When a New Baby Isn’t Bliss

After a difficult pregnancy, I wanted to love motherhood after my older son was born. But I didn’t love it. I didn’t love it all. Being a mom was hard and it seemed like the more effort I put in, the harder it became. Everyday tasks were overwhelming chores, anxiety and self-doubt were my default emotions, and I spiraled into shame and guilt. It took three years, and the birth of my second son before I lost my ability to function and was forced to seek help. It was only then that I realized I had been struggling with severe postpartum depression.

If you or someone you love recently became a parent or is about to become one, and you’re struggling, you should know you’re not alone. One in six women, and one in 10 men (yes, dads get postpartum depression too!) will struggle with an adjustment to new parenthood. If that number seems high to you, it may be because shame and ignorance keeps many new parents quiet and forces them to put up a fake front to convince the world that they’re okay, even as they fall apart on the inside.

Here are some things I wish someone had told me about postpartum depression when I first became a mom. Continue reading “When a New Baby Isn’t Bliss”

Hidden gems in Downtown New West

I like to support businesses in my neighbourhood of Downtown New Westminster. Many places make this easy for me to do: River Market, Zoom Hair Salon and Columbia Integrated Health Centre, for example, are active on social media and in the community and have curb appeal to spare. They are all fabulous and I can’t recommend any of them enough.

But then there are businesses that I walk past every day and never enter. They aren’t out there promoting themselves and they just don’t look like they have a lot to offer. But then, one day, I go in and realize how badly I’ve misjudged them.

These hidden gems that have been quietly providing a high standard of service to the community, at reasonable prices, without a lot of fanfare, and it’s about time they get some love. Here are three of my favorites:

Agnes Barber & Stylist is the best place to bring a squirmy toddler for a haircut!
Agnes Barber & Stylist is the best place to bring a squirmy toddler for a haircut! Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Agnes Barber & Stylist
607 Agnes Street 778.397.0460

Agnes Barber might look like any other barbershop in the neighbourhood (which rival wedding boutiques in number) but it’s hands-down the best place to bring your squirmy toddler boy for a haircut.

I used to take my kids to a fancy-pants kids’ hair salon at the mall. They would get a 10-minute haircut and a balloon, and I’d pay $60 for the two of them, after taxes and tip. Ouch! So when I spotted the motorcycle chair through the window at Agnes Barber, I took a chance.

Our barber, Kal, was one of the most patient and pleasant people I’ve ever met. Despite having people waiting, he took his time introducing my four-year-old to the “scary” electric shaver and stayed upbeat and cheerful while my little guy squirmed and fidgeted. My two-year-old, meanwhile, HATES getting his haircut and was in full meltdown mode. Kal dismissed my apologies and wasn’t fazed at all. His skilled hands worked very quickly to get the job done while he remained calm and soothing.

Both kids got great haircuts! Despite their best efforts to walk out with bald patches, their hair looked flawless. They got to sit on a motorcycle, wore a Disney cape and each walked out with a lollypop. They also enjoyed counting the birds the huge birdcage by the window. And to top it off, kids’ cuts cost only $10! You won’t be seeing me at the mall salon again.

Agnes Barber & Stylist is open Mon-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 10am-5pm


Columbia Square Law Office has very reasonable Notary rates, and great customer service. Photo: Linda M. Tobias
Columbia Square Law Office has very reasonable Notary rates, and great customer service. Photo: Linda M. Tobias

Columbia Square Law Office

833 Carnarvon Street

I needed some notary services recently. My husband called around for rates and, to our surprise, discovered that the most reasonable rates (for a variety of legal services, not just notary) were right in our own neighbourhood at Columbia Square Law Office.

I went down to the office with trepidation. The exterior really does leave something to be desired. The bars on the windows, the drawn shades… it was all kind of off-putting. My opinion quickly changed when I walked through the door. The receptionist, Barbara, was instantly welcoming and made me feel like my time was valuable and that I was respected.

