward together. Maybe Lumpy will be the one to end humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels. Who knows?

I always try to choose optimism, but it can be an uphill battle.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen lately, because I think he really saw people and relationships as they are – imperfect, but somehow beautiful. For my sanity, and for Lumpy’s wellbeing, I will try to focus on that beauty.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in