Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Happy Birthday to You: Everley Edition: 2 Months Old

Dear Everley, 

Why so serious?
On Nov. 21 you turned two months old. That was two weeks ago today and incredibly, sadly, the time before is already getting fuzzy in my head.

This I know for sure, when you turned six weeks old you started sleeping "through the night." I write that in quotations only because in your case that means you fall asleep somewhere around midnight and sleep solidly for anywhere between six and eight hours. It's a bit of a late bedtime for a baby and the time between 7:00pm and midnight continue to be your most challenging hours, maybe because you are overtired? I don't know. But when you are finally settled just before a new day begins, you sleep and you sleep and who am I to complain about that?

Maybe if you went to bed before midnight you wouldn't be catching so many flies at 10am. Just sayin'.

Usually you start stirring around 7:00am and I pull you into bed with me and nurse you while we both continue to doze, then after 15 or 20 minutes you pass back out and sleep until around 8:30am. You'd sleep longer but I like to get up to see your sister and your dad before they leave for the day. It's important to me, more important even than getting an extra hour or two of sleep. If I didn't wake you at that time you would keep sleeping. Easily until 10:00am or so.

I usually lay awake after your morning feeding and just stare at you while you are snuggled in tight against me. It's an hour or so where I can just be there with you, drinking you in, watching you dream and reveling in your little facial expressions and sleepy coos. It occurs to me every day that I'm the only one in the entire world that will ever know this piece of your history. I'm the holder and protector of these memories, your perfect, content, stupendously, outrageously beautiful baby mornings. That feels like a huge responsibility but man it's also such a profound gift.

Those cheeks!
One of the last things I do at night, before you and I slip up to our room at the top of the house, is to take a minute or so, locked by myself in the too tight washroom, and just look at myself in the mirror. I take in the circles under my eyes and the fine lines that are starting to maybe not look all that fine anymore. I look at the faint red scratches that criss cross my chest from your finger nails that grab at me when you nurse. My boobs are too big for my frame, my face still a little puffy from extra weight. I know I'm at a place in my life where my physical self is suffering a little so that I can focus my attention on yours. My brain wants to obsess on this and to hate myself for it. But I fight it. I fight it so hard in that minute by myself. Because it's not fair to be so hard on myself for doing this thing that only I am privileged enough to get to do for you. Because these are the demons that I hope you girls will never have to face down in the mirror at the end of the night.

Instead I reflect on our day together. I remember what we did and why it was special. You've seen, smelled, heard something for the very first time. And I've witnessed it. Another gift. That I get to be there with you for these fabulous firsts. Yes it's exhausting and occasionally frustrating to have so little time on my own. Sometimes I go an entire day with less than an hour away from you. To be the solo keeper of these memories, to be alone in my utter delight over your latest coo or your newest crooked smile. But I tell myself in my head as I stare into that mirror, that I will never regret spending another night alone with you when in exchange I got to hear your very first giggle - a moment that only you and I will forever share. I'll never think back, years from now, and focus on how frumpy I felt, but I will remember how incredible it made me feel to see you sleeping soundly in the bassinet beside me, so peaceful and perfect.

That fish really looks like he's out to get you but I'm pretty sure your lobster can take him.

Looking through the pictures I took of you this month it occurs to me that I'm so obsessed with documenting these moments of yours not so that I will always remember them but so that maybe others can delight in them along with me. It can be lonely to have these precious moments all to myself. I have captured some fantastic glimpses of you with your dad and you with your sister, but nobody captures the thousands of tiny moments that you and I share. Those are just for us, I suppose. I hope that one day through these letters you'll get an understanding of this amazingly powerful bond we share, you and I.

Your second month was full of firsts. First real smile, first breathy laugh, first time sleeping through the night, first movie (Flight), first snuggle with your Auntie Emily, first shots (yuck). I was there for every one of them. A gift, sweet baby girl, it's such a gift.

I love you,


Monday, November 26, 2012

Everley Read: A Birth(day) Story

Thursday September 20, 2012 started out as normally as a day can when you are one day away from both your 37th birthday and the due date of your second child. I'm going to do my best to describe how this seemingly normal day turned into the kind of day where I thankfully, narrowly avoided becoming one of those women who gives birth at home in her toilet.

Bare with me - it's a long one and it's not been an easy tale to write nor was it an easy event to weather - but the final results are spectacular and well worth the read:

The results.
7:45am: Wake up to the sound of the alarm and proceed through regular daily morning routine of waking Bella, getting her fed, cleaned, dressed, hair done, lunch made and out the door for school.

8:45am: Drop Bella off at her class, kiss the top of her little braided head and tell her I'll pick her up at 5pm.

9:00am: Reading through my mail from the day before and I open a letter from Service Canada and learn that my maternity leave benefits had been declined. Panic! Cry! Am way too pregnant to handle this situation calmly. Cairn tells me to call them and so I obsessively start collecting all my paperwork and spreading it out on the couch along with laptop in preparation for what I assume will be an entire day on the phone with the government.

9:15am: Discover an error on my ROE - my return to work date is listed as September 16, 2012 or in other words four days ago. Amazing. I quickly send an email off to my HR representative letting her know about the error and asking if she can have my info resubmitted. I open the email like this:

Good morning Vanessa, 

Hope you are well. I'm still awaiting the arrival of my baby - due date is tomorrow but looks like this one is pretty comfy in there. No signs he/she is on the way just yet.

I close the email like this:

Have to run now, but will check back in when I'm home this aft. Hopefully I'll have gotten through to Service Canada. I have a sense of urgency about this because I really need my benefits to kick in and I will VERY soon be in hospital and then extremely distracted with a new little one to care for!

If only I knew then...

10:00am: Am still trying to figure out paperwork and set myself up with my Service Canada online account when I remember my 40 week OBGYN appointment is in an hour and a half.  Leave everything where it is, grab a quick shower and get dressed. Decide to put on some makeup since I'm going downtown where people are fancy. Might take in a little lunch and shopping after. Must look alive.

11:00am: Grab purse run out the door.

