Oh, hi. Right. I have a blog. A blog I used to love with all my heart and post on multiple times a week and that led to my entire travel writing career and that I still rely on for a bit of ad money so that I can buy diapers. And yet… the last post I wrote was a review of 2021?! And I’m writing about a post about 2022… in June of 2023?!
Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I did, in fact, have a baby on my own, and have been a single mom since day one. I also started another business, a blog all about my home province of Manitoba, which is already flourishing and promises to grow even bigger this year.
But just because I haven’t posted on This Battered Suitcase – and let’s face it, even the social media is pretty dire – it doesn’t mean that I don’t still love this blog with all my heart, and that I don’t think about it every day. When people ask what I do, it’s still This Battered Suitcase I mention first. And as I’ve said countless times here… I will never shut down this blog for good. I’ll always keep it going, somehow, some way, even if it means I have to go over a year without posting (in all my decades – yes, we’re on decades now – of blogging, a year is the longest I’ve ever gone without writing anything on This Battered Suitcase, and I hope to never do it again).
So what’s next for This Battered Suitcase? Now that I have Road Trip Manitoba ticking along nicely, and I am focusing all of my SEO efforts over there, I hope that This Battered Suitcase can get back to its roots. I have been saying that for a very long time, I know, but I am so tired of thinking and reading about strategies for making money, about what Google is going to like, and about what is going to keep random people on my website.
What I truly long for is the days when I didn’t know about any of that, and posting here was just for fun. When I wrote about seemingly inconsequential days, not when I worried about adding “top ten” lists. When I wrote from my heart. When I claimed to not care who read what I wrote, or what they thought of it, but then I’d get so excited when I’d see comments from “regulars”. When I wrote about things I would want to read about.
So, while I still only have about three hours a day to myself to write, shower, eat, work out, clean, and relax, I hope that I can try for just ten minutes a day here, especially since I have over two hundred drafts of posts I’d love to tackle. I’d love to write about all the love stories I never shared (of which – happily? sadly? – there are many). I’d love to write about motherhood, about being a single mom and about how much becoming a mom has changed my life, my mindset, and my entire existence. I’d love to write about relationships and dating, considering this blog actually gets more hits per month about relationships, fashion, and lifestyle topics than it does about travel, despite the fact that I still call it a travel blog.
All of this seems well and truly good; it’s very easy to say that I’ll suddenly write my magnum opus on This Battered Suitcase in the next year as I sit here with a glass of wine and my eyes all starry-eyed, my son asleep in the other room. In reality, I do have very limited time for Road Trip Manitoba, This Battered Suitcase, and my other freelance work.
I’m with my son most days, from 6am to 8pm, and I’m still nap-trapped (meaning he wants to nap on me after breastfeeding, not in his crib, so I am by his side for those entire 14 hours). He also still wakes up about three times a night, so any downtime I get is obviously precious. During the time he is with his father, I go to the gym, clean the house, do yardwork, take Dottie for longer walks than usual, and try to furiously work for a couple of hours. In the evenings, I do dishes, do laundry, clean up the play area (AKA the whole house), and try to work for as long as I can. I also occasionally bathe (occasionally being the key word).
OK. This is a very long-winded explanation of why I haven’t posted in the last FOURTEEN MONTHS. The short-winded explanation? Well, my son is also fourteen months. Does that explain it? Hah.
But that’s not why I started this post, is it? I started this post as a review of 2022. And while I often organize my review posts in some sort of order, whether by month or by theme or by feeling, I have no idea how to organize 2022. Because… well… it wasn’t in any way organized.
So, much like last year’s post, I’m just going to dive in.
OK. So yeah, um, I had a baby.
If you follow me on social media, you know that I don’t post his face or his name online. That’s for a few reasons, mostly for safety (I do not personally know every single person who follows me, and I have no idea what someone might do with his image) and I also don’t know if he consents to his image and identity being posted. But ohhhhh myyyyyyy goddddddddddd he is THE CUTEST CHILD EVER TO HAVE EXISTED (says the completely unbiased mother). Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
I started off 2022 pregnant. About six months pregnant, to be exact. It’s actually really difficult to remember a lot of that time – I think I sort of blacked out a lot of what I was going through then because of the trauma and stress of being on my own while pregnant when that’s not how I ever pictured my pregnancy or becoming a parent – but I know that, sometime in January, I started experiencing extreme pelvic pain.
I know how lucky I was – physically, at least – in my pregnancy, because I had had almost no other pregnancy symptoms; no morning sickness, no frequent trips to the bathroom, nothing. But the pelvic pain became so severe that I could barely sleep, barely walk, and needed a variety of procedures to try to help (including pelvic floor therapy, chiropractors, massage, and more). Given this, it would have been really dumb to renovate my entire house and sleep on a mattress on the floor and prepare for a baby all on my own.
