2018 was a big year for me. I mean, BIG.
It started out with me, pregnant, at my mother’s house. Freshly broken up with, keenly heartbroken. But if I’m honest, also feeling pangs of “this means I can start over”. Feeling relief.
I had looked at the apartment and said I would take it, but not yet signed the lease because the electrical wasn’t signed off on. That was fine - the baby wasn’t due until February 15th. I thought I had plenty of time.
A week and half later, the night of January 9th/morning of January 10th, Aidan came early. An ambulance ride through a snowstorm over Kelly’s Mountain, a panicked and painful (but quick) delivery and suddenly, I was a mom. Suddenly, I had a baby in NICU and was trying to breastfeed and was living in hospital.
We were out of there after a couple of weeks and the months that followed are a blur now. I’m glad I took pictures and videos, and jotted a few notes in my planner, because I wasn’t writing in my own journal nor was I blogging. I was, however, really active on Instagram, especially Stories, and that provided me with so much support. (THANK YOU.) Mainly I was obsessed with Aidan’s weight gain, which is kind of hilarious now since he’s in the 99th percentile for height and weight. But at first he was slow to grow. I have a whole notebook filled with my notes on each feeding, how much he ate, how much he pooped or peed. I can barely look at it now, to be honest, because it brings back all the fear I was feeling at the time.
Also in February my ex and I started the process of creating a legal agreement for our coparenting. We met with a lawyer (the awesome Danielle MacSween of Manley Law) and gave her our ideas, and she also gave us her advice and thoughts. I cannot stress enough how important this legal agreement has been to me since, and how worth it it was. I know the law can be daunting, especially if you’re going through a separation and you think you want to “not rock the boat for the kids’ sake,” so if you’re struggling, reach out and I can at least tell you I’ve been there.
In March things started to turn around. Aidan was gaining weight better. The weather was slightly better and I got a Huggaloops from a friend. I started taking Aidan for walks outside, wrapped up in the carrier and under my coat. I found out my ex was in a new relationship, and had been since Aidan was born, which was a hard knock emotionally, but I dealt with it. He also started taking the baby to his place for a few hours on the weekend, and I got to go see movies with friends, which was HUGE for my mental health. Admittedly it was hard to let the baby go but after the first time (and crying) it was fine.
I’m reading back over my planner for the year as I’m writing this post and while it seems easy in retrospect to sum up the growth and all the things I went through, reading my planner brings me back to the immediacy of it. How when you’re in it, you’re IN IT. The newborn phase. The issues with the ex. How I didn’t have all my stuff out of my ex’s place fully until April. How I used to write down what days Aidan would have his bath on (now he gets one every night as part of it his bedtime routine, and loves it). How messy my handwriting was because I was tired and didn’t care and didn’t have the time to be neat. How I didn’t know then what I know now - that it would pass. That it DID pass.
Summer came and by then I was feeling much happier. Much more ease. I took the baby to the beach a bunch of times, which was sandy and sticky and annoying, but still worth it. I was looking into daycare, thinking ahead to the following January when I would be going back to work. My ex was coming by my place 3-4 evenings a week for an hour and a half, to spend time with the baby, and I would go out and walk or do groceries. My apartment still didn’t feel super MINE, because I had so many other people in it all the time.
Summer was also HOT and humid. I spent a lot of time with Aidan in front of a fan, or sitting out under the tree between my neighbour’s place and mine. That was nice though because I saw a lot of them, the elderly couple that live next door, and we became close.
By the end of August I felt ready to start dating again - or at least dip a toe in the water - and signed up for Tinder. I just wanted some fun dates - I wasn’t looking to fall in love or have a big relationship again right away. I met a few fellas, went out a couple times, and started chatting with this one guy who seemed awesome, but our dates kept getting cancelled for a variety of reasons. (LOL… foreshadowing here people.)
September was the Creative Soul Weekend, which my dear friend Emily had done the lion’s share of the planning work for this year when I was “snowed under” with my newborn. It was the best one yet, I feel, and I felt strong and in my own power - like everything that had happened the past year, had for a reason. Also at this weekend I realized that I needed to go back to work sooner than January. I was starting to feel restless at home with the baby and I was really needing his father to start doing 50% of the care, which would only begin when I went back to work.