11:30am: Make it to my appointment just on time. Doc asks me, as always, if everything is okay and I say yes. No change from last week. She proceeds with the exam. My blood pressure is great. Belly measuring normally. Heart rate of baby is... hmmm... she listens a little longer than usual. Lifts up Doppler and spreads on a little more gel. Tries again. Suddenly I'm paying attention to the look on her face which is not quite her usual, "all is good, relax lady" look.

Finally she looks at me and says, "Okay, heart rate is a bit lower than usual. I'm taking my time because it's slower than I like to see but now I'm getting 120 bpms or so. Normal range."

But it's not normal for my baby, who has always been in the 150s... suddenly I'm reminded that I have noticed some decreased fetal movement the last couple of days. I have chalked it up to baby slowing down due to lack of room and resting up for the big event. But combined with a slow heart rate, suddenly it doesn't seem so simple. So I mention it to her. She pauses and then says, "Okay. Let's check you out and then we'll talk." We'll talk?! Oh shit. 

She checks my cervix and mutters something to herself, which I can't fully make out. I'm starting to feel the slightest hint of panic because my doctor is not a mutterer. She smiles at me and says she'll be back in just one moment, then she leaves the room. She's probably gone about two minutes and when she walks back in, she says this,

"Do you want to have a baby today?" 

Mind goes blank. Seeing stars. Not sure how to answer this most unexpected question.  Is 'no' an acceptable answer? Probably not.

"You mean like right now?" 

"Well, yes, today. You are going to take your paperwork right now, walk across the street and admit yourself. You are two cms dilated and cervix is softening. You are not in labour but the combination of a slow heart rate for baby and slowed fetal movement is something we don't want to ignore. Since you are due tomorrow I see no reason to take chances. You'll go, check in, get on a monitor. If baby is okay, we'll have you induced."

"And if baby is not okay?" I say,

"Then we'll section you immediately," she tells me with a sympathetic smile. 

"Okay, sounds good," is what I say.  HOLY FUCK, is what I'm thinking.

She hands me some paperwork, tells me to call my husband and sends me on my way. I'm smiling and chatting with her and the receptionist but on the inside I'M TAKING A HEART ATTACK.         

11:45am: I realize that I have left the house without the paperwork that I've been instructed to carry with me at all times. Shitballs. I stumble on quivering legs to the lobby of the building and call Cairn, who thankfully is still at home this morning. He answers with some trepidation and says, "Are we having a baby?" "We are," I reply, and fill him in on what's up. Some cursing ensues on his behalf and I tell him to grab a pen and paper before rattling off a list of things to pack and people to call. Most importantly we need to set up care for Bella.

I walk myself across the street to the hospital while we are talking and briefly lose our connection while in the elevator on my way up to the maternity ward. Still can't believe this is happening and am feeling slightly in shock, shaky and nervous, especially about Bella and how she'll react when it's not me that shows up to get her from school.

12:00pm: I register at the desk and they begin the process of admitting me. The hospital is very busy and there is no room for me in triage so instead I'm sent directly to an L&D room, told to get into a gown and quickly hooked up to monitors for baby's heart rate and contractions. Because there is some question about health of baby they are not messing around and it all happens very fast. I have three repetitive thoughts running through my head at this time:

1. I wish I'd eaten more for breakfast.
2. I'm so glad I shaved my legs today!
3. This is so NOT the bra I wanted to wear for labour. I'm really fixating on this and consider calling Cairn to make sure he packs my intended labour bra. Don't do it because even I know how fucking crazy it sounds.

The non-stress test for the baby consists of monitoring heart rate and pushing a little button whenever I feel fetal movement. Of course now that I'm here the baby is squirming away like it ain't no thang. The heart rate continues to be somewhat erratic but the nurse assures me that this is good and they are happy to see accelerations even if overall the rate is a bit lower than usual. The test lasts 30 minutes and thankfully everything seems fine.

12:30pm: The resident doctor and a midwifery student come in to do the ultrasound part of my non-stress test. I can't help but notice that they are both a good 10 years younger than me. This freaks me out. As she is setting up the machine she looks at the tracking on heart rate and contractions and tells me that both seem to be moving along just perfectly. Both? Yes, both. I am having relatively strong contractions every five minutes. I didn't even know it. I have been feeling braxton hicks since about 20 weeks and nothing I've felt today seems any different than that. She shows me on the monitor next time one happens. I feel it but there is no pain, just tightening. Clearly I am rocking this shit out. Am probably in labour and didn't even know it. Am a superhero.

1:00pm: All my tests are now complete and the baby is looking absolutely perfect. Scores a perfect 8 out of 8. Clearly this is a Virgo I'm carrying, striving for perfection and punctuality. We are going to have a baby today, I'm pretty fucking certain.

The doctor informs me that since my contractions are steady but not painful and I'm only two cms dilated, they are going to discharge me and I should just wait at home until I feel pain and/or my water breaks and then come back.

STOP THE TRAIN DOC. I hear the full screeching brakes in my head and everything. DISCHARGE ME? Oh. Hell. No. I'm in the gown. I'm in an amazing room. My husband is on his way. WITH BAGS OF STUFF. Wrong labour bra not-withstanding I am going to stay here and have this baby today. End of discussion. Childcare is handled, I have a hospital bracelet on for GOD'S SAKE DO NOT SEND ME HOME.

I ask the doctor politely if I can stay. She says no. Explains that the hospital is very busy and they need to the room. Just then I have another contraction - I point out that it's measuring 60 on the monitor (100 is considered extremely strong) and tell her to touch my belly just to feel how contractiony it is. IT'S SO CONTRACTIONY!

She smiles kindly (patronizingly) and says that the fact that I can talk tells her I'm not ready to stay just yet. I want to tell her that the fact that she's like 17 years old tells me she might not know what the hell she's talking about. But - and this is a very significant but - she says she will check me quickly before she sends me home just to be sure I'm not further dilated than I was when I arrived. 

FULL STOP - Important to understand the significance of this moment right here. This seemingly simple decision, to check me one more time, is the one thing that stands between a safe, assisted hospital delivery and me having my baby at home on the bathroom floor. And I'm so grateful that teen-doctor was in fact brilliant enough to be so cautious. THANK YOU DOOGIE HOWSER.

1:15pm:  Doctor checks me and is shocked to discover that I'm now four cms. I have progressed two cms in two hours. Four cms with contractions like mine can be considered active labour. I am staying. HALLELUJAH I am staying. HOLY FUCK I am staying.