Do you know what you probably shouldn’t do when you’re newly pregnant, newly single, and starting a new business? You probably shouldn’t also start a massive home renovation that would cause you to have to move out of your home, panic to the point of tears daily, and cause you to lie to contractors about your due date in the hopes that it would please, please, please be done before the baby arrives.
If I wanted to sum up those last few months of pregnancy, I would say that I was living at my dad’s house (my dad and his wife were in Arizona for the winter), eating A LOT of prepackaged salads, attending a lot of therapy, and watching hours of Forensic Files, all while researching why my pelvis hurts so much, crying about my entire house being covered in drywall dust, and wondering how the hell I was going to be a single mom of a newborn when I’d only changed three diapers in my entire life.
But, miraculously, the renovations were indeed (mostly) complete in time for my baby’s arrival… and when I say mostly in time, I mean that I was furiously cleaning my house for eight hours literally the day before I gave birth because drywall dust AGAIN covered every single surface over two stories – including inside my HOSPITAL BAG – due to a last-minute fix. I was only able to move back home two weeks before my son was born, so those two weeks were spent cleaning and organizing and putting together furniture for 16 hours a day, all by myself. At 38 and 39 weeks pregnant.
You know when you reflect on a really difficult time in your life, and you wonder how the hell you made it through? Yeah. That’s one of those times for me. In fact, most of 2022 is THE time for me.
And did I mention Winnipeg had one of the worst winters in recent years? There was so much snow that it was as high as my fence in the backyard (though Dottie thankfully never realized she could just hop right over). The constant shovelling and dealing with the extreme cold and snow was just the cherry on top of the (rotten and past-its-expiry-date) cake. My car was constantly dying, I was too afraid to go for walks because of the ice, and I was under daily fear that my basement would flood when the snow started to melt. I write all of this not for pity, but so that I actually remember what the hell I was dealing with when I read this back one day.
Needless to say, I was not in a relaxed, peaceful state as my due date approached.
And while I want to write an entire post about my birth experience one day, what I will say is that it was totally and completely medically average, but it was totally and completely the most magical, amazing thing I’ve ever done. At 2:35 in the morning on a still-snowy April day, I met my beautiful baby boy for the first time. All of those worries about renovations and getting everything done and being on my own just melted away, because there was suddenly him and only him. I didn’t have time to worry anymore. And life has never been the same.
As I sit here, trying to even remember what April to December of last year was like, it feels almost impossible to put it into words. It comes at me in flashes, in quick bursts of memory.
There was wonder: wonder at this tiny human being in my arms, this little soul that I created, this perfect baby that I feel so incredibly privileged and lucky to call mine. One of the deepest core memories I will ever have, the one I can thankfully play again and again, is the first time I remember my son opening his eyes and looking at me. We were all alone in the hospital room, the low hum of a heater the only sound, and I was walking around in circles with him in my arms. Even now, it brings tears to my eyes when I think of it, when I think of saying, “Hi,” to him as he stared back at me. I knew then that we could do anything as long as we were together, and that we’d be OK.
There was strength: I was indeed flung into the deepest end of the deepest pool, but I survived. Looking back at those early days on my own, trying to manage the nights and the breastfeeding and the diaper changes, all while being completely physically and emotionally exhausted, I can finally see how strong I was.
I think back to all of those long, dark nights when he’d wake up every hour or so, or those endless days of breastfeeding and teething and “why isn’t he napping?!”, and I kind of can’t believe I survived… and that I was good at it. I’m so proud of the mom I instinctively knew how to be, and the mom I’ve grown into. I was so worried about being a good mom before I gave birth, and I thank the universe that I very quickly felt right at home as a parent.
There was pain: physical and emotional. Some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced… and no, I’m not talking about childbirth. There’s still a lot of emotional trauma I need to work through over the years, but I count every day that I can hold my head up as a win. Physically, I was so drained that my body couldn’t really recover very well, but I had no choice but to keep on going, every single day. I was out walking Dottie with my son strapped to me three days after giving birth… why? What was I trying to prove? Who knows, but I obviously needed to get out of the house and move my body.
There was learning: so much to learn, in fact. I think that’s one of my favourite things about being a mom, the fact that I am constantly learning and growing alongside my son. There are SO MANY THINGS I didn’t know before becoming a mom, and it’s been such a wild ride. There’s the stuff you can google – how much iron does my son need? Is it possible he’s just in one giant sleep regression? Will my boobs ever look the same again? – and then there’s the stuff you just seem to know from some deep recesses in your soul – how to soothe him when he cries, how to love him fully and absolutely and unconditionally. How to make him laugh.