For me to go back early, I needed to find daycare. I had Aidan on a bunch of lists but nobody had spots for a baby under 18 months open. So I really had to ramp up my calls and find some new places to call. I ended up finding a dayhome for him that we’re really happy with, so thank goodness for that.
October 21st I finally went on a first date with the guy I’d been talking to since September. Finally our schedules aligned, finally it worked out. We met up again the following day and have been crazy about each other ever since. He’s kind, thoughtful, sweet, sexy. Smart and funny. We have a lot of things about our childhood and growing up in common, and I keep pinching myself, because sometimes it doesn’t feel real. Like what is this, fucking “Eat Pray Love”??! I was so ready, almost looking forward to, being single for years and years. I wasn’t expecting to legit fall in love. But that’s what has happened. So far, so good.
My date for back to work was set - November 5th. And it came and I transitioned quickly back into working full time. I honestly missed it so much. It’s hard to say, if my situation were different, if I had a loving awesome partner living with me and the baby, would I have taken the full year of mat leave or would I still have needed to go back to my job? Who knows. Time will tell if I end up having another child someday, but that’s such a big question mark at this point. But my guess is yes, I would have. I love my work and I love TO work. It makes me feel whole. Each woman, each parent, is different, which is the beauty of it - some mums or dads want to be with the baby at home for as long as possible. Some don’t. And it’s all OK.
Once I started back to work, the 50/50 schedule began. I was nervous for it, for sure, but two months in and Aidan seems to be doing great. I’m also doing great. Sure, there are times I miss him, when he’s at his dad’s for those 2-3 days, but having some real solid time to myself again feels so needed. Like filling a well that was running dry. It will take a while before it’s totally full again.
Also in the last couple of months I got my tattoo!! I’d been wanting a mama lion/baby lion tattoo for a while now but finally got the guts to get it together. I went to see Nikki Boisvert of Surly Mermaid Tattoos and they designed up a gorgeous piece with botanicals and geometrics and of course, a fierce mama lion and her baby. I have zero regret, 100% joy and badassness when I look at it on my arm. It’s like a badge, a decoration I have earned in the war of 2018.
So here we are. The end of 2018. It’s been a BIG year. The word I picked at the new year last year was GROW and holy shit, was it ever the right word. I feel like I’ve evolved, like a Pokemon or whatever - like I’m not at all the same Leah who started this year. Or I am, just a deeper, more real version of her. Or something.
So that brings me to my word for this year: TRUE.
I was originally going to go with the word COMMUNITY. In the One Little Word group on Facebook, I had written:
I want to be more active in my local community, helping those in need, volunteering some time. I want to be more aware of what is happening in my community, too, and not just hide away from the news. I want to explore the concept of "community" both in person and online, both local and global. I want to think about the community where I grew up (and where I may move back to), as well as the community I live in now. And I'm not sure what else but I feel like this word has some things to teach me, because it has been insistent on being my word for this year!
But then it started to feel stressful. It brought back the feelings of having to be available to the community all the time, which is frankly why I stopped blogging on my community blog Dream Big Cape Breton, back in the day.
So I did some journalling. Some thinking. And the word TRUE came to the surface. This is what I wrote in the group about the change:
I changed my word from "community" to TRUE. I was thinking about how what I really need this year is to not lose myself. Last year my word was GROW because I was going through a lot of stuff (separation, new baby, moving). Now that I've found myself again I don't want to lose my joy, or compromise it away. I've fallen in love and I'm so scared that I'll do the same things I did in my last relationship, which was try and be whatever I thought he wanted me to be. So with TRUE I think I will be able to stay true to myself, and speak my truth.
(I just want to say, too, that I don’t think my new love wants me to be anyone other than who I am. He’s cool like that. If I were to try to change myself it would be my own internal voice telling me I should. I’m realizing that’s what I did in my last relationship.)
I’d like to post here once a month with the stuff we do in the One Little Word course, just as a place to keep it and share it. We’ll see if I actually do it… but I’m hoping to keep with it. Stay tuned! LOL.
And… happy New Year. Thanks for reading. I hope you have a wonderful year ahead!