Cairn arrives. 

I'm immediately set up on an IV and penicillin drip, which I require because I'm GBS positive.

1:45pm: Cairn leaves to go get lunch. I'm so hungry. I haven't gone more than two hours without eating in months and my body is all WTF WOMAN WHERE ARE MY CARBS?

3:00pm: My nurse comes to check in and tells me that at 5pm they are going to break my water and see what happens before starting me on Pitocin. I remind her, as I do every time that I see her, that I would like an epidural before my contractions get painful. I do not want to feel pain. No pain, please, I'd prefer no pain because I have already felt that pain once in my life and I'm not into the painful pain of it all. She assures me that they'll get me set up before they begin Pitocin, that way I'll be good and numb before any painful contractions (which I do not want to feel) even kick in.

Just so we're perfectly clear, I do not want to feel any pain.  

3:30pm: Contractions are now coming regularly on their own. Every five minutes or so and still looking strong on the monitor but not at all painful. Baby is monitoring perfectly well. At this point I use the washroom and notice a bit of bleeding. It definitely feels like I'm in labour now without any interventions and I'm hopeful that I won't even need the Pitocin once my water is broken.

5:00pm: OMG SO BORED. An emergency twin C-section (jerks) is taking place on the ward so my water-breaking ceremony has to be delayed. Instead they start me on a second dose of antibiotics and tell us to sit tight. Cairn and I are playing Words with Friends and thinking that maybe we should have let them discharge me after all.

BORED (but glad I did my hair and makeup this morning).
6:30pm: Nurse checks vitals and finds that baby's heart rate has decelerated again. They put me back on the monitors and this time they want me to stay hooked up until baby arrives. Boo. I hate the monitors. They are confining and distracting and quite frankly nerve-wracking. My excitement is starting to wane, my frustration is starting to rise.

7:00pm: Cairn goes to get dinner and not to alarm you but I'm probably dying of starvation.

7:15pm: Call to talk to Bella expecting heartfelt and teary conversation about the pending arrival of her new sibling. Bella could care less abut me or my dumb baby and would rather play with Papa at his house for the rest of her life. Fair enough.

7:30pm: Contractions continue to get stronger and more regular, am watching the monitor like a TV. Still no pain, am now convinced that I'll just sneeze and have this baby without feeling so much as a nasty cramp. Am relieved about that but growing aggravated at the lack of attention from hospital staff. I need to pee, am stuck in bed and the nurses are changing shifts so I'm asked to repeat my story and information yet again. READ THE CHART, NURSES. In other news, baby's heart rate is back up and steady. So there's that.

Here's me thinking I'm having a 'big' contraction, when in fact I'm feeling but a wee tickle of a twinge compared to what's yet to come.
9:30pm: After a failed attempt at napping my contractions seem to have all but stopped. My night nurse Kate has been popping in every hour, but other than that nothing is happening at all.

10:30pm: Mad at everyone. Hate the monitors. Hungry, cranky, pissed off that they still have not checked me or broken my water, which they said they would do FIVE HOURS AGO.

10:45pm: As if they could sense my growing discontent the doctor and Nurse Kate arrive to break my water. Because I was already super stoned on a epidural when they broke my water last time, I have no idea what to expect. Just like in the movies, they grab a knitting needle, poke around in there and GUSH. Warm, clear fluid. Thought it's admittedly gross to be covered in your own amniotic fluid, Nurse Kate changes my bedding and brings me a warmed blanket (I'm freezing at this point) and I try to relax and settle in for what I know is now the final stretch (pun intended).

11:00pm: It's been 15 minutes and not only have my contractions have kicked back in but this time I can feel them. In fact they hurt. Didn't we talk clearly about the pain issue? I mention to Nurse Kate that they are getting painful and she tells me that they'd like to wait 30 minutes and see how I progress on my own before starting Pitocin. In the meantime, she'll notify the anesthesiologist (who is currently busy with another patient) that I'm ready for my epidural. I figure I can tolerate anything for thirty minutes.

130 is baby's happy, healthy heartbeat; 135+ is my decidedly NOT happy contraction level.

11:30pm: Apparently I can not tolerate anything for thirty minutes. Contractions are now so painful that I can't talk through them and am instead starting to panic each time I feel one coming. Cairn is watching the monitor and calling out how huge they are. They are huge, topping out at 135+ on the machine each time. Still, I ask him very politely to STOP TELLING ME HOW HUGE THEY ARE PLEASE I'M AWARE OF HOW HUGE THEY ARE. They are also coming about every two minutes and Cairn is questioning why nobody is coming back to check on us. I call the nurse on the button. She helps me get up so I can use the washroom and wash my face - both of which are extremely difficult because of how much pain I'm in. SO MUCH FUCKING PAIN.

I get back in bed and tell the nurse that I'm feeling the urge to push and lots of rectal pressure. She doesn't want to check me because if she finds I'm beyond a certain amount dilated they will not allow me to get my epidural. OMG I can't believe this is happening to me. I think this is the first time it dawns on me that I'm about to give birth to this baby without any interventions or pain medication. This is not a happy realization. Nurse Kate checks me and tells me she doesn't think I'll require any Pitocin.


11:50pm: I WANT MY DRUGS GET ME MY DRUGS NOW. Nurse Kate is trying to calm me down, tells me in a chipper voice that I'm doing great, epi is on the way! Rainbows and unicorns! Sunshine and lollypops! Forced happy face and crazy eyes!

I suffer for another 10 minutes and by now I'm baying and screaming like an animal during contractions and panicking like a drowning person in between them. I'm no longer really lucid about what's going on around me. I can hear Cairn questioning why the epidural isn't here yet. I can hear the nurse trying to reassure me that I'm up next and I'll be comfortable very soon.

12:00am: I vaguely make out Cairn wishing me a happy birthday. I'm very fucking far from happy. I'm in agony. My nurse has actually left the room to go and physically get the epi doc and bring her to me when the sudden and unmistakable feeling of pushing a baby out takes over my entire body. This baby is coming out RIGHT NOW. I grab the alarm and I push that thing like 1000 times. I am officially "that" woman. Screaming, moaning, thrashing about in my bed. I'm quite certain at this point that I'm going to die and the thing about it is, I really just hope it will happen before the next contraction.

