Annie lives in East Vancouver with her husband, Marc, and their eight-month-old son, Callaloo. Last summer, she returned to her hometown of Vancouver after studying in the Department of Native Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She is also a holistic nutritionist.
When I met Marc it was a very attractive quality to see a man as a single dad, there was something in me biologically that said mmhmm, yeah, I’ll marry you! Right away! We got married really fast, like two months into it. Before we had sex I had said, “I don’t want to do this unless I’m with someone I want to have kids with. I’m not at a place in my life that I just want to physically be having sex unless I know that if I got pregnant it would be for a good reason.” And he said the same to me.
[Being pregnant] was great, I’m a holistic nutritionist as well, and I just got super nerdy and went deep on bone broth and good fats. I just felt this innate sense to protect something that everyone talks about. While I was pregnant, Marc was in a really dark place, understandably: his mom tragically was killed on his birthday. He got a phone call from his dad saying that she was hit by a car and killed instantly.
It was a crazy blur of a year: I had quit school, I was pregnant but we hadn’t told anybody because it was brand new. I went to stay with my mom, because I couldn’t take care of him and myself and have him deal with that grief. I started spotting at that time. It was so early on that I didn’t know if I would miscarry because of stress, so I got myself safely somewhere. It was a crazy time to be pregnant, because I would want to be excited, but then I would be like “Marc’s going through something,” so that was hard. But right near the end, in the summer, we went to Hornby Island, and the Gulf Islands for a month, and that was just the best. Just floating and going to the naked beach and being a pregnant mommy goddess.
[Living in Vancouver is] a bit of a challenge [when we have] Jacob, [Marc’s son] because he has to be flown to see us. In Calgary he’s quite wealthy, so he has a different lifestyle. When he comes to Vancouver he realizes that people live in apartments and take the bus, we don’t have a Beamer. He gets to ride his bike, and he likes it here. He calls it FUNcouver, he says “It’s nice because all different kinds of people wears jean jackets here.” It is a challenge [being a step-mother] in a lot of ways, in terms of discipline and what can be said. Jacob is five, and at that age, everything gets asked. It’s definitely thrown me into parenthood faster, into things I’m learning how to answer. He’s a really inquisitive mind, he’ll be like “To tell a lie, is it always bad?”
I think from a woman’s perspective [Jacob’s mom] was quite happy to know that his father would be taking care of Jacob alongside a woman who’s a mom now. We are pretty intimate in our texting; I wouldn’t tell Marc all things that I’ve talked to her about. I think because of the fact that their relationship ended, we somehow connect through that in a strange way that, at first, neither of us embraced. We both kept our distance and would see each other when we picked Jacob up and you could see this very female competitive thing where we would look each other up and down. Now, we’ve come to a place where we can just say it’s hard, I have issues, let’s talk about them. It’s sort of happened since I’ve had [Callaloo] that I’ve reached out to her and realized that she was a single mom for a while, so she’s a pretty good resource to come to on mothering things.
I thought that [being a mother] would be more natural and I realize now that it’s hard as shit. I keep talking about it like a gang initiation, he will do something and I’ll be like, “we’re almost in the gang, Marc.” We tried sleep training last week and it’s crazy. It was harder than labour, harder than anything I’ve ever done. That’s where you put them in a crib to learn to fall asleep on their own and you’re teaching them to self soothe. He would get so worked up, and he would cry and he would throw up and I just couldn’t do it. It was five days of the most emotional roller coaster ever. I would go into the bathroom and just cry, and he would be crying. And he just won. [Callaloo laughs] Yeah! You won!
It’s just so isolating because I don’t know anyone who has a baby. I’ve come to realize that if we were in a community that is not the one we live in now that blocks itself off, then you would have other people around you who were lactating; there would be a female presence. I’m finding that a little crazy, the lack of females in my life that I can be supported by, that I can support. There are so many expectations to have a certain style of parenting and to hit certain milestones, and to have a certain separation from your child that I can’t wrap my head around. To feel really bad about yourself and your parenting style more often than being told that you’re doing a good job. I’m struggling with that.
We’re pretty attachment-based parenting, and then it’s mostly a child-centered parenting, in the sense that if he does something I react. I was passionate about him being in the grass, and being able to have dirt in his mouth. I think Marc would like him to learn some capacity about music, so he just plays music for him. But we haven’t discussed a lot of things in terms of the bigger picture or what kind of pressures we would put on him, those just sort of come up. It’s a work in progress, all of this parenting is.
I find [other people’s] expectations of women are much more apparent when you’re a mother, and what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, how you should look doing it, all of these things. It’s just much more apparent that it is really such a sexist, racist culture and having a baby just kind of brings up these things. The expectations are so heavy on females to not only have kids at a certain time, but to have them in a certain way, or be breastfeeding and not go back to work. I’m definitely learning my voice. If I’ve learned anything thus far from being a mom, it would that be my voice as a woman counts, and I need to exercise it.