There was loneliness: mostly at night, when my son was in his crib, and I had to spend that time cleaning, doing chores, and working. I had heard that you lose a lot of friends after having a baby, so I was prepared for my social life to dwindle, but it’s still strange to think that I used to go out multiple times a week. Now I have evening plans maybe twice a month, and that’s only if someone comes over to my house after he goes to bed.
Thankfully, during the day I try to keep busy with parent groups, playdates, and so on. I will give a huge shout out to my best friend Nicole, who always makes sure to visit whenever she can, my neighbour and dear friend Ashley, for all of her support, and my amazing friend Sarah, who always prioritizes a weekly walk with me. I’m also so thankful for my family for all of their phone calls, FaceTimes, and visits whenever possible; the emotional support I get from my family is what keeps me going every single day.
But mostly, and most importantly, there was joy: joy as my son and I lay in the grass in late summer, looking up at the trees. Joy as he understood how to smile, and then laugh. Joy as we played with Dottie, laughing as she raced around the backyard in the snow. Joy as he tried a strawberry for the first time. Joy as he started picking up habits and favourite things, watching him grow into his own little person (he loves trucks and pasta and splashing in the bath and saying “Uh oh” whenever he crawls up a set of stairs). Joy as we went on long walks, as he pointed at the flowers and the dogs and whatever he saw that caught his attention.
Joy as I cuddled him into me, his perfect blond curls against my cheek. Joy as I looked down at him while he breastfed, wondering how I could ever contain this much love inside me. Joy at him, with him, at every day with him. Despite the pain and the loneliness and the rollercoaster that was 2022, I will forever remember that joy and that love.
And oh man, there was so much else… there were new mom friends (yay), Covid at Christmas (boo), gardening and dog walks and the odd nights when Sunshine would sleep well and I could actually sit on the back deck to watch the sun go down. There was cooking and dancing and barely any books (other than board books for the baby). I had a lovely baby shower in August with some close friends and family on a warm, perfect evening. In some ways, the year felt like it went by in the blink of an eye; in others, it feels as though 2022 lasted a lifetime.
I think the reason I’ve been avoiding writing this review is that there is so much I can’t say about 2022; not only do I not want it on the internet, but revisiting it all is really difficult for me to do. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have had someone by my side for my pregnancy, and then by my side as we raised a baby together. That’s the thing about being a single parent; it’s not just that you don’t have the help when you need it or want it during your parenting time. It’s that you don’t have that person to turn to when your child does something magnificent or magical, when they say their first word or take their first step.
I almost think that’s harder for me; sure, it would have been amazing for someone to have been there to help on those long nights, or for someone to have brought me a glass of water while I breastfed, or for someone to have made me a meal or grocery shopped or rubbed my feet or cleaned the bathroom or taken care of him so that I could go out for a glass of wine with a friend. But more than that… I wish I had had someone beside me when he did that cute thing in the park today, you know?
But all of this has inspired me, too, because I know that there are others out there like me. I desperately searched for anything I could find about partnerless pregnancy, about taking care of a newborn as a single mom, and I found very little. Do you know how awful it is to google “dumped while pregnant” at 3am? I would love to one day write about these topics in order to help others, because I often felt – and still often do feel – alone in my experience.
Almost every course and book I bought talked about the family unit, or about having another adult in the house to help out (I swear, if I read one more piece of advice about leaving the baby with your spouse so that you can take a nap………). The reality is that not all of us have that, and I’d love to explore how I can share what I’ve learned over the past fourteen months one day.
When I started writing, I had no idea what I would post, but I just wanted to let it play itself out. I know that this is one big jumbled pile of garbage and despite editing it a few times, I am not happy with the way it turned out; writing anything personal feels rusty to me, as I’ve only been concentrating on the other site and freelance work for the past year. But I also know that I should just post this without worrying too much, because done is better than perfect (and let’s face it, it’s almost JULY and I’m writing a review of 2022. But hey, it’s technically still the first half of 2023 so let’s let it slide, ok?).
So here’s to 2022: for all that it taught me and gave me, even when it was so, so, so hard. 2022 will forever be one of the best years of my life, because it’s the year I met my beautiful boy, my beautiful Sunshine. I can’t believe how much I love him and how much I love being a mom, being his mom. Despite it all, I am truly happy and so thankful for this life.
If you’re reading this, thank you, as always, for being here, and for supporting us on this journey.