12:05am: Nurse Kate comes running back and tells me my drugs are on the way. I manage to tell her that I'm pushing and she checks me again. She says I'm still only five cms and that I should NOT push. Do not push. What I'm feeling is just the baby moving down, this is good, but I'm not ready to push. Well whoopty doo, Nurse Kate, I'm not ready to push. Thing is though, MY BODY IS PUSHING AND THERE'S NO STOPPING IT NOW. I'm stuck in the fetal position, in searing, gut-wrenching, indescribable pain and now I have the lovely vision of my baby shooting out of my "not-quite ready yet sweetie, but soon" vagina and tearing me completely in half. Wonderful.

12:10am: Anesthesiologist arrives. And she looks like a clown. No seriously. She's wearing scrubs covered in chilli-peppers (you know the ones) and has these giant pop-bottle glasses on. All I can focus on is those glasses. I'm thinking that anyone with glasses that thick should maybe not put a needle in my spine. However at this point I know something that nobody else in the room has yet to speak aloud. There will be no needle because this baby is coming. out. right. now.

Still, Nurse Kate continues the charade and tries to get me to sit up to receive my epidural. This is laughable and if I wasn't dying on the bed I'd laugh at her right now. I now have both the nurse and the anesthesiologist talking at me, asking questions and telling me to relax. It's clear they both think I'm just being hysterical, which I am, but it's for good reason. I'm about to do the one thing that I have been saying for, oh, my ENTIRE LIFE that I never wanted to do. Deliver a human being out of my vagina without any drugs. The mere thought of this allows me sit up for about 30 seconds before collapsing again and yelling that I can't stop pushing and that the baby is COMING OUT YOU FUCKERS (minus the fuckers part).

12:15am: Nurse Kate, bless her heart, finally senses that I am not just fucking around with her for shits and giggles and checks me again. As soon as she gets me into position and takes a peek down there her face suddenly changes and see a flash of fear in her eyes. I am fully dilated and baby's head is right there. Now things happen fast. She RUNS out into the hall and in minutes is back in with an entire team of people including the attending physician, the midwifery student and the pediatric nurse on hand to attend baby at birth.

I hear her telling them that I'm "quite distressed" (understatement) and that I'm "delivering naturally and not by choice". I hear the pediatric nurse say, "Uh oh." I hear her tell the attending doctor that she checked me just minutes ago and I was only a five. I hear the attending tell her that this baby is coming now. And suddenly she listens. Nurse Kate comes up to the head of my bed, grabs my face and says, "Mia, you are going to have this baby without an epidural." I briefly consider punching her.

Instead, I BEG her to give me something for pain. I have two clear thoughts going through my head at this moment. The first is of my friend Nadine and her own story about delivering her daughter Lucine naturally on purpose (crazy lady) in the very same room I'm in right now. I remember the part where she received a shot of Demerol. I want a shot of Demerol, or a shot of ANYTHING at all. Nurse Kate calmly tells me that it's too late and that anything they give me won't work on time anyway. Truth be told, Nurse Kate is in her element at this point and I could not have done this without her. She stays right by my face and tells me over and over again that I can do this and that I'll be glad I went natural once baby is here.

12:20am: I'm pushing out my baby. It's incredibly painful and entirely surreal. The second memory I have from this moment is telling myself over and over again in my head that it's just pain, it's just pain, you are not dying, it's just pain. I'm trying to do as they tell me and push without making any noise, but I'm screaming and groaning at the end of each push anyway, there's no way to control it.

I'm in more of an upright position for this birth than I was with Bella, much closer to the action, leaning forward and gripping handles on the bed. I try not to look, but keep getting small glimpses of what's going on down there. It ain't pretty. Between contractions I lie back but there's not much time to rest. During one 'break' the doctor tells me that with the next set of pushes she's going to ask me to stop pushing for a moment.

She says, "You are going to want to do nothing more than push and you'll hate me for telling you to stop, but you have to stop, trust me, it's for your own good."

Amaaaaazing. I can hardly wait. She tells me that I have some scar tissue from my previous episiotomy and they are going to make a small incision to assist me in getting the baby out. I really did not want another episiotomy but at this point, much like last time, I could really not care less what they do.

"Just get it out," I tell her.

12:35am: After only four sets of pushes and about 10 minutes, I feel an incredible amount of searing hot pain followed by an immediate and immense release of pressure as my baby, my beautiful baby who has been safely and securely tucked up within me for nine months but who I have been waiting for all my life, slips out into the world.

I actually see the baby slide right out and into the waiting arms of the doctor. It's been an hour and a half since they broke my water. It's 35 minutes into my 37th birthday. I have just laboured and delivered my baby naturally in less time than it likely would have taken me to get to the hospital had I been at home when my water broke. And then I go into shock.

"Dad, don't you want to know what it is?" I hear the nurse ask Cairn…

"It's a girl!" I hear Cairn say.

They both sound like they are a million miles away. I look up, shaking like a leaf, and see them carry my baby girl over to the warmer. I start to cry. It's a girl. I have another girl.

"She's so beautiful," they are all saying. "I bet you say that about all the babies," I reply.

But she is. She is so beautiful, pink and perfect with a thick shock of dark brown hair.

The hair to which I refer.
As the delivery team begins the brutal act of delivering my placenta and stitching me back together I waiver between dealing with the pain of that action and stealing glimpses of my baby girl as she is cleaned and weighed and wrapped. They hand her to Cairn and he keeps her in his arms while all the King's horses and men are working their best magic down there on poor Humpty Dumpty.

The midwifery student gives me a tour of my placenta. "A perfect specimen," she tells me. "I bet you say that about all the placentas," I reply.

We all have a much needed laugh and I begin to feel myself relax. The team congratulates me again and I finally feel my shaking start to slow as the realization of what just happened sinks in. My baby is here. I have done it.

12:55am: Cairn hands me my baby girl. We lock eyes this perfect baby girl and I and I briefly think of the baby I lost just over a year ago. And then I think it's true what they say, that everything happens for a reason. My reason is now in my arms, healthy and perfect. She arrived on my birthday as if to say, "You see Mama? You were waiting for me. I'm the one that was meant to be yours."