My personal experience with lawyers has shown me that being listened to and treated with respect is the best indication of how happy I’m going to be with the outcome of my legal representation. In this case, my interaction with Mike Jukic, one of the firm’s two lawyers was brief, but my gut told me that if I were in need of legal representation again, I could count on him to come through for me.

For any future legal services, I’m heading straight to Columbia Square Law Office.

Columbia Law Office is open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm, and Sat 10am-4pm

Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Unit 109-1015 Columbia Street (Columbia Square Plaza)

Dr Brar. Photo: Columbia Square Animal Hospital
Dr Brar. Photo: Columbia Square Animal Hospital

Columbia Square Animal Hospital is tucked away in the northeast corner of Columbia Square Plaza, by the Rona. Open the door and you’ll see a desk covered in brochures and samples, there are hard-backed chairs and stacks of pet food for sale. Nothing about the place seems particularly warm or inviting.

And then you meet Dr. Brar.

Dr. Brar is an amazing vet. He handles my kitty with gentle, but expert hands. He asks lots of questions and takes the time to address any concerns. And, unlike, other vets I’ve encountered in the past, I never get the feeling that he’s trying to upsell me on products or services. In fact, Columbia Square Animal Hospital’s prices are very fair (about half of what my last vet charged!) When I’m there, I feel like the focus is on providing the best possible care for my kitty and not on making a profit.

Columbia Square Animal Hospital is open daily, 8am-10pm

What New West businesses do you feel are overlooked? Sound off in the comments!

Best playgrounds in New West: what are your favourites?

Favourite playgrounds in New Westminster

This Saturday, June 16, the new Westminster Pier Park will open with a celebration from 11 am to 3 pm. There will be lots of fun, family-friendly activities, food and live music.

The upcoming event makes me marvel at how lucky we are in New Westminster when it comes to outdoor play areas. The new Pier Park will feature two playgrounds, a concession, washrooms and playing fields, all in a beautiful waterfront setting. But it’s just the latest addition to many fantastic playgrounds around the city. Here’s the highlight reel of some others:

Moody Park

Located in Uptown, Moody Park has a playground, spray park, outdoor pool, tennis courts and playing fields. There are also washrooms and picnic benches along with lots of shade.

Why I love it: the location makes it the ideal place to stop off while running errands with the kids. Royal City Centre is right across the street and there are many eateries, businesses and shopping outlets — not to mention the public library — in the area.

Hume Park

Hume Park, located in Sapperton, was recently renovated. It features a large playground for school-aged kids with a separate area just for the little guys. The playground is nestled between an off-leash dog park (with plenty of trees and benches), an outdoor swimming pool and a spray park. There are also picnic benches, playing fields, washrooms, tennis courts and plenty of trees for shade.

Why I love it: the large play structure has a wide variety of challenges for older kids (it struck me as a decided response to recent criticisms that today’s playgrounds are too safe.) But my three-year-old was able to enjoy it as well. His younger brother, meanwhile, was happy puttering away in the toddler area, undisturbed by older kids.

Grimston Park

The West End’s Grimston Park has a recently rebuilt playground, a wading pool, tennis courts, washrooms and playing fields. The wading pool is open from noon – 4 pm, July to Labour Day, and has a lifeguard on duty during those times.

Why I love it: the climbing structure is very well designed. My two-year old can easily climb all the way to the top by himself (the look of triumph on his face after he completes this feat is priceless!) In fact, there is no part of the playground that’s not accessible to him. And yet, the school-age kids we see there are able to use the equipment in a way that challenges them as well. It allows all ages to play together.

Queen’s Park

Located in the heart of the city, New Westminster’s biggest park has one playground for little kids and another for the older ones. There’s also a spray park, a concession stand and washrooms, located among trees, picnic benches, grassy areas and flowers. But the highlight, from Victoria Day to Labour Day, is a petting farm filled with critters willing to have little hands tug at their ears.

