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.



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

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.


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

And then there were four: Barfy, Worry, Smelly and Lumpy

Our little family of three is about to grow. We’re pregnant! In fact, today is the 100th day of our pregnancy – our pregniversary.

ultrasound image

Meet Lumpy. I think he or she looks like a misshapen peanut.

Here are our pregnancy adventure nicknames:

  • Barfy: I throw up at least once a day. It sucks.
  • Worry: JF is already in full research mode. His latest obsession is evidence-based parenting.
  • Smelly: I have been super sensitive to Odie’s stink lately – especially when he’s wet.
  • Lumpy: Our nickname for the little goober.

Together, we’re the four gestational dwarves. We’re a team! Slowly chugging toward our April delivery date.

Three of the four gestational dwarves. Missing from the image: Lumpy.

Three of the four gestational dwarves. Missing from the image: Lumpy.

And I mean slowly. The last three months haven’t exactly been a magical journey. In addition to the regular vomiting, I’m exhausted, sore, bloated and gassy – plus a few more things no one wants to hear about. Let’s just say I am not glowing.

My daily vitamins. I have to carefully time them to avoid puking.

My daily vitamins. I have to carefully time them to avoid puking.

But somehow, between naps and visits to the toilet, I’m still excited. I keep a journal. I have colours picked out for the nursery. And I can’t wait for itty bitty socks and baby smell.

Under his mountain of daddy books and stroller spreadsheets, I know JF is excited too. In fact, he’s been a total rock star. He now shoulders all the Odie walking and groceries, plus the occasional meal prep. Today, he even cleaned my car. His grumble-free dedication to Lumpy and I makes me love him even more. I am so lucky.

Me on a rare dog walk. JF has been doing all the Odie-minding lately.

Me on a rare dog walk. JF has been doing all the Odie-minding lately.

As we begin our second trimester, there’s a lot to do and a lot to worry about. But there’s also so much to be grateful for. I like to think all four gestational dwarves are looking ahead to a (hopefully retch-free) future – a new, exhilarating and mildly terrifying chapter in our lives.

p.s. Ignore the sad last verse of this song!

Wedded bliss

Well, we did it! Almost 11 years after our first date, we got married.

Weatherpeople predicted hail, thunderstorms and even tornados for our wedding day, but in the end, it was just a bit cool and windy.

More than 200 people came to watch us say our vows. They all toasted to our long and happy lives together. We’d like to thank each and every one of them for being there. Jf and I both felt very supported and fortunate.

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No event is without its glitches (our tent filled with angry smoke when someone tried to light a bonfire despite the wind) but mostly, we had a grand old time.

So many friends and family members worked hard to make our day great – far too many for this post. We owe about a trillion favours. But my uncle Andy deserves a special thank you. He delivered the most spectacular home fireworks show I have ever seen in my life. It was better than Canada Day in Midland, truly.

We spent Sunday cleaning and quietly recovering from the party with family. On Monday afternoon, we were leisurely packing when we realized that our flight left at 5 :30 p.m. not 11 :30 p.m.

Despite a few heart palpitations, we managed to cram some things into random suitcases and speed to the airport, leaving a sad Odie, and hasty instructions for his care, behind us. We (barely) made it onto our flight.

I thought I’d hate Venice (a.k.a. Americans-in-Italy-land) but I quite liked it. It was charming and beautiful. JF and I have decided Slovenia is the perfect country. People are kind, groceries are cheap, tourists are scarce, and the scenery is gorgeous wherever you look. We spent a few days in Croatia, mainly tanning on the coast, before heading home.

Now, we’re settling back into reality again. Everyone asks me « how does it feel? » to which I answer « exactly the same as before.» Because after a decade there is no mystery, just well-worn, comfortable, wonderful love.

Love army returns

Picking up ingredients for smores: just one of 300 items on ye olde to do list

Picking up ingredients for s’mores: just one of 300 items on ye olde wedding to do list

Wedding planning isn’t at all what it looks like on TV. You don’t just pick a cake, hire a planner, attend a tasting and call it a day. The reality is messier, more political and more tiring.

I’m an easy going person. But even my brand of wedding planning (a.k.a « sure, that sounds good! ») hasn’t been stress free. As we count down the days, I’m feeling rather worn out.

That could be because my physical state isn’t stellar at the moment. I am currently wrestling with :

  • Quite severe poison ivy: Scroll to the bottom of this post for a disgusting photo (don’t say I didn’t warn you)
  • Dysmenorreah: A fancy word for really strong abdominal cramps
  • Sunburn: The cut of my t-shirt that hot day has created an attractive white strip on my back that should look great with my strapless wedding dress
  • Dozens of scratches: All over my arms and legs from wrestling with a nettle tree that used to live on the wedding site
  • Exhaustion: I’ve been sleeping poorly – probably because of the combination of poison ivy, sunburn and dysmenorreah
  • Crappy eating: As my spare time shrinks, I have devolved into regular meals consisting of BBQ chips
Our friends Mireille and Patrick travelled up from Toronto several times to help prep the property and make decorations

Our friends Mireille and Patrick travelled up from Toronto several times to help prep the property and make decorations

I’m surviving the home stretch – or perhaps the whole wedding process – because of the army of friends and family who support us. These are the very same people who stripped acres upon acres of wallpaper when we moved into our home.

Almost every element of this wedding involves people who love us. JF’s mom is our officiant. My mom bought my dress. My dad is loaning us speakers. Our uncles are leading music and fireworks. Friends made our rings, invitations and wedding arch. My avo even made Odie a bowtie.

That paragraph only covers a quarter of the favours people have, are and will be doing to make our day a good one.

How many people can say they have a love army? I remain so very lucky — poison ivy and all.

Speaking of poison ivy, I’ve posted the vile image of my oozing rash below.

Last chance to not look.

OK to protect you from the repulsive photo, here’s a shot of my lovely work friends and I. They treated me to a delicious meal and some lovely gifts. I felt super special!

Thanks gals!

Thanks gals!

Scroll up now if you don’t want to be seriously grossed out.

Last chance…

Here it is!

Poison ivy. Disgusting.

Poison ivy. Sickening.

Told you! Nasty, isn’t it? Let’s hope it clears up before the wedding.