 And just like that the last two hours of pain and fear and panic dissolve. The nine months of a long, hot pregnancy are but a distant memory. The sadness over the miscarriage is replaced with gratitude and relief. Nothing worth having ever comes easily but no other work in this world could ever have a greater reward. I'm in love again. My heart is bursting. My girl is here. We are whole.

Welcome to us Everley Read.

I love you,


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Happy Birthday To You: Everley Edition: 1 Month Old

Dear Everley,

On October 21 you turned one month old. I know it's already been two weeks since then and we're fast approaching two months but FAST is the operative word here. 

Looking like fish bait.


I figure I'd better whip this post out before it's time for the next one, but I do realize that I still have not finished your birth story. It's in progress but it's incredibly hard to find time. I know that anyone who is not home with an infant all day thinks that sounds ridiculous but it really is so difficult to accomplish anything. I never had this much trouble when I was home with Bella, but then again, I didn't have a four year old Bella when I was home with Bella. I also didn't have a three story house to care for. Those two things combined take up every spare second that I have when I'm not busy caring for you.

And you require a LOT of care! Wow. I forgot how grueling it is to nurse a baby. Don't get me wrong, I love it just as much as I did with your sister. You're a wonderful baby to nurse and have been making it as easy as it can be. You have already gained at least three pounds, maybe more, I'm not sure because you were doing so well at your two week well-baby appointment that your doctor told me not to bring you back until two months. Way to go Chubs. 

At one month old you have grown into a very beautiful baby. You've already lost a lot of that 'old man' look you had when you were born thanks to the rapid weight gain. Your eyelashes are in and they are long and black and beautiful like your sisters - lucky girls. You can thank your handsome dad for that. Your gorgeous head of dark brown hair (again, thank Dad) has not fallen out yet. We're all routing for you to you keep it but it's starting to show some signs of thinning out so you may be on the road to baby-baldness yet.

Your eyes are a dark greyish blue for the moment and they are tracking things and focusing really well already. My favourite moments with you right now are when you lock those piercing eyes with my own and we just stare at each other for a while. We are talking to each other through those stares, and I hear you loud and clear little sister. I don't take a second of those precious, private moments for granted. If this first month is any indication, I'm all too aware of how quickly they will be gone.

New baby, new chair for our monthly photos.
Most of our staring contests happen in the middle of the night. You tend to sleep on and off all day in shortish spurts with a big nap in the afternoon and your most active awake period is from around 7pm until 12:30/1:00am. Then you tend to wake up every two or three hours to eat. That's tough on me, I won't lie, but we're dealing with it. When you turned two weeks old you and I moved upstairs to the guest room and we've been hunkering down up there ever since. It's working a lot better for everyone for the time being because it means you can sleep and nurse in bed with me without waking your dad.

Though I love my snuggle time up there with you, I must admit it can get a little lonely. It's okay though, I can already see your sleep habits starting to change and I know that this time is finite and fleeting. Before we know it I'll be back in my bed and you'll be in yours and then there will be many nights for the rest of my life where I ache to have you back, snuggled in safely beside me, making your precious little squeaks and coos and breathing your sweet milky breath in my face while we sleep nose to nose. 

Oh sorry, am I boring you?

Some other things about you in your first month:
  • you love to be held and hate to be put down, I repeat HATE TO BE PUT DOWN ALL CAPS
  •  you are pretty much in my arms or sleeping by my side all day every day and when I need to get things done, you go in your carrier or your wrap, I can probably count on my fingers and toes the number of hours you have not been in the room with me since the minute you were born - the incredible significance and intensity of this bond we share is not lost on me this time around
  • you love your car seat, car rides and walks in the stroller and during these times you will tolerate being on your own
  • you certainly know how to make yourself heard - your cry is fierce and screamy but you really only use it when you want to eat or have to poop and you are easily soothed in either instance
  • you have a fussy period between 7pm and midnight when you are trying to settle in for the night, this is the hardest time for me because my clock still tells me it's time for bed and the rest of the family is going to sleep. There have been many tears this month for both of us at this time of day, but I think we're both almost at the point where we can accept that this is part of the "schedule" for now
  • oh yeah, you don't have a schedule
  • though I'm trying to force it on you, you are not fond of the soother and would prefer to comfort nurse, for God's sake TAKE THE SOOTHER CHILD
  • you are a little barfer and spit up at least once with every feed, sometimes randomly in between, but not nearly as bad as your sister and for this I am grateful
  • all in all you are an easy baby so far and I'm not just saying that to butter you up
As for me? One month in and there's only one thing that I can say that I've absolutely learned about parenting a second child. No matter how many children you have, you will always feel like a first time parent. Because every baby is completely different. Circumstances are different. Relationships around you are different. There are many things that I learned from raising your sister so far, and several of them have made the experience with you easier, but that certainly doesn't mean that it's easy. But I don't care. I don't need it to be easy because it is what it is and what it is is spectacular.

I would not trade the privilege of falling in love with you for all the eight hour sleeps in the world. I will stare into your eyes all night long for as long as you need me to. I'm yours little Everley, I'm all the way yours.

Totally over this photo sesh. Over it.
I love you,


Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Eye of the Beholder: My Postpartum Progress

I think maybe it's weird to write about my postpartum recovery before I've published Everley's birth story but man I'm having such a hard time writing it. I'm not sure why other than I just don't seem to be able to do it justice.

Bella's story kind of just poured out of me, and when I look back on it it feels like I hit just the right notes of funny and poignant, honest and entertaining. That's just how her birth went down so to write the story about it was easy.

Everley's birth was... intense. Not what I'd expected. Not what I'd choose if I could do it all again. Not unlike my entire pregnancy, in fact. Yet, it still ended up with the precise ending I'd always hoped for. A beautiful, healthy, amazing baby. And I want her story to be as special as Bella's so that one day she can read it and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was one of the two greatest days of my entire life.

So that's coming... soon...

MEANTIME, before I talk postpartum, a warning: there will be brief mention of both boobs and biscuits so if that's not a discussion you want to overhear I suggest you go here and just look at the pretty baby.

Secondly - please take a moment and read this article by Allison Tate. She just says so much about what it feels like to be a woman trying to get back to herself after having a baby. Or in my case, two babies. Or in her case, four.