Why I love it: the petting farm is fantastic with a variety of animals and knowledgeable volunteers, and it’s free (with a donation box at the exit.) The parking is abundant and free. And the size of the park makes the sights and sounds of the city fade away, letting me relax.

I lived in Vancouver for years before moving to New Westminster in 2008 and I’m hard-pressed to think of even one outdoor play space for kids that’s comparable to the playgrounds that New West offers.

What’s your favourite playground in New Westminster and why? Do you enjoy one of the ones I’ve listed here or did I miss a fabulous one that you want to share with everyone? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Help available for families of kids with special needs in New Westminster

For families with kids with special needs, help is available.
For families with kids with special needs, help is available. Thanks to help from New Westminster's Public Health services and the New Westminster Children's Centre, Linda's son is a happy and well-adjusted three-year-old.

I moved to New Westminster in December of 2008, when my older son was just three months old. I didn’t know at the time that I was mom to a child with special needs. Luckily, there are many resources here in New West for my son and our family. I want to share my experiences with you, so that if you have concerns about your child’s development, you’ll know that there are people here who can help. Because I didn’t know. Not at first.

From the time that he was born, my son was different from other babies. He cried constantly, rarely slept for more than half an hour at a time and had problems with feeding. As he got older, he hit many milestones early, but he had no interest in learning to talk. He also avoided eye contact, he melted down during story time at the library and the concept of pointing eluded him. I started taking him to doctors, but couldn’t seem to get anywhere.

When he was 19 months old, his little brother was born. When I took the baby to visit the Public Health Nurse at the Public Health Unit, I mentioned the concerns I had about my older child. She listened with empathy and then, in a move that forever improved the life of my firstborn, she referred him to the Fraser Health Speech and Hearing Clinic and to the Infant Development Program at the New Westminster Children’s Centre.

The Speech and Hearing Clinic warned me that the waitlist for treatment was nearly a year long, but an assessment could be arranged fairly quickly. It was during the assessment that, for the first time, someone else echoed what I had secretly suspected for months. The Speech Pathologist noticed that my son was displaying many symptoms associated with autism.

The Infant Development Consultant contacted me within a few days as well and immediately set up a home appointment to do an assessment. She arrived with no judgment about my unwashed dishes or piles of laundry. She enquired about the challenges my son and I faced, made observations, interacted with him in a variety of activities and took pages of notes. She pointed out several areas where he was not only meeting developmental expectations, but exceeding them. However, it was clear that he was dramatically developmentally delayed and immediate intervention was needed.
Our Infant Development Consultant came to our home regularly. She gave me easy, accessible activities to do with my son to try to coax him out of his world and into ours. She arranged for play dates at the Children’s Centre with other kids, referred him to occupational therapy and got him seen by a physical therapist.

The official diagnosis of autism came just before my son’s third birthday. A ‘Child and Youth with Special Needs’ Social Worker from the Ministry of Children and Families, located at the Children’s Centre, came to my home during nap time and helped guide me through the daunting task of filling out government forms and selecting appropriate therapy. When a clerical error at the funding unit in Victoria caused delays, she intervened and had the problem resolved immediately.

Around the same time, my son graduated from Infant Development and began working with a Supported Child Development Consultant. She helped find him a spot at a wonderful daycare and arranged for funding for a support worker to help him with the daily challenges he faces.

Because of the many resources that are available here in New Westminster, my son is a happy and well-adjusted three-year-old. His advanced understanding of letters and numbers leaves me in awe and he is now learning to interact with his peers and the world. Because of the support he gets, I no longer fear for his future. It’s looking brighter every day.

The New Westminster Children’s Centre is located at 811 Royal Avenue. They take referrals not just from medical professionals, but from parents themselves. If you have concerns about your child’s development, call them at 604.521.8078 local 318 and ask for either Infant Development (0-3 years) or Supported Child Development (3+ years). They will help you determine if your child meets the criteria to be eligible for services.