She speaks the truth in spades about capturing that changed and so-far-from-physically perfect you in pictures during pregnancy and afterwards. Something I avoided like the plague when I was pregnant with Bella and after she was born. I have almost NO pictures of my whole self while pregnant with her - even the weekly pictures I had Cairn take of me during my pregnancy are of the belly alone. I was mortified about the changes to the rest of me. My skin changed colour, my body ballooned, my face changed shape. I felt awful about myself when I look back and it's so sad. It's just so sad to me now that I wasn't proud of my body and its formidable accomplishment.

This pregnancy I wanted to do things a little differently. Initially I tried to have Cairn take photos again, and I wanted Bella to be in them with me, but neither were interested so instead I started taking pictures of myself. I wanted my baby to know that I was proud of what my body did to create her. And those pictures were not easy to take. They certainly were not easy to post every week. But I did it. To prove a point to myself I did it and you know what? It worked. Kind of. I can't say I felt beautiful, but I can say that I felt okay with the changes. It was not an easy pregnancy but I worked hard to stay in shape and took care with what I wore and how I presented myself. And I think I did okay.

But the thing is? The pregnancy is a crutch. It's easy to forgive yourself your flaws when you're pregnant because, well, you're pregnant! Everyone says, "you look great for X months pregnant! You totally don't look pregnant from behind," (what does this mean exactly?! nobody should look pregnant from behind!). They tell you not to worry about the love handles and the skin discolourations and the swelling and the bloat. "You're pregnant!" they say, "You'll bounce back in no time. It'll all be over soon enough."

Except it's not.

Because after you are done being pregnant most of those things are still there. The only thing that's actually gone is the pregnancy. And suddenly you're just mom. And your vagina hurts A LOT more than it did before. There's the bleeding and the pads that go along with it. And the underwear that goes along with them. Not cute. And your boobs are leaking. And at night you sweat so badly that you can feel it running down your cleavage.

Your formerly round, vibrant belly that just days or weeks earlier was full of life and making people smile and pat you and coo with excitement is just a flabby sack that hangs over your torn maternity jeans and refuses to stay shoved inside your stretched out leggings. And you spend every outing terrified that someone will ask you how far along you are. Because you aren't.

And I don't care how cliche it sounds, you ARE too tired and too busy during the day with a newborn to spend time fixing yourself up. There isn't a product out there that can erase two weeks of no sleep. In my case, I have the added pleasure of melasma - the mask of pregnancy - to contend with. Something that can't even be treated while breastfeeding. Right there, all over my tired face that I'm too tired to cover up with makeup that just makes me look more tired anyway. So much for that "being over soon."

Speaking of nursing, I feed my babies on demand for the first few months, which means it is hard to get out without them. It takes a while to figure out their patterns or to know when they'll be good for a stretch long enough to go to the gym or get my nails done. All things that I did regularly before to keep myself not just looking good, but feeling good too.

Like Ms. Tate captures in her article, my oldest daughter thinks I'm perfect. She couldn't care less about any of the physical items I've listed off above. She doesn't see those things and if she does, she doesn't care. And I DO want to be present in the photos and memories with my girls, despite how far from perfect I may look. My girls make me feel absolutely wonderful as a mother. In fact, I already know that I'm a great mom. I am. I'm a great mom and my kids make me feel beautiful in a million ways because they are tiny little reflections of me and my God, just look at them.

But I need to point something else out here. Staying in the picture after having children is not JUST about how your kids see you. Being a beautiful mom is wonderful. But I need to feel like a beautiful woman as well. Kids will always see through physical imperfections to who you are inside, but living up to the standards of adult society? Whole different ballgame. I want to be a beautiful wife. A beautiful friend. A beautiful person. That's where I've still got some work to do. I need to convince myself that I am all of those things even without the flat stomach and flawless skin.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that's the principle I've been using to try and maintain and regain my self-confidence during and post pregnancy. I have played the role of my own beholder and taken photos of myself, most of which you've already seen here. As promised I want to share my 40 week bump photo - the only one in the entire series taken by my husband. I had to beg him to do it because we were in the hospital and there was no mirror in which I could take it myself.  The others show my physical progress over the last two weeks.

Rocking the gown at 40 weeks pregnant. A few hours before Everley was born.

Sweats and slippers. 7 days postpartum. Baby accessory kicks this look up a notch.
Jeans! Maternity jeans, but still. 11 days postpartum.

Stretchies and slippers. Two weeks postpartum.

And this is where I am today. Am I perfect? No. But am I perfectly okay with that? I'm getting there, yes I am.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Today has been... Difficult. Early this morning my big girl padded into my room complaining of a sore tummy. I pulled her into bed to snuggle and hoped it was just an attempt at getting into the room that we now share with her little sister. Not so. She couldn't settle down and was increasingly agitated finally asking to go back to her room. I took her to her bed and went to get glass of water for her and that's when the barfing started.

My poor lady. She's never had a stomach bug if you can believe it. In fact, aside from the 6 months of turbo spit up she had as a baby, she's only puked a handful of times, due to coughing or a secondary infection. She was so scared! My heart completely broke for her - but I have to admit my main concern was for Everley.

OMG. What if the baby gets it? What if I get it and have to care for the baby? This is not a situation I can handle well. My anxiety levels, fueled by postpartum hormones, are through the roof over it.

Bella barfed all night and morning and stopped sometime around noon. She feels awful and I'm so sad for her. So far the rest of us are okay I think. But I feel like a ticking time bomb and nights are the worst if I'm dealing with anxiety. In daylight I cope because I can be up with my kids, watching, ever watching for signs of distress. Nights are harder with Cairn fast asleep, Bella in another room and me up alone with the baby.

I think I only slept an hour or so last night, and I just caught another hour from 7 - 8pm. Settling in now for a long night. The first that will probably be really hard, but certainly not the last. I've had minimal anxiety this time around and have been feeling really great overall. This day has set me back a bit, but I intend to fight back, breathe deeply, keep calm carry on.

What lightens the mood better than a good dose of baby hiccups? Nothing, that's what! Enjoy:

Saturday, September 29, 2012


The day arrived.

These lights are totally harshing my mellow.

I'm stewing and brewing up the full birth story, mostly written from the insane-person notes I took on my iPhone in the hospital that day. I'm still trying to piece together the times and events from the jumble of madness in my head. I'll be honest, every second of it melted away the instant I looked up from the mess between my legs, took a deep long breath and felt the shaking that had consumed me slow down and then stop, just in time for my husband hand me this:

Happy Birthday to me, and Birth Day to her.

It's a girl. Her name is Everley Read.

For Ever.

That's how long I've been waiting for her. And now she's here. And she's fucking spectacular. And we are complete.

Welcome to the gun show.

Happy one-week birthday baby sister.

This place is a'ight after all.

Love Mommy

PS: Top 40 (before 40): #1 - Expand my family - Check!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Final Countdown

I've been meaning to get on here and write a quick summary of this pregnancy for weeks now, but have not been able to open this blog and face my last post with out drowning in my own tears. Well, here I sit, drowning in my own tears, but at least I can honestly chalk it up to some INSANE hormonal INSANITY now that I'm three days away from my estimated due date.

Three days.


Strangely, as much as it's fun to play up the panic, I feel very calm. For months I've been telling people that this baby was going to come early. I assumed this because first of all, I was hugemongously pregnant this time around by like five months. I simply couldn't imagine that I would continue to grow all the way to term. Incorrect. Still growing.

Also, Anabella came early by about a week. And first babies are supposed to be the late ones. Everyone says second babies come faster and sooner. Everyone says it so IT MUST BE TRUE. Liars. All of you are hateful liars.

The fact that I'm actually past the point that I thought I'd make it to has bought me some much needed downtime. Allowed me to get organized both materially and physically. It's calmed me and I'm grateful. 

Today I'm 39 weeks and 5 days and don't have many physical signs that this babe is coming. I'm very tired and have been experiencing semi-regular Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, there's definitely a change a-brewing in my body, but that's about it. As of my appointment last Thursday, no significant dilation or effacement.

I know it can happen quickly once things kick into gear and I anticipate that it will, but truthfully I'm in no rush. I've been loving my quiet time at home. It's been quite a whirlwind few months. Just about everything that could happen at one time happened - from the crazy project at work that occupied my time and my mind for months, to the passing of our Moet, to Bella starting JK (owe you a post on that one too) - it's just been so relentlessly chaotic that there's been little time for reflection on this little life I'm creating.

A blessing in one sense, because it allowed me to get through the hottest summer on record while VERY pregnant without too much time to obsess and whine. It forced me to stand up and wipe the puke of my chin and get my tired ass to work even though I felt like dying for months with nausea and fatigue. It allowed me to grieve the loss of my boy in fits and starts, in small quiet moments that were few and far between. I'm not done with that yet, but I'm getting through it. I miss him no less, but I'm moving past. It allowed us as a family to make the most out of the together time we did have, at the cottage and on non-working weekends, because we understood that time was precious. That being family of three was fleeting.

I finished working on August 31 and though I've still been keeping (too) busy, tackling all the things that I couldn't get around to because of work, I've finally found some time to focus on this new baby that's about to join our clan (THREE DAYS).

This pregnancy is so different from Bella's. Not knowing the gender or having a name (that's right, no names yet, full panic) has left me feeling considerably more detached from whoever it is that's growing inside of me.

With Bella I was able to imagine a little baby girl with dark brown curls and the prettiest name - Anabella - I knew she would be beautiful and tiny and pink. Whenever I thought of her, I thought of her already-born and in our arms. This baby I can picture snuggled up tightly in there. Warm and fat and ready to join us. But I can't imagine what he or she will be like on the outside. I'm excited for that surprise. I'm excited about sharing it with all of our friends and family, but it can be a little frustrating to not know my baby. I feel like I was much more bonded with Bella before she arrived that I am with this little one.

I'm not going to write too much about the pregnancy itself. I'm worried I'll just sound like an ungrateful complainer and we all know there's nothing worse. Fact is, we got pregnant easily and after my miscarriage last summer I consider that to be an absolute gift, which I will never ever take for granted. I have been fundamentally healthy and strong throughout even though I'm considered of 'late maternal age' (UGH). Most importantly our baby appears to be strong, healthy and clearly super comfortable in there. Glad I could be so accommodating, Baby, you're welcome.

I've gained less weight this time (though I still don't recognize myself in the mirror) 35lbs vs the 50lbs I packed on last time. Granted, I started out 10lbs heavier, but HEY THAT STILL PUTS ME 5lbs AHEAD. I'LL TAKE IT. I feel less dread about the body I'll be left with post-partum and more excited about the challenge of getting back to where I'd like to be. It's possible. It's hard work, but it's possible. Besides, this will be my last pregnancy so I'm willing to throw some dollars at myself to fix a few things that I didn't want to bother with last time because I was pretty sure I was going to just fuck it all up again anyway.

I feel good about where Anabella is right now. I think she's really ready to welcome a new person into our lives. I do not kid myself, I know it will be tough on her - on all of us - at times. But I've tried very hard to include her and to talk to her about it all and I know she's super excited. I'm so excited to see my first baby interact with my second. How mind-blowing will that be? I hope I can write about it here and do it justice.

I'm absolutely positive that waiting this long between kids was the best possible move for our family. Bella is a well-adjusted and mature little kid with her own life at school and daycare. She's got friends and established routines that are just hers and will allow her individual time with both Cairn and I. Plus, I have the luxury of being home all day with Baby while she is safe and busy at school next door. Right next door! It could not be more ideal. Way to go us!

This is getting rambly now, that's what happens when you scare yourself away from your own blog by writing with a giant case of the sads, so without further ado here's photographic evidence that I am indeed expecting a (possibly very large) nameless baby in an impossibly very short amount of time. 

13 weeks. 13 week ultrasound. 13 week, 5 days ultrasound. Had some bleeding around this time, hence the second ultrasound. Turned out that my placenta had separated from the uterine wall, but was already reattached by the time the second u/s was taken. It was the only scary moment of the pregnancy so far. Have started taking Diclectin here because of my 24 hour a day nausea and vomiting, which started at around 6 weeks. 
17 weeks. 18 weeks. 19 weeks. Still in my regular clothes here, but starting to yearn for elastic waistbands. I finally stopped throwing up daily somewhere around the 19 week mark, but still felt like doing it all the time. You'll see the weight-gain kick in now... still taking 4 daily doses of Diclectin in order to make it through the day at work.
20 weeks, 22 weeks, 23 weeks. Enter maternity clothing. Both pairs of pants and that dress were used during my first pregnancy, five years ago. Goodbye fashion, hello find something, anything that fits.
24 weeks. 25 weeks. 26 weeks. For some reason pregnant women are compelled to wear stripes. Kind of a can't beat'em, join'em phenomenon. Finally able to ween myself off the medication for morning sickness here. Feeling sooo much better.
26 weeks. This is how much better I am feeling.
27 weeks. 29 weeks. 30 weeks. Have officially given up on pants. Temperatures soar at 35+ degrees every single day and will continue to do so for the next 8 weeks. Our house is a sweat lodge. Have found my spirit animal. It's a pregnant deer in headlights.
31 weeks. 31 and a half weeks. 32 weeks. Finally able to convince Bella to join me in a picture! You may notice the sickly pallor on my face in this series. Morning sickness has returned. Am once again not able to get out of the house or up the street without puking. I think it has a lot to do with the heat, which by this time is really starting to wear me down.
33 weeks. Couldn't resist posting all three.
35 weeks. 36 weeks. 37 weeks. These three weeks were the CRAZIEST and I can't believe I'm even able to hold my shit together enough to take these shots. We lost Moet, I launched a website and I made it to my last day of work!
38 weeks. 39 weeks. Still no baby.
I'll hit full term and my due date in three more days on Friday September 21, which is also my birthday. If I make it to 40 weeks, I'll post that bump photo for sure. But here's hoping that maybe, just maybe, these pictures are about to get a whole lot cuter before that day arrives.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Moet: 2002 - 2012

Moet at the cottage with his constant companion, Winston.
We have one of those 'family organizer' calendars that hangs on the wall in our kitchen. It's a handy thing on which there are several columns so you can devote one to each family member. The days of the month run down the side and you can make notes in everyone's individual column and keep track of who is doing what when.

Our family calendar has four columns filled out. One for me, one for Cairn, one for Bella and one for Moet. I usually fill them out a few months in advance, satisfying my need for order and control via list-making. It helps calm me when I feel things are starting to get out of hand. I rarely look ahead at future months once they are filled in, but the act of doing it settles me down. Makes me feel like I've got a grip on what can sometimes be a hectic work-life schedule.

As any dog-owner will know, in spring begins flea and tick season. We all haul our pets off to the vet for a check up and drop insane amounts of cash on heart-worm pills and flea prevention meds. They are meant to start taking them on June 1st and take them again on the first of every month straight through until November. In order to help remember, the meds come with stickers. Bright red, heart-shaped stickers that you can put on your calendar to help you remember to give your dog his medication.

We were late starting Moet on his medication this June. It's so telling of how crazy our lives have been lately. And especially illuminating of the fact that, sadly, unfairly, regrettably, when things get really nuts in our house, Moet is always the first family member who gets bumped down the priority list.  His walks get more rushed, his bed gets cleaned less, he gets left for longer periods of time alone while we're out running around like chickens with our heads cut off.

I remembered mid-month, while digging through Moet's stuff to find his ear-cleaning solution, that he hadn't started his heart-worm and flea routine on time. It was June 14th. We gave him his treatments and the very next day I sat down with my handy calendar and started to "organize" my thoughts. I picked up those cute red heart stickers and I stuck one in Moet's column on the 14th day of every month from June straight through to November. And afterwards I felt better. I crouched down to pat him and scratch behind his ears and I told him, 

"There we go Lil' Boss, now we're all set. Now we won't forget again." 

Well, in true pug fashion, ever striving to be the center of attention and refusing to be ignored for long, our Lil' Boss made damn sure that we were not going to forget about him again.

He took ill on July 12th. A Thursday. I arrived home late from work that day, as I'd been doing for a while, only this time I went straight to him. To investigate for myself why he was was vomiting up God-knows-what and hadn't eaten his supper. He'd been perfectly fine that morning, or at least, so far as we all noticed. I sat with him for a minute on the floor and tried to convince myself that it was just something he'd eaten. But although our boy had been sick many times in the 10 years he's been part of the fiber of this family, this time for some reason I knew.

On Friday morning he was worse and we checked him into the hospital at our beloved vet's office. The news was not good, and they told us as much. And I knew. In my heart and my soul I knew this was it. On Saturday it was clear that his organs were shutting down and that no matter what we tried next he was done fighting. We made the utterly heart-wrenching and searingly painful decision that it was time to end his suffering as humanely and swiftly as we could.

It was July 14th. When we came home from the vet that day -- as a family shy of one -- I leaned back against the kitchen wall gutted and exhausted with grief, and found I was staring right at our family calendar. And there, in the column marked Moet, on the very day that he left us, was that bright red heart sticker.

Me and Moet on his very first day home. September 2002, 10 weeks old.

My wee fur baby, sleeping with Hippo.
On his very first walk, Trinity Bellwoods Park, September 2002.
Running with Cairn. Thanksgiving 2002.
A windy day at Ipperwash Beach.
Pay attention to me, or give me a cookie. Now.
Man's best friend, Moet was never far from Cairn's feet.
This sums up exactly how he felt about the winter. Took after me that way.
Sure did love the cottage though. Also took after me on this one.
Exploring Ipperwash Beach. 
Barely putting up with his jaunty scarf on grooming day.
Never strayed far from his much-loved bed for long.
An ever-loyal companion, he sure loved him some Bella.
Gazing longingly at another of his favourite humans, Uncle Matty.
I'll always remember him just like this, my handsome, handsome boy.
Snack time will never be the same without this hot little fuzz ball underfoot.
My loves. Our picture is not quite complete without him, but he's forever in our hearts.
Moet, Momo, Lil' Boss, The Momes. I loved you like crazy, everyday, even the ones where I was too fucking busy or distracted to let you know it the way that you deserved. And I know you loved us too. Through thick and thin you loved us the way only an animal can. Fiercely, loyally, without judgement or jealously or remorse.

Good-bye my old friend.
We'll never forget you.

Love